Making Clothes for New Baby with Older Sibling

Davina here - Its not long now till my due date - less than six weeks! I can't believe how the time has gone by so quickly. This weekend my friends threw me a surprise baby shower, which made it all seem more real and was so so lovely - Thank you so much Jelena for organising it. I will post soon some pictures of some of the beautiful gifts friends made and bought for the baby. 

Nick and I are always thinking about ways we can prepare Elfie for the new baby and we had an idea that it would be lovely Elfie 'made' the baby's first outfit. I am a big fan of customising baby-grows so I bought a packet and let Elfie decorate them in different ways. 

How your toddler or young child can customise a baby-grow:

  • Fabric pens to draw or markmake
  • Rubber stamps (Elfie used a custom stamp of her MouseBear)
  • Stencils - I love using freezer paper to make my own stencils - post coming soon
  • Spray fabric paint (I made my own by simply pouring fabric paint into empty spray bottles)
  • Fabric paint

Note: For all the above techniques you will need to allow to dry and then iron for 3 minutes to set dye permanently. 

Elfie used fabric pens to make dots

Elfie used fabric pens to make dots

Here Elfie stamped her Mousebear rubber stamp and made dots using fabric pens

Here Elfie stamped her Mousebear rubber stamp and made dots using fabric pens

Elfie used DIY Fabric Spray paint here (I didn't have much left so had to dilute it with water - I think it would be nicer more concentrated)

Elfie used DIY Fabric Spray paint here (I didn't have much left so had to dilute it with water - I think it would be nicer more concentrated)

Next we will make some stencilled ones and I will make sure to take photos to share. I wouldn't advise applique for newborns as you would need to sew on to be secure (to avoid risk of choking) and the stitches might be itchy for newborns. However, you could use this technique for tops that go over a baby-grow. 

If you are making anything with your older child for new baby we would love to see pictures!

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2 beautiful rural spots in the Netherlands and Germany

Uhlencamp, Germany

Hannah here: So far, I have covered our adventures in discovering  Antwerp and Amsterdam,  the shade sail I made for the trip, and some ponderous ruminations on the pleasures of road tripping. For my next trip instalment, I wanted to tell you about the next leg of our adventure- rural Netherlands and Germany.

Fresh from our exploration and subsequent breathless romance with Amsterdam,  we set off toward rural Netherlands. We drove to huge open grasslands studded with great herds of cattle, interspersed with grid-like river estuaries. Gaping wide skies stretched around us for miles, unimpeded by hills or mountains, giving us the unnerving feeling of driving within a snow dome.  Our eco campsite, Thyencamp, found via “Cool Camping”, was in the middle of one of these flat expanses of grassland in a truly idyllic and utterly peaceful spot (bar the odd braying cow and shrieking cockerel).  Spacious pitches, local animals, internet on site and a recreation room to hide from the rain were all very welcome. Here we saw huge, bright, cartoon-like rainbows, enormous Moon's, endured rain storms, played in the willow arcs and beautiful playground on the site and spotted some dreamy retro caravans and camper vans. We didn’t do much here other than rest at the tent and read, which was welcome after the preceding week.

Theyncamp, Rural Netherlands
Theyncamp, Rural Netherlands
Our tent in the moonlight

Our tent in the moonlight

Theyncamp, Rural Netherlands
Retro campervan, Theyncamp, Rural Netherlands
Theyncamp, Rural Netherlands
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wagon in use on a campsite
A cool vintage junk called Expand 88 in nearby Assen

A cool vintage junk called Expand 88 in nearby Assen

Expand 88 in nearby Assen

Expand 88 in nearby Assen

Germany beckoned next. We arose early and hurried to pack the tent before the promised rain came, bade farewell to Paul and Marjo, the friendly campsite owners, then drove on, encountering yet more idyllic driving. The scenery gradually changed from wide flat grazing land to densely forested, slightly hillier, terrain. We were destined for another “Cool Camping” site, Uhlenkoper which is also an eco site (we went for small, eco sites where possible) complete with a natural (if chilly!) swimming pool, well stocked ethical shop, and more activity options than you can shake a stick at. We actually found the tent field way too cramped, it felt more like a festival field than a rural campsite, but the rest of the site was lovely. The best part of this section of the trip was being able to hire bikes to explore the nearby forests. It felt so good to stretch our legs on our bikes, whoosh down sleepy German lanes, stumble across a wooded mini farm and get lost amongst the towering trees of the woods. Frankie absolutely loved riding in the trailer and we now really want to get bikes for all of us.

