Monday, December 29, 2008

Non optimum tree...

The irony of the Christmas tree is that my favourite view of it is when I turn the other lights off in the room and there's just a soft glow - you can see the ornaments a bit, though not in detail, and everything is soft and gentle. Unfortunately it's a) difficult to enjoy this way for any length of time, as it's too dark to read or sew when the lights are off and I can't stare at a tree for more than about 10 minutes without getting bored and b)impossible to photograph - with the flash (left) you get the garishness of the room and without (right) you just get some bits of light. Oh well!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas



Some of you may remember that Olivia asked Father Christmas for a stuffed owl toy in her Christmas letter. She got one, as you can see. She was delighted.



Sarah was hoping she'd get a Nintendo DS for her main present - she did - she was so pleased she didn't even bother to complain I was photographing her!



Here's Alex opening what will turn out to be a complete set of Just William stories on CD - good for listening to at bedtime.



And of course, if one girl gets a DS, the other has to have one... They are going to share the games, though!



And Alex wanted "small lego" (i.e. not Duplo, but proper Lego) - this is a complete fire station set - some assembly required! I have to say, though, the instructions for putting together Lego are excellent - if only flatpack furniture instructions were so easily followed!



Snoopy Pyjamas. Big Snoopy Fan.




Some of the Lego, including an extendable ladder fire engine.






My personal favourite!

Sarah got this in her stocking - I love these little crystal gardens - they are so cool!

Here we are about to eat - roast pork, chipolatas, roast potatoes, cabbage, gravy - some champagne and fancy apple juice for the kids.
Happy Christmas to you all!







Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gerbils..



Sarah took this video of Gerry - he's probably checking out the camera with a view to eating it, knowing him!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Reindeer Games

Here's what happened in my living room this morning - two Santa's sleighs, complete with reindeer (cushions) and sacks of presents (rolled quilts).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas in town

We had a trip up to town today, first to see Polar Express (in 3D) at the IMAX - which was brilliant (we've seen the film on DVD, but this was an order of magnitude better). Then we hopped on some buses and went up to Oxford Street to grab a bite to eat, check out the windows in Selfridges (here's Santa doing some wash - here were loads of other good ones, but I didn't have my camera and my phone is not brilliant for pics). We had intended to then grab another bus over to Harrods and check out their windows (which I tend to think aren't as good as Selfridges, but they are still fun) but got distracted by a Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park - loads of (expensive) rides and booth selling crafts and things - plus, a German theme, so lots of German market food - as well as some not-very-German candy floss. It was fun to stroll around and have a look, even if we didn't buy much or ride anything!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

New dress



Found this today while out doing a few last minute Christmas errands - we popped into Woolworths to see if there were any good bargains amidst the rubble (all the local branches are closing within a week or so) and found this lovely dress for £6 - it's actually a size too large or so, so I have taken it in down both sides under the arms - doesn't show, though. She does look gorgeous in it and has spent large parts of the afternoon and evening devising hairstyles to complement it!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Flock of ornaments



Olivia made this Santa ornament at school yesterday, then promptly came home and made a flock more in other designs - I think she started the reindeer one at school as well, actually, but most of them happened at home!

Monday, December 15, 2008

2008 Round Up!

Gosh, can't believe it's already the 15th of December - I keep thinking I have lots of time to write this Christmas round-up as it's not being sent through the post, but even allowing for that, I really ought to get my act together, I suppose.

Some of you may have been following along with the family blog all year long, in which case, you might not want to read this (so you have my permission to skip this post, LOL). But for those who want to revisit, or those who only pop in once or twice a year, here's a little of what we've been up to this year!



After a quick look at last year's letter, I guess the place to start is with our little friends - we got our gerbils just before Christmas last year - this broccoli eater above is Ozzie, who is black with white feet and tail; there is also Gerry, who is tan and Billy, who is mostly black. They have been really successful pets, as it happens - I recommend them highly. They are very clean, don't smell much, need little in the way of cage cleaning and are not nocturnal (which hamsters are) so they are awake some during the day, so kids can interact with them... And they are really cute. Great fun to watch them dig and make tunnels everywhere.



In February, Alex turned 5 and went to a load of parties for 5 year old friends. He's nearly 6 now, and is in Year 1 in school, and is reading up a storm and doing lots of other great stuff. He's a huge chatterbox (never stops talking except while asleep - hopefully he'll learn to control it a bit in school or it will get him into trouble) and as you can see, very cute and charming. Just saw him today in the Christmas play at school - didn't take my camera - he played a very cute snowman. And did it very well.



Here are the kids dyeing eggs at Easter-time in March - and although that was a fairly normal exercise, the snow (ok, not very much, admittedly) that we had to go with the other Easter activities was a lot less normal. And as if that wasn't weird enough, we had snow AGAIN in the spring, even more of it the second time! The kids were excited of course, though I think they'd really rather have it this time of year - not likely we'll see a white Christmas here, though, even if it does get plenty cold enough sometimes.

Shortly after the snow, we had a day at the beach (ok, it wasn't really beach weather, but we were down near the coast so it was too good an opportunity to miss - and it was plenty warm enough to be outside hanging out, even if it wasn't wading weather) - lots of photos from that outing, which started with a trip to Yesterday's World - a kind of past-times museum - over here.

The Spring Holiday had some other excursions, including a trip to Grandma Lucy's, a visit to town and a trip to Richmond Park - just the usual, really. As it happens, that was the last trip to Grandma Lucy's that we've taken as a family as she got shingles a bit later in the year and finds the idea of all of us visiting a bit overwhelming (not surprisingly). Geoff went up in the summer on his own for a weekend, and he and Sarah are going to go up for a weekend over Christmas. She's getting better, but it's a slow recovery.






In May, we took a trip to visit our friends in Ireland - loads of pics from the visit are over here on flickr - and here - and here - it was a nice visit - they always are - their girls and our girls get on well (mine like to take care of the little ones) and Alex loves his girlfriend Aine.

June and July passed much as normal - Alex lost his first tooth and another school year finished. And the big event of those months, our friends (& neighbours) Lana, Rod, Thalia & Keir moved to India. For a few years only, but still - what a big move! Rod had a great job opportunity (CEO of a company that does television production outsourcing) and didn't want to miss the chance. They seem to be bearing up well - Lana writes a very amusing (to those of us who aren't having to live it, at least!) blog about their experiences, over here.


We had a nice August, despite terrible weather, with lots of trips out and about - Oxford, Leeds Castle (which is in Kent, not Leeds), London Zoo, Claremont Gardens and much more. We also had time for both the girls to attend tennis camp, Alex to have a trip to Horton Farm with a friend, and even to grow some tomatoes.

September brought us back to school - Sarah is in Year 6 - the last year of primary school - Olivia in Year 4 and Alex in Year 1. Autumn also brought birthdays for both the girls - 11 and 9 respectively. Amazing, I know. We also spent a little time looking at secondary schools for Sarah - not too many, because although in theory you can apply anywhere you like, it seemed pointless to look at schools we had no chance of getting into. Most of the schools here allocate places based on geography, witha few setting selective entrance exams (like magnet schools in the US). Sarah has sat the exam for our local selective school, which is called Nonsuch Highschool for Girls - if she gets into that school, she'll go there. Otherwise, she'll go to our local comprehensive high school, which is a co-ed school, and is about 10 minutes walk from the house. (Nonsuch is a bit further - she'd have to go by bus.) We don't find out until March where she'll be given a place, but as we actually liked the local school (Raynes Park HS) a lot, we aren't that worried.
My mother also visited us in September - as usual, we had a lovely time - a bit hectic, but fun. Autumn also brought birthdays for both the grownups in the house - and both big ones! We had a dinner party with old friends to celebrate Geoff's 50th in October and a party with local friends and their kids in November for my 40th.



Between those landmark birthdays, we had our friends Cathi and Dave (and their two girls) come to stay - they wanted to take the girls to Disneyland Paris for a few days, so sandwiched that with a visit to London to see us. This coincided with Hallowe'en, as well as the October half term. The kids all had a great time (mine being slightly jealous about Disneyland - but only slightly, I think) - and the adults, too.
Shortly after their visit, Cathi and I had another visit together - this one virtually, via messenger on the computer - on Tuesday night, November 4th. And early Wednesday morning, our time. I only managed to stay up until 3am my time, but it was fairly clear by then where we were all going - and thank goodness for that. I shan't go on and on about it, as I know some people have other politics than mine, but I was very happy. Still am.
And I guess that brings us back to this time of year, really - the run up to Christmas. Always a busy time, usually a fun one. I seem to be losing my voice, so hopefully I'm not coming down with anything serious. It would be a shame not to be able to sing at Christmas - even if it's only around the house. The kids have a few more days of school (they finish Friday at 1.30) and then that's it until January...
Those are the specifics of the year - in general, it was a fairly uneventful year, full of simple family things, visits to and from friends, birthdays, and so on. Geoff's job is much the same, though my work (such as it is) has changed a bit - I'm no longer childminding, though I've started to work at lunchtime at school (official title: SMSA - School Meal Supervistory Assisstant or some such; unofficial title: dinner lady) and have been doing some cover in the nursery as a teaching assistant (i.e. helper).
And really, that's about it. We hope you have all had a great year - some of you I've heard about already, others I hope still to hear from. As usual, the best way to keep up with us, should you be interested in doing so - is via this very blog. It's not updated daily, sometimes not even weekly, but I do try to get something posted at least a few times a month. And usually with pictures. I also have a flickr account, where lots of photos go - it's here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Baking



Lots of help this year with the baking - not being sarcastic - there really was. Sarah did the whole pumpkin cake more or less by herself, and both girls did large parts of other recipes virtually unaided. Makes it a lot less stressful, really. Made a couple of new things this year - Florentines and some fudge. Both worked out well. Also made jam thumbprints, ginger cookies, butterscotch shortbread, fudge meltaways, peanut butter chocolate no-bakes, rice krispie treats and butter horn cookies - my Dad's favourite cookie. Those of you who know me will know I am not a highly sentimental person, but it wouldn't really be Christmas without those. We all like them, too, which helps!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

O, Christmas Tree



New tree this year - a bit bigger, so it takes up more floor space, but I like it - for the first year in a long time, I didn't put up ALL the ornaments I own - there were just too many. I didn't help things by doing a couple of ornament swaps this year and ending up with a dozen or so new ornaments, I admit. One more to come, in fact. But I'm sure I can squeeze one on. The girls have a small tree in their room, where they have hung some of the ornaments they've received over the years, but some of them are on this one. We like it - one thing I like a lot is that the lights are fitted onto the tree to begin with, so no need to spend an hour trying to space them out properly - I'm pleased with the effect they give. It still takes a while to get the long strand of red beads sorted, but with both girls helping, it works fairly well. No tinsel for us - I don't really like the stuff - too bulky, takes over the tree, I think. Of course, it depends what kind of look you are aiming for, but despite the cracks my DH would make about the number of ornaments we have, I do like to be able to see some of the green parts of the tree (even if they are fake!).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Reindeer Cake



Yep, it's a little cake, really. Or rather, it was. It's now been demolished. Olivia brought it home from cooking club today - the body of the reindeer is a cake, the head is pure icing - but it's really sweet. I particularly love the scarf, and her attention to detail is great!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Little snowman





Alex's class is going to be snowmen for the nativity play at school - here he is in his little costume - the coal buttons (required) were made from old socks. At the moment, they are just pinned on with safety pins, but I might sew them later.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Letters to Father Christmas

Not sure how well these can be read - hard to photograph something written in pencil... Anyway. Alex's says "Dear Father Christmas, Please can I have some of the litl kinde of lego and a toy sonic screwdriver. Love from Alex" (Sarah helped him spell screwdriver).
Olivia's says "Dear Santa Clause, I hope you'll get me a seal toy polar bear toy or a owl toy because I saw them in the season shop in Worster Park. If I had to choose one I'd choose the owl. Merry Christmas. There was a small, big and medium; I want the medium. Love from Olivia. p.s. I'm going to giv you seom mince pie"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jump!



Here's Alex having a go on the trampoline at Bockett's Farm Park - it was a very cold visit to the farm, but we really needed to get out of the house for a while as we have been totally taken over by having the living room painted - the living room is inaccessible, of course, but so is the computer/dining room - well, not inaccessible, but really crowded, as that's where all the stuff that would normally be in the living room is. So when I drover Sarah & a few others down to Guide camp yesterday (they only went for 1 night as they all were sitting the secondary school entrance exam in the morning) I took Alex along for the ride and then over to the farm for a few hours. He had a great time, but it was really cold. Even in the playbarn, he kept his coat on the whole time.

This morning we even work up with a small coating of snow - not really enough to get excited about (unless you are 5) but it was there. Olivia, on Brownie Pack Holiday should be ok, as they were sleeping in cabins, but Sarah & the other guides were sleeping in tents - I reckon they had a very cold night. The leader rang this morning and said they were going to pack up a little early today - leave at 2pm rather than 4pm - which I can understand as the snow has now turned to rain and it's still really cold. Of course, if you will plan a camping trip in November!! Then again, last weekend was so mild we didn't need coats on, so you never know.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Happy birthday to me!

Well, I feel I should post something, but frankly, I just wrote a long post about what I did for my birthday over on my quilting blog (a lot more people read that one than this one, I think!), so if you want to see what I did with my day, head on over there...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Mang, Katong and the Crocodile King



Olivia's class performed today at the Kingston Primary Performing Arts Festival, and took first in their category - well done, them. I have some still photos, too, but they all have red-eye, so until I sort that, I won't post them. [This is only part of the poem; I didn't video the entire thing as it's fairly long.]

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Hat Weather



A trip up to town on a rather cold, and in the end, miserable, wet day.... Here are some of the kiddies at the train station, waiting for the train to arrive - definitely hat weather!

First stop was the Transport Museum, where I seemed to have managed not to take any photos. We then walked down to the Aldwych and grabbed a bus up Fleet Street to St Paul's Cathedral, where we went in only as far as the coffee shop in the crypt...



...as it was quite expensive to actually go into the Cathedral and with small, unappreciative children, we didn't deem it worthwhile. We did, however, find this somewhat amusing stone on the floor:



Perhaps not amusing to all, but Sarah enjoyed it. So we walked around the church (but not widdershins*, of course!) and then got back on the bus to Waterloo.

*an old English word for anticlockwise - it's meant to be bad luck to walk around a church in that direction, apparently



And I share this photo on behalf of Alex, who enjoyed the cranes which the London skyline always seems to be littered with...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Boo!

As might be expected, today started out like this:



...which produced this [mine, Aine's, Alex's]:



and this [Sarah's, Olivia's]:

.

There was then some of this:



And later some of this:





Followed finally by lots of this:


and a fair amount of this:


Happy Hallowe'en!