Thursday, November 30, 2006

What's cooking?

Over at my new cookery blog you can find recipes for shipwreck stew, Shrewsbury biscuits (cookies) and cholent, along with an introduction to my Auntie and her cookbooks.

Temperamental monster

Being curious about where visitors to my blog come from and go to, I couldn't resist signing up with MyBlogLog when I heard about it a while ago. I was mystified today as to why someone found their way to me through a Google search on "temperamental monster". It turned out to be a post on Angel and maths. Should have guessed. Still, I am delighted to report that despite the odd blip, the Maths 2XL CD-Rom is still proving a pretty good cure for temperamental-monsteritis. And that alleviates the associated disease of frustrated-motheritis. Phew!

Note: My Blog Log is free, so long as you are happy just to see the top ten hits to and from your blog. I may be curious, but not so much so that I'm prepared to pay for the privilege of having my curiosity satisfied!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Of blogs and babies

... and the connection between the two.

(1) Having a nursing baby makes me hungry. Really, really hungry. Is it any surprise that I have started a cooking blog?

(2) I have lots of time to read blogs while nursing said baby, but as I am not a good one-handed typist I often don't manage to comment. If you don't hear from me, it doesn't mean I'm not reading.

(3) I can't resist a good baby photo. Or two.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Blog of the Week

As I try to collect my scattered thoughts and focus on Advent it has to be A Living Education, where Katherine has posted a whole series of Advent ideas:

O Antiphon Houses
Jesse Trees
Advent Trees
An entire St. Nicholas Unit, together with a downloadable St.Nicholas flipbook she made for her six year old.

These are just part of the treasure to be found on her blog ... lots more liturgical celebrations, and some wonderful art. Don't miss her Christ the King icon slideshow.

Thank you Katherine. I love it!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Are you ready for Advent?

I'm not. I'm afraid I have hardly thought about it yet - surprising, given my usual planning mania, but life is just so busy at the moment. Fortunately I know other people have been thinking about it for me. Over the next couple of days I am going to be savouring the creative ideas at Mary Ellen's Advent blog, O Night Divine, and at Jenn's Loveliness of Advent fair. I already have some good ideas from Katherine at A Living Education and Ruth at Just Another Day in Paradise.

With all this help I'm sure I will have a plan by next Sunday. When the plan materialises, I'll post it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Bookworm's Cook Book

After all those food related posts I got carried away, and here is the result ... my new cookery blog.

The Bookworm's Cook Book

I have copied over the menu plans and recipes I already posted here, and plan to add more recipes, food quotes, and other food related items. I imagine I will post there sporadically, so will post links to new Cook Book posts here as and when I write them.

In part I am inspired by finding my great-aunt's old recipe books while decluttering at my mother's. One is a hand written notebook, that looks as though it may have been kept during cookery classes; the other a simple housewife's recipe book from the 1920s - basic, no frills home cooking. I'm looking forward to exploring them both. I'm a basic, no frills home cooking type myself. My food usually tastes better than it looks!

Do come and visit. (And admire the pretty pictures of food I managed to put across the top, after much cutting and pasting in Paint!)

Quiz Night

We are having a thoroughly sociable weekend. First, Friday's Greek evening, then last night a quiz evening to raise funds for the girls' brass band. We were the only team with younger children, but called ourselves The Unbeatables in an attempt at positive thinking. Thanks to sterling help from Angel and Star we proved ourselves unbeatably bad and came last. Last turned out to be good as we "won" the booby prize - a small box of chocolates each. The evening was fun, and we were well fed on baked potatoes, chilli, crusty bread and salad. (Note to self: Why is this blog turning into a monologue about food?)

This sample gives you a feel for just why we were a little handicapped in the quiz department ...

Question: What small dog originated in Germany and has a name meaning "badger dog".
Answer: (Star) Great Dane!
Er ... good try - apart from being the wrong size, the wrong country and having nothing to do with badger dog in the name! (Correct answer? Dachshund!)

Greek Night

Friday night was Greek night. I've written before about how fortunate we are in our neighbours. Earlier in the year we had planned with our next-door-but-one neighbours, D and A and next-door neighbours K and A to try out a nearby Greek restaurant, but Little Cherub came along and it never happened. As a Cherub-friendly alternative, we decided on a do-it-ourselves Greek meal. D and A played host and cooked the main course, we provided the starters, and K and A the dessert. Angel and Star stayed home with my brother supposedly in charge (given that they were still not in bed and asleep when we got home at 11.30, "in charge" is clearly a rather loose description), and the Cherub joined the fun. We enjoyed a convivial evening, good food and a glass of wine or two, and reflected yet again on just how fortunate we are in our neighbours. Cherub alternately catnapped and popped up to join in the conversation.

The menu?
Starters: Mezes - a selection of Greek salads, olives and stuffed vineleaves
Main course: Lemon-roasted lamb, roast potatoes with rosemary and mediterranean vegetables
Dessert: Galaktambouriko (Greek custard pie) with yoghurt and honey ice cream

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Left brain, right brain

Because I can't resist a good blogthing ...

You Are 70% Left Brained, 30% Right Brained

The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning.
Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others.
If you're left brained, you are likely good at math and logic.
Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.

The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility.
Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way.
If you're right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art.
Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and sports.

Hat tip: Mary G at St.Athanasius Academy

Stir-Up Sunday

Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Collect for the Sunday before the First Sunday of Advent, Book of Common Prayer)
Tomorrow is Stir-Up Sunday, the day for stirring up Christmas puddings, an essential part of dinner for Christmas Day here in England. We won't be making ours tomorrow, but Star and I will be preparing them next week. Until this year my mother has always made them, but standing for any length of time is too painful as she waits for her hip replacement operation (she now has a date for surgery ... December 18th!), so I have now inherited the job along with the family recipe she has always used.

