Thursday, April 29, 2010


Bear with a musing post please :)

Billy remarked to me the other day "I keep losing friends".  I asked him what he meant and he said "like I used to be friends with x but I'm not anymore, and now I don't see y and z either".  He was referring partly to how he's recently changed from Joeys to Cubs and left some of the younger kids behind, and how some kids that played Auskick last year aren't playing this year, but also to how as his interests have changed, he no longer finds things in common with some kids that he used to.

It started me musing on my friendships.  I read a quote years ago that has stuck with me - "People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime".  I just googled it and found out is part of a poem - you can read the entire thing here.

Are you a person who has lots of friends, or just a select few?  Pete is likely to class anyone as a friend that he's known for a small period of time - especially if they have a beer together!  I'm more particular - I only have a few people that I class as close friends; in fact I can count them on one hand.  Two of them I've never met in real life but I'm just as close to them as my real life friends.  Possibly even closer, because I tend to share more in email than face to face.  My close friends are ones that I feel like I can share anything with - it might be months before we catch up but when we do its just like we were never apart.  They are from all aspects of my life but with all of them there was a connection as soon as we started talking.  These are my lifetime friends.

I also have about half-a-dozen people that I would class as friends, but not close friends - they're mainly other homeschooling mums because that's my social circle these days :) They're ones that I seek out when we're in the same group because I enjoy their company, we might send the odd email or have the occasional get-together outside of those activities, but there's not the same level of intimacy as with my close friends.  If they moved on or we moved on, the friendship would more than likely peter out.  These are my season friends, and in some cases, my reason friends. 

Outside of that I have a lot of people I class as acquaintances.  People I know casually, chat with when we see each other, or even people I just know by sight to smile and say hi to. 

What about you?  A few or lots?

Monday, April 26, 2010

How Low Can You Go Challenge: Day 21-25

Yay, we've finally been paid!  Very exciting!!  Had a bad few days on the takeaway though - I should buy a packet of frozen pies or something to keep in the freezer for the times when its too tempting to get junk fod.

Wednesday - stayed home, no spending!

Thursday - we had a scheduled trip to the chiropractor, then used some vouchers to have lunch at Hungry Jacks ($10).  Called into the fish markets while we were down there ($38), and then Aldi on the way home for butter, milk, bread & rolls ($10)

Friday - we had our homeschool excursion to the macadamia farm - the tour was free, but we spent $10 on goodies at the shop (it was only fair lol!)

Saturday - stayed home, veged out all day - but still managed to spend!  Ordered takeaway pizza for tea because I had the lazies. ($23)

Sunday - Billy & I were out in the rain for the ANZAC Day march, and bought takeaway for lunch to take home to warm us up :(  ($25)

Monday - stayed home so no spending

Running total - Food - $321.29, extras - $212.95.

The cupboard is looking very bare atm and we have a very busy week coming up.  I'm planning on doing a full shop tomorrow using next month's grocery money or we'll just end up getting more takeaway. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Our week of learning - 25th April - ANZAC Day

We had a really busy week this week with lots of fun activities.


Current Readaloud:
Goosebumps: Say Cheese and Die!

Audio books: Give Peas a Chance by Morris Gleitzman

Independent Reading: -

Other: -

Maths: Number Rings game plus heaps of time spent on Timez Attack.

Science & Technology: He used Publisher to create a brochure for Scout Job Week to hand out to the neighbours.

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): We watched James May's 20th Century about instruments of war (tanks, aircraft, camouflage techniques etc).

He marched in the Anzac Day march with the Cubs.

On Friday, we went on a homeschool excursion to a local macadamia nut farm. They gave the kids buckets and let them loose under the trees to harvest any that were left on the ground. They made it a contest and awarded a prize to the group that collected the most - so you can imagine how enthusiastic they were!

After about 30 mins of collecting, they showed the kids the factory and explained the sorting process. Then we made a beeline for the cafe and enjoyed macadamia ice-cream! It was a really lovely day.

Creative & Practical Arts:
Drama started back this week.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): He started Archery this week and really enjoyed it. He's come along in leaps & bounds in just one week. Also Martial Arts was on.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): We made Anzac biscuits together.

School shows: -

Other fun stuff:
They did some basic first aid at Cubs.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How Low Can You Go Challenge: Day 15-20

A very brief summary as I've forgotten most of the details..

Friday - stayed home, no spend

Saturday - Steamfest $20 in entry fees & lunch (could have avoided buying lunch - but it smelt so good lol)

Sunday - We arrived home from Billy's cousin's b'day party about dinner time, and I did not feel like cooking. Could have been avoided but it was me or the money :) $20

Monday - $10 martial arts

Tuesday - $35.50 fruit, vege & eggs, $6 archery

Running total - Food - $215.29, extras (budgeted) - $202.95.

Still no payment from our client so have had to dip into savings... :(

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Always look on the bright side of life...

Come on, admit it - who else is now whistling the next bit??! :) (Or am I the only Monty Python fan??!)..

My last post about how busy I was sounded way too negative.. Rephrasing it to say this week is chock full of a variety of exciting activities :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Our week of learning - 18th April

A busy week despite it being "school holidays" and not having normal activities on. I'm a bit light on photos though due to my poor camera being rather difficult to use atm!


Current Readaloud:
George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt by Lucy & Stephen Hawking.

George and the Cosmic Treasure Hunt

Audio books: Jack Russell: Pet Detective by Darrel & Sally Odgers; Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Independent Reading: Boyz Rule: Race Car Dreamers; Boyz Rule: On the Farm

Other: Playing scrabble and learning about spoonerisms.. (eg a lazy dog = a dazy log)

Maths: Whiteboard puzzles, watching an episode of cyberchase and playing the Cyberchase Quest on the computer.

Science & Technology: He went to a Science day with the CSIRO for kids aged 7-12. They made an environmental flycatcher, carried out food testing experiments with iodine etc, and made (and ate!) dry ice slushees!

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): We watched James May's 20th Century about body parts, artificial limbs etc.

We attended Steamfest - a celebration of steam engines. We looked at steam trains, steam farm machinery, steam engines of various types. He had a ride on a miniature steam train!

Creative & Practical Arts:
We went to see a play at the Civic Playhouse called Grubble - about a mischievous goblin in an Enchanted Forest. It was very cute and well done.

While in Newcastle we also checked out 2 of the art galleries - one of which is currently exhibiting drawings by my very talented cousin!

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): He (and the rest of his class) were awarded with a white tip for their belt at martial arts - a step towards his next level belt. He was very excited!

Also Auskick (Jnr AFL) training started back with lots of basic skills practice.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): We weren't really home enough to do much!

School shows: -

Other fun stuff: His triplet cousins had their 4th b'day party!

If you're wondering why things have been quiet around here...

Last week was insanely busy.. Next week doesn't look much better... This week looks like the week from hell...

*deep breath*

Friday, April 16, 2010

Crime Investigations Unit

For those who expressed an interest in the Crime Investigations Unit we did...

I've managed to scan the printed sheets I had back into a PDF so if anyone wants a copy of it, email me through my profile and I'll send it to you. The PDF is about 25Mb.

We used the worksheets that were in the middle of the document, but there are copies at the back, so that's why there are page nos missing.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How Low Can You Go Challenge: Day 11-14

It's been an expensive few days! but generally all budgeted for.

Monday - $35.55 Cubs uniform, $35.50 fruit, vege & eggs and $10 martial arts

Tuesday - the Home ice-cream van did its rounds, so we couldn't resist the lure of the bell :) $6.90

Wednesday was an expensive day! We caught the train to Newcastle ($10.40), went to a kid's play, bought a programme & magic wand ($8), ate lunch out ($9) and then caught the train back.

The play was excellent though and it was all budgeted for.

On the way home, we called into KMart and bought Billy a new pair of footy boots and some socks ($33). Then into Foodworks for butter, ham & soft drink ($31.39) - not all budgeted for, but we resisted pretty well!

Thursday wasn't much better! Billy had a science workshop in Newcastle ($70), and while he was there, I had to go shopping for b'day presents. They come out of the gift budget account so I won't count them - they came in on budget though. I bought lunch out of my spending money - I should've been good and taken lunch with me, but I didn't.... The spending challenge did stop me buying a few things that I looked at and would've bought, but didn't need.

Running total - Food - $139.79, extras (budgeted) - $186.95.

I can't really remember what we've been eating each night, but we did make a very nice upside apple cake (adapted from an upside pineapple cake recipe Billy found on Oh and I pulled some sweet & sour sauce out of the freezer that I made a while ago and made sweet & sour pork one night.

Head on over and give my friends who are also attempting the challenge some encouragement too - Korina and Renelle.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Our week of learning - 11th April - Crime Investigation

Most of this week has been focused around the crime investigation unit I blogged about earlier.


Current Readaloud:
George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt by Lucy & Stephen Hawking.

Audio books: "Specky Magee and the battle of the young guns" by Felice Arena and Garry Lyon.

Independent Reading: Jack Stalwart: Australia by Elizabeth Singer Hunt.


Maths: Measuring tracks in the Crime Investigation Unit, magic squares and word puzzles on the white board.

Science & Technology: Crime Investigation Unit - tire tracks, fabric analysis, fingerprints, chromatography, powder & drink analysis.

He also watched an episode of The Happy Scientist about measuring volume of air.

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): We watched James May's 20th Century about the history of space flight.

Creative & Practical Arts:
He made up a story based around the 'crime investigation' and videoed it.

He's been making up songs and playing them on the keyboard.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): He went to Martial arts twice this week. Jumping on the trampoline at friend's house.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): Lots of cooking & food prep this week - making fresh pasta, gingerbread men, breadcrumbs.

School shows:

Other fun stuff: We went to visit friends and he played Twister for the first time (as well as lots of other things).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

How Low Can You Go Challenge: Day 8, 9 and 10

Spending over the last couple of days:

$4 bread
$10 martial arts
$5 soft drink for Pete

Running total - Food - $57, extras (budgeted) - $20.

For Friday's dinner I made the most delicious bolognaise sauce and Billy & I made fresh pasta to go along with it. Yummy! With the sauce, I used beef stock instead of the red wine, and also added a rasher of bacon and a couple of sliced mushrooms. It was really rich and tomatoey. Even better, the recipe made enough for half of it to go in the freezer for another night.

Saturday night Pete had a mate over to watch the football, so for dinner we made a couple of homemade pizzas (ham & pineapple, and a meatlovers style with ham, bacon, frankfurt, mushroom & tomato, plus a small garlic pizza). For dessert we made golden syrup dumplings and homemade ice-cream. The ice-cream didn't set properly, but it was nice with the dumplings anyway. There were not a lot of leftovers from the meal!!

Tonight was pork chops, mashed potatoes, squash, zucchini and carrots.

Lunches have been toasted sandwiches or leftovers.

Oh and someone asked about Mountain Bread - it's a flatbread that can be used for wraps etc. Quite versatile!

Crime Investigations Unit

Some time ago (like a year or two) I downloaded and printed out a unit called "Crime Investigations: A Science Workshop for teachers in grades K-3" by Linda S. Hodges. Unfortunately I have no idea where I downloaded it from, and I can't seem to find the original either on the internet or on my computer. So you'll just have to take my word for it that's its great!! (I'd appreciate it if anyone comes across a link!)

I filed it away at the time because Billy was a bit young for it then, but knew it would be perfect for this 'holiday' week when I came across it again recently.

So over the course of 3 days, we put on our detective hats and tried our hand at crime investigation...

Analyzing tire tracks:

I gathered several toy cars with different tire treads on them (the Police car just came along to investigate - I'm not sure why the tank was there! :) ) While Billy wasn't looking, I ran one car over the ink pad and onto the worksheet to make tracks.

Billy then had to make the tracks of all the cars onto another sheet, examine them under the magnifying glass and note any uniqueness to the patterns. He measured the width of the sample and the tracks he'd made - that narrowed it down to 2 possible cars. He then had to examine them closely to determine which car had made the tracks.

After it was over he made up a story about all the different cars and the investigation, and filmed it on the video camera!

Investigating fabric samples:

Apparently the alleged criminal had ripped his shirt at the scene of the crime. I cut out 4 sample pieces + the unknown one from old white fabric in the rag cupboard. I think I used calico, t-shirt material and cotton.

Investigation involved examination under the magnifying glass, feeling the different fabrics and then dyeing them with red food colouring to examine how the different fabrics dyed in different ways.

A combination of the tests was enough to work out which fabric the unknown sample matched.

Taking & comparing fingerprints:

Using the ink pad and also rubbing our fingers on a sheet of paper where we'd rubbed a soft graphite pencil, we took our fingerprints. (We even took Pete's fingerprints as well). Billy then examined the fingerprints under the magnifying glass and determined whether we were arch, whorl or loop. We tried lifting fingerprints from a glass but were unsuccessful...

Doing chromatography on the ransom note:

Billy collected 3 different black textas from around the house, and I wrote a note using one of them on a strip of paper towel. He then had to draw a line on the other strips using each of the textas, and put each of the strips into a glass of water with the strip just touching the water. After a few minutes, the ink separated into its different colours and it was easy to match which texta was used to write the note. We tried initially using a couple of permanent markers and interestingly they didn't separate. It was a bit of a duh moment for me when I realised hmmm, that is probably the point of a permanent marker lol.

Billy wanted to expand on this one using different coloured textas - we saw this one at a homeschool meeting recently. So he set up another experiment using different colours.

Identifying foreign drink samples:

The criminal stopped and had a drink while he was at the crime scene and left behind a drink of an unknown dark liquid. I made up glasses with tea, coffee and pepsi and left them out overnight so they'd be harder to identify.

He started off by smelling them to try to identify the mystery drink. We decided tasting wasn't a good idea since it could be anything!, so then tested their pH. I was quite surprised to see how much more acidic Pepsi was than tea or coffee!

Once again we then expanded the experiment to test the acidity of orange juice and apple juice. (Both were still less acidic than Pepsi!)

Identifying foreign white powders:

We also found some white powder at the crime scene!

I made up bags to test with salt, sugar, plaster of paris, corn flour, bicarb soda and talcum powder. He tested a sample of each with vinegar to see if there was a reaction, then a separate sample of each with iodine. Finally he mixed the rest of the sample with water to see if it dissolved, what colour it was and whether the powder floated or not.

There was another unit involving lipstick smudges, but since I don't wear or own the stuff, we skipped that :)

It really was a good unit, and it was the ideal time to do it when we had a week at home without rushing out to other commitments. We only did 2 experiments each day which was more than enough for Billy's attention span - and mine too I have to admit! It took a fair bit of time to set most of them up, but it was quite enjoyable and something out of the ordinary!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Book Review: House Rules by Jodi Piccoult

House Rules

After I saw this reviewed on a couple of other blogs, I had to grab it when I saw it in the library. I have to admit I've only read one other Piccoult (My Sister's Keeper) and really struggled with it - the story was really well written, just very confronting.

House Rules is the story of an 18 year old boy, Jacob Hunt. Jacob has Aspergers Syndrome and is obsessed with forensic science. He turns up at crime scenes and solves the crime for the police, and is obsessed with a crime show. When his tutor is found dead, his Asperger's traits like not looking people in the eye, and showing little emotion, lead to him being arrested and charged with her murder.

The story is told from the points of view of Jacob, his mum Emma, brother Theo, the policeman Rich and his lawyer Oliver. I don't know how accurate the portrayal is of someone with Aspergers - I suspect some of the characteristics were emphasised for the sake of the novel. I found it quite a compelling read, though I had to put it aside for a few days half way through as it got a bit intense.


Camera Fund

Yesterday, to my utter dismay, I dropped my camera on the wooden floor.. Fortunately it still works - as in it still takes photos. Unfortunately, the clips that hold the battery flap closed broke off, so the flap needs to be held shut with packing tape. Not ideal... Especially when you need to change batteries while out.. "Hang on while I just tape my camera back together..." :)

I don't want to depress myself too much, so I've only had a cursory search to find out how much I'll be up for. I very much doubt it would be able to be fixed as the clips are part of the main camera case. It looks like I can probably get a similar quality one for about $600 - $700.

One the plus side, I have been wanting a new camera for a while (esp since I tried my mum's with the 20x zoom - and mine still has a 10x zoom). This will just focus my savings intent!

So I'm starting the 'Camera Fund' to save up - and hopefully my old one will keep working with tape until then!!

I have some ebay auctions up atm that are doing quite well (for books), so that'll be the first deposit when they finish.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

How Low Can You Go Challenge: Day 5, 6 and 7

We had to go out to the library on Tuesday so while we were out I ducked into Aldi for 5kg flour and 4L milk. Oh, and then I put some sausages & buns in the trolley as well because I was feeling lazy and wanted something quick & easy to cook for tea before I went to yoga. And the apple juice that DH asked for - he's cutting down on diet cola so I was happy to help with that! All up $18 - not too bad - the flour should last the rest of the month and the milk will last a couple of weeks (I put one 2L carton in the freezer).

My box of fruit & vege arrived yesterday - I'd already paid for it online but I'll count it in here. The produce looks quite good quality and will force me to be a bit creative as there's a few things I rarely buy (button squash, zucchini, mushrooms). It was light on our staple of potatoes, but that's not a bad thing - it'll break me out of my comfort zone! $30

Lunch for me was chicken noodle soup using the chicken stock I made the other day and toasted sandwiches for the boys. Dinner was chicken schnitzel made using our home-made breadcrumbs with chips.

Today we went to visit friends for morning tea and made some gingerbread men to take to share. The kids then decorated them while we were there which was fun :) Lunch was the leftover sausages from Tue night, and dinner tonight was beef stirfry using the last of the hoisin sauce and the last of a packet of stirfry frozen veges. I'm slowly but surely using up odds and ends.

The only spending today was $10 for Billy's martial arts.

Running total - Food - $48, extras - $10.

Oh and I figured out how to set the timer on the washing machine so that it starts about 6am and finishes before the off-peak price period ends. Now to figure out if I can turn off the little tune that it plays as well!!

Monday, April 05, 2010

I have a sewing room!

What used to be a guest room, is now my sewing / craft room!! It still needs some shelves or something to put my bits & pieces in, and to put some of my nick-nacks on display, but that will have to wait until April is over :)

How Low Can You Go Challenge: Day 3 & 4

It's certainly a lot easier to not spend when you're staying at home :)

No spending again for the last 2 days - we've been busy decluttering our spare room, so I've listed a heap of books on ebay. Hopefully I can even make some money today! I've given away a lot of books on Freecycle as well.

We ran out of milk but I've survived with powdered milk in my tea. I've been fairly busy in the kitchen:

  • making crackers out of Mountain Bread (cut mountain bread into smaller bits, put on an oven tray, spray with oil and sprinkle with salt - stick in the oven for a few minutes until the desired crispness),

  • starting to make breadcrumbs out of the crusts of bread in the freezer - I put the bread in the oven tonight to dry out while tea was cooking; will stick it in the blender tomorrow,

  • I made my own BBQ sauce to go on the pork ribs we had for tea tonight. I had to substitute a few ingredients, but all in all it was quite yummy!

  • I made chicken stock out of the leftover chicken carcass from lunch the other day.
Speaking of food - does anyone have any ideas for what I can do with a can of chickpeas in the cupboard? We're legume novices, so something innocuous looking that we'll eat!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Our week of learning - 4th April - Easter

A fairly quiet week with one of the activities already finished for the term. Much of it has been focused on Easter activities.


Current Readaloud:
George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt by Lucy & Stephen Hawking.

Audio books: "Beware The Gingerbread House" by Emily Rodda.

Independent Reading: Boyz Rule: Basketball Buddies, Simpsons' Comic Collection.

Other: He played several games of Scrabble online as well as a 'proper' (ie non-online) game with me.

Maths: He solved some riddles that I put on the white board in Morse Code, and a magic square puzzle.

Science & Technology: We watched an episode of Bill Nye The Science guy about light. He informed me that he prefers Robert Krampf's (The Happy Scientist) videos.. We also watched one of Krampf's about inertia.

HSIE (Human Society and it's environment): He started listening to the Horrible Histories "Terrible Tudors" audio book. We also watched James May's 20th Century about how the "world has shrunk" through the use of the plane, car & television.

Creative & Practical Arts: Drama class.

Chocolate making at the homeschool FBI get-together.

We attempted egg-blowing (ewww - never again!) and then dyed the eggs with food colouring & a splash of vinegar.

He drew patterns on some of the eggs with a candle to stop the dye absorbing in those places. So while the candle was out, he also did some wax-resist painting.

PDHPE (Personal Development, Health & Physical Education): Martial arts. He showed off his circus skills at the FBI homeschool meeting.

Life skills (cooking, gardening, housekeeping): He's getting more comfortable handling our cat; he came along with me to the vet while the cat got his needles and spent the waiting time reading the posters about animal care in the waiting room!

We made another couple of batches of Hot Cross buns together.

He helped Pete build a couple of flat-pack bookcases and has been helping declutter our spare room.

School shows: Behind The News Extra.

Other fun stuff: Lots of
Club Penguin, Webkinz and other websites.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

How Low Can You Go Challenge: Day 2

Another no-spend day today.

Pete's parents came out to visit us for lunch and brought along a BBQ chook and some buns, so we had chicken & salad rolls. I also made hot cross buns for afternoon tea which were pretty yummy! (based on this recipe on

We'd had a large lunch so we didn't feel like much dinner - we made do with leftovers.

So a very frugal day. Unfortunately I've used up the last of the plain flour now so will have to buy some in the near future - I do have enough bread mixture made up for another 3 loaves though, so will put it off as long as I can. We're also running short on milk.

How did everyone else go?

Friday, April 02, 2010

How Low Can You Go Challenge: Day 1

Today was a good day for spending - we didn't go anywhere :)

I made some vege soup for lunch with a can of tomatoes, some stock & celery from the freezer, a couple of carrots and some herbs & spices. It proved quite adequate with a freshly baked baguette - I started back making bread a couple of weeks ago from the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day book. I don't try to make all the bread we eat, but its nice every few days when I have the time to make a loaf fresh for lunch.

Dinner was crumbed fish from the freezer with home-made chips.

Thanks for everyone's good luck wishes!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

April Challenge: How Low can you go?

Cindy's Porch are having a How Low can you go? challenge during April. I'm going to join in as things are rather tight financially at the moment. That's one of the joys of working for yourself I guess :) We do have money set aside in our Emergency Fund but I don't want to dip into that unless I have to.

My main money leak currently seems to be food - both takeaway and ducking to the shops to buy a couple of things... which turns into $50 worth of stuff you didn't really need..

I just did an inventory on the freezer - I have 19 meals worth of meat in there. There are 29 dinners left to make in April - we should be able to get a night of leftovers each week, and another night of meatless / low meat each week, so that brings it to 27. Close enough!

So my challenge is to not buy food other than eggs, fruit & vege, bread & milk. I can get bread & milk quite cheaply at the local servo, and I've just signed up to get a box of fruit & vege delivered weekly (they sell local free-range eggs as well). My incentive with that is to try and be forced to cook and eat more veges. All going well, I shouldn't need to step foot in the supermarket all month.

The other part of the challenge will be to not spend anything unless its already budgeted for.

Wish me luck :)