Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hide and Seek

... according to Little Cherub:

1. Instruct your mother to stand behind the dining room door.

2. Make sure she does so.

3. Go into the sitting room and count.

4. Return to dining room, look behind door and shout "boo!"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Beatrix Potter's Birthday

Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Tom Kitten and the Two Bad Mice are current favourites with Little Cherub, so when I noticed this morning that Google's logo included Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor I had to investigate ... and discovered that yesterday was Beatrix Potter's birthday.

In honour of Miss Potter's 142nd birthday (albeit a day late), I thought I'd post a few links. Lots of stuff here that I'll be coming back to with Little Cherub over the next few years.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook: July 28th

For Monday 28th July

Outside My Window
... a cool morning breeze.

I am thinking ... about a talk I am due to give on the Creed on Sunday. A friend organised a series of talks on the Mass and volunteered me.

I am thankful for ... my daughters

From the kitchen ... lots of soft summer fruit. Strawberries and raspberries from the pick-your-own farm. Cherries from a colleague of Tevye's, picked from her garden. Rhubarb grown by my brother in my mother's garden.

I am wearing ... cropped beige trousers, yellow t-shirt, bare feet

I am creating ... happy summer memories

I am going ... to try to find a puncture kit and fix Star's bike

I am reading ... lots of Beatrix Potter to Little Cherub

I am hoping ... the sisterly harmony the girls are enjoying lasts

I am hearing ... Cherub putting her dolls to bed and Star typing

Around the house ... surface clutter. The house is looking not exactly messy, but decidedly lived in.

One of my favorite things ... quiet time with my laptop or a book while Little Cherub naps

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... the zoo (making use of my membership), the Roald Dahl Museum, shopping for school uniform and clothes for Star. Everything she possesses seems to be either too small or too big, apart from shorts which she can't where everywhere.

Here is picture thought I am sharing ...

Why is this photo on my computer?

Check out The Simple Woman for links to other Daybooks and instructions if you want to add your own.

Menu Plan Monday: July 28th

Thanks to Missus Wookie I discovered Menu Plan Monday at I'm An Organizing Junkie, which sits rather nicely alongside the Simple Woman's Daybook as a way of taking stock at the beginning of the week.

Monday: Lucy's Lazy Like Sunday Morning Chicken, carrots

Tuesday: Tomato and Pepper Pasta (a new recipe I am testing out)

Wednesday: Salmon salad

Thursday: Jacket potatoes and chilli

Friday: Fish fingers, oven chips (fries), peas (Friday is always a lazy, out-of-the-freezer or instant-junkish sort of day)

Saturday: Not sure whether we will be in or out ... maybe pizza?

Sunday: Roast chicken, roast potatoes and assorted vegetables

Sunday, July 27, 2008

No Please


We are working on them. Specifically on please and thank you.

Scenario 1

Cherub (with mouth full of chocolate brownie): More!

Me: More what?

Cherub: More choc!!!!!

Scenario 2

Star (to Cherub): Would you like a drink?

Cherub: No please.

Halcyon Days of Summer

9:55 pm. Loud giggling from our bed. Including very loud two year old giggles. So much for "we'll take her with us and get her to sleep while we watch the TV in your room" from Angel and Star. But sleep or no sleep ... there are few things nicer than hearing three sisters laughing together.

So far this summer holiday has been a delight, largely because everyone has been getting on so well together. Last summer Angel and Star were a pair of grouches. There is a three and a half year age gap between them, and at twelve and eight it was a huge chasm. Angel was growing up fast and irritable with her younger sister; Star was a little girl who resented being treated like one by big sister. This year, at thirteen and almost ten, the gap has shrunk again and they are back to enjoying each other's company. And both of them adore Little Cherub, who in turn is thrilled to have her big girls home more.

What is more, the sun has been shining all week.

Halcyon days indeed!

Friday, July 25, 2008


I accepted some time ago that I am a failed FlyBaby and do better with the Motivated Moms planner. I downloaded the page-a-day option for 2008 ... and drowned in a sea of paper. In the end I decided I needed a simple to-do list rather than my paper ocean.

I use and love Google Calendar, but unlike iCal they have no to-do function. After bit of rooting around the internet I found ToodleDo ... and I love it almost as much as I love Google Calendar. It is the final piece in my organising jigsaw.

