Monday 29 August 2011

Changing seasons

The last few days have felt like the end of summer and beginning of autumn. Some trees are changing colour and we are definitely in apple season..

The books that I have chosen for the children, this week, reflect this and include some of my favourite children's books.

The tiny seed by Eric Carle follows a seed through the year, starting in autumn.

Hepzibah's woolly fleece by Jill Dow is the story of a sheep and her coat through the seasons. Realistic illustrations-the blackberries look edible. Mr Exuberance, who loves blackberries, keeps talking about the pictures.

Out and about through the year by Shirley Hughes. This is a collection of poems about the seasons. I love this book-this is our second copy as the first wore out. I'm only planning to read the end of summer and autumn ones. There is a great one about the beach which fits in with an outing last week and plenty for the autumn.

Ox-cart man by Donald Hall has been one of our 5-a-Day choices before but this is such a beautiful, simple book about the seasons with a little history thrown in.

How to make an apple pie and see the world by Marjorie Priceman isn't really about the changing seasons but is about apples which are a frequent topic of conversation here, at present. Whilst this book doesn't talk about the seasons it covers so much else-geography, cooking, numbers and is fun too. I have frequent requests to read this book and cook apple pie with the children.

 This is a Five in a Row book but we aren't formally "rowing" this week but may "row" this on another occasion.

For many more book choices, see 5-a-Day books.

Friday 26 August 2011

More inspiration

We've had a busy week as we near the end of the holidays. It was good to have some fresh air at the sea and meet up with friends. 
Again, we've been blessed with an abundance of apples.

This is from a previous year. We have even more this year but I've learnt only to pick the number that I can process in one go. 

While I was at the sea, I learnt more about bottling fruit-thank you to the kind person who was prepared to go through the bottling process while watching the children make sand structures. My first bottle was made up last night. Sadly, I think that I failed to remove a bubble so it will have to be eaten quickly.

The Bramley apple site is a useful source of recipes. The tomato and apple soup is one of the recipes we have enjoyed.
We are now having to think more creatively about the apples! Earlier this week was the turn of apple art. Today, we made apple juice.

We blended some quartered apples and then seived and finally strained through a muslin. The result tasted fine but was a brown colour due to oxidisation. We need to research making juice more and whether lemon juice would work sufficiently well as an anti-oxidant.

I've been reading the Prudent Homemaker which has made me more determined not to waste our fruit. This is the website of a family who survived 8 months of no income, and little income since then, by careful storing and growing food.

We are coming up to the start of term. Whilst some of the children have done some work each day over the holiday, things will go up a gear or three. National Poetry Day has some ideas for including poetry. We are planning to have a time for poetry each week. It is worth looking at the lesson plans under the education section as there are some interesting ideas. As I write the plans still related to the 2010 Day but are due to be updated soon. Unlike some lesson plans, they would be easy to use at home.

This link isn't particularly new but is a list of favourite picture books by children's authors. A fascinating list with some beloved books. Please note that I'm not recommending all of these books as there are several that I haven't read. Some ideas for when we are in the library.

Finally, and by no means least, I think for the first time, the Metropolitan Tabernacle School of Theology is available as free downloads. The sessions on assurance, by Dr Masters, are particularly worth hearing.


Tuesday 23 August 2011

Children and appointments

We are a large and three generational family and so tend to have many appointments. I wrote a about this here.

This post is specifically about children and appointments.

I am sure that the counsel of perfection is that children should attend all appointments of other family members and wait, beautifully behaved, in the waiting room. I aim for the latter part of this but if they are having to attend many appointments, I may be provoking them. So,
  • we try to avoid taking children to multiple hospital appointments where the waiting rooms may not contain toys.
  • we schedule appointments, where possible, in the holidays when the older children can babysit.
  • our local general practitioners' surgery has plenty of toys so it is easy to take the younger children
  • Hospital appointments in term time often mean taking the younger children.
Managing hospital appointments with little ones
  • Read the appointment letter. A very few appointments, such as some nuclear medicine appointments, do not allow children.
  • Explain your expectations to the children, both for the appointment and behaviour, and be realistic. The appointment may take a long time.
  •  Beware water machines-they seem to cause chaos and I always forget to give the children instructions about use-once, not too much and please, please don't spill the water.
  • Pack a backpack with drinks, books and small quiet toys.
  • If there is a long wait, does the receptionist know how long it will be? During some long waits for a relative to have treatment, I was able to have an arrangement that the receptionist would phone me at the end. Waits for blood tests are often by number so it is possible to guess whether it is possible to walk for half an hour.
  • Don't think that you can read your own book. That is reserved for those occasions when children aren't allowed. 
  • Have a story or two ready for when boredom sets in. The story of Mummy's holiday aged three or the made up story of the local princess can work wonders at difficult moments.
  • Praise good behaviour.
Home education and hospital appointments

