Monday, May 26, 2008

Long Time No Blog

I lost enthusiasm for blogging after the extremely unpleasant hoo-hah which shall (of course) remain unspoken. Having people and companies demanding removal of this, that and the other makes it feel tainted, somehow. Not my private little haven any more (lol, well, as private as a public blog could be!) Must try and get back to it as Emily loves to look back on things she's done.

It's been a fairly trying time for us adults. Quite apart from all the distress over the corporate sanctioned theft of my copyright, misattribution of my work and "all that", it turned out that the press agency didn't pay one of our invoices from last month. It will be paid in next month's batch, but that's not much help to us in our dire cashflow situation. Sigh. Meanwhile, the BBC have now gone two months without paying us, due to cock ups in their outsourced finance company, despite the lovely producer of our section rowing daily with the finance department over it. Last I heard earlier today, she's hoping to get them to release an emergency payment which should be with us by Monday. But other promises of dates we can expect the money have come and gone half a dozen times so far this month, so I'm not holding my breath. So all in all, we're about two and a half thousand pounds down on our normal and expected income this month.

We've missed all of our credit card payments for May. All of our huge first of the month outgoings will bounce on the first of June. We're struggling to find cash to go and get a loaf of bread at the moment, so it really is rather dire. I've stopped answering the phone as it's just more call centres from exotic parts of the world demanding payment that we can't give them because nobody's bloody well paying us on time. To say it's not been a good few weeks would be rather British understatement, I feel. So let's do that then. It's not been a good few weeks.

Educationally and socially, however, Emily's been having a great time, so let's focus on the positive. We've seen lots of our friends and Emily's thoroughly enjoying her garden project. Highlights since I last blogged have included:

  • Emily starting a daily nature journal, inspired by some old ones of Uncle David's that Jon found when sorting out some stuff in the loft. Pictures of yesterday's and today's are further down.

  • Huge amounts of bug hunting and gleeful identification.

  • Lots of relaxing in the garden which Jon has made look and feel *amazing*. I used to hate being in the garden. Love it now!

  • Veggies in Emily's vegetable patch are growing really well; homegrown lettuce has been on the lunchtime sandwich menu often.

  • A session at our house dissecting flowers and seed heads with Mei Lin and Jasmine to learn about the life cycles of flowering plants.

  • A walk in Twigmoor woods with friends we haven't seen for ages - Emily and Romy managed to turn rolling in the mud into an absolute art form!

  • Reading a book about ants, capturing some to observe and Emily making a detailed few pages of diagrams and notes about what she'd learned.

  • Move investigations into our rotting tree stump; a dead female stag bettle was found and has been named Lily, and kept lovingly in a cardboard box!

  • Finding out about the fascinating lives of may flies after one crash landed on Emily's trampoline.

  • An investigation into why nettles sting and why dock leaves work as a remedy; testing the PH of the leaves; trying out toothpaste as a remedy for red ant stings/bites too.

  • Fabulous woodland walk with Mei Lin, Jasmine, Alex, Natalie and Jacki to introduce Alex the woods nearly opposite his new home in our village.

  • Emily overcoming a trauma on that same walk - the woods are behind her old primary school in the village, and having walked through them we took the kids to play in the playground outside the school playground. Emily was temporarily terrified of going near the place as there was a PE lesson going on and she thought her old teacher would see her. Hope that woman's proud of herself - capable of inducing that kind of fear in a child who hasn't even seen her for four years. Fortunately, with hugs and a pep talk from her friends, Emily quickly got over it and played very happily in the playground in full view of the miserable looking school kids and cross looking teacher (not Emily's old one, as it happened).

  • Much tai chi and karate.

  • My Mum's birthday, for which Emily made her a beautiful chocolate cake and created/designed her own perfume for my Mum from the perfumier kit she had for Christmas. She called the scent "Scent of Dreams" and once she had the recipe right she worked out how to scale it up from the 1ml trial size into the full bottle size and then bottled it and wrapped it up :-))

  • Tree bashing with an umbrella underneath to examine beasties - Emily found a click beetle and a vine weevil among lots of spiders and woodlice.