Christmas puddings are normally very rich affairs, laced with quantities of brandy or rum, but our recipe is a lighter, alcohol-free version. It came from Mum's adoptive aunt, who inherited it from her mother. They were Methodists, hence the teetotal pudding. I love Christmas pudding in any shape or form, but often people who dislike other Christmas puds enjoy ours. Here is the recipe ...

8 oz breadcrumbs
8 oz plain flour
8 oz suet (we use the vegetarian version)
8 oz currants
8 oz sultanas
4 oz raisins
a little mixed peel
2 tsp salt
8 oz castor sugar
2 tsp mixed spice
rind and juice of 2 lemons
6 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 grated apples
2 grated carrots
4 oz glace cherries, quartered
1 or 2 tbsp black treacle (dark molasses?)
a little milk if mixture is stiff

Mix all ingredients together and beat well
Put in greased pudding moulds (should be about two-thirds full)
Cover with greaseproof paper
Steam for 3 to 4 hours.

After steaming remove the greaseproof paper and cover with foil. Puddings will keep for about 6 months. Steam a second time for at least 3 hours, and serve with any combination of brandy sauce, brandy butter, custard or cream. I need to check just how many puddings this quantity of mixture will make, but I think it would probably be two 2 pound puddings and two 1 pound puddings, or thereabouts.

Note: If anyone in the US is interested in making these, let me know and I can post conversions into cups.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Menu: Week 4

While I am posting menus, here is Week 4. This blog is certainly not very literary at the moment ... I just seem to be posting a series of lists!

Lunch: Roast lamb, roast potatoes and vegetables
Dinner: Sandwiches

Lunch: Tuna sandwiches
Dinner: Shipwreck stew, green vegetables (a crockpot recipe I found on the internet with minced beef - hamburger? - potatoes, beans and tomato soup. Very easy, very tasty)

Lunch: Baked beans on toast
Dinner: Chicken and mushroom casserole, broccoli, mashed potatoes

Lunch: French bread with chicken tikka
Dinner: Chicken pie, roast potatoes, sauteed cabbage (frozen ready-made chicken pie, not home cooked - Waitrose roast chicken pie, for anyone in the UK who wants to know)

Lunch: Egg mayonnaise sandwiches
Dinner: Oven chips (fries), fish fingers, carrots

Lunch: Cauliflower cheese
Dinner: Pasta with tuna and sweetcorn

Lunch: Vegetable soup, homemade bread
Dinner: Scones and cake

Menu: Week 3

A bit behind the times, but this was our menu for this week (Week 3 of my four week rotation) ...

Lunch: Roast chicken, roast potatoes and vegetables
Dinner: Sandwiches

Lunch: Turkey rasher sandwiches (we use turkey instead of bacon)
Dinner: Potato wedges, fish fingers, sweetcorn

Lunch: Cheese omelette and baked beans
Dinner: Lamb stew and dumplings

Lunch: French bread pizza
Dinner: Chicken stir fry

Lunch: Turkey sandwiches
Dinner: Baked potatoes and cauliflower cheese

Lunch: Pasta with tomato and cheese sauce
Dinner: Fish and chips (fries!) (from the takeaway, not homemade)

Lunch: Beefburgers or steak sandwiches
Dinner: Hot takeaway chicken, crusty bread

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thankful Thursday

As I am going through a phase of living up to my blog name (after a long spell with few book oriented posts), my Thankful Thursday list this week is a literary one. I want to take the opportunity to express my thanks for my favourite authors ...

1. C.S.Lewis, for his way of getting to the heart of Christianity and writing about it with such clarity, and because one of my roads to faith was through Narnia.

2. J.R.R.Tolkein, for being inspired to use his deep understanding of myth to create a masterpiece of the mythological imagination and the greatest fictional battle between good and evil.

3. G.K.Chesterton, who makes me proud to be English and Catholic, whose incisive insights and wit make his work such a pleasure to read, and who demonstrated in both his life and his writing that Catholicism and joy are inseparable.

4. Charlotte Maria Shaw Mason, whose habits of thought and study combined with a deep love of children to produce a philosophy of education that is as inspirational today as it was one hundred years ago.

5. Elinor M. Brent Dyer, whose Chalet School books gave me an imaginary but far more satisfying alternative to real life school, bringing to life a place where children enjoyed good, clean fun, where there were wonderful examples of large, happy families, where faith, principles and responsibility were all pre-eminent, and where many favourite characters were Catholic.

6. Elizabeth Goudge, for books in which adversity is overcome by good moral choices, and which leave behind a glow of satisfaction.

7. Jane Austen, whose gentle humour has kept alive a lost world for two hundred years, showing that the essence of humanity doesn't change.

8. Gerard Manley Hopkins, for being the first poet I discovered for myself, rather than as an assignment for an English literature class. His poems opened my eyes both to ways in which language could be used, and to a Catholic world that hovered attractively somewhere on my horizon.

9. A.A.Milne, for Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, who I loved with a passion as a child. I even had Winnie-the-Pooh wallpaper. And this was long before the days of Disney and children's book characters as marketing opportunities.

10. Gloria Whelan, who may not be in quite the same literary league as the others, but whose books have brought history and geography to life for us this term.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

One hundred books

Another long list of books for you ... this time, my one hundred favourite children's books. I am restricting myself to fiction, and to only one entry for each author - which, I suppose, means this could also count as a list of my one hundred favourite writers for children. Where books have a sequel or are part of a series I am giving the first title and marking it with an asterisk. Not surprisingly, the list is shamelessly biased towards British authors and books for girls.

Starting with picture books for little ones, and arranged very roughly in age order ...

