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15th Aug 2009

Summer Projects

Edie: At the beginning of the summer holidays, I decided to make a dress for myself. We went to the shops to buy everything I needed. The dress is made of two materials –the halterneck top is black jersey, and the wide, swingy skirt is a turquoise cotton with flowers. I've cut everything out, and am going to start sewing it with my grandma this week. 

I'm really looking forward to making it and wearing it, and with the material that is left over, hopefully I will be able to make a hair band, hair ribbons and a bag to match as well.

Maudie: This summer we weren't going anywhere for very long, and mum suggested Edie and I should do a summer project. She ran off a list of suggestions, and I liked the sound of a recipe book best. Mum took me to town to choose a new writing book to put the recipes in. We found this one in Paperchase – I saw several nice ones, but this was my favorite. Shortly after, I added in recipes. Recipes that we'd had recently, recipes from ages ago, and I'm still adding in recipes now. I decorate each recipe with a border, and occasionally stick pictures in of the food. I've put in a few starters, but they're mostly mains and desserts.

It's been lots of fun to write the recipes, and I hope to add more as the years come.

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26th May 2008

Shell Seekers

It's half-term and we're on a quiet Scottish island where the sand is white, the sea is deep turquoise, and the beaches are full of shells of incredible shapes and colours. We're staying in a house with shell art on the walls and a beach 20m away, so decided to see what we could find in a couple of hours' beachcombing. Everyone took a bag and picked up the shells they liked best, then brought them home and laid them out on the table to make instant homemade art. Carla arranged hers in the shape of a wheel, and also found a pipefish, which used to be rare but you see more often now...

Mike collected tiny yellow and green flat periwinkles and packed them into a circle...

Joe collected small fragments of edible sea urchins, top shells, periwinkles, and unusual stones...

Maudie went for white and blue and arranged them in double decker stone sandwiches...

Tamsin picked periwinkles of all colours, plus some white cowries, and arranged them in bold lines of colour...

Edie liked pyramids of white limpets, rough periwinkles, and also found a crusty old mussel.

It's sunny now but on the next rainy day we're going to stick the shells onto flotsam and driftwood and make artworks to put on the walls... 

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11th Feb 2008

More of the Longest Booklist Ever

Tamsin: The last 5 books read by me:

The Glass Palace, by Amitav Ghosh.
Veronika Decides to Die, by Paulo Coelho.
The Rise and Fall of Merry England, by Ronald Hutton.
Recipes from an Old Farmhouse, by Alison Uttley.
Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton with illustrations by Eric Puybaret.

The Glass Palace was a book I read a couple of years ago and decided to revisit since it is all about Burma. Beautifully written, it follows one family through the country's upheavals as the British march in and the inevitable consequences to its history. The Rise and Fall of Merry England shows my love of history and reinforced my belief that, as a nation, we have forgotten how to be ‘merry’. Puff the Magic Dragon was a fantastically illustrated children’s book that I read with my niece and evoked strong memories of the song which was part of so many people’s childhoods. Luckily, there is a beautifully recorded CD with it so we could sing as we read.

Joe (age 13): The last 5 books I read:
Septimus Heap, book 1, Magyk by Angie Sage
The Ring of Bright Water Trilogy by Gavin Maxwell
Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
Does Anything Eat Wasps? – New Scientist
The Highwayman’s Footsteps by Nicola Morgan

Magyk: I read this by accident thinking it to be something else but was pleasantly surprised. It has a well thought-out and interesting plot. 

The Ring of Bright Water: Brilliant book and a true story! One of the best books I’ve read.  

Touching the Void: Amazing true story about a pair of climbers whose climb turns into a horrifying nightmare. It is written by the survivors and gives a realistic and emotional insight into their story.  

Does Anything Eat Wasps?: Yes it does! This little book is compiled from a Wikipedia-like website where people posted (sometimes completely random) questions and the writers have picked the best and funniest answers. 

The Highwayman’s Footsteps: Interesting, well-written book based around the poem, 'The Highwayman’s Footsteps’.

