Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Freedom for All

Being home educators gives you a whole different take on things.  As I previously mentioned over the years, it encourages you to look outside the "accepted" and traditional and to feel more in control of the decisions that face you.

We make our own way.

This doesn't just apply to our children's education of course.  Being a family of six with all four children having been/being home educated, has created a family dynamic that is very different to what it would have been if we'd had traditional, 9-5 jobs and all the kids had gone in to the school system.

We had already decided that self employment suited us before we took the older two boys out of school but - like many home educating parents - we have definitely found flexible employment to be better suited to our autonomous, free range, home educating style.

All of this is a VERY long winded intro to some great news: my husband has just published his first book!  This has been the result of many things: long years of ill health, two decades of theological study, the above mentioned flexible lifestyle, and finally of course our move to Margate and the change of pace and lifestyle.  All of these things have brought him to a place where he has been able to write this book and I am very, very proud of him and delighted to see him pursuing this God-given dream.

Dear reader, please consider purchasing his book and/or sharing this link with someone in your life who you know would benefit from it!

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Still here...

Gosh is it really that long since I last posted?!  Over 3 1/2 years..

Life took on lots of unexpected turns in 2010, including the need for our family to retire a little bit from "public" life and just spend time being family for our own sakes.

I also ended up in quite a different direction personally, on the business front, and decided I wanted to keep my family life well away from my new notoriety in my business life.

I miss blogging though.

Brief update then: We are still home educating, still in Kent, but now in NE Kent instead of NW Kent/border of London.  We are enjoying beach life now, living in a seaside town, and very pleased to be adapting to the slower pace of life.

The "kids" are now 18, 16, 11 and 6 which is a bit of a shock to write down..  The younger two have never tried school and I shall be quite happy if it remains that way.

It does look, by the way, as if our youngest is also somewhere on the autistic spectrum.  I guess at least as he is no3 to be wired that way, I should make fewer parenting mistakes this time *crosses fingers*

Josh is looking for work, Samuel is volunteering in a local charity shop, William is building a social media empire, and Jonathan is trying to do what everyone else is doing.

We only moved at the new year so we haven't yet got involved in the local home ed scene here but there is a big, active network which I'm hoping we will get to grips with in the coming months.  Meantime we are learning to love the area during winter - whilst of course looking ahead with anticipation to warmer days!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Water Fights and Stary Nights

At the weekend we started the celebrations for William's 8th birthday.

His actual birthday was on Sunday but Josh was out most of the day at Celebration Surrey event where SAVVY where performing.

That's Josh on the far left of the picture - shades on of course!

Actually it was so very hot - being the hottest day that we'd had of this warm weather - that they came home from the event earlier than we had expected.

We invited some friends over and we had a bring and share kind of birthday meal for William.

On Monday morning we packed everything up and went over to my Mum's. She's got a big garden - and isn't on a water meter like us - so William was able to have a water fight for his birthday! He'd got lots of water pistols for his birthday - which is what he'd wanted - and we told everyone to bring a change of clothes.

A friend lent us their 12ft paddling pool too which we filled up for the kids to play in.

Photos to follow soon, but suffice to say a good (wet!) time seemed to be had by all.

William seemed to like his cake - he'd asked for a Tardis Cake.. between the heat and trying to stack up slices of gluten free cake, the thing didn't want to stand up, so our Tardis was post-crash-landing in Amy Pond's garden!



Josh and Jonathan used to be with Scallywags but, though Josh had some castings and one job out of them, we didn't feel they were right for us. We've had conditional offers for both the boys now from Chilli Kids so this week we sorted out professional photographs to send for their portfolios.

I know I'm biased, but... I think they are gorgeous!







This week Josh got to go with SAVVY to the Globe Theatre to see the performance of Midsummer Night's Dream (which he is performing in next week).

It sounds like, despite the standing, they all had a great time and it really helped to bring the characters to life for them all.

Roarke met Josh outside the Globe to come home with him and they got in around 11.15pm.

