Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Yep, we felt it ...

It woke 3 out of 4 of us (although Ben said he'd felt rocking in his sleep (before he'd heard us talking about the quake)). Remember hearing the rumbling in my sleep and then the shaking but thought or dreamt that it was Allie (the cat) jumping onto the bedside table not very steadily and shaking it rather violently as he tried to steady himself (yep, weird, I know). At that point P and I woke up with a "what the h..l" and immediately realised it was an earth tremor of some description. Katie came in, we chatted about it, then we went back to bed as none of the neighbours seemed to come out for a 1 a.m. get together! Guess folks around here are used to rumbles with all the RAF activity in the area. Did make me go cold for a bit - not something that happens every day is it?

Good opportunity to go over earthquakes and why they happen. Thought it would also be a good opportunity to read a few news reviews to get an idea of how different papers/sites relate their stories. I think by the time we'd heard all about it over and over on the radio, read about it on the BBC site and local paper, they'd had their fill. They didn't need to recap on earthquakes - although we looked at it on the BBC site - they knew exactly why and how these rumbles happen.

Made sandstone figures this afternoon as an experiment for our forthcoming Spring Festivals group session that I'm running. Worked really well and far better than clay, which always seems to break, but pretty messy as it is wall plaster filler, water and sand mixed together!
Lovely weather today - lots of bouncing on the trampoline and playing with one of the visiting cats in the garden who seems to think she's a dog when chasing after thrown sticks! We also did some "drawing to scale" to finish off our map reading lessons. Found the lesson plan in a Alpha Mathematics 2 book (like the one's I'd used in the juniors during the 70s!). Must say, although this book is out of date (it uses 1/2 pence in the money section), it's certainly a very comprehensive maths book and I was impressed that Ben was able to do the whole lesson with very little input from me.

Read about dragons from different parts of the world for our myths and legends project and also had a go at drawing a dragon head using this site.
black cat

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Adventures of Tintin - Ben's reading like a man possessed!

Yippee, put the flags out, whoo hooo, "smile, smile" - you get the picture. Ben has discovered the "Adventures of Tintin" books at the library and finally (I never thought it would ever happen), he's reading, reading and further reading, finishing books left, right and centre. I know he's reading them because, (a) we hear him laughing as he reads, (b) he tells us about the stories, (c) he talks about the characters, (d) "blistering barnacles" or "thundering typhoons" are expressions added to his everyday exclamations and (e) he keeps asking to buy more books or find more at the library.

So, you've probably worked out

Other things:

Katie has started a poster all about plants and how to care for them, grow them (by taking cuttings etc.) and how to grow an avocado from seed (which we have yet to do). The kitchen is slowly turning into a greenhouse. Actually, it's slowly turning into a dumping ground (sorry, creative room) as inbetween planting cuttings and repotting etc., she's making new model horse displays, rugs, tack etc., so there's also glue (or water and flour which she prefers to use), paint, lengths of silk, material (and all the tools needed to go with these items) on the work surfaces. I probably spend more and more time each day insisting that she clears up something before moving on to something else (and crush her creative skills!). The thing is, her bedroom is now so lovely and fresh I guess she doesn't want to mess it up!

This morning I spent a good two hours clearing up because we had an appointment with a chap from "bmrb" to come and do a "Parents and Children" survey with me and Katie. A little apprehensive when he first appeared on our doorstep a couple of weeks ago and said we'd been chosen (from a list of names/addresses held by the post office - never heard of this before), and that it was for the "department for children, schools and families". We decided to do it because our answers are (or should be) confidential and our details won't be passed on to anyone(!). Oh, we did each get £7 in shopping vouchers which isn't bad. Katie's going to buy another plant - she spyed a nice trailing one in a DIY shop recently. So I had a relatively clean house by 10.30 this morning, ready for this chap. The survey was fine - he said afterwards it was lovely to come across a family which tries to keep to tradition - eating and doing things together, actually knowing a bit about our children, discussing problems with them rather than letting them go off the rails etc., etc. Katie was a little taken aback answering questions on drugs, drink, stealing etc., but it was aimed at 11 - 19 year olds. It's pretty sad if a child her age is drawn into these things (or any age really).

"Work" (as we know it) seems to be off the agenda for the rest of today. Ben's done some piano practise and we've reorganised all his Lego into compartments inside his desk so it's all off the floor. Both are busy building on Lego City on the PC at the moment so that's quite educational.

I've found a way of blocking 11 email addresses that persist on sending messages to me on s*x toys and pills and PC software. I'd love to know how I've suddenly been targetted (I don't actually surf for these things on the net - honestly), and a lot of the messages aren't actually addressed to my email address - some just have part of my email address in it. Let's hope the blocking system works.

Oh, and finally, on the gardening side of things, the row of garlic bulbs that I planted are beginning to show signs of life.

"I'm chuffed" -

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hot, cold, foggy and freezing!

Seems a bit weird to be uploading photos of the beautiful frost we've been expierencing at the beginning of the week when we were sitting outside having lunch in the garden just a week before! The weather during half term was glorious. Coats off and outside in February? The pair of goldfinches that nested in our garden last year are now back and we noted the slow to bloom snowdrops are gradually popping up.

Come Monday morning, an extremely heavy fog came down. It was a real "pea souper" so I was quite concerned about P driving to work on Monday morning. In fact it took him 2 hours to reach Peterborough (lucky he leaves so early in the mornings) and when we ventured out to the Post Office around mid-day, it was still so thick we had to drive at a snail's pace! Very pretty though, especially on Tuesday when the air was so cold the frost stayed on the trees all day and made everywhere look very Narniaish. By darkness it had warmed up enough to melt and we could hear the heavy drops of water from the trees as they fell to the ground.
The thin layer of water in the swimming pool turned into a mini ice rink.
It took Ben lots of stamping on the ice to break it!

During half term, I spent most of the week redecorating Katie's room (finished piccies to follow - still need to finish some gloss work). I did do a "before" picture but it has mysteriously disappeared. Anyway, it was pink and peach before and is cream and blue now. Katie and Ben helped with the rollering of the emulsion on the walls and produced very good finishes. P spent most of the following weekend putting up the new blind, 5 shelves for Katie's model horses and various hooks for bits and bobs. There was quite a bit of huffing, puffing, and bad language - but we left him to it and he got it all done. Just the mention of possibly putting up one more hook produced a rather sour look!
We ventured out to Ayscoughfee Hall during the week to look at the gardens and museum. The last time I'd visited here was when Ben was 3 and the museum has improved hugely. Lots of interactive areas for the children (and adults) to get stuck in to - all about Lincolnshire's history. Came across a board showing local Lincolnshire words - loved "Doggerybaw" (meaning nonsense, waffling on, etc., etc). Seriously thinking of changing my blog to this name although I see there's plenty of Doggerybaw blogs out there already!

Continuing with all our projects; myths and legends, Pop Art, maps, writing stories and, of course, maths. In between all this, Ben has been exploring the planets on the DK Atlas of the Solar System CD-Rom and Katie has been adding to and learning more about her plant collection (which'll be as big as her model horse one soon).

I heard a crash at 3.30 a.m. this morning which was perfect timing for getting up to check out the eclipse of the moon last night. Sky was relatively clear but the crimson moon was nowhere to be seen. Having check out the websites today, I see the eclipse is tomorrow morning for us UK folks! Hopefully another crash in the house will wake me in time.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Frosty Mornings

We've been having some beautiful frosty mornings this last week. Apparently last night temperatures were to drop to -4 deg. C! Took these piccies in the front garden where the frost stays on the ground all day.



Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day


Fabulous roses from the other half and I made him a holder for some choccies out of four hand stitched padded hearts. I also made an extremely rich and yummy chocolate cake; in fact it's so rich we haven't yet finished it!!

Managed to have a lovely evening out on Friday at the local Indian. Ben was at his cousin's and Katie at a friend's for sleepovers.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Felting, in pictures.

Had a brilliant group session yesterday where the children made their own felt.
A fabulous selection of felting wool - so many brilliant colours and the wool is really really soft.
Start by taking strands of felting wool and lay it horizontally (to make a rectangular shape, or whatever shape you wish) onto a half folded towel covered with a tea towel . Take more strands and lay them over the first lot but now vertically. A third layer of strands are layed on top horizontally. This is the base. It can then be decorated with wool or further strands to form a pattern
Cover the finished layers of felting wool with another tea-towel. Pour warm water over the tea-towel and rub soap over it too. Then begin rubbing the wet and soapy tea-towel all over quite firmly with hands and fingertips (taking care not to rub so hard it moves any design you've created on the felting wool). Continue to do this for about 10 minutes, adding more warm water and soap as needed (wetter the better it seemed). You are looking for a flat and sturdy piece of felt before moving to the next stage. Don't forget the edges!
Carefully unfold the towel and refold over the tea-towel. Roll up the towel, tea-towels and felt into one tight roll (secure with rubber bands at each end) and begin rolling along the table until the felt is further bound together. When it's ready, rinse and lay out to dry.
Katie's felt.
Ben's felt.
Everyone made lovely artistic pieces. I especially loved this heart made by one of the teenagers.
Some of the lovely felt creations by the lady who ran the session and her son. I so want the little grey dog! Making these little animals, butterflies etc. is pretty easy too, apparently. Using felting wool and a special pin to literally stab the wool until it is firm enough to hold it's shape.

