Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Window Stars

A few people have kindly asked to know more about making window stars. There are plenty of tutorials on line which can be found by searching for window stars, Waldorf stars, tissue stars, rainbow stars, etc. In this post I've included links to all the star patterns I've used.

Here I've made four different types of stars. The two smallest ones are just smaller versions of two of the larger stars.

This time I used kite paper to make the stars. This is waxed tissue paper and is stronger than plain tissue paper and, I hope, more lightfast (the stars haven't been up long enough yet to know). I ordered my kite paper from Myriad Natural Toys and Crafts. They have two packs available, this one with 100 sheets and this one with 500 sheets. I've used both (I needed lots of sheets for when I was getting my class to make stars) and don't think there's too much difference in quality. There are more colours in the first pack, but if you want to make a rainbow star there are enough colours to do this in the second pack - use the two shades of green to get the eight colours required.

The two checked stars here are made using this pattern from Arwen Arts. An alternative tutorial is available here at GardenMama. The big checked star is made using a whole sheet of kite paper for each point, the smaller version is made using a quarter sheet for each point. The other star in this picture is from this book though I didn't bother cutting the paper to the right size which is why it looks a bit different to how it should. Now that I've seen the book, I personally wouldn't recommend it as most of my favourite patterns are available on line and there are only a couple extra in the book that I'd like to make.

These two stars are variations on a theme. The eight pointed star is made using this pattern, again from Arwen Arts (there are more tutorials for other star patterns on her site too). Here's an alternative instruction sheet in a nice graphic form from Wide Eyed Tree. The 16 pointed star requires twice the number of kite paper pieces and uses the same folding method but with one extra step. A tutorial is available here at An Abundance Of Rainbows.

Be warned, they are addictive to make! 

While I had the camera out I took some more pictures of the living room looking tidy. It was the calm before the storm as we later had people round for a little party.

Included were a fairly large number of children, some of whom found a box with polystyrene packing in it and thought it would be a good idea to make snow all the way down the stairs!

We also now have a mountain of cheese and houmous, we hadn't realised people had brought so much.

Anyway, I hope you have all the information you need to start your own window star journey. Have fun!

See you all next year...

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Conic Hill

The weather forecast was looking good and we were all in need of some fresh air and exercise. We arranged to meet up with friends in Balmaha and climb Conic Hill.

The view from the top looking north west over Loch Lomond.

 The view to the south west.

I have no idea who most of these people are - as you can see, the top of Conic Hill was a busy place earlier today. Staying just below the brow of the hill offered relief from the cold wind so we sheltered there to drink our nice hot tomato soup and eat some sandwiches and blueberry muffins.

 Beginning the descent.

The light was better on the way down and we were facing the right way to enjoy the lovely views.

Down they come.


 Blue sky and the gorgeous russet colours of the bracken.


Now we've reached the woodland at the bottom of the hill.

 A last look up, then down to the loch for a wander.

Balmaha sits on quite a narrow inlet of Loch Lomond so not much of the loch is actually visible from the shore.

 Nice old tractor at the boat yard.

Another view over the loch.

 Tumbledown shed.

The branches of a huge old oak tree in the boat yard that the children loved climbing and playing in.

Home to fish suppers.

Now on with the essay...

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

For me, it's still definitely Christmas time. I have one acquaintance who has already taken down her tree and put away all the decorations. I think she's got it wrong - she starts very early and therefore finishes too soon, whereas I like to put up the tree a little later (I think later than we did it this year would be even better, just so the magic feeling is still there for the day itself) and don't take the decorations down till 12th night. But each to his own (so long as it doesn't hurt anyone else!).

Gingerbread house made by A at a friend's house. We've not eaten it yet. I assume they do get eaten at some point? It's the first time we've had one.

Now to some pictures from a walk/cycle A and I made on the 22nd of Dec, so just after the winter solstice. The photos were taken between 2 and 3 in the afternoon when the sun is already close to the horizon.

Love the bare branches against wintry skies. 

I spotted this blackbird feasting on hawthorn berries. He was too far away to get a decent photo. However, I like to think the resulting image resembles some sort of painterly effect.

 More berries.

Christmas Eve mantlepiece.

This year we were out on Christmas Eve thanks to N and the family of his best friend from school who were having a little social evening. It was a lovely chance to get to know some people from the village better. As it was a fairly late night for the children (though we were still home in plenty time for Santa to visit) we didn't have to get up till 8 on Christmas Day.

Now to some photos from Christmas Day...

The cake (Nigella's chocolate fruit cake, as usual). We were all too stuffed on the day to try some. Rather a lot of it was devoured on Boxing Day when we had hubby's (fairly numerous) family round. I've still to try it, have been too busy eating other things...

I like our dining room. We don't actually eat here often as we tend to use the table in the kitchen. However the room is used all the time as you need to pass through it to reach the kitchen or the rest of the house, so it's not one of those dining rooms that's shut away except for special days. Normally hubby uses the table for the laptop and I use it for folding washing before taking it upstairs (one of the household chores I quite enjoy though putting it all away doesn't seem to appeal so much)

It's also the room where we keep the piano. A has been taking piano lessons and played Away in a Manger for us on Christmas Day. Awww!

