Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jewish Budapest

The Great Synagogue of Budapest - built in the 19th century, badly damaged during World War II and renovated in the 1990s after the fall of Communism:

The synagogue is the second largest in the world (largest is in New York):

 Stunningly beautiful inside:

Outside is the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Garden. This weeping willow memorial has the name of  a Jew from the Budapest ghetto who died in the holocaust inscribed on each leaf:

The tree stands next to the Garden of the Just, where the names of Righteous Gentiles known to have helped and protected the Jews of Budapest are recorded - including Raoul Wallenberg, the Vatican's  Apostolic Nuncio, and the Catholic father of the Jewish lady who guided us round the synagogue:

While the pre-war and present day Jewish community is focused on the district surrounding the Great Synagogue in Pest, in the middle ages there were many Jews living in Buda. We stumbled on this tiny medieval Jewish prayer house, where original wall paintings have been uncovered:

Catholic Budapest

Matthias Church, the original cathedral in Buda. It dates back to the middle ages, but is mostly a Gothic-style reconstruction:

Isn't this roof amazing?

In the square in front of the Church, a statue of the Holy Trinity.

The cathedral of modern Budapest, St. Stephen's basilica, built in the late 19th century. the weather on Sunday was not as good as Saturday!

The cathedral from the front:

And inside:

A chapel at the back contains Hungary'd modt important relic, the Holy Hand of St. Stephen:

This statue of the Archangel Gabriel stands on a column in Heroes Square:

Although Hungary is nominally Catholic, the impression I got was that Catholic practice was limited. I had hoped to go to Mass at the Cathedral, but it appeared only the small chapel with the relic was in regular use, and there was no obvious advertisement of Mass times.

Friday, October 29, 2010


I finally got my Budapest photos uploaded to Flickr. Here are some from our first day in Buda (the older part of the city, on the western bank of the Danube):

The Fisherman's Bastion ... it looks like a fortification, but has never been anything other than decorative.

Further down the Fisherman's Bastion.

A view across the Danube to the Hungarian Parliament.

I loved the way the older building was reflected in the glass windows of the Hilton Hotel opposite.

The buildings in the Buda Castle district were amazing - soft colours, with loads of architectural detail.

I loved this window. Doesn't it look like a Romeo and Juliet balcony?

Part of Buda Castle

This side street was just round the corner from our hotel.

7 Quick Takes: 29th october

1. I can't believe that it is a whole week since we left for our weekend in Budapest. Where has the week gone?

2. Down a black hole, is the answer. I went down with a headachy-weak-and-wobbly virus that Tevye had a couple of weeks ago, which wiped out Monday through to Wednesday. I was at the record office yesterday, and so here I am at Friday with a whole week disappeared. Unfortunately the laundry mountain, and the rising tide of clutter, dust, dirt and stickiness have not disappeared with it. They are taking over. Tevye and I are planning to spend tomorrow digging out from under.

3. It is an old story, but I just stumbled across this article by a mother who let her nine year old son ride the New York subway alone. As my parenting style is the "independence" mother, and my children have walked to school at nine, caught the bus on their own at ten and the train at eleven, I'm pretty much on her side. However, unlike the free range mom (who gave her son money for a pay phone if he needed it) the mobile phone is my friend!

4. Cherub is happy as Little-Friend-N is here for the day. They haven't seen so much of each other recently due to different schedules this term, but clicked right back into their old play mode as soon as N arrived. She is forming a couple of rather tentative friendships with little girls in her school class, but her friendship with N is on a completely different level. They are very much on the same imaginative wavelength - great fun to watch and listen to. (Aside: She was very aggrieved recently when I refused to phone and ask on her behalf if N would marry her.)

5. Angel is at the gym all day for a coaching course which will give her a provisional qualification and mean she can earn money as a gymnastics coach. After a week stacking shelves at a "health and beauty" store for work experience, she is now extremely motivated to work part time at the gym rather than in a shop!

6. Star has just informed me that it is now 56 day, 13 hours, 24 minutes and 45 seconds to Christmas.

7. I have just informed myself that it is 11 days, 12 hours, 18 minutes and 45 seconds to the release of the next Harry Potter movie. Anyone else looking forward to it? Unfortunately we will have to wait a week or two before we can see it as the release coincides with my mother's hospital stay and squeezing in a trip to the cinema just isn't going to work.

