Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ugh! Where did the fat suit come from?!

I don't weigh myself, I avoid full-length mirrors and cameras, and I've been ignoring the fact that my clothes are getting too tight. So it's been quite a wake up call to look at some recent photos of myself and realise the "extra 1 or 2 kg" my mind thinks I'm carrying, is in reality more like an extra 10kgs. My BMI calculation puts me just into the "overweight" category, and my waist measurement is just under the "increased risk of chronic disease" measurement...

Hmm, sobering..

I don't want to throw myself into a diet & exercise regime that won't last - I need to do babysteps. We very rarely eat takeaway, but I do have a weakness for chips (crisps). I tend to grab for carb foods rather than fruit when I want a snack, and I lead a rather sedentary life.

First baby-steps:
* Cut my daily sugar intake in half by turning my "white with 2" tea into "white with 1"..
* Eat 1 piece of fruit / day
* Get off my backside and be active!! (still to be determined exactly how!)

I'll try not to bore anyone, but I'm going to try and report in each week. Feel free to skip!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 30th Mar

Notes on last week's menu:

To use up this week:

Menu Plan this week:

Monday - snags with onion gravy
Tuesday - impossible quiche
Wednesday - beef stew (slow cooker)
Thursday - thai chicken curry
Friday - steak with mashed potato & veges
Saturday - Pete away - eggs or pasta
Sunday - roast something - whatever is on sale when I go shopping!

For more exciting menu plan ideas, see Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Weekend away

.. sans child!

Pete & I went down to Sydney over the weekend for a bit of rest & relaxation, and to 'get cultured'.

We left on Friday, dropped Billy at my Mum & Dad's house, and headed down the freeway to Sydney. We didn't do a lot once we got checked in to the hotel, a bit of shopping, and back to the room for some reading and a nanna-nap, before heading out to a little Italian restaurant for a very yummy dinner.

Saturday morning we went shopping for some work trousers for Pete (and happened to get sucked into a bookshop - with a sale on - as well!), then headed down to Circular Quay. We had a quite revolting pie for lunch, then we went to the Opera House to see The Alchemist, performed by the Bell Shakespeare Theatre company & the Queensland Theatre company. I quite enjoyed it, but I did find myself nodding off in the middle of it - I think it needed an intermission :)

We had a completely forgettable dinner out that night (we weren't doing well with food on Saturday), then back to the room. We switched the lights out for Earth Hour - I spent the time people-watching out of the window. (Mr Boxer-shorts, I don't care if you do live on the 17th floor of an expensive apartment - you have other tall buildings around you - please put some clothes on or pull the curtains!!!)

Up bright & early on Sunday morning to drive back to my parents and collect Billy. He'd had a great time - going to the beach & Fighter World, and playing with his cousins. Then we headed over to my sister-in-law & brother-in-law's house for their kids' party. Yes, the triplets are turning 3!!!

Lots of chatting & eating later... We got home about 8:30pm, and were all in bed not much later!

So now I'm completely disorganised for the week and there are bags dumped in the hallway that I probably won't get to unpacking until Wednesday, but we're home after a good time..

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Our week of Learning - 29th March

English: Billy did handwriting practice by writing a letter to his new penfriend. He's so excited! Also lots of reading.

Maths: Still working with inequalities in MEP. It's been hard-going a few days - I don't think it's that he doesn't understand the concepts, I think its more that the change of format is throwing him. Next week looks a bit easier; we leave inequalities behind for a bit. Hopefully it will percolate in his brain while we do other things.

Science & Technology: Another air-pressure experiment - this time filling a glass with water, covering the top with a piece of cardboard, and then turning the glass upside down. The cardboard stays in place due to air pressure.

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): We wrapped up our study of Stone Age man by reviewing what he'd learnt in the unit.

Creative & Practical Arts: In drama class, they learnt about the stage, and various stage directions.

LOTE (Languages other than English): Reviewed Spanish numbers, and learnt colour names in Spanish.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Circus class, riding his scooter.

