Wednesday, December 06, 2006

No Excuses

I can't believe that over two months have elapsed since I lasted posted a blog. All my good intentions have gone out of the window and what excuse do I have to put up in my defense - I've been busy. Sounds pathetic, especially when I read how busy some of you other bloggers have been and you still manage to post.

Well what have we been up to these past two months - quite a lot actually. I have had quite a bit of work on and fitting that round the home education has been challenging. I am seriously thinking of giving up working but the extra income is useful to pay for things like piano lessons and swimming etc.

We have become more actively involved in a local home education group, well I say local in inverted commas, attending events usually means a 100 mile round trip but its well worth it. We have made some lovely new friends and I can honestly say it is so refreshing to meet like minded people who share our unmaterialistic views and lifestyles. We no longer feel like the odd ones out. Whenever possible we try to go by train to these events, it is much cheaper using the family railcard and of course more environmentally friendly.

Twice a month we now attend an art class which both Thea and James are enjoying. Thea is very into drawing with charcoal where as James has fun experimenting with a range of media. I have now framed two of their recent pieces and will be hanging then as soon as I finish decorating the hall. A frame and mount really enhances the work, it is well worth trying. Doesn't need to cost the earth, you can often pick up old pictures for free via the freecycle network or for a few pence from your local charity shop. Once acquired just remove the unwanted print, reuse the frame and mount, and hey presto a work of art.
Wild Deer Grazing (charcoal) by Thea
Sunset (watercolour) by James
Last month we went to a couple of workshops at the Sunderland Museum. The first on World War II included a challenge of identifying the wartime individual from their suitcase - great fun. Why not try packing your own evacuation suitcase here. The second workshop was on skeletons - excellent. We had to identify a selection of animals by examining their skeletons. Thea was already quite interested in anatomy and is now enjoying the Human Anatomy Colouring Book - thanks Lucy for introducing it to us.

November also saw us try out our new caravan with a trip to the Lake District. The Lakes was beautiful in its autumn glory and we had some memorable walks. Managed to get hold of some sheep's fleece for spinning so that should keep me busy over the winter. I have to admit whilst I was sad to see the old caravan go the new one is a vast improvement and I think we will certainly be going away again this winter.

Moonlight over Ullswater

This month we are busy with all things festive. Some good friends made us some advent boxes to decorate. We have decorated ours with pom pom snowmen and snowflakes - made entirely by us. The beanie hats were knitted on a peg loom made from a recycled tin can and some nails.If anyone is interested in making a loom just ask and I will send you the details alternatively this book is a good reference source.

On the subject of knitting I currently have a number of projects on the go including a corkscrew scarf in shocking pink and a bag knitted from recycled plastic carrier bags.

Well I think that's it for now, I given you a taste of what we have been up to and in so doing over come my writers block. More to follow I hope!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Film education

Just received our tickets from the Film Education, we are going to see March of the Penguins and Cars. There is still time to book if any of you home educators out there are interested. As well as offering free tickets to a number of films at venues throughout the UK the organisation also produces some good free resources, available on its web site.

The life story of a penny

Inspired by Roald Dahl's Boy - Tales from Childhood Thea suggested we have a Prep session and spend our Prep time writing about the life story of a penny. Thea and I spent probably an hour on this activity. We first produced a concept map of possible ideas for our stories and then spent 30 minutes writing. Neither of our stories are yet finished but I expect we will revisit them soon. We both enjoyed the activity and I felt we got a lot out of it. There were none of the strict rules and harsh punishments that Dahl had to endure. I have been quite appalled at some of the practices that went on in schools when he was a boy. The canning seemed especially barbaric and like Dahl I was amazed that one headmaster who caned boys in a particularly cruel way should then later be promoted to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury. The existence of fags and boazers (prefects) also seemed very bizarre and a great opportunity for bullies to pick on kids without their activities being questioned. Fags must have had a terrible time. Dahl tells the story of how he spent one winter being a "bog seat warmer" for one of the boazers. No explanations needed as to what this activity involved, I am sure. Lets hope public schools have improved somewhat since Dahl's day. I am especially glad caning has been banned whilst I always thought it was an unacceptable practice I didn't realise the injuries inflicted were quite so severe.