Visit Conversion Diary for more quick takes

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 26th October

Outside My Window ... a miserable, wet morning, following a frost last night.
I am thinking ... that this year I must print out all my Daybooks and put them in an album.

From the learning rooms ... half term holiday for all three girls this week. After another week of dithering, Star finally made her decision and has settled on School B for next year. I filled in the online application form this morning, so that should be that (although it isn't our catchment school, it usually has spare capacity and she is pretty much guaranteed to get a place there).

I am thankful ... that Tevye recovered from a nasty, headachey virus thing before we went to Budapest, and I waited until after we came back to go down with it (fortunately not as badly). Star and Cherub both have colds, so I think we will all be glad of  a quiet, lazy day.

From the kitchen ... all topsy-turvey this week as it is half term and we are out of routine. I think maybe cottage pie for dinner tonight.

I am wearing ... black and white pyjamas, black and white stripey socks, blue dressing gown. We are all having a pyjama morning.

I am creating ... my cardigan (body and front border complete, just the sleeves to go); my brother's socks (one sock done, the second started); and I am about take a diversion to knit a hooded scarf for Angel (super chunky yarn, so should be a very quick knit).

I am going ... to have a busy couple of months, with Mum's knee surgery, more school open evenings (sixth form for Angel this time), orchestra concert, gym competitions, band commitments, dance show and Christmas. Busy, but - mostly - fun.

I am reading ... Pamela reminded me about these books and I took The Tale of Holly How to read while we were away. In the end I never even got started, so I'm intending to read it this week.

I am hoping ... that I can get all, or at least the great majority, of my Christmas shopping done by the end of November

I am hearing ... Cherub playing with her dolls and beanie babies.

Around the house ... stuff spilling out of the older girls' cases, which neither of them have bothered to unpack. The living room looks as though the doll section of a toy shop has exploded.

One of my favorite things ... school holidays. I like having my girls home.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... Yesterday (Monday): a 60th birthday part for an old friend and colleague of Michael's; Today (Tuesday): as little as possible, though I think Angel may have plans to go shopping with a couple of friends; Thursday: record office; Friday: taking Cherub and Little-Friend-N to the zoo for the day, and Angel is spending the day on a gymnastics coaching course; nothing much planned for the weekend.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ...  a Budapest taster. More to come once I have uploaded pictures to Flickr.

  Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Random Dozen: 20th October

1. Do you prefer to read the book or see the movie?
Read the book ... but I do enjoy seeing movie versions of favourite books, so long as they stick closely to the plot and the spirit of the original. And sometimes seeing a movie inspires me to read or re-read the book.

2. What is your favorite holiday and why?
I'm guessing that as these questions come from the other side of the Atlantic, that this means "holiday" as in Halloween, rather than "holiday" as in vacation which is what it would mean over here. Assuming I have got that right, then my favourite holiday is Christmas. I am totally a Christmas person!

3. Which do you like better - the mountains or the beach?
The beach, because I tend to like being lazy on holiday rather than active. Having said that, I would love to go to the Swiss Alps.

4. If money were no consideration, what vehicle would you drive?
I'd like a Ford S-Max. We had one on loan while our car was in the garage and loved it. Way out of our price range, though.

5. What is your favorite cold-weather beverage?
Hot chocolate.

6. How do you communicate most often with your friends: phone, email, text, face-to-face, or Facebook?
Definitely Facebook, apart from a few local friends that I tend to see regularly face-to-face.

7. How do you receive your mail? Mailbox on the porch, at the end of the driveway, down the street, or post office box?
Through a letter box in the front door, straight onto the door mat. I can't imagine having to go out to collect mail!

8. Of the four basic personality types - sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholic, and choleric - which is your strongest? Which is your least evident? (See definitions below.)
Strongest - sanguine, with a dash of choleric. Least evident - melancholic.

