Thursday, June 28, 2007

This fella stops play (and work)

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He's snowy a gorgeous Pekin (we believe from our research) duck that frequently visits for food supplies. According to one website, domestic ducks like kitchen scraps, especially spaghetti! Will have to try this out but at the moment, he's getting his fill of bread and earth/roots/leaves from our freshly grown pot of salad leaves (he pulls the leaves out of the pot). The reason he's stopping us from working is that he now comes into the house to find us and the children can't resist watching him as he patters around. Our work area is right next to the kitchen and this is where he comes in. As the kitchen is in the conservatory we need to keep the door open otherwise temperatures have been known to hit 46 degrees C (honestly - I wish I'd taken a photo of the reading). When the room cools off later in the day and we close the door, Snowy knocks repeatedly with his beak!

Mum and her four ducklings are doing well. Katie took this photo today, the four have grown quite a bit in the last couple of days, one is much fatter than all the others. The three yellow ducklings are beginning to get some brown feathers which is interesting. This site, which I probably posted up before, is helping us to keep track of their progress.
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On the work front, which has been patchy since we moved here, we've been filling out our "nature in our garden" type poster with lots of bits and bobs. We've followed instructions to measure our plum tree to get a rough idea of how old it is and how tall it is (we've also estimated how tall our highest Scots Pine is). Looked at fungi (plenty of mushrooms in the garden) and taken some lovely spore prints. We also witnessed the three baby Goldfinches take their first flights from their nest. These websites are lovely and have helped us with these topics and this book, borrowed from the library, would be a nice addition to our collection.

Scots Pine: Trees for Life and British-Trees
Fungi: Fungus Kingdom and Show Me
Goldfinches: RSPB and British Garden Birds

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We've been working hard on our wildlife garden (for our pleasure and for the RSPB Wildlife Awards) moving nettles, cornflower and various other bird loving plants to the freshly dug area. I was lucky enough to dig up chunks of rotting tree stumps in the front garden which now sit along the edge of the pond ready for lots of new mini-beasts. All seems to be going well although it upset us to find an adult hedgehog had drowned in our small pond as the rain had completely filled it before we'd had a chance to put the stones in. On a happy note we've already seen frogs in the area as well as blue tits and sparrows.
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Last week, during a break in the rain, we headed for an owl centre at a local garden centre. Over a 100 owls to marvel at, from the UK and all over the world, as well as a rather unusual Secretary Bird. We have a Barn Owl close to home which we've seen sometimes in the late afternoons so being able to get close to three active Barn Owls at the centre to see their wings and feathers more closely was lovely. We were lucky enough to found three discarded feathers as a souvenir of our visit.

As I type, Katie and Ben are designing board games. Ben's is a Sonic the Hedgehog game (but different from his last one) and Katie's is a horse game. Katie has also started to write her own HTML for her new website. Although we've had books out from the libary on HTML we found it quite hardwork, especially remembering all the different codes. Katie's picked her new skill up from typing bits of code on one of her horse forums. So once again it's been shown that one can learn from play! Her site is still in it's infant stage, but she's doing really well.
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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Don't do what I did ...

... clean the house from top to bottom then get the builders in! All the hard work has to be done again and it's even harder due to the thick layer of brick dust.

So, we've had the builders in to do our bathroom. Here's a before piccie:
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Actually, it doesn't look too bad does it, but it seriously needed some work. Look out for the wash basin on ebay soon, it's in lovely condition.

When we bought our new home we knew we'd need to do some work to this room. The previous occupiers admitted that their DIY wasn't too good and that they'd laid floor tiles on chipboard and hadn't done a good job of putting new tiles on the wall. The builders (our family have known and used them for a long time) weren't too sure what they'd find behind both set of tiles and and by the end of the first day of builder's chaos we discovered rotten joists and very wet walls! Every pipe, it seems, had been leaking (for how long we don't know) and the shower tray plug hole didn't have a washer so that too had been leaking badly.
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End of day 1. The concrete floor under the new joists was really wet and all the pipes plastic had to be replaced with copper.
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End of day 2. New flooring and walls reading for tiling.

Luckily the walls, although pretty bad, weren't going to take much to fix. They stripped all the old chipboard and polystyrene covering off back to the breeze-block in order to put up moisture-resistant boarding reading for new tiles.

Rather than risk putting the spacious shower tray, surround and shower back, we decided to play safe (to avoid future un-noticed leaks) and put in a bath suite. Ordering this from W...kes, as a take away suite, took an amazing hour and a half to do! Seeing as how I wanted to take the boxed up bits (toilet and basin), which was ready boxed and sitting by the pay desk, and get the builders to collect the bath, it shouldn't have taken that long surely!?

So, a week's worth of hard work from two fabulous builders and the end result (hard to capture in a photo) looks brilliant and very spacious.
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Just need to paint the rest of the room to finish it off.

Must say a huge thank you to "M" and family for kindly lending me the porta-loo from her caravan. Won't go into too much detail but those who've used these before know how brilliant they are and very easy to use and empty. Hower, not wanting to empty the chemicals into the septic tank I had to strain the wet stuff off into a bucket to leave the gorey stuff behind! Not a pleasant task especially as it was chucking it down outside so I had to do all this indoors without sufficient ventilation. It took a while to work out the best way of doing what I needed to do - P was just so lucky to have missed all this, he times his business trips abroard very well. I'm amazed by how much poo a family can produce! Actually, to tell you the truth I was more amazed at the amount of loo roll that had been used, think I'll have to have a chat with the kiddies!
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Yep, that's the cat's feeding bowl poor thing, but it's not as bad as it seems, the porta-loo didn't really smell during daily use.
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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Art and little quacking creatures

Click here to create your own painting.

Ben discovered this "create your own mood painting" on (yep, he was at the time) and we have all had fun creating our own mood on-line and then later for real using paint, pastels, crayon, etc., etc. to produce some nice work.
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Ben's "the colourful circle"

Continuing with the arts and crafts Ben has started a lovely big cardboard castle and when it's completely finished (just needs painting now) I'll take some piccies.

Katie has been making more wool ponies for herself and for friends. She also came across this fun drawing pad website.

Remember reading on Lucy's blog sometime back about Manga drawings which Katie wanted to have a go at. Not sure if Lucy provided this BBC website or if I discovered it, but it's very good and Katie produced some lovely Manga style piccies.
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Finally, on the art theme, for anyone who enjoys creating doll like avators that may just (in my dreams) resemble yourself, Photobucket/Meez now have an option to do this. Creating a free account and making the avator was fun, exporting it took me a while to figure out. I was probably being blind and/or stupid, but in the end it seemed I had to go to "Home" and then click on "Export" on the top bar. Good luck and have creative fun.
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We are continuing to read about the wildlife in our garden. This week, with the arrival of the ducklings on Wednesday, we've been looking at ducks and found this site really useful. Hoping, if the ducklings continue to visit us, we'll be able to follow their progress using all the information we've come across. Katie was the first to notice some changes in the four ducks that we've known since we moved in 4 weeks ago. We reckon the ducks must still be quite young as their feathers, beaks and voices are changing daily.

Laid back Allie couldn't help having a go at stalking one of the ducklings today. Luckily mum duck was on the ball and gave Allie a noisy chase back into the house. Since then, he's moved well away from the kitchen door whenever a duck wanders by!

We've also noticed a pair of goldfinches have made a very feathery nest in our plum tree. Unlike the blackbirds in our previous house, the goldfinches are very nervous if we approach to take a (distant) glance at them nesting. Hope we'll see some little ones soon.

We've been busy planting tomato (thanks T) and pepper plants and quick, re-growing, salad (used this last year, it was so easy to grow and continues to grow whenever you chop some off to eat). We also plan (time permitting) to plant some carrots and late potatoes in large pots. Our next door neighbour is going to help prepare a small veggie plot for me ready for next year.
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Thursday, June 07, 2007

I've been tagged

Thanks for the tag, here's the rules:

The rules are simple…. Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog

and off I go ....

1) I'm an Avon lady. I've just returned to selling Avon to try and bring in any spare dosh to help pay for a much needed new bathroom. I started selling Avon when I moved from London to Cambridgeshire (again to bring in much needed cash) and continued to sell it and make lots of lovely door-to-door friends for a good 7 years before starting work at a playgroup. Only downside to Avon - all the "ding dong, Avon calling" jokes from friends, family and customers.

2) I've always wanted to be on the stage and loved performing in the variety shows put on by my dancing school. I learnt ballet (from 7), tap and modern dancing (from 9) right through to about 17 I think but always wondered what a life on the "real" stage would have been like. To compensate I often sing loudly to songs (with whatever microphone tool I can find) and try dancing around the living room only to realise that I'm really very unfit now and cannot do more than 30 seconds of fast jigging without having to sit down with a cuppa and choccie bar!

3) Habit - I play alot with my ears when I'm tired. This is a habit that I've always had for as long as I can remember. It's a real comfort. Another habit that I've suddenly started to do is to kind of pinch my bottom lips together with my fingers and make stupid noises. This usually occurs when I'm reading or concentrating, although I noticed I was doing the other day when talking to the builder - not good - got to nip that one in the bud.

This is getting hard (think, think).

4) When I met P, my hubby, for the first time (at work) I knew I would one day marry him, even though at the time we weren't even dating. Sweet ah? Apparently he didn't share the same thoughts, he thought I was too young for him (5 year difference) as he'd always gone for older women - don't ask!

5) I seem to be a bit telepathic, usually with phone calls. It's quite scary actually as I suddenly think of someone I haven't heard from in a while, or something terrible springs into my mind that could be happening to someone and 9 times out of 10 I get a phone call from that person or a message about something that's happened. Hate it. Luckily it doesn't happen that often, but when it does it gives me the creeps.

6) People say I'm a very organised person. Although I don't think I'm very organised in my own personal life I think I'm quite good at organising other things/events. I hate letting people down, so I put myself out to make sure things go well. P says I'm too organised and I worry too much what other people think.

7) I have a mental block when remembering the skill of reading music. I first learnt to read music when I was at junior school (to play the awful recorder - sorry, but to this day I hate the sound of a treble recorder), and according to my school reports was a talented musician (yeh right). In my late teens I taught myself the guitar and had to re-learn how to read music. I've been given a new guitar for my birthday, and I'm helping Ben learn the piano, but once again, cannot remember the skill of music reading. Maybe now I'm getting on a bit it'll sink in and stay put this time.

Finally (this was harder than I thought)

8) Unlike the person who tagged me, I hate Marmite - absolutely, no question about it, hate it. The smell reminds me of something unprintable (that'll get you thinking) and I can't stand getting even a tiny bit of the stuff on my fingers when clearing up marmite covered knives/plates/dropped toast/bread, etc.


Nikki (Happily HE)
Tammy (Quietly Making)
Sarah (Sellers)
Caroline (Wellyboots)
Nikki (Dottyspots)
We Hate Workbooks
Jules (Classroom)
Rosie (Knitting)

Apologies if any of you have already been tagged by others.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

We're still here ...

Must be the house, or the area, but P and I are feeling very laid back since our move and finding it very hard to get into gear! Anyway, thanks for all the well wishing comments and, if the blogring email about hibernating was for me, I apologise I am here, but trying to (slowly) sort our lives back into a routine. So, Katie and Ben have been busying themselves quite a bit with arts and crafts, here's some piccies:

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Katie's been persevering with a 3D paper art kit to make a cat. We picked the pack up for £1.50 from a warehouse style store but the instructions are terrible!
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Ben decided to make a football pitch for his Lego guys ...
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Katie followed a simple pattern to make a cute cat.
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Ben and Katie have been designing castles with their "fit together cardboard castle" set - here's Ben's version.
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Katie's done numerous new horse and fantasy horse pictures - I love them all.
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We made woven pots using material and dead leaves from the large yucca type tree in the front garden. They've worked really well and are very sturdy. Katie also made a yucca leaf/felt bracelet (hanging over the top of the pot) and some jodhpurs for her doll.
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Lots of playing in the garden, as well as visits from friends and family. Great fun with this balloon that whizzes in the air making wonderful rude noises.
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We've started a "what's in our garden" poster and have been learning all about frogs and toads as we have plenty of them near the swimming pool.
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Taking our visiting Flat Traveller "Tweety" from the USA to various (not so) local attractions.

Must put up these pictures of the ducks that visit us daily. They certainly have characters and one of them appeared out of the bushes with ducklings yesterday.
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These are the three usual visitors.
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Getting a little too cheeky!
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This one would be good for a caption competition.
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So, so cute ducklings - but who is the father?

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