Sunday, May 6, 2018

April in Review

March may have been a month where not very much happened. But April was the opposite with two major events dominating the calendar. As a result I made many trips to the airport, including three in one day - and one of those was at 1 am!

For Miss 17 the highlight of the month was the annual Young Birders Camp. This time it was at the far south of the country, mostly in places she's never been before. A few of her friends flew down to stay with her (and go birding here) the day before camp started, and then I drove them down to one of the camp pick up points. It was cheaper for everyone and the bonus for me was I got to spend the night in a hotel alone since it was too far to drive back in the same day. 

A hotel room all for me! And that may or may not be a tub of premium icecream you can spy in the back - the perfect food for an evening of movie watching and reading.

I made a few birding stops on my way home. There's nothing like a walk in the bush to raise the spirits.

A very bad photo of a Fernbird, but I was pleased to see one out in the open, since they normally skulk in the undergrowth. I saw one on my drive home from dropping the teens at camp; Miss 17 saw a couple at camp.

By all accounts a great time was had by all at camp, despite the weather. It rained, heavily, every day bar one. There was a fair amount of boat travel involved and the ferry ride to the island where they spent a couple of nights was pretty rough. So rough that Miss 17 indicated that she would skip the 4-6 hour pelagic (boat trip devoted to looking for seabirds) scheduled for the following day. However, she changed her mind and ended up going - a decision I think was pretty brave since feeling sea sick is a miserable experience. She said she's glad she went since they saw some great birds and she didn't feel too sick. Luckily she managed to make herself go to sleep for a bit and felt better when she woke up. I don't know what she enjoys more about these camps - the chance to go birding in different environments and so see new birds, or the chance to catch up with her friends. Already they are busy planning their next birding adventure for later in the year.

While she was at camp she was presented with a national award for young ornithologists. True to form she is being pretty low key about it but I'm both pleased and proud. Some pretty big names have won this award in years gone by.

For the rest of us the big event was of course Mr 25's wedding. Although they did officially get married in January, that was more to get the marriage certificate so they could start the onerous task of applying for visas. They viewed it more as an engagement and for them this was the real wedding. A church ceremony was important to him, and her parents included some traditional Indian ceremonies which were important to her. It ended up being a lovely mix of their respective cultures.

Dh pinning a buttonhole on the groom.

Part way through the henna ceremony. Somewhere in here (or still to be added to this arm,or the other arm, or perhaps on one of her feet) is the groom's name which he has to find. Her name was hennaed on his hand for her to find as well. But trust me, his task was much more difficult since she had a lot more henna, and far more intricate designs than he did!

The bride's family bought us all clothing to wear to the Indian blessing held the following day. Miss 17's was the red; mine was the white.

The bride walking through to the reception with my kids' favourite uncle (great uncle actually). That's my wedding dress she's wearing although she had it altered it to make it longer and added a veil. It was strange (in a good way) to see it in use again.

The cake

Despite the organisation having to be left until the last minute everything went smoothly and everyone enjoyed themselves. While Miss 23 and her boyfriend have been heard talking marriage, I must confess that I'm glad they want to wait a couple of years until they have both finished their graduate degrees. I think I'm a bit weddinged out at the moment!

In between camps and weddings life continued as usual. Miss 17 received the results of her first ever test and did really well, better than she thought. This course isn't coming easily to her, and isn't of high interest so I'm pleased she is putting in the effort and that the effort is being rewarded. Mr 20 was also relieved to do a lot better in a recent test than he feared he had done - he's struggling with one course taught by a lecturer who has the reputation of being one of the university's worst.

University was on a mid semester break for a couple of weeks so Miss 17 and I managed a couple of birding trips ourselves. A couple of rare birds had been reported in the area and we were keen to track them down. One was conveniently just across town. The other was a bit more of a drive, but with views like this it was worth it. 

The wildlife reserve a couple of hours drive away where we found an Australasian Little Grebe - very rare in our part of the country. It was the first one I'd seen but Miss 17 had seen one or two before on her travels in the far North.

