Monday, February 28, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook: 28th February 2011

Outside my window ... four degrees (40F), wet and miserable. I'll be glad to see the back of February.

I am thinking ... how nice it would be to be able to go to sleep when I want and wake up when I want, without any night time interruptions. Even for a week!

From the learning rooms ... just about managed to keep up with my studying over half term. Angel and Star went back to school today, Cherub goes back tomorrow.

I am thankful ... that we normally have a dishwasher. And that the non-functioning dishwasher is still under warranty.

From the kitchen ... something instant from the freezer tonight as I will be out all day. On the menu for this week - mince and sweet potato pie, chicken pie, beef casserole, not sure what else!

I am wearing ... dark grey cord trousers, red roll neck jumper over black long sleeved t-shirt, stripy socks

I am creating ... my aran cardigan and mountain view cardigan are on pause while I knit a little cardigan for Cherub using some fluffy red yarn with glittery bits that was given to my Mum. When that is done, I'm going to make her a matching hat.

I am going ... to the London Aquarium today, with Cherub, Little Friend N and his mum

I am reading ... The Secret Diary of a New Mum (age 43 1/4) by Ceri Rosen on Kindle and French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano on paper.

I am hoping ... the nasty bruise on my back goes away soon. I had a disagreement with a table while playing Blind Man's Buffles with Cherub on Saturday. I caught her next the sofa, went to sit down, but had misjudged my position and crashed into a coffee table instead.

I am hearing ... Cherub playing games on the computer.

Around the house ... mud on the carpet (unavoidable in this weather). Also boots and shoes seem to be breeding. If they keep multiplying at this rate we won't be able to get in or out of the front door.

One of my favourite things ... spring. Please come soon!

A few plans for the rest of the week ... London today; an orthodontist's appointment for Angel tomorrow - Tevye is taking her as I need to get an assignment done; school technology competition for Angel on Friday (she has been chosen as part of her school team). I think that is all for the week, though have a feeling I may have forgotten something!
A picture thought I am sharing ... I am going to start posting pictures of Happy Things for my Day Zero project here.
Happy Thing Number 4 - a butterfly Star made from a craft kit and hung from the ceiling in Cherub's room. 

 Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Saturday, February 26, 2011

7 Quick Takes: 25th Feburary 2011

1. I have been feeling so sad all week for the people of Christchurch, New Zealand, as they deal with the terrible effects of this week's earthquake. It's hard to say why this touched me so much, as I don't have any friends or relatives in New Zealand. Maybe because NZ always seems such a gentle country, and a truly beautiful one (think of all that amazing scenery in the Lord of the Rings movies). It is certainly somewhere I would love to visit one day. For a positive story of good coming out of tragedy, go and read Linds' post on the Student Volunteer Army. Eighteen thousand young people out on the streets of Christchurch doing whatever is needed, mobilised through Facebook and other social media. Wonderful.

2. This week's archive find was a list of "Remembrances" scribbled on the back of a survey of trees in a manor park, dated 1599. Mostly a shopping list for his lady, this Elizabethan gentlemen had to remember a kirtle for his wife, a screen, his wife's gloves, a new silver seal, a "rebatta" for his wife (I have no idea what this is, but I'm pretty sure that was the word), and pins of three different sorts. I love stumbling across this sort of day-to-day trivia.

3. I also stumbled across Old Money, an iPhone app issued in conjunction with The National Archives which gives conversions of old money into modern currency and vice versa. Input the amount (pounds, shillings and pence) and the year and it will tell you todays value. Quite fun, and it only costs 59 pence - worth it to satisfy my curiosity about the real value of Mr Darcy's £10,000 a year. It caught my attention as the historian who contributed to the app was a fellow student of mine.

4. Another computer application I have completely fallen in love with is Evernote. I started using it to keep various notes, to-do lists and articles for my archive course together, but now I'm using it for everything I want to keep track of - recipes, knitting patterns, STUFF! I can then access all my stuff (and add more) from any computer (Mac or PC), my iPad and my phone. Sheer brilliance. I saw someone describe it as their second brain early this week. I know what they mean. A second brain is very important when your first brain no longer remembers simple facts like where I saw that comment!

5. It is half term. Domestic chaos reached its peak on Wednesday. A-next-door got her shower stuck on when everyone else in her family was out. I couldn't turn it off either, but fortunately I knew a man who could (their other neighbour, a member of our international dining company). Then Star saw fit to encourage Cherub to practice for a non-existent egg and spoon race. With a real, uncooked egg. In the sitting room. The carpeted sitting room. How Cherub managed not to drop it I have no idea, particularly given the number of times she subsequently dropped the potato she practiced with after I removed the egg. Star is still alive. I'm not quite certain she would have been had Cherub dropped the egg. Does the girl have no common sense at all?

6. Cherubism of the week ... Angel explained Blind Man's Buff to Cherub, who got very excited by the idea. A few minutes later she was told me "I'm desperate to play Chinese Buffles!" Apparently she confused it somewhat with Chinese Whispers. As the week progressed, she got closer to the right name. It is now known as Blind Man's Buffles.

7. The highlight of my day today was watching Cherub's face as she discovered that Rice Krispies really do go snap, crackle and pop.

Read more quick takes at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Yarn Along: 23rd February

I have been meaning for a while to join Ginny's Yarn Along, which has been popping up at various blogs I read. These are the instructions:

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a single photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~
Reading and knitting? What's not to like! For my first yarn along, my mountain view cardigan in beige cotton, and The Secret Diary of a New Mum (age 43 3/4) by Ceri Rosen on my iPad. For some reason I don't understand the cover picture is not showing up, and has been replaced with a stock title / cover page. Odd. The cardigan is making surprisingly good progress for over 300 stitches of 4 ply (fingering), and I have just passed the ribbing at the waist.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook: 21st February 2011

Outside my window ... it has been a thoroughly miserable cold, wet, muddy  February day. 

I am thinking ... it is time to get back into gear with blogging. I enjoyed posting more regularly, but I haven't managed to work out good blogging times since I started my course. 

From the learning rooms ... half term. Lots of reading practice of Cherub - her choice. She likes us to pick words in story books for her to read. Very good for her reading skills, but not so good for keeping the flow of the story! 

I am thankful ... for the safe arrival of Melanie's new little Anthony. 

From the kitchen ... baked potatoes and chilli tonight. Warming food for a cold and nasty day. 

I am wearing ... dark grey cord trousers, black long sleeved t-shirt, black and white striped socks, earrings. 

I am creating ... my aran cardigan and mountain view cardigan. The first sleeve of the aran is nearly finished, and I am half-way up the body of the mountain view. Lots of reading, lots of knitting! 

I am going ... to buy Angel's old phone from her. She bought a new one (at least, a new-to-her one from ebay) as she decided she hated relying on a touchscreen keyboard. I have been testing out the old one for a few days and as an Apple fan yearning for an iPhone, I'm surprised how much I like it. Saves her having to sell it to repay me for doing the ebay purchase for her. 

I am reading ... The Secret Diary of a New Mum (age 43 1/4) by Ceri Rosen. Light, entertaining reading for someone who was a third time mum aged 45 3/4. 

I am hoping ... this is the last fling of the cold season. Angel had one last week, which she has passed on to Cherub and I. 

I am hearing ... the news on TV.

Around the house ... laundry drying (hard to believe today that I was able to hang laundry outside a couple of times last week); tidy(ish) girls' bedrooms as the two older ones tackled their messy disaster zones today. 

One of my favourite things ... Cadbury's caramel bunnies. It is the chocolate egg and bunny season again. Any liturgical qualms disappear after one bite of bunny. (Ooh! That sounds bad!) 

