Last night, we capped off our busy day with mac and cheese for dinner, a church meeting for Mr Mallon, and bedtime stories for the kids (Warrior Cats for Pippi and The Boy, and The Deathly Hallows for Betsy). Then a bit of pre-bedtime Buffy the Vampire Slayer for Mr Mallon and I.

Today, we have been partaking in a bit of summer holiday fun. We met up with some friends at Formby Beach. It was overcast and rather windy, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Merseyside beach when it wasn’t windy, and at least we didn’t need towels and suncream and all that sunny weather jazz. It was lovely seeing our friends who we haven’t seen for a little while as they have been busy over the holidays.

There has also been quite a lot of Minecrafting happening during downtime around here, and a new app passion, The Robot Factory.

Hello There

I have decided to have a go at resurrecting this old blog. I have read a few blogs lately that are essentially just a record of the days of a home ed family, and I really enjoy them. So I am going to have a little go at doing the same myself.

So… for the first time ever, welcome to 24 hours of life in the Mallon family.

Our weekend was taken up with much decorating. At the beginning of the year, we set ourselves a goal of repainting all the main living areas plus the hall, landing, and stairs by the time my mum and sister come to visit in mid-September. Mr Mallon took a week off work in the spring, and we tackled the lounge and dining room, which was highly satisfactory. We bought all new furniture for the lounge and have spent the past few months basking in the glow of a job well done. Unfortunately, we may have basked a bit too much as until this past weekend we made no further progress with the still sizeable job left to do. I am beginning an OU course in October, which will be my first course working towards an English Literature degree that will take six years to complete. It’s my first proper studying since I left university 16 years ago to move to the UK. Last week my course materials arrived and I began making some actual plans for the work. Whilst doing so, the realisation struck me that we have four weeks until my mum and sister come, and my course begins straight after they go home. If this decorating malarkey is going to happen, it has to happen now and quick. So our weekend was spent in a flurry of hunting around in the shed for various tools, visiting B&Q multiple times, sanding, painting, and all the other sundry tasks involved in a bit of DIY. To show for our efforts, we now have one half built and half painted home made desk that will take up an entire wall of the dining room; a dining room table that now has two coats of gloss paint (we’re painting the top of it white); one chair with one coat of plum paint; a half painted landing, staircase, and ceiling, and a house which is mostly in a state of high disarray and looks likely to remain so for the next four weeks. Ho hum! Hopefully we’ll get it all pulled back together in time for the much anticipated arrival of the Americans!

Today, I did another coat of paint on the dining room table and desk, and the small people and I have run a bunch of errands (B&Q again, Asda, farm shop). After lunch, The Boy and I undertook a long awaited project for him. One of his current passions is volcanos. We’ve been reading library books all about them along with a bunch of Earth science related bits (layers of the Earth, tectonic plates, how volcanos form…). And today he built the classic baking soda and vinegar volcano. He decided to make his volcano into Mount Fuji (Japan is another current passion). It all went down pretty well and he seemed satisfied, which is great as he’s been wanting to do this for a while it would have been disappointing if it had failed to live up to expectations.

I got started on the chair sanding and painting (we’re painting all our dining room chairs in lovely bright colours which the small people picked out at B&Q this morning), kept the laundry going, and read some Goblet of Fire with Pippi. Whilst all the volcano action was going down, Betsey and Pippi played together beautifully, which is marvellous as it seems an increasingly rare occurrence these days. They founded a games club and have spent most of the day playing card and board games together. Pippi helped me paint the chair as it was in her colour, and Betsey and The Boy made cupcakes from a boxed mix.

All in all, it’s been a  highly productive and pleasing 24 hours. Long may it continue!

(PS. I am hoping to edit this post and add in some pictures as soon as I figure out how the heck to get them off my phone and uploaded to the blog. Wish me luck.)

