Saturday, June 30, 2007

Holy Cards for your Inspiration

A commenter kindly introduced me to her unique blog on which she displays her extraordinary collection of holy cards, some of them over 100 years old. This Hummel Children at Tree Shrine card was one that particularly caught my attention as my mother has a collection of Hummel figurines. I had forgotten that they were based on drawings by a German Franciscan nun, Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel. Reading this site, I discovered that her artwork appeared on holy cards before it was picked up by the Goebel company who manufactured the figures. I love it when things make connections.

Do go and see Micki's beautiful collection of Holy Cards for your Inspiration. I think some of them will make a nice addition to something I am working on for Little Cherub. More about that later!

Whipsnade Zoo

We are lucky enough to live only 15 minutes away from the country branch of London Zoo. Over the years we have been many times, but often in spurts - one-off entry is expensive, so we have occasionally bought annual pass. We binge on the zoo for a year and then take a break. This time I cashed in supermarket clubcard vouchers and took my animal lover, Star, and Little Cherub. Angel opted to stay home with Dad. I think next year I may buy an annual pass for myself to take Little Cherub (under 3s go free), and then take Star occasionally in the school holidays.

Whipsnade Zoo is a big sprawling place that was originally a farm - large enough that you can take your car in (for a hefty fee) and drive round, though it is more fun and more economical to combine walking with hopping on and off the zoo bus. Perched on top of chalk downs overlooking the Vale of Aylesbury, it is in a very exposed position. Whenever we go we either burn, freeze or drown. On Thursday we needed hot chocolate and hot chips, so you can guess which of the three we suffered from.

The sun did come out briefly, just long enough for us to catch these sun-worshipping lemurs taking advantage of it. (I can never see these without longing to take one home as a pet.)

Here are Windsor and Wellington waiting for lunch. We were very impressed by the delicacy with which they could split open an orange, eat the flesh and leave the peel.

We loved these baby mongoose - I'm not sure whether you can distinguish them in this mongoose muddle.
A particularly charming pig (or red river hog, to give him his proper name)

We were lucky enough to spot the elephants out for a stroll. The younger of the two babies was tiny, and had her trunk loosely tied to mum's tail.

Star took Little Cherub for a ride on another elephant ...

Note for any fans of My Family and Other Animals - Gerald Durrell's first zoo experience was as a keeper at Whipsnade.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Countryside and Cloister

I am re-reading Countryside and Cloister by Marie Litchfield, a lovely autobiography of a Carmelite nun who grew up in Somerset during World War II. She and her younger brothers and sisters were educated at home on a shoestring for most of their school years. This is her description of her education ...

My parents obtained permission to teach us at home, for which they were well qualified; and so began the 'Litchfield School' as we liked to call it. It was wonderful - we had occasional lessons, perhaps a whole morning of algebra - but did lots of reading on our own and had plenty of play. ... Father taught us mathematics, Latin and French - or tried to, I should say. Mother's lessons were the more practical ones; needlework and hand-work of various kinds; cookery, and, of course, music. I realise now that we must have been very trying, for she longed for us to play well and enjoy it. I did enjoy it secretly, but there is something about being told - or even asked - to practise that instantly puts some chidren off. I'm afraid that we were a bit uncooperative. It was Mother who guided all our reading, too, and she was brilliant at this. She knew exactly what books we were nearly ready for and kept us just a bit ahead of our capacity, so that reading became for us a continuing joy and a big part of our lives.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

So that explains it!

"The trouble is," says Star, "that I think of something to do and then I do it. Then I think about whether or not I should have done it. Then I realise I shouldn't have done it ... but I have."

That would explain why in the course of one day trip to the zoo she:
- threw a (mercifully small) pinecone she was holding at an ostrich.
- pressed a button on a drinks machine that told it she didn't want a cup. Her hot chocolate then dispensed itself down the drain.
- threw the camera bag over my head instead of passing it to me. (No, the camera wasn't in it at the time, but I wouldn't want to bet that would have stopped her.)
- blew into a drink bottle, splattering her face with Pepsi.

Weight Watchers

Two weeks ago I went back to Weight Watchers with my neighbour - time to lose those extra baby pounds (and, I must admit, a few pre-baby) I reasoned.

Today I sent her this text message (cell phone text messaging is cheap and ubiquitous here) ...

At zoo. Cold. Bought chips*. Am giving up Weight Watchers. Too hungry and not motivated.

Well, it was a choice of eating those chips with or without guilt. I chose without guilt. I've decided that Weight Watching while nursing is not for me.

*[Chips = fries]

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #10: Decluttering and organising

I'm still in FlyLady mode - maybe more FlyBaby than FlyLady, but baby steps! - so here is a list of things I plan to declutter and organise over the summer.

1. Clear out desk drawers and cupboard (graveyard of ancient stationery, papers and computer bits)
2. Replace clutter in understairs cupboard with one of these, and use it to organise craft materials currently scattered in several places.
3. Freecycle the mountain of stuff in the garage (some ours, some cleared out from my Mum's house at the beginning of the year).
4. File contents of the girls' homeschooling notebook folders in box files, therefore leaving space to ...
5. Move reference books from unit in sitting room to bookcase, leaving space to set up Montessori-ish baskets and toys for Little Cherub.
6. Clear junk in bottoms of wardrobes in our bedroom - mainly duvets, shoes and bags - making space for neat storage boxes.
7. Empty boxes of unused clothes hidden under our bed, and use for storing out of season clothing.
8. Sort "early learning" resources - books, games, manipulatives and so on - into subject specific storage boxes, and find a clear space (!) to store them.
9. Empty out, defrost and reorganise freezers.
10. Declutter disaster zone on top of fridge.
11. Clear out and reorganise plastic drawers in garage, containing mix of old craft stuff (mostly unused for years) and bits and bobs for science experiments.
12. Sort bookshelves. Ruthlessly. Get rid of anything (books or curriculum) I am unlikely to use.
13. Organise cupboards in dining room dresser. Use for dining room related items instead of random craft stuff (see 2 and 11).

Clearing out and reorganising toy storage baskets in Star's room would have been on the list, but I did that yesterday - proving that decluttering is at least possible. If I get through half this list I will be happy. If I get through all of it, I'll be ecstatic. And so will Tevye!

I killed Henry

I killed Henry the hoover :(. Henry the virtually indestructible hoover. Something went wrong with his on/off switch. It wouldn't stay down unless it was held down. So I took him to pieces. I mean, how hard can an on/off switch be? Surely I would be able to find something to tweak. No luck. And when I put him back together he didn't work at all.

Poor Henry is dead, and I murdered him.

And our carpets are sorely in need of a vacuum.

Monday, June 25, 2007

School shopping list

Lest anyone should be under any illusions that school is an economical option, this is my shopping list for September. Per child.

  • Two pairs black trousers (or one pair and one black skirt)
  • Three white shirts (minimum)
  • One clip-on tie (tie-on ties are apparently no longer allowed in case children who can't do them up get teased. How long a clip-on tie will remain clipped onto Star is anyone's guess. I would give it about ten minutes.)
  • One maroon jumper (sweater) with school badge
  • White socks (Star will appreciate this one. She will normally only wear socks that are both fluffy and stripey). Also black tights if they opt for a skirt.
  • Black shoes (good quality as they will have a half-hour walk each way)
  • Blue sports shirt
  • Navy shorts
  • Navy track pants (Star already has a pair)
  • Trainers (both have these, which will hopefully still fit)
  • Football socks
  • Football boots
  • Shin pads
  • Sweatshirt or fleece
  • Swimsuit (only for Star, as Angel's year don't do swimming)
  • School bag
  • Sports bag
  • Shoe bag
  • Lunch bag / box
  • Umbrella
Just think of all the books and homeschooling stuff I could have bought!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Homeschooling Top Tens

This thread at the 4Real Learning boards got me thinking. I can never resist a good list (or four), so here are some of my homeschooling favourites.

Top 10 Homeschooling Resources
(not including books or specific curricula)

  • Library
  • Internet access
  • Printer / scanner / copier
  • World map and globe
  • Handheld microscope
  • Plenty of crayons, feltpens and colouring pencils
  • Gluesticks and scissors (lots of both. They walk.)
  • Storage (it is all very well having lots of stuff, but you need to be able to find it!)
  • CD player
  • Educational games
Top of my wishlist is a laminator - I want to make Montessori materials for Little Cherub, and I can see myself getting a lot of use out of one.

Now for books and other specific resources, for different age groups ...

Top 10 Early Years Resources (Age 3 to 6)
Top 10 Primary Resources (Age 6 to 9)
Top 10 Middle School Resources (Age 9 to 13)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Lesson learned

Lesson learned from Little Cherub's smash earlier this week. Little Cherub now has her very own kitchen cupboard to explore ...

... and we now have new, dotty crockery from Asda (the UK subsidiary of Walmart). Note rapidly acquired pasta sauce stain on new tablecloth!

First Communion prayers

Please say a prayer for Star's best friend F, who will be receiving her First Holy Communion today.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The euphonium bit me!

Nobody warned me brass instruments could bite. This evening one of the valves on the euphonium stuck as I was playing. I tapped it smartly several times with my finger to try to unjam it ... then caught my finger when it sprang up just as I was tapping (or maybe bashing) it back down. Ouch! I now have a lovely bruise on the tip of my right index finger.

If you are wondering how it is going ... fair to middling, at best. I was getting on quite well - or so I thought - until we went on holiday. Since taking a three week break from playing it is making horrible noises and I keep getting the pitch all wrong.

I don't think it likes me.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

There's a cockroach in my kitchen

There's a cockroach in my kitchen, a severed thumb in my sugar bowl, an eyeball in my drink, and bullet holes in my car windscreen.

Star bought a Joke Box.


Thursday Thirteen #9: Google Hits

According to My Blog Log in the last couple of weeks I have received hits from people searching for the following ...

1. hilaire belloc drink before the reformation
2. salt dough, chemistry set
3. elizabeth goudge blog
4. damerosehay (spot the connection?)
5. where did the word kalamari originate
6. bookworm rules (you bet!)
7. world issues badge
8. toaster tweezers
9. st gregory
10. jewish father legacy of love
11. liturgical year notebook
12. facts about life begins at 40
And last but not least ...
13. why is it good to be a bookworm

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Little Cherub's smashing time

Little Cherub had a smashing time this morning while Angel, Star and I were distracted checking out the contents of this week's fruit and veg box. All my Portmeirion dinner plates, and all but one of my medium sized plates.

Fortunately, being a part-Jewish household we have two sets of plates (one for meat dishes, one for dairy), and the meat plates are in a higher cupboard so we are not completely plateless. Also our collection was already rather depleted after I had a smashing time of my own a year or so ago (overtired ... slipped ... dropped ...). At least we still have most of a tea set - minus a few plates that were among my breakages.

Moral: Just because a baby is not yet quite ... technically ... a toddler, do not assume you can put off toddler proofing your kitchen. Particularly when you have put most of your crockery in low cupboards so small-to-middling-sized children can easily reach it. And when you have seen your not-quite-toddler stand herself up, open the cupboard and peer into it with interest.

To do list: (1) Buy new, cheap, dinner plates. (2) Reorganise kitchen.


It sounds as though Karen E's Ramona is heading in the same direction as my literal Angel, who takes pedanticism (is there such a word? the state of being pedantic?) to impressive heights. Surveying the CD on which she had recorded the music she is dancing to for a choreography competition next week she let out a cry of alarm.

"Oh no! I have written 1 minute 15 seconds on it and this is the 1 minute 13 second version!"

"Is that a problem?"

"Miss L says we have to put the time on the CD ..."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Days Out

As the time we have left to go places while everyone else is in school is limited we are taking full advantage of it over the next few weeks. We had a pile of supermarket clubcard vouchers, so cashed them in for free tickets to Chessington World of Adventures, Whipsnade Zoo, Cadbury World and Wicksteed Park.

Today we went to Chessington - all five of us, as Tevye took the day off from work and came too. For him it was a trip down memory lane, as a trip to Chessington with an East End Children's Synagogue was an annual childhood treat. Since then it has changed beyond recognition. (As we are talking 35 years or more since his last visit this is not exactly surprising!) Last time he went it was a zoo with a fairground and circus; now it is a theme park with a small zoo section.

Angel, Star and I are all rollercoaster fans, so the highlight of our day was the Dragon's Fury, a rollercoaster with spinning cars. Star was delighted that she managed to stretch herself just tall enough to get onto Rameses Revenge, which spins the riders through a few full turns before tipping them upside down and squirting water at them. Tevye thought we were mad to go for that one! Little Cherub rode on a pink elephant, a boat, and a vintage car ride, but didn't seem overly impressed by any of them. We were lucky with the weather, which for once did exactly what the forecast predicted - rain in the morning, dry in the afternoon. We got there just as the rain was finishing. Just as well as I was in incompetent parent mode and left the raincover for Little Cherub's pushchair at home. How we are going to miss being able to go to theme parks when they are quiet and have no queues! The only downside to the day was an hour stuck in a traffic jam on the M25 (London's orbital motorway, which teeters permanently on the edge of gridlock).

No photos, I'm afraid, as I was too busy riding on things and Tevye hasn't yet mastered the digital camera.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Chesterton on Education

Random quotes from What's Wrong With the World ...

"The main fact about education is that there is no such thing. It does not exist, as theology or soldiering exist. Theology is a word like geology, soldiering is a word like soldering; these sciences may be healthy or no as hobbies; but they deal with stones and kettles, with definite things. But education is not a word like geology or kettles. Education is a word like 'transmission' or 'inheritance'; it is not an object, but a method. It must mean the conveying of certain facts, views, or qualities to the last baby born. They might be the most trivial facts, or the most preposterous views, or the most offensive qualities; but if they are handed on from one generation to another they are education."

"It is quaint that people talk of separating dogma from education. Dogma is actually the only thing that cannot be separated from education. It is education. A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching."

"There are no uneducated people. Everybody in England is educated; only most people are educated wrong."

Friday, June 15, 2007

I'm FLYing

Or at least, I'm just about airborne. This week's housewifery has been noticeably less hopeless, though as Tevye puts it, I do sudden bursts of housework at random and bizarre times. I have managed to get through all the basic cleaning, toilets and sinks are all getting regularly swished, laundry is up to date, and I filled one small bag of stuff to take to a charity shop. I didn't make it as far as this week's zone or any full scale flinging, but baby steps! baby steps!

I'm glad to hear I am not the only person who has a problem with remembering to switch things on (or maybe not glad exactly ... just relieved!). On the whole I'm good with putting things in the right place. My problem is getting there. I suffer from a bad case of On The Way Syndrome. The house is littered with items in odd places. Tevye asks about them, only to be told "oh, that's on the way to ...".

As you can probably tell from all this FLYing and LOAFing and Weight Watching, I'm making a major attempt to get various aspects of my life in order this summer.

LOAFing Update #2

Our organic fruit and vegetable box is working out well enough that I'm committing myself to a regular order. We are managing to use everything, though I made a slightly odd looking aubergine dip and forgot to eat it. Nobody liked the smell of the fennel so I smuggled some into a Weight Watchers vegetable rosti recipe. The rosti came out as a heap of smushed grated vegetables, but tasted better than it looked. Angel is already an enthusiast for organic fruit, which she says tastes a lot better than the ordinary kind. This week I bought more, which seemed to be better value than the small bag I bought last week.

The price works out a lot less than buying organic from the supermarket - fifty percent according to my rough calculation for the first box - and only about ten percent more than the equivalent non-organic produce (higher for the fruit, I think, though I didn't check that). I have learned that early June is a bad time for British grown produce. I was surprised that half the contents of the box were imported, but apparently most of the local crops are not ready to start picking until the second half of June. The farm company use their own and their partners produce wherever possible, but during spring they buy in more to fill the boxes and give variety. Nothing is airfreighted, so it doesn't go too far against the L in LOAF (locally produced).

Fair trade? I have added sultanas to my coffee and cookies. A small start, but a start. Organic meat is still largely outside my budget and I haven't yet made a trip to the local butcher - maybe tomorrow? - but I highly recommend Waitrose organic beefburgers.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #8: Chocoholics Delight

I went back to Weight Watchers tonight - can't use Little Cherub as an excuse any more! - so this is a way to salivate over some favourites featuring the yummy brown stuff without actually increasing my calorie intake.

Thirteen ways to indulge in chocolate (with apologies to readers who are pregnant and nauseous) ...

1. Chocolate fondue (better still chocolate brownies with chocolate fondue)
2. Ben and Jerry's chocolate fudge brownie ice cream
3. Bendick's Bittermints
4. Starbuck's hot chocolate with caramel and whipped cream
5. Cadbury's cream eggs
6. Mars bars
7. Lindt milk chocolate
8. Tesco's giant triple chocolate cookies
9. Daim bars from IKEA
10. Ghiradelli's brownie mix
11. Toblerone
12. Cadbury's chocolate buttons
13. Chocolate sponge pudding with chocolate sauce and custard

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Birthday Survey

Because you have to be nice to people on their birthdays and humour them, and because I can never resist memes, quizzes and surveys ...

My middle name is Helen, after my adoptive great-aunt who I always considered to be my grandmother in all but name.

Saturday, over my domestic incompetence :(.

No. I never have. I tried to teach myself Getty-Dubay italic when I taught Angel to write, but it didn't improve it much.

Wiltshire ham


Yes. Most of the time I'm quite nice. I hope.

Sometimes. Despite lecturing Angel on sarcasm being the lowest form of humour.

No. I had them out when I was ten after years of frequent tonsillitis.

Absolutely not!

Bran flakes with sultanas

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but never.

Ummm ... yes, I think so.

Ben and Jerry's chocolate fudge brownie

I haven't a clue. I am the most unobservant person imaginable.


Lack of self-discipline.

My Auntie (see 1 above)

Beige, with navy blue crocs

Cheese on toast


Pink or yellow.

Freshly baked bread, the sea, coffee.

My mother.


Athletics, gymnastics, ice skating

Dark brown with a slight touch of grey

Pirates of the Caribbean 3.

Light green.

What's Wrong With the World by G.K.Chesterton

I can get a tune out of almost any musical instrument. Not sure how I would get on with bagpipes ...

Happy birthday, Sharon!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


This is a post I have been putting off writing ... it marks the end of a chapter and I'm still getting used to the idea of starting a new one. While we were away in Greece we decided that both Angel and Star will go to school in September. A few weeks ago this was not even on the cards, but sometimes life moves fast.

For us homeschooling has always been a positive choice, made because we felt it was the best thing for our particular children at this time, not because we had a fundamental problem with school. We are fortunate enough to live in an area where the schools are generally good, so we have always seen school as an option.

In the end it was an easy decision to send Angel. We had decided a while ago that she would go to Upper School in 2008 (more or less the equivalent to American High School, but starting a year earlier at thirteen). She needs the stimulus of learning with others, and she is a mature, sensible girl who we think will cope well with the school environment. While in some ways I would have loved to have her home for another year, we have hit a wall with homeschooling and she would only have been marking time, so she is going to go for the last year of Middle School.

Star is a different matter. She is a quirky personality who may well turn out to be a square peg in a round hole at school and we are far less confident that school will be right for her in the long term. So why send her? Partly because we hope the structured environment will be good for her, and partly because she wants to try. This year is a natural starting point as her year group will be beginning Middle School, so if she is going to try school this is a sensible time. We are going to reassess things after a year, and it may be that she will come home again. If so, then it will be with a number of answered questions, both for her and for us. Watch this space!

So ... we have filled in the forms, the school has confirmed that they have places for both girls, and they are all set to go. As for Little Cherub, she will definitely be home educated for at least the first few years, so I am still thinking of myself as a homeschooler (I just had a slight identity crisis, but I think I resolved it). Starting again with a little one - and with the benefit of experience - will be fun.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Confessions of a Hopeless Housewife

There is no easy way to say it. Tevye and I are hopelessly mismatched. He is Born Organised. I am a Sidetracked Home Executive ... or just plain sidetracked. In the early, more affluent years of our marriage harmony was maintained by employing a cleaner, who prevented the gulf between Tevye's ability to keep a house clean and tidy and my corrresponding inability becoming too glaringly obvious. Since children squeezed the cleaner out of our budget we have muddled through, maintaining a precarious balance of working hours (I used to work part time) and housework between us. Over the past couple of years of crisis mode Tevye ended up taking on more than his fair share of domestic duties. Now we are back on an even keel I have a whole raft of bad habits to break. The time has come ... I need to get Organised.

When I feel the need to kickstart myself out of Hopeless Housewife Syndrome, I turn to FlyLady. Her routines, control journals and reminders about the most basic of daily duties work for me - or at least they do if I'm feeling sufficiently motivated. Without lists and routines I get nowhere. Either I don't notice what needs to be done, or I get so overwhelmed that I don't know where to start. I now have a nice list of daily and weekly routines up in the kitchen, along with my Mother's Rule of Life Schedules. Tevye thinks them very funny. Surely I can't forget things like "change and dress Little Cherub" and "shower and dress"? Don't bet on it! I do get there eventually, but I'm ashamed to say there are days when I suddenly realise mid-morning that I have forgotten to do one or the other.

Now I need to work out a foolproof system for remembering to press Start buttons. If I had a pound for each time I have loaded the washer or dishwasher and then forgotten to press the vital button ...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Summer is here

Today we went to our first Sunday afternoon band concert in the park. Our town park still has an old fashioned bandstand, where there are weekly free concerts during the summer - mostly brass or wind bands. We go as often as possible, often with our neighbours. The adults take folding chairs, find a shady tree, listen to the music, read and chat; the children play in the park, paddle in the pool, listen to the music, chat and eat ice creams. It is all very old-fashioned and traditionally English, with tea and homemade cakes available and the concert ending with the National Anthem (a rarity these days). Once the Sunday park afternoons start we know summer has arrived, whatever the weather ... though today we had suitably warm, summery weather to enhance the effect.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Happy Birthday Little Cherub!

Hard as it is to believe, yesterday was Little Cherub's first birthday. Our little miracle has given us so much joy over the past year. How very blessed we are.

When she was born, she was tiny and loud out of all proportion to her size, and she is still tiny and loud. For perspective, the dress and cardigan she is wearing in this picture are sized 6-9 months. The little shoes are size 3-6 months. We measured her yesterday and at 27 inches she is only half an inch taller than Angel was at seven months. But oh ... is she cute!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #7: Thirteen Things About Me

I have been tagged by Michele of The Family Centered Life for an 8 Things About Me meme, and by my Multiply (and real life) friend Sharon for My Five Things. Which to do? Aha! Both! Eight plus five makes thirteen, which gives me my Thursday Thirteen theme.

For Michele ...

1. I went to boarding school from just before my ninth birthday until I left school.

2. I hate getting my hair cut and put it off for as long as possible. Maybe I have a Samson complex?

3. I love to have vases of flowers around, but I am dreadful at remembering to throw them out when they wilt. I'm sitting here looking at a bunch of dead carnations.

4. I am allergic to animal dust, which was very inconvenient as I grew up on a farm. Horses are worst. Cats, surprisingly as they are an allergy trigger for many people, are not bad at all.

5. My lovely husband once took me on a surprise day trip to Berlin. It was just after the Berlin Wall came down and we were among the last people to go through Checkpoint Charlie.

6. In my office days I used to grab a breakfast of prawn and coleslaw rolls with hot chocolate on the way to work.

7. My grandfather survived being gassed during World War I.

8. I always sleep with at least two pillows, and often three or four.

For Sharon ...

9. I first learned to drive when I was about thirteen by bumping round a field in an ancient Austin Cambridge.

10. If I am feeling stressed I love to escape by re-reading The Chalet School Books by Elinor M.Brent Dyer.

11. When I was about 12 I tried to teach myself Dutch. Why Dutch, I have no idea. And no, I can't remember any. Not a single word.

12. I used to come home from primary school, run up and down the length of the house several times, then settle down at a little desk and play school, complete with timetable.

13. When the children are grown up and Tevye retires I would love to go and live in Cornwall.

As I am combining two memes from two different places it is far too complicated to try to tag anyone. If you would like to join in, pick eight or five things as you choose.

[A note to people who have left comments on the Multiply version of my blog - I wasn't ignoring you, but I wasn't getting notifications from Multiply. Tesco seems to have bounced the email address I was using there thanks to an unpaid bill of 87 pence which I don't owe them anyway!]

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

New knitting projects

Last night I finally made it to Hobbycraft to spend my Christmas gift from my mother (yes, I know we are already into June!) and bought two new knitting projects. The first is a bag with a wonderful vibrant mix of colours - pink, plum, orange and lime - and textures. I can't wait to knit it and use it, though sewing the lining will be a challenge as I am a non-sewer who doesn't even possess a sewing machine. The second is this jumper with a funky fur trim for Little Cherub. I bought the furry wool, but will probably knit the rest in a plain pale pink (the wool used in the pattern has multi-coloured speckles, that may not show in this picture). I haven't knitted since I finished Little Cherub's shawl, and I'm looking forward to getting on with some new projects.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Barefoot baby

Little Cherub is beginning to find her feet, and as we found ourselves near a Clarks shoe shop today I decided to get her a pair of "cruiser" shoes. (Aside: I wonder what proportion of British toddlers get their first pair of shoes from Clarks?) Little Cherub is built on a miniature scale, and I knew her feet would not be large enough for proper "walking" shoes, which start at a UK size 3*. The "cruiser" shoes - lighter and softer, and available from a tiny size 2 upwards - sounded ideal. Little Cherub proved surprisingly cooperative and let the sales assistant measure her feet. Size 1.5. Or rather, they would have been a 1.5 if the scale went that low. At least it was a first for the assistant, who had never measured feet so small they were off the scale before. Not very hopefully, he tried some very cute, very tiny shoes. Her feet slipped out. For now she is just going to have to stay a barefoot baby.

* I googled, and American infant shoe sizes are half a size smaller than UK sizes.

LOAFing Update

My organic fruit and vegetables arrived today. There were lots of green leafy things - cabbage, spring greens and lettuce - which as Angel and Star love green leafy things is good (if I believed in reincarnation I would think they had been rabbits in a former life). Not quite sure how fennel will go down. At least the supplier's website supplies recipes, or I would have had no idea what to do with it. One tiny cucumber will not go far - Star can eat that quantity as a snack! - and I am now overloaded on onions. The aubergine is something I would not normally buy, but Tevye and I at least will enjoy it roasted. There were also potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes and some interesting looking sprouting seeds. We ate the cabbage, sauteed with butter, for dinner, and it tasted good. Overall, I think the vegetables are going to be a success. Even the "large" box is no going to see us through the week, but I think there is a fair amount for the money. We haven't tasted the fruit yet, but the price difference seems larger than for the vegetables. To buy the amount of fruit we can eat in a week would break the bank!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Little Cherub says no!

Vehemently. With much head shaking. More food? No! This toy? No! That toy!

If we say "no" to her she shakes her head merrily, beams at us triumphantly, and then carries on with whatever she shouldn't be doing!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Timing - or mistiming

Yesterday morning Tevye took Angel to an orthodontic appointment to be fitted for a retainer (all those years of thumbsucking ...). They arrived nicely in time for an 11.00 appointment. A bit too much in time. The appointment was for next Tuesday - June 5th, not June 2nd. This may tell you something about Tevye's handwriting.

In the afternoon I took the girls to confession. Again we arrived nicely in time. Nobody there. It turned out confessions were cancelled yesterday due to a wedding.

Oops! Angel was beginning to take it personally ...

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Using my LOAF

I have been thinking about shopping more ethically - whether I should, and if so, how? I am very unsure as to what is useful, healthy or important, and which criteria are more important. Is organic food flown half way round the world better than non-organic grown in the UK, or vice versa? Is organic food significantly healthier than non-organic, or tastier, or both? And is it worth the extra cost? How important is it to buy fairly traded products? And so on.

When we came home from Greece I decided to experiment with more ethical grocery shopping. I usually do a weekly supermarket shop online, but last week I a made a couple of real life shopping trips and tried to weigh up the pros and cons of individual items. After Mass last week I spotted a poster in the Parish Hall from Christian Ecology Link which set out succinctly the principles towards which I was blundering under my own steam. Apparently, I am now using my LOAF by looking for items that are:

* Locally produced
* Organically grown
* Animal friendly
* Fairly traded

I am not worrying about an all-or-nothing approach, and simply trying to do what I can. Given that I am starting from a near-zero base anything has to be an improvement! My budget will not run to a complete switch, and I am trying to balance costs and benefits. This is my LOAF progress so far ...

Locally Produced
No major cost implications here, just a little effort to check the place of origin on produce, and I like the idea of buying seasonal local produce. I opted for British salad vegetables instead of Kenyan green beans, for example. I shop at Waitrose, a smaller supermarket chain which stocks good quality products. The prices are higher than the big chains, but by shopping carefully and making the most of special offers I find I can keep the overall cost similar. British produce was all clearly marked and they had a separate display of local East Anglian produce, from which I bought some tomatoes and some very yummy looking strawberries. I was shocked that certain basics were only available if imported from far flung places - onions (New Zealand), apples (New Zealand, Chile and USA), and pears (South Africa). Tevye has reminded me that I can buy locally produced and reasonably priced meat from a local butcher. It means being more organised and is less just-press-the-button convenient, but it is also cheaper than buying from the supermarket. I'll probably go and stock up the freezer with meat in the next week or two.

Organically grown
Organic fruit and vegetables in the supermarket were just way out of my price range (50-100% higher than non-organic). I have decided to test out an organic box scheme which looks more economical. My first order will be arriving on Tuesday - a large vegetable box and a fruit bag. The contents are chosen by the company, but there are few vegetables we don't eat so I'm happy to take whatever comes. I will have to be careful to adjust my menu plan to accommodate whatever comes in the box. I'm hoping that if I get a weekly box delivery of fresh produce I can cut my supermarket order from weekly to fortnightly and the savings in delivery charges will offset some of the extra cost of buying organic. At the supermarket I did buy organic milk, as Little Cherub is just beginning to drink some, organic minced (ground) beef, an organic wholemeal loaf - cheap because it was near its sell-by date - and organic wholemeal pasta. (I switched to wholemeal bread and pasta before we went away in a bid to move towards healthier eating. There has been a certain amount of complaining, but I'm hanging in there!)

Animal Friendly
As an old-style farmer's daughter I despise cruel farming practices, although I'm no would-be vegetarian or vegan - I have no problem with eating responsibly produced meat and animal products. I very rarely buy meat from the big supermarkets where low prices are achieved at too high a price in terms of animal welfare. One of the reasons I shop at Waitrose is that they are more careful about sourcing their meat. I already buy free range eggs, but the organic free range chickens were way out of my budget at nearly three times the price of the ones I usually buy. Organic free range eggs were also too expensive.

Fairly Traded
Both our town and our Church have "official" Fair Trade status, which means that fairly traded products are easy to find. Do I normally buy them? No (apart from bananas). Why? Habit and economy. I decided to try a few, and came home with choc chip cookies and organic Ethiopian coffee as well as my usual bananas. Our Church has a monthly Traidcraft stall, so I should start to make use of that.

As well as LOAFing, I looked at environmentally friendly products. I now have a bottle of ecologically sound bathroom cleaner, though I haven't tested it yet. I'm also planning to try out various Ecover cleaning and laundry products as I need them (Ecover is the best known and most widely available eco brand here). I have recycled paper products on order. I looked at biodegradable "natural" disposable nappies, but couldn't quite bring myself to pay the extra or risk leaks. (I confess. I'm a Pampers / Huggies person.)

So ... can I keep up the ethical shopping? Will my budget stand it? Or will I lose the will to LOAF as time goes on? At least I am trying!