Category Archives: Holidays

Dear Icelandic Volcano…

…I see you took my warning seriously. Wise decision. I’m going in 2 days, so please behave yourself. Now, once I’m there, if you feel the need to let loose with some ash, be my guest. I wouldn’t mind being stranded there for a few extra weeks.

Goin’ home to Ohio for 3 weeks…see ya’ll later! โ™ฅ


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Sometimes I Don’t Like Living in England…

…and sometimes I love it. We had a weekend break in London. The weather was glorious and whilst strolling the bustling London streets I felt…at home. Strange, considering I’d love nothing more than to buy a cottage out in the country and live a slightly hermit-like existence, burying myself in my books and enjoying a quiet life virtually stranger-free. But I loved it in London. No one looked twice at the white woman wearing a headscarf. It made a lovely change from being stared at, spat at, and called “white Paki.” The people were actually friendly.

But it was more than just the lack of racism. It’s just such an amazing place. Bursting with history, crammed with people speaking all languages; I heard French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and many more that I didn’t recognise. Beautiful architecture, wisteria in full bloom climbing up the terraced houses, a myriad of adorable and tempting boutiques, maddening one-way systems, surprisingly clean streets, endless places to eat, constant police sirens; the noise was ceaseless.

I was a typical tourist, gawking at everything, snapping photos left and right.

On Saturday we strolled through Notting Hill, then visited the Natural History Museum. Here is the entrance:

And just look at that ceiling…

When I’m rich I’m having that in my house. Well, not that one, but a copy. Just waiting to win the lottery (which I don’t play) or for a rich relative (which I don’t have) to die. Any day now…

On Sunday we did the touristy thing and walked along the Thames. Here are some highlights:

Harrod’s, which I really wanted to go into, but didn’t have time:

The iconic red double-decker:

The Big Pickle, more commonly known as the Gherkin:

I love this style of terraced house:

Another row of houses I love, this one with a bit of Wisteria. (Other houses had Wisteria leaking from their very pores, but I couldn’t get shots of those.)

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre:

Esa and Hubby, posing with the London Eye and Th Houses of Parliament our new mansion in the background:

St. Paul’s Cathedral and some other stuff:

Some interesting sand sculptures, which the tide washed away not an hour later:

We also went into the Tate Modern (to use the restroom), which was a monstrous and rather ugly building, but I felt cosmopolitan going in.

In truth, I probably wouldn’tย  be happy actually living in London, but it sure is a fabulous place to visit. โ™ฅ


Posted by on April 13, 2011 in Family Life, Holidays, Second Grade, Time off


The Holidays Are Over…Time to Get Back to Work

We’ve had a few glorious weeks off which were spent lazily and indulgently; they went by far too quickly. The week before last Esa and dh along with 20+ members of his family all went to Scotland and stayed in this gorgeous Jane Austen style, seaside house for a week. I had obligations at home, so I stayed behind. I spent much of the week working through The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (I can’t begin to tell you how great this book is for homeschoolers and anyone wanting to learn to draw) drawing, and painting. It was lovely having a week to myself (the house stayed so clean), but it was just a little too quiet.

Esa was a little out of sorts during his holiday. The family thinks he was missing me, but I think it was because he’s was coming down with a cold and not feeling well. He perked up, however, when he learned how to ride his bike without training wheels.

The day he came back, he lost his first tooth. It’s been a week of milestones.

Last week saw us returning to lessons; we’re doing a gentle summer school with 4-day weeks, reviewing a few things, continuing with science, art, and handwriting, and taking a jaunt through prehistory.

We aren’t doing anything all that special for prehistory. We’re using the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History along with some library books. We’ve got a dinosaur colouring book, too, but I can’t seem to find any other activities or colouring pages for prehistory. We’re doing a timeline and I’m having Esa memorise the different eras.

Our books for second grade have arrived and I’m really looking forward to September.

This year I’m more concerned about saving time. Last year I was happy to spendย  hours and hours planning, preparing, and putting things together myself. Not so anymore; I want to spend less time fussing about with things and more time doing.

I bit the bullet and purchased the teacher’s manual for Minimus. I had a 10% off voucher from The Book Depository, which helped, and I know I’ll be able to resell this once I’m finished. It’s a must-have, I think, and fleshes out the programme nicely. I thought I could create my own supplementary activities and worksheets, but when I sat down to do it, I just kept sighing and drawing blanks. The teacher’s manual also provides the answers to the exercises, which saves me even more time.

Writing with Ease level 2 workbook is another time-saving purchase. I spent so much time creating copywork pages and struggling to guide his narrations for writing…I can’t be bothering with that anymore. The workbook will make writing pick-up-and-go.

The only curriculum we’re using that is teacher intensive is our science programme: Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. I can live with this. We love BFSU so much that it’s worth the prep work.

I see some changes on the horizon for this blog as well.

There for quite a while my life pretty much revolved around homeschooling; I spent vast quantities of time reading and researching methods, curricula…I read every book and article I could lay my hands on. I don’t regret this; all this preparation was necessary and has shaped our homeschooling. I think it’s helped prevent too much floundering and has contributed greatly to our success.

Homeschooling has broadened our horizons so much that we now have so many interests and pursuits that researching homeschooling isn’t necessary anymore. My enthusiasm hasn’t waned…I feel comfortable with what we do and now it’s just an integral part of our lives; it isn’t something that needs investigating, it’s something that we live. We’re living a life of exploration, investigation, and education…which is the whole point. ๐Ÿ™‚

That’s not to say I won’t be researching curricula and reading articles from time to time; I certainly will, and I’ll still talk about it here. But I think I’ll be talking about a broader range of topics on this blog. (Art, which I’ve developed a passion for, is something I blog about here.)

We shall see.


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Toes in the Sand

The weekend before last we went to Formby Beach. Unfortunately, the sat nav took us the long way and it took twice as long to get there as it should. And then my husband got pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving. Ok, not really, I’m joking. They were stopping people at random to make sure they hadn’t been drinking. This was a good opportunity for us to ask for directions. My husband is one of the few men who don’t have a problem asking for directions…but only as a last resort.

We couldn’t find the car park, so we parked along a road and had to walk it a bit. But it was worth it. Here’s why:

Nothing but this…

And this…

And then…

After taking fifty-million photos of this stunning poppy, we continued on our way.

At last…

Father and son built sandcastles…

While I sat, with my toes in the sand, taking in the view, the salty sea air, sketching and dreaming.


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Caves and Wildlife

My husband decided to take two whole weeks off from work. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about taking two weeks in a row off from school…we just took a week off not too long ago and I wasn’t ready for a break. But apparently DH was and he has lots of holidays to use up (19 days).

Last week we took Stiggy to Gloucester for a few days. We visited relatives, then went a few places. The first was Cheddar Gorge. Now, this is a beautiful place, and by all means pay a visit to the gorge and the lovely little shops, but if you’re looking for caves…real caves with bats, creepy crawlies, and other wildlife, don’t bother. It’s been made completely tourist-friendly: paved floors, handrails, lighting (coloured in some areas…sheesh), music, fountains, displays…it’s so rubbish. Not a bat to be seen. And waaaaaaaay overpriced. Ridiculously expensive. We knew how much it cost when we went, but I thought we were getting real caves. I should have known, really, since it’s a tourist place that it wouldn’t be the natural experience I was hoping for, but I’d never been to a cave before, so it was ignorance on my part. Stiggy was disappointed as well.

Yes, there was a few stalagmites and tites, some water running here and there, but he was hoping for some critters.

caves 22

The next day we got our act together and took him to Cotswold Wilflife Park and Gardens. This place is beautiful. It’s cheaper than a zoo and better than a zoo. The displays aren’t miles apart, you’re walking either on a dirt/gravel path or grass (instead of pavement), you can bring your dog, and the gardens aren’t separate; they’re all around the displays. They’re amazing. I found myself ooohing and aaaahing over different plants, declaring they had to go into my garden at home. Here’s one in particular that I like, but can’t remember what it’s called:

Mystery plant

Mystery Plant 2

Now, there aren’t a ton of animals in this place, but when I go to a zoo, I don’t like to see everything; when I leave, everything blurs in my mind and I don’t remember anything in particular with much clarity. But lots of displays from this wildlife park stand out in mind even now, a week later.

The bat house was incredible; we were able to observe some bats very close up.

bats 3

Stiggy enjoyed the penguins:


We spent a long time observing the different ducks:

ducks 4

The reticulator python was a particular favourite of Stiggy and his dad’s:

Reticulator python 2

My favourite: the tortoises:


And here’s an animal we will never forget:

siamang sign

We had a lovely time…but I’m really itching to get back to our lessons. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, have bought a few new resources, and have lots of great changes planned…more about that later.


Posted by on October 21, 2009 in Holidays, Natural History, Time off


I’ve Always Wanted to See Someone Famous…

Too bad she was dead. And mummified. (Sigh). Oh well, it was still exciting to see Cleopatra and the real Rosetta Stone all in one day. (The photos of the Rosetta Stone didn’t really turn out; all you can really see is a reflection of me taking a photo.)

We decided to scoot down to London for a little get-away. We stayed with my husband’s cousin and his wife and baby in their little flat. We had a great few days. We hit the British Museum…AMAZING. It’s enormous. If you ever get the chance to go, don’t plan on seeing it all in one day; I’m not even sure if that’s possible unless you literally run through it. We spent over 2 hours just seeing the ancient Egypt display, which is spread out over 2 floors.

The circular entrance hall took my breath away- all that white marble…and that ceiling…photos don’t do it justice.

The next day Stiggy went off with hubby to see some of the sights while I went to some shops with cousin’s wife.

Stiggy’s favourite bit of the whole trip? Travelling on the Underground. ๐Ÿ™‚


Posted by on August 6, 2009 in History, Holidays, Time off


Our Spanish Holiday-a bit more excitment than I bargained for

I wasn’t going to post about my holiday; I just didn’t think it was something people would want to read about. But my one ‘fans’ (lol, you know who you are!) encouraged me to, so here it is.

Getting There
The 16 of us (yup, 16! Ten adults and 6 kids: my hubby, son, and I; sis-in-law and her 3 kids; hubby’s aunt and uncle; bro-in-law, wife, and son; hubby’s cousin, wife, and daughter; and one spinster cousin ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) departed for Liverpool airport April 3rd fashionably late. Despite Ryan Air’s not-so-favourable reputation as Britain’s least favourite airline, they were only slightly grumpy and gave us no problems checking in. We breezed through security (all except me, the perpetual trouble-maker; I was frisked, as I
always am). As it was final boarding, we immediately boarded the plane and easily found seats.

Yes, found seats. Ryan Air works like a bus system. You queue up, get on, and jostle for a seat. No perks, no frills. They drop you off at your destination, more passengers board, and the whole process repeats, I think, all day. Yes, a bottle of water costs, like ยฃ2 or ยฃ3, we couldn’t complain. We got there quickly and alive. The one suitcase that my sis-in-law checked in even arrived.

Ok, the landing was a bit scary, but I think this may be due to the fact that San Javier airport in Murcia provides a landing strip the size of a tea towel. And not the big luxury ones, the cheap ones from Primark (what a coincidence).

It was wonderfully warm. After several cold months of English winter, it was like sinking into a warm bath; bones thawed and muscles relaxed. I was quite surprised at how dry and dusty it was. I’m assuming it’s not so arid everywhere in Spain, but apparently it hadn’t rained in Ramonete since October. That spell would be broken during our week there.

We breezed through immigration…except me, of course, with my American passport. Of course, I was the only one who got a stamp, so I didn’t mind. ๐Ÿ˜€

We rented 3 Seat Leons, stuffed our bags in, did a few test laps (sitting in the other side of the car takes a little getting used to) and then struggled to get out of the car park. We had to wait (a good 15 minutes; they’re quite laid back in Spain) for someone from the rental place to open the gate to release us from the car park.

Mountains and blue sky. The scent of lemon trees as we drove with the windows down. No billboards (except in the towns), no McDonald’s on every corner. Quiet. We felt a million miles from home.

We journeyed south (I think) to a little village called Ramonete in Lorca. Strangely, travelling through Spain made me quite homesick. The motorways were new, wide, and empty. And it was right-side-of-the-road driving. I really wanted to drive, but I was not one of the designated and insured drivers. I saw our exit pass us by and made a fuss. No one listened. A few minutes later we all turned around and went back. We found the exit, met the man who who owned the house we were renting and followed him.

Now, by followed, I actually mean got lost following him. My brother-in-law and cousin-in-law had no trouble keeping up in their cars. But my husband, the third driver, is a bit more relaxed. By relaxed I mean slow. We turned onto an unmarked dirt road and within 2 minutes we were literally left in the dust. At one point, instead of turning, we continued straight, through gates with a tiny sign (hidden in the dark) which read ‘prohibito el paso.’ Now, my Spanish isn’t great. One year of Spanish in school over 10 years ago hasn’t made me into any sort of proficient. But even I can translate that one. But we didn’t see the sign. All we saw were these plastic tents for raising tomatoes.

Two Seconds in a Foreign Country and We’re Already in Trouble
Within seconds the police were behind us. This is not a touristy area. They don’t speak English and we don’t speak Spanish. It was not a good situation. My husband tried to explain. They wanted our passports. Our mobile reception was poor. Their mobile reception was good, and they were soon phoning in our passport details. I never thought I would have police shining flash lights into my face, but there you have it. I lamely held up my hand when they read my name from my passport, pronounced phonetically ‘Mitch-ell…’

The police started mentioning taking us somewhere with them. It wasn’t looking good.

I then had a brainwave. I quickly told my husband to phone his brother and ask him to put the owner of the house on the phone; he spoke Spanish. Luckily, we got a bit of reception and things were quickly sorted.

At last we arrived at the house, the owner heartily laughing at our run-in with the police. We produced some nervous laughter and escaped inside to have some tea.

The Retreat
The house we stayed in is called The Aspirations Cave Retreat. I supposed by ‘retreat’ they mean it’s far away from civilisation, has a view of the sea, and doesn’t have a clock. Or a kettle. Or a microwave. Or hot water that lasts an entire shower. (Ok, they do offer reflexology and some other treatments, but I’m trying to set a tone, so work with me)

But it was lovely, quiet, and had a pool. Our first day there, all we did was lounge by the pool and get sunburnt. It was great.

The house is set into a cave, as are many houses in that area. The open-plan sitting room, kitchen, and bathrooms are built onto the front of the cave, with the bedrooms set into the cave. The rooms stay a fairly cool temperature, and, having no windows are very dark. I think this is supposed to cure insomnia. It definitely made me oversleep.

More Excitment
It was too cold to swim, but a few of the more crazy members of the family did. For a few seconds, anyway. The children sat around it, their legs in. My son fell in and had his first near-death experience. (A note: the children were never allowed by the pool alone; it was fenced in and adults were always present; my son was hauled out within 5 seconds).

That evening my son managed to lock himself into our room, which has no windows. He went on to have his second near-death experience when I said, in desperation, after 10 minutes of trying to instruct him on how to unlock the door and his being unsuccessful, ‘if you don’t get this door unlocked, you’re going to be trapped in there forever!’ Eventually he did it and we swiftly removed all the door keys (all the bedrooms and bathrooms had them) and put them on high shelves.

So it was an exciting beginning to our holiday. A bit too exciting. Luckily things slowed down and we spent the majority of our time just relaxing and commenting on everything. Smug with the knowledge that in England it was snowing while we were roasting ourselves to a crisp. It did rain a little, but even that was lovely. Oh, and we did have 2 tyre punctures, and one more experience with the police, just for extra fun. Apparently there are a lot of illegal immigrants from Morocco, so the police are always checking people.

There was a little shop a few minutes away that we went to for essentials. We thought it would be really cheap and interesting. It was neither, nor did it have many essentials. No fresh milk, just the UHT stuff, and it was just as overpriced as it is here. But it was a shop and we made do. We found an Eroski about an hour away and loaded up on food. It was like a big ASDA; I even found some goodies I used to enjoy in America.

My immediate thought is: don’t bother. But everyone’s different. You may enjoy it; many do. Maybe if I’d read about it beforehand, learned a bit more history, I would have been more interested, but I didn’t know we were going until we arrived in Spain. Yes, it was beautiful and I am happy I went, but I was disappointed. I expected more.

It rained. It was cold. Ninety-percent of it is outdoors. We weren’t prepared.

Al-Hambra is a lot like IKEA. Once you’re in, you can’t get out. You just have to keep following this winding path until it ends. If you had a heart attack while touring the place you’d surely die before anyone could get to you. You just can’t escape.

The gardens were beautiful, the palace was beautiful, but hard to appreciate with so many other tourists, literally queuing up to take a picture of a window. Despite the fact that there are, like, 1000 windows. And most of it is gone; it’s mostly just ruins.

But I suppose it was an experience…about as much of an experience as brushing your teeth is (only kidding).

The Seaside
Ahhhh…this is more like it. I loved the seaside. The kids loved it. We all loved it. There were big, beautiful waves and I wanted to dive in, but I’m a wimp when it comes to the cold, so I let it splash over my legs and gasped with delight…and then ran away back to the warm sand.

We went to the seaside several times, once to Puerto de Mazarron, which was lovely. We even went on our last day, a few hours before heading home, just for one last bask in the sun.

All in all…
A lovely trip, a week well spent, with a few unexpected adventures thrown in to make it memorable. No, they may not all be the kind of adventures we were looking for, but I relish all experiences, even scary ones and ones as dull as brushing my teeth. ๐Ÿ™‚

A feat of organisational wonder trying to get 10 adults and 6 children to Spain and back, on time, in one piece, without any real disasters.

Probably the most enduring memory for me will be when driving through a windy back road: a monastery set high on a hill with 2 nuns, in full habit, standing on the balcony, wind blowing their robes. Hard to describe, but it filled me with wonder.


Posted by on April 16, 2008 in Holidays