Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Book Score!

Yesterday my hairdresser was running a little behind so we arranged for me to come back in half an hour. Rather than go home, I wandered into our library which was just across the road.

They had just had a clear out of their shelves, so as any good homeschooling parent would, I sat myself on the floor, right by the trolley where they pop them when they are selling them off and rifled through them as best I could given the time limitation I had.

These are what I scored ... just for 50 cents each! They are all big non-fiction picture books, which are always a great addition to our ever expanding home library. I know the PC has some great ideas and you can basically google anything that you want to make but as happened in this case, there is nothing quite like holding a book in your hand and flicking through the pages to stir up the imagination. 

No sooner had I placed them on the carpet when I got home, and the girls had them in their hands, flicking through the pages.

I was feeling a little nervous as The Fashionista was quite taken with the book "Change your room". In this book they have painted, stuck glitter, boas, and ribbons on furniture and she is dead keen to redo some of the furniture in her room. Apparently her furniture is boring!  I found her half an hour later in my pantry looking for "bow" pasta which apparently "you can spray paint and glue to frames" ... good heavens!

Here's Agent Smelly with the origami book. She started reading it and before too long, she had the paper out and was making items out of it. There were a few Halloween items in here so she she was quite keen to make those.

Although this wasn't a planned homeschooling activity, I love it when things like this happen. They start reading some books and get all caught up and before I know it they start making stuff or start asking random questions about something they are reading.

They lost track of time and a few hours later, I had to actually ask them to put things away in order for them to go to bed.  Then I ran and hid the "Change your room" book! Do you think I should let her go wild with some of her bedroom furniture? It is her room after all. When you think about it, her room is how I want it to be, it's what i got when she was little ... hmmmm ........ stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What to do on a Lunch Break and A Comfortable Reading Nook.

We are having the most glorious spring weather so after the girls finished their lunch today I sent them outside and told them they had to stay out there until I called them in for some school work. OK, the nice weather was just an excuse ... I simply needed some peace and quiet and to pay some bills online!

When they came in from their play, they very excitedly shoved a camera in my face to show me yet some more new photos of their goats. Seriously, I think they could possibly be the most photographed goats in the world! I was a little surprised to see these pics had a slightly different twist to them.

Here's Miss Milly looking rather glam with a pink bow on one of her horns. She's such a sweet little princess.

And here's Mr Molly looking hip in his cap and chewing on some weed. He really is as dopey as he looks ... and often makes us laugh. 

After the break I asked the girls to go find a fun new, comfy reading spot, and do their reading whilst I set up for their art class on Georgia O'Keefe. I also find it gives them a chance to unwind before they get stuck into a long afternoon subject.

I turned around from prepping the table and spotted Agent Smelly. Apparently this position was "very comfy mama". This made me curious, I had imagined them snuggled up somewhere amongst cushions or on their beds, so I went in search of The Fashionista to see where she had ended up.

After walking into each of their bedrooms twice and not finding her, I then spotted her in the  bathtub. I didn't say a word but crept away and grabbed the camera. She later told me that because it was a little warm today that she had found the bathtub quite cool and relaxing and very quiet.

Granted I read in the bath whenever I can, but usually it's filled with water!

There are days like this that I think, "yes, homeschooled kids are a little different!" I'd like to say this is not a typical day in our homeschooling life ... but I think days like this are more common than not.

Friday, October 26, 2012

SPEEKEE takes to the Stage

The girls decided to use their new puppet stage today to practice their Spanish lesson.

They took it in turns to have one of their puppets, "Lupi" and "Dino", hold a coloured straw whilst the other puppet said the colour of it. This is an activity that is suggested by Speekee.

I told the girls that they didn't need to use the puppet voices (they try to imitate Dino and Lupi from the video) when they did the activity and they looked so disappointed that I followed up by saying how much I enjoyed it when they did though. So they happily kept speaking in these awful accents that they have developed.  I do hope when we get to Spain one day, that they can speak Spanish in regular voices ... lol

They followed up their colours by saying hello, how are you, etc in Spanish. We haven't been doing this subject as regularly as I would have liked (it has been mad around here with us in and out quite a bit recently) but I must say whatever they learn they are retaining so I am really happy with their progress.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Puppet Theatre Opening Night

Yesterday, after we had dropped Grandma off at her Aunty's funeral (Grandma is 85 and her Aunty was 97!!!), the girls and I popped along to a nearby shopping centre. We wandered up and down the street and ventured into a pile of second hand and recycle shops ... my idea of bliss! 