1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle)
2. Owl Babies (Martin Waddell)
3. We're Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury)
4. Guess How Much I Love You (Sam McBratney)
5. *Elmer (David McKee)
6. I Love You, Blue Kangaroo (Emma Chichester Clark)
7. Peepo! (Allan Ahlberg)
8. The Gruffalo (Julia Donaldson)
9. The Tiger That Came To Tea (Judith Kerr)
10. Dogger (Shirley Hughes)
11. Handa's Surprise (Eileen Browne)
12. *Old Bear (Jane Hissey)
13. Christmas Trolls (Jan Brett)
14. Green Eggs and Ham (Dr.Seuss)
15. *The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter)
16. *Spring Story (Brambley Hedge) (Jill Barklem)
17. *Little Grey Rabbit (Alison Uttley)
18. *Katie Morag Delivers the Mail (Mairi Hedderwick)
19. *Floss (Kim Lewis)
20. *Thomas the Tank Engine (Rev.W.Awdrey)
21. *Madeline (Ludwig Bemelmans)
22. The Clown of God (Tomie de Paola)
23. *Amelia Bedelia (Peggy Parrish)
24. The Story of Holly and Ivy (Rumer Godden)
25. *My Naughty Little Sister (Dorothy Edwards)
26. *Teddy Robinson (Joan G.Robinson)
27. *Milly-Molly-Mandy (Joyce Lankester Brisley)
28. *Paddington Bear (Michael Bond)
29. Charlotte's Web (E.B.White)
30. My Father's Dragon (Ruth Stiles Garnett)
31. *The Happy Orpheline (Natalie Savage Carlton)
32. *Little Mrs Pepperpot (Alf Proysen)
33. *Sophie's Snail (Dick King-Smith)
34. *It's Not Fair! (Bel Mooney)
35. *Winnie-the-Pooh (A.A.Milne)
36. *Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)
37. *Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)
38. *Famous Five books (Enid Blyton)
39. *The Story of Doctor Dolittle (Hugh Lofting)
40. Mr Popper's Penguins (Richard Atwater)
41. *Beezus and Ramona (Beverley Cleary)
42. The Miracle of St.Nicholas (Gloria Whelan)
43. The Weight of a Mass (Josephine Nobisso)
44. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (Susan Wojciechowski)
45. Saint George and the Dragon (Geraldine MacCaughrean)
46. *Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls (Caryl Houslander)
47. English Fairy Tales (Joseph Jacobs)
48. Saint Patrick's Summer (Marigold Hunt)
49. *The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S.Lewis)
50. *The Wizard of Oz (L.Frank Baum)
51. *Half Magic (Edward Eager)
52. Peter Pan (J.M.Barrie)
53. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
54. The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)
55. The Secret Garden (F.Hodgson Burnett)
56. *The Borrowers (Mary Norton)
57. *Little House in the Big Woods (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
58. *Little House in the Highlands (Melissa Wiley)
59. By the Great Horn Spoon (Sid Fleischmann)
60. *Five Children and It (E.Nesbit)
61. *Emil and the Detectives (Erich Kastner)
62. The Door in the Wall (Marguerite de Angeli)
63. Ballet Shoes (Noel Streatfeild)
64. The Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling)
65. Tom's Midnight Garden (Philippa Pearce)
66. Stig of the Dump (Clive King)
67. Jotham's Journey (Arnold Ytreeide)
68. The Thirteen Days of Christmas (Jenny Overton)
69. The Small Miracle (Paul Gallico)
70. Kensuke's Kingdom (Michael Morpurgo)
71. Cue for Treason (Geoffrey Trease)
72. *The Children of Green Knowe (Lucy Boston)
73. *Swallows and Amazons (Arthur Ransome)
74. The Little White Horse (Elizabeth Goudge)
75. *All of a Kind Family (Sydney Taylor)
76. The Princess and the Goblin (George McDonald)
77. Heidi (Johanna Spyri)
78. Pollyanna (Eleanor Porter)
79. Treasure Island (R.L.Stevenson)
80. The Woolpack (Cynthia Harnett)
81. Warrior Scarlet (Rosemary Sutcliff)
82. Sun Slower, Sun Faster (Meriol Trevor)
83. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Roger Lancelyn Green)
84. I, Juan de Pareja (Elizabeth Borton de Trevino)
85. The Striped Ships (Eloise Jarvis McGraw)
86. The Box of Delights (John Masefield)
87. Charlotte Sometimes (Penelope Farmer)
88. Fattipuffs and Thinifers (Andre Maurois)
89. *Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (J.K.Rowling)
90. *What Katy Did (Susan Coolidge)
91. *The School at the Chalet (Elinor M.Brent Dyer)
92. The Silver Sword (Ian Serralier)
93. Journey to Jo'burg (Beverley Naidoo)
94. The Hobbit (J.R.R.Tolkien)
95. Moonfleet (J.Meade Falkner)
96. The Witch of Blackbird Pond (Elizabeth George Speare)
97. Grace (Jill Paton Walsh)
98. *Anne of Green Gables (L.M.Montgomery)
99. The Adventure of the Amethyst (Cecily Hallack)
100. *Little Women (L.M.Alcott)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Homeschooling Update: Star

I seem to have been on a roll with book posts and haven't said much about our homeschooling for a while. Time for an update, starting with Star ...

