Ivy School

23 Mar

This morning we will start to find our new normal. Ivy School will open.

Ivy is the name chosen by my children, Evie and Isaac because when I get their names muddled together I get a new child called “Ivy”. They came up with the name in a first step to own their new, altered existence.

Please don’t think that because I have spent the last 15 years as a high school science teacher I am any more equipped for this than the next person. I am not! I can cope with a class of 30 tough kids from the inner city in a science lab. But cope with my own two at the kitchen table? Now this is going to be a challenge.

We have talked to the children over the weekend about the fact that they can’t have their screens all day; it’s not a holiday or even a weekend, we can’t go out like we have always been used to doing and it’s going to be for a long time. We will be trying to follow two different sets of work set by the children’s school and they are going to have to share my attention. We will figure it out as we go along.

So I have come up with a timetable that they can contribute to and change as we get used to the whole thing. They are pretty horrified that we are starting each day with PE with Joe Wicks, but I think that this will give them a shared experience with others that they can talk about when this is over. So many people, includnig schools seem to be taking part in this that I think that it is a good thing to do.

I have ordered exercise books from eBay which should come by the end of the week. We have loads of paper and pens in the house to use in the meantime.

We have the lessons that the school have set which we will do in a morning. I am trying to get the old laptop to do all the updates so they have a computer each to work from, because I don’t want them working from their tablets. I think they see their tablets as their leisure activities of watching videos and playing games and I think they should keep this type of thing separate from their school work. Luckily, we do have the laptops so we can keep this separate.

In an afternoon, they can choose a less academic activity to do and we will spend an hour outside; maybe as the weather improves we will do the lessons outside and definitely the PE. I keep looking out for different online lessons such as the Live History Lesson from secret WW2 Bunker in Liverpool which we will do on Wednesday. I have found some drawing tutorials for Evie from Harptoons that she already has had a go at. I am sure we will find many more and I would love to hear your suggestions for more activities.

I am hoping that this structure will help them to settle and the routine will mimick their school day a little bit.

I addition to this, I will be setting work and uploading it online for my classes from my work school and checking for any questions that my students have. I have said that I will take my turn on the “Key Worker Rota” at school, but owing to the super organised management at work, it is looking like I will be working once in a fortnight or less. I figure that the more of us that take a turn, the fewer times we will have to go in. The school has been so on the ball when it comes to the emergency opening for the children of keyworkers; they have recognised that we have children of our own to care for and other dependents and vulnerable people at home and they have accounted for this in the timetable.

As I write this at 6am I am feeling hopeful and looking forward to getting back some structure and routine. It remains to be seen whether I am so optimistic at 3 o’clock though! We will take things easy as it is a big change for all of us; at least we will have novelty value today to keep us going!


A Whole New Life

21 Mar

I feel like my life as I know it is slipping away and I am in mourning.

I think I’m really only writing this for me; to get my mind in order. And maybe for my children when they are older to try to make sense of what happened in 2020. It seems as good a place as anywhere to put it here.

I am a teacher. On Friday, 13th March 2020 we were called to a special briefing to tell us that we needed to prepare work for our classes in case the school was going to close due to the Coronavirus pandemic that was unfurling before our eyes like an episode of Dr Who.

By Friday afternoon we had an action plan which involved setting particular lessons for a particular year group which we would then upload in the event of a closure. We all had a bit to do.

On Saturday morning, I went to my local parkrun where I am a run director. People were talking about how ridiculous it was that the national football was off and events like the London Marathon had been postponed. Supermarkets were starting to run out of the basics as selfish individuals panic bought.

The schools in Ireland had been ordered to close on Thursday 12th March, with very little warning…in contrast, UK schools and teachers were already talking about it and an action plan was being formed. The parents and students were starting to realise that this might become a reality for us too.

Over the weekend and at the start of the week, we had our lessons prepared.

I returned to work on Monday the 16th of March to a new set of rules. We were not to leave the school. There was to be no external visitors or parents in school. All trips and training was cancelled. All interschool sports fixtures were cancelled. All assemblies and whole school staff briefings were cancelled. The list went on…

I started to hear from all my own children’s after school activities like Girlguiding and Scouting telling me that all meetings were cancelled.

On Tuesday 17th March, I came home from work to find my son coughing really badly. I knew it was just a cold and a cough, but also knew that in the light of everything that was happening, if he went to school the next day, he would be sent home. That meant that my daughter couldn’t go to school either and I couldn’t go to work.

And that’s when everything changed.

I watched Boris Johnson’s press conference on Wednesday 18th March with an open mouth. Schools were going to close on Friday 20th March, and exams weren’t going to take place.

No SATs. No GCSEs. No A-levels.

I was told by work to start uploading closure lessons. Staff in school were combining classes to have enough adults to look after the students that were left. I sat at home planning cover lessons, worrying about what was happening, wondering what would happen at work.

And all week I have been on the point of tears. As time has gone on, it has got worse as I have started to realise more and more things that will be different for at least the next 6 months.

My daughter is in Year 6. She won’t go back to the school she has been at for 7 years. She will be part of the year group who didn’t do their SATs. She won’t take part in the leavers play. She won’t see all her friends and teachers at her school again. No leavers assembly. No leavers party. She didn’t even have a last day of school as when she left on Tuesday she had no idea she wouldn’t be going back. Thank goodness she and the rest of them managed to go on their residential trip in February before all this kicked off.

My son won’t finish Year 2. He will be the year group who didn’t take their Year 2 SATs. He won’t see his class teacher or his friends until at least the new school year.

I won’t finish this school year with the students I teach. I will be setting work from home and going into work maybe once a fortnight or three weeks to support the children of key workers who will still be in school. My little Year 11 class won’t take their GCSE exams. We have had our ups and downs, but we were really getting on well this last term. They had goals to aim for and were trying. Now they will have their grades estimated, rather than proving themselves through hard work and exam results. So after Easter, I won’t be setting any work for Year 11. They are done. No prom. No leavers assembly. No shirt signing.

My mum is over 70 and has stayed at home for at least the last 10 days. Her social network of knitting groups, meeting friends and going to plays on hold. She spends time with us all regularly. Now she can’t. She’s at home on her own. She hasn’t seen my children or her other granddaughter in all that time and is worried as she is only one that she won’t remember her. Thank goodness for FaceTime!

And all this is making me so sad. I’m grieving for my old life and the old life of everyone else. We’ve had to change our whole mindset in the space of a week. I’m not sure the country and the world will get over this in my lifetime. The economic effects will go on and on for years.

I know that once things sink in we will find a new “normal”, but what will that be? Right now I need to stop crying and start to make plans. But that is easier said than done.

I will cook. I will bake. I will educate my children. I will knit. I will crochet. I will clean out my house from top to bottom. I will run.

We will get through this and, hopefully, emerge better people.

But until then…I will grieve for everyone’s changed lives.

Really Easy Leek and Potato Soup

21 Mar

I got a new slow cooker just before Christmas. It was so much better than my old one, which had a cracked pot, because the pot was aluminium. This made it so much easier to lift and to clean as the cleaning is the thing that put me off using the thing!


Leek and Potato Soup


  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 leeks washed, peeled and cut into 1cm slices
  • 6-8 medium peeled and chopped potatoes into 3cm chunks
  • 1/2 veggie stock cubes
  • Full kettle of hot water


  1. Put all ingredients in slow cooker and put on high until it boils (about an hour).
  2. Turn to low and leave for 3 hours.
  3. After this time, blend using a stick blender and add 200ml milk.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Strange times

21 Mar

The last time I had this much time on my hands was when I was on maternity leave with my now 7 year old and that was when I blogged profusely. Now in the  middle of a pandemic which has gone from something happening in China, to schools, restaurant, cinemas and gyms being closed and the supermarkets looking like devastated areas, I have time again.

So…it seems like as good a time as any to start writing again.

What will I write? I’m not entirely sure yet, but I expect it will be food, craft and how I am managing to entertain my children.

Watch this space!

Celebrating Organic September with Waitrose Organic Wine

17 Sep

In addition to our organic food changes, I was also asked to select three bottles of organic wine from Waitrosecellar.com

Although it was obviously a tough job to test the organic wines, I rose to the challenge ūüėČ

IMG_9514I chose 3 Chilean wines all from the same winery “Las Mulas”.

The Ros√© was “Las Mulas Organic Cabernet Ros√©”. The first flavours that I tasted with this wine was raspberries! It was a fairly dry Ros√© but not as dry as a pinot grigio Ros√© and we enjoyed it!

The white was “Miguel Torres Las Mulas Organic Sauvignon Blanc” which has less of the grapefruit flavours that I am used to in New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, but was nonetheless delicious!

The red I chose was “Torres Las Mulas Organic Cabernet Sauvignon”.¬†I am not usually a red wine drinker, but I enjoyed this as¬†it had¬†gentle and warming flavours.

All these wines beautifully complement the organic food I tested for Waitrose Organic September.

I was sent 3 bottles of wine to test and blog about. All words and pictures are my own.

An Organic September with Waitrose

16 Sep

I was asked on behalf of Waitrose to swap one meal a week for organic alternatives. I pride myself in my ability to make healthy meals for my family, but this does not usually include organic food; mainly because my budget wouldn’t allow it.


Waitrose have their own range of organic food called “Waitrose Duchy Organic”. You can find out more about the range here.


Here are some of the foods I bought and the meals that I made…I obviously found an organic bargain too!

Family Teas

Sausage casserole



Spaghetti Bolognese


I cooked the spag bol and sausage casserole at the same time as many of the vegetable ingredients are similar and it saved time

I cooked the spag bol and sausage casserole at the same time as many of the vegetable ingredients are similar and it saved time

Sweet potato wedges with corn on the cob


Roast chicken, roast potatoes, veg





Hummus and rice cakes



Eggs on toast


Cheese on toast

Peanut butter sandwiches


Overnight oats with peanut butter



Our verdict

We enjoyed all the food; in particular the corn on the cob was really sweet and delicious. I also liked the sausages that I used in the casserole, as they were really good quality and the kids loved them too. The ready made soups that I happened to find reduced were also really tasty and an easy lunch to take to work and microwave.

Would we switch to organic? Probably not totally as realistically I still see it as¬†a luxury rather than an everyday food, and some of it was really twice as expensive as I would normally buy or even more. However, the chicken, for example, although it cost over ¬£10 did feed 4 adults and 2 children, and was a really good quality chicken, that even my “part-time vegetarian” husband ate as he feels that organic meat is much preferable for health reasons than non-organic. This brand of peanut butter is really good too. It contains no added sugar and Isaac wolfed a sandwich down, even on the seedy bread, which I love, but the kids can be funny about.

Some of the ingredients are definitely a different quality to comparable non-organic foods, so I think that perhaps we could easily swap 3 or  4 meals a week without too much strain on the purse and get healthy and taste benefits in return.

We were sent a Waitrose giftcard so we could buy the organic food, but the words and the pictures are my own.

Our Summer: Episode 1

28 Jul

We have had the most lovely week.

The sun has shone and we could not have asked for a more lovely time. My children are growing up so quickly. I feel very lucky that I can spend the summer with them.IMG_5378

We have played.

We have been lazy.

We have taken part.

We have done our own thing.

But most of all we have had fun!

I was so relieved to finish school at 1.30 last Friday. It has been hard work this year at work; even working 3 days has been hard after having a year off in a school that is waiting for Ofsted to make an appearance.

I picked up some beer and reduced priced tapas on Friday teatime on my way to pick the kids up from nursery and…relaxed…



Saturday: And the holidays started with…rain!

So after Evie had had her swimming lesson we went shopping. Evie spent the trip around the retail park picking up loom bands, and Isaac complained about being in the buggy. Just as expected!

Sunday: the sun came out. Rod was off to Leeds to run his first 10k

IMG_5387 IMG_5389

And I took the kids swimming. Later we met Rod and friends in Leeds and had a lovely afternoon out with grown ups and Grandma babysat for us.

Rod had an extra day off work on Monday so we had a lovely afternoon at Oakwell Hall, riding bikes and picking up loom bands (which is a theme for the week I think)

IMG_5427The weather looked fantastic for the rest of the week so we planned lots of outdoor activities


Tuesday: we took advantage of the fantastic free Kirklees activities and had a walk and story in Batley Park. This was great for both the kids and we will be regular visiters to this activity at different parks every Tuesday morning this summer. We then had tea at Grandmas.IMG_5444

Wednesday: we met our lovely friend Lizzie (who you may know as Wizbuf on Twitter and Instagram) and returned to Oakwell Hall in the sun. What a fantastic place for the kids (and for adults and dogwalkers). There are playgrounds, picnic areas, large areas to walk, bridleways, the river to investigate and the hall, as well as other activities that are organised throughout the holidays for kids to keep occupied.IMG_5475

Thursday: breakfast at Ikea and an impromptu visit to the White Rose Centre to buy sandals.IMG_5479 IMG_5504

Friday: we had a lazy morning before Evie went to a creative craft afternoon, I walked to the pub, Isaac fell asleep and I had a cheeky pint in the beer garden in the sun. Lovely!IMG_5506 IMG_5511 IMG_5512IMG_5514IMG_5517

Saturday: Evie had a swimming lesson and then later we had a 3 mile walk to a cricket club where the kids played on the grass and the adults had a drink in the sun.IMG_5519 IMG_5521 IMG_5524

Sunday: a quiet one with a walk to McDonalds and the supermarket, a play in the garden and Grandma picked Evie up to go to a friend’s barbeque for an hour before our Sunday dinner.IMG_5531 IMG_5533

In between we have played in the garden, watch Despicable Me 1 and 2 about 100 times, I have crafted before the kids woke up and after the kids went to sleep and we have all had a lovely relaxing time!IMG_5490 IMG_5494 IMG_5501 IMG_5525


24 Jul

IMG_5330I remember being small with my little brother. We used to play together…sometimes more nicely than others. He is three years younger than me and I remember visiting him in hospital on my third birthday when he was one day old. My mum pulled back the covers on the cot so I could see his tiny toes. To be honest I think I was more impressed with the birthday present of a dolls house that was waiting for me when I got home.

Who are these two?

Who are these two?

As we grew up we had our moments of playing nicely and fighting, but when I realised he was growing bigger than me we stopped fighting and became firm friends. As we grew into teenagers I would take him places, or he visited me at university, and now in our thirties we spend time together with the rest of the family and with my kids.IMG_5193 IMG_5192 IMG_5191

My children have a 3 and a half year gap between them…when Evie heard that Isaac had been born and he was¬†a boy (rather than the sister she hoped for) she cried!IMG_5444 IMG_5446

She soon got over it and was excited to be a big sister. He was mainly ignored for the first few months of his life, but then he started wanting the things that she had, grabbing for her toys and taking attention from her just slightly!IMG_5462

Over the last few months I have seen lovely moments with them together. I still repeat at least 5 times a day, “No! Don’t try to pick him up! He doesn’t like it!” and they still both want the same toy or want¬†to play different games at the same time. But, then, just for a few moments they are friends, and it is lovely and I hope that they always stay friends over the years.IMG_5459 IMG_5460 IMG_5461

Rainbows and Butterflies Birthday Cake using Renshaw Ready to Roll Icing

23 Jul

Rainbows and butterflies

Rainbows and butterflies

I love baking, but I am not artistic.

I can be creative, but I usually need to follow a pattern.

I have decorated birthday cakes in the past for my two children and I have been quite impressed with myself with the results.

But I do like a challenge and Renshawbaking.com keep challenging me! And I have to keep taking up the challenge! So here is my latest effort at icing a birthday cake!IMG_5252

I searched for inspiration on Pinterest and decided I needed rainbow colours. I intended making a rainbow of spots, but then I came across my butterfly cutter and I put together two of my 5 year old daughters favourite things…rainbows and butterflies!

I hope you like it! I would like to think that anyone could make it and impress other people. The colours are so vibrant and happy I defy anyone not to smile and be cheered by the design.

Renshaw Ready to Roll Icing and Marzipan

Renshaw Ready to Roll Icing and Marzipan

I made a fruit cake (recipe below) and covered it in mazipan and white ready to roll icing both from Renshaw. I then used a butterfly cutter to make the butterfly shapes in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple and arranged them close together for the purple and then more spread out to create the effect of them fluttering away I hope.

The pictures tell the story.

Fruit cake turned upside down so I had a nice flat top to ice

Fruit cake turned upside down so I had a nice flat top to ice

I stuck the marzipan to the cake with apricot jam, mixed with a bit of hot water, microwaved to get it hot and then sieved before painting on the cake before the marzipan is rolled out and placed on.

I stuck the marzipan to the cake with apricot jam, mixed with a bit of hot water, microwaved to get it hot and then sieved before painting on the cake before the marzipan is rolled out and placed on.

White icing rolled quite thinly and stuck to the marzipan with cooled, boiled water

White icing rolled quite thinly and stuck to the marzipan with cooled, boiled water

The butterflies are flying away across the cake

The butterflies are flying away across the cake


Just add candles!

Dust the icing sugar off with a dry paintbrush when the icing has dried for a view hours.

Dust the icing sugar off with a dry paintbrush when the icing has dried for a view hours.

Inside the fruit cake

Inside the fruit cake


The icing was sent to me for free and I was asked to write this blogpost to show a birthday cake. The ideas, words and pictures are all my own.

Summer with the Mortons

22 Jul

Our mission for the next six weeks is to do as much as we can and have as much fun as possible without spending the earth!

Chilling in the garden.

Chilling in the garden.

Filthy, pretty and ready for the summer.

Filthy, pretty and ready for the summer.

I’m known to be frugal, but don’t get me wrong! I am not tight with money, I just like to make sure it goes as far as possible and then, when I want to splash out, I can afford it and enjoy it.

Three summers ago (before we ever had an inkling about Isaac) Evie and I did something every single day of the summer holidays. We were super busy! I blogged about it after the summer in 2011.

Last year I had just had the year off after maternity leave and the summer before I was 8 months pregnant and knew I was about to have the year off, so although we had great summers, I didn’t feel like we had to fill every second.

This year, after a year back at work and a year of Evie at school, I really intend to have a great summer filled with lots of activities that both children will enjoy.

We have started it off with a shopping trip last Saturday after Evie’s swimming lesson (we intended going to Oakwell Hall for jazz in the garden but it rained incessantly all day), on Sunday we went swimming before Grandma babysat the children and I went to Leeds with the hubby (who had just run Leeds 10k) and friends for a few beers in the afternoon, and today we have been bike riding (and loom band hunting) at Oakwell Hall.

Rod about to run his first 10k. He did it in 58 minutes.

Rod about to run his first 10k. He did it in 58 minutes.

An hour at Oakwell Hall. Isaac wanted to ride Evie's bike and Evie wanted to look for loombands!

An hour at Oakwell Hall. Isaac wanted to ride Evie’s bike and Evie wanted to look for loombands!

For the rest of the time we will be taking part in all the free activities that Kirklees provide in the holidays such as crafts in the museums, stories in the parks and the summer reading challenge and other activities at the libraries. We will take the train to Leeds to visit Leeds museum, we will undoubtedly have a day or two in York and visit the railway museum, and maybe a trip to the seaside.

We are so excited to be on holiday for six weeks and we will fill it with fun…watch this space!