My husband works from home so I can leave Middle Son with him with some reading or writing. I don't like to do this often hence scheduling anything that can wait for the holidays.

Miss Belle is almost school age but not old enough for it to be appropriate for her to work alone. Reading aloud seems the way ahead.

The other possibility, which I've not yet had to try, is to take the day off and catch up later.

Do let me know if you have other suggestions for children and appointments.

This is linked to the Homemaking Link-Up


Monday 22 August 2011

Apple art

We have some very fruitful apple trees and have been enjoying the fruit in various guises. There are a fair few windfalls in reasonable condition so we used these for some art.

If you do this, please be careful to make sure that the apples used aren't harbouring wasps. I used fresh windfalls which were either in good condition or had some bruising.

First, the apples were painted
and then rolled on a long piece of brown paper.

Different coloured paints to add different trails.

We then cut some apples in half and did some printing. Not quite sure why the foot was involved although hand and foot prints inevitably happened a bit later.

Finally, at least for now, we made some apple faces using acorns which also seem to be plentiful this year, twigs and leaves stuck on with a bit of force and PVA glue.

This is linked to It's Playtime.

Saturday 20 August 2011

For Saturday evening

Last Saturday evening, I found this sermon by Joel Beeke on preparing children, and yourself, to listen in church.

He makes the fascinating comment that there are hundreds of books on preaching sermons but very few on listening. I'm certainly no expert on the literature on the subject but that rings true.

There are useful thoughts on preparing for church, how to listen and how to apply what has been heard afterwards-very practical.

Friday 19 August 2011

Appointments 1

In any large household, but especially one with three generations, appointments are a major feature.  Many weeks there is at least one. Usually, it is the mother's job to co-ordinate and accompany.

These are just a few of my thoughts about appointments. Hope that they are helpful and not just teaching you to suck eggs.

I've struggled with my attitude to appointments. Sometimes, it seems that there are several a week and organising them and around them takes so much time. It should be a joy to serve but it is easy to be like Martha cumbered about much serving and to forget Mary who had chosen the good part by hearing Jesus' word.

Appointments attended by the mother in a large family are usually those where either someone is young or old and needs help remembering and putting their point of view across and needs help travelling. Always take
  • diary-electronic or otherwise for making future appointments
  • change for parking-often very expensive
  • phone to inform others if the appointment is longer than expected.
and if possible, leave the next meal prepared! I'm not good at the latter.
Please note that what follows is not about emergency situations which, of course, override most of this.

Anyway, some practical points about avoiding appointments:
  • Does the appointment really need to happen? Some simple medication issues can be sorted out over the phone.
  • Does the appointment need to happen now? A routine six month appointment can wait a week or so until a convenient time.
  • Can the appointments be bunched? Three dentist appointments together, for example. I find that this doesn't work if one person has more complex issues but sometimes a more complex appointment can be put with a parent's appointment.
  • Can two issues be covered at once? For example, a nearly due medication review with another problem. It is worth warning the receptionist as a double appointment may be needed.
Some further thoughts about children and appointments to follow.

This is linked to Works for me Wednesday.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Bible picture books

I'm having a bit of a book week but this is something that I've been thinking about for a while.
These are our criteria for a good Bible picture book

  • reverent
  • keeps to Biblical facts-no Jonah being swallowed by a whale. A whale isn't the same thing as a fish, no way.
  • no pictures of the Lord Jesus. This article by John Murray explains this far better than I could
  • attractive pictures
  • proof read. I know that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones but having the same word spelt in different ways on the same page jars.
  • narrative that isn't so summarised that is makes very little sense
So what do we like?
  • Psalm 103 and 127 by Johanna Bluedorm. These are illustrated versions of these psalms using the King James Version.
  • The series by B Ramsbottom. We do read the chapters with full colour illustrations more than those without but this is a minor problem.
  • Some of the old Ladybird Old Testament books. The New Testament books tend to have pictures of the Lord.
  • Some of the Famous Bible stories by Carine Mackenzie.
Not a long list.

