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Angelicscalliwags Challenge: July Sum Up

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For all my other posts in the series see here.  My last post was written in March, 4 months ago!  We are still at it.  To recap, we were trying to pay our mortgage in 5 years and had done really well in our goal until September when we got a bill for the car for over £1000, then the boiler broke done (£600) and finally we needed to remove a large tree which was threatening to fall onto our house (£800).  These unexpected and unprepared for expenses made us regroup.  Suddenly we were in debt!  At the beginning of this year we made the decision to follow Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover The following shows the basic stages of his money makeover:Dave Ramsey plan in a nutshell -- need to print and hang up in my classroom
We have our emergency fund, have paid off all debt bar our mortgage and are currently working on saving six months income.  As the next thing on the list is to invest 15% of our income we are trying to increase our savings each month to reflect those levels.  This means once we have reached our savings goal we can invest the monthly savings amount without making any changes to our income level.  So far we are saving 7%.  We intend to increase by 1% each month until we are at 15%.

Gary has just started a new job.  He is now head green keeper of a golf course which has been his dream for forever.  He has been given a pay rise, which means both our giving and our saving will go up without it affecting us unduly.  We have also decided to have a date night each week again, which we are both looking forward to.

We have just needed our car serviced, insured and taxed and it was gratifying to have the money put away to meet this.  Likewise, Gary needs to have a crown on his teeth and we have an emergency fund to pay for it.  We paid for our holiday to Ireland in cash and already have savings in our holiday account for spending whilst we are there.  Even though we are not paying off any extra on our mortgage it feels like we are in a more sensible financial position than we were before.

I am looking ahead school wise to next year and attempting to put together a curriculum of sorts using Dave Ramsey principles but rewritten to be more applicable to children and the UK.  They have all read The Money Secret  and are excited by the prospect of learning more.  Another goal next year is to school for 12 months without spending a penny.  This will free up £100 each month if I manage it.

Another thing we are looking into is buying all our groceries and animal care products monthly and in bulk.  The Economides do this (see America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money: Your Guide to Living Better, Spending Less, and Cashing in on Your Dreams)

This will be a huge jump for me, but Gary is helping me put together a monthly recipe index using fresher ingredients first and learning to use larder ingredients at the end of the month.  The Economides have an extensive chapter which will be of help to me.  This is a long-term project for me and I hope to have it up and running by the new year.  Gary and I are planning one big shopping day per month, when we will go to different shops to achieve the best price for all the items on our list.  Milk is the only thing we will buy daily, because we get through waaaaay too much each week to store for a whole month.  We have also invested in a water filter to replace the bottled water we buy each week.  The water where we live is hard and very chlorine-y, and tastes very much better for being filtered.

We are also renovating our hallway.  Actually renovating is too strong a word.  I used some left over paint to paint it all in green whilst Gary ripped up the carpet.  We inherited the carpet and whilst it was always a bit shabby looking it was fine.  The problem has been that recently the house began to smell of dog, which I really hate, together with another undeterminant  smell which we believed came from the carpet in the hallway.  So we ripped it up.  underneath are some fairly newish looking wonky floorboards.  They are neither safe enough nor aesthetically pleasing enough to have bare so we looked at getting a runner.  I wanted something which I could take outside and clean when necessary, rather than a fitted carpet.  So last weekend we trooped around the carpet places until we found one who offered to piece together some beautiful wool off cuts for us into a runner for a very good price.  Also, whilst Gary was off this week he made me 11 book shelves.  We used gravel boards instead of book shelves because they were significantly less expensive.  The whole shebang cost us less than £65.  It’s not quite finished yet (we’re still awaiting the rug) but I’m over the moon with it so far:

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I know I have linked to the following websites before but they remain my go-to sites for the frugality training I am so much in need of:

Down to Earth

Frugal Queen

Life feels good right now with us taking care of our finances, eating more healthily and exercising more as well as cutting out a lot of our screen time.  Our family life is balanced and moving towards greater health and energy.  For the first time since B3’s birth we feel like we are in control of our lives rather than life controlling us.  And this is a good place to be.

I’m have linked the books mentioned to Amazon.  I am now affiliated with them and will earn a small commission on any purchases you make there, which in turn will support our home school and this frugal challenge!

A Surprise Day Out

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This morning Gary and I were woken up at 6.50am by a cute little three year old repeating the word beach over and over.  I turned over and went back to sleep expecting her to climb in next to me and snuggle down.  She didn’t.  She was very shortly joined by her brother and sisters excitedly exclaiming (at the same time) about how they had all got up at 6am and packed the car up to go to the beach.  One might assume that since I have been sleeping at night I would bounce out of bed in the morning, ready to face the day with a spring in my step.  Nothing, and I do mean nothing, could be further from the truth.  I grunt spectacularly well during my first hour or so, with absolutely nothing intelligible coming from my mouth.

It took me a while to come to the realisation that if they had packed the car, and were expecting to go to the beach, someone (ie Gary or me) would have to drive them there (an hour drive away).  And in order to do that we would need to get our bodies out of bed and into the car.

After much grunting and muttering on my behalf about the fact it was before 7am and therefore still night-time, and were they sure they wanted to go to the beach now, and had they brushed their teeth, changed B3 out of her night-time nappy into knickers, eaten something for breakfast, and did they know it was before 7 in the morning???

After promises of freshly made lattes en route I managed to find my way to the car, thanking God that Gary was off work and could drive.  After all, I was struggling to remember where the car was let alone the coast!  Fifteen minutes later we were on our way, latte in hand and life was looking good again.  I was with my family, on our way to the beach, in a car jam-packed with so much stuff there was barely room for any people.  It didn’t matter.  We were together, and heading towards our favourite place on earth – the beach:

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The tide was out and despite the fact we were the only people at the beach at such an early hour, it was warm and the children were just itching to get into the water:

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And there we stayed for the morning before heading home for lunch:

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A lovely day out, doing very little, and when we got home Gary (with a bit of help) began putting up 11 shelves for all the books which currently have no home:

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Life doesn’t get much better…

Incr-Edible Science: Bacteria and Yogurt Making

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DSC_0379PBLBSSo far we have looked at the different types of bacteria, building our own model:

DSC_0779bac5We’ve experimented with growing bacteria cultures on agar in petri dishes testing which area of the kitchen was the dirtiest:

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And finding out which was dirtiest the loo or the sink?

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We are currently testing the efficacy of various cleaners against the bad bacteria present in our bathroom and kitchen, as well as testing the effect antibiotic has on bacteria grown from our own nose.  I thought it would be good to have a look into one of the good bacteria, found naturally in our digestive tract, and found in copious amounts in live yogurt.

Growing bacteria, growing yogurt

Yogurt is simply a culture rich medium.  It seems weird to think of it as anything other than a food stuff, yet it is to all intents and purposes a place to breed bacteria.  When we make yogurt from milk, we are using the milk as a breeding ground for certain bacteria.  The change in consistency shows that the milk is full of live bacteria.  Or does it?  We’ve always assumed it does because it says so on the packet:

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But we all know we shouldn’t believe everything we read……so I asked the children how we could test for the presence of bacteria in the yogurt.  Between them they decided to grow some in a petri dish.  We made up some fresh Agar using this method, and zigzagged some of the yogurt onto the surface of the set agar, taking care not to break through the surface.  We left it for a week and it rewarded us with some wonderful bacterial colonies:

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The yogurt from which we grew the bacteria claimed it contained three different types of bacteria – Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Streptococcus thermophylus.  In our growth sample we were able to identify two different colonies, marked as shown below:

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Once we were certain that there were bacteria present in our small pot of bought yogurt, we decided to grow our own bacteria farm in the form of some home made yogurt.  We have been making home made yogurt for years and I think the children would have a fair idea how to go about it.  I did wonder, though, whether they had given any thought to why they do what they do.

Making our own home made yogurt

So I set up our slow cooker full of milk and popped it on a high setting, letting it reach almost boiling point (I don’t use a thermometer, but when there are little bubbles forming at the edge I know it is about ready).  Then I gathered my young scientists around me and asked why?  They immediately replied correctly with ‘to kill of any bacteria’.  Oooh, I thought, this is going to be a doddle!  However, this was the end of their understanding.  When asked why we needed to kill off the bacteria, I was met with four blank stares!  After a hint or six, T12 finally said that it was heated to kill off all the bacteria which may have been present that were not wanted or required to make yogurt.

I then turned the slow cooker off.  Turning round, I asked why?  I got many answers, none of them what I was looking for, until having exhausted all other avenues, L11 hesitatingly guessed it was to cool it down so when we added the yogurt from the pot the heat wouldn’t kill the bacteria present.  Yay!  We were getting somewhere.  We left it for a few hours to cool whilst we went to the gym:

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I once again gathered the troops.  T12 collected some of the cooled down milk in a bowl:

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B3 added two spoons of the bought live yogurt, whilst the older ones and I discussed why we only added such a small amount.  The reason is to allow for maximum space for bacterial growth.  More starter doesn’t result in a thicker yogurt but a thinner one.  If you wanted to continually make your own yogurt then just save a small amount from the batch to use in the next batch.  I always forget so always have to buy:

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Once the two are combined well, this starter mixture is poured back into the crock pot:

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And again mix thoroughly to ensure even distribution throughout of the starter:

DSC_0608yogurtOnce mixed, cover with a couple of towels and leave overnight:

DSC_0610yogurtAnd the next morning you should have a large pot full of beautiful, thick yogurt.  Don’t mix, else it will lose its thickness.  I fill up some plastic containers which I keep just for the job, and store them in the fridge.  Remember, the longer you leave them the tarter the yogurt becomes due to the bi-product of the bacteria building up.  Taste it straight from the crock pot.  Seriously, it is not at all like the yogurt bought from the shops:

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There are many ways of doing the same thing, some of them haphazard and some of them organised and ‘proper’.  Mine is the former, which whilst almost always successful may make some nervous.  If you are someone who enjoys recipes and the like I have included a couple of links which will instruct you very thoroughly on the how to of growing yogurt bacteria and making your own yogurt.  My attention span, being very close to that of gnat, disallows me from even entertaining the thought of using them (they are long).

1. Grow yogurt on petri dish to prove it contains live cultures

2. Making yogurt using proper procedure

 

Wibbly Wobbly Weightloss:losing weight the wibbly wobbly way – week 5

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born to crave 2

Another week, another weigh in!  The competition is hotting up between Gary and I, with Gary exercising like mad with our son, and me using the very helpful tip he gave me last week – feeding him larger portions!  Didn’t work though, with him winning this week with a two pounds weight-loss compared with my one pound.  Next week, Mr S, next week….

Seventeen pounds for me so far, 3 more to go to get another photo!  I might make that my goal this week.

It was great to have such marvellous input last week, with a few new faces and old friends (hi Marie and Sue!) popping by either cheering us all on or joining in themselves.  Viv is one such newcomer and has lost 22Ib so far.  Viv is looking forward to the support of other home schooling families as she tries to lose a bit more.  Welcome Viv, and well done on such a fantastic weight-loss!  Francis has another two pounds off, and whilst I am unsure how much she has lost in total (care to share, Francis?) I have noticed she is doing incredibly well since taking up jogging.  The weight loss winner of the week has to go to Audria with a 5Ib loss!  However, poor Audria was ill for much of last week and she puts her weight-loss down to that.  She nevertheless popped by and left many encouraging comments and promised to pray for others during the coming week.  Thank you so much for coming by even when you felt rough.  I do hope you are better and fully recovered this week?

Many of you mentioned adding flaxseed to bread and muffin recipes.  Who knew?  I remember flaxseed oil was recommended after I was diagnosed with cancer.  I can’t remember why now, but I tried the oil in everything but it has a very overwhelming taste for me, so in the end I gave up.  Dana keeps them in her freezer and just simply adds them to recipes.  Her children don’t notice, so maybe I won’t.  I’ll be picking up some today to try.  Thanks for the great tip Dana!

Along the same lines (as in they contain flaxseed) Lucinda left a delicious sounding recipe for frozen banana and strawberry smoothies.  She writes: ‘For 3 people I use 2 frozen bananas, milk and 3 heaped tsp cocoa powder (we’re a family of chocaholics). I add a spoonful of flax seeds each (yay!), plus a big handful of kale and any soft fruit that’s gone a bit too soft, and whizz it all up in our ancient blender which sounds like it’s going to take off. You probably know about these already but I only discovered the secret a few months ago and I couldn’t believe I’d gone my whole life without!‘  What I particularly like about this recipe is the kale!  What a fantastic way to ensure some of those lovely healthy, but sometimes not too tasty, greens get inside you!  This is another I am trying this week (I go shopping on a Saturday, so I’ve had to wait until today to buy all the ingredients for all these great ideas).

I’ve been paying more attention to when I am eating after Donna made the point about eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.  I have decided I do everything the wrong way round.  I am never hungry until 10ish when I eat toast and Marmite; I don’t always eat lunch because I have eaten breakfast too late or I am simply too busy to be hungry; then I eat a good, healthy meal in the evening time, always with lots of veggies (I love my vegetables).  It doesn’t sound too bad, does it?  Ah, but I haven’t finished.  Oh no.  Really I am only getting started at dinner time and am always starving throughout the evening.  And so I snack.  It has been much better since I’ve been sleeping because the nights are not nearly so long anymore, but this is definitely my less healthy time period.  After reading Donna’s thoughts it occurred to me that I may just not be consuming enough calories during the day and so I make up for it at night-time.  I wonder if I spread my calorie intake more evenly throughout the 24 hour period whether it might make a difference to how hungry I am in the evening.  I will be making some changes this week to try my theory out!

Phyllis has a very interesting post about the magic of lemons and vinegar.  Again, I learnt a lot so thank you Phyllis for doing the research it takes to write such informative posts.  Ticia was away on holiday but managed to do lots of walking.  She hadn’t checked in on the results of the walking but was hopeful it had made a big difference.

Myra, a long time reader, shared about using bananas instead of eggs in baking.  She has to do this because of allergy issues, but I bet it would be beneficial to those with high cholesterol as well, who might need to avoid eggs.  She freezes hers before they go bad and then always has some available to use in the place of eggs.  When I read Myra’s comment I had to smile.  When I was in my teens I remember sharing with a friend how nice frozen bananas were.  I must have assumed she would remove the skin and wrap them in cling film or maybe I told her and she forgot.  Whatever the case was, she came into work the next day (we both worked in the same Nursing Home) and told me she wasn’t too impressed.  Apparently she’d just tossed some in the freezer the night before and this morning before work she had tried to eat one but was unable to remove the skin!  Duh!!  Obviously I should have explained myself a bit more clearly!  Anyway, frozen banana (sans skin and wrapped in cling film and frozen) is a delicious, healthy treat that even the children love!  I stick mine on a popsicle stick before freezing.  It is basically like a dense ice-cream.

Leah didn’t have such a great week, but something she said really struck me.  She says ‘I realized it was stress eating, and am working to pick up my devotional time – and take care of my stress there instead of in the fridge’  Not only was I so impressed by the fact she knew why she’d had a bad week and what she needed to do about it, but it also gave me the kick up the behind (or do I mean courage?) to offer a suggestion about this wee little group.  Before I started Wibbly wobbly, Kris had recommended a book to me.  Now I had seen this book a few years back making its appearance all over the web, but at the time I simply wasn’t ready for its message.  This time I was.  I read the book and every chapter elicited strong emotions in me.  I cried tears of joy, sadness and understanding as I slowly worked my way through it.  And the book?  It’s called Made to Crave:

made to crave

And it is basically all about doing exactly what Leah did,  satisfying yourself in God rather than food.  I know a lot of you who read this are Christians and may have already read the book.  I was wondering how you would feel about using this book as a study aid?  I am apprehensive about putting this idea out there because I don’t want anyone to feel excluded.  It has however had a big effect on how I see all things fat related and I would love to share.  Any thoughts, positive or negative?

Well, how about you?  How have you done this week?  How can I pray for you?  Do share goals, tips, challenges and successes!  I want to hear all about them!!

 

Literature Studies: Chaucer – A Play of the Nun’s Priest’s Tale

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DSC_0784chaucer

We only do Chaucer studies once a week on a Tuesday, or at least that is the plan.  I have, as always, over estimated what we can fit in, so the children aren’t getting much time to do each activity.  Sometimes that is good.  The last activity felt pressurised and therefore less enjoyable.  This activity was just plain fun, and whilst the children didn’t have enough time to completely do it justice, it was done on their own, with absolutely no input from me at all.  The best thing about this is that it means the children worked really well together as a team, each bringing to the table their strengths.

The assignment was to rewrite the Nun’s Priest’s Tale as a play, make up puppets from anything we had lying around the house and put on a play for their Granny and parents.  I gave them this on Tuesday and they had until Friday lunch time when we had arranged for my mum to pop in to watch.  The only school time I gave them was on the Tuesday, but they really got into this project, especially since they have had no computer time during the day, and they happily used their spare time to complete it.

The purpose for this assignment was two-fold.  I wanted to do an activity linked to the Nun’s Priest’s Tale, because this encourages an understanding of both the story and the way it was written.  The second reason was to test the enthusiasm the children had for putting on puppet shows.  I didn’t want to spend any money on puppetry supplies until I knew they would utilise them fully.  As part of their Shakespeare studies I thought a puppet play might work out well, but only if their enthusiasm and interest drove them.  They really did all enjoy the whole process and we will definitely be exploring puppetry further.

C11, who loves to write, wrote a very clear version of the Nun’s Tale.  She decided it would be a narrated play, whereby she would narrate the story whilst the puppets acted it out.  This was a sensible choice due to the time restraints:

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T12 was in charge of sound, back ground scenery, curtain calls and the like.  He really didn’t have long and with only resources he could find around the house, he also kept it simple by using their presentation card and painting sheets of paper to stick on them:

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L11, our resident artist, drew and cut out three or four simple shapes from foam and stuck them onto pipe cleaners to create some simple, easy to move puppets:

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I was impressed at how simple they all kept things.  This could have got out of hand with them planning big stuff but failing to produce anything in time.  By choosing simplicity they were able to complete the assignment in the given time and put on a very good show for my mum and their dad.  The younger ones were also able to get in on the fun and play with everything without worrying about breaking anything:

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The play begins with C11 narrating:

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Whilst L and T tell the story through the changeable scenery and puppets:

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It ended with them all taking a bow to the applause of their adoring audience!

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Much fun, learning and creativity occurred this week.  Role on Shakespeare!!

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Polymer Play: Making Plastic

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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:

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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:

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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:

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The vinegar will have an affect immediately:

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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:

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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:

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

Science Sunday   Tot School

Da Vinci and his Printing Press

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DSC_0060plans

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:

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

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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:

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

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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:

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

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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:

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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.

 

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