Honey Biscuits by Meredith Hooper
rating: 5 of 5 stars
The perfect picture book for a toddler or young child who likes to cook. A little boy and his gran make honey biscuits. On one level the entire book is a recipe, but it goes further by explaining where the ingredients come from. What do we need? A cow! To turn grass into milk that is shaken to make butter ... and so on, through all the different items. Little Cherub adores this book, and the honey biscuits we made were yummy too.
Published in the US as A Cow, A Bee, A Cookie, And Me (out of print)
ETA: Also published in the US as Honey Cookies (in print)
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Honey Biscuits by Meredith Hooper
"Governments on both sides of the Atlantic are going to have to decide how far they want to bail out banks." The Bookworm, 12 July 2008Why bother with the BBC or Sky News when you can come to the Bookworm for incisive economic analysis, spiced with the doings of charming toddlers and snapshots of bookshelves?
Seriously, I looked back on my random economic thoughts post to see if my opinions on the current economic mess had changed in the light of recent events. They haven't. I still think it is largely a crisis of capitalism, where the financial markets have been forced to recognise that hypothetical values bear no relation to reality. I certainly wouldn't want to be a banker right now, because I'm sure the convulsions among banks will go on for a while. However, I'm going to throw in a little optimism ...
On the macro level, the financial markets tend to overcompensate. Mass selling hysteria takes over but it doesn't last, and once the hysteria wears off everything bounces back to a stable level. The more solid banks will come out the other end stronger. While things were never as golden as they were painted over the past few years, they are also probably going to be painted as blacker than they really are. Painting things black tends to suit the media. I notice there is a lot of "it has never been this bad" around, but I don't agree. I don't think the current crisis is worse than others I remember, just different.
On the micro level, I'm noticing a lot more Sold signs on properties. If that is anything to go by, it suggests the housing market - at least in our local area - is no longer in free fall. Also, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. This morning Tevye read out a statistic from the newspaper, that the amount lent in mortgages in August 2008 was 95% down from August 2007. That sounds dire, but only tells part of the story. A significant part of the mortgage market was people switching lenders for a better deal, not people buying properties. That isn't happening any more. Take re-mortgages out of the equation and I bet you would get a very different statistic, but nobody seems to be mentioning it. Remember what I said about painting things black?
ETA: I did a bit of research into mortgage statistics, and found this article which suggests I am at least mostly on the right track. There are still more remortgages than I allowed for (I forgot about remortgages by people coming to the end of fixed rate deals), but the number of loans for house purchases have been fairly stable in 2008 after falling by around 50% during the second half of 2007. The article concludes:
The mortgage market has contracted over the past year and business levels will undoubtedly remain low for the immediate future. However, the statistics show a market which appears to have been rumbling along at a reasonably constant rate during 2008 and which is not, as some headlines would have us believe, continuing to nosedive.
Monday, September 29, 2008
As I have at least two readers I know will to be interested, I thought I'd share what we are doing for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), which starts tonight and finishes on Wednesday evening.
As a mixed Catholic-Jewish family we have always celebrated the major Jewish festivals at home, but although we have a number of family traditions for Hannukah and Passover, nothing has really stuck for Rosh Hashanah. Tevye goes to the synagogue, but at home we haven't done much more than bake traditional honey cake. This year I bought a book from Amazon which sounded as though it would be a good resource to help us make more of the Jewish New Year ... Apples and Pomegranates: a Family Seder for Rosh Hashanah by Rahel Musleah. The "seder" is a simple order of service based around a meal including eight foods that have traditional connections with the festival. Each food has its own section of the book, with prayers, a short story, things to think about and often a related activity. At the end there is an an abbreviated version of the traditional blessing after meals, a few simple songs and recipes. The prayers are given in Hebrew, Hebrew transliterated into the western alphabet and an English translation.
Using the whole seder would be too much for us, but tomorrow night we are going to start dinner with the blessings for Rosh Hashanah and the prayers and stories for two foods (apples and honey, and pomegranates). Depending on everyone's attention span, we may end with the abbreviated version of the traditional grace after meals included in the book. Normally we would aim to do this on the first evening, but outside commitments mean the timing just doesn't work out this year.
This morning Little Cherub and I baked honey cake and honey biscuits (cookies) - sweet foods for a sweet year. The honey biscuits were a serendipitous extra. I had ordered the book Honey Biscuits by Meredith Hooper from the library without making the connection at all ... so there I had, all unplanned, a suitable activity for Little Cherub.
Wishing you all a good year. Shana tova!
Outside My Window ... a bright, breezy autumn day and a mowed lawn.
I am thinking ... of logistics for this evening. I have various children to collect and distribute from dance and Guides, and no car for the later part of the evening as Tevye needs it.
From the learning rooms (school) ... Angel bought home a ten page booklet detailing her curriculum for this term - what she will study, what homework to expect, what we can do to help.
I am thankful for ... my new washing machine. It takes a larger load and will cut the number of washes I need to do significantly. It also tells me exactly how many minutes it has left to run. After a machine that could take anything from 50 minutes to 4 hours, randomly, this is a big deal!
From the kitchen ... honey cake and honey biscuits for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) which starts this evening.
I am wearing ... dark blue jeans, grey jumper (sweater), blue Crocs, mother-of-pearl disc pendant necklace.
I am creating ... a sweet New Year
I am going ... to have words with whoever put away an "empty" biscuit tin which turned out to be full of chocolate biscuits. Very old chocolate biscuits.
I am reading ... National Geographic
I am hoping ... I can find my iPod Touch. I think it has fallen out of my pocket somewhere in the house. But where? I had it this morning.
I am hearing ... near silence. A very faint hum of traffic and the whirr of the fan on the computer.
Around the house ... new picture books waiting to be put away.
One of my favorite things ... bagels from the Jewish deli. A supermarket bagel is to a deli bagel as cheap instant coffee is to Starbuck's.
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... maybe a trip to the zoo, playing in a brass band concert on Saturday, otherwise just our normal routine. Which is busy enough in itself.
Here is picture thought I am sharing ... finger painted feet!
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Down to the bottom shelf of the living room bookcase, which holds my scrapbook albums and more reference books. This shelf is deeper, so has some of the larger books - mainly art, nature and geography. Sharing three of my favourites:
Animals of the World (Martin Walters and Jinny Johnson). This book is one of a series of children's reference books that were around in discount book stores several years ago. I bought this one from the supermarket for £5, and it has been one of our most used reference books. If Angel and Star want to look up something about an animal, or to find a picture of an animal to draw, this is the book that always comes out. It is a thorough encyclopedia, with lots of detail, and seems to have just the right balance of text and pictures. It is arranged as a series of double page spreads in seven sections: simple animals; worms, snails and starfish; insects and other arthropods; fish; amphibians and reptiles; birds; and mammals. I particularly like the way it is so comprehensive. Plenty of books have information on elephants or crocodiles, but not so many include protists and bristleworms. One of my best book buys. It looks as though it is still available under the title World of Animals.
Children of Britain Just Like Me (Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley). This British version is less well known than their original book Children Just Like Me, looking at real children around the world. It has a very similar format, with photographic illustrations and snippets of text about different aspects of each individual child's life. The children featured come from varied locations, cultures and backgrounds, ranging from a Jewish girl in London, to a farmer's son from the Scottish Highlands, to a circus child ... and so on. Non-fiction books for children about life in modern Britain are hard to come by, and this is one of the best I've found.
Heaven and Earth: Unseen by the Naked Eye (David Malin and Katherine Roucoux) is a coffee table book (for strong coffee tables - it's heavy!) of photographs taken using microscopes and telescopes. It begins with the micro (a gold atom) and moves out gradually to end with galaxies and the universe. Amazing pictures.
My friend Shari at Saint Anthony's Hobbit Homeschool has decided to join the fun, so do go and poke through her bookshelves too.
Title: We Gather Together: Celebrating the Harvest Season
Author: Wendy Pfeffer
Illustrator: Linda Bleck
Age Suitability: 4 to 8
I wanted a book that would be suitable to mark the beginning of autumn and the harvest without being too new agey, and that is exactly what I got.
We Gather Together begins by talking about preparations for winter, followed by an explanation of the autumn equinox, and a brief history of the origins crop-growing. This is followed by a section on different harvest festivals around the world, ranging from the Jewish Sukkot to Thanksgiving. At the end is a section with equinox facts and a few activities. The illustrations are bright and clear, and the text a good length to read in one session. The scientific activities would work well for a school aged child.
All in all a nice book, and one I can see us using regularly in September once Little Cherub is a year or two older. The only slight downside from my perspective is that some of the content is a bit American oriented ... which is fair enough, as the book is American, but we have blackberries and hedgehogs rather than cranberries and chipmunks, for example, so can't identify with some of the text the way an American reader would.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
The middle shelf of the living room bookcase has mostly reference books, padded out with a couple of notebooks, a few catalogues and old genealogy and scrapbooking magazines. There is an old two volume Black's Children's Encyclopedia from my childhood, Kingfisher Encyclopedias (general, history and science) that I picked up cheaply at various times, children's history encyclopedias, a dictionary or two, a Bible handbook, a natural history book and these three ...
The Oxford Children's Book of Famous People ... a very useful reference book for homeschoolers or school-goers. If you want just a couple of paragraphs of readable but not over simplified information about A.N.Other famous person, there is a fair chance you will find it in this book. Opening a page at random, I found Kenneth Grahame, Cary Grant, Ulysses S.Grant, Graham Greene, (Pope) Gregory I and Wayne Gretzky.
The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of the Ancient World. I like Usborne reference books, particularly the internet-linked ones. They have enough illustration to suit a visual learner, and enough text to introduce a topic without being overwhelming. The Encyclopedia of the Ancient World is divided fairly equally between Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, with a a couple of pages on early civilizations and a section on Mesopotamia tacked on the beginning. This book, a computer (to look up the links) and some historical fiction titles set in the ancient world, would almost be a complete mid-level course in ancient history. I say almost, as the book's shortcoming is that it doesn't touch on Old Testament history.
Enid Blyton's Nature Lover's Book ... is misfiled on this shelf. I only bought it recently, and it hasn't found its proper home yet. If you live in the UK and want "living" nature books, this one is a must. It is a new (2008) reprint of a book first published in 1944 and later split up into a series of smaller paperbacks. The largest part of the book is a series of fictional nature walks (two for each month of the year), followed by short descriptions of flowers, birds and trees, nature poems - both by Enid herself and by rather more accomplished poets - and a few short nature stories.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I have been tagged by Missus Wookie for a random facts meme. I did a ten random facts one a couple of years ago, but I reckon I can come up with a few more.
The "rules" of the game are as follows:
1. Post the rules on your blog
2. Write 6 random things about yourself
3. Tag 6 people at the end of your post
4. If you're tagged, DO IT and pass on the tag
OK. Here goes ...
- I don't like telephones and managed to live without one for several years. (A corollary to that fact is that I do like mobile phones, because I prefer texting to phoning.)
- I can still, at a pinch, turn a cartwheel. At least, I could the last time I tried. My daughters were shocked but impressed.
- I love melted chocolate. Forget the land of milk and honey, I want to live in the land of chocolate fountains.
- I collect glass ornaments, though haven't added anything for a while.
- I once spent six months counting medieval knights (part of the research for my Ph.D. thesis).
- I have lived in eight different houses and flats. The first was only two miles away from the house we live in now.
Now for the difficult bit. Tagging. I hate tagging, though I am quite happy to be tagged. If I tag people, I worry that they feel obliged to take on an unwanted task; if I don't I worry that they may be offended that I didn't tag them. Therefore, I tag all six of my readers :).
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
My favourite literary blogger, Lissa at Here in the Bonny Glen, is taking her readers on a tour of her bookshelves, one shelf at a time. I'm sure she wouldn't mind me piggybacking on her idea, so I'm going to do the same. I won't be as ambitious as Lissa, as I'm not planning to list every book, but I'm going to pick three or four from each shelf to share.