A few plans for the rest of the week ... dental appointments for everyone tomorrow morning, and an optician's appointment for Angel in the afternoon. Half-term socialising for Angel and Star. No other real plans for half-term entertainment, which is probably just as well given Cherub's and my colds. An international meal with our neighbours on Saturday - we are responsible for dessert. 

A picture thought I am sharing ... skipping this as I am out of time and don't have any ideas for a photo to share. 

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Monday, February 14, 2011

Simple Woman's Daybook: 14th February 2011

Outside my window ... it has been raining overnight (again), but looks quite nice this morning. We have been getting alternating rain and bright spells for the last week. Warmer than it has been though, with temperatures hitting double digits (low 50s farenheit).

I am thinking ... oh, I hate this prompt! It is 7.25am. Of course I am not thinking. Typing, but not thinking.

From the learning rooms ... last week before half term. Angel has an entire day of PE today - practical mocks for her GCSE exam - which she is not looking forward to. 
I am thankful ... for a husband who takes on more than his fair share of getting up in night with Cherub. She still isn't a great sleeper.

From the kitchen ... planning to cook heart biscuits (cookies) with Cherub this afternoon in honour of Valentine's day.

I am wearing ... pink pyjamas.

I am creating ... my aran cardigan (first front finished, and now working on a sleeve) and started this mountain view cardigan as I have some 4 ply cotton to use and wanted something mindless (lots of stocking stitch) to knit while I read. I am pretty good at knitting and reading, but the aran cardigan just has too many cables. My brother's socks are done.

I am going ... to school for a taster lunch with Cherub tomorrow. She starts staying for lunch after half term.

I am reading ... still The King's Speech, plus lots of archive stuff. Same as last week, but making progress on both.

I am hoping ... that I will be better organised this week. I completely forgot to take Cherub to ballet last Wednesday.

I am hearing ... Charlie and Lola.

Around the house ... full laundry baskets. I took my eye off the ball last week, and the laundry has exploded. Where does it all come from? Who wears all this stuff?

One of my favourite things ... four year olds. The cutest, funniest age of them all.

A few plans for the rest of the week ... school lunch with Cherub tomorrow; usual orchestra and band practices and archive work. I'm enjoying this spell with less on the calendar.

A picture thought I am sharing ... a poet for Valentine's Day. The grave of William Wordsworth, taken in Grasmere churchyard last February.

Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Religious Climate

A few days ago Jenn at Conversion Diary asked "what is the religious climate in your country?". I found the answers fascinating, and noticed that within the UK in particular there was quite a lot of variation in the answers, ranging from quite positive to very negative. Here are mine for this little corner of Bedfordshire.

Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

England, about 40 miles north west of London.  

What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

In our town (population 35,000) there are two Church of England churches, one Catholic, two Methodist (one very small with aging congregation), two Baptist (again, one very small), one Salvation Army and a Quaker meeting house. There are also a Christian Fellowship and a New Life Community Church that meet in local schools. Most active are the Catholic, Church of England, larger Baptist and New Life churches. I'd guess church attendance is about 5%, but a larger number attend occasionally, and the role of the churches in the local community is greater than the numbers attending would suggest. 

At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

Mentioning attending Church is fine. Talking about praying or reading the Bible would be very odd.   

What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example,  here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

Of the leaders of the three main political parties one attends the Church of England, one is an atheist (I think) with a Catholic wife and children, and the third is an atheist Jew. Our local member of Parliament is actively Christian.  

How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

Many families with three - two or three is the norm. Four is less common but not at all unusual. More than four is unusually large. One of the other mothers commented in the school playground last week that more families seem to be having third and fourth children, whereas a few years ago most stopped at two.  

What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

Vague agnosticism. Most people are not religious, but very few are anti-religious. It is a very mono-cultural area, so of those that do practice a religion, almost all are Christian. 

Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

I'd say Christianity is pretty much holding its own. Numbers attending church may have declined a bit in the 18 years I have lived here, but not dramatically. The churches I know best seem to have a good cross-section of ages, including younger people and families with children.