There were a couple of banding sessions during the month. Here Miss 17 has a blackbird head down in a container while she weighs her.

My job hunt continues to be unsuccessful. I haven't even managed to get an interview for anything. I suspect I'm seen as over-qualified, lacking in recent experience or just too old! Still I'll keep trying. In the meantime I've been enjoying plenty of reading time and have even committed to yet another reading challenge. This time I'm going to read books set in 24 different countries, as part of a long challenge - to read my way around the world in 80 books (ie read at least one book from 80 different countries). So many good reads in April. I rated The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Every Note Played as 5 stars, but also had a real fondness for Dear Fahrenheit 451 and Born a Crime, not to mention The Great Alone and Let Me Lie. I've also completed an online course entitled Islam Through Its  Scriptures, which was really intersting. So much I didn't know.

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up and Homeschool Highlights.

Friday, April 6, 2018

March in Review

March was mostly an uneventful month. Until the end that is. The kids went to university and work, hubby went to work,  and I pottered at home and did plenty of reading. Some events of note.

* The first quarter of the university year is over. Miss 17 sat and survived her first ever exam.

* I finally got around to getting my CV in order. So far the only advertised job I could apply for is  delivery driver for a pizza chain. Let's just say I've yet to send out any job applications.

* The kitchen renovations were practically completed. All the appliances work and most of the cupboards are usable. Due to an ordering mishap some are without shelves, but hopefully they'll arrive and be installed very soon.

* I've been helping out with wedding planning. I don't recommend trying to organise a wedding at short notice when the bride and groom are not even in the same country!

* I started a series of MOOCs . The first was Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures. The rest of the series focuses on each of the world's major religions in turn. When I was at university, many years ago, I always wanted to take a religious studies course but I could never make it work with the rest of my course load. I had my eye on this series for Miss 17's final year of homeschooling. But she ended up not doing her final year - and I realised I could enrol myself. 

* Extended family from overseas were visiting other extended family who live locally. Turns out Miss 17 has a teenage second cousin who is also very interested in birds. We were able to take him out one day and track down the world's most endangered wader.

* We also went out by ourselves later in the month and tracked down another couple of species that we hadn't yet seen this year. There was also a banding session.

Greenfinches were by far the most common bird caught and banded.

* Plenty of Hot Cross buns and chocolate eggs were made (and consumed) over Easter.

* We helped my parents get settled into their new home. They've moved from an area they've lived in or near their entire lives and are now just an hour away from us.

* The journal with Miss 17's first ever peer reviewed article was published. So nice to finally have it in our hands.
Definitely the highlight of the month.

* All the reading time means I'm more than half-way through every reading challenge I'm undertaking this year. My favourite reads for March was An American Marriage and Pride and Prejudice (again) but The Birdwatcher, Love, Hate & Other Filters and Behind the Beautiful Forevers were also very good, albeit very different from each other.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February in Review

February has been quite an eventful month for us. Miss 17 and I have managed plenty of birding, including a road trip. We only had two days when three would have been better so the schedule was tight - lots of hours driving and not as long for actually birding as we would have liked. But we did manage to see all four of our target species (two of which were totally new to me), even if we had very little luck with many other species that we might have expected to see along the way.
This decorated Christmas tree in the middle of nowhere bought smiles to our faces. It was on a winding stretch of road at the end of a long day.
My highlight of the trip was these Australian Wood Ducks. They are a vagrant species that I've been wanting to see since they were first spotted about three years ago, but it was such a long trip and therefore hard to justify. Thankfully they stayed around and have been breeding. This time when we made plans I was determined to push on and add them to the itinerary if I could.

Miss 17s favourites were the Hoary-Headed Grebes. They were first seen about three years ago and rumors were they were now breeding. Miss 17 was really excited to see three young chicks as well as some adults. And I was relieved that we got good views relatively soon after arriving. These grebes like to hide and many people (including us on an earlier visit) have spent several hours at the lake with no sign of the birds.

