Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Willow craft

We were lucky enough to get some free tickets to a willow craft workshop at the local library yesterday afternoon. Spent a lovely two hours learning the basics of this craft and the kids each made willow fish. K's is on a stick (to secure to a rock in our bird bath) and B's is on the end of a long willow fishing rod, although you can't see this from the photo!

We had a read about the terrible Java earthquake on the CBBC Newsround site and looked up the island in the atlas and did a recap about earthquakes and what causes them. Also found this funny story about a moggy in America and we decided to make up our own funny animal newsclips to read to each other!

B has got into Scrabble, so he and I have been playing quite a bit during the day. Although he sometimes needs help with finding words from his selection of letters, it must certainly be good for his learning. K had a little play, but she lost interest once the game began to run at a slower pace!

During a lull in activites, K grabbed the book Rainy Day book and started to make a fabulous cardboard home for her riding dolls. B joined in and made one for his Eggbert toy! I was pretty chuffed as they worked together, without any assistance from me, which was quite refreshing.

The sun shone today (although still quite cold) and I let the kids lose out the draw with chalks on the pavement! Lots of horses and horsey slogans decorate the public path now (P thought someone had vandalised our home from a distance!) and it'll probably not rain for days now!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Jousting at Belvoir Castle

Went out for the day yesterday and visited Belvoir Castle, which is between Melton and Grantham. We'd often spotted it in the distance - this beautiful, huge stately home, high up on a hill, on our way to Nottingham (Ikea trip, of course!) and promised ourselves to visit one day. Kids aren't great on wondering round these houses, but today was different as there was jousting involved - lots of horses - right up K's street.

A most impressive house and wonderful gardens, worthy of another visit as we ran out of time to thoroughly explore all the outside areas. There's also a children's adventure playground which we didn't have time to see. The house was interesting and beautiful and the children found seeing the life size painting of Henry VIII on one of the walls abit strange as they'd been looking at the same painting in one of the Tudor books from the library just last week. We pondered over whether or not it really was life size and then realised that they were all a bit shorter than most men of today. Lots of other lovely paintings there too, beautiful silk decoration on one of the bedroom walls and this huge silver wine server which seemed to feature in some of the paintings and more modern photographs with children sitting inside it!

Jousting was brilliant. We all sat on a very steep bank of long, wet grass and cheered and booed the various opponents in the jousting. K loved the horses, B loved all the fighting, especially that done on foot with swords and flails. It was very well acted and kept everyone amused for the hour or so that it lasted.

I bought B a great wooden bow and arrow set which, after the initial tantrum throwing because he couldn't work out how to use it, took to it very well and is aiming at all and sundry now!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Mini knights in shining armour

We have successfully started our Medieval and Tudor topics and K couldn't wait to get going on producing a mini pipecleaner knight to sit across her model horses! We found a fabulous book from the library - "The Medieval World" by Kingfisher, which has lots of horsey information inside. We all made mini knights with silver foil, shields and various weapons, and dressed the horses too! B enjoyed talking about the gruesome weapons and how mean people were to each other in this era.

Today was another clean up day as friends were popping in this afternoon to whisk K off for a sleepover(and B's having an old school friend over tomorrow). Kids were pretty self-sufficient while I hoovered and tidied up. Both got on with typing up their stories about Jasper as a knight and Billy as a pirate (blog on this is here). B managed to finish his and proudly read it out to me - a fun story with some lovely adjectives. We went through it together to go over any spellings (not many) and grammar, he's really got the hang of speech marks now and is alot calmer with the exclamation marks! K is still working on her story and is aiming for 3 A4 pages of type! I read hers out in funny voices as the story is quite a laugh! What imaginations they both have.

B did some on-line maths this morning too and told me he'd played a snakes and ladders game using multiplication (which he said was easy) and fractions (which wasn't easy, but he got through it). I dug out his old 3D version of snakes and ladders (found it under the bed -a little dusty to say the least) and we've been playing it all week using two die to aid his addition.

K found a recipe for flapjacks and made them herself with little assistance, following the method and weighing all the ingredients. We'd never made these before and unfortunately they stuck to the bottom of the tin (a common problem I later found out - any suggestions?) but what we salvaged was delicious. Hubby came home for lunch today and practically ate the lot!

Friends over to play for a short while this afternoon and K went off for a sleepover. B and I snatched a quick half hour's worth of footie in the park as the sun made a brief appearance earlier this evening.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Morse Code day

.... . .-.. .-.. ---

Love looking at the interactive calendars on the net. Enchanted Learning advised us that today that it is the anniversary of the first morse code transmission (1844 from Washington DC to Baltimore). See the alphabet and numerals in morse code here. Kids wrote their names in morse code and put details of this event up on our timeline.

As we are all so involved with the little blue tit family web cam (most or all have hatched now), I decided to use birds in our maths today - and we had no complaints this time! We used the free RSPB bird pamphlet to each choose five birds of different lengths. Drew, coloured and cut them out to stick onto graph paper to then record their lengths using bars. With K I briefly touched on fractions and percentages using this information - will probably expand on this tomorrow.

K asked to do make a jousting knight (started topics of Tudors and Medieval era on Monday). Quite time-consuming as the dolls are made of pipecleaners and have been wrapped in tinfoil to respresent the armour. Started to read a couple of books about it all and looked at how the armour changed from chain mail to full steel gear over the years. B was interested in the crossbows, swords and shields so we looked at the heraldry in "The Medieval World" from Kingfisher.

-... -.-- . ..-. --- .-. -. --- ...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The sun actually made an appearance!

Yep, sun came out, mainly this afternoon, but we've had a clear day until around 4 p.m. when the heaven's opened - luckily it waited until I'd finished mowing the grass!

Thought today was going to be a right off.

Tantrums during maths this morning. Both seem to struggle with the easier maths and pick up the harder stuff quickly - very strange! Also I notice with B especially that one day everything sinks in and the next it's all forgotten again. Going over angles with K, she was doing fine until she need to work out the amount of the missing angle - literally just totalling to 180 deg. - just wasn't working! For B it was simply adding whole numbers, 20, 30, 50 etc. to another number. Again, he's done this in a flash in the past but not today, tears and pencil throwing and getting het up all round. Dropped it - not worth the hassle!

After this things picked up. We didn't do any of our "planned" work - didn't dare!

  • B decided to make a game set for his mini Eggbert (a PC game character) using junk boxes.
  • K received her beautiful new Feltie model horse and did some lovely drawings of it as well as continue to practise her drawings of people.
  • B then drew a couple of detailed marble runs which included car springs and water chutes to move the marble along, labelling up as he drew.
  • Over lunch we chatted about why the designers of Eggbert used an egg as their character rather than something/one sturdier, like a potato! Lots of suggestions discussed, I suggested B makes us a cousin for Eggbert, K named it Potbert!
  • Decided to put up the Brio Water Canal system outside and both kids played with this for a some time investigating the movement of water and how the locks work to push water into other areas.
  • K helped with the vegetable plot.
  • Have been watching the blue tit live web cam on and off today (see yesterday's blog entry). K noticed, around 4 p.m. that two of the eggs had hatched - so exciting.
  • B looked up bluetits in his free RSPCA birds pamphlet and then we all talked about the various sizes of birds and other other members of this family.
  • K suggested we finally get round to painting and putting together the bird box her Auntie had bought her a couple of year's back! We managed to paint all the pieces, just hope we can assemble it all correctly!

So, quite abit accomplished in the end I think!
Lots of fiddly bits! Veggies, 2 weeks on.

Monday, May 22, 2006

New baby birds again in our garden.

Managed to check up on our vegetable patch in between heavy downpours of rain. Everything is flourishing beautifully, but I see we need to do some weeding as well as add some more compost to the pots of potatoes.

While out in the garden, I had a quick peek at the old blackbird's nest to see if it was now empty (as the young have "flown" - see previous post here). Amazed to see mum feeding another brood of babies in the nest (very young too), so we have even more magical viewing to come.

On this subject, my Uncle has forwarded me the web site from a primary school in Portsmouth which has a live webcam attached to a nesting box. When we viewed this earlier we could clearly see a blue tit sitting and later fussing over her eggs. Makes wonderful viewing - watch it here (but not at night, for obvious reasons!).

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A lazy day today. I love dressing these dolls (from here) - picked this version up from Aspies HE blog, but I know they've been floating around other blogs!! I can relate abit to this one, I'm often in jeans and chunky boots! If you like dressing dolls, try Xandorras, (see the picture on the right) you get a couple of bases to play around with and I try and update a doll each week to put on my Ellesfuntimes web "welcome" page. They are great fun. There's lots of doll sites out there, K enjoys dressing bases using Paint Shop or similar and there are often tutorials to help you.

This is me (in a way). But this one isn't!!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friendship Friday

Found out that today is a fundraising day called Friendship Friday. If you read the link, you'll see all about it. Friendship Friday is a day to celebrate the friendship with schools in Pakistan and China. As a fundraising event, those participating design their own friendship band showing pictures and words about themselves or something special to them. Money can be donated to support Save the Children's educational programme in Asia.

To support this we looked at the National Georgraphic Kids site to read about the unfortunate families who have been totally stranded since the Pakistan earthquake last October. Children who have temporary homes and use tents for their classrooms. B is reading about earthquakes and volcanoes at the moment so finding out where this disaster happened was of interest to him.

We also checked out the CBBC Newsround page to read about a "press packer" who travelled from his home town in Lancashire to Pakistan to compare the differences between the two places. The Newsround site is actually full of really interesting information, and much more fun to read that an "adult" news page!

K had a friend to play for most of the day and didn't make her friendship band until this evening, but B and I made bands and swapped them to wear for the afternoon.

The bands are quite small to read but they say something about us,

like what we like to do, how we look, where we live, our favourite colour and food, etc.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tidy, tidy, tidy ... afternoon

We decided today would be tidy up day. Don't know really why I bother, as soon as I've cleaned the house, it seems to get dirty again - very quickly! Never mind, it needed to be done as K has a friend coming tomorrow. Left tidying to this afternoon, after the weekly shop!

Did some maths this morning - we seem to be on a role maths wise this week, probably because I've really made an effort to find some maths "work" for them to do each day! After this we decided to make our own magazines on a subject of our choice (naturally). K chose model horses, B chose Eggbert (his favourite PC game character at the mo) and I chose home ed! After looking at the covers of a few home mags for inspiration, we were off. Pretty good effort all round actually - they will be fun to read when they're finished.

Persuaded the kids to update their blogs yesterday. K enjoys blogging about her models or horses in general, B wrote about his coin cleaning experiment and put up a photo too. Check them out at the links on the side bar.

Retiring to TV or bed now (probably be first, should be second) as all the hard work has given me a stinking headache! At least the house is clean - for now!

Monday, May 15, 2006

A spontaneous day.

(picture availabe from

I love these kind of days - the spontaneous ones. We finished the maths (no complaints this time) and both kids asked to do some painting using the oils. K did a Rex rabbit (as she's hoping to get one soon) and B did a lovely river scene (with added Baobab tree!). K had finished first and we popped into the front room to quickly look up something on the PC. Gone for a couple of minutes before B came running in laughing "look, I've burnt myself" showing me his oil painted black hands! Anyone who's used oil paints will know, cleaning up afterwards is a nightmare. You need actual paint cleaner to get rid of the oils. After initial cries of "oh, B!", he runs off saying "it's ok, I'll wash them". Smeared oil paint over newly cleaned wash basin plus nice smeared painted hands! B then discovers the rabbit has escaped from the kitchen (it sits on an old sofa in there, not to everyone's liking I'm sure, but it's something we've always done) into the living room (a definate no no - he eats the wires) so goes chasing it trying to catch the poor thing leaving oil painted hand prints on doors, sofa and even carpet! Then B wondered, as I caught him to clean him up, why I was muttering through gritted teeth growing a monster like tail similar to that from the well known children's book "When Mum Turned into a Monster"!

Anyway, other spontaneous things that didn't end in disaster. K is doing an "advert" about yogurt that's "so good, even cats will eat it". She's drawn up a storyboard showing a cat eating the yogurt out of a pot using it's paw. This is something one of our cats Allie does! She's hoping to film him tomorrow and add captions using Powerpoint. Pretty artistic is our K.

B has been playing in a special kind of wax sand and has been asking about quicksand. We looked this up on the net to discover that quicksand isn't as deadly as we have all been lead to believe, thanks to cartoons and films. Click here to check it out yourself on the excellent "How Stuff Works" website.

Went bowling with the group this afternoon. B was over-the-moon because he got the highest score in his team.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Visit to Croydon

Had a lovely day visiting my sister and her family in Croydon today. We haven't seen them since Christmas and we also had Easter eggs to exchange with the children!

After a wonderful hot lunch, the kiddies all played well together outside, although I must admit K seemed to be the favourite with my sister's two young boys (4 and 2 1/2), they kept calling for her to play with them constantly. K did very well and seemed to enjoy "mothering" them, playing on their mini trikes, scooters, bike and slide.

My sister arranged a chocolate and sweet hunt for the kiddies and adults in the garden. We put together some Easter boxes to collect our findings and then quickly munched through them. She also bought some pretty hanging bird tables for the children to paint - see the results below. And finally, to round off the afternoon, a lovely homemade birthday cake to celebrate my birthday last week and footie on the TV!

Thanks for a lovely day sis.

Working hard on the boxes produced a lovely result.

Friday, May 12, 2006

w/e 12th May, 2006

We have been looking at Madagascar, mainly because the kids loved the film and until very recently, watched it night after night after night. In fact we'd watched it so much we were, I'm embarrassed to say, quoting from it in public on a regular basis!. We have been studying the numerous unusual creatures of the island aswell as the foosa and lemurs which are the most well known of this area. The kids enjoyed finding out about the amazing baobab trees, with their spongey trunks and fabulous branches that resemble roots. We had a go at doing some paintings of the trees together with lovely drawings of lemurs which we stuck onto the paintings using mini sticky squares (used for making cards). This gave the effect of 3D animals which looks quite something. There were dinosaur bones once found on Madagascar and we found a lovely website asking "what's inside the egg". The kids each drew what they thought would have been in the egg, once they'd compared the huge size of it against others, and then researched their creatures to find out more about it. K chose a crocodile, B a gorilla - he was surprised to find out that gorilla's don't appear from eggs like this! Once they'd found out that the actual egg once belonged to a dinosaur, they imagined what it may have looked like, described it and drew it. K of course saw this as a perfect opportunity to draw a horse/unicorn style dinosaur! A-Z kids stuff gave us most of the information we needed on this topic.

B has been into measuring this week for his maths, probably because he'd measured his long wiggly line of toy cars last week. He's successfully been converting his centimetre measurements to metres. K has been baking rock cakes all by herself, weighing accurately and understanding the fractions used on my electric scales, knowing now that 7/8th means she needs just a tiny bit more ingredient to bring it up to the next ounce (sorry we still prefer ounces in our house), etc. She's a good cook too - the rock cakes she made for last weekend quickly disappeared when we took them along for my birthday bash at Grandma's!

Weather has been great this week, getting hotter as the week has moved along. Spent time at the park, seeing if the numerous tadpoles we'd previously found had yet grown any legs - not yet! Played lots of footie and used the climbing frames. We also played with B's huge space ship style frisby which catches the wind and flies all over the place - wonderful excerise! We noticed afterwards that it said on the box not to use it in windy situations! Whoops!

