Polymer Play: Making Plastic



I got the idea of making plastic from one of the Leonardo Da Vinci books.  He was said to have been the inventor of plastic and whilst this is obviously not like the plastic we know and love now, I thought it would be a fun activity for my littles to do.  I am grateful that the success of a science class doesn’t depend upon the result of said science.  In my eyes this was a failure.  The children however, loved it.  A5 in particular spent hours adding to her plastic to make some sort of revolting substance which made me want to heave.  She had great fun though, and this is the point of science for the little ones.

To make ‘plastic’ you need milk, vinegar, a source of heat and you’re away:


You will need to heat up the milk, I guess I used 1/2 pint but you can use more or less.  Don’t let it boil:


Once very warm, but not boiling add vinegar.  We dyed ours with red food dye but to be honest the colour didn’t take too well and was a bit surplus to requirement:


The vinegar will have an affect immediately:


We had a lettuce spinner colander which we used to strain the mixture but a muslin would have worked better I think as some of the curds fell through the holes:


Again a muslin cloth would have been useful to be able to squeeze out the excess fluid.  We used our hands and squeezed as much as we could out of curds.  The children then played with it, rolling it, forming it and when they got fed up with it falling apart, they tried to improve its texture by adding all manner of food stuffs from the pantry:

Ribbet collagepp1Ribbet collagepp2Ribbet collagepp3

Were we successful plastic makers?  No.  Did we have lots of fun making lots of mess?  You bet!

Da Vinci and his Printing Press



We have been studying Gutenberg’s printing press recently, first by familiarising ourselves with his printing press and then attempting to make our own.  Whilst Leonardo wasn’t the first to invent the printing press he did attempt to improve upon Gutenberg’s own design.

I had bought a Make-Your-Own kit for the Da Vinci press.  I hadn’t planned on doing a whole post on it but just occasionally I stumble upon a resource which is so well put together and/or so enjoyable to do that I simply have to share!  This kit happens to fall into that category.

There are many kits from the same company which I had ummed and ahhed about getting, and in some ways I rather wish I had bought a few more.  The kits (all Da Vinci inspired inventions) range in price from £9 upwards.  I am only giving my family’s view of the Printing Press Kit, not any of the others:

DSC_0334printing press

Inside each kit are all the wooden bits organised neatly in compartments, making it very clear which part is which:

DSC_0335printing press

There is a sheet with each part diagrammed and labelled to give extra help with clarity if needed.  Included in the kit is a historical booklet and an instructions booklet:


Both were beautifully and authentically designed and added a special something to the kit:


I had been a bit concerned about the instructions booklet because in some of the reviews people had stated the instructions were hard to follow.  Gary and T12 did not find this the case and stated that they were perfectly fine and fairly easy to follow:


A linen sheet of material/paper (?) was included with some of Da Vinci’s original drawings printed on it:


All in all this was a rather special kit, incredibly well presented.  It was hard enough to present a challenge but comprehensive enough to build through to completion.  It took an evening plus a short time to finish off after the glue had dried.  Everything was included in the kit, including the glue and we were all very impressed by the final product:



This was a really good addition to our study, pulling together our study on Gutenberg’s printing press with our project based learning on Leonardo Da Vinci, and as such I would highly recommend it.


Wibbly Wobbly Weightloss- Losing Weight the Wibbly Wobbly Way: Week 4



Hello everyone! With the Uk in the middle of its first heat wave of the year, I have to report that I have been pathetic this week, in the extreme.  I do not like heat, never have, never will.  My walking has taken a complete nose dive.  Our home remains fairly cool, however,  so I have been stretching my home making muscles cleaning and tidying.

Despite the decrease in outside exercise, house keeping obviously burns a fair amount of calories as I have managed to lose another pound to bring my total weight loss to 16Ibs.  It’s still not very, very apparent to me that I have lost any weight, let alone 16Ib.  When I do finally see a difference it will be all the sweeter for having to wait for it!