National Poetry Day

Oh dear, it has been quite a while since I have visited my poor, abandoned blog. I think I felt guilty for not completing the second half of the read along I was attempting to participate in and was thus avoiding the blog a bit, and the avoidance became a habit. Ah well…

I’m back today to share another poem. Since it’s National Poetry day, I was trying to get the small people to all write poems. So in an effort to set a good example, I sat down and wrote one myself. None of them seemed inspired by my excellent example, but I haven’t given up on them completely. If they do produce anything, I will record it here for posterity. But in the meantime, here is the fruit of my labours.

Autumn Joys

and galoshes.
Conker hunts and
puddle sploshes.

Piles of washing
refuse to dry.
Baking, cooking,
casseroles, pie.

Candlelight, fires.
Yearning for light’s
comforting presence.

Misty mornings.
Inky evenings.
Crisp forest walks.

Sleep approaching.

(Edited to add:)

Pippi has discovered garden inspiration.

Fat Slugs

Fat Slugs

Very, very fat slugs

I found one in my garden.


I need to do the second part of my Stardust Read Along discussion, but this week has been pretty busy and I haven’t had time to sit down and think about it yet. It will be coming soon!

In the meantime, the small people and I have been writing a bit of poetry inspired by the nicer weather.  I present them here for your reading pleasure  and for posterity’s sake. I have to say, I am rather mortified to be posting my very bad indeed poem, but the small people would only let me post theirs if I included mine as well. Poems are presented as written, mistakes included. I wish I could include the letter reversals as well, but I don’t think I have the right font for that!

Pippi’s Poem


SuN suN ArE you
iT is morning
HoPPing in HTHe PrAy
iT is VERY dEAUTifuL
in THE bAY

I love the bit about “the frogs hopping in the pray”. I tried to get her to explain what she meant, but she couldn’t. I think she just liked the sound of it. And that last word is “day”, even when I tell her which way round to write her “b” and “d”, she still manages to reverse them.  :)


Betsy’s Poem

This is still a work in progress, but Betsy was happy for me to put what she’s got so far.

The SprinG Sings.

BLueBeLLs ring.
fLowers sing.
The Leaves on the trees
WHistle in the breese.
Cats meow and WriGGLe
FroGs croak anD GiGGLe.

I love her rhyme scheme here and the use of consonance as well. She was pretty pleased when I explained that she had used a poetic device that she didn’t even know existed.  :)


My Poem

(Cringe… I cannot believe I am sharing it. I was embarrassed to let Betsy read it! I wrote it because Betsy wanted a poetry writing companion.)

Kiss from a Star: Spring

Fairytale princess – she has lain asleep.
Covered in darkness.
Life retreating within her.

Triumphant – he returns from the quest which led him away.

A kiss – joyful reunion.

Warmth runs through her.
Darkness fades.
Slowly her face turns towards him.
Life returns.

The Boy has not officially written any poetry lately. I believe he has regaled us with a few songs and he has certainly told many increasingly blood thirsty tales of Little Robot Jack’s adventures. But alas, none of it was written down.

I hope that you are all enjoying the spring whether you are in the UK where we’ve been waiting for it rather impatiently, or in the States where it may already be feeling like summer!

Stardust by Neil Gaiman – Read Along Part 1

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For many years, I have been a lurker, reading lots of blogs, but never entering into conversation with anyone. I have recently decided to crawl out of my internet cave and interact with people a bit more.

To kick that off here at my blog, I’m participating in a read-along of Stardust by Neil Gaiman hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings as part of his Once Upon a Time Challenge. I only very recently discovered Neil Gaiman. I haven’t loved everything I’ve read by him so far, but I’ve liked it enough to keep plugging away at his back catalogue. So when I saw this read-along was happening, I knew it would be a good opportunity to get on board.

Stardust is basically a fairytale for grown ups, as are most fairytales really. The dust jacket synopsis is as follows:

At the dawn of the Victorian era, life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall – named after the imposing stone barrier which separates it from a grassy meadow. Here in Wall, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester. But she is cold and distant, as distant as the star she and Tristran see fall from the sky one crisp October evening. For the coveted prize of Victoria’s hand, Tristran vows to retrieve the fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that propels him into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining…

This discussion is meant to cover the first half of the book with the second half being discussed next week. I, being the impatient book reader that I am, did not have the self-control to stop half-way through. So I have read the whole book. I will try valiantly to forget the second half for the purposes of this discussion, though!

If you’re interested in reading Stardust and haven’t yet, you probably want to stop reading now. Spoilers ahead.                I’m going to stick with using the discussion questions that were set for us. So here we go:

1.  We have spent a little time with Tristran and even less time with the star.  What are your initial thoughts/impressions of our two protagonists?

Tristran seems very earnest and likeable, albeit young and naïve. The one thing that really bothers me regarding Tristran is that his father allows him to go off on a seemingly vain quest into Faerie without telling him who he really is. I really don’t understand this. Surely the knowledge of his true parenthood, or at least the very little information that his father has about his mother, could only have been helpful to him. I would be interested to see what would have remained the same and what would have changed during his journey if he had known that his mother was part of that world.

I was actually really surprised to discover that the star was a person. I was totally not expecting that. My first impressions of the her were that she is stubborn and strong-minded, but not necessarily in a bad way.

2.  There are some very interesting potential villains introduced in this first half of the book.  Do any of them particularly stand out to you? If so why or why not?

The main thing that stood out to me regarding the potential villains was that there were so many of them, and they are mostly quite ambiguous. We know that the Witch-queen has evil intentions towards the star, but we don’t know how the quest of the brothers from Stormhold (living and dead) will impact upon our protagonists. There is also Mistress Semele, who certainly seems to fall in the baddie category without her role in coming events being very obvious.

Also, despite the ambiguity of the villainous characters, they are very dark and quite scary!

3.  In Chapter Three, just after the section with the brothers in Stormhold, Neil Gaiman gives us a description of Faerie that includes “each land that has been forced off the map by explorers and the brave going out and proving it wasn’t there…”.  What imaginary lands do you then hope are a part of Faerie?

I’m sure there is a great deal more to Faerie than we will get see in this story. For me, Neil Gaiman’s description in that passage summons up thoughts of Atlantis, Camelot, Eldorado, enchanted forests and the edge of the world.

4.  We do not get to spend a great deal of time in the market but while there we are given a number of interesting descriptions of the wares being bartered or sold.  Which if any of them caught your eye, either as items you would like to possess or ones you would most certainly hope to avoid.

The stand selling “Eyes! Eyes! New eyes for old” utterly creeps me out. I think I’d quite like to have a tiny crystal cat, though! And I would be sorely tempted by the prize of a “wind flower”, which sounds amazing, although I’m rubbish at riddles so I’d probably have to pass it by.

5.  If you have read much of Gaiman’s work, particularly his short fiction, then you have come across some rather graphic and disturbing portrayals of sex.  Gaiman offers up something very different in the way of a sex scene early on in Stardust.  What are your feelings of the scene either in general or as a contrast to other Gaiman-penned scenes involving sex?

This scene took me by surprise. I think I began this book thinking it was probably YA or a universally suitable sort of book (like many fairytales). Then I got to this scene and though, “OK… definitely a book for grown ups then.” I didn’t find it to be offensive, but it was definitely a more graphic scene than I was anticipating.

6.  I suspect Neil Gaiman is influenced by a number of fairy and folk tales in Stardust.  Are there any elements of the story that made a particular impression and/or reminded you of other fairy stories you have read or are familiar with?

Although it certainly has a wide variety of fairytale influences, it was the nursery rhyme influences that stood out to me most in this story. I guess I find fewer references to nursery rhymes in adult literature than more general fairytale themes. Since having children and accumulating numerous editions of nursery rhyme collections, I have realised that I really love nursery rhymes and it’s lovely to see them alluded to and even used for key plot points.

7.  And finally, which of the many side characters introduce have caught your eye and why? Or what else about the story thus far is of interest to you?

I find both the tall man, who is seemingly somewhat responsible for all the events that befall Dunstan and Tristran, and the small, hairy man (creature?) very intriguing. I hope they both enter the story again down the road. I also feel very sorry for Brevis who gets turned into a goat, and wonder if he has any further role to play in events.

