Friday, 29 November 2013


I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring the books “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent” written by Tom Hodgkinson.  I enjoyed a lot of the ideas expressed in these books, and think that exploring them further will help me to explore the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.

Chapter 24 – Self-Important Puritans Must Die – WE ARE NOTHING

Tom tells us that Puritanism, where pre-destination is doctrine, and where you believe in the notion that wealth and success are signs of God’s approval – then you become insufferable.  Much better to live for the moment.  Subscibe instead to the teachings of Jean-Paul Sartre – if all is meaningless and nothing, then why not enjoy it? Puritanism was born of resentment, of other people having more than you, more fun than you.  It’s all about jealousy. 

Today it’s not Puritanism, instead it’s consumerism and the “job” culture.  If you have a big car, wear the right trainers, have the better job or more money then you are somebody.

Let’s not follow the rules of anybody though.  Nobody is telling u

s to burn our phones – just to follow our own lead.  We don’t actually matter, so eat, drink and be merry.

How does this match up to the ink-spots-and-grass-stains life?

Here’s another chapter which  I’m not really in tune with.  I don’t buy that “we are nothing”.  Certainly, we are not as important as we sometimes think we are – I sit through some mind-numbing meetings listening to people discussing things as though they think that they are actually making a difference, which they are not. 

I do think though that the hedonistic “eat, drink and be merry” suggestion takes things a little far.  Sure, we aren’t in this for our ticket to heaven, but surely we can try to leave the world a little better than we found it for future generations, or for the neighbours that live around us?  It isn’t self-important to try to be a good person, or to do things for others, it’s just neighbourly.  Also, I don’t subscribe to any chapter which begins “….. must die”, it’s a little far-fetched!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Quick and easy makes - advent calendar

I like to make advent about more than just chocolate (not that there's anything wrong with chocolate!).  While we aren't church-goers, advent is still a time of preparation.  With young children, twenty-four days seems like an awfully long time.  Doing something small and special every day to gradually prepare for the big event, while also counting down the days is a way to ease them through the process, get them in the frame of mind for the type of Christmas that you want, and help out with the essential preparations.

Make a list of twenty-four different activities.  Take your time over this, because you want to make things achievable.  Use your diary - on days when there are already Christmas events happening, make that your activity for the day (Pre-school Christmas party, Scout District Carol Service, theatre trip etc.).  On days when you're going to be very busy, keep your activity short and easy, and leave more involved activities for the weekend.  Check out the local papers to find out when carol concerts or Santa visits are planned in your area.  Think about when you need to get tasks done (I make Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and Christmas cards at the beginning of the month, as they either need to be posted or need time to mature!).  Put each activity on the appropriate day in December.

Now think about how you are going to display your activities.  In the past I've had folded cards stuck to the fridge or hanging from a tree branch, with the number on the outside and the activity on the inside.  I've also made advent calendars out of 24 match boxes made into a little chest of drawers so there's space for a sweet too (I'm still working my way through all the matches!).  This year I decided to make a fabric Christmas tree shaped advent calendar.  I used spare fabric leftover from when I made my table runners and napkins about three years ago.

  1. Cut out the tree shape and hem.
  2. Cut out strips of fabric to make the drawers and stitch a hem for the top and sides.  Stitch the bottom of each strip to the tree, then fold upwards to create the pockets.  Stitch up the sides to make the pocket sides.
  3. Use fabric paint to write on the numbers.  Again I had some left over from making my table runner and napkins.
  4. Use PVA glue to stick on the pot for the tree and a star for the top, and trails of sequins and sparkles to jolly the tree up.
  5. Pop your activity for the day, along with a treat of your choice (mini-Christmas decoration for a mini-tree / chocolate?).

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Resolutions already?

When you're never quite satisfied with yourself and you're always looking for ways to become a better person, then you'll always be coming up with strategies and tricks to transform yourself into the person you'd rather be.  I have a new strategy!

So... it takes 30 days to make a habit (apparently).  I have made a list of things which I would like to make into habits to make me and my family life a bit better.  Obviously I can't change everything at once - that would be doomed from the start.  So... I'll introduce one habit every week and really focus on it.  I'll continue to focus on it for five weeks (that should push the 30 days), but after one week I'll add a second habit to focus on.  Then after the second week I'll add another habit.  This way I'll have focus on five areas at any one time, and by the time I add the fifth, the first one should be pretty much routine!

I'll share on here how I'm doing.

The first habit I want to focus on is drinking more water.  According to the NHS Choices website, I should be drinking 1.6 litres of water every day.  I currently drink much less, and much of my liquid intake is caffeine related!  
So to make it a habit, I'll make myself drink a glass of water every hour and a half to two hours. 

Other habits I'll be introducing are:
for the children - making feeding the fish more of a routine, daily table time (we used to have a good routine for this, but it's slipped), 10 mins housework daily;
for me - swish and swipe in the bathroom (flylady!), write blog daily, up at 6.30 and 20 mins on exercise  bike, clear desk and e-mails daily, 50 sit-ups daily, get the laundry on after dinner, hang before bed, and put away in the morning.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Pre-school crafts - letter familiarisation with paint!

Bug is two and a half.  She has a comprehensive vocabulary, and good understanding when she can be bothered to listen.  She is showing signs that she is keen to start reading and writing like her four year old brother.
To help her out I've started doing letter familiarisation games and activities.  I'm trying to do this either when C is at pre-school, so that we can be uninterrupted by bickering, or to choose activities that I know they can both work on together.

I spotted this one on "No Time For Flashcards" and thought I'd give it a try.
We have a vast array of cookie cutters, including alphabet ones (thanks big Sis), so decided to make use of them for some letter printing.  I chose the letters in Bug's name, as well as M for Mummy, D for Daddy and C for her big brother.

I then just showed Bug how to dip the cutters into the paints and print with them.  We used A3 paper, and we also used red, green and yellow paints, so that we could talk about the colours too.
As we printed I asked her which letter she was using, which letter she was going to use next and so on.  I also showed her which letter I was going to use.  We also printed her name.  We kept the letter naming very low key - it wasn't like a test or anything.  Just part of the conversation.  She didn't always get it right, but she did a lot of the time.
After she was fed up with printing, I just left her drawing at the table.  Just in the last week her drawing has stopped looking like scribbles, and have turned into actual pictures.  Check out this gorgeous person with shoes on.: