Thursday, 31 January 2008

Thoughts on Paracelsus and Ice Cream

I rustled up some chocolate ice cream last night. I flung a couple of ripe bananas, a dash of coconut milk, a teaspoon of raw chocolate powder, a couple of tablespoons of purple cornflour and a dollop of honey in the blender. Put it in a container in the freezer and there you have it! Hermione hasn't tried it yet but Miles loves it. Oh, it feels so good when my cullinary creativity is appreciated *smirk*.

While watching Miles eat his ice cream a quote came to mind which I heard a number of years ago. It's a quote by Paracelsus - 'It's not the snow that causes winter, but the winter that causes the snow.' It suddenly struck me that I've spent way too much time addressing the snow instead of the winter in recent times. Time to channel my energies more effectively I think.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Why not the sandpit in January?

Uuuuh, no reason I guess. Pop on your snow suit and out you get :-)

Can't recall it coming out of the shed this early before. Global warming or robust children? Bit of both I suspect.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Crafty Creations

Hermione and Nana have been very industrious over the last couple of weeks, crafty creatures that they are.

Hermione finished her teddy bear purse and is rightfully most proud of it.

My leather bag has fallen victim to a particularly squishy batch of yellow glitter home made play doh of late. Miles smeared lots on while my back was turned and by the time I discovered it it was stuck like glue. Not wanting to see me bag less, Nana rustled up this crocheted retro creation which I absolutely love. It's a great size for purse, wipes, juice and bits.

It was a friends birthday at the weekend so Hermione and Nana joined forces to make a woollen bowl for her. Nana crocheted a circle which Hermione then soaked in a sugar and water solution and placed it carefully over an upturned bowl. They then placed it on the windowsill to dry for a few days. Yes, we do have very cluttered windowsills round here what with decaying teeth, sprouting egg shells and woolly stuff!

Once it was dry they turned it out and filled it with cotton wool balls, voila! They could have put chunky pot pouri or something like pine cones in, anything not too heavy I guess.

I had hoped to make candles with Hermione in preparation for Imbolc this year but I don't have any candle making supplies, and to be honest I was a bit concerned about the hot wax issue too. I opted instead for decorating candles with wax sheets which I picked up from an online Steiner toy store. We haven't used this kind of wax before and I have to say I'm very impressed. The colours were really rich, it's easy to use and enables even small folks to make something very personal and special

We have put the candles to one side for now and will get them out and light them when we celebrate Imbolc as a family. When I bought the wax strips I also bought some modelling wax. This is something else we haven't used before. I'm going to give it to Hermione as an Imbolc gift. I know it's early days, we are still in January after all, but so far I am still very pleased with my decision to reduce the significance of Christmas and add significance to other times throughout the year which also hold special meanings for us. It's just another way I guess in which we can step off the beaten path, and find a path which takes us as a three generational household with a broad spectrum of beliefs forward, and to a place we would all like to go.

Not sure how long all this crafting will continue. As soon as the fence has been raised around the vegetable patch so as the hens can't cause havoc in there it will be time to be putting serious thought (and hard labour) into the garden!

Hermione was the very grateful recipient of a very tasty creation today. Imagine her surprise when she opened an airmail parcel and found a sizeable santa gift box full of home made Peanut Butter Balls courtesy of her Uncle Brian's mum in Canada. They are absolutely delicious. We had eaten most of the top layer by the time I thought to photgoraph them! It's not clear from the picture but each one is the size of a small clementine. They had been posted well before Christmas but only just arrived today. I know this is a disgrace but in some respects it was nice to receive them out of the blue today. Such a lovely act of kindness. She has only seen Hermione once and that was when she was a small baby.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Unplugged Project - Egg Cartons

Before I start on this week's Unplugged Project I've an update on last weeks tooth experiment. By mid week I noticed mould floating on the top of the glass of coke. Yuck! Certainly not what I want on my kitchen windowsill! I guess on reflection I should have put it somewhere dark as the light probably contributed to the growth of mould.

I braved the mould and retrieved the tooth which was smaller still and quite soft around the edges. It was very dark brown. Hermione refused to touch it. To be honest she didn't want to go within five feet of it.

This week the project was on egg cartons. Whenever I come across an egg carton (rarely as I don't buy eggs) I save it to give some of our eggs away. So, having no cartons I decided we would do something with the inner packaging instead. Hmmm, so what to do with egg shells?

We decided in the end to plant four half shells with four different seeds to see if they all grew at the same time. We soaked some alfalfa seeds, sunflower seeds, grass seed and green lentils in water over night. I thought this would make them germinate faster - an important consideration when tryng to maintain the interest of a six year old. We then labelled each shell, placed in a ball of moist cotton wool and sprinkled the seeds on top.

I'm pleased to say that the choice of seeds was good. The whole thing worked out really well. By the second day the alfalfa seeds had started to sprout (on the left of the picture).

By the third day the green lentils were sprouting.

By the fourth day the sunflower seeds had sign of tiny leaves.

I must confess that at this point there was still no sign of the grass seeds doing anything so I added more water and placed them in the airing cupboard overnight. Thankfully come morning there were small signs of life!

Hermione and I both really enjoyed this activity. Hermione questioned the household about which seed they thought would germinate first, and if she were to think that things grow at the same rate she certainly knows that not to be the case now!


I saw snowdrops yesterday, for the first time this Spring.

So pure and fragile, around for such a short time. They will always be very special to me.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Friday, 25 January 2008

Centre for Life - Fossils

Busy day today. With a little help from Nana and a good friend we managed to fit in Baby Gym, a visit and shared lunch, a trip to The Centre for Life for a Fossil Workshop in the early afternoon and dance class later in the afternoon. Phew! Good fun but I'm glad busy days like that just come round now and then. I wouldn't like it to be like that all the time!

Here are a few pictures reflecting the activities Hermione joined in at the Fossil Workshop.

Crayon rubbings of fossils.

Picture of some kind of fossilised creature.

Picture of a dinosaur.

She also made plaster cast of a fossil but it hasn't photographed well at all.

Miles enjoyed a few games of Scrambled Eggs and also reached a bit of a milestone today in that it was the first time he has had no day time nap. Oh no! All those jobs I used to do during that hour could soon be things to add on to the end of the day instead *scream*!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

The path of homemaking / parenting

I was going to title this post, 'The pent up anger of a wife and mother' but that just felt much too uncomfortable so I opted for something less nerve wrenching instead.

We are having a good week this week, as we usually do to be honest. Nothing different on the domestic front. Miles had a tantrum this afternoon which could possibly have been measured on the richter scale, but things like that just seem to happen sometimes. Hermione and Nana missed out on the performance as they had gone off to see The Nutcracker ballet.

So, why when all is well do I have feelings of things just not being good enough, feelings of inadequacy, there not being enough hours in the day and worse still - resentments? Resentments about despite the fact that I try at all times to give 101% I can't always make everything right. Resentments about how some days I don't even get a minute to go to the bathroom on my own!

During the course of Miles major melt down I sat close by, reminding him every now and then that I was there for him, offering him hugs and offering suggestions on how I felt we could better spend the afternoon. In between offerings I tried to blend into the wall and let him get on with it. I picked up a book which recently came out of storage from when we moved house - Homeopathy for the Soul by Cassandra Lorius. It felt like meeting up with a long lost friend. Quite aside from homeopathy I think it offers many insights and pearls of wisdom about life in general.

In the book I found a list of positive and negative qualities associated with those on the path of homemaking and/or parenting. It really resonated with me and comforted me, as although I can tick many boxes on the negative side right now, it reminded me of the positives too. They're still there albeit a little obscured right now.


- People on this path create a resource for others to use as a refuge, haven or retreat.
- They have an ability to listen and respond appropriately to the needs of others
- They provide a focus for connection, warmth and community
- They promote the values of sharing and caring
- They tolerate difference and the unique qualities of others
- They foster the growth and development of others
- They provide stability and support
- They are persistent
- They often have a highly developed sense of aesthetic appreciation
- Their giving to other people can be abundant


- They can be too busy doing to just be with others
- They can become bogged down in material or domestic concerns
- They can behave in a complacent or unadventurous manner
- They can become emotionally cold and indifferent to the needs of others
- They can neglect themselves, living vicariously through others
- They can be exhausted and burnt out through dutiful giving
- They can feel frustrated and resentful
- They may try to manipulate and control others through a need to know where everyone is at all times
- They can become rigid about how things should be done
- They become over anxious about people they are close to
- They may suffer anxiety about failing or not being good enough
- Sometimes people on this path become dependent on others for approval
- They hate being taken for granted; they need to feel appreciated.

Like all paths, it is unrealistic to expect the way to be smooth at all times. I think the lesson for me in all this is to accept the rough with the smooth and not be embarrassed or ashamed to acknowledge that at times I may be less than ecstatic with my homemaking/parenting lot.

If anyone else wishes to *come out* as a sometimes frustrated, resentful or just downright naffed off homemaker/parent then feel free to comment. You are in like company right now *grin*.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Happy Birthday to Craig!

