December Newsletter: The One With Our Advent and Christmas Highlights
Hello, and welcome to my monthly newsletter!
I hope you are all well, and that you have had a peaceful Christmas, however it might have looked for you this year. December has been, on reflection, quite a busy month for us, despite feeling rather quiet. It's been calm and peaceful, with most of our days spent at home alone, but also full of excitement and anticipation. It's been a bit dull at times, yes (three cooked meals are required EVERY day?!) but also really rather magical. A month that reflects the very up and down nature of this challenging year we're having.
We finished our North America project at the end of November, with the intention of spending the whole of December baking, crafting and preparing for Christmas. We crammed a lot in! Here are our highlights...
Our Advent Highlights
Laf and Lof, our kindness elves, arrived on the 1st December, bringing with them lots of joy and excitement every morning in the lead up to Christmas day. You can read more about our kindness elves here.
This year, Bean requested that Laf and Lof appear in a new spot each morning, to add an element of fun hunting them out. I might not have agreed to this had I considered that Bean is going to bed so much later these days, yawn. Anyway, they brought with them a few new treats, but mostly the supplies needed to craft or bake, or Christmas stories and films from our existing collection.
One morning, quite early on in December, they delivered Bean a real, teeny tiny Christmas tree for her to decorate. We reused the battery-powered LED lights and festive decorations that came with a Christmas tree kit that I bought for her last year (impulsively, and at great expense) from Bloom and Wild. We would have liked to have reused the sweet little tree itself, but despite repotting it, it didn't survive. I'll try again with this year's tree. If you have any tips for keeping it alive, please pm me!
This year we invested in a new, artificial Christmas tree for our home, having had our old table top tree for almost 15 years. I expect it surprises some of you that we opt for an artificial tree. I much prefer a real tree, really I do, but I prefer them living in the ground outside. I always feel heartbroken seeing them all abandoned in the street for recycling after Christmas. We donated our old tree to a local school, so I hope that it has many more years of use.
If you have an artificial Christmas tree and miss the beautiful scent, try adding a few drops of fir or pine essential oil to some wool felt balls and string them up as a garland on your Christmas tree.
Our new Advent book, Christmas is Coming, inspired quite a few activities this December, including writing a letter to Father Christmas, decorating the windows with paper snowflakes, singing carols, reading stories and baking gingerbread cookies.
We enjoyed reading about how Christmas is celebrated around the world during our morning time sessions, using the book photographed below. You can read a more detailed description of all our Advent books, and find the links here.
We also found inspiration in the Christmas Craft and Maths pack from Enjoy Maths. We explored tessellating shapes while making 'stained glass window' Christmas cards. Bean's card doesn't look anything like the example provided, but you may be able to make out the tessellating hexagons in the puppy's faces?! We explored nets while building 3-dimensional boxes for our handmade wreath, and explored measure while making some lavender bath salts as gifts for family and friends.
Other December Highlights
We had not one, but two, snack boxes delivered from Snack Surprise in December. The delayed November box featured snacks from Denmark, and December's box was snacks from Spain. We love this subscription box! You can read a full review in this Facebook post.
Mid-month we returned at long last to a one-off, in-person, Christmas-special cookery class with Sara at Live Learn Cook. Bean was so happy to be back, and the class was very well organised, but we miss all the social aspects which are so hard to manage while social distancing. We made a batch of snowball cookies and a big tray of festive rocky road, both of which went down very well with friends and neighbours.
We had one, precious day of play with my lovely little mindee and goddaughter, and an overnight visit from one of Bean's little friends (from our support bubble). We miss having children in our house!
December Cleaning, Decluttering and Redecorating
Mid-December I had one final push to finish repainting our kitchen. It's not that different to how it was before, but the damp damage has been repaired and it's all been cleaned and decluttered, and feels lovely and fresh. You can see in the video below how I decorated the mantlepiece for Christmas. I like the idea of using this space for seasonal display.
I also liberated another half shelf for book storage in our living room, and had a HUGE end of term tidy up in our dining room, ready for the new school year. A bit premature, maybe, but I knew that we'd be keen to start our new projects as soon as Christmas was over.
Celebrating the Winter Solstice and My Birthday
Last year I turned 40, and I feel so grateful to have got in a lovely, big celebration with family and friends before the pandemic hit. I was born in the early hours of 22nd December, just on the cusp of the winter solstice. It's a hard time of year to have a birthday, as I'm sure those of you with birthdays this close to Christmas will understand.
This year, I was expecting to spend the day alone with Bean, as my Mum usually joins us a bit nearer Christmas, but with Wales going into lockdown at midnight on the 19th, she jumped straight in the car! Thankfully, she was completely ready and waiting, and we had both been isolating (unintentionally) beforehand.
So, we got to spend the solstice and my birthday all together. It was all a very quiet affair, with our days spent at home, not doing a huge amount. We made solstice lanterns and a stovetop simmer pot, and ordered in a feast from Wagamama for my birthday.
Christmas Day was very quiet too, with just a short visit from my brother and his family. Bean went to her Daddy's after lunch, at which point Mum and I flopped in front of the fire for afternoon naps, tea, copious amounts of chocolate and too much television. I won't share all of Bean's Christmas gifts in this post, but will try to share some of the books and resources over the coming weeks on my social media accounts.
Spring Term Plans
Now that Christmas is done and dusted, we are very much turning our attention to the new year and thinking ahead to our next projects. In fact, we've already made a start on some of our projects, because we have no reason to wait!
Our main project for the Spring term is going to be a science one. We're not following a curriculum, and don't have much of a plan, but we have some lovely books and resources to explore. We shall see where they take us.
My rough plan is for us to begin with chemistry, because Bean really enjoys making potions and observing chemical reactions. She's also very interested in the Periodic Table of Elements. Having said that, she received a very appealing biology kit and physics kit for Christmas, so we'll see. I'll share a more in depth look at the books and resources I've sourced in another post, as we have a lot more than photographed here. I've linked some of them in my Science book list here.
We've got a couple of side projects up our sleeve too, the first being the Courage unit from Leah McDermott at Your Natural Learner. This unit is designed for Grade 3 (not sure what age that is) but I've picked it out as I'm keen to further support Bean in confidently voicing her feelings and opinions, even when they differ from her peers and/or important adults in her life. At the moment, I am very much her advocate (which I am happy and honoured to always be) but she will need to discover her unique voice.
Lastly, we're planning some lovely art and craft projects for the new year, including making a start on the Meet the Artists curriculum I picked up a while ago, starting with Frida Kahlo.
We only managed the one, short trip out in the whole of December (ashamed face), and it wasn't an especially inspiring one. It was very muddy. The children galloped ahead, while us adults tried to impart a full month of catch up information with one another in just over an hour. Bean and I are planning to attempt the 1000 hours outside tracker in the New Year, in the hope that it will motivate us to get outdoors at our most challenging time of the year.
31 Days of Morning Play Invitations
You may or may not know that I have a brand new play guide launching this January, 31 Days of Morning Play Invitations. This is a DAILY EMAIL collection of 31 invitations to play, explore and create, that you can set up quite quickly and easily before you go to bed at night, using materials that you will likely already have in your home. It's not too late to sign up. We start on the 1st January, but sign up will be open until the 5th. Come and join us for a month of early morning play this January!
We haven't had any new additions to our morning basket this month, apart from our Advent books mentioned above. We've spent the whole month reading Christmas books, which you'll find linked here in my Bookshop. I'll have lots to share with you in January's newsletter though!
Audio Books This month Bean has listened to the third and final in the Wizards of Once series, Knock Three Times, which she really enjoyed. We've also been listening, albeit quite slowly, to another Jacqueline Wilson, The Longest Whale Song, which tells the story of a little girl coping with a new sibling, her mother in a post-partum coma and life with a step-father whom she isn't very fond of. Big themes, but tackled through the eyes of a child, makes it quite a compelling story. I hope it ends well!
I've managed just the one audio book this month, The Testaments, which did not disappoint. It took me a while to get my head around the different format to the first in the series, The Handmaid's Tale, but I was soon gripped. I've got such a backlog of audiobooks waiting to be listened to that I'm not sure which one to go for next. I'll need to do some more cleaning and decluttering to give me a chance to listen to them.
I've only written the one blog post this month, but here it is, just in case you missed it.
Waldorf Window Star Tutorial