Think we'll be doing some more of this.

It got just a little worse before it got better!

So, following on from my rather bad Wednesday (blogged here), Thursday ended in tears! Mad hoovering and sprucing up the house for a sleepover on the Friday meant a disaster in Katie's room when I knocked her new and much prized resin model horse onto the floor. As it disaster happened time slowed right down (why is it you are never quick enough to catch the falling object, you just watch in horror?) before the inevitable thud and then smash. Actually, only a tiny section of one of the horse's legs smashed into lots of tiny pieces but immediately, once the gasps and moments of stunned silence stopped, Katie's tears began to flow. There is a silver lining to this rather dark cloud, I have been able to order her another one. It's a limited edition and there were 5 left! Phew! I've suggested, as it is so prized and she really only wants to "show" it, that the new one is kept in it's box and the old one can be repaired ready for display. She's a dab hand with the millput and paint when it comes to model making and mending!

So, apart from a few niggles over a group session on Friday, my bad two days see to have come to an end! The "poo man" turned up this afternoon and put a much needed smile back on my face. Lovely chap, talked for some time about how he came to work with "poo"! Long story, won't bore you, but he made P and me laugh!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Shrove Tuesday

Had a freak flash of lightening and roll of thunder this afternoon. Went extremely dark and the clouds were spooky.

Love pancake day. Made three loads of batter this year following Delia Smith's recipe, as always. Also made some rather yummy butterscotch sauce, but I can't break tradition, I always end up with sugar and lemon on mine.

Had a helper to make the first batch of mixture, and she did pretty well at the flipping this year too, although I didn't catch it on camera.

Proud of the kiddies - long post, sorry

Of course I'm always proud of my two, but once in a while I'm just that little extra proud of them, enough for me to tell everyone else!

Today was one of those days when annoyingly domestic problems just have to take priority over work. We did manage to get maths and some verbal reasoning done before the postman arrived - then it when downhill from there.

A month after we moved into our home we decided to change electricity supplier and at the time had a bit of a do about final readings and final bill. Basically, we're on economy 7 and the supplier kept mixing up the two readings! Anyway, this was back in July and I thought we'd come to a agreement that the company owed us a very tiny amount and because of this I didn't bother to chase them when I didn't receive their final statement. Today a final statement plopped onto the carpet and I got just a tiny bit hot and bothered! They're taking out of my bank account (direct debit) £160 odd for a month and one week's worth of electricity (the electricity was actually for £181 but I'd already paid one month's direct debit in June so that had been taken off). When I telephoned them, the lady took a while to grasp that according to their statement I'd used no day time electricity at all, but a whopping 8252 kwh at night time only (excuse me, I don't think I'd actually use that amount of electrical juice in one month, would I?). As luck would have it, as I was negotiating and trying to get my point across, I came across the piece of scrap paper with opening and final meter readings - hopefully that'll set the record straight. It'll take around 35 days to sort out another bill (what??) and in the mean time I have to keep checking my bank account to catch the £160 coming out so I can arrange for my bank to send it back again! From the readings I've given her I've worked out they should still owe us - be interesting to see if we hear anymore! So, that little situation kept me on the phone for quite some time and then I had to talk to the bank about returning the money (I'd never heard of this before).

