Friday, October 31, 2008

Just to say ...

Myspace Comments, Glitter Graphics at

cat and pumpkin ghost and pumkin witch Photobucket

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ways to warm up ...

... when the heating's not working (still no call from the boilerman - I'll give him one more day!).

1) wear plenty of layers to keep warm;
2) hoover the house, you'll soon be peeling off those layers;
3) get outside (which was actually warmer than being indoors strangely) and do some gardening. In our case, "trim" the hazelnut trees which haven't had a hair cut for several years it seems. Can now see the neighbours (is that a good thing?) and they're happy because they have more light pouring through their windows!
4) Clamber all over the branches littering the ground now they've all been chopped down. It's amazing how much a few branches suddenly looks once they are lying there ready for further chopping and storing (that'll take a month of Sundays);
5) make this chilli side dish* (as made and recommended by P this evening) and eat alongside a steaming bowl of chilli and rice or spag or pasta or whatever takes your fancy;
6) huddle round the fire and snuggle under fleecy throws preferrably with a cat (or two) on your lap for extra warmth;
7) retire to bed with hot water bottle and plenty of warm blankets, lots of reading material and tissues for your cold nose!

I see it's going to get colder as the week progresses - so perhaps these warming tips will help you out! Katie's friend in Wales was experiencing snow this morning and I see it's forecast for parts of Scotland tomorow where our other friends now live. Brrrr.


* Quick Pickled Chillies with Olive Oil and Garlic (2-4 people) (from Daily Mail mag)

1 garlic clove, 1 tbsp honey, sherry vinegar (about 75ml or to cover), 4 red and 4 green chillies, a little olive oil.

Smash the garlic and remove the skin. Put garlic in a small pan with the honey and half the vinegar. Cut tops off the chillies, slit them lengthways and scrape out the pale pith and the seeds (which you could keep to grow your own next year). Please take care with these little seeds, wash your hands straight after handling them and don't put fingers near your eyes - you'll regret it big time! Cut the chilli into strips. Bring the pan of honey and vinegar to a rolling boil, stirring. Put in the chillies and just cover with the rest of the vinegar. Reduce heat and simmer until the vinegar has just about evaporated and the liquor is shiny and sticky but still liquid, ensure the chillies are only slightly crunchy. Transfer to a small dish and add a little olive oil before serving.


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Horse show and trip to Lincoln

Katie's friend from Wales came to stay over on Saturday night (a chilly night - we discovered the heating had packed up and our heating guy still hasn't bothered to phone us back with an appointment to fix it - at least we have open fires) and we took them to Collingham near Newark on the Sunday for a model horse show. Left them there for the day while the rest of us went shopping in Lincoln. Had a really lovely time wandering round the shops, popping into small cafes for warming cuppas and doing some Christmas shopping. Managed to get P some everyday walking boots (exactly like my trusty ones that are now ageing but have lasted for years) at half price which was a bonus and update Ben's wardrobe on a budget at Primark. Also wandered round a huge British Home Stores checking out the mirrors and lighting for our soon to be redecorated bedroom and then droolling as we toured Raspberry Village - I just want everything in that shop, especially the chilli fairy lights - something I've always been after.

Katie and her friend seemed to have a good time at the show. They came away with plenty of certificates (lovingly hand made by the looks of it) and winnings from the raffle. Katie naturally spent all her money on more models for her shelves (although now she's run out of space and is having to pack some away).

Everyone was pretty exhausted by the time we reached home.
ks zhoof


200 mile round trip day out

P's off this week and, ever since Katie's horse riding beach day in the summer, he's be on and on about visiting Holkham Bay in North Norfolk. Headed off there yesterday in the cold autumn sun. It was mild at home but by the sea the wind chilled right through all the warm layers we were wearing. In the summer (as long as the sun shone of course) I can imagine Holkham Bay to be an absolutely brilliant day out. As the tide was out we walked about a 1/2 mile to reach the water's edge - it was worth it. The creeks, mini streams and pretty wind swept patterns in the sand, ending up with a clear unspoilt panoramic view of sea and long stretches of sand were great. Not many horse riders today, but those that were there seemed to be ignoring the cold and having a good time. In fact the place was pretty busy with families bracing themselves against the wind to enjoy a stroll on the beach. Hot cuppa and warm pizza picnic lunch afterwards went down a treat! Want to go back and explore further as there's more to Holkham than it's beach with craft shops, tea rooms and beautiful Holkham Hall to explore too. In the summer, it seems, the Household Cavalry use the beach to exercise all their horses - must be a fabulous site.
Lovely patterns caused by wind and tide.
Drifting sands like in the desert!
Only one without wellies and wearing an ageing pair of boots, P "had" to carry me over the creek in order to keep my feet dry!

