Monday, August 31, 2009

School Starts Tomorrow

I'm starting our home-school year tomorrow. Today was a bank holiday in England, and though tomorrow is also a day off for students (while teachers resume work), I decided we needed to make a start!

The kids helped me today as I created some materials we'll need this week (and year). They watched in fascination as I made a "Decimal Street" poster for math, and eagerly helped me decorate the box that now contains our math manipulatives. They picked the colors of paper for our history timeline and colored in their outlined names to glue to the front of their all-subject binders. Naomi finally admitted that school might just be fun, after all.

My curriculum suggests getting off to a slow start, gradually introducing handwriting practice, foreign language, and English. So tomorrow we're doing Bible, spelling, history, math and art. I'm excited and feel almost like this is my first year of true home education. It's the first time I've bought a curriculum and the first time I've felt serious about what we're doing.

My prayer is that I'll be a patient and loving parent as well as an effective teacher. And that my children will grow in respect, love and obedience, drawing closer to God each day and deepening their awe of his created world.

Friday, August 28, 2009

British Words: Children, Food, Clothing

Here's another quiz! See if you can figure out the American equivalents for each of these British terms. American choices will come in a day, to make it a bit easier ;-) E-mail your attempts to And just to warn you: none of them are the exact same in "American."

Babies & Kids
1) Nursery
2) Crèche
3) Dummy
4) Nappy
5) Do a wee
6) Push-chair
7) Plaster
8) Cotton buds
9) CalPol
10) Suncream
11) Vest
12) Chute
13) Round-about
14) Roly-poly
15) Stabilizers
16) Rubber
17) Felt-tips
18) Soft toys
19) Knots & crosses
20) Draughts

More Food/Kitchen

21) Gateau
22) Pudding
23) Barbie
24) Starter
25) Pancake
26) Flapjack
27) Kitchen roll
28) Take-away


29) Dungarees
30) Swimming costume
31) Trainers
32) Poppers
33) A zip
34) Pants
35) Knickers
36) A waterproof
37) Wellies
38) Trousers
39) Waistcoat
40) Dressing gown

Saturday, August 22, 2009

American Choices for British Food Quiz (see below)

A) Jell-O
B) cilantro
C) oven
D) cake sprinkles
E) candy
F) Saran Wrap
G) Eggplant
H) cotton candy
I) stove-top
J) zucchini
K) cookie
L) can (of food)
M) cupcake
N) 7-Up
O) soda pop
P) chips
Q) Kool-Aid
R) pitcher
S) toothpicks
T) French fries
U) tomato sauce
V) dish-soap
W) baked potato
X) popsicle
Y) Canadian bacon
Z) chocolate-coated ice-cream bar
a) lollipop
b) tomato paste
c) cup of tea
d) tortillas
e) oatmeal
f) cornstarch
g) ground beef
h) powdered sugar

Friday, August 21, 2009

British English Food/Kitchen Quiz

All of the following British words are different in American English. Can you think of their American equivalents?
Send your attempts to (if this seems too hard, don't worry -- I'll post a list of possible choices in a few days) Have fun!!

1) Lemonade

2) Cling-film

3) Biscuit

4) Aubergine

5) Fizzy drink

6) Jelly

7) Squash

8) Corriander

9) Courgette

10) Aubergine

11) Fairy cake

12) Candy floss

13) Cocktail sticks

14) Bacon

15) Corn flour

16) Jacket potatoes

17) Crisps

18) Chips

19) Porridge

20) Cuppa

21) Wraps

22) Jug

23) Tomato puree

24) Passata

25) Mince

26) Hundreds & thousands

27) Ice-lolly

28) Sweets

29) Lolly

30) Icing sugar

31) Tin

32) Washing-up liquid

33) Hob

34) Cooker

35) Choc Ice

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Edinburgh Trip -- Day 7

Our plan for Wednesday was to visit a nearby castle ruin called Craigmillar Castle, and follow that with a trip to Gorgie City Farm. Steve, however, could not find his wallet as we were preparing to leave. He searched the flat to no avail. He knew he’d last used it the previous evening, just before arriving at Maristela’s house for dinner. I said that we may as well buy our bus day passes and head back to Maristela’s neighborhood to check the shop where he last remembered having the wallet out.

