Sunday, 29 July 2012

Pizza (pie) day with Granddad

Last weekend was a visit to Hornsea to see my folks and dad foolishly made pizza and employed his granddaughters help.
Now the dough was really cheated on (a bread mixer...I'm just jealous really) but they were really nice pizzas and still tasted great the next day.

So first things, the assures me these are usually perfectly round, however Ellie had her own take on this.

The sauce was made from their tomatoes and put though this mangle contraption I've only ever seen in Italian's like a torture machine especially for tomatoes. After that it's really just adding  veg and mozzarella cheese to both of Amelia on guard to warn of burning pizza is also useful.

Friday, 27 July 2012

A Distinct Absence of Pieday

You may have noticed a certain pielessness to today.
My apologies: Richard was supposed to be writing a post, complete with pictures* but last night was something of a nightmare and then he forgot.
 I'm sure he will get around to it in time, possibly not today though as on Friday nights we turn off all the electricity** and it's a little hard to get onto the internet without it.

*They work for him.

**We liked Earth Hour so much we decided to do it every week.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

How I Plan

I'm sure there are home edders out there who plan their projects in line with a carefully ordered curriculum ensuring that each of the main disciplines is covered more or less equally.
I expect they create beautiful little timetables and feel a wonderful glow of satisfaction every time they cross off another step from their exquisitely structured day.
They probably check the recipe book every time they cook too.
 In case you failed to read that last line in a sufficiently sneering fashion I should elaborate: this not how I do things.
I don't really look down on people who do*, I'm sure they have wonderfully well planned and exciting days full of balanced and orderly learning, I simply can't do it and, to be honest, I'm not sure I'd want to.
 My planning process goes like this:

  • Think of something, e.g Dinosaurs.
  • List everything I can think of to do with that topic.
  • Come up with as many associated activities as possible.
  • Cut out all the bits a three year old probably can't do.
  • Put them into some sort of rational order.
  • Attack
So far it seems to work pretty well.
I'll confess it may look much more organised from Eleanor's point of view: she, after all, has no idea that her mother is essentially a flaky beatnik*** who is making it all up as she goes along, so she probably thinks I have selected each and and every activity for maximum educational benefit and placed it in the lesson plan with the care of Capability Jones bedding in a strangely recalcitrant buddleia.
It certainly looks a great deal more sensible when it's finished and the fruits of her labour are all laid out in the big blue project book.
So perhaps it doesn't matter that I bounce around the planning phase like a fluffy purple muppet, or that I choose topics based not on any educational guideline but on what sounds like fun at the time.
 Eleanor enjoys herself, I enjoy myself, Phoebe enjoys herself****, and everybody learns.
Which, honestly, is what I was planning all along.

*Which would, to take the recipe analogy a little further, be like Nigella Lawson** looking down on a three-michelin-starred chef.

** Only less glamorous, not so well paid, and without a camera spying on me every time I go to the fridge.

***Because no-one has taught her what beatnik means yet.

****Unless we manage to get the glue away from her in time.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Clearing the decks

We have a very empty wall.
 This wall was, until today, bedecked with paper butterflies, caterpillars, ladybirds that counted in twos and other arthropodic wonders.
Now, though, the project is over, we have exhausted the possibilities of our back garden (at least for now) and are ready to move on.
 So today Ellie and I took down all her worm and butterfly related work, even the stained glass pictures*, and stuck them all into her project book, creating a really rather impressive record of the past month or so**.
The book isn't quite finished yet: we still have to print out all the photographs we've taken and stick them in, but we've left spaces so that shouldn't be a problem.
More irritating is the realisation that I haven't kept a list of all the books we read over the course of the project: not a vital point admittedly, but I'd like to be able to keep a complete record, if only for reminiscence's sake.
 This is something I'll have to remember for our next project, for now the wall is clear and ready for our next project, leaving behind the tiny**** and starting something enormous: dinosaurs.

*I miss those already: I'd stuck them to the bathroom window to keep the light out of my eyes.
I suppose we should buy a blind really.

