Ladybird Tuesday - Ballet

This weeks Ladybird book I found a couple of years ago, in wonderful condition, in a charity shop near my mother in law's home.  Ladybird's Ballet by Ian Woodward with illustrations by Martin Aitchison, from the Ladybird History of Arts series (662), was published in 1969.

Ladybird Tuesday Ballet

"Here is book which will delight all who have some interest in ballet.  It will also fascinate the general reader and inspire many to see a ballet in a theatre and experience its excitement and enchantment."

Along with writing my Ladybird Tuesday post the other thing that we do every Tuesday afternoon is take my little fox Una to her ballet class.  When I was a little girl I thought that I would love to do ballet.  I never did.  So, maybe I am vicariously living through my daughter - yes, I know you're not supposed to do that.  But she loves ballet and for all the reasons that attracted me:  You get to flutter around in pretty clothes.  You get to wear your hair in a bun.  The music is great.

As an adult, I've worked for the FCO, the British Council and the BBC, two of my closest friends (who did do ballet as children) have been employed in the world of dance.  As a result I have been fortunate enough to see many amazing dance performances; from The Bolshoi to Alvin Ailey and Dance Theatre Harlem,  from the Cholmondeleys to Matthew Bourne.  I've seen lots of modern dance but relatively little classical ballet.  So with Una's enthusiasm for ballet only growing, and her teaching following the classical model.  I bought this book for her to read, but also for me to see what it was all about.  And it has been very useful.

Ladybird's book Ballet informs the reader of the history and development, the language of ballet and classical mime, and the styles of dancing, training, clothes and performance.  The last few pages describe and illustrate a few well known classical ballets.

The inside cover has illustrations of the five positions of feet and arms in ballet.

The inside cover has illustrations of ballet's positions.

There is also a great illustration of the basic stances and gestures of mime used in most classical ballets.

Ladybird Tuesday - Ballet

Until we went to see a performance of English National Ballet's My First Sleeping Beauty especially for children, where they went through the gestures used in their performance explaining to children (and their parents) their meaning, this was the best explanation I'd ever had.

I still took my daughter to see a Matthew Bourne Nutcracker first.  Una was insistent that the Nutcracker himself was 'wrong'.  He was dressed in a 1920's Panama boater and high waisted white trousers as I recall, not his usual military atire, per the Eric Puybaret illustrations in our traditional version of The Nutcracker book.  But, other than this she loved it, and every ballet we've seen since is judged against this, her first.

Matthew Bourne & New Adventure's The Nutcracker, 2011

Meanwhile, the classical stuff is growing on me, we've also been to see Coppelia by the Vienna Festival Ballet at the Hertford Theatre near our home.  And we've  plans to go see My First Cinderella  another in the English National Ballet's series for children this spring.  I think it is really important in this digital, wireless, connected world for my children to see live performance and art.  Besides, it's my best excuse to get out and see it too.

This post is part of Ladybird Tuesday started on the Being Mrs C blog, take a look at her posts here.

And the rest of Mrs Fox's Ladybird Tuesday posts are here and if you have a collection of Ladybird books, please do feel free to join in.

An Addendum to last weeks Ladybird Tuesday post:

So, last week I posted about my favourite Ladybird book from my childhood, Well Loved Tales - Snow-White and Rose-Red.  I ended by saying I intended to give the book to Una to read before bed time.  I did.  She did.  And she not only enjoyed it but by the third page she had pointed out that; "Really, Snow-White should be the one with dark hair";  my own thought as a child exactly!


Belle & Boo Party Box

The nostalgic world of Belle and Boo has enchanted us at Mrs Fox's for sometime now. We use the party-ware range in Mrs Fox's parties, it is the only licensed product we use.   We love the beautifully drawn illustrations of Belle and her best friend the rabbit, Boo.  

Mrs Fox's party Boxes, Belle & Boo

If your child has a birthday this month Mrs Fox's has a deal on at the moment on our Belle & Boo Party Box (from £35 for 8 children).  If you purchase the Party Box (which gives you a 15% discount on the items included) we will also give you 15% off and FREE p&p on Mrs Fox's Classic filled Party Bags.  Take a look on our website or email us directly for details info@mrsfoxs

Mrs Fox's Classic Party Bag

And if your little one is having a birthday and you are organising a party, grab our FREE party planning documents to help you get organised.


