Thursday, 28 February 2013

Run, run as fast as you can...

I keep our homemade gingerbread men in this fabulous tin my mum gave me. She knows my weakness for tins and is always giving me lovely ones to add to my growing collection.

Thursday is my special day with Emma. Monday to Wednesday she goes to playgroup for a couple of hours in the morning and on Fridays we usually walk into town, so Thursday is the only day when it is just the two of us at home all day. I don't have many Thursdays left with my little bear as she will be starting school in September, so I have to make the most of our time together. I could wax lyrical on my thoughts on making children start school when they are barely four years old, but it is probably not a good idea to get me started on that one!

Today's Thursday Theme was 'The Gingerbread Man'. I had planned to start the day by making gingerbread men, only to find I didn't have quite enough plain flour for the recipe. This necessitated a quick dash to the local shop to buy flour. The shop is just over half a mile away, but we are on top of one hill and the shop is on top of the next hill, so it always feels further! Emma was quite happy in her pushchair, brandishing  the wooden spoon she insisted on taking with her to do her baking with when we got back! It was a sunny day and we chatted happily together as we went, so the walk turned into rather a pleasant addition to our day.

We made the gingerbread men when we got back from the shop and I read her one of our versions of The Gingerbread Man while they were baking. We then had lunch and I found various Gingerbread Man themed children's songs on YouTube to watch while we ate. I was particularly pleased to find a Muppets version of 'Sweet Gingerbread Man'. I used to love the Muppets! I used my Gingerbread Man 'Tea for One' teapot and Emma and I shared the cup. She loves tea and sat drinking cup after cup of it until I set up our next activity. I cut a gingerbread man shape out of brown card and gave her various bits and whatnots and some glue to play with and let her have at it.

We read another version of the gingerbread man before going to collect Tom and Lily from school. The weather was mild enough that we were able to have a good play in the park on the way home. Tom and Lily were thrilled to come in and discover a big gingerbread man each and the tin of the smaller gingerbread men is already depleting rapidly!

Whilst Emma was engaged in her crafting this afternoon she said to me, "I love this! This is my favourite day." Mine too, sweetheart!

Emma with her wooden spoon heading out to the shop

Emma loves baking

My Kenwood mixer is over 30 years old and is still going strong. It is a wonderful machine and I love it dearly. It is, however, very loud. Emma always puts her fingers in her ears when I turn it on!

Cutting out gingerbread men

Imprinting the features.

Emma's lunch. I cut her sandwiches into gingerbread shapes!

Emma putting glue on her cardboard gingerbread man. So much glue. Less is definitely not more to a three year old!

Gingerbread men and books greeted the Podlings when they got home from school. I think it can be useful to have several different versions of books as I think it is good for children to see that a story can be told (and interpreted) in different ways.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Colour Fun

The Podlings have been on half-term this week and it has been so nice to have them home. We have been to the park a few times, we've baked cakes, we've watched cartoons, read books, played in the garden and just had fun in each other's company. However, today is the first time I have taken any photos of anything we have done, which is unusual for me.

It was too cold to play outside today. Tom and Lily came back in from the trampoline after less than five minutes, declaring they were too cold to play (almost unheard of!) Emma had the sense not to go outside at all! We gave Tom a colour mixing science set for Christmas and this afternoon seemed a good time to pull it out and have a go. It proved to be a huge hit with all three Podlings. They spent ages pipetting the different solutions to see what colours they could make and it was fascinating to watch their thought processes. Tom and Lily already know the basics of colour mixing, but it was interesting to watch them experimenting with shades. Emma has known her colours since she was about 18 months old, but she still likes to demonstrate her knowledge and had a great deal of fun today.

In addition to colour mixing, they also made gel-crystals and we put some colour tablets in milk and watched the colours swirl together. They then played with soap-tipped cotton buds and were fascinated by the effect this had on the colours. I pitched the explanations low this time, but they had a lot of fun and I hope they learned something along the way.