Unfortunately, Steve’s wallet was not at the corner shop, and then we were stuck, wanting both to enjoy our day out but also get the wallet issue resolved. Steve phoned the police who had no record of it but took down his information. We decided that the kids and I would go ahead and see the castle while Steve would go back to the flat to look again and await a call from the police. (It turned out that the wallet was indeed at the flat, so though Steve missed our outings for the day, he was able to do his own fun things without further worries.)

Naomi, Josiah, Ethan and I arrived at Craigmillar Castle after having eaten lunch on the bus. Craigmillar Castle is over 600 years old and 3 miles outside of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. It was never the full-time residence of royalty, but did host Mary Queen of Scots and others when they needed to get away from Edinburgh Castle or Holyrood Palace.

Craigmillar Castle is not on the “must-see” tourist list, but in my mind, it’s the best place to take kids. It is small compared to Edinburgh Castle, but plenty big enough for a few hours of exploration. There are many rooms and staircases, nooks and crannies, all perfect for little people to enjoy. We saw medieval fireplaces, ovens, pantries, dovecot, bedrooms, and even a toilet! (Just a hole leading to the outside of the wall.)

More than one staircase led to the roof, where we could imagine we were medieval soldiers, keeping guard with our bows and arrows. We could see the Firth of Forth in the distance (where the River Forth begins to meet the North Sea – it’s body of water that Edinburgh is built next to), as well as Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh Castle. I was grateful for such a beautiful day – clear skies and warm weather.

From Craigmillar Castle, we headed to Gorgie City Farm, back in our old neighborhood. We got there only ½ hour before closing time, so it was all a bit rushed, but we had fun nonetheless. A horse managed to grab a bag out of our stroller with its teeth, and we had to wrestle it back from him. The sheep sounded so funny; we thought they were cows at first!

We saw a bunch of piglets that looked very newborn, as well as older ones that were very entertaining. I think they were the favorite of all 4 of us. It was especially funny to see them trying to climb into the feeding trough, and we were tickled by their curly tails. We also saw goats, turkeys, chickens with hairy feet, rabbits, and cows.

In the evening we had our friends Adrian and Kit Herbert over for supper, along with their two teenage kids, Cara and Alexander. The whole family had been in Asia for their summer holiday, and we’d thought we wouldn’t get to see them at all. We were thrilled to find out they’d returned and could come visit us for an evening.

Kit and Adrian had hosted us for many meals when we lived in Edinburgh, sometimes having us for lunch *and* dinner on days when our strategy games took a long time! They loved our kids and we loved them!

It was nice to catch up in person and we reminisced about old times. It was a bit of a hodge-podge dinner as I’d ordered stuff from Tesco in quantities just for us, and had to combine them for guests. We had ravioli, pizza, and fish ‘n’ chips – strange but it worked!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Edinburgh Trip -- Days 5 & 6

Monday, July 27, found us on a train to North Berwick, a village just east of Edinburgh. Friends Kate and Hugo had recommended the beach there and offered us birthday money to pay for the train (and ice-creams and sand toys!) We were grateful to be on a very short train journey instead of a 5 hour one!

Though it poured rain for the first few minutes after we’d arrived, the rest of the day was clear and beautiful. We were all so excited to be by an ocean again! Josiah ran right into the water, cold as it was. Naomi and Ethan began digging in sand.

I was able to find a hardware store and buy some gardening shovels, some different-sized plant pots, and a utility bucket. I figured these would all last longer under the kids’ play and abuse, plus I’d be able to make use of them once we got back to Oxford. I also got a long-handled net and a beach ball (both of which we’d lost by the end of the day – sigh…)

We started at the western beach, and after 1 ½ hours, walked through town to get to the eastern beach. There we found lots of tide pools, as well as a “paddling pool” (a walled-in bit of sea water for kids to play in). Naomi, Josiah and I went off to see what we could discover in the tide pools. I told them about doing the same thing with my grandma when I was their age. It’s one of my favorite memories of her.

We saw lots of hermit crabs, caught a few small crabs and fish, and saw some red sea anemones. Naomi and Josiah were amazed to see sea creatures right there in the wild! We ate baguette sandwiches for supper, lingered ‘til past 6 and finally walked back to the train station. I really really didn’t want to leave. If we hadn’t made plans to have friends come over for coffee that same evening, I would have been tempted to stay on the beach until past 8!

