24 Things to do in Advent

I recently came across Flame: Creative Children’s Ministry‘s booklet of 24 things to do during Advent.  As well as printing the booklet for personal use, they suggest it could be given out to families in church.  I could see how it could work well given out along with publicity for Christmas services or at toddler groups etc.  The one on the Flame website is a booklet with a number of activities included.  I have adapted it slightly and made a single page grid of activity ideas that I can work through with the boys.  Feel free to adapt and use it yourself if you wish.

24 Things to do in Advent

Hen Day – Making Fascinators!

Today I spent the day in Bath for the hen do of a very lovely friend who I lived with back in my university days.  Much of the day had been kept a surprise from us all and I was very excited when we arrived at The Makery and learned we were going to be making our own fascinators!

The Makery is a wonderful craft shop and workshop located in the centre of Bath.  They offer a number of party packages including today’s fascinator workshop for hen parties.

To start with we were all given some sinamay strips in a variety of colours to choose from.  We had to damp this down with a water spray to make it easier to work with.


We were then able to shape our sinamay as we wished and pinned it in place before using a needle and thread to secure the shape.


Once we had our shape sorted, there were a number of embellishments we could use including buttons, feathers and sequins.  It was then time to attach our design to a clip, comb or alice band ready to wear.


Some of the fascinators the girls made were incredible and could easily be mistaken for proper shop-bought ones.  Mine was by no means up to the standard of the others but it was so much fun and even I was proud of the finished result.  A lovely idea for a hen party!

Building Site Trip

Opposite the church there is a huge building project going on as McCarthy and Stone are building some retirement apartments there.  The boys have loved watching the work progress from outside and particularly enjoy watching the crane at work.  This gave Chris the idea to approach McCarthy and Stone to see if they would be willing to host a toddler group and pre-school trip.  They very kindly agreed and provided us with hard hats and hi-vis jackets for the children to wear.

Today was the first day of our visits and Josh and I were both fortunate enough to be able to go twice.  McCarthy and Stone had built a special raised platform so that the children would be able to get a good view of what was happening.  They loved watching the builders at work and having the crane operator wave to them as he went about his work.  The children were also all provided with little goody bags containing stickers etc.  It was a fantastic opportunity to see what happens at a building site first hand and I am looking forward to returning on Thursday with the next group of children from the toddler group.


Book Review: Bake through the Bible and Play through the Bible

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Two years ago we received for Christmas a copy of Bake through the Bible which is a fantastic resource for anyone who enjoys baking in the kitchen and also wants to find creative ways to get into God’s word with little ones.  We enjoyed it so much that last Christmas I asked for a copy of Play through the Bible.

Both of these books are fantastic resources for parents wanting to explore Bible stories more with their young children.  The Bake through the Bible book contains really simple recipes such as Sad Pizza Faces and Spiral Tuna Wraps.  However, if like me you are sometimes pushed for time (or lacking in skills!) in the kitchen, then there are often time-saver options which mean that you shouldn’t be put off by anything in the book.  Alongside each recipe is a simple retelling of a Bible story and a prayer as well as a description of how the food links with the story.  It’s a lovely way of bringing two favourite activities (cooking and Bible stories) together.

Unlike Bake through the BiblePlay through the Bible just focuses on one particular section of the Bible – the book of Luke.  For each passage, Alice Buckley suggests two different ways of sharing the story with your pre-schooler(s).  She recommends retelling the same story every day for a week rather than rushing too quickly through the different passages.  Buckley then provides a range of play activities to pick and choose from throughout the week to reinforce the story.  These range from games such as Simon Says through to pretending to be doctors through to ‘fishing’ in the bath.  There really will be something to suit all tastes.

I would really recommend both of these books to any families with young children who are looking for creative ways of exploring the Bible.

My Wedding Tiara

A few months ago I sent this photograph with the following letter to my four year old niece who lives in Afghanistan.


Dear Rachel

In this box is the tiara that I wore to my wedding.  I have recently been sorting through some of my things that were at Grandma and Grandad’s house and came across this.  Unfortunately it has got a little bit damaged where it has been stored for the last few years so I am afraid that it probably won’t be any good for anyone else to wear at their own wedding.  However, I have tried to superglue it and I think it still looks rather beautiful.  I thought that you might enjoy it for playing and dressing up.

Lots of love,

Aunty Hannah

I was thrilled to receive this picture of Rachel wearing her new tiara and am so glad that my tiara now has a new lease of life!

Book Review: Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting


I first read Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting about eighteen months ago but have taken a while to get around to reviewing it.  This is not at all because it was uninspiring but rather because I wanted to take the time to do the review justice.

Noël Janis-Norton writes both as a parent and a teacher and so brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her theories.  She explains that she discovered the techniques that work to promote calmer, easier, happier parenting through observing teachers who had excellent working relationships with their classes.  As such, her techniques are relevant not just for parents but for anyone working with children.

Janis-Norton tells us that:

The basic premise of Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting is that our main job as parents, in addition to loving and enjoying our children, is to transmit the values, skills and habits we believe are important.

Loving our children is the easy part of the job – it just comes with the territory.  The hard part of the job is getting our kids into the habits that are important to us.  This takes effort, determination, planning – and it takes knowing the strategies that work!

The strategies that she promotes include descriptive praise when a child is exhibiting the sort of behaviour that you want and reflective listening to show your child that you have heard and understood their point of view.  In this regard, Janis-Norton’s ideas fit really well with those in books such as How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk (one of my favourites!)

In the second section of the book, Janis-Norton suggests how to apply her techniques to some typical family flashpoints such as bedtimes, mealtimes and household chores.  I would strongly recommend, however, reading through the whole book and the explanation of each of the core strategies rather than trying to jump to these sections for a quick fix.  Although Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting is quite a long book, it is easy to read and well broken up.  By reading it through from start to finish, I believe that you are better able to internalise the techniques so that they come more naturally to you.  In fact, flicking back through this book this evening, I have been amazed how much of it I have remembered and use without thinking simply because the book is written so effectively.

If you’re not like me and don’t want to spend too much of your free time reading parenting books, then I would definitely recommend this as one of the ones to focus on.  It is relevant to a whole range of ages and different contexts and thus has something for everyone.  I think it will definitely be one that I keep coming back to.

Goodbye to Hutton and Shenfield Union Church

We have just come back from a few days away staying with my parents in Essex.  They first moved to Hutton, on the outskirts of Brentwood, just over twelve years ago.  This week they are moving to Milton Keynes where Dad (and Mum!) are taking up new roles.  We were invited to go across to join them for their leaving do at Hutton and Shenfield Union Church where Dad has been the minister.

Although I had already left home when my parents moved from Worthing to Brentwood, the church family at Hutton and Shenfield has been a big part of my life over the last twelve years.  A lot has changed in my life over that time as I was still a student at university when Mum and Dad first moved there.  Chris and I ourselves lived nearby and worshipped at the church for a few years early on in our marriage.

As well as a lot happening in my own life over the time Mum and Dad have lived in Brentwood, a lot has changed in the life of Hutton and Shenfield Union Church as well.  There have been many ‘highs’ which we have been privileged to have been a part of.  We particularly enjoyed celebrating with them during their centenary year in 2013 which I know was the feature of some of my blog posts that year!  Of course, there have been many ‘lows’ during that time as well and I am reminded of a number of friends lost during that time, some through particularly tragic circumstances.  We have grown fond of the church family at Hutton and Shenfield and are grateful for the way they have made us feel a part of the church family throughout the whole of Mum and Dad’s time there.  It hasn’t just been somewhere we’ve visited occasionally but we have very much felt a part of the community there and Hutton and Shenfield will hold a special place in my heart.

As well as missing the church, we will also miss other things about the locality.  In particular, the proximity to London.  Popping into London for a day trip will not now be quite as easy as it has been.  We will also miss Lakeside and the other places we used to enjoy shopping at around Essex.  However, we are very much looking forward to having a new place to explore and will enjoy finding out what Milton Keynes has to offer.  And we will certainly be glad to avoid the M25!

I still remember the first time I saw a picture of Hutton and Shenfield Union Church – it really is an exceptionally beautiful church!  Because of this, Dad has taken quite a few photographs of it over the years.  It was hard to choose just one to go with this blog post.  Although this isn’t particularly autumnal, I have chosen this one…


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