My lengthy, detailed planning has now gone the way of all my detailed plans, into a general structure and vague sense of direction. I think I now have a better handle on how to approach educating Star. I mentioned before that Star has developed the habit of inattention ... more accurately, it has always been a problem, but after our erratic pregnancy and new baby year it has become more apparent, and the time has come to work on it. My plan is to start by getting her to focus better on just a few things - short tasks that require concentration. I'm starting with three:

  • History narration ... I have abandoned Story of the World Vol.2 and the medieval period as it wasn't catching her interest. She is listening in to some of Angel's twentieth century history read alouds, and I have picked out another book purely to practice her reading comprehension and narration skills. A Nursery History of England by Elizabeth O'Neill is an old book which tells the story of English history in very short snippets, each with an illustration and with many colour plates. (When first published it must have been a rather delicious book, though my copy is tarnished and has had some illustrations cut out.) The brief stories, each just one or two paragraphs long, will give her the chance to practice reading and narrating, without being long enough to become a bugbear. She grumbled the first time - slight understatement ... it was more of a screech and wail session - but today she whizzed through it with an accurate narration.
  • Latin ... Latin Prep lends itself to short lessons, and I split longer exercises into two. Keeping them short helps to keep her focused. In my opinion Latin is great brain exercise. It teaches grammar and thinking skills, all in one neat package. Star, so far at least, seems to have just the right sort of brain for Latin and works on it quite happily.
  • Maths ... daily maths in some shape or form. Usually Singapore My Pals Are Here, but sometimes computer games or other maths activities. Again, sticking to short lessons.
As her narration and reading comprehension skills improve I can increase the reading and narrating assignments. No rush though ... if this school year is spent mainly on developing her skills in these three areas, I will be happy. Add in read alouds and independent reading time, and she will be learning a good deal.

Early Reading Memories Meme

Yes! Another meme! And a nice bookwormish one at that. Thank you to Faith at Dumb Ox Acadamy for tagging me.

1. How old were you when you learned to read and who taught you?

Apparently I had started reading by the time I was two, and was reading fluently at three. Mostly I taught myself. My mother taught me the alphabet, then I insisted that she must follow along with her finger as she read to me from the Ladybird Keywords books - familiar early reading fare for my generation in the UK, and the same books I used to teach Angel (Star preferred their newer, Read With Me books). From there on I just picked it up by osmosis.

2. Did you own any books as a child? If so, what’s the first one that you remember owning? If not, do you recall any of the first titles that you borrowed from the library?

Many, many books. My dad was not a reader, but my mother was so there were always a lot of books around (scaling down her library is our current decluttering task - mother dear, just how many commentaries on Matthew's Gospel can one person need?). One book I still have is a Faber Book of Children's Stories, which the inscription says was given to me for my fourth birthday. Other early books I remember are Enid Blyton's Noddy books and Winnie the Pooh. My mother has old leather bound copies of the Pooh books and A.A.Milne's children's poems including a couple of first editions that used to belong to her aunt and uncle, and I remember Auntie reading to me from them.

3. What’s the first book that you bought with your own money?

I don't remember any specific books I bought, but I can remember when I was six or seven saving all my pocket money to buy books. At sixpence a week (pre-decimal coinage) it took me four or five weeks to save enough for a Puffin paperback, which in those days cost either two shillings or half a crown (two shillings and sixpence).

4. Were you a re-reader as a child? If so, which book did you re-read most often?

Oh yes, a constant re-reader! Favourites were C.S.Lewis's Narnia books (though I disliked The Last Battle so never re-read that one), Elinor Brent Dyer's Chalet School series, historical fiction by Geoffrey Trease and Henry Treece, E Nesbit, and Noel Streatfeild, the Little House books and Hugh Lofting's Doctor Dolittle.

5. What’s the first adult book that captured your interest and how old were you when you read it?

I can't remember! I know I read The Lord of the Rings when I was fifteen and loved it, but was certainly reading adult books before that. Another book that caught my imagination was Tolstoy's War and Peace. My interest was piqued by the BBC's 1972 serialisation, so I think I must have read that before LOTR.

6. Are there children’s books that you passed by as a child that you have learned to love as an adult? Which ones?

I never enjoyed The Wind in the Willows as a child, but grew to appreciate it through reading to Angel. Although I read - and loved - Anne of Green Gables, I only discovered there were sequels a few years ago, which led to a fun reading binge.

Now for the tagging bit ... Mary G, Karen, Jenn, Jennifer and Elizabeth/Doris. Over to you!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

47 out of 100

As a Bookworm, how could I resist Mary G’s challenge. Turns out I have only read a rather pathetic 47 books from this list of 100 children’s literature greats. I blame the number of American picture books that are not either well known or readily available (specifically, in the library!) here for tripping me up! Now it has me thinking … what would be the top 100 books of children’s fiction I would want to read to my children?

  1. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White +
  2. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  3. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss +
  4. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss +
  5. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  6. Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch
  7. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  8. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle +
  9. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  10. The Mitten by Jan Brett +
  11. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  12. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  13. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis +
  14. Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein
  15. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  16. Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
  17. Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss +
  18. Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola +
  19. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst +
  20. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin, Jr.
  21. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl +
  22. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams +
  23. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle +
  24. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  25. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss +
  26. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
  27. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault -
  28. Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder +
  29. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett +
  30. The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne +
  31. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner +
  32. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
  33. Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks +
  34. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
  35. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
  36. The BFG by Roald Dahl +
  37. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  38. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
  39. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl +
  40. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder +
  41. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  42. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien +
  43. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  44. Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
  45. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  46. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien
  47. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott +
  48. The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
  49. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman +
  50. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
  51. Corduroy by Don Freeman
  52. Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
  53. Math Curse by Jon Scieszka -
  54. Matilda by Roald Dahl +
  55. Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
  56. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
  57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary +
  58. The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White +
  59. Are You My Mother? by Philip D. Eastman
  60. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis +
  61. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey +
  62. One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss +
  63. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  64. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  65. The Napping House by Audrey Wood
  66. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
  67. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter +
  68. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  69. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum +
  70. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery +
  71. Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
  72. Basil of Baker Street, by Eve Titus
  73. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
  74. The Cay by Theodore Taylor
  75. Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey +
  76. Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
  77. Arthur series by Marc Tolon Brown
  78. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  79. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
  80. Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder +
  81. The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
  82. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
  83. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
  84. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish +
  85. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  86. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  87. Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater +
  88. My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett +
  89. Stuart Little by E. B. White
  90. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech +
  91. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare +
  92. The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola
  93. Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
  94. Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell -
  95. Heidi by Johanna Spyri +
  96. Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
  97. The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare +
  98. The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
  99. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney +
  100. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch
Fun idea, Mary!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Book Review: Daughter of the Wind