Whilst in the Salvation Army Shop, two sets of young eyes zoomed right in on a small wooden puppet theatre that was for sale. It was $15 and the only thing wrong with it was that the sign on the top had a crack through it (even I silently thought it a great buy) and after some conferring between them, they decided that by pooling their pocket money, that they could afford it. So after speaking to their loan agent ... yup moi, they settled up with the lovely lady in the store, who was just so lovely with the girls. Where do they find those dears?

It was too big for a bag so they had to lug it along between them ... hey I am teaching them responsibility ... wink!  OK, after awhile we swapped bags and I took it from them. It wasn't heavy just a bit annoying as the side bits (doors to close it all up with) kept swinging open on us.

Further along the street we chanced upon a toy store, where the lady who worked there, after sighting said puppet theatre, showed the girls some small finger puppets (clever marketing I thought). After yet another mini conference they decided yes they could afford those too and so the loan agent forked out another $15 for a set of six wee finger puppets.

We arrived home and of course the girls were rather impatient to set up their new toys, so after settling their debts, without being asked to I might add, they headed outside with paper and pens (to write the script apparently) and their new theatre and puppets.

A couple of hours later The Papa and I received invites to go outside and were met with an usher who handed us a ticket to a show called "A happy ending ... NOT!"

As soon as I walked around the corner and saw The Fashionista I had to halt proceedings in order to run back inside to grab the camera. Up until then, The Papa and I had had no idea that they had done any of this.  If they popped inside, they wore dressing gowns over their clothes; I just assumed they were a bit cold.

We were shown to our seats ... the chairs were numbered and The Fashionista actually took our ticket back off us before she seated us to make sure we were at the right seat, just like at a theatre. She had the arm sweep going on and all. Then we were handed our tickets back and told to enjoy the show. I was a little hard pressed not to crack up laughing.  Our other usher, aka Agent Smelly, meanwhile was tying back the curtains.

The show started. It was all about a nasty, mean witch who wanted to rule a country.

She turned herself into a beautiful princess, had the prince fall in love with and marry her, and then she turned back into a witch. Then they have a big fight and she kills him! 

The Papa whispered into my ear that he thought it very much like real life ... he got an elbow in the ribs!

They had a great time performing their little show for us, which surprisingly went a little longer than normal and had a proper story to it. The Fashionista has been working on writing this term and I think the fact that she had scripted this show made it a little less fumbly and giggly than normal. Although, as always their were giggles, especially when they had the prince and princess/witch kiss at their wedding.

Just between us ... Later when they were in bed, and The Papa and I were lazing on the couch watching TV, he leaned over towards me  and said, "so, how 'bout it? I did take you out to the theatre tonight" and then he winked at me. I fell off the couch laughing ... men, bless their little cotton socks!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hilda, Hilda, Hilda

Today the girls and I drove their Grandma J into Hamilton to attend her Aunty's funeral. It was a private funeral, in fact neither myself or my girls had ever met Aunty Gracie, who sadly had suffered with dementia, so we were just giving Grandma J a lift in and out of town.

Aunty Gracie was 97 when she passed away and was my mother-in-laws father's, baby sister. It seemed odd taking my 84 year old mother-in-law to her aunty's funeral. We worked out that she in fact would have been my daughter's oldest living relative and was their Great, great aunt.

Near the funeral home there was a retirement village, where Grandma J's cousin Shirley lives so I offered to take her there for a visit. The poor lady suffered a stroke quite a few years back and has trouble speaking, and is on a frame, etc. We had never met her and Grandma J hadn't visited in a while so we thought it best if the girls and I waited outside.

We had no idea what the place was like but when the girls and I drove in, it was like ... wow! Beautiful homes and the most gorgeous landscaped gardens everywhere. Much to the girls delight I had one of their cameras in my bag, so we were more than happy to have Grandma go visit awhile and for us to go for a walk around such a lovely village.

So weirdly this whole post is photos of our wander around a retirement home. This picture above is of the road that we drove down when we entered.

There are near a couple of hundred self contained units but there is also a main hospital, for those people that cannot live unassisted, seen in this picture behind the bowling green / petanque court that they were redoing. You can just see the top of my cream car on the very far left of this photo parked outside the entrance.

Here's a closer pic of the entrance.


This wee lake was right behind me ... they even have ducks!

And this gazebo was right beside the little lake. The girls were a little apprehensive as there were a loads of bees buzzing around the roses and lavender.

I took this photo from the little bridge. Those are some of the many private units in the background.

Another wee waterfall ...

These pathways run along between all the units. I think it's supposed to be their backyards as they don't actually have any fenced yards and their front entrances run off the roads that run along the other side of the units. There are also lovely wooden bench seats dotted along the walks.

We me a few gardeners out and about keeping the place tidy. Even though they have obviously employed gardeners for the village, you could see that some of the residents had added their own little touches in their own gardens, like windmills, different flowers and ornaments. Some had garden furniture out the fronts on their porches too.
It's only 10 kph so we were able to wander along the roads quite comfortably. We had a few golf carts pass us. I wasn't sure if they were workers or residents but they all waved and spoke to us.

Agent Smelly was quite taken with their "olden days" (as she put it) street lights.

And their letterboxes. They are all the same throughout the whole village ... a little bit Stepford, but it all looked really neat and tidy and welcoming.

The Fashionista was taken with the street signs, which were just signs with the unit numbers. At the beginning of or walk we met one old dear on a zimmer frame who had started to walk down a path in front of us. She then stopped, turned around and walk back towards us, smiled and said "problem with this place is all the streets look the same and I keep getting lost".  We laughed, she laughed and we all went on our way.

When we wandered past the end of the hospital we came across the indoor pool (and spa and gym). Well that was it for my girls. Agent Smelly wanted to know if we could shift there.

The Fashionista wanted to know if they had a church and I realised that she was scoping the place for Grandma J. The girls are now trying to talk Grandma J into shifting there so that they can go and stay with her.

I later read that they also have a hair salon, library, chapel, Internet cafe, dining rooms, indoor bowls, pool table and a bar!

We spent 3/4 of an hour wandering around in the sun, amongst the most beautiful landscaped gardens on a perfect spring day. It was so lovely and relaxing. Like a little oasis.

We finished off a lovely visit by meeting cousin Shirley who walked Grandma J out to the front door to see her off. 

Co-incidentally this retirement home is where Aunty Gracie had also spent her last years, so when Grandma J was telling her cousin Shirley that she had just been to Aunty Gracie's funeral, some of the other residents also who had know Gracie commented on what a dear and lovely lady she had been so that was rather nice.

I wonder how long it will be before I can go retire there ... hmmm?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

O'Keeffe; Putting it together

Today we reread parts of Venezia's Georgia O'Keeffe book (the girls love his books!) and discussed each of O'Keeffe's art pieces pictured in the book in depth.
I then gave them the lapbooking pieces to assemble and glue as required, that we obtained from the World's Greatest Artists printables from Confessions of a Homeschooler. Whilst this is a great resource, as my girls have gotten a little older, we have found that we have to modify the way we use it or they (and I) lose interest. There are eight lesson plans which are perfect for around a six year old age I would say but we have condensed them into 3 sessions for my older girls, which still works great.

Now I also pre-cut all the pieces they use for their artists page. i.e. the puzzle, mini book and artist card, actually for any lapbook these days. Whilst scissor skills are great to work on when they are younger, they are both at that age when they know how to cut around things and I just feel that they really don't need to be using up valuable time cutting when they can be learning something new.

This is titled "Morning Glory" and happens to be both of the girls favourite work art by O'Keeffe. It is not often, acutally I can't remember them ever agreeing on the same work of art before, so it was a bit of a surprise.

Agent Smelly often puts random comments on her school work. At least this time it pertained to the actual subject. She had "this is tottaly (sic) awesome" in her flip book beside the picture of "Morning Glory".

I have had to ask her to stop making comments on her math book and so as not to hurt her feeling I told her it was because they were far more interesting than the math questions and kept sidetracking me. She found this very funny but thankfully has stopped. They were rather distracting. She doesn't doodle, just makes random comments. I think she marches to a different beat which I find quite adorable and always good for a laugh.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Introducing Georgia O'Keeffe

Today we started our study on the famous American FEMALE artist Georgia O'Keeffe. O'Keeffe is the first female artist that we had studied so we were all abit excited and not sure what to expect.

As always we began by reading Mike Venezia's book from his "Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists" series.

We discussed O'Keeffe's smooth, flowing style and surprisingly, both girls fell in love with her simple, clear, bright paintings of flowers, shells and yes, even the animal bones she painted were rather great. They then chose a picture of hers to copy onto some canvas. 

The Fashionista chose one of O'Keeffe's pictures off the web, "Pink Shell with Seaweed" and copied it from my laptop. She really works hard on her pictures and is NEVER really satisfied with them. I have to hurry her along or she can be there for days working on them.

Agent Smelly chose to copy "White Shell with Red". When I pointed out that the red looked more orange than red, I was told that she realised this but really couldn't be bothered going over it again. Not sure if you detected this but she really isn't that interested in copying someone's painting and will rush through her paintings simply to put them behind her!

I have to admit that I really didn't know anything about O'Keeffe's work before this study and as I just love pictures of flowers (The Pig hates them), I am now totally in love with a couple of O'Keeffe's paintings and know exactly what wall they would look good on. I even love the way she named them. Nothing obscure, it is what it is, i.e. "Petunia" ... now that's cool! I think she may even have surpassed Monet as my favourite artist now. Whose art do you love?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Big Red Kitchen's Pancake Squares ... yum!

Whilst having a peek at Pinterest this morning I came across these gorgeous looking Pancakes Squares that I decided we just had to try. The girls "lurve" their pancake breakfasts and it's nice to do something a bit different.
Photo from Big Red Kitchen's website
This is essentially the recipe, copied from the Big Red Kitchen website, with a few metric conversions, but you can click here right here Big Red Kitchen to take you to the original recipe.
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 T. melted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt 
You can leave them plain or add fruit to them. We added two diced bananas to one dish and 1 1/2 cups blueberries to the other.
  1. Preheat oven to 175°C.
  2. Lightly grease an 8×8 baking dish.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat together milk, butter and egg.
  4. Add sugar, then gradually beat the flour in.
  5. Carefully stir in the baking powder and salt.
  6. Gently fold in any additional ingredients like banana or blueberries now.
  7. Pour batter into prepared pan. I used a oven-proof ceramic dish and placed some baking paper in it ... so easy to clean afterwards.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  9. Cut into squares. The Big Red Kitchen suggests cutting it into 4 - 6 pieces. We sliced ours into 9 pieces and thought they were pretty generous; although we did eat one of each type.

On the left are our banana squares and on the right are obviously the blueberry ones. How well did we do!

If I were to make these plain I would possibly look at doubling the sugar. We also found that drizzling these in a bit of maple syrup whilst they were still warm took these from yummy to uber yummy! We found both varieties delicious but, The Fashionista loved the blueberry ones best whilst Agent Smelly and I preferred the banana ones. I may try adding some apple, cinnamon and sultanas next time. The possibilities are endless.
Although I am not really much of a pancake person, that may surprise you, I really enjoyed these and they will certainly be on the menu again. Another reason to love this recipe is that you aren't stuck at the stove cooking pancakes whilst the family tucks into their breakfast! 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Operation Christmas Child Packed and Ready to GO!

Today we finished packing our packages for Operation Christmas Child.

We ended up with:
  • a sunhat
  • a brush and comb set and some blingy hair clips
  • a fish nailbrush and boxed soap (not pictured)
  • Teddy bear
  • plastic raincoat
  • cupcake necklace and bracelet (a different set in the other package)
  • stickers
  • post it pack and jotter pad
  • colouring pencils, rubber, sharpener and a NZ pencil case
  • Tissues in a little pack the girls made at Girls Rally
  • and of course the letters we made up

It was such a good feeling to be able to finish these. The girls were pretty stoked when everything packed into the box perfectly!

I was going to get the Papa to drop them off on his way to or from work as there are no drop off points anywhere near us but I think it would be sad for the girls to miss out on the pleasure and pride they will get when they actually hand them over. What do you think?

Friday, October 12, 2012

"WHAI" Not?

I was thrilled to come across these packs of Whai's today in a store whilst out shopping.

The girls were staying with Grandma so they weren't with me to enjoy my excitement at my "find" for our World Wide Culture Swap Family. I am sure the poor man serving me had no idea why I was so excited over some packs of Maori string games either but he smiled at me nicely and happily took my money.

On the back of the pack it reads
"Legend reveals that the great Polynesian Maui invented this game.

Known as Te Whai Wawewawe a Maui, this game is most often shortened to Whai or sometimes even Maui.

This game encourages dexterity of fingers and mind which are essential skills for weaving or making the decorative Tukutuku panels.

Some complicated designs would require the use of fingers, toes, teeth and sometimes several people.

The Whai were not only fun but were used to pass on Maori knowledge and history through the generations."

They open up and inside are a few string games to try. Basically they are just like the string games many little girls play growing up. I was never really into playing the string games as I was a bit of a sporty girl so was usually on a field or court somewhere. How about any of you? Do you have any string games (links are fine) or stories that you can share?

I really hope our WWCSF has as much fun using them as I had finding them. Maybe they'll send me some pictures of them using them.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Oh No Agent Smelly's arm in a Sling?

The Papa had been out in the garden for some time and when he finally came in he was met with the site of  his baby girl's arm all wrapped up and in a sling. Poor fella nearly had a heart attack and quickly wanted to know what had happened to her.

She immediately started to look woeful and sad but before she could start to say what happened she burst into delighted giggles. She hadn't actually done anything to her arm but had earnt her First Aid badge during the term at Brownies and was simply practising what she'd learnt.

She really is a minx although I must say she certainly knows how to make a good sling!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How Long Does it take to Plant a Hedge?

Well finally, after nine years, we got started on the hedge for the front of our property.

We popped out to the nursery this afternoon, spent a fortune (since when did plants become so expensive?) and came home with 50 odd plants.

They are all trees that shouldn't grow much taller than 3 metres (there are overhead power lines running along our side of the road) and they will be going in the garden that runs above the retaining wall and before the front fence. Yes, in all that wild bramble is a farm fence which surprisingly is still in very good condition. We want to remove all the bramble but if we do we will be exposed to all the car's passing by, hence we are putting in two rows of different trees. The Pig had previously killed off all the grass and weeds up there. He loves weed killer much to my annoyance and nagging him not to use it. Apparently it was easier than digging up 100metres of ground ... big wuss! 

We bought 3 different types of pittosporums, red robins, griselinias, ake ake and some other natives. We have staggered their planting a little and by planting over 9 different varieties we are hoping we will have more of a natural looking border. The nurseryman suggested we only do a bit at a time because of the effort involved in caring for them for their first few months, especially with summer looming. 

We planted about 30 metres along, so are a third of the way there. The Fashionista despite her slight frame always is ready to really get in and do the hard work. Here she is using a pole hole digger to make one of the 54 holes needed for the trees.  

The Pig did a great job getting them all planted and has even started thinning out some of the existing hedge with his chainsaw. Men and chainsaws!

Now if they'll just grow really thick and big quickly I'll be stoked. Maybe I need to go talk to them? Does anyone have any tips to get these little trees growing big and strong quickly?

Monday, October 8, 2012

The TK Beauty Salon is Open for Business

Today the girls and I spent a good part of the day, having them try on their clothes and shoes and working out what they had grown out of.

We ended up with nearly two garbage bags full of items (and we didn't even get to their tops and jumpers) and some of the items had hardly been worn. So I spent the later part of the afternoon sorting what could be donated and what was still good enough and remotely worth reselling on NZ's answer to EBay, TradeMe.

Whilst I sorted, photographed and listed items, the girls left me to it. Every now and then I could hear giggles emanating from their end of the house. So I wandered up and this is what I came across ...

Unbeknownst to me a beauty parlour had been set up under my very own roof. They had my foot spa going and a CD playing whilst The Fashionista gave her little sister a manicure.

Truth be told, I was a little jealous that I was too busy for an appointment but am hoping to be squeezed in tomorrow.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ngaruawahia Waterworks Tramp

Today we ventured out for another tramp. I picked one that looked relatively easy as we hadn't been out over winter on any walks and I wasn't sure how long we'd, OK, how long I'd last.
We drove off to Ngaruawahia (na-ru-ah-wa-he-ah) to the Waterworks track. The track leads to the Mangarata Dam which was built in 1922 and supplied water to the town right up until the late 70's.
If you look closely you can see a green pole (signpost) on the side of that DOC (Department of Conservation) road. We turned left there and headed along a track into that bush!
The track was really lovely. For much of the trip we followed a stream running along beside us and even though we were heading up a hill it was a nice gradient.
Now and then we came across waterfalls feeding into it. This is not a tree branch in this photo but part of the old piping that fed the water down the mountain to the township.
Because of the rating that this track has (IE family friendly, etc) DOC have to ensure that there are bridges and even stairs once the gradient gets over a certain level.
There was only one part of the track where it got very narrow and so we had be careful as it fell away steeply to the stream below. This was Agent Smelly's favourite part of the track.
Not far below the dam was this lovely waterfall. We are standing on a wee bridge that has no sides but has a ledge on either side that you can step down onto and then into the small pool of water. We were going to do this on our way back but a family had beaten us to it and whilst I wouldn't have minded joining them, they had a pitbull and presumeably it's pup, with them, who had a bit of a bark at us probably protecting her pup, so I was taking no chances. They must have missed the sign saying "no dogs".
A few more steps up and around the corner and we came apon our first view of the dam.
My wee adventurers walked out along the edge. Right behind where they are standing is  the drop shown in the picture above this one where the water comes out. The dam itself was quite small.
We stopped at the reservoir to have our lunch. Good GirlGuides that they are, the girls pulled out their sit-a- pons to sit by the water and eat their salad rolls. That ledge in the distance is what the family were standing on in the previous photos. The reservoir used to hold 750,000 litres of water but with the build up of silt it now holds less than 500,000 litres. There are native fish,eels and crayfish in this dam and in the streams below, so it is a protected area and no fishing is allowed.
From this area you can head further up the mountain on another steep hour and half long climb for a view of the Kaimai and Coromandel ranges. Much to the disappointment of both girls I vetoed this idea ... the words steep climb and I do not go together. They were pretty good about it as you can see.
The Fashionista likes to get right into the thick of things and wades through streams to get to places off the track. She just loved the waterfalls.

She found this wee cave and climbed into it. What you cant see is that right in front of her it drops right away and there is only a wee ledge along the left to get there. Agent Smelly was apprehensive but joined her sister after some cajoling by her. The Fashionista imagined that maybe this was where the workers slept when building the dam.
The Fashionista decided to take another track that ran along the other side of the proper walking track (it wasn't very long and we could see her the whole way). It was simply a bit muddy. When she got to the bottom to come across to where it met up with us again, the stream was a little deeper than she had anticipated. The river stones were rather wet and mossy and even though it was only ankle deep, we didn't want her slipping, so the Papa went down and gave her a hand across.
The Fashionista skipped along on the way back and kept hiding behind trees and pongas and then jumping out at us as we got closer. We told her she is never to wear green on a hike again as she was really hard to spot and kept giving us shocks ... much to her amusement. She thinks she has ninja skills! 
This was a lovely tramp, enough to get a little out of breath at times but not painfully strenous. Both kids, and the Papa and I, really enjoyed the beauty and serenity of this walk and are already taking of going back again once we have accomplished a few more of the other trails on our list.
(This was the No 6 Nature Trail from the Natural Attractions of the Waikato District Brochure.)
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