Saturday, December 30, 2006

'So this is Christmas, and what have we done?'

It's been a while since I blogged and it's been great to read that lots of bloggers have had a fabulous Christmas. Our Christmas has been spread over two weekends (aren't we lucky), so here's a brief run-down of our fun time. I think this will take some time, I'm working on P's machine and every time I hit a 'w' a calculator pops up (and I've just realised the inverted commas don't work either!).

Kids were naturally really excited on Christmas Eve so we went out for a walk at nearby Castor to burn off some excess energy! We hosted two Flat Travellers over Christmas (and have another Flat now to see in the New Year) so we took them along with us for a trip. Castor is a lovely, small village close to us with the River Nene running through it, so we walked through some grassland to the river and over the lock which brought back good memories of our boat holiday. A small off-shoot from the river ran alongside it where the kids were able to paddle.

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K and B headed up to bed around 9ish after a few games, writing last minute Christmas lists (luckily no surprises on them) and laying out a bundle of goodies and booze for Father Christmas! We kept checking on Santa's whereabouts throughout the evening using the Norad Santa site.

Christmas morning was spent at home with whisperings from B and K's rooms from about 7ish. They discovered their Mum and Dad stockings and goodies outside their rooms and they opened them in their bedrooms before coming in to us around 7.30 a.m. - not bad eh?! B really loved his 'grow your own' Christmas tree which sprouted really quickly and looks lovely. After this we all headed downstairs to see if Father Christmas had actually been during the night (although K insisted that she'd heard him coming down the chimney!). Happy, excited kiddies opening their parcels. Mainly model horse goodies for K and a selection of science and creative goodies for B.

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A furry Christmas tree with star and glitter
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Jasper posing with a couple of presents -
an electronic marble run and one of K's new models.

We headed for G'ma and G'dad's home for lunch and more present opening along with Aunts and Uncle and cousins too. G'ma cooked a delicious turkey lunch with all the wonderful trimmings and most of us watched Monster's Inc. with full tummies (but we managed to fit in some Christmas pud as well). K didn't watch the film, she sat and read one of her new horsey books, but she kept glancing at the screen from time to time and has been having nightmares since!

Boxing Day was at home, just relaxing and reading with a beef and chicken evening meal (and more Christmas pud) to continue our tummy abuse! Lots of playing on the PS1 happened today - mostly from P and B who are getting extremely good at 'Wipeout' with K joining in from time to time. K seemed content with reading and playing with her new models, some small Breyer Stablemates and her Breyer Classic mother and foal.

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This week we've decided to re-decorate K's room ready for her new bed (piccies to follow). It took us three hours to clear her room. Numerous boxes of her belongings currently line the hall way and looks a total mess! She's chosen 'Natural Calico' from Dulux which actually looks more-or-less the same as the 'Magnolia' she had before. Of course now it looks alot fresher and we can't wait to get it completed. I couldn't believe how much damage Blue Tac had made to her walls - it left behind greasy "bogey" (ooh the inverted comma is working now) style marks all over the place! I really hope she doesn't start plastering the walls with posters again once everything's back in, but I know how much she loves her horse pictures.

Today we headed to Leigh-on-Sea for a family gathering at my Mum and Dad's home with my sister and her family too. Mum cooked a delightful roast beef lunch and the children had fun pulling crackers and making lots of noice with extremely loud whistles! After lunch we opened our presents. The kids enjoyed dishing them all out to everyone and there was this wonderful short second of stillness before the paper ripping commenced! Among other wonderful things, K got her long awaited Feltie model horse, made to resemble the pony she rides, Gren, as well as some roller blades. B got a Lego Exo-Force man and set to fitting it all together remarkable quickly by himself. He also got a cuddly penguin from Sainsbury's which he'd been after for a while. After pressies came some traditional games - rings (hoopla), musical chairs, pass the parcel and rolling balls to score high numbers (the adults are just as competetive as the kids, especially at musical chairs!). Mum and Dad pick up old style games from antique and collector fairs they go to during the year and it's lovely to use them wondering what their history is.

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K skating just where I used to skate when I was about her age! Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
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... Lego Exo-Force man, shown here with the new penguin.
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K's Feltie 'Gren'

So that's our Christmas - it's been great fun. Looking forward to 2007 and to what it may bring for us all!