Problem number two started with water from a shower seeping away down the plug hole very slowly about a week ago. As we have a good old fashioned septic tank I was able to get out the ancient chimney sweep sticks and have a good rummage around the drain to move a blockage out of the way (yep, the joys of owning an old house in the sticks). All was fine after that until late this morning when, after using the wash basin, the water in the toilet started to bubble furiously, leaving a rather murky colour in the pan! After the electricity saga, I went out to try and locate the blockage again, but no joy, no blockage, just a backlog of ... bits and bobs, to put it politely! OK, so you're saying "fine, it just needs emptying". Yep, you're right of course, although the previous owners had apparently never needed to empty it, and they didn't think the owners before them had either. With this in mind, the previous owners, when digging out their swimming pool, used the excess earth to raise the garden several inches which buried the covers for the inspection tanks. They'd placed slabs of concrete over the covers, so I knew where they were, but it took me 3 hours to uncover them (one was under a double layer of slabs) and the covers were so rusty I had to hammer and chisel them out! The garden now looks like the resident mole has gone into a frenzy, but at least I have all three chambers uncovered. Interesting looking inside them (yeh OK I'm a bit weird). I won't go into it any further, but yes, they certainly do need emptying. I'm hoping the chap and his tank will come tomorrow, otherwise things will start to get smelly. Talking of smelly, strangely enough the chambers don't smell. Reading up on this it means the bacteria is doing it's job. Only one little niggle, the poo man completely cleans out all the chambers which apparently means the breaking down of solids has to build up again (and this is when it may smell), it's best if he leaves some solids behind, but he won't do this. In the days of old, they used to throw a dead rabbit or chicken into the chamber to kick start the process. Mm, think we'll pass on that one!

So, the reason I'm so proud of the children. As soon as I told them I was going on the phone to the electric company, Katie and Ben headed for the kitchen and started making models following instructions from a model making book we'd got from the library. Katie had used the blender to cut sponge so tiny it resembled, when painted, bushes. She was making some kind of jumping course using this and other bits. Ben has started making a fantasy dungeon scene following the instructions with Katie's help (and she didn't get annoyed with him at all) to cut some of the cardboard into correct shapes. What gems, they worked so quietly in the room next to me and cleared up afterwards and they kept themselves amused during the afternoon too as I dug, hammed and tugged at the drain covers.

Love 'em. cat

Friday, February 01, 2008

Travelling the world

Apart from maths and a bit more work using "How to Write Stories", the usual bunch of topics we're working on has taken a back seat this week. Quite a bit of socialising at the beginning of the week and then Ben and Katie decided to try out the Dorling Kindersley CD Roms my mum kindly ordered from the Daily Mail last year (which we picked up from her at Christmas). From the bundle there seem to be three favourites; New Atlas of the Solar System, Play and Learn Science Experiments and (by far the most used this week) Become a World Explorer.

All are interactive and easy to use and great fun too. I especially like the science experiments with its virtual lab to help you do on-screen experiments for gravity, air, motion, electricity (to name just a few), answer questions to score points. Ben used the Solar System to help with his project and liked the Mars rover - riding over rocky grounds to discover things of interest. The World Explorer is great. It reminded me of a Jolly Postman CD Rom we borrowed from the library years ago which had a European map game that Katie loved. I can still remember the tunes and voices to this day. This game covers the whole world. Postcards and stickers to collect, location information and various games to find countries by moving around the map (using the points of the compass) and answering questions. They've only just scratched the surface with this one, there's plenty more for them to explore.

We've finally finished our Nickolai of the North book that we started reading just before Christmas. Katie was on and off this one all the way through but we all agreed it was a good read in the end. The descriptive writing really brought the book alive for me and it was interesting reading the author's research notes on the last few pages. Being a story based on lots of myths and legends pulled from various cultures made it rather fitting for our topic this term. Although a little scary in places, I'd recommend this book for keeping the Christmas theme alive for slightly older children.

As I was reading to them this afternoon, Katie and Ben were drawing Manga faces from Ben's Exo Force booklet. Katie is pretty artistic anyway and has had a go at drawing this style before so I knew her picture would be good, but I have to admit Ben's drawing was brilliant for a first attempt - lots of expression. Perhaps we have a buddy cartoon artist in our midst. I see the CBBC website tutorial for drawing Manga is no longer available, have found this but haven't really checked it out yet.
Katie's (top) and Ben's Manga faces.

A Flat Stanely arrived this morning from Skipton. We haven't hosted a Flat for quite a while (not since we moved anyhow) so it'll be nice taking him around with us and writing up his journal. We've been asked to forward him on to someone else after his stay with us so he gets to do a tour of the country. If anyone out there is interested in hosting Flat Stanley after us, please post a comment.

No snow here yet - still hoping. My neighbour has heard we're heading for a good 2 inches, but I can't see it happening! I've come to realise I don't mind most weather patterns except the wind. We've had a lot of gusty weather since our move, probably because it is so flat and open here, but I really get spooked by the noises and the possible damage it could cause. We were standing in the conservatory (lots of noises in there I can tell you, but it's still standing) watching the trunks of the tall pines and silver birches moving with every gust. Reminded me of the hurricane in the 90s - so much damage was done where I lived at the time, don't really want a repeat of that.