Life skills (cooking, gardening): He's been making his bed and doing a reasonable job of it. He tried to be very slack the first couple of days and I made him keep doing it until it was acceptable, so it's been better since!!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sew busy...

I had a busy afternoon on the sewing machine yesterday.

A friend of Billy's was having a b'day, and I knew this boy loved cooking, so I "ran him up" an apron. Then of course, I had to sew Billy one as well! We gave his friend the apron today, and I think it went over well.

I'd also bought Billy some boxer short material last trip out to Spotlight, so I made him a pair of boxers. It was the first time I'd sewn using an actual pattern, and it would've been much easier sewing satin with an overlocker (if I'd had one), but they look pretty good. He likes them anyway :)

Oh, and I did learn a valuable lesson - do not cut a pattern out while talking on the phone; you might make a mistake and have to start again :)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 23rd Mar

Notes on last week's menu:
The quiche didn't get done - Pete had to leave for squash earlier than normal so we just had toasted sandwiches.

To use up this week:
* roast chicken

Menu Plan this week:

It's a simple one this week - and a short one. We're heading away for Friday & Saturday night, and have a party to go to on Sunday, so I'm not sure what will be happening.

Monday - sausage sandwiches
Tuesday - spaghetti bolognaise
Wednesday - steak with caramelised onions & gravy
Thursday - use up leftover chicken - fried rice?
Friday - away
Saturday - away
Sunday - ?

For more exciting menu plan ideas, see Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Autumn Cleaning"

I've spent the weekend "autumn cleaning" - it just doesn't sound the same as spring cleaning, does it?!

Does anyone else have a room that always seems to be messy?? Well, actually our whole house is lol, but the spare room / guest room is the worst. It seems to get used as the dumping spot by everyone, especially when we have to quickly tidy the rest of the house! And because it doesn't get much use, it's easy to just turn a blind eye to it's state..

So yesterday I got stuck into it. I did take a before picture - and if I'm brave enough I'll post it once I completely finish the room! I spent most of the day in there, while Billy worked on cleaning his room next door. It's about 90% done and down to the fiddly bits. I unpacked about 4 boxes of books that I'd been given, some were kid's books and went into B's newly tidied bookcase, some I kept, and the rest I'll be giving away on Freecycle. I also unpacked boxes where "stuff" had been stashed (mainly by the boy!) that he'd completely forgotten about. Yes, I know he has too much stuff...

Today I concentrated on sorting out our big bookcase - sorting out the homeschooling books, putting some aside to give away that he'd outgrown, and packing some away until he needs them. I organised the rest by subject so I can find things easier. I also cleaned out the gardening books & magazines that were in there. It looks much tidier now (trust me!), and there is room to store more of my homeschool planning folders. (The top of it holds various bits of cardboard, crepe paper etc that needs to lay flat-ish, and in front of the bookcase are the library bags ready to pack with returns. I really need some more bookends so that the books stand upright! I know my house will never win any Home Beautiful awards!)

From there, I moved onto the "games" cupboard - sorted the maths, science & English games & manipulatives so they can be more easily accessed. It's not quite finished either - I ran out of energy!

Tonight I tidied up my desk so that I can "think". Again, it's not tidy compared to some that I've seen, but it is for me! The lefthand side holds the calendar that I use to record our schoolwork, and my paid work hours. The righthand side has my to-do notebook, folders of current paid work and school work, plus various office bits & pieces. I love this desk - I got it second-hand in about 1988. It's solid wood with a glass top, weighs a ton, and needs a proper restore, but I still love it!

So still a bit to do, but what I've done should make life more organised. Stay tuned for updates on the rest - and feel free to hassle me so I do get it done!! It does seem though like I get one area organised while the rest of the house goes to pot!

Our week of Learning - 22nd March

English: To learn more about St Patrick's Day, he did a comprehension booklet on Ireland and some of it's symbols.