I love other people's birthdays best. You get to eat cake without turning a year older.

This was his cake. Hermione decorated it and hasn't yet grasped the 'less is more' concept. Worse still Miles ate a slice yesterday when it came out of the oven because I wasn't in the mood to cope with the rage that refusal would lead too. Not to worry, I think I got the fake piece which was actually just thick icing.

He definitely didn't marry me for my culinary skills! I think I deserve good grades for effort but the end product often lets me down.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Unplugged Project, toothpicks, tooth experiment

When I first read that this weeks Unplugged Project was on the theme of toothpicks I have to say, I wasn't inspired. Does anyone actually use toothpicks these days? I thought the correct form now was to carry floss in your handbag or to buy one of those hideously expensive soft plastic spiky balls from the restaurant vending machine. Once I overcame the initial toothpick *euurghhh* state we actually found quite a lot to get our teeth into *groan* with this project.

First off I had to explain to Hermione what a toothpick actually is. Brushing and flossing is fine but she hadn't contemplated the idea of 'picking' before.

We then contemplated buying a big job lot of toothpicks and replicating something like this. That thought passed quickly. Instead we decided to make something a little more modest. Hermione set to it herself while I was making lunch one day and here we have a number of woolly toothpick stars.

I never like to miss an opportunity to plug dental health, being a bit paranoid like many parents about the children's teeth, so we started an experiment.

We took one sparkling white baby tooth....

...and placed it in a glass of coke...

...with a couple of sugar lumps added upon Hermione's insistence, for good measure.

Five days on the tooth is no longer white and sparkly. It's stained, visibly smaller and rough in parts.

Hermione appeared quite repulsed by it, which I was delighted about. I hope she thinks of this when she tries to get away with giving her teeth a really quick once over on a morning. We are going to leave the tooth in the coke for another week and will report back next week. I think it may just essentially dissolve away - we'll see!

We rounded off our project with a story The Lion Who Wouldn't Brush his Teeth by Mike Peele, a happy ending to our toothy activities.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Teddy Bear purse

A work in progress by Hermione.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Spider Spray

While looking for animal classification cards I stumbled across a site which had ideas for detering spiders, including a spray which you can make yourself.

Being terrified of spiders I've placed the link in my favourites but thought I'd share the recipe here for anyone else who may not feel comfortable around incy wincys.

Mix 2 pints of water, 5 dops of any plant based essential oil, one ounce of neem oil and five tablespoons of soap. Spray in areas where spider appear to congregate - euuuurgh! It's not clear whether the soap is to be liquid soap or soap flake but I'm not certain it would matter as the flakes would dissolve anyway.

I'm not sure if it will work but I will certainly give it a try if I come across many this summer. If this fails apparently they hate the taste of Lemon Pledge!

Friday, 18 January 2008

My Cat Plumduff

This week we have looked at the poem My Cat Plumduff by Charles Causley.

Hermione enjoyed it a lot, as I thought she may since cats have to be one of her favourite animals.

We watched this video clip on Youtube which we both thought was really cool - although it's possibly not the same if you don't have sound on your computer.

We watched it two or three days and each day tried to remember the names of more members of the cat family. She did well, remembering nine different kinds of cats one day.

She chose three cats in particular and we located their habitats on our big world map. One was from South America and one was from North America. This was just the opportunity I needed to whip out the compass Craig received as a freebie when he bought some trainers and we checked out our bearings at various points around the house.

The idea of animals being part of a 'family' seemed to interest her a lot so I printed some animal classification cards off from a Montessori website. We looked at crustaceans, insects and reptiles. She picked out a couple of major characteristics of each and was quickly able to sort them all. I think I'll introduce the idea of plant families soon, expanding on the deciduous/evergreen stuff we touched on in December.

Last but not least here is one of Hermione's favourite photographic subjects, Nana's Woo Woo, looking rather cute on the sofa with a bunch of stuffed fluff.

She has to be one of the most photographed cats alive. Hermione is forever stalking her with the camera and setting her up in poses like this. Odd thing is Woo Woo seems to really enjoy it!

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Mostly Miles

I posted a while ago about Miles and my concerns about his speech development. As is usually the case my concerns were unfounded. In the space of a few weeks he has gone from having a handful of words to having lots of words and stringing them together. It really struck me this afternoon when we were in the garden and he shouted, 'look mummy, air plane up dere'.

Life is becoming so much easier now that we can communicate more freely. He is less frustrated and I'm less frazzled!

