Stockholm: A family guide to visiting the Swedish capital

Where else in the world can you visit spectacular palaces, a Pippa Longstocking museum, view a stunning boat and gain a Nobel Prize? Stockholm has it all. This Scandanavian gem is a great city to visit with families. We spent 5 days there are barely scratched the surface.

Getting there

Stockholm is very well connected by air, road, rail and boat. We drove the 630km from Copenhagen to Stockholm. Whilst it is a relatively easy drive; it is long. It took over 7 hours and is considerably longer than our 2-3 hour maximum in Rosie. If we had our time again we would probably stop for the night half way.

Previously, Doug and his friend took the train. They caught a bus from Copenhagen to Malmo and then the overnight train from Malmo to Stockholm. I understand that the cabins were bijou and there was little or no food service. So if you are taking this option then stock up before jumping on the train. Apparently, it’s a bit of a party train so maybe not option if you are travelling with kids.

By air, Stockholm has four airports however it’s important to note three of them are nowhere near Stockholm! From the UK, it is likely that you will fly into Arlanda (37km from central Stockholm) or Skavasta (100km from central Stockholm). There are good public transport links between the airport and Stockholm.

Accommodation

We stayed out at an out of town campsite, Ängby Camping (https://angbycamping.se/en/home/). It was pretty basic and mostly catered for those who wanted to stay in wooden cabins. That said, it was close to the train station into central Stockholm and had shops nearby so it served our needs. We never made it to the beach but the woodland walks that we did were beautiful.

Getting around

We stayed in the suburbs and travelled into Stockholm by train every day. This as easy to do, clean and timely. Once you get there it’s a relatively walkable city as well but we used the hop-on-hop-off bus and boats as a way of crossing the harbour (see below).

To City Card or Not to City Card?

Like Copenhagen, Stockholm has a city card which enables you to gain entry to 60 attractions as part of the price of the card. They do 1-day, 2-day, 3-day and 5-day passes and you can opt to include public transport.

 https://www.stockholmpass.com/

We opted for a 3-day City Card without transport. At the time of writing, the prices for these are 1250SEK (£102.50) per adult 625SEK (£51.50) per child. There is no financial benefit to getting the transport included and as we wanted to include the train into Stockholm we bought our train tickets separately. It’s also worth noting that children under 7 travel for free with an adult travel card and this is extended at the week to children under 12 (Friday 12noon – Sunday 1159) so we didn’t need to pay for transport for Issy.

Are they worth it?

In deciding whether or not to get the card we looked at the price of the attractions that we wanted to see separately. Bare in mind that some of the attractions are only open some of the year so it’s worth doing your homework.  

The two deciding factors for us were being able to use the hop-on-hop-off bus and canal tours for the duration of the card (individually priced at 740SEK per adult, 370SEK per child) and the ability to jump the queue. We were there in the height of the Northern Hemisphere’s summer and with school holidays in full swing attractions like the Vasa and Junibacken had long queues.

For us, it was worth it, for us to visit all the attractions and hop-on-bus and boat tours without the Stockholm pass cost 1725 SEK; so we saved 475 SEK(approximately £40.00).

Our top 5 things to do

It seemed like we did loads but looking at it now, we only did 3 of the top 10 things to do. That said, with Issy in tow and staying out of town, I don’t think we could have done much more. This is something to consider when looking at the Stockholm Pass; if feeling like you’re not getting value for money is going to annoy you then err on the side of caution.

Vasa Museum (150SEK, Under-18 Free)

The Vasa is Stockholm’s version of the Mary Rose. Like it’s English counterpart, it sunk on it’s maiden voyage and was painstakingly salvaged from Stockholm’s harbour. There are regular guided tours in English but we chose to make our own way round the museum. This gave us a bit more freedom to decide where we spent our time.

Junibacken (185SEK, 155SEK)

A museum dedicated to Angrid Lungstrom (author of Pippa Longstocking to you and I). I can’t help thinking that we would have got more out of this museum if we had known some of her other books. Having said that this was big hit with Issy and she particularly liked the optical illusion room and we spent far longer her than I thought we would. It’s situated right next door to the Vasa Museum and so was a welcome anecdote to learning about a sinking ship!

National Museum of Science and Technology (150SEK, 100SEK)

This is about a half an hour walk away from the Vasa Museum but for us it was definitely worth the walk. We all loved it and could have easily spent the whole day there. The MegaMind and the Play beyond Play were awesome. Issy and I caused great amusement as we had a face off and tried to move a ball with only the power of our mind.

Hop-on-hop-off bus and boat combo (740SEK, 370SEK)

We use these both as a mode of transport to get from A to B as they have the advantage of stopping near the main attractions but also as a way of learning a bit about Stockholm. My preference is to do a walking tour as it’s a bit more personal but I know Issy likes these as she can use the ride time as a bit of a break.

Nobel Prize Museum (130SEK, Under-18 FREE)

How many 7 year olds can say that they have a Nobel Prize? Well Issy can. It was in that well known category of navigating her way round the museum. But as she says she’s going to take the win and there was a ceremony and everything!

Other things to do
Royal Palaces (185 SEK, 80SEK)

A visit to the Royal Palaces is kind of a must even if it’s just to have a nosy at how the other half live. You get the added bonus of being able to look at the Swedish crown jewels and we saw the changing of the guard at 1100am. For an extra fee you can look at the Royal Apartments.

Grona Lund Tivoli (130SEK)

This is one of Europe’s oldest amusement parks and Stockholm’s answer to Tivoli in Copenhagen. Whilst entry to the park is included in the Stockholm Pass, the rides are an additional cost. There are rides to suit everyone from the most timid to the most adventurous. It has to be said, since I get motion sickness on the kids teacups this wasn’t really the place for me!

Police Museum (60SEK)

As it’s name suggests, this was a relatively small museum about the work of the Swedish Police. It didn’t take very long to go around, and to be fair I think Issy’s favourite bit was riding the Police go karts round outside the museum.

Other things to know

The traffic in Stockholm is horrendous. Leave plenty of time when travelling to the ferry terminal. Despite leaving, what we thought was plenty of time, we almost missed the ferry to Helsinki because we were stuck in a gridlock.

It’s worth noting that the Museum of Science and Technology, the Police Museum, Maritime Museum and Sports Museum are all in the same complex. That said, I doubt you would be able to visit them all in one day

When planning your activities it’s worth noting that some of the smaller museums close on a Monday. We missed visiting the Maritime Museum and Sports Museum as they were closed on a Monday.