Wishing everyone a very ...

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PS - I can't believe how many times I've needed to use a 'w' in this post!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Wishing you all a ...

A good chilled week here! Kids have had lots of fun playing the one and only game we have so far on the PS1 (racing cars) and Club Penguin! In between all this we've done some more arts and crafts and looked at some other websites with a Christmassy feel.

Lots of play with the beeswax this week. The children, and their friends, have enjoyed experimenting with it as much as making things with it. K has sculpted quite a few different coloured ponies now and also decorated a candle with beeswax Christmas trees.

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Last weekend there was a Frost Fair in Southwark, London which sounded fabulous. We would have loved to have gone along and participate in all that was happening. The website is here. This week, we've been doing "ice" things (including scraping the ice off the car on a couple of mornings!). I froze a couple of containers of water to let the children have a go at carefully sculpting the ice. B must be quite heavy handed because his soon broke into small pieces but K managed to dig a suitable centre hole to produce a rather lovely icey candle holder. We also went on a very cold walk through the local park to pick up some foliage to make ice bowls which we'll light on Christmas Eve when we have our family meal. B and I have been looking at these wonderful snowflake photographs and I see there's a few activities listed on there which perhaps we'll try next week.

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B and I have been watching Penguin Week on Channel Five and he's completed his Penguin project poster and is very proud of it. The project has information not only on penguins, but on Antartica and ice bergs too. There is just so much information to absorb on this topic that I hope he'll want to delve deeper in due course.

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We continue to read the wonderful "Letters from Father Christmas" and have also found this good book from the library titled "Transform! How Everyday Things are Made" by Bill Slavin. Really good - it's certainly written for children with interesting drawings and snippets of information on a number of everyday items like CDs, chewing gum, yogurt, pencils, to name a very small few. I may try and add this one to our home collection as both kids have been picking it up to thumb through since we got it out.

Finally, K and B enjoyed playing this game shown on the "byothermeans" blog, and it's educational too! Also, if you and the kids want to track down the "man in red" on Christmas Eve you can check his journey here.

Have a wonderful Christmas time and fulfilling 2007!

Elle, P, K and B xx

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Yep, this is me!

You Are A Poplar Tree

People tend to look up to you, and it's a bit lonely at the top.

Inside, you are not always self confident, but you show great courage.

Mature and organized, you are reliable in any situation.

You tend to have an artistic or philosophical outlook on life.

You are very choosy in love and take partnership seriously.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Quoting Winston Churchill

B read me this quote from Winston Churchill, it was on his bookmark. I thought I'd share it with you all:-

"Personally I am always ready to learn, although
I do not always like being taught".

(this was me today, untangling the Christmas lights even though at the end of each festive season I neatly wind them up (so what happens during the year?))

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A lovely end to our term

After our rather stressed Wednesday, Thursday's chores went much more smoothly and now we are able to take a well earned break.

Friday was the HE group's Christmas party with a bumper 49 people in total turning up which was fabulous. Although a number of games and activities had been laid on for the children, they seemed to amuse themselves outside for most of the time. Other things that everyone appeared to enjoy were a giant pass-the-parcel (where all age groups joined in), playing with a rather large parachute, using a PS1 dance mat and eating all the wonderful nibbles that the families had bought along. One lad had made a large snowman out of cardboard covered with polystyrene balls found in packaging. The snowman had a hole in his tummy and you had to through "snowballs" through it! Very clever and beautifully made. With cards, gifts and Christmas wishes exchanged it really added to the festive feeling - roll on Christmas!

One of our friends from the group has very kindly given us their unused PS1 and so on Saturday morning we headed off to one of the local second hand shops to hunt out a game or two to play. There wasn't a huge selection (mainly sports), but we found a good racing game for just £2.50 and also picked up a double PC CD of two Lego games for B at £4! Bargain! P was out for most of the day helping his brother move some furniture into his new home, but when he returned, he and the kids had great fun racing round the track. We've also been lucky enough to be offered my nephew's high-rise bed as he's getting a new one in the new house. It's exactly what we've been promising K for some time. Her room is the smallest bedroom in the home and yet she seems to accumulate the most possessions (nope, I'm not going to say junk!), so having a bed in the clouds with a desk and pull out sleepover bed is ideal for her. Can't believe how lucky she is to be getting one - for free too. Thank J, S, J and A!

This afternoon we headed off to the Cathedral for a family Christingle service. You can read more about Christingle here. We're not really church goers so I had to really persuade K and B to go, and I know B found it enjoyable as he's asked to go again next year. He felt very proud of himself finding the courage to go up with all the other children to offer his donation to the Children's Society, collect his Christingle, parade through the Cathedral and then sing "Away in a Manger" with his fellow worshippers. It was also a lovely chance to hear again the main part of the Christmas story and sing some well known carols.

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Christingles (note B's eaten all the "nice" bits from his) with
our new visitor from Texas, Flat John.

Tonight, B asked to do some 3D drawing using the Art Attack "How to Draw" book. With a very small amount of help from me in keeping the ruler steady, he managed to produce this lovely house. A budding graphic designer may be?

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fit to burst ...

Fit to burst ... oops ... we've burst!

That's how it feels here tonight! This week has been chaos. Today has been even more chaos! I need so many more hours in the day. At the moment it seems we are in and out of the car/shops/ post offices/more shops/cat sitter's house/clubs, etc., etc. We haven't stopped today and I'm feeling sorry for the kids (and myself). We got home for tea and began to chill alittle, K started to finish off one of her presents, B started to do some quiet drawing, when my hubby rang at about 7 ish (he'd been out for a quick drink after work with a mate) to say Elsie Mo wouldn't start (she needs jump-starting in the morning for her trip to P's work, so far she's been fine for her homeward trip, but not tonight), would I come over and jump start her. The looks of anger and deep sighs from the kids said it all. We were all tired and this was the last straw. At bed time the stroppiness exploded along with the tears!

Tomorrow's going to be just as chaotic, but next week my diary is more-or-less empty. Can't wait for that quality time around the kitchen table doing stuff together or snuggling up on the sofa (reading our new book, Letters from Father Christmas) with my children.

I feel calmer now - blogging has that effect on me - guess I've dumped all the stress on here now! Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Being Christmassy

I was hoping to get at least one more week of "work" this week, but it's not really happening! Christmas has finally arrived at our house so preparations for this, together with sorting out other HE things, has taken us over!

Today, after a little maths (!) we started making beautiful Christmas cards for friends and family. Here's some of our efforts. The one on the right (showing the inside of a card) has a little pouch of crushed cloves glued to the back of the dangling silver square. Just a little something to make the card opening event a little more Christmassy!

I think the kids and have done really well here. We picked up a couple of packs of cards making kits (6 cards/envelopes and an assortment of little bits and pieces) for a £1 each in the Pound Shop. Other card/bits used are either from our craft box or from the local reclaim store.

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K has also been busy finishing off little gifts for friends and a beautiful model horsey item (it's a secret) for her forum "secret Santa"! B spent a long time producing a lovely collage of houses, getting the idea from an Usborne crafts book. The idea is to add layers behind this to build up a small town. He worked on this all by himself, doing the cutting without any help (he finds this hard as he's left handed).

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Our visiting Flat Travellers from the USA have flown home now and we've received some lovely photos by email of B's Flat Lego George, currently in Pennsylvania, hanging on a Christmas tree, studying a home made tippee and playing with his host family!

We're also continuing to read the New Testament, discussing the Christmas story at present, and drawing a snowflake storyboard this time! Pics when we've finished! Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Sunday, December 10, 2006

We love this ...

We've had great fun with our new set of wax sheets which we bought from Qualballah here.

We combined this fun craft with fire safety! Probably because our house is pretty cold during winter (even with the heating on), we found it wasn't becoming pliable very easily in our hands so we held the small amounts of wax over a tealight, using a long skewer, until it had melted just a little bit. Obviously wouldn't recommend this if really young kiddies were doing it! We went through the safety bit, not holding it too close or for too long, to wait a tad before then manipulating it, etc., etc.

Great fun. Yesterday B produced a little man, K a pegasus and I decorated a plain candle. Today K and B used the wax to make incy candles - covering bits of string with wax and then lighting them. Good fun for them, not so good for me as I was left to clear up all the waxy puddles on the kitchen table left from the burnt out mini candles!

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They're loving it, and so am so, would certainly recommend this wax to you all.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Lincoln Christmas Market

Had a day trip to Lincoln yesterday (Friday) to visit the town and famous Christmas market. The blurb said there were 300 stalls, mince pies, mulled wine and lots of Christmas cheer. Lovely weather - not a rain cloud in site, but somehow taking this photo of the cathedral with a Christmas decoration looked strange in blazing sunshine! We're all trying really hard to get that Christmassy feeling but with temperatures still in double figures it's quite hard. Yesterday's festivies did help - lots of seasonal songs being played and carols being sung in the Cathedral (which was absolutely delightful).

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The market was sprawling and exciting. K loved a stall with lots of bonsai trees and the huge gong which we were able to try out! B loved all the fair ground rides which we went on after dark. We had lunch (pie and mushy peas £2) in a warm tent where people were selling warm mulled wine, mince pies, coffee with shots of baileys and marshmallows/fruit on skewers dipped in melted chocolate from one of those chocolate fountains that are all the rage this year. Scrummy, yummy! Throughout the cobbled old town there were numerous trinket shops and other small craft fairs. We shopped 'til we dropped but only managed to tick two presents off my ever-growing list! There was also an outdoor ice skating rink which we'd planned to visit, but we arrived a little too late, they were closing for maintenance! Disappointed kiddies, but we hit the fun fair rides instead!

We also saw:-

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The children took their visiting Flat Travellers too, here's one "watching" the forge!
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B took this photo - a tropical garden hidden at the back of a craft shop!
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The town came to life after dark with pretty lights and snowflake patterns
on buildings and people dressed up as Jack Frost walking around on stilts.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

After the sad Monday (and many thanks for your lovely comments), the rest of the week has been really busy. I need to wind down now if I'm going to enjoy Christmas this year! In fact, after the group Christmas party on the 15th, I decided that's it for this year, break time! The children have been busy doing stuff, although it feels they're not actually doing any learning, which I know is daft because they learn from everything they do! It's been a very social week with friends over or K and B visiting friends, out and about - I'm sure you know what I mean.

Tuesday, after a struggle with maths (will certainly move away from fractions for K for the time begin - it's just not worth the upset), we read about Tree dressing weekend (last weekend) and decided to dress our tree in the front garden using decorative items from our craft box. K and I made mini trees with flowing leaves and plaited wools and B made lovely sparkly sticks to hang from the branches. He also decorated some material leaves which look rather striking.

We looked at silk/cotton and chopsticks to finish our topic section on China. We found a good website to help us learn how to hold and use chopsticks correctly, but it's an art I still haven't mastered but K and B had a good go at trying it! After lunch K and B went to their friends' house and I decided to do a few things in town as I had some time on my own. For obvious reasons town has been extremely busy, even before the beginning of December, so I parked just outside (10 mins walk in) in an hour only parking area! I was mighty impressed that I managed to visit a fellow blogger for some wonderful play wax visit three stores to pick up/exchange presents and get to Tescos for the necessaries before getting back to the car with 5 mins to spare!

Thursday was quite productive. K and B had made some Borax snowflake crystals with their friends yesterday and the crystals had really set overnight. They looked beautiful so we had a go at doing some more crystal experiments using our Usborne Science book. We've covered this before but we found it hard to produce a decent crop of crystals. This time we've tried using solutions containing Epsom salts, sugar (with colouring) and bicarbonate of soda. This last one is a solution in two jars with wool/paperclips to link the two jars. The water is supposed to soak along the wool and then evaporate to produce beautiful snowy crystals (as the picture in the book leads you to believe!). We did this last year with dissapointing results and it seems we won't be getting any success again this year - two days on, no crystals (or even wet wool for that matter). The Epsom salts have produced a nice icy effect on the dark saucer, but it seems Borax is certainly the best thing to use for quick, pretty results.

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what are we doing wrong?

The children have also made their penguin collages for a competition at the John Lewis store. I needed to help B cut out the penguins from cloth, but other than that, all work is their own. They're both hoping to win the £20 voucher!

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B and K's collages

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sad news

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Yesterday we said goodbye to B's little furry friend, Herrance the guinea pig. When I went to wake him up on Sunday morning, he seemed different to normal, quieter than his usual self and kind of puffed up around his eyes. No other physical signs of any problems, no sneezes, no poo problems (although he hadn't actually pooed overnight and he poos for England usually). Anyway, we brought him indoors and he still had a bit of a play, running over our shoulders, but he also wanted to snuggle alot which is unlike him.

Monday morning, he still seemed "down" and in fact he was very slow on his feet, hiding in the straw, listless and cold. We took him to the vets but, after a feel around, they didn't really know what could be wrong with him. They suggested boosting his intact of vitamin C (a necessary vitamin for guinea pigs) but we were a little put out that the vet couldn't give him a "shot" of the vital vitamin as we were there and he was so poorly. We had to find a pet store to purchase some, mix it with some mushy bran stuff she gave us, and try to syringe it into his mouth (more-or-less impossible, as the mush was pretty thick and wouldn't suck up the syringe very well).

We gave him a couple of syringe fulls but it seemed unfair to continue, he was finding it difficult to breath by now and seemed to just want to rest. After a short while he died in my arms with the kids near by.

Obviously lots of tears all round. Although we'd only taken him on at the beginning of the year we'd grown very attached to him.

Later we buried him. This was the hardest thing for B, he didn't want him to be alone in the cold ground. It's a hard one for children to understand, but lots of hugs, chats and comfort got B through it.

Today we made a tile to place over the grave showing his favourite things - carrots and dandelions!

Rest in peace little "Hairy".

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

I've finally put some lovely

bits and bobs up for sale on Ebay. If you're interested in having a peek, they are listed under the Links on the side bar.

Have a good week!
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Saturday, December 02, 2006

A crafty week

I'll start with the events we covered this week taken from various interactive calendars. We learnt about Howard Carter, the first person to enter the ancient tomb of King Tutankhman on 26th November, 1922. K and B made small 3D open out pyramids, decorated inside the tomb with a mummy and any interesting artifacts the King may have wanted to take with him to the afterlife. We put the finished pyramids into their lapbooks. We looked at the anniversary of the birth of C.S. Lewis on 29th November and played a couple of fun Narnia games before adding this wonderful author to our time line. Finally, we read about St. Andrew to celebrate his day on Thursday 30th.

The children continue to enjoy learning about the countries Palin visited during his trip around the world. We've been looking at China this week and have been fascinated by the abacus which, apparently, they still frequently use. This website helped us learn all about it and has an interactive abacus too so the children had a fiddle to help them understand how it all works! They had a go at copying the Chinese writing for given names on this site, and have found out about their Chinese Zodiac on this site.

Club Penguin still rules in this house and K will soon become a member too! B is continuing with his mini project on penguins and is doing really well at reading about them and writing his version on his small poster. Since joining this funny little on-line world, B has started reading things on the PC screen rather than me having to read them to him - a big step.

K typed and typed to produce her story for NaNoWriMo, but unfortunately she didn't make it to her lowered target of 8,000. Like so many others I'm sure, time just wasn't on her side especially as we were on holiday for a week at the beginning of the month. Nevermind, she's determined to try again next year. How did all you other NaNo writers get on?

We've continued to look at electricity, finally getting round to making our little electric bugs that required something metal to complete their circuit. Lots of encouragement needed to get an interest in this as we'd tried before and it turned out a bit of a hit and miss as to whether the bulb would shine or not. It worked well this time and the kids seemed to enjoy finding additional metal instruments to "feed" their bugs.

Lots of crafts have been happening this week. The children have done glass painting, stone painting, paper making (which was brilliant - K's now making more for Christmas gift tags with added crushed cloves for perfume) and learning to draw people. B helped make some fresh playdough at the beginning of the week, and we've been using it to help with fractions. Here's a few impressive piccies of the crafts and electric bugs used for the experiment.

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B's action men
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K's action ladies

Want to say a big thanks to T and M for letting me browse through the piles of unwanted books they had. Still sorting them out, still reading through some, and the kids are loving the ones I picked up for them. My favourites are the Around the World Palin book as it's perfect for our topic (obviously), a book on "training" the young Elizabeth before she became Queen and the beautiful silver fairy book, which we got J to sign for us before K starts reading it.Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Finally, couldn't resist these cute pics of Allie and Jasper doing what they do best ... sleep!

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Allie slobbing once ...
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and twice ....
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A healthier looking Jasper.

And finally, finally, don't forget to check out the interactive Advent Calendar on this website. We looked at it last year and loved it - they haven't changed it but it still seems fresh to us. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting