Tuesday, June 30, 2009

4 x 10 Reading Challenge: Update 5

Finished book titles are blue, with those completed since my last post in bold; books in my current reading pile are green. I tweaked my categories again. Historical fiction and history have been squeezed together, to make room to add a Serendipity section back in. I am exactly on target to complete the challenge in a year, with twenty books read in six months.


  • 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)
  • A History of Hand Knitting (Richard Rutt)
  • Sensational Knitted Socks (Charlene Schurch)
  • Teach Me To Do It Myself (Maja Pitamic)
  • My Life With the Saints (James Martin, S.J.) - I liked this. The author, a Jesuit priest, writes a very personal take on saints he has learned to love over the years. Some are well known, well-established saints; others are men and women of faith whose lives have taught him much, but who have not (yet?) been formally canonised or beatified (the stage before official sainthood in the Catholic Church). Very readable.
  • The Rosary: Keeping Company With Jesus and Mary (Karen Edmisten) - reviewed here
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer)
  • The Uncommon Reader (Alan Bennett)
  • The Autobiography of the Queen (Emma Tennant)
  • The Friday Night Knitting Club (Kate Jacobs)
Geography and Travel
  • A Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria (Kapka Kassabova)
History and Historical Fiction
  • Helena (Evelyn Waugh)
  • The Road to Wigan Pier (George Orwell)
Science and Nature
  • Electric Universe (David Bodanis)
  • The Planets (Dava Sobel)
  • Buried Treasure: Travels Through the Jewel Box (Victoria Finlay)
  • The Secret Life of Trees (Colin Tudge)
  • The Morville Hours (Katherine Swift) - this book is a mix of history, gardening and biography, with a dash of almanac thrown in, and defies categorisation.
  • The Catholic Revival in English Literature 1845-1961 (Ian Ker)
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)
The Shrines of Our Lady in England (Anne Vail)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 29th June

Outside My Window ... a hot summer's day, though still a little humid after storms and rain at the weekend.

I am thinking ... how lovely it is to be able to sit out in the garden with my laptop.

From the learning rooms ... a school trip to the Natural History Museum in London for Star tomorrow.

I am thankful ... for a summer worthy of the name, and hoping it stays that way.

From the kitchen ... chicken fricassee in the crockpot, a new recipe I am trying for the first time, and cheesy scones made with Cherub before she went to

I am wearing ... cropped beige trousers, pink vest, black flip-flops. It's hot!

I am creating ... working up the leg of the second of a pair of socks. It's slow progress, but at least it is progress.

I am going ... to play with the template of my blog. Time to move on from spring bluebells to something more summery. Watch this space!

I am reading ... Buried Treasure: Travels Through the Jewel Box by Victoria Finlay.

I am hoping ... to get into better eating habits. More fruit and veg, and less of everything else. I don't have a particularly junky diet, I just eat too much.

I am hearing ... leaves rustling in the breeze, a distant train and a little traffic noise.

Around the house ... a large fridge-freezer in the kitchen waiting to be plumbed in, and the old, working fridge-freezer in the dining room.

One of my favorite things ... a jug of cold Pimm's on a summer afternoon.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... girls' night out to an Indian restaurant on Wednesday, with Angel, Star, K-, J- and A-Next-Door and Cherub's friend N's mum; trip to Thorpe Park (theme park) with all three of my girls on Friday as the older two have a day off school (no roller coasters for me this time as Cherub is coming); dance show dress rehearsal for the girls and band concert for me on Sunday.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... you push me ...

And I'll push you ...

The Simple Woman is away for the summer, but you can find links to other daybooks here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Alphabet Bags

I have been tossing the story sack idea around a bit more, and have decided that when the new school year starts in September I am going to try putting together alphabet bags for Little Cherub. I'm not in the least bothered whether she learns her letters this early, but she is at a stage where she loves any sort of activities she can do with me and I think this will give enough structure to keep me on track and motivated ... and she is showing enough interest in letters that I think it will appeal to her.