Candles all lit, ready to eat. We had duck this year. It was nice, but I think I prefer chicken which is what we'd normally have. We also had masses of stuffing; I love making (and eating!) stuffing - this year it was sausage meat with fried onions, garlic and bacon, toasted pine nuts, parsley, bread crumbs and a beaten egg to combine. Mmmm! We also had cocktail sausages, roasted parsnips and potatoes, sprouts, sweetcorn and bread sauce. As usual, we were too full for Christmas pudding. Normally we have sandwiches and cold sausages etc later, but as we didn't eat till three we were still too full. That's usually my favourite time of Christmas Day, so I'll try and remember to get things ready sooner next year.

A murky view of the park on Boxing Day, taken on the way to the shops for more milk and butter.

Yesterday I took the kids down for a fleeting visit to my parents. They stay about 100 miles away so it's a bit of a trek. The weather wasn't pleasant for driving either, especially on the homeward trip in the dark - so much spray from the lorries when passing, rather unnerving I find.

Anyway, no more visiting/hosting obligations now till nearer New Year so I've time to get going on the essay again. Why am I therefore spending the time blogging? Sigh, I don't like essay writing, I'm going to end up doing several very late nights nearer the time methinks. I'm at the reading/researching stage and I find the academic style of writing challenging - why can't they just say exactly what they mean and get straight to the point in as few words as possible. Most journal articles to me seem unnecessarily complicated and long winded...  

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Goose is Getting Fat.

Christmas is coming!

The tree is up and decorated. I did intend getting a real tree this year, but after wasting a couple of hours out and about trying to find a not too large Norway spruce (I like the smell of a Norway spruce, why else bother I think!), I decided to plump for the cheaper, easier option and retrieved the artificial tree from the loft.

The tree fits well in the corner of the bay window and minimal furniture rearranging was required to accommodate it.

These photos were taken on a lovely sunny day. Imagine lots of banging noises to accompany the pictures as the roofers were busy fixing the slates while I faffed around taking photos of the sunny and tidy (for us) living room. I'm so glad the roof is now sorted, we've had another few days of very windy wet weather and it's good to know the house is weathertight again.  

My favourite decoration, the matchbox nativity set makes its annual appearance...

...in its usual position in front of the clock on the mantlepiece.

The children decorated the tree and did a good job once again, I don't think there was a single bauble left in the box once they'd finished.

We've been having some lovely sunrises,

 fabulous clouds,

and pretty sunsets.

I've made 48 of these things. I've still lots of mincemeat left. I'm not sure I can face making any more individual pies so I may try spreading the mincemeat on some puff pastry and making a giant mincepie slice. Anyone tried doing this before?

N had one of his friends round after school and they decorated some fairy cakes. This was the last one left. It was yummy, despite the polar bear only having one ear.

I've another essay to write, I find essay writing surprisingly hard. I hadn't realised how much of a scientist/engineer I actually am - I'd much rather be given a big set of experimental data to analyse than screeds of academic waffle to make sense of and draw meaningful conclusions from. It's not due till Jan 6th so I'm sure I'll find plenty of opportunities for procrastination till then. It is nearly Christmas after all!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A Bit Blowy.

Wasn't it windy! With only ever being at home during darkness I hadn't realised how much we'd been affected, till the weekend...

The sometimes-flowering copper leaved tree which stood in the middle of our grass was blown over. It was obviously diseased and must have been ready to go at any time, so at least it fell without hurting anyone.

The view I like from the top of the garden will never be the same again! Oddly, the tree being down makes the garden look smaller. The holly tree which is to my right as I took the above photo is no longer obscured as I look out to the garden from the house, this makes it look closer and the garden therefore smaller. Still, it'll make games of tennis/football etc easier without a tree in the middle to negotiate.
One of my lanterns had blown down, I stuck it back up. One of our heavy wooden gates was blown off and the post supporting it is wrecked so that will need fixed. As will all the slates which blew off the roof at the front of the house. It's from the same area that lost slates in the last storm, I'll try a different roofer to fix it this time. I'm still trying to get in touch with the home insurance, I gave up after being on hold for 40 minutes at my last attempt. 
The big blanket is in use! The cat seems to approve. Generally she's not allowed on the bed. I let her stay for a photo or ten.

I have survived my first teaching placement. Here are the window stars the children made during my crit lesson, they did a great job. I'm pretty tired now. My class teacher was off for the whole of my last week, and covering another class for some of the previous week, so I was left to get on with it (I agreed to cover - my decision, though supply teachers do seem in short, ahem, supply!). Good experience I guess, but it would have been nice to have seen my teacher before I left. Still, I've been invited to the P7 Christmas dance so I'll catch up with her then. The dreaded folder is as up to date as I'm intending to make it (any teacher will remember the "joy" of completing their placements folders I'm sure!) and it will be handed in on Tues. At least we get a good long Christmas break, though they've kindly given us an essay to write for the first day back, and a book-chain task too, just so we don't get bored perhaps...



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