Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Life sized portraits

It ii always fun to work on a big scale so I bought a roll of cheap wallpaper and drew round E,  G and I. We then stuck them to the wall and the girls coloured them in as well as adding accessories! I love E's self-drawn wings, careful eyes  and her ears at the top of her head (she is missing an arm as she was cutting hers out she decided she didn't want it). G has a dog and a thing to throw balls for the dog and I has a handbag and high heals!

It was great for thinking about the position and shape of features and we talked about what things they would have in their picture so people would know something about them and emotions.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Natural History Musuem

Today we took another trip to London - this time to the Natural History Museum! It was very busy and we had to queue to get in (something I have never had to do before).  When we got there we booked tickets to see their Age of the Dinosaur Exhibition which was fab! It explained things very clearly for primary age children and some amazing fossils to see and touch.  It also had some amazing roaring animatronic dinosaurs which terrified poor little E. The highlight for me was the Archaeopteryx fossil. Also it never felt packed - you did have to prebook a timed ticked. However, there is arguably less material here than in the permanent exhibition (husband commented at the end "oh is that it") and so grownups without children might feel a bit like it has the bits they couldn't fit elsewhere in the museum.
We then had lunch in their downstairs picnic bit walking past a dodo (leading to a discussion about the impact of humans on the environment) and a picture of Mary Anning which E said "ohh we read a story about her".  We also enjoyed their Creepy Crawlies gallery and The Vault where we saw the 110.3-carat Cora Sun-Drop, the world’s largest-known vivid yellow pear-shape diamond. Then we went to another paid Exhibition - Sensational Butterflies. A tunnel where there were hundreds of different species flying around.This was the highlight for P and E.
We then finished by going to see the permanent dinosaur exhibition which felt packed!
Museumed out we walked through Hyde Park to the Princess Diana Memorial playground where the girls played happily for an hour and then went for a Chinese in China Town!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Jackson Pollock inspired art

To commentate his death on August 11, 1956 we decided to do some Jackson Pollock inspired art.

We started off looking at some paintings by him on google (this is a good one: and then we watched a youtube video of him painting (

The girls enjoyed dripping, splashing, flicking and swirling paint on to paper. It is interesting that at soon as E has a paint brush in her hands she has to paint with it, ending up with a different result than I was expecting!  We also did some marble painting which led to similar results! E enjoyed using this programme on the computer (

It would have been good to work on a larger scale outside because Pollock liked to use his whole body to paint but sadly it was raining! Plus it was rather messy and everyone ended up covered with paint!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Bread and butter

As part of my effort to get the girls to cook a meal a week, today I got them to cook lunch.

We started early! Grace put 60ml warm water in a bowl and added a 7g sachet of dried yeast and 1 tbsp of sugar. We waited and watched it start to froth and talked about what was happening (We decided yeast must doing something as it is  giving off gas. I told them it is alive - a type of fungus - and that when it is wet and warm and has a source of food it starts to grow and give off carbon dioxide which was going to help our bread be nice to eat.)
Then in a large mixing bowl we added 450g of strong bread flour and a tsp of salt. We made a well in the middle and added 15g of melted butter and our fermenting yeast. We washed the yeast bowl out with 200ml warm water and mixed it all up with a wooden spoon. Then we tipped it out onto a floured worktop and began to knead - to which there is quite a knack and it needed everyone to help! When the dough began to spring back to the touch it was ready to leave to rise. We put it back into the bowl which I had oiled and covered with clingfilm.  We left it for an hour in a slightly warm oven.
When it had doubled in size we took it out and kneaded it again. We then made rolls with it.  We put these on an oiled baking sheet and put back in the slightly warm oven to double in size (about 30 minutes). Then we brushed them with milk and put them to bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 180oC (fan). They are done when, if you tap the bottom it sounds hollow!

Whilst they were cooking Grace and I made butter. We had some double cream which had been in the fridge for a few days. We took it out and left it to warm up to room temperature. Then we poured it into a screw top glass jar and then we shook, shook and shook some more.  It was really interesting watching it change. After about 10 minutes you began to hear a solid sound hitting the top - this is the butter! We poured the liquid into a cup (this is buttermilk which we were going to use later on in the week). Then we washed the butter under the tap. Then we put it onto a chopping board and pressed down with our hands to squeeze as much of the buttermilk out as possible (this is important as it can made the butter taste sour). Then it was ready to eat with our bread - YUMMY!

Monday, 8 August 2011

She sells sea shells on the sea shore

Inspired both by a forth coming holiday to Dorset and the fact my topic back at school in September is Dinosaurs, the girls have enjoyed reading 2 books about Mary Anning

Mary was born in Lyme Regis. She is said to have miraculously  survived a lightning strike as a baby. Her father, Richard, took Mary on fossil-hunting expeditions to make extra money for the family,They would sell these "curios" -  fossils with colourful local names like 'snake-stones' (ammonites), 'devil's fingers' (belemnites), and 'verteberries' (vertebrae).  Her first and one of her most important finds was in 1811, when Mary was just 12 years old; she found a complete ichthyosaur skeleton. As she continued to make important finds her reputation grew. On 10 December 1823, she found the first complete Plesiosarus and in 1828 the first British example of Pterosaurs.

 What is amazing to me is she had limited education and was a woman and yet became what one person called "the greatest fossilist the world ever knew".

Anyway today I found the fantastic Cambridge story teller Marion Leeper was at the Sedgwick museum telling Mary Anning's story so I booked to go. Miss I and G loved it and there was the just the right balance of sitting listening and then finding Mary's fossils in display cases to draw. The Sedgwick museum, whilst fascinating, isn't the most interactive whizzy child friendly museum in the world so this was a good way of bringing it to life for the children. I have booked to take them back next week for a story about Darwin!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

LolliBop - The Big Bash for Little People

 LolliBop was described as a 3-day non-camping festival aimed purely at under-10′s and their families held in Regents Park, London.  We went for P's birthday treat. The highlight for me was seeing Rastamouse perform - although Miss I was disappointed when she noticed Zoomer wasn't really playing his drums! The girls also enjoyed seeing the horrible history show, watching Charlie and Lola's bestest play (a mix-up of various stories which was slight confusing and there was a massive queue to get in to and people had helium balloons at eye height), doing lots of craft (making masks, bead bracelets, a puppet and a ballerina doll), dancing in the Itsy Bitsy Strictly tent, sliding down a massive slide and all the people wondering around including an inflatable lobster, a amazing remote control junk model horse and a very tall man blowing the biggest bubbles I have ever seen). The downsides where the queues FOR EVERYTHING and it was expensive! It could also have done with some more rides for the children and some bouncy castles. We didn't have time to do everything - the story telling area looked fab and we didn't go near the baby area.
Would I go again next year - I think I would rather sit quietly in a yurt field watching the girls run round! But I don't think I am festival material!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Flower Power at the Botanical Gardens

Today the girls went to Flower Power at the Botanical Gardens in Cambridge; described as "a summer festival in celebration of flowers".
First the girls went to a crown making workshop run by the Fairyland trust.  They made a beautiful crown from willow withies and acorn and hazel leaves. Then, with a little help, they added tissue paper copies of summer wildflowers whilst hearing about the fairy folklore associated with them.
On the main lawn they made a flower-inspired fizzy bath bomb to take home, saw inside a bee hive, made a badge, created a pretty hand print flower, made a lavender bag and a twine friendship bracelet.

They also enjoyed wondering around the garden; looking at dragon flies, climbing trees and playing on the stepping stones.


Thursday, 4 August 2011

Where has the time gone?

I am feeling quite sad at the passing of the time - the baby bit has gone and now I am the owner of a fully fledged toddler! Please time slow down a little.

But Happy Birthday P. This past year has been one of the best of my life. You have been the easiest happiest baby. You learnt to smile at 4 and half weeks, sat up at 5 months, crawled at 6 months, belatedly learnt to roll over and cut your first 2 teeth at 9 months and walked at 11 months. You can clap, wave and point - but because you are so small everyone thinks you are very advanced for your age. You can say "hello" when you want attention or spy the cat and you can meow. You have finally learnt how to drink out of a beaker. Your favorite trick is climbing the stairs vocally (when one your sisters has left the door open). You give the best cuddles in the whole world. You love to play the piano and be jiggled on a knee. You have always been a fab sleeper but only in your hammock.You love to feed yourself and your favorite foods are berries and tomatoes.
I wonder what the next year will bring?

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Spaghetti Challenge

This morning I challenged E and G to see if they could build the highest tower possible out of dried spaghetti and marshmallows (actually it was a battle as to whether they could build a tower before E ate all the marshmallows).  The spaghetti provides the framework and support for the structure and the marshmallows are the connectors.  The important thing to realise is that the marshmallows grip onto the pieces of spaghetti to hold the joints in place. The strength of a joint is dependent on how well the marshmallow can hold the spaghetti strands without them slipping. If there is a heavy load (weight) on
the joint it may cause the marshmallow to change shape until the joint fails -
this is most likely to happen where the load is the greatest, i.e. at the bottom of the tower. They quickly found they couldn't just go up so we googled towers and G quickly saw the need for triangles.  You can build very large structures from squares and cubes, but they will be weak and will usually fall down quite easily. If they tried to make a structure out of triangles and pyramids, it will be strong but you will use a lot of materials before the tower gets very tall! The best way to build a tall tower is to use both triangles and squares that way you can build big structures that are less wobbly.  A diagonal piece of spaghetti put across a square turns a square into two triangles and makes it more rigid. G found it quite hard not to break the spaghetti when pushing it into a marshmallow and quickly came up with the solution to use a marshmallow half-way along the piece (although this had the disadvantage of weight thus meaning upwards hard to build). The girls had a fun hour - although the towers never got very high. Eventually, sticky, we decided to call it a day as the marshmallows where no longer much good as connectors due all the holes in them!

This was great for team work, problem solving and naming shapes.