Overall, I really love this story. I love the numerous allusions to mythical/fairytale themes and creatures, the tiny details that are included just for the sake of it and to enhance the atmosphere of the world being created, and the naivety and innocence of Tristran which lends the whole story an air of lightness and innocence even though it is terribly dark in many places.

Ten on Tuesday – Gratitude Edition

Oh my, I didn’t realise it had been so long since I updated this little corner of the interwebs! I have decided to get back into the swing of things with a themed ten. This week, I bring you ten things for which I am thankful on this chilly Tuesday morning.

1.  Freshly mopped floors. Somehow, if my floors are clean, it makes all of life seem better.

2.  “Little Tyke”, the daughter of my friend whom we have the privilege of looking after once a week. She is extremely cute and often very polite, which never ceases to amaze and amuse me. It is lovely having her with us. It is also a good reminder of how much more difficult life is with very small people around, which is useful to banish any broodiness which might come along!

3.  One of my children (we’ll keep it anonymous to protect the other grumpy children) who decided to be exceedingly helpful today and almost single-handedly tidied our very messy conservatory/toy room.

4.  The old, broken washing machine has finally been removed from our house. For five and a half weeks it sat in the kitchen blocking the back door and making our pantry cupboard difficult to access. Mr Mallon insisted it was providing useful extra worktop space, but fortunately it started to stink and he took it to the tip on Sunday. Thank goodness!

5.  In five weeks my dad and aunt will be coming to visit us. I can’t wait!

6.  After many delays and a fair bit of hassle, we reserved a cat at the RSPCA on Saturday. It is technically Pippi’s much belated birthday gift. We are all very excited. (Well, perhaps not Mr Mallon who took an instant dislike to her. But he does that frequently and the rest of us liked her.) She is a three year old (ish) tortoiseshell. The staff at the rescue centre named her Cookie and after hours of family brainstorming and name deliberations, Pippi has decided that we should keep that name. We don’t have her at home yet. We’re still waiting on a home visit from the RSPCA to ensure we are going to be responsible cat owners. (One might be tempted to think they don’t really want to find homes for their animals – they make it VERY hard to adopt one!) We’ve been hearing since we reserved her that tortoiseshells tend to have very strong personalities and can be a bit of a handful. I think she’ll fit right in with our crazy family!

7.  Diana Wynne Jones March. Have I mentioned DWJ on this blog before? If not, I am shocked. Her books are my latest obsession. I read Howl’s Moving Castle in September, which I’ve been meaning to read ever since I randomly saw the anime film at The Big Scream at Fact when Betsy was 6 weeks old with friends from our NCT antenatal classes. I absolutely loved it. Then, a bit of research informed me that DWJ is the godmother of children’s fantasy. She wrote about 40 books over about 40 years. They are all very different from each other, but each are written in her own imitable style. I’ve been working my way through her collected works since September. Then, I stumbled upon a group of book bloggers who celebrate Diana Wynne Jones month each March (she died in March 2011). I have had so much fun reading everyone’s thoughts on how her books have impacted their lives, reviews and discussions of her books, and even a “watch-along” of the film of Howl’s Moving Castle where we watched the film together and live-tweeted it. It has been great.

8.  Reading Eggs. This is an internet-based phonics programme. I’m pretty sure it basically taught Betsy to read. Pippi and The Boy have been spending a great deal of time on there lately. They’ve been totally enjoying themselves and they are learning loads from it. Hooray.

9.  My friend Anna. She was on holiday last week, and I realised that I really rely on our weekly forest walks to keep myself sane. She is lovely, and I am very glad she is back home again!

10.  Central heating. This has been such a long cold winter! Even though I’m sure we’ve spent a small fortune on heating our house over the past few months, I am extremely grateful that we live in a warm house and we have the money that we need to pay our bills. God looks after us, and for this I am ever so thankful.

Ten on Tuesday

1. Today we have sickness in the house. Not serious sickness, just a couple of colds, but as we are usually bizarrely healthy, it’s not a scenario to which I’m accustomed. Pippi woke up complaining of a headache and she had a bit of a fever. And later in the morning Betsy took herself off upstairs and was found to be asleep on her bed. Calpol has been administered, duvets brought downstairs and DVDs put on. Is it bad that I’m enjoying the quiet and snuggles that come with mild unwellness?

2. Last week we had snow. It was marvellous. The small people and I spent two lovely afternoons sledging with Anna and her kids. Here are some photos courtesy of Anna. (And for those of you – I’m sure there are many! – who’ve been holding your breath for the vulture fact, I can only give my apologies… I have neglected to ask her about it. We’re going to count these pictures as Anna’s contribution to the blog for today!)

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3. Observing my children’s sledging preferences made me laugh. It’s quite funny how one activity can sort of sum up their personalities. The first afternoon, Betsy would not sledge at all, although she had fun watching everyone else. After a fair bit of persuasion, she agreed to go down with me the next day and loved it. Then after further persuasion, she plucked up the courage to go down by herself, which she did, shrieking all the way. She had a whale of a time and was heard bemoaning the fact that she had allowed herself to miss out the day before. The Boy spent both afternoons mostly pottering around by himself, rolling around in the snow. He went on the sledge with me a fair bit and always enjoyed it, but he wouldn’t go by himself or with anyone else. Pippi was an enthusiastic sledger from the moment we arrived and had no qualms about going solo. By the end of the second afternoon, she and Anna’s daughter were hurling themselves down a very steep snow ramp that someone had built up to a picnic table launching point that then proceeded down the steepest bit of the hill. (I think you can just make this out in the penultimate picture above.

4. I’m currently working on a little writing excercise which involves composing a poem based on a template from this poem: Where I am From by George Ella Lyon. I’m not sure I’m really getting anywhere with it, but has been fun dredging up old memories from the past. One thing I’ve realised while working on this is that I don’t have a very good sensory memory. I consider myself to have a very very good memory. I have great recall for trivial facts, days and dates that past events occurred. I have quite a lot of memories from very early childhood (younger than 3). But trying to dredge up the particular sort of sensory memories that this poem calls for is driving me nuts. I don’t remember smells or feelings. I am more of a fact remembering sort, I guess. It’s been an interesting self-discovery.

5. Birthday season is upon us. I hate having three birthdays all so close together. I don’t enjoy any of them properly. At my birthday, I’m busy feeling guilty about my lack of organisation for the kids’ birthdays and wondering if I should bother to make myself a cake when I know that have loads of child birthday baking to do soon and will be baked out before the end. Inviting friends to two birthday parties on consecutive weekends feels like an imposition on their free time. And all the celebratory traditions feel like a big to do list of chores rather than celebrations. I think I need to find a way to enjoy this month more since no one’s date of birth is likely to change in the future!

6. Pippi was given a science kit for Christmas where you set up a little tank and hatch the eggs of some tiny creatures that are only just big enough to see. With much ado, we set it up this week dutifully following all the instructions, and nothing happened. No eggs hatched. It was a failure. There was great disappointment and consternation. I think we’ve all taken this harder than maybe we should have!

7. I have temporarily given up on my reading of The Iliad. I downloaded a free version onto my Kindle, and it turns out I was reading the most awkward, difficult translation available. I had to sit down to read it with the computer nearby for looking things up every other sentence because I’m not familiar with the Roman names of all the gods. (It’s a story about the Greeks… who uses the Roman names in a Greek story???) And the language used was terribly archaic and difficult. After a while, I did a bit of research and quickly saw that a different translation would make the whole thing much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, our library doesn’t have any copies of a decent translation, so I’m going to have to purchase a copy. But just to save you all some trouble if you were planning on reading Homer anytime soon… just say no to Alexander Pope versions!

8. My washing machine has just started making some very unpleasant noises. I seriously do not want to purchase another major appliance this year!

9. I’ve been listening to this song today. Lots of food for thought in the lyrics. “Where you invest your love, you invest your life.” Good stuff.

10. What’s been going on with you lately?