Friday, 22 August 2008


What can I say... I received my first blog award this week. I've seen these awards on other blogs but never dreamed I'd be honoured by one. It's nice to think people enjoy popping along to my little home on the internet to catch up and maybe have a cup of cyber-tea!

So thank you, Tammy, over at Rainbows and Sunshine for nominating me for this award and giving me the awesome pleasure of choosing who to pass it on to. I have chosen to keep it to the minimum of 7 blogs, although this is a hard choice seen as though all the blogs I read are, in my opinion, brilliant (otherwise I wouldn't stop by so often, would I?) But I just feel to pass it on to every blog I read would completely invalidate the whole idea of choosing blogs which I feel, at this time, are posting some especially brilliant pieces for me to read each day.

Please understand though that I value every single blog I visit and the list below are the 7 blogs which have inspired me especially in the past few weeks - this does not mean if I do not pass the award on to you that you haven't inspired me as much in the past because you have all inspired and touched me in ways I cannot tell you!

So without further ado, here are my 7 brilliant blog nominations - along with the award itself and the rules of passing it on. You are by no means obligated to accept the award or to pass it on if I do nominate you - I truly believe in blogging without obligation *hugs*

Louise at This Is My Patch for sharing such beautiful pictures of her world with us - the flowers and freshly grown vegetables always lift me up on grey, sad days

Clairey at Nothing Will Go Wrong whose blog I have loved following as she settled into her new home, shares tales of life which just tickle me to the core, and because I just love visiting

Glenda at I'll Do It Myself Blog. Glenda shares her experiences of living with cerebral palsy and writes such informative and inspiring posts using only her left thumb. I have huge respect for Glenda, and think what she is sharing with the world is incredible.

Kim at Ragged Roses for writing such wonderfully romantic posts, that I can only describe as being akin to the most luscious chocolate, about family life, weekend trips and crafting. It really is like dibbing into a favourite box of chocolates when visiting her blog.

Rebecca at Irish Sally Garden who I first discovered at her other crafting blog, but have since followed her to this new blog where she shares her family's journey into self-sufficiency. Rebecca has inspired T and I to work towards being able to at least grow some vegetables and rear chickens in our future (plus it has re-inspired our love of the tv show The Good Life hehe)

Erika and Bryce at Love From LV for sharing the journey they are taking with their daughter, Caroline. Having worked with teenagers with special needs I was aware of a certain amount of the difficulties as well as joys of being around those with different needs to our own but their blog has really opened my eyes to even deeper levels of joy and pain and I am very grateful for their blog!

Fergus at My Diary of Triplet Fatherhood for sharing the joys and trials of bringing up triplets. I have followed this blog pretty much since it was started and just love to read about how the girls are growing and how life with triplets differs from life with a single child.

I hope you enjoy visiting and reading some of these blogs as much as I do!

For those who wish to pass on this award, follow these simple steps:

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog

2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you

3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs

4) Add links to those blogs on your blog

5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Baking spree and leaving presents

I have finally uploaded the pictures from T's phone so can share the baking joys we've had the past couple of weeks :o)

First was T's birthday. We decided for this one to make a lemon and poppy seed cake, and I trailed the intenet for a recipe I liked the look of (i.e. one that didn't request an obscene number of eggs - what is with recipes these days and piling on the eggs and fussy steps to cakes that used to be so simple?!) Eventually I found this one which worked a treat even with changing the flour for Spelt flour - yum! Here is T making his wish...

I had then planned on reproducing this cake to give to the staff on my last day at the nursery, however on second thoughts I decided to bake enough goodies for the children as well and it just seemed more feasible in my timetable to make up a huge batch of fairy cakes. I worked out how much I needed for the 40 cakes but like the daft thing I am I thought there were 16 ounces to a pound and not 14 so ended up with 18 ounces worth of everything... that meant a quick calculation on how many more eggs were needed (luckily we had enough) and I ended up with 54 ounces of cake mix (well a bit more with the eggs added) and needing 20 ounces of icing sugar to cover them all. In the end I had enough cake mix to make 10 extra fairy cakes AND a small jam sponge for T, much to his delight!! Here is the result of all that baking, which T took before taking up his duties as official smartie-putter-on-er hehe

I iced whilst he put the smarties on (and took pictures like the good boyfriend he is, knowing I'd want to have evidence of all this to share with you guys!)