Yesterday we made “THE WHOLE WORLD!”

It started around 2ish yesterday afternoon.  Little Louis Fox was slowly piling up what looked to be all his toys in the centre of our back room.  There was soon very little room to walk through said room, and the dogs had taken to their beds and were reviewing the situation with a resigned gaze.  

He emptied the entire contents of the box that contains his Brio wooden train set onto the floor.  Yes, it was blooming noisy!  The dogs gaze turned from resigned to scared and I thought it might be time to intervene.  First I suggested that if he was now playing with his train set maybe he could clear away the cars, and wooden tool kits (plural!) He said; "No" he NEEDED them all.   When I asked him what he was doing he answered; as he tipped the contents of the box containing the wooden farm set (more noise - terror in the dog's eyes) onto the floor; “I  am building the whole world”

I thought this was quite an interesting concept and, as I had a cup of tea in my hand, and it was hot (I so seldom get to drink my afternoon cuppa hot these days) I thought maybe I could join in with the build, one handed, and get to finish a cup of tea.  How cool would that be for a Friday afternoon?

Well, I may have sort of shot myself in the foot a bit.  But the caffeine was obviously lulling me into a euphoric state that failed to see through to the clear up job that would have to take place this evening.  And as a result we had a really fun afternoon and I learnt a lot!

I learnt that Sophie the giraffe CANNOT be in a zoo on her own, she NEEDS friends and thus must join the farm.

I learnt that there are “goody” cars and “baddy” cars and they must not mix, and there is a favourite car and it needs to be washed ALOT

I learnt that the tool boxes are not really tool boxes, they are mostly boats and that cars like to travel in boats ALOT

I learnt that while I love that Brio helicopter it is actually the devil;  “We DON’T NEED the helicopter mummy!”

I learnt that once his older sister comes home my son is quite happy to be project manager/ town planner and direct her, sternly, in her role as farm worker/ railway navvy /road layer and house builder.  When I question this sudden change in his role my, a little too savvy, son said it was because I had done such a “great job” earlier.

The dogs learnt that once the world is being built in the same room as your dog beds you’d best stay in your beds.  Because if you try to get out you will knock over part of the world and you will be shouted at by an irate 3 year old.

For this activity you will need:
one of those road system on one side, race track on the other playmats
Brio train set, of any size
at least 20 or so toy cars, but this number can be infinite
Playmobile farm set
wooden farm set 
additional plastic farm animals
Pintoy wooden tractor
Pintoy cowboy & breeding herd of buffalo (diversity!)
ELC wooden garage
Playmobile garage
older sisters  dolls house and her polly pockets and pocket puppy sets
assorted red London buses
Sophie the giraffe
a few small dinosaurs
drum - no idea why we needed this
set of bricks (Oh thank goodness I stopped myself from reminding him about the additional wooden building brick sets he has & restrained myself from mentioning his & his sisters lego collection - the whole thing could’ve got positively medieval if I had)
Absolutely any other toy that a 3 year old can  move

I also found a dustpan and brush quite useful as I had to move the furniture round quite a bit to fit the WORLD into our back room and the dust bunnies had obviously been breeding under there.


What did you make?

I'm going to use Nina Fox's Tuesday blog to make a leap.  The bear in the Ladybird book is clearly good company for humans and safe to be around - and fittingly, so was the polar bear that my foxy family built this weekend.
We started off with a snowman outside the house, a snowman of which we were very proud.  Definitely our best yet and with proper arms, no less.

The next day, we set off for the park with no real plan other than to get the wee foxes out to expend some energy.

But Daddy Fox had his own energy to spend and when we got to the park, he started off rolling snow in his normal fashion and then, for reasons known only to himself, didn't make a ball for the bones of a snowman but started off into the park rolling his snow into a rather large wheel...?
As I watched and laughed at the building of his bizarre sculpture, the oldest 2 wee foxes had shot off making their own 'boulders'...