Title: Daughter of the Wind
Author: Suzanne Fisher Staples
Age Suitability: Young adult

I borrowed this book from the library in my quest to find "living" geography books and skimmed through to see whether it would be suitable to read to Angel. It isn't. It is too mature in content, both in certain specifics and overall. There are references to childbirth, miscarriage, physical changes at puberty and attempted abduction, all of which are "older" than I would choose to read to her. The book is set among the nomads of the Cholistan Desert in Pakistan, and the plot hinges on the arranged marriages of the main character Shabanu and her sister, Phulan. Gloria Whelan's Homeless Bird also tackled arranged marriage, but in a much gentler way. This book is quite gritty. Although I didn't read it in its entirety I was gripped by what I read - enough so to go back and read sections to fill in bits of the plot. The author is a former press correspondent in Asia who writes of what she knows and writes well. It isn't a comfortable culture, particularly for girls, and the book is not a comfortable read. Worth considering for young adults, but not suitable for younger children.

There are 56 of me

How many people with your name are there in the USA?

Angel, Star and Little Cherub are all quite select, at 98, 18 and 29 respectively. Tevye, on the other hand has no less than 1069 namesakes.

Hat tip to Lapaz Farm Home Learning.

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursdays are making me count my blessings! I've been adding things I am thankful for as I have become aware of them through the week ...

1. Brass band ... for providing my girls with free music lessons and great playing experience in a family atmosphere. It is a community band ranging in age from 6 (a little boy who has just started learning cornet) to over 70, and everyone gets on well, with lots of laughing and joking along the way.

2. Hot showers ... how could I ever get going in the morning without them?

3. News that a good friend is expecting a baby next year after a long wait. Yay!!!!!!!

4. A pile of baby toys passed on to Little Cherub by another friend whose children have outgrown them.

5. Tuesday mornings ... Mass followed by a trip for a drink and snack with Angel or Star alternately. We don't manage it every week, but I'm so pleased I started this. This week was Angel's turn, and we both enjoyed hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream at a proper "grown up" coffee bar. Mass and hot chocolate with my growing girl ... that's quality time!

6. Tesco's Creamy Caramella ice cream.

7. Tevye, who took it on himself to give the cooker a long overdue clean. Greater love hath no man! (Of course, I'm thankful for him in many, many other ways, but that cooker was a reproach to me every time I used it. And still I hadn't got round to cleaning it.)

8. Autumn leaves. The colours and the wonderful crunchy feeling.

9. My digital camera. I take so many more pictures than I used to with our old camera, and they come out so much better (thanks to the delete button!)

10. Books. Can't imagine life without them.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Baby feet

These little pinkies are walking their way over to Rebecca's lovely Babylove blog where she is holding a carnival of little feet. Do pay her a visit!

The ballet dancers in the family tell me Little Cherub is practicing first position.

Like my hairstyle?

What's going on?

Do I have to have these in my hair?

Maybe it's OK ...

Hey! I look good!

Yep. That big sister got her hands on me again!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Peter Pan in Scarlet

Another book for our future reading list ... the official sequel to Peter Pan, commissioned by the trustees of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children to which the copyright of the original was gifted by J.M.Barrie.Peter Pan in Scarlet has been written by Geraldine McCaughrean, an author who specialises in retellings of classic stories but is also a fiction writer in her own right. I enjoy her retellings, but haven't read any of her original fiction. We definitely have to test this one out.

Profits from the book go to Great Ormond Street Hospital - a cause dear to us as the cardiac surgeons there saved the lives of both J-next-door and her brother D, who were both born with massive heart defects.

I love this

... marvellous slide show of November Feasts by Katherine at A Living Education.

I think Angel and I could have fun with this. I wonder if slide shows can be posted on Blogger?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Book Review: War Game

Title: War Game
Author: Michael Foreman
Age Suitability: 7 to 11

I picked this picture book up from our library's book sale a couple of weeks ago, thinking it would fit nicely with our twentieth century history focus. I pulled it out today - neatly timed after Remembrance Day - to help bridge the gap between Angel on the Square and its sequel, The Impossible Journey, which is still working its way through Amazon's order system.

The book describes how four young men from a Suffolk village enlist in the British army in 1914 and are sent to serve in the trenches. When Christmas comes, the British and Germans stop fighting and join together for a game of football in No Man's Land. After this brief respite hostilities resume and only a few days later one of the young men pays the ultimate price.

Foreman is a well known illustrator whose own pictures are mixed with some photographic images of items. There are no graphic photos of the horrors of war, though they are apparent from the text. It is a very unusual book, tackling a subject that is not normally dealt with in picture books, and in an almost poetic way. Good books on World War I are few and far between, and as a suitable introduction to the subject for younger children this one may be unique.

Book Review: Angel on the Square

Title: Angel on the Square
Author: Gloria Whelan
Age Suitability: 8 and up (as a read aloud for younger ages). I would have put a higher age on this, but Star loved it.

Our Gloria Whelan season continues. I do like her books! They are well written and enjoyable, and they cover topics for which good fiction is hard to find. Angel on the Square is the first of a quartet of books set in twentieth century Russia. It tells the story of the Russian Revolution from the inside - the main character, Katya, is the teenage daughter of a countess who becomes lady-in-waiting to the Empress Alexandra. Living at the imperial palace, she shares the lives of the Tsar's four daughters and is companion to the youngest, Anastasia. Thanks to her student cousin Misha, she also sees something of the hardship endured by ordinary Russians.

