Sunday, 25 November 2007

Improving on Nature?

We've been doing more experiments. This one took days to complete but we had fun setting it up and were pleased with the results. We've talked frequently in the garden about how plants take up water from their roots and it travels up the stems, but this lets them actually see it happening.

We started by making strong solutions of food colouring - one pink and one blue - in oddly appropriate glasses, and then standing some poor white flowers and sticks of celery in them.
We let them stand overnight, and by the next day we could see the vessels clearly stained in a slice of celery. The light was rotten - this was midday, outside.

It made me want to buy a tiny microscope - too soon, too soon. Though I am tempted to buy one for myself.

After another day or so the white flowers had blue (or pink) streaks in the petals

and the celery was nothing short of alarming! (if you click on this one you can see the tiny veins in the leaf are dyed. I know, I'm a geek.)

Would you eat that?! Really, this is the only good use for celery, I think. To me it is just evil in plant form.

I've found a couple of good books of experiments for little people, and this one is a cross between stuff I did at school and ideas from "The Usborne Big Book of Experiments". There's a newer version of it - a book of Science Things to Make and Do, like those fairy books they do - that I think I may request from Father C in a month or so. I have tried to be a good girl ...

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Bet you look good on the dance floor

We went off to a wedding last weekend, and a good time was had by all. But capturing photos of tiny people in the darkness of an evening disco is very hard when they won't stand still!

I've been tagged by Tess to list 8 random things about me, and was tagged ages ago by Nicolette for 6 facts, so I guess I should try:

1. I am married to a very kind man who is 11 inches taller than me, and my children look like they'll be taller than me too. I shall be known as "Little Mummy"!

2. I have a PhD (well, actually a DPhil) in molecular biology, and my thesis supervisor won the Nobel Prize - not directly for my work, I hasten to add!

3. I love to read. When the children were little the thing that drove me most to distraction was not being able to read for more than a few minutes at a time. My favourite, most frequently read and reread is Pride and Prejudice (how original).

4. I used to be able to snowboard (badly), but I can't ski. I haven't done either since having children.

5. I adore Radiohead. We saw them at a tiny venue in upstate New York around the time The Bends came out; they were already big in the UK but barely known there and it was simply brilliant. Fake Plastic Trees - just, aaaaaah. I realise this makes me sound very, very sad and old.

6. I am chronically untidy, but I actually hate mess and from time to time stomp around the house with a big rubbish sack, muttering and throwing stuff in.

7. I have seen Four Weddings and a Funeral so many times I virtually know it by heart.

8. I watch rubbish TV, but I have to be doing something else at the same time - sewing, knitting, pretending to read.

Oh, and I pulled a muscle in my back today pushing the pushchair and it huuuurts! But that's not one of the 8 things ;-)

The rules for both tags say I need to tag more people - but I think many of you have already done this. If you haven't, and you'd like to, then you're tagged!

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Christmas pudding patch

Inspired by Julie's Christmas puddings and her fairy cake patch, I fiddled about with some wool this week and ... tada! Here is my very first knitting pattern!

For the pudding:

Cast on 8 stitches in brown (B)
Row 1: purl
Row 2: Inc 1*, knit to last stitch, inc 1
Row 3: purl

Rows 4-9: Repeat rows 2 and 3 until you have 16 stitches

Row 10: Join in white(W) - (K2W, K3B) 3 times, K1W
Row 11: P2W, P1B, (P4W, P1B) twice, P3w
Continue in W only.
Row 12:K2tog through back, K to last 2 sts, K2tog
Row 13: purl
Row 14: K2tog through back, K to last 2 sts, K2tog
Row 15: purl
Row 16: K2tog through back, K to last 2 sts, K2tog
Row 17: purl
Row 18: K2tog through back, K to last 2 sts, K2tog (8 sts)
Row 19: P2tog through back, P4, P2tog
Row 20: K2tog through back, k2, k2tog (4sts)
Break wool and thread through remaining stitches

* Inc 1 - increase by knitting into front and back loops of next stitch.

For the leaves (make 2):

Cast on 2 sts in green.
Garter stitch 4 rows.
Slip one, pass slipped stitch over, break thread and pass through the last stitch to finish.

To make up:

Weave in ends, shaping the pudding as necessary. Attach the leaves and add berries using French knots in red (or beads, or knitted bobbles). Stitch a few beads for added sparkle.

Do not eat it!!

(If you do knit this and find any problems, please let me know. I've never written a pattern before ...)

Friday, 16 November 2007

Who's a lucky girl then?

As many others have discovered, the best bit about blogging is the kindness of the people you "meet". Most days I'll have email or comments that make me laugh out loud, and since there are only so many times my long suffering husband can admire knitted socks or new fabric, it's lovely to be able to show it to others who will appreciate it. Maybe this is unique to the family/craft blog community, but it is a constant joy.

Anyway, I've been very lucky recently to receive three (!) gorgeous packages from kind women. Unforgivably it has taken me 2 weeks to publicly thank Katy for the parcel she sent as a prize in her recent giveaway (don't worry, I did email, I'm not quite *that* rude!) - it was held up in the aftermath of the post strike but was well worth the wait:

Her little one painted the pot, which is even prettier and sparklier in real life and currently full of glittery mosaic pieces. Katy makes really beautiful softies at I'm A Ginger Monkey, do go and have a look. And watch out for the yoyos appearing here one day soon.

Alice of the wonderfully original The Magpie Files sent the most generous gift for my two tinies; who could resist Smartie paper?

And inside, sweeties and pencils and notebooks, every little girl's favourite - especially since there were even two different shades of pink!

Plus books, which have kept us busy for the last two bedtimes (I hope they don't get any ideas from My Naughty Little Sister when she pokes a feather duster up the sooty chimney).

There were even tiny beaded butterflies made by the lovely and talented MissM - I have stolen those away and have plans for a brooch ...

Finally the postie knocked on the door today with a parcel from Tracy - I won the Christmas knitting giveaway at her beautiful Pink Purl recently and there were goodies for all of us:

I have big plans for that wool - you'll see. It is incredibly soft!

The soundtrack to this photo was a small person shouting "Give me those sweeties!" across the garden (Back off, half pint. At least 2 of them are MINE, bwahahahaha).

The light is pretty but very low at the moment but I couldn't resist snapping the frosty table before it all thawed.

All in all, I feel a bit like Katy Carr when she and Clover receive their Christmas parcels in What Katy Did at School - thoroughly spoiled, very happy and a little overwhelmed!

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Slip one, drop one

After all the science and moaning I thought I should put something crafty up. I have actually been really busy making stuff!

I've been making a lot of stitch markers recently, both for myself and as gifts. I am mildly embarassed to admit that until this summer I had no idea how to use these - I used to have those split plastic monstrosities and get them tangled up with the wool, until I finally realised that the markers go *on the needle*, not in the wool. Doh. Anyway, there's no stopping me now, and here are a few pics of how I make them in case anyone else wants to have a go. Sorry about the yellowness - I am not often crafting during daylight these days!

I use silver headpins from the local craft shop and any beads I can find. My favourites recently have been some really pretty glass lampworked ones. Arrange the beads in the pin:

Bend the top end of the pin at right angles about 3 mm from the top of the topmost bead - this makes a little shank to wrap the wire round later. Now you need to form a loop - you can do this with round pliers but I tend to wrap around a large gauge knitting needle:

Now you need to wrap the loose end tightly around the gap between the loop and the pin. This will be familiar to anyone who has made many earrings in the past but if you want pictures let me know:

I tend to make them in pairs but odd ones also look pretty.

Now go and knit something!

A couple of people have asked what stitch markers are for - well, I find them invaluable in sock knitting, or anywhere there is any counting to be done. I hate counting stitches almost as much as I hate sewing up knitting - which is why I tend to knit in the round. And there you really need a marker to show you where the start of each circular row is or it rapidly goes to pot ...

Monday, 12 November 2007

I can do science, me!

My little babies asked for more experiments! I think Nina and the Neurons can probably take more credit for their interest than I can, but I've been having a good think about small person friendly experiments and I hope this will be a regular part of our time at home. I'm really excited by this, and am trying hard to make sure I don't push it and put them off - but they are asking to do these and who am I to refuse? I am keeping them away from Brainiac for the moment though ...

Anyway, this time we decided to try kitchen roll chromatography; we've been talking about colour mixing so it seemed like a good time to try this. We put spots of felt tip pen onto kitchen roll:

then added a drop of water to each spot and watched them spread out:

and then hung them up to dry and looked at all the pretty colours that we could see. We did talk a little bit about being able to use chromatography to separate and purify different solutes but I feel it's a bit early to go beyond the most basic explanation ;-)

If you really want to scare yourself you could try this with food colouring. We saved the evil chemicals for another experiment that is still running but should be done within a couple of days ...

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Learning and giving

Here's a fun site:

It's another one of these "click and we'll donate food" sites, but this has a vocab quiz attached so you earn rice for every word you get (or guess) correctly. Which doesn't sound much but it is horribly addictive, and there's not a daily limit on how many times you can play. I reached level 49 before I gave up (OK, so I was just trying to make sure I beat my husband), only to find that there are 50 levels - so now I HAVE to get to that!

Friday, 9 November 2007

Not waving ...

Last Sunday's ideal:

Today's reality:

I worked an extra half day this week and it has destroyed what little control I have over the house. Am I the only one who is only just barely managing to do all the things I have to do, let alone get ready for that big holiday that's just around the corner? Don't get me wrong, I adore Christmas, but right now I feel like inhaling three bars of chocolates and half a bottle of Gordons.

Sorry, I must go, the washing machine is beeping at me .... arghhhhhhhhh!

Monday, 5 November 2007

Taking after their parents

Genetics is a fascinating subject. I'm sure it accounts for my children's skills in cake decorating - only the best Barbie glitter writing icing, thank you very much:

And really, with two scientists for parents how were they going to get through childhood without making volcanoes in the kitchen?

You can buy kits to do this that cost many pounds, but in best Blue Peter mode, all you actually need is bicarb of soda, vinegar, washing up liquid and a bit of food colouring for a good half hour of messy entertainment.

Thursday, 1 November 2007


What is this little mouse looking at?


Hurrah, now we can have fires when it gets cold! When we lived in the US we had a fabulous logpile that lasted through 6 months of upstate New York winter (snow up to my thighs one time, I kid you not). Here we have nowhere to store it so we end up going the expensive route of little bags of logs from the garden centre ...