Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This Week: 29th November 2011

The weather ... A nasty, wet morning, after a frosty start yesterday. It still feels more like autumn than winter.

I am wearing ... black jeans, black vest top, black sweater, pink cardigan, pink plimsolls, pink coat and scarf. Plenty of layers as I am working in the stack room today. It is cold up there when sitting on the computer, but if it is busy the physical exercise can make it warm. Also have to dress for climbing steps and lugging boxes around.

I am reading
.... The English Poor Laws 1700-1930 by Anthony Brundage and Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy. I don't like Hardy - too depressing for my taste - but downloaded a free Kindle version after reading a review (which I will try to link to later - too fiddly right now as I am on the train with an erratic 3G internet connection). I finished The Secret Life of Bletchley Park.

I am creating
... boot socks for my brother, socks for my Mum and mittens for Angel. Angel's snood is blocked but still a bit inclined to want to curl up.

I am listening ... two rather snarky sounding schoolgirls in the seat in front grumbling at each other ("you gave me the wrong number you dodo!")

I am watching ... Garrows Law, not much else. I'm reslly not that big on TV and if time is short, which it is at the moment, TV watching is one of the first things to go.

I am enjoying ... Poached eggs. I seem to have finally mastered cooking the perfect poached egg!

I am planning
... just working on sticking to the plan! Essential as there is so much to do over then next month.

Learning notes ... Angel is off to London today. Her product design teacher is taking her class to a study day at London University.

Cherub ... is now a camel in her Christmas concert. I think she was just hoping to be an angel before the parts got allocated. As she is a few inches shorter than the other camels, she is going to be a baby camel!

On the menu
Monday: I went out for dinner with a friend, and shamelessly lt the rest of the family to eat instant meals from the freezer.
Tuesday: cod, chips and peas
Wednesday: chicken with butternut squash wedges and broccoli
Thursday: pasta with meatballs in tomato sauce
Friday: ??
Saturday: baked potatoes
Sunday: roast chicken

On the calendar ...
Tuesday: flu vaccination
Saturday: orchestra rehearsal and concert
Sunday: playing carols with the brass band

A picture from last week ... actually another zoo picture from the previous week.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Not So Mad After All?

Back in August I bought a (very cheap!) set of 42 Rainbow Magic books for Cherub and complained that it was madness. Quite how the publishers and the several authors writing under the pseudonym of Daisy Meadows have managed to churn out over one hundred books with essentially the same plot (two girls help assorted fairies to thwart Jack Frost and his nasty goblins) is beyond me. Still, I have gritted my teeth and we have just finished book eighteen (plus a few outliers borrowed from the library by a gleeful Cherub - the highlight being her namesake Naomi the Netball Fairy).

And now? Cherub has made a huge jump in the level of the books she wants me to read to her. For the last three weeks we have been chugging slowly through H.E.Marshall's Kings and Things, a slighter retelling of British history than Our Island Story written for younger children, but still running to 400 pages and with a fair amount of unfamiliar historical vocabulary - I dug it out to read about Guy Fawkes for Bonfire Night, but she insisted we should read the rest of the book. She has started wanting me to read poems to her, thanks to the gift of a poetry book from Grandma, and tonight we launched, full of enthusiasm, into Letters from Father Christmas (yay! Tolkien!) and The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean. She wants to read, and discuss, and look in detail at pictures, in a way she didn't three months ago when we started the fairy marathon. Tonight it dawned on me that all that listening to chapter books, albeit simple and repetitive ones, has stretched her comprehension and ability to focus, in the same way that becoming engrossed in an easy reader series often kick starts a child into reading more complex material. And yes, the fairies are still top of her bedtime storytime pile, but the pile is now growing in both quantity and quality.

Now the dilemna. The Book People have 21 more Rainbow Magic books on offer, including Naomi the Netball Fairy. Christmas? Should I?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Picture Books for Advent

Last year I wrapped a book a day for Cherub during Advent. Some she loved, others she refused to have anything to do with. This year I think she is more likely to be prepared to give unfamiliar books a go, so I'm going to do the same again. I am only going to wrap one week at a time though. Wrapping 28 books in one go is a marathon I'd sooner avoid, and this way I can tweak as I go and can pick up extra books from the library as I need them.

I am using books with a mix of religious and secular themes, with some saints' stories thrown in on their feast days and a couple of Hannukah books. For the first week I have wrapped:

Sunday: The Story of Christmas (Jane Ray)
Monday: Mog's Christmas (Judith Kerr)
Tuesday: Christmas in Grandma's Day (Faye Gardner)
Wednesday: Saint Andrew (Lois Rock)
Thursday: The Twelve Days of Christmas (Jan Brett)
Friday: An African Christmas (Ifeoma Onyefulu)
Saturday: Angelina's Christmas (Katherine Holabird)

Cherub has been perusing the pile of wrapped books and is excited, not to mention a bit peeved that we couldn't start today. We also have some longer books lined up to start tomorrow - Holly the Christmas Fairy (yet another of the Rainbow Magic series, which she adores despite every book appearing to have the same plot), Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas (which I love and am hoping she is ready for), and I think I will give Grraldine McCaughrean's Jesse Tree book ago. We also have to carry on with H.E.Marshall's Kings and Things, which I thought would be over Cherub's head, but she is insisting on having read every night.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This Week: 22nd November 2011

The weather ... more of the same, mostly grey and damp, though still warmer than usual for November. It is supposed to be getting colder as the week goes on.

I am wearing ... black long sleeved T-shirt, purple cardigan, new black jeans. Smaller black jeans!

I am reading .... The English Poor Laws 1700-1930 by Anthony Brundage and The Secret Life of Bletchley Park. Getting towards the end of both.

I am creating ... boot socks for my brother and mittens for Angel. Two three-quarters done cardigans of my own are on hold while I knit Christmas presents. Angel's snood is done but needs blocking as it is curling up on itself.

I am listening ... to the dishwasher. Apart from that there is a brief space of silence.

I am watching ... still Garrows Law and Junior Apprentice.

am enjoying ... dark chocolate (Tesco's 74% cocoa bars)

I am planning ... how to fit everything in that needs to be done between now and Christmas. I have to get end of module assignments done by January 6th, but as I don't want to have them hanging over me all through the Christmas break I am hoping to get them done before Christmas.

Learning notes ... Star has recently become enthusiastic about French. The French department at her school was rated outstanding after a recent inspection. Judging from Star's attitude, they are certainly doing something right!

Cherub ... is excited about being an angel in her school Christmas concert.

On the menu ...
Monday: chicken in BBQ sauce with rice or baked potatoes and green veg (which I finally managed to cook!)
Tuesday: chicken in breadcrumbs, chips and peas
Wednesday: beef stew and dumplings
Thursday: pasta with meatballs in tomato sauce
Friday: salmon?
Saturday: beefburgers
Sunday: roast chicken

On the calendar ...
Thursday: medical appointment for me (asthma review), and Star is having two teeth extracted before she gets braces (then another two next week. Ugh!)
Saturday: possibly playing Christmas carols with the brass band - it will depend how many people they need

A picture from last week ... from a trip to the zoo with Cherub on Saturday. She earned it by getting 20 stars on her sleeping-through-the-night chart.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This Week: 15th November 2011

The weather ... still very, very Novemberish. Grey and damp, occasional sun peaking through, not particularly cold.

I am wearing ... black and white pyjamas

I am reading .... The English Poor Laws 1700-1930 by Anthony Brundage. The Secret Life of Bletchley Park is temporarily on hold.

I am creating ... Angel's snood. A quick knit but the first attempt came out shorter than she wanted so I am knitting a longer version. Still have boot socks for my brother and my multi-coloured cardigan on the go.

I am listening ... Tevye explaining his idea for our Christmas newsletter this year. We always try spice it up a little with an original theme.

I am watching ... Garrows Law and Junior Apprentice. And the X Factor in a half-hearted sort of way.

am enjoying ... seeing Angel settle into her job. She is enjoying it and her manager is impressed with the speed she has picked it up. I always knew that girl would thrive in a working environment, and it is nice to have that confirmed.

I am planning ... a shopping expedition for new jeans and trousers. I have been eating healthily and every pair I own has got too loose. It seems I must have lost some weight! As I don't possess any scales I have no idea how much.

Learning notes ... I am busy learning about the 19th century poor laws and workhouses as part of my course. Interesting stuff.

Cherub ... is leaning over my shoulder reading this blog! Slowly, and a bit hit and miss, but definitely reading. I'm sure she couldn't have done that even a week ago!

On the menu ...
Monday: chicken and spinach casserole, potato rosti, broccoli
Tuesday: fishcakes, chips and peas
Wednesday: chicken in BBQ sauce with rice and green veg (has been on the list for a couple of weeks but not happened for some reason)
Thursday: spaghetti bolognese (Star is cooking this at school)
Friday: haddock, potato croquettes, veg
Saturday: leek and potato soup (also didn't happen last week
Sunday: roast beef

On the calendar ...
Thursday: consultation with Star's school tutor
Sunday: dance school choreography competition and display. At the last minute Star has decided to take part.

A picture from last week ... another Bonfire night photo

Saturday, November 12, 2011

That Parrot is Dead

Sorry, can't mention parrots without thinking Monty Python.

A recent conversation with Star:

Star (all excited): I know what I want for Christmas!
Me: What?
Star: A parrot!
Me: NO!!!!!
Star: Why not?
Me: Don't even go there! And anyway, have you any idea how much parrots cost?
Star: Well, how about a budgie then?
Me: NO!!!!!
Star: Why not?
Me: Don't even go there!
Star: But I want a budgie! I'm going to call it Keith.
Me: NO!!!!!
Star: But why not?
Me (floundering): Because any bird that comes into this house will be cooked and eaten.
Star: What does budgie taste like?

