Monday, July 30, 2007

In the Steps of St.Paul

At Shrewsbury I spent some time browsing in a second hand bookshop (bliss! no comments of "Mum ... hurry up!" or "oh no! not another bookshop!") and found a book that immediately jumped out at me as a living book: In the Steps of St.Paul by H.V.Morton. It is part travelogue, and part biography of St.Paul, written in 1936, and I was surprised and pleased to find it is still in print. Here are the first couple of paragraphs as a taster:

I went on deck before sunrise. The storm had backed to the north-west, the sky was clear, and the ship rolled in a long, sullen swell. I hoped to see the pin-prick of the lighthouse on Mount Carmel, but we were still too far from land.

St.Paul must have known this moment: the grey light, the last star, the cold wind, the fusty cargo, the smell of beasts and tar, the movement of the mast against the sky, the smooth pressing forward and the rhythmic hiss of water running back along the sides of the ship. It was good to stand on deck, thinking that this ship might be the Castor and Pollux.
And there I was, 20 pages into the 800 plus of Rebecca Fraser's A People's History of Britain, which I have been meaning to read for ages, and now I am distracted. Tantalisingly, a number of Morton's other books are also still in print. Titles include In the Steps of the Master, In Search of England and A Traveller in Italy. I think I may be off on a pre-war geographical rabbit trail.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Yesterday Tevye gave me a day off (stand up, dear, and take your round of applause!), so I took a day trip to explore a town I have never visited before ... Shrewsbury, setting for Ellis Peters' Cadfael books. In British terms Shrewsbury is a long way from Bedfordshire, but I am an intrepid train traveller. I booked value advance tickets, undaunted by the prospect of a three hour journey, requiring four trains there and three back. Initially the plan went awry when the departures screen showed the very first train running ten minutes late, wiping out all leeway for the first change, but Tevye rose to the occasion and drove me two stations up the line to make the connection. After that every train ran like clockwork, making it a very pleasant and easy journey.

Shrewsbury is a lovely town, well worth a visit. It is built on a hill by a bend in the River Severn, and the combination of the river setting with the up and down streets gives it character. The town centre has a number of old black and white timbered buildings and narrow streets like this one ...

The church in the background was St.Alphage's, one of a number in the town centre, though not all are in regular use. I spent some time in St.Mary's, which was simply stuffed with extraordinary stained glass. This stunning Jesse Tree window dates from the 1340s. It was originally in the Greyfriars (Franciscan) Church, at the Reformation it was moved to the parish church of St.Chads, and then when St.Chad's was damaged beyond repair by the collapse of its tower in the late 18th century, the window was moved again to its current situation ...

The yellow patch near the bottom of the window is the recumbant figure of Jesse, from whom a vine twines upwards to pictures of his descendants, culminating in panels at the top showing Joseph, Mary with the baby Jesus, and the Crucifixion. The colours glow as brightly as they must have done when the window was first made.

Another window that particularly attracted me was a smaller window of 17th century Dutch glass containing a dozen of these delicate roundels. I particularly liked the scene at the top showing the Adoration of the Magi ...

Across the river from the town centre I found the remains of Shrewsbury's Benedictine Abbey, home to Brother Cadfael. The monastic buildings were largely destroyed at the Reformation, and those left were finished off by 19th century road builders - all except an ornate refectory pulpit marooned on the opposite side of the road. Today's church is a shadow of its former self as the original chancel was demolished, leaving just the nave. What is left is little more than half the size of the medieval church. I found it all rather sad, and didn't bother to pay £1 for a licence to take photos of what is left of the Norman interior. At least I managed to eliminate the busy road from this photo ...

From the Abbey I walked back across the English Bridge (at the other side of town is the Welsh Bridge leading, rather predictably, to Wales) and round the remains of the town walls to the "new" St.Chads (an unusual round church built in the 1790s) and the Quarry park. Within the park is an enclosed garden known as The Dingle, converted by the Victorians from an old quarry. I was lucky with the weather, and with the sun shining this garden was beautiful. I sat for a while overlooking the lake and just enjoyed watching the world go by ...

