Tag Archives: homework

Make your own Indian Shadow puppets

We had a really satisfying Sunday. Zeph’s topic at school this term is India and making a Bollywood Movie. As well as the usual literacy and numeracy homework he has to research and hand in a piece of work once a week about some aspect of India. So far we’ve found out a lot about sitars and Ravi Shankar, looked through lots of recipe books, made a comic book about Ganesha and got a couple of books of folktales out from the library.

This is the kind of homework I prefer where he’s free to pick and follow any ideas he has. I think it’s really valuable in enabling him to learn how to pull down information for himself and am willing to help turn his ideas into reality. Although I’m resisting quite strongly the idea of cooking an Indian meal for everyone in his class. I found some recipes for Indian sweets and have suggested a boxful as an alternative. He’s thinking about it…

This week he suggested making our own Shadow Puppet theatre after reading about it in one of the books we borrowed. He did suggest it from the end of the bed at about 7am on Sunday morning so my first response wasn’t as enthusiastic as it might have been.

A bit of negotiation bought Steve and I a lie in as he took his sister downstairs for a first breakfast of cereal and cartoons and by the time we’d finished a more substantial second family breakfast I felt a lot more cheerful about the whole thing.

There is a rich and fantastic tradition of shadow puppetry in India which has lots of regional variations. The majority use the medium to tell stories rooted in religious traditions and the puppets are made from a variety of materials including tin and leather but are usually two-dimensional, often with the head and body as one fixed piece with jointed arms or legs. They’re often full size and always very intricate and highly decorated.

We used; A shoebox, greaseproof papera torchstiff black paperscissors, split pins, plasticine, lollysticks, sellotape and a tapestry needle.

First we cut the bottom of the shoebox out leaving about a 1cm rim. We then sellotaped a square of greaseproof paper over the bottom – trying to keep it taut as possible.


Then we drew out the shapes we wanted on the paper and cut them out.

Some of them had arms attached by splitpins so they could be moved.

We added perforations with the needle to give shape and definition and to add decoration.

Some of us made out own splinter theatre space for purely cat shows…

Then we stuck lollysticks onto the backs and pushed the ends into lumps of plasticine so they could stand up.

Here is Ganesha (mine) and Brahma (Zeph’s) on his lotus flower.

And lit up from behind with a torch. 

This is my favourite puppet though, the King Cobra that Zeph made. He put a split pin just where the hood begins so it can sway menacingly. I love the detail from his careful pinpricks.


Wool gathering

I am completely outnumbered. My family is sitting in a row on the sofa as I type this giggling hysterically. Steve meets my eyes over the heads of the kids and laughs at me. I have to face it. Endless clips of crazy cats, snotty babies falling face first into chocolate cakes and people constantly bouncing off trampolines and falling over plastic chairs are humour extraordinaire when you are 8, or 2 or, pointed glare in the beards direction, 47.

Harry Hill can do no wrong here apparently and saturday evening is a double bill mecca. It could be worse. They could want to watch X factor…or football.

I spend the whole time wincing and cringing away from the screen. It’s all a bit clown time for me. I suppose it’s still funnier than Jimmy Carr and smarter than the 10 o’clock show…

It has been the MOST beautiful sunny day here today. We haven’t managed a jot of DIY but I’ve done a bit of digging and bought some more seeds. I have a supply of toilet rolls and tomorrow Zeph and I are planting peas. Sweet and otherwise. Yay!

We started the day with projectile vomiting at the breakfast table from one child and a long and protracted tantrum about homework, the general unfairness of life, vegetables and mothers from the other. Things could only get better and they did. Look at this;

I left Steve trying to get Ida back into the pushchair with reason (ha! sucker!) and with an airy, “I’ll only be a minute” I sprinted into MiJu, the new wool shop in Gloucester. It’s very lovely and stuffed full of tempting wool and the woman behind the counter is incredibly helpful and friendly. They do a knit and natter meeting on Thursday evenings but I’m slightly intimidated. I bought some smaller needles and this scrumptious (expensive) wool with the idea of knitting Ida a rainbow tank top ish thing. I lost my heart to a beautiful one in a shop in Cheltenham that I absolutely couldn’t justify the cost of and Ida is really very small. Surely I can bodge this in stocking stitch…. We shall see.

When I emerged sheepishly Steve gave a small pointed lecture about wasting money on wool when I have just received an enormous bagful. I pretended it was only 10p a ball, lovely shops should be supported, this wool is stripey, I may make something to sell and turn a profit, don’t I deserve anything for myself? and finally, trump card, there was an email from amazon this morning saying his order (clenched teeth, raised eyebrows) has been dispatched. Game, set, match.  

 Top BT’s today; my wool :), Ida trying to catch the coloured light from the sun shining through the stained glass windows at the cathedral, Zeph laying the table for tea without asking, Ida saying as we climb the stair for an emergency bath this morning, “it was that mushroom mummy” and shaking her head ruefully like an old woman. Banana and peanut butter milkshakes at teatime.

Equal deity opportunities

I’m doing a bit of light packing. Celebrating my success with the recent Big Smoke jaunt, three bags for two adults, one eight yr old and a toddler. In nappies. Who needs a cuddly duck and a couple of books to get to sleep. Unlike her mother who can get by with a gin. Joke. Honest.

Anyway this afternoon was suitably chaotic. I’ve realised that a friend’s b’day is a lot closer than I realised. I’ve been musing with trying to fashion a  patchwork skirt for her and, as usual, have not left sufficient time considering I’ve not done one before…

I whipped Zeph into doing his homework as we’re away for the weekend and Ida had to be tempted away from the sewing machine. She is totally fascinated by it, especially the foot pedal and stalks it from the other side of the table. I try to remember to ALWAYS switch it off between actual sewing but there’s a lot of starting, stopping and ironing when doing patchwork so she managed to scare the bejeezus out of me at least twice and had to have time-out on the stairs. She spent the two minutes wailing,  “Zephzie, Zephzie – ‘elp me”  very pitifully. Shiva knows* what the neighbours think.

I set her up with some paint afterwards which bought us an hour. In which Z sped ahead with his Jamaican menu with recipes. Mmmmm, jerk chicken. It feels very companionable sharing a table. Here’s him deciding which salsa will go best..

While I look blankly at my squares wondering how to assemble them.

 The house hums with pleasurable industry. Shame I forgot to cook tea, never mind, it’s not the first time Steve’s entry into the house after work has been met with an “Oh shit” and kedgeree is actually quite quick to whip up.

Todays BT’s , this sumptuous orange velvet, a curtain from the seventies I’m slowly snipping away at.

The hobnobs Steve produces from behind the toaster as I make coffee.

Ida sweetly replying to my plea for just one more minute to finish a seam – “OK Muma, I t’ink about it”  – something I clearly say too much to Zeph.

* Zeph has pointed out that as an atheist I use God, Christ, Lord and Jesus a great deal in my cussing. I blame my potty mouthed catholic mother. In the interest of fairness I’m experimenting with ringing the changes.

Ice shards

Who do you write to when you post?

Is it to the people you know read it? I now know a few people I know read it which is lovely, but bizarrely mostly I forget that when I’m typing. When I used to start diaries, mainly as a teenager, I was writing to my adoring public who would be reading these dramatic missives after I had perished in some dreadful heroic way at which point they would all be sorry and would fall upon these manuscripts with bated breath.

I’ve kept up this blog much longer than any diary. I’m always delighted, excited and amazed that anyone reads them though secretly I think most of the visits are from weird spam delivering programmes. Quite honestly though I kind of think I’m writing to myself. A better version of me residing in my subconscious.

Today is a grey day. Inside and out. Homework is being wrestled with, mum rules about television and the amount of chocolate limes being consumed are back in place and picking stuff up is once again compulsory. It’s a hard life.

Especially when you feel as though you’re made from cotton wool. and cold dishwater and the ashtray dregs you have to clear at the end of a bar shift. Eau de Fag ash and cold beer. The trouble with my main pain management plan is that it involves me putting myself away me. Like a disassociation. I stand outside myself. It’s pretty effective and very easy to do especially if you get into the habit early but overall – not good for the soul.

Today I feel like Kay from the snowqueen with a splinter of ice in my heart. Steve puts his hand on my shoulder and I shake him off like a cross cat. Luckily he has faith in the thawing process. It reminds me of when I was in labour with Ida and the midwife suggested I might like him to rub my back. “She wouldn’t.” he said with calm certainty and watching from the outside I was overwhelmed with relief that I had someone who understood that and wasn’t hurt by it.

I’m going to knit, sing an endless round of “row, row”  for Ida  and hope for a warm front.

Mess, tulips and distraction techniques.

The thing about turning out cupboards and sorting stuff is that it makes a huge mount of mess. I pointed this out to Steve defensively and slightly sharply as he came through the door last night tired and slightly dismayed by the enormous pile of  mouldy boxes and broken things. Only for him to present me with a bunch of beautiful tulips, possibly one of my favourite things.

I felt a bit shrewish.

Zeph just asked what’s for tea and after being told it’s soup regards me steadily. “You mean you’ve whizzed up yesterdays leftovers?” I bluster for a bit about not being wasteful and that I’ll make croutons but am silenced by his raised eyebrows which indicates we both know that just means cut up toast. I can’t even tell him to get on with his homework as he’s finished it. This weekends country was Brazil which meant he got to write about rainforest animals and didn’t even need to be prompted to start it. Perhaps we should just write about the animals of every country.

I’m really glad we did garden stuff yesterday as it has rained steadily all day. I have done much swopping around of stuff but left a trail of things-to-be-found-homes-for in my wake. I’ve also rediscovered an awful lot of projects half done.

The good thing about finding the back of the cupboards are half rotted away already is that it will take very little effort to dismantle them. The bad thing is that I have to touch the mouldy stuff to get it out and can’t recycle as much as I would like meaning I’ve run out of bin space. Hmmm.

This is of course why I’m on here, procrastinating and boring you senseless.

I would like to share with you my horror and disbelief at a new Barbie advert I was privileged to witness this morning during a morning milkshake viewing. Barbie Fashionista’s – you get to swap their heads about…  What next? – Barbies arriving with their own breast implants screw-ins for easy-play plastic surgery. What will I do about the Barbie thing? I remember yearning for one knowing full well my mum wouldn’t let it cross the threshold. Is forbidding stuff the answer?

Last night Ida took a lego brick to bed with her to cuddle. I’m torn between being relieved and hoping this lasts and googling those people who fall in love with inanimate objects and end up marrying bridges or steamboats.

Much better use of my time to worry about this than where I’m going to store the two broken Hoovers I’m keeping for parts and the three years worth of Uncut and Word magazines.

Today’s BT: Mittens kindly stepping in and eating the spider I found under the stairs. It was quite big. I couldn’t find a jam jar and was just wondering if I could pick it up in my hand when she pounced. Obviously sad end for the spider and all that but a satisfactory example of the food chain in action.

Sunday statistics

How many languages can we, lucky denizens of this house, say poo in?


Metres of wonky heart-shaped bunting sewn for party?

About ten.

Crosswords done?

Two…well one and a half – do other people really ever finish the cryptic ones?

Number of times I have held the door open  for meowing cat only for her to turn her nose up at windy drizzly day and back hurriedly away from the fresh air?


Instances of me howling, ” GET ON!”  to an eight year old boy staring at the ceiling, pencil in his hand?


Damn lice combed out of hair?


BT’s today? Million billion trillion. Must be an upsurge in the drugs. I have been absurdly happy and content with all . My surroundings are as chaotic and mouldy as usual but today they seem cosy and cheerfully shambolic. Proof, as if I needed it, “the most effective change begins in you”. And on that Stroudesque non sequitur I leave you dears ones.

Geektastic – we will inherit the earth.

Never Let Me Go has been all over the papers this weekend with lots of speculation about the films release and success at translating the novel to the screen. I  loved the book and am sure the film will have merit as I’m a huge fan of Mark Romenek. What galls me ( and I freely admit I’m an irritable soul) is the gushing praise for its breathtakingly original and as yet unexplored themes in its speculative fiction plot.

Well I thought they were pretty  bloody well explored in Spares by Michael Marshall Smith when I was blown away by it in 1995 when it was published.

Speculative fiction is the term used by people too lily livered and literary lite to sully their delicate Daily telegraph book club sensibilities in genre fiction. Sorry – bit harsh, each to their own and all that. I just enjoy reading a bit of everything and have a few friends who are openly snobbish about science fiction. WRONG I say – wrong! Good science fiction taps in to the fears of a generation. Look at Frankenstein and its open fears of electricity and a burgeoning rational scientific culture of experimentation and dissection. William Gibson tapping into the zeitgeist of cyberspace, AI and genetic engineering. Today Lauren Buekes, Max Barry and Ian McDonald are all writing exciting, thought provoking “speculative fiction” about the growth of corporate power, global village phoenomonem, technology, corruption and modern decay in the developing world and they can all be found in your local science fiction aisle.

It’s not all star trek.

Nothing wrong with star trek mind… more on this another time

Anyway – lovely saturday all round. Papers, Steve, a walk on a windy day with giggly kids, a packet of new pins, indian takeaway for tea, starting a new book sprawled on the opposite end of the sofa to Steve as soon as I’ve finished this. Reader, I’m easily pleased.

BT today – showing Zeph how google translate works for his homework. I’m worried I may have unleashed a demon as the simple polish phrases he was finding became more and more quirky and an element of toilet humour crept in. He is an eight yr old boy after all…

seeing the whole picture


This is what happen when you let toddlers spread their own cheese and once you let them try you can’t go back. Well not without a lot of shrieked  “I do” s

It’s what I think of as a good weekend, ie Steve’s not working and although we’d planned to do something more dynamic we’ve once again settled into  an idle domestic chuntering around sort of day. I reason that if we don’t leave the house we can’t spend any money which is pretty vital at the moment and god knows there’s enough to do around here. Not to mention bloody homework..

This weekend Zeph’s researching and writing something about Portugal. He was delighted after a bit of googling to discover an artist I like, Paula Rego, who he recognises from prints and books around the house is portuguese and asks if he can take one of my books in to school with his homework to share with the class. As I’m slightly distracted by a nappy change at the time I agree without thinking. Generally I feel pretty chuffed with his research skills and enthusiasm and say this to Steve, who luckily is slightly more on the ball than me, and goes to retrieve the book already in Zeph’s bag.

Steve: “I don’t think this is a good idea…..”

Me: “for god’s sake, I mean the pictures are a little dark maybe but so are nursery rhymes really…” more chat along these lines that S completely ignores as he flicks through the book.

Steve: decisively  “No  – I don’t think so.”

Laura: “Honestly, don’t be so suburban.”

Steve: turning the book to face me, “What’s that dog doing?”

Laura: slightly defensively “He’s bowing to the lady..”

Steve: “No Laura, the other dog, the one in the background behind the goat..”

Laura: “Oh. Do you know when it says riding a goat in Old Mother Hubbard I always imagined something else.”