... sorry got stuck into reading the Holkham Hall website and dreaming. Check out the Christmas and New Year's Eve packages - wow, what a way to spend the festive season.

So, after Holkham we thought we'd head off to Redwings Horse Sanctuary near Great Yarmouth. Katie visited a Redwings when she stayed with my parents in the summer and really enjoyed it. We didn't realise it would be another 78 miles from Holkham round to the Caldecott Centre, but we managed to see a couple of P's work haunts on the journey and get stuck in traffic for a while due to a car accident and then the sat nav decided to take us "round the houses" as we watched the time tick away. Anyway, we got there at 3.30ish (it closed at 5) and wandered round all the paddocks to see some of the horses. Unfortunately, due to the fact that it was feeding time, most of the horses could only be seen from a distance. A bundle of hay is far more interesting than visitors! Some did venture up to the fence for a quick fuss before returning to their evening meal. Nice place, but I don't think it was worth the 78 miles to be honest!
It was touching on darkness by the time we left and we stopped off for grub enroute to home. It was lovely to be home (always is after a day out), lighting the fire (thanks to the heating not working!) to warm us all up, although the only really warm place was bed with a hot water bottle!


Hard at work

Family sculpture class last week saw Katie begin a keepsake box and Ben finishing his wooden bowl.

The teacher found Katie a ready glued pine cube for her to top and bottom. She often needed my help as sawing was hard work, but hey I'm not fab at woodwork and often felt totally inadequate when helping her out. The teacher is fun, friendly and helpful to a point but I do feel he has an awful lot of people to assist with new techniques and although he'll show you how to use various bits and bobs I often need to be shown more than once (or even twice) to get the hang of it! Hence Katie and I often quietly asked the help of one of the dads when using the fabulous saw thing pictured below that looked way to complicated to set up on my own! Anyway, Katie did really well, sawing and planing and sanding but she's left with a bottom about 1cm too long and I think I'm going to cheat and take it along to the local wood yard to ask them to use a super-dooper modern electric saw to slice it off in seconds! Ssh, no one will know!
Ben did more chiselling of this bowl while he waited for the woodturner and then, with the teacher's help, used the turner to smooth out all the edges and bowl itself. Looks great, and will look even more lovely once it's had a coat of oil.
I didn't get a chance to do any more to my clay sculpture, although I'd fiddled around with it alot at home beforehand. Hope to add wings and finish it this week as it is drying out quickly.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

It is cold here today, thanks to the wind. Have been having a waterbottle in bed these last couple of nights! During the day, cold or not, I am loving the autumn colours, clear skies and that sense of "something around the corner" - being the festivities of Halloween, Firework Night and Christmas. Have started Christmas shopping via the "net" already (a first for me) and looking forward to a shopping trip to Lincoln very soon. Have been trying hard to avoid all the Christmassy decorations and glitter in alot of the shops, we find they really do put a damper on the excitement of it all when they appear too early. I remember, about three years ago, browsing round a garden centre choc full of beautiful Christmas glitz at the beginning of September. It was fun at the time, but we suddenly realised that Christmas had started just a little too early and there was still a 4 month wait until the actual day!

P has retired to bed early this evening (and yesterday evening actually). He had a bit of a work get-together and "jolly" on Friday which ended in a late and boozy night so perhaps he's either suffering from that or is coming down with "something". During his "jolly" he and his team had to put on a performance of Michael Jackson's Thriller. P opted to be in the group to make costumes (chicken) while others watched and memorised the dance from the video! In the evening he went along to the team's fancy dress (Halloween) party wearing his cape, mad professor wig and skeleton gloves!

Finally decided on a colour scheme for our rather dreary, cold bedroom. We have a treasured quilt on the bed in shades of burgundy with gold needlework etc., and wanted something warm on the walls to compliment it. We already have a blind and muslin curtains (which we took with us from our first home in P'boro) which would pull the whole scheme together. Decided on a brown (yep, sounds boring and yuk, but actually it's a lovely warm, rust brown - that makes it sound worse doesn't it?!) So, when you read in the mags about cheaply slapping on some paint to change your room I don't expect the "cheap" to be 90 quid (honestly, for 4 cans of paint, gloss, rollers, sandpaper, light switch, lightbulbs (for B) and 2 small cans of spray paint (for K)). I had a couple of vouchers, £5 off a £30 spend or £10 off £50 spend which I hoped to use but to my embarrassment, not only had I shopped at the wrong DIY store, but the voucher wasn't valid until next weekend anyway!

Our two stop-motion HE group sessions that I ran went well. The first session we divided the children into groups and got them working on ideas, putting them down on paper to form a storyboard and then make props and backgrounds. In the second session, which was last Friday, the groups did their stop-motion filming. They all worked so well together and were really keen and dedicated to producing interesting films. My children, probably like a lot of HE children at home, especially in small families, often do projects on their own so to have everyone work in groups pooling their ideas, compromising and generally cooperating with others was one of my main aims of the sessions. Can't wait to see the finished results. Katie and Ben often make short films at home using the stop-motion method. This website, which I found to help those in the HE group, is easy to follow and covers everything from start to finish. For those that remember claymation Morph from the Tony Hart children's art programmes, we came across a Morph clay kit in Hawkins Bazaar. If only I'd seen it before the sessions - it would have gone down well!

Take a moment to check out my few Ebay sales (listed on the side bar). I need dosh! Cheers!


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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Finished fish

Thought I'd put a piccie up of Katie's finished wooden fish that she very skillfully made during the first 2 weeks of a 10 week family sculpture class.


She initially wanted to try and chisle the fish out of a block of wood, but the teacher suggested she use a crank saw to "cut" around the fish shape before chiselling the edges and body of the fish to give it some texture. Using the crank saw was quite difficult for her to start with as the blade was very delicate and snapped at one point. However, she quickly she got the hang of following the pencil lines and turning the saw around the bends of the body. The chiselling took up a lot of her time in the second session as the fish has a small split along its length and she didn't want to split the wood any further. Once all this was done she drew on scales, eyes and mouth with a pencil and then used a wood engraver to burn the design onto the wood. For a first piece of woodwork we all think it's brilliant.

Ben is in the middle of making a bowl using a square of pine wood, chiselling out the circular centre. He got on much better this week with the chiselling. It's amazing how the confidence soon comes the more you practise. Next week he'll be using the wood turner (which looked rather scary) to smooth the bowl shape.

I'm making a Victorian gargoyle from clay (using clay-crank which is clay with sand mixed in, seems much sturdier to work with) and have finished the main body, feet, face and tail. I need to tweek the face abit - it looks like an angry hog vs a hippo at the moment but I think just squishing it smaller will make it look more appealing (one hopes). Then I need to add sizeable wings to the body which I think will be quite tricky. Hoping it will be fired in the next couple of weeks. I'm really enjoying working with clay, finding it quite theraputic.

Photos of Ben's bowl and my gargoyle to follow once they're finished.

PS have decided to continue with my gardening blog - the link's at the side ("the plot").



Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Art, Latin and other bits and bobs

Children are busy somewhere (Ben's doing Lego and Katie's making a house for her horse riding dolls). We seem to be ticking along nicely at the moment with few arguments (over work anyway) and therefore lots of interesting things have been studied autonomously as well as planned.

We are still all working from the KS3 maths book as well as doing mental arthimetic each week. Still seems easy (probably too easy, as Katie and Ben keep asking more questions than they need to just to triple check they've got it!). Also got a KS3 English book out of the library, again for Ben and Katie to tackle and again amazed how it's just recapping on everything they've (or KS1/2) have learnt. Perhaps we should move on to harder things (gulp).