I know Donna will understand my reluctance to walk in the heat.  She is dealing with temperatures over 38 degrees C.  We’re at 28 which frankly feels unbearable to me.  Thirty eight, and I might very well melt.  I wonder what the melting temperature of a Claire would be?  Anyone?  Even though the unbearable heat has prevented lots of walking Donna has still done incredibly well with her clothes feeling looser on her!  Well done my friend!

Leah has had small victories of which there have been many which would explain why her tight jeans now zip up and are not so tight anymore.  Leah is drinking more water whilst trying to discern between hunger and thirst, eating less ice cream at night and generally feeling much more energetic.  Great job Leah!

Lucinda is on the look out for a good pedometer which can be tucked onto a waste band rather than jumping about around her neck.  Any recommendations?

Amber popped in to say hi and left some encouraging words.  It’s great to have you here Amber!  Kris reminded us all that  slow and steady is the best kind of weight loss because  it tends to be more long-lasting.  I think this is really important because sometimes one can put in lots of effort and see little change on the scales.  Christy, I hope this encourages you this week.  Christy lost 0.2 Ibs.  She had lost a heap of weight a few years ago but the last ten pounds have been tricky to get off.  You are 0.2Ibs closer to your goal!  Well done, you can do this!

Audria has posted on her own blog about her 1Ib loss (yay, keep it up Audria!) and she has also included a lovely tuna and cucumber salad recipe, which would be just perfect for the current heat over here in the UK.  Audria’s husband is also joining in with her in her quest to become healthier.  I think it is much easier to do something when you are not the only one in the family doing it, not to mention much more fun when you have a partner in crime.  Gary and I are enjoying a bit of friendly rivalry which I fully intend to win.  Anyone who has seen us play Monopoly will know just how much fun we actually do have ribbing each other and ticking each other off when we stumble!  Oh, and Gary?  I’m beating you hands down so far……

Jo remains focused on her walking, parking her car further away from her destination to ensure she is walking for longer periods.  She has asked if anyone knows of any healthy but inexpensive snacks she can bake with her children.  I will be sharing a recipe for whole meal banana muffins at the end of this post, but if anyone has any others please do share and I’ll include them next week.

Francis has done incredibly well this week losing 3Ibs and continuing with jogging.  Running seems to be the key to the success of many weight watchers.  One day…. That’s fantastic Francis, well done you!

And finally Phyllis has written another useful post on fats as well as reporting about her weight loss.  To date she has lost 30Ibs!!  Yipideedipidee!  If you were here, Phyllis, I would give you a big hug!  Well done, well done!!

Over the past couple of weeks I have been doing lots of baking, trying to keep the treats high energy (for the children to have prior to the gym) but long-lasting and healthy.  As promised here is my recipe for banana muffins:

Ribbet collageFriday1

Wholemeal Banana Muffins

2 cups whole meal flour

1 cup whole meal flour with seeds (you can simply do three cups wholemeal if you have no seeded flour)

6 teaspoons of baking powder

1/3 cup sugar (this can be left out or substituted with honey or agave or maple syrup)

Cinnamon to taste (I used a lot – couple of table spoons)

1/4 cup oil filled up to a full cup with milk

2 eggs beaten

3 smashed up bananas (I often use more, especially if I have some old ones)

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl

Mix wet ingredients in another bowl including mashed bananas

Add wet to dry and fold to mix

bake for 10-15 mins in a hot oven (180 or so) This definitely differs depending on your oven.  My one in Ireland took ten minutes where as my oven here takes 15 minutes, sometimes more.

This is a really forgiving recipe and you get to know fairly quickly what a successful dough feels and looks like.  I often add extra stuff to this basic recipe, for example

white chocolate and raspberry

chopped apple and clove (reduce cinnamon)


choc chips

really anything which takes your fancy

You can mix cinnamon and brown sugar and pop a spoonful on top just before they go in the oven, or allow them to cool a spread a cream cheese, icing sugar and lemon juice icing on top.  Both those options would decrease the healthfulness of an otherwise fairly healthy snack.

I recommend you use whole meal flour because this recipe does not work with white flour.  At all.

The recipe makes 12 plus muffins depending on the size of your tins.   I don’t know how many calories are in this recipe for those of you trying to lose weight, but they are full to the brim with healthy ingredients which can be made more or less healthy depending on your preferences.  Enjoy!

So, over to you!  How have you done this week in your quest to become healthier?  Do share victories, small or large, tips and recipes.

Precious Moments


This week has been the week of very little computer or screen time.  I wrote on Tuesday about how we were all limiting it, including Gary and I.   I was finding it hard enough to fit in blogging since I have been using the night-time hour to, you know, sleep.  Cutting our computer time down to an hour a day, it is nearby impossible.  I know I will adjust and have been pleased to see not only an improvement in the general demeanour of the children but also a deeper understanding of why we have made the decisions we have.  T, in particular, has noticed a huge difference in his feelings towards the world in general after being on the computer.  On Wednesday he came off from his project time in the afternoon, and within minutes had snapped twice at his sisters.  He immediately apologised and then came to me to tell me all about the effects even that short time had on him.

I have spent the week with my children, and whilst that is not unusual, anytime I had a moment to spare I didn’t migrate towards the computer (there would have been no point.  It was off and remaining that way).  This gave me snatched minutes to spend setting up science for the little ones.  Not new science necessarily, just sciency activities and was overjoyed to see both A5 and B3 twirling about in their lab coats declaring for all to hear that they just loved science!

Ribbet collagefriday5

On Thursday I needed to turn on my computer to access some information about a hospital appointment and was shocked to hear myself tell the little ones to go and find something to occupy themselves so I could look up what I needed to.  It pulled me up short.  Their childhood will be so short.  I know this because the older one’s has gone by in a flash.  I don’t want to miss even a minute of it by being on the computer when I could be playing or chatting to them.  I have seen A5 blossom under the attention and it has made my resolve even stronger to choose carefully when I am staring at the screen.  I am finding the time for much more cooking and baking with my youngest two, who just love being in the kitchen with me:

Ribbet collageFriday1

And of course with the children having little to no screen time we have found lots of time just for the simple pleasures of being together.  The warm weather which we are currently experiencing in the UK has given us a great excuse to barbecue.  Emma is our old baby sitter who comes over to share a meal with us each Monday.  The children adore her and having her come round each week is a blessing for all:

Ribbet collagefriday3

Ribbet collagefriday4

The last picture was of our cats, George and Lucy.  They are 16 years old and brother and sister.  I found them lying on my computer chair in almost identical positions which I quickly snapped up!

Ribbet collagefriday2

T wasn’t a happy bunny in this photo as a ruckus at the park had caused him to damage his camera, which he has felt a little lost without this week.  We are hunting down a replacement screen from a buy for parts camera on Ebay.

I also snapped a few photos on my phone this week.  They weren’t terribly good ones but I don’t like taking my camera to the soft play area.  We are so glad we decided to join the leisure center.  The soft play, which the little ones go to almost everyday, has been fantastic for their physicality, especially A5 who would have been our least active child.  She now bounces around the place as if she owns it and has become very quick and very capable on all of the equipment.  Both girls, because they go at the same time each day, are starting to make some friends with the other boys and girls, which is also really great!

Ribbet collagefriday7
As for school, we are growing penicillin (hopefully) as well as some live cultures from yogurt (again hopefully); the children have written, made back ground and puppets for a play based on Chaucer’s Nun’s tale of Chanticleer.  They have done it 100% independently and will be putting on a show to their parents and Grand mother tomorrow.  We are in discussions about how to make school work with less computer access and if we have to go back to how we learnt last year that’s what we will do.

I am currently planning next term, which I have decided will be an all age study led by me.  I’ll share soon on my plans, but I am quite excited!  Next week I shall attempt to get more than a couple of post written…but I’m not promising anything!  I will be posting my Wibbly Wobbly Weightloss post on Saturday for anyone who wants to join in with our online ‘get healthy meetings’.  We are all enjoying the fellowship and encouragement we can offer each other and everyone is doing really well with their goals.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend, full of love and laughter!

Computer Time: the blessing which turned into a curse


A few months ago, after much scrimping and saving, we purchased a computer each for our four girls.  Six months prior to this T12 had been given one as a joint birthday and Christmas present from Gary and I.  We watched as our son, who has always struggled to express himself in writing, began to type eloquent plays and essays.  The boy who hated to write had found his voice.  His school work tripled in productivity, moans about writing ceased and the work he did was of superior quality.  Gary and I sat back in disbelief.  We couldn’t see anything negative to come from him having a computer.  It was, to all intents and purposes, a huge blessing.

So we determined to get the girls one for their 12th birthday and Christmas this year.  As it happened we were able to pay for them a little earlier and decided to go ahead and get them.  They would still be as a birthday and Christmas gift, only they would get access to them earlier than previously planned.  We expected to see the same from the girls, that their school experience would be opened up when they had a computer.  We expected this gift to each of our girls to be a huge blessing too.  Once they all had a computer their time on these were fairly limited considering they were using them for school and pleasure, however Gary and I began to see changes in them.

We have always been a close family in which bickering is strongly discouraged and never ignored; bad atmospheres are rare and working as a team a priority.  Just recently, however, we began to notice the children bickering more; talking to each other on occasion with cold tones; feeling irritated with each other; not wanting to play or work together and not wanting to join in with chores.  They were still very close, but all five seemed to be a bit more ego-centric, wanting their own way a lot of the time.  This may or may not sound like a normal household to you, but for us (as a general rule) it is not normal, nor is it nice.  Gary and I had began to talk about it, wondering how we ought to go about recapturing what we had just a few short months ago.  We both felt it was down to the increase in screen time, because (we reasoned) screen time is often a solitary activity, it doesn’t in the main encourage team work nor does it require much physical activity (I know there are exceptions to this rule, I am writing about how it is here in my family).  Also, the bad attitudes had only become apparent en masse over the past few months.

We asked around.  What were friends doing?  What were their boundaries?  We had a mixture of responses from parents of children who allowed their children unlimited screen time, to others who timed it to the nearest minute of an hour.  Really it wasn’t much help, because each family and each character in each family was different.  Something somebody said did resonate.  They commented they wouldn’t be too focused on how much screen time per se their children were getting, more what their children were not doing because they were at the screen.  This was really helpful to me because the children weren’t playing as much; weren’t exercising as much; weren’t outside as much getting lovely fresh air; weren’t giggling as much and seemed much more uptight all round.

Together Gary and I formed a plan of action. And together we felt at peace.

The plan was to reduce the time we are all on the computer.  Since I have been sleeping over 8 hours per night, I have lost my night time blogging sessions and thus increased the time during the day I am on the computer.  Gary enjoys catching up with everyone back home via face book whilst the children love just about anything so long as it included screen time.  We decided to take a very strict stance and apply it not just to the children but to their parents also!  The two younger girls would have their screen time reduced to 1/2 an hour whilst the older three would be allowed an hour per day.  Gary and I would be allowed two hours.  These restrictions would apply to week days with extra granted on a Saturday (family night video) and absolutely none on a Sunday.  This would inevitably mean much more thought would be placed on what we do in that time.  It would help our whole family prioritise what was important and what could be dropped.

We called a family meeting and shared with the children our plans for a reduction in screen time, listing the negative  changes we had noticed.  We held our breath expecting an out-burst.  Silence.  I gently queried whether any of those points rang any bells.  T12 replied equally gently that they weren’t ringing the bells, more clanging the bells!  The girls also agreed.  And so it is.  The computers (including mine) are not turned on at all during the day.  Gary is in the process of disallowing any time outside of the 7-8pm time frame by disabling the children’s ability to log in at any other time.  They will be allowed to choose either video or computer time and if any of us are busy with another activity screen time is not allowed to be carried over into another day.  On a Wednesday afternoon, computers will permitted for project work but with no screen allowed between the 7-8pm time frame.

These restrictions may sound harsh and unnecessary for some but for our family they are essential.  In this case we had to be strong and resolute in our decision even if it made the children angry and us very unpopular.  As it happens it didn’t but even if it had Gary and I knew deep down inside that this was the right and best choice to achieve the family values we have deemed important.   All of us, children included, want to enjoy sweet relationships, time spent playing and enjoying each other, using our imaginations, cooking more, exercising more, gardening more, making water pistols from plastic bottles and bicycle pumps (I kid you not!), taking photos and basically doing all those things we had stopped doing because we were on the screen.  The children looked relieved that night.  And I was proud, so proud of my lovely family who, when push came to shove, chose relationships over their computer.

Wibbly Wobbly Weightloss – Losing weight the wibbly wobbly way: Week 3


Another week has flown by.  Is it me, or does time pass much quicker the older one gets.  It seems to me it was yesterday I was writing last week’s post.  My week has been purposeful in its pursuit of exercise and even when rain, thunder and lightening raged above, I was below trudging in soaking wet clothes for over an hour.  I was proud (and cold) and very grateful for the hot bath my children had kindly ran in for me awaiting my return.

I had to laugh this week when a friend texted Gary asking him if we’d had a falling out.  She had just seen Gary and the children driving up the road and then passed me trailing behind, walking as fast as my little legs could carry me.  I’m not sure, but I think she thought maybe Gary had turfed me out of the car(!) after an argument  and continued on to his destination without me!  She was relieved to hear I was just taking my daily exercise!!

I had my first compliment about my weight loss this week, which was gratifying considering I honestly don’t notice even the smallest of changes.  Thank you Lorna, I needed to hear that!

On the health front, we have whole-grained everything we buy.  We already ate brown, red and wild rice; whole grain couscous and whole grain bread and cereal, but whole grain pasta was one I had been back pedalling on.  After reading Phyllis’ post on steadying ones blood sugar and the role whole grains have, I began cooking pasta of the brown variety.  It doesn’t look as appetising but no one noticed the taste and I was able to serve everyone slightly less without the children noticing hunger-wise a few hours later.  So it definitely is a keeper as it kept us fuller for longer and we used less.

Thank you for all your input and advice last week.  May shared the secret of her weight-loss, which had been giving up dairy products when she became vegan.  She lost over 17kg and cycles to and from university.  This part of weight-loss excites me the most.  I want to exercise more, I enjoy it but my body really protests because of carrying the extra weight.  You’ve inspired me May – thank you!

I giggled at the amount of you who have also been guilty of asking the children to fetch things for them.  It seems a very home school mum thing to do!!  Kris, who you will all know from Weird Unsocialised Homeschoolers, has lost an amazing amount of weight and made a huge impact on her health in the process.  I know she will have heaps of wisdom and encouragement for those on a similar journey.  Last week Kris shared that running errands herself rather than asking the children was one of the key ways she increased her activity in the early days of her weight loss.  Kris now runs 5K marathons.  I find it very reassuring that even small steps make a big difference, it’s just a matter of keeping on making those small changes, one change at a time and amazing things will happen.

I was incredibly pleased to hear Ticia’s research into the health benefits of milk, and how skimmed milk is not always the best choice.  Having tried it last week, to say I was not impressed is an understatement.  I still can’t understand why they charge the same money for a milk primarily made of water!  Audria posted about her weight loss – another pound off even though she hurt her ankle.  Well done Audria!  This week she is going to be researching anti-inflammatory foods to help with possible arthritis.  I’m looking forward to all you learn Audria!  And Phyllis has saved us all a huge amount of work by doing some research about the healthiest proteins and posting it on her blog.  Check it out, it is FULL to the brim of goodness (no pun intended – well, okay, maybe it was intended.  A bit.)  Leah made a very interesting observation about her mum, who had always been on a diet of some sort.  Leah writes ‘Now as an adult looking back at pictures of her while I was growing up – she was beautiful, and quite trim. I’d like my girls to remember me as comfortable in my own skin, and happy as I am – but striving to be healthy.’  I couldn’t agree more, Leah.  I try to be careful about giving my girls unnecessary messages about a woman’s body.  I love the fact that when I tell them how beautiful they are, they just smile and reply that they know!

Lucinda, who has been walking with her pedometer, has lost weight even though she wasn’t trying too!  She also recommended Paul McKenna’s book, ‘I can make you thin’.  As she was trained by McKenna herself I’m certain the recommendation is an excellent one.  Francis took her walking one step forward and went for a jog!  Well done!!  I’m really wanting to jog again (I ran before Gary and I got married) but I’m not entirely sure my heart is up for that much exertion just yet!  I’ll be sticking with the walks for now, but have my eye on going for a jog soon(ish)!

Donna’s son made her a wonderful home cooked cobbler and she made the very sensible decision to help out with the eating of it!  I would so make the same choice Donna, good for you!!

I just weighed myself and I am weighing it at 3/4Ib less this week.  That’s 15Ib altogether.  To use Donna’s phrase – ‘slow and steady! – that’s me this week!  Gary has done a really good job this week and lost 1 1/2Ib.  You know, I can feel a bit of friendly rivalry coming on (which to anyone who knows us, won’t come as any surprise!).  Over to you.  How did you all do in your pursuit of healthfulness?  Please do share both victories large and small.  You never know, something you say may resonate with another reader and spur them on to greater health!  Thank you all so much for joining me on this journey and I hope you all have a great week ahead of you.

Precious Memories


Life is returning to some sort of normality after an incredibly busy couple of weeks.  The busyness culminated in the children’s cabaret night, in which Gary was drumming and my four older children were singing.  It was wonderful to see them all, but B3 had simply had enough of the busy days and late nights and was very restless throughout the whole concert.  Having just recently given up napping during the day she has begun again in earnest, needing to go down for a couple of hours each morning.

Ribbet collagefri2

Ribbet collagefri3

That weekend we were all very tired and crabby.  Fortunately life soon rights itself after some sleep and days which don’t involve rushing from one activity to another.  This week has felt good in its slowness.  School has continued as normal.  A5 is really taking off with her reading and finished the first book of All About Reading.  In addition her confidence is also growing in maths, which she has always loved but likes to have me nearby.  This week she has wanted to do more and more by herself:

Ribbet collagefri1

Much fun has been had out in the garden, on the trampoline, picking the seemingly never ending harvest of our plum tree and taking many, many photos of nature.  Speaking of which, T12 is particularly fanatical about his photography and itching to get his blog where he would be able to share his photos with cyberspace

Ribbet collagefri4

I thought I’d share a couple of his photos.  He has a real eye, I think, for finding the beauty around him:

Ribbet collagetphoto

I am really enjoying my time with younger two girls in the kitchen.  Any time anyone is in there, one or both of the little ones will be begging to join in.  This week we made some healthy wholemeal seeded pancakes with bananas and chocolate chips inside served with half fat crème fraiche:

Ribbet collagecook

And just one more photo, captured whilst T12 was teaching the girls how the video camera works:

DSC_0314all together
I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend with much love and laughter!

  photo 50ee37ee-4f60-43f2-83eb-bb7deb75fd49_zpsbacda61d.png

Older Entries


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 288 other followers

%d bloggers like this: