Firstly photo’s aren’t the best, sorry, only took video camera.

While I like living in Lee, nice community feel, beach at the end of the road – I do miss hills! So feeling it was time for a bit of a fix I took the boys over to South Wales to stay with my Father in Law (North Wales girl myself but beggars can’t be choosers 😉 )
Having caught the early train we were in Cardiff by noon on Thursday so having stopped off for lunch we decided to spend the afternoon in the National Museum of Wales, which is a fantastic place to while away a few hours.
Our interest was concentrated on the geology gallery this time to follow on our rocks theme.
We watched some videos – they alternate between playing them in Welsh and English to the boys amusement. I can probably pick up one word in 10 in Welsh now, I was never anywhere near fluent but shocking how much I’ve forgotten.
There were fossils – brilliant ammonites
Cardiff Jan11 004>Moon rock

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Models of meganeura – extinct giant dragonflies for those who have not sat through every episode of Prehistoric Park several hundred times.Cardiff Jan11 009

Skeletons of dinosaurs and ice age creatures. This is a megaceros.Cardiff Jan11 016
Then into the mineral and crystal gallery.
Cardiff Jan11 017At Father in Laws we relaxed and played lots of chess. I got beaten by Sam! I was trying to help him and concentrating so much on that I screwed up my moves. He is getting the idea though and knows the correct names and moves for all the pieces. On the other hand I am actually impressed if I beat Jack. My strategy is to drag the game out until his concentration level drops and he makes mistakes as he is a better player than me.Cardiff Jan11 035
We indulged in what passes for great entertainment in Wales, we walked to the top of a very big hill in sub-zero temperatures.
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Cardiff Jan11 022This very big hill.
Cardiff Jan11 079So we could look at other big hills.
Cardiff Jan11 025And down at where we started.
Cardiff Jan11 021Something about standing on a big hill that makes me want to launch into singing “Land of my Fathers” but as I don’t actually know the words with them being Welsh I refrain (watch the welsh rugby team trying to sing it – hilarious).
We played in the little stone hut at the top for a while. No one knows what the hut is, best guess a shelter for shepherds.
Cardiff Jan11 029Until we turned blue. Achilles the blue nosed reindeer had the advantage of starting off that way, the rest of us just got that way through getting very, very cold!
Cardiff Jan11 032On Saturday we went to Caerleon which was one of three permanent Roman forts. Apparently Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed it to be the site of Camelot.
Anyway for my little Roman enthusiasts it was fantastic. Lots to explore and all of it free.
We started off at Tescos where we added jumpers, hats, gloves, scarves and in my case an extra pair of trousers to what we were wearing as temperature was below freezing again.
When we arrived at Caerleon we started at the Baths.
Cardiff Jan11 036There were lots of replica items to handle.
A sponge on a stick!
Cardiff Jan11 043Wax tablet.
Cardiff Jan11 045Helmets.
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Cardiff Jan11 051As well as the ruins to look at.
Cardiff Jan11 055Then to the Roman Legionary Museum, which was a bit rubbish – lots of pots in display cases type of thing.
But there was a room where kids could dress up…
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And fight.
And a game where they had to fish mice from a ‘latrine’.
Cardiff Jan11 063A reconstructed barracks room.Cardiff Jan11 064
And more helmets to try on.
Cardiff Jan11 070And a shield to hide behind.
Cardiff Jan11 067Then to the amphitheatre!
Cardiff Jan11 074For a Gladiator battle…with lightsabers. Good planning to take the lightsabers – meant I avoided getting conned into buying ridiculously expensive model swords in the museum.
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Eventually the setting sun forced us away. We didn’t even walk the walls or go to the ruined barracks – definitely due a return trip.
On the way back we were treated to one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen – brilliant red sun.
Sunday was a leisurely play in the park day.

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With a trip to the shopping centre for new shoes and coat for Jack.

Monday, we had a walk around Cardiff to pick up paints for the airfix kits and browse the lego shop – a whole shop just for lego – talk about heaven. They even had a ‘pick and mix’ fill a cup with different lego bricks for a set price…
Then train home.

“Rock” Music

I had a few chores to do in Gosport today so the boys and I went to the Local Studies centre.

This is really just a section of the library in a separate building across the road. Lots of local books and a room about local Geology.
Jack and I played a game where he had to identify whether a rock was igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic by touch.
Sam was excited by everything as he always is. He loves museums!
A fossilised dinosaur footprint
Making a geological timeline…
Then we looked at the old maps for a bit, seeing the growth of Lee.
Then it was over the ferry to Portsmouth. Every year there is a Children’s Orchestral Concert at the Guildhall and it is a lovely event. Took me back a bit when I calculated this must be our 6th year! The steps outside the Guildhall are always a good place to play too.
We stopped in a local music shop and spent lots of virtual pounds… Jack is keen on an electric guitar. We did buy Sam an ocarina though which should be interesting.
Then back to Lee for Jack’s piano lesson.
Now we’re off to cubs!

Rocks and Reading

Day started with some Education City.

Then workbooks – English and Maths for Sam
English, Science and History for Jack.
I was going to start an ‘Ancient Civilisations’ project with Sam but while I was printing bits for it he got out his Dolphin scratch art so I left him to it.

Then it was volcano time. We made a playdough volcano. Then filled the crater with vinegar and a spoonful of bicarb of soda.
Where the ‘lava’ had flowed we added some more playdough. Then added more vinegar and soda.

And again added more playdough ‘rock’ where the lava had flowed.
And again. The idea was that you can see how successive volcanic eruptions alter a landscape.
In the end they just tipped the entire bottle of vinegar and all the soda into the tray and watched it fizz.
Then Jack made ‘sedimentary rock cakes’. Bashed up biscuits to make ‘sand’ and mixed the sand with ‘sticky mud’ (melted butter and a spoonful of golden syrup). Pressed into a cake case with a white choc chip (or 3) on top as ‘dinosaur bones’.
We added another 2 layers of different types of biscuit.
Opposed to leaving them for several millenia to form rocks we settled for an hour in the fridge.
Cut in half you can see the layers.
Over lunch we watched the first episode of a Tony Robinson documentary ‘The Birth of Britain’ which Sam loved, about the geology of Britain.
Then it was a reading afternoon/evening.
Sam has found Jack’s old Greek myths and he likes them. Apparently he can read some of the words but not all as there are too many.
Then I bought these from Red House last week so we read the Greece one.
And finished the evening with this beauty. All the pictures are done as paper cuts it is a lovely version (Red House sale).

Art Group

One of our local HE groups runs a monthly tutor led art group with a younger sibling group run by a mum. I must admit I was very surprised when the boys wanted to go to art group this month. Because we do so much craft and are quite structured education wise, Jack in particular is not normally interested in joining in with anything like this, he prefers the more social group activities.

But they really enjoyed themselves.
Sam made a self-portrait – good job I photographed it as it did not survive the journey home.
Then his group looked at portraits of Elizabeth I
And drew pictures of what she ‘really’ looked like. Smallpox scars and black teeth etc.
The also did some pictures based on this book.

And made a folder to keep their art work in.
Jack’s group looked at Botticelli
Painted their own version and then transferred it to biscuits – painting with food colouring on white icing.
And also a modern artist called Giacommetti.
They made sculptures from spaghetti, marshmallows, dollymixtures and strawberry laces.

A pyramid
A man

Jack and the Beanstalk

Finally I get to the point of the new blog background.

For a long time Lindsay and I have wanted to do a Fairy Tale/traditional stories theme onActivity Village but have always been too busy to actually turn it into reality.
Well this term I decided that Sam and I would do a Fairy Tale theme for his ‘book of the week’.
We are actually more ‘book of the fortnight’ at the moment as still struggling a bit to get back into routine but hey.
Lindsay meanwhile is commissioning artwork and audios and hopefully we will manage to start pulling things together soon.
Firstly by some miracle our beans are still growing. No idea what type of beans they are – they were a special kids pack labelled ‘Jack’s Beanstalk’.
Look a bit alien actually…

Sam coloured and rewrote the story in his own words.
Then I get to our ‘big project’
Here is ‘Paper Jack’, who for maximum confusion is a paper cut out of Sam. He took several days to colour.
Then up the stairs grows our beanstalk. The leaves have the story on which Sam arranged in order as a ‘sequencing’ activity.

Then just to freak me out every morning we have a Giant at the top of the stairs (seriously is a good 7 ft plus tall -is not clear how big he is from pic)

Cat in the Hat

Sam was very happy when he woke up yesterday because I’d fixed all the holes in his soft toys. Can’t do much with Sweetheart the monkey as he was chopped up by scissors (why?) so has no hair and only one ear. We have found another hole in his foot since though – poor thing, he is back on my mending shelf already.

We packed our picnic including these ‘mosaic bars’ baked on Monday. Which were actually pretty horrible.
Jack did his Maths and then helped Sam with his.
Then we went to Book Group and made Cat in the Hat pencil pots and kites. They also did pictures in the style of Dr Seuss. Unfortunately the boys didn’t quite get the idea but Hannah did a fab one so hoping Susie posts a picture.
Then outside to try and fly the kites.

And build sandcastles.


This coming Tuesday is both mine and Pete’s birthdays. Sharing a birthday makes it good that we can either make a big deal over it (6 years ago we got married in Gretna Green!) or not and neither of us feels cheated as it is the same for both of us. Anyway if possible we try and go away for a night or two the weekend before rather than swap presents.

Since the kids and moving out of London, London is usually our destination of choice.
So we booked into a Travelodge for Friday night.
Camera was playing up, boys weren’t keen to be photographed and I managed to accidentally delete quite a few pics but…
Friday, we got into London about 11am and walked up to County Hall and along the river to see all the entertainers. A bite of lunch on the Embankment and a walk through Covent Garden took us to The British Museum.
There was too much of interest there to even begin to photograph everything (and it was too busy to get decent shots) so just a few tasters.
A record of Egyptian kings.
A temple to Apollo
And for Sam – Canopic jars
Jack was especially taken with the Rosetta Stone but I don’t appear to have a photo.
We went to a Dutch Pancake House for tea for a novelty and shared some very big pancakes.
Then we hailed a proper Hackney Cab and went back to the hotel.
Saturday and the boys played spies on the hotel staircase.
Then we went over to the Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
Investigating ways of powering toy boats.
Hoisting a sail
Sending messages by flag
And by radio and morse code
Loading a cargo ship

Roleplaying scenarios between bridge and engine room.
I think Jack made a fair assessment when he said The British Museum was more interesting but the Maritime more fun.

More than I thought…

I thought we hadn’t done much over the last week or so. I’ve been struggling to find my grove after the Christmas break.
But on reflection maybe we have…
Boys have spent a lot of time playing happily together.
There has been a lot of ‘pulley’ building. Including some wonderful methods of transporting things from bottom to top bunk. But unfortunately for them I keep removing them, paranoid about someone getting accidentally strangled when asleep.
Sam has planted beans in a jar. Odd timing I know but part of a grander scheme which the new background might give a clue to. They are actually growing too! For how long only time will tell, I’m rubbish with plants.
They are both really into cooking at the moment so preparation of every meal is taking a far bit longer than necessary but who cares.
We baked brownies – although a lack of communication meant my share got shared out among their friends at Home ed group. On the plus side the boys realised there were too many for them and gave them away rather than eating them themselves. I’ll just have to either keep my food separate or be clearer in future.
We have been doing their workbooks.
Jack has done some brilliant writing projects – a glossary of Roman words, a booklet about Rome, a fact file about London and a diary entry for a Roman boy.
They completed the activities they needed for all their certificates from the Tales of the Road website.
There has been a lot of playing outside with scooters and lightsabers – regardless of the (heavy) rain.
Jack helped Pete fit new smoke detectors.
They’ve played Education City.

Tuesday was back to home ed group where they had a play session so the adults could plan the half term activities. Followed by piano and Cubs for Jack. Halfway through his piano lesson it was noticed that a lens was missing from Jack’s glasses! I think he must lost it in the playground (oops!). Not sure how he didn’t notice when it came out or how I never saw it…

Spent a lot of time on Weds trying to get through to Specsavers! Turns out the frames are now discontinued (5months old) so without the lens they can’t fix them. So the only option is new glasses. Luckily he is due a check up soon so we can get them free. Unfortunately NHS won’t allow a test more than two weeks before the recommended date. So we have to wait two weeks to get him tested and then another week for them to be made. Hey ho! At least he is not in school – not sure how he’d cope for 3 weeks unable to see whiteboards.