Sadly, Daddy's 'wheel' collapsed under it's own weight but determined to make something to be proud of, he reconstructed it into a comfy chair...
We decided that whoever came to sit in the chair should have someone to talk to and so I set about making a smaller boulder.  With great strain and difficulty, we stacked the 2 larger boulders up, then I popped my smaller, much lighter large ball on top.  Pretty quickly, we had fashioned our unfeasibly large snowballs into a new friend, Mr Polar the Bear.
I'm not a fan of snow and cold weather but this year has been our most fun snowy year yet.
If you too had lots of fun building in the snow, please comment on this post and add a link to your pictures.  We'd love to see them.

Ladybird Tuesday - "Well-Loved Tales", Snow-White & Rose-Red

This week I am posting on the first title from my collection of Ladybird fiction books.  And I thought I'd start with my all time favourite Ladybird book from my childhood.  It is "Well-Loved Tales" Snow-White and Rose-Red part of the Ladybird Easy Reading Series, 606D.  It is retold by Vera Southgate with illustrations by Eric Winter.  I am a little ashamed at the state of the cover, but I think it tells you everything you need to know about how well read and how much I loved this book.
Ladybird Tuesday Snow-White and Rose-Red

"Once upon a time there was a poor widow who lived with her two little girls in a cottage by the edge of a forest.

In front of the cottage was a small garden in which grew two rose-bushes.  One bush bore white roses and the other red roses.  These rose-bushes were older than the little girls who were named after them."

So begins the story of two sisters named, Snow-White and Rose-Red who, one winters evening, open the door to their house to find a big black bear.  It is cold outside and he begs to warm himself by the fire, promising not to hurt anyone.  He returns to the house each night during the winter but once spring arrives his visits stop.  I will admit the bear is not all that scary in this illustration.
Ladybird Tuesday Snow-White and Rose-Red

Sometime later the sisters are in the forest when they come across a dwarf whose long beard has got stuck in a tree root.  They free him but he is rude and ungrateful, as he is when they rescue him from a huge fish trying to drag him into a lake, and an eagle that tries to make off with him.

Ladybird Tuesday Snow-White and Rose-Red
In the sister's final encounter with the dwarf he is admiring a bag of treasure.  When he catches the girls staring at him he begins to rage at them, just at that moment a bear comes out of the forest.  The dwarf begs the bear for his life suggesting he eats the girls instead.  And, you've guessed it, the bear turns out to be the same bear who the sisters helped.  He kills the dwarf, which breaks an enchantment and he turns back into a handsome young prince.  Snow-White marries the prince and Rose-Red marries his brother and they all live happily ever after.  The End

I loved this story.  First it was about devoted sisters, I have two of these myself.  Rose Red who has dark hair and was my favourite, "loved to run about and skip and dance, and she was always lively and gay".  Snow White "was fair-haired and she was rather quiet and gentle", it sometimes seemed to me she should have had dark hair.  But, this Snow-White has nothing to do with the Snow-White of Seven Dwarves and Brother's Grimm fame, they are completely separate individuals.  Although the Grimm brothers did write a version of this tale, that is probably better known in the UK than the original.  They must have taken a liking to the name.
Ladybird Tuesday - Well Loved Tales Snow-White and Rose-Red

I thought it a little unfair that Snow-White got to marry the prince, while Rose-Red gets to marry his brother who we never see.  Although I actually preferred the bear when he was a bear.  The idea of a talking bear knocking on the door and coming into the house to warm himself by the fire was wonderful to me.  Much more exciting than a prince.

Ladybird Tuesday Snow-White and Rose-Red

Both sisters were incredibly good, which I was not as a child (I mean what child is?) but, I aspired to be good and Rose Red seemed to make being good likely to be a bit more fun.  There is a Christian overtone to this telling of the tale.  At one point in the book a guardian angel who watches over good children appears, and there just happens to be a lamb and a dove in the house on the first night that the bear comes to visit.

Ladybird Tuesday Snow-White and Rose-Red

Despite Snow-White and Rose-Red being one of Ladybirds  "Well - Loved Tales"  I don't remember it being in any of my other collections of Fairy Tales, or any other child having this book, or knowing the tale.  I do remember talking about the story in class in primary school and no one else knew the story.  I think this made it all the more special to me, it was mine.   It is in fact one of Charles Perrault classic fairytales written down by him in the 17th Century, inspired by existing French folk tales.  

I have an abiding love of Fairy Tales that continues as an adult and includes a huge collection of Fairy Tale anthologies, and beautiful copies of individual tales I have bought my little foxes, like this version of Red Riding Hood by Louise Rowe.  There are incredible paper-craft scenes on every page, the phrase "pop-up book" just doesn't do it justice it is absolutely beautiful. 

Red Rising Hood by Louise Rowe

Fairy tales also led me to discover one of my favourite authors, Angela Carter and the books of the magical realist writers.  Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales which is for adults is just amazing.  One of my favourite films of the 80's was Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves based on the Little Red Riding Hood story and a short story from Carter's book The Bloody Chamber.  To this day I am prepared to sit through absolutely rubbish films and TV programs if there is just a sniff of the fairytale to them.  And by this I don't mean the "and they live happily ever after" ending but wolves and dwarves and talking bears and the like.

Ladybird Tuesday Snow-White and Rose-Red

There is something so magical about fairy tales to me.  They are a complete rejection of the things that tie you down and limit you in the real world and celebration of creativity.  While I have a very broad palate when it comes to literature I have a fondness for sci-fi and fantasy that I think all stems from my love of fairytales.  When I want to read a book to relax it is these books I go for.   

So tonight I am going to give little Una Fox this book to read before bedtime.   I hope she loves it as much as I do.  And if she does I had better get her another copy because this one is falling apart.

This post is part of Ladybird Tuesday started on the Being Mrs C blog, take a look at her posts here.

And the rest of Mrs Fox's Ladybird Tuesday posts are here and if you have a collection of Ladybird books, please do feel free to join in.


Snowday - Yay!

No School today.  Our garden is a bit of a building site at the moment, but, we still had to go outside all this weekend and enjoy the snow.

On Friday the school let the little foxes out early and as soon as we got home we were donning waterproof trousers, ski gloves and welllies over three pairs of socks, along with the usual outdoor gear.  Cold and soaked through the little foxes tripped back in 45 minutes later to strip to their thermals and sit and sip hot chocolate in front of the TV.  

And so it has gone every three or four hours throughout the daylight of this weekend.  We have our woodburners on (the dogs enjoyed that), because the radiators are hardly giving out any heat, covered as they are with steaming outdoor gear drying as quickly as it can before being called back into action.   

Una has been inspired by the Channel 4 animation, The Snowman and The Snowdog, so along with her traditional snowman we also have a beautiful snowdog complete with odd socks for ears and tail.  Louis, ever the rebel, did not want to make a snowman, he wanted to make a lighthouse.  It's hard to see, but that is what he made.

Meanwhile the dogs had their own agenda; I didn't realise they were so into carrots!


A creative lesson in patience.

Salt dough bag decorations.

I'd been trying to think of something different for the kids to get stuck into after school when I remembered that just before Christmas, my oldest young fox made baked Xmas tree decorations with boiled sweet centres (we'll do those next Christmas).  I turned to his recipe book to pinch the dough recipe before recalling that the points of the stars and trees broke off quite quickly and decided to investigate further to find a 'stronger' recipe.  This one I found and used really bakes REALLY hard.
Here it is below - but first take a temporary jump to the part where I write, '*bake for about 5 hours*' to appreciate the title of this piece...


  • 2 parts (cup, glass or small child's beaker)
  • 1 part salt
  • 1 part water


  • rolling pin
  • mixing bowl
  • chopping board or pastry board and grease proof paper 
  • baking tray
  • paint 
  • paint brush
  • cookie cutters in desired shape - as it's winter, the kids chose; a snail, a hedgehog and a squirrel to be sort of wintery woodlandy... 
  • thin ribbon or raffia paper of hemp string, etc.

What we did to make the dough shapes;

  1. Firstly, we set out all the bits and bobs that we needed so that we could check it all off the list and take a nice photo for the blog.                    
  2. Having done this, we mixed the flour, salt and water together in the mixing bowl with a spoon until it had formed into a ball and then took turns to knead it for 5 - 10 mins.  The kids loved kneading the dough and feeling it squish and squeeze through their fingers and once they'd had enough, we left the dough to rest while they had their dinner.  This was the first test of patience as they were keen to start rolling the ball flat.                                                                                      
  3. They managed this part admirably and after dinner, we dusted the chopping board and rolling pin with flour and set to work rolling it out to a roughly 1/2 cm slab.  Obviously, keep dusting as necessary - giving them free reign to make a contained mess was a part of the task that the kids really enjoyed.
  4. Having rolled it out flat, they chose their shapes from the cookie cutters and pressed then into the dough. Then the cut out shapes were placed on the grease proof paper on our baking tray and with the left over dough, I made their initials.  
  5. Once all the shapes were on the tray, I pushed a hole into each through which to thread the ribbon and popped them into the oven to *bake for about 5 hours*.     

At this point, I had some calming to do so I would suggest that this cooking time is told to them before they begin - learn from my mistake here...
I bribed them with their pudding and told them that we had something to think about and look forward to after school tomorrow.

Once the dough was hard and completely dried out, I turned the oven off and went to bed leaving the shapes in the oven to pull out cool in the morning.

Before I picked the kids up from school the following day, I set the table with newspaper, rock hard dough shapes and paint and brushes ready for their finishing touches.  Once home, they dropped their bags, put on their painting shirts and set about painting up their shapes.  We left the paint to dry before adding a gloss varnish and once that had dried, threaded a length of ribbon through the hole.  Now some decorations are proudly attached to their book bags and some are tied to their beds .

I'm also now thinking that we might use the same recipe to make some egg, bunny or flower shapes at Easter.  There's no limit to the occasions and uses for this home made modelling medium so it's down to you and your littluns to get creative and try some different ideas.  I recently made little plaques (paper tiles) for their bedroom doors, perhaps this dough could be used to craft door signs... the dough really does dry rock solid so there are endless possibilities.

If you get around to making this 'stuff', send us pictures of your creations and we'll post them up on our blog.  It was great tactile fun for them, I'm pretty sure all kids will love rolling their sleeves up for this one.

Ladybird Tuesday - Great Inventions

Great Inventions  -  Ladybird "Achievements" Book by Richard Bowood with illustrations by Robert Ayton was published in 1961.  This book is a celebration of technology, each of the double page spreads covers one great invention with "an exciting and colourful picture" to illustrate it.  There are 24 inventions in total, from the printing press to the dawn of atomic power.

"Here is a book for children who want to know "How, why, where and when?" It tells about some of the great inventions which have helpded to make the modern world."

For each of these great inventions Ladybird uses clear and simple language to describe it's story and significance.  Great Inventions is a celebration of human endeavour and the drive for technological advancement.

The first invention mentioned is, appropriately enough, the printing press; "This book is printed.  Thousands of children have a copy, and the words and pictures in each are exactly the same."  It explains a little of the history and leaves children with the open ended question; "If you think for a moment, you will understand what a tremendous difference the invention of printing has made to the world."  In this age of the internet I think it is easy to forget that the printing press, the books, newspapers and pamphlets that it creates, has done it once before.  Connecting people, spreading ideas and information; it's all old news.

In recognition of this first invention I should also mention the book design.   Great Inventions is one of those beautiful ladybird books with a full colour dust jacket illustrated with The magic eye of Radar.  Underneath is a buff coloured hard back book with a line drawing of the front cover picked out in navy.  Printed on the inside cover is a pattern created using the repetition of ladybirds with opened wings; beautiful.

Along with the printing press the other great aids to mass communication, the wireless telegraph, telephone, camera and television are also included in Great Inventions.  As I used to work for the BBC, and early in my career worked on a few outside broadcasts for BBC Sport, I rather love the picture of an OB unit at work depicted here.

Amongst other great inventions mentioned are; the internal combustion engine and electricity.  Of course, anything that sets itself up as a list of merit inevitably opens itself for debate.  I notice that steam power gets four mentions; in the steam engine, railway engine, steamship and steam turbine.  I think this could be a rather British bias, based on it's development by the British duo Watt and Boulton, it's importance to Britain's industrial revolution and our former British Empire.

Along with communication, transportation is also highly valued in this list (another legacy of empire?) with; the railway engine, steamship, bicycle, motor car, diesel engine, aeroplane, and jet engine, all getting a mention, along with the telescope, sextant and chronometer, pneumatic tyre and radar, all facilitators of transportation.

I'm surprised but gratified to see spinning and weaving and the sewing machine are included as great inventions.  This pleasure is based purely on my own interest in textiles and love of making things in fabric.  I would guess it's inclusion has more to do with the importance of cloth manufacturing in British industrial history.  In the story of the sewing machine is the only mention of the negative impact of the drive for technological on the lives of people.  In 1840 an "ignorant mob" attacked Thimonnier's sewing machines (and the inventor himself), which they believed would put them out of work.  The destroyers of this great invention were French, so I guess that explains that in the eyes of the writer!

The Davy Safety Lamp is possibly the only thing listed in Great Inventions that would probably be immediately dismissed from any modern list of great inventions.  Despite it's use in mines which; "prevented accidents and saved countless lives."  The biggest omission I notice is the lack of any inventions in the sphere of health and biology.

So, communication, movement, dynamism and production are highly regarded in this list.  Ladybird's list of great inventions is indicative of the 1960's British society in which it was written and it reflects.  So, no surprises, it's final story is of Atomic Energy "a miraculous new source of power which heralds a new era - the Atomic Age." 

This post is part of Ladybird Tuesday started on the Being Mrs C blog, take a look at her posts here.

I missed that we were joined last week by vintagemummy, so see her post on Talkabout Shopping here

And the rest of Mrs Fox's Ladybird Tuesday posts are here and if you have a collection of Ladybird books, please do feel free to join in.


At the beginning of a new year

Mrs Fox's Party Hats

Here at Mrs Fox's HQ (with clean ovens!), we've been looking back on 2012 and thinking about what we did right and what we could do better.  And we have big new crafty plans for 2013?!  January is that kind of reflective time of the year isn't it?

I was looking back at our very first blog post.  I remember writing it bubbling with ideas and good intentions.  With two small children (And Jackie has three!) there is just never quite the time to do it all.   But through 2012 our fledgling business has become more defined and with loads of hard work we've managed to build a website and have really rediscovered the joy of making things.

Mrs Fox's Classic Party Bag

There's loads still to do on our website; we need to update the information about Mrs Fox's parties, Party Bags and our Party Boxes; which are a great way to save you time and stress on your children's birthday parties.  Take a look.  Everything you need to create a themed children's party, with a crafty nostalgic twist can be delivered straight to your door by Mrs Fox's.  There'll be plenty more blog posts on party ideas and FREE downloads to help you throw great parties for your little uns.

Christmas this year we sold lots of our handmade gifts through  I can't recommend Folksy enough as a place to find brilliant, original, hand-made in the UK items for you, your children and your home.

Mrs Fox's Handmade

We have gone through some of our craft ideas and prototypes from last year and have just added them to our Folksy store.  Pictured above are our lavender ladies to help your little-uns sleep, a pocket sized hand embroidered mermaidlittle foxes that we have turned into craft kits, a sleeping princess in a bag that we developed for our Princess and the Pea Party, and craft kits for children.  We are still developing most of these ideas and later in the year we'll be adding even more party-wares, craft kits and gifts to Mrs Fox's Handmade.  So the items in the store at the moment really are one (or two, or three) -offs!  No more once they've gone.

We also have loads of new crafts projects you can do with your children to keep them busy and happy and have finally found a little more time to dedicate to Mrs Fox's Crafty Boxes.  We've been bubbling away at these since Mrs Fox's was conceived and are finally preparing to try out our ideas with you.  We will be revealing more over the next couple of weeks.

Last but by no means least, we have a relatively new relationship guest blogging on our crafts for the marvellous Baba Blog.

the baba blog
baba blog - leonora bamford

The Baba Blog was founded by Leonora Bamford to provide mothers and mothers to be with free expert advice from the UK’s top experts. The Baba Blog also has a host of wonderful guest bloggers who share tips and information on everything from fun family recipes, days out, and craft ideas to new products and experiences.

There is so much to look forward to in 2013.

Pack your bags Mr Muscle, you're leaving...

Vintage Monday - Pink Stove from Bee in My Bonnet
PHOTO CREDIT:  Vintage Monday - Pink Stove by Bee in My Bonnet

How is your oven looking now that the large festive meals are over and done with?  This article is a slight deviation but I have to share this nugget with anyone reading.

I don't know about you but my poor oven doesn't get the attention my mum used to give hers with it's once a week thorough clean.  My glass door was so embarrassingly neglected that after several years, I could barely see through it.  On occasion, I would tape up the rubber seals, protect the floors with dish cloths and ventilate the kitchen in order to spray some super dooper extra strong, flammable and dangerously toxic cleaner which had to be left a good while before an attack of the wire wool was under way.

Some time last year, my mother in-law watched me scrubbing my roasting dish and suggested that I soak it in hot water with my washing powder.  I followed this advice and when I rinsed it off, it was as good as new.

This Christmas Eve morning, I got up early and decided that I wanted to be able to see our dinner turn from raw to edible and pulled out the rubber gloves and super dooper extra strong, flammable and dangerously toxic oven cleaner.  Before taping the seals, a light bulb lit up above my head and I took out my Ecover powder and small tub of bicarbonate of soda.  I'd recently read on an eco site about wonders of bicarbonate of soda so I mixed a desert spoon in with a tablespoon of washing powder before adding a few spoonfuls of water.

With a 'non-scratch brillo', I scrubbed my solution on to the glass and the surrounding inner oven door and left it for about a minute.  Then with the sponge side of the non-scratch brillo, I rubbed over the window and all the grease and grime slid off.  After removing all the grease and grime, I rinsed it a couple of times with cold water and it now looks very much as it did when I got it six years ago.
If you've any green alternatives of your own, share them with us and give this one a try.  I'm never using oven cleaner again.

Ladybird Tuesday - Talkabout starting school

With an inset day on Monday, it is today that is truly the end of my Christmas Holidays as my little foxes go back to school.  Little Una Fox is in Year 2, Louis, is still a baby really, only 3, but goes to nursery 5 mornings a week at the same school as Una.  

With this in mind when it came to choosing this week's Ladybird Tuesday book Starting School seemed to jump right out at me.  Starting School is part of Ladybird’s talkabout series, compiled by Margaret West and Ethel Wingfield and illustrated by Harry Wingfield and published in 1977

The talkabout series are simple books that are intended to be used  - and enjoyed - with young children, giving parents an opportunity to discuss everyday experiences with their children.  The books were planned with the help of nursery school advisers and have a section at the back of the book with suggestions on how parents should use them.

Ladybird Books - Starting School

"Education begins long before a child goes to infant school...

All the books in this talkabout series are designed to stimulate conversation between child and adult encourage the early growth of vocabulary assist mental development and provide a sound basis for future progress in reading and general awareness."

The first line of Starting School is rather lovely, and really is the most important thing for most children starting school: 

Ladybird Books - Starting School

I like that the parent notes explain that the text is written with not too many questions.  As conversation with young children’s should not be all about quizing them and expecting the “right” answers.  In encouraging them to explore and identify their world parents are supporting their children’s growing independence.  This independence is a key target of early years education.  And the image in Starting School to illustrate this shows how little some aspects of early years education have changed. 

Ladybird Books - Starting School

The illustrations display the typical ladybird realism and mean children can easily identify everyday objects and situations recognisable to them.  I do rather love the cover of this book that looks like a collage made of paper and wool - so 70’s!   The school dinners also look typically 70's:

Ladybird Books - Starting School

The emphasis on the people and things that a child will typically come across in their nursery day are also still very relevant; toilet training, cooking, PE, music time, reading, story circles, playtime outside with children dressed for the typically inclement British weather, school milk...

Ladybird Books - Starting School

I think I have a pretty typical experience with my daughter and our school that a lot of expectation is placed on parents to read regularly with their children to help them learn to read. 

Ladybird Books - Starting School

The parent’s notes at the back of this book stress patience and understanding when reading these books with your children. I confess I certainly do not always feel like the most patient of parents and often feel a little sorry for my daughter that she is stuck with impatient me as her mum.  On the hand, she is now a confident reader and I am immensely proud of her every time I hear her reading a sign on the high street, or the newspaper over her daddy’s shoulder, or giggling over Roald Dahl’s “silly” words.  All our hard work was absolutely worth it.

Ladybird Books - Starting School

This post is part of Ladybird Tuesday started on the Being Mrs C blog, take a look at her posts here, this weeks is on the book Magnets Bulbs and Batteries

And the rest of ours are here and if you have a collection of Ladybird books, please do feel free to join in.

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