    Friday, February 11, 2011


    Playing Categories in the car today, Cherub asked Grandma to think of "a fruit that begins with T ... something that the big girls like". After a failed guess of tangerines, Grandma gave up. The answer, it transpired, was "termites". Termites? Are my daughters anteaters? Grandma and I cracked up laughing, and even Cherub got the joke after we explained what termites were, and that what she actually meant was pomegranates (!).

    At dinner I passed the story on to Angel and Star, accompanied by more laughter from Cherub and myself. It turned out the joke was on us. Angel and Star looked rather sheepish ... then admitted that when they were younger they used to eat ants!!!! Eek!

    In case you are wondering, they squashed them first. And insects are high in protein.

    Then again, better not to think about it.

    Tuesday, February 08, 2011

    Sounds Write

    I meant to report back on my visit to the Sounds Write open morning at Cherub's school last week, but time ran away with me ... catching up now before I forget the specifics.

    I am very impressed with the Sounds Write programme, which is a phonics based literacy scheme, covering reading, writing and spelling simultaneously. We were given a talk about how the scheme works, and then the opportunity to watch a Sounds Write session. I particularly liked both the integrated nature - reading and writing together - and the way children start straight into blending and spelling simple words at the same time they start learning the alphabet.

    The early stages are based on letter groups. The first group of letters they learn contains 'a', 'i', 'm', 's' and 't', and they quickly add the second group ('n', 'o' and 'p') because the number of words that can be made with the first few letters is very limited. First the sounds of the letters are taught, as phonetically accurately as possible ('mmm' rather than 'muh', for example), along with visual recognition of the letter symbols and correct letter formation. Then right from the first lesson they start learning to blend two and three letter words, and to separate words out into their sounds.

    Before I describe the session I watched, a note about equipment, which is very simple. The children each have wo-wo boards ("write on, wipe off" white boards), marker pens and erasers, which they use much like old-fashioned slates. I must say, I wish that as a homeschooler I had known about wo-wo boards. Wrongly written letters and misspelled words can be easily replaced with correct ones, which fits nicely with Charlotte Mason's theory that children should have to look at errors (they can fix the wrong spelling in the mind), and also avoids tantrums from perfectionists who have "spoiled" their page! The teacher used sticky post-it notes with the letters written on and a white board - the letters can be easily moved and reaaranged by the children.

    The session started with "symbol search", in which the teacher pointed at letters on a chart and the children made the letter sounds. Then she taught (or reviewed) the letter formation of 'a' and 'p', which the children practiced on their wo-wo boards. Next came working with a "letter line" to make the word 'pat'. The teacher spelled out the letter sounds p-a-t, helped the children to work out that there were three sounds in the word, and drew a line on the white board for each sound. She put sticky notes with the three letters on the board in random order, and got three volunteers to arrange them correctly on the letter line - she repeated the sounds very clearly, making it quite a simple task. Then a fourth child spelled the word by pointing to each letter in turn, saying its sound, and then saying the word (p-a-t, pat). Finally the children copied the word onto their wo-wo boards.

    Next came "word swap" where the teacher asked the children to think about the word 'pot' and listen carefully to the difference between 'pot' and 'pat'. She put the letter 'o' on the board and asked for a volunteer to swap one of the letters over to change 'pat' to 'pot'. After that things got a little harder. She wrote the word 'pin' on the board in sticky notes, helped the children to spell out the sounds of the letters, than asked for a volunteer who thought they could read the word - which Cherub did correctly (well done Cherub!). Then more writing practice as they all copied the word 'pin'. Finally the teacher gave them a word (I can't remember what) verbally, and asked the children to try writing it.

    The children worked in groups of fifteen, with a teacher and (for the two younger groups) a classroom assistant who helped any little ones having trouble with letter formation. The session lasted about 20 minutes (maybe a little more?), and I was very impressed with how engaged the children were. The progressive nature of the session meant they were all able to join in at their own level - whether it was recognising letters, slightly hit and miss attempts at writing, or being able to blend and break down simple words. Considering that they were a group of four year olds who had only been doing this for three weeks, I was very impressed at how much they were able to manage.

    As for Cherub, in a month her letter formation has dramatically improved, she is practicing writing words at home (off her own bat), over the last week has really clicked with blending three letter words, and best of all seems to be thoroughly enjoying the lessons.

    Monday, February 07, 2011

    Simple Woman's Daybook: 7th February 2011

    Outside my window ... a day of two halves: overcast, cold and windy this morning; bright and breezy this afternoon.

    I am thinking ... mostly about archive stuff.

    From the learning rooms ... Space Day for Cherub today. She went off dressed in a starry headdress and wearing a rather oversized magician's cloak decorated with stars and moons - she told me she was a "shooting star". She had been lent an astronaut's outfit, but decided it was "too itchy" and we had to switch to Plan B (a bit of inspired last minute improvisation on my part!).

    I am thankful ... for our new wireless printer. Being able to print from any computer, anywhere in the house is wonderful - even more so in comparison to the old printer which would only work with the old laptop, so that files had to be transferred from the iMac to print them.

    From the kitchen ... cottage pie tonight, experimental Thai red chicken curry tomorrow.

    I am wearing ... jeans, a grey long sleeved t-short, hand knitted socks, earrings.

    I am creating ... still socks for my brother (nearly done) and my aran cardigan (back finished, part way up the first front).

    I am going ... to try to get to sleep earlier. I have got into the habit of staying awake too late, even when I'm tired.

    I am reading ... still The King's Speech, plus lots of archive stuff.

    I am hoping ... that Cherub will start sleeping better. She is waking a lot at night again.

    I am hearing ... A Question of Sport, because I can't be bothered to get up and turn the TV off. How many decades has that programme been going?

    Around the house ... stuff. Too much of it. I am beginning to develop an inner minimalist. One day it will mature and go on a clearing out rampage. It may take a few years, though.

    One of my favourite things ... my new desk.

    A few plans for the rest of the week ... another nice quiet week, with nothing much out of the ordinary apart from a play date for Cherub tomorrow.

    A picture thought I am sharing ... another Day Zero Project completed. I have finally mastered French plaits (braids). Not perfect, but no longer a total mess. It has taken me ten years of trying and failing.

    Find instructions and links to other daybooks at The Simple Woman

    Saturday, February 05, 2011

    101 Happy Things

    Starting out on another Day Zero Project challenge - take photos of 101 things that make me happy. Here are the first three:

    1. My new work space. I bought a cheap desk from IKEA (£35 including delivery) which just fits into the space between my bed and the wall, replacing an old set of drawers that were rather the worse for wear. Getting rid of the drawers also forced me to get rid of lots of junk from inside them.

    2. Pretty earrings found when clearing out the drawers, which inspired me to start on another of my challenges - to wear earrings everyday for a month (I have so got out of the habit - I used to wear them all the time, but probably haven't worn them more than a couple of times in the last year).

     3. No. 7 Pink Crush Lipstick. My current favourite colour (not so bright when it is on as it looks in the tube).

    Tuesday, February 01, 2011


    In a piece of bloggy serendipity I was scrolling through my Google Reader feeds last week and jumped straight from Linds who was finding things a trifle red (you can see her beautiful red work in progress here, on her red blog), to Jennifer was was loving the red in her kitchen. So after that, I just had to add my own red post.

    Apart from Star's red bedroom, most of our red is in the sitting room. We have red curtains and cushions:

    A bunch of red artificial flowers bought for me by Star:

    And a light shade with a dash of red among the embroidered flowers:

    All lovely and cheerful to brighten up grey winter days.

    Thinking about red reminded my that buying a pair of red shoes was on my Day Zero Project list, and now I have started thinking about red, I am determined to find a pair.