9. What do you miss the most about being 20?
Being able to get up from the floor without creaking and groaning.

10. How long from the time you get up, does it take you to get ready to walk out the door in the morning? 
I can do it in fifteen minutes - showered, hair washed and dried, dressed, and Cherub dressed. I catch up on breakfast later. Anything to buy an extra few minutes in bed.

11. Who handles the car maintenance and pays the bills in your family?
Tevye. For which I am hugely grateful.

12. For those in the US, how many states have you visited? For those outside the US, how many provinces/other countries have you visited?
I think twelve, including Wales, Scotland and the Channel Islands.

Visit Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee for more Random Dozens

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Story Sack: Bears

Cherub brought her first story sack home from school last week. I just love these! They have a very homeschool-ish feel to me, reminding me a bit of Five in a Row but with props (probably somewhere between FIAR and Before FIAR, as they are aimed at four year olds).

Her first sack has a bear theme and contains:

  • Can't You Sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell - a lovely picture book, and one we own already, in a Little Bear treasury edition bound with three more stories. Until now, Cherub has turned her nose up at the book every time I suggested it to her, but thanks to the story sack has fallen in love with it. I can see we will be on a Little Bear kick for a while.
  • Grizzly Bears by Patricia Kendell (In The Wild series) - a non-fiction book about bears.
  • Big and small teddy bears.
  • Three red cloth lanterns, for acting out the story with the bears - Big Bear brings Little Bear a bigger lantern each time he complains it is dark and he can't sleep, before taking him outside to see the moon and stars lighting the night sky.
  • A puzzle-game for pairing up opposites, each illustrated with a bear picture.
  • An activity card based on Can't You Sleep, Little Bear? - activities include picture study, vocabulary words, looking at words (rhymes with big and bear, words beginning with B), talking about size, and suggestions of things to do with lights (vary from going out at night to look at the moon and stars, to lighting a candle and talking about candle safety).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 18th October

Outside My Window ... bright, cool October morning.
I am thinking ... how nice it would be to go to bed and sleep for a week. (But then I would hugely resent wasting all that time!)

From the learning rooms ... Star, I think, has almost decided on School B - she wants to go there, but is scared as it is the unorthodox choice and most of her friends will be going to School A. Cherub's class were looking at more exotic pets last week and had visits from chickens and a lizard. They also made and ate scrambled eggs and toast (imagine doing that with 30 four year olds! They did split them into small groups, but even so!). Angel has a week of work experience this week, which she will be spending in a well known "health and beauty" chain.

I am thankful ... Tevye is having break from work this week. He has been working hard, and wasn't well at the weekend, so could really use the rest.

From the kitchen ... this week's menu plan:
Today: Mushroom stir fry
Tuesday: Chicken burgers and chips
Wednesday: BBQ chicken and rice
Thursday: Baked potatoes and cauliflower cheese
Friday / Saturday / Sunday - away!

I am wearing ... jeans, pink sweater, stripy socks

I am creating ... this cardigan (nearly finished the body) and a pair of socks for my brother's birthday.

I am going ... to Budapest for the weekend.
I am reading ... skimmed through The Time Traveller's Wife - I sort of liked it, but not enough to read the whole thing. All the dotting about between times made it feel rather fragmented. I ended up reading the first 100 pages and the last 50, and just dipped into bits of the middle.

I am hoping ... Angel enjoys her work experience.

I am hearing ... Cherub watching TV.

Around the house ... lovely birthday flowers from one of the neighbours; the usual clothes explosions in the older girls' room; kitchen floor in dire need of cleaning.

One of my favorite things ... beginnings. New years, new terms, new decades ...

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... Today: supermarket; Tuesday: final pre-op appointment for my Mum, then out for lunch with Tevye; Wednesday: Record office and band practice; Thursday: Getting organised for Friday, orchestra rehearsal; Friday, Saturday and Sunday: BUDAPEST!

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ...

  Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day Zero Project

I came across the Day Zero Project a few weeks ago thanks to Pamela. The idea is to list 101 things you would like to do over the next 1001 days. Given my love of lists and planning I had to give this one a try. Unfortunately my implementation rarely lives up to the planning, but I'm not going to let that dampen my enthusiasm. My birthday seemed such a tidy day to start, so I spent some time over the last week compiling my list. It was hard! 101 is a bigger number than it sounds, but with a bit of help from the prompts at Day Zero and browsing through other lists, I got there. A lot is fun stuff, some more serious. I found it useful to see what I would like to do more of, and the progress I would like to make in various areas. I'm hoping it will make me do more, and putter about online less.