Place Marker

I keep thinking of things I want to blog about, then never get around to writing. Maybe if I post a list here as a place marker it will give me a nudge and stop everything slipping past me.

Blog posts that may - or may not? - happen:

  • Bletchley Park
  • eating well
  • yoga
  • history for five year olds
  • books for Advent
  • time management
  • housekeeping failures
  • knitting
  • all the wonderful stuff I keep finding at work (though that will soon have its own blog)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

This Week: 7th November 2011

The weather ... November. Ugh. Yesterday was so grey it felt as though it never got properly light.

I am wearing ... black and white pyjamas

I am reading .... The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair Mackay. Next up is a book on the development of the Poor Laws in England - I need to read it for my course, but it interests me anyway.

I am creating ... boot socks for my brother on the train, and a chunky multi-coloured cardigan for myself that I started nearly two years ago. Angel wants me to knit her a snood and I have a couple of Christmas projects planned, so lots of knitting to do!

I am listening ... Tevye running the shower. Nobody else is awake yet.

I am watching ... I was watching Downton Abbey but the series finished on Sunday. Ridiculous, credibility stretching melodrama at times, but still very enjoyable to watch.

am enjoying ... warm boots. I bought a pair of Ugg-style boots from Clarks in the sale last spring for a third of their original price and they are a bit of warm and snuggly compensation for nasty late autumn weather.

I am planning ... no planning, just surviving an overload of work commitments in this household. Angel is now working as a Christmas temp for a department store, which is going to make the next couple of months a major challenge for her as she tries to juggle work and school. Add that to my extra hours and course work there are a lot of balls up in the air here!

Learning notes ... Cherub has decided her favourite subject is history. Long may that last! Surely one daughter out of three who likes history isn't too much to ask?

Cherub ... really hates loud noise. We went to a local firework display on Saturday, and despite ear muffs to deaden the sound she found all the bangs too much. We went back to our friends' house and they let off some more fireworks in the garden which she loved as the noise was not so overwhelming.

On the menu ...
Monday: cottage pie with root vegetables and green beans
Tuesday: chicken steaks, chips and peas
Wednesday: beef stew and dumplings
Thursday: chicken in BBQ sauce with rice and green veg
Friday: fish in sauce that I bought by accident thinking it was plain frozen fish!
Saturday: Leek and potato soup
Sunday: Roast chicken

On the calendar ... work, work and more work

A picture from last week ... Cherub enjoying Bonfire Night

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Rethinking Halloween

For a long time I have been ambivalent about Halloween. When I was a child, Halloween was a very minor date on the calendar. I remember bobbing for apples and maybe playing a couple of other games. I don't remember whether we ever made Jack o'Lanterns - I think maybe we did, but not every year? Whatever, Halloween was hugely overshadowed by Bonfire Night (Guy Fawkes) which was a huge deal. We made a Guy, collected wood for a giant bonfire, and went shopping for fireworks - we would be given a certain amount to spend, and in those days that meant selecting individual fireworks and weighing up their relative excitement value. Should it be one giant rocket, or three small ones? The excitement built for weeks.

Since I have had children of my own I have dithered over Halloween, which has become a bigger deal year on year. I don't have any objection to celebrating Halloween in principle. From my perspective as a Catholic All Hallows Eve is part of a package with All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2. My problem is how to celebrate it. Every year since the girls were little the amount of Halloween paraphenalia on sale has multiplied, and trick or treating has got more popular. Some people love it, others hate it. When Angel and Star were younger we sometimes had a small scale Halloween party, but didn't trick or treat, partly because it felt rather alien and partly because we felt that the cons (disturbing people who may not want to be bothered by kids knocking on the door, feeling that it is something that has been imposed on us by the media) outweighed the pros (fun! sweets!). I was also wary of the whole spooky side of Halloween, which is more of a British thing - Halloween costumes are always ghosts, skeletons, witches and things of that type, and telling ghost stories is something else I remember being part of Halloween when I was young.

This year I decided I was warming to the whole thing. Catholic tradition holds that this is this is the time of year to especially remember and pray for the dead, and I presume that somehow the ultimate origin of the spooks and skeletons at Halloween ties in with that tradition. As for trick or treating, I noticed that people have started to leave lit pumpkins outside their doors as an indication that they are happy to be visited by trick or treaters, and that it has become much more of a family event, with lots of families and small groups of children out and about enjoying the atmosphere. We decided to let Star take Cherub, who just managed to let excitement win out over fear - she is Little Miss Timid, and I would have bet against her making it out of the door into a dark night full of people dressed in scary costumes. She set out with great trepidation, but returned with a haul of sweets and the satisfaction of having faced her fear and overcome it.

Cherub, incidentally, was probably the only child in town not wearing anything black or spooky. She was determined that she was going to do it her way. And her way was to dress up as a ballerina with bunny ears. Halloween Cherub style is pink and fluffy!