A bakers shop has been opened in the kitchen. The kids spent part of the morning modeling cakes, bread, pastries out of salt dough. The produce looked very realistic. So much so that the dog (Nell), when no one was looking, decided to help herself to some of it. Judging by the number of discarded cakes and pies I think she was somewhat confused by these tempting cakes which looked great but obviously tasted disgusting. She must have tried one, thought yuck, tried another, thought yuck again, and so on and so on. She obviously was unable to comprehend that all the food would taste the same.

All fifteen bags of compost (I counted them) have now been spread on the allotment. We are now ready to plant some seeds and onion sets.

Thea has achieved her silver in swimming and is now working towards her gold. Quite a tough challenge as it involves swimming 32 lengths. well beyond my capabilities. James and I enjoyed our athletics session. My running is improving but I must try and get out during the week for some extra training.

Watched the first in the BBC series of Ancient Rome - The Rise and Fall of an Empire. Not at all suitable for children, well that was my view. I found the violence of some of the scenes disturbing. I know Rome was a cruel and bloody place but I would have thought it was possible to tell the Ancient Rome story without such graphical displays of violence. Not sure whether I will watch next week's episode.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


September is proving a busy work month - another meeting today but only for a couple of hours. Its a good job every month isn't so demanding otherwise I would have to rethink the whole work thing. Children come first in my book and if work starts to impinge too much on our home education then it will have to go. At the moment I have to admit the money is useful, I think we would seriously struggle on only Nigel's salary and things like piano, swimming and athletics would be difficult to fund not to mention the book purchases. Just as well we haven't reached that point yet, The Book People magazine arrived today and I couldn't resist some of the titles, including:

Shakespeare Stories - 8 books for ages 8 to 2 years.
Antony and Cleopatra, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Henry V, The Tempest, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Hamlet.

Birdhouses - templates and instructions to create 20 attractive and entertaining homes and feeders for your local bird families. Designed to be made in a weekend. Thought this would be good for DT projects along with the Usborne book on Card Making.
Thea and James really enjoy making their own cards but the designs shown in my card book are too fiddly and complicated.
Whilst I was at my meeting Thea researched the Titanic on the web using Nanna's computer. Follow up work to yesterday's visit; her idea not mine. She found out the following:
  • The Titanic had 2,227 passengers
  • 705 survived
  • The ship was designed to hold 30 life boats but only 20 were on board
  • The Titanic is 12,500 feet down
  • Lillian Gertrud Asplund, the last American survivor of the Titanic tradgedy, died 6th May 2006 at the age of 99.
  • The Titanic boasted electric elevators, a swimming pool, a squash court, a Turkish bath and a gymnasium with a mechanical horse and mechanical camel.

During the afternoon Thea, James and I spent a fun couple of hours constructing a legobeach complete with pier, cliff lift, lighthouse, speed boats, submarine, sand castles, beach centre and surfers.

Jackpot...well not quite

My luck must be in I have just had my first win on the Premium Bonds - £50. Pity it wasn't £50,000 or £150,000 but I'm not complaining it will pay for the bike trailer. Work required my attendance today so Thea and James spent most of the day with Nanna. They took a trip to the local museum to see the Titantic exhibition, judging by their comments it was very good.

Thea and I are reading Roald Dahl's - Boy: Tales of Childhood, a great read. It is fascinating to see where some of the ideas came from for his stories and characters. Tonight we were shocked to read how he virtually lost his nose in a car accident. I have been closely examining the photos of him to see if you can see the stitch line!

If at first you don't succeed...

On Monday morning we took a trip into the village to select a postcard to send to Chesapeake in the US. We sat in the sun outside the library and decided what we were going to write on our card. We wrote about the moors being brown for ten months of the year and purple for two and how each year children made model boats to float on the Leven in celebration of Captain Cook. The card is now winding its way to the States.
We spent the afternoon on the allotment removing horse radish, couch grass and nettles. The horse radish was fiendish and took some digging and pulling; as vegetarians we don't have much need for the stuff. Back at home James and I dug out one of our compost bins. We now have about 10 bags of excellent compost ready to go to the allotment to use as a mulch. I am keen to try a no dig method of cultivation, seems to make a lot of sense to me. Whilst digging out the compost bin James and I heard a frog croaking - I thought they only did that in the spring.
After losing on eBay last night I adopted the bidding tactics of my previous night's opponent (well you live and learn) and success was ours. I am now the owner of one new bike trailer, delivery expected within the next seven days.

