Sunday, 28 December 2008


Hope you all had a good Christmas!!
We had a lovely, quiet time. Christmas eve my Mum came over to stay with us the night, then Christmas day we went to hers and I cooked for the three of us. Christmas day was beautiful here, so we went for a walk in the morning, the sun was so bright it was almost warm! For the rest of the day we had delicious food, wine, and some great presents. I had the bright idea of putting on King_Lear (on one of the digital channels) in the evening, which was thoroughly depressing. I loved the perversity of watching a miserable film on Christmas day, but I don't think my Mum appreciated it much, especially the eye-gouging!

Boxing day me and A went off to visit our friends, and had a lovely day of left overs and chatting/playing, and another beautiful walk around a local loch.

I've been really crap with photos - took none at all on Christmas day (!) forgot my camera Boxing day, and really regretted it when we came across a group of swans on the loch. But I did get this one:

yesterday of the frosty beach when we went out for a hike with some other friends. I would have had more, but after two pics my batteries died. We had a good time anyway, with flasks of coffee and hot apple juice, and some crisps and chocolate. The kids had fun playing on the frozen stream, and scavenging on the beach.

Tomorrow we are going, with my Mum, to visit A's other grandparents for lunch. All three grandparents together - a perfect day for A! This will be a lovely family time, as luckily we all get on really well, and A will get such a lot of attention.

Just a last pic of A's favourite presents:

Monday, 22 December 2008

Winter Solstice

We decided to have a solstice celebration. I had bought this book some time ago, and we also found some other poems and verses to read to each other. We got down our globe and using A's head to represent the sun demonstrated how the northern hemisphere tilts away from the sun to give us winter. We lit loads of candles, and the fire. We also baked a sun cake, which became a birthday cake for our friend who unexpectedly came to stay for a couple of nights. It was a really lovely time for us, so peaceful and reflective, worlds away from the stress and excess of what Christmas has become for most people. I think I'll give up celebrating Christmas and just stick to Yule (no, I don't think I'd get away with that actually!).
Didn't get a picture of our lovely cake (its long gone now!), so here is one of the fire to warm you up:

We also had our home ed group Christmas party on Wednesday - a huge turn out for it. I was a bit nervous when I walked into such a full hall, but soon relaxed and chatted to a few lovely people. Lots of faces there I didn't know, but I'm starting to get to know a few people a little bit now. The kids had a fantastic time, someone came and did some games with them, which worked really well. I'm so glad that such a strong network of HEers exists up here.

My party food offerings - delicious (even if I do say so myself)

A very strange party game (thats A wrapped in toilet roll!?)
I had an energetic end to Wednesday as I went to see the Levellers play in Inverness. Danced like a maniac the whole night. I need more of this stuff in my life!!

Monday, 15 December 2008

We love Mondays

I've noticed over the last few weeks that in the rhythm we seem to have developed Mondays are good. Its one day where we are almost always at home together all day, often after a hectic, social weekend. For me its like a sigh of relief - we don't have to rush about or be anywhere at a certain time, and the day just seems to flow. It always feels like we achieve quite a lot too, not in a planned or structured way, but in a spontaneous 'hey - look at this!' kind of way.

After her bath this morning A sneaked into bed with me where I was reading the Gatto book I mentioned in the last post. She asked me to read it aloud to her, so I read the remaining half of the chapter I was on, then asked her what she'd got from it. "Well, a lot of big words, but basically that at school they try to turn you into a robot". A pretty accurate description of what he'd been saying really!
After a walk down to the shops and back, we put up our Christmas decorations, as you can see:

Our festive mantelpiece - the snowball lights look huge here!
Lovely candles
Hanging angels (not as cruel as it looks!)