I love the idea of using the Serendipity Alphabet Path stories with her as a framework, and think this would tie in well with putting together a bag based on each letter of the alphabet. I brainstormed the first few letters and I'm sure it would be easy to come up with enough to keep her busy for a week or more. This is what I thought of putting in for the letter "A":

  • A copy of the Alphabet Path story Meet Mrs Applebee
  • Angelina Ballerina (Katherine Holabird)
  • Alfie and Annie Rose (Shirley Hughes)
  • Angels, Angels Everywhere (Tomie de Paola)
  • The Apple Trees (Vivien French)
  • How to Make an Apple Pie and See The World (Marjorie Priceman)
  • Pictures (printed and laminated) ... St. Anne, Guardian Angel (with prayer), Apples by Cezanne
  • CD of Appley-Dappley's Nursery Rhymes (Beatrix Potter) - I have this as part of a Beatrix Potter CD collection
  • Objects beginning with "A" ... apple, aeroplane, angel, ant
  • Colouring pages of things beginning with "A"
  • Angelina Ballerina DVD
  • Recipe for apple pie
  • Letter "A" pastry cutter
  • Letter "A" rubber stamp
  • Angel beanie baby
  • An "A" related game - I'm very tempted by this Angelina Ballerina UNO game
I think she would love this!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

7 Quick Takes


1. I had an "aha!" moment this week while thinking about healthy eating. There are five people in this family. We are supposed to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily. If we are to achieve that I have to buy at least 175 portions each week, or 140 if I assume everyone drinks a glass of fruit juice or smoothie every day. I sat down and wrote a sample list of what I need to put in my weekly shopping trolley to meet that target. It is quite a lot more than I normally buy, even though my usual quantity looks a lot at the time. No wonder we are always running out of fruit. From now on I am going to "think 140" when I shop.

2. We are gearing up to the girls' biennial dance show frenzy. Full run through this Sunday, dress rehearsal next Sunday, then final run through, tech rehearsal and four performances the following week. Keeping track of costumes and making sure no bits and pieces go astray is always a challenge. This year we have a raindrop, a green alien, a car (or as the costume is a red unitard it may be a racing driver?), a stargirl, a chess piece (white knight, I think), water, a shadow, and black magic (Angel has to come up with something "dark burlesque" in black or neon colours for that. Eek!). The theme of the show is "The Old Curiosity Shop". Quite how it will tie that lot together I have no idea.

3. On the way to the supermarket yesterday Cherub suddenly announced, apparently randomly, "I want Star Wars". Huh? Is this something she picked up from the older two? Is she expecting me to suddenly produce the music on the car CD player? Irritated by the lack of response, her "I want Star Wars" got more persistent ... then I remembered an earlier conversation about what she could eat at the supermarket, in which we had discussed different shaped bread rolls. What she wanted was not "Star Wars", but "star rolls". Sorry sweetheart, they don't do star-shaped rolls.

4. Cherub's little friend N is with us again today. They have helped to bake carrot cake, played with Playmobil for an hour or so (why, when there are a dozen different vehicles, do they inevitably want to play with the same one?), and are now both slumped wearily watching Peppa Pig. We have had a couple of warm and sticky nights, and both have had interrupted sleep. I have making a new batch of playdough and building with Junior Meccano up my sleeve for when they perk up and want something else to do. When it comes to looking after two under fives, my policy is "keep 'em busy".

5. I just had a panic as I couldn't find the book with my foolproof, long-lasting, non-messy playdough recipe. Fortunately I posted it here a couple of years ago. Thank goodness for blogs.

6. Angel and J-next-door have come up with a novel arrangement: the two-house sleepover. Tonight they have two mutual friends coming to eat pizza Next Door and then sleep here. I think their theory was that if you don't ask too much of your parents, they are more likely to say yes.

7. Our new fridge-freezer was delivered this morning. I breathed a big sigh of relief as I was not at all convinced they would manage to get it into the house. They had to take the doors off (the fridge, that is), but they made it. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to being able to put shopping away or lunch boxes into the fridge without feeling like I'm solving one of these.

You can find more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Corner View: Music

I was going to take photos of Sunday afternoon music at the bandstand in the central town park, a weekly treat during the summer. Unfortunately we didn't make it last Sunday, so I am going to make do with this old photo of the local brass band instead. Angel (a younger, smaller version) is in the back row of the cornets, but all you can see is the top of her head. It was taken on a typically dull English day with my old camera so is on the dark side.

Brass bands are popular in the UK, and are very much community based - often with whole families involved. Ours celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, and still has sons, daughters and grandsons of the founder members among the band.

Visit Jane at Spain Daily for more music pictures from around the world.

Next week's theme ... food staples.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Book Review: Brown and Furry (Who Am I?)

Brown Fierce and Furry (What Am I) Brown and Furry
by Moira Butterfield

(Note: The book in the picture has the title What Am I?, but the one I have is called Who Am I? - not sure if these are different editions, or variations in the title between the US and the UK)

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a lovely non-fiction book about bears for pre-schoolers. The pictures are clean and clear, standing out from the white background, and focus on different parts of the bear - fur, paws, teeth, eye, nose and so on. The accompanying text describes what the bear sees, eats, smells and so on. Once the whole bear is revealed, the child is asked to point to the different parts she has seen. The book ends with a map showing where bears can be found, some questions to answer and some words to learn. One of an extensive series, unfortunately now out of print. Other titles are:

  • Strong and Stripy (tiger)
  • Bouncy and Big (kangaroo)
  • Big and Bulky (elephant)
  • Furry and Fluffy-Tailed (rabbit)
  • Graceful and Galloping (horse)
  • Long-Necked and Leggy (giraffe)
  • Scaly and Snappy (alligator)
  • Swift and Silent (owl)
  • Green and Croaky (frog)
  • Loud and Crowing (cockerel)
  • Black and White (panda)
  • Winged and Wild (eagle)
  • Colourful and Bright (parrot)

Story Sacks: Testing the Water

After thinking about story sacks at the weekend, I decided to dip a toe in with Cherub yesterday. We had a clear morning and I wanted to do some activities with her, but I am not good at getting myself organised in advance so it needed to be something I could pull together easily. I am gradually building up a list of simple ideas for celebrating different feasts and seasons. Checking that, I found sun-related ideas for June 21st I could use for the beginning of summer and threw together a story sack and a craft activity tray.

Into the story sack (a cloth bag that once contained a set of bed linen) went:

  • The Sun Egg by Elsa Beskow
  • Skip Through the Seasons by Stella Blackstone
  • Summer Story (Brambly Hedge) by Jill Barklem
  • Flower Fairies of the Summer by Cicely Mary Barker
  • This sun colouring page
  • A sun rubber stamp
Onto the tray (a small wooden one I found when clearing out the kitchen) went:
  • Coloured paper
  • A paper plate
  • Yellow paint and paintbrush
  • Bottle of glue
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
... to make this handprint sun. In my experience doing any sort of structured craft with a toddler or preschooler goes much more smoothly if everything is ready to hand before getting the child involved - otherwise you can guarantee that things will take an interesting turn in your absence collecting missing items! Trays are a great way to get everything together and have endless possibilities. (Theresa at LaPaz Home Learning is the queen of activity trays ... check out some of her ideas here, and here, and here for inspiration.)

Cherub was very pleased to get a bag "like N's" and loved digging through it to see what was inside. We looked at the summer months in Skip Through The Seasons (a simple book with a double-page picture for each month, with items to spot), read The Sun Egg and looked at a couple of flower fairies before she wanted to move on to playing with the stamp. I have dangled Brambly Hedge books at her a couple of times but she hasn't been ready to bite yet, and obviously wasn't this time either. With hindsight I realised it would have been fun to put an orange and a small carton of orange juice in the bag to go with The Sun Egg.

After stamping we moved away from the bag and on to the craft tray. We drew round her hands, then I cut out hand shapes while she painted the paper plate yellow. When that was done she painted the colouring page and her stamped suns, then we turned to making "sunny" fairy cakes (yellow food colouring and yellow icing). Altogether we probably got about two hours of happy, focused activity out in return for a few minutes preparation, using books and other bits that I already had to hand.

I think for now I am going to put together other random bags as the fancy takes me, with the aim of having one ready to produce whenever she wants something to do and I don't have any other ideas. In the longer term I have - as Blackadder would say - a cunning plan. Letter bags. More on that later.

PS. I was a bad blogger and didn't remember to take any photos.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 22nd June

Outside My Window ... a warm, muggy evening, with rain on the way.

I am thinking ... wondering whether I am the only person who feels obliged to update their half-written daybook post (twice) so that it is accurate at the time it is actually posted.

From the learning rooms ... Cherub and I did sun related activities today in honour of the first day of summer. We made this simple handprint sun, read The Sun Egg by Elsa Beskow, coloured a sun picture and made "sun cakes" (fairy cakes with yellow icing).

I am thankful ... for a line full of pink laundry. I love having girls!

From the kitchen ... chicken stir fry for dinner, though I forgot to defrost the chicken so had to run out and buy some.

I am wearing ... black linen trousers, purple top.

I am creating ... the heel of the second of my pair of socks.

I am going ... to try to rest more so that I can shake off the lingering effects of this virus.

I am reading ... Buried Treasure: Travels Through the Jewel Box by Victoria Finlay.

I am hoping ... my cough and aching chest will finally clear this week.

I am hearing ... muffled noise from the TV downstairs.

Around the house ... the debris of Cherub's day. Crayons on the sofa; toys on the floor.

One of my favorite things ... being able to jump into the car any time I want. Such a luxury after fourteen years of only having limited access to one.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... a Mum's night out on Friday; a shopping trip with Star on Saturday.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... Star. By Star

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

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Story Sacks

I looked after a friend's little boy yesterday and thanks to him made a discovery ... story sacks. N is four and in his first term at school - afternoons only - so we did the school run with him, and it turned out that Friday was story sack changeover day.

Story sacks are a simple idea for sharing books with young children, and were originally conceived as a way of helping and encouraging adults who might not otherwise do so to read with their children. Since then the project has expanded and many schools now use story sacks, often supported by local community groups who put the bags together. They can also be bought prefilled like these, which I think are the ones used by N's school. This description comes from the Literacy Trust:

A story sack is a large cloth bag containing a children's book with supporting materials to stimulate reading activities and make shared reading a memorable and enjoyable experience. The sack contains soft toys of the book's main characters, and props and scenery that parents and other adults can use with children to bring a book to life, even if the adult's reading skills are limited. The sack might include a non-fiction book on the same theme, an audio-tape of the story, a language-based game and a short guide containing questions to ask, words to consider and other ways to extend the reading activity.
As N swapped his story sack, I got to see two with completely different themes - Jack and the Beanstalk, and Numbers (based on a book of the rhyme "This old man, he played one..."). The numbers bag contained the nursery rhyme book, Usborne's First Book of Numbers, a number matching puzzle, a CD with number based songs, and a glorious old man soft toy with ten numbered pockets in his coat, each holding one of the items from the song. Jack and the Beanstalk had the story, a non-fiction book about beans, a bag of beans, a board game and soft toys of Jack, the giant and the hen. Each bag had an activity card with suggestions for parents to use with the child.

Seeing these two bags sent my imagination into overdrive. While the swish, ready-made versions are prohibitively expensive for home use, story sacks would be very easy to put together at home and could be used in a number of different ways. Preschoolers are probably the ideal age, they but could work for a variety of ages, from board books for toddlers to chapter-book based sacks for older children. They could be based on an individual book or a theme.

After seeing Cherub's reaction to N's story sacks, I'm going to test a couple of home made ones out on her. I have a drawstring cloth bag that is just the right size, and a few ideas for contents.

Watch this space ...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Corner View: Street Fashion

I was stumped on what to post for this theme - then I found this picture of Star and A-next-door in my iPhoto folder. Perfect.

Visit Jane at Spain Daily for more street fashion from around the world.

Next week's theme ... music.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mid-Life Motherhood: The Myth

I have been thinking for a while of writing a couple of posts reflecting on my experience of mid-life motherhood, starting over with a baby at what in maternal terms is considered an advanced age (forty five). For the record, I haven't been mistaken for Cherub's grandmother yet, though I guess the day will come ...

OK. The myth.

Having a baby late in life keeps you young.

It doesn't. Or, at least, physically it doesn't. It makes you feel old, tired and creaky. There is a reason that the mid-to-late forties is right at the back end of female fertility. Unless you are very fit and very fortunate, pregnancy and mothering a small child is physically more demanding in your forties than it is in your thirties (or, I'm sure, your twenties, though I have no experience of that). It hurts. I have loved nursing all three of my babies, but this time round it gave me muscle and joint aches that I hadn't suffered before. Carrying a baby (both before and after birth) was harder; pushing a stroller uphill harder; buckling a struggling toddler into a car seat harder. You get the picture. Oddly - and blessedly - I found the lost and interrupted sleep easier this time, which given that Cherub has been my worst sleeper is just as well.