Dipping and bidding

Woke early on Saturday to finish the mega carpet cleaning job before having to return the machine by 10.30 a.m. Then it was off to a swim party at Bishop Auckland. I got slightly irritated in the changing rooms when a lippy young girl told me boys weren't allowed in the women's changing rooms. I asked her when she last saw a boy in a swim suit and politely suggested that next time she gave more thought to what she said before opening her mouth. "Oh and by the way" I added "long hair such as hers was a good breeding ground for head lice". A bit below the belt I know but it achieved the desired effect - a rather stunned silence. Thea has quite short hair, is a bit of a tom boy, likes outdoor pursuits and being in the countryside. Nothing wrong with that you would think but in today's over schooled, consumerist and materialistic society it seems to be a problem. Earlier in the week she told me that a girl living nearby had asked her when she was having a sex change so you can perhaps see why I was a little rattled by the comments at the swimming baths. I am proud of my daughter she is not taken in by mass marketing, advertising and peer pressure but I know she pays a price and these comments are hurtful.
On Sunday Thea went to see a friend's pony and enjoyed having a go at riding again. James went brambling with a friend and came home with enough blackberries to make a blackberry and apple crumble. I spent the afternoon on the allotment with my dad. We are making good progress. Hopefully next week we will be able to sow some of the seeds we have purchased. I am keen to reduce the number of car journeys to the allotment so have been looking for a bike trailer on eBay. On Sunday I thought I had secured one only to be outbid in the last 30 seconds - I can tell you the air was blue!!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Five in one

Well I am seriously behind with my blog writing so here is a concerted effort to get it up to date - five blogs in one.
Friday 15th September
Visited another home educating family in North Yorkshire. It was lovely to meet up as we don't get that many opportunities to meet up with other HE families. Spent the afternoon washing carpets, yes I have hired an industrial machine. In order to get my monies worth I now feel obliged to wash all the carpets in the house. Fortunately we don't have any downstairs. Quite a relief I can assure you. I don't know what's worse the stress of feeling you have to wash all the carpets or seeing what comes out of your carpets. Still I don't think we qualify for appearing on how clean is your house. I am always amazed at people who agree to have their houses filmed in such a horrendous state - they must be truly desperate for help.
Thursday 14th September
We have received our second postcard exchange today - two postcards from Ottawa showing the Rideau Canal and Parliament Buildings, in summer and in winter.
A search through our gardening books has revealed what we can plant and grow through the autumn and winter. A seed order has now been placed with Chiltern Seeds for the following:
Bunching Onion - 'Photon'
Corn Salad - Verte de Cambrai
Flowering Purple Choi - Purple Chuy Sum
Chinese Kale - Kailaan
Japanese Greens - Mizuna
Spinach - Giant Thick Leaved Prickly (I think I bought the spring/summer variety the other day).
Thea is keen to make some candy as described on the Science of Cooking site. I didn't realise that temperature was so important in sweet making, consequently we have had to purchase a sugar thermometer. We also bought some marshmallows and had fun growing and eating monster mallows. Attempted to wash the caravan carpets with our Vax. Too much like hard work, will hire an industrial machine tomorrow.

Managed to run a mile in 10 minutes and 49 seconds without collapsing. Really need to get some extra training in during the week, its just finding the time!

Wednesday 13th September
I had to spend most of the day at work so Thea and James visited Nanna. James enjoyed watching a programme on zoos and constructing crossbows out of Kinex. Thea was in writer mode for part of the day and wrote a short story about three friends being evacuated to the country. Spent the afternoon cleaning caravans, I think I will wash the carpets tomorrow if the weather remains good.

Tuesday 12th September
The reading mission is completed and Thea and James received their medals. Borrowed some more books from the library:
Also Creative Crafts - Masks, The Usborne Guide to Woodwork (James liked the boat designs), Usborne Internet-Linked Italian for Beginners and Spanish for Beginners. On the way home from the library we called in at the local garden centre and purchased some onion sets and spinach seeds. Spent the afternoon at the allotment turning the first sod. Grandpa came to give a hand. The neighbouring allotment holder told us rabbits were a bit of a problem so James and Thea dug a trap. Hope I can remember where it is otherwise I may become it first victim.
James got his 25m award at swimming, he was positively beaming and so was I.
The new caravan has arrived, it is a bit of a beast. We now have two caravans parked on the lawn, I am worried the neighbours may complain. We will have to sell our old van on eBay pretty quick.
Monday 11th September
We were all a bit tired after the manic weekend and spent Monday chilling out. It gave me time to try and sort out the insurance policy for the new caravan. Thea checked out a great cooking web site, loads of fun recipes and activities, and designed an Avatar family. James enjoyed watching a couple of his favourite videos. Also spent some time constructing model aeroplanes and boats out of balsa wood. The highlight of the day was a call from the allotments secretary offering us half an allotment. We met him on site and clinched the deal - so begins the good life minus pigs and hens!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Shopaholics and I spy puppets

Well it has been a truly manic weekend. Saturday was one mega shopping trip. Largest item purchased - a caravan! Couldn't resist it, six years old, full winter van (will cope with temperatures up to minus thirty) excellent condition. Also bought the full winter porch awning, sun canopy and snow chains. Only slight problem is our current car is not heavy enough to tow it so we are now in the market for another car. Guess that will be next weekend's project then. The shopping trip also included a trip the the Metro Centre. I have to admit I hate the place. It is just not my idea of a pleasurable outing. That said the pain was worth it and we got some great bargains. Thea, James and I all got some track suit bottoms for running in. I tell you there must be some pretty big kids out there these days, I managed to get a pair from the kids section, excellent no VAT to pay. Nigel and I also got some Karrimor KSBs reduced from £70 to £20, wow. Whilst we were close to Northumberland we took the opportunity to visit some good friends who we haven't seen in over a year. It was great to catch up with them again.

On Sunday Thea, James and I took Nanna to Redcar and Cleveland's first puppet festival. It was a brilliant day and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. We had tickets for two performances - "The Worm that Squirmed" and "Each Peach Pear Plum". Both performance were just great. As well as the performances there were puppet shows for one, craft sessions, storytelling and the Yorkshire Olympics - very funny!

Thea was so inspired by the puppet shows she produced her own little show when we returned to Nanna's house. The show - The Naughty Chicken - was hilarious and had a great story line. It was amazing seeing just how much she had learnt from watching the puppeteers at work. We are all hoping the festival is repeated next year.

The worm that squirmed

One of the many beautiful puppets from The Worm that Squirmed.

Three minute theatre for one. Thea mesmerized by Dan's Baby (Dan the World's First pregnant Man). It all looks a bit strange I know but honestly it was quite harmless.

James takes his first deep sea dive!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Caravans and chrysalis

Thea was well chuffed this morning when Peri posted a message saying how much she had enjoyed reading Thea's spider poem, it made her day. Thanks Peri.

We are debating over whether to buy another caravan. We have seen two on E-bay that take our fancy. This morning Thea, James and I went to look at one near Easingwold. Thea did a brilliant job of navigating and we found the site no problem. Tomorrow we are off to Chester-le-Street to view another potential purchase.

Last night Thea's piano teacher rang to say could Thea start lessons again this Friday. Arghhh... Thea and I both panicked. This summer has seen little in the way of key contact. In fact I can't quite recall when Thea's fingers last came into contact with ebony or ivory. We had planned to have some intensive practice sessions over the next couple of weeks to catch up or should I say cover up our lack of activity. Well things didn't go too badly, much of the lesson was spent on working through new Grade II material leaving little time to go over the summer pieces, phew. With no lesson next week we have a week's grace - time for some serious catching up.

Fresh supplies of Hama beads were acquired today. I had thought of buying some from Bead Merrily after looking at some of the great design on Hama and Perler Bead Patterns (the designs are great, the site is well worth exploring if your into Hama). However, when I added the cost of postage to our order it was cheaper to buy them from the local toy shop. Armed with new supplies plotting of the constellations is now underway again. Tonight Draco was mapped out in Hama.

Whilst in the toy shop I had a browse over some of the educational toys and decided to purchase Times Tables Soundtracks, as I haven't opened it yet I am unable to give my opinions. I hear the Government's latest education idee recue is to make all children learn their tables by the age of 8. Can't quite work out government thinking on education, one minute they're saying formal learning particularly for boys shouldn't start until 7 and the next they're talking about upping the pressure still further. What next - a test at 8 to see who has met the tables target - will they ever learn!!

I have decided to purchase Leappad Read Plus Writing for James to try and encourage him with his reading and writing. I have toyed with the idea for sometime but finally made my mind to go ahead after chatting to a friend who rated it highly. Hope it doesn't prove to be one of those impulsive buys - only time will tell.

Great excitement tonight, our Vapourer Moth has emerged from its chrysalis. We released it into the garden to find a wingless mate. Apparently female Vapourer moths cannot fly and when they emerge from their chrysalis stay close to it. Once mated they lay their eggs inside the empty chrysalis. Good job ours was a male then, transferring female and chrysalis from jar to garden would be a tricky operation. Hope our other Vapourer is a male!

Have finally finished reading Atonement although I have to admit I was a touch frustrated with the ending - did Cecilia and Robbie survive the war or not? Its all a bit vague for me.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Spinning and battling

Today has been a very mixed day. This morning Thea was in writing mode and produced two short pieces, one titled - How to Annoy your Teacher! (not aimed at me she says) and the other:

How to cure arachnophobia
Spider, spider in your hair,
Spider, spider in the air,
Spider, spider in the loo.

Small spider, medium spider, large spider,
big spider, massive spider as big as your head.

Spider, spider touch me please,
I might be a wolf spider
and bite you on the knee.

Spider, spider getting closer,
Spider, spider, spider, spider.

Bigger, and bigger, and bigger,
I'm the biggest spider you've ever seen.

I think this was inspired after we found a rather large wolf spider on Thea's bedroom ceiling the other night. I'm not usually phased by spiders but I didn't fancy catching this with my bare hands. He was pretty nifty. Eventually managed to capture him in a Pringle carton and released him outside.
The Hama beads are back out and Thea has recommenced work on her planet project. Previously she had made, completely from Hama, the Sun, Earth, Mars, Neptune, Jupiter, Uranus, Saturn, Pluto (of course Pluto will now need to be reclassified as a dwarf planet after being demoted last month) and a star. Today she worked on depicting some of the constellations - Ursa Major, Orion and Draco. Unfortunately we ran out of blue Hama beads for the sky so the project is temporarily on hold until we purchase some more. The Stellarium web site was great for helping map the constellations.
We are continuing to work on washing and carding our swaledale fleece ready for spinning. James was keen to have a go at both carding and spinning, although I felt the wheel was a bit on the big side for him. Never the less he wasn't deterred. Tonight I collected my drop spindle that a friend had ordered from Twisted Fibre Craft Studio. James has already asked if he can have a go tomorrow. This afternoon I had to go to a meeting so both kids spent part of the afternoon with Nanna, watching TV and knitting! Makes a change from them playing on Adventure Quest - their latest game obsession. Thea found out about it from her American E-Pal.
The evening was spent at Athletics for James and I, and swimming for Thea. Yes, I have actually joined the Women's Beginners Running Group and managed a respectable 2 miles without collapsing in a heap. Quite a relief especially given that my running partner was a lovely lady in her late 60s. She is in training for the Great North Run and just recovering from an emergency operation. I have no such excuse to offer and won't even bother trying to make one up. I am expecting walking to be a slight problem tomorrow! Guess the paracetamol bottle may be called upon at some point during the day.
Thea has announced that next week is to be Vegan week so we are spending the next few days compiling menus and visiting the local health food shop. I think she got the idea yesterday after enjoying some rather yummy Vegi-Deli sage and onion slices.

A Mobile Home!

Spotted this in the car park at Jedburgh. Must be the most impressive mobile home I've seen; it belonged to a couple from Holland. Can't imagine its fuel economy is very good. This was my last holiday pic as I discovered I had forgotten the download lead for the camera - very annoying. Nigel did take some pics on his film camera but has not got them published yet.

After two good days at Jedburgh we travelled west to Moffat. Rainfall here is much higher - no kidding! Spent a very wet day at the Buddhist Temple and Tibetan Centre. An interesting place although not what we expected. The Temple was very glittery with its golden ceiling and 1008 golden buddhas. The cafe and gardens were lovely and tranquil and Thea just loved the shop. On returning to the caravan the kids transformed the bunk area into a Temple complete with pray flags and held a meditation session. Thea has expressed an interest in wanting to learn how to meditate, its something I quite fancy having a go at, guess I had better keep a look out for some courses.

