Thursday, 29 April 2010

Small successes


Hi there!
My 3 small successes this week are:
1.) I've finally called it a day on the Kumon classes. While I think both children have benefited from them, it's a relief to all of us to be rid of it, for now anyway. Hubby and I agonised a bit over this decision (well, I did the agonising - he is more than happy not to be spending £140 per month on this!) but we finally agreed to let it go. We are going to have this Bank Holiday weekend completely free of study and just enjoy family stuff.

2.) My next little success would be coming to a decision on what to do for Honor's 9th birthday next week. We were originally going to hire the village hall and have a disco, but our big girl didn't seem all that enthusiastic about it. Then I suddenly thought 'what about a Little House on the Prairie inspired party?' So now I'll be busy planning that. Activities will include things like candle or soap making, some simple cookery and maybe, even, a spelling bee!

3.) Finally, well, I'm just going to go for the flower arrangement I made from the blossom from the garden. I posted the pictures yesterday. Simple, but lovely.

I'm off now to read some other entries on the Faith and Family website as I have just a little time left before baby wakes up.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

How does your garden grow?

It has been a fairly sticky day, weather-wise and so we (the babe and I) have spent a lot of today outside. I cut this jug of flowers, quince and apple blossom, from the garden. Aren't they gorgeous? Hope certainly seems to think so!

Here is a new batch of the stinging nettle tonic I am making for the tomatoes.

I planted these tomato plants in the greenhouse today and fed them the tonic I made earlier. Just as Alys Fowler explained on the 'Edible Garden', it did smell very pooey!

And these are some of my hanging baskets. I planted them up at the beginning of April from small plug plants. They have come on quite a lot in just a couple of weeks.

This is our only chicken. Her two friends died recently, but this one is still laying big, white eggs daily. She does seem lonely, though. We intend to get a few more hens next month. Just hope they will get on together.

And these planters belong to Honor-May and Henry. A few months back they sowed som veg seeds in trays and they are now happpily growing outside. They have radishes, swiss chard, beetroot and sweet peas. They also sowed some tomato seeds which are now plants growing in the greenhouse.

Flaming April!

Just a quick post here to comment on the lovely warm weather we've enjoyed over the last few days. We got out the paddling pool. Hope dived in before I got the chance to take off all her clothes!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Day at the zoo.

One of my 'Mummy' friends, otherwise known as LTG, had a free ticket to the zoo and so chose us to share it with her. It was such a lovely day out. Warm sunshine and no noisy crowds. Hope and Summer (LTG's 4 yr old daughter) were a pleasure to take out and obviously enjoyed looking at the elephants, tigers and gorillas at Howlett's Zoo, Canterbury.

Best of all, though, was playing with the woodchip!

We had to get back home in time to pick the older children up from school. I had invited some of their friends over to play so they came with their Mummy. We made ourselves comfortable down at the bottom of the garden. The kids mainly played hide and seek in the field while we, Mummys, chatted over a cup of tea. This particular Mum is currently studying for an MA in Early years so we had talked quite a lot about childhood and education. She seemed pretty interested in the Waldorf method and so I thought she might be interested in some of the links from my blog. There is another blog that I have been looking at recently called 'Childhood Magic'. This one is written by a waldorf inspired homeschooling mother living in California. Her photos are stunning and the playroom she has set up for her children is well worth a look.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


I've just been reading 'Unplug your Kids' (see sidebar for link). Well I wasn't aware but it is 'screen free week'. I think things like this are a good idea. The mere thought of living without a TV would send most people into a panic. But it is possible. Some people do . I remember our German teacher at school telling us that he didn't have one. He was kind of forced to repeat this statement a few times before it actually assimilated into our disbelieving teenage brains! And this was in the Eighties! Imagine that nowadays. I have noticed sometimes, certain people raise an eyebrow when they come to our house to find that we don't have Sky. Neither do we have a Wii or Nintendo. That's our choice for now. These things, in my opinion, have their place and are no doubt enjoyable. (It's a bit of a pain that I have to wait until 'Lost' comes out on dvd!). But I do not think they have a place in our homes at the moment. I prefer not to do without the telly altogether, also. There are particular things our family enjoy watching, and have a positive, helpful effect. After all, this blog is named after our favourite TV programme. Yes, of course we could read the books. Actually, we have done. But the TV programme I think, is even better. Probably down to the absolutely brilliant actors and warm direction of Michael Landon. There are some really gorgeous gardening and cookery programmes that I enjoy watching together with my eldest daughter and Hubby.
However, the point of this post is not to defend my tv habits, but draw attention to the 'Unplugged' cause. It certainly doesn't hurt to think about tv viewing every now and then and try limiting it in favour of finding alternative entertainment. Of course, for kids this can be quite challenging and harder work for parents trying to get a bit of peace maybe?
Anyway, it is worth a read and a ponder.
I'm including the link to a post to the 'Mommy, I'm bored box' post which I've found helpful.

Sunday, 18 April 2010


A lovely, warm day. I won't bother with writing tonight. Just let the pictures do the talking.
(Except, perhaps, to explain that in this picture I am cutting Henry's hair!).

Saturday, 17 April 2010

This morning, we girlies, had the house to ourselves while the boys went out to do boys' stuff, like going to the dump.
I wanted some time to help Honor with her maths. Yes, she does already do quite a bit at home and with Kumon, but I rarely get time to properly tutor her without distraction. So Hubby and I agreed that I would do this on a Saturday morning. Today it went very well. To start with we had our little baby boo there but eventually she went for her morning nap and then it was just the two of us.
The first picture shows her doing her 'maths mat challenge'. It is a Montessori style activity. Today she has some cards with a sum on. She has to solve the sum but also find two of the cups (on the tray) that contain two numbers that make the same answer. This is to develop her mental arithmetic.
We then worked on place value in her workbooks, followed by her Kumon. I enjoyed it and I think if we can keep this up, her confidence will really improve.
She goes back to school on Monday. At the end of last term we attended parents evening. Her teacher said that she'd keep us informed about what maths topics are being studied in class so that we can support her at home. I hope she remembers. I'm thinking I may send Honor in with a little contact book so that her teacher can just quickly jot down ie: 'shape, this week'.
I hope that's not too pushy!

It was also so lovely watching the two sisters playing together, or Honor really taking care of her little sister. Most of the time, Henry and Honor are off playing together. They don't ignore their baby sister and I don't think I've seen them lose their tempers with her. It's just that without Henry, Honor could really pay attention to little Hope. And I could see how much little Hope appreciated it.
Just look at that cuddle. Ahhhhhhhhhh.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Making the most of stinging nettles.

Being a stay-at-home Mum and having to make a very limited budget go far can be challenging but it was how I was brought up so I'm not short of an idea or two. My mother would make the sunday joint last 4 days at least and grew all her own veggies but somehow even she overlooked the usefulness of the highly nutritious stinging nettles. (Her homemade tomato sauce was bloomin' lovely though and so now I can't really bear ketchup!)

So today I 'harvested' the fresh young nettles at the bottom of our garden and used them for two things. Firstly, as I saw demonstrated on 'The Edible Garden' on BBC2 the other day, I put some in a bucket of water and have simply left it in the greenhouse. Eventually, according to Alys Fowle, it will start to stink and when it smells really bad it will be ready as a lovely tonic for the tomato plants. With the rest of the nettles I made soup. This is not as disgusting as it sounds and to prove it I can honestly say that whenever I make this, my husband and kids eat it all up. I mean, c'mon. If man and child will eat it, it must be ok!