We did a bit of maths from the workbook, working on division and remainders at the moment, so we got the marbles out to help. I've been trying to find different ways to help A with her maths as she finds it very hard to work everything out in her head, and even with fairly simple stuff seems to lose track of where she's going with it. I've encouraged her to use lots of extra paper for her workings out, but the marbles seemed to appeal much more - not only was she sorting them into groups of 7 or 8 or whatever, she was also making sure the groups of marbles were all colour co-ordinated! It seemed to make it more interesting for her anyway.
We then decided to watch Einstein_and_Eddington, which I had videoed a few weeks back. I thought this might inspire some further scientific interest in A, and also be interesting to her as Eddington was a Quaker and a conscientious objector (A goes to Quaker meetings, and we had many discussions about COs when the subject came up around remembrance day). We both enjoyed the film, and it led on to some investigations about solar and lunar eclipses, which we are going to follow up with some experiments about gravity and angled light.
As we were already on the computer by this time - from googling stuff on eclipses - A went on to her games sites and found a hangman game (one of her favourite games for train journeys) which she played for a while. She then found a great geography game, which we both played for a while.
After that we made some pizzas for tea, and watched some rubbish TV for a little while, and then A went off to bed and spent some time making cards.

Saturday, 13 December 2008


Been a bit of a strange week - really positive in parts, very stressful in others, but generally good.

A has been on good form, she spent yesterday morning writing several poems, while I sat and watched the washing machine (there is a mysterious leak which only happens when noone is there to see it. The other day I found a puddle of water under the machine after it had been on, so called a guy out to look at it - of course he could find no leak of any kind. I've since sat and watched the whole cycle twice and not a drop of water on the floor. Even as I type this I am thinking 'how much more exciting can my life get??') anyway - back to the poetry - one of these was titled 'Why men?', and brought up a whole load of concerns about the cynicism I may have passed on to her (it was pretty scathing about men generally, in a way you wouldn't expect from a 9-yr-old!). I do try to be fair and balanced, and we do have some lovely male friends and relatives in our lives (including her beloved Nonno), but I suppose there are certain experiences she is aware of at some level. She has also been watching Eastenders at Granny's house, which may have something to do with it! Its times like this I really wish my Dad was still around (A was 4 when he died, and he was pretty far down the road with Alzheimer's when she was born so she didn't really know him at all), he was such a great geezer; a real solid, down-to-earth, funny, quietly caring and easy-going bloke. I just know that A would have got on brilliantly with him.
Another of the poems was about goths, and was very impressive, hopefully she'll put it on her blog.

A enjoyed her HE drama group on Wednesday, and I enjoyed chatting a bit with a few other Mums. Lucy very kindly lent me a John Taylor Gatto book: Dumbing_Us_Down , which I am getting stuck into.
This is a picture I took on the way home of a beautiful setting sun - you cant see all the lovely colours (I shall blame the camera), but you get a hint.

Thats the only photo I've managed to take this week. Had a great opportunity today at the Lantern-lit Christmas fair of A's old Steiner school, but of course I forgot my camera. I really am rubbish sometimes.
It was interesting how much I enjoyed the experience this year - it was very different not being involved in all the build up, having to get the baking done in time and do your hour on the class stall. I felt much more sociable and relaxed. We ended up coming home with an extra child, which was lovely for A as she hasn't had a chance to play with this particular girl for ages. Even better - Granny has magically whisked them away to the local pantomime, so I have a chance to blog!!! A's friend's Mum is coming over to join us for lunch tomorrow before they head off, so I will have a chance to catch up with her too.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Pink stew

This is my lovely lentil hotpot - one of my favourite winter dishes, so warming. I put beetroot in this one (as you can probably tell from the gorgeous colour!), but its basically fried onion & garlic, then lentils, chopped tomatoes, loads of veg and some stock. I even managed to sneak some kale into this (which A usually refuses to eat). Very nourishing - and delicious too!
We also baked a chocolate cake, just to balance things up a bit ;o)

We had a great day Monday, did loads of fun stuff, including finally getting round to looking at the learn_Italian CD-ROM someone gave me ages ago. We discovered that the book is missing, which was a bit disappointing, but we had a great time playing word games on the children's disc. I think we'll pick up a lot of words quite quickly, but may need another resource for developing sentences and phrases (Nonno perhaps).
We've also been working on our craft Christmas project, making little presents for various friends and family members. We'll need to get them finished and posted soon!

Another project we completed was the 'quiz box' (see below). A had designed a detailed set of intructions for this a little while ago, so we set to work and created it. Then we spent a while drawing up quizzes for each other - I did one on the human body, A did one on the solar system - using books from A's bookshelf. I think she did better than me on the quizzes in the end!
The box seems a bit pointless to me (as a boring adult!), I didn't say that to A of course! But the action of putting in the tick or cross, rather than just saying 'right' or 'wrong' makes the whole thing much more interesting for A, which sums up her visual/physical approach to most things.