We read various colour-themed picture and story books after we had finished our science experiments and I finished off our colour-themed afternoon with a special treat...a blue bath. I simply put some food colouring in the bath and hunted around for some blue toys to throw in it. I can tell you this was a HUGE hit with the Podlings. Tom is usually quite keen not to have a bath (though he loves it once he is in there), but he couldn't wait to get in this one! I have already had requests for baths in every shade imaginable, so I think we have some scope for future colour fun around here!

I can't believe how quickly this week has flown by. I truly love having the children home for the holidays and I wish half-term could go on forever! I love my little people!

Colour mixing.

Playing with soap and lipids.

A blue bath!  Tom was still in science mode during the bath and kept asking me for different colour toys so he could see how their colours appeared under the blue water. For very little effort this bath provided a huge amount of fun and colour baths are definitely something we will do again (and, no, the coloured water doesn't stain anything, though it would have been amusing to tuck three smurfs into bed this evening!).

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Literary Heroine Blog Party

I don't normally take part in these things, but when I found 'The Literary Heroine Blog Party' hosted by Accordion to Kellie, I was intrigued. A series of questions about classic novels and their could I resist that? It's very late and I have a cold, so I am not writing or thinking at my best here, but for what it is worth, here are my answers to her questions:

1. Introduce yourself: My name is Paula and I have been happily married to Mark for nearly 10 years. We have three children, a son (8) and two daughters (6 and 3) and live in the county of Staffordshire in England.    I used to have a lot more time for reading than I do now, but I wouldn't change my life for anything. I have been exceedingly blessed.

2. What, to you, forms the essence of a true heroine?  To me the very essence of a heroine is that she puts others before herself and does what is right, even if it is contrary to her own desires. It's not very heroic to go around doing what you want!  Of course, in a novel I always hope that the heroine gets what she wants in the end anyway! I like happy endings!

3. Share (up to) four heroines of literature that you most admire and relate to. I have always admired Agnes Wickfield from 'David Copperfield'. Her selflessness and sense of duty have always made her one of my favourite literary heroines. I have always felt a deep affection for Anne Shirley/Blythe and of course Elizabeth Bennet has a stubborn streak that I think I can relate to!

4. Five of your favourite historical novels? Lark Rise to Candleford, David Copperfield, Anne's House of Dreams, Persuasion, A Country Child

5. Out of those five books who is your favourite main character and why?
Anne Shirley because she sees beauty in the everyday, simple things in life which are the things that really matter. Ultimately, she finds happiness in being a wife and mother and is content in her domestic sphere, something I can identify strongly with.

6. Out of those five books who is your favourite secondary character and why? Agnes Wickfield from David Copperfield because of her selflessness and devotion. She is a typical Dickensian 'angel' woman, but I have always liked and admired her.

7. If you were to plan out your dream vacation, where would you travel to - and what would you plan to do there? I've already done this! My husband and I took a three week driving tour of Europe for our honeymoon and it was amazing! I guess my dream vacation might be a little longer than three weeks so we could spend longer in our favourite places.

8. What is your favourite time period and culture to read about? Victorian/Edwardian

9. You have been invited to perform at the local charity concert. Singing, comedy, recitation - what is your act comprised of?
A piano solo

10. If you were to attend a party where each guest was to portray a heroine of literature, who would you select to represent? I wouldn't mind as long as I got to wear a pretty Victorian dress! I'd love the opportunity to wear historical costume!

11. What are your sentiments on the subject of chocolate?
Chocolate! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

12. Favourite author(s)? Charles Dickens, Flora Thompson, L.M. Montgomery, Jane Austen, the list goes on...

13. Besides essentials, what would you take on a visiting voyage to a foreign land? A camera (although   I would class that as an essential!) lots of books and my family!

14. In which century were most of the books you read written? Nineteenth (and early twentieth)

15. In your opinion, the ultimate hero in literature is… Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities. 'Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends'

16. Describe your ideal dwelling place.
A modest cottage in the country surrounded by trees and a beautiful garden. Decorated in English country style and filled with books, flowers and the people I love.

17. Sum up your fashion style in a short sentence. Feminine, modest and a little old-fashioned (classic might be a nicer way of putting it!).

18. Have you ever wanted to change a character’s name? Fitzwilliam is a terrible name for a hero. Sorry Mr Darcy, but that's the truth of it!

19. In your opinion, the most dastardly villain of all literature is... Uriah Heep from David Copperfield...the scoundrel! Miss Havisham comes in a close second.

20. Three favourite Non-fiction books? Anything by Jennifer Worth, Elizabeth I by David Starkey and Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sacks.

21. Your duties met for the day, how would you choose to spend a carefree summer afternoon?
I would pack up a small picnic in a basket, put on a shady sunhat and find a quiet spot under a tree to read and read and read.

22. Create a verbal sketch of your dream hat - in such a way as will best portray your true character. My dream hat would probably be a large floppy straw sunhat with a pretty sash tied around it and maybe a flower or two tucked into the brim. Not sure if that bears any reflection on my true character, but it would be nice for aforementioned carefree summer afternoon!

23. Share the most significant event(s) that have marked your life in the past year. There were a few ups and downs, but my favourite event was becoming an aunt when my sister had her first baby on Christmas Day.

24. Share the Bible passage(s) that have been most inspiring to you recently. There are many. I am always inspired by the Bible.


This afternoon we visited Dunham Massey near Altrincham to see the snowdrops. The solitary snowdrop we have in our back garden just wasn't cutting the mustard, so we went to the largest winter garden in Britain to enjoy them instead. There were thousands of snowdrops in flower, along with some irises, cyclamen,  aconites and few early daffodils. We were a tad early as the cold winter has meant that the snowdrops are a little later than usual. I think in a week or two we would have enjoyed an even more impressive display. It was still very pretty though and well worth the trip to see some flowers after a long winter devoid of them.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

A Walk in the Woods

This afternoon we enjoyed a lovely walk in Biddulph Grange Country Park. We took the long walk for the first time and we were so glad we did. It was such a nice walk and the Podlings did so well. Tom and Emma were buddies today and walked in front of us chatting happily together for much of the walk. Tom was so sweet, walking with his arm around her to keep her away from the edge of the path when we were by the stream and just being a really good big brother. 

It was a beautiful sunny day and quite mild for February and it was just so nice to be out enjoying the woods with my family. It soon got cold as the sun started to go down though and I think we were all quite glad to get back in the car at the end of our walk. The Podlings all went to bed with those adorable bright eyes and flushed cheeks that show they have had lots of fresh air and exercise. They ought to sleep well tonight, I know I will!

Lily in a tree!

Tom and Emma exploring a cave we found. Lily was too afraid to go in and just stayed outside.

Toffee break. We stopped on a bench to enjoy some toffees we had brought with us.

Because of the hours Mark works and the distance he has to travel, Emma doesn't see much of her Daddy in the week. She is always in bed when he gets home, so she loves the weekends when she gets to spend some time with him. She was sat on his lap after tea this evening and I heard her say "I luff you Daddy. You're my BEST friend!". So sweet!

Me and my girls!

Valentine's Day

The table that greeted the Podlings when they got up. Note the heart motif on the lace tablecloth!

Just a few pictures from our Valentine's Day. The Podlings were thrilled with their little bag of treats and they all loved the little gifts I made them (Lily took her little doll to school). They were also thrilled to get iced doughnuts for breakfast, a special Valentine's Day treat!

We always have a special tea on Valentine's Day and it is something the Podlings all look forward to. Tom seemed rather surprised to find that his friends don't have party teas for Valentines Day!

We all had a lovely day and when the Podlings were in bed Mark and I enjoyed a quiet meal of our own. 'Twas a good day!

While Tom and Lily were at school, Emma and I enjoyed our day together. I got out the princess ball pool that she got for Christmas and she had a great time playing in it. Naturally she had to wear a succession of dress-up costumes. Dressing-up is her favourite thing to do!

I made each of the Podlings a little Valentine's activity book full of Valentine's themed colouring pages and puzzles that I found on various sites on the Internet.

The table that greeted the Podlings when they got home from school. I printed off the story of St Valentine and displayed it on the table as Lily had been asking in the morning why we celebrate Valentine's Day. I read it to them while they ate their biscuits.

Our Valentine's Day tea with lots of homemade treats.

Homemade heart-shaped fairy cakes...yum!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Valentine's Peg Dolls


Tomorrow morning each of the Podlings will wake up to a small bag of treats for Valentine's day. There will be a chocolate lollipop, some heart-shaped chocolates, Love Hearts and heart-shaped jelly sweets. They will also each have a little handmade gift from me. Tom will get a little ladybird heart (which you can see in the post below) and the girls will both get a peg doll. I love peg dolls and I had so much fun making these. I can see them becoming a bit addictive!

Lily's peg doll. Lily loves all things pink and roses are her favourite flower.

Emma's peg doll. The red gingham matches her bedroom and the heart shaped button keeps the Valentine's theme.

Felt Ladybird Heart

Tom loves ladybirds, so for Valentine's day I made him this little felt ladybird heart. He will find it nestled in his Valentine's treat bag tomorrow morning and I know that he will love it. It wouldn't surprise me if he wanted me to make him several more of these....

Monday, 11 February 2013

Put your hand on your heart...

Since we had the pink paint out anyway, Emma and I did this little handprint Valentine craft this afternoon. To be honest, most of the crafting here was done by me. Emma supplied the handprint and I prettied it up. It is now hanging in my kitchen window and serves as a rather sweet Valentine decoration. It will also serve as a reminder in years to come of how little my Emma's hands were when she was three.

Heart Prints

It's Valentine's Day this week, which naturally gives us an excuse to indulge in lots of heart-themed crafts. This afternoon I did this simple printing craft with Emma. I think I originally saw this idea on Pinterest and it was so easy. You simply take a cardboard toilet roll and fiddle around with it until you get a heart shape. You then give it to your three year old along with some red and pink paint and let her have fun. It's that simple!


Saturday, 9 February 2013

Puffin around Lyme Park

This afternoon we drove across the Peaks to Lyme Park to visit the 'There's Nuffin like a Puffin' exhibition, celebrating 70 years of Puffin children's books. It was a double thrill for me as both a lover of children's books and as a lover of Jane Austen. For those who have seen the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Lyme Park was used as the location for Mr Darcy's seat, Pemberley. You might remember a somewhat damp Mr Darcy emerging from the lake you see above. E'hem, moving swiftly on...

We had a lovely time looking around the exhibition. It brought back a few memories for Mark and me, both of us avid readers from childhood. We were treated to lots of original artwork from many books, together with letters from authors, transcripts with corrections marked on and lots of background information on the books and the publisher itself. There was plenty of hands-on fun for the children and they had a wonderful time playing instruments, dressing up and doing lots of colouring and crafts. We enjoyed walking around the gardens, though I think I will enjoy it more in warmer weather. There was still snow on the ground in patches and it was jolly cold! We intend to come back later in the year when the house is open (most National Trust houses are closed from October until March/April) and I'm sure the gardens will be absolutely delightful when in bloom.

We all had a really lovely afternoon at the exhibition, so I felt we had to end the day appropriately  Emma had 'Each Peach Pear Plum' for her bedtime story this evening and I started reading Roald Dahl's 'George's Marvellous Medicine' (published by Puffin) to Tom and Lily at bedtime. I only read them the first chapter, but then Tom took the book to bed with him and stormed ahead a couple of chapters. Tom is just the right age for Roald Dahl now, so I hope this is the start of something special...

It was rather a thrill for me to see some of Janet Ahlberg's original artwork for 'Each Peach Pear Plum'. We love the Ahlberg's picture books and this one is an absolute favourite. It has been one of Emma's favourite bedtime stories for some time now and I never tire of the beautiful illustrations. What a pleasure to see some of the originals!

Emma dressed as a puffin.

A copy of a delightful illustration from Noel Streatfeild's 'Ballet Shoes' 

An original illustration from 'Where's Spot?' by Eric Hill, always popular with the littlest ones

In the courtyard

The Dutch Garden

We were excited to see the snowdrops starting to show their heads. One has to hope that the end of winter is in sight, although the temperatures and the promise of more snow this weekend seem to suggest it will go on forever!

Last night I dreamt I went to Pemberley again...

The Podlings hard at work on some of the many activities they had for children. They had a great time. 

There were lots of copies of Puffin books around to look though and who can resist a good book?

In the orangery