When I take Cherub to toddler groups or activities I am almost inevitably the oldest mother there. Generally speaking the age gap isn't too obvious because there are others in their late thirties and early forties, and I (so I'm told) look younger than my almost-49. The more obvious gap is usually in experience, because few have other children older than say five or six. Fortunately the age and experience gap doesn't seem to stop me making new friends among mothers from Cherub's social circle, though there are times when that gap jumps up and hits me and makes me feel old. For example, things I remember that are way before my friends' memory span (old money, the Beatles, England winning the World Cup - I was a sixties child!).

Having said that, I can see that as time goes on, having a relatively young child will help to keep me more active and more engaged with younger people (both children and adults). I will just have to keep remembering to suppress the creaking and groaning as I move.

And of course, although it has been a physical struggle at times, having this gorgeous little person in my life has been a joy, and all the more so because it was one I never expected to encounter. There are still times when I have to pinch myself to believe it. I may feel old and knackered, but at least I am happily old and knackered!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 15th June

Outside My Window ... the sort of calm, light grey morning that could do anything - sun? cloud? rain? I just checked the forecast. "Showers late. Afternoon clouds. Mild." Sounds as though I should at least be able to dry my laundry.

I am thinking ... I should switch the warm winter duvets over to summer ones.

From the learning rooms ... I need to send a note to playgroup with Cherub asking for different sessions next term. This term she goes for two afternoons; next term I want her to switch to three mornings.

I am thankful ... that I am finally feeling better after struggling through last week with a nasty cold and another asthma flare-up. I think I overdid things, trying to carry on regardless, but thanks to a restful weekend and a course of steroids I'm looking forward to getting back to normal this week.

From the kitchen ... baked potatoes and chilli.

I am wearing ... black and white summer pyjamas.

I am creating ... a pair of socks, abandoned half-finished a couple of months ago. Still procrastinating over making up the cardigan.

I am going ... to ease back into things gradually today and take a long rest while Cherub is at playgroup.

I am reading ... The Catholic Revival in English Literature 1845-1961 by Ian Ker and My Life With the Saints by James Martin, swapping between the two.

I am hoping ... to do some baking in my new oven this week.

I am hearing ... the Tweenies. Yes, it's that early morning TV / blogging time again.

Around the house ... toys and clothes. Sometimes I worry we will become submerged under a mountain of toys and clothes.

One of my favorite things ... a restful weekend.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... as quiet a week as possible.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... fairy princess Cherub

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

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Checkout Girl

Cherub's absolute favourite birthday present is this gloriously pink cash register from her Grandma. The older girls had one that was used for years in shopping games of increasing complexity, but it has now lost everything but the ability to open and close. This is the new, super-duper updated version from the Early Learning Centre and it allows her to do everything a checkout girl would do - scan the items (a little button makes the appropriate bleeping noise and registers a random price), make announcements through the microphone, pay by card (cute little chip and pin device), and of course make that cash register pinging noise when the drawer is opened. And it came with a shopping basket, some plastic / card groceries and play money. She is in heaven. The rest of the family (and all of Next Door's) are now beginning to groan when they hear "come and play shops!", but still ...

I find choosing presents for Cherub a bit of a challenge, and it is only going to get more so. With the older two we always looked for toys that would have lasting play value. Over the years we built up collections of Lego, Junior Meccano, beanie babies, dolls' accessories, play food and tea sets, simple musical instruments, all of which have lasted well. We have a nice dolls' house that we restocked with toddler friendly furniture at Christmas. And then there is the Playmobil. We discovered Playmobil quite early on, and it became our standby - if there was nothing specific they or we wanted to get, we would add to the Playmobil collection, and we would suggest it if someone asked for gift ideas. We now have a very impressive collection. As a result, Cherub is pretty much set for the next several years. Apart from the cash register, the only other standby that got used to destruction (or rather, to the point where too many bits had got lost) was a much loved doctor's kit.

