Friday, 25 April 2014

Jelly and Bean - Phonics reading for Children

Jelly and Bean but who is who?
If you have not heard about these books, sit up and pay attention!  Jelly and Bean are the cutest, best books ever to get your youngster reading.

I first discovered Jelly and Bean by Marlene Greenwood when S brought one home from school as part of her daily read.  The book was so cute and really well structured to help her read with her use of phonics and blending.  This meant that immediately she was excited because she was 'reading a proper book'.  The delight of this discovery is really important in my eyes.  Reading is fun. It is not 'homework' or 'boring'.  Books like Jelly and Bean mean that children very quickly can 'read' and if they are anything like S, that means they want to read more and more.

As more Jelly and Bean books arrived home, we fell in love with the cats, the pigs and the dogs.  Super characters developing her reading potential as we went along.  Each introducing more sounds and blends including tricky words (red words her school call them).

N wanted to be involved and loved blending the sounds with words that S gave her to read herself. Yes, they shared the books. As S started to bring home books other than Jelly and Bean as her reading progressed, I decided to buy the books for N and her.

I looked everywhere for the books - usual suspects such as Amazon, Scholastic, The Book People, even eBay, but nothing. I found two listed on Amazon but they were pretty pricey for second hand.  Oh dear. Then I Googled them and there they were! I was delighted as you can imagine.  Also, what super prices for such lovely sets of books.

I ordered the original 'white' cover series as that's what S had brought home first.  They arrived and both girls wanted them.  Isn't that typical. I did tell S they were for N as she was learning and not as clever reading as her, which was accepted as the answer, providing she could read the books too. Yes, of course she could.

Each book gently introduces new sounds with sweet pictures and lots of repetition.  There is a great structure to them and their stages as they increase in complexity as children learn. Now, I'm not a teacher, but as a parent, I love that my girls want to read so for the whole of the Easter holidays, despite them being easy for her now, S read Jelly and Bean books.

At the end of the books, all the words used are on the back page. This is a great little 'check' for me to see if my girls actually know the words or were guessing from the pictures.  They love reading the words they have learned again.  In some of the books with more words we make up silly sentences like "Dad sat on a red frog".  Anything to get the giggles going.

N is 3 years and 4 months old and has now read the first lot of Jelly and Bean books I bought for her. Some words are very tricky for her such as 'Bean' and 'Wellington' (with the latter she tends to forget what the letters she's already sounded out are by the time she's reached the last one, ha, ha - but she recognised it once told what it was by sight).

My new Jelly and Bean books - reading with lunch
I've just bought the Series B books and she picked one up straight away with her lunch and started to read it.  She's not put off by any tricky words because in the whole "I can read all by myself" and "I have read a whole book" are what she says and that's super exciting for her.  And that's what matters.

So, here is my lovely collection (so far) of Jelly and Bean books.  I think the Pig Family will be next and I recall much fun about things falling into a pond so I'll have to look those up too.  If you are interested in getting your children reading and they are keen, you could do far worse than pick up Jelly and Bean.  Pop along to their website or have a chat to them on Twitter.

This review was produced out of the love of Jelly and Bean books for my girls.  I was not offered any incentive to write it.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


These lilac are growing wild near our house on the grass verge.  Beautiful colours.

The purple/blue flowers below are on what we call our 'bee bush' as it is loved by our buzzing friends. No idea what the shrub is though but the flowers are each about the size of the top of your thumb. Anyone help with it's name?

So, just flowers today. Nothing more.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

I do not look forward to school starting again

What is it with some people?  They have children and then whine and complain every time there are school holidays.  Goodness me, get a grip!  Ok, so your usual 'life' is slightly disrupted by the children being around during the day but for heavens sake, you decided to have them?  Stop moaning!

I, for one, love the school holidays. Yes my research is almost non-existent, my day is total chaos, I'm forever tidying up and the washing basket is overflowing with multiple clothes changes depending upon who has fallen in the mud or got a wet bottom on the trampoline as it's been raining, but I wouldn't have it any other way.  Life, as I know it, can just sit back and wait a while. These days are precious and to be enjoyed.  My children will grow up all too quickly so for now, let me just take it all in and love every moment - even the constant squabbling.

We had fun over the Easter break.  We went out for lunches, went geocaching, walked around RHS Wisley, had lots of garden play, visited friends and had friends over to play, went out walking, and just enjoyed each others company.  The girls argued and on more than one occasion I shouted.  That's family life.  Good, bad and ugly.  I love it!

It's been really hard today as S is now back at school. She went in just fine this morning and is a happy little soul as it's dance at school today which she loves.  N, on the other hand, is a little lost lamb around the house with me as her playmate and best friend is not here.  She doesn't go back to school until next Monday so she's pining for S.  They both put on a 'concert' for me this morning before school, playing their musical instruments together. So cute.  N keeps asking if we can pick S up yet.  Not long now little one.

We've read so many books over the holiday too. The girls have positively lapped up reading and are both coming along in leaps and bounds.  Roll on the summer holidays, that's all I can say.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Wisley with the Niece

Their favourite place to visit
Last weekend my niece came up to see us for lunch and a walk.  We decided to take her to RHS Wisley. I think, to be honest, she said she'd be happy to come and see it but wasn't really sure what there was to see. She was surprised when we pulled up that you would pay to walk around a garden.  Once we got in, she was amazed and enchanted.  From the initial mild sceptic, she was a convert.  We're going to take her again next time she's up as she wants to see the roses in bloom and then different seasons with us.  The joy of our joint membership.

Prickly Tulip? No, it was soft
L-R: My niece E, N, S, and J

Who stole the sculpture?
One thing we did notice though - who stole the sculpture at the top of the hill walk by Trials Fields?!  Well, to be quite honest with you, I didn't notice. It was J who pointed it out as we walked up or I wouldn't have realised until we got to the top!

The voting is open for Tulips

Our shadows

All of us on the bench.  My bottom isn't that big - honest - it was a bad angle and I was leaning in and err....!
The cacti are in bloom

Sitting on stones watching the fish

We saw this baby squirrel as we were crossing over the bridge towards the pagoda.  It was so still and didn't run away. At first my niece thought it was hurt and I began to wonder. Had it fallen from a tree?  Suddenly it turned around and had a rummage through the leaves and then went back to this position.  Sunbathing?  Who knows.  After about 5 minutes of watching it, I think it got bored of being stared at and just quietly walked away.  Never seen a squirrel do anything but dart around and dash up a tree when you get anywhere near it.

My girls, as always, had a thoroughly enjoyable time showing their cousin all of their favourite things to see.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Necropolis Station

The things you find out when you are geocaching can be quite amazing.  History lessons, geography lessons and geology data.

Yesterday my teen and I were up in London for a meeting (me) and some shopping (both of us) so as we arrived early, the first thing we did was to find a geocache.  I've found some super little caches in London and love the history attached to most.

This was no exception.  Apparently there used to be trains (Black Cat Trains) that ran from this station through to Brookwood Cemetary (a few miles away from where I currently live) that took the dead to be buried, along with their families.  No, I don't mean the families were buried too (just realised that sentence read rather strangely).

Do read the cache description for full details as it is quite fascinating.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Bassingbourn Caching

On Tuesday of this week us girls (hubby was working) headed up to Bassingbourn to meet up with my friend L and her two daughters.  A good drive (despite the M25 having an accident that fortunately was cleared by the time we were near to the junction concerned) and we arrived safely.

Having had a good natter and then nipped out for a fabulous lunch at the pub called the Pig & Abbot (boy they do the BEST fish & chips I've had in years), we headed off to do some caching.  There was one right opposite the Pig that we tried to find but unfortunately mobile signal is at a premium around there so we couldn't check if it was still around so despite a search, we gave up.

Away we went back to L's to drop the cars, put on wellies and head off for our walk.  First cache of the day was the Church Micro Bassingbourn which was quickly spotted by J.   A good start.  We then aimed for 10 (the Bassingbourn Blitz series) as this was the next nearest.  Despite an intensive search by J with me and L also looking but rounding up 4 little cachers too, we didn't find anything here.  Not one we stayed any longer at as it was right beside the road and we weren't comfortable searching with the little ones so close to the edge.  A DNF.  Never mind. On we go.

Bassingbourn Brook was next and I spotted it as we approached. Signed for us all and then decided we needed a team name so one was thought up.  That will be a paper saver!  01 gave us a bit of a hunt and 2 adults and a teen were scrabbling around looking through much rotting wood.  We were about to give up when J made the find again. Good girl!  Go my teen!  I'm glad she did though as not suitable for little ones so close to the stream.  Another log signed.  02 was nowhere we could see.  We consulted the clue. No, not even the clue item was around.  How odd as it had been found a few days ago and yet there was nothing even close to the co-ords that matched what we were looking for.  Another DNF.  Damn.

03 was a great find by L.  J and I had scoured the area but clearly my caching senses were way off today as L looked somewhere I just had and put her hand straight on it.  Well done!  How on earth did I miss that?  I think I'll just be navigator then ;-)  04 was my find after a little search. 05 eluded us.  Being a relatively safe area for the little ones to wait (we were in a field so only danger was a tractor and we'd hear that coming...wouldn't we?) we all piled in to find this.  Read previous logs after about 10 minutes of fruitless searching.  GPS out.  Umm...we split up a bit more. Lots of suspects.  Lots of prickles!  We spread out even further. Oh come on, it has to be here.  J was dangling over the stream holding a branch trying to see around a tree when in the next field the bird scarer went off, twice.  Poor girl nearly fell in from the fright it gave her. I couldn't help but laugh.  Little ones had a minor panic then relaxed again.  J thought about shimming across some pipes but I said no.  It wasn't anything like that level of difficulty.  Damn, another DNF.

Little Known Local History 1 was a nice spot by L.  She let one of the little cachers pick this up with her help.  Log was soaking and impossible to open, never mind sign. I took this photo of L with the cache then so hopefully that will satisfy the CO (we didn't have any spare paper or anything to dry it out with).

Oh, I forgot to say, there had been much competition and grumbling of "but it was my turn" as we found various caches as the little ones all wanted to find one.  We let them where we could of course.

Lots of ducklings were spotted with their mum as we were leaving this cache.  We counted 13. J wanted to take one home with her.

Little legs were getting tired by now so we decided to call it a day and head back to L's house.  It had been a lovely walk and we could all do with a drink anyway.

I had posted about the fact we were about to go caching on my Facebook page with a photo and another friend saw the post and was fascinated by it. She looked up geocaching, signed up and went out and found her first cache.  You'll never believe this either - she looked around for a cache close to her home and decided on one out of a few options.  Guess who owns that cache?  Yes, me!  How spooky is that!

We'll be back to do some more caching with our friend around Bassingbourn soon.  Glad we had such a lovely sunny day for our walk.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

April at RHS Wisley

N and I went for a lovely walk around RHS Wisley this morning. The weather was very mild and we needed some fresh air.

Lots of different flowers to see again and yes, we did have to go into the glasshouse (her idea, not mine).

After our glasshouse visit, we went and sat on one of the benches in the wild garden area and had some mini gingerbread men, a drink and an apple each before carrying on our walk.

Spots of rain hit us by the tulips but soon stopped.  Just a passing cloud as my mum used to say.

We went into the gift shop on our way out and, of course, N found lots of things that she  really, really wanted and even pointed out some for S too!  Did she get any?  No, of course not. Mean mummy.