National Pet Week this week. Our four pets are very dear to us so this was something we couldn't pass up on! We each took photos of a pet and decided to turn them into characters. We looked at a lovely Beatrix Potter site which features the popular books and all the pretty drawings and then set to with our photos to turn them into "people" using the photoshop software on the PCs. B did Jasper the cat as a knight with sword, helmet and shield, K did Billy the rabbit as a pirate with jewellery, dagger and a parrot and I did Herrance the guinea pig as a fireman with helmet, cloak and carrot hosepipe! We all found this fun and the kids have asked to find more characters to do!

Finally, we had another group session at the local stately home, this time in the gardens looking at the new sculptures. Weather was glorious and the kids all enjoyed learning about the sculptures and talking about what each piece of art meant to them. After the tour we all used clay to make our own sculpture. Steve, our leader for the afternoon, told us not to just make something but to "feel" the clay by gently moulding and smoothing it until something forms in it. No pots, sausages or dollops of poo allowed in this session! Kids had a burn off session playing together for another couple of hours afterwards and were exhausted once they'd reached home. The friendly deer which approached us for feeding, rounded off the afternoon perfectly. B loved getting close to them with his friends and feeding the deer grass and leaves.

Have a fun week!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The rest of our week

Our main task this week was to continue to sow seeds and plant potatoes etc., which, thanks to the lovely weather, happened most days. K especially seems to be enjoy this side of gardening and is making sure the new plants and seeds are watered daily during the warm weather. We've now finished planting the potatoes and have sown one lot of runners with some nasturtiums and will endeavour to sow another lot once we are able to get back out in the garden (it started raining this afternoon and hasn't stopped yet!). The salad is already popping through the soil, less than a week after sowing - wonderful results for impatient kiddies.

K has been very busy making some jeans and a top for one of her small dolls using scraps of material and sewing the pieces together with very little assistance from me. There was a slight panic after all her hard work that the top wouldn't go over the doll's head, but K undid one of the side seams and then put a belt around the waist to hide the mistake. I was very impressed with her perseverance on this little project as it's taken her a fair chunk of time and concentration. She has also been busy drawing lovely horse and rider pictures for her forum friends to use in their forum "signatures".

B went to see the local footie team play at home today with P, his uncle and his cousin J. He's watched footie on television and enjoys a good kick-around at home, but apparently he and J were too interested in larking around at the match to warrant staying past half time! The four of them ended up at Grandma's for the afternoon. B is sleeping over at J's tonight - he hasn't done this since he was about 3 years old! He as sooooo excited that all morning he'd been a bit of a pain so I hope he's behaving himself tonight!

K, P and I watched Mary Poppins tonight. Appalled to say that I taped this way back when K was in my tummy waiting for the day when we'd all watch it but until now, the kids hadn't shown any interest in watching the whole film. Glad I waited, all three of us enjoyed it tonight, and it made me think about how the kids have flourished being at home having fun through stimulating, interesting things that will also help them learn about life. I mustn't forget that they still like to include some playing during their day, which at the moment happens, but it should really include my input abit more, so I'll try and do this in future.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Day out in East Kirby, Lincs.

As P is home this week, we decided have a family day out today. We've been pondering over where to go since the weekend and have had tears from the kids who have both wanted different things. K wanted anything horsey, B wanted anything else (but suggested planes at Duxford), P and K didn't want castles, K didn't want walks, I was happy to go anywhere! Whilst doing all our planting yesterday, K suggested a trip to Kew Gardens. She'd done a trip there with the school a couple of year's back and had a good, if exhausting, day. This seemed a perfect suggestion, until we realised we'd need to leave home pretty early and possibly suffer the rush hour traffic to get us there for a decent time. P and I brainstormed the idea of somewhere Norfolk/Suffolk area, and had settled on an interesting looking museum which housed collections of practically anything in the past from cars to Barbara Cartland memorabilia! Looked good, the museum was inside incase the weather was bad and they had some grounds and a few animals if the weather was OK. Settled!

