Sunday, July 29, 2007

Deathly Hallows - Sob

We've only got five chapters left now. Yes, I know, we're quite possibly the last people on the planet who are interested but yet to finish the book. Just in case anyone else interested has been even slower than us, though, I won't mention names. Emily was devestated by the death at the end of the Elder Wand chapter :-// It's quite odd, really - there've been deaths aplenty so far, and although I've cried at several of them, reading it aloud, she's been more astonished and fascinated than actually upset, but this one - I think she's spent so long bound up in the fate of this character, I guess she was really holding out for this being one death that JK Rowling wouldn't go for. What with her being so tearful about that death and then the helpful appearance of a spider on her duvet, we had an "interesting" night.

On a brighter note, our Polish friends are finally back in the UK, several months later than anticipated, so they're coming to see us next week. Emily's very excited about seeing Kate again. And who knows, with a forecast of sunny weather here next week, the long awaited paddling pool may finally get to put in an appearance. Which will hopefully distract a certain someone from the much put off finality of having, by then, finished the last Harry Potter novel ever. If only she'd discovered Harry Potter several years earlier than she did!

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Sciency Week

This week we have mostly been wearin' .....thoughtful, scientific looks. We had a couple of weeks without much science but Emily's been itching to get back to the RS4K Chemistry, Biology and Physics, so that's what we've concentrated on this week. Excuse long list of we've done this, we've done that, but since we have actually achieved some education this week, I want to make a note of it!

Biology was first, looking at how exactly plants grow, phototropism, gravitropism and plant life cycles. We've got an experiment underway with pinto beans in the light and in the dark, attached to blotting pape in jars, at various different angles, to see what happens when the roots and shoots emerge in different directions. Not much seems to be happening there, however. I don't think they're getting enough water via the blotting paper to sprout. May have to have a re-think on that one.

In chemistry, we were studying homogeneous mixtures vs heterogeneous mixtures, plus looking at how soaps and detergents work, colloids etc. Huge experiement mixing all kinds of stuff to see whether and how it mixed or not, plu finding out what happens when you add washing up liquid to an oil layer on top of a water layer.

Physics was hugely fun too; we studied the energy of atoms and molecules, including stored chemical energy in food, stored chemical energy in batteries and nuclear energy. Fabulous experiment making battery cells from 2p pieces, silver foil and salt water soaked paper towels. Emily absoultely loved, loved, loved that. We got up to 2.5v from five cells, but then it started to go a bit haywire, being so sensitive to movement of the wires, short circuits if the paper towel pieces touched, etc. We both learnt a lot from that, though, including working out why, if a 1.5v AA battery would light a small bulb, our 2.5v battery penny cells wouldn't, i.e. the difference between voltage and current. My Dad's cut us some proper copper and aluminium strips so next time we have a chance we're going to do a big battery fruit experiment for more fun and games.

In history we've finally moved on from ancient Egypt second time round, and we're onto ancient Africa now. Very interesting. Emily's been finding out about ancient African religion and myths, as well as mapping the area, comparing the similarities between ancient Kush (Nubia/Sudan) and ancient Egypt, and charting the rise of Christianity and Islam throughout the continent.

In maths we've started on So You Really Want To Learn Maths? which I absolutely love, and which Emily likes so far too (although that my be because we've only got as far as the roman numerals work in the first chapter, which she's always liked anyway, lol). We've also done tons more long division and decimals. English has been lots of spelling, and some great creative writing sessions where one of us comes up with a title (eg "The Graveyard") and then we both have a stopwatch timed five minutes to plan a piece of writing, ten minutes to write it and a further five minutes to proofread/edit/correct it. I write alongside Emily and then we share what we've written. We both really enjoy that, and Emily has produced some lovely work there.

Today Jackie and her girls came round for the day; Jackie carried on teaching them German, getting into some pretty complicated grammar. Then I helped the girls each make an "elements" themed cushion; Emily did earth, Mei Lin did fire and Jasmine did air - they made a lovely abastract job of these having brainstormed first to list colours, shapes and themes that they associated with each element. Lots of handstitching and sewing machine use, and was much enjoyed by all. Two weeks today until we pick up the new kittens on our next visit to Jackie's!

Oh, and I forgot to mention, we got a letter from Lincs Council when were on holiday, in response to the 13 page home ed report I sent them. They deigned to pronouce our educational provision "satisfactory" (hmmmrrrrppphh) although to be fair they were very complimentary about what we're doing in the body of the "report". Caused a few chuckles at this end that they phrased the letter as "following your meeting with Mr so and so, we hope you find this report an accurate reflection of your meeting, blah blah, meeting, blah blah". What meeting???!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Some More Piccies

Found the memory card, so here are a few more pictures from Jon and Emily's huge ramble around the bottom of Tomlin Head at St Bees. The first is the view of the shipwreck; apparently there's the keel and the boilers of the ship left. The tide wasn't particularly low that day, so you can't see anything all that exciting, but the point is you can't see it from the beach anyway, you have to go round the base of the rocks. Apparently it's known for its conger eels under water.

There were some very strange rock formations, presumably to do with the effect the tide has on the soft sandstone:

Lots of very old carved graffiti in copperplate lettering, lol. And two eerie faces carved into the rocks too.
It was an adventurer's paradise, with lots and lots of starfish and huge crabs to be oohed and aahed over too!

I've only just discovered, researching the jelly fish finds, that St Bees head is apparently well known for sightings of dolphins and harbour porpoises too - definitely something to keep an eye out for next time we go.

***Harry Potter Alert - No Spoilers!***
Emily woke up very early on Saturday wanting to know if our copy of Deathly Hallows had arrived yet. I was sure it wasn't going to arrive until at least lunchtime, but it came really early in the end :-)) We read the first five chapters yesterday and another two today - taking it very slowly, deliberately. The grief is coming thick and fast - think we must be up to about four deaths already. JK Rowling wasn't kidding then when she said it was going to be a bloodbath, lol! I've already been sobbing several times whilst trying to read to Emily :-// She's going to read it herself after we're done, but we like to have the first read together.

I confess to having looked ahead in the book; couldn't help it. I'd already read the first chapter and the epilogue from the "spoiler" version, the one where someone took photos of every page, but of course I wasn't sure until the book arrived whether what I'd read was fake or real. I've now peeked ahead at some of the most significant parts and I'm enthralled. Not quite sure how the reading aloud's going to go, mind you, given my level of sobs already - looks like it gets *a lot* more emotional!

In other news, I forgot to say in the last post that my Mum's had surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome on one of her hands - the other one is due to be done as soon as that's healed. She's all bandaged up but managing very well and is doing the physiotherapy movements to strengthen her hand. Meanwhile, Grandad's angioplasty hospital appointment has finally come through for the 3rd August, so he's happy. He has hospital appointments on the 31st July and the 1st August too, so that's going to be a busy week!

We've identified the culprit who gave Romeo his two nasty wounds - the huge tabby cat who visits our garden and who we used to laughingly call Ju-Ju's boyfriend, because he was at first *very* friendly to her, and she to him. Romeo and he had a huge fight this morning though, before Jon broke it up - looks like things have turned aggressive between the two of them. I don't know why it's happened now, since they had co-existed peacefully enough before. Anyway, this morning, Romeo ended up cowering and with a claw sheath embedded in his shoulder fur, poor thing. Think we'll have to remove the name "Ju-Ju's" boyfriend and start calling the other tabby "neighbourhood thug" instead! He never goes for Cassie Cat or Juliet however, although Ju-Ju is now terrified of him and runs indoors like lightning whenever he appears anyway, so that may be due to lack of opportunity rather than any good grace. I guess it's possible that Romeo is just as aggressive towards him on his territory, and we just don't see that, but at the moment our poor Romeo is very much a wounded warrior :-( trying to be the man in the house. At least the two new kittens will both be males, so in due course he'll have some support!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Back from Holiday to Harry Potter Mania

Well, it's two o clock in the morning of the 21st July. I've just been watching sky news reports about the midnight release of Deathly Hallows, and judging from the comments on mugglenet, the spoilers I saw were the real thing :-(( I know, a) my own stupid fault for looking and b) I'm far too old to be this caught up in a children's book! I'm just glad that Emily didn't see them. I can preserve the magic for her for a goodly while yet ;-) We've had a Harry Potter day all day today, and we've played endless pretends acting out parts of the plot we thought were to come. Eagerly awaiting our amazon copy tomorrow/today then. If it's not here by noon we'll be off to Asda to buy one there.

Anyway. We got back from holiday late on Monday and we had the most fantastic ten days away. The best holiday yet. Utterly relaxed, full on family time, just the three of us, it was beautiful. We spent most of the time playing on St Bees Beach, playing in the caravan (how did Emily get so good at scrabble and skip-bo??) and just enjoying being together in peace for once. We did enjoy a trip back to Trotters World of Animals, only slightly spoilt by the various school trips full of noisy, rude, disinterested children. On the same day we also visited the stunning and magical Castlerigg Stone Circle, again only slightly spoilt by people allowing their children to run around screaming, shouting and climbing all over this beautiful and special ancient site :-((

Emily was utterly bewildered and quite distressed by the behaviour going on - all she wanted to do was to touch the stones gently, to feel for the ancient carvings and to try to sense the energy and find out about the history. No screaming, running, climbing or yelling required, thanks. Why do people take kids to an ancient site and then let them behave as if it's the local council adventure playground? Surely it's instinctive in a place like this that you treat it with respect? OK, toddlers and very young kids don't understand, but that's the parents job to keep them in check. Children of Emily's age and over should certainly understand without needing to be told. You feel it, you sense it, common decency and an inbuilt awe tells you as much. Give it a few more years and they'll close it off like they had to with Stonehenge. Will everyone be satisfied then?

We spent long happy hours rescuing little silver fish that were beaching themselves in the rivlets running out of rockpools, examining washed up jelly fish (compass and large lion's mane jellyfish in these pictures, I think) and saving the ones we could

finding crabs, sea anenomes and starfish and collecting enough beautiful shells to cover a flowerbed outside the caravan - a half hour's walk on the sandstone shelves in the first picture produced an entire tub full in the second picture, for instance.
Emily and Jon explored the rocks at the base of Tomlin head as far round as they could possibly go at low tide, looking at the carved out names on the rocks dating from the 1800s and taking pictures of what remains of the wreck of the SS Izaro, which ran aground off St Bees in 1907 (bottom of page on the link). I have some lovely photos they took on the rocks, but they're on the second (and at this very moment, missing, memory card, so will post later).

We also went for a picnic on the shores of Lake Ennerdale

and visited the very impressive little cinema in Workington to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on its release day. Loved the film, although I was a little disappointed with the lack of emotional intensity when it came to Sirius' death and Harry's reaction to it. What was a harrowing part of the book seemed to be very glossed over in the flim, but otherwise, it was certainly a good watch, and prompted hours of discussion about the parts they left out of the film and why.

In all, though, we didn't need to go further than the two minutes from the caravan straight down onto the beach, in all weathers (not that it rained too much, actually). Even at high tide (and at high tide in St Bees, you've barely a little bit of shingle left to walk on) Emily still had huge fun sitting on "Potions Rock" crushing up bits of sandstone and quartz to make potions.
A little selection of other pictures, including Emily at the old St Bees tidal swimming pool in the rocks, built in the 1930s but abandoned in the 2nd world war, just as the tide's about to start filling it up again:
and yet more of the beautiful beach with its miles and miles of sand, rockpools, streams and oooh, just about everything you could want from a British beach.

We'll be going back in October and we can't wait; I think this was the first time we'd actually been away together as a family for longer than five or six days. May and June were rather stressful months, so it was such a welcome break :-)))

Jon attended his level one Reiki course the day before we went away, and came home buzzing, so I was treated to reiki while we were away, which went down rather well :-)) Jon and Emily also practised tarot readings galore, with pretty accurate results, picking up on stuff I was thinking which nobody else knew I was thinking ;-)

Came home on Monday to find Romeo with two very deep cuts on his flank, though :-(( Weird marks, like a large oval and a smaller circle, close to each other but not touching, with the skin kind of gouged away quite deeply. He'd been fine earlier that day for my Mum and Dad, so he must have done it just hours before we got home. He wasn't a very happy chappy, bless his heart. We took him to the vet, who reckons it must have been either a very large cat or a larger animal. He's fine now, it seems to be healing well, and the vet fell in love with him, lol, as this particular one hadn't met him before.

And despite my words to the contrary....we'll shortly be welcoming two new kit kats to the household. Two of Jackie's black Burmese kittens are looking for homes. As if we could resist. I know Emily has some very Harry Potterish names in mind for them!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Off On Holiday

We're off on Saturday, rain or no rain. Now, I love the rain. I'm all for it. I never thought I'd hear myself say this though - I'd really appreciate it if it would STOP raining, just for a week or two! I was just looking back at my blog from a year ago - back then I was lamenting about Merlin going missing for 24 hours, bless his heart, and about it being way, way TOO HOT. Paddling pool pictures all over the show, throughout June too. Haven't been able to put the pool up yet this year, much to Emily's utter disgust. And now, according to the long range weather forecast, we're set for a week of rain in St Bees too. Oh well. I'm sure we'll have a lovely time just the same, but a little bit of sunshine would have helped!

We've had a fab week home-ed wise again. Emily's getting through a ton of stuff and she's really enthusiastic about it too, which is lovely to see. In amidst the English, maths, history, geography and science we've also done dozens of Harry Potter pretends, discussed every Harry Potter theory in the universe several times over, written secret prediction lists for the last Harry Potter book (anyone spotted a theme here yet?), played hours on the new Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix PC game, and been re-reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, having previously re-read all the others.

Today we rushed back from yoga to watch the live broadcast from the Order of the Phoenix London premiere although we only caught the last ten minutes of it. No more yoga now until September - time's racing by. When we get back from holiday Emily and I will be straight out to see the new film (wanting to get in quick before the schools break up, lol), and then it's only a few days until the release of Deathly Hallows. I suspect "reading" will be rather high up Emily's to-do list for a few days after that ;-)

On Friday our friends came round for the day; Emily, Mei-Lin and Jasmine had fun working on role plays about Lord Shaftesbury interviewing Victorian child workers, as well as doing some more maths, some German and lots of science experiments about density, plus a huge play. We were going to stitch some cushions on the theme of "the elements" but we ran out of time - next time. Emily and I are heading to theirs later this week before Jon attends his reiki course on Friday and then we'll hit the road for the long and not particularly fun drive up to Cumbria. Hey ho. It'll be worth it when we get there, even if it does chuck it down all week. I think we've already seen far more of that beach in rain-soaked weather than we ever have in sunshine. And caravans are rather nice places to be when the elements are unleashing their fury outside. Cosy :-))