Maths: We started our new Maths syllabus this week, so we went from having an hour or so of Maths once a week to 30 mins of maths every day. We did that Mon - Thurs, then just did some "fun maths" on Friday with the mini tutor tile system.

I started back in Year 1 MEP since there were some new concepts that we hadn't yet covered, and have just been picking out the worksheets I think he needs to do. So far I'm really happy with it - it seems to be a good mixture of mental maths and worksheets. It's more labour intensive for me - both in prep work and "teaching" while he's doing it, but the fact that it's challenging him makes it worthwhile.

I also started off a couple of lessons with some more hands-on stuff - I dealt out 20 random playing cards (A - 10) and then got him to make sets adding up to 10. He also used the "Logi Shape" system where you have to build a picture using the various shapes (logical thinking) - he's better at this than I am!

Science & Technology: Evaporated a salt water solution and made salt crystals - this was just a little detour, we hadn't planned on doing it! In our "push/pull" unit, we made parachutes out of fabric, paper, crepe paper & plastic, attached Lego men and timed how long it took them to reach the ground from off the kitchen table!

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): Continuing on with our prehistoric man study, we read a book called "The Everyday life of an Ice Age Hunter" by Giovanni Caselli, looked at cave paintings in France and then made our own "cave" paintings.

Hand painting with sprayed paint

Billy's animal cave painting - it was supposed to be a bison but he decided it would be a rat instead! (Somehow I would be surprised if there was a "Rat Tribe"!)

Creative & Practical Arts: In drama class, they were acting out actions that others gave them - eg knitting, singing etc. We did our "Cave" painting as above. Plus of course, the West African drumming & dancing at the homeschool meeting.

LOTE (Languages other than English): He said last week that he wanted to learn Spanish again (we did a bit sporadically last year), so this week he practised the numbers 1-10 online at Online Free Spanish, and then matched the numbers cards I'd made with the spanish and english names.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Circus class, riding his scooter.

Life skills (cooking, gardening): Making his bed has now been added to his list of chores - I need to reinstate his chore chart as his bedroom has just been gradually sneaking back down-hill :(

Friday, March 20, 2009

Homeschool Day - Jamo Jamo West African Dance & Drumming

I haven't blogged much about our fortnightly homeschool days as separate posts lately, but they've still been going on quite successfully (apart from an odd disappointing behind-the-scenes back-stabbing, but hey, you get that!)

Anyway I had to post about the one we had on Monday. We'd booked a local drummer & dancer (originally from Senegal) to come and give us a workshop and it was sooo cool! We had over 50 kids turn up, so they had to take turns using the drums, but I don't think anyone minded. The amount of time they got each I think was quite adequate - apparently it was pretty hard on the hands :)

The artist, Fode Mane, was awesome! He taught without saying much at all, just by directing & showing the kids what he wanted them to do. He did speak for a little while, explaining about the drums and how they were used.

He started with the smaller kids - I think 7 and under, and taught them some simple rhythms. Then the next age group, and finally the older kids (and some brave mums!). With each successive group, his rhythms got more & more complex!

After everyone had had time using the drums, he then showed them how to do some West African dancing. The kids had an absolute blast doing it all!

More photos in the Photo Gallery at Homeschooling in the Hunter.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 16th Mar

Notes on last week's menu:
I did actually write a menu plan last week, so didn't get around to putting it on the computer. We had twice-baked potatoes one night for a change - Pete isn't much of a fan but I was happy with them. I also made gnocchi one night - very yummy but very time-consuming :(

To use up this week:
* roast pork

Menu Plan this week:

Monday - hamburgers & salad
Tuesday - steak & chips
Wednesday - frittata or quiche
Thursday - pork stir fry
Friday - pizza
Saturday - leftovers
Sunday - roast chicken dinner

For more exciting menu plan ideas, see Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Exploring our local area: Australian Reptile Park

Part way between Newcastle & Sydney is the Australian Reptile Park. It was opened in 1948 - and I had *never* been there! That probably has a lot to do with the fact that snakes give me the creeps and judging by the name, I thought it was all snakes & lizards.

We headed off to meet my Mum, sister & nieces there on Monday - and I was blown away by how good it was.

There were lots of reptiles - some out "wild" in the enclosures, and some safely behind glass cages. The Lost World of Reptiles exhibit was awesome - I loved the iguana!! (but didn't get a photo because my batteries were flat by then :( )

Lizards & turtles

Some sort of Australian lizard - I think it's an Eastern Water dragon

Some reptiles were unexpected!

American alligator - *squirm*

Galapagos tortoise - feeding time!

Galapagos tortoise - so ugly, they're cute!

But there were also lots of "cute" (and smelly) Australian animals:

Dingo - Australian native dog

Koala with baby


Rock Wallaby

Tasmanian devil - aggressive & very smelly!

Another koala!

Emu having a feed

and some beautiful bush to walk through as well.

Some sort of native flower - can't remember what but it was pretty!

It was well worth a visit - we'll be back!

Our week of Learning - 15th March

We had a mid-term break this week so we didn't have any formal lessons. We certainly have been busy though!

English: Lots of reading and a trip to the library, plus he did some of a grammar CD because he wanted to.

Maths: We've been playing lots of games - noughts & crosses (tic-tac-toe) & checkers plus a game of subtraction dominoes (that was tough even for me lol!). He's also been playing around with codes, and learnt to do kid's Sudoku.

Science & Technology: Lots of Magnetix play. We discussed making salt by evaporating salt water and have plans to do an experiment about it soon.

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): We went to the Australian Reptile park and saw lots of fauna & flora. He also watched a documentary on sharks, and part of one on Japan. He played a bit of Become a History Explorer CD game.

Creative & Practical Arts: Photography at the Reptile Park. Paper weaving. Drama class.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Circus class, and 3 lots of playgrounds with friends - playgrounds & scooter riding!

Life skills (cooking, gardening): Cutting up fruit to make "fruit rockets" (bits of fresh fruit on a skewer).

Even without lessons, he's still learnt a lot. I really like the idea of natural learning / unschooling, but I feel more "in control" when we have some structure. It was very good to have a break though with such a busy week.

I think I'm back...

What an ordeal!!

I started reinstalling Windows on Friday night (about 9pm) after I'd made sure I'd backed up everything I could possibly think of!

I was probably about 2/3 of the way through installing & reloading everything by 3pm Saturday when I realised that I couldn't run any of the websites that I develop on my local machine. A huge issue! 2 hours, much Googling and many attempts to fix it later, I gave up and started installing Windows - again!!!!

Its now about 11am on Sunday and fingers crossed that I am all back.. Everything seems to be installed and working ok. I'm sure I'll find stuff that I've forgotten to install - probably just as I go to use it - but I should be able to get back into my work and online world now :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sick Computer :(

My computer is sick... It started last Sunday morning when it had problems starting up. I've spent far too many hours trying to fix it - at the moment the majority of the functions are working but enough aren't (like my wireless network connection) to think that a drastic rebuild is the only solution..

So that's my job for the weekend :( I guess looking on the bright side it will be a chance to clear out all of the unused programs that have crept onto my machine in the last 3 years. And a fantastic way to check if I really am backing up all the stuff I need to be. *gulp*

I'll be able to access email on another computer, and hopefully will be back in the world of blog very soon!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Grocery Challenge Wk 4 and 5 of 6

The Challenge: To only spend $25 / week on groceries for the next 6 weeks.

The Result (Wk 4):

I wasn't supposed to spend any money this week at all, since I doubled-up last week. I couldn't resist the siren call of the ice-cream truck though :( (Or more to the point, the nagging of the child who heard the ice-cream truck!)
Spent $6 - tub of ice-cream, $4.70 - eggs

The Result (Wk 5):

Well, the peasants are revolting... I've decided to cut the challenge short. The immediate aim - to get us over a shortfall in the bank account - has been met, and I'm getting the vibe that I need to spend again!! At the end of this week I'll go back to "normal" spending. I might need to do another smaller challenge in a month or so - it depends if clients start paying their bills!

Spent $29.95 at Aldi - Eggs, cereal, cheese, salad veges, potatoes, bread.

Total Spent:

Groceries: $133.80 / 5 weeks = $26.76 average / week. Pretty good!

I have $100 in the "butcher" envelope ready to stock up on meat.

It's been a valuable exercise, it achieved it's aim, but now it's time to start restocking on staples - and add a few luxuries back in for the poor family members :)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Our week of Learning - 8th March

English: He practised the letters 'i' & 'j' in handwriting. We had Book Day at our homeschooling group where each kid presented a display on their favourite book. We had some very creative entries - it was great to see. There are photos if anyone wants to see.

We've started reading books from the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge Booklist.

We also started on grammar with nouns & verbs.

Maths: One of the reasons I wanted to homeschool was so that Billy could work at his own pace, rather than the pace of the class. I wanted the flexibility of doing different subjects at different levels, depending on his needs, and not making him go over & over stuff he already knew..... So why was I making him go unit by unit through a Maths book that he was clearly past?! I think it's from my years of being schooled - I have an obsession to 'fill in all the blanks'!

I finally came to my senses! When I looked through the rest of his Yr 1 Maths book (another 15 or so units), there was NOTHING that he didn't already know quite well. I randomly picked a few things out that were more advanced and asked him to tell me the answer - no problems at all. So I gave him a grading test for NSW Yr 1 & 2 that I found online. He got 9 / 12. Of the 3 he got wrong, 1 was because he wasn't concentrating (he added rather than subtracted - I got him to look at it again after I'd marked it and he got it right). The other 2 were Base 10 representations of numbers which isn't in the Yr 1 book so we haven't covered it... Hmm, my mind was made up and we moved onto the Yr 2 book.

However, looking through the Yr 2 book there is still a lot of repetition of things he already knows. I'd decided to just pick and choose as we go along, when serendipitously I came across Suji's Funschooling.net blog which really resonated with me. We seem to have very similar boys! From there I found a link to a curriculum at MEP which looks far better for us. It will be more challenging for him. Every week seems to introduce new material and there is less repetition. I'll intersperse it with other materials if he needs more practice on an area. I've downloaded the year 2 books, and will see how it goes. I'm quite excited about it!

Science & Technology: Push / pull unit: We did experiments comparing the weight of objects in air vs water, and how you can make something float by changing it's shape (using modelling clay).

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): Out came the clay! We made some people & pots for our stone age diorama, then went looking around the yard to find rocks & sticks to make some tools. We've been using a book called "Step into the Stone Age" as reference.

Creative & Practical Arts: Drama class. Playing with clay.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Circus class.

Life skills (cooking, gardening): He did some sewing - he's working on making himself a pincushion.


I've decided we'll take a mid-term break next week and just unschool apart from the normal drama & circus classes. We've been going for 8 weeks since we started mid-January, we have 3 social activities planned somehow and I just feel like a break!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Tag - Tree of Happiness

Luci tagged me some time back with the Tree of Happiness:

The idea of this tag is to list 6 things that make you happy and then tag others with it and spread the love!

In no particular order, here are mine:
1. Family
2. A few quality real life friends who actually understand me - and still talk to me :)
3. A great lot of online friends
4. The freedom to live our life as we want to
5. A good book and peace & quiet to read it (very rare for the 2nd part!)
6. Good food

If you want to do it, consider yourself tagged!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Sunday - a day of reflection and planning

You may have noticed that I tend to do a flurry of posts on Sundays. Sundays have turned into my planning day - my day to reflect on the week just finishing, and plan for the week ahead.

Reflection of the week includes:
- wrapping up what we did for the week in school, and doing any record-keeping
- doing any financial record-keeping and balancing

Planning includes:
- menu planning for the week ahead,
- writing a shopping list if needed,
- working out what we're going to do in each subject for the school week ahead,
- doing any cooking or baking ahead of time,
- working out what activities we all have on, and making lists of anything that needs to be done while out or in preparation,
- working out what paid work has to be done, and sometimes writing quotes or invoicing,
- sometimes writing a couple of blog posts (like this one!) and scheduling it to post sometime in the week ahead,
- making sure work clothes & sports uniforms are washed & ironed.

Having my week planned out like that frees me up to just do it without thinking too much through the week. I know what I have to do, where I have to be and what I need to take with me.

My Sunday is certainly not a day of rest, but it's vital to make my week go better.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 2nd Mar

Notes on last week's menu:

To use up this week:

Menu Plan this week:

Monday - ham & cheese quesadillas
Tuesday - spag bol
Wednesday - bahama-mama pork chops & rice
Thursday - pepper steak & veges
Friday - pizza
Saturday - leftovers
Sunday - BBQ - steak & sausages

For more exciting menu plan ideas, see Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Grocery Challenge Wk 3 of 6

The Challenge: To only spend $25 / week on groceries for the next 6 weeks.

The Result (Wk 3):

Shopping weekly makes it really hard to be cost-effective, so I grabbed next week's money as well. So no spending at all next week!

Spent $50.85 - chicken pieces, milk, bread, flour, butter, cream, cheese, eggs, potatoes, apples, tomatoes, lettuce, & donuts (donuts?! How did that sneak into essentials??! lol)


Groceries: $7.70+$50-$50.85=$6.85
"Stash": $100
Meat money: $40

Our week of Learning - 1st March

English: He practised the letters 'g' & 'h' in handwriting, made a poster about Pancake Day and a display about his favourite book 'The Cat in the Hat Comes Back' (to be presented at the Homeschooling Book Day tomorrow).

Maths: Leap into Maths Yr 1 workbook - Unit 21 & 22. I'm having quite tiresome discussions in my head about the best way for us to be doing Maths.

Science & Technology: Water force - recorded observations of what types of things would sink & float in water. Investigated how to make a sinking object float. Investigated which was lighter - water or air.

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): We finished watching Walking with Caveman, and began making a cave out of salt dough as the start of our Stone Age diorama.

Creative & Practical Arts: Drama class - they're working on acting out emotions. He also spent quite a while at home practising 'When the Saints go Marching in' on his keyboard.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Circus class. Jumping on the trampoline, lots of running around.

Life skills (cooking, gardening): We made pancakes for Pancake Tuesday - he did all of the weighing and measuring. I also started teaching him to knit (not for the faint-hearted!!).

Because that's the way we've always done it...

I've heard a story several times that sticks in my mind about a lady who cuts the end off the piece of meat before roasting it. One day her daughter asked her why she did it - "because my mother always did". So she rang her mother to find our why she did - "because my pan was too small"... So for years she'd been cutting the ends off the meat, because "that's how it was done"..

I've been on a 'quest' lately (inspired by my friend Helen on the other side of the world who doesn't have a blog that I can link to even though she should!! *hint hint*) to look at how I do things and see if I can improve or simplify things.

Sometimes it's as simple as moving things into a different place - putting most used things in a place where they are most accessible for example. I had one cupboard that the microwave stuff always fell out of when I was reaching for other things - I don't have a microwave atm, and while I have no plans for another one, I don't want to throw away what I have just in case. So duh - move the microwave stuff to the back. Done!

I had another epiphany today. My current routine is to fold the clothes at the clothesline (except when it's really windy or about to rain), then bring them in to the kitchen table, sort them into piles by owner, and then take those piles into the appropriate room to put away. Well, that's the plan - more often than not, the piles stay on the kitchen table for a few days until I get around to it. Today, instead of sorting at the table, I sorted on our bed. I didn't even need to create piles for Pete & I - I could turn around and put the clothes straight away. Then a stop at the towel cupboard at the hall, and into Billy's bedroom to put his clothes away. I think it will work well.

It's just little things - but they all help simplify my routines, and give me more time, a cleaner house & indirectly more money.