There is a fair amount of historical information woven into the story. It gives a glimpse of the causes of the Revolution, and distinguishes between its two phases - the initial, moderate Revolution led by Kerensky, and Lenin's October Revolution. The Tsar and his family become real people to the reader, as does the Queen's evil genius, Rasputin (you may want to be aware that the book includes a brief episode in which Rasputin tries to assault a servant girl).

If this book whets your appetite for reading about the Russian Revolution, another I would recommend is The White Nights of St.Petersburg by Geoffrey Trease. Better for an older audience - say 12 and up? Not because of any inappropriate content, but just because it is more complex. This one has a young man as the leading character, so may be a better choice for older boys. Sadly, it is out of print (as are many of Trease's books - a shame as he wrote some great historical fiction).

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Remembrance Day

Yesterday was Armistice Day, the anniversary of the end of the First World War (at the 11th hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month). In the UK the Sunday nearest to Armistice Day is Remembrance Day, and services are held throughout the country to remember those who lost their lives in the two World Wars and other conflicts. Angel was booked to play with the brass band for the Remembrance Day service in a nearby village, so we all trotted off to Mass last night to leave this morning free. It is many years since I attended one of these services, which are very much a part of the Church of England's role as the established (state) Church. I found it both moving and sad, in a number of ways.

The service began in the parish Church, which in size and splendour outdoes all but a few of this country's Catholic Churches. And this is a village Church, remember. Admittedly it has the advantage of being the local Church of the Dukes of Bedford, who had it built in splendid Gothic style to replace the original medieval building in the nineteenth century. It would make a perfect setting for traditional Catholic liturgy, with the altar set against the East end in front of a magnificent gilded reredos, approached by a long, stepped chancel. Add soaring stone pillars and a canopied pulpit and you get the idea. But how empty it felt. No tabernacle. No Real Presence. No candles (apart from two in front of the altar). No sense that it was a place of prayer at any time other than during formal services. Yet the Church of England does tradition and language magnificently, and even in a short, austere service I felt that. Hymns accompanied by the brass band, echoing in the high building; an old man in uniform and medals marching with the flag of the Royal British Legion; collects with lots of "thy" and "thine"; the vicar asking the congregation to be "quiet, discreet, orderly, and fairly quick" in processing to the war memorial, and being obeyed to the letter (in my experience Catholic processions have an inevitable tendency towards disorganisation). It left me feeling a double sense of loss, for the Presence that would fill the emptiness, and despite that a sadness that English society is losing (or has already lost) something central as people abandon the Church of England in droves.

From the Church on to the war memorial, and another sense of loss that moves me deeply even ninety years after the First World War. I find those lists of names of young men who went to war and never returned, carved on stone memorials like this one in villages and towns across the country, utterly haunting. In this village alone, the count was thirty-nine dead in the First War and five more in the Second. The British War Memorial project is trying to identify as many of these names as possible. The partially completed online Roll of Honour gives a sense of the scale of the catastrophe by putting flesh on the bones of all those who died for king and country.

Wreaths of poppies were placed on the memorial, including two by old soldiers wearing rows of medals. The old soldiers are few and far between now, with veterans of the Second World War now in their eighties. In a very few years there will be no survivors of the Great War at all - the tiny handful that remain are already well past one hundred. A minute's silence to remember, followed by the Last Post played by a solo cornet.

Lest we forget ...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Prizewinner Star!

Star's prize from the Halloween quiz draw at the children's farm arrived today ... gift vouchers for two annual passes, one for her, one for an adult. She is thrilled. So am I! This farm has a magnificent new indoor play area - three serious slides and lots of scope for climbing, swinging and generally having fun, plus separate areas for toddlers and under 5s - and lots of outdoor play equipment as well as the farm animals and activities. It is only 15 minutes away, so passes mean we can go just for an hour or so to run off energy in the winter as well as for whole days in the school holidays. Under 2s are free, so all I need to add is a pass for Angel and we are set.

Wish blogger had big smileys I could add :).

Menu: Week 2

On the menu for next week (Week 2 of my four week rotation) ...

Lunch: Turkey joint, roast potatoes and vegetables
Dinner: Sandwiches

Lunch: Pitta bread and houmous
Dinner: Crockpot beef and mushrooms, peas

Lunch: Poached eggs on toast
Dinner: Pasta with chicken, red pesto and creme fraiche (very easy, Star ate this with green pesto when visiting a friend and nagged until I asked for the recipe)

Lunch: Cheese bagels
Dinner: Shepherd's pie, carrots

Lunch: Tuna and cucumber sandwiches
Dinner: Grilled chicken, potato wedges, green veg

Lunch: Pizza
Dinner: Salmon, rice or potato, sweetcorn

Lunch: Vegetable soup and crusty bread (homemade soup with carrot, swede - rutabaga? - and potato)
Dinner: Homemade scones and cake (more of an afternoon tea than a dinner!)

Most days we have fruit for dessert after dinner, depending on what is on offer at any given time. This week it has been mainly pineapple and satsuma. Occasionally I will cook something, but not often. A friend gave me surplus apples from her tree, so I ought to make something with them - probably an apple crumble on Sunday.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thankful Thursday

I am too late for the thankfulness carnival organised by Lisa at Joyful Chaos, but I'm going to join in anyway! For the big things, see Elizabeth's list at Frabjous Days. Saves me typing a pretty much identical one. Beyond those, here are ten things I am thankful for today ...

1. My mother has found a house at a price she can afford (just!) only five minutes safe and easy walk from ours. This is after her house sold last week within seven days of being put on the market, and for a better price than we expected. (Thank you God! Prayers that everything will go smoothly appreciated - there is no guarantee here that property transactions will go through until all legal formalities are completed, which could take two or three months.)

2. Our new car, which means I can transport the items liberated from the clutter monster (all the more important now her house move is looking imminent), assorted children, baby stuff, musical instruments and the ridiculous amounts of paraphernalia our life seems to involve ... and there are no puddles in the footwell. Joy!

3. Breastfeeding. It means I get to spend loads of time sitting down snuggling my Cherub. And she is getting the best possible nutrition. Double whammy :)

4. Mars Bars. Better still, Mars Bars on special offer so that I can justify keeping a stash of them. And thanks to 3, I have an excuse for eating them ;).

5. Star found the missing king from our Playmobil nativity set - before Christmas, not after - and the missing base from the Playmobil swing set.

6. Central heating, especially now that autumn has finally arrived and it is turning chilly.

7. My laptop, which brings the world not just to my living room, but right to my sofa.

8. National Health Service dentistry, which means we will not have to pay a penny for Angel's orthodontic treatment.

9. Star received an email to say that her entry in a Halloween quiz competition at a nearby children's farm had won a prize. It didn't say what the prize was, but we think we remember the leaflet mentioning a free pass for a year (we didn't take much notice as we never, ever win these things!)

10. The nice chilled glass of white wine Tevye is about to bring me ...

PS. Glass has arrived!

Latin Prep

Love it! This is one of the books from Galore Park we are using this year, and so far I am thoroughly impressed. I am also delighted with the way Star is taking to Latin. Will it last, I wonder?

Why do I like Latin Prep?

  • Clear, lively explanations
  • Solid grammar
  • Gives a sense of achievement by including "real" Latin translations from the beginning.
  • Short exercises
  • Includes English to Latin translation as well as Latin to English
This is only our sixth week using the book, and Star is already able to translate simple paragraphs. She was also able to grasp the concept of subject and object very quickly thanks to the explanation in Latin Prep.

It is a secular book, but my own experience is that it is easy to follow Church Latin if you have a classical Latin background. As someone who does know a reasonable amount of Latin it is hard to say for sure how easy it would be for someone with no Latin to teach from, but I think it would be do-able, particularly as there is an answer key available.

The biggest downside I have found so far is that the book is not very robust and is already falling apart under the strain of Star's carelessness (Oops! Dropped the book ... Oops! Crumpled pages while flicking back to look at vocabulary ... Oops! A page fell out ...) My fault for failing to train my daughter in the art of caring for books, I'm afraid - but nothing I can't fix with book tape.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Cool baby!

Angel and J-next-door got their hands on Little Cherub and the camera this afternoon ... and this was the result!

Yorkshire pudding

While I'm on a roll with menus and recipes ...

Yorkshire pudding is a batter pudding usually eaten with roast beef. In Yorkshire it was traditionally served in large slabs with gravy before the beef itself - the idea being that the stodgy pudding would fill up empty stomachs if poverty made the main course meagre. It can be made either as one large pudding, or as individual muffin sized puddings (my preference).

Ingredients (makes 12)
4 oz (1 cup) flour
½ pint (1¼ cups) milk
1 egg
Pinch of salt


Mix ingredients and whisk. Leave to stand for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to Gas Mark 7 (425 deg). Brush muffin tins with oil and heat.
Whisk batter again.
Half fill muffin tins with batter.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until risen and golden.
Serve immediately.

If you want one large pudding, bake in an 8 x 11 inch roasting tin or 9 inch square cake tin for about 30 to 35 minutes.

Chicken, mushroom and potato bake

The chicken and potato bake on yesterday's dinner menu mutated from the recipe I planned to use and came out well enough to get positive votes all round. If I post the adapted recipe here, I have a fighting chance of being able to recreate it next time this week's menu comes round ...

Ingredients (Serves 4)
4 chicken portions, cooked (I actually used three large chicken breasts)
4 large or 6 medium potatoes, cooked and mashed with butter
1 can condensed mushroom soup
8oz mushrooms, sliced
Soy sauce (about 1/2 tablespoon)
Garlic salt (about 1/2 teaspoon)

Mix can of soup with half a can of water (I used water in which I had simmered the chicken breasts), soy sauce and garlic salt.
Layer mushrooms, chicken and soup mix.
Spread potato over the top.
Bake for 30 minutes at Gas Mark 6 / 400 deg

Could easily be made in advance ready to bake, and would freeze well.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Fifth of November

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot ...

Yesterday was Bonfire Night, when bonfires and fireworks mark the anniversary of the failed attempt by Guido (Guy) Fawkes and his fellow Catholic plotters to blow up the Houses of Parliament and its occupants. Appalled by King James I's failure to reverse the policy of Queen Elizabeth I and at least tolerate Catholic worship, they decided to take action and blow up the king along with his government. The ins and outs of the plot, which may or may not have been partly fostered by King James' spymaster Robert Cecil, are still something of a mystery. From the point of view of the beleaguered English Catholic community, the Gunpowder Plot was a disaster. The leader of the English Jesuits, Father Henry Garnet, knew about the plot in advance and tried to prevent it. However, he was bound by the seal of confession and therefore unable to act against the plotters. After the plot was discovered, he was martyred. English Catholics were tarred with the brush of treason and suffered greater persecution than before. A national day of celebration was decreed to mark the failure of the plot.

So what did we do to mark the day. As Catholics, did we - should we? - avoid Bonfire Night celebrations? Er, no ... we went with friends to a firework display at the school in a nearby village, then back to their house for drinks, eats, and the opportunity to let off rockets in their garden. These days many people have no idea of the origins of Bonfire Night, and even those who know that Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament have no idea of the religious impetus behind the plot. With one or two rare exceptions (the town of Lewes in Sussex still burns an effigy of the pope on a bonfire) there is absolutely no anti-Catholic sentiment or Protestant triumphalism involved. We just enjoy the fireworks and the tradition of sharing the evening with friends - we have spent Bonfire Night with the same family for the last ten years, and it is one of the highlights of the girls' year. I take the view that it offers an opportunity to remember the tragic history of Catholicism in this country ... that done, we go along and have fun.

Busy tooth fairy

The tooth fairy is having a bad time again after a double whammy from Angel. One tooth came out of its own accord this morning and this afternoon she had to have a tooth extracted on her orthodontist's orders. The original appointment was for 9am, which would have left her minus two teeth in under an hour, but the dentist got stuck in traffic and had to postpone it. She was very brave (well done, Angel!). She is booked for braces next year - the result of eleven years of thumb sucking.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

We want to know ...

... why all baby sleepsuits in the UK have poppers (left), while in America you can get them with zippers (right)? We used the popper version in blissful ignorance until Star's American god-grandmother sent a couple of sleepsuits over for Little Cherub. So much quicker and easier! When will British babywear manufacturers catch on?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

On the menu

I am now officially organised ... in one area, at least. I have a menu plan. I used to have a rolling four week menu which worked beautifully for a while, but it somehow fell apart due to inertia quite some time before pregnancy would have rendered it useless in any case. For the last few weeks I have been writing, and pretty much sticking to, a menu for the week. Flushed with success, I decided to go the whole hog with a new four week plan. Most weeks I will have to make adjustments to allow for real life, but I know from experience that having a basic plan to draw on is a lot less effort than trying to work out a menu from scratch.

I am so proud of myself for finally getting my culinary efforts organised I thought I'd share this coming week's plan.

Lunch: Baked salmon, mashed potatoes, sugar snap peas and carrots (We usually have a roast lunch on Sundays, but tomorrow we are rushing out to Angel and Star's dance school prizegiving.)
Dinner: Sandwiches (more rush, as we are joining friends for a Bonfire Night fireworks display in the evening.)

Lunch: Jacket potatoes with cheese and / or baked beans
Dinner: Chicken and potato bake, broccoli

Lunch: Cheese on toast
Dinner: Beef casserole and Yorkshire pudding

Lunch: Egg mayo sandwiches
Dinner: Lamb chops, mashed potatoes, sauteed cabbage (currently a big favourite with Angel and Star. I never imagined I would end up with children who drool over cabbage!)

Lunch: Tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches
Dinner: Chicken fillets in breadcrumbs, curly chips (= fries!), sweetcorn (Thursday is often a busy day and evening, so gets the instant, throw-in-the-oven-from-the-freezer dinner)


Lunch: Macaroni cheese
Dinner: Cod and potato pie, peas, carrots

Lunch: Pitta bread, falafel, houmous
Dinner: Crusty bread, ready-cooked hot chicken (from the supermarket)

I have to work round a few limitations - we aren't by any means strictly Kosher, but we never have pig products in the house (no ham! no bacon!), and Tevye does not eat cheese in any shape or form, so the girls and I tend to have cheese for lunch when Tevye is at the office. I also try to cater to the girls' tastes at least to some extent - fortunately they are not particularly picky eaters, though Star is in an irritating phase of suddenly deciding she dislikes things she has eaten happily for years.

If you enjoy reading menus, tell me and I'll post the other weeks later.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Nine months on

Remember word clouds? Back in February, my blog generated this word cloud ...
Nine months on, it looks like this ...
Some things change, some stay the same - including my colour choice!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Book Review: Mother Teresa

Title: Mother Teresa: a Life of Love
Author: Elaine Murray Stone
Age Suitability: 10+ (but see caveat)

Angel and I ploughed through this book, but it never took off. It was a bit too dull and worthy, and never made Mother Teresa come alive to us. A shame when you consider what a wonderful, vibrant woman she was and what an extraordinary life she led. At the end Angel claimed to remember nothing about Mother Teresa at all ... if she feels she has been forcefed anything even vaguely historical she has a talent for wiping it from her mind (though I like to think that something sticks, somewhere). I just asked her for an opinion of the book ... "boring and hard to understand". It didn't catch my interest either.

If you want your child to read this book, be aware that there are a couple of sections which talk about abortion and artificial birth control. They could be omitted or edited when reading aloud.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Hallows Eve

We had a great party :). This is how it worked out in practice ... we turned off all the lights upstairs, lit the sitting room and kitchen with candles, and left a lamp on in the dining room (pumpkin carving by candlelight sounded like one risk too many!). Little Cherub threw a fit just as we were about to start, so I set the girls to scooping out pumpkins while I got her settled happily in her wrap. After they carved pumpkins, we moved on to soul cakes while Tevye kindly cleared up the pumpkin debris.

I hung a small inflatable skeleton in the sitting room and used him as a talking point. G and F knew it was All Hallows Eve, and G had even heard of soul cakes. I was impressed! The girls had to beg for soul cakes, which they were told they could have in return for lighting a candle (I stocked up on tea lights) and saying a prayer for someone who was dead or dying. The soul cakes were mini doughnuts, so everyone had three - lots of prayers and lots of candles.

Next the girls decorated pumpkin shaped biscuits - they came ready boxed with coloured icing (frosting?) and Smarties - and made toffee apples, also from a boxed kit. (I have a baby. If I'm going to throw a party I'm going to do it the easy way!). They ate a supper of baked potatoes, cheese and beans, followed by the biscuits and toffee apples as dessert. Little Cherub helpfully nodded off and was put to bed. I love my wrap!

After supper they tried bobbing for apples (trying to get apples out of water with their teeth and with hands behind their backs). This was a big success and proved that Cherub can sleep through anything. They were very loud. And very wet. Everyone had four turns each, except Star who got so wet she had to change and ended up disenchanted with the game. Tevye vetoed hide-and-seek in the dark because Little Cherub was asleep, so they finished off with Blind Man's Buff instead. Oh, and everyone got sweets ;).