Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Halloween 2006

We decided to make a good effort for Halloween this year. Luke has been really looking forward to it. He remembers going round in his buggy last year, collecting a bucket full of sweets from strangers. And he's been waiting all year to do it again. He even used the same bucket.
Yesterday we made tissue ghosts (idea from Deb's Blog) and hung them in our living room window. (You can see a monster on the other side of the window if you look carefully!) They look really cute and were so easy to make that even Luke managed to make four of them.

Today we took a trip down to B&Q to buy paint testers, but when we got home we had some time to make some jack-o-lanterns from pumpkins. I'd already got 4 large pumpkins but Luke decided that he should have a little pumpkin, cos he's the littlest, and so he 'purchased' one in Sainsbury's. It was some work hollowing them all out for carving, and we'll be eating pumpkin soup for weeks to come. But we all spent a fun hour making them together, and they looked pretty impressive on our door step this evening.

(Don't forget you can click on the photos to see the bigger clearer images)
I thought Luke was going to bust a gut having to wait till it was dark to go trick-or-treating. The moon decided to come out before it was dark, which confused the poor wee man further. He decided that the moon couldn't wait for Halloween either so it had come out early! How cute. When Daddy got home from work at 6pm we all got dressed up (except Daddy who is a Halloween scrooge). I dressed rather fetchingly as a witch, Jude as some sort of red she-devil-girl-wearing-eye-patch-with-blood-on-face, Sam as a googly eyed monster, and Luke in his new skeleton dressing up costume which Jenny & girls gave him for his birthday. Off we set down the cul-de-sac with our empty bags. As usual, at 6.30pm our first visitors complained that we were too early, and by the time we reach the bottom of the estate people complained that they didn't have hardly any sweets left to give us.

All in all the people round here really put a lot of effort into Halloween for the kids. Many of the houses were decorated, and lots of the people had made up party bags for the kids. As usual there were the few miserable old misers who moaned about us "not saying a rhyme" and begrudgingly handed over a half eaten mouldy apple. (I don't know why these people open the door!)

(Oh bless! I've just been to open the door to some late trick or treaters and I noticed that Luke and Steve have both fallen asleep on my bed!)

Anyway, good fun was had by all. The kids came back with a full carrier bag of sweets each! Many of the Mums I spoke to on the way round complained about problems with kids throwing fireworks. So its not just us that are experiencing this. While we were out we saw a gang of about 15 lads throw a firework at two girls who were knocking on someones door. They screamed and ran home. Their mum later told me she'd phoned the police, and all the kids disappeared into their homes, too scared to go knocking. When we got back up to our little cul de sac the police were there, running in and out of peoples gardens (Steve too!) trying to catch these hooligans. They caught the ring leader and confiscated a bag of fireworks from him. I don't know how much trouble he will get into. It was great to see the police doing something... it was like a raid! It's such a shame that these teenage kids are ruining the fun for the younger ones.

Anyway, I need to go and get Luke into a clean nappy and pjs without waking him up, Steve too perhaps!

Sam's School Report

It seems that at the Integrated School Sam will be getting a school report twice a term instead of twice a year! One arrived in the post yesterday. As they haven't taken any proper exams yet this report was graded on effort. (Something which Sam was sorely missing in his last year at primary school before being home educated). Anyway, I was very pleased with Sam's first report. Here it is...

Key to grades

1 Works well at all times
2 Works reasonably well
3 Needs to improve
4 Causing concern

Art 1
Citizenship 1
Drama 1
Employability 1
English 1
French 1
Geography 1
History 2
Home Economics 2
Mathematics 1
Music 1
Physical Education 1
Religious Education 1
Science 1
Technology 1

Attendance 100%

Isn't that good?
Well, today it's Halloween, and boy is Luke excited. The whole concept of knocking on peoples doors and getting free sweets is his idea of heaven. Trick or treating is a huge thing in this estate. Dozens of kids get dressed up and go knocking. It's quite a spectacle. Some of the houses in the estate put up Halloween decorations and make a big thing of it. It looks really cool. We have never lived any where before where kids went trick-or-treating.