The thing I was most impressed with was the set of instructions. This is one of the many wonderful artistic and creative designs A comes up with when in bed at night. It has just hit me this week how she is such a 'night time' person (a bit like me really). Up until now I had been regularly returning to the concern that 'A needs more sleep', and trying to encourage her to get settled and lights out (or dimmed at least) by a certain time each night. The reality is she is getting as much sleep as she needs - she's not tired or grumpy during the day - so I don't know why I'm so obsessed with this idea. It occured to me that what I'm actually doing is trying to limit her most creative moments. So what we've decided is that she will usually go to bed at about 9, but after that its up to her what she does (until I go to bed when all the lights go out, but she's always asleep by then anyway). I pointed out that if she stays awake very late all the time she will feel the effects during the day, especially if its a day we have to get up early and have a lot on, but she'll work that out herself anyway. It feels right to be allowing her a bit more autonomy, she's growing up really fast, and responds well to more responsibility.
We've been continuing the maths and English workbooks, and A has just completed the Smelly_Spelling one, she was very proud of herself, and I think she's more than ready for the next level up. I ordered some more as they seem to be going down well with A, and they are also very reasonably priced! I'm still just using workbooks for these two subjects, we've got more than enough resources to cover whatever else she's interested in learning.
A busy weekend ahead now - A has a friend sleeping over tonight, then the two of them have drama tomorrow morning, and then A is off to Nonna and Nonno's to be taken to see the Pantomime at Eden_Court and stay with them the night. Not sure what I'm doing with my night off, we've been looking for something exciting going on but will probably end up at the pub, then in front of a DVD. Sounds exciting enough for me - maybe I'm getting old!!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

The last few days...

Sorry - cant think of a more interesting title just now.

We got some snow today! As you can see below, it was just a little sprinkling, but I had a lovely walk home through it after dropping A off to her Quaker meeting (her Granny goes too). I was all wrapped up in my big coat and boots, and a scarf wrapped round my head (very stylish!) so was warm enough to appreciate the beauty of it.

We had a day in Inverness on Thursday, got a few bits and pieces we need, and some Christmas shopping, and then met Nonna during her lunchbreak for a bite to eat - lovely. We went to see Nonno at work too, but he was busy with customers so we just waved and pulled faces at him and he gave us a big grin.

Friday we had some friends over, then went into town with them to see the Christmas lights being switched on. There was a big parade with a Narnia theme, and there was a really good chaotic/carnival atmosphere. I usually don't like busy, crowded things like that, but I quite enjoyed it and felt fairly relaxed. We had chips too, which always helps :0))
Below is my mad photo of some of the Christmas lights, it all went a bit wrong (must learn how to use my camera properly - its a mystery to me) but I like it so I thought I would share it.

The highlight of my week was receiving my PIF (Pay It Forward) gift from lovely Hannah - a twelve days of Christmas ring. The photo below doesn't do it justice, its beautifully made and a lovely idea. Am pondering what to fill the stockings with, A immediately suggested sweets, but no no no!

Misty weather

These are just some lovely, spooky pictures we took while out for a walk the other day

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Are you impressed??

With my first attempt at knitting - the fabulous dishcloth!!

Probably not!! But I am quite impressed with myself. Off to get some wool tomorrow and will attempt some stripy arm warmers next.
Bit of a stressful day today, just one of those days where I seriously doubt myself.
A wanted a music lesson, which I was quite happy to go along with, thinking it would be lovely - she is very interested in music and already seems to have a good idea of what she's doing. Well, it ended with her in tears and me walking out of the room saying 'we need to get a proper music teacher for you because I'm obviously no good'.
We did discuss things once we'd both calmed down, and continued a bit with what we'd been looking at, but I'm really at a loss as to why we cant seem to work together on this subject. Maybe its my attitude, I did study music for several years as a child/teenager, so maybe I make assumptions about how easy or difficult things are, but we don't seem to have that problem with other subjects.
Maybe its just A's resistance to learning the theoretical side of music, even though she says she wants to. She spends a lot of time on her keyboard, but is used to making up tunes herself, and playing by ear. Having to sit down and read music is not as much fun - and doesn't feel so creative I suppose. I think I'll have to have a look around for some teaching resources that are more fun and interesting to help us. I really want to encourage her in this area as I think she is naturally quite musically talented, and learning the 'mechanics' of music could be very helpful in the longrun, but today just felt like I was doing it all wrong and putting her off.
Maths and English coming along nicely though. She seems to like the Letts workbooks (we're using the age 8-9 at the moment). Maths is more of a struggle, but she gets there in the end. I'm very impressed with her English, we did a dictation test the other day - I just took a passage out of one of our books - and her spelling and handwriting were really good. Her lack of enthusiasm about reading books obviously isn't holding her back.

Sunday, 23 November 2008


A few of us went to see a weird and wonderful play last night at the Universal_Hall in Findhorn. 'The Last Resort' by a company called Strangeface. The actors all used masks for the performance, and there were also puppets such as the fantastic devil below.
The masks were quite unnerving to begin with (have a look at the link for some examples), but were very effective. And an interesting storyline about human nature/failings, and redemption. We weren't sure before we went whether it was aimed at kids or adults, and I'm still not sure, but I think we all enjoyed it equally (our group ranged in age from 9 - 84).
After the show the audience were all invited to look around the set and play with the masks and puppets - a great idea, we had to drag the kids away in the end!

Its been a fairly quiet couple of weeks, colder weather has meant a lot more of this:

which is keeping us nice and cosy, in the front room anyway!
We've managed to get into a bit of a routine with some maths and English every day, not always workbooks, we decide day by day what we want to do, but focusing on those subjects.
Since we got back from our holiday A has shown much more interest in the computer (although not her blog! She is intending to blog again soon though, so she says...). I think this is a direct influence from her cousin, who gave her web addresses to some games sites. Consequently, I have become addicted to this bloody annoying game which is driving me mad! I have wasted far too much time on it lately. A is more drawn to the dress-up/make-up type games, although has tried a few others.
I'm kind of in two minds about this increased use of the computer, it was always very much frowned upon by her (Steiner) school, as they have a strong belief that TV and computer games are damaging to children. I felt it was a good idea to limit these things when A was younger, but the older she gets the more I feel she needs to decide things for herself. To be honest I would be very unhappy with her sitting at the computer for hours on end (not least because when I've done that with studying I end up with really bad headaches) but she doesn't seem to want to do that, at the moment anyway. I certainly think its good for her reading skills - she's still not too interested in reading books - as she is reading a lot of instructions for different games.
We've also been on a home ed group outing to Smarty_Art in Grantown, where we painted some pottery. Afterwards we came home and watched Chaplin's The_Great_Dictator, I'd forgotten how much I love this film - we both laughed a lot, and A also learnt a bit about WW2 through discussions about the film.
A has mentioned that she's missing her school friends, I think the long holiday without seeing them, and then a cancelled sleepover she had really been looking forward to have brought it home a bit. She did see all her old classmates at a birthday party last week, and on one level she had a great time seeing them all, but on another it highlights how they are still a group and she is now an outsider. Its difficult as there's nothing I can do really, but she doesn't seem too upset, and is still enjoying HE and insisting she doesn't want to go to the local school.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


Towards the end of our holiday my brother took us to Beaulieu, where there is the national motor museum, palace house, and what really interested me - the old ruins of a 13th century Cistercian abbey.

I am now an atheist, but was once a devout Catholic considering a vocation, and there is still something about monastic life that appeals to me. Cant quite figure that out, as its all about praying when it comes down to it, so without the belief its a bit pointless. Maybe its the silence.

This big stone was once part of the monks washing facilities.

At a distance I thought this was some kind of cemetery, but its bits of the old abbey

Bit of a doorway thing going on here.
We loved the idea of this 'secret staircase' in the palace house -
weren't allowed up it though!


I really like Winchester.
This was only my second visit there, but my first to the Cathedral. I took loads of photos but most of them were rubbish - my camera seems to take mood swings. Here are a few that aren't too bad.

You can just about make out the green man carved on the end of the pew here.

We managed to find a Montezumas shop in the town, and I did get slightly carried away, ended up spending way too much on their lovely dark chocolate, mmm....

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Scary stuff

One of the places we went to early on in our holiday was Paulton's theme park. My nephews love it there, and go on all the big scary rides. A is not so keen on scary rides, in fact not keen at all on even slightly scary rides! This wasn't helped when she was told not to be 'so silly' by one of the park workers when she changed her mind at the top of a big slide. She came back down the steps looking very dejected then burst into tears. I wanted to go and have a word with the git, but A was already embarressed enough.
Apart from that incident A did enjoy the time spent with her cousins, and there were other things to look at and play on aside from the scary stuff.

M and A - trying to 'drown England' (?)

A little friend we met

The big rollercoaster - only my brother and his boys went on this one.

A in the dungeon.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Rothko and Spinnaker

We managed to get to the Rothko_exhibition at the Tate Modern. It was a great day out - just me and A. I booked online beforehand and was delighted to discover that kids under 12 get in free! We did the whole thing and got the audio guide as I knew very little about Mr Rothko so couldn't offer A much guidance. I think she got a lot out of it, but did say she was a bit disappointed as she hadn't expected so many 'dark' pieces, and prefered the reds and oranges. This is quite interesting (I think anyway), we had gone to another gallery in Southampton before our trip to the Tate, and A had really been enjoying many of the modern pieces there, she then rushed out of one room looking really upset. When I asked her about it she said the paintings were too dark and had made her feel really sad.
I enjoyed learning a bit about Rothko, its not the sort of art I would usually be attracted to, but he was certainly a very interesting person.
After a couple of hours of Rothko we went and had some lunch, then went back and looked around another floor of the gallery. A lovely day.

The Tate Modern Building

A climbing on one of the art installations

One of our first trips while at my brother's was to the Spinnaker_Tower in Portsmouth, where there was an 'Alien Invasion' event. The kids were extremely happy cos they got to meet a real, live dalek!! There were lots of other exhibits from various alien themed films.
There was a glass floor in this 170m high tower, I felt quite ill after taking this photo.

View from the tower

Monday, 10 November 2008


And glad to be!
Had a lovely holiday, went to loads of good places and caught up with lots of nice people, but two-and-a-half weeks was a little too long for me. I get a bit claustrophobic in a house full of people, I'm too used to having my own space I suppose. By the end of two weeks I was just about ready to punch someone, nobody in particular, I just get to the point where I need to be ALONE! Anyway, I managed to get a grip and not punch anyone, but am glad to be home.
A had a great time with her cousins, very few falling out moments. There is only six months between A and my oldest nephew (M), the other one (D) is three years younger (and tends to get left behind a bit, but it doesn't seem to bother him too much). A and M are so different - almost opposites really, but they have always got on really well.
I'll get started with the pics - I took lots so I'll do it in stages over the coming week.

A family day out at Moors_Valley_Country_Park in the New Forest.
An interesting carving A and M having fun
These next two are A taking advantage of the (almost) empty local playpark while her cousins were at school. The orange thing was brilliant - loads of different games involving bashing and kicking
the big silver buttons. I found it very therapeutic.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

We're off!!

We are going away tomorrow for nearly three weeks, so I wont be doing any blogging for a while (will probably do a really long post when we get back - with lots of pics!)

Had a lovely day at Landmark today, with my friend, her two daughters, and another of A's old school friends. Very chilled (in more ways than one - it actually snowed a little bit!).

The famous water slides - not A's cup of tea.

The sun managed to shine a wee bit

The tower - looking up

A with Jess the dog

Good mates

I'm hoping to get into town while we're down South, to take A to the Tate Modern to see the Rothko exhibition. She's shown quite an interest in modern art, so I want to encourage her any way I can. She spent over an hour studying a book I have on Dali the other day, I think thats the longest time she's ever spent looking at a book! We had spent some time online looking at info about Rothko, and she was very enthusiastic about seeing the exhibition. It will be a very expensive day out, a proper treat, but hopefully I'll be able to make it happen.

Not many plans for the rest of the holiday, lots of time with my brother and his family, visiting various relatives, and meeting up with a very old friend I haven't seen for ages. We'll just see what occurs - I'll let you know ;0)