ToodleDo is both simple and flexible. To-do items can be allocated to dates and folders, given priority levels and set to repeat. I entered my Motivated Moms tasks for a couple of weeks, set to repeat daily, weekly or biweekly as appropriate. Then each month I look through my Motivated Moms checklists to add any extra tasks. I now have my own personalised housework checklist. The calendar feature on ToodleDo allows me to see the tasks I have lined up for each day. If things don't get done, it is easy to reallocate them to a future date.

But the absolutely best thing from my perspective is ...

ToodleDo works with Google Calendar

Once a connection to your Google Calendar is set, a little check box appears for each day. Click on the check box and it gives a dropdown ToodleDo menu, which makes it possible to both check off and edit tasks directly from Google Calendar.

It gets better. There is a slim version for iPhone / iPod Touch, which means I can manage my to-do list from my Touch as well as from both the desktop and laptop computers. And I notice there is now a new iPhone application that will allow me to use ToodleDo offline while I am out and about. Other options include Twittering your tasks, emailing reminders to yourself (be your own FlyLady!), linking to iCal, adding ToodleDo to your Google home page, and adding it to the Dashboard on a Mac (this is the one feature that wouldn't work properly for me).

And one more advantage ... it is free. There is a Pro version with additional features, but the free version is working fine for me.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Summer Plans

I'm looking forward to getting out and about as much as possible this summer while the older girls are home. These are my plans for their six week school break:

  • Swimming at the leisure pool in a nearby town
  • A trip to a nearby pick-your-own farm. We did this today and came home with a haul of strawberries, raspberries, carrots and peas. Little Cherub wants to go again!
  • A zoo trip with Star and Little Cherub, together with a friend and her two younger daughters (a ten year old and an 8 month old baby)
  • Take Star and her two best friends to Borders for hot chocolate at Starbucks and to shop for stationery in the Paperchase concession there
  • A visit to the Roald Dahl Museum
  • A family trip to Wicksteed Park (Tevye has a few days off work the week after next)
  • A family picnic or BBQ at Wendover Woods
  • Camping for a couple of nights with Star, Little Cherub, K-next-door and A-next-door
  • A camping sleepover in the garden for Angel and her friends
  • A few days at a Christian camp for Angel
  • Ice skating for Star's birthday
  • Mead Open Farm with Little Cherub, Star and one of her friends
  • A day at the seaside with K-next-door and her three children. We are planning to take the train to Brighton.
For the last week of the holiday we will be in Cornwall, staying in a caravan near Newquay. We will also need a couple of shopping trips to replace outworn and outgrown school uniform and shoes. Please excuse me while I digress and moan about school shoes. They are just not made for serious walking. Angel and Star have to walk for more than an hour a day to get to school and back, and their shoes just can't take it. Often they wear out in weeks. Even Clarks shoes wear out in a term. School rules say they are not allowed to wear either boots or trainers (running shoes) which might stand up to the wear and tear better. Grrr!!!

School shoe shopping aside, I think we are going to have a fun summer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mosaic Meme

HT: Melanie

1. What is your first name?
2. Favorite food?
3. Where did you go to high school?
4. Favorite color?
5. Celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One word to describe you?
12. Hobby?

a. Type your answer to each of the questions above into Flickr Search. b. Using only the first page, pick an image. c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker. d. Save image to hard drive and post to blogger. e. Copy HTML code for flickr photo credits and paste at the bottom of the post.

I couldn't find any HTML code, and by the time I worked out I couldn't do it I had lost all the links and couldn't find a way to give credit. Duh! I did try.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pedantry: Again

I knew I had one pedantic daughter. It appears I have another.

At Mass we usually sit in the front. Advantage: Little Cherub can see what is going on. Disadvantage: a hasty, unobtrusive retreat if Cherub is in uncooperative mood is difficult.

On Sunday, Cherub started to lose the plot during the homily. Hoping to head off the need to take her out, if rifled through my bag for distractions and found a little box of three crayons (a Pizza Hut freebie). Colouring and fiddling about with the crayons kept her happy for a while, until she accidentally dropped a couple of the crayons over the front of the pew, out of my reach. Realising that another lost plot was imminent, I let her walk round to the front to pick them up, hoping she wouldn't make a bid for freedom and run off somewhere she shouldn't (mercifully, she didn't!). She did, however, decide this was a good game and immediately dropped the crayons back over the bench.

Making that quick mental calculation of potential disturbance levels again, I let her collect them a second time. When she returned, I told her firmly "no more dropping the crayons". She waited a couple of minutes, then walked round the bench again and very deliberately put the crayons on the floor.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook: July 21st

For Monday 21st July

Outside My Window
... clear blue sky and early morning silence.

I am thinking ... how nice it is to have six weeks of summer holiday ahead of us.

I am thankful for ... recovery from a virus that hit my chest and made my asthma flare up. Still coughing, but feeling much better.

From the kitchen ... eggy bread for breakfast. It is the first day of the school holidays so we have the luxury of time in the morning.

I am wearing ... an old, scruffy pair of pyjamas

I am creating ... a little cardigan for Little Cherub. I had stalled on my knitting for a while, and it is nice to start again.

I am going ... to enjoy a relaxing day at home. For the first time in weeks we have a day where nobody needs to go anywhere (except Tevye, who has gone to work).

I am reading ... Flower Hunters by John and Mary Gribbin, picked from the "new acquisitions" shelf at the library. I enjoy books on the history of science.

I am hoping ... for a gentle, relaxing summer, and lots of time to enjoy my big girls being home.

I am hearing ... a ticking clock and the click-click of my keyboard.

Around the house ... three sleeping girls.

One of my favorite things ... my iPod Touch. I upgraded the software last week and it is now even better. I can now use it as an eBook reader, and have been stacking up reading material. G.K.Chesterton on my iPod. How good is that!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... decluttering, starting with Star's clothes and the shoe disaster in the hall; plenty of time outdoors enjoying lazy summer days.

Here is picture thought I am sharing ...

Check out The Simple Woman for links to other Daybooks and instructions if you want to add your own.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Where did my little girl go?

To the Middle School Prom

In a limo

With J-next-door

And some very smart boys (the boy in the white suit was elected Prom King)


Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Tale of Two Bad Mice (The World of Beatrix Potter: Peter Rabbit) The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter

rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anything by Beatrix Potter is a classic, in my opinion, so deserves five stars. Her insistence that her books be published in a size suitable for little hands was a stroke of genius ... I'm sure the size is what caused Little Cherub to pick this off the shelf. Then it was love at first read. She has been pursuing us round the house clutching the book and demanding "Read Two Blind Mice" (a little confusion with the nursery rhyme there!). While the language is complex for little people, it accustoms their ears to a more challenging turn of phrase, and the pictures help them to get the gist of the story.

We have since added The Tale of Tom Kitten, The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of Benjamin Bunny into her book pile ... it is lovely to rediscover Beatrix Potter with a new little one.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

St Swithin's Day

I noticed belatedly that yesterday was St. Swithin's Day. Tradition says that if it rains on his feast day, it will rain for the next forty days:

St Swithin’s Day, if it does rain
Full forty days, it will remain
St Swithin’s Day, if it be fair
For forty days, t'will rain no more.
Yesterday was dry. Is it too much to hope that we are in for a spell of nice summer weather? Tomorrow's forecast is for rain, but I can dream!

Unfortunately, our dry day wasn't matched elsewhere, and according to the Daily Mail the prospects are not good:

'Most places had some rain, drizzle or showers,' said the Met Office's Sarah Holland. While the hard-headed meteorologists at the Met Office would usually have little time for a ninth-century saint, for once their official prediction appears to support the legend.

They are forecasting a long, wet summer. 'We expect it to be a typical British summer with rainfall and temperatures a little bit above average,' added Miss Holland. 'There are no signs of any long, hot spells yet, although the second half of July might be a little warmer and drier.'

This summer's unsettled weather is influenced by La Nina - the cooling of the Pacific. The phenomenon has moved the jet stream - the band of fast-moving air high in the atmosphere - further south than normal, bringing cooler, wet conditions.

Like many pieces of weather folklore, the St Swithin's Day proverb contains seeds of truth. By mid-July, British weather has usually settled down for the summer and rarely swings from one extreme to another.

However, despite searching through 55 years of records, researchers have shown that rainfall on St Swithin's day has never led to 40 days of rain.

So that's all right then!

And who was St. Swithin (or Swithun), the saint behind the legend? This comes from the BBC website:
Saint Swithin was a Saxon bishop. He was born in the kingdom of Wessex and educated in its capital, Winchester. He was famous for charitable gifts and building churches. His emblems are rain drops and apples.

Swithin was chaplain to Egbert, the 802-839 king of Wessex. Egbert's son Ethelwulf, whom Swithin educated, made him bishop of Winchester in 852.

Only one miracle is attributed to Swithin while he was alive. An old lady's eggs had been smashed by workmen building a church. Swithin picked the broken eggs up and, it is said, they miraculously became whole again.

Swithin died on 2 July 862. According to tradition, he had asked to be buried humbly. His grave was just outside the west door of the Old Minster, so that people would walk across it and rain fall on it in accordance with Swithin's wishes.

On 15 July 971, though, Swithin's remains were dug up and moved to a shrine in the cathedral by Bishop Ethelwold. Miraculous cures were associated with the event, and Swithin's feast day is the date of the removal of his remains, not his death day.

However, the removal was also accompanied by ferocious and violent rain storms that lasted 40 days and 40 nights and are said to indicate the saint's displeasure at being moved. This is probably the origin of the legend that if it rains on Saint Swithin's feast day, the rain will continue for 40 more days.

Saint Swithin is still seen as the patron of Winchester Cathedral.

A Constructive Use of Time

I spent a very large chunk of this morning trying to build this Playmobil castle for Little Cherub to play with.

It hasn't been out since before Cherub was born, the instructions are long gone, and it had got tangled up with bits of an old style magician's workshop.

After peering at pictures on ebay, I finally managed to get everything together into a credible looking castle.

Aren't you impressed to hear what a constructive use I make of my time.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One Word Meme

They don't come more succinct than this. All answers to be a single word. No more.

1. Where is your cell phone? Bookcase
2. Your significant other? Tired
3. Your hair? Brown
4. Your mother? Teacher
5. Your father? Farmer
6. Your favorite thing? MacBook
7. Your dream last night? None
8. Your favorite drink? Pimms
9. Your dream/goal? Heaven
10. The room you’re in? Bedroom
11. Your church? Catholic
12. Your fear? Claustrophobia
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Here
14. Where were you last night? Home
15. What you’re not? Gardener
16. Muffins? Chocolate
17. One of your wish list items? Sun
18. Where you grew up? Here
19. The last thing you did? Phone
20. What are you wearing? Pyjamas
21. Your TV? On
22. Your pets? Died
23. Your computer? Vital
24. Your life? Good
25. Your mood? Mixed
26. Missing someone? No
27. Your car? Zafira
28. Something you’re not wearing? Socks
29. Favorite store? Borders
30. Your summer? Overdue
31. Like(love) someone? Several
32. Your favorite color? Yellow
33. Last time you laughed? Today
34. Last time you cried? Spring
35. Who will re post this? Jennifer

HT: Dorothy

If you want to play, leave me a note in the comments. Especially if you are called Jennifer.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook: July 14th

For Monday 14th July

Outside My Window
... leaves fluttering in a light breeze and laundry on the line.

I am thinking ... of plans for the summer holidays that begin on Friday

I am thankful for ... a break from the wet, miserable weather of last week

From the kitchen ... baked potatoes, chilli and salad for dinner. Wholemeal bread in the oven made using this superfast wholemeal recipe (ready to eat in little over an hour). I would also have made white bread using the home made bread recipe I tested out last week, but discovered I had run out of flour.

I am wearing ... cropped beige trousers and a white t-shirt

I am creating ... puzzles. Little Cherub has discovered floor puzzles, which she has decided are for me to do and her to watch ("Mummy do dig-daw!"). I bought three more used ones at the weekend so we can now cover almost the entire living room floor.

I am going ... to the gym. I'm aiming to go at least three times a week.

I am reading ... How the Heather Looks by Joan Bodger. Still. Slowly.

I am hoping ... the current frostiness between Angel and J-next-door will thaw over the summer.

I am hearing ... Animal Alphabet Songs. It was an implusive iTunes download and Little Cherub adores it. We are listening to Rabbit.

Around the house ... dust. Housework that needs doing. Last week I got behind due to a combination of lack of sleep (wakeful Little Cherub) and teenage traumas (see "I am hoping ..." above).

One of my favorite things ... train journeys. Given the choice I would always choose to travel by train or boat rather than car or plane.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... last week's postponed trip to the zoo with Little Cherub, a haircut for Star, Rhyme Time at the library, a silver wedding party on Saturday. Angel has end of term stuff - her Year 8 show (Oliver) and middle school leavers' prom.

Here is picture thought I am sharing ...

Check out The Simple Woman for links to other Daybooks and instructions if you want to add your own.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Random economic thoughts

Yesterday's financial news was that we had officially entered a bear market (a falling Stock Market that has reached the point where it is statistically confirmed) set me to pondering the general state of the economy, and trying to pull various random thoughts into ... an incoherent collection of random thoughts? And where else would I share a collection of random thoughts but here. I tried to think of snappy title for this post but failed. I'm afraid it just isn't a snappy subject. Feel free to move on!

I am old enough to remember three major economic crises. The "three day week" and high inflation of the 1970s; the miners' strike and high unemployment of the early 1980s; and the house price crash of the early 1990s. This time round, I don't think things will get as bad as the 70s and 80s, at least, but there are some new factors that make things unpredictable.

Unemployment seems to be the least worrying issue. If we are heading into an economic recession, at least it is from a strong position of low unemployment. For what anecdotal evidence is worth, I am not hearing people say they are worried about their jobs.

Inflation is biting, but in historic terms it is still at quite manageable levels (in the 70s it got as high as 24%). Higher food prices, higher gas and electricity bills, and petrol prices of over £5 ($10) a gallon and rising, are hurting almost everyone I know. It's definitely feel-bad time ... but for most people so far that feel-bad is more about having to tighten belts and cut back on non-essentials, than about hitting economic crisis point.

The housing market is a mess. We live on a popular estate (neighbourhood?) where houses usually sell quickly. Not now. There is a veritable forest of "for sale" signs. Higher interest rates and restrictions on mortgages mean there simply aren't enough people wanting to buy. With mortgage payments going up and house prices going down, it looks as though we may be heading back to the bad times of the early 1990s, with negative equity and repossessions.

There are new twists to the economic problems we are seeing now. Somehow we have to get through two crises: a crisis of resources and a crisis of capitalism. Rising food and oil prices are at least in part a function of demand. As the economies of the east (China and India) grow, limited resources have to spread a lot further. A BBC News report I found says that the number of car owners in India is expected to double between 2000 and 2010, from 0.5% to 1% of the population. The Indian economy is growing at 8%p.a., so that rise in car ownership isn't going to slow any time soon. Presumably the same is happening in China. Increasing prosperity in the east also means more people have more money to buy more food. Add to that a rising world population, less land suitable for food production (due to global warming?), and the use of food crops to produce biofuels and you get rising food prices. Somehow the western economies are going to have to learn to live in a world where resources are shared more equitably, and where those resources are in any case becoming scarcer.

The other crisis is one of capitalism. Capitalism runs on money ... and on hypothetical money. Capitalist markets are not about real value, but about perceived value. This is probably at least partly responsible for those high petrol prices. The financial markets make assumptions about future oil shortages - that may never happen, or may only happen on a smaller scale - and push up oil prices to levels that bear no relation to the real cost of actually getting it out of the ground and refining it. According to a friend who works for BP the cost of the oil they produce is a small fraction of the value put on it by the market (I think maybe one-fifth, but can't remember for certain). So when you pay through the nose to fill your car, remember this ... you are paying an amount that will give the oil companies huge profits, not because they have decided to charge an excessively high prices but because some financiers in Wall Street or the City of London are betting that oil will become increasingly scarce. You are paying not just because China and India are using more oil now, but because they are expected to use more in the future.

Those same financial markets are also behind the whole credit mess. I struggle to understand the technicalities of the sub-prime debacle, beyond the fact that irresponsible lending came back to bite the banks who thought they could make a profit out of it. Their manipulation of hypothetical money got out of control, until suddenly everyone noticed that the emperor had no clothes. Banks and mortgage lenders are now in free fall. That is very scary. Governments on both sides of the Atlantic are going to have to decide how far they want to bail out banks. Here the government have already done it with Northern Rock. Will they go further? Will any western government allow a bank to go under? Banks are also now petrified of lending money, which means the housing market isn't going to recover any time soon.

Am I leading anywhere with this? Afraid not! Except to say that if I had much money in the bank (which I don't), I would spread it around rather than leave it all in one place, just to be on the safe side. Also, that now is a good time to get used to being more economical in the use of resources, with careful food shopping and trying to drive less. High food and petrol prices aren't going to go away any time soon.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Strawberry Pink

While we were at the seaside we took Little Cherub for her first "proper" ice cream (a cone, rather than a lolly or ice cream in a bowl), much to her excitement. As we waited to order ...

Me: Would you like a strawberry one?

Cherub: (drawing herself up to her full thirty one inches and hugely indignant at this apparent change of plan) No!!!! Ice cream!!!!!!

Me: (regrouping rapidly) Would you like a pink ice cream?

Cherub: (blissful) Yeeessss ...