We moved Jonathan's bed around yesterday and took the bed guards off from the side so last night was his first night without them. Despite now being able to climb in and out of bed easily, he didn't get out of bed once we left his room after his bedtime stories, and when we went up to bed we didn't (as we'd half expected to) find him in our bed. He fell out once in the night, that was all, so all in all I think he did rather well!

Talking of doing rather well, he took only one day to get the hang of the potty, and only had a few accidents. Week two since starting potty training and we've had no accidents at all. He is even using the potty for "number twos". On top of that he's also learnt to use the toilet standing up like a big boy - and again, we've had no accidents and not even any drips on the floor! Interestingly, since we started potty training he has only used his night time pull ups three times - the rest of the nights he has been dry.

Roarke went to the specialist this week for a chat about the results that have come back from his various tests including the MRI. We were rather shocked to be told that he appears to have osteoarthritis. Bearing in mind he also has gout - which is the most painful form of arthritis - already, this was a blow. We believe in a God who heals, therefore the challenge for us now is not to focus on what is true (that he has bulging discs, bad joints etc) but to focus on The Truth - that by His stripes we have been healed (Isaiah 53:5).

These are interesting times!

This weekend we will be celebrating Roarke's birthday and we've got some friends coming over this evening. For now, I'm enjoying a rare moment of piece and quiet before everyone gets up...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

How Does My Garden Grow? - Update

It is very rewarding to watch things growing in the garden!

These were images from the garden taken on 27th April when plants were just starting to grow.

Then in May we had those frosts and everything was covered up.

Now... now the harvesting is starting!

We've already had about 2kg of potatoes, 600g of carrots, and over 1kg of strawberries so far, plus numerous bowls of salad leaves, and herbs to flavour all our cooking.

I've got no less than 20 tomato plants which have kind of taken over the patio, and my cabbages look like triffids!

Moneymaker tomatoes, peppers (in the black grow sack) and salad leaves (in the little pots). My yummy strawberries are in the background in front of the towering crocosmia:

moneymaker tomatoes peppers and salad leaves
Looking towards the house from next to the trampline. At the front of the image on the right is my birthday blueberry bush from Sheila, a cherry tomato plant (with the cane) then broccoli and cabbages under a net. Next is the remains of the first 2 rows of carrots, then more cabbages\;


Our pink fir apple potatoes! The plants are growing well but sadly I ran out of soil to bank them up much so I am afeared there will only be a handful of potatoes on each one. My courgettes are behind them - and then some more cabbages (just to the left of the levitating watering can!):

Triffid cabbages on the left of the image, and then of course more cherry tomato plants!

More cherry tomato plants interspersed with french bean plants (which have grown up to and over the hanging basket as well as in through the gap in the back door!!)

Monday, June 07, 2010

More Birthdays!

Jonathan is three! How did that happen? Doesn't seem that long ago...

He had said that what he wanted for his birthday was "party hats, balloons and biscuits". When asked what he wanted as a present he said "a bouncy ball". For his cake, he wanted "Peppa Pig" and when I asked whether he wanted Peppa or George he said "all of them". So...

We tried to accomodate this...

He came downstairs to find balloons and party hats in the front room.

Here he is modelling them whilst still in his pyjamas!

Bless - I think if we'd have left it at that he would have thought he'd had a good birthday.

Next he went in to open his cards and presents. All his brothers had made him cards.

He opened each one carefully and went over every single detail of each one, so happily, it was beautiful.

He also opened his presents - a bouncy ball, and a box of four Peppa Pig puzzles.

A lesson for us all: he was so happy just with those simple presents - which were, after all, what he wanted - that you would have thought he'd been given the world.

We managed to get him dressed - and persuade him to leave the party hats behind - and went off to church.

As he is now three he moved up from creche into "ROCK Stars" which is the Sunday School for 3-5 year olds at our church.

We were a bit nervous as to how he would do as he of course has no experience of anything structured, but by all accounts it was great.

He watched some cartoons with William first whilst everyone was arriving. Then they had songs - and he got points for jumping up and down in the jumping-up-and-down song (!), then a game (which he played alongside William) and then happily went upstairs to their own section (whilst the 5+ stay downstairs).