** Note to Home-edders: keeping a book like this is also handy if your LEA representative comes round*** as it gives an idea of what you've been doing.

Of course, you aren't actually obliged to see the LEA rep unless you want to.

**** Technically the smallest known dinosaur, Ashdown Maniraptoran, was only about thirty centimetres long which is about the same as the wingspan of the Queen Alexander Birdwing butterfly, but you know what I mean.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Pie day - daddy flan

Amelia has made me do a pie day, so taking the easiest path I've gone for no cooking, no prep, basically put it together, stick it in the fridge and off we go!

Dad always made flans at home during the summer, so I thought it could't be hard and it'd be great for Ellie.

So ingredients

  • Vege-jel
  • Flan case
  • Strawberries
  • Tinned Peaches
  • Blueberries
  • Single cream

Make up the vege-jel and leave to cool for a while.

A good tip is to use some of the syrup from the tinned fruit to make up the Jelly...saying that we messed up but hey ho :)

Cut up the strawberries.

Next just lay the fruit out start with the bigest then fil the gaps with the smaller fruit.

Finally you just add the jelly over the top and put in the fridge!

A plea for pie-tience

Today's Pieday post will be by Richard.
Please expect it when you see it.

Sorry for the delay.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Clap Your hands Say Wee!

Phoebe can't talk much yet, but she can certainly communicate.
She signs a little, she says a lot through waving at things, through crying or squealing, and, just recently, through clapping.
 She got the hang of clapping the week before last and was very proud of herself*.
She clapped, and she grinned, and she generally illuminated the whole room with her glee.
So when she did a weewee on the potty and was looking particularly proud of herself, the obvious thing seemed to be to clap.
I clapped.
Eleanor clapped.
And of course, Phoebe clapped.
 Since this occasion every time Phoebe does a weewee on the potty she claps.
She also claps if she hears someone flush the loo**.
She clapped tonight, with a somewhat awestruck expression, when she heard the shower running.
 And then, just as I was putting a nappy on her at bedtime, she realised she needed the potty.
She cried at me.
I didn't get it.
She wriggled her bottom in a holding-on-for-dear-life-and-a-dry-flexitot*** fashion.
I didn't get it.
She stared into my eyes in an attempt to drive the information directly into my brain.
I didn't get it.****
Finally, in desperation and with little hope of getting anything through my exceptionally dense skull, she clapped.

I got it.

*So she carried on clapping, she felt she deserved the applause.
** It's nice to be appreciated.
*** It's a type of nappy.
Made from bamboo.
**** But wouldn't it be cool if I had?

Friday, 13 July 2012

Unillustrated Pieday

I still lack the capability to put photos up here so this is going to be a rather  boring blog, though certainly better than the "Pictures of Home Ed " post I had planned for this week.

We made a Spinach and Ricotta Pie
I had high hopes for this as a sort of quichely variant on the Spanokopitta, the results were a little on the soggy side, I suspect because we used too small and deep a pan: if in doubt err on the big and shallow side.


Whatever pastry you want: the recipe we used called for layered filo, we used puff, you can pretty much go with whatever you feel like making
Three eggs, beaten.
A tub of ricotta
Some tomatoes (sunblush or halved cherry)
A medium bag of spinach
A spring onion (unless you don't like them)
A little peccorino romano

Line a quiche tin, or similar vessel, with the pastry and prick it with a fork

Mix the eggs with the ricotta, stir in the spinach, chop and add the spring onion.

Splodge this into the lined tin.

Grate the peccorino romano and sprinkle it on top, decorate with the tomatoes (cut side up if you're using cherry ones).

Put it into the oven at your usual pie-cooking temperature for twenty five minutes.

Take it out, leave it for five minutes or so, and serve, hopefully less messily than we did.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


On Monday we went to the Science Museum.

 This, alas, is no longer the museum of my youth: the amazing hands-on displays I remember from childhood are all gone, replaced with new child centred exhibitions: The Garden, Pattern Pod and Launchpad.
 Of these The Garden is supposedly the one for Eleanor's age-group.
It's a free play area in which children are supposed to explore and make discoveries assisted by red-jumpered Explainers* there are areas for sound based play, lights for shadow puppetry, a gantryesque area with beanbags (presumably to assist in the discovery of gravity) and a complicated water table.
 The water table was certainly a hit with Eleanor, who enjoyed making whirlpools and seeing the affects of opening and closing various water gates.
It was also by far the most popular part of the exhibition in general: I don't think I ever saw it without a crowd of children surrounding it on all sides.
For the most part, though, The Garden didn't really seem to impress her that much: she claimed to be having fun, but gave the impression that she said it was fun because she thought it should be, rather than because it really was.

 Pattern Pod, once we managed to find the wretched place**, was much more to her taste.
Intended for children aged between five and eight, it is another interactive area, this time for set activities rather than free play.
There was a station full of boxes with lights that lit up if you followed the correct sequence of events, another where you could grow fractals from "seed"***, and another where you could create mandala-like patterns on a screen.
 Eleanor was particularly impressed by an exhibit on movement which required her to put on a variety of funny shoes before attempting to follow in the footsteps of a crawling baby, a dog, a duck, and a hopping robot.

She also enjoyed experimenting in a small chamber which played music for the occupant to dance to, while filming their movements and converting them into patterns on a large screen.
Well, she like the dancing anyway.

We failed to locate Launchpad entirely, which was rather a shame as there was supposed to be a demonstration of explosive science there which looked like it might be fun.
 On the bright side, though, this gallery is meant to be for those aged over eight, so I don't know how much Eleanor would have enjoyed it anyway.

We did, after several detours past clocks, flying machines****, and the Planets Suite by Holst***** find the Who Am I exhibition which looked amazing but was so crowded that we could barely get near any of the stations.
 Alas I may never know if my daughters are optimists or pessimists, or how they would survive various challenges.
The only station available was a very serious one about whether we should keep samples of everyone's DNA on file or not.
Eleanor asked what DNA was and, when I had told her, said that she thought it was a good idea as then they would have some to fix her with if she ever got broken.
I'll explain again when she's older.
 She was quite interested by the displays though, especially one on forensics which contained a skeleton "Like the dinosaurs but human", and one of genetically abnormal stuffed animals which I can only assume they put in especially for me.

And then, before we could look at the Difference Engine; or find the strange model, like a wooden game of Operation, in the Medicine exhibition; or even -horrors- look around the shop, it was time to go home.

*One of whom offered me a portable seat when I went in, I take it children can spend quite a lot of time in there.

** I suspect we would have seen far more that actually interested us if we'd had a better time navigating: the Science Museum is huge, and complicated, and laid out apparently at the whim of an insane artist, the children's areas, for example are not adjacent as you might expect, but dotted about the building, and to get into Pattern Pod you actually have to go past the ticket desk of the IMAX cinema.

*** Plastic seeds, each with a simple symbol inscribed on it.
When inserted into a box the symbol appeared on a screen above and "grew" into a fractal pattern

**** Including a missile.
Eleanor asked if it was for going into space on like Apollo 11, I said no, and explained its purpose.
Eleanor thought about this and told me that she thought it was nasty and silly.

***** No, really, it has its own gallery.
For now anyway.

A Momentous Occasion

Last Sunday we went to the Natural History Museum.
 It was the first time we had been there with Eleanor* and to be honest we were probably more excited than she was.
After all, she only knew that we were going to go to a museum with dinosaurs, we were going to take our little girl to the Natural History Museum.
A moment like that deserves its own soundtrack: something deep and impressive and full of major chords, some that makes Thus Spake Zarathustra sound like Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
It deserves to be announced on the national news, on the World Service, on a specially recorded beam transmission to be directed into space in order to make contact with alien life and tell them all about the day our eldest daughter met a diplodocus.
It deserves an all-caps, bold, underlined, italicised proclamation: THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM!