We’ve spent at least 5hours in the library this week. I couldn’t tear them away from the colouring table when we nipped in on Monday so we were at least an hour then. Then we held Rainbows there on Weds and had a display to put up on Thurs. Boys were very happy with that, we have a lovely local library.
We’ve done lots of colouring at home too. This is the boy who didn’t stop, look and listen…
He has featured in a lot of Sam’s conversations! At least he’s taken on board the road safety message though.
We’ve read a lot.
Including this fabulous charity shop find. Pete really liked it until the practice of the self defence tactics turned into smack Dad in the groin.
These are another charity shop find I bought years ago when Jack was smaller but he never bothered with them, but now Sam has discovered them.
Oh and Sam got this when Jack was at drama on Thursday. It’s a real scorpion! Result one very happy little boy.
This is current bedtime reading. Pete bought it as Jack loves Malory Towers (he’s currently buying up the new spin off ones with Felicity in) and Just William.
This is actually my creation done for Activity Village’s Australia Day pages but is so cute I thought I’d share.
The kids are looking at China in preparation for Chinese New Year so we have made blossom trees

And collage versions.

Researched and wrote menus for a Chinese restaurant.

Jack is not keen on handwriting but he worked hard on this and it is the neatest writing I have ever seen him do and I am really pleased with him.
We made Chinese kites that kind of fly

And paper plate goldfish.
The last bits are up in the local library as part of a display by FareGos.
And I haven’t even covered today…

Out with the old and in with the new

Considering we are supposed to be having a gentle ease back in to ‘work’ we have had an incredible productive day.

We began by looking at road safety to follow on from yesterday and in particular the ‘Tales of the Road’ website which is fantastic.
For each section there is a video to watch, a game, something to read online, an online quiz and some activity to print. When you login you get awarded a star for each activity you do and then you can print a certificate.
Sam did the ‘Stop, Look, Listen’ section which had a printible quiz and colouring page.
He followed it up by making a poster and designing a game about safe places to cross the road based on the online game Jack had played.
Jack did the ‘Safe places to cross’ section which had a maze and a wordsearch to print. He also made a poster.

Elevenes meant a Horrible Histories break – Sam had the dvd for Christmas.
Jack then did some workbook stuff (Maths, English and Science) while Sam did some more of his pilgrim project.
We looked at working in Plymouth colony.
He made a shop sign.
And coloured in some patchwork quilt designs.
We also looked at schooling.
And made a ‘hornbook’ for practicing handwriting.
The finished project!
We then turned our attention to housework. Jack helped and completed the last few bits he needed for his ‘home help’ badge from Cubs.
We pulled together all the photos we’d taken of him doing the badge activities and made a booklet. Which he took to Cubs tonight and was very happy to come home with his badge.

A Gentle Start to the New Year

Having not managed to throw off the coughs and colds that have plagued us for the last three weeks I’ve decided that we will ease ourselves gently back into routine this week, rather than cracking straight on as we normally do.

We started off by looking through the recipe books. I have told Jack that since we have an extra afternoon at home this term, as Sam doesn’t want to do gymnastics any more, he can take responsibility for tea on a Monday. He’s very happy with that.
So menu chosen and shopping list drawn up, the boys did some Maths from their CGP books. Then Pete got up and sat at the computer looking ill and sorry for himself so I decided to abandon the rest of the ‘formal’ work we were going to do. Instead we wrapped up warm, grabbed the scooters and set out on a ‘road sign safari’.

This term I’m planning on using some of the cubs badges as inspiration to do a ‘safety’ theme with the boys. Today this took the form of scooting down to and along the sea front taking photos of road signs for the road safety part.
On the way back we stopped in the shop for provisions and I treated the boys to magazines. Then we spent a quiet afternoon, reading, doing puzzles, making pizzas and making the bits that came with Sam’s Dr Who magazine.
In the evening we booted Pete and Sam off upstairs so Jack and I could cuddle down and watch the long anticipated return of Primeval on ITV player.