As it was, we got home around 8:30 and our friends came by for a “cuppa.” Inke was the secretary in the Edinburgh Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies when Steve studied there. She and her husband James were missionaries in Egypt for years before settling in Scotland. It was nice to catch up with them in person, just before they were leaving for a holiday of their own.

Tuesday, July 28, was pretty boring! We needed a day to relax at home so we didn’t go anywhere special. I took the kids to the nearby park, just a 5-minute walk away. Naomi preferred to stay at home, looking at her new seashells, though. Josiah wanted to stay home and watch the crab (the token animal we brought home).

At supper time, we caught a bus into town and enjoyed a nice dinner and visit with our friend Maristela Lima-Napier and her three boys, Jonathan (5), Andrew (2), and Daniel (newborn). We’d known her from church, and though we missed her husband Gary due to his being on a work trip, had a nice time talking with her and watching the kids enjoy each other.

Only two more days before it was time to head home…

Chicken Recipes

Due to high prices here in the UK, I’ve taken to buying whole chickens from the grocery store. I’m not the best at cutting them into individual pieces, and I don’t have too many recipes that call for a whole chicken. But what works for me is cooking the entire chicken in the microwave. I use a big glass casserole dish, turn my microwave to half-power, and cook the bird for 30-35 minutes.

After letting it cool for a while, I can start pulling off the meat with my fingers. Call me barbarian, but I find this much more effective than using a knife! It means I can get all the little bits that are hard to reach with a utensil. Once I have a ziplock bag of meat, I can freeze some or just refrigerate it and use it in many recipes that call for meat!

Here are a few that I tried and liked this week (and my kids liked too!). They come from the cookbook called “Extending the Table,” which is similar in some ways to “More-with-Less.”

Groundnut Stew (from Ghana)


2 c. onions, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced


1 lb. chicken, cooked and shredded

½ t. ground ginger or 1 T ginger root, minced

2 c. stewed tomatoes or 2 large fresh tomatoes, mashed

1 beef bouillon cube

1 t. salt

2 c. water

Ground red pepper to taste

In small bowl, mix:

½ c. peanut butter

¼ c. water

Slowly stir peanut mixture into stew. Cover and simmer, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes. Add salt and red pepper to taste. Serve with rice.

Bang Bang Chicken (from China)

In wok or frying pan, stir-fry briefly in 1-2 T oil (preferably peanut), until chicken is cooked through:

1 whole chicken breast, cut in strips (I used already cooked and shredded chicken)

1 clove garlic, minced

2 t ginger root, grated or 1/8 t ground ginger

1 scallion, chopped in 1-in. pieces


¼ c. water

2 T. soy sauce

2 T. peanut butter

1 T. red wine vinegar

Simmer 5 minutes. Add:

2 c. broccoli florets

1 cucumber, sliced

Cook until vegetables are crisp tender, about 7 minutes. Serve over rice

Monday, August 3, 2009

Edinburgh Trip -- Days 3 & 4

Saturday, July 25, we headed to the Edinburgh Zoo. My parents had given us money to pay for it and we all had a great time! The sky was blue and the air was fairly warm – a perfect day to be outside.

Our first stop – and one of our highlights – was feeding the lorikeets in the aviary. We bought two servings of nectar, which Naomi and I held out in our hands. The birds were a bit cheeky: they wanted to stay on their rails and not make the effort to fly to us. But we stood firm and eventually they came.

I was proud of Naomi. Though sometimes shy among people, she showed no fear with birds! She bravely let the lorikeet come sit on her hand, tickling her a little with its talons.

The birds were brilliantly colored. My biggest reason for liking any zoo is the reminder of how awesome God is. What a creative mind He has, to come up with such diverse, beautiful creatures, each species uniquely designed to thrive in their own habitat.

Naomi and Josiah excitedly ran from exhibit to exhibit, thrilled to be seeing monkeys and lions, hippos and zebras. They could hardly wait for the 2:15 “penguin walk,” when zookeepers open the penguin gate and let penguins walk down the pavement in front of onlookers. We’d gotten there early and staked out a good spot. We were not disappointed as we saw cute little guys waddling right in front of us.

Naomi also bravely tried a turn on a trampoline/bungee jumping gizmo. It wasn't quite as fun as she expected, but we were impressed that she gave it a go!