It was wonderful.
 The Museum has changed somewhat since last we were there but there's still a fossilised tree** in the grounds, and the walls are still covered with marvellous stone animals.
More importantly: the first thing you see when you go in is still a skeletal diplodocus.
His name is Dippy.
Eleanor liked him very much.

Before she could be introduced to Dippy, Eleanor had to be equipped with her Explorer's Backpack, which the museum provides free of charge for young visitors.
Each of the backpacks, which come complete with pith helmets and binoculars: the better to explore with, contains a set of activities for one section of the museum.
Eleanor chose the Mammals backpack which, naturally enough, required us to pay lots of attention to the stuffed specimens in the Animals Gallery.
Those animals have always given me the creeps***.
 The actual activities were excellent: the first involved identifying a mystery animal from clues provided (a set of teeth, a claw and a piece of fur) the second was about spotting the differences between a real jaguar and a picture of one (the difference seems to be that the cartoon had not been removed for cleaning) and the third was a game of Name that Mammal.
Eleanor loved it, creepy stuffed animals and all.

She also loved the fossilised dinosaurs, and the model dinosaurs (which she persisted in seeing as "baby ones"), and the animatronic dinosaurs once she had got away from them.
 She was then quite affectionate towards a demonstration on prehistoric plant-life, some model dinosaur nests with actual model-baby-dinosaurs and the step-by-step display on palaeontology.
She claimed to be rather fond of the display on the human body too, but she was flagging by then and wanted to go home.
So we had lunch.
Which she loved.
After lunch she was good enough to demonstrate her tenderness towards the Arthropod Gallery, in order that Richard should get his share of the shuddering heeby jeebies too.
 Then we wandered through the shop (everything in which, we were assured, she would love), handed in her backpack, and as she was tired, decided to skip the Science Museum and head back to our hotel.

By Bus.

*Or Phoebe for that matter.
I don't think she was terribly impressed though.

** The tree is behind a glass wall these days though.
This made me rather sad.

***Where the word creeps is used to denote the screaming abdabs.

Where are my pictures

Something very strange has happened and I cannot put photographs on the blog.
This is particularly annoying as we had some excellent ones to share.
Please fill any gaps in the following blog-posts with beautiful pictures of your own imagining.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Confessions of a Project Obsessed Mother

I've mentioned before that I have a slight mania for project-planning.
As soon as I have a quiet moment: most often when I'm feeding Phoebe, my mind will start to wander and a project topic will crop up, I'll take a few notes, and the next thing I know I have two or more months of activities all planned out.
 I don't even need to be particularly idle, I've come up with projects while sewing and watching television*, while looking up something I came across while reading**, or simply while looking up ideas for other projects.
Even when I had an idea for an activity to break up the concerted workload of the various projects I'd planned I found myself turning it into a project.
 What's particularly silly is that we intend to give the girls quite a lot of autonomy in choosing their studies: we'll make suggestions, but we want them to study subjects that interest them, so there's no guarantee that any of these projects will ever see the light of day.
 So, lest all my hard work be lost in obscurity forever, and more importantly lest you think that I am kidding about this, I present a list of Projects I have Planned.
 Just the titles though, it's more fun if I don't tell you what they're actually about.

In No Particular Order:

Worms and Butterflies***
Opal Surveys
My Family
Dinosaurs and Fossils
World Religion and Mythology
Ancient Civilisations
Putting On A Play
Something Chemical
Cromwell and the Stuarts
MIGOWIY**** 1: Household Management and Gender Politics
MIGOWIY 2: Germs and Medicine
MIGOWIY 3: Activism
Vaccines and War Machines
Where Food Comes From
The Game of Conquest
Winter Holidays
What Makes Weather?
Myths and Monsters
The Nine Times Table Challenge
Truth and Lies

And those are just the ones I had on my phone.

*Ok, it was School of Hard Sums, I admit.
** Prince Rupert's Drop, take a look.
*** Hey! We've done that one!
**** Mummy's Ill, Get On With It Yourself