Monday, 22 August 2011

Happy 6th Birthday Rachel

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My dearest Rachel
Happy sixth birthday.  

Where have six years gone? It only seems like yesterday that you were completely dependent on me; and now you're full of independence and exploration of the world, eager to be released in short bursts.  

I remember how you gazed into my eyes and there was nothing else in the world that mattered; you do that to me still, every morning and night and often in between.

I never knew what motherhood would be, had no idea at all.  It's harder than I thought, in energy, emotions and patience; but it's also fulfilling and energising in a way I never expected.

As much as six years seems so impossible to have passed, I'm also unable to recall what my life was like without you.  You have changed my life; brought more light, love and joy into it.

I love you my baby, more than I can ever explain with words.  More than one hundred, thousand, million duckeys; plus another two thousand one hundred and ninety.

Happy Birthday baby girl.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

2190 Days

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Two thousand, one hundred and ninety days ago
I knew that the day had arrived;
The hoping and waiting and praying had all
Brought about this miraculous birth

Two thousand, one hundred and ninety days ago
That was when I first held her hand;
Just past midnight, as her birthday arrived
There she was, born into my arms

Two thousand, one hundred and ninety days ago
I was a mum and Mike was a dad;
But more than that, right there that day
We three were together at last

Two thousand, one hundred and ninety days ago
I stayed awake all night and watched;
Her eyes, hands, fingers, legs and toes
Imprinted on my eyes and heart

Two thousand, one hundred and ninety days ago
I knew I'd been changed for all time;
My life was then different, forever improved
And I thank God every day still

Two thousand, one hundred and ninety days ago
Just as much as I feel today;
I was filled with love for this one special girl
And forever I'll celebrate her.

Two thousand, one hundred and ninety days ago
We rejoiced our special girl in our life;
Now six years on, I celebrate her birth and
The two thousand, one hundred and ninety days since 

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Funky Pendants

For her Birthday my brother and sister-in-law gave Rachel a Funky Pendant ring from It is a beautiful pink design of Japanese Flowers on a recycled R wooden scrabble piece.

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As you can see, it's simply gorgeous.
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This fabulous ring is just one of a huge range rings, pendants, pins and more that Funky Pendants make; all individual and wonderfully modern.

If you're looking for a quirky, individual gift for someone you love, this might be just perfect.

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Horrible Histories

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We discovered Horrible Histories on CBBC a few months ago; I knew all about it, obviously, but only now realised that Rachel was old enough for it. What a fantastic programme it is, we both love it. In fact it's the best history lesson I've ever had.

And the best bit?
Far and away it's stupid deaths with this character ..... Death.

Who sings:

Stupid deaths
Stupid deaths
Hope next time it's not you!

If you haven't discovered horrible histories with (or without) your school age children then rush over to CBBC right now!

Mr Poppers Penguins

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We went to see Mr Poppers Penguins because a friend said it was good, add to that a rainy August day and off we went. I wasn't expecting much, mainly because I'm not a Jim Carey fan, but I was proven wrong.
My friends were right.

The film is funny, endearing, meaningful, real and funny; with the penguins and Angela Lansbury being the stars of the show. I laughed out loud a number of times, and Rachel giggled throughout, loving every second.

It's always good to be surprised by a film you didn't expect much of. If you're stuck for sonething to do one rainy day before the schools go back, you can do much worse than see Mr Poppers Penguins.

Silent Sunday

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Silent Sunday

Friday, 19 August 2011

Sixth tooth before her sixth birthday

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In 3 days time this gorgeous girl turns six, I can't believe it!

What I can believe even less is that yesterday she lost this...

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..... her sixth baby tooth.

Six teeth gone before her sixth birthday, that's got to be some sort of record. The toothy fairy is certainly used to visiting this house.

Harry Potter and the deathly hallows part 2

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Tonight Mike and I finally had babysitters in the house and so we got to see Harry Potter and the deathly hallows part 2. It's been a long wait since part 1 and as we sat down in the cinema we realised that watching part 1 again might have been a good idea. But we caught up quick enough.

I've always loved Harry Potter; the books, audio CDs read by Stephen Fry and the movies; I'm a fan. But this final installment of the films just left me feeling a bit ... flat. Disappointingly so, especially since I felt the final book was a triumph (if a long triumph).

Don't get me wrong, the film's dramatic, full of amazing special effects, brilliantly acted, true to the book and engaging. But it misses sonething. Although it touches on the emotional aspects of the book, it somehow turned a bit 'twee' at the end.

But don't let my slight dissappintment put you off; if you've seen the other films then you just have to see this on the big screen.

My rating 8/10
Mike's rating 10/10

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The wizard of Oz

Last Friday Mike and I took Rachel and a friend of hers into London's West End to see The Wizard of Oz at The London Palladium.  We went during Kids Week; a fabulous initiative where for two weeks a child goes free for every adult ticket purchased (on certain days for certain shows).