So here goes with Shelf One, the top shelf of a three shelf Billy bookcase in the living room (all my bookcases, bar one, are from IKEA's Billy range). This shelf is a mish-mash of useful stuff - local maps, a set of school reference books (dictionary, thesaurus and so on), Catechism, Bible, prayer books and saint story anthologies - library books and random booklets and pieces of paper. Here is my selection of three, all books on saints, which make up the most interesting section of the shelf ...
Saints of the English Calendar edited by Marcus Holden and written by a group of recently ordained English priests. I love this book of short biographies of saints commemorated in the calendar of the English Church. Each section begins with a quotation and a black and white illustration, and ends with suggestions for places to visit and for further reading.
Saints: a Year in Faith and Art by Rosa Giorgi. I bought this chunky little book after seeing it recommended somewhere, and was glad I did. It is a calendar of saints, one for every day of the year, with a full page fine art illustration for each. On the opposite page is a brief summary of the saint's life, patronage and a note on his or her name. It is the sort of book that could be displayed on a home altar, with the page changed daily. I keep it on a book shelf and look at it when it comes to mind.
Saint Andrew by Lois Rock, is one of the library books at the end of the shelf. One of a series of four on the patron saints of the British Isles - George, Patrick, David and Andrew (also the names of the houses at Angel's school. She is in St. Andrew's). While St. George and St. Patrick are well served with children's books, St. David and St. Andrew are not, so I wanted to check this one out. Aimed at younger children (say 4 to 8?) it tells the story of St. Andrew's life in quite simple text, then includes a prayer, a note on how relics of St. Andrew ended up in Scotland, and ends with sections on the St. Andrew's Cross and St. Andrew's Day. If I didn't know that I can get the book easily from the library, I would buy it.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Outside My Window ... thin cloud, looking as though it may brighten up later. Since my rant about the awful weather we have had a dry and sometimes even sunny spell. Can it last?
I am thinking ... that I am enjoying being back in our school term time routine, now I have readjusted to it.
From the learning rooms ... Star has gone to school with a white leotard and tutu to be a "good fairy" for the dance she and her friends are working on in their PE class. As this was originally the costume she wore for a dance show when she was seven, I don't know how she has managed to squeeze into it. Angel has gone to school without her science homework as she claimed to "not know" what sheet of questions she was supposed to be doing ("there are lots of sheets in my science book, and I don't get science anyway!"). Cue a lecture on the importance of science and the expectation that she will make sure that next time she does know what she is meant to be doing.
I am thankful for ... my neighbour who is letting me use her washing machine. Mine has died. This is good news. It has not been a happy machine for some time and I am so looking forward to the arrival of a new machine that will consistently take less than four hours to do a "quick" wash.
From the kitchen ... lamb stew, a "winter warmer" vegetable casserole, macaroni cheese and fish pie are on the menu this week. Tomorrow Angel is cooking savoury mince (ground beef) in "food technology" (formerly known as cookery!), so assuming she remembers to bring it home from school we will eat that for dinner. Little Cherub and I are baking owl cakes this morning, and I just have to try this five minute chocolate mug cake.
I am wearing ... stonewashed blue jeans, long-sleeved green t-shirt, navy Crocs (which is exactly what I was wearing last week - must be my Monday clothes!).
I am creating ... lots of booklists. Collating and tidying up old lists and web pages, and adding new ones.
I am going ... to try to get to the gym more often this week. I only managed it once last week. I keep getting coughs and colds, which means I often don't feel like going, but on the other hand, exercise is supposed to boost the immune system - catch 22!
I am reading ... bit and pieces of Charlotte Mason related stuff. Some in books, some online.
I am hoping ... that the First Communion class I am teaching for the first time goes well.
I am hearing ... Little Cherub asking me to read to her.
Around the house ... dirty washing. See note about broken washing machine above. I don't want to abuse my neighbour's generosity.
One of my favorite things ... listening to Little Cherub's running commentary as she arranges her Playmobil people.
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... mostly a quiet week after last week's busy one. Angel has an appointment with the orthodontist on Thursday, and on Sunday we are planning to drive to London so Tevye can say kaddish (the Jewish prayer for the dead) at the graves of his parents. It is a Jewish tradition to do this, if possible, around the time of the Jewish New Year.
Here is picture thought I am sharing ...
Friday, September 19, 2008
Here are those lists of picture books I promised earlier in the week, annotated as best I can to show the books that are published in the UK.
- Saints and Seasons - around the year in picture books, including books for Christian feasts and saints' days, a few books for Jewish festivals, and other annual landmarks
- Myths and Stories - some picture books, some collections of myths and traditional tales
- Travelling the World - picture books for learning about life in other countries
- Picturing the Natural World - picture books concerned with all aspects of nature, ranging from animals to geology
- Picturing Science - the very beginnings of a list of picture books that can be used to introduce science topics
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Melanie at The Wine-Dark Sea posted about her daughter Isabella's current favourite books, and left me bemoaning my inability to find American published picture books at the library. Not entirely unreasonable, I have to admit, given that it is a British library, but irritating to someone with a book list obsession who hangs out online with similarly book-loving Americans.
I have a confession to make. I didn't really discover the beauty of picture books until Star was around four and we dabbled a little in Five in a Row, thanks to my friend Missus Wookie who lent me the books. Poor Angel missed out almost totally, as I threw myself into Sonlight's (mostly) chapter books with her at a ridiculously young age. All in all, my picture book collection is rather thin. I want to build up a better one for Little Cherub, but I am hampered by the knowledge that (a) my budget is limited, and (b) I have no younger children coming up to justify investing in a personal picture book library. So I bemoan the shortcomings of the library and build up an Amazon wishlist that is likely to remain largely in the realm of wishes.
But all is not lost. I shouldn't malign our library, as in British terms it is really very good. I can order any children's book within our county free of charge, and it is almost always there ready to collect within a week. The picture book selection in the local branch is good, with a decent proportion of quality book. Occasionally a coveted American book even turns up there - I spotted Snowflake Bentley recently, for example.
