Sunday, May 31, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 1st June

(Posting on Sunday evening as I have to make an early start tomorrow.)

Outside My Window ... a perfect early summer's evening. Blue skies and a light breeze.

I am thinking ...about things I need to do before I leave tomorrow.

From the learning rooms ... Angel starts her new GCSE timetable this week.

I am thankful for ... a husband who is prepared to hold the fort here while Cherub and I escape the chaos of the kitchen demolition.

From the kitchen ... emptiness. All the cupboards are cleared out and everything except essentials packed away. Tomorrow is D-Day and everything is being ripped out.

I am wearing ... black linen trousers and a black vest top, with bare feet.

I am creating ... Cherub's cardigan. Nearly finished - just the button band and sewing up to do.

I am going ... to Weymouth with Cherub and my mother, leaving tomorrow morning and returning on Friday. The trip was planned a while ago, then we realised that if we timed the kitchen refit for this week, we would not have to worry about keeping Cherub out of the way.

I am reading ... My Life With the Saints by James Martin, S.J. I had stalled with it but have got moving again. I'll be putting it aside again next week as I have some nice holiday reading lined up to take with me.

I am hoping ... everything goes smoothly while I am away.

I am hearing ... Cherub complaining about being put to bed. Angel and Star rustling a bag of sweets (chocolate eclairs) ... some coming my way ...

Around the house ... bags and boxes of kitchen stuff. Cupboards stacked up in the garage waiting to be fitted; appliances, crockery and heavy bags in the dining room; lighter stuff stacked up in Angel's bedroom; essentials in the living room.

One of my favorite things ... the seaside.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... playing on the beach with Cherub, some leisurely time with a book and my knitting, quality time with my Mum, a birthday picnic for Cherub on Saturday.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... a three inch long drinker moth caterpillar we spotted at the country park on Friday.

Check out The Simple Woman for links to other Daybooks and instructions if you want to do one of your own.

Angel's New Year

For the first time Angel's school are moving her cohort up from Year 9 to Year 10 for the last half term (seven weeks) of the academic year so that they can start their GCSE courses early. The current Year 11 are on study leave and sitting their GCSE exams, so the teaching timetable is free enough to switch over the Year 9 courses at this stage.

In my quest to bore you all with trivia satisfy your curiosity about the UK school system, I'm copying out her new rolling two week timetable. Mondays and Thursdays are given over to compulsory ("core") subjects, and Tuesdays and Fridays to her chosen options plus PSR (Personal, Social and Religious Education); Wednesdays are a mix of both. Angel is taking GCSE in physical education, but also has to take the compulsory core classes, so PE crops up in both sections.

Week 1

Monday - Maths, Biology, English, Chemistry, PE (Core)
Tuesday - PE (GCSE), Graphics (= graphic and product design), ICT (= Information and Communication Technology), PSR, Health and Social Care
Wednesday - Health and Social Care, PSR, PE (GCSE), English, Maths
Thursday - English, PE (Core), Physics, Maths, Biology
Friday - Health and Social Care, PSR, ICT, Graphics, PE (GCSE)

Week 2

Monday - Chemistry, Maths, PE (Core), English, Physics
Tuesday - ICT, PE (GCSE), Graphics, Health and Social Care, PSR
Wednesday - English, Maths, Graphics, Physics, ICT
Thursday - English, Chemistry, PE (Core), Biology, Maths
Friday - PSR, Health and Social Care, ICT, PE (GCSE), Graphics

Friday, May 29, 2009

I Did It!


Then I did this ...

And this ...

And this ...

And this ...

Does that make me a cool and intrepid Mum? Or just an insane middle aged woman who should know better?

Pictures: Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book Review: The Rosary

The Rosary: Keeping Company With Jesus and Mary by Karen Edmisten

I first met Karen way back when the internet was young - well before her youngest daughter Ramona was born, and Ramona is seven now (how did that happen?). She has since become a dear online friend, so I just had to buy her first book.