Our seats were as far high up as it was possible to go, right up in the Gods.  I worried whether we would be able to really appreciate the show from that height, but my worries were quickly dispersed.

The stage itself is mesmerisingly clever; there's a spiral which raises and falls at different points in the show, changing scenes and atmosphere.  If you love engineering or architecture this makes the show a must-see in itself.

Then there's the acting.  Dorothy is fabulously played by Danielle, the winner of BBCs "over the rainbow", showing exactly why she deserved the role.  The great Oz is played by the great Michael Crawford, greatly.  The lion is fantastically cowardly, the tin man certainly hollow and the scarecrow; well he's the star of the acting for me, physically in his movement especially.

The music, well Andrew Lloyd Webber can do no wrong, it's brilliant.

But the absolute run away star of the whole show is the dog who plays Toto. To see a dog with such skills is wonderful, but to also witness the enjoyment and enthusiasm is captivating.

That's the word that I'd use to sum up the Wizard of Oz.  Captivating.  Two adults loving it.  Two girls entranced.  We all left captivated.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

one million wasps per square mile

Did you know this fascinating fact?

There are approximately one million wasps per square mile.

That puts the odd wasp in the garden or around the picnic into proportion, they are not out to get us. Now I just need Mike and his mum to understand that. Whenever they see a wasp, even twenty metres away, even if it's not really a wasp, they freak out. That means they jump up and try and move away and start flapping and generally acting crazy. What does this do? It tends to make everyone around them more anxious and I'm sure it attracts the wasp's attention.

But if this fascinating fact is true, then gardens and parks and everywhere else are teaming with wasps which are going about their ordinary business of eating bugs, pollinating plants and raising young. Far from making me more worried about wasps, this fact tells me how important wasps are for our environment and how little they are interested in us.

Now I just have to try and get Mike to understand.

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Smurfs in 3D

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I loved the smurfs as a kid, especially clumsy, he just made me smile.  But when I saw the trailer for the Smurfs in 3D I was not thrilled, it just couldn't be as good as I remembered the series; and I hate it when good memories get spoiled by remakes.

But Rachel wanted to see it and the weather had cancelled our picnic in the park plan, so off we went.

From the first minute I was enthralled, the little blue guys were even more fabulous than I remembered.  The singing was as annoying, the mushrooms as colourful, clumsy as clumsy.  Better still was Gargomel and his cat, perfect evil villains.

I was worried when suddenly the movie moved location to New York, it had the potential to die; but it didn't.  In fact the combination of smurftastic crazyness and the human story was endearing and heartwarming.

I did not expect to like this movie, but I did; it was entertaining.

The downside; the 3D was not great and I wish we could have seen it in 2D and spent less on the tickets.

All in all; 9/10.

And Rachel gave it 10/10; she loved every second of it. 

Rachel makes a cat toy for Sid

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Let's get fruity

We went out blackberrying this afternoon, one of life's simple pleasures.  We would love to show you all we collected but somehow they'd all gone by the time we got home.

There goes the jam idea.

But we also came across another fruit which we managed to bring home, for a wash.  Here they are....

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Yum yum yum.

We would have saved some for Mike but they were too tasty and so we ate them all up.  Until we were left with stones.

And a thought occurred.
We should try to grow our own.
From stone.

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These stones.

We have lived here for 11 years and never seen Greengages along this path before, this means that the tree must be in it's first year of fruit.  It certainly isn't tended, it's in an area of scrub; that is our sort of gardening.

A little google research and here's what I've discovered; it's an easy five step process to your own Plums/Greengages.

1. Eat fruit
2. Plant stone in a warm sunny spot
3. Wait for a very cold winter to start germination
4. Watch the tree grow
5. Wait at least five years, maybe seven, for the first fruit.

So by my reckoning; with a lot of luck Rachel might eat her own home grown greengage by her 13th birthday.

I hope it'll be worth waiting for.

Dotty Drawing

Rachel and I have been experimenting with different drawing techniques since  she was taught how to sketch in art class.  This week, by accident more than anything, we realised that you can sketch with dots.  

Dotty drawing was discovered.

It's been a revelation to me; I've never got to grips with sketching, but dots are much less threatening somehow.

I started just doodling and seeing where it took me.  As I looked at my doodles, shapes started appearing.

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This was one of the more amazing discoveries.  I stunned myself.

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Rachel was inspired to give it a go; and her dandelions came out fantastically.

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From there the world was our oyster with city scapes
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Tree ferns
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Rachel's fantastic carrots
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And my tree - it's our cherry tree
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I can't believe how simple and effective dotty drawing is, I challenge everyone to have a go; young or old.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

One tent, two girls, one mum ....

On Sunday afternoon we put up the tent in the garden.  It was partly a practice before Greenbelt but mostly an excuse to lark around in a tent.  I resisted Rachel's demands to sleep in it that night but said we 'might' on Monday.