  • Measuring the garden and its features with Gramps' metre rules and drawing a scale plan of it on graph paper.

  • All sorts of others garden related bits and bobs....

Here follows a bit of a photo fest, purely to cheer me up!

Nature journal pages:

Fun and games in the woods and playground:

A swinging beauty and a birthday cake, plus Nana delighted with her cake:
And some of Emily's recent garden photography:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bed's Up :-)

Jon worked really hard on Tuesday morning in the bedroom, and this is the result :-)) Note that Severus and Voldemort got to sleep on it long before we did, rofl!! We still need to buy the wall hanging to go over the bed (the red squares will then move elsewhere), one more rug for the bottom of the bed (the large chinese one I ordered having been cancelled as they could no longer supply stock) and some transfers to go on the otherwise plain cream wardrobes, and we still have pictures to put up, but I'm soooooo pleased with it :-))

Moving On

[heavily edited post]
This morning, our new bed finally arrived :-)) It needs putting together but it's here. The large chinese rug I had ordered isn't going to turn up and has been refunded, but at least the bed's here. On Friday and over the weekend, Jon worked incredibly hard in the bedroom and we now have beautiful warm, chocolate coloured painted and varnished floorboards. We've started putting the furniture back into the bedroom and I absolutely love it. With any luck, tonight or at latest tomorrow night, the bed will be together and we can "move in" :-)) Here's what is looks like so far, minus the bed and also minus the various bits and bobs of wall art that are still to go up. Jon still has to choose a chair and bits and bobs for his spiritual alcove too, which you can't see in the photos. Once the bed's in and the pictures and hangings are on the walls, it's going to be gorgeous; exactly what I wanted :-))

There's an amazing atmosphere in the bedroom now, too. And at least every other picture we've taken in there is covered in orbs, which is quite spooky, but in a good way. Maybe whoever used to walk these floorboards 150 years ago quite likes having them back ;-)

Last Friday we had a fantastic day; Emily and I took Mei Lin and Jasmine with us to Normanby Hall for the day. The girls had the most brilliant time playing, chatting, laughing and picnic-ing. We looked around the Hall itself and the walled garden, fussed over the resident cats, nature collected in the woods and then crafted some natural bits and bobs using twine, wire and so on that we'd brought with us. We also birdwatched, walked in the deer park, fed the ducks, had ice creams and went potty in the playground. Much fun was had by all, although the girls were exhausted by the time George came to pick them up on Friday evening! Here follows a photo fest to cheer me up :-)

It had been very warm on Friday but it was even warmer on Saturday, so......drumroll please.....yep, it was that time of year again, the first paddling pool day of 2008! Emily proceeded to spend ALL of Saturday and Sunday in the pool, apart from her karate lesson, lol. Even I braved it on Sunday afternoon, although to protect those of a nervous disposition I won't post those photos! Here's our bathing beauty.

Meanwhile, as well as working his socks off doing the bedroom, Jon's made an incredible difference to the garden over this last couple of weeks. He's cleaned, tidied and swept all the concrete area outside the back door that runs the length of the house, so it's now usable as a little patio area. He's planed tons of stuff, worked on the rock garden, weeded, painted and varnished our two old wooden benches, cleared away all the's looking really nice out there now :-)) Pond is the next project!

Yesterday morning we decided to work out in the garden, so Emily lay on her trampoline to write letters to Nana and Gramps at the caravan and to a friend. She also got to do some maths in there too, and dubbed it "maths prison", lol. Here she is busy behind the bars....
We've decided with Emily that we'll go back to doing project work for a while. We're starting a "Gardens" project which Emily's really keen on. We're going to do a lot of work on our own garden - scale plans, photo and written journals, bug hunting, plant science/botany, science experiments with soils, butterflies etc - and we're also going to look at the history of gardening, including things like native american medicine gardens and renaissance magical herb gardens, plus we'll look at some famous gardens, possibly research the hanging gardens of Babylon, find out more about Sir Joseph Banks, famous botanist/naturalist from Lincolnshire, investigate and plan our dream versions of different types of garden such as wildflower, zen/meditation, formal and so on. Oooh, and all sorts of other things.

To begin with, today Emily found lots of these beautiful emerald colour bugs in the garden. As yet unidentified, because we haven't had time to look it up, but they look very much like smaller and green versions of the beautiful cardinal beetles we found last year.
So, lots to look forward to at the moment. Plus we'll be heading off to St Bees for a few weeks very soon :-))

[added 16th May] The sharp eyed and elephantine-memoried of you may notice that part of this post, and all of the preceding one have been removed, together with a post from March 2008. These posts dealt with a very unpleasant and stressful professional incident which has caused me no end of hassle and anguish, and they were posts from which various people/companies mentioned requested names removed and amendments made. With hindsight, the simplest thing seemed to be to remove all references to it. Please forget you ever read this ;-)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Decorating, Gardening & A Golden Wedding Anniversary

We had five days off decorating on Friday-Tuesday as we were busy with other things in life. The bedroom is still a work in progress, but I'm really chuffed with how it's turning out. This morning Jon got up at 3am and by the time Emily and I got up he'd sealed all the gaps in the floorboards and along the skirting board - no mean feat, given the state of the floor. We've decided against sanding and have decided to paint the floorboards chocolate brown instead, and then varnish them. The chocolate colour is close to their natural colour and will go really nicely under our big red rugs. Today Jon's also painted the bedroom door and retouched the edges of the ceiling. As soon as we've moved the new wardrobes out of the bedroom, the floor can get going. Our bed isn't coming until the 14th anyway, so there's not exactly any hurry. We'll be sleeping on the floor/sofa until then regardless whether the room's finished or not, so....

Jon's also been a very busy bee out in the garden today, planting the flowers and herbs Emily and I grew from seed at Imbolc, erecting a rose arch, carrying on with the rock feature and generally tidying up. Oh, and he's taken Grandad to the dentist. I'm surprised he's still awake after all that lot! Next door's huge apple tree overhangs our garden just outside the back door and the falling blossom has been like a constant flow of confetti today - really pretty, and the kibbies love it!

This morning we waved my Mum and Dad off back to the caravan at St Bees again. It's their Golden 50th Wedding Anniversary on Saturday, so Emily has made them a stunning card incorporating a copy of this lovely photo from their wedding day. We've packaged up the card with some golden balloons and a present and will post it off to them tomorrow. When they get back, there'll be cake :-))
I love all Mum and Dad's wedding pictures, but I especially like this one; not only do they both look beautiful, but it's interesting from a social history point of view, lol - look at the little boys in short trousers running around and the lady with her headscarf at the back of the gate. The world has changed so much since; it's fascinating to reflect on what has happened since this happy, sunny spring day in London on the 10th May 1958.

Staying with a wedding theme, Emily and I had fun this morning making wedding dresses for two of her barbies. Emily went for a sophisticated gold look, based loosely on the colours of my wedding dress. I went for a rather sillier frothy pink look, lol.

We also made lovely hemp macrame bracelets and Emily started writing a letter to a friend.
Since last Thursday when I wrote here, we've also been out to friends for the day on Friday, when Emily, Mei Lin and Jasmine performed the plays they'd been busy writing for a very impressed me and Jacki. I have some lovely video of the three of them convulsed in giggles before they got over the stage fright, lol! We also went to a friend's 9th birthday party on Sunday, which was lots of fun. Monday was psychic circle night over at Jacki's again. Emily had a fab time with the two girls and with Alex. Alex's Mum is moving into the village in a couple of week's time, just two minutes walk from us, so we'll be having Alex over here for the day when they actually move. He's really taken a shine to Emily this last few months and is talking about coming over to play often in the summer. He's only a couple of months older than Emily too. I'm really pleased they get on so well, as we don't really know any other boys other than as passing acquaintances. We call Alex Emily's boyfriend ;-) as a gentle tease; she gets very cross but secretly I think she likes this young man rather a lot......

Emily also finished painting our new bedside tables, including stencilling the Chinese symbols for lucky, happy, long life and love on them. You can see that they are no longer as pink and purpley as they were when they came out of the box :-)

Financially, we're having huge fun. Not. The BBC failed to pay us at the end of April. Apparently, this is due to their finances being taken over by yet another new management company. Also apparently, the one bloke who can sort this out is away until next Tuesday - so even if he sorts it out immediately, we wouldn't be receiving the payment until the 20th or so of May, by which time the next payment is due. So we now have two missed credit card payments and we're heading for a missed loan payment too, thanks to the BBC. Here we go again. The producer of the section we work for is hugely cross and embarrassed about our money being messed up again and, bless her heart, has offered to pay us from her own personal account and then claim the money back from the BBC. I was flabbergasted when she offered that; I'm not used to such kindness from corporate entities! It doesn't feel at all right to take her up on her offer, although apparently she's done it before and is perfectly alright with it - but at this rate we may have to. Oh, the joys of being self-employed.

Once this decorating is done and dusted, we're going to have to sit down with Emily yet again and have another education re-think. We haven't been able to get back into any kind of routine since last November, when we stopped what we were doing in order to focus on Christmas craft stuff through December....then we had a few weeks off around Emily's birthday....then we had a few weeks off for reasons that escape me....then a few more...then she had a spell of experimenting with autonomous she's had a couple of weeks off becuase of the decorating chaos. Ahem. It's not that Emily doesn't want to do anything - far from it, she's pretty keen when it comes to anything except maths. It's just that I'm so disorganised, and something always seems to get in the way. But I'm not happy with our lack of "doing stuff" in recent months.

A friend told me the other week about her method, where she picks an abstract word such as "water" and then together with her daughter brainstorms all kinds of mini studies and activities around that word, incorporating English, science, geography, history and everything else. Sort of like a unit study, I guess, but without the rigidity. I really liked the sound of that, so maybe Emily and I will try that. Or maybe we'll go back to "project work" for a while. We did loads of projects in the first one or two years of home ed, but then moved away from that into something more subject based rather than topic based. Between me, Emily and Jon, I'm sure we can come up with something that works again. Looking forward to getting stuck back into some decent home education!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Decorating....and Happy Beltane

We've been decorating all week :-)) It's had it's traumatic moments, but we're really getting there now!

On Sunday morning, Emily came home as pleased as punch having received a fantastic mark in her karate grading - she's now a blue belt :-)) We then dashed out to buy paint, bedside tables, lamps, curtains etc for our bedroom. I'm sure the staff in B&Q must be experts in marital discord, rofl, judging from the number of couples who were not entirely in agreement over their decorating choices. Jon and I were in complete agreement, of course.....most of the time ;-)..... as was Emily. There were a bewildering array of shades of "cream" to go for, though, so that took us a while. Emily eventually chose for us...soft coffee it is then. More dilemmas over the gloss for the window and skirting board, but eventually lilac won the day. We also got some wall decor, a rich red lampshade and more bits and bobs for the rock garden too.

Next stop was a fabric shop to look for curtain material. Except that it was set to work out at nearly £100 for the fabric....not quite what we had in mind! We decided that our old curtains, washed, would have to do - but someone up there was in a good mood because in The Range we promptly found a beautiful pair of rich red curtains in exactly the right size reduced to only £15. We also found bedside lamps, throws, cushions, more accessories and bedside tables - except that all the beside tables we'd seen were £50+ each. So we went for a pair of kiddies bedside tables in bright purple and pink with fairies on at £9.99 each - after all, they can be painted and stencilled, so....and indeed Emily and I have been painting them all week. They're now cream, and will have red chinese script on them.

Monday was D-Day so we spent all morning moving what we could out of the bedroom (quite some task, given our clutter and the lack of any spare rooms) and then Emily and I spent all afternoon stripping wallpaper, which she loved. Jon and my Dad took out all the fittings/fixtures and false floor/false ceiling that had been on the old walk in wardrobe, soon to be Jon's spiritual alcove. On Monday night we went to Jacki's as normal, where we did lots of rune and astrology readings. Emily and the girls were keen to practice their plays (such enthusiasm for education, bless 'em).

On Tuesday we were ready to cover the room and ceiling in white paint in an attempt to cover the yukky purple paint job on the top half of the room (yes, yes, I liked it (and did it) ten years ago, but really, it had well and truly had its day) and the bare plaster on the bottom half of the room. We all had a go at that; Emily loved doing the ceiling! Ran out of white paint by late afternoon, so Jon dashed to Asda to get some more. Asda's own white paint is the pits. It would barely cover even the pale green that the walls of the old walk in wardrobe had been painted, let alone the purple paint. That was a little traumatic. I don't do chaos and I was rather more narky than necessary by the time Tuesday night came round :-/ For large parts of the time we had no room to move up here, let alone work or relax. Decorating always is that way though, of course; one of those "it's going to get a lot worse before it gets a lot better" times. Piccies of some of the work in progress, including the state of the alcove bit:

Yesterday the soft coffee paint finally went on; Jon did by far the lion's share of the hard work, but me and Emily did do one wall between us :-)) In the morning Emily and I went out for some retail therapy and came home with yet more lovely red and purple stuff, including a huge rug, plus some clothes for Emily and shoes for me. Jon also painted the window frame, the skirting board and the door and ripped up the carpet. Spread out over Tuesday and Wednesday, I'd been having periodic meltdowns, having discovered that not only was the bed we wanted not in stock anywhere but nor were the wardrobes..... fortunately, late last night we solved the problem and tracked down exactly what we wanted. The bed's still going to take fourteen days to get here, but it is a beautiful silver bedstead, exactly what I've always wanted. The feng shui colours for our north facing bedroom are cream, red and silver, so together with the purple for Jon's spiritual development, we're right on target there.

The floorboards are proving a bit of a problem; lots of them are broken and there are huge gaps between them too. We're still going for the original bare floorboards plan, but now we're going to paint them a warm chocolate colour to fit in with the colour scheme, then varnish them. With my love of all things eight-legged, not, I'm a bit wary of the huge gaps in the boards and between the skirting board and the boards, but Jon assures me he's finding a way of dealing with all that, so - I'm happy. Today the old bed and the old wardrobes have finally come out of the room, ready for the council to collect, so that the floorboard hard work can commence.

While Jon and Emily were out at tai chi this morning I caught up with some work, then Emily and I had some Beltane fun this afternoon while Jon was having rather less fun running errands for his father. Emily and I "harvested" lots of lovely flowers from the garden - hyacinths, bluebells, dandelions and daisies (the "weeds" being much to Grandad's disgust) and then Emily made herself an absolutely stunning Beltane flower crown, complete with yellow, white and purple ribbons. She was in her element wiring the flowers and is now very keen to take up floristy, so we've added that to the fashion designing, bakery-owning vision of her future, bless. I took lots of pictures of my beautiful Beltane Princess; she was sooo pleased with her crown!

We also made some tissue paper flowers for the altar tree, and twined a pretty pastel flowers and butterfly decoration through it too. We did make some fairies, but they're not on the tree yet. Emily also made a maypole for the altar, and then finally she dressed our blank god and goddess figures to be the god and goddess on their wedding day, all in shades of yellow, purple and white, using up the last of the harvested flowers. She made a bridesmaid for them too, from the spare wooden figure, and arranged them under the maypole with one of her Tutankhamun figures to marry then, lol.

The bedroom's looking super now; I'm so proud of Jon and all his hard work. Here are some pictures of the newly painted window, the alcove and the woodwormy, gappy floorboards!! The wall colour looks washed out in the photos, but it's actually a lovely coffee-cream, very warm and cottage-like.

Orbs near the ceiling in this one of Emily and Gramps investigating the floorboards:

This evening, Emily's had fun looking underneath floorboards; she's also made a time capsule scroll, which she's placed underneath one of the boards, inspired by a piece of old newspaper she found under one of them. She's written a long letter and included photos of herself, our five living cats and our beloved Merlin, plus a page from today's newspaper. Here she is placing it under the board.

Tomorrow we're off to friends for the day; the weekend has an absolute ton of deadlines for me, so that will be busy, busy, busy. Next week, we're looking forward to getting back to "normal" after the chaos of decorating; it will pretty much be done by then apart from waiting for the bed to arrive. Until then, there's another twelve or so nights on the sofa and floor for us!

Finally, a very cute picture of Romeo, sharing a quiet moment with Merlin at his grave, on this beautiful Beltane day.