Once back home we assisted with a bird census at a local lake and were surprised and challenged to come across a mixed group of three different sandpipers. Surprised because we had never seen so many at one time and challenged because trying to correctly identify them was much more difficult since they did insist on moving and getting mixed up with each other! It took a while but we're confident we got it right. A week later we returned to the lake with a group of birders from another branch of our bird group. Of course the bay that was packed with birds the previous week was practically empty! Fortunately my instincts about where to look next proved correct and we were able to find a large groups of mixed waders including at least one of the sandpiper species. Waders, especially the rarer arctic migrants aren't really found in the part of the country our visiting group was from so I was pleased and relieved we managed to find some for them. Miss 17 also found and correctly identified another fairly rare arctic migrant, the first time she's found and identified that species independently. I also spent an afternoon with a children's nature club showing them the Bar-tailed Godwits which are due to begin their migration back to Alaska. Sadly Miss 17 had to work and couldn't make it. But I had lots of fun with some enthusiastic younger children.

There were also  few short trips with just the two of us. On one of them  we were pleased with such good views of this Little Owl. Normally they are hidden with only a small part of them visible and I'm sure we miss spotting them far more often than we succeed!

On another day we were accompanied by a visiting American birder who had contacted me seeking someone to take her out birding while she was in town. We headed to our favourite estuary and spent a pleasant morning. The world's rarest wader put in an appearance while we were there which was a highlight for her.

There have also been a couple of banding sessions for Miss 17. I hadn't planned to get involved with the banding but it turns out that having a scribe/record keeper is helpful, so I stay and take care of the paperwork.

Probably the biggest event of the month was the beginning of our kitchen renovation. While we were out of our house last year for earthquake damage to be repaired there was a flood in the kitchen (whether the repair crew caused it or merely discovered it varied according to who we spoke to!). As a result we had to replace some of our kitchen cabinetry. And since our kitchen was rather old and dated  and having a mix of two different types of cabinetry would be an unusual look at best, we ended up replacing all the joinery, redesigning the kitchen, and knocking out part of a wall for good measure. So for part of the month the kitchen looked like this.

It didn't take too long before it looked like this.

But there it stayed for the rest of the month. Part of the delay is due to lots of things having gone wrong, including some tradesmen making errors. But the benchtop could only be measured and manufactured, a process that takes two to three weeks, after the new joinery was installed. Hopefully it will be installed in early March. Then the electricty and plumbing will be reconnected, and I should have a functional kitchen again. Although some of the new cabinetry will have  to be replaced. Sigh!

Obviously cooking options have been somewhat limited this month. On the upside it has been an excuse to eat out a little (something we never do) or buy takeout (something we hardly ever do).

We enjoyed a delicious Pineapple Smoothie one hot evening at an Asian food festival.

Miss 17 and I lunched at a local restaurant one day using a voucher she'd received as a Christmas gift from the gym she used to coach at. We split this chocolate brownie for dessert.

The other big event was the start of the university year. Dh is teaching at the out-of-town university again for the first semester. Mr 20 is beginning his third year. And Miss 17 is starting her first.

This is what is keeping her busy for the first semester!
I think Cellular Biology & Biochemistry (the paper she is doing this semester) will be really challenging since it not her strength; nor is she especially interested in the area. But it is a required course and it made sense to get it out of the way early when she could devote plenty of time to it. So far (two weeks of the thirteen week semester in) she admits it is challenging but not impossible. Lots more reading than she is used to (sadly she didn't inherit my speedy reading genes) but the first lab was more basic and less intimidating than she'd feared. She's also enjoying other aspects of campus life, including a regular Pilates date with Miss 23 at the university gym.