Then on Monday morning I uttered these words to Rachel:
"would xx like to sleep over tonight, perhaps you could sleep in the tent?"

And (un)surprisingly she and xx loved the idea and suddenly I was faced with ...

1 tent
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2 girls
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17 soft toys
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1 bout of Mike laughing hysterically
1 headache
1 very large dose of regret at suggesting it and
1 night ahead of me trying to sleep.

The evening started well with setting out the camping mats, sleeping bags, torches, drinks, midnight feast provisions, extra blankets, pillows and soft toys.  

I convinced the girls that we should all head to the sleeping bags about 830pm.  This was followed by singing, dancing, playing games, whispering and getting used to the darkness.  At around 930 I strongly suggested that their plan for a stay-awake wouldn't work and they settled down; I guess they were asleep by about 10pm.

I awoke once it was light and felt pretty awake, but without a watch or clock or phone I had no idea what the time was.  It wasn't until I heard the shower that I realised it was at least 7am.  Imagine my shock and surprise!  

I ventured out of the tent, chatted to Mike, got my phone and got back to the tent expecting some movement; but ....
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They slept on until Sid started exploring the tent at almost 8am.

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I think you could say that my fears were very much unfounded.
One tent
Two girls
One mum
And a sleepover
Equals a pretty fab time.
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Monday, 8 August 2011

Maths, Maths and more maths

I was reading this on the BBC news this morning hoping to be excited by the commitment to improving numeracy in the population. Instead all I hear is Maths, Maths and more Maths which I don't think helps anyone.

I'm an engineer by origin; numbers come easily to me; I adored Maths at school; but sadly I'm in the vast minority.

Most kids appear to find Maths tricky, it doesn't easily connect with them. Yet ask those same kids questions about money or measurements or sharing out a cake and they show their numerical skills. I am convinced that the problem is the way Maths is taught.

I am thrilled with the way numeracy is so practical now in Rachel's primary school; she uses numbers confidently in real life situations; and that's what really matters.

So let's focus on that instead of exam results.
Yes let's teach numerical skills to a set level, but let's not make it all about a chore to do and a fence to jump over; let's make it part of everyones life skills and vocational training.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Mary poppins

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This film predates me by 10 years and perhaps that's why it's very much a firm favourite of mine from childhood. It used to be shown on TV every Christmas, and many times in the months in-between I think.  I would sit enchanted in front of the telly, legs crossed and singing along to every song.

Other films were there too; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Sound of Music and Grease to name just four; but Mary Poppins was the number one.

Today, on this rainy day, Rachel asked to watch Mary Poppins.  Well who was I to refuse her pleas?  So we watched the film, curled up warm and dry whilst the weather did it's thing.  And we were not disappointed.

From the first scene you are whisked away to a vague notion of Edwardian England with it's nannies, suffragettes and chimney sweeps.  And into all this floats Julie Andrews as a thoroughly modern nanny, on her talking umbrella.

There's colour changing medicine, banking crises, pavement art brought to life, dancing on the rooftops and the usual parental dilemmas, all accompanied by singing and comedy.  All in all it's a perfect recipe for escaping from your worries.

But don't take my word for it, get a copy and see for yourself.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Island tripping

Yes, a day trip, from the New Forest to the Isle of Wight.  We caught the 8.30 (ish) ferry from Lymington to Yarmouth and had twelve days before our return crossing.  
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And the day was fabulous.

We started off at Victoria Fort, visiting both the maritime archaeology museum and the aquarium.

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We then had a picnic in the grounds of the fort, watching the boats sailing up and down the Solent.
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From there it was a short journey down the west coast to Alum Bay and The Needles Park.  My heart fell at the queue for the car park and hoards of people but Mike and Rachel convinced me it would be good.  And it was!  

We visited the glass demonstration - best one we've ever seen both educationally and artistically.

We saw boiled sweets being made and sampled them, yum.
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We made an Alum sand model, well Rachel did.  She chose a cat mould and really brought it to life with her sand filling.  We even let Rachel go on the carousel and vintage cars.
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But the reason we went to Alum Bay was of course the needles.  From the flat we see their beauty all the time.
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It was lovely to show them to Rachel at closer quarters.
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And to show her how our flat looks from there.
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Our original plan had to be to drive across the Island to Sandown to visit the Dinosaur Isle, but we decided to spend less time in the car.  Instead we saw a bit of the island.
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And went to Allerton Village for a wonder around and dinner.
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The day was topped off with an hour on the beach at Freshwater Bay, perfect.
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For 70% of the cost of going to Paulton's Park for the day we went on a ferry, saw 3 museums, 2 demonstrations, went on some rides and enjoyed the sun at the beach.  For a day break going outside the New Forest area, the Isle of Wight gets my vote.
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