Monday, 30 May 2011

Puzzling creations

Rachel has decided, out of the blue, to make her own puzzle today.  Here are the stages:

1 - draw a picture of anything
2 - photograph or copy the picture so you know what it looks like

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

3 - cut it into shapes
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

4 - put all the pieces in a bag to keep them safe
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

5 - give it to someone to puzzle out

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Guess who the "willing" volunteer was? I'm nervous now, this is the first time I've appeared front of screen, be kind.

Reading's the new playing

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I remember reading all the time as a child.  I've heard other parents talk about their kids going off with a good book.  But I never expected it to such an extent so early.

Rachel's been reading for over a year, reading to herself for pleasure for about half that time.  She would read one book and then come to me and want it read aloud, perfect.

But this weekend it's really changed.  
Suddenly she's not interested in sharing her books with us or having us read it back to her.  Finally she's got the confidence to just read for joy.  She has obviously got to that stage of reading where the understanding flows straight from the words without the need for thought.

It's a joy to behold.  So joyful that I took photos over two hours yesterday.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Bible stories

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Rainbow fairy book

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
I'm not sure what this is; perhaps a Winnie the pooh book.

It's lovely to see this new phase.
But it's also shown me that she's gaining more and more independence, and needing me less in some ways.

But I need not worry too much.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

At the end of an exhausting afternoon of reading she still climbs onto me for a mummy cuddle xxx

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Listography Finals

Reluctant house Dad is hosting this weeks listography, thanks Keith.  It's one i just cant resist; what are you five finals if the world ended tomorrow.  Here goes....

Final dinner
Tricky, really tricky.
But I think it has to be a really classy curry.  And I'd encourage splashing out with a range of dishes.

Poppadoms with mango chutney
Onion Bhaji
Vegetable Samosas
Chicken tikka massala
Rogan Josh
Chicken palak
Lamb balti
Pilau rice
Saag aloo
Garlic naan 
And a vat of mango lassi

Final words
don't fear

Final destination
Anywhere where there's a moon like this:
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

And I can be with my favourite people in the world:
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Final resting place
I guess that'd be "see the above"
And I should add that I see this "end" as a "start".

Final act of intimacy
a hug, a big one, with my afore mentioned favourite two people in the world.

Jamie at Home really nice rice pot

I know that as a Jamie at Home Consultant I should love every item on sight, but let's not pretend that's always possible.  Besides which, I believe being sensible and rational about the products makes hosts more willing to trust me with their Friends!

But today I got to finally try out the really nice rice pot.  It sold out in super quick time at the start of the year and has finally come back into the country.  After all the hype I decided to spend some of my points and get one.  

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

And the verdict: It's so easy; measure rice, wash and add to pot, measure water, add to pot, microwave.

And result, properly fluffy rice.
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I never thought I'd see anything so fluffy in my kitchen without coming out if a takeaway container.  What joy :)

If you don't have one of these and don't have the knack of rice, then get one now!

Silent Sunday

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Come to Linda's Lunacy

How can you not love a blog hop with the name Linda's Lunacy Sunny Saturday, especially on a day like today when the sun has been missing.

So come and join in

Linda's Lunacy

Spotlight Saturday

Between the Lines

Today I would like to draw your attention to Spinning Careers; a new small business helping individuals spin off into the career they deserve. With a 100% success rate at getting clients into their chosen career within 3 months they come highly recommended.

Quotastic How to train your dragon

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Quotes to remember from the fantastic animated film "How to train your dragon" from the fabulous Scottish Vikings.

Other places have rats, mosquitos and mice as annoyances; we have dragons.

We could leave. 
But .... We are vikings, we have stubbornness issues.

Why can't you follow the simplest orders? 
I can't help it, I see a dragon and I just have to kill it.

I've never seen someone mess up that badly, it almost helped.

To Hiccup about Stoic: It's not what you look like, it's what's inside he can't stand.  I mean; stop trying to be something you're not.

We're Viking, death is an occupational hazard.

To Stoic about his son Hiccup: You can't stop him; you can only prepare him.

I'm a Viking, I'm a Viking, I can do this, I can do this.

We have a surplus of dragon fighting Vikings; but do we have enough bread making Vikings or small house repairs Vikings?

Stoic: I'll be back probably.
Hiccup: I'll be here maybe.

It's only fun if you get a scar.

You're small and weak, it'll make you less of a dragon target; they'll see you as sick and worthless.

When about to face his first dragon hiccup was asked what he needs first. Hiccup says "a doctor".

The book has nothing on Night Fury; is there a sequel? Or a pamphlet?

I'm ok... Less ok.

I'm proud to call you my son.

Turns out all we needed was .... you.

The food here is tough and tasteless, the people are even more so.  The only upside are the pets..... We have dragons.

Small blog post, big difference

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I am coming to this late, weird for me considering I'm the charity and campaigning queen.  It just goes to show, better late than never.

This post is part of Save the Children’s awareness programme for its No Child Born to Die campaign.

In January, Save the Children launched its most ambitious campaign to date, No Child Born to Die. Every year 8 million children under five die from illnesses we know how to treat or prevent, such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and measles. Save The Children is focusing on the provision of vaccinations and healthcare workers. In June there is a meeting in London hosted by David Cameron and attended by other world leaders. Save The Children aims to make as much noise as possible to ensure the funding shortfall for vaccinations (4.7 billion) is met by all the donor countries…to fully fund vaccines for every child in the world.

Today I ask that you join in, do your one small bit to make a massive difference

Please sign the petition and consider joining in the crafty meme – :

1. Ask you child/children to draw a picture of themselves either now or in the future.  

2. Blog about it and include details of the campaign and the petition. But be quick! The petition closes on 29 May.


No child is born to die…every child is born to shine.

Useful pot to put things in

Rachel makes her first clay pot.  This is part of the creative curriculum at school.  

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

She brought it home and said "I made a useful pot to put things in".

Isn't it fabulous.

And just goes to show the ongoing influence of AA Milne and Winnie the Pooh

Friday, 27 May 2011

always, never, last year

Five Question Friday, here goes, all you never needed to know about me

1. Do you apologize to your kids?
Absolutely, quite a lot, which possibly means I should try to be a better parent more often, but hey, it's the trying that counts. I have a very simple rule with Rachel; no means no. Sometimes that means I might have said no without just cause or reason; too much haste! In these circumstances I remain clear, no means no; but as soon as Rachel has accepted the unfairness of life I will apologise for being too speedy and unfair in my decision. It seems weird to me that parents wouldn't apologise to their kids, how can kids learn that it's ok to make mistakes and apolologise if we don't model it.

2. What color are your nails right now?
grubby end of the day nail colour. they were lovely and clean this morning but now they're looking a bit end of the dayish. however tomorrow things will be different; it's the start of the half term holiday so Rachel and I will paint our nails to celebrate. I'm thinking perhaps rainbow colours, we'll see.

3. When you were growing up, how difficult was it for you to stay home from school sick? (As in, did you have to vomit or just say "I don't feel good".)
I had to vomit or have a raging temperature, anything else was no where near a good enough excuse. In fact I remember a school nurse calling home to no avail. It didn't do me any harm; but I can't imagine making Rachel go to school if she is even a bit under the weather, but then she's never tried to throw a sicky yet!

4. When is the last time you bought a new comforter for your bed?
About a year ago I think. I finally decided that after 11 years of marriage we could replace the bedding we got for our wedding present.

5. Favorite website(s)?
The top five look like this:
BBC News

Love of Lowry

I have always adored Lowry's work. I don't know where I first saw it, but Mum and Dad had a print of one of the pictures and I used to love looking at all the various elements. The people, the houses, the detail, the overall impression; the pictures are more like photographs than paintings.

Of course, being Surrey born and bred, I had never actually seen the places that Lowry captured in his paintings. Until I was 18 that is, when I went to Manchester for 3 years to study at the university. There I saw the world Lowry had painted before I was even born; the streets, the people, the communities. No where was this more real than arriving at, or leaving, the Manchester City Football Ground; Maine Road that is, not the all new Stadium.

This week Lowry's "The Football Match" sold for over £5.6M; a little out of my league. A fabulous picture which always reminds me of the crowds walking along the streets towards Maine Road, the masses of families and fans all making their way to see their team play on saturday afternoon.

I think that a trip to Manchester might be necessary, to relive those times again and to go to The Lowry to see the Lowry Exhibition.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

A study of kadinsky 

by Rachel age 5

Kadinsky was Russian.
He painted abstracts.
One of his paintings is coloured circles.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I painted a picture like Kadinsky.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Wizards of Waverley Place The Movie

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I wasn't expecting much of this film; a movie from a tv series didn't scream "great film" to me.  But Rachel wanted to see it and what better way to deal with end of the week exhaustion on a Friday afternoon.

It was made in 2009 following the first series if Wizards of Waverley Place.  The cast is the same and it follows on from the end of series 1, so far so good.

And I'm surprised to say that I actually enjoyed it, especially the family wizard tournament.  Of course it's cheesy and low budget, but it has it's own WoWP charm.

As for Rachel, here's her review.  Beware, spoilers contained.

I loved it, the film is as great as the programme.  The magician is funny and so is Alex's dad.  Alex casts a spell she can't undo and then it's all about finding how to put it right.  It is good to know how Alex won the family wizard competition.  It is great for girls like me.

Wondrous Woburn

Wondrous Woburn

We spent a wonderful day today at Woburn Safari Park.  We bought our tickets online before leaving home, saving £1 per person; every little counts.  We arrived at 10:15 in time to drive straight into the road safari.  Perfect.  The whole day was perfect; definitely a must visit venue.  Here's why:

I had no expectations really, apart from constantly reminding myself not to compare everything to the Masai Mara in Kenya.  So I was genuinely surprised that one of the first phrases out of my mouth was "wow, it could be Africa."

We journeyed through the savannah, getting within metres of Ostriches, Ankoli cattle, Zebras, Giraffes and Kudu.
Photobucket Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
I have never seen Rachel silenced in wonder before.

From there we went through the security gates of the carnivore enclosure.  As we raised our windows so we raised our adrenalin levels.  

The first area was the wolves, pacing and watching yet looking like they'd fetch a stick if you threw one.  Round a turn and there was a big cat; graceful and relaxed, a tiger at rest.  What a beautiful sight, the only big cat I've never seen in the wild and one I am now determined to encounter.

We drove on past signs warning of black bears, both Mike and I prepared Rachel that we'd most likely not see them because they are expert hiders; but we were wrong.  Two bears, up the hill from the road, and then one of them starts walking towards us.  A black bear, right there, rubbing past the drivers side of the car; I could have reached out and touched it (if I fancied loosing a hand).

I felt the amazement I felt on my first african safari, to see huge splendid animals so close is a magnificent experience.  I doubt Rachel will ever forget it either, especially now she has her own bear.
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

How could anything top that?
A pride of 14 lions had a good go.  Scattered around their area they were sleeping in small groups; the male with the largest of them. They are splendid animals, like bigger domestic cats in so many respects and mannerisms.  
Photobucket Photobucket

Rachel was amazed.  Her phrase of the day "it's like I'm in Deadly 60."

The final enclosed area is the African Jungle, otherwise known to us as the Monkey Enclosure.  We had joked on the way about whether we could afford to risk our car to the monkeys and decided it's be worth it; and so it was.  Within minutes we had a monkey on our roof.  

We could see it blink, and it's fur twitch and we were amazed by it's hands.  Sadly we didn't manage to get a photo I did film this though whilst we were still calming down.

But the second time we were better prepared.

From the road safari we drove to the foot safari area, parked and found lunch at the main safari restaurant.  We were pleasantly surprised to find reasonably priced jacket potatoes and enjoyed eating outside with the peacocks and ducks.

It was then off to the small animal enclosures.  The wallabies were adorable.  

The Rheas wary.  The squirrel monkeys another highlight.  Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

And just look at this:

The penguins were, as always, a marvel in the water.  

The lemurs a marvel on a rope.  The goats amazingly patient with a swarm of kids, and I don't mean their own.

At that point we allowed Rachel to take us to all the non-animal attractions; and were pleasantly surprised not to be charged extra for any of them.

Her and Mike raced down the Bob Cat Run at least five times with Rachel always winning in style:

We all went on a swan pedal boats despite my better judgement, I don't much like boats.  
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

And we enjoyed a train trip round the park.  
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

We got back just in time to catch the Macaw show, not to be missed!

We looked at our watches, 4:30, time to get back to the car and do another circuit of the road safari.  It was completely different, the animal behaviour altered after a warm day, fascinating to see.  

This time the highlight was definitely the monkey enclosure.   Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

We had a gorgeous little monkey hitch a ride on our wing mirror  

We had a truly fabulous day and seriously considered taking out the annual pass but decided it's a little too far away to get to four times a year, it was mightily tempting though. Thanks Woburn Safari Park, you rock!

London 2012: the ticket game

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

It's just about a week to go until we find out whether we have managed to get tickets for the London 2012 Olympic games.

Some people have gone mad and might end up spending a small fortune if they get tickets for every event they've applied for.  Others, like us, might have played it to cautious and run the risk of ending up with nothing.  

We are hoping we get tickets to at least one event.  We just want to be there and soak up the atmosphere, cheer on team GB and introduce Rachel to the excitement that is live international sport.

So what have you applied for?
We went for
Athletics qualifying
BMX riding
Synchronised swimming

How about you?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Red kite delight

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
This image by Nigel Blake Photography is a fantastic photograph which captures precisely the sight outside my front door this afternoon.

We are very used to Red Kites overhead in the area.  Their regeneration in the Chilterns has allowed them to spread out their range, coming as far south as Reading.  But never before have I seen one in a dive so close to home, let alone in the cul-de-sac.  

I don't know what it was coming in for, it's bin day so it could have been some meat left behind, or perhaps a small mammal which was clearing up the rubbish.  All I do know is that it was a spectacular sight and one I won't easily forget.

And just imagine, if these magnificent birds had not been brought back from the edge of extinction then we would never see them in their graceful flight and powerful dives.

If you'd like to know more about these wonderful birds then I recommend both the RSPB and

Monday, 16 May 2011

Cousin Joy

What can better show the sheer joy of time with cousins than this

These are the two men in Rachel's life
Photobucket Photobucket

For Rachel, cousins are the focus of her family life, in her words "I love my cousins, they are the best ever. Their mum painted my toe nails and their dad played football with us."

Sorry darling brother; you are no longer an Uncle, you are purely referred to as C and Ns dad!

Walk to School Week

This week is Walk to School Week.

Did you know that? I certainly wasn't informed by our school, I even checked last week's newsletter and there's nothing in it. But I did find out from other routes; mainly from my previous life (as a civil engineer and workshop facilitator for multi modal studies and local transport plans) where walking buses are encouraged by district and local councils.

So what is Walk to School Week?

It is run by the Walk to School Campaign who also organise the walk to school month in October.

It's pretty simple really; we are all encouraged to walk our children to school every day this week (16th to 20th May 2011).

I am proud to say that I walk Rachel to school every single morning; rain, wind, snow or sun. We walk with other families in the area and enjoy the chats as much as the walk itself. There are 2 days a week when I can not leave my church commitments in time to get home and walk up to school for school pick up. But on these days I leave the car at church, walk to school, collect Rachel and then we walk to church to collect the car. I deem this to be good enough to be classified walking to and from school; it certainly does not create any additional local traffic, cause dangerous parking or add extra car trips.

So why am I so passionate about walking to school?
Two reasons really:
1 - exercise; without the walk to and from school I would not get much exercise and I have really seen the difference now I walk a couple of miles every day.
2 - time together; the time walking to school is the perfect opportunity for Rachel to share with me any concerns she has about the day. And the walk home is even more important; I normally get a full commentary of her day, hearing all sorts of things which I doubt I would in the car. It is our time for sharing.

I am however well aware of the barriers to walking to school.
- There are days when walking home from school in the morning is a mad rush because I have a meeting somewhere at 9am; it would certainly be less stressful for me to drive to school.
- There are far too many cars on the roads in the morning which drive too fast or just seem unaware of the kids on the pavements; just this morning a car came whizzing past school on the wrong side of the road at a heck of a speed.
- Those who drive to school sometimes park irresponsibly which makes crossing the roads unsafe.

And what's the answer to these problems = having less cars on the road = more parents walking their kids to school.

So please, if you possibly can, please try to walk your kids to school this week; give it a go, see the benefits, it's definitely better for your community.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Dangerous Caterpillars

We have been in contact with Dangerous Man Attacking Caterpillars!!!

Don't worry though, we're still alive and with no side effects to speak of.
Here is the story in the Daily Mail which would have you believing that the caterpillars at the Cliff Top in Barton are out to get us.

The Caterpillars are the grubs of the Brown Tailed Moth.
This is how these inocuous looking caterpillars looked in April.
They were tiny and fabulous and in a massive group; too much to not explore.

And now in May, a mere 3 weeks later, here's one we found.
I doubt this one had even hatched a month ago, and this time the finger in the shot is mine rather than Rachels. These caterpillars certainly know how to grow.

This time we have been a lot more cautious of them. We check each bench on the cliff top for signs of them. No, you're right, that's not a lot more cautious is it? But at least we're not going around stroking them this time.

And the moral of this post?
Well there isn't one really apart from my favourite comment of all time
never trust everything you read, especially when it's in the Daily Mail