On our last day we were awake early and watched the swallows gathering along the fence line of the caravan park. Well I guess summer is over. Visited Threave Castle, which has the added excitement that you have to access it by boat. Completed the quiz and James purchased a pencil sharpener catapult. He later spent many hours firing bits of paper across the caravan and conducting experiments as to which size paper ball made the best ammunition.

I have nearly finished reading Atomement, a good read. Looking forward to seeing the film next year.

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Border Antics

Well we finally did manage to get away. Nigel's back recovered sufficiently to withstand the car journey. He says that sitting is the worse thing for his back. Our first few nights were spent at Jedburgh, a picturesque town with quite a lot to explore. Thea and James enjoyed looking round Jedburgh Abbey and having a go at building arches out of wooden blocks. We also spent a lovely afternoon at Harestones Country Park, looking at the minibeast exhibition, following the maths trail and walking up to Wellington's Monument. Although we were a touch disappointed when we reached the monument to discover you couldn't ascend to the top.

Thea explores a sculpture celebrating Hutton's unconformity.

Jedburgh Abbey - the spiral staircases were great.

James fits the last block to his arch - will it hold?

Thea builds an abbey of her own.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Back Problems

Nigel's back problem has returned so we had to cancel our holiday. Everyone was really disappointed but Nigel just couldn't cope with sitting in the car for any long periods. To try and cheer everyone up I suggested going for a picnic at Rievaulx Terrace and Temples followed by a trip to Nunnington Hall. It was lovely on the terrace and the views were stunning. The kids enjoyed doing a quiz and found all the answers to the clues except one. We later concluded the missing clue blew away in last night's down pour. We didn't managed to catch sight of the famous Rievaulx beetle, just a few ladybirds.
The views looking down towards Rievaulx Abbey were lovely. After spending two lovely hours wondering along the terrace we set off to Nunnington Hall to see "From Winnie the Pooh to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" - A celebration of Illustrators. A major selling exhibition of original illustration Art, from Ernest Shepard (illustrator of the Winnie the Pooh stories) through to Quentin Blake. Lovely pictures but a bit out of our price range. I was quite tempted by a signed copy of Quentin Blake's autobiography, but hey I managed to resist the temptation. Just as well given the existing book storage problem in our house.
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Redcar becomes a tourist mecca

Some of the many hundred of visitors who came to view the set lured by the promise of being able to walk on the set before it was dismantled.
The reality - the diggers had moved in and the area was barricaded off. Who was responsible for the media story? Was it the Council Press Officer Spin Doctor at work?
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Bodies and Buildings

Some of the cast who didn't make it or were they the extras. Perhaps we had a lucky escape!
Thea and James look for souvenirs from the set in the sand. Don't think they will make much on eBay, but who knows.

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Atonement Revisited

The best of the set that was left.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Crafty Creations

James is struggling to learn the days of the week so we spent this morning designing calendars to help him remember them. This was my effort a Testarossa with changeable number plates.

Thea improved on my design producing a more interactive calendar. On her design the Testarossa moves around a racing track stopping alongside the relevant week day. At each stop you can refuel from the petrol pump in the centre. Note the black flexible fuel line in the picture.

Here is a shot of one of the bug books I mentioned in yesterday's blog. Made from 100% recycled materials.

The rest of today has been spent getting ready to go away on holiday. We are planning to go to Scotland for a week in the caravan, not sure where yet. The kids and I fancy visiting the Buddhist Monastry and Tibetan Centre at Eskdalemuir, it looks really interesting and has been recommended. Thea is also keen to visit Edinburgh and see the extinct volcano. Bad news on the caravan front though - discovered we have a serious case of rot in the roof around the skylight. The problem will not curtail our holiday but I can see I will have a new project for the autumn and winter - caravan restoration!! Found a few good DIY caravan repair websites so I think we will give it a go at trying to fix it.

Thea has discovered the Brilliant Brits series by Richard Brassey and is busy reading both Nelson and Elizabeth 1. She thinks they're well cool, I think they're pretty good too. Well guess we can tick a few boxes on the history curriculum.

My mum has just informed me that the Atonement film set will be open to the public at the weekend, work commences on dismantling it next week. Watch this blog for a further Atonement preview. I've borrowed the book from the library for my holiday reading.

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Postcard from Michigan

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These are the images I wanted to post yesterday but Blogger was having none of it. After spending too many frustrating hours trying to upload images to my blog I have resorted to another method - Picasa. Seems to be working OK so far.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bugs and blogger

**** I am now rewriting this for the second time as blogger has just succeeded in losing it.

Our caterpillar project continues a pace and has now been expanded to include other minibeasts. Three more caterpillars have been added to the collection since Monday. On Tuesday the larger of the two Vapourer Moths started to spin a cocoon, the other shed its skin during the night. Today the tiniest caterpillar in the whole collection, and we thought it was just a newly hatched baby, began work on a cocoon. We were greatly fascinated watching it at work under Grandpa's microscope - nature is truly amazing. On Wednesday Thea found a rather interesting spider in Nanna's garden, it had a red and white striped abdomen. A quick search on the web (pun not intended) revealed it to be Enoplognatha ovata - where would we home edders by without the Internet! If you need to identify any eight legged friends try here - certainly not a site for the arachnophobic. Recording all these creepy crawlies has required me to get to grips with my digital camera and I have pleasantly surprised myself by producing some almost half decent pics. Not bad considering I never bothered to read the instructions. Tonight I printed off some images for the kids to stick in their bug books, lovely little creations made last summer from recycled materials but unused until now. I was a bit disappointed in the quality of the images, time I think to invest in some photographic paper.

There was much excitement at the beginning of this week when our first postcard exchange arrived from Michigan, USA. The card depicting wild animals of Michigan only took 3 days to get here, I think we had better send our postcards air mail in future. Thea was quite taken by the postage stamp - a picture of Yosemite National Park. In fact she was so taken she has decided she wants to start stamp collecting or to use the posh term philately. Grandpa reckons its a great way to learn geography, he says he learnt more about countries from stamp collecting than from any school text book - no surprises there then!! To get us started he has supplied us with several hundred stamps - guess we will have those sorted and mounted in a day or so!!.
Spent some of today researching Michigan on the web.

Ten Interesting Facts About Michigan
  1. The state of Michigan is the 11th largest US state in size - 96,810 square miles.
  2. It is the only state to be separated by water.
  3. It is noted as the birthplace of the automobile. 80% of Michigan's economy revolves around the industryusty.
  4. Michigan is 50% forest, which makes it useful to the timber industry.
  5. The state borders 4 of the Great Lakes, which are some of the largest reservoirs of fresh water in the world.
  6. Boating is very popular in the warmer months. There are more private boats registered in Michigan than in any other state.
  7. The capital city of Michigan is Lansing.
  8. The largest city in Michigan is Detroit.
  9. Michigan's population is 9,938,444.
  10. The origin of the name Michigan is from an Algonquian Chippewa Indian word "meicigama" that means "big sea water".

    Michigan is nearly 4,000 square miles bigger than the UK but its population is some 50,000,000 smaller.

    James has been pestering me to go fishing so yesterday we dug out the fishing tackle. DISASTER - James succeeded in jamming his telescopic rod, I then snapped it trying to free it ****. My purse is now £8.50 lighter following a visit to Hook, Line and Sinker to purchase a replacement. Our fishing trip this p.m. achieved it usual success rate - zero catch. Hardly surprising when none of us know anything about fishing whatsoever. To try and remedy this situation we have borrowed two fishing books from the library - a little bedtime reading for me I guess.

    Monday, August 21, 2006

    Lepidopterist Required

    Dropped Thea and James off at Nanna's house whilst I attended Self Assessment for the Self Employed - fascinating! Actually it was quite interesting. Nanna informs me they made bread, watched Lilo and Stitch (free Reading Mission DVD selected by James), and visited the play park. Quite a busy day then. We planned in the afternoon to revisit the Atonement film set but got side tracked by a moth we discovered on the back garden gate post. We identified it as a Silver Y thanks to the help of The Butterfly Conservation Society website. I then noticed a green caterpillar wandering across my shirt - still as yet unidentified despite scrolling through the many photos on What's this Caterpillar. Any budding lepidopterist out there who recognises the species? Let us know if you do, please.

    James, intrigued by the moth and caterpillar, went in search of further species. The dogwood seems to be a popular food plant, on it we found a rather impressive Vapourer Moth caterpillar and some green caterpillars that hid in tents constructed out of folded leaves held together by silk. Not sure what species they belong to. We now have a number of caterpillars in jam jars with fine net over the tops. James and Thea are hoping to rear these. I have just found a useful instruction sheet on the very subject - here.