The Rosary does just what it says on the cover - explains how praying the Rosary helps us to spend time with Jesus and his mother - but it also does a lot more. It is the perfect introduction to the Rosary, both for Catholics and non-Catholics (you don't have to be Catholic to find this a worthwhile form of prayer), a shot in the arm for those who struggle with the Rosary, and an encouragement for those who already know and love it. Karen also gives the most beautifully clear and gentle explanation of the role of Mary in Catholic spirituality that I have seen (and no, Catholics do not worship Mary, ever).

The thing I love most about this book, though, is that it is so very much Karen talking, in her own unique voice. It isn't a lecture about the Rosary, it is Karen sitting down and sharing her knowledge and experiences of the Rosary over a metaphorical cup of coffee. If you want to get a taste of her gentle, sane voice, visit her blog. Or better still, buy her book. And enjoy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Some pictures from our trip to Legoland on Friday.

Cherub wasn't as worried as she looks in this photo - she was just ignoring my suggestion that she hold the pole and determinedly straining every sinew to reach the handles on the horse's head with her short arms.

Admiring Miniland ...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 25th May

Outside My Window ... grey skies replacing the beautiful blue we have enjoyed over the weekend.

I am thinking ... how can it possibly be Monday again already?

From the learning rooms ... half term week.

I am thankful for ... a warm, sunny weekend.

From the kitchen ... meat defrosting in the freezer for a lunchtime BBQ with Next Door. Cherub and Tevye are planning to make fruit salad (she loves to help by chopping up soft fruit). Lots of pizza tonight as Angel has three friends sleeping over.

I am wearing ... black and white pyjamas. Rather more elegant than last weeks lollipop pink ones.

I am creating ... still this cardigan, though I switched the colours to a pale pink with deep pink and white trim. Back and fronts are done, and most of one sleeve.

I am going ... to Alton Towers theme park with the two big girls on Thursday. We are leaving Cherub at home with Tevye so that we can do Big Rides. Eek.

I am reading ... The Rosary: Keeping Company With Jesus and Mary by Karen Edmisten.

I am hoping ... it will stay dry until at least mid-afternoon. Heavy rain is forecast for later in the day.

I am hearing ... Peppa Pig. Cherub adores Peppa Pig.

Around the house ... trying to clear space in the garage. Rumour has it that some people actually park cars in their garage. Where do they put their stuff?

One of my favorite things ... cuddles with my big daughters. I love that I have a 14 year old who still likes lots of hugs.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... gym camp for Star, Alton Towers, clearing out the kitchen.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... dare I?

Check out The Simple Woman for links to other Daybooks and instructions if you want to do one of your own.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

4 x 10 Reading Challenge: Update 4

Finished book titles are blue, with those completed since my last post in bold; books in my current reading pile are green. I fixed on historical fiction for my final category.