I cut and pasted the entire list into this post. It is long. Please don't feel obliged to read the whole thing!

1 Qualify as an archivist

2 Get a part time job

3 Get a Wii Fit

4 Do Wii Fit at least twice a week for three months

5 Swim twice a week for three months

6 Use the cross trainer twice a week for three months

7 Exercise regularly for a year

8 Swim a mile

9 Do a 20 mile walk

10 Lose 20 pounds

11 Fit comfortably into a pair of size 14 jeans

12 Go to an art gallery

13 Watch an Olympic event live

14 Go to Lincoln Christmas market

15 See a musical in London

16 Attend a ballet

17 See a Play

18 Buy a zoo membership and use it at least 4 times a year

19 Go to the London Aquarium

20 Visit the Eden Project

21 Visit Kew Gardens

22 Ride at least 10 roller coasters

23 See at least 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites

24 Visit Budapest

25 Visit Prague or Vienna

26 Visit Edinburgh

27 Visit every county in England

28 Go on a cruise

29 Go camping.

30 Swim in the sea

31 Make a sand castle

32 Go sailing

33 Knit 12 pairs of socks in a year

34 Knit 6 pairs of socks from Around the World in 26 Socks

35 Knit myself a cardigan

36 Knit myself a sweater

37 Take part in Ravelympics 2012

38 Learn to spin

39 Sew a garment

40 Complete and frame unfinished cross stitch projects

41 Read 10 classic books

42 Read 10 biographies

43 Read 101 books to Naomi

44 Ask 20 friends to suggest one book, and read them all

45 Read a book in one day

46 Do a 48 hour book challenge

47 Spend an afternoon reading at the park

48 Read a book in French

49 Learn conversational Spanish

50 Watch 10 classic movies

51 Spend a rainy day watching movies in my PJ's

52 Watch a film from the year of my birth.

53 Go to the movies once a month for a year

54 Watch the entire series of Lost

55 Watch all 3 Lord of the Rings movies in a weekend

56 Create a photo journal for one week

57 Photograph all these tasks as they are completed and blog them.

58 Take a photo of the same place every month for a year

59 Take 101 pictures of things that make me happy.

60 Photograph a sunset

61 Scan my old photos

62 Finish a scrapbook for my mother

63 Start scrapbooks for each of my daughters

64 Write a blog post every day for 1 month.

65 Back up my blog

66 Write a love letter to my husband

67 Write a list of 101 things I’ve already achieved in this lifetime

68 Try 20 new recipes

69 Try out 6 new local restaurants

70 Go to a sushi bar

71 Bake my own bread for a month

72 Learn to play high B flat on the trombone

73 Learn to play Fiddler on the Roof on the violin

74 Clean out the garage

75 Declutter my house

76 Do 40 trash bag challenge

77 Paint my kitchen yellow

78 Redecorate the dining room

79 Go through every item of clothing in my closet and decide what to keep/throw out.

80 Get an iPhone

81 Buy a pair of red shoes

82 Learn how to french braid

83 Wear earrings everyday for a month.

84 Build a snowman

85 Don't complain about anything for a week

86 Go a week without buying anything

87 Be at least 5 minutes early for everything for a week

88 Pay off our mortgage

89 Go on a silent retreat

90 Write a letter to my daughter for her to read on her 18th Birthday.

91 Do the Race for Life

92 Go for a spa day

93 Get a manicure.

94 Drink champagne with breakfast

95 Make champagne cocktails

96 Send flowers anonymously to a friend in need

97 Save one hundred £2 coins

98 Plant a rockery

99 Grow tomatoes

100 Grow sunflowers

101 Complete three items from this list each month

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Turning Fifty: Retrospective

Round number birthdays make me introspective, and I have been pondering the past and wondering what the future holds. Statistically it is likely (no guarantees, of course) that I have at least another quarter century ahead of me. To remind myself of just how many varied and unexpected things that could bring, I wrote a list of things that have happened in my life over the last quarter century since I was twenty five. Here goes ...

Loved and lost and loved again.
Been happily married for eighteen years.
Given birth to three daughters.
Home educated for eight years.
Converted to Catholicism.
Run a sub-post office.
Worked in local government.
Gained a first class degree in history.
Been a publisher's reader.
Won a scholarship.
Written a100,000 word thesis.
Been awarded a Ph.D.
Had two articles published.
Taught at university.
Bought a flat and a house.
Sold two flats.
Visited eight countries.
Walked 120 miles.
Flown in a hot air balloon.
Learned to play the organ.
Learned to play the flute.
Played in a chamber orchestra.
Played in a concert orchestra.
Lost twenty pounds (and put it back on again!).
Nursed my husband through major surgery twice.
Nursed my mother through major surgery twice.
Bought and sold two houses for relatives.
Learned to play the trombone.
Played in brass band.

There is probably more that I have forgotten, but that is still far more than I realised had happened in the last twenty five years until I actually sat down and thought about it. Much of it my younger self would never have imagined. I wonder what the next quarter century has in store?

Friday, October 15, 2010

7 Quick Takes: 15th October

1. Whew! It's my birthday. Fifty today. Which is just a number, right? And Tevye has bought me an iPad, which makes it all good :).

2. Good except for my iPod Touch that is, which apparently had a fit of piqué at the idea of being supplanted in my affections. While I was lying in bed minding my own business it leapt out of my hands and thwacked me on the head. The lump on my forehead has gone down, but it is still a little tender. Bad iPod!

3. I meant to mention this incident when it happened a couple of weeks ago, but somehow didn't get round to it. I reversed my car without noticing that another car had just pulled up and parked to the side just by the top of our drive. We are at the bottom of a cul-de-sac and nobody ever parks there unless they are visiting us. The car wasn't there when I got into mine. And yes, I reversed into it. Totally my fault. There was no damage to our car beyond a small scratch, but the car I backed into had a couple of larger scratches, a minor dent in the front bumper, and the radiator grille had popped out of position. Now for the good bit, and the reason I didn't want the mishap to go without comment ... the man in the car I scrunched was so, so nice about it. I expected him to want to claim on our insurance for repairs, but he felt it probably wouldn't be worth it and said he would let us know if the bill was relatively small so we could avoid having to claim ... then in the evening he took the trouble to come and knock on the door to say he had fixed the grille, really didn't car about a small dent, and I was just to forget about it. He even apologised for parking in an odd place! What a kind, thoughtful gentleman to go out of his way to put my mind at rest and turn what would normally be a stressful incident into something heartwarming.

4. I read an interesting article at Bad Science this week on the effect the appearance of female musicians has on their audience, with controlled testing proving that what they wear (and even just the fact that they are women) affects a listener's perception of their musical skill. Apparently when auditions are held blind, the percentage of women in an orchestra rises dramatically.

5. Quote of the Week 1: "We spend so much time and effort planning ahead, or looking back at the past, and waiting, waiting for something to happen. For perfection. The right time. It never comes you know. Now is the only time we have. Right now." (Linds @ Rocking Chair Reflections)

6. Quote of the Week 2: "An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered." (G. K. Chesterton, HT: Someone on Facebook)

7. Cherub had her first run in with a stinging nettle this week, caught on the hand by one on her way home from school with Tevye. As she put it "I was prickled by a nettle!" In the version I heard it hurt a lot and there was much crying. According to Tevye, the distress grew in the telling and she was fairly calm about it at the time.

Visit Conversion Diary for more quick takes

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Safe and Sound

Deo gratias.

All thirty three miners clocked off from the longest ever shift.

Wasn't the rescue magnificent and compulsive viewing!

An article from the Catholic Herald here about how their faith in God helped to keep the miners sane during their ordeal.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Random Dozen: 13th October

1. Is there a word which you initially mispronounced? Were the circumstances in which you made the faux pas embarrassing?
Surprisingly, I can't think of one. 

2. How do you feel about the use of texting shortcuts and trends? (ex: "I've got ur notes. Get them 2 u 2morow.") 
Fine if you are texting, but I hate it anywhere else.

3. Tell me about your high school senior picture. Please feel free to post.
There was no such thing here when I was that age. Just one of those group photos, with the entire school year group posed in long lines. I think I have it somewhere, but it is too long to scan.

Oops! No Question 4!

5. Share a high school or college homecoming memory.
Again, no such thing here. Or, at least, I don't think there is. I've never actually been able to work out quite what "homecoming" is!

6. Do you prefer sunrises or sunsets?
I'm a night owl. I love sunsets, but sunrises are something I try to avoid.

7. What is something you have not done that you desire to do?
Learn to spin.

8. If you could come back [in another life] as an animal, which would it be?
Hard decision, that! On the one hand, I would like to be an eagle because it looks so wonderful to fly high. On the other hand, I might prefer the comfortable life of a pampered domestic cat.

9. Where were you 10 years ago? Please feel free to elaborate more than just your physical location.
Living in the same house with Tevye and two small girls - Angel would have been five and Star two. That was the autumn when they both had chicken pox, though I think they had recovered by mid-October. We were homeschooling, and just beginning to get to know other homeschooling families. I was teaching medieval history at university one or two evenings a week, and also doing a bit of freelance work for Tevye's company. And ten years ago this week I was celebrating my 40th birthday!

10. When you are proven to be correct in any contentious discussion, do you gloat?
Only in fun, with someone who would take it in good humour!

11. What is your favorite food which includes the ingredient "caramel?"
Chocolate caramel shortbread.

12. If you could be part of any fictional family, which family would you choose and why?
The Maynards from Elinor M Brent Dyer's Chalet School series, closely followed by the Pevenseys from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Visit Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee for more Random Dozens

Monday, October 11, 2010

Simple Woman's Daybook: 11th October

Outside My Window ... St. Luke's little summer. A beautiful, sunny October day, with just a hint of autumn chill in the wind.

I am thinking ... about what has been and what is to come. Round number birthdays have that effect.

From the learning rooms ... two visits to upper schools for Star completed, another to come on Friday - back to the school we looked at last week, to see it in action on an open morning. Next up are visits to Sixth Forms for Angel who has to decide whether to stay at the same school next year or move somewhere else (Sixth Form is the equivalent of the last two years of high school in the US - the name has stuck from old-fashtioned names for UK school years that have otherwise disappeared, leaving us with Sixth Form following Year 11). She has to pick four subjects to study, and is considering Business Studies, Information Technology, Media Studies, Photography, Product Design (Graphics) and English Language. Mostly practical stuff for a practical person.

I am thankful ... for modern conveniences. Running water, flushing toilets, central heating, electricity, cars - all those things I take for granted, but which it would be so hard to live without.

From the kitchen ... this week's menu plan:
Today: Baked potatoes and chilli
Tuesday: Pasta with tomato pesto
Wednesday: Beef stew and dumplings
Thursday: Fish and chips
Friday: Slow cooked chicken and potatoes
Saturday: Burgers (that didn't get eaten last week)
Sunday: Roast chicken

I am wearing ... dark grey trousers, long sleeved purple t-shirt, hand knitted socks

I am creating ... a cardigan for myself. Cherub's ballet cardigan was finished in time for her to wear to her class last week.

I am going ... nowhere. It's good to have a day at home for a change - there nearly always seems to be somewhere I have to go.
I am reading ... trying to finish off a couple of half read books.

I am hoping ... Star and Angel make the right decisions over schools for next year.

I am hearing ...  Angel's iPod playing. Other than that, too much silence considering the girls are supposed to be getting up and ready for school.

Around the house ... still clutter. Progress on the clutter front: zero. Or worse still, negative progress.

One of my favorite things ... peace and quiet.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... usual work (freelance and voluntary) and band rehearsals; Wednesday - orthodontist's appointment for Angel; Thursday - taking my Mum to an appointment with her surgeon; Friday - my birthday!; Saturday - band concert; Sunday - gymnastics competition for Star (I think).

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... Cherub experimenting with the camera!

  Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book Review: Annie and the Wild Animals

Title: Annie and the Wild Animals
Author: Jan Brett
Age Suitability: 3 to 6+

I read a number of Jan Brett's books with Angel and Star when they were younger, and love her detailed style of illustration. I bought Annie and the Wild Animals - a new Jan Brett to me - for Cherub last year, but she wasn't interested at the time. Recently she picked it up and has wanted it read several times since. Coincidentally it ties in with the "pets" theme that is running at Cherub's school. Annie's cat disappears, and she tries to find a new pet by leaving out corn cakes for the wild animals. She is visited by a moose, a wild cat, a wolf, deer, and various other animals that are definitely not good pets. With the coming of spring, they disappear back to the wild, and Annie's cat returns ... with her new kittens.

As ever, the illustrations are gorgeous - both the main pictures and the borders, which themselves tell part of the story. The book also gave us lots to talk about ... seasons, animals, living in cold places, and a friend who had a moose in her backyard. Time for more Jan Brett for Cherub, I think.

Friday, October 08, 2010

7 Quick Takes: 8th october

1. Decisions, decisions. We have to apply for an upper school place for Star by the end of October, and having looked at both the local upper schools are now in a state of ditherment. When Angel was at this stage there was no realistic choice other than the nearest school (I'll call it School A) - we only had one car, and there was no transport available to School B. School A at that time also had much the best reputation, although School B was rumoured to be on the up. As of this year, School B now organises subsidised transport from this side of town. When we visited last night we were both very impressed (as was Angel, who much preferred it to her school). The downside, from Star's perspective, is that most (or all?) of her friends will go to School A. While School A has had some issues over the last year, it is still on paper the logical option - better exam results, good reputation, over-subscribed, and more convenient. We are going to visit School B again on Friday morning to see it in action, and see if Star is sufficiently excited by the idea of going there to take the tough choice for a twelve year old of leaving most of her friends behind.

2. Next, a minor decision. I am getting some cream wool for my birthday, which I want to use to make a traditional Aran style cardigan. I can't decide whether to make this one, which has a leaf pattern in the centre of the diamonds:

Or this one:

If I do the first, I will make it tighter (not figure hugging, but I don't want baggy); if the second, it will be longer (similar length to the first). What do you think?

3. Two more hospital appointments lined up for my Mum over the next couple of weeks - one with the surgeon on Thursday, and routine pre-op tests the following Tuesday. What a marathon this is turning out to be. New knee here we come. I hope.

4. The weather is weird. September was wet; now it is unseasonably warm and switching randomly between wet and sunny. This morning at 8am it was 16deg C (low 60s F), foggy and damp - ridiculously humid for October.

5. Maybe it was exhausted by all the rain, but one of the windscreen wipers on the car broke last week - a plastic bit pinged off, leaving the wiper flapping. So far my running repair with sellotape is holding.

6. Favourite quote of the week: "History is not just something that happened back then, in the past ... history in the end is now, and us." - Michael Wood, in his Story of England. I am still loving this series, and the way it brings alive the ordinary people of the past. The past two episodes have been looking at the middle ages - the Norman Conquest through to the thirteenth century, then this week the awful famines and plagues of the fourteenth century. One of the experts who contributed was my former doctoral supervisor - strange to hear such a familiar voice coming out of the TV! [Apologies to American readers: I'm afraid BBC iPlayer is only available in the UK.]

7. A conversation with Cherub about Hannukah led to this exchange:

Me: What is Daddy?
Cherub: Jewish
Me: What are the rest of our family? (hoping for "Christian" or "Catholic")
Cherub: Womans!

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Monday, October 04, 2010

Muppets on the Brain

... because this is what we are playing at band, and once it gets in your head, it won't get out!

Simple Woman's Daybook: 4th October

Outside My Window ... yet another miserable, dull, wet morning. This weather is beyond a joke. We are squelching through autumn.

I am thinking ... not thinking. Too early. I am only up and using the laptop as I needed to print out some homework Star did yesterday before it turns into a last minute crisis.

From the learning rooms ... Cherub was impressed that they did real PE, as she put it, meaning they got changed into their PE kit (a major exercise with over thirty four year olds!). Apparently they had to run round on tip toe pretending they were in a bubble, being careful not to pop anyone else's bubble while they did so.

I am thankful ... that my mum got a clean bill of health from the anaesthetist last week.

From the kitchen ... this week's menu plan:
Today: Chicken stir fry
Tuesday: Crockpot beef and mushrooms
Wednesday: Orange chicken and rice
Thursday: Salmon and mashed potatoes
Friday: Omelettes and chips
Saturday: Burgers
Sunday: Roast lamb

I am wearing ... pink pyjamas, blue dressing gown.

I am creating ... Cherub's ballet cardigan is nearly finished, and my queue is stacking up with things I plan to knit for Christmas.

I am going ... to the supermarket. Monday is supermarket day. With my new menu system, I do a big online shop at one supermarket and a run round another at the beginning of the month. After that I only need a weekly top-up of fruit and veg and bits and pieces. Today is monthly stocking up day.

I am reading ... in the reading doldrums again.

I am hoping ... Cherub gets out of the pattern of disturbed nights she has fallen into over the last couple of weeks. Tevye and I are both wilting.

I am hearing ...  Angel's iPod playing. Other than that, too much silence considering the girls are supposed to be getting up and ready for school.

Around the house ... clutter. I hate clutter. I need to stop looking at it and start dealing with it.

One of my favorite things ... a good, uninterrupted night's sleep. Which I am not getting at the moment.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... usual work (freelance and voluntary) and band rehearsals; Thursday - looking round another upper school with Star; Saturday - an evening with neighbours drinking wine and viewing holiday pictures. Star is dancing in Coventry at the weekend, but her friend's mother is taking them.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... I think I said I would post a picture of the shawl I knit for my mum, but never did. Here it is as modelled by Cherub.

  Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Friday, October 01, 2010

7 Quick Takes: 1st October

1. Politics. What do I think of Ed Miliband, the newly elected leader of the Labour party, and therefore a potential future prime minister? Let's just say that a man who somehow didn't manage to make the effort to register himself as the father on his son's birth certificate, and who has been "too busy" to marry his partner, but expects to "get around to it eventually", isn't giving out the message about the importance of the family that I would want to see from any political leader. Whatever party he belonged to, he wouldn't be getting my vote.

2. I took my Mum to hospital yesterday for a consultation with an anaesthetist. He confirmed that the reason her operation was postponed at the last minute in June was because the anaesthetist didn't feel able to treat her due to her history of heart surgery and a note on her file about chest pains. The chest pains were a red herring (nothing more than a few twinges several months earlier, which had been given undue prominence on her notes), she has since had a clear ECG, and the anaesthetist is now aware that her heart surgery was triggered by the discovery of a long standing heart murmur, not by heart disease. Result: she is good to go! A couple more pre-op appointments are needed, but after that she should finally get her knee replaced.

3. My TV highlight of the week was Downton Abbey, a new costume drama set in post-Edwardian England. Glorious costumes and props, and Dame Maggie Smith as the dowager Countess. Something to look forward to on Sundays evenings.

4. And more historical TV pleasure ...  Michael Wood's Story of England, which looks at the history of England from Roman times to the present day through the eyes of a single English village (Kibworth, in Leicestershire). I love this approach. Looking at local and small scale history, and using it to throw a spotlight on historical times and events is very much my preferred way of tackling historical research, so this is right up my street.

5. Transcribing tithe records has got me intrigued by field names, and the reasoning behind them. Sometimes it is apparent that the farmer who worked a farm at the date when field names stuck had no imagination whatsoever, with a sequence of names along these lines: Six Acres, Twelve Acres, Upper Wood, Lower Wood, Eight Acres, Barley Field, Pick Any Very Boring Field Name. Lots of names are descriptive, but rather more poetically so - Apple Tree Close, Butterfield Croft, that sort of thing (I made those up, but you get the idea). Then there are the inexplicable ones. Hither Lagger? Further Backside? ... huh?

6. Cherub is developing a liking for adjectives. She amused Tevye by informing him that her new fleece lined raincoat is "soft, and warm, and protective".

7. Tevye was seriously alarmed when he heard a yell from Star "Dad! Quick! Fire in my bedroom!". Fortunately he misheard. It was a spider in her bedroom.

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