He took part well, and sat down and was quiet when needed to listen to the story. The lady who was on the team said that the only way in which he stood out was "by being so very cute" which just about sums Jonathan up!

We got back home and got all his food sorted out.

About three quarters of the food was gluten free as one of our other guests was gluten free too.

I'd made gingerbread men (the "biscuits" he wanted), little cakes, chicken, potato and bacon salad, sausages, fruit, salad - from the garden!! - and of course his cake.

This is a scene from one of his favourite Peppa Pig books (we got the lot from the Muller Stars promotion earlier in the year).

"Sports Day" - where Rebecca Rabbit wins the race and Peppa and Suzie come last because they have been chatting!

Ok it was a bit of a cheat cake but in my defence we'd been out with friends all Saturday afternoon. I'd baked the cake at 9am in the morning but hadn't got a chance to ice it until 9.30pm! By that time I must admit I quite worn out..

Still, when Jonathan saw it he said "wow" and told me it was the best birthday cake ever and "I love my cake!" so that was alright :-)

At night, when I put him to bed, after we read stories I turn the light out and he then asks for a "Jonathan story" which is where I have to make up a story about him.

Last night though he said he was going to tell ME a story and instead of being about "beautiful Jonathan" it was going to be about "beautiful mummy".

This was his story:

"Once upon a time there was a beautiful mummy. One day she went to a birthday party. The birthday man came and made balloons and party hats and lots of food, then he went back to his cave.

They all sang happy birthday and had lots of fun.

The End"

Then I said that he would be having another party tomorrow.

Jonathan: "and my friends will sing happy birthday Jonathan"

Me "yes Jonathan, they will"

Jonathan: "happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Jonathan, happy birthday to you. Goodnight Mummy!"

And he turned over with a HUGE smile on his face and pulled the covers up around himself.

I went downstairs with tears in my eyes, thanking God that my special lad had a special day.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Birthdays and Sunshine

Crikey I didn't realise it had been so long since I blogged!

What have we been up to?


We had my niece's 1st birthday party at my brother's house (she's the little girl in pink watching whilst everyone else plays with her new toys!).

Everyone dressed up for the occasion and, ironically, Roarke, Josh and William all wore blue shirts.

That meant I got a lovely photo of my "boys in blue" (one of whom is bound to want to kill me for putting that picture on the internet... *shrug* mother's prerogative - and I could put worse ones up!)

We also officially started our Pampered Chef business, with Roarke having three cooking shows in four days. It is really fun, and we love having something to do that includes food ;-)

I have finally been able to pass on the media spokesperson role, with Ian Matthews being announced as the new spokesperson. I'm sure Ian is going to be amazing, and I wish him all the best. I'm not going to miss the endless phone calls nor the short-notice "can you do a radio interview?" or, worse, "can we send a car to bring you to the studio?"!

Ongoing activities include Josh taking his Level 4 Sailing course at Danson Park, and going to SAVVY on a Thursday. Samuel is getting more and more involved at church on the sound/multi-media desk. He served in ROCK Sunday School on Sunday and then in the evening (and again on Monday) when we had Pastor Bill Wilson from Metro Ministries over, he served in the tech box. He has also been going to band practice every Thursday to do the sound for Baseline.

Josh is still doing his math regularly, which is encouraging. I need to start thinking about giving Jonathan some more opportunities for learning actually. I think, having never gone to school and therefore having no hang ups about studying, that he would response well to having some worksheets and things to do. I need to dust them all of ;-)

Bill Wilson was amazing, actually. The messages that he brought have really affected myself, Roarke, Josh and Samuel and there is a lot of thinking, praying, and planning going on as a result. There has definitely been a paradigm shift..

That same weekend we also went to another first birthday party, this time for Kaiyah.

This was a lovely gathering and we were very pleased to have been included amongst friends and family invited.

We went with William and Jonathan for the start of it; they had a great time with all the kids there.

We then collected Josh and Samuel from their life group social, dropped Jonathan at Mum's, and went back and stayed until the end.

It was good to be out as a family.

This morning I had an interview with a reporter - not about home education for a change! Woo hoo! Actually it was about Dad's story and I'm hoping that the piece gets published and helps a little in raising awareness of coeliac disease.

The garden seems to have recovered from the frosts and the plants have all responded well to the short sunny spell that we have had. I have finally worked out that it IS the pigeons eating my brassicas, having caught them in the act, so yesterday I went out there and made a make-shift netting cover for them all as well as for the strawberries. I hope that works!

Now I need to focus on the fact that Jonathan will be THREE next weekend, and then it will only be a few weeks before William is EIGHT!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Frosty Veg

I get a feeling that I might look back at my last post, with it's lovely pictures of all the things growing in my garden, and weep by the end of this week!

What IS it with this weather?! A few days ago we had snow in some parts of the country again, and widespread frosts at night.

I panicked. I don't have a greenhouse. My tender plants - courgettes and tomatoes - were already out in the garden as they had outgrown the pots that fitted on my window sill or in my ramshackle plastic thing, and I had no choice but to plant them out.

Without any proper poly tunnels or the luxury of cloches, I had to make-do-and-mend. I pulled apart an old wire hanging basket, gathered all the large stones and sticks I could find, and collected a miraculously-timed gift of bubble wrap courtsey of my local Freecycle.

This was the result:

tomatoes and herbs
Strawberries
Courgettes
Brassicas
French beans
Over the days I've refined the covers a bit, and found some plastic cover from a new mattress which I've cut into strips to make long polytunnels to cover two rows of carrots and my precious yellow beetroot.

Sadly, three out of four courgette plants are struggling. Ironically not from the night-time frosts - they have been perky every morning when I've taken their bubblewrap bedjackets off - but from the low temperatures and keen winds during the day which was something I hadn't counted on.

Still, at least I've tried. I have felt very much like Barbara in "The Good Life" and I'm sure it must have been a great source of amusement to my neighbours to see me out there every evening..

One evening the other week we helped some friends out by collecting their three children from school and looking after them until their Mum finished work.

We cooked our famous slow cooker chilli and served a just-made-up-that-evening pudding that was a real success.

I made a rhubarb and apple compote, covered it with what we've decided is the ultimate crumble, in individual little tarts.

We served it with our home made rhubarb ice cream and a lovely syrup made out of reducing the liquid from the compote.

I managed to impress myself!

Josh, in true autonomous fashion, has decided that he'd like to improve his math ability in order to feel more confident so he's set himself the task of doing an hours math study every Monday. Gobsmacked!

Roarke had a day's acting work, on a small budget film. By the way I realised this week that Perrier's Bounty is out - Roarke is in that! I don't know if it has/is going to show anywhere near me which is a shame. Apparently the Special Relationship is out shortly too, which he is in.

Josh has continued with his sailing, and Samuel is enjoying learning the multimedia and sound desk at church so that he can start doing the sound at Baseline. I'm so proud of my lads! They have all said that they want to start doing both services on a Sunday in order to get the most out of church, and get to spend time with their friends there.

I've been able to help out more at church, doing another two meetings/trainings with regards to funding, and also helping at their awareness seminar for the work of the Hope Foundation.

Talking of Hope, Roarke is doing well with his training for the Triathlon. PLEASE sponsor him!

I'm organising a trip for our home ed group to go to the View Tube on the Olympic site which is exciting! I haven't organised an outing for a while so it's a bit nerve wracking but it seems to be really popular and we've already booked two days, with some 70 people taking part!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How Does My Garden Grow?

Growing in my garden at the moment:

Yellow beetroot (I've also got ordinary beetroot growing but they aren't as big)Thyme - this plant is from my original bought some 10 years ago and split and taken with me in three house moves!

Sweet Cherry Tomatoes (I have two other varieties to come yet)Summer cabbages

Strawberries
Mixed salad leaves (sown by Josh)
Two rows of carrots that were sown second, but in trays (I know you aren't meant to do that, but we did in our gardening club - and they survived transplanting!). I have another two rows that are just poking through the surface - having been sown direct into the soil about 5 weeks agoRocket
Early potatoes

Sweet PeppersMint (in a pot, otherwise it takes over everything!)

Coriander
Brocolli (with chives planted between the rows in order to help keep away pests)
Window sill chilli peppers (background) and basil (foreground). The basil germinated in 2 days!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Frugal Fiorelli

I love reading food blogs. They inspire, encourage, inform and entertain. I've got a whole list of them plugged into my Google Reader.

I keep thinking of posting *my* culinary escapes on my blog and then I think, hmm, would anyone be interested?! I never write down what I've done, rarely can remember, and I never think of taking a photograph until *after* we've eaten something and thought "yum!".

Regular readers will possibly remember photos of half eaten food...

Also, is the food I create really replicable? Most of it is using up odds and ends, last minute reactions to kids breezing in and asking "what's for dinner?" and my thinking "good question..."

Recently however I've been inspired by a number of blogs I'm reading where it dawned on me that this was exactly what they were doing! The difference was having in mind the fact that they were going to write it up/post about it later. (Planning, I think it's called, lol)

And, of course, the fact that most of them are far superior bloggers and writers than I am!!

Anyway, here goes with an experiment.

This was our dinner tonight - Frugal Fiorelli.

First off - what is Fiorelli? Well it's pasta, and I believe it gets its name from the fact that it looks like the flower buds that grow into squash blossoms. Anyway, we got it as part of M&S's £3 Italian deal (1 500g bag of pasta, 1 pasta sauce and a ciabatta). Not in itself frugal, but the frugality came from having half a bag left from having had our £3 meal deal!

As for the rest, well I'm not sure how replicable this is, but we were using up the remains of our braai yesterday. There was one pork sausage and one 100% beef quarter pounder left (the kids had had these as we thought the South African food we'd prepared might have been too spicy). We also had some tomato salad left over. That had be prepared a la Jamie Oliver (thin slices, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, sprinkled with sea salt, minced garlic and a little chopped shallot, and thyme). Finally, I had some cream left over from the pudding that our guests had brought and some red wine in the freezer.

I think if we'd had some pancetta, this would have been even better.

I sauteed off one small onion, added half a chopped green pepper, and one very small carrot finely diced. Once these had softened I added three garlic cloves, chopped.

I quickly deseeded the tomato slices, chopped them and added them together with all the lovely olive oil/salt/balsamic/tomato juices in the bottom of the bowl.

I diced up the sausage and the burger very finely and added them to the saucepan. In the freezer I have a container of red wine. I scrapped out two heaped tablespoons of this red wine "ice" and added to the mix. Once this had cooked off I added cream to taste - probably around 200ml or so.

A handful of fresh basil, torn, and then sea salt and black pepper and it was ready. I'd cooked some Fiorelli and I added this to the sauce (having learnt recently that you add pasta to the sauce, not the other way around like I had previously always done!). Mix well, dish up, and top with freshly grated Parmesan.

We served this is a garlic bread baguette - which earned the title of frugal because it was from Sainsburys' Basics range, AND had been reduced down, AND it was one left over that we'd frozen down!

I (just!) remembered to take a photo before tucking in.

*sigh* it was really nice! The red wine was definitely what was needed to bring out the flavours and it turned out to be just the right sort of sauce to go with the fiorelli.

So, tell me, does anyone want more food blogging? I've got a new blog that I could put it on... and/or I could leave it here?

Feedback gratefully received!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wednesday afternoon a friend took me out for lunch, to lift my spirits, and also ended up talking me into letting them dye my hair! Actually the afternoon of having my hair coloured, washed, dried and styled was really nice. Surrounded by males, I'm not used to any sort of "pampering" so having a young girl friend offer to give me a "girly" afternoon was quite a novelty :-)

Thursday was spent in the garden, finishing the work Roarke had started on clearing the shed and setting up the replacement play equipment.

(hang on, just going to take a photo to upload...)

Ok, I took more than one!

This is the 9ft by 15ft space we've gained at the end of the garden, behind the trampoline.

We've put in the new climbing frame and slide that we got given by Argos. Roarke's triathlon bike is going to be fixed onto the fence behind, out of the way.

Mum gave us a tool tidy which I've put all my garden tools into. We're going to use the old wooden garden table to cut to make a roof to go over it as we found a green garden table behind the shed when we took it down, and it is in better condition than our poor old table!



In the other corner you can see the old table, which we are going to use :-)

There is also an old builder's wheelbarrow left over by the workmen who did the house.

Mum gave us her old tool shed, which I've put all my hand tools, pots, and bags of seed compost in to.

We intend to turn around the trampoline net so that the opening is on the side where this play area now is, as it is higher than the middle part of the garden and therefore they will be able to step onto the trampoline instead of having to climb up each time. It should make it safer for Jonathan to get on and off himself.
I realised when I went out to take these photos that I could now take one from the end of the garden looking towards the house.

The green handrail of the slide is just in shot, giving you an idea of where I was standing. Looking through the trampoline you can't see the middle part of the garden, with all my vegetables growing, but you can see how the back of the house is in full sun all day.

I keep thinking I need to grow a grapevine up that wall...

The window on the bottom left of the house is the kitchen (you can just make out the second window), and the door.

Above that, is Josh's room. To the right you can just see the window for William's room, looking out over the flat roof of the kitchen extension.

The window at the top, where the grey tiling is, is Samuel's room - he's in the loft conversion.

This is the lovely little playhouse that Jonathan now has.

During the day he takes his cooker out there, together with all his toy food.

We had another home ed family over yesterday, with three young children, and the older two of them enjoyed playing "McDonalds" (of course!) with Jonathan and William, with Samuel as "delivery man".

I love how home ed allows kids to play whatever they want - regardless of age. Let's be honest, as adults, we often envy the kids playing with their toys!

I've sown some more seeds, so that hopefully the seedlings will be ready to plan out by the time I've got some space in the veg patch once I have thinned things out.

I'm also really concerned that the cabbages will end up with one of the very many diseases or pest infestations that they are prone to... I've always avoided growing them before now for that reason.

I've grown other brassicas before, and so I'm hopeful...

Anyway, if the pigeons, or catapillars, or anything else gets them, then I'll just pull them up and put something else in its place!

Do you notice how, as the cover for this is torn, I've added bubble wrap (saved from various deliveries we've had) to add insulation?! Very frugal I thought :-)

On the bottom I've got some seedlings for another home educator in our gardening group, and the tomato plants I received in exchange for my cabbage seedlings via freecycle.

Above that there is a tray of beetroot, and a tray half with salad leaves and half with lambs lettuce (my favourite!). On the top is a tray half full of french beans with the other half sown with basil seeds. The other tray is Josh's salad leaves. The middle two little pots have peppers in them - which have finally come through! That took about 4 weeks. I grew them once before, when we lived in Chatham, rather unsuccesfully so I'm hoping this sunny patio will make a difference this time.

Of course there has still been baking :-)

Today I made some oatmeal and raisen gf cookies, and yesterday there was another delicious gluten free briocheWhat have the boys been up to, I hear you ask? Well Josh started another sailing course yesterday. It is aimed at those in the group who have completed up to Level 3 sailing and it should end with them gaining their level 4, and getting a go at competetive sailing.

It helped fill a void left by drama - his teacher unable to get back from Australia due to the volcano.

Samuel has mainly been on his computer. We need to find a way to get him outdoors more as he's looking quite sallow :-( He's had a massive growth spurt and is now taller than Josh by some 2cm, and is only a few centimetres behind me now!

William still has a mark left from where he skidded and fell against the side of the car 2 weeks ago when we were at a friend's farm. We're concerned that he actually did some real damage so I think a trip to the GP will be in order this week. It is SO hard with ASD kids as his sensory processing issues means, as I've mentioned before, that major injuries don't seem to bother him yet he'll scream and moan over a scratch... It is hard to believe he could have broken his cheek bone or somesuch and not have said more about being in pain but... I just hope the GP is understanding.

Jonathan is still super cute. He's sitting with his arm slipped through mine as I type this, playing with my peg bag and watching Winnie the Pooh :-)