Don't forget reading the Bible itself. Little children can often understand a short reading from a Gospel better than a retelling.

If anyone else has suggestions please share them.

Monday 15 August 2011


Mr Exuberance loves machines and since he is the most enthusiastic participant in 5-a-Day, this week is chosen specially for him. Doubtless, his big sister will listen too. Mr Exuberance may think that some of these need to be read more than once a day.

Percy's Bumpy ride by Nick Butterworth features an unusual mowing machine. Fun to read which always helps!

Move it! Builders illustrated by Mike Brownlow has few words but large illustrations with pieces that actually move.

Mr Little's noisy truck by Richard Fowler. We have three of this series which has flaps on each page and plenty of onamatopoeias. A satisfyingly noisy read.

Amazing machines by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker  is a book which we read and reread. The blurb on the back says "Ideal for machine-mad pre-schoolers" and this is so true. The stories are in rhyme and so it is easy for little people to join in.

Machines at work-digger by Nicola Deschamps. This is a DK non-fiction book. I've only read the major items of text on each page. Illustrated with many photographs.

Any other ideas for "machine-mad" toddlers?

This is linked to 5-a-Day books at the Imagination Tree.

Interview with Barbara Coyle-author of Ned

I’m really excited that Barbara Coyle has allowed me to interview her for Delivering Grace.

Barbara is the author of Ned, the fictional story of a poor boy in Victorian London who was taken, somewhat against his will, into a Barnardo home.
I loved Ned and so have my children. One of them described it as the best book we have read aloud.

 It is always difficult to judge age suitability but competent readers of eight could manage it alone and younger children would appreciate it read aloud.

Barbara lives in Eire and has four adopted children from different parts of the world, a lovely rainbow family. She home educates her children and is also busy with her responsibilities as the wife of a church planter.

Hello Barbara,

Thank you for agreeing to let me ask you some questions.

Can you tell me how you came to write "Ned"?

I’d had it in mind for a while to write a historical fiction book for children, and I thought that I could create a unit study to go along with it. When I read a biography of Dr. Barnardo, I thought that the story of a ‘Barnardo’s boy’ would make a very interesting novel.

I think  you have written another book. Can you tell me about that?

Sure. It’s a devotional book called Wisdom from Proverbs: Devotions for Homeschooling Moms. It was the fruit of my own study of the book of Proverbs; I realized how much of the wisdom there applied to mothers, and especially homeschooling mothers, in ways I hadn’t realized before. There are fifty devotionals in the book; each is based on a different verse from Proverbs and has other scriptures on the same topic listed for further reading and study.

You are from the US? How is it that you are living in Eire?

Yes, I am American. I married an Irishman in 1996 and followed him across the pond. We were in England for about five years, and have been in Ireland since 2002.

What were the greatest differences, for you, from living in the US?

I think three things stand out:
1. the weather, most especially since I come from Southern California J 
2. the far, far slower pace of life here (more so in the west of Ireland even than the UK) and
 3. the very small population of Christians (the west of Ireland has fewer evangelical Christians per capita than any other place in Europe—a fraction of 1%. ) Having been raised at a church of about 8,000 people, that has been quite an adjustment! But then again, that’s why we’re here. J

Do you have any other books planned? Can you tell us a bit about them?

I have several ideas swirling around in my head for another children’s book, but nothing definite yet. I’ve been teaching online writing classes for homeschoolers (I taught literature and writing at the college level before I was married) so my writing time is necessarily limited.

How do you manage to be a missionary wife, a mother, home educate and write? What is your top tip for getting everything done?