We designed and wrote, in Latin, either a birthday card or invitation, decorating the work with Roman style mosiacs etc. Then we moved on to reading about the Roman army. Ben printed out and made up this Roman soldier and Katie made the peg doll Centurion before writing about their clothing and weapons. I'm getting more and more impressed with Ben's writing (or typing in this case); very descriptive and informative. How he's come along since he's reached 9.

We emailed our drawings of apples to Sketch Tuesday, although I wasn't able to finish mine. I initially thought that apple drawing would be a doddle, but it took me a long time (between interruptions) to get it finished, all those different colours just on a red apple - it really makes you observe things more closely. For this week we are supposed to sketch our State bird. As England doesn't even have a national bird, we decided to draw birds that we have seen locally (although I don't recall seeing a Kingfisher!). With encouragement, Ben really observed the photo of the Kingfisher he was drawing, and I thought his, and Katie's lovely pheasant, were really very good (pretty pleased with my half finished Barn Owl too actually).
Thought I'd just throw in these up-to-date sketches of horses by Katie. She's drawing lots at the moment and her art is coming along beautifully.

While we drew we listened to some classical music. Using Classics for Kids we chose Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Handel's Water Music.

Not sure how and why it started, but Ben has been going on about the Isle of Man for some time so we finally got around to looking it up (pitifully I didn't know where it was, mainly because it wasn't on our map!). Through Wikipedia we learnt lots about the culture, currency, language and the triskelion and meaning behind the motto "It will stand wherever you throw it". Went on to read about the darling Manx cats and then on to the Bee Gees (who live there) and naturally that lead to You Tube and various Bee Gee greats!

Finally, pic of mini Pepper sandwiched between "big Al" and "medium sized cat" (as we feel Pepper calls them) aka Allie and visiting cat Kan. They are his playmates and are very tolerant of his pouncing on them whenever they come indoors.

and a close up.

He's venturing outside more and more now, darting back indoors whenever next door's dog begins to bark! His pastimes are chasing the chickens (they've stopped laying now, probably because of this), catching flies, bugs, moths and the occasional hardy butterfly, running after thrown sticks and cones, eating leftover food put out for the chickens and pouncing on people as they walk past (usually from behind a big towel that hangs on the radiator if indoors, or from behind the car or logs etc., if outside!).
black cat

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Pumpkin Festival

Needed to do a weekly food shop last Friday and hoped we wouldn't need to travel too far but Katie and Ben were itching to go to the car boot again, Ben wanted to spend his hard earned pocket money on some Lego and Katie was looking for a special artist brush, so we ended up in Spalding in the end! We discovered, by chance, that it was the Pumpkin Festival that day and evening too so, having done our various chores (although we weren't able to source the brush) we phoned P and suggested he head out our way for an evening Pumpkin festivities, carnival and fireworks. With an hourish to kill before the main events kicked off, we thought it a perfect opportunity to have a curry at the best ever Indian restaurant (Indian Cottage) around (sorry to offend any other curry lovers with favourite restaurants, but this was recommended to us some time ago and has put all other curry houses (that we've tried) well and truly to the back of the line-up). With filled tums we headed out into the dark to see the Pumpkin parade - a very long line up of families (many of whom) dressed up in their Halloween outfits caring their lit pumpkins following a band through the town centre of Spalding. Fireworks were great, as all fireworks are. A really lovely, spontaneous evening and to think we didn't even get cold sitting around in cardigans in October! This link tell you all about it and also has some pumpkin recipes and carving tips, perfect for the 31st Oct.
lovely puss

PS - have succumbed to putting up a list of my fav music on my blog (right at the bottom of the side bar). P was cringing at my selection of soppy tunes but most have strong memories for me and I'm sure I'll be adding to them as more "old" favourites are remembered.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Some interesting links

Thought I'd pass these on:

Resources 4 home-education is jammed packed with links and ideas.

HE-Resources is another site with lots of interesting stuff.

Bowland Maths KS3 DVD-Rom came across this link in a recent TES and initally thought I wouldn't have much luck obtaining the free DVD-Rom of KS3 maths games as we aren't a school (in England only, sorry not Wales, N. Ireland or Scotland). Reading the FAQs I thought I'd try my luck (as non LEA schools were able to apply too). The link is for the order form and you can access more information from this page too. I put "0" in all sections asking about LA and then added that I was a home educator teaching a KS3 child etc,. etc., in the "special delivery instructions" section. Got our DVD-Rom this morning and Ben has been testing it out.

Potato Council register to get two varieties of seed potato early next year ready for planting to experience home grown spuds.

National Schools Film Week for free film viewings is next week. You probably have heard about this already. We're hoping to get tickets for the recent Narnia feel at our "local" cinema.

City Creator anything along these lines always goes down well with my two. Designing your own city etc. Good fun.

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New experiences yesterday

Had a good day yesterday. We teamed up with some new HE families that live sort of close to us (no one seems to live that close to us anymore - wonder why?) for a game of ten pin bowling in Kings Lynn. Nice to meet some new people and different set of children for Katie and Ben to get to know. Bowling was good fun as the adults played too (miserably in my case) with Katie and Ben on seperate teams both coming second (by 1 point in Ben's case and 2 points in Katie's!). Tootled off to visit Kings Lynn library afterwards which took far longer than expected due to two things. Firstly I had a "doh" moment and forgot that Kings Lynn is actually Norfolk not Lincolnshire so our library tickets didn't work. Secondly they had just installed a new automated system which unfortunately, just as we were having our "doh" moment, witnessed teams of other people suddenly needing assistance one way or the other in working the new system. The staff of three seemed to go into overdrive running back and forth sorting out problems with us probably being the most awkward needing three new library tickets! All very pleasantly dealt with though but I did feel for them.

So, new families on the HE front and then Ben went to watch Cubs in the evening. Those who have read past blog entries will realise that Ben gets a bit worked up over new situations. Rightly so, I do too, I like to know exactly what's going to happen, etc., etc. Anyway, he was really, really brave staying cheerful until just before going in. Seeing all the other children in their uniforms, knowing they they all know each other and then they start stare at you because you're the "new boy" would turn anyone to jelly! He asked to watch rather than join in. Boy was it noisy (he's not good with noise he's just good at making noise!) - running around and doing games. Then things changed and it started getting interesting and Ben began to loosen up and want to join in (from his chair of course!). They are working towards an aviation badge and went to visit the local airfield last week. This week they were given the NATO phonetic alphabet to learn in about 20 mins. Now, I hardly ever boast about my children in my blog (although perhaps I should a little more), but I was seriously impressed with my son. The other children were constantly checking to see what the letters all stood for but Ben managed to just look through the A-Z and remember it immediately. The leader came over and asked if he could do his first name and he reeled off first and last name without a bat of an eyelid! Proud moment! Proud because at the start of the evening the leader had come up to Ben and asked what school he went to, to which Ben answered that he was taught at home. The leader when into commiseration mode saying to me "is he stuck indoors with you all the time, not getting out and meeting others, is that why he won't join in?" or words very similar. I'm not a violent women, but I did have to resist forming a fist! "Nope, we meet other people and children all the time" (grrr you silly man) "but he gets a little nervous in new surroundings" (grrrr). "These boys have had fun running around at school together all day, you should join them Ben" he says (double grrrrr). Anyway, Ben enjoyed learning all this stuff and started chatting to another cub and seemed quite happy. Next they had to try and guess the airline symbols which he joined in too although the other leader asked "have you ever been abroad Ben?" in a very sympathetic way (or am I just getting paranoid now?!) - "yes, I've been to Portugal" he replied really confidently - that's my boy.

He wants to go back and hopefully he'll take part properly next week. I certainly think it'll do him the world of good having fun with the other boys and they seemed keen for him to join them which was nice.

kilo echo echo papa yankee oscar uniform papa oscar sierra tango echo delta


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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Check this out!

Get a Voki now!

Just click the "play" to listen.

We've had lots of fun with these today. Picked up the website from an article in a recent copy of TES (Times Educational Supplement) in which the author suggests trying Voki to brighten up lessons because pupils may get tired of the sound of their teacher's voice!