Carla (age 10): The last 5 books I read:
Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Driftwood by Cathy Cassidy
Girls in Tears by Jacqueline Wilson
Girl, Missing by Sophie McKenzie

My favourite book on the list is Girls in Tears. The book has a good story line and I like all the characters. I have always like Jacqueline Wilson books. She has always written books for all ages and ever since I was 6 or 7, I liked the books. However, the one good thing about it is that the story is part of a series and I think this is one of the last. Ellie, the girl the book is about, is a funny and kind girl. The book tells you about her good times and bad times and makes you feel like you’re inside her head, listening to her thoughts - it is a gem of a book. I think that everyone I know who has read the book has loved it. It is good for 10+.  

Mike: The last 5 books I read:
The Newspaper
The New Yorker
The Economist
Scientific American
PC PRO

With an appallingly short attention span, magazines seem so much better than books.  I need The Newspaper in the morning in order to come to terms with life. The Economist keeps me in touch with the world and its technology reporting is always spot on which gives me confidence on the issues I’m not well versed in. The New Yorker feeds my literary needs. The rest just mean I’m probably a propeller head.

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7th Feb 2008

The Longest Book List Ever

Mal: When we moved to Cambridge in 2002, I found I had time to read books in a way I hadn’t for years. With a 50-minute train journey to London morning and evening, I found that I could – and have – read all those interesting paperbacks I bought at jumble sales in the 1980s and 90s. In fact, I got through so many at first that I began losing track of what I’d read. So I started writing down the author and title of every book I finished (and on two notable occasions, gave up on). It’s a kind of geeky thing to do, something that I didn’t think was of interest to anyone except me.

And then I found Art Garfunkel’s list. He’s worse than me. He’s posted the title of every book he’s read since June 1968. And it makes a fascinating read. So I thought we’d do something similar here, with each member of the family writing down the last five books they’ve read and choosing their favourite.

And if anyone wants to join in, we’d like to hear your book choices too…

The last books I read were:
1 Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees, by Roger Deakin (joint favourite)
2 My Life and Hard Times, by James Thurber
3 A Philosophical Investigation, by Philip Kerr
4 The Shadow Line & Within The Tides, by Joseph Conrad (joint favourite)
5 Portrait of Johnny: the Life of John Herndon Mercer, by Gene Lees

Maudie: The last books I read were:

1 Girl, Missing by Sophie Mckenzie
2 Goodnight Mister Tom, by Michelle Magorian
3 Broken Soup, by Jenny Valentine
4 A Spoonful of Jam, by Michelle Magorian
5 Absolutely Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech

My favourite has to be Girl, Missing by Sophie Mckenzie. It was so exciting, I really felt like the girl Lauren. There were some sad, scary and weird bits. The thing I liked most was the storyline, about her going off to look for her real parents and then finding them! Lauren and her friend Jam get up to all sorts of adventures, and a kidnapper tries to sink them in a ship. It was a brilliant book - I’d recommend it to anyone aged 10+.

Edie: My last five books were:

1 Jane Blonde, Sensational Spylet, by Jill Marshall
2 Mermaid Magic, by Gwyneth Rees
3 Claudine at St Clare’s, by Enid Blyton
4 Fifth Formers of St Clare’s, by Enid Blyton
5 Iron Hand, by Charlie Fletcher

I really liked Jane Blonde because it was adventurous. At the start of the story Janey is a very boring girl but then she finds her godmother and turns into a spy. She goes on loads of missions and gets trapped in an ice lolly and has to escape. It’s so cold she uses her hair which is frozen in a ponytail to pop a dinghy which takes her up to the sky.

Jane: My last five books were:

1 The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters, edited by Charlotte Mosley
2 The Master Bedroom, by Tessa Hadley
3 Selective Memory: an autobiography, by Katharine Whitehorn
4 The Man Who Went Up In Smoke, by Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo
5 The Black Book, by Orhan Pamuk

Posh hardbacks don’t usually feature quite so heavily in my reading but this list comprised my Christmas books, which I really enjoyed reading in January. My favourite was the Tessa Hadley because of its miniaturist’s detail and so-sharp dialogue – a delicious page-turner.

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3rd Jan 2008

Chocolate & More Chocolate...

Carla: The Hedgehog.
A Happy New Year to you all! The last year was lovely but this one is better. Why? Because of chocolate. My mum gave me a book for Christmas about making different-shaped chocolate cakes. When my godmother Helen looked through the book we found a picture of a hedgehog made out of chocolate. She said we should make the cake for the New Year. Me and my friend Emma said we would. We looked at the picture and asked my dad to get the stuff we needed when he went shopping. When we had finally got ALL the chocolate buttons, Smarties, cocoa etc, we got started. The cake was made and cooked. We put the icing on and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes. When it was a little bit cold we put on the chocolate buttons and the little nose and eyes. When we had done it, it looked lovely, just too lovely to eat – NOT!

Joe: The Armadillo Thing (my mum thought was a slug!)
As I wandered around the house looking for food I stumbled into the kitchen and came across Carla and Emma making a hedgehog cake. I sidled over to ‘borrow’ a slice they weren’t using but upon seeing what they’d made I thought I’d have a go myself. My first idea was to construct a dolphin with the help of their delicious icing but I then veered off in a completely different direction. The new idea started out as an armadillo but once I had plated its back with chocolate buttons like scales I realised that I had run out of buttons and the rest of the cake was in crumbs. Thwarted, I had to make do with the final two buttons stuck on cocktail sticks like big googly eyes.

Other ideas: snail, lizard, ladybird, fish.

Helen (Godmother): Making an Effigy of a Dead Mouse in a Mousetrap out of Chocolate-related Materials
I always find when spending time with my godchildren that working in close proximity to chocolate is a successful activity, especially if it becomes necessary to get all of your fingers covered in chocolate.
This New Year's Day, Carla chose to make a special celebratory hedgehog cake and I was very keen to join in. I noticed there were some significant cake trimmings left over to play with. And I knew that assembling heads and bodies and sticking them together with chocolate icing would allow me an excuse to dip my fingers in the yummy bowl of sculpting material. The most obvious candidates to accompany the hedgehog were a squirrel or a mole from the woodland habitat we can see outside the window. However, this holiday there has been an invasion from the rodent world. Mice have tunnelled in from outside and their visits have made a mess of the food stored in the lower levels of the larder. My idea was to commemorate the relationship of the human to the mouse, especially apt in chocolate form because Mike has been capturing the invaders with mousetraps using chocolate as bait. As I, my goddaughter and the mouse world all have a love of chocolate in common, we agreed that making a sculpture of a mouse in a trap would be a great way to remember this holiday. 
We decided to make the mouse out of a small amount of cake and a large amount of icing. We started with a clean china plate. I cut a small cube of cake for the body and covered it lavishly with icing and Carla stuck a smaller cube of cake on for the mouse head, glueing it on with icing. We put it in the fridge to set for five minutes. 
Meantime, Carla chose pink Smarties for the ears and nose, and green Smarties for the eyes, so I cut these in half for her on a wooden chopping board. Several other Smarties were sampled in the selection process – it is very important to taste the materials you are working with to make sure you have the correct ingredients. Next we cut about 20 chocolate buttons in half to use for the legs. It turned out that we only needed four half buttons, so the other 36 half buttons had to be eaten to leave the chopping board neat and tidy for the next user. 
The tail was sculpted out of icing when it came out of the fridge, and Mike built the outline of the trap over the forehead of our mouse, using four cocktail sticks stuck together with icing to glue it to the plate. Joe experimented with cherry skin and frozen cranberry juice to make some fake blood to stick on the forehead of the mouse. We rejected these interventions on grounds of sick taste. Lastly, Carla carefully chose the label wording for the recently deceased mouse effigy, and elegantly wrote ‘R.I.P. MOUSE 2008’ in yellow icing.
We consider our work a great success and a fitting memorial that would be submitted for the next Turner prize competition - if it had not been eaten at teatime.

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