  • Nella Last's War: the Second World War Diaries of Housewife, 49 (ed. Richard Broad)
  • Nella Last's Peace: the Post-War Diaries of Houseife, 49
  • A Vicarage Family: a Biography of Myself (Noel Streatfeild)
  • Flora Thompson: the Story of the Lark Rise Writer (Gillian Lindsay)
  • Noel Streatfeild: a Biography (Angela Bull) - I enjoyed her books as a child and still do, but knew nothing about her until I read her childhood autobiography. It turns out that her autobiography is less than accurate, but the reality as portrayed by Angela Bull is a likeable, energetic and stylish woman with a varied and interesting career: munitions worker during the First World War, theatre actress, mannequin, party girl, authoress, tireless voluntary worker during World War II, promoter of good children literature, and ultimately grand dame of the genre in the UK.
  • A History of Hand Knitting (Richard Rutt)
  • Sensational Knitted Socks (Charlene Schurch)
  • Teach Me To Do It Myself (Maja Pitamic)
  • The Shrines of Our Lady in England (Anne Vail) - half way through and stalled.
  • My Life With the Saints (James Martin, S.J.) - three chapters in so far. Also stalled.
  • The Rosary: Keeping Company With Jesus and Mary (by my friend Karen Edmisten) - arrived from Amazon this morning!
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer)
  • The Uncommon Reader (Alan Bennett)
  • The Autobiography of the Queen (Emma Tennant) - picked up from the library in the hope that it would be another diverting royal tale like The Uncommon Reader. Wrong. The premise - the Queen decides to abandon her post and travel incognito to the Caribbean to write her autobiography - had promise, but the plot was thin and frankly ridiculous, with none of the wit of Alan Bennett's book. I only finished the book because I was on a train with nothing else to read and it was short.
  • The Friday Night Knitting Club (Kate Jacobs) - the lives and loves of a New York single mother and owner of a yarn store and her friends and customers. Perfect holiday reading - light and easy chick lit, but not total fluff. Good enough to want to read the sequel, Knit Two.
Geography and Travel
  • A Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria (Kapka Kassabova)
Historical Fiction
  • Helena (Evelyn Waugh) - a fictional account of the life of Saint Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Evelyn Waugh is a master - Brideshead Revisited is one of my all time favourite books - and the rich vocabulary, verve and humour of his writing are a joy, but this book is a mixed bag. Brilliant in parts, but in others the plot is too jumpy. My biggest frustration was the way he skipped over Helena's conversion to Christianity - in one chapter she was beginning to ask questions, in the next whe was already a Christian. Despite the flaws, I loved the way he brought Helena to life.
  • The Road to Wigan Pier (George Orwell)
Science and Nature
  • Electric Universe (David Bodanis)
  • The Planets (Dava Sobel) - science, history and mythology all meshed together in a literary introduction to the solar system. The author starts with a brief overview, then works from the inside out, dedicating a chapter to each to the sun and all the planets, with one on the moon thrown in for good measure.
Unfinished Business
Alison Uttley, the Life of a Country Child (Denis Judd) - print too small!
Beatrix Potter At Home in the Lake District (Susan Denyer)
Yiddish Civilisatiuon: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation
(Paul Kriwaczek)
A Year in the Country (Alison Uttley)

Independent Learning Week

One of the things I like about Angel's school is that it is good at teaching students how to learn. This week Angel's year have had Independent Learning Week. The idea is that they each pick a topic - anything they like, but the title must be phrased as a question - spend three or four weeks researching it, and then their lesson time for the three days before half term is given over entirely to writing up their assignment. They were all given a booklet setting out what was expected and when, and how to approach their projects, with planning sheets and checklists. Most of the research was to be done as homework, though they did have a couple of library sessions in school time.

According to Angel, most of the girls picked topics to do with fashion and beauty, and most of the boys sport. I'd like to say that Angel bucked the trend and picked something deep and meaningful, but no ... her title was "Will we all have plastic surgery in 100 years time?". Whatever the subject matter, it was a very useful experience. It gave her practice in targeting research to a specific question, setting out her findings coherently, using evidence, footnoting, preparing a bibliography, and working to a tight deadline. Having the solid block of time (15 school hours) to write up the project meant she was really able to immerse herself in it.

I asked her this morning what conclusion she came to ... "Maybe. Sort of ... it's complicated! You'll just have to read it when I get it back."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

100 Species Challenge: Red Campion

Scientific name: Silene dioica
Family: Caryophylloceae
Flowers: May to September

I just love the folk names for British wildflowers. Here are a few selected from a long list of names for red campion: Jack-by-the-Hedge, Mary's Rose, Scalded Apples, Soldiers' Buttons and Fleabites.

It is a pretty little flower, but with dark associations in folklore. It is said that picking the flower will cause your parents to die. If you throw red campion at a scorpion it is supposed to stop the scorpion stinging you. Scorpions? In the UK? That was new to me! I googled, and apparently there are a few colonies in the south east, established by European scorpions unwittingly shipped in from the Mediterranean. The most useful part of the plant seems to be the root, which can be used to make a soap substitute for laundry.

100 Species Challenge Number 20
List of plants identified to date

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spooning and Pegging

Over the last week I have dipped a toe into Montessori with Cherub, offering her a couple of simple activities from Teach Me To Do It Myself.

We started with spooning rice. I already had the small Pyrex bowls, and picked up the small tray from IKEA last week - the only trays I had were too large for Cherub to carry comfortably. I would have liked a less distracting plain tray, but this swirly pattern was all I could find. She spooned the rice happily from one bowl to the other several times before she lost interest, with very little spillage. There was a bit of enthusiastic stirring in there too!

The next day we moved onto using clothes pegs. I put a couple of dozen into a small square basket and showed her how to clip them onto the edge of the basket, and then when they were all done, how to take them off and put them back into the basket. Again, she repeated the activity several times. After a couple of times she decided off her own bat to sort the colours as she pegged, so two activities for the price of one ... sorting and fine manipulation.

Yesterday, I put both activities out so she could choose for herself, and she happily did both until we ran out of time. I don't have anywhere I can leave Montessori activities out permanently, so I'm just going to set them out temporarily on the shelf where I normally keep her toy baskets when we want to use them. I'm planning to add a sensorial activity next (rough and smooth sandpaper), and then a couple of mathematical activities as she is very into counting. I'm thinking it should work to have four or five activities available and rotate them out as she loses interest.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Floor Routine

Here is Angel's floor routine, thank to K-next-door. Her camera is higher tech than mine and has sound. She also knows how to work it, which helps tremendously!

ETA: Angel says she rushed her floor routine due to nerves and her vault was very scrappy, but all she cared about at the time was getting over!

Flying Angel

Yesterday Angel took part in her first gymnastics competition for five years. I had forgotten what a long haul these can be. This one ran over time by an hour and a half, making it a very long afternoon.

Angel competed at Level 5* in the 13+ age group. It was a two piece competition, so just floor and vault - no beam or bars. She was being a bit ambitious as she wanted to compete in the same group as her friends, despite the fact that they have been doing gym for much longer (she only went back four months ago) and train twice a week (she only goes once). Two weeks ago she could only manage a handspring over the vault from a trampette, and couldn't land her front somersault on the floor. After putting in some extra training she landed both on the day, and finished a creditable 9th out of 19.

I have never managed to master the video function on my camera and my attempt to film her floor routine failed. I did manage to get her vault, though (complete with swirly blur at the end):

* UK gymnastics levels work differently to those in the US. In the UK, there are a couple of general gymnastics (beginners) levels, with the proper artistic gymnastics levels starting at Level 6 and going up to Level 1 (international standard). Looking at this list of skills for the various US Levels I'd say Level 6 UK = Level 4 US, Level 5 UK - Level 5 / 6 US, Level 4 UK = Level 6 / 7 US.

Simple Woman's Daybook: 18th May

Outside My Window ... leaves fluttering in the breeze. Looks like another day of changeable weather. Could do anything!

I am thinking ... about discipline and boundaries for Star. Not sure whether we need to tighten up or loosen up. How I wish children came with individual parenting manuals.

From the learning rooms ... independent learning week for Angel, chilled out post-SATs week for Cherub, gentle Montessori activities for Cherub.

I am thankful for ... a quiet Monday morning after a busy weekend.

From the kitchen ... baked potatoes and chilli. And I think I may do some baking with Cherub this morning. I wonder what we should make?

I am wearing ... pink pyjamas. Once I get dressed I'll be wearing black jeans, a purple v-neck top and black shoes.

I am creating ... this little cardigan in a deep pink with white trim. I don't think the crocheted hat is going to work out. Still have several unfinished projects, but that doesn't stop me starting something new. Perhaps it should, but it doesn't.

I am going ... to take Cherub to Legoland on Friday. K-next-door is coming with use.

I am reading ... finally making some progress with The Planets by Dava Sobel. I'm in that reading stage where I like the books I've started enough to want to finish them, but not enough to get stuck into them. Result: I haven't been reading at all. Maybe I should just move on.

I am hoping ... the weather will be good on Friday. Don't fancy Legoland in the rain. I also don't want to have to postpone the trip and it would mean having to buy a ticket for Cherub (children under 3 go free).

I am hearing ... Tweenies on TV.

Around the house ... the beginning of kitchen chaos. My brother has started stripping off wallpaper.

One of my favorite things ... theme parks. I'm a big kid at heart.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... not too much this week apart from the Legoland trip.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... spring in England - sometimes like my header picture, sometimes like this:

Check out The Simple Woman for links to other Daybooks and instructions if you want to do one of your own.

Friday, May 15, 2009

7 Quick Takes


1. Tevye wants to know how it is that I can recite, from memory and in order, the entire shopping list I wrote hours ago, yet not remember something he said two minutes earlier.

2. Cherub is now dry at night ... around 70% of the time. The remaining 30% means that the battle of self vs. laundry is no longer equally balanced. If you don't hear from me, look under a pile of wet washing.

3. To try to keep the laundry under control we have started getting Cherub up for a quick bathroom trip before we go to bed. Last night she snuggled sleepily into my shoulder and said "I lub you, Mummy". Makes all the wet beds worthwhile. Then she sat on the toilet and asked if she could have a wheelbarrow for her birthday. (Yes, getting her up is helping, but sometimes it just postpones the inevitable. And yes, she can have a wheelbarrow for her birthday.)

4. Cherub has just hit the stage of enjoying audiobooks in the car. Right now we are listening to a Large Family collection, Handa's Surprise, and this gorgeous Beatrix Potter set I bought from the Book People when Cherub was tiny and had been waiting for her to grow into. Angel used to love listening to books in the car so much that we once asked for the CD in a new car to be replaced with a cassette player (at that time almost all the audiobooks in the library were on tape). Star was never as interested, probably because she is not at all an auditory learner.

5. The world divides into two types of people: those who can happily pay ridiculously small amounts with a credit or debit card, and those who can't. Tevye is in the former category and I am in the latter. Yesterday I was horrified to find a receipt for a 39 pence tube of tomato puree paid for with a credit card.

6. Angel's schedule for this week: Monday, 2 1/2 hours gym; Tuesday, 2 1/4 hours ballet; Wednesday, 1 hour ballet followed by 1 1/4 hours modern dance; Thursday, 2 1/2 hours gym; Friday, 3/4 hour gym; Saturday, 2 hours assisting with preschool gym classes; Sunday afternoon, gym competition. That is on top of a full school day and homework. How does she do it?

7. I changed my blog template. If you read through Google Reader, click over and take a peek.

You can find more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Rant

... about something that bugs me.


Not the kids themselves, but attitudes to them. If I had a pound for every time someone has groaned or expressed sympathy when I tell them I have a fourteen year old, I'd be a rich woman ... well, OK, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but I would certainly have enough to keep me in chocolate for quite some time.

I always told Angel was looking forward to her becoming a teenager - quite genuinely, and also hoping to counteract some of the bad press teens get - and I was right to do so. At fourteen she is a mature, responsible young woman, and a joy to have around. So far, the teens have been her easiest age. And it really bugs me that people assume that as soon as they hit their teens kids turn into some sort of parental torture device. How often does that become a self-fulfilling prophecy I wonder?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

100 Species Challenge: Bugle

Scientific name: Ajuga reptans
Family: Lamiaceae
Flowers: April to July

The Bugle Fairy

At the edge of the woodland
Where good fairies dwell,
Stands, on the look-out,
A brave sentinel.

At the call of his bugle
Out the elves run
Ready for anything,
Danger or fun,
Hunting or warfare,
By moonshine or sun.

With bluebells and campions
The woodlands are gay,
Where bronzy-leaved Bugle
Keeps watch night and day.
Cicely Mary Barker
You can find this Flower Fairy poem set to music here. A while ago I bought and reviewed the whole album, A Flower Fairy Alphabet. Cicely Mary Barker knew her stuff - I spotted this plant in the woods, and saw both bluebells and campions in flower on the same walk. In fact the bugle and red campion were within inches of each other.

Like selfheal, another member of the mint family, bugle is used in herbal medicine to stop bleeding.

100 Species Challenge Number 19
List of plants identified to date

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chicken and Mushroom Casserole

In response to overwhelming demand (OK, maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but a request is a request and I like to keep my readers happy), I posted the recipe for tonight's chicken and mushroom casserole at my long neglected cookery blog.

Simple Woman's Daybook: 11th May

Outside My Window ... sunny and breezy.

I am thinking ... about doing some Montessori stuff with Cherub once she turns three.

From the learning rooms ... SATs for Star this week, starting with a science test this morning. She claims not to be in the least worried about them, but her moodiness over the last few days suggests otherwise. Angel has her last full week of Year 9. Next week she has Independent Learning Week (more about that later), and after half term she moves up to Year 10 and starts her GCSEs.

I am thankful for ... having the use of a car whenever I want it. After 15 years of being a one car family it is a luxury.

From the kitchen ... chicken in mushroom sauce, with rice for those who like it and mashed potatoes for those who don't.

I am wearing ... blue jeans, cream sweater, beaded sandals and silver pendant.

I am creating ... this crocheted sun hat. I'm trying to make it Cherub sized, using some blue 4 ply cotton I didn't know what to do with.

I am going ... to do some cleaning and decluttering while Cherub is at playgroup. Once I tear myself away from the computer, that is.

I am reading ... Yiddish Civilisation: the Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation by Paul Kriwaczek and The Planets by Dava Sobel. (Still making very slow progress with these.)

I am hoping ... Star doesn't find her SATs too stressful.

I am hearing ... a clock ticking and the fan in the computer. Otherwise, silence.

Around the house ... stuff. As a random sample, this is the stuff on my desk - Tesco clubcard vouchers, two iPods, headphones, Cherub's felt tips, papers on top of the printer (probably all junk, but have been there so long I have forgotten what they are), receipts, a school newsletter, a pencil in need of sharpening, a nail file, an abandoned satsuma, pictures drawn by Cherub this morning (six pages of faces), two books and a CD. Extrapolate that to the whole house and you get the idea.

One of my favorite things ... Cadbury's creme eggs. The ultimate sweet, gooey, chocolatey treat.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... a library trip, exercise (I went to the gym three times last week!), a meal out with Tevye, playing with the brass band at a village fete on Saturday, gym competition for Angel on Sunday.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... bluebells in the woods

Check out The Simple Woman for links to other Daybooks and instructions if you want to do one of your own.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

100 Species Challenge: Greater Stitchwort

Scientific name: Stellaria holostea
Family: Caryophyllaceae
Flowers: April to June

Lots and lots of these pretty flowers in the woods today, alongside the bluebells. The French name for the plant is herbe à la Sainte-Vierge (herb of the Holy Virgin). The English name comes from its medicinal use - it was supposed to be a cure for the stitch, or pains in the side.

100 Species Challenge Number 18.
List of plants identified to date.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

I Need Space

... or so last night's episode of my recurring dream would seem to indicate.

We were looking round a house with a view to buying it. The rooms were enormous ... a dining room the size of a tennis court, with a glassed, conservatory style roof; a kitchen the length of a cricket pitch with scads of storage space, every conceivable cooking appliance, and a walk-in, room-sized fridge (!); and a gigantic living area. I don't remember looking at the bedrooms. Bizarrely, this palatial abode was on the market for a price little more than our current home, which I explained to myself was because it only had four bedrooms. And no garden. I was utterly smitten with all this space, and knew we absolutely had to buy this house. By the time I woke up I was busily downplaying all the downsides - needs a new boiler? No big deal! Will cost a fortune to heat? No, no ... all that glass will keep it warm. We hadn't sold our house yet? Surely it would sell quickly!

Whatever. I just had to have that space.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Road to Financial Independence

Melanie at The Wine-Dark Sea has written a post on money and rewarding obedience, which reminded me that I have intended for a while to write about how we handle pocket money and allowances.

While there are some good arguments for linking children's allowances to chores, particularly the idea of teaching them that money needs to be earned, we opted not to go down that route. We had two reasons: firstly, we felt that helping around the house is simply part of being a family; secondly, because as the girls get older they get an allowance to buy things we would otherwise expect to buy for them. We do occasionally pay them for specific chores as a way of helping them get extra money if they are saving for something, and Angel now gets a small amount for babysitting, but the bulk of their money comes without strings attached.

Our main aim has been to help the girls learn to the skills they will need to handle their own finances well as adults. We try to teach them to manage money by gradually increasing their financial responsibilities. To start with, they get a small amount of pocket money - purely fun money, that they can spend on whatever they want. Our rule of thumb has been ten pence for each year of age, starting when they were four. The trigger for first giving Angel pocket money was the attraction of slot machines for bubble gum and junky trinkets outside the leisure centre where I took her for swimming lessons. The first few weeks she had pocket money, it all went into those machines. Then the novelty wore off and I never had to deal with hopeful pleading for twenty pence pieces again.

When Angel turned eleven, we started giving her an allowance of twenty pounds a month and specific responsibilities. We opened a bank account for her which provides a cash card from age eleven and a debit card from thirteen, and paid her allowance by direct debit into her account. Lots of financial lessons there - how to operate an ATM, how to pay cash into an account, direct debits and standing orders, reading bank statements, interest (what were those extra pennies going into her account?), and keeping track of balances. Out of her allowance Angel had to buy her own clothes and fund her mobile phone (we do phones early, but only on a pay-as-you-go basis).

At thirteen Angel's allowance increased to thirty pounds a month, but she now has to pay for her own social life and incidental expenses ... say she wants to take the train to the next town and go ice skating or to the cinema with friends, she pays; or if she wants to grab lunch while she is out, she pays. At fourteen, she got another small rise in her allowance, which now includes five pounds in return for babysitting for one evening during the month so that Tevye and I can go out. If she wants more money in future, it will have to be earned - she has just started helping out at her gym, and is planning on doing coaching qualifications so that she can get some paid work there. Having her own allowance has worked out beautifully. Angel takes her responsibilities seriously, budgets her money carefully, and enjoys the sense of independence it gives her.

We are planning to take exactly the same approach with the other two girls. One small tweak we have made with Star is that we switched her pocket money from weekly to monthly at ten, so she currently gets five pounds a month rather than the pound a week we gave Angel. She is very much looking forward to August when she will get her own bank account and allowance. Angel prefers dealing with cash and has opted not to use her debit card. Star, on the other hand, wants an account with a different bank as she is keen to get a debit card when she is eleven and this bank will provide one. It is going to be interesting to see how she handles her money, as she is a very different character to Angel.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

100 Species Challenge: List of Plants

This is my running list of plants identified for the 100 Species Challenge, each linked to the post giving information about that plant.

1. Daisy
2. Creeping buttercup
3. White clover
4. Selfheal
5. Dandelion
6. Red clover
7. Autumn hawkbit
8. Weeping willow
9. Horse chestnut
10. Sycamore
11. Alder
12. Elder
13. Ragwort
14. Mugwort

15. Lesser celandine
16. Germander speedwell
17. Green alkanet
18. Greater stitchwort
19. Bugle
20. Red campion

100 Species Challenge: Green Alkanet

(also known as Evergreen Bugloss)

Scientific name: Pentaglottis sempervirens
Family: Boraginaceae
Flowers: April to July

I found huge quantities of this plant growing in this churchyard, couldn't find it in my basic wildflower guide, but was able to identify it online. Green alkanet is indiginous to south-west France and Spain, and was brought to Britain in the middle ages thanks to the red dye produced by the roots. It was often planted around monasteries so that the dye could be used for vestments - I wonder if this is how it came to be in the churchyard? The name originates from the same Arabic root as henna.

Monday, May 04, 2009

20 Of My Favourite Things

Another suggestion from The Simple Woman ... if you want to join in, visit her to add your own to the Mister Linky.

1. Colour
- yellow
2. Dessert - bread-and-butter pudding
3. Smell - freshly baked bread
4. Flower - daffodils
5. Animal - elephant
6. Month - October
7. Beverage - champagne
8. Pair of shoes - for summer, these Rocket Dog sandals
9. Snack - vegetable crisps
10. Song - (iPod playlist) Village Green Preservation Society by Kate Rusby
11. Book - The Herb of Grace by Elizabeth Goudge
12. Fruit - raspberries
13. Hairstyle - shortish bob
14. Piece of clothing - black linen trousers
15. Store to clothes shop - Marks and Spencer
16. Season - autumn
17. Hobby - knitting
18. Thing to collect - out of print children's books
19. Movie- Lord of the Rings
20. Restaurant - La Tasca (paella and tapas)

Simple Woman's Daybook: 4th May

Outside My Window ... damp washing hanging on the line, where it has been getting damper in drizzly rain while we were out.

I am thinking ... we should have known better than to hang out washing on a Bank Holiday Monday!

From the learning rooms ... 94% for Star on her last SATS practice test for maths, giving her Level 5A, the top grade possible for that test. Maths and art are definitely her strengths - science and English not so good.

I am thankful for ... hot baths and hot chocolate on a cold day.

From the kitchen ... jacket potatoes and cauliflower cheese for dinner.

I am wearing ... black jeans, grey sweater, silver pendant necklace, hand knitted socks, crocs. Back to winter clothes after a week of linen trousers and t-shirts. (Which is an exact repeat of what I wrote last week!)

I am creating ... socks again.

I am going ... nowhere. We spent the afternoon in town at the annual May Fayre, and now I'm planning to stay in the warm for the rest of the day.

I am reading ... Yiddish Civilisation: the Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation by Paul Kriwaczek and The Planets by Dava Sobel. (Another repeat from last week. Am I stuck in a time warp?)

I am hoping ... the spring weather comes back quickly. (Yes, that was last week's again. Definitely a time warp.)

I am hearing ... Cherub watching Peppa Pig; Star and her friend using the computer.

Around the house ... clothes. Why do they get everywhere? Is this just a girl thing?

One of my favorite things ... my washing machine. It takes a 7kg (15lb) load, which is nearly 50% more than my last machine and means I no longer have to run two loads every day.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... getting back to the gym after too long a break; first orthodontist's appointment for Star; more kitchen decluttering.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... I'm thinking of knitting another of these little cardigans for Cherub

Check out The Simple Woman for links to other Daybooks and instructions if you want to do one of your own.

Friday, May 01, 2009

7 Quick Takes


1. Light blogging this week as I have been sleeping. I've had some kind of weird virus - swollen glands with random aches and pains and the need to take as many naps as possible.

2. Cherub still doesn't do growing. I bought her some cute little skirts and shorts for the summer ... in the 12-18 month size. She will be three in just over a month, but the 18-24 month ones literally fell down.

3. Our usual form of discipline for younger children is time outs - close by when they are small, in their rooms when they are older. Angel used to be sent to the kitchen (no idea why!), and at Cherub's age would often refuse to come out when the time out was over, protesting "I like it here! I want to stay in the kitchen!".

Fast forward eleven years. Cherub has been, shall we say, testing out just how far she can assert herself, and has been sent to sit on the stairs a few times in the last couple of weeks. Guess what? We lift her down and she runs back there ... "I want to sit on the stairs!". Amazing how alike these two are!

4. Tonight we are hosting an English-themed shared meal for our neighbours. That means I get to cook the main course ... steak and kidney pie, stump, and minted peas. K-and-A-next-door are bringing White Windsor soup, and A-and-D-next-door-but-one were muttering about sherry trifle (yum!).

5. May Day bank holiday on Monday, which means the town's May Fayre, one of the girls' annual highlights. Organised by a local charity, the High Street is full of fund-raising stalls for local groups and charities, there is a variety of entertainment, displays and demonstrations (including the brass band and the girls' dance school) ... and best of all, so far as the girls are concerned, there are rides. Ludicrously expensive rides, but hey! it is only once a year.

6. I am coming to the conclusion that the most realistic option for setting up an exercise regime I can stick to is to get gym equipment I can use at home. The only way to make enough space would be to get rid of two six shelf bookcases and their contents. Aarghh!!!!

7. Yikes. In less than four years Angel can do all this.

You can find more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

April's Shower of Photos 12

One last April photo (what do you mean, it's May?) ... a detail shot this time. This is the top of one of the gable ends of a school building from the 1880s (late Victorian again!). I loved the way the striped roof tiles, the decorative ridge, the stone chimney and the weather vane all worked together. The weather vane has a church (it is a Church of England school) and the date 2000 on top, so I presume was put up to celebrate the millenium.

Thank you Jennifer for hosting this shower of photos. It has made me look at the buildings around me in a new way ... I would never have noticed these details before.