Friday, October 21

Scary and exciting times ahead!

Oops, now have to put on serious business woman head, this could be dangerous!

The New Year is going to be terrifying and exciting at the same time, I'm currently employed on a temporary contract which ends in December so intend to put all my energy into making this a really successful business. I don't want to look back in a few years and go 'but it could have worked' that isn't my style. My close friends will tell you this, words like fearless come to mind in terms of me saying 'right, this needs to be done' and off I toddle and get it done. But as many of you know, it's a terrifying prospect! What if people don't buy things? What if the kiln breaks? What if there are no craft fairs suitable?

However, and I shamelessly draw on Pooh Bear for this - things have a way of working out right if you put the right energy into it. You could spend hours filling a whole notebook of all the things that could go wrong but then it could go right and you get to do what you love doing, you get to potter round making lovely things for lovely people and they pay you to say thank you that piece made me smile. And that's not a blinkered Pollyanna approach, just a realistic one of put the hard work in and get the pieces and the marketing right and you can make it work. Yes, there's lots of small businesses that fail but there's also ones that succeed - and unless I try I'll never know which camp we're in.

Been getting pretty good with the clay lately - made these for tree decorations:

but this is the one most proud of:

my poor tutor has so much patience - however on telling him that I'm going to bore you stupid as want to get better he just said go for it as he's a thrower too and loves teaching others to throw - result!! Really must try and get some pictures of his work because that's a definite we're not worthy when you see what he can do with a lump of clay and make it look the most natural thing in the world. One day in about twenty years time I may get somewhere close to his skill level (I hope!)

The one aspect of working from home that scares me most is that I must make the effort to get dressed and not spend the whole day pottering around in pjs while sending out parcels to customers. Perhaps I need to do some research into day time pjs? Angie xx

Thursday, October 13

Do I like cheese??

I sense that this will become the catchphrase that the boy has to forever live with! It came about while we were doing his food stock up before sending him off to uni, while trundling round the supermarket he picked up the cheese and said "do I like this?" from the child that lives off cheese on toast, omelettes etc etc. While they carried on I was unable to move due to howling with laughter. In his defence he didn't realise there were different types of cheese, thought there was just one - the one in the fridge! He does know now.

We could have been really adult about a red cross parcel to him, however it seemed a wasted opportunity on our part not to enjoy it! So, this is the contents of the parcel sent to him!

There are some sensible things, but also the day to day essentials such as kinder eggs, pink wafers, haribo, Beano plasters, cheese - but only the stuff he likes!

Oh, and those are real smarties with E numbers from my secret stash!

Thursday, October 6

Day 8 - must have a triangle

This is an idea we've been working on - glass tea light holders, and look get four triangles into the photo! Should be on the web site soon, just playing about with colours

And yes, for the observant amongst you that is a photo in the background of me and my brother - outside No 10 Downing Street, so even when little was political :)

Damsons! and now lots of jam

The little damson tree in my tiny urban back garden which is only in it's third season decided to go mad this year! It produced over 35lb of fruit, which is fairly impressive given its age and size.

So, down came the jam pan, scales, sugar and off we go - lots and lots of damson jam :)

Found a really simple recipe years ago, which is basically same amount of sugar to fruit - so for every lb of fruit same of sugar.

basic destructions -
you will need to put a plate in the fridge first (honest!)
jam jars and lids that are washed and dried - personally find it best to dry in a warm oven that way you know they're cleaned properly

wash the fruit and remove the stalks, but don't drain too thoroughly and add to a large heavy pan (I was lucky enough years ago to find a preserving pan in a junk shop)
let it simmer so that the fruit starts to break up - and as it's doing that you need to try and catch all the stones out of it; sadly with damsons no easy way so just trial and error as to how you find the best way. I have a strange little dim sum catcher from the Chinese supermarket that I use as a mini sieve and just plod through them.
Once you're happy that you've got all the pips, and the fruit has broken up add the sugar - equal weight of sugar to fruit and stir it all in to dissolve
once it's dissolved, bring to the boil and rapid boil for about 10 minutes - I always put the timer for 8 and test from then on in, no fixed science on time
to test - take your plate out of the fridge (told you you'd need it!) and pour a little of the jam onto it. If it starts to set and you can push it into a shape it's done, be careful it's extremely hot at this stage. May need a little longer, so just keep boiling and testing till you're happy with it.messy bit - pouring into jars! After trying without, I really would advise getting a funnel pourer as it's so much easier but if you haven't just try not to get it everywhere!

as soon as you've filled your jars, seal the lids and let the air create it's own vacuum - add pretty labels if you wish, especially if you're going to give the jam away as presents.

The astute amongst you will have realised that 35lb makes far more jam than shown, you would be correct! So in happy hippo style we also made: damson wine, damson gin and damson vodka!

It may be a very hiccupy Christmas this year, especially as there's no yeast in the wine yet and it's already fermenting like mad!

Monday, October 3

Delores - who says papier mache is for kids?

I was lucky enough to go to Paris one year and see a Niki de Saint Phalle piece outside the Pompidou in Paris. Wow is the only word that springs to mind, I love her use of colour and just the scale that she worked on was truly amazing. Over the years I've been to many galleries and exhibitions but there was something about her work that just stays with you, just nibbles away at you and says 'I want to try that too'. Not only was this an exploration into sculpture for me - having never worked on either sculpture or scale before, but also an exploration of how I see myself. As for many women there are times when we either cannot or will not see ourselves as we truly are - and for some reason many of us only choose to see the negative. I would urge anyone to have a go at doing this, if only for the self realisation of seeing yourself as others do - which is usually as an amazing person, we just lose sight of that all too often.

This was the starting point - and as usual, there was no part of me that considered how on earth to achieve this or think about details, just a 'that's what I want to make'!

So, with that in mind I went off in search of: chicken wire, newspaper, modroc, paint, heavy tape

And this is what happened! My parents visited at one point and saw the chaos of the dining room and just went 'oh, what you doing this time?' luckily they are now used to the randomness that occurs around here and just move a space to put their tea down safely.

Phase 1: create a chicken wire outline - this was done by wrapping me in chicken wire and carefully rolling out from underneath it!

Phase 2: wrap in papier mache to create the bodyPhase 3: mod roc!! every house should own tons of this stuff, it's great!

Phase 4: hard bit for me! waiting and waiting for it to dry so it could be painted and varnishedPhase 5: place on top of shed so she looks like she's sunbathing in all her glory! sit back and enjoy :) Do try this at home - it's such a fantastic exercise in what if? and it makes you smile every time you look, and the neighbours' reactions are priceless!

Sunday, October 2

Day 7 - current CD

Mary Chapin Carpenter - don't even know how I found her, but so glad I did

Blogger - adding pages and posts

Right, this thing has driven me daft over the last few weeks! Had seen other people's blogs and thought 'how have they added pages, and got separate posts?' so, with the dog with a bone attitude we set off to find out. How many forums are there?? However, it turns out to be really quite simple, and thought it only fair to share this information as I know other people stumped by it too!

It's all to do with labels -that's it! Honest, it's that simple.

The labels will relate to the tabs at the top of your blog and are linked to each post, so every time you write about sheep (sorry, first thing to enter brain!) you label it sheep and then point the tab to that label.

Clear as mud? Will try and go through it with you, are you sitting comfortably then we will begin ..

If like me you've tried doing it through adding pages, then remove them - BUT please save any posts first! I transferred them to a word document so I could copy them back in later.

In the Design tab on your blogger page add the widget 'label' to your front page or layout page:
When creating posts, make sure you add labels, bottom of the posting page - so to carry on using the sheep example if one of your page tabs relates to all things sheep any post you want on that page MUST have the label sheep at the bottom right of the page:

Now, go here to tell blogger to find your labels .... go back to the front design page and click edit on the labels widget, it will ask you which labels you want to find - up to you how many etc
Hey presto, you're done! Just remember to always add the label for each new post to 'file' it under the appropriate tab otherwise it can't find them

your own personal dictionary!

Over the years it has been brought to my attention that there is a certain vocabulary that you acquire by being around me too long! This has been evidenced on many occasions by the boy (who I didn't meet till he was 12!) yet is now quite fluent in Angiesm. So, in an effort to assist translation it was suggested that I publish a page with words and phrases that are often heard in my household. The list will be updated as I remember them or notice people giggling because yet again we are using made up phrases!

getting soggy - off to get in the bath and then ..

all clean and shiny - just got out the bath!

it escaped - where food has deliberately leapt from the plate (you cannot spill food it escapes!)

brave or foolish - shamelessly stolen from a good friend - aimed at a child who continues to defy or challenge you, are you feeing brave or foolish?

closely followed by - it is your personal choice to continue this behaviour, however ........

which basically means you've been found out, you are annoying me and I will take your toys away - now, do you still want to annoy me?

ahhh Bob! - this is one of those, oh I get it now moments when the penny finally drops on something and came from the film French Kiss where Kevin Kline trys to explain how to pronounce Bob in a French accent, was watching with Slug one year and it kind of stuck

slug castle - place of sleeping area that a child will not - under any circumstances - leave! First linked to a bright yellow sleeping bag and a child that got named slug for staying there forever!

Handbag call - this is when someone accidentally calls you, and it's usually from the bottom of a handbag so matter how much you yell 'turn it off!!!' the person calling you has no idea. Used to be called sofa calls as my ex MIL had a knack of sitting on her phone, accidentally calling me and then the phone fall down the sofa! I get a lot of handbag calls as I'm often the first person in their address book, often thought about changing my name to Xylophone :)

Day 6 - free choice, but must be landscape

Boy outside uni :D will put more details in the main blog later

Day 5 - a photo with 3 reasons why

This is a slight cheat on my part! This is a photo of my desk area/work space with all the bits and clutter that I like to surround myself with. Strange to think that while surrounded by toys and other odd bits I was able to write some quite heavy political essays for my degree!

But the really important piece is the little boy in the green suit with the yellow hair - he's the Little Prince, for those of you that have never read it go and get a copy IMMEDIATELY! No adult should go through life not reading it at least once. So these are my three reasons for including him by taking some of his words from the book:

1. It is tiresome for children to have to keep explaining things to adults

2. It is truly useful since it is beautiful

3. One sees well only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes

I have given copies over the years to many, many people - some are able to understand it but others merely think it a children's book which is a shame because it is those people that could benefit most from it but as he says it is tiresome for children to have to keep explaining things to adults.

Day 4 - my favourite mug

This mug has been with me probably since I was about 10, I think!

I can't remember when I first came across Peanuts and their little gang with all their worries and fears so beautifully written out by Schulz. Growing up I identified mostly with Peppermint Patty, the ultimate tomboy! However, my time at baseball was short lived after ending up in an ambulance having been knocked unconscious playing catcher and a ball flew up my glove onto my face and broke my nose - oops! Still have a huge collection of Peanuts books, pictures, soft toys - someone even remarked once that you could find something in every room of the house relating to Schulz! And, yes that's probably true. My favourite Snoopy is probably the one that my Grandmother (or Nain to the Welsh amongst you!) found in a charity shop not long before she died. This mug is best for hot chocolate and as Linus says, it would taste even better with a ski lodge around it :)

Day 3 - something edible

Firstly apologies for the gap in postings - camera issues grr :(

given the name of the site it could only be this really -

I did warn you all that there would be a lot of hippos!

Day 1 - free choice

Oh no, the Hippo brain has too much to choose from in a house full of random items, so choice made:

How superb are these?

Some lovely friends know of my ahem slight addiction to all things Beano and got me these plasters as I can be slightly err clumsy too! However, the really sad part was that I actually wanted to create an injury that required me to wander round with Gnasher covering the cut - that's something small boys do!

Think the best Beano trick I ever pulled was by using old comics to decorate a downstairs cloakroom in an old house. Sadly no photos were taken, but it did look good. The estate agent that had to sell the house didn't seem to share this passion - if the potential buyers had kids he would show it first, if they didn't he'd wait till last - so funny to watch him squirm!

Day 2 - a pet - For pudding I could 'av you ....

This is Ted, or Teddy Edward or Teddy Bear depending on how loving / annoying / whingy etc he's being! He's 14 now, and still an absolute character, or legend in his own lunchtime as we like to say. I chose this picture because of the current Aldi fish fingers ad which makes me howl everytime I watch it. Think it's growing up with strong Welsh accents around me just adds to the giggle factor.

And here's Ted dreaming of pudding:

interesting new rules for photo a day!

I'd looked at the PAD (photo a day) challenge before and thought it seemed a lovely way to keep a record of the funny, strange and interesting things that happen which are often easily forgotten. However, I love the updated rules from Saturday's Child blog which I came across after reading Rabbit Arty and Crafty's blog and decided to join in! 

Okay i thought i'd spice things up a little and have a few rules to this post a-photo-a-day challenge. Its not meant to be serious so if you dont want to follow them, thats fine.

If you do want to play along then these are what i've come up with so far. Ill cut them into small chunks so we feel we are achieving something.

All photos must be taken on the day itself, if your camera has a date facility then you could switch it on. You dont have to write anything to go with the image but some of the rules do ask for that.

Days 1 - 7

Day 1 - free choice to begin with
Day 2 - a pet or if you dont have one a stuffed toy
Day 3 - anything edible
Day 4 - your favourite mug/cup
Day 5 - free choice but this time list 3 reasons why you have chosen it.
Day 6 - free choice but must be in landscape mode not portrait
Day 7 - the cd you currently have in your cd player.

*****Update*****Days 8 - 14

Day 8 - Must have a 'traingle' in it
Day 9 - anything 'yellow'
Day 10 - anything fluffy but not living
Day 11 - A cloud formation
Day 12 - Anything beginning with 'B'
Day 13 - 2 ingredients you will use in any meal today
Day 14 - The theme of 'time' interpret it any way you wishDays 15 - 28

Your lunch every day (you never know it may make you look at what you are eating in a whole new light.)

Woo Hoo, if you've made it this far, well done. Jump up and down and feel good about yourself and... oh okay enough of the cheesey phrases

- 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 -

Personally it was the woo hoo jump up and down that got me interested! So with that in mind I am off to find my first PAD, will post it later today

E-learning, how do you cross the road?

Question: when teaching your child (or a child) to cross the road would you:

a) give them all the theory of roads and expect them to remember it and use that information?

b) take them to a roadside, hold their hand and go across the road with them so they feel safe?

If you answered b you would be the normal person, who in their right mind would expect a child to understand the subtle dangers all around them when crossing a road ... but ... when it comes to safety on the internet we don't let them cross the road. However, once they get home they are on facebook, youtube, twitter, linked player games - and the list goes on. This shocked me when talking to a group of students - when they get a friend request on facebook they often automatically accept it without knowing the person - they just assume that if they have the request then the person must know them. When I challenged a group on this they just looked at me in such a way that told me they had never considered the possibility that the person wasn't who they said they were. So, still want your young people to learn to cross a road without seeing a car?

Suggestion - they are going to use all these sites - in exactly the same way they will cross lots of different types of roads - so, why not educate them to use them properly? Take off the firewall restrictions, let them blog, let them set up websites. But - and here's the big but, it must be done gradually and under supervision. Personally I get all my students to set up their own free web sites, but they must give me their passwords (which I do check each week) and they must stay safe. We discuss how not to give out personal information, how not to breach copyright of images, how to respectfully engage with others around the world and generally how to get the best out of the social media out there. They learn language, basic manners, e-literature and the list goes on. In order to gather information they have to research, check facts (Wiki sites are banned!) and reference where they get their information from. So actually they have to do some standard academic studying, all they are doing is recording it on line rather than on paper. The hard part is convincing some teachers and educators that it's worth doing, and worth doing well.

So, in exactly the same way that you would build a child up to cross the road safely by actually doing it - would you not rather a child learn to use the net and associated platforms of social media in a safer way? Just a thought.

CRB - slight rant, so be warned!

Please be aware from the outset that I completely agree that children and vulnerable people deserve to be safe and kept safe in whichever situation they find themselves, and likewise those working or volunteering need to prove that they are suitable and trustworthy to hold such a position. If you choose to twist my intentions about this entry that's up to you, but at no point am I advocating for a removal of safeguarding which is absolutely paramount and must be anyone's first priority at all times.

The CRB is a document which states whether you have ever had any criminal convictions, when and what for and whether they are now spent. An admirable document most would think - after all you would want to know your child is safe with a teacher or youth worker, surely? Any adult working with children or vulnerable adults is required to produce such a document, and quite rightly so.

However, and this is where my argument comes in - is this the best way? My reason for asking is that the paper document is only as good as the day it is printed and not a living document. Each time you work for a new authority or new organsiation you are required to apply for a new crb, even if it's 2 days apart. Documents can take weeks to be processed, they are all done at one place and the majority of the time they are done accurately. The organisation you work or volunteer for is responsible for securing the document, yet it is your information each time.

A solution - if the DVLA can manage a live document with your driving licence why can't we have similar with the CRB system? I have long argued to various councillors that a CRB should remain your personal property and therefore removes the demand for a new one each time you change employers. In theory if you are a supply teacher or a youth worker with 4 authorities (which can happen) you could have up to 5 current CRB's all processed at the same time and same place and all containing the same information and paid for 5 separate times. Even a child can see that that is ineffective and costly.

So, I propose that you apply once, get issued a photo id with a chip that is live, much like your driving licence and it become a national system that is recognised by all institutions. The main reasons for this are:

1. allow for the document to be updated as offences are known about or cleared in real time rather than waiting 3 years as can happen

2. reduce long term costs and duplication of information required

Given that the CRB is currently the single most recognised document amongst this group of workers, switching it to a photo id card system would not be a problem. Cost - ahh the sordid topic of coin - employers are currently asked to pay for each new crb and they are expected to be renewed within a two to three year interval depending on internal policy. So, all I'm asking is that the costs be switched around a bit. Yes, it would cost more to produce a laminated photo id card in the first instance but long term would be more effective. Plus, and this is the bit that irks me most - it needs to be a living document. That, I suspect would be the hard bit - asking courts and police to link up and provide the information. It would require a culture of push the information rather than pull as required. To explain further - if you apply the crb will 'pull' the information from police and other records, whereas the system I propose requires them to 'push' information which would mean systems being set up.

I accept that it needs more thought, especially around the detail of how the information arrives at the right place at the right time - but, if we really want to safeguard properly we really need to be prepared to think around the issue rather than keep adding plasters to an exisiting process. Just a thought!

Teaching Stuff

As many of you know I am a teacher, and I wanted to use this page to show you some of the debates around education today and some of the project ideas I use with my children. Given that I blog, tweet, play games online and generally have the mindset of a 7 year old there are times when I have used the most obscure stuff in lessons because it's fun - and basically if I get bored then it's pretty obvious that a student will be bored! Recently in the Times Educational Supplement there have been various articles about the changing curriculum and needs of our students and young people. I don't claim to be an expert, far far from it - the teacher that stops learning is a very bad teacher indeed. Equally the teacher that deems themselves better than their students and refuses to take ideas from them as to what interests them is also (in my opinion) a poor teacher. My partner is now studying to teach in further education and some of the dining room table debates can get quite heated and it just seemed wrong not to inflict them on a wider audience!