Yesterday I took a notion to strip the wallpaper from our bedroom. For my 29th birthday (last December) Steve and the kids gave me a voucher that said they would decorate my bedroom if I chose the paint colour. What I didn't realise at the time was that it was dependant on me stripping the wallpaper. A hideous task. Yesterday I finally got round to doing it. It was a long boring messy job. Now our bedroom looks like a bomb site so we are of the B&Q in a minute to choose some paint. Then I believe that Steve will be painting it. Photos to follow.

Sunday, 29 October 2006

Sunday afternoon at Lurgan Park

This afternoon we decided to do something as a family. The weather was nice so we all took a drive to Lurgan Park. The kids love it there. The lake has plenty of ducks and swans to feed, the woodland walk is lovely, and the play park has great slides and swings.

We fed the ducks first, the spent half an hour in the park. Luke is used to going there on school days when the park is empty. He wasn't too pleased with the amount of children there today. So Sam and Jude stayed to play whilst Luke, Daddy and me went for a walk around the woods. We decided to do some squirrel spotting. Having read about Meeko in the Squirrel in Secrets of the Wood recently, I was the expert! Luke really enjoyed the peaceful walk with out his brother and sister. He had a leaf fight with Daddy, and then we looked for acorns to add to his nature table. We couldn't find any acorns at the first oak tree. Then we started to spot the grey squirrels. They weren't at all bothered by our presence. We watched for 20 minutes as this one particular squirrel went up and down the trees in search of acorns. He went right up into one tree and started throwing the acorns down at us! Luke thought this was great. He decided that the squirrel was throwing acorns for us because we'd been unable to find any ourselves.
Here are some photos...

Kids throwing fireworks

Our local police department have been running round this town like wild things for weeks, chasing kids who are playing with fireworks. Every night, on the road behind our house, children aged 7 to about 13 congregate to throw fireworks. They stand in a huddle, light the fireworks, run for their lives, and then the guy with the fireworks throws it into the midst of them all. Then you hear them all scream, and then laugh.
We had the police out last week. Sam was in the garden, at about 5.30pm, playing on his trampoline. Some kids thought it would be funny to light a firework and thrown it into the trampoline whilst he was in it! The thing flew past his head and, needles to say, he was very frightened. The police came out and said their usual "there's nothing we can do about it." This morning there was another burnt out firework in the trampoline. Now the kids are too scared to go into their own back garden.
Right now, it is almost 9.30pm and I can see kids throwing fireworks in all directions. Where do the parents of these children think they are? What do they think they are up to? They are standing on a main road doing this... are they not even slightly scared that someone will see them and report them to their parents?
The police say that they are doing all they can. They say that they liase with all the schools to teach how dangerous fireworks are, and that there is nothing more they can do. Right enough they do send home a letter with each child, about the dangers of fireworks. But I can't help thinking that if they actually sent home a letter saying that "children from this road, and that road, are playing with fireworks openly in the street" then perhaps the parents who live in those roads might take more notice.
Of course, while the police run around every evening chasing kids, the local newspaper is dealing with desperate issues such as "will anyone give a home to little fluffy the poodle", "has anyone seen Mrs McKee's miniature garden gnome?" Why don't the newspapers get together with the police and do a report about these problems? Make people ask themselves "what are my kids up to?"
The police woman who came out to our home gave us this wise (snort) piece of advise.... "don't let the kids know that you phoned the police or they will make your life hell". Oh yes, let's all be scared of the children, let's all hide in our homes and hope for the best while one of them blows someones face off with a firework. Yes, that'll do the trick. At least then we won't have to fear any reprisals.

There's a vole in my kitchen

Oh dear dear me. We have a mouse problem. A mouse in the house. Well, actually a vole problem. Four little voles have been discovered roaming loose about the house. I don't know if it's the same one each time or not. We've been catching it and letting it outside. Three have been discovered touring the living room, and one ran past my foot whilst I was cleaning the kitchen. The little thing thought it was a pet (maybe it had befriended the gerbils and wanted to join their community?) This little thing just ran around me, and when I cornered it, it just sat looking at me. The only voles I've ever seen before were usually terrified of humans. Anyway, this morning Steve heard scratching on top of the kitchen cupboards and found a little vole munching on a king size dairy milk chocolate bar, which had been hidden up there from the kids! There is a whole next to the extractor fan, in the wall, so Steve has blocked that up, hoping it's how they have been getting in. I also found mousey doo-doo's in the airing cupboard! Oh yuck yuck. I hoovered it out, spent two hours cleaning through all the duvets and towels and doing a well needed reorganising session. A little poison might be called for, but I hate to think of the little things suffering.

Friday, 27 October 2006

More strange noises

I went to the doctors again, two weeks ago, about this pulsatile tinnitus. She was more concerned this time since I told her that the noise in my ears was getting worse, and was now audible to the outside world. In other words, if Steve puts his ear on my eat he can hear strange noises too. Therefore it is not 'all in my imagination'. Of course, when I was at the doctors the noise was not present, so she couldn't hear it, but she took my word for it.

I still have the constant whooshing sound of my heartbeat, which is present at all times in my right ear. If you remember in my last post I said that I was also getting new noises which would only last a minute or so. But now, this new noise, is present most of the time. This is the noise which can be heard by other people, if they listen to my ear. I know, it sounds bizarre. Jude also heard it, as did my sister Hannah, when they listened to my right ear. This noise is hard to explain. It's also beats in time to my heart beat, but instead of whooshing (the separate whooshing noise is still there) its more of a creaking humming sound. I was happy enough when it only happened on occasions, but now it is there almost constantly. Sometimes the creaking noise goes, but then it comes back suddenly, as if someone just turns on a switch. I thought the whooshing heartbeat noise was driving me insane. But now I've realised that it was quite a pleasant experience in comparison to this new noisy creaking carry-on. Sometimes its loud enough that I can't hear the TV or a conversation. Sometimes I catch myself turning my head to see where the noise is coming from.

So anyway, the doc was a little more concerned about these new noises. She looked at my eardrum. Last time it looked normal. This time it looked 'dull'. She asked if I'd had a cold recently, which I hadn't. Usually a dull ear drum is a sign of a bad sinusy type cold. At least she could see something this time. So she phoned the hospital to see what had happened to my referral. She had written my referral letter in May. Then she wrote a second referral on 1st October when I'd been to see her again, as she felt it was more urgent than before. The hospital claim they didn't receive either referral letter and had no idea that I was waiting for an appointment. This made me crazy! They agreed to give me the first available cancellation. That was two weeks ago, and I still haven't heard anything from them. The annoying thing is that I should have already been seen by now. I'm pretty sure the first appointment will tell me nothing, and will just be to decide whether I need to be seen by a specialist. So I want to get that appointment out of the way.

I'm tempted to pay to be seen privately. If I pay for the first appointment I can re-join the NHS list at the next stage and be treated sooner. But I loathe to pay out good money when I should have already been seen by now. I'll call the doctor again on Monday and get her to chase the hospital again. In the mean time, poor Steve is probably sick of my constant complaining, especially at night time when I long for peace and quiet. I think I might go completely mental. Judging by the number of people who have reached my blog by googling 'pulsatile tinnitus', I am not alone.

Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Sam wins a prize!

Just a quick blog to mention that Sam won a prize at school today. For English homework the children were asked to write a poem about a magic spell. Sam was very proud of his poem and read it out very dramatically. They didn't realise there would be a competition. But during English today they had a Halloween party and all the children read out their poems (once again Sam read his like a performer - no surprise there) and then the children had to vote for their favourite boys poem and their favourite girls. It was close between Sam and another boy but Sam managed to win in the votes and was presented with a spooky Halloween light up pen with bulgy squeezy eyes! Cool eh? You can read his poem on his blog by clicking here.

Photo's of us in Geneva

We had a wonderful time! I will write a post all about it later on. Got lots of washing and housework to catch up on first. Here are the photos of us, in Geneva, Switzerland. There are a lot more photos of sites, mountains, the lake etc that Steve took. I will post them another day when he has decided which ones he's keeping and which he's deleting, and what not. But just for now, these are the photos that actually have either me, Steve or both of us in them.

Lake Geneva is famous for its huge water jet. In my next post I'll tell you all about that. He is one of the first pics I took of Steve, with the water jetting out of his head! (There was something on the lens of the camera, which appears on Steve's nose in this photo).

Lake Geneva, with the old town and mountains behind it, and the bridge. Geneva is surrounded by mountains, including the Alps.

It is possible to walk across the bridge to get to the Old Town, but it's much more fun to take the little boat taxi's across. And it was free for us to travel, because our hotel gave us free passes for boat, tram, bus and train!

Here we are in one of the Old Town streets. I was taking a photo of Steve here when a nice man came and asked if we'd like him to take the picture of both of us.

We spent a lot of time in cafes or restaurants. That's what Geneva is all about. Sitting in a cafe and watching the scenery.

Here are two photos of us taken at the top of Cologny, by a nice American lady. Cologny is the Beverly Hills of Geneva, where the other half live. The houses here were mansions, and they had this gorgeous breath taking view of lake Geneva and the mountains beyond. This was taken on the Sunday when all the locals where out relaxing in their yachts.

We found a square filled with these flower mountains, which I thought looked rather odd!

I think the highlight of the trip, for me, was climbing to the top of the Cathedral and taking in the panoramic view of Geneva. It was awesome up here, although we both felt a little dizzy. In this first photo you can see me in a turret with the huge jet spray in the distance.

Here is some of the view from the tower. The jet spray on Lake Geneva, and lots of little white yachts out sailing.

The mountain views were breath taking. In the distance you can see part of The Alps.

This is me, again, from the tower.
That's is for the moment, but as I said, I will be coming back when I have more time to write about all that we did. So that both myself and Steve can go back to read it in years to come. Until then, it's time for some seriously work.

Friday, 20 October 2006

Going to Geneva

Just a quick note to say that we are leaving for our little trip to Geneva in Switzerland tomorrow morning. So there will be no blog posting for a few days, but I'll make up for that when I get back. Will miss the kids while we are gone, and hope that little Lukey isn't too sad without us. At the moment he seems happy enough knowing that we are going to bring him a present home.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

Musical Sam

Just a quickie blog post because it is almost midnight and I won't be able to get out of bed in time to get Sam off to school if I don't go to sleep asap. I'm just back in from belly dancing, then a coffee in Starbucks with Mum.

Today Sam and his classmates undertook another music test, in their music lesson at school. Every child had their own keyboard and headphones. They each had so many minutes to listen to the music which was playing (it was a carol, can't remember which, but it wasn't easy). Then they had to pick out the tune as best as they could on the keyboard, and they were marked. At the end of the lesson the music teacher stood Sam up and asked him if he had taken piano lessons. He said No. She said that he had done best out of the class, and that she had never seen a child so perfectly replay the piano without lessons, in such a short amount of time. She told him that he had an exceptionally musical ear. He came home with a rather inflated head, a huge smile and an ego to match it! That's two really nice encouraging musical comments for Sam this week. One from his music teacher, and one from his guitar teacher. Just thought I'd share it.

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

Everyone's doing it.

Well, everyone else is going it so I thought I would too. The idea is to highlight in bold the ones you've done. Gone on, if you've got a blog give it a go.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said 'I love you' and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby's diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 10 provinces
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer then you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your cds
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Posed nude in front of strangers
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an "expert"
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on a first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror.
96. Raised children.
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Created and named your own constellation of stars
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an illness that you shouldn't have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Petted a stingray
110. Broken someone's heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school (can't WAIT to do this one myself)
131. Parasailed
132. Petted a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146: Dyed your hair
147: Been a DJ
148: Shaved your head
149: Caused a car accident
150: Saved someone's life


Stormbreaker was a good film, although Jude said she enjoyed Romeo and Juliet more. Once again there was only one school there, plus us two. The manager looked briefly miffed as to why our school party only had 2 people, but I said that we home school and he was lovely enough. The other school decided to wait until the manager came in to say it was time to start the film (we'd all been sitting for 20 minutes by this point) before deciding to let their teenage school pupils go off to buy popcorn, 5 at a time. This meant a wait of another 20 minutes while 5 pupils at a time made their way out to buy refreshments. I've no idea at all why they waited till the film was about to start. But all in all the pupils were quiet and well behaved during the film, as were their teachers. Five minutes into the film the manager came in with a free box of popcorn each for myself and Jude! Wow. What a bonus! Wasn't that nice of him?

After the film we wandered around the shopping centre. Steve was at home with Luke. They went for a walk to the graveyard and Luke came home with a huge wild mushroom, that is now proudly displayed on our nature table. There was a sale on in Debenhams and I managed to buy Sam and Jude a really nice pair of pyjama's at half price, Jasper Conran, no less. They are gorgeously soft and I just want a set myself. I also treated Jude to a new coat. But this is no ordinary coat. It is a designer coat, reduced down to £9.60. It was one of the only things in the sale that was in Jude's size. It's so grown up looking, a blue kind of trendy rain coat, with a belt etc. Oh I can't explain it, so I'll have to take a photo. It's the sort of thing I'd love for myself and she looks so trendy and grown up in it. Plus, she really needed it. So she was happy. We tried on loads of perfumes in Debenhams and came home smelling divine. It was nice to have some girly time with Jude.

Since then I've had a great game of playing Thomas the Tank Engine with Luke. I spent an hour finishing the invitations for Hannah and Davids engagement party and now have them all addressed and ready to post. (Jude and I spent almost 3 hours making the cards a few nights ago). Then Luke helped me to make some fresh pineapple, ginger and orange juice, with our new juicer. And he actually drank a whole cup of it himself. Then I spent half an hour helping Sam research various claims to the English throne after Edward the Confessor's death in 1066, for his history homework. Now I'm off to put Luke to bed. Steve is at college again, printing out his photos. I'm so tired. Looking forward to getting into bed and reading the last few chapters of Shadow Baby.

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Romeo and Juliet

Today has flown past. This morning Sam went off to school as usual, Steve left to catch the bus at the crack of dawn to his photography course, and Jude, Luke and I headed to lisburn to see Romeo and Juliet at the cinema. It was a free film, courtesy of Film Education Week. Tomorrow we are going to see Stormbreaker. My sister Hannah met us in Lisburn and took Luke for a walk round the shops. I didn't like the thought of trying to keep Luke quiet for 2 hours in a cinema full of teenagers. It turned out that there was only one school group, of about 80 teenagers, and us, a group of 2. I wondered what people would make of us being there. The manager showed us in, before the other school arrived. He was very polite and friendly and never questioned why we were there. Then the secondary school showed up. I don't know which school it was but the children, both boys and girls, year 3 apparently, were amazingly well behaved, and so were the staff! Much better than the group we got lumbered with last year. All the children filed in and took their seats, smiling at us, as were the staff. I kept waiting for dirty looks but didn't get any. The children all remained quiet during the whole film and seemed to really enjoy watching it. Which made it great for us, as we were able to concentrate and hear the film. When it was time for the film to start the manager came in and informed one of the teachers that it was time to start, and then also came and informed me that the film would be starting if we were all ready. I was well impressed! Hopefully Stormbreaker will be just as successful tomorrow. Although it's in a different cinema.

Jude enjoyed the film. I was aware that it was hard enough for an adult to follow, but she has enjoyed reading Romeo and Juliet this year so she knew the story well enough. I think Jude understood it as well as the year 3's. She was a bit embarrassed by the long kissing scenes and had a little giggle!

Afterwards we met up with Hannah and Luke. Luke burst into tears as he apparently missed me. (Not sure how he's going to cope when me and Steve go off to Geneva on Saturday!) But he soon perked up when we stopped at a cafe for a cuppa, where he was spoilt with the biggest piece of chocolate cake any 3 year old has ever attempted to eat. Jude had apple pie. Then Hannah got a call and had to rush off, so we came home, watched neighbours, picked Sam up from school, went grocery shopping in Tesco's, came home, unloaded and put away shopping, cleaned the fridge, cooked kids dinner, drove to Lurgan to pick Steve up from course (as he missed his bus), drove home again.... and that brings us to now.

Jude and I are going to write blog posts today for the greatest blog in history. A blog of one day, 17th October, written by thousands of different British people, which will be kept for historical interest at the British Library as a historical record of our national life, to be read in the future. What a great idea.

Monday, 16 October 2006

Home grown roast dinner, Sam on guitar, and pet spiders!

Steve came home with a huge joint of beef a few days ago and so I thought I better cook a roast for my hungry family, who LOVE roasts. Two hours into cooking the meat I thought I'd have to pop to Tesco to buy some vegetables. Then I remembered the veggie garden in the back yard. (yeah, how could I forget, eh?) We had some potatoes left from our potato harvest, which I roasted.

I popped out into the garden to get some carrots and parsnips. I didn't really have any idea whether they were ready to dig up yet. I was under the impression that I would just pull the top of the parsnip and it would pop out of the ground. I also didn't know what size the parsnips would be, as they are hidden under ground. Well, you remember the story of the giant turnip that takes a whole village to pull? That was me. Dinner was cooking, and I was out heaving and pulling trying to get a parsnip or two out of the ground. The top came right off in my hand and so I had to dig around the parsnip. I dug, and I pulled, and I dug a bit more, and I wobbled the top of it. Sam thought it was hilarious and was taking photos of me from his bedroom window (they are not suitable for blog viewing I'm afraid). Eventually I got the first parsnip out and I was pretty pleased with the size and quality of it. The whole parsnip patch smelt divine. Sam dug out the second parsnip and both Sam and Luke dug out two varieties of carrots. One is a dwarf carrot, and the other isn't. We've got plenty more parsnips and carrots to keep us going.

Next year I'll definitely plant them again. It's amazing how they grow so big and strong from such a tiny seed. This whole gardening and eating our own produce really has made me appreciate the whole of God's creation so much more. It's truly awesome to see how God has provided all this fresh tasty food for us.

Here are some photos of our bounty...
A very stubborn parsnip that was quite happy to stay put. It's actually much bigger than it looks in the photo. Well, it was, before we eat it.

Sam with the parsnip that he dug out with ease, compared to mine.

Luke pulled some dwarf carrots.

My boys, looking like farmers, all proud with the treasure they had dug up.

Parsnips, carrots and shallots, from the garden.

All washed and ready to cook.
Parsnips, carrots, courgette and red cabbage, all from our garden.

One completely home grown meal. OK, so we didn't grow the beef, but still, its pretty impressive, right?

Does anyone have any idea if the parsnip and carrot tops can be used for anything, other than compost? I think I remember reading that carrot greens can be used for juicing.

Onto other news then. Steve told me at dinner time that Sam's new guitar teacher came into his shop to speak with him about Sam's progress. We have always known that Sam is musical. He spends all day every day singing and dancing. But his guitar teacher is really impressed with the speed that he has learnt so far. He's been having lessons for about 4 weeks now and is putting chords together to make songs that he knows. He sits in his room every evening (I can hear him right now) playing away on the guitar that was his Grandads when he was a boy. Anyway, his teacher said that he has never before met anyone with such a musical talent! I'm not sure whether this is a huge compliment or whether the guy just doesn't meet many people, lol. He said that Sam has learnt in a few weeks what took him months to learn himself. So he is very impressed. And I felt so proud at dinner time when Steve told me this, and Sam was hiding his face with embarrassment. So, if Sam turns out to be the next Jimmie Hendrix just remember that you heard it here first, on his Mum's blog. That's my boy! His teacher must be pleased. He is still teaching him without accepting any payment. He says that he gets so much satisfaction from seeing someone learn, someone that wants to learn, and that is all the payment he needs. Plus, he is a friend of Steve's. I really must get him a gift or something to say thank you.

Lastly, before I go, I keep meaning to blog about Jude's pet spider. Aha. A pet spider. It lives at the top of the patio doors in our study room. Every morning Jude spends about half an hour finding a dead fly, which she throws into the spiders nest. Every morning she tells me about it, but I never gave it much thought. Then, a few mornings ago she asked me to come and help as the little dead fly would not stick in the web. I threw it up a few times and then tried to put the fly into the net with my hand. "Don't do that Mummy" Jude said, "the spider will run out and try to eat your finger". "Don't be daft" I said. So I popped my finger into the net, and like lightening this spider leapt out from it's hiding place and tried to eat my finger! Of course I leapt back, screaming like a lunatic. Jude thought it was hilarious. She has been studying the habits of this spider for weeks. The spider seems to know that she will feed it every morning and waits for the little flies which she brings!