The greater concern now is his insistence upon choosing his own outfits. Worries about going out with a shopping trolley fade into insignificance when your two year old chooses to go into town dressed like this.

The lady serving in the Early Learning Centre stared for ages. In the end I explained to her that I was really happy about the situation. A friends mum brought the hat back from the Caribbean and up until very recently it had lots woolly dreadlocks hanging from it. They've dropped off now. It could have been worse.

Oh well, here's hoping that I'm posting in a few months time to say my worries about Hermione's reading have also been unfounded. She will be seven next month, perhaps she might develop a bit of enthusiasm then?

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Watoto Children's Choir

We went to see the Watoto Children's Choir last night. It was enjoyable, heart wrenching and rather disconcerting all at once, if that's possible.

The children in the choir were astounding. Absolutely fabulous. I could have listened to them all night. Their energy and enthusiasm was a joy to behold. They were also very talented.

A short clip was shown about the plight of the children of Uganda, in particular the child soldiers. I'm pleased it was dark in there as the tears were streaming down my face. In recent years I've become very caught up in my own world. My world revolves around family and home. I'm often ignorant of what is happening in the macrocosm, I'm so tied up in the microcosm.

Sadly, in my opinion, the short musical performance and film clips were punctuated by much longer religious interludes. I found this a little disconcerting. I knew we were going to see a gospel choir which was part of a religious organisation but the focus and emphasis was not what I had expected. I left feeling upset that the opportunity to spread the word and educate people about the plight of these poor children was not taken full advantage of.

Hermione enjoyed the children's performances a lot and was visibly moved upon hearing how life is for many children in Uganda. Children only a year or two older than her trained as killing machines. What a world we live in.

Nature or nurture?

Can all rabbits 'fly' onto windowsills or just those that have spent months hanging out with a bunch of hens on a daily basis?

Monday, 14 January 2008

Unplugged sculpture

We had an out of the ordinary morning today. I managed to bring together lots of strands of thought that had been ravelling around my brain of late - thanks to the inspiration I gained from this weeks Unplugged Project.

While on holiday last week I still occasionally pondered Christmas and wondered whether the children would still be able to remember most of their presents, or have they just disappeared into the masses of *stuff* around this place?

This got me thinking about the presents I received - this Christmas and in the past for various occasions. One of my best ever presents was from my sister, Helen. Here it is below. It's a replica of a statue (or perhaps I should say gravestone to be more precise).

My maternal grandfather died when I was very young. I was very close to my nana and stayed at her home most weekends. Every Saturday morning come rain or shine we got our coats on and visited the cemetery where my grandfather was buried to place fresh flowers on his grave. I always felt very relaxed about this. There was no unease about the place. I understood what it was about and felt at peace with it. Every week we walked past a particular gravestone which always caught my eye. It was very old and the face was beginning to crumble.

It took a few moments for me to recognise it when I opened a box almost thirty years on and found this replica. Helen moved to Canada six years ago and came across the sculpture which is known as 'The Grangetown Angel' - Grangetown being the place where the cemetery is, in the States. How bizarre is that? I haven't come across any replicas of it here, but move thousands of miles away and find someone there who has come across it and replicated it?

Hermione is always very interested in the angel but I've never told her anything about it. I suppose I was worried that talk of death may trouble her. She calls it the 'angel sculpture from Auntie Helen' and I just go with that.

Thinking last night about the unplugged project and the recent death of Pinky I decided that the sculpture we would look at today would be the Grangetown Angel. We didn't have time to travel to that cemetery and I didn't know if it would be wise as I was uncertain as to how Hermione would react. She is becoming curious about cemeteries but I don't think she really understands what they are all about. I Googled last night for information on talking to young children about death and the consensus seemed to be to demystify it.

Today I told her all about how I used to visit the cemetery each week with Nana to see Granddad's grave and how I used to look at the Grangetown Angel each week and how Auntie Helen found a replica of it in America.

We decided to go to our local cemetery and look at some of the gravestones there. Hermione took the camera and photographed this one as she thought it was very beautiful.

My worries about discussing death with her and helping her to perceive the stark realities of it were unfounded. She was comfortable in the cemetery and I said very little. She chattered away and said what a special place it is for people to come to when their parents or friends have died. She also commented at one grave that the person must not have been dead very long as the grass had not yet grown over the area where they were buried. We wandered back home happily to eat our lunch before dashing off to meet with friends.

Some people may feel that what I've done today is wrong. When is a good time to introduce a child to the concept of death? All I know is that I followed a chain of thought from gifts, to The Grangetown Angel, to the death of Pinky, to the Unplugged Project and ended up choosing today. I think I made the right decision. As a home educating mum I often spare a moment to ponder, 'what have they learned today?' I feel really pleased that today Hermione learned that the physical process of death is nothing to fear in a ghoulish sort of way.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

The Runaway Bunny

I shared a lovely book with the children while we were on holiday. Although aimed at young listeners in most respects, I thought the actual content was quite thought provoking for older children (and parents) too.

It is about the love a mother has for her child, and the lengths she will go to to be with him.

Certainly worth a look in my view, should you ever stumble across it.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Holiday at Whinfell Forest

We spent five days at Centre Parcs Whinfell Forest last week. It's certainly not our first time there and everything was reassuringly familiar - it rained most of the time, our lodge was clean and comfortable, lots of time spent in the tropical swimming place and plenty of nature watching.

Our lodge was in a better position than on previous visits. We were really close to the facilities but not so close as to make it noisy.

It rained every day to varying degrees which meant that we spent even more time than usual in the tropical swimming place.

Hermione and Craig spent hours whizzing down water slides and wrestling with the waves. I didn't get any pictures of Hermione doing her thing as she always passed at great speed and usually amid a big splash.

Miles was happy pottering around in the baby and toddler pools mainly although he did venture onto a couple of smaller slides and was rather attracted to the Jacuzzis.

He found hours of entertainment in a watering can and bucket,

munching and playing with the giant connect four games in the dry areas,

sitting on bubbly water jets trying to catch the bubbles in his hands

and generally lounging about in a 'look at me I'm swimming' sort of way.

We visited South Lakes Wild Animal Park on what unfortunately tunrned out to be the wettest day of the holiday. I like this place because it does a lot of conservation work and having met the owner a few years ago when he was giving a talk, I came away with the impression that he is genuine in his desire to carry out conservation work - for the good of all not just to add a marketing spin to his animal park.

The rain was absolutely torrential in the time we were there. The kind of rain that can soak you to the skin quickly. The animals all seemed to be in hiding and we weren't in the mood to loiter around waiting to spot them. We decided to walk around one of the enclosures where the animals wander freely and you can get close up to them. Usually that area is a hive of activity but this day there was very little. We came to a sheltered part where we had to pass through and there inside were three peacocks, a heap of lima's all huddled together and a big kangaroo. It's difficult to see them from the photograph below. You can best spot the kangaroo from the whites of it's eyes and make out the rest of him from there.

We were quite wary of passing and all looked to Craig to converse with the kangaroo. That was funny. He asked it to move very politely a good few times before it decided to spring into action and hop away. When it did move we were astounded by the length of it's legs and how tall it was. Had I known it was that big I wouldn't have hung out with it in the shelter with the kids right there. It was a whopper! One wrong hop and we could have been in trouble! I think the close encounter with the kangaroo made the day really and I guess we have to be thankful that it was raining for that.

The following day I felt really weary and waterlogged. I just didn't want to face getting wet again after having been soaked the day before. Instead of swimming we decided to head out to Eden Ostrich World which had a heated indoor play area which felt really appealing to me that day.
The weather was bitter cold and we didn't actually get to see the pozee or any ostriches. We installed ourselves in the heated play area and didn't see a great deal else. The play area was deserted which meant that Craig could release some executive stress in the ball pool!

They had some rather cool ride on diggers too but even those couldn't keep us out in the cold for long.

In the evenings we read and Hermione did quite a bit of sand art. Often when they get craft kits for gifts they seem to disappear into cupboards and are never seen again so I decided to take the sand art along with us. It went down a treat!

All in all it was a great holiday. It is unusual for Craig to spend the whole of a holiday with us. We generally take two cars and he returns home to get back to work after a couple of days. I hope this means he's overcoming his workaholic tendencies. Give it another year or two and I may even manage to drag him away from work for a full week, now that would be something!

Friday, 11 January 2008

We're home!

We're back, weary and waterlogged from our five day break in the Lake District.

Trying to ignore the post holiday mayhem of dirty clothes etc. but I guess they won't go away.....

Monday, 7 January 2008

For the love of a dove

The bird population in our garden is changing. The number of magpies is reducing and we now have a few almost white doves. It’s changed the nature of our garden. There’s no longer the almost constant squawking and bickering in the trees. Instead we have doves wandering around the lawn, cooing gently.

Doves mate for life, are incredibly loyal to each other and work together to build their nest and raise their young. I feel incredibly lucky that they have decided to live alongside us.