I think what I’ve learned is that you really can’t do it all—something has to give. If I’m going to be what I ought to be as a missionary wife, mother, and home educator, there isn’t going to be much time left over for writing. I’ve learned to be content with very limited output in terms of writing. There have been times when I put homeschooling and housekeeping on hold for a short period of time in order to get a project completed, and I think that’s ok. But generally I need to stick to my God-given priorities and be content with all my other little projects going very slowly.

Finally, many of us love books. Can you tell us your favourites?

I think I’ll probably have to give you authors rather than books; For fiction I like Jane Austen, Dickens, Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, P.G. Wodehouse, and Elizabeth Gaskell; for poetry I like George Herbert and Christina Rosetti and Shakespeare. I also like biographies, particularly of missionaries or other heroes of the faith—A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot about Amy Carmichael is a favourite.

Thank you very much.

Both books are available in the UK: Ned from the Metropolitan Tabernacle bookshop and Wisdom from Proverbs from Amazon

Saturday 13 August 2011

Spicy squash soup

We've been pushing the boundary with fruit and vegetables again. This time some kind friends gave us a squash.

Eldest daughter kindly made a soup.

1 squash peeled and cubed
1 onion
clove of garlic
1 carrot
olive oil to brown vegetables
chicken stock
1 tablespoon red Thai curry paste

Chop the vegetables
Brown the onion and garlic
Add the carrot and squash with the stock and curry paste
Simmer until the squash is soft.

Serve with homemade bread.

Yes, we have pushed the boundary. This was a success.
To improve, for another time, it would benefit from a colourful garnish.

This is linked to Raising homemakers

Wednesday 10 August 2011

What I've been learning

Se7en is the blog of a South African home educating mother of se7en plus 1. There is so much on this blog. I've been having to ration myself. We had planned a unit study of an African country next term and I was vacillating between South Africa and another country. Well, now I'm decided-there is so much information here to use: recipes, book lists, crafts plus so much other inspirational stuff around home educating and bringing up children.I particularly liked this post on educating and the holistic list of activities the Se7en family aim to cover each day.

Sarah at Pajama School has a useful post on encouraging little ones to walk. I tried the swimming between islands idea on a hot sunny day with more than enough walking and it worked.

4Moms are blogging through Large Family Logistics. I have to admit that I failed to read 17 chapters which was the allocation last week but am reading the book again. There are several sections that I really need to implement. Reading the thoughts of others has been a helpful push.

We brought a new tube of Pritt Stick this week-not very exciting. Pritt Stick have a challenge to make a collage using recycled or natural materials and if enough are posted on their site will plant trees. I didn't read the instructions properly, and they weren't the clearest, so we went ahead and make our collages. When I arrived at the website, it was obvious that I needed to download a tree template and that our pictures of a princess and the sea weren't going to fit into a tree template. So, to another go, another day.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Pushing the boundary with fruit and veg-chicory

Our broad bean experiment was successful and after the soup, we ate them steamed with a main course.

So onwards. There was a request for chicory and a kind friend sent us this link.

We blanched the chicory.

Then wrapped the chicory in ham, cheese and topped with breadcrumbs.
Grilled-all very easy.

It looked good but sadly, even some of my veggie lovers thought the chicory was bitter. Not such a success. The whole family liked the topping so might try this with leek in the future.

Monday 8 August 2011

Books and more books

Just for fun, on Saturday, I counted the number of books that we read to Mr Exuberance that day. The number was in double figures and the first digit wasn't one.
There are so many books in this house. I am adding to that number. A secondhand bookshop is far more of a temptation than a clothes shop but the effort not to buy too many new books is probably succeeding. My current book sources
  • the many books already on the shelves
  • the library. Our local public library allows 15 books per person-that is a lot. Recently, I've taken to keeping them all in a bag and forbidding DVDs from the library which attract fines if kept a day over a week. Anyway, libraries are for reading not screen based entertainment.
  • charity shops. I did well last week-two books for 60p and a Babur the elephant in another.
  • second hand sales often the best for bargins
  • hand-me-downs. I've been given some great books recently. Yes, and we are getting rid of those we no longer need. Otherwise we would have to turn a second wardrobe over to books!
This week's 5-a-Day books are about dogs. Odd as the children aren't great dog fans but in books, that is different.

Clifford the big red dog by Norman Bridwell. Fun story of a large red dog and his antics. This is new to us.
Kipper's book of counting by Mick Inkpen is one we have had for almost 18 years. We had another Mick Inkpen counting book last week. This is also proving popular.
Spot's first walk by Eric Hill. Simple text and flaps on each page.
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's dairy by Lynley Dodd. Well known and fun rhyme much of which the children can recite.
Just like Floss by Kim Lewis. This is the story of a farm dog and her puppies with beautiful, evocative colour illustrations.

This is linked to 5-a-Day books

Friday 5 August 2011

Goldilocks and the three/four bears

We've had a week of bear books, bear hunt, acting out bear stories.

Today, we've made some Goldilocks and the three bears puppets and told the story round the house.

We made the models from card
which the younger children decorated.
We fixed the characters to chop sticks with sticky tape and acted out the story.

This is Mother Bear with the porridge.

The story went all over the house

 and garden.

 Miss Belle was excited to tell the story
 and decided that there should really be four bears with Holly Bear being a bear away at university. We didn't get as far as making Holy Bear but then as she was absent it didn't matter.

This is linked to It's Playtime where there are many, many play ideas.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Pushing the boundary with fruit and veg

Like many/most families, we have family members who are less keen on fruit and vegetables than others. Some of us always get our five portions a day and some rarely, if ever and that, I'm afraid is the truth.

Of course, we have tried "no dessert until the first course has gone" which leads to no food, cajoling and doubtless a few other tactics. Recently, we have provided at least a helping of the few accepted items so that at least scurvy is unlikely and generally, with a low key approach things have improved. This has been a bit slow so we have decided to go for a faster approach and a challenge.

We plan to try at least one new vegetable and one new fruit a month. Frequently, texture is an issue with new food so we may well rely reasonably heavily on pureed soups. Anyone who doesn't like the recipe is going to explain why! Seriously, I need to know if the issue is texture, smell or taste.

Today's recipe was broad bean soup from the Dairy Cookbook of British Food.
This is actually made with equal quantities of broad beans and peas. Broad beans aren't really completely new to us-we even grew a few last year-but aren't particularly familiar to the non-vegetable fans.

The soup was pureed and garnished with grilled bacon.

It was a success, apparently not up to lentil soup which is a real favourite, but good enough to eat and that is good enough for me!

This is linked to Raising Homemakers

Monday 1 August 2011


Our 5-a-Day books this week are around the theme of bears. It was so easy to find five books on this theme and there are so many more. I'm really not sure why so many children's books go for this idea.

We have some activities planned out about bears. Today, we had the story of Goldilocks and the three bears.

Brown bear, brown bear by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle is a book that we have read for 5-a-Day before, and a few times between!

This is the bear by Sarah Hayes is the story of a bear who gets sent to the dump. Another book that has been read more times than I care to think about.

That's not my teddy is from the well known "That's not my" series by Fiona Watt. Little ones like the touchy-feely pages.

One bear at bedtime by Mick Inkpen is part of a compendium called Bear Stories. A counting book but probably more fun than most books of this genre.

Can't you sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell. Well, the theme is suggested by the title. I'm never sure about books about sleeping. Sometimes they seem to induce insomnia. We tend to read 5-a-Day early in the morning so hopefully, the effect will wear off.

This is linked to
5 a day books

Standby fruit cake

Many years ago, I came home from university with a cake recipe involving many ingredients and three complex stages. My Mother was not at all impressed with my new recipe and insisted that I copied her recipe into my book.

She was right. I never made the complicated recipe but I've made her recipe many times.

This recipe keeps well-if hidden.

Here it is with a few, minor tweaks of my own.


8oz/225g plain flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
6oz/170g soft brown sugar
5oz/140g margarine or butter
3 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
11/2lb/650g sultanas or other mixture of dried fruit (chop larger fruit such as apricots)
Note-I have sometimes used a 500g packet without problems.


Heat oven to 150 C/300 F /mark 2

Grease a 8"/20cm cake tin and line with paper.
Add the flour, baking powder and sugar to a large mixing bowl, add the butter/margarine, eggs and milk.

Stir until well mixed then add the dried fruit.
Add to cake tin.

Cook for three hours until a skewer comes out clean.
If necessary, cover for the last hour with foil.