Fractions Unwrapped – The Basics

Teaching Issy fractions has been one of my success stories. At the age of 8, she’d learnt pretty much all she will need to know to take her up to GCSE. She went from not understanding what a fraction was to multiplying and dividing them in less than a month.

When looking at what to teach I took my lead with what to teach from the English National Curriculum. 

What does the National Curriculum say you need to know?

The key areas are:

  • What is a fraction?
  • What type of fractions are there?
  • Key fractions e.g. halves, quarters, thirds etc
  • Equivalent fractions and simplifying fractions
  • Ordering and comparing fractions
  • Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions
So what do you actually need to know?

Well, there are many that would say none of it! 

However, having a knowledge of fractions is useful in catering, statistics and playing card games or board games such as scrabble and rumikub

A basic knowledge of fractions has helped Issy learn to tell the time, analyse statistics and understand probability and percentages.

So how did we tackle fractions?

We made it fun!

I started at the beginning and we used lots of hand-on  props. This post is limited to the basics but part 2 will look at operations and converting fractions to percentages and decimals.

Issy’s tools of choice were dominoes, UNO cards and counters. There wasn’t a pizza, chocolate bar or a cake in sight. Food was a no go; a hangry Issy is not a learning Issy.

I made it relevant to her. Having hit a bit of stumbling block over the no cake or pizza, I asked her what she wanted use and she said chapters in a book (the numerator being the chapters she’d read and the denominator being the number of chapters in the whole book). That one switch made such a difference, it was literally like a light turned on.

So let’s begin with a starter for 10…

What is a fraction?

A fraction is a way of expressing how may equal parts of a whole we have. It can either be

  • A number less than one e.g. ¾
  • In a mixed number that part of a number that is less than 1 e.g. 3 ¾
  • The number of items in a group with certain attribute or characteristic e.g. 17 out of 43 smarties are green
How do we write fractions?

A fraction is made up of 2 parts

NUMERATOR – The top part of the fraction which tells us what part of the whole we are referring to or the number of items in a set with a particular characteristic

DENOMINATOR – The bottom part of the fraction which tells us how many parts make up a whole or the total number of items in a set

Top tip – We get DOWN with the DENOMINATOR so it goes as the bottom

How do we say fractions?

The general rule is that we say the numerator followed by the denominator in it’s ordinal form e.g 3/8 is three eighths. 

There are a few exceptions so 1/2 is a half and 1/4 is a quarter. 

The table below shows the main fractions you are expected to know.

Denominator

Fraction

Fraction in words

2

1/2

One half

3

1/3

One third

4

1/4

One quarter

5

1/5

One fifth

8

1/8

One eighth

10

1/10

One tenth

25

1/25

One twenty-fifth

100

1/100

One hundredth

Click on the link below for Activity 1 – Write the fraction

Fractions – Activity 1

 

What are the different types of fraction?
Proper Fractions

If I asked you to write down a fraction most people would write down a proper fraction. They are less than one 

Top Tip – Numerator is SMALLER than the denominator

Improper Fractions

These are numbers bigger than one that are expressed in  fraction format

Top Tip – Numerator is BIGGER than the denominator

Mixed Numbers

An alternative way of expressing fractions bigger that one which include both a whole number and fraction e.g. 3 3/4

A quick word about whole numbers

All whole numbers have a denominator of 1 e.g. 4/1 

but…

they can also be written as a the number of parts making a whole e.g. 3/3

Top Tip – Numerator EQUALS the denominator

Clink on the link below for Activity 2: Identifying types of fractions

Fraction – Activity 2

Converting Improper Fractions to Mixed Numbers and back again

To be able to do this well, you need to understand how  improper fraction and mixed numbers are made up.

We went back to partitioning fractions in to their whole numbers and their part numbers. If you look at the example below you can see that 11/4 is the same as 2 3/4 

 

Whole Number

Part Number

11/4

4/4 + 4/4

3/4

2 3/4

4/4 + 4/4

3/4

Once you become more confident you will be able to use your times table to convert between the two 

Express 15/4 as a mixed number

15/4 = 3 remainder 3 

So we know that the mixed number will be 3 3/4

Express 3 and 4/25 as an improper fraction

Denominator =25 (we know this from the 4/25 part of the number)

Numerator = (whole number x denominator) + part number

Numerator = (3 x 25) + 4

Numerator = 79

Improper Fraction = 79/25

Click on the link below Activity 3: Converting mixed numbers to improper fractions

Fractions – Activity 3

Click on the link below for Activity 4: Converting improper fractions to mixed numbers

Fractions – Activity 4

Equivalent fractions and simplifying fractions
Equivalent Fractions

These are fractions with different numerators and denominators which represent the same value or proportion of the whole.

We use our multiplication and division knowledge to find equivalent fractions.

The key with this is whatever you do to the numerator you MUST also do to the denominator. 

Find an equivalent fraction to 3/5

We can’t make this fraction any smaller.

This tells us we need to multiply the numbers to get an equivalent fraction

So if we decide to multiply the numerator by 5, we MUST also multiply the denominator by 5

Numerator = 3 x 5 =  15

Denominator = 25

Fraction becomes 15/25

Simplifying fractions

To simplify a fraction you find the smallest equivalent fraction. 

This occurs when

  • The numerator is 1; or
  • There is no common multiple between numerator and the denominator

Simplify 72/81 

We know that both 72 and 81 are in the 9 times table so we can divide each number by 9

Numerator = 72/9 = 8

Denominator = 81/9 = 9 

Simplest Fraction = 8/9

Fraction Bars

Fractions bars are a really good and visual way of showing equivalent fractions and explaining how to simplify fractions

Click on the link below for Activity 5: Equivalent and Simplifying fractions

Fractions – Activity 5

Comparing and Ordering Fractions

There are few basic rules to remember when ordering and comparing fractions

  • If the DENOMINATOR is the SAME, then the BIGGER the NUMERATOR the bigger the fraction
  • If the NUMERATOR is the SAME, then the BIGGER the DENOMINATOR the smaller the fraction
  • If the numerator AND the denominator are DIFFERENT, you need to ensure all the fractions have the SAME DENOMINATOR
Ensuring all the fractions have the same denominator

The simplest way is to see if you can find equivalent fractions which gives you the same denominator.

But what do you do if you can’t? Well that’s where the butterfly method comes in. 

The Butterfly Method

Used when you need to find the same denominator but you can’t find an equivalent fractions

Compare 1/6  and 3/4

Step 1: Multiply 6 x 4 to give you the new denominator

Step 2: Work out the numerator of Fraction A

                Numerator A  x Denominator B 

               1 x 4 = 4

               Fraction A= 4/24

Step 3: Work out the numerator of Fraction B

                Numerator B x Denominator A

                3 x 6 = 18

                Fraction B = 18/24

Step 4: 18/24 is greater than 4/56

Click on the link below for Activity 6: Comparing fractions

Fractions – Activity 6

That’s all for now but keep an eye out for Fractions Unwrapped Part 2

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Operation Pawprint…Homeschooling with Pawprint Badges

I can’t remember where I read about these but they have been a total game changer for us.

The brainchild of Charlotte and Jamie these activity badge challenges work in the same way as the Scout and Guide badge system and in part support the Pawprint Trust to give young people hardship funds for Guiding and Scouting Opportunities. Having spent over 25 years as a member of these organisations it’s a cause close to my heart.

Why do I love them?

There are so many ideas and I didn’t have to think of a single one. As a home ed mum what is not to love! In fact I don’t think even if I had time, I would come up with half the ideas contained in the challenge packs. Issy and I both love doing the activities and I can link them to things we’re studying.

Another bonus is that we usually have the resources and equipment we need to complete the activities so they aren’t expensive to do. The Challenge Packs are free and technically you don’t have to buy the badges. Although that’s never going to wash with Issy! 

Why does Issy love them?

When I asked her, this is what she said and I quote “there are ridiculously fun activities, it keeps me off my tablet, and did I say fun. I like the silly activities I get to do like the pollen collecting game and then there’s the badge…I get a badge!”

I’ll be honest the badge is a big motivator for Issy. As we are on the road for large parts of the year joining Scouts or Guides isn’t possible but if she did she’d be one of those kids who work their way through the badge scheme alphabetically.

How do they work?

Each badge comes with a free challenge pack. This sets out the activities you need to do to complete the badge. The number of activities you need to complete are staggered according to age. Issy has to complete five activities in total; one from each category (food, craft, games and other) plus one additional activity.

I keep a tracker of the activities that she’s done. For those of you who home school full-time, I am considering appending this to any educational report I have to submit as examples of her learning. 

How do we use them?

We use them to provide independent learning opportunities, sneak in activities that she doesn’t really like doing (mostly writing) and get her to try new activities. I’m encouraging her to collate her ideas in a Pawprint Learning Journal. It’s more akin to a scrapbook of activities which includes writing out recipes, drawings, research etc.

When I’m doing my planning sometimes I’ll link the badge to a particular date or other times it will be a topic that we’re studying e.g. we did our spy badge as part of our Early 20th Century topic which covered WW1 and WW2). There are challenge packs for everything from Saints Days (St George’s day), important holidays (Chinese New Year, Easter), Charity Days (Den Day), other events (World Book Day, VE 75 anniversary) and themed badges (Art, Monkey). I  often get the ideas from Pawprint and any additional resources from Twinkl (I have a paid subscription).

Currently the world is on lockdown so our monthly project for April is Operation Pawprint.  This involves trying to do a few pawprint activities a day. Helpfully, Pawprint Family themselves are running a#ABadgeADay challenge where you complete 3 pawprint activities a day. These three were ours yesterday

How to Start Your Pawprint Journey

It’s as easy as visiting the Pawprint Family website at www.pawprintfamily.com and downloading your first challenge pack.

Other Resources
Facebook Groups to Join

Home Educating with Pawprint Badges

Resources & Support for Pawprint Badges 

Pawprint Family

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Times Tables; Fun ways to teach them

Contrary to popular thinking, I think times tables are one of the cornerstones of basic maths.

I’ll say at this point, it’s taken Issy 18 months to 2 years but she now knows her times tables inside out, upside down and back to front.

What are times tables?

Times tables are just a shorthand way of writing the repeated addition of a particular number. 

So how did we go about teaching them?

Issy is a visual and kinaesthetic learner; she needs to see it and feel it to understand it.

The key is little and often. We practise every day for no more than 5 or 10 minutes. It’s fun, practical, usually involves physical activity and is reinforced with real life scenarios. Issy uses her times tables when converting currencies, working out whether it’s better to accept a 3 for 2 deal or buy items individually or scaling up a recipe according to the number of portions she needs.

General Strategies
Workbooks/Worksheets

When we first set out about learning our times tables, I used a lot of the twinkl resources and in particular the times table booklets. She tackled a booklet every 7-14 days and we would reinforce it with the other strategies listed below.

Step Counting...literally

This is the starting point for most people and it involves reciting the multiples in a particular times tables eg. 2, 4, 6…22, 24.

More recently we’ve been combining this with walking or running up the stairs (obviously this is a bit difficult in the motorhome!)

Drawing the multiples in a big number

Draw a big number and write all the multiples in it and stick it up somewhere.

Songs

There are various song and dance based apps and resources available.  I know a lot of people use Times Table Rockstars. We didn’t, mainly because I found it quite expensive as a private individual.

When it comes to free resources, You Tube is your friend and we did use the Laugh Along and Learn channel which uses popular songs to learn times tables eg. the 6 times table is Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off  and 8 times table is Adele’s Rolling in the Deep (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_BJjR9rdwA)

Issy also liked the song that she used at school

CHS good as gold, this is how our fingers roll, the *[threes] 3,6,9…30, we’re no finished yet 33, 36, this is how roll our *[threes].

*substitute any times table

Physical Activity

Issy enjoyed the BBC Sport Supermovers videos and these are particular good for the football mad amongst you as they are supported by football club mascots.

We often practise whilst out walking, on a swing at the park or throwing a ball (apparently this develops the same neural pathways as learning maths).

Learn and Recite them in groups

We’d already learnt our times tables by the time I learnt this hack but we now recite our times tables in groups of 2/4/8, 3/6/12, 5/10/11 and 7/9.

This helps to solidify the relationship between the multiples and provides a strategy to work out any that you are unsure of using information you already know.

Strategies for Specific Times Tables
Counting Coins

We collected 2p,5p, 10p, 20p and 50p coins and counted the number of pennies in each pile.

As we advanced we’d roll two dice to decide how many would be in the pile and Issy would give me the answer.

Using your 2 times table knowledge to work out your 4 times table (double, double)

The 4 times table is double the 2 times table. If you know what 2 times a number is, you just need to double it to get 4 times a number.

Using a clock to learn the 5 times table

A clock is a ready-made tool for learning the 5 times table. Point to a number and ask how many minutes past the hour it is.

Using your 3 times table knowledge to work out your 6 times table (double threes)

The 6 times table is double the 3 times table. If you know what 3 times a number is, you just need to double it to get 6 times a number.

Using your 4 times table knowledge to work out your 8 times table (double fours)

The 8 times table is double the 4 times table. If you know what 4 times a number is, you just need to double it to get 8 times a number.

The Finger Method for 9 times table

This is a great one for all you visual learners out there.

Number patterns for 9 times table

As the tens digit goes up, the units digit goes down

Number patterns for 10 times table

You add a zero to the number you are multiplying ten by

Using your 6 times table knowledge to work out your 12 times table (double sixes)

The 12 times table is double the 6 times table. If you know what 6 times a number is, you just need to double it to get 12 times a number.

I know them...now what?

Even though I’m confident Issy knows them, we still practise every day and once a month she has a times tables test. She’s seeing the benefit now she’s tackling long division and more complicated multiplication.

In all seriousness, I do credit my times table knowledge to my maths teacher Mr Moore who gave us a times table test every Tuesday morning when I was in Year 7! It really is a case of practise makes perfect.

Homeschooling 101: Activities if your child’s school closes

Whilst the UK Government are maintaining that schools will remain open, it is looking more and more unlikely that this will be sustainable. 

I’ve already seen a number of recommended timetables going round Facebook and Instagram and laughed. I was once that naive too. They come under the category of  “whilst men make plans the Gods laugh”. 

Be realistic and kind to yourself. You’re more than likely already juggling the balls of work, school, childcare and shopping without COVID-19 putting its oar in. I’ll be honest when we were both working and Issy was in school this would have sent me into a complete meltdown.

Remember, home schooling doesn’t have to take place between 9am and 3pm. Fit it into your schedule. If you are juggling work and home schooling, save those activities where the children can be unsupervised for times when you have important meetings and deadlines. Don’t feel guilty about getting some snacks and putting on a movie for a couple of hours. If you want to add an educational element get them to write a movie review or re-tell the story.

I’m hoping schools will be providing some guidance as to what they want you do but if not here’s our favourites.

reading

Reading is a gift but so many kids are put off reading by school reading schemes. This is a golden opportunity to allow kids to read their own material. It doesn’t have to be for long; 10-15 minutes makes a huge difference. It doesn’t matter whether it’s books, magazines, comics, newspapers, fiction, non-fiction just let them read something that they enjoy without having to analyse it or identify a fronted adverbial.

We use Amazon Kindle and our local library had BorrowBox. 

writing

It’s safe to say that Issy hates writing and I’ve had to learn patience and little and often. It’s coming together now and I was utterly amazed when she sat down the other day and copied out 3 pages worth of lyrics from Aladdin completely unprompted.

I try and incorporate writing into everyday life by getting Issy to write shopping lists, a daily journal, book reviews, movie reviews, letters, stories and copy writing. She’s even written a few stories about the adventures of our motorhome, Rosie. One lovely idea I read about recently was to get your children to write letters to the residents of the local nursing home so they get something whilst they are quarantined. 

Another big hit with Issy is nonsense stories. These work best if there are 3 -5 of you and are a great activity if you have more than one child. Each person takes it in turns to write a sentence and you just keep going until everyone loses interest. We wrote one with family friends, Fizzy and John. Whilst the story was never going to win a booker prize it was written with love, laughter and lots of literary licence. It’s an experience that we will always look back on with fondness.

I try and give Issy a purpose to her writing. She has written letters to Blue Peter, poems for her Pawprint badges, science reports as part of her Crest Award, and recipes as part of her project work.

Blue Peter Badges www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/joinin/anout-blue-peter-badges

Crest Awards www.crestawards.org

Maths

Maths is like marmite; you either love it or you hate it. In our house we love it! A lot of our maths looks nothing like the maths you would see in a classroom. It’s fun, hands on and relevant. Issy struggled with decimals but as soon as I said think of you use hundredths every day when dealing with money she got it instantly. With fractions referring to parts of a cake or pizza just made her hungry so we looked at them in terms of chapters in a book.

Most of our maths is done through play and practical experience. For all those doubting whether you will use maths in everyday life. You absolutely will! Issy comes shopping with us, weighs fruit and vegetables, looks at the price of items, works out best value, estimates the cost of a shopping basket, works out the cost of a meal, works out her change, plays banker in monopoly or scorer in uno, darts or mini-golf and converts currencies.

When learning new concepts Issy needs to visualise things and we frequently use lego, cards, dominoes, dice and art in our maths. Issy’s fitness watch has been one of our go-to maths tools see Fitbit maths: How Issy’s fitness watch became my go to maths tool?

Corbett Maths http://www.corbettmaths.com

Khan Academy http://www.khanacademy.org

Physical Activity

If your children are anything like Issy they will go stir crazy within an hour or two so physical activity is really important. On an average day she gets between 10,000 and 12,000 steps so sitting still is not her forte. Our normal home schooling day comprises of a 20-30 minute lessons followed by 10-15 minutes of physical activity.

If you are on total self-isolation then this may be a challenge. If not get out into the parks and go for a walk, walk the dog, do some geocaching or even follow a treasure trail. Follow the rules of social distancing and good hygiene. The boost to your immune system and sanity of getting some fresh air and sunlight will be immense.

If you are on total self-isolation then here are some of the ways that we manage to get some physical activity in small spaces.  Kidzbop (a song and dance based you-tube channel), BBC Sport Supermovers (song and dance based learning covering key stage 1 and 2) and sensory circuits have literally saved me on more than one occasion when it’s been pouring with rain and we’ve been confined to the motorhome.

Other ideas are Joe Wicks schools workout (https://youtu.be/-TGEdzRzSbw), Scavenger Hunts (find 10 items beginning with “S”, find an item that starts with each letter of the alphabet) and games like Simon says.

Kidzbop https://www.youtube.com/user/KIDZBOPKids

Treasure Trails https://www.treasuretrails.co.uk/

Geocaching https://www.geocaching.com/play

Socialisation

Whilst the idea of self-isolating is to prevent socialisation this just means that you are going to have to get more imaginative with the ways in which you socialise.

Whilst Issy doesn’t have unsupervised access to WhatsApp she does have it and an e-mail. We’ve already had a request for Issy to prepare a video diary each week and swap it and I think it’s a great idea. This is the one time when I will be encouraging Issy to check in on friends, family and neighbours via WhatsApp, Skype or Messenger.

We’ve seen examples of neighbours getting together and singing songs, playing musical instruments and eating together on balconies. Maybe have a think about how you can incoporate these ideas into your daily life. 

Arts and Crafts

I’m not particularly artistic but Issy loves it and we always have a small set of paints, paper, pens and pencils with us. If you have kids that don’t like writing drawing and painting is a good substitute to develop the motorskills required for writing.

If you are stuck for ideas Pinterest really is your friend and each pawprint badge has an art and craft section. This year we’ve done origami rats as part of our Chinese New Year activities, designed a book cover as well as lots of painting and drawing.

I’ve just discovered mini-books which are really easy to make and I’ve been using them to make little  literacy reference guides. The idea being that Issy will fill them in as we learn and they will be specific to her. 

Pawprint Badges www.pawprintbadges.co.uk

Dressing up and fashion shows

Before she went to school, Issy didn’t wear normal clothes; her everyday attire was a princess dresses and wellington boots. Then almost overnight that wasn’t cool anymore.

Left alone with a box full of Issy sized clothes and look what she can do and it’s a very useful skill when you only have limited space in your backpack!

Lego

Who doesn’t love a bit of Lego? Issy has buckets of it all over the world and I use a lot in our maths, science and literacy teaching. She loves watching Lego Masters and seeing all the new ideas.

If your children love playing with Lego maybe look at one of the 30 day Lego building challenges

Puzzles

We travel everywhere with a puzzle book and I also use crosswords and word searches as part of Issy’s everyday learning whether it’s spellings or topic based puzzles. She also likes things like cracking codes and su doko. 

Most of our puzzle books come from pound shops, The Works or free from restaurants. Where I’m looking for specific topics Twinkl or Ducksters.com are good web-sites.

Board and Card Games

We’ve always played lots of board and card games. In fact I don’t think you can call yourself a member of Burrows family if you haven’t sat round the table at Nana and Grandad’s playing UNO, Rumikub or Triominoes. The battles are fierce and if you win, you’ve worked hard for it! All joking aside these are great family activities and can be played with children of all ages.

Some of our favourites are UNO, Rumikub, Triominoes, Dominoes, Bananagrams, Where on Earth? Connect 4, Shut the Box, Card Games (Go Fish, 21s, Solitaire), Monopoly, Snakes and Ladders and Chess.

life skills

Both Doug and I grew up in houses where learning life skills were an important part of our upbringing however this doesn’t seem to be the case now.

This is the time to teach cooking and baking, general housework, using basic appliances (oven, microwaves, washing machine, iron), shopping, budgeting, gardening, emergency procedures, basic DIY, car/bicylce maintenance and first aid.

Resources
Web-sites

Here’s a few more general web-sites

BBC Bitesize www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize

Covers all education levels from nursery school to GCSE. We use it in all our subjects.

BBC Sport Supermovers www.bbc.co.uk/teach/supermovers

Aimed at Key Stage 1 and 2, this is learning through movement. You don’t need a lot of room (we’ve been know to do it in the motorhome on a rainy day!) They have videos on everything from Times Tables to French and Spanish. This is a real hit with Issy.

BBC Teach http://www.bbc.co.uk/teach

This is an umbrella site which will provide links across all of the BBC Teach sites including Bitesize and Supermovers and well as subject matter.

Open University Open Learn www.open.edu/openlearn

Designed for older children and adult learning, both myself and Issy have completed course on Open Learn. These are free short courses available to all and are a perfect opportunity to learn a new skill, spark a new interest or revise old skills. I’ve completed courses on everything from Basic French to Music Theory.

Twinkl www.twinkl.co.uk

This is used by most schools. They are offering one month free access to parents in the event of school closures. Please use the code UKTWINKLHELPS at www.twinkl.co.uk/offer

Crash Course (www.thecrashcourse.com)

A web-site linking to a You Tube Channel showing videos covering pretty much every subject from Anatomy to World History. These are a whistle stop tour of each subject but they are good way of giving Issy a basic understanding of the subjects covered.

Duckster: Education Site https://www.ducksters.com/

An American site with lots of information and games mainly aimed at Primary school children.

Applications

All these are available on Android but I’m not sure what the deal is with Apple. 

Duolingo – Modern languages – Issy and I learn French, Spanish and Mandarin between us.

Wordscapes – Word puzzles

Little Professor – Mental maths program

Skyview – Astronomy app showing what stars, planets and satellites are in the sky above you.

BBC I-Player

For those of you worrying about home educating your children hopefully some of the ideas in here will help you out. 

One last thought this is going to be a stressful enough time as it is so one of the most important things we can do is have fun. Some of the most stressful times in my life have also lead to the most precious family memories and in time we will all laugh about the time the world shut down because of COVID-19.

The Great Gas Debate Part 2 and How We Solved It

Back in February 2019, we’d reached the conclusion that we weren’t going upgrade our gas system to a fixed refillable system such as Gaslow see our post: Van Life: Let’s talk gas.

Then, we started looking at the price of replacing our gas bottles in the UK and discovered that we were looking at an initial outlay of £82.50 followed by £42.50 per refill. A nasty shock and somewhat more costly that the 15-20€ we’d been paying on the Continent!

The hunt was on for an alternative. Those of you who have undertaken the same exercise as us will know that much has been written on the subject. I happened upon a Facebook post where someone recommended refillable bottles. When I first mentioned it to Doug he was completely against it. Whilst, I understood his concerns; neither of us like messing about with anything involving gas, I was equally concerned about the economics of our full-time van lifestyle given the price of gas.

The timing of our predicament coincided nicely with the summer Caravan and Camping Show circuit and so we set out to investigate our options more thoroughly.

So what were our options?

Our options could be briefly summarised as installing a fixed refillable systems such as Gaslow, removable refillable bottles such as Safefill or accepting we were going to have to pay for Calor gas.  I’d already decided the latter was off the cards.

What did we choose?

We spent hours talking to vendors and visiting various stalls before deciding that the Safefill 10kg lightweight bottle (which holds 19.5L of gas) was our best option.

Why did we go for the Safefill option?
It's removable

As those of you who have read our original post will know Rosie is 21 and whilst we haven’t found anything we like more (and Issy is vying to inherit her for her 18th birthday) we didn’t want to over capitalise by putting in a fixed system should we decide to upgrade.

With this, if we upgrade or decide that van life is no longer for us we can simply transfer the gas bottle to another vehicle, static caravan or gas BBQ.

There are no installation costs

You literally hook-up the gas bottle in the same way as you would a replaceable Calor gas bottle.

It's cheap to refill

Since buying it in July we’ve only completely filled it once which cost about £11.00 and we topped it up recently which cost us £7.00. Admittedly, we weren’t living in the van between mid-November and mid-January so the gas usage was nil but that is still pretty good.

It's easy to refill

We’ve used two different petrol stations to refill the bottle and neither has challenged us. We use the myLPG.eu app for a list of LPG suppliers.

No more worrying about refilling our gas bottles in Europe

Those of you who have traveled on the continent will already know that each country has it’s own type of gas connection. For those of you who are planning to go to the continent you need to know about this. We didn’t…Consequently we spent a frantic 24 hours driving round Santander trying to get a new bottle and connection. Whilst this can be largely avoided by getting the adapters before you leave the UK, it’s definitely something to bear in mind.

Now for the economics

Our initial outlay was £220.00 for a 10kg lightweight bottle and four adapters for European use. Based on the current cost of Calor gas, we only have to buy 5.5  bottles of calor gas before we have broken even. 

Whilst we talking about gas a quick reminder about carbon monoxide

Given that we are full-time van lifers we have fitted a combined fire and Carbon Monoxide. It’s more for peace of mind that necessity but given the silent nature of this killer better to be safe than sorry.

Bali; The Indonesian island that stole our hearts

We arrived in Bali on the back of the disappointment of cancelling our South American adventure and in need of some rest and recuperation. I’m not sure what I had been expecting but I wasn’t prepared for how much I fell in love with everything Bali had to offer.

Getting here

Most people arrive either by plane Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar or by boat from the neighbouring Gili Islands, Lombok, Komodo or East Java.

Accommodation

We stayed at The Pavillion in Kuta. It was a basic hotel, away from the main strip, but it suited us. It was close to shops, restaurants and easy walking distance to Kuta beach. What it lacked in space (the rooms were tiny and we had to share a King size bed with Issy) it made up for with friendly staff and a nice pool. We paid £135.00 for 8 nights so the price did reflect the facilities. It was popular with families and budget backpackers alike.

Kuta

From the descriptions in the guide books I was expecting something like Kho Sang Road in Thailand. Yes, you have to dodge the shop owners wanting to ply their trade but a jovial Tidak (no!) as you walk past and the promise of looking again tomorrow is met with a smile and a high five.

We spent hours walking along the beach from Kuta up to Legian, attempted surfing lessons (with limited success) and watched the sun go down over the sea.

Activities
Balinese Cooking Course Anika Cooking School via Get Your Guide - £60.66 (for 3)

It is fair to say that all three of us loved this activity. It was a great introduction to Balinese food. Neither Issy or I are big on spicy foods and if you told me at the beginning of the day that we would have tried fish curry, nasi goreng, spicy corn fritters, shredded spicy beef and fragrant yellow rice I’d have laughed but in my case I not only tried them but really enjoyed them.

We were picked up from the hotel and taken to the market where we met the other 12 people for a visit to a traditional market. It’s not for the feint-hearted as with all Asian markets the conditions were unsanitary by western standards and I saw at least one rather large furry friend scuttle past but the smells, colours and range of weird and wonderful fruits were incredible.

We then jumped aboard a minibus and were driven out to the cooking school .After a quick demonstration, it was to the cooking stations. We were handed an apron and a knife and given a bowl or plate of vegetables, spices and herbs to chop before polverising our mixes to a paste a volcanic pestle and mortar. With preparation completed it was on to the cooking stage. Again everyone was involved and the dishes carefully chosen to match the aptitude of the cook.

It’s safe to say that they saved the best till last as we ate our fare.

Surfing Lessons - Negotiable - £60.00 for 2 hours (for 3)

The best description of our surfing, is that we gave it a go! We had a bit of fun but to say we were useless is an understatement and fortunately there is no video or photography evidence of our pitiful efforts.  Our biggest downfall was that we were simply not strong enough to get up on the board quickly.

If you wander down the beach from Kuta to Legian there are surf schools aplenty. Have a good idea of the prices at the time of your visit and be prepared to negotiate. Whist no doubt of fitness (or lack of it came into play) having walked the beach a few more times didn’t pick the best of instructors.

Snorkelling £88.59 (for 3) – Rukmana Bali Tour – Bali Snorkelling Tour at Blue Lagoon including lunch

We visited 2 sites; The Blue Lagoon and . It was awesome and I think we’ve found our thing. All our equipment was included and the guides were brilliant. At the Blue Lagoon we managed to see turtles and a relatively small number of fish. At the second site we saw an amazing amount of fish and a stingray. The snorkelling guide and the boat man were excellent with Issy and lunch was delicious and plentiful.

Our guide Soma was lovely. He had excellent English and took loads of photos of us which was nice. He bought plenty of water and nothing was any trouble for him. As we were driving to and from the Blue Lagoon he explained key sites on the way and aspects of Balinese culture.

Island Tour - Full-Day Traditional Village Sightseeing Trip with lunch – £124.00 (for 3)

We booked an island tour with Tour Bali via Viator. Pakis was brilliant. He would have arrived on time if we hadn’t told him the wrong hotel. He came with a plentiful supply of water and cold towels for when we got really hot.

During the day we visited a cloth making and batik making collection, a jewellery making centre, the Puseh Batun Temple, Monkey Forest, lunch overlooking Mount Batur, Satria Agrowisata coffee plantation and Tegenungan Waterfall. This was a full on day (about 10 hours) but we had great fun and I feel that I learnt a lot about each site, Balinese culture and the Hindu religion as we were going round.

It’s difficult to explain why Bali has had such a lasting effect on us but I think it’s to do with the fact that none of their core values is about monetary wealth. It’s all about happiness, kindness and karma and if more of the world operated on the same basis it would be a much nicer place to be. 

Wellington

Home to Doug’s parents and sister, we’ve been regular visitors to Wellington over the past 15 years. Catch it on the right day, and there are few prettier cities in the world. The view as first sight of the harbour as you drive down into Wellington Central from Porirua is one of my favourites.

GETTING THERE

Wellington is well connected by road, plane and ferry (and rail but we haven’t ever used it.)

Wellington is usually our first stop so we arrive by plane from Singapore, Melbourne or Sydney. However, other options include the Picton Ferry (from the South Island) or by car having driven down from Auckland.

Getting Around

We usually hire a car as Doug’s parents live about 25 minutes outside Wellington Central and there is anywhere between 3 and 5 of us so public transport soon adds up. If you are staying in Wellington Central I wouldn’t bother hiring a car as it’s a very walkable/ cyclable city and parking is stupidly expensive.

Whilst all the usual car hire companies are available we usually go for a basic family car with the lowest price possible. We used BRC rentals and Apex cars this time both of whom are situated out at the airport and provide airport pickups and drop offs. I think this time it cost a whole £9.00 per day for a Toyota Corrolla automatic so as you can see we are last of the big spenders. 

Driving round New Zealand is much like driving round the UK except there is far less traffic. I coped fine despite only having passed my test in the UK 2 months before we arrived.

If you are catching the Picton Ferry across to the South Island, we have found it’s cheaper to hire a car for the North Island, leave it in Wellington and then pick up a second rental for the South Island. That way, you don’t have to pay car rates for the ferry (as much as half the cost of the journey).

What to Do

Look hard enough and there is something for everyone but here’s some of our favourites

Museums

Te Papa, New Zealand’s Natural History museum, is one of my favourite museums in the world. No matter what else is in the diary we always fit in a visit here whether it be to visit the model whale heart, Peter’s Jackson’s Gallipoli exhibition or one of the temporary exhibitions. The latest exhibition is Wonderland (a look at Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland). 

Wellington Museum, situated at the other end of the waterfront to Te Papa, is tiny by comparison but we still spent 2 hours investigating the interactive exhibits. It’s a very accessible museum with lifts and ramps throughout making it kid or disabled friendly. Our only slight criticism was that for us it was a bit higgledy piggledy and there seemed to be no real connection between many of the exhibits on each floor. 

The NZ Police Museum was a huge hit with Issy. Based out at the Police Academy in Aotea this was another gem. It’s a tiny museum with only 2 galleries but it’s a great one for kids. They can try on the various Police Uniforms and there are 2 trails; the Junior Detective Trail (4-8 year olds) and the Senior Detective Trail (8+). Issy did the Senior Detective trail which involved investigating the suspicious death of Ray Black. In doing so she read through suspect profiles and witness statements, learnt about how to analyse finger print and DNA analysis and how to evaluate that evidence to decide firstly whether a crime had been committed and secondly what crime had been committed.

Weta Workshops and the Cave is definitely worth visiting (and not just for the Lord of the Rings fans out there). The cave and documentary are free to attend but the various workshop tours are payable. We did the 45-minute tour which was perfect for us and at 72NZ$ for a family ticket I thought it was a bargain.

New Zealand Parliament Tour

This is certainly one of the best things we have done in Wellington and it’s free. There are 3 tours to chose from; the highlights tour, the kids tour (school holidays only) and the important features tour. We chose the latter. It was an hour and took us to the major rooms of parliament including the debating chamber. Our guide, Jim, was brilliant with the kids on the tour all of whom received a passport to complete as they went round and a stamp to confirm their attendance.

Walking Tour

Those of you who read our blog regularly will know that a walking tour is one of our go-to activities. You generally get decent recommendations for things to do, places to eat and an insight into living in the city. Well, not this time and at the time of writing this tour has earnt the dubious accolade of being our worst walking tour in the world.

We did the Walk Wellington tour. Whilst TripAdvisor has great reviews with other guides and maybe we were just unlucky but our guide was rude, lacking in basic knowledge and the only time she got excited was when she invited everyone to the pub at the end of the tour.  Doug and I could have done a better with 5 minutes warning and a Wellington Guidebook. 

The Waterfront

The waterfront is the place where Wellingtonians head to relax with a great prommenade for walking, cycling, scooting or skateboarding and a plethora of markets, eateries, bars, activites and a big playground.

Three of Issy’s top Wellington hangouts are on the waterfront; Wagamama’s (she nearly cried when it was closed for refurbishment on our last visit), Ferg’s climbing centre (see below) and the lighthouse playground.

Mount Vic Lookout

Situated 196m above the city, Mount Vic offers spectacular views across the harbour, out to the airport and beyond. There are a number of walking trails but we drove up and took lunch.

I hear it’s spectacular at sunrise or sunset but I don’t think we’d be popular if we bought a bored 9 year old with us!

Sports Activities

When it comes to climbing and bouldering we have two go to places; HangDog in Petone and Ferg’s at Shed 5 on the Waterfront. Issy and Ryan practically lived in HangDog and although we weren’t able to take advantage of their introductory offer we did purchase 10 sessions which we could use for both kids which provided a significant discount.

Swimming pools in New Zealand put the general pools in UK to shame. They are more like Center Parcs offering everything from splash pools, saunas/steam rooms, slides, lane pools and spas. Porirua’s Te Rauparaha Arena has it all and you even get a discount for taking a child!   

Get your competitive juices going with a session at Indoor Raceway, Porirua. They will let kids race independently from 5 or alternatively they have dual cars so that little ones can ride with you. Issy raced on her own and even when there was another group racing at the same time they were respectful and didn’t run her off the road which is more than can be said for her!

Other big hits with our family are mini golf at Porirua’s Pirate Cove Adventure Golf and bowling at Petone’s Stike One (which also has the added bonus of a lazer tag area as well). 

Playgrounds

I use the Playground Buddy App to locate the local playgrounds. It’s a good way of her meeting up with kids (even for a short time). Again they are usually much better equipped than those in the UK.

One of our favourites this time was Aotea Lagoon, which was also conveniently located near the Police Museum. It has a large playground and free splash park which Issy loved. 

Hopefully this has given you a few reasons to add Wellington to your must see cities and may be we’ll meet you there one day.

Stratford-Upon-Avon: Shakespeare is the least of it

Mention Stratford-upon-Avon and it’s easy to think that all it has to offer is all things Shakespeare. However, as we have discovered there is so much more to this Warwickshire town. Who knew that it had a year round Christmas Shop, a MAD museum and a butterfly farm?

Here’s why we think you should add it to your bucket list for 2020.

It's compact

In a long-weekend you could see all the main attractions and probably squeeze in a trip to the theatre. The main attractions are mostly situated in town and even Mary Arden’s farm is only 3.5 miles away. That said, there is plenty to keep you occupied if you do want to stay a bit longer.

It's easy to get to

Situated in the middle of the country, Stratford-upon-Avon is well served by both public transport and major arterial roads. London, Birmingham, Coventry, Warwick and Leamington Spa are easily commutable by public transport

There's accommodation for every budget

Whether you want 5-star hotel living, a dorm-bed in the Youth Hostel or somewhere to pitch a tent or motor home Stratford-upon-Avon has it all.

Home for us has been Dodwell Park (www.dodwellpark.com) which is about 2.5 miles outside Stratford-upon-Avon. The facilities are basic and the absence of a laundry and drive through waste dump is a nuisance but there is a quaint charm about the place.

Other short term alternatives include Stratford Racecourse (has a 2 week limit) and unusually there is an aires style spot at Stratford Leisure centre although I’m not sure about water and waste facilities.

The Shakespeare Stuff
Shakespeare’s Properties (Shakespeare’s birthplace, the New Place, Hall’s Croft, Mary Arden’s Farm and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage).

Unbelievably in 5 months we never actually made it to any of the Shakespeare properties but I believe if you have kids in tow the stand out winner is Mary Arden’s farm. This is top of our list for when we return!

Shakespeare's school rooms

I think this was the best Shakespeare activity we did. Issy loved it. The school master and quill writing were a big hit for her.

We got our tickets on Groupon and they were definitely worth it.

Royal Shakespeare Company

So much more than a place to go and see the many Shakespeare productions. We have enjoyed the Family Trail, dressing up in the Theatre box and The Plays the Thing (kids go free at the weekends and during Warwickshire school holidays). That’s before you get to any of the tours that the staff do.

The list of summer activities was endless and appealed to all ages.

The Other stuff
The MAD Museum

AKA The Mechanical Art and Design Museum. Squeezed between a coffee shop and Toni and Guy on Henley Street, this tiny museum has engaged Issy for hours, about 5 in total over 2 visits! She loved it and what is not to love, you can press loads of buttons and the art works come to life and when you’ve had enough of pressing buttons you can build marbles runs to your heart’s content.

There is a family activity pack that you can download and various teachers education packs.

The Butterfly Farm

Hidden away down by the Recreation Ground is the UK’s largest Tropical Butterfly Farm. This is a great rainy day activity. However, be warned as the name suggests it is very humid in there. Despite the signs saying please do not handle the butterflies no one seems to have told the butterflies and this made for several excited squeals while we were there.

During the school holidays they have mini-beast encounters which those of you who know Issy will know how much she delighted in handling the millipede.

Tudor World

Find out whether you are a witch or not, learn about King Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Tudor Stratford. This interactive museum will appeal to anyone who like Issy loves Horrible Histories. Issy enjoyed the quiz that she had to complete as we went round.

The Four Teas

This 1940s themed tea house was something a bit different and was a great way to kick of her World War II project work. She enjoyed the 1940s costumes and ration book menus. Lunch was tasty, reasonably priced and the service was great.

The Leisure Centre

Stratford-upon-Avon Leisure centre has a 33m pool, clip and climb, gym and various dance and multi-sports studios. I’m not sure if it applies to all Everyone Active leisure centres but as Issy has swimming lessons with them she gets free entry to the pool for any public swimming sessions.

Canal and River Cruises

Head down to the riverside area and there are a number of river and canal tours to chose from.

If you are feeling a bit more energetic there are also rowing boats for hire so you can navigate under your own steam.

All Things Wild

This little animal park is situated in Honeybourne (about 6 miles outside Stratford) and is a little gem. You will need a car to get there though because it’s almost impossible by public transport.

It has a variety of animals ranging from pygmy goats to meerkats and wallabies, a dinosaur park, a soft play area, adventure playgrounds, go-karts and Issy’s favourite a helicopter which you can clamber round.

For the home edders reading this it is also home to the Honeybourne Home Ed Hub and they hold regular home education days where entrance is £5.00 per person (under 4s go free).

Free or Cheap Things To Do
Library

Stratford-upon-Avon Library is a wonderful place. Issy and I have spent many a happy day in there whether it be attending the Arts Award Summer activities, Lego club, schooling or just chilling reading a book.

The Recreation Ground

A huge playground with good facilities including toilets and reasonably priced car parking. It’s split into sections with areas appealing to all ages. There is also a paddling pool in the summer months.

The Riverside

The riverside area is beautiful and we quite often just go and sit down watching the canal boats going through the locks, listening to the buskers or watching the street artists with a picnic or a bag of chips.

This is the place to go if you just enjoy people watching.

Park Run

The recreation ground (by the football pitches) hosts both a 5km Park Run on a Saturday morning and for those early risers a Junior Park Run on a Sunday.

Geocaching

Stratford-upon-Avon seems to be a hotspot for geocaching and whilst we haven’t given it a go ourselves it proves popular with a number of people on the campsite.

Visit The Markets

There has been a market in Rother Street since 1196. The regular market day is every Friday however there is also a farmers market on the first and third Saturday of the month.

Festivals

Stratford-upon-Avon hosts a number of festivals throughout the year including the RIverside Festival and Mop fayre.

And finally...visit the Christmas Shop

Daren this one is for you. There is a permanent Christmas shop in Henley Street.

My Arts Award

As you know, I’m home educated. Can you believe it mummy still makes me do school while everyone else is enjoying the school holidays?

One of the things I have been doing is working towards my Arts Award Discover Level. I’ve really enjoyed doing the Arts Award and I’ve done all the activities except one which I need your help with.

I have to tell people about the award, what I have been doing and get some feedback. Mummy thought doing a blog post and presentation would be a good way of doing this and getting me to practice my writing (boo!)  In case you haven’t guessed I don’t like writing. I enjoy it slightly more with my new fountain pen.

Please can you watch the presentation (link above) and let me know what you think.