Shrewsbury also boasts the remains of a castle. The Great Hall is now a military museum, but is also used for weddings. Yesterday's wedding party couldn't have picked a better day after all the miserable wet weather we have had ...

Finally, here is a picture of the old Shrewsbury School building (now the public library). In front is a statue of its most famous alumnus, Charles Darwin. Who put that plastic barrier there to spoil the view?

I got home at 9pm tired but relaxed, and very grateful for the luxury of day to myself to explore such a lovely place.

New theme

How do you like my new medieval theme? I was playing with customised themes for my Multiply site and decided to update my Blogger template to match.

In case you wonder, the background is the text of the Magna Carta, and the header picture is of Kenilworth Castle. Both the charter and the castle played an important part in the constitutional history of England. Part of the castle was built by King John, and later in the thirteenth century the governor of the castle was Simon de Montfort, sometimes known (not entirely accurately) as the "father of the English Parliament", During the Barons' War of 1263-5 Simon kept both the king's son and brother prisoner here.

Shame this neat constitutional link was entirely accidental and I only realised it after making the changes. The real reason I chose that picture was that it fit neatly in the header!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Tiny Tot

You know your almost 14 month old is built on a very, very miniature scale when you buy her a cute little knitted dress and jeans set in the Next sale (aside: tell me, who would pay £21 for one baby outfit?) in a 6 to 9 month size ... and still have to roll up the legs on the jeans to stop her tripping over them!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thursday Thirteen 14: Round the World

Thirteen countries on my tourist wish list (excluding any I have already visited) ...

1. Peru. Maybe I read too much Paddington Bear as a child.

2. Mali. I want to visit Timbuktu.

3. Botswana. I was going to put South Africa (which Tevye says is the most beautiful place he has ever visited), but the 1st Ladies Detective Agency makes Botswana sound appealing.

4. Egypt. To unleash my inner archaeologist.

5. India. One of the legacies of empire is lots of Indian-themed British literature (Kipling, Rumer Godden ...), which has caught my interest.

6. Tibet. On the list thanks to a combination of Michael Palin's Himalaya documentary and this book.

7. Japan. Ancient and modern. And I love sushi.

8. New Zealand. All that natural beauty. Think Lord of the Rings, which was filmed there.

9. Maldives. For that lazy holiday on a tropical island ...

10. Norway. Natural beauty again, with northerliness (is that a word?).

11. Austria. I have always loved Elinor Brent-Dyer's Chalet School books, and it would be so fun to visit Achensee, which is the real-life Tiernsee, setting for many of the books.

12. Greenland. Because I don't know anyone who has been there.

13. United States of America. Last, but by no means least!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What Byzantine Emperor are you?

You’re Constantine The Great!

Though he did not accept baptism until the very end of his days, Constantine was the first Christian Roman Emperor. His Edict of Milan put an end to institutionalized persecution of Christians in the Empire. He convened the first ecumenical council, the Council of Nicea, to settle major doctrinal and disciplinary disputes. Though it has become fashionable to portray Constantine as a ruthless suppressor of paganism, that is a caricature, based on almost no evidence. He is better represented by one of his famous pleas for tolerance: “Let those who delight in error alike with those who believe partake of the advantages of peace … Let no one disturb another, let each man hold fast to that which his soul wishes … What each man has adopted as his persuasion, let him do no harm with this to another.” Constantine condemned “violent opposition to wicked error.” The Orthodox venerate him as a saint.

Find out which Byzantine ruler you are at The Way of the Fathers!

HT: Studeo

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Digital Art

In the past month or so things keep falling apart on us. The list of casualties includes Henry the Hoover, Tevye's mobile phone, the Freeview box (this gives us digital TV and extra channels - a kind of halfway house between standard terrestrial TV and satellite / cable), a lamp, and our digital camera. In one month. What is going on?

At least it means we now have a new, better digital camera (though we still languish firmly at the bottom end of the market). It has more buttons and many more settings than the old one, a whopping six megapixels compared to our previous three, and it will take close ups without dissolving into an unfocused fuzz. Star is my budding photographer, and is enjoying experimenting. Here is her latest work of art. Very minimalist!

It finally stopped raining long enough to take our much postponed trip to Wicksteed Park today. Did I remember to take the new camera? No!


