Saturday, January 26, 2008

Katie's drawings and other stuff

Suddenly remembered I was going to post some of Katie's drawings from the "How to draw horses" book she recently received.

We managed to find some watercolour paints stuck at the back of our craft cupboard, so she's been dabbling with these too and has, this evening, just painted some more horses (which is what reminded me about posting the drawings!).

Friday was pretty calm on the work front. After maths I was hoping the children would progress with their own projects (solar system for Ben and Italy for Katie), but when Katie wanted to check out some Italian gardens on the net (plants and trees are her other love) we came across this "design a virtual garden" which kept them both busy for the rest of the morning. It's pretty good, using maths (measurement and shape), along with lists of names of all the kinds of plants, shrubs, flowers and trees, styles of fountains, sheds, fences/walls, etc. May have a play myself at some point. We've scheduled to watch the "Around the World in 80 Gardens" which starts on BBC2 tomorrow evening at 9pm (repeated at 7pm on Tuesday I believe) which features an Italian garden, Villa D'Este. From the photos in a recent magazine article, it looks like it may be a nice prog to watch.

Katie has also discovered that she can make flashing icons using an application we have on the PC called Gimp. She's done a few horses (which she is "selling" as tags on one of her forums), and this flower, which she did especially for me.
Ben and Katie have also rediscovered Pivot Stick and have had much fun doing long and short films on this too. Ben has also been hiding away in his room taking films of his Lego scenes. I kept interrupting him to start with as I thought he was talking to himself rather loudly!

We finished off the day by making pizza getting the idea after read Lucy's blog about calzonnes and focaccia which looked so yummy.

Oh, don't forget it's the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend. Hoping to do a bit of feather watching tomorrow. When driving home from shopping on Thursday, we were thrilled to see a Barn Owl hovering by the side of the road close to home, as well as (we think) a Sparrowhawk enjoying some road kill so much he couldn't be bothered to move as I drove past! It's really lovely to experience such wildlife so near to where we live.

Have a good weekend.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Learning about maps ... and some distractions

"It's all just so hilarious!"

We are enjoying learning about maps thanks to the Ordnance Survey Landranger map of our local area plus easy to follow instructions and lesson ideas, quizzes etc which we received free recently (available for all year 7 children).
We've been understanding and looking for symbols on our map (although most of it is pretty flat with marshland, not a lot of symbols!) and we also studied an AA road guide which had lots of interesting things to pick out. We've designed our own maps and symbols too.

We've checked out some of the names of villages, drains, mudflats (there's one called "Breast") and even the farms which make for interesting reading and had a look at measuring distance using pieces of wool and a ruler.

Katie and Ben have also chosen a very small section of road map to cut out and copy onto card as a collage. Some lovely detailed art work.
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Ben's road infested Norwich... and Katie's calm Scottish moutains.

Today we did some work with the compass and made our own one for the garden using stones painted to show some of the things we love about our home and garden. Katie and Ben also used the compass to work out in which direction various windows in the house face. Hoping to do some orienteering when summer reaches us.
Our compass around the plum tree.

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Wren on NW, Landrover on NE and a horse on E

Going to tackle scale, grids, longitude and latitude next - probably the hardest and most interesting part of it all!

We had a few distractions along the way from visiting puss-cats. The white cat which we've nicknamed "Kandar" just loved the maps spread out on the snug floor, scooting under and over them! Our other little visitor (nicknamed "Storm") is becoming quite a regular to our house. He just loves to sleep and roll all over the PC whenever we're trying to work. He has a white moustache and looks fab in a photo.
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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Being kept awake at night

"How to avoid a wombat's bum, and other fascinating facts"

Got this out from the library and started reading it Friday afternoon periodically calling out funny and very interesting facts to the children as they tapped away on the PC during their "chill out" time. Friday evening Katie decided to run off with said book and hasn't given it back yet. It kept her up reading in bed until past 11 p.m. (I went to bed and left her to it). She continued this morning at breakast (from the beginning again I noticed), then on and off during the morning. It also accompanied her in the car when we went out shopping!

For those who love fascinating facts this book is a must. Although I'd only managed to read about 10 pages before it vanished from my grip, I must admit it was hard to put down. The facts are short and therefore easy to read. I give it a definite 10 out of 10.

Oh, I may as well mention that I was seriously chuffed with Katie when, during our food shop, stuck with the dilemma of buying two seperate bulbs of garlic (one to hopefully plant out, weather permitting, and one to use in cooking) or two in a bundle, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Katie was having a serious lightbulb moment. She suddenly piped up that she'd worked out it would be cheaper to buy the two in the bundle! Yippee! Finely she's putting her maths skills to use in everyday situations, without me asking her to.

little flower

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

arts, crafts and nature

Although Katie celebrated her birthday over the weekend, and opened her presents on the Sunday evening rather than on her actual Monday birthday (otherwise she would have had to wait until 7ish Monday evening in order for P to see her opening them), we still treated Monday as a special day and relaxed on the "work" - just doing maths first thing. Ben and Katie each had a friend over in the afternoon and I enjoyed a good old natter with their mum!

Tuesday continued to be a rather relaxing day work wise! Having said that, Katie and her friend managed to cram in alot of arts and crafts during the morning. They crafted with modelling wax, painted model horses, brushed up on drawing skills using Katie's new Usborne (naturally) "How to draw horses" book and did lots of Hama beading. In between all this there was a fair amount of PC playing (probably more so from the boys), but this did involved some maths I noticed, so not all bad.
Wax modelling - they must have roasted by that fire snuggled in sleeping bags!
More of Katie's drawings to follow - she's doing really well with this book.

The rain came down in droves on Tuesday and we discoverd a leak in the conservatory. By the next morning the rain had filled the whole washing up bowl. Luckily yesterday was glorious so I was able to get up on the ladder and see what was amiss. Some of the sealant between roof and wall has perished, just needs to be replaced (whew).

We made the most of the Spring like weather. Ben asked to do some nature study which was appropriate as the RSPB Schools Birdwatch package had arrived ready for our group birdwatch on Monday. We studied the poster full of garden birds and had a quick look at some other nature books before grabbing the camera to wander round the garden, and then later, round the park. We've decided to do a study of the garden, perhaps on a fortnightly basis, throughout the year, to see the changes close to home. This time, Katie and Ben have taken photos of fungi, mole hills, buds and the beginning of daffs. It was so peaceful in the garden too and we heard and spotted a Great Tit - his lovely song and all the signs of life lead us to hope that warmer weather is on the horizon. We read up on moles as we seem to suffer with them in the garden and found out quite a lot from this site. One web page suggested using the earth from mole hills for house plant potting compost, apparently very good soil for this. The park was completely waterlogged and the ditch that runs all the way around it was full to the brim. Lots more mole hills here too and Katie and I got hounded by a rather cute and fluffy Shih Tzu! BTY I'm not really up on my dog breeds and wasn't too sure how to spell the breed of this little fella - came across this site listing a huge number of breeds, just in case you're interested!
In the afternoon Ben helped me dig over the veggie area ready for early planting. It's fabulous soil to dig, especially after all that rain. The onion sets I bought before Christmas have started to sprout so I need to get them in asap. Also I was reading that garlic needs to be sown before the end of January too. Thought I may try a garlic bulb from the supermarket as I don't recall seeing any in the garden centres. Apparently they are really easy to grow - we shall see! I've decided to ditch my garden blog, it makes sense just to keep HE, gardening and crafting all on the one site, especially as the children are often involved too.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Double birthday celebrations

P and Katie celebrated their birthdays, P on Saturday (I won't reveal his age, but it's a double figure that rhymes with "knock at the door") and Katie today has reached another double, 11. I find I always remember back to the day my children were born, usually the night before their birthdays - each child is such a marvellous miracle, so much love to give and so much they offer us everyday in their smiles, laughter and achievements. Photobucket

We had a lovely weekend, although it got off to a shaky start. We went to the first group meeting after Christmas on Friday, having left home at 6.45 in order to drop P off at work before our day could begin. As usual for a long Friday away from home, I got a headache around 3ish (I guess I'm beginning to wind down by then) and as usual, the ache progressed so quickly that any form of pain killer just didn't do any good. This time my head was worse then ever, so bad in fact that I threw up at m-in-l's just before leaving for home, and then twice more on the journey home (luckily we were able to pull over at convenient places each time!). P ordered me to bed asap and strangely enough, as always, I felt as right as rain on the Saturday. I hate this, it happens (although not quite as bad as this) every Friday we venture to the group. It must be a combination of a very early rise (5.30), quick breakfast, not enough fluids during the day and just too much going from here to there to get get togethers, shopping, visits and horseriding and piano all to be accomplished before picking P up to return home. Something needs to change I think.

Anyway, the group session on Friday was lovely. Lots of people turned up most bringing activities on the subject of Myths and Legends. The children, and adults, were kept busy indoors (as the weather was appauling) with games, sewing, Fimo, playdough and plastacine modelling, wordsearches (B seems to have a knack with these and can't get enough of them) and drawing. Saw lots of opportunity to continue the theme at home for the rest of this term ... keep you posted. Katie was thrilled to find her friend, who had recently moved to Wales, turn up at the session. Lots of girly chatter.

Saturday afternoon we had P's family over in the afternoon for pressie opening, cakes and the chocolate fountain. We got the combination right this time and the chocolate flowed very smoothly and was appreciated by all who participated, dipping chunks of fruit into the gorgeous brown stuff. Actually, when considering this post on Saturday night I was going to call it something on the lines of "a solution for those wishing to give up chocolate". Using the fountain is one thing - very yummy, naturally, but if you are left with the task of cleaning the damn thing afterwards it puts you right off the stuff. All the components have to be washed by hand and are sticky with chocolate, slimey with oil (needed to make the stuff flow properly) and the smell begins to really get to you as you scrub in endless bowls of clean piping hot soapy water. I've washed them all four times now and still think they need another going over. Great fun, but not good if you've over endulged at the table and then need to clear up afterwards!
Sunday the four of us headed out to the the DIY store initially to pick up some new paint colour palette booklets as we've got the bug to redecorate the three bedrooms. We came back having spent rather too much money on much needed bits and bobs for the home. We also stopped off at Asda for milk and spent another load in there (mainly thanks to me seeing a fabulous Spring/Autumn coat in the sales - but then I hardly ever treat myself). In the evening we'd booked for the four of us to try out the local Chinese early evening buffet which had been recommened to us. Katie and Ben had never been to a Chinese restaurant before and as Ben very kindly put it "this Chinese is much better than the Chinese you cook Mummy" (cheers!) - so we all thoroughly enjoyed the meal. Really reasonable price too, especially as you could return to the buffet tables as many times as you wished.

All pressies much loved all round. Katie is not one to show huge amounts of emotion when present opening, but it was great to see her get quicker and quicker at opening her main present from P and me when she realised it was a much wished for resin model horse. If only I'd captured it on camera. Also a much wished for snuggly dressing gown, a variety of plants, books and more model horses from relatives and friends made for a lovely birthday. Today, after a little maths, she and Ben have been playing a new PC game "Me and my Horse" which has caused much excitement for most of the day.
Not the resin, but another beautiful model Katie received.

ks zhoof

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

We're back into a routine - phew! As much as I love pottering around the house and letting the children get on with their own lives of PC and playing, we all needed to get back into a happy mixture of work and play. It wasn't very much appreciated by Ben on Monday, who had a mini tantrum when faced with a page of sums to do, but he soon settled down and we've had no further outbursts.

Although I don't generally make resolutions, I really want to be a bit more patient with them. Sometimes I feel like I must be talking (or teaching) jibberish when they seem to pick up something one day and completely forget it the next, but I'm going to try really hard not to let it get to me and for me to get at them!!! I think I'm also going to try Dawniy's simple but brilliant idea of setting an alarm to signify time alone with one or other. Katie is quite happy to spend time by herself and although Ben seems content to do this too, I know he'd prefer to spend some quality time with just me or P sometime during the day. It will be nice to have time alone with Katie for share some of her indepth thoughts - she's pretty grown-up in the way she thinks and I love having discussions with her.

Both wrote fabulous stories yesterday using the RaW material as a guide. Their initial drafts were great, and then we sat down and talked about expanding them with the of more descriptive words, and in Ben's case, more background information so readers could get a better idea of what's happening. The RaW website is brilliant for helping out on this, so many examples, and we also used our trusy Children's Thesaurus by Usborne.

Today we started learning about maps which seemed to go down well. We read the Kingfisher Young Knowledge book first which, although rather simple, covered all aspects of maps, longitude/latitude, mapping oceans and stars. Katie and Ben went off to make maps of their bedrooms drawing them out on graph paper using one square to one footstep. We had to push aside a lot of floor clutter to get decent measurements - I think some serious room tidying is in order. Ben drew a fun treasure map for us to use around the home and Katie has started a nice detailed map of "Woollie Land".

P and Katie's birthdays are fast looming with a mini celebration on Saturday to celebrate both with the family. Katie couldn't decide what to do for her party this year. We finally came up with the idea of having a joint celebration in the Summer with Ben's birthday being in July. Fingers crossed the swimming pool will be up and running by then as that would make for a fabulous get together. I am so looking forward to Katie opening her main present from us this year. Since starting her passion for model horses, she has wanted a custom resin model for her collection and we've bought her one from America. I was stunned how quickly it arrived (compared to the rather poor delivery system from RM during the Christmas season). I just hope she's as thrilled with it as we are. I've also made her a little material booklet with pockets for her most treasured addresses and phone numbers (and letters) from her pals. I've typed them up on seperate pieces of card and slotted them into the pockets. I'm so pleased with it that I'm going to make one for myself and some extras to sell too. Looking for some new inspiration for crafts now Christmas has passed and perhaps this will give me a kick start.
The "pages" have different material, all on the blue theme as this is her favourite colour. One of the materials is a section from her old fleecy PJs!


Friday, January 04, 2008

Happy New Year to you all!

A little late I know, but hey, I'm here now!


We had a lovely Christmas, spending Christmas day at home as a four-some. Ben was more excited this year than ever about the big day but both were ever so good and gave us a lie in until 8ish before the mad rush to open presents! Boxing day was spent at P's parents with aunts and uncles and cousins and then a little break before travelling to my parents at the weekend with aunts, uncles and cousins from my side of the family.

Lots of lovely new things for both of them, a much needed footie, Lego in all shapes and sizes, a fabulous bubble wand stick (which we later tried out in strong wind - not a very good idea!), construction and science kits to name a few for Ben and some horsey goodies including books, t-shirt, model horses, soft toys in the horse and cat department, games and a pretty lilac watch for Katie. We had to pretty smashing gifts as well, including the camera of course which is getting lots of use. Thanks to everyone who gave such lovely presents - can't list them all but they are all very much appreciated and loved.

Some firsts this year: (1) we were given a chocolate fountain - it made Katie's eyes light up! First attempt wasn't too good as I think I'd added too much oil to the chocolate. It tasted fabulous though (to be expected) with the children spooning it out of the fountain bowl, but it was too thin to flow over the top of the fountain. (2) We found out that sprouts are actually rather good. Mr. P from next door has been trying to palm them off on to us since the beginning of December but I kept pushing them away saying how awful they are, but nearer to Christmas Katie said she'd like to try them (very brave for a child I thought) so we bought some and cooked them with garlic and bacon. Fabulous, we're all converted now. (3) We managed to get Katie to watch Titanic. I was chuffed to see that it was on again over Christmas, perfect for finishing off our project. Ben had seen half of it before, but we all watched it and I noticed that both showed some emotion at the end. Katie said it really brought the whole thing to life for her.

Our break from any schooling has been restful. The children have been playing together really well and the home seems peaceful and settled! Ben used his new science kit to made gloop following all the instructions himself (and wearing the required rubber gloves and mouth mask) and Katie has been drawing horses using the fabulous photos from one of her new horse books. We're continuing to read our "Nickolai of the North" which seems very good and Katie is getting her hands on any reading material available seeing as how she's read all her books (including any new ones) and her library books several times over and was desperate to get back to the library! We went today to stock up with more reading material - and she's finished two books in the last few hours!
He looks just like a dentist!

We're hoping to get back to "work" on Monday. In between typing up the new group schedule and sorting out our monthly finances (always a task and a half but it seemed a little harder this time as P has just started a new job and lost a little pay from last month due to hols over Christmas), I've put together a few bits and bobs to get us going educationally next term.

Have been enjoying late morning rises and late bed times so since Wednesday we've been trying to get to bed earlier and reading before we sleep. It's raining tonight, so I'm really looking forward to snuggling down under the covers with my new mag!

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