At the end of the day, our friend Kate picked us up and drove us to the home we’d be staying in for the rest of our holiday. Kate’s friends from our old church were away for the week, leading a Scripture Union camp, and had offered to let us stay in their flat. It was so nice to have a 2-bedroom place to crash each night after long days out. I especially appreciated having a dishwasher, and the kids enjoyed the Legos.

On Sunday we worshipped at Gorgie Parish Church, close to where we used to live. I was amazed at how many people greeted us, as though 3 years hadn’t gone by. It was a blessed morning.

From church we went to the home of our friends Quintin and Fiona Bradshaw. They are both medical doctors, prior missionaries to Thailand, and parents of 4 teens. We had been blessed 4 years ago by their youngest two kids (twins Rory and Kirsten) befriending Naomi and Josiah, and also by their sweet hospitality as they had us for meals and let us use their home.

Fiona made an amazing spread of Thai dishes for our Sunday dinner. It was all very yummy! Our kids enjoyed the spacious yard, bouncing on a big trampoline, climbing and sliding, and playing with the Bradshaws’ springer spaniel Tia. They also got to go on a countryside romp, through woods and farmland, while Steve and I played a game of Settlers of Catan with Rory (14) and Chris (17).

We had so much fun playing Catan that we decided to do another round of it, pausing for tea-time. Fiona had baked homemade scones and served them with jam and clotted cream, along with tea and biscuits. Our Sunday gave us the best of two cultures’ cuisines!

Grateful for friendship and fellowship, we reluctantly returned to our flat. Our tummies and hearts were full. Thank you Lord for friends!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Trip to Edinburgh: Days 1 & 2

On Thursday, July 23, we left Oxford by train, heading first to Birmingham (an hour away) and then to Edinburgh (another 5 hours). We were going “home” to where we’d lived during the school year ’05-’06. Steve and I were excited to spend time in a city we love, as well as catch up with old friends. We also looked forward to re-acquainting our kids with places and people that used to be important to them.

The trip there was fairly uneventful. Ethan was thrilled to be on a train! This was his first long-distance train ride. We had a 3 hour layover in Birmingham, during which we explored the city a little bit on foot, and got caught in a rainstorm. The kids liked chasing pigeons in a grassy square we found.

The 5-hour ride to Edinburgh was trying on our nerves. By the end, the kids were stir-crazy and tired (we didn’t arrive ‘til after 9 PM) But we survived! At least the train was almost empty by the time we were in Scotland, so the kids’ noise wasn’t bothering loads of people. Naomi and Josiah spent the last 20 minutes of the journey picking up rubbish from throughout our car, and filling a bag with it. At last, a useful way to expend their energy!

For our first two nights, we stayed with good friends, Kate and Hugo Allan. Their daughter Rebecca is Josiah’s age and was one of Naomi and Josiah’s best friends. They also have a 2 year old foster son. It was a delight to see the kids play together, as if three years hadn’t gone by since they last saw each other. Rebecca and Naomi even had a “sleepover” together on Friday night in Rebecca’s room.

On Friday, we took the kids to see our old cottage. We didn’t see the inside, but took pictures of the outside. Two big changes had occurred in the last three years: 1) the car park that used to be completely empty (and available for tricycle riding) behind our house was now full of cars; 2) the huge derelict building that used to be such an eyesore from our kitchen window is gone, and in its place is a huge Sainsbury’s (grocery store).

We made the walk down our road to nearby Saughton Park, where I used to take the kids to a Winter Garden on cold days and the playground on

warm days. We enjoyed the goldfish in the greenhouse, the beautiful rose garden, and the huge sandpit in the playground.

From there we crossed the street to our old library. Balgreen Library had seemed so small to me when I first arrived from the Chicago suburbs. It’s only one room and has no bathroom. It is much bigger than our current local library in Marston, Oxford, though! We checked e-mail, read to the kids, colored

unicorn and dragon coloring sheets, and waited out a brief rainstorm.

We began the 40 minute walk back to Kate and Hugo’s, passing the McDonald’s we ate at every now and then, and discovering that a brand new Aldi grocery store was in our neighbourhood. It would have been only a 5 minute walk from our old house – a bit farther than the Sainsbury’s across the street, but not much!

At home we enjoyed the Allan family. Kate served the kids their own supper, we bathed them all, and then Hugo made a special meal for us adults. It was very nice to catch up in person with good friends!