Friday, 24 August 2012

The frugal seamstress strikes again

Three days ago I put my foot through one of our two double fitted sheets.

It had been looking sorry for itself for some time (three holes and a patch that was nearly a hole). But putting my foot through it confirmed its demise. The tearing probably had something to do with two years I've spent trying to squeeze a normal double fitted sheet over a super-thick orthopedic mattress (hey, what's a girl supposed to do?)

In our random mismatched pile of laundry - the one that's in the bike-helmet-sheets-n'-pillowcases-washing-powder-and-shoe-polish cupboard - we have two double flat sheets.

I don't like them.

Firstly, one is a remnant of the 1980s (or possibly 70s) and is the colour of pale coffee.

Or rather (once you've experienced the pleasure of children) the colour of post-coca-cola-party-child-vomit.

Although I don't like it, in the budget-limited state we are in at the moment, and having just wrecked one of our two 'good' sheets 'not liking the colour' isn't a decent enough excuse not to use it.

But I do have another reason. Our mattress is heavy. Flat sheets are tricky. Trying to get hospital corners, or tbh ANY corners using a flat sheet on our mattress requires hiring an Olympic shot putter with six arms (that's three to hold the mattress up, the other three to tuck the ends in). Average housewife-power just doesn't cut the mustard, particularly when it belongs to a weedy women with a bad back and a predisposition to loathing any form of housework.

Fortunately while browsing the internet for something completely different I came across this tutorial to make a flat sheet into a fitted sheet.

I already have a bag of random bits of elastic from our local scrapstore. My sewing machine is functioning and we are (for now at least) on reasonably good terms . (Admittedly it does sound like a bag of spanners being dragged by a tractor because I don't give it the tlc it requires, but we'll glide over that one). It even likes ONE of my reels of cotton (all the others, it eats) that just happened to be an ok colour, and the needle wasn't broken. We had lift off.

We came, we sewed, we conquered.

The tutorial worked. The maths was a bit iffy (surprisingly all those quadratic equations I did in my A level maths don't teach you how to turn flat sheets into fitted), and I didn't have a fancy cutting square measuring thingy (or whatever they say you need) and one sheet was much  bigger than the other, (so if you plan to have a go, DO measure your sheets and don't assume they are all the same size). But with a bit of botching it came right in the end.

I cut and pinned the four corners. Then I found it easiest (i.e. I learnt by my mistakes) to sew two neighbouring corners before doing a quick fitting just to check whether there is any need to adjust the other two corners to fit. Then I finished off with a sort of elasticky stitch on my machine that I didn't even know existed until my friend at Orange and Green gave me some instructions on how to sew stretchy material. I used longer pieces of elastic than the flat sheet tutorial showed, because to me 6 inches didn't seem long enough. [No. Don't go there.]

I was going to take a photo, but then thought what kind of nutter takes a photo of their bedsheets?
It was one of those sane days, so I didn't.

If interested, just google and you'll find plenty more tutorials online, (such as this one)

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Today I am mostly making...


Made from a piece of material that I once bought to make a voile thingy for the dining room window. I bought this material in the days before...

a) ...children

b)...the nation realised that stencilling a bathroom wall, having a bowl of pebbles with a wee-like dribble on wooden decking and calling it a 'water feature', hanging silly bits of almost see-through material called 'voiles' in front of your windows and generally any of the ideas that came from the 1990s tv programme "Changing Rooms" were naff and pointless and probably a government-funded way of keeping frustrated stay-at-home women busy and off prescriptive anti-depressants. (Does anyone remember the episode where they stapled - yes stapled - the curtain to the wooden pelmet? Obviously no-one expected the couple to actually want to open or close their newly-hung curtains)


c) (following on from a) before I knew how much snot a child could produce and how far a snotty piece of tissue in the back pocket of a child's black pair of jeans will go when washed at 40 degrees in non-biological washing powder with twenty other once-black, but due to be dappled and fluffy forever, items.

So. There I was with this large (actually several large) pieces of material in the loft that looked not unlike door-sized hankies. And now after a quick scissor-and-machine treatment they are smaller and multiple and ready for the onslaught of winter viruses.

(btw. I could say that the variation in hanky sizing that you see in the photograph is purely a consequence of their rustic cultural origins. But actually what happened is that I got bored measuring them after a while and it's surprising how quickly a square can turn into a lopsided rectangle when you lose concentration hemming with a sewing machine.

Free Life Science course to download ('Elementary level')

Classic Science: Elementary Life Science 36-week Course here  as free PDF downloads.

The part I looked seemed fine for the secular home edder, but I haven't checked it all.

PDF download includes chapters on classification, life cycles, biomes, food webs, organs, cells, health and nutrition, etc.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

World Culture Exchange: package from Oregon, USA

The package from our World Culture Swap swappers in Oregon arrived a little while ago, but I've only just had the chance to blog about it. Here it is:

The package included a coin, a pencil, a map, stickers, raffia and instructions to make 'cordage', information on the area, plus a 'thunder egg' (geode rock) with instructions on how best to break it open (yet to be tried!)

Oh, and some nuts, which dd quickly stole and gobbled up!

We've been browsing through the package every couple of days, reading bits of the information and looking at the items. Slow digestion :)

As soon as I get a chance I'll pop up details of the other two packages that have arrived.

Friday, 17 August 2012

"Success is not confined to one-size-fits-all"

Great article here ( )


"...Success should not be limited by adult prejudice. The point of education is to liberate potential wherever it may lie; to give pupils options they never realised they had. We should delight in the fulfilled hairdresser as much the vaulting architect."

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Is this English enough? What we sent for our Worldwide Culture Swap

This is the package we gathered for our Worldwide Culture Swap 

 (Spoiler Altert: Don't look if you're in group 88 and you haven't had our package yet!)

 We were given the addresses of four families to send a package to: two in the US, one representing Puerto Rico and another from Qatar.

It was tricky deciding what to put in. Some of the photos of others' packages looked rather daunting in terms of time and money invested. Besides, what is quintessentially 'English'? (and doesn't cost a fortune to buy or to post?) We are such a multicultural country now that our national favourite dishes are something like Chicken Tikka Massala and Pizza! Nothing English there, then.

What to send? Shells and plant materials were excluded (customs regulations). Books were heavy. China items were likely to get damaged (as well as being heavy to post). And the children receiving the swaps were (mostly) very young, so lots of written information wasn't ideal.

In the end we settled on a mixture of local and national items, some written material, some activities, some food, and quite a lot on flags. Even as I posted the packages I thought of other alternatives I could have put in, had I had more time to prepare. I guess I can save those ideas for another time :)

So, with exception for any special requests that our swappers had asked for (and there were a few), the contents of our packages were:

Pictorial postage stamps (from my stamp collection I had as a child, plus some newer ones)
Materials to make an England flag tissue paper collage
Colouring sheets for St. George and the Dragon and the England coat of arms.
England flag (we had to remove the stick out because it was too long for the package - Doh!)
England stickers
Home-made bookmark of England flag
Information sheet on England/Great Britain/United Kingdom
Union Jack flag
Home-made Union Jack jigsaw (thanks to Activity Village!)
Home-made dvds of our area
Postcards of our area
pin badge
Olympics: Olympic postcard and activities.
Food:    Butterscotch delight (we tried to think of a food item that was very ‘English’!)
            Traditional British sweets (the sorts of sweets I ate as a child).

I'm not sure what the total cost came to (I lost track) but we tried our best to keep it low budget. The postage costs for the four packages came to nearly £30 (!) , even with selecting low-weight items, so that's something to consider if you want to do a swap like this. But there are opportunities to do 'single' swaps, rather than send four packages, if you ask.

Now I'm just hoping the packages get there. It's been nearly two weeks and not a peep from anyone!

Maybe some guy in Customs took a liking to that pack of Angel Delight...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


start an 'actually I'm a bit peed off about...' email thread when you have PMT.

When you visibly sense the tumbleweed roll past after posting your 3-page carefully-worded (you thought) detailed consideration onto an email group, you know you should have never pressed 'send'.

It will pass. It will pass.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Making paper logs (to burn on a fire)

Soak torn newspaper in a bucket of water for a few days
 (a capful of bleach helps break down the fibres)

Break up the sodden paper a bit, then put it into a paper log maker
 (ours came free from our local swap shop)

Then squeeze. It helps if you have a heavy person to hand. (No photos of me!).
Oven gloves stop the handles cutting into your hands as you exert pressure on the soggy pulp

Tip out the 'log'

Dry somewhere warm (e.g. in a greenhouse) for an eternity.
The blocks might take less time to dry out if you don't happen to live in a UK climate.

Voila! In order of construction...from back to front of picture.
(Quality control supervisor had the day off)

Worrying developments in the home educated teenager

Anecdotal research indicates that the home educated child has greater self-confidence and self-esteem than a child who has spent their life in school-based education.

But you can take things a bit too far...

Sunday, 12 August 2012

glowworm jars

These look fun. Made with glow in the dark paint. I wonder how they got the different paint splatters on the inside of the jar? Do they just paint dots? Does anyone know?

I've seen pictures of jars done with the contents of glow sticks, but unfortunately the result is short-lived.

Thanks to Jennifer I've now got a link to the instructions for making these. See here

Can't wait to have a go!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Australasia resources, narrowboat escapes, and The Girl is Reading

While ds2 has been on a narrowboat this week with Scouts, I've spent a bit of time with the oft-neglected third member of our family, dd. It seemed like an ideal time to grab a few unused resources off the shelf and give them a panel test (the panel consisting of one independent-minded girl).

I'd bought a Miquon Maths book for dd in a moment of educational enthusiasm (or perhaps it was a moment of panic, I forget now) and it has been sitting on the shelf ever since. So this week I moved it from the shelf to the table. 

While I was looking up in the teacher manual that accompanies the maths book, what I was actually supposed to be doing with a page of criss-crossed blobs on a page, dd had devised her own entertainment of stacking cuisenaire rods into a block. Well at least those are getting used then.

Being a child of this house she completely ignored any instruction I gave from my teacher manual (though to be fair I wasn't sounding terribly convincing) and proceded to make up her own methods for using the incomprehensible first 3 or 4 pages. 


If I wanted to be a shepherd I'd have bought a flock of sheep.

At least she is FINALLY reading. A little. When she is feeling in the mood. The mood being anything between enthused and just-about-compliant.

So at last I have reason to disturb the dust on my little shelf of 'readers' that I've lovingly collected over the years.

So, which did she choose?

Not the Ladybird books OR the Puddle Lane series.

No. Of all three children she is the only one who actually likes the Oxford Reading Tree books. For now. But does anything ever last in the world of Home Ed? I sense the winds of change ahead.

The best thing about Home Ed is that just once in a blue moon you get that warm fuzzy feeling (sometimes accompanied by a sigh of relief that there is evidence of something actually happening).

Like when I found this on dd's whiteboard a couple of months ago. (I have her permission to post it):

While dd has been making tiny steps into the world of reading, I've been tackling a small corner of the leaning tower of art and craft materials.

Go on. Tell me it looks better.

Just a little bit?

From a distance?


Dd and I have been playing with the laminator.

[For those unfamiliar with home education, possession and use of a laminator is the definitive feature of a home educator. Those few deprived home educators who don't possess a laminator are not laminator-free. No. They spend a substantial amount of time (usually around August) weighing up the pros and cons of whether they would get sufficient use from such a machine. The time spent pondering about lamination by home educators probably fills more hours than the hours they've spent wondering whether they should pack their kids off to school. One cannot understimate the pleasure gained from feeding a piece of plastic into a hot machine.]

The Australasia/Oceania (no, I can't work out the difference) animal cards are from Montessori Print Shop here . If you like any of their stuff on the website Montessori Print Shop has a 15% discount code: AugPrep2012 Valid until Aug 31st 2012. (No, I'm not on commission. But I should be).

Or alternatively, if you like a freebie, they are offering Australasian landmarks Montessori Cards, free to download here

Here you can see dd sticking together our free Megamap of the South East Asia and Australia region.

If this sort of Australasia thing floats your boat, you can send for a free map of New Zealand here It's poster-sized (bigger than A3) and well worth selling your soul (or giving away your address) to an online travel agency for.

If you're quick, there's a freebie arts sampler to download and Currclick here Once you've downloaded the PDF, scroll through to the Australian animals section. There are wordsearches and colouring pages and info.

Plus another Australian-themed freebie here (not much content but might be useful for some). And a Simple Schooling unit on Marsupials to download here (be quick cos it'll go soon). If the latter link doesn't work try here

Tight? No. Just frugal.

Friday, 10 August 2012

'Hot Ice' Sculptures: using hand warmers. More Science at The Chicken Shed

Our little demonstration that sometimes things go wrong in experiments.
That's Home Ed for you.
(see our previous post for more science at The Chicken Shed)

Turmeric paper acid alkali indicator:Science at The Chicken Shed

Our own home-made pH paper. 

We soaked blotting paper (any thickish absorbent paper will do) in a solution of turmeric in alcohol. (Rubbing alcohol is recommended - we used meths, cos that's what we had). 

Dipping the strip into acid substances, such as vinegar should turn the strip a deep orange/red. If you hold the strip over an open bottle of ammonia (we didn't have any) it should then turn pale again.

Krampf has a good video on this (only available to members, tho') here at thehappyscientist

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Mary Arden Farm, Wilmcote, Near Stratford.

Well worth a visit. See here for more info

Here are a few photos from our day out: