Monday, 31 December 2012

Ready for 2013

We have had a really lovely Christmas, marred only by Harry and Stuart mostly being ill, but they still enjoyed it. We did lots of travelling and saw family in Harrogate and Lancaster, which was great and the boys loved it. My mum made us a great Christmas dinner and it was very nice not to be doing the cooking!

We have also had a few days at home playing with all the new Christmas additions and generally slowing down and being quite lazy, which has also been great after a busy December. I am feeling almost ready to spring back into action!

I have cleaned the craft shelves and put away in the loft any seasonal craft items I won't need until Spring so they are not cluttering the shelves (must remember to get them out again!). The Christmas tree is gone, together with Christmas themed books put away. We had a trip to Ikea for some new toy tubs and I have made labels for the front so we can attempt to keep order in the playroom.

I have filed all the work we have done this year and prepared some winter themed work for January/February. We are still going to be concentrating a lot on reading and maths, with a bit more writing, as Harry has been very keen to write over Christmas and has been writing notes for people and parts of thank you cards.

I feel really excited about the New Year, things are getting much better at home now that Peter is approaching 2 and can join in and get on himself more (and finally sleeping better!). We are hoping to do some longer trips and will be spending lots of time outdoors once the weather shows a glimmer of improvement! Happy New Year!!

Advent activity 24 - Christmas eve basket

I made a Christmas eve basket for the first time last year and it was very popular so I will do this every year now. This was the basket that was put under the Christmas tree while the boys were having a rest in bed after lunch. 

I included:

New Christmas books
A Christmas DVD that we watched that afternoon
Stockings ready to hang at bedtime
Chocolate to eat with our DVD
Reindeer food we had made earlier in the month to sprinkle in the garden
A Christmas candle
New pyjamas for the boys to wear to bed
A copy of The Night Before Christmas to read at bedtime

Advent activity 23 - the Christmas cake

Finishing off food preparation is a big job in the days before Christmas at our house. Harry was too poorly to do anything and spent most of the day on the sofa with his equally poorly daddy so I had a lot to do, hence why this was not blogged before Christmas! I had planned to decorate the Christmas cake together and make mince pies for Santa but Santa had to make do with gingerbread instead!

Advent activity 22 - Santa at Seven Stories

It has been a very busy month and I was really pleased when the last weekend before Christmas came! Stuart finished work with a bad cold though and Harry was quite poorly too so things were a bit quieter than expected. We visited Santa at Seven Stories this year, which was really good. 

We were entertained by two elves who talked to the children while we listened out for Santa's bell. Santa came through and talked to everyone as a group and the children asked him questions before the elves handed out presents (Christmas themed books) and everyone saw Santa individually in his grotto. This style worked well for us as it gave the boys chance to become familiar with Santa before seeing him at close quarters.

Advent activity 21 - spiced nuts

Harry and Peter helped me to make some spiced nuts which we gave as Christmas presents. This was perfect for them to help with as they love scooping and spooning things.

We added spices and sugar to a beaten egg white before coating a selection of nuts with the mixture. This is then baked in the oven on a tray for 15 minutes before scraping the sticky nuts around the tray and baking for another 7 minutes until the nuts are lovely and crispy.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Advent activity 20 - a Victorian Christmas at Beamish

We headed out in dreadful pouring rain yesterday for a group workshop at Beamish with other home ed families. The workshop was held in a lovely warm farmhouse room with a burning coal fire. The children talked about what they do at Christmas and looked at how the Victorian room was different (no electric lights or TV, natural foliage decorations).

We had two staff dressed as Victorians to facilitate and the children split into groups and rotated between baking biscuits (which were actually baked in the oven in the room and were very tasty), playing parlour games (guess objects in the stocking and hide and seek with a bell) and decorating Christmas trees. It was really enjoyed by both children and adults and was a lovely pre-Christmas activity to do with our friends. 

We also saw a bit of Beamish (we haven't been before) and rode a tram back to the car park. We will definitely be going back to spend more time there next year - I think it may become an addition to my list of why the North East is such a great place to live!

Advent activity 19 - printed wrapping paper

We went to the church hall home ed gathering in Durham this week mainly for the art session as Harry really looks forward to it and had even made the art lady a card to say thank you. This week the children were making their own wrapping paper by printing on brown paper with paint and glueing patterns covered with glitter. Harry is going to make a picture present for someone this weekend so he can use his paper.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Advent activity 18 - Christmas gymnastics

Harry took part in the Christmas gymnastics display as his gymnastics club tonight. It is on for 3 evenings so he will be there tomorrow and Thursday as well. He wanted Stuart to watch tonight so I haven't seen him in action yet, but was very proud when he arrived home full of smiles after being watched by close to 200 people!! The display includes all the recreational gymnasts (his is the youngest group) as well as the elite and adult gymnasts. They have been practising the routine for a few weeks at his gymnastics class and we have been practising at home too. I can't wait for my turn to watch on Thursday!

Advent activity 17 - baking day

We filled the cake tins with gingerbread biscuits and mince pies yesterday as I like to keep them topped up in the week before Christmas so a festive snack is never far away to boost the flagging energy levels. Harry is proving to be a bit of a whizz in the kitchen this month and managed half the mince pies and half the biscuits completely on his own (he wanted to try making both), all while dressed as an elf! I did make some royal icing for the biscuits (which I will never do again without the help of an electric beater!) but then realised we had neither piping bag nor plastic bag to use for icing, so they are as yet un-iced but still very tasty.

We also gave the Christmas cake its last feed of brandy before I plan to ice it at the weekend. I have made Christmas cake for the past 2 years but have never iced it and I am looking forward to doing that.

Fire station visit

We visited our local fire station today with several other home ed families for some fire safety messages. It is a slightly unseasonal thing to do in the week before Christmas but that was when they could fit us in and it was actually nice to have a break from the festive theme! 

We sat in the auditorium and watched a Fireman Sam video about smoke alarms and a video about the danger of matches. We learnt some motto's too, which we have been repeating at home:

Matches, lighters, never touch
They can hurt you very much.

Get out
Get the fire brigade out
Stay out

I was surprised to learn that the fire brigade recommend closing all doors in the house at night as it can delay the spread of a fire by 15 minutes! We will start doing that at home. Unfortunately the fire engine was called out while we were there so we couldn't see it close up but we did have a look at some real equipment, saw a fireman slide down the pole and went into the garage where the engines park to see the fire van and alarm system.

I think it was a very worthwhile visit and we have some books and activities to do at home which the children were given to take away.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Advent activity 16 - the tree

We have a Christmas tree! Stuart and Harry bought one today and even Peter shrieked with excitement when it came home. Harry didn't need much help decorating it and he also took the tinsel off upstairs to put in his bedroom. They both loved seeing the lights twinkling in the dark. It is a very colourful tree with lots of decorations made by Harry. It was lovely to see the ones he made last year coming back out, bringing back memories of a Santa I had made as a child that always sat on top of our TV (becoming very fragile after several years!). 

Advent activity 15 - a Christmas wedding!

Alright, this is not strictly an advent activity but we spent all day yesterday in Harrogate at the wedding of my auntie so there were lots of Christmas themes! Harry and Peter looked wonderful in their smart clothes, we ate our first turkey dinner and caught up with family we haven't seen for a while. Harry and Peter loved some Christmas sticker books I took for them to do over dinner and they definitely helped to keep the boys in their seats! I was very proud of their behaviour and it was lovely to be among family for the whole day!

Advent activity 14 - party 2

We went to a second home ed Christmas party at a soft play centre in Whitley Bay. The children had a great time racing around and, again, it was so wonderful to see so many friends from the home ed community together and the children from a wide age range playing together. We are very lucky that there was a need for two parties to cover all the people who wanted to go to one!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Advent activity 13 - Crisis donation

We stopped off at the Crisis homeless centre on the way to French today with a donation for their Christmas wish list. We have been talking this week about helping other people and that Christmas is a time when we should especially consider others. This is something I really want Harry and Peter to take on board and we will look at the volunteering opportunities over Christmas when they are older. 

Today we took a bag containing coffee, tins of soup and peas, soaps and shoe boxes. 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Advent activity 12 - sweet snowballs and party 1

This morning we made rice krispie snowballs to take to the first of our two Christmas parties this week. I adapted this recipe from the rice krispies site. This involved melting marshmallows (I used a 150g bag of mini marshmallows) with a little butter - it looked like a ball of playdough in the pan!

Then 2 cups of rice krispies were added - now the mixture looked like a really unpromising sticky mess!

But the balls came together really well and they were rolled in sweetened coconut and icing sugar to give them the snowball effect. I really liked these for a party and they took less than half an hour.

We went to a party at the church hall in Durham where we often meet other home ed families. We played games brought by everyone - pin the red nose on Rudolph, pass the parcel, snowball fight using newspaper balls and musical statues set to Christmas music. The children ate food that everyone had brought and battered a pinata to finish. It was brilliant! It was so great to see almost 30 children spanning a wide age range playing the same games together, taking turns and joining in. Happy home ed days :-)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Advent activity 11 - Nativity mobile

Following on from our Nativity story yesterday, we made a Nativity mobile printed from Activity Village today - Here it is in case anyone else wants to make one.

Harry decorated the characters and we talked about why the wise man might be wearing bright, richly coloured clothes, because he was wealthy and why Mary and Joseph would not, because they were not wealthy. I asked Harry to re-tell the story we heard yesterday too, so he could try to remember it. He showed the mobile off to Stuart when he got home and was telling him who everyone was and that the star led the wise man to the stable. The activity in Durham yesterday and making this mobile have been perfect for stimulating thought and discussion about The Nativity.

We are getting quite a collection of decorations he has made this year now. I am looking forward to using them all at the weekend when we put a Christmas tree up!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Advent activity 10 - Durham cathedral

We had a lovely day out today with other home ed families at beautiful Durham cathedral (our first time there). We listened to the nativity story told by a lady dressed as (and telling the story from the perspective of) one of the shepherds and the children made an angel craft. Harry did well today as he had to join in with most of it on his own due to Peter generally being a shrieking monster! Peter did have a go at the craft but tore the head off his angel before he started so it's a bit lopsided!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Advent activity 9 - enchanted parks

We made it to Saltwell park this evening for enchanted parks - a display of light/art installations throughout the park. I was tempted last year but thought Peter was a bit small.  We enjoyed it and it was a nice novelty for the boys to be out in the 'park in the dark' (as Harry has been calling it!). The hugging trees were the most popular, where you hug a tree and it makes the lights come on. Very clever!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Advent activity 8 - green beanstalks and playdough

Our activity today was our first festive trip out - a visit to Dance City to see their Christmas performance of Jack and the Beanstalk with some friends from my NCT group. It was a good performance and showed the giant stealing the sun, which Jack had to retrieve with the help of the giant's little sister. The set was minimalist and was designed to encourage imagination. We stopped at John Lewis on the way home and Harry chose two new decorations for the Christmas tree, which we will put up next weekend. It was very nice to have an afternoon out just with Harry - Peter had a lovely day too at swimming and soft play with Stuart.

We also made a batch of green playdough this morning and the boys enjoyed cutting out Christmas trees. 

Friday, 7 December 2012

Advent activity 7 - sewing decorations

Harry loved sewing some felt Christmas decorations today. It was a kit from Baker Ross that included felt pieces with punched holes, which were sewn together and filled with stuffing, so it was the most basic I could find as he has never tried sewing before. I like sewing too so hopefully we will be able to do some together next year.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Advent activity 6 - Christmas cakes

The snow was fun yesterday but proved more problematic today, causing icy roads, travel disruption and the cancellation of our French class. Today's activity was scheduled with French in mind as we were going to bake cakes to take and share. I had some green icing left after making Christmas puddini bonbons so Harry rolled this and cut stars out for some of the cakes. We used Christmas sprinkles on the others. Unfortunately we didn't get to share them with our friends, but at least there are some for tomorrow!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Advent activity 5 - Christmas crafts... and snow!!

Our planned advent activity was lovely today and we had the unexpected bonus of quite a large amount of snow to play in! We shared some Christmas crafts at our house with friends - Harry made a 3D Christmas tree, bead bracelet and snowstorm. Peter made a big mess of himself with glitter paint and has hands the colour of Rudolph's nose, even after washing! Harry has had a difficult day - he has not been happy or co-operative so I was really pleased that we got some fresh (freezing!) air and exercise too.

The boys loved watching the snow when it first started to fall this morning

And couldn't resist getting out in it this afternoon - sledging, truck filling, footprint and snow angel fun!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Advent activity 4 - star windows

I love stained glass window effect crafts! This morning we made star windows in black card using a craft knife and covered them with coloured cellophane. 

We stuck some up at the window to show off the colours in the light and cut some out for Harry to make Christmas cards for his cousins.