How I wish I had remembered the camera to take a picture of an ecstatic Cherub taking her first exploratory lick of that strawberry ice cream.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook: July 7th

For Monday 7th July

Outside My Window
... rain

I am thinking ... how sorry I feel for Angel and Star who have a long walk to school through the rain.

I am thankful for ... Monday mornings. I love the quiet of a Monday morning after a noisy, busy weekend with everyone home. As a homeschooler I always found it terribly sad to hear people say how glad they were when their children went back to school after breaks. How I despised myself when I realised I now breathe a sigh of relief! But when I thought about it, I came to see that it was more about routine than any feeling of not wanting the older two around. During weekends and school holidays life is so much more unpredictable. More fun in some ways, but also more tiring. Even as a homeschooler it was often a relief to get back to some sort of school routine after breaks. I love having the big girls around, but I couldn't live in holiday or weekend mode all the time, whether they were at home or at school. As it is, Monday is my breathing space day when I change back to weekday toddler pace. We rarely need to go anywhere on a Monday. I have time to play with and read to Cherub, to bake, and to get on track with housework. So yes, I'm thankful for Monday mornings.

From the kitchen ... baking day. I'm planning to make bread, both white and wholemeal. I have a good quick wholemeal bread recipe, but the couple of white bread recipes I've been using aren't quite right. I want to experiment with a new recipe.

I am wearing ... black jeans, a green cardigan, and the same black and white striped t-shirt and grey Crocs as last week.

I am creating ... not a lot. My knitting binge has stalled.

I am going ... to try out digital scrapbooking. I never seem to get the solid chunks of time I need to get out my scrapping stuff.

I am reading ... How the Heather Looks by Joan Bodger.

I am hoping ... Little Cherub will soon be better. She woke up this morning snuffling and slightly feverish.

I am hearing ... Tweenies on the television. TV rules are suspended as Little Cherub isn't well, and she is tucked up on the sofa under a throw. Usually she watches TV first thing in the morning while I come round (I am so not a morning person!), and watches a DVD between dinner and her bath as part of her bedtime routine. I try to keep it turned off in between. I am also hearing ominous creaking noises from the washing machine. It is going to have to go. I sense a catastrophic breakdown is imminent.

Around the house ... tidiness and order. Both Angel and Star blitzed their bedrooms over the weekend and had major clearouts. Angel had been protesting that the mess in hers was due to lack of suitable storage for bits and pieces. I bought her drawer dividers and baskets at IKEA last week, and she now has everything organised immaculately. She also got rid of two large bags of junk. Angel's efforts inspired Star. Her room is also now beautifully tidy and she has sorted out a bag of stuff she hopes to sell.

One of my favorite things ... the smell of newly baked bread.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... a parents' evening at Angel's new school (she moves to Upper School in September), tap dance exams for both Angel and Star, and yet another brass band job on Saturday (it is the village fete season). I was thinking of a trip to the zoo tomorrow, but unless both Little Cherub and the weather make a rapid recovery I doubt it will happen.

Here is picture thought I am sharing ...

Check out The Simple Woman for links to other Daybooks and instructions if you want to add your own.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Answered Questions

When we made the decision last year to send Star to school we had a number of doubts and questions ...

"Star ... 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!"
It seems our questions have been well and truly answered . With her permission, here are her class tutor's comments from her end of year report ...
"This is an excellent report reflecting her general attitude in school and positive nature. Star has made good progress, attaining high standards across the curriculum. Her attitude to learning and the school experience is enthusiastic. She is always organised with her Planner and in bringing the necessary equipment to lessons. Homework tasks are presented on time, to a very good standard. Star relates on a very mature level to adults and has positive relationships with her peers. She is a polite, friendly girl who works well on her own or with a partner. Star has contributed often to the wider community of the school. With her attitude and aptitude, I have complete confidence that Star will do well. She has been a valuable member of the class, always ready to help and provide support. Her next class tutor will be lucky to have her in class."
We didn't have the same doubts about Angel, and so were pleased but not surprised that her report (which she is also happy for me to share) was written in equally glowing terms ...
"What a super report! Angel has made excellent progress in the time that she has been with us. She settled in so well, it is as if she has always been here. Angel displays enthusiasm for all aspects of the curriculum and is keen to do well. She has a very mature approach to her studies and I have been impressed by her determination to produce a high standard of work at all times. She is a conscientious pupil who always gives her best, is keenly motivated and sets her own standards. Although quiet, she is always polite and helpful, and has developed more self confidence throughout the year. She has been a pleasure to teach. I wish her every success for the future."
It seems the anecdotal evidence about home educated children adapting well to school, proving to be mature, responsible and well motivated, is on the nail.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Shopping List

You may find this the most boring post ever, in which case, feel free to move on ...

Lucy of Our Very Own Little House posted her itemised shopping bill for a week as a snapshot in time record and inspired me to do the same. Mine breaks down into three: meat (bought monthly), organic fruit and vegetable box (delivered weekly) and a weekly run round the supermarket. I usually shop on Thursday evenings, so this is my grocery list for the week beginning Thursday July 3rd.

Conversions - 1 kg is around 2 pounds, 1 litre a bit less than 2 pints, and the exchange rate is roughly $2 to £1.

I buy and freeze meat once a month from Waitrose. It is more expensive than Tesco, but better quality and I believe their animal welfare standards are higher. I came to the conclusion that organic meat, particularly chicken, is simply beyond my budget so this is a good compromise. This is the meat I expect us to eat this week ...

1 large chicken - £3.90 (1/3 off as I bought it on the sell by date and froze it)
1 x 500g minced beef - £1.75 (2 for £3.50 offer)
2 x packs of 8 chicken drumsticks - £3 (another multibuy offer)
lamb and redcurrant sausages - £2.99

Total cost = £11.64

Organic Produce
I have a medium size organic vegetable box and an organic fruit box delivered weekly, paying £21.10 for the two. This week the contents were:

Bag of new potatoes (1.5 kg)
Bag of carrots
4 onions
2 green peppers
1 red pepper
3 courgettes
Red cabbage
Bunch of wet garlic
6 large apples
4 nectarines
Small punnet of strawberries
10 plums
5 bananas

This is not enough for us for a week so I top up at the supermarket, usually with non-organic produce - trying to balance ethical shopping and budget here!

Groceries (from Morrisons)
I didn't buy much last week, so this was a slightly larger than average trolley load. I usually aim to spend between £50 and £60. I am very much a bargain hunter and will shop partly to my menu plan and partly according to what is on offer - particularly for snacks and things to throw into lunch boxes.

4 packs granary rolls @ 19p - 76p
pack of 6 teacakes - 25p
pack of 3 eccles cakes - 29p
4 cheese twists - 50p
1 x wholemeal loaf - 29p
(all these were heavily discounted as they were on their sell by date)
6 tortilla wraps - £1.09
1 x white sliced loaf - 65p
5 chocolate eclairs - £1.24 (for Angel's French picnic at school)
Small pick and mix salad tray - £1.39 (late dinner for Angel)
300g medium cheddar cheese - £1.71
2 x 250g butter - £1.80 (multibuy offer)
300g houmous - 87p
2 small sticks garlic bread - 58p
4 pints organic semi-skimmed milk - £1.65
2 x 4 Dairylea Dunkers @ £1 - £2 (special offer)
Muller "One" Yogurts 4 pack - £1.10 (special offer)
Egg mayonnaise sandwich filler 400g - £1.09
12 medium organic eggs - £2.61 (special offer)
Strawberry Crisp cereal (store brand) - £1.28
Cookie Crisp cereal - £1.65
Pack of egg noodles - 79p
500g bag 'value' pasta - 19p
500g bag wholemeal pasta - 78p
3 pack tins sweetcorn - £1.08
1 tin Campbells condensed tomato soup - 52p (for making BBQ sauce)
1 kg sugar - 84p
Dried yeast - 99p
Box 480 teabags (store brand) - £2.48
Bisto gravy browning - 91p
750g jar mayonnaise (store brand) - £1.35
Small bottle brown sauce - 31p
2 cans baked beans (store brand) @ 31p - 62p
12 pack French Fries
+ 12 pack Walkers Squares (both = potato chips) - £1.98 (BOGOF offer)
2 x Jacobs Hi Fibre Cream Crackers - £1 (multibuy offer)
2 x 5 Hob-Nobs Flapjacks - £1.25 (BOGOF offer)
2 x 5 caramel Rocky biscuits - 92p (BOGOF offer)
2 x Elkes Cow Biscuits - 69p (BOGOF offer)
3 x 1 litre cartons fresh orange juice @ 65p - £1.95 (special offer)
2 x 1 litre cartons cranberry juice @ 69p - £1.38
2 x 3 packs individual orange juice @ 62p - £1.24
4 x Muller "One" smoothies - £2 (BOGOF offer)
2 x 2 litre cola max + 2 litre lemonade - £1.09 (multibuy offer)
2 packs of 4 cod fishcakes - £1.50 (multibuy offer)
1 bag frozen sprouts - 58p
1 bag McCain oven chips (= fries) - £2.19
2 boxes of 6 vegetarian sausage rolls @ £1.29 - £2.58
2 cheese and tomato pizzas - £2 (multibuy offer)
490g parsnips - £1.12
2 x cucumbers @ 72p - £1.44
6 tomatoes - 69p
Bag small apples - £1
10 bananas - 99p
500g carrots - 45p
Honeydew melon - £1
2.5kg bag potatoes - £1.39
1 pack 6 rolls 'value' kitchen towel - £1.58
Eco-friendly washing-up liquid - 89p