Uhlencamp, Germany
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Uhlencamp, Germany
Uhlencamp, Germany
Uhlencamp, Germany

The time spent in these campsites gave us some welcome time to relax into the trip a bit and spend time pottering at the tent. By this point Dave and I took stock and allowed ourselves a cautious high five. Because, by jove, it was working! This trip was working! Our stuff did fit then re-fit into the car, Frankie did thrive amongst all of the changes, Dave and I did not scratch each others eyes out in a mess of canvas and tent pole when putting the tent up (-all things we were quite worried about before we set off!). Hurrah! Pats on the back, and congratulatory drinks all round.  It was, however, at this point in the trip that I realised we had slightly overbooked ourselves. Three nights in each place isn't enough when you consider that most of two of those days are spent travelling. So we made some changes to the rest of our trip.

Next up, Denmark, baby! 

P.s It's therapeutic to be immersing myself back in this wonderful adventure when the reality of my life right now is so chaotic. How i’m longing to be back on those bikes, flying through the forest.

P.p.s We move into our new rental in Kent in October but we're doing some work to it first. Expect some new-house-spam in the coming months! Sooo looking forward to being settled now. 

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Choosing Waldorf Schooling and Settling Elfie into Kindergarten

For Elfie's first day we were asked to bring a cushion for rest time, a water cup, wellies and woolen slippers.

For Elfie's first day we were asked to bring a cushion for rest time, a water cup, wellies and woolen slippers.

Davina here - this month has been a big month for my family as my daughter Elfie, who is three and a half years old started Kindergarten at our local Steiner School. It has been overwhelmingly emotional for me - something I didn't expect at all (being pregnant must have had its part in this). 

Elfie has always been a very confident child in social situations and happy to run off and play with new children. On her first day she showed us this by quickly kissing us goodbye and running into her classroom with no turning back, whilst other children clung onto their parents as they entered the classroom. We were told we could stay with her for the first morning if needed but decided not to as she showed us independence and we wanted to give her that (I was secretly disappointed as wanted to experience kindergarten again - as I went through the whole system and so..... loved it.) However, by Tuesday evening she was saying she did not want to go to Kindergarten - she said she didn't like it and when I asked her why she said she didn't like the food. I have to admit the food is very healthy - lots of lentils and vegetable stews etc - which is different from what we normally cook for her - we tend to do more classic toddler food - carrot sticks and hummus etc. Elfie’s dislike of the food became a big issue and the next morning she begged me not to take her. In the end I had to go in with her and let her cry on my lap begging me not to go. After 15 minutes her teacher advised me to leave and said if it got worse she'd call me to come back. I left her crying her eyes out and to be honest crying myself. It was so unlike her, which made it worse. She also told me that morning that she'd made no friends yet, which broke my heart. Luckily an hour later her teacher called to say she had settled down and was happily playing with the other children and although again she didn't want to go the next day she did not cry when I left (well not too much). 

What we did to help with the food issue:
I realised I needed to do something to help with Elfie’s strong dislike of the food so I took a few actions:

  • I asked for a copy of the weekly food menu.
  • I bought key ingredients from the menu.
  • I started to make similar food at home - slowly making it more like what they have at Kindergarten.
  • I started a reward system for when Elfie tried the food and bigger rewards for eating it all. 

By the following Wednesday she ate a whole bowl of millet stew! I was so proud and bought her a hula hoop to say well done. She is beginning to make friends and we planned a play date for her last weekend with one of her classmates to encourage this, which really helped. We also have a new childminder looking after her two afternoons so its all going to take time to settle down and once it does it will all change again with the arrival of new baby (due 9th November!) but we will get there… 

I have to be honest and say I have been feeling very anxious about it all. The journey is almost an hour each way involving two buses, which I feel bad about and I am feeling guilty about working and not being able to pick her up everyday like a lot of the other mothers. This is all mixed up with settling in a new childminder and being heavily pregnant but things are already getting calmer and yesterday Elfie has a lovely day with her new childminder and seems happy every morning this week to go to school. 

Why we chose Steiner Education for Elfie:

Celebration of Childhood: Steiner schools place strong emphasis on celebrating childhood and focusing on play - they place no rush on adult academic learning, which I love. I want Elfie to enjoy her childhood - to play, imagine and explore - there is no rush to learn to read and write and when she does learn she will be so ready that she will catch up quickly. 

Routine and Rhythm: Routine and seasonal rhythm is very much the core of the kindergarten day. The children have a weekly activity and food menu and that is echoed by a seasonal rhythm - so for example the food is all seasonal and the activities are too - so conker collecting and apple crumble making in autumn.

The Magic of the Festivals and Celebrations: Steiner schools celebrate many folk festivals and place a lot of energy in preparing for them to make them special for the children. This of course again reinforces the idea of seasonal rhythm and helps the children understand about the changing year. This is something I have such strong memories of from my childhood at a Steiner school and the only word I can describe for it is 'magical'. It's also something we try to echo on our blog. 

Our Lantern Walk last winter

Our Lantern Walk last winter

Natural Toys: All the toys in Kindergarten are made from natural materials like wood and cloth and when possible hand crafted. They are simple toys that allow the children to be imaginative about how they use them rather than direct children’s play - like a toy that has a button for noise. If you would like to buy toys like this for your home I love Myriad Toys. These toys also help teach children about quality and the time that goes into making things. 

Calm Space: Steiner schools are very calm spaces and in particular kindergarten. The colour palette is very gentle and there is lots of white space - no visual clutter on the walls like you get in many schools. 

Beauty: Everything is done with care and beauty. The signs are hand crafted, the classrooms beautifully decorated and every toy or cup is considered and good quality. 

Love: The teachers are encouraged to love the children and give lots of gentle affection. The class teacher, which a class has from class 1-8 (age 7-14) is almost a second parent in the child’s life striving to create another healthy relationship between the child and another adult in a position of care. 

Mixed Age and Gender Groups: All Steiner schools are mixed sex, something which I feel very strongly about the benefits of. I want Elfie to grow up seeing boys as friends and equals rather than as potential boyfriends. Kindergarten is mixed age too from 3.5-6.5 so the children learn together and support each other in different ways much like a family does. 

Outdoor Time: No matter what the weather the children have outdoor play time and reap the benefits of fresh air and outdoor play and exploration. I love this and think its so healthy (plus it gives them a good appetite and helps them sleep better at night).

Healthy Food & Communal Meal Time: All the food is healthy and organic where possible. This gives the children an appetite for healthy food from a young age. Meal times are a real social focus, in which most days the children prepare food for and every day sit together with candle light to enjoy. 

We'd love to hear your experiences of settling your child into a new kindergarten or school too- we hope it has been smooth! 

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DIY Galaxy Top - Featured in Mollie Makes

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Davina here - I am really excited to have my DIY Galaxy Top tutorial published in this month's Mollie Makes. A couple of months ago Mollie Makes invited me to share how to make a galaxy inspired top for an adult but I got carried away and made one for Elfie and the baby too! See pictures below. They are really easy and fun to make but do require quite a few different materials like bleach and rubber gloves etc. If you make any please do send us pictures. This project has so inspired Hannah and I that we are making our Christmas gifts for Frankie and Elfie's friends using a similar technique - post coming soon!

To see full tutorial find a copy of the latest Mollie Makes. 

Wearing my top!

Wearing my top!

Elfie and the baby's tops

Elfie and the baby's tops

Babygrow once sprayed with bleach

Babygrow once sprayed with bleach

Our Family Annual Holiday to Lagos, Portugal

Davina here - Every year we visit my parents house in Portugal that was originally my granny's home before she past away and left it to my parents. Its a beautiful converted farm house in the countryside about a 20 minute drive from Lagos and we absolutely love going there - its like a second home.

Lagos is a beautiful old town with small, hilly cobbled streets by the sea. It has always been quite a touristy town in the summer months with lots of restaurants and shops but lately it has really pushed itself to offer more for families and there are now lots of fun activities (like hiring family bikes) and water features for children to play in. There is also an incredible Zoo and horse riding centre so endless things for families to do. 

Here are a few of my favourite photos from the holiday:

Elfie loving the new water fountain

Elfie loving the new water fountain

Elfie and NIck exploring the town

Elfie and NIck exploring the town

Elfie and her uncle Will trying to view boats in the fog

Elfie and her uncle Will trying to view boats in the fog

Elfie and her uncle Will in the beautiful fog

Elfie and her uncle Will in the beautiful fog

Collecting flowers from our garden to press and make souvenirs from our holiday

Collecting flowers from our garden to press and make souvenirs from our holiday

Elfie loving the vintage carousel 

Elfie loving the vintage carousel