I have noticed I am more inclined to buy things for Cherub that I wouldn't have considered for the others, and to think disposable. I have always loathed noisy, electronic toys with a passion, but gave Cherub this little toy laptop for her birthday. She found one in a toybox in the reception area at the gym and latched on to it. I reckoned the games were just at the right level for her for the next year or so, that I can tolerate the noise for a while, and when she is done it can be passed on.

However, I would love to save myself from a succession of noisy, disposable toys by finding something else that she could collect over time, as Angel and Star did with the Playmobil, and I am wondering about Sylvanian Families (ETA: aka. Calico Critters). Anyone have any experience of them? Or any suggestions for something else collectable?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Corner View: Out Your Back Door or Window

I'm sure I won't get around to it every week, but I love this idea. Jane of Spain Daily hosts this meme where bloggers around the world post pictures of the view from their own little corner, sharing a common theme. This week's "back door view" theme makes for a nice easy start.

We have a modest sized town garden (or backyard as it would be called across the pond!), which is a grassed area on two levels, with a patio area in front of the living room. This is the view from the patio door, looking across past the dining room wall to the old and slightly rickety swing set that takes up most of the higher level.

This is the lower level looking down from the patio - toddler toys, a swingball set and washing line. Sadly, no flowers, due to my black thumbs and Tevye's tendency to assume anything that grows is a weed. There is a nice boundary hedge, though, which was already well established when we bought the house sixteen years ago.

Looking across the patio from the back door leading out of the dining room. A swing seat and a table and chairs fill up most of the space.

And for good measure, here are the views from the upstairs rear windows. Although it is part of a large housing estate (neighbourhood?) there is still a lot of greenery. This looks across from Cherub's window to a green space between the estate and the main road (which runs in front of the large trees in the background).

This view from Angel's window shows our back gate, more hedges, and trees in the green area running between ours and our neighbours' gardens and the next row of houses.

HT: Pamela. And do check out Jane's links for a fascinating world tour.

7 Quick Takes


1. The new kitchen is fitted and in working order. Yes, I will be posting pictures, but not until it is finished. It still needs painting, and we are waiting for both the new flooring and new fridge to arrive. Probably another month before it is completely done.

2. I love, love, love my new oven. I love it even more than I hated my old one. The new one cooks so much better, and food comes out looking so good - beautifully browned, rather than scorched or underdone.

3. I adore three year olds. So much person in so little a body. So determinedly independent - "Let I do it!" - yet still so utterly dependent. So convinced that they know exactly how they (and everyone else!) should do things. So often betrayed by their limited knowledge and inability to foresee consequences. See below.

4. Cherub disaster of the week. She removed the plug from the bathroom sink and decided to clean down the plughole with her toothbrush. Let's just say that the brush was not a pretty sight and had to be thrown away. Poor Cherub was distraught, and not to be mollified by promises of a new toothbrush ... "but I want my own one!"

5. Angel (back from gym, proudly) ... "I did two upstarts on bars, and (even more proudly) I got my first proper blister". Too right, she did. That girl is made of sterner stuff than I am.

6. Star's turn for a quick take, with absentmindedness moment of the week ... her bedtime is 9pm and at 8.55pm she remembered she had homework that needed to be done for the next day. Tevye told her to skip her shower and do the homework in bed. I didn't hear this conversation, so wasn't surprised when she came into my bedroom to shower. I was surprised when she came out of the shower after running the water for all of two seconds ... turned out she only remembered she wasn't meant to be in the shower after she got her feet wet!

7. This Corner View idea from Spain Daily looks great fun. I think I am going to have to get my camera out and join in. HT: When Good People Get Together

You can find more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Henry the Great

Since his arrival last year, Henry II has been smiling away happily in the cupboard under the stairs, in between running out to hoover up the muck and debris we produce for him.

He has now proved beyond all doubt that he is made of sterner stuff than his unlamented predecessor - the one I murdered by feeding it the strap from Star's school bag. Today I hoovered a bit too close to a cleaning rag left lying on the floor (do you detect a pattern here?), and ... slurp ... it was gone. All the way up the tube. In the blink of an eye.

Did Henry falter? Not in the slightest! Not a hint of indigestion. Not so much as a burp. He didn't even flinch when I disembowelled him to fish the cloth out of his stomach.

I told you I love Henry.

And Henry will be getting his reward. He will soon be a very happy hoover.

Watch this space ...

The Old Curiosity Shop

... would have been a good name for this eccentric bookshop we found in Lyme Regis. This was the main area at the front of the shop:

The proprietor had obviously not been able to stick to books, and had superimposed stuff - on top of, in between and in front of the books. Most of the books behind this clutter display were for sale, but unreachable by anyone more than six inches wide. I've seen some fairly odd bookshops in my time (Hay-on-Wye has its share), but this one took the biscuit.

See the rocking horse in the front of the picture? It is almost identical to one my brother and I had as children. All four legs hang on springs from the frame, giving it a forwards and backwards bouncing movement. We adored it, and I imagine ours must have eventually worn out. This one was for sale for £35, and as it looked in serviceable condition I would have been very tempted if there had been any chance I could have shoe horned it into the car to get it home.

Lyme Regis is at the heart of the fossil rich "Jurassic Coast" - a world heritage site - and is a geologist's dream, but we didn't have time and mobility to to see anything beyond the seafront and this curious bookshop. If you would like to see more of the town and its geological treasures, pay a visit to my friend Missus Wookie, who was there earlier in the week. (Wouldn't we have got a shock if we had run into each other!) When it comes to geology, the best I can do is this picture of rocks on the seashore. I hoped to capture the metallic spots in the darker rocks (mica?) sparkling in the sun but sadly failed. No fossils, I'm afraid, but Missus Wookie has a beauty here.

Stating the Obvious

From the instruction book for our new oven ...

  • Warning: Risk of burns! The interior of the oven becomes hot during use.
Really? Now that is a surprise.
  • This appliance is intended to be used for cooking, roasting and baking food in the home.
Surely not! I would never have guessed ...

Seriously, do they think anyone who can't work out that an oven will become hot and is meant to be used for cooking is likely to read the instructions?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 8th June

Outside My Window ... a brighter morning after a cold, wet weekend.

I am thinking ... I'm not doing thinking today. My brain is fuzzy with a cold.

From the learning rooms ... Angel is loving her new GCSE courses - so far she has enjoyed every lesson in every subject. Graphics is a particular favourite. They are working on scale drawings, and she finds the detailed, painstaking work relaxing. She is in a small group (just ten students) who are all equally focused, which makes for a nice working atmosphere.

I am thankful for ... a new kitchen that is now more-or-less in working order. Not finished yet, but making good progress.

From the kitchen ... still not quite at the cooking stage, beyond heating up tins and ready meals. We even had to borrow a can opener from Next Door as we couldn't find ours. Tevye says it is like trying to use somebody else's kitchen - we don't know where things are or how things work! I am studiously working my way through instruction manuals. I have managed to get to grips with the dishwasher, but my first attempt with the combination microwave oven resulted in an undercooked ready meal and a plastic lid melted onto the back of the oven. Let's just say I learned the hard way ... there are things that work in a gas oven, but not in an electric fan oven.

I am wearing ... denim jeans, pink t-shirt and purple cardigan. Also wearing a chunky watch with brown leather strap and pink face. I like this watch and was sad to lose it a few months ago. After a couple of months I gave up hope of finding it and bought another. Star found it in the stationery drawer on Saturday. How on earth did it get there? And how come nobody spotted it earlier?

I am creating ... still the same Cherub cardigan. I am procrastinating over the making up. Not my favourite part of knitting.

I am going ... to Star's school to drop off her lunch. I found it sitting in the middle of the sitting room floor. It seems she lost focus somewhere between fridge and bag.

I am reading ... The Catholic Revival in English Literature 1845-1961 by Ian Ker

I am hoping ... the nasty cough and cold I have doesn't turn into another chest infection.

I am hearing ... a drill buzzing in the kitchen and Cherub watching TV (she doesn't spend all her time watching it, honestly - it is just that when she watches, I blog!)

Around the house ... less bags and boxes as we gradually put things away in the kitchen cupboards. New toys scattered over the sitting room floor. Today is Cherub's third birthday. How can that be?

One of my favorite things ... long conversations with my teenage daughter.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... a new Jo Jingles class for Cherub tomorrow and we are planning to try out story time at the library on Wednesday; playing with the brass band at a village fete on Saturday; the stone setting for Tevye's aunt on Sunday (in Judaism a service is held a year after someone dies to dedicate the gravestone).

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... Cherub blowing out her birthday cake candles with a little help from A-next-door

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

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Book Meme

1. What author do you own the most books by? Over a 25 year period I collected all but one of her sixty book Chalet School, so it would have to be Elinor M. Brent Dyer

2. What book do you own the most copies of? The Bible. Thanks to a great-uncle who was a Methodist minister, an elderly friend who taught theology and a lay-preacher mother, I have a truly impressive selection of Bibles in assorted languages and translations.

3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions? Absolutely not.

4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with? None that I can think of.

5. What book have you read the most times in your life? Has to be The Tiger That Came To Tea, over and over and over again to three small girls.

6. Favorite book as a ten year old? The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

7. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year? The Autobiography of the Queen by Emma Tennant. Truly abysmal. I only finished it because it was short and I was stuck on a train with nothing else to read.

8. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year? I think The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by a squeak.

9. If you could force everyone you know to read one book, what would it be? A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.

10. What book would you most like to see made into a movie? Mmm, difficult one ... I would loved to see an updated version of Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner. Does that count?

11. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read? A book on medieval parliaments translated pedantically from French. It was memorably soporific; the title was rather less memorable. I wonder if anyone other than the author has ever finished it?

12. What is your favorite book? If I have to pick just one, then The Lord of the Rings

13. Play? Shadowlands by William Nicholson, the story of C.S.Lewis and Joy Gresham. I saw it with Nigel Hawthorne (aka Sir Humphrey in Yes, Minister, and a superb stage actor) playing Lewis and wept buckets.

14. Poem?I think I'll go for God's Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ask me another day and I would probably give a different answer.

15. Essay? Anything by G.K.Chesterton

16. Who is the most overrated writer alive today? Dan Brown. Let's just say not my cup of tea.

17. What is your desert island book? A book to read on a desert island, or a book about a desert island? I think I'll go with the latter and say Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo

18. And . . . what are you reading right now?
The Catholic Revival in English Literature 1845-1961 by Ian Ker

HT: Theresa at LaPaz Home Learning (I have seen this meme all over the place, but I read it at Theresa's blog first, so she gets the credit).

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Holiday Memories

Cherub and I are back from our few days away at the seaside with Grandma. All three of us had a good time ... sun, beach, ice creams ... how could we not!

Holidays have always been very high on our priority list, especially so for Tevye - I think he would pare everything to the bone before giving up family holidays. He finds it so much easier to relax when he is away from all the "must do" things that call him at home, and needs occasional breaks to recharge his batteries. I am rather better at ignoring the things that need doing (not necessarily a good thing!) so probably have less need for the time away, but I always enjoy holidays, and I love the way they help us to build memories as a family.

The nature of our holidays varies with our finances. Some years we are able to do go abroad in search of sun and new places to explore; other years it is a simple holiday here in the UK. We like to vary things, but we always bounce back to one place - Weymouth, in Dorset - and this has become the backbone of our holiday memories. If we don't have any bright ideas for an alternative, or if we want to squeeze in an extra break, we go to this holiday park in Weymouth. We discovered it back in 2000, when Angel and Star were five and two respectively and recuperating from chicken pox. Tevye was working and couldn't get away, so my mother and I took them there for a few days. We loved both the town and the park, so went back the next year with Tevye and have been several more times since. In our opinion, somewhere that can be enjoyed equally by a three year old, a fourteen year old and an eighty year old is a gem.

For Cherub and I this was our second visit this year, and it was lovely to see her beginning to anticipate the things the older girls have enjoyed since we started going to Weymouth ... playing on the soft sandy beach, swimming in the pool, visiting the little fairground across the road from the park, eating delicious locally made ice cream, watching boats in the harbour. These days Angel and Star like to add in shopping expeditions and shows in the evening with Tevye (Cherub and I opt out!), as well as trips to familiar attractions (the Sealife Centre and Monkey World are old favourites). We love to see all three girls enjoying each others company without the distractions there are at home. When they grow up and think back to childhood holidays, all these things will leave them with warm memories, which I hope will inspire them to want to create similar ones for their own children.