K went to bed and said "it's a museum, I don't really like things like that" (she hadn't really enjoyed the York Castle Museum which too housed collections of memorabilia). We don't generally pander to the kids that often, but when it comes to a (hopefully) happy family day out, we needed to push the right buttons for everyone, so back to the drawing board.

By chance, on the wonderful internet, I came across the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre in East Kirby. Fabulous! A nice size collection of interesting World War II things (perfect for ending out last topic) and a Avro Lancaster (my favourite) that would perform taxi runs at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. today! YES, we'd found our day out (and decided not to tell the kids until we got there!!!).

Great day out, packed a picnic, had the most glorious weather, and a good time was had by all. We arrived at 11 a.m. to experience the first taxi ride. This means the Lancaster (named "Just Jane") fires up all four of its beautiful Rolls Royce engines and gently moves along a short runway. It may sound a little boring, but it is truly stunning, amazing and VERY noisy.

We saw a bunker, air control tower, exhibitions showing a typical 1940's living room and a bombed house (complete with air raid siren, falling bombs and the sound of fire, which was a bit scary for B), lots of cases showing found "bits" from shattered bombers, bombs and artefacts that had once belonged to crew members, varous war time vehicles and a Spitfire. They also had a Dambusters bomb plus other bombs whose sizes where truly stunning, and loads and loads of squadron photos, one of which (the Dambusters crew photo) may well have had my Dad's face in amongst all the other young faces.

The kids seemed to enjoy themselves. They kept coming out with snippets of information that they'd previously learnt, together with some questions that needed answers.

Well worth a visit, it ticked all the boxes for everyone - YIPPEE!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

We're growing our veg!

K and I are continuing to sow veggie seeds and pot on tomato plants this morning. We bought a couple of grow bags at the weekend for the donated tomato plants and I tied up some canes to support them. We've already sown the carrots (and, of course, the pumpkin) but we also sowed some salad seeds today as well. K's really enjoying this new venture and is keen to get on with the potoatoes and runners!

A mum from the HE group is kindly letting us have some of her healthy soil and compost (she's digging out earth for a pond) as we need to grow the potatoes in large tubs (run out of useable ground space!). Hoping to pick this up later in the week or early next - the little potatoes are sprouting away and are desperate to get in the soil! Lastly we are going to grow the runners straight into the earth up some wigwam style canes together with some nasturtiums to add interest.

I'll let you know how our produce comes along.

P is at home this week so we're planning a few trips out and about. I did a couple of errands this morning on my own which seemed quite strange. I went to visit my old work place, a local pre-school, and felt quite nostalgic chatting away to past work pals. Whilst out, B played with P which he thoroughly enjoyed. Then he initiated his own maths by lining some of his toy cars and estimating how many there where, then counting to see how close his guess was. Then we lined up the rest to do another estimate and recount (it came to 83 in total), so B had to work out the difference between the actual amount and his estimated amount of 100.

This afternoon we decided to get out for a walk and go pond dipping at a local nature reserve. After several attempts at trying to locate it along the road, we found there was no suitable parking to access the place. Off we headed to our usual near by park instead. What a shame that we are encouraging our children to understand and learn more about our environment to find it is not easily accessable. It seems quite a few of our local nature reserves/attractions do not have suitable parking facilities. No doubt the authorities would say that we should walk or cycle to these places instead, but for us, this would be a pretty long trek! Anyway, we had a pleasant hourish at the park, looking at the huge amount of tadpoles in our special area that K and B nicknamed "Rabbit Creak" last summer, playing footie and catch, balancing on low beams and hiding in the nearby trees and bushes. It's lovely to see the kids having fun from simple pleasures. Especially K as she is quite moody these days and always wants to stay at home - finding this quite a strain at times.