Every week we read a chapter from 'Secrets of the Wood'. Both Sam and Jude love this book, and Sam wants to keep reading it even though he is no longer home schooling. Every chapter in it is about a different animal, from the woods. Last week we read about Meeko, the squirrel. The author talks about each animals as he sits and watches them for weeks at a time, in the forest. He gets to know all about the personalities of the various creatures. Meeko is a thief, a nest robber, and a fighter. The kids were mesmerised by the stories of his adventures. The first chapter, about the mouse, had them enthralled too. It occurred to me that Jude has treated this spider in the way which the author treated the woodland creatures. She has watched it, learnt about it, gained it's trust and developed the caring nurturing side to her nature. This evening she did the same thing with the pet gerbils. She sat and watched them, for such a long time. We had put a new box into their cage, just on old food box. She sat and watched them as they filled up their cheeks with bedding from their old, half eaten box, and transferred it all to their new box. She watched them make their new home all comfy and warm, and then came to tell me all about it in detail. Jude has such a gentle caring side to her. Sometimes I don't know what to do with her. During the summer, when Daddy killed a wasp, she lay in bed sobbing her little heart out for a full hour. I know that she is sensitive to other living things. She cares for every creature, even a tiny ant. It's strange really. As a younger child she did not care at all for nature. It was Sam that, at the age of 4, became so overwhelmed during a walk in the woods that he had to stop with me and say a prayer thanking God for his beautiful creation. Whilst Jude spent the whole time whinging "what are we walking for? Is there a park at the end?"

Gosh I have rambled on far longer than I intended. I have to check some essays that Steve wrote for his course now (snore). Tomorrow Jude and I are going to watch Romeo and Juliet at the cinema, for FREE, as part of the national schools film week. Woo hoo.

Sunday, 15 October 2006

We have grown some marrows and courgettes in the back vegetable garden. This is the first marrow that we cooked from our own yard. It was stuffed with fried vegetables and roasted in the oven for 20 minutes. We also had roast butternut squash pumpkin (which you can see in the background). Both the pumpkin and marrow had olive oil drizzled over them before roasting. The marrow tasted divine, and even the children loved it! Hopefully some more will grow soon so that we can eat it again.

We have grown some marrows and courgettes in the back vegetable garden. This is the first marrow that we cooked from our own yard. It was stuffed with fried vegetables and roasted in the oven for 20 minutes. We also had roast butternut squash pumpkin (which you can see in the background). Both the pumpkin and marrow had olive oil drizzled over them before roasting. The marrow tasted divine, and even the children loved it! Hopefully some more will grow soon so that we can eat it again.

Friday, 13 October 2006

This is me

This is Luke's first ever independent painting. It's me. But you can see that, of course.
Yesterday evening I was stressed out, before going to belly dancing class. The constant headaches I am getting, along with the pounding sounds in my ear are getting to me somewhat, and I was getting rather stressed. Luke was worried that I was 'sad'. So he told Daddy that he was going to paint me a picture to make me happy! When I came home (at midnight) this painting was waiting on the floor in the hallway for me to discover. I almost cried as Steve said that he painted it all on his own. Face shape first, then eyes, then nose, then a huge smiley mouth. Isn't it just the most gorgeous thing? It melted my heart anyway. Luke has put some blue tac on it so that we can display it in pride of place for everyone to see.

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

Peter Pan

In an attempt to inspire Luke to get dressed up into his new costumes I decided to read the story of Peter Pan to him. He was very excited about this and we put his new Peter Pan costume on whilst we read it, which added to the excitement. He has never heard the story before. After reading it I suggested a game. He was Peter Pan and I was Captain Hook the pirate. I put on the few bits from his pirate costume that fitted me and we had great fun! Jude took some photos so that Grandad, who bought him the costume, could see.

Ulster Bride Wedding Extravaganza

As I mentioned yesterday, my sisters, Mum and I went to the Ulster Bride Wedding Extravaganza at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, at the weekend. The bridal catwalk shows were the highlight of the day and I forgot to take the camera! But my sister Maddi took some very good shots on her mobile phone, some of which I'm putting on my blog (with her permission). I should have taken Jude with me, she would have just loved the models prancing down the catwalks in those gorgeous dresses. I'll load these photos on small, but if you want to view them better you can click on them to see the larger versions.