Total cost = £66.67

My budget is £400 for the month and my total spend for the week was £99.41. We also get 4 litres of milk delivered by the milkman each week, which costs £3.02.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Rumer Godden Rumer Godden by Anne Chisholm

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have enjoyed a number of Rumer Godden's books and read the first volume of her autobiography a few years ago, so this caught my attention when I spotted a used copy. I thought Anne Chisholm did a pretty good job of telling Rumer Godden's life story and giving me a feel for her character. She had access to Rumer herself, her friends and family, and family papers, so the biography comes across as quite authoritative. Rumer's life was so bound up with India that in some ways the book is as much about the country as the person. I find the history of British India fascinating, so it is no surprise that I enjoyed the read. I was disappointed, though, in the treatment of Rumer's conversion to Catholicism. I wanted to know about her spiritual journey and the impact of faith on her character and writing, but the biography glossed over this. Her conversion was mentioned but never really explained.

Walk, Cycle, Step and Row to Rivendell

I have been plugging on very slowly in my attempt to complete the Eowyn Challenge and walk to Rivendell. Very slowly indeed. I planned to do the full 458 miles in a year, but here I am half way through the year with only one quarter of the distance completed. A combination of illness and reluctance to get out there and walk, come rain or shine, has left me potttering along at snail's pace, as you can see from my sidebar.

The time has come for action! I have joined the gym at the local leisure centre. I know from experience that once I get into the swing of it I will exercise far more if I have committed myself by paying for the privilege. Sad, but true. So as of tomorrow, I will not only be walking to Rivendell, but cycling, stepping, rowing and cross-training my way there.

That should get the miles ticking away faster.

Is that cheating?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Picture This

The law of unintended consequences, as recounted by my neighbour ...

A friend has been working as a classroom assistant in the nursery class (four year olds) of the local lower school. The teacher took the children outside for PE. They were told to copy everything Teacher did.

Teacher did star jumps ... the children did star jumps.

Teacher slipped and twisted her ankle (don't worry, only a minor injury) ... Teacher hopped around yelling "Ouch!"

Yes, you got it ... twenty five small children obediently hopped around yelling "Ouch!", while the two watching classroom assistants laughed until they cried.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook: July 1st

For Tuesday 1st July (a day late as I was out all day yesterday)

Outside My Window ... the darkening sky of a warm summer's evening.

I am thinking ... how sleepy I feel. Yesterday the older girls had a day off school and we went to a theme park with my neighbour and her two girls. Great fun but tiring.

I am thankful for ... a 13 year old daughter who will take her overtired but determinedly awake small sister to bed with her and cuddle her to sleep.

From the kitchen ... dark. The light has a loose connection which has disconnected itself again. If I hit it with a wooden spoon, it usually comes back on again.

I am wearing ... jeans, a black and white striped t-shirt and grey Crocs.

I am creating ... a menu plan for the month. I'm a bit behind due to being away last week.

I am going ... to IKEA with an old school friend tomorrow.

I am reading ... I am in between books. I just finished a biography of Rumer Godden and haven't yet picked up anything else.

I am hoping ... to get fitter. I joined the gym. Along with my exercise loving daughter, who I hope will keep me up to the mark and make sure I get there.

I am hearing ... the TV Tevye is watching.

Around the house ... everyone is resting or sleeping.

One of my favorite things ... rollercoasters. I have one of those cast iron constitutions that doesn't mind being thrown around and tipped upside down.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... IKEA, Little Cherub's music and movement class (she loves this), lunch with my Mum, playing with the brass band on Saturday, a July 4th BBQ with neighbours (yes, I know we are not American, but any excuse for a party!)

Here is picture thought I am sharing ...
We went up this at 80mph. And down again. Very fast. Eek!

Check out The Simple Woman for links to other Daybooks and instructions if you want to add your own.