MacBooks have a very neat magnetic connection between the power lead and the computer. It is so simple to use, even a one year old could do it. Repeatedly.

Don't ask me how I know this.

Fishy feet

Angel: What was that fish I liked when we were in Greece? I think it had something to do with a shoe?

Tevye: Sole ...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Cleaner than a whistle!

My blog rating ...

Free Online Dating

Not a single bad word to its name ... unlike the PG-rated Margaret in Minnesota and Katherine. Of course, I can't tell you what they said, without risking my unblemished reputation.

(Mind you, I did have an urge to jump up and down shouting rude and juvenile words, just to see what the bloggy thing would say about it. But I resisted.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007


As I have no homeschooling plans to put together for next year, my mind has turned to Little Cherub. Yes, yes. I know she is only thirteen months old. And I learned a lesson about overdoing early education with my poor experimental first child. But still ...

When Angel was small I dabbled a little with Montessori. Read a couple of books, and started (but never finished) making various manipulatives. I did manage to teach her to put on a coat Montessori-style, but that was about it. Star came along, and somehow time to make materials and prepare an environment went out the window. I discovered literature-based learning and Charlotte Mason and forgot about Montessori.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about Montessori education on the 4 Real Learning boards, and it has inspired me to think about this for Little Cherub. This time round I have time - at least in theory - to prepare Montessori activities (buying anything more than a select few isn't an option), and should also find it easier to create and maintain a suitable environment. Space is an issue, but with some creativity I should be able to manage. If I ever finish decluttering, that is.

There are a number of things that appeal to me ...

  • the emphasis on practical life activities and fostering independence. I can see Little Cherub going the same way as her eldest sister ("I do it mine self! I do everything mine self!": Angel, aged 2) and this could help to minimise frustration.
  • the ordered environment in which everything has its place and in which the child can function freely.
  • freedom within limits. I like the idea that she can choose which activities to work on so that she can learn at her own pace.
  • the materials. Many of them look so appealing and I can see how they would be enjoyable for a child to use while also being educational.
  • lots of ideas for learning activities, which I hope would mean a child who was busy rather than bored.
On the other hand I know I would never be able to be a Montessori purist as I can't resist changing and adapting. Certain aspects do not sit well with me ...
  • I understand Montessori discourages imaginative play, and that bothers me.
  • I wonder how well Montessori would work with just one child. While it would certainly give me time to prepare and present materials, and to observe her needs, I suspect it could become too intense.
  • My understanding is that Montessori materials are presented in a highly sequential way, and my older girls - Star in particular - have often learned in leaps rather than a steady progression. How would this work with Montessori?
  • Is Montessori an all or nothing approach? I know I would end up picking and choosing parts and leaving others, and wonder if this would undermine the whole idea.
Lots to think about here, and to plan for. I'm afraid what would be typical of me would be to jump in with enthusiasm, spend a year or so making Montessori materials and then switch directions at the last minute and never use them. Either that or to spend too long thinking and then never put the plans into action. Can I manage a happy medium? Think ... decide ... construct ... implement. Maybe.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Got it.

Read it.

Enjoyed it.

Normal service is now resumed.

Friday, July 20, 2007

It's raining ...

... it's pouring (again), and we have postponed our planned trip to Wicksteed Park for the second week running. This was the view from our house this morning ...

... and our back garden ...

But at least there is one silver lining to the clouds ...

If I'm not blogging over the next few days, it's because I'm reading.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #13: Summer

Thirteen ways to enjoy summer, despite the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, wet and miserable weather we have had for the past two months ...

1. Wear yellow.

2. Drink Pimms and lemonade. With ice.

3. If the sun comes out for five minutes, drop everything and go outside.

4. Listen to Summer from Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

5. Get some holiday brochures and fantasise about long and expensive breaks in the sun.

6. Have crab sandwiches and strawberries with clotted cream for tea.

7. Chill a nice bottle of Chardonnay.

8. Sing silly summer songs ... We're All Going on a Summer Holiday; Oh, I Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside; Didn't We Have a Lovely Time the Day We Went To Bangor. (Did I hear you say I'm Singing in the Rain? Don't even think it!)

9. Scrapbook photos from last summer. They may remind you what sun looks like.

10. Read Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K.Jerome and think about lazy summer days on the river. (Swallows and Amazons and Coot Club would also do nicely.)

11. Add a nice summer wallpaper to your desktop ... maybe this one, or this.

12. Buy lots of summer flowers.

13. Read Jennifer's blog and dream about life on a boat in Florida. Sunny Florida.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Spelling Test

I passed!

HT: Studeo

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I'll never be late again

Not now that I have discovered GOOGLE CALENDAR!!!!!!!!

(I admit it may be an exaggeration to say I will never be late again, but at least I no longer have an excuse for double booking myself or forgetting something completely.)

I saw a calendar in someone's sidebar, clicked, experimented, and fell in love. I have planning mania, remember, and this is planning heaven. So far I have set up calendars for each member of the family, a general family calendar, my daily routine, and a schedule of the girls' weekly activities. Tevye and I can both view and amend them from any computer, and it is incredibly user friendly - click Quick Add, type "birthday party 2pm next Friday", and up it will pop in the right place. Cool!

It gets better. You can search for public calendars to add. So far I have ...

  • Catholic liturgical calendar for England
  • Jewish holy days
  • Kids activities in Bedfordshire
So I can see at a glance that Friday is the feast of St.Apollinaris, and Saturday is Shabbat Hazon (whatever that is!). On Sunday we could go to a Pirates and Mermaids Adventure Day at a country park, take part in a Weekend of Wizardry at a shopping centre (no prizes for guessing what that's about), watch the planes at a model aeroplane weekend, or go to an archaeology fun day. Or at least, we could if we weren't going to Mass in the morning and the girls to a birthday party in the afternoon - but I had no idea about any of these events!

Individual calendars can be pulled up separately, or in any combination.

You can share calendars with friends!

You can put them on your web page, or in your blog!
(ETA: Take a look at my sidebar.)

Oh, the fun! The possibilities!

It's all too much. It has turned me into a walking exclamation mark!!!!!!!!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hey! Look what I found in my ear!

What do you mean it's supposed to go in my mouth?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Mmmm! Cappuccino!

Inspired by a friend's mysterious disappearing post I found this ...

You Are a Cappuccino

You're fun, outgoing, and you love to try anything new.
However, you tend to have strong opinions on what you like.
You are a total girly girly at heart - and prefer your coffee with good conversation.
You're the type that seems complex to outsiders, but in reality, you are easy to please

Friday, July 13, 2007

Before and After: Decluttering Task 5

Another task finished!

Before ...

... and after

The white wicker baskets are from Ikea. The larger basket on the right is for books. The other baskets hold toys which I plan to rotate - currently there are blocks, a tea set, a doll with a few accessories, a few small toys and one of those things where you bang balls through holes with a hammer. She also has a puzzle, chunky crayons and a push-along dog accessible. It will be nice not to have toys stacked on the floor.

The yellow Thing on the top shelf is an iPal, won in a raffle at Angel's music school concert. It looks like a furry alien, but is in fact iPod / MP3 speakers. Angel and Star were delighted with their good fortune; Tevye has been heard to mutter the words "poisoned chalice". Tell me, where would you put a set of speakers carefully disguised in bright yellow fur? On second thoughts, maybe better not!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #12: One Year Olds

Thirteen things I love about just turned one year olds ...

1. Giggles and tickles.
2. Hugs. Little Cherubs idea of a hug is more of a snuggle.
3. Determination ... I am a baby on a mission. I will get that toy / phone / remote control.
4. Delight ... I got it! I did it!
5. Words that come out sounding as though they are spoken by a small, squeaky robot.
6. Dawning understanding of the world around them. Plug? Electric socket? Oh yes! I know what to do with that! (And yes, we do have those child safety socket covers. Fortunately.)
7. Recognition. Beaming smiles when they spot their family and friends.
8. Stickiness. The sign of a baby who enjoys her food.
9. Curiosity. What's going on? What am I missing? I need to know!
10. Feet. Still baby feet.
11. Shoes. Her feet grew and we found some that fit. Is there anything cuter than little feet in their first shoes?
12. Dinky little summer dresses. Shame there is no summer weather to go with them.
13. A little warm, snuggly person sleeping on my lap.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

First day of school

Today was Angel and Star's first day at school! The schools here have an "intake day" near the end of the school year when children who are moving schools go to their new school for the day, and others have a taster day in their new year groups. They get to meet their new teachers and classmates, to learn their way round the school, and generally find out what to expect when the new academic year starts in September.

So, by eight o'clock this morning both Angel and Star were dressed in a passing imitation of school uniform (black trousers / white shirt), bags and lunches packed, and ready to go. Angel's personal spies had already found out for her what class she would be in; Star still had to wait and see. Angel spurned the offer of a lift in favour of walking with J-next-door; A-next-door opted to come in the car with Star and myself. We regrouped at the school, checked in, and I left Angel waiting to be taken off to her new classroom, and Star in the school hall with 130 or so other new Year 5s waiting to be allocated to their classes.

Fast forward seven hours ... Angel waves "hi and goodbye" to me as I wait for Star and heads back home on foot; Star emerges tired and over-excited but happy.

How did it go? Both girls are happy with their new classes. Angel is not with any of her close friends, but is with a good friend of J-next-door she already knew, and they have teamed up happily. Her classroom is the IT suite (IT = information technology = computers), which is considered a perk as they get swivelly office-style chairs and a computer on their desk. However, it does mean they have to go to other rooms for most of their lessons so end up as a peripatetic class. They also have the teacher reputed to be the nicest of the Year 8 class tutors. As well as some introductory stuff they had three taster lessons - history, music and "food technology" (which in my day was known as cookery!). History was declared boring, music good, and food tech "a bit odd" (they couldn't do any cooking today, so ended up writing "healthy" menus). At lunch time Angel went on a mission to find out the name of every child in the Year 8 playground, all 150 of them. "I knew quite a lot of the girls," she said, "but none of the boys, so I went up to everyone I didn't know and asked who they were." Right. You know how it is with homeschooled children. They suffer from lack of socialisation and find it very hard to mix with others. Not.

Star found herself in a class with R, one of her closest friends, and another old friend, H. These three went to nursery together as tinies; R went to one school, H to another and Star to none at all, and now there they are sitting in a row at middle school. What goes around, comes around! Star also has another friend from Brownies with her. She is happy, and so am I ... if I could have picked her classmates I couldn't have done better. Her class teacher, Mr.W is reputed to be nice but quite strict, which is just exactly what Star needs. They spent most of the day on "getting to know you" games and activities.

Of course, today was a fun day and it will all be different once real work starts next term, but I'm happy the girls have got off to a good start. I had no doubt that Angel would settle easily, but being with these particular friends bodes very well for Star.

As for myself and Little Cherub ... we had a good day. I decluttered my wardrobe and got rid of two bags of clothes, then in the afternoon took Cherub to the library and to the toddler group at our Church, where she almost came to blows with a small boy over possession of a toy mobile phone. Cherub may be small, but like her eldest sister is not shy and retiring!

One year ago

Now that is funny!

Inspired by Willa I decided to look back at my blog one year ago. My entry for today's date was about a family trip to Wicksteed Park. Guess where we are planning to go on Friday? Yes ... Wicksteed Park.

Most of my posts from July 2006 were about my plans for this last school year. Who would have guessed that this summer our school plans would be of an entirely different kind? Not me, for sure. Karen E has been putting planning in perspective on her blog. Don't miss these two posts, here and here for her thoughts on five year plans.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Picture of Now Meme

I saw this meme at Alicia's Studeo blog, and as I am sitting with my feet up and a sleeping Little Cherub on my lap I thought I'd play ...

A picture of now, between past and future.

1. a. Describe your outfit. Cropped beige trousers, green t-shirt, blue crocs. Coincidentally very much like my Meez.

b. What associations does the main color evoke? Oooh ... green! ... grass, trees, the English countryside in July during a wet summer.

c. Is there a memory associated with that outfit (or part of
I bought the trousers to take to Corfu in May, so I associate them with holiday memories.

2. a. Are you listening to music? No. It is quiet except for Star shouting downstairs asking where some clothes are, and Angel and Star chatting upstairs.

b. Was this intentional? No. But now I notice the silence I am appreciating it!

c. What does the music make you remember? ----

3. a. Describe the objects within arm's reach. My nice new Macbook. A sleeping baby - very cute, in green cropped trousers and a flowery top, and snoring slightly. Three books: (1) A Weight Watchers cookbook. I defrosted turkey steaks to use for dinner but have no idea what I want to do with them and think I remembered seeing a couple of recipes in this particular book (2) Ladybird's Toddlers: Things I Like Best, (3) The Story of France, by Eleanor Doorly. A little baby hair elastic with a bow, pulled out of hair by the baby. The phone.

b. Choose one object and tell where you acquired it. The Story of France ... bought three years ago to add to my collection of narrative history books for children. A dear friend and I went for a weekend of manic book shopping in Hay-on-Wye, the book town, just before she returned to live in the US.

c. On the whole, are the objects new (memory blanks) or old (memory filled)? A mixture. The Things I Like Best book was one that both Angel and Star liked as Toddlers, so is memory filled, along with The Story of France. The rest are memory blanks. Apart, of course, from the baby, who is a memory in progress.

4. a. What room are you in? The living room

b. To what extent is it yours? Ours. Very much the main family room.

c. What kind of memories will you have in the future of this
Playing, talking, reading aloud, homeschooling, watching TV and DVDS, using the computer, toys, games, laughing, crying, children dancing and doing gymnastics ... children ... family ...

4. What were you doing before starting this post, and what would you like to do next? Playing Who Wants to be a Millionaire online with Star. Next? Unpack the organic fruit and veg box that has just arrived. And yes, the doorbell did wake the baby, who has now been taken off to watch Angel and Star perform gymnastics with beanie babies - beanie baby gym competitions were an old favourite game; Star has just been sorting the beanie babies, so they obviously decided to relive the past.

As I no longer have the sleeping baby excuse, I'd better go and tackle those boxes! And then see if I can find a recipe that will match up any of the vegetables with the turkey steaks.

No tags. If you want to do this meme, go ahead!

Before and After: Decluttering Task 2

After a trip to IKEA yesterday I spent the evening working on my understairs cupboard - task number two from my decluttering list. This cupboard contained a jumble of sewing and knitting, small cleaning tools, photos, scrapbooking stuff, and old family photos and memorabilia. And Henry, now in a state of suspended animation. (Thanks to the intentions of our favourite domestic appliance repair man, his motor runs again, but the switch still won't stay down. Repair Man has gone away to research the finer points of Henrys before trying again.)

Before ...
After ...
All the craft items except my scrapbooking bits and pieces are now in the baskets, along with the photos. Four baskets are still empty waiting for various items of stationery and computer clutter that I need to clear out of my messy desk (task one). Cleaning things and bags are neatly on top of the storage unit, and the memorabilia is stacked neatly at the far end of the cupboard. It turned out to be a long job - I didn't finish until after midnight - as although I had carefully measured the cupboard, I forgot to work out how to get the storage unit through the door. Oops! In the end we had to partially dismantle it, then rebuild it in situ. Henry is going to have to find a new home in the garage (assuming he can be resuscitated), and the scrapbooking box will eventually go into our bedroom, once I have done task six and cleared out the wardrobes.

Overall I am making good progress with the list. Task four - filing the girls' notebook pages - is done and I am part way through five ... I have moved the reference books into the space left by the notebook folders, and am part way through organising shelves for Little Cherub. My IKEA shopping trawl included some baskets for her toys that will work nicely here. More before and after photos to follow soon, I hope.

Little Cherub also now has her own little table and chairs. We still have those we got for Angel and Star, but they are too large for our tiny Cherub to use comfortably. The cheap set I bought yesterday are much less sturdy, but are Cherub sized and will work nicely until she grows into the others.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Big sisters, little sister

Over the past few days I have been reflecting on our family dynamic since the arrival of Little Cherub. Before Cherub was born I pictured a two-fold family dynamic with the older girls as a pair and Cherub as the adored baby (which indeed she is!). In fact, Angel's leap in maturity over the past year or so has turned things triangular, with all three at very distinct stages. Angel is an almost-teenager, very involved in outside activities; Star is still firmly in mid-childhood; and Little Cherub is an almost-toddler.

I am finding that this poses particular challenges I hadn't anticipated. (Ha! Isn't that always true of parenthood!) At the moment each of the girls needs individual attention to a greater degree than was the case when both Angel and Star were younger and spent a lot of time playing together. Now their interests are different, and they increasingly go to different places at different times (or worse, different places at the same time). While they can still be good companions for each other, the difference in maturity levels means there is also more conflict than there used to be. Star in particular is very needy of one-on-one time. Little Cherub, of course, gets lots of love and attention from her sisters, but will always in some respects be more like an only child. With no sibling close in age she has no real playmate, and will still be a child when her sisters are young adults. Once the two older girls go to school building in family time and finding activities that work for everyone is going to be a challenge, but one we need to meet if we want our family to be more than just a collection of individuals doing their own thing.

Another aspect of having a little one after a long gap that I had not anticipated is the way it constantly reminds me of Angel's and Star's younger days. Before Cherub, I was focused on the present, only noticing the stage they had reached at that time and forgetting what went before. Now I see reminders of their baby days, toddler years and young childhood at every turn. I look forward to doing things with Cherub all the more for being able to remember the fun of doing them with the older girls ... but then I miss those days! Somehow the past seems to impinge more on the present than it did before Cherub arrived, and it is easier to see the girls' childhood and adolescence as an organic whole. Being better able to see the toddler and young child in the older child or teenager can only be a good thing, I think, and is an unanticipated benefit of having a wider age spread in the family.

Of course, the problem with family dynamics is that they are constantly in a state of flux. I may feel I have got to grips with where we are now and the implications that has for the needs of each child, but next year it may all seem entirely different.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Computer heaven

What a difference a few weeks make! Back at the end of May I was in the computer doldrums, battling with email and connection problems, and hating my Windows Vista laptop which has developed a faulty DVD drive before it was two months old. Now the various problems are resolved, I have returned the laptop and replaced it with one of these ...

Yes, we are now officially a fully converted Mac family, with this little MacBook added to our iMac. No more Windows Vista! If you don't think computers can be cute, take a look at a MacBook ... "it's adorable!" sighed Star as we took it out of the box. It is the slowest, lowest spec version, but we love it.

Our new little beauty is a reconditioned MacBook. Buying reconditioned meant that we paid little more than the refund we received on our cheap Windows laptop - which I bought because I thought a MacBook would be way out of my price range. Since then I discovered that the online Apple Store lists available reconditioned models daily. The prices vary, but all are significantly less than the list price. The computers are either ex-demo or returned under the Apple warranty. Any faulty components are replaced with brand new ones, the machines are refurbished to factory standards, rigorously tested, and come with a one year warranty. The website warns that there may be some minor cosmetic flaws, but ours was immaculate.

The Meez below shows me happily in MacBook computer heaven ...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Which one is Meez?

Ruth at Just Another Day in Paradise has been collecting Meez. Here are mine (I couldn't manage to limit myself to just one) ...

It wouldn't let me eat chocolate cake while using the laptop, but it did let me wear my blue Crocs. I hope you are impressed by the tidy desk in the background. My real one is beginning to have a hotspot problem that needs dealing with!

But then again, I didn't want to just stay home with my laptop - this is our out-and-about season. I dithered between rollercoasters and the zoo, but the zoo was aesthetically more pleasing so I decided to take Little Cherub there.

You can make your own Meez here.

Thursday Thirteen #11: Devilish machines

A bit tongue in cheek here ... thirteen devilish machines I wish had never been invented:

1. Aeroplanes - how much more exciting travel must have been when the world was a larger place. And I love boats and trains.

2. Telephones - they always ring at the most inconvenient times. Perversely, I would keep mobile phones, as I like being able to text.

3. Televisions - although I watch a bit, I could easily live without it, and I'm sure many people's lives would be richer without them.

4. Lifts (elevators) - I can never quite trust that they are not about to plunge to the bottom of the shaft.

5. Remote controls - think of all the calories I could use up by having to get off the sofa.

6. Patio heaters - if it is too cold to sit outside, sit inside!

7. Electronic toys - anything plastic that bleeps, squeaks, plays electronic music and flashes. Worst are those toys that pretend to teach under-ones to count and learn their ABC.

8. Car alarms - no more being woken with a start when somebody's alarm goes off all of its own accord.

9. Parking meters - free parking for all, I say!

10. Barriers at car parks - I am always convinced they are going to come down on top of my car, so entering and leaving car parks is a stressful experience.

11. Alarm clocks - ugh!

12. Electric light - think how romantic it would be to use oil lamps and candles. (Yes, I know. It wouldn't exactly be convenient.)

13. The spinning jenny - as I am in Luddite mode ...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

For Karen ...

... and any other forty-something chocaholics who read this blog.

Little Cherub and the Chocolate Factory

Today's trip out was to a chocolate factory. Heaven. Or, more accurately, Cadbury World. Here are some highlights, erratically illustrated with photos as my camera batteries were flat and I only managed to coax it to take a few. (Yes, I know. Always carry spare batteries.)

Meeting up with friends who live near Cadbury World and meeting their gorgeous new baby. "Ooh!" said Little Cherub, " 'ook! 'at! " (Look! That!). "That" was a five-and-a-half week old cutie, who slept contentedly in her pushchair and sling. And I didn't get a photo :(.

Finding out how favourite confections are made (no photos allowed in the actual production area) ...

Angel and Star finding out how they would look if turned into chocolate (bad photo!) ...

Experiencing life as a chocolate bean ... shaken, winnowed and roasted!

Liquid chocolate, pumped over a delicacy of one's choice. Angel chose marshmallows; Star chose Midget Gems (chewy, wine gum like sweets. Icky, with or without chocolate.) ...

Free samples!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

FLYing: Daily Routines

Even after nearly a month I am still having to check my list. Will I ever reach a point where it becomes automatic? And somehow I never manage to do it all - one bathroom gets swished but not the other, or I don't get round to hotspots, or whatever. Still, things are running noticeably more smoothly, so I'm hanging in there.

Change and dress Little Cherub
Load washer
Swish bathrooms (sink and toilet)
Shower and dress
Bedroom hotspots

After breakfast
Stack dishwasher
Wipe table, high chair and worksurfaces
Defrost dinner (if not already done)
Hang laundry

Later afternoon
Prepare dinner
Empty dishwasher (if necessary)
Empty kitchen bin and recycling
Sort and put away laundry
Tidy living room
Living room hotspots
Straighten bedroom
Check girls' rooms

Empty dishwasher
Defrost dinner for tomorrow
Kitchen hotspots
Stairs hotspot

Sunday, July 01, 2007

FLYing: Weekly Routine

I have been reviewing the FlyLady routines I set up a few weeks ago. I have just about been keeping my head above water with basic cleaning, and have managed a bit of decluttering, but decided they needed tweaking and making a bit more detailed in the light of experience. In an attempt to keep myself accoutable, I'm posting them here. This is my revised weekly routine ...


  • Dust bedrooms
  • Vacuum bedrooms
  • Empty bins
  • Clean bath
  • Wash bathroom floors
  • Clean shower tray
  • Clean shower screen
  • Do a zone mission
  • 15 minutes declutter in zone
  • Clean in zone
  • Update personal finances
  • 15 minutes declutter in zone
  • Clean in zone
  • Change beds
  • Clean mirrors
  • Check and refresh pot pourri
  • Change table cloth
  • Empty magazine rack
  • Flowers
  • 27 fling boogie
  • Dust living room and dining room
  • Vacuum living room and dining room
  • Empty bins
  • Clean kitchen surfaces
  • Clean kitchen sink
  • Wash kitchen floor
  • Clean cooker hob and front
  • Wipe tiles
  • Plan menu
  • Order groceries
  • Ironing
  • Catch up!
I'm aiming to do most jobs, most weeks, but there will inevitably be days when I don't manage anything, or only a small part of my list. If I can manage 75% in an average week I'll be happy - over time everything should get done reasonably often.


... is the look on the face of a baby who has just discovered how to blow a kazoo, and has realised that all that delicious noise came from her.

And that she can do it again.

And again.