To fill in the gaps left by all the lovely books recommended by American friends and seen on book lists, I have been working on creating lists of my own that include more British published books. There are plenty of British goodies out there, but in the absence of an English equivalent of FIAR, or Picture Perfect Childhood, I have to do a bit of detective work to find them. Mostly it is a case of following a trail. If I find one good book, I search Amazon for others by that author, or published in the same series. For example, a couple of weeks ago I picked up a used copy of The Mushroom Hunt by Simon Frazer, a lovely book that will make a great starting point for learning about mushrooms. It is part of a "Read and Wonder" series published by Walker Books ... an Amazon search for the series threw up all sorts of goodies with five star reviews like this, and this, and this. And at least some of them are available from the library. I also have favourite publishers that can be relied on to produce good quality books - Frances Lincoln and Barefoot Books - and occasionally trawl their catalogues to see what is available. If I want something recently published in the UK the library is usually happy to buy a copy if they don't already have one. I still include on my booklists American books for which I can't find equivalents here, or that just look too good to miss (that wishlist again!), but overall my lists have a UK bias that I can't find anywhere else.
The other vital part of collecting picture book ideas is to write them down. Somewhere I will be able to find them when I want them. Over the past few weeks I have been tidying and adding to various half-baked lists, and now have them in good enough order to share.
Which, as I am out of time, I will do in my next post.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Your result for The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test...
You scored 8% Cardinal, 67% Monk, 53% Lady, and 41% Knight!
You are a moral person and are also highly intellectual. You like your solitude but are also kind and helpful to those around you. Guided by a belief in the goodness of mankind you will likely be christened a saint after your life is over.HT: Another Prioress at Studeo
Monday, September 15, 2008
Should you labour under the misconception that life in the Bookworm house is always rosy (I wish!), and that Little Cherub the perfect toddler ...
Over the last week or so Cherub has decided on a policy of outright disobedience. On principle. Whatever we ask, the answer is no.
Me: Cherub, come here!
Me: Cherub, put that down!
You get the picture.
Tevye and I have decided on a policy of time outs, and if Cherub doesn't do as she is told she gets put on the bottom step of the stairs for two minutes. She is at least staying put more-or-less on the step, albeit rolling around wailing loudly.
I think she is beginning to get the picture. I hope.
Her contrariness does have its funny side. We went out for lunch with Grandma on Friday. I had taken some olives from the salad bar which were stuffed with something very strong tasting that I couldn't identify. Whatever it was, it was too strong for me. Cherub spotted the olives on my plate ...
Cherub: I want some ... those!
Me: No. You can't have those. They aren't like the ones we have at home. You wouldn't like them.
Cherub (progressively louder): Yes! Yes! YES!!!!! I need olives! I need them!
Outside My Window ... cloudy skies, but looking as though it will stay dry. And we did get a little sun at the weekend.
I am thinking ... that I could do with a nap and it isn't 9am yet. I woke early, and I am so not a morning person.
From the learning rooms ... lots of plant-related things. At school Angel and Star are both (coincidentally) studying plants in their science classes. I am also learning about plants thanks to the 100 Species Challenge, and Little Cherub is growing cress.
I am thankful for ... a stress free start to the week. Star has struggled to get back into the school-day morning groove, but got herself together this morning.
From the kitchen ... chicken stir fry for dinner, though I will need to find something else for vegetarian Star, who in any case needs to eat early as she has a ballet class and Girl Guides this evening. Monday is baking day with Little Cherub, and we are planning to make chocolate octopus biscuits, assuming I have everything I need!
I am wearing ... stonewashed blue jeans, long-sleeved green t-shirt, navy Crocs.
I am creating ... still working on the small cross-stitch lavendar bag I started while on holiday.
I am going ... to reorganise Cherub's clothes, which are currently stuffed into one very messy drawer. I cleared out some baby toys from a set of plastic drawers, so I can now use those for clothes. And yes, that was on my list of things to do last week. I did at least manage to clear out the shoes and boxes of hats / gloves / scarves / umbrellas / raingear and stuff from the hall.
I am reading ... articles from Charlotte Mason's Parents' Review
I am (still) hoping ... to take Little Cherub to Bekonscot model village on Thursday. Last Thursday was too wet and miserable for us to go.
I am hearing ... Thomas the Tank Engine on TV.
Around the house ... lots of Playmobil. Little Cherub is into playing with vehicles and has the bus, the aeroplane, a car, a tractor and trailer and a boat scattered over the sitting room floor.
One of my favorite things ... Playmobil! It has been the best ever toy in this house. Angel and Star used to play with it for hours at a time, and it is already a big favourite with Cherub, who gets the benefit of her sisters' collection. Right now she is busy arranging people in the bus.
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... mend the broken door on our dolls house, and weed out any broken or unsuitable furniture so that Cherub can play with it. A meeting on Thursday for parish catechism class teachers - I volunteered this year and the classes start on Saturday. That postponed trip to Bekonscot. Dinner at a tapas restaurant on Friday with Tevye, and K-and-A-next-door. A family meal at a Chinese restaurant on Sunday to celebrate my mother's birthday. Eating out twice in a week ... luxury!
Here is picture thought I am sharing ... how to clean a car? Borrow your neighbour's toddler!
Sunday, September 14, 2008
2. Creeping buttercup
3. White clover
6. Red clover
7. Autumn hawkbit
8. Weeping willow
9. Horse chestnut
Rules of 100 Species Challenge
Our favourite place for a nature walk is Stockgrove Country Park. The habitat is very mixed, with ancient woodland, conifer plantations, a lake (originally ornamental), areas that are being restored to the original heathland, and open grassland. That means there are many, many plant species to spot. It is about three miles away, so I'm sure qualifies as being in walking distance, though I don't think I have ever actually walked there. Maybe I should. I took a load of photos there today. Some were of species I recognise, and others I still need to identify. It will take me a while to post them all. I'm starting today with two common English trees with rather similar names: alder and elder.
Scientific name: Alnus Glutinosa
Alder is a native British tree that grows in damp places - the tree in my photo was right on the edge of the lake. Like clover, alder is a nitrogen fixer, allowing it to grow even by stagnant water and to improve the soil around it. The tree has quite different female and male catkins. The males look like typical catkins, but the females are like tiny cones. I was pleased that I managed to capture both together in my photo - female bottom right corner and on the left, by the large leaf, and male lower centre-right.
Warm alder leaf poultices are traditionally used for swellings and wounds. They are anti-inflammatory, astringent, and help to stop bleeding. Leaves were often put into boots and shoes to relieve aching feet. The dried bark also has a number of medicinal uses, from treating stomach problems, to a gargle for sore throats - the bark must be dried as fresh it causes vomiting.
Alder wood is creamy in colour when cut, but becomes reddish when worked. It is light and easy to turn, with traditional uses ranging from clogs to chairs and cigar boxes.
Scientific name: Sambucus nigra
One of my favourite soft drinks is sparkling water with elderflower, so I am predisposed to like this tree. Elderflower cordial and elderberry wine are also pretty good. Every year I decide I ought to go out and collect elderflowers to make my own cordial, but so far I have never done it. I'm not so sure about the idea of frying the flowers in batter to make elderflower fritters. That sounds rather less appealing.
Elder wood is believed to have been used to make the Cross on which Christ was crucified ... and by a strange coincidence I am posting this on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. Elder is also reputed to be the tree from which Judas hung himself after his betrayal of Jesus. Superstition says that elder should not be bought inside a house, but planted outside it provides protection against witchcraft. It should also not be burnt - a logical superstition as the wood spits violently ("the Devil spitting down the chimney"). If you stand under an elder tree on Midsummer Eve, it is said you will see the king of the fairies ride by.
I found this poem at Legendary Dartmoor
Feigns death in winter, none lives better,
Chewed by cattle springs up stronger;
and odd Personal smell and unlovable skin;
Straight shoots like organ pipes in cigarette paper.
No nurseryman would sell you an Elder
'not bush, not tree, not bad, not good',
Judas was surely a fragile man
To hang himself from this 'God's stinking tree'.
In summer it juggles flower-plates in air,
Creamy as cumulus, and berries, each a weasel's eye of light.
Pretends it's unburnable (Who burns it sees the Devil),
cringes, hides a soul of cream plates,
purple fruits in a rattle of bones,
A good example.
Elder has a number of medicinal uses. The leaves can be used to make an ointment for bruises, sprains and wounds; a poultice made from bark is used for headaches; elderflower water made from the flowers is supposed to whiten skin and remove freckles; elderberry teas and cordials are a remedy for coughs and colds (this may be because the berries are high in vitamin C). The berries can also be used to make black hair dye.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
I have been using Instapaper (possibly my favourite iPod Touch application) to read some of the Parents' Review articles available at the Ambleside Online website, and plan to share some quotes as I read.
This is from A PNEU Nursery School by Hilda Eleanor Breckels (1969). The children began each morning with a 40 minute period of free play, then:
As soon as this is over and everything is put away, with the help of the children, they voluntarily separate into their age groups and run pell-mell to their group places, glad to have seen the last of free play for that morning.My interest was piqued by the assertion that children find too much free play and free association with other children tiring, and need it to be balanced by structured, adult led time. Also by the way in which learning activities were simply play, from which the children took whatever they were ready for.
Free play has wearied them by the end. Each child has been left to its own devices. It has had to make up its own mind about everything; whom to play with, or which sharing group to join, what play equipment to choose, or whether to dare a big adventure on the apparatus, or dare to knock on the door of the playhouse to see what's going on inside it.
At last all are tired of being creatively busy, and of being left to manage all alone. The children are also tired of each other, in need of a comforting grown-up with a kind voice for telling all about things to do.
The need is for quiet and a spell of uplift, through close companionship with adults. This is especially so with regard to speech. This needs frequent uplift in the early years and the under-fives cannot get this when with contemporaries.For speech uplift, under-fives need to be often with grown-ups who are light-hearted and good at making conversation with the very young.
I must now tell you about our quiet time, because it follows all that noisy play. Some mornings we sing a hymn and say prayers. Others, we associate God with human relationships, or with the seasons and other aspects of nature. We also tell stories of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and Old Testament babes and boys and girls. We learn to be hushed. Reverent.
Thus are they quietened. They are now eager for group activities when they will be in the close care of grown-ups who tell them what to do and how to do it. While carefully and expressively telling the listening children what to do, the group teachers are giving that important uplift to speech.
Besides being training time for skills in speech, these activities in small groups give carefully graded steps in the preliminaries to reading, word-building and number.
That is all done through play. The knowledge is threaded, as it were, through a game, by means of the appropriate teaching aids. If the children are ready, they will learn the little lesson. If they are not, they just enjoy the game. They usually do both.
Being a PNEU Nursery School, we do no more than help the children to play the game. We leave all else to the children's powers of attention, imagination, reflection, judgment and so on.
I know I shouldn't complain when friends in the States are being hit by Hurricane Ike, but I have had ENOUGH!
Going into autumn in the full knowledge that by November it will feel like February because we simply haven't had any sort of summer worthy of the name is just too depressing.
I am sick of rain.
I am fed up of grey skies.
I. Need. Some. Sun.
Or I shall go mad.
I could go on moaning ... but Dorothy has already done it for me.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
A couple more Little Cherub stories for your entertainment ...
Dinner last night included butternut squash, and there was some discussion at the table about who liked squash and who didn't. Then we noticed Cherub busily mashing up her sauteed potatoes.
She had, apparently, been listening to the conversation.
Me: "What are you doing, Cherub?"
Cherub: (proudly) "I dosh!"
Yum. Squashed potatoes.
Tevye, myself and K-next-door were eating fairy cakes and offered one to Cherub. No, she didn't want cake, she wanted biscuit (cookie). Dog biscuit.
Dog biscuit? She had already had a couple of little animal shaped biscuits, so we guessed she wanted a dog shaped one.
No, no, no! That wasn't right at all! She wanted dog biscuit. We don't have a dog. We couldn't work out how she could even know there was such a thing as dog biscuit. But by this time she had reached the stage of rolling on the floor wailing "I want dog biscuit!"
It took an older sister to translate what the adults had utterly failed to grasp.
It wasn't a dog biscuit she wanted.
It was a choc biscuit.
Oops! No wonder she was cross. What were those daft parents wittering on about dogs for when all she wanted was a chocolate biscuit?
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Getting back to normal after the summer holidays has left me pondering the daily grind ... the washing, cooking, shopping and cleaning that keep a household running. Once a week I come home from the supermarket with what looks like enough to feed an army and wrestle food into every last inch of our not-big-enough fridge. A few days later the fridge is bare. Our poor, sad, something wrong with its programming washing machine, labours constantly - at up to four hours a load, it really does seem constant - and produces a weekly ironing mountain. And no, I am not one of those people who irons everything, only those items that would look obviously crumpled if left unironed get into the pile. My pathetic attempts at cleaning (I hate cleaning!) just about scratch the surface. (And Dorothy, the only reason my cooker looks so clean in the post below is because it is quite new. And having bought it, I hate it. It's too small and my favourite baking trays won't fit. Grrr!!!!)
I digress. My pondering has been about how my daily grind compares to a housewife's workload in my parents' and grandparents' day. After a conversation with my mother, these are our combined thoughts.
Laundry: Compared to Mum's days with a young family (1960s), not a great deal of difference. If anything I have more laundry to plough through as we seem to have more clothes. I wonder if this is a result of relative affluence, or simply because we buy cheap, lower quality clothes that show marks more and need washing more often. I haven't replaced my dead tumble drier, so we are quits on that one - Mum didn't get a tumble drier until the 1970s. She used to send sheets and table linen to a laundry, which collected them dirty and delivered them pristine. Not an option these days. As it is, I wash daily (or more). She didn't. Back in grandma's / great-grandma's time, washing meant hand washing and a weekly "wash-day". Again there was less stuff to wash - certainly no daily changes of clothes then - and it was physically much harder work. However, if I added together the time spent on washing, hanging, folding and ironing laundry over a week, I think it would easily fill a whole wash day. Not that my washing machine could handle it.
Shopping: Probably most changes here, we thought. In a typical week, I have an organic fruit and vegetable box delivered, milk left on the doorstep by the milkman, do a large supermarket shop, and pick up a few oddments from the convenience store or the supermarket. I have at times done my supermarket shopping online, which is obviously very different and both time and labour saving. Now Cherub is a little older and the girls are in school I am back to doing it myself. In the 60s my Mum didn't have a freezer, which meant it was necessary to buy bread more frequently than I do. The supermarket was relatively small, and used for non-perishables. Bread meant reasonably frequent trips to the bakers, meat was delivered by the butcher, and milk by the milkman (no change there), and fruit and vegetables were largely bought at the market. My Dad's cousin ran a village grocery, and "Uncle Bob" used to deliver an order weekly. That meant her supermarket purchases were more of a top-up than a main weekly shop. Overall, we felt the time commitment was similar, though her shopping involved two or three shorter trips compared to my typical one large and one short. I do, however, have the option to spend a little more and choose the online shopping shortcut.
In the 1930s supermarkets were non-existent. Bread came from the baker, meat from the butcher, fruit and veg from the greengrocers, and pretty much everything else from the grocers. Food shopping was done daily rather than weekly. Even though the daily quantities were not great, it could be quite time consuming as there was no self-service. There could be quite a long wait to be served if there were several customers ahead of you. Plus, obviously, the walk too and from the shops added to the time and effort involved. In the War it was worse - Mum remembered having to walk a four mile round trip to a farm to collect milk after school each day.
Cooking: Again, the main difference is the level of choice we have. I could, if I chose (and if my finances allowed), buy a lot of pre-prepared food and ready meals which would significantly cut both the amount of cooking and clearing-up time. I could also use the freezer to cook ahead, but mostly I don't. As it is, I cook largely the same way as my Mum did. I don't have a great deal in the way of labour saving devices that she didn't. The microwave would be the main one, but I am not a big microwave user - it mainly gets used for reheating. Overall I probably have the edge in terms of spending less time in the kitchen because I do use more convenience foods than she did. Back to her childhood, and then were a few differences - no electric kettle, toaster, mixer and so on. I forgot to ask, but I imagine also no fridge. But still, there isn't much difference in the effort involved in cooking a shepherd's pie or a roast chicken then and now.
Cleaning: Much the same between the 1960s and today, we felt, with no revolutionary new time-saving devices. The vacuum cleaner was a biggy - my grandmother didn't have one in the 30s. Also in the 30s floors were scrubbed on hands and knees, which I only do if mine reaches the stage of looking atrocious. Otherwise it gets a quick swish. My cleaning efforts are sadly handicapped by the level of mess created by our 21st century clutter. We definitely have more stuff around and in the way than my Mum did in the 60s (and she is most certainly not a minimalist!).
So there you have it ... my ponderings on the daily grind, then and now. Overall, we felt there probably was not a great deal of difference in the time and effort required in the 60s and now. Even the tasks that can be sub-contracted have not changed that much - I can do online shopping or buy convenience foods, my Mum could phone through an order to the local grocer for delivery and send out laundry. Having someone come in to clean has always been an option for those who could afford it. In the 30s, the effort involved in tasks was greather, but the amount of stuff involved very much smaller. Whether this evened out I don't know. I would guess not, and that both Mum and I have had things easier.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Monday is baking day, and Little Cherub has reached the age where she loves helping to bake. I find the best way to approach this is to find her one or two specific jobs that are within her capacity while I get on with the rest ... it doesn't always work, but at the least it helps with disaster limitation.
Yesterday we made fairy cakes. Cherub "helped" with the measuring, and loved putting paper cases into the tins while I used the hand mixer. (Wonderful! A clean job!) Then I spooned the mixture into the cases and she helped to scrape the mix off the spoon. As it was only half an inch above the tin, that worked well. Mostly.
She was delighted with the results of her efforts, offering them to everyone with a proud "I make cake!". We looked through our Usborne What Shall I Cook? book, and decided that next week we are going to bake chocolate octopus biscuits (cookies).
Monday, September 08, 2008
Outside My Window ... yet another dull, grey morning. According to the forecast today is supposed to be a dry and almost bright day. I'm not convinced.
I am thinking ... that I feel rather flat as we get back into routine after the summer break. Somehow the daily grind feels, well, rather more of a grind than it did when it was varied by summer trips and activities.
I am thankful for ... central heating, which I turned on yesterday. I grew up without it, so I truly am thankful. I do miss having a real fire, but don't miss the work involved.
From the kitchen ... leftover chicken again. I'm going to cook it with mushrooms in a white sauce, then put mashed potato on top. Star, who is vegetarian, can have broccoli in a cheese sauce with some mashed potato on the side. There is also a butternut squash from last week's organic veg box that I need to do something with. And I am going to bake fairy cakes with Little Cherub this morning.
I am wearing ... blue velour pyjamas. Winter pyjamas.
I am creating ... a seasonal display table for autumn. I have gathered a few bits and pieces, and want to put it together today.
I am going ... to be a super efficient and self-disciplined housewife and mother this week, and tick everything off my to-do list. I wish.
I am reading ... Flower Hunters, by John and Mary Gribbin, which I started a few weeks ago and then abandoned for something else. I'm on the chapter about Carl Linneaus.
I am hoping ... to take Little Cherub to Bekonscot model village on Thursday. The downstairs carpets are being cleaned, so I want to keep her out of the house while they dry. If the weather is too wet to want to go somewhere outdoors, we will go and park ourselves at Grandma's instead. I haven't been to Bekonscot since I was a child. Somehow I never got round to taking the older girls, although it is less than an hour's drive.
I am hearing ... a clock ticking. All three girls are still asleep, and Tevye has already left for work. Ack! There goes someone's alarm!
Around the house ... reasonable order. A few scattered schooly things that didn't get put away after the older girls did their homework.
One of my favorite things ... a quiet house.
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... making a start on some neglected decluttering jobs. Little Cherub's clothes and the shoe mountain in the hall (summer shoes, winter shoes, outgrown shoes ...) are top of the list.
Here is picture thought I am sharing ...
Back to school. Star insists she can see through all that hair. I'm not convinced. Mind you, I'm not sure the camera angle helped!
Saturday, September 06, 2008
I cleared out the book box today, returned most of Little Cherub's library books and came home with a new batch. For those who enjoy peeking into other's book boxes, here is Little Cherub's current selection:
New Library Books
The Gingerbread Man, illustrated by Elena Temporin
Where Are You Blue Kangaroo, by Emma Chichester Clark
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, by Bill Martin jr and Eric Carle
Elmer, by David McKee
An Acorn for Tea, by Julie Sykes
Walking Through the Jungle, by Debbie Harter (in English and Spanish - no, I'm not trying to teach her Spanish, we just both liked the look of the book)
Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, by Jane Ray
The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, by Beatrix Potter
Another Little Book of Farmyard Tales (Cherub insisted on bringing this one home, despite already having all the stories in her twenty book boxed set and picking one of them as her bedtime story every night for the past two or three months)
Other Library Books
Monkey Puzzle, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler
Go Back to Sleep, by Sylvie Jones
My Very First Bible, illustrated by Diana Mayo (DK)
The Owl and the Pussycat, illustrated by Ian Beck (found this one in Oxfam today)
Angelina At the Fair, by Katharine Holabird
Mr Large In Charge by Jill Murphy
The Tale of Tom Kitten by Beatrix Potter
The Tale of Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter
It will be interesting to see how many of these we get through over the next week or so. Some books she will ignore completely, and complain heartily if I have the temerity to pick them out of the box. Others she will latch on to and want read repeatedly.
Friday, September 05, 2008
Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson
Rating: 5 stars
This book by the same author / illustrator team as The Gruffalo is Little Cherub's current favourite. A little monkey loses his mother and a butterfly tries to help him find her. However, there is a problem. The butterfly doesn't realise that the monkey's mother looks just like him - after all, her children look quite different! - and finds all sorts of other animals instead. A clever premise, snappy rhyming text and strong illustration come together to make a book that is a lot of fun. Little Cherub loves reading this one to herself with a running commentary along the lines of "No! ... elephant. No! ... snake. No! ... Daddy. MUMMY!!!!"
View all my reviews.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
For the benefit of anyone curious as to how the British school week compares to the American or homeschool version, here are breakdowns of the girls' subject timetables for this year. Both have a 25 hour week, and each lesson lasts an hour.
Angel (age 13, Year 9 / 8th Grade)
English - 3 hours
Maths - 3 hours
Science - 3 hours
French - 2 hours
Spanish - 2 hours
PE - 2 hours
Personal, Social and Religious Education - 2 hours
History - 1 1/2 hours
Geography - 1 1/2 hours
Performing arts (music and drama) - 1 hour
Art - 1 hour
Technology - 1 hour
Food science (cookery) - 1 hour
Information Technology (computers) - 1 hour
Star (age 10, Year 6 / 5th Grade)
English - 6 hours (daily lesson, plus an additional "Big Writing" class)
Maths - 5 hours
Science - 3 hours
Humanities (history / geography) - 2 hours
PE - 2 hours
Art - 1 hour
Music - 1 hour
Information technology - 1 hour
Design and technology - 1 hour
French - 1 hour
Religious Education - 1 hour
Personal, Social and Health Education - 1 hour
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
My planned weekly rhythm has Wednesday as art and craft day. Shamefully I haven't got the paints out for Little Cherub since she used them for the first time back in June (this is why I need a weekly rhythm). When I asked if she would like to paint she was thrilled. This time after painting a little with brushes she decided to explore hand painting - she recently saw a clip on TV of children painting with their hands and feet, and it obviously had an impact. She wanted to start with red and green paint, then added in blue, and right at the end yellow.
"Look! I'm hand painting!"
"Oh dear! Mess."
The clean up went swimmingly. Rather too swimmingly. Being very petite, Cherub couldn't quite get her hands under the tap even when standing on her super-tall IKEA plastic stool. The fingers could reach but the rest of her hand couldn't. I lifted the washing up bowl full of water down onto her stool so that she could finish her hands while I cleaned up the paint pots and brushes. Once her hands were clean I took my eye off her ... then realised belatedly that she had decided to wash her apron in the bowl. With rather a lot of overflow. While I tried to mop up, she slipped over on the wet floor and had to be removed shrieking from the kitchen to drier ground.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
2. Creeping buttercup
3. White clover
6. Red clover
7. Autumn hawkbit
8. Weeping willow
9. Horse chestnut
Rules of 100 Species Challenge
Between our housing estate and the main road is a long patch of green, with a number of trees planted around 35 years ago when the houses were built. The photos of weeping willow and horse chestnut were taken there. The tall sycamore grows on a small patch of common ground in front of our next-door-neighbour-but-one.
Scientific name: Salix babylonica
The weeping willow originated in China, where it grows along the banks of the Yangtse River, and was first introduced into Britain in 1730. The scientific name salix babylonica was given by Carl Linneaus, inspired by this verse from Psalm 137:
By the waters of Babylon,In fact, this is a mistranslation and the trees by the waters of Babylon were not willows, but poplars (which are also part of the salix family).
there we sat down; yea we wept
when we remembered Zion.
Upon the willows in the midst thereof
we hanged our harps
Weeping willows are traditionally associated with sadness and loss. Napoleon was buried on the island of St. Helena under a weeping willow.
Information: University of Glasgow
Scientific name: Aesculus hippocastanum
The horse chestnut is native to Northern Greece, and was introduced to the UK via Turkey in the 17th century. In the USA it is known as the "buckeye" and is the state tree of Ohio. There are two suggestions for the "horse" in the name: (1) that the fruit were fed to horses in eastern Europe, and (2) because the leaf scars on the twigs are shaped like horseshoes.
Timber from horse chestnuts is soft and poor quality. Until recently, its main use was in making artificial limbs, because it is both light and not prone to splitting. It is also used to make packing cases. It doens't make great firewood either, as it spits a lot when burned.
The fruit of the tree, known in Britain as conkers, are high in carbohydrate. They can be crushed and boiled to make a meal for cattle and sheep, though apparently pigs will not eat it. Humans also find conkers unpalatable (I've tasted them and they are bitter and unpleasant!) but during World War I it was calculated that for every ton of horse chestnuts harvested to use for animal feed, half a ton of grain could be saved for human consumption. They were also collected by children to use for ammunition. And no, we weren't reduced to firing conkers at the enemy! Acetone was required to produce cordite (explosive), and a method was discovered by which the starch from horse chestnuts could be fermented to make acetone. The scientist behind this was Chaim Weizmann, who later became the first president of the State of Israel.
In autumn British children like to collect horse chestnuts for rather less lethal battles - games of "conkers". These rules are pretty similar to the way we used to play:
Each player has a their conker on its knotted string. Players take turns at hitting their opponent's conker. If you are the one whose conker is to be hit first, let it hang down from the string which is wrapped round your hand. That 9 inch drop is about right. You must hold it at the height your opponent chooses and you must hold it perfectly still. Your opponent, the striker, wraps their conker string round his hand just like yours. S/he then takes the conker in the other hand and draws it back for the strike. Releasing the conker s/he swings it down by the string held in the other hand and tries to hit her/his opponents conker with it. If s/he misses he is allowed up to two further goes. If the strings tangle, the first player to call "strings" gets an extra shot. Players take alternate hits at their opponent's conker. The game is won when one player destroys the other's conker. (The-Tree.org.uk)Horse chestnut is supposed to be good for venous disorders such as varicose veins, phlebitis and haemorrhoids.
Information: University of Glasgow; The-Tree.org.uk
Scientific name: Acer pseudoplatanus
Family: Aceraceae (Maples)
Not a native tree in Britain, but it has been here a long time - it may have been introduced as early as Roman times. Sycamore is useful ecologically, and can provide food or some other benefit to as many as 150 different animal species. It is the only widespread large tree with insect pollinated flowers, and is an important source of pollen and nectar for bees.
The pale-coloured hard timber is particularly useful for making items that will be used with food - bowls, milking pails, butter churns, kitchen utensils and so on - as the wood does take up smells. It is also good for making wooden floors, furniture and even musical instruments.
Monday, September 01, 2008
For Monday 1st September
Outside My Window ... washing hanging on the line and skies turning ominously grey.
I am thinking ... about the new season that begins tomorrow when the big girls go back to school and it will be just Little Cherub and I at home again.
I am thankful for ... a husband who is happy for me to be a stay-at-home Mum.
From the kitchen ... leftovers from two cooked chickens I bought yesterday to use up.
I am wearing ... blue jeans, pale blue short sleeved sweater, dark blue Crocs, necklace (mother of pearl disc on a leather thong)
I am creating ... a cross-stitched lavendar bag. I haven't cross-stitched for a while and wanted a small project to take on holiday last week.
I am going ... to tidy up my Toodledo to-do list (abandoned over the last month) and Google Calendars. I also want to flip through First Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos for ideas I can use with Little Cherub, and make a list of simple gardening projects we can do. And believe me, given my black thumbs they need to be really simple.
I am reading ... In Defence of Food: the Myth of Nutrition and the Pleasures of Eating by Michael Pollan. Though in my case food and the pleasures of eating don't need much defending.
I am hoping ... that Hurricane Gustav doesn't cause the same havoc as Katrina.
I am hearing ... a door creaking, the washing machine whirring and Little Cherub snoring on my lap.
Around the house ... piles of washing. How can one week away produce so much?
One of my favorite things ... snuggling a snoozing toddler.
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... not much. A quiet week as we get back into term-time routine.
Here is picture thought I am sharing ...
Check out The Simple Woman for links to other Daybooks and instructions if you want to add your own.