And then we sat back and enjoyed the fruits of our labour...

T, more than I, seen as though they were made with wheat this time and I needed an official taster - need I tell you how much persuasion he required before taking up that role?!

My last day at the nursery was long and short all at the same time. I knew from previous leavers that the nursery has a tradition of gathering the whole nursery into one room to say good bye and I wanted to avoid this. I didn't want to be reminded I was leaving as I was seriously sad to go and I made it to an hour until I went home and thought I'd escaped. No such luck... Suddenly the entire nursery turned up in our room and I was showered with gifts of wheat-free cakes (which I have complained many a time are too expensive for me to buy for myself), a little me-to-you bear and the following little book and cards...

The inside of the book has pages of drawings made by each of the babies and toddlers I have spent most of my time looking after. I was so touched and barely kept it together! One of my colleagues had made it her mission to make me cry so I wouldn't leave and she very almost succeeded with this one!

Needless to say, I am still getting used to the idea of not going to work there again. It is a very bittersweet farewell as I loved being there so much and I truly feel as if I will be missed as much as I will miss the place, which is very rare indeed. But I am so glad to be moving into a role where my health will not suffer so and we will have the money we so desperately need just to survive. Many people around us have not realised the seriousness of our situation and truly comprehended that when we said we had no money we actually meant we didn't even know where our next month's rent and food would come from. It is a sincere relief to be passing that stage in our lives. I've never had much money but I have also never had so very little.

So now I am half way through my week of transition - time to get used to not working there any more and preparing to work in my new place. I should probably be learning directions and such but quite frankly I'm to busy enjoying the relaxation.

Hope you're all having a good week xx

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Last day tomorrow

I cannot believe it is my last day at the nursery tomorrow - I have only been there 4 and a half months and although it is a huge relief to be leaving after the past four months of financial and health crises, enough to last us a good few years no a good few months, I am still very sad to be leaving so many friends (both in staff and the children). I'm even leaving someone I used to work with at my old nursery and am very sad about this - but if fate brought us together again this time I have no doubt I'll see her again in the future.

I know, I know, I promised a post on T's birthday and a cake I baked and I will get round to that next week, along with photos of the FIFTY fairy cakes I baked for the nursery as a leaving gift. But for tonight I just want to take it easy - chill out and prepare myself for the emotional day tomorrow will be. T is currently cooking us a stir-fry, we will then watch some more Star Trek (we LOVE Star TRek and just discovered "The Best of the Borg" on On Demand :o) Plus Voyager (my fav show as a teenager) has just started to rerun on Birgin 1 each evening - yay! During the ad breaks I'm gonna be making a few goodbye cards and wrapping up books and crystals I have promised friends around the world - busy but also enjoyable!

Last night I finished off my proposal for the German lessons I will be teaching come January - it ended up 12 pages long by the time I had detailed how they would meet several of the new Early Learning Goals in the new curriculum. But I am glad I took the time to do it in such depth because it not only shows professionalism (which I love to do) but it also made it so much clearer in my mind what direction and focus I need to put to the lessons in order for them to fit into the nursery routine the best. I might even take to putting some of them on here (some songs and basic games and phrases we will be learning) if anyone is interested - now I have a working microphone and webcam I could easily record a lesson or two. I'll see what I feel like when the time comes.

But now I smell dinner and am off to enjoy the evening - take care and have a wonderful Friday!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Childcare provision and a trip to Bury

I have far too much I want to blog about right now and although it might seem wise to keep some of it back for later posts I am sure I will forget about them or just never get around to it. Therefore this post is going to be two rolled into one - hope you don't mind!

Part 1 - Childcare Provision or more appropriately how languages are approached in childcare

This past week I have been working in pre-school. I have worked in pre-school before and have to say I really quite enjoy this age group (although saying that I'm quite happy to work with any age from baby up to about 7 or 8). We presently have 2 German speaking children, a Polish speaking child and a Chinese speaking child. The latter two both started at the nursery with no prior knowledge of English - how scary for them!! I remember being at the nursery when the Chinese little boy started and he would hardly interact with any of the children and would cry so much - hardly surprising I think I would cry too. In fact I have cried when in another country and unable to understand what people are saying to me and being unable to express what I felt and that was as a teenager and adult not a 4 year old child!! But what shocked me the most was the lack of compassion, tolerance and patience some of the nursery staff had for this child. Seriously, because it made their lives more difficult they would moan and sometimes just ignore his cries - and if I didn't already have a soft spot for this child (which I did) I would have developed one there and then. As it works out I bumped into this child and his mum once in the supermarket and his mum stopped to tell me that he'd told her I was his teacher!! Bless him.

Anyway, this week I was lucky enough to see how far this little boy has come. Although he barely speaks more than a few words he does understand what is being said to him most of the time. It always amazes me how incredibly good children of this age are at learning new languages. But what made my heart sing was when he came up to me with a set of flashcards his parents had made. On one side of the card were English words like "home" and "play" and on the other were the Chinese characters. And guess what? He started reading the Chinese characters for me and teaching me what they said. He's 4 years old for crying out loud - most kids of his age can only just manage their names not Chinese characters!!! And his face, when I began to copy what he was saying was enough to fill my heart for the rest of the week!! He was overjoyed that someone would take the time to listen to his language and I like to think the reason he brought them to me was because at some level he knew that I would do so.

I'm sure most of you are aware that I studied languages at University - next to children and arts and crafts my other passion is languages and communication. I adore being able to communicate with others and I cannot tell you what a thrill I get from listening to and reproducing foreign sounds *sigh*. So when another little girl started at the nursery this week with absolutely no understanding of the English language I wanted to do all I could to help her. She speak Polish and although Polish has similarities to Russian it is different enough for me not to be able to understand what she was saying. After she calmed down and stopped crying enough for us to try and play with her, and after the other Polish child had spoken to her, I took the time to try and listen to what she was saying. All I could work out were the words for "mum" and "home" and I just could not comfort her by telling her that he mum would take her home soon. And although we had a Polish speaking child there to speak to her, he just isn't old enough to understand the concept of translation. Eventually she calmed down enough to sit on my lap and listen to a story but it broke my heart not to be able to do more for this child.

This is why this weekend I am looking up key Polish vocabulary we can use with her this coming week and why I feel more strongly than ever that the childcare and education system needs to put much more emphasis on foreign languages. Personally I think that there should be a system whereby each council has several native language contacts they can call into nurseries to help integrate foreign children into the system and I definately think foreign languages should be taught at an earlier age than it already is, not just to the children but to the childcare providers as well. This is one of the main reasons why, however much I'd like not to take on the extra work, I am going back to the nursery in the New Year to begin teaching German to the pre-school. We curently teach all staff and children sign language, why not another spoken language?

One of my plans when I left university was to set up my own business going round schools and nurseries, teaching staff and children German in fun and exciting ways that they can actually use. Although this has not been a possibility I do hope that one day, perhaps when I have children of my own (if I have the option of becoming a SAHM) I'll be able to take this idea further. But for now I am reduced to hoping that the system changes somehow. It is particularly of interest here where I live because at my nursery alone (bearing in mind there are only around 70 children registered) we have 3 Polish children, 2 German children, 3 Italian children, 1 Spanish child, 2 Arabic children, 1 Chinese child, 1 deaf child and 2 American children, who I know do not speak another language but come from another culture which would be great to introduce to the other children. One of my other ideas I had was of a bus that was specifically changed to be a playbus but with different areas to cover the world - toys and games and books and music in different areas to enable children to "explore" the world in their own playground. A great dream - most likely not a reality and certainly not one I can pursue - but wouldn't it be great if we had such things as that?!

Part 2 - A trip to Bury

And now on to part 2 - T and I made a day trip to Bury St Edmunds yesterday. We are hoping to go to the coast one day during the week I am off between finishing at the nursery and starting at the council. But this would be a far longer journey than I have tried since having this ear infection. So we thought we'd try a shorter journey, especially as Bury has a lovely crystal shop and as T has just started a distance Crystal Therapy course he wanted to check out what was available.

Thigns didn't go exactly to plan when I got home Friday so exhausted I could barely stay awake. I had felt brilliant all week long and I thought I was finally over the effects of the infection but then suddenly I had a setback and even though I slept for about 10 hours Friday night I still woke up feeling hungover. This was not how I wanted to attempt our first long journey in the car but I didn't want to miss out so we tried. We had to stop once on the way because I felt sick but then I got so panicked by all the cars speeding by us I decided I'd rather feel sick!! I never thought I'd be panicked by cars - it was so weird and very unpleasant. But eventually we arrived and it was well worth the journey!

I was desperate for the toilet when we got there so we began looking for a nice cafe to have a drink and use their facilities. We came across a fantastic place called Coffee 'n' Kids where you can stop to have a lovely cup of fresh herbal tea, homemade cakes and even buy some craft materials to enjoy either alone or with your kids. The people there were incredibly friendly and T and I came out with smiles on our faces and hope in our hearts for a perfect day.

We then visited the crystal shop and spent far more than maybe we should have but we've been SO careful with our money of late and now T is starting his new job and I am due to move to a bigger wage we decided it was ok to splash out this once. This was about the same time we realised we were very hungry, so we went in search of food. Finding food is quite difficult for me because I cannot currently eat wheat. This is a new thing that developed after an operation in 2005 and I am hoping to try reintroducing wheat into my diet again sometime in 2009. But until then we are left with trying to find non-wheat products. Usually this means soup or salads but we found this amazing store on the market square where a lady was selling butter beans in tomato and herby sauce and potato and chorizo sausage with peppers and onions all packaged up in biodegradable boxes with wooden forks and all including organically grown food. The portions were HUGE and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal - I only wish every town had this kind of market stall!

After that we popped into Woolworths - a shop neither of us has visited in years because they seem to be becoming quite extinct these days, much to our disappointment. There we bought a lovely cake tin for putting homemade cakes in (which reminds me I must post about T's birthday). After that we visited a nice "bargain store" where I bought a sketch pad and some new graded pencils as I have lost most of mine and am hoping to try my hand at drawing again. I can draw pretty well and did a fairly good sketch of T watching tv last night (although he kept moving a bit too much for my liking hehe) but I do not draw as well as I'd like to.

After all of this we headed back to the car, through the abbey which won the Britain in Bloom Award in 2007 - it has beautiful garden and I wish so much that we'd had a camera to take pictures. We're hoping to head back there to do some Christmas shopping later in the year so I promise to take photos then!

I think that's it for now - this is certainly a long enough post so well done if you've made it this far!!

Have a lovely week
Amanda xx

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

A great writer and some other Russian masters!

I couldn't let Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's death go by without posting a little message. I was lucky enough to read some of his work at university and have to say he is an incredible author who will be missed by many. I read his book A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich twice (once in my first year and again in my fourth year) but regret never reading Cancer Ward. I had an amazing lecturer who took our module on Pasternak and Solzhenitsyn and thoroughly enjoyed the lectures and seminars on Cancer Ward but having just ploughed my way through Doctor Zhivago and under pressure to meet numerous deadlines I just did not feel I had the time to read another major novel, not when I could get away with not reading it and still pass the module. Hearing of Solzhenitsyn's death has made me want to climb up into our loft and bring down my copy (yes I did buy a copy!!) and read it now - as a memorial for one of the great Russian authors.

One of the things I truly enjoyed about my university degree was the introduction to some amazing authors. I'm not really a classical novel kind of person, so I found many of the Russian classics hard to get into - so don't ask me about Karenina, A Hero of Our Time or any of the more famous pieces to come from there. But the modern Russian novels, particularly those written during the time of the Soviet Union's power, just enthrall me. Many of these were completely dangerous to the authors and were handwritten and passed between friends and eventually smuggled out of the country to be published in other nations long before they would ever be known to the general public. This form of publishing such risqué pieces of work was known as Samizdat and is something that interests me greatly - it proves how powerful art can be and how strong people under hard circumstances can still find hope and even see the funny side of life. Let's just say that I never thought a module entitled "Soviet Comic Prose" would actually amuse me!!

And so, for those of you unaware of how wonderful Russian writing can be, I share with you some of my favourites (some of which are readily available to buy and some of which need to be searched for).

Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita and The Heart of a Dog

Who could possibly resist the humorous take on the changing face of Russian life as portrayed in The Heart of a Dog? A professor transplants the pituitary gland and testes of a human into a stray dog and sees it turn into a human so unlike him and yet so loved by those around him that his whole life begins to fall to pieces.

And who couldn't love the depth to what is perhaps my all-time favourite book? The Master and Margarita tells the tale of the Devil's visit to Moscow, where he simultaneously creates havoc whilst also reuniting Margarita with her beloved Master so that he can continue telling the tale of Jesus' trial and death and the effects that had on Pontius Pilate. As humorous as the Devil's antics are, it is still the scenes of Jesus' death which moved me in such a haunting way (whether you agree with Bulgakov's interpretation it is stil very emotive!)

Ilf and Petrov's Twelve Chairs

This is such a farce - a man hears from his dying relative that she hid several jewels in one of the chairs they used to posses but which were taken away and split between people across the whole of Russia. What follows is a race between the protagonist and his amusingly competent new companion, Bender, and the priest who also heard the dying confession to see who can find the jewels first. There are 12 chairs in all and each one must be searched - whenever they come close something else happens. A laugh from start to finish!

Gogol's The Nose and The Undercoat

Both of these short tales are quite ridiculous in nature you might wonder where you left your head - how could a man's nose leave his face and become a well-respected member of society, above his own rank? And who could not feel sorry for poor Akaki, Akakiavich Bashmashkin - the man who lives to copy out other people's words and whose overcoat is his prized possession. Weird but fun, quick reads.

Yevgeny Zamyatin's We

This is the first dystopian novel - written before Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell even commented he was inspired by this book) and long before Brave New World and all the others that followed. How does one cope in a world where letters and numbers replace names and sex is something you are given an allotted time for - a time when the glass walls can be covered - and where daily marches can be compared to a great machine moving fluidly through the streets? This book follows one man as he begins to realise there is another world out there and that this may not be the perfect world he once thought it to be. A gripping read!

Well - I hope that whets your appetite a bit - let me know what kinds of books you love to read!

A last note - many of these works are available at Project Gutenberg

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Sacred Life Sunday part 6 - The gift of friendship

Wow it's been too long since I posted something for Sacred Life Sunday. I feel as if the past few months have been a nightmarish whirl of activity where one thing after another has popped up to cause havoc in our lives. T and I have both suffered from ill health (enough to stop us both working) and therefore financial troubles neither of us had ever imagined we'd have - especially not within the first 6 months of living together. These past few months could have cmpletely killed us and our relationship, such was the pressure put upon us and it, but it didn't - all because of the gift of friendship!

T and I met last May and became fast friends even though miles kept us apart for most of the time. We would send emails and texts back and forth and occasionally talk on the phone or meet up in person, up until October when our friendship turned into a relationship. Everyne was overjoyed at this development and I had friends contacting me from all over to ask if it was true - did I finally have a boyfriend?! Here lay the first and second gifts of friendship - the special friendship I have with T being the first and the sharing of joy and good news with friends the second.

As time went on T and I began to consider moving in together - which meant moving away from my family again. Now, for me, my family are some of the closest friends a person can ever have - and equally important is the fact that close friends are always considered to be family. This is perhaps one of the greatest gifts of friendship and one we have come to value extremely highly these past few months. In times of our greatest need our family have come through and helped us stay afloat in the turbulent waters that surrounded us. My parents have offered us financial assistance, T's parents have provided us with essentials, my sister has given us money for treats to cheer us up and my friends have given us hope and prayed with us in finding our way forwards.

And when I say our friends, I do not just mean the friends I see each day but also the ones I hold in my heart. Having moved away from home to study and then taking part in voluntary activities both in the UK and abroad and moving once more to work after graduation, I have been blessed with many friends around the world. And through the medium of the internet I have been able to keep in touch with so many of these - even in the busiest times of my life. But even more than keeping me in touch with old friends, the internet has allwed me to make even more new ones - some of whom I've been lucky enough to meet in person as well! Both through blogging and internet forums I have met and made some amazing friends - some of whom I'll never meet but who will still remain in my heart as a part of my "online family". And I truly believe that unless you have online friends yourself you cannot understand how real these friendships are. Many people I have spoken to have failed to understand the true bonds of friendships that can be built online - but to them I say "I'm sorry you are missing out on a world of love and friendship" - for how could it not be real when I met the love of my life online - the guys who strangers we met thought we were together even before we considered it!!

And so, today I am extremely thankful to be blessed with so many friends in my life. I know that sometimes I fall behind and neglect to tell them I am thinking about them - but I always hold them in my heart. One of the little girls in pre-school made one of my colleagues cry the other day by saying "you are not my friend in here (points to her head), you are my friend in here (points to heart) because you cannot have friends in your head but if you have friends in your heart it means you will never forget them!" Wise and emotional words for a 4 year old, don't you think? But oh, so true.

And so, my friends, today this post is dedicated to you - even if I have only just met you - because I hold you all in my heart. And if you haven't heard from me in a while you might just get some comments on your blog soon because I *finally* got round to putting all your links int bloglines, which means I can better keep up with the latest news from you all!

Take care and have a beautiful Sunday

With Love

Amanda xx

Saturday, 2 August 2008

How sleeping on a real bed makes all the difference!

After 4 months of sleeping on a mattress in the middle of our bedroom floor we now have a bed *sighs blissfully*

We've been waiting these past 4 months for T's dad to make us the bed he's been promising. He's had the wood for it all this time but never got around to doing it. T went round this week and started trying to make it himself, after I pointed out that I didn't think that lying on the floor was helping my dizziness. This is when they discovered the wood had split and was no good. And this is when T's dad offered to give us T's old bed from their house and replace that one.

So Thursday night I had the distinct pleasure of going to bed in an actual bed and waking up and being able to swing my legs over the edge of the bed and stand up with minimal effort - omg I cannot tell you how happy this made me!!

Yesterday I was in such a good mood - I'd slept well, felt good and I was raring to go. This was very helpful as yesterday the entire nursery (from babies to pre-school) went for a picnic in the park. The children began to arrive at 8am and carried on arriving right up to 9:40 (we'd planned to leave at 9:30) so we had very little time to get everything sorted. The older rooms (who had less to pack up) spent the time helping to make sandwiches etc whilst we in the baby room had an hour and a half to pack everything we needed into the pushchairs and prepare the babies for the trip. I say "we" when what I really mean is "me"... mostly!

You see, the other full-time member of staff (let's call him Phil) had to go home to pick up his road tax because he'd forgotten to put it in his car and was likely to get fined. So someone came from another room and was very helpful in putting suncream on the kids but it meant I had to plan everything myself. I made a list and got going on filling up 8 drinks cups and labelling each one so I knew whose was whose, packing up enough spare nappies and nappy changing supplies to last the 3 hours we'd be out (you never know what'll happen with that many children), setting up the pushchairs, packing in as many spare clothes, blankets and whatnots I could, choosing toys to take *just in case they got bored of the park*... it doesn't sound like that much but it felt like loads!! If I forgot something it wasn't just one child who'd be screaming for something but 8 of them *eeeek*

Eventually Phil arrived but decided I knew what I was doing and left me to it. So when the other member of staff (let's call her Carrie) arrived at 9 (leaving us just half an hour left to pack up) I was in such hyperdrive that when she started asking if we'd done this and done that and how we were going to do this and basically worrying about things I'd already sorted out I got all frustrated and I turned round at one point and literally growled according to Phil *blushes*. And you understand that Carrie is old enough to be my mother, is the room leader and has worked at the nursery for about 8 years now and I've been there all of 4 months, have no qualifications and although I've been acting as her deputy I actually have no right to tell her what to do - lol.

Why am I telling you all this? Well - although I am known to be the "uber-organised" and "encyclopaedic" member of staff, I am usually very good at "asking" people to do things. I never *growl* at people - never!! I think it was the whole bed experience - I was so psyched about having had a truly good night's sleep on a proper bed I got above myself. I felt I could do anything - which is a lovely feeling and made me extra-uber-organised but perhaps is not the best work ethic.

Hopefully it'll wear of soon - I already "boss" T around *sniggers* I don't think he can take much more of it!!