It is not difficult to find a recipe but this is how I make mine:

Firstly, I make my own stock with left over chicken bones if we recently ate wings or drumsticks or the whole carcass. I put them in the slow cooker on low for 24 hours with about two and a half litres of water, a couple of chopped onions, a couple of cloves of garlic, a couple of sticks of celery (chopped), a teaspoon of paprika and a couple of bayleaves.

Next, I drained the liquid into a clean saucepan, added the stinging nettles (wear gloves and wash well!) and cooked them for about 20 minutes.

Then I liquidised and seasoned the soup and on this occasion I stirred in a little cream that I had left over in the fridge.

I've seen other recipes that I think included potato, but this version was delicious.

Oh, and, if you were wondering, nettles are very nutritious, rich in vitamins A,C &D, iron, calcium, manganese and potassium. They can also be eaten on the side, as a vegetable, like spinach.

More homemade treats:

Hubby made the kids these bows and arrows from stuff just lying around.

And then we went for a walk in the woods to collect fallen branches so that we could make little tents in the garden. They were fascinated with this hydrant sign so we talked about that for a bit.

Gotta go now. 'Ashes to Ashes' has just started. Luv it!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

School holidays - the good and the bad.

We are almost at the end of the school Easter holidays. I thought I'd make a list of what I like about them.
1.) Not having to get up early.
2.) Having the company of the older children - they are very interesting to have around and can help with entertaining the baby, too.
3.) Going to nice places.
4.) Having more time to help the children with their learning at a relaxed pace.
5.) Watching the kids find their own ways to entertain themselves.
6.) Watching how the children especially the older two play together and see their friendship/bond strengthen.
7.) Getting to see my old teacher friends who otherwise spend far too much time working.
8.) The children are much less argumentative than when they come home from school and seem to follow rules better.
9.) They seem to enjoy their food a lot better, too.
Now for things I don't like about them.
1.) No privacy. (Well, that's how it feels)
2.) I seem so much more exhausted by the end of the day.
3.) I seem to spend an unnecessary amount of time applying plasters.
4.) Hubby works from home and finds their noise very annoying so we sometimes find our activities restrictive.
4.) I have to be much more careful with money.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Jam and Jerusalem

A Women's Institute group has just started in the village so last night I went along. I must admit I did struggle through the song 'Jerusalem' mainly because it was hard not to giggle. But I did enjoy the evening. We were treated to a flower arranging demonstration by a very popular man called Robin White. I remember the first time, a few years ago, that I went to see one of his demonstrations. Although I like seeing flower arrangements, I did wonder how watching someone prod flowers and bits of foliage into some oasis was going to be entertaining. However it is his banter that makes it such fun. He has plenty of funny stories to tell and the arrangements that he does are really, really fabulous! He has won medals at Chelsea.

Monday, 12 April 2010

The new bike.

Hee, hee. Poor Henry. He is quite a clever little lad. By the age of three he was riding a bike without stabilisers. Yes, it IS true! However, he's not had much luck with the bikes he's had. They've been someone's cast offs and usually end up at the dump so he has been without a bike for about a year now. The old man down the road told him a few months ago that he had one that he could have but we waited a long time for it to materialise. Anyway, this morning it did. Pretty isn't it?
Henry's response was a little ungrateful. Nevertheless, he is, as I write, bombing up and down the path outside on it, having great fun.
Good for you Henry. Beggars can't be choosers.
And many thanks to our thoughtful neighbour, too.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

On my Sunday Soapbox.

This could be a regular feature... or maybe not. This blog is, or has developed into a place to document what we do as a family, probably focussing more on the children and to share ideas/links with anyone else who may be interested. However, now and again I may have a little rant/ talk out loud about what's on my mind. I don't want to do this too often. I think Ben Elton and Russell Brand do it brilliantly and so I'll leave it to them. But I think I can be forgiven for doing it occasionally.

I don't know if anyone else finds this but I mostly find that when I've talked to other Mums, colleagues, etc about something, say for instance one of the kids struggling with maths, other people seem very reluctant, even downright secretive about sharing any useful information about what they might know or have experienced. Perhaps it is just me. I can't think of anyone, in real life, that said 'oh there is a good website/book you might like to look at' or ' we tried...'

Actually, I know this happens to Hubby from time to time, though he's more nonchalant about it. I have seen it happen when he is about to embark upon some diy project at home and he is talking to someone about what he is planning to do. Of course, his audience at the time has little practical advice to offer. But then later, oh yes, later when the job is over and done, the aforementioned audience calls round for a look and then guess what happens...
S'right! 'You should have done it like this', or ' Oh, I have a such n such gizmo you could have borrowed that would have made your job easier!'
Frustrating, isn't it?
It seems if you want to know something or get help you really have to dig.
But that's one of the things I love about the blogs I read. That there are some people out there who are more than willing to share and support other people, total strangers.
I got thinking about this post because today I visited my favourite blog Sarah Sellers.
I've got more help/info/links from this blog than I have from any colleague, training course etc.
Today she was, again, highlighting the success her daughter is achieving from an on-line programme called Conquer Maths. They are offering a discount at the moment. I have asked her previously about this programme because I was interested in it for Honor but at the time it covered Key stages 3 and 4. But now they are introducing lessons for years 5 and 6. Hats off to her for taking the trouble to draw my attention to it.
I shall continue writing my blog as usual. And I hope any readers will get something useful out of it every now and then.

More from the Easter holidays

Here are Honor and Henry stroking the piglets at The Rare Breeds Centre at Woodchurch, Kent. We met up with our friends again and Lisa treated us to this. I usually prefer for the kids to find free or very cheap entertainment in the holidays but it is nice, now and again, to go somewhere like this and there was certainly loads to keep them entertained.

Various fun adventure play areas and zip wires!

Even Hope enjoyed a turn on the swing.

And loads of animals to look at. Particularly baby ones. Lambs, fluffy chicks, piglets, tiny kid goats. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
I carried Hope in the Moby Sling which was excellent in that she had a really good view of everything. However I was walking around with her for five hours and later that evening I was actually in tears from back pain. I know. Bad backs are boring. So I'll just briefly mention that I have been suffering for a few years now with pain mainly from the coccyx which seems to be a war wound from childbirth. After seeing the doctor after my first child he recommended that I sit on a rubber ring. This certainly seems to be good advice and has made a difference. However, Henry got his hands on it yesterday and burst it. So I need a new one, now. I also think I shall avoid the sling for a few days. Hope seems to be enjoying the pushchair anyway.

Honor has decided to write a blog of her own. So we are in the process of setting this up. I found an interesting link to a site of kids blogs so she is reading these for inspiration and I have given her an exercise book for her to make blog notes in, write poems and stories etc to be included. I was thinking of taking the kids to see Clash of the Titans later this week so I think I'll get Honor looking at film reviews and then she can write her own.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

More mucky pups.

Another whirlwind of a day gone, though all we did was some messy stuff at home. This morning the elder two made these volcanoes out of playdough and then very half-heartedly added some bits of bark and leaves to make them more realistic. They enjoyed moulding the playdough but were then more keen to get onto the exploding bit! I left them with the bicarbonate of soda, food colouring and vinegar and left them to get on with it to 'til it was all gone.

Meanwhile the baby who was due to have her morning nap was very contentedly crawling about exploring the mud and bark chips. She was happy doing this for a long time so again, I let her get on with it. She was very good at obeying the 'not-in-your-mouth' command! After that, I brought her into the kitchen and laid a towel and bowl of soapy water on the floor and she very happily played with that while I prepared an egg salad for lunch.
Other business included hiding from the Jehovas Witnesses (which didn't work 'cos the kids were playing in the garden and gave the game away), a trip into town to the bank with Honor (it was nice to just be with her for a little while) and then I took all three to the park where they found some other children to play with.
Just waiting for my turkey leg to cook now.