I'm adjusting to having more spare time and in the absence of a job, the futility of cleaning when workmen are constantly in and out, and the impossibility of any involved cooking I've been spending plenty of hours reading. I completed sixteen books for the month. No five star reads this month, but I did award six of the books four stars over at Goodreads. Hum if You Dont' Know the Words by Bianca Marais, a novel set in the aftermath of the Soweto Uprising, was my favourite read. If only the ending hadn't felt like a script from an action movie. I also loved Moxie for its feminism, Apple of my Eye for the depiction of New York and Helene Hanff's wit, The Black Tulip for its suspense, What the Robin Knows for inspiring me to pursue another facet of birding, and You for the way the author took us inside the mind of a very disturbed character.

I also managed to get back into the habit of regular walking. I aimed to go every day but missed one day. By the time we got to our motel on the first day of our road trip I was exhausted, it was starting to get dark and I didn't know the area so I skipped that day. I also kept up my yoga habit, missing just one day as well. I find I have to plan my walking more since I prefer to be out when it is not too hot or too cold (not a problem yet but it will be soon) and definitely not when it is raining. Since I'm pretty happy with how well I've got the exercise habit bedded in I think next month's challenge to myself will be a food-related one. It'll be interesting to see how I go  and if I can keep the exercise happening as well.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

January in Review

January was a mixed month - plenty of periods of quiet, relaxed summer living, interspersed with periods of busyness, including lots of coming and going on the kids' part - and multiple trips to and from the airport in one week as a result on my part.

Mr 20 was the first to leave, but he drove so no airport duty for me! He spent just over a week volunteering as an abseiling instructor at a Scout jamboree. By all accounts he had a great time but one story he told made me especially proud. One girl (Scouting is mixed gender here) had apparently not brought suitable trousers with her and as a result was going to have to miss out on an activity the following day and was pretty upset by this fact. So that evening Mr 20 hopped into his car, drove 45 minutes to the nearest town, bought her a pair of trousers with his own cash, and then drove back to camp. In many ways that typifies him - he likes to solve problems, help out and is happy to take decisive action. Now that he's back home he is auditing a summer school course at university. One of the courses he is going to take this year has a reputation for being really hard with a high failure rate. He heard parts of this summer course would be  good preparation he so arranged to sit in on it - or at least the relevant sections. You have no idea how surprised I am by this - although if you read here a few years ago when  I was still homeschooling him and fretting about his motivation (or lack thereof) perhaps you will!

On the day he returned  Miss 23 and her boyfriend departed on a trip up north to see his parents and then enjoy a bit of a road trip. I drove them to the airport. The next  day it was Miss 17's turn to depart. She also flew north to spend a few days with a friend. Plenty of birding was on their agenda and she saw about 30 new species for the year, including a couple she'd never seen before, which pleased her greatly. The day she arrived home was also the day Mr 25 flew in for a quick visit. While he was here .... he got married! It was a very small, low key registry office affair and we only found out a few days before. They are planning a church wedding (which they'll consider their real wedding) in a few months, but wanted to get started on the long process of obtaining a visa for his wife to join him overseas. And to do that they needed a marriage certificate - so they made the  decision to get one while he was in town.

In less exciting news Miss 17 finally got the results of the trampoline judging course she attended at the beginning of December. She hoped to move up a level and qualify as a Junior judge, but instead did well enough that she skipped a level and is now a Junior Advanced judge. She was nervous about how she had done so I'm especially pleased for her.

In the latter part of the month many elements of our regular routine started returning. Miss 17 got busy getting the local birding newsletter ready for publication, and also drafting a couple of items for the national magazine. Plus she received the proofs of her scientific paper to check-over prior to publication. We had the first bird banding session of the year and we've done plenty of birding at our favourite local spots as well.

This Muscovy duck was keen to make our acquaintance.

At the end of the month Miss 17 and I took a birding road trip across to the other side of the country - we are on a skinny island so the drive only takes a few hours. We were in search of Blue Duck or Whio, yet another of our endangered species. We'd never seen one in the wild before - our two previous trips to a likely spot had been without without success. This time however we were in luck and found them a pair just 100 metres from where we parked the car. We bumped into a conservation worker who told us if we walked another 30 minutes we would likely find another couple of pairs. However, it was just too hot for us to muster the energy - the country is in the grips of a heat wave at the moment. We'd expected to have to put much more effort into finding these ducks and had been prepared to stay the night but instead made it there and back in the one day  - and added nine new birds to our year lists which was a very good day's birding for us.

Seeing our first ever Whio was definitely one of the highlight of this month.

At the end of last year I was confident Miss 17 had reached a decision about her university studies and we'd found the best way for her to gain admission to the university of her choice. Less than a month later those decisions were all up-in-the air again, for a mix of positive and not-so-positive reasons. Sigh! Earlier in the month Miss 17 was approached by a guy we sort-of -know through birding circles. He mentioned that he might have some work for her. Later in the month we went out with him and he showed us what would be involved. And it is exactly Miss 17's dream work - bird monitoring. As she said she'd volunteer to do it for free - and he is offering to pay her! It's not yet guaranteed but is part-time, summer only and flexible hours so could relatively easily be combined with university study - but only if she studied at the local university, which wasn't her university of choice. But the potential job opportunity had her rethinking her plans.

Miss 17's possible job later this year will require her to drive a manual. So Mr 20 went out and bought a manual car (he already owns a car - it's an automatic like ours) just so he can teach her. That's brotherly love in action - I was planning on just sending her to a driving instructor for a lesson or two!
The following day she had an interview at the local university regarding her application to do a short sub-degree level course there, the course that is needed for her to gain admission to the university of her choice the following year. And it was one ridiculous thing after another. They didn't have her transcript, she said it had been uploaded on-line, they said they didn't do that anymore, except that is exactly what the online application required and when she suggested they actually look, of course her transcript was there. Then the course advisor couldn't give her any actual advice, didn't know whether it was possible to do two of the classes she had selected, and mentioned that one class wasn't being offered this year despite its and location being on the website. And they kept pressuring Miss 17 to declare the work she had done was equivalent to the state qualifications. As she said she had no idea since she'd never looked at the state qualifications and isn't an educational expert so has no basis to make such a declaration. There was other stuff too that really made us question the value of this course. Especially when the other arm of the university offered to admit her straight into their degree programme - which is the route her three older siblings took. I find it ridiculous that it is easier to gain full admission to the university degree programme, than it is to be accepted into a short course designed to prepare students for university study.  Anyway, enough of my rant.

So Miss 17 spent some time plotting out - class by class - what a degree in what was her first choice university would look like, compared to what a degree at the local university would look like. And there wasn't a huge difference. So the the upshot is that she's now enrolled at the local university. Classes start in less than three weeks. She never wanted to enrol early (by rights 2019 should be her first year) but we'd just have been killing time if we home schooled for another year. So she's going to spread her first year courses out over two years which will give her time to ease into university life and give her plenty of time to continue with her bird bander training, finish up the Cornell Ornithology course she's started, fit in other bird events (she's hoping to attend another camp plus the conference later in the year) not to mention the potential job. And, importantly for her, she'll start the second year of her degree at the same time as her age peers. I'm very relived the whole saga now seems to be sorted - think it is fair to say that my chocolate stash from Christmas is considerably reduced as a result of all this!

Despite a few airport trips, a wedding and upheavals to study plans much of January was quite relaxed for me. I've done a ton of reading - twenty books so far - which is just as well since I've signed up for about six different reading challenges. Many books will be able to count for more than one challenge though so the total number of books I'll need to read is merely aspirational, rather than deluded and unattainable!  My favourites of the month were  Exit West, Before We Were Yours and  The Course of Love. I also completed a 30 day yoga challenge from Yoga with Adriene. I've been doing yoga pretty consistently (5-6 days per week) for the last year but it was great to push myself to do 30 days in a row - even those days when I didn't necessarily feel like it, like following a 12 hour road trip in a heat wave! One of my January goals was to visit a careers advisor to get some help putting my CV in order before starting to look for work. However, I put that on hold for a couple of weeks until Miss 17's plans firmed up. Now that they have it'll be one of the first things I tackle in February.

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up and Homeschool Highlights

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Our Year in Review

2017 was a year of change for us, with many members of the family moving on to the next stage of their lives, or signalling that they were ready to do so. Mr 25 got his first career job - one which required an overseas move. Miss 23 meanwhile returned from her overseas adventures, enrolled in a PhD programme, found a part-time job connected to her future career goals, and has now permanently left home. Both Mr 25 and Miss 23 gained a serious significant other during the year - yet another change to the family dynamic. Mr 20 was the outlier to the change theme, just continuing on with his university studies and existing part-time job.

For Miss 17, 2017 was the year where it felt like she bade farewell to her childhood. Trampolining  had been a constant  since she was 9 and as she got older it became a bigger part of her life. But she retired from competition mid-year, and by year end  resigned her coaching job as well. She passed the second stage of the tiered drivers licence system, meaning she can drive without supervision  - another step towards adulthood. Homeschooling went well (barring a few odd hiccups, mostly with statistics) and she completed five courses which I titled English Literature, Film History and Analysis, Introductory Statistics, New Zealand History - An Overview, and Animal Behaviour II. However,  I often felt that we were going through the motions, and that she was ready for a new challenge, one that didn't involve me. So while she technically has one more year of homeschooling left, her decision to undertake a university preparation course instead (the easiest way of gaining admission to the university of her choice for 2019, since they will not look at her homeschooling transcript - it's only now that I realise how easy the university admission process was for the older 3) definitely feels like the right one. I'm not entirely sure what we would have done had she opted to continue homeschooling for another year.

One thing that didn't change  - unless change means intensify - this year was the interest in birding . It continued to play a major role in Miss 17's life - and mine. She attended two teen birding camps, plus a university summer school programme in zoology, and a short plant identification course. Attendance at the two courses was an outgrowth of her interest in birds. The start of a local banding project gave her the hands-on work she craved. She continued to edit the local newsletter and write for both the national ornithology magazine and the Young Birders magazine. A big achievement was having a short paper accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Meanwhile I took on the key leadership role in our local birding group. Together Miss 17 and I attended the national ornithology conference, and later in the year went on a birding road-trip with a couple of her friends. Altogether she observed 137 birds during the year, 19 of which were 'lifers' (ones she'd never seen or heard before). My figures were a little more modest (114 and 7 respectively) but more than enough to keep me happy.

For me personally, 2017 was a better year than 2016. The worst symptoms of my health issues were largely under control and I only suffered a handful of major flares all year. Apart from homeschooling and birding, reading occupied a lot of my time. I somehow got through 172 titles last year - being a fast reader helps! There were a few disappointments among my selections, but most I'd happily read again or recommend to others. If I was giving a prize to the book that impacted me the most, or whose message stayed with me the longest it would probably be a tie between Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaids Tale and This is How it Always is by Laurie Frankel.

For our family as a whole the big event of the year was the completion - finally - of the earthquake repairs (and re-repairs of the unsatisfactory first repairs). We had to move out of the house for six weeks (the packing and unpacking was a major job I hope to not have to repeat anytime soon) and there were lots of unwanted hassles but, more than six years after the most damaging quake, it is so nice to have our home fully functioning again, and to be finished dealing with the earthquake repair bureaucracy.

The year ended on a bit of a sad note with the passing of an honorary family member.  Basil lived with us for nearly two years (while his family was forced into a no-pet rental as their home was rebuilt following the earthquakes) and we continued to have him for occasional visits. It seems that he ruptured a disk, probably the result of the spread of his bone cancer, thus rendering him paralyzed.

Looking ahead to 2018 and I doubt I'll be blogging as often. This blog came about for two reasons. One was to connect with a group of bloggers who all homeschooled and  had girls of a similar age to Miss 17. I learnt a lot from them, and wanted to contribute more fully to their informal community. The other was to help rectify the shortage of homeschooling blogs that focused on high school. Since I'll no longer be homeschooling (assuming Miss 17 is accepted into the university prep course that is) there won't be much for me to blog about!  At this stage I think I'll post quick monthly updates. If nothing else I'd like to document the process of transition from homeschooling to beyond - for both Miss 17 and for me.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Back to the Classics 2018

For the third year running I'll be participating in the Back to the Classics Challenge hosted by Karen from Books and Chocolate. I've found it's a great way to add more classics into my reading diet. I'll be aiming to read one title for each of the twelve categories, thus earning myself three entries into the drawing for the book voucher prize. The categories and my tentative selections are below.

1.  A 19th century classic - I'm pretty sure I'll go with something by Charles Dickens but haven't yet settled on a definite title.

2.  A 20th century classic - I picked F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night for my 50 book Classics Club challenge.  Since I completed that challenge without getting to this book I'll probably use it here.

3.  A classic by a woman author  - Right now I'm leaning towards Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I

4.  A classic in translation - I've settled on Franz Kafka's novella The Metamorphosis

5. A children's classic  - I've somehow got through my childhood and that of my four kids without having read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. This is a good chance to remedy that.

6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction. - I've been meaning to read Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. According to Google it can be considered a crime novel, so that's good enough for me.

7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction  - John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley is rumoured to be wry and sarcastic. Since I appreciate both this seems like a good bet for me.

8. A classic with a single-word title - It should be Ivanhoe since it was also supposed to be read as part of my 50 book classics challenge. But I've just come across Elizabeth Gaskell's Ruth and may read it instead.

9. A classic with a color in the title - I'm intrigued by the period of tulip mania and mostly enjoyed The Count of Monte Cristo, so Alexandre Dumas' The Black Tulip seems like a sound pick.

10. A classic by an author that's new to you -  I'll be reading it for another challenge so will go with Solomon Northup's Twelve Years a Slave - unless I get inspired to read something else that is!

11. A classic that scares you - This was an easy choice - Dante's The Divine Comedy. If only it turned out to be an easy read as well.

12. Re-read a favorite classic - Another easy choice. If I survive Dante I'll deserve a treat so I'll read Pride and Prejudice.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Fortnight Ending 24 December 2017

It's been a relatively quiet couple of weeks - except for today. This morning I've been crazy busy in  the kitchen but the desserts (raspberry cheesecake, lemon tart and pavlova) are all made and the bagels for breakfast are rising, so I've got a few minutes before house cleaning calls! I've felt busier than previous Christmas Eves and I couldn't work out why. Then I realised I was doing everything myself. Normally the kids help but both Miss 17 and Mr 20 are working all day - funnily enough supermarkets are busy places the day before Christmas! And Miss 23 (she had a birthday a few days ago) has moved out a month earlier than first planned. More accurately she's in the process of moving out - she's in her new place but much of her stuff is still here waiting to be moved or stored or discarded over the next few days.

We only have one blackcurrant bush, but it produced enough berries for several jars of jam. It'll be delicious on bagels for Christmas morning breakfast.

Proving you are never too old for a good story, Miss 17 and I spent time one afternoon reading some of our favourite Christmas picture books.

We also found time to make some more decorations, including this owl.

Some gorgeous lilies courtesy of my father-in-law. They've got a wonderful scent, which you'll just have to imagine.

We finally started work on Miss 17's application for the university preparation course she needs to complete since the university of her choice will not even look at a homeschool transcript. She's going to do the prep course at the local university which my older three have all attended. I'm not sure if they've changed the application process or whether it is different since Miss 17 won't be doing a degree course there. But there is absolutely nowhere on the application form for any of her academic records, no list of courses she's done at home, or anything. There is a section where they ask about interests and jobs etc but it specifically says not to mention academics there. So the admissions office will know about trampolining and birding, but will have no idea whether she can read, write or do basic maths. Seems crazy to me - not to mention a waste of the transcript I lovingly and carefully compiled! I guess we'll have to cross our fingers that they consider a bouncing ornithologist worthy of admission for a pre-degree qualification.

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas.