The life and times of a home schooling mom of se7en + 1.

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Two Oceans a Guide to the Marine Life of Southern Africa…

March 22nd, 2017 · No Comments

It’s World Water Day… and Cape Town is experiencing critical water shortages. We have done no swimming in the pool all summer long, and as a result we have had an almost daily walk down to the beach for a swim and refresh.


The thing about living right at the beach is that you can head down anytime of the day and so avoid most of the crowds… and there is always time to discover something new and wonderful. Rock pooling is one of our favourite outings ever… it’s easy, there is always lots to look at, and plenty of time to play and learn.

And of course whenever we go rock pooling a million questions arise… What creature is this? and What creature is that? So many questions and a new edition of our favourite beach exploring book is out. Our previous edition has literally fallen apart with love and overuse… so we are thrilled to have a the new version to refer to. The book has four authors: George and Margo Branch, as well as Charles Griffiths and Lynnath Beckley, all renowned scientists in their field. We were lucky enough to spend some time exploring rock pools with George Branch, the father of rock pooling in South Africa, at a recent Creative Nature Books event… can you believe the joy at having an rock pooling expert with you as you go exploring…


Let’s take a look at the book… it is everything you need to find out about living things around our coastline. A brief introduction to the different regions and useful oceanographic information for exploring our coastline and then it dives straight into chapters according to how living things are classified: sponges, cnidarians and comb jellies, worms and kin, arthropods, bryozoans, lamp shells and molluscs, echinoderms, sea squirts and kin, fishes, reptiles and birds, mammals, seaweeds and flowering plants. The edges of each page are colour coded for quick referencing and finding specifics in each chapter. All most every species has a colour photographs to accompany it, and where necessary a pen drawing to elaborate any details. Otherwise each species has a location map, and a detailed description, the scientific name and a list of similar species.


This is a fantastic resource, we will be using it a lot, not just for school but for everyday life. It is so useful for looking things up when we are rock pooling but also later, when we get home and we want to fill things in our nature journals. For identifying our natural finds it has been fabulous… and it adds so much depth to our discoveries. This book is a great resource for the most ardent explorer… and yes I love with one or two of those and the dabbler who just wants to figure out what it is that they have discovered on a particular day. We don’t have a lot of reptiles along our coastline we do have over 2000 fish species along our coastline. Not to mention, all the incredible sponges and corals… page after page of beautiful sea shells this book is literally filled with wonder. There is a reason that this book is considered to be the quintessential guide for beach explorers all over South Africa.


Meeting the author was a very special day for us, with lots of questions asked and answered and at the same time so much love and enthusiasm for all things to do with the ocean was shared. Memories made a book literally come to life.


We would like to thank the publishers Struik Nature and Penguin Random House South Africa who supplied us with the books for review purposes. This was not a sponsored post and all opinions are as usual my own.

→ No CommentsTags: Brilliant Books · Reviews

GreenPop’s Family Reforest Fest… A Family Festival with a Purpose…

March 20th, 2017 · 1 Comment

It’s a long weekend over here because of Human Right’s Day on Tuesday, a day I feel strongly about, and I am giving my family a long weekend off blogging. But this post is good to go and I really wanted to share all about my visit to the GreenPop Reforest Fest last weekend, because it really was a magical weekend. If you are looking for something fun for your whole family to be part of then look out for this annual event… the easiest family camping and a weekend of tree planting ever.


For the last few years I have blogged about GreenPop’s Family Reforest Fest and I have been to their Zambia Festival of Action, but this was the year that I actually ventured forth to enjoy the Family Reforest Fest in the heart of the Platbos Forest. Last weekend my instagram feed was full of camping and the great outdoors and tree planting. Here’s how it works… GreenPop are a group of folk that believe in a little goes a long way and so they plant trees, because every tree planted really does add up to forests. One by one they inspire teams of tree planters to plant trees… last weekend in the southernmost indigenous forest in Africa we planted 2000 trees, this weekend they planted 5500 more. At the same time is a wonderful way for families to get away and celebrate all that the great outdoors has to offer and here is the picture rich story…


I arrived on Friday night, to a campfire, food trucks and fairy lights… Basically this is the easiest weekend away ever… if you know how to put up a tent (and I quickly learnt… though there were moments when I wished I had taken a closer look at my kids’ survival books)… then your weekend is laid on for you. A couple of snacks in my bag and the clothes I was wearing. Really food trucks are there to provide you with wholesome feasts… no need to bother with cooking, and there is full-on entertainment the entire time. Kids, teens, grownups were busy having fun the whole weekend… in fact the schedule is so full of wonderful choices that there were more than a few things that I never got round to doing and so I am keen and eager to return again next year for a little more adventure.


Saturday morning dawned bright and beautiful…


And I was ready and eager to get moving… the point of the weekend was to plant trees… a forest in fact.


Stretch, grab a spade…


And into the forest we went…


To learn…


About tree planting…


Dig… mulch… plant… and repeat… good wholesome hard work…

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Milkweeds, White Stinkwoods, Wild Olive and Pock Ironwoods…


And tree planters as far as the eye can see…


And a snack time interlude…


Snack o’Clock

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Followed by more tree planting… and 2000 trees later…


Meanwhile… you need a password to get back to camp… Little people take these responsibilities quite seriously…


Where there is bunting…


And activities galore…


Family Fun

There was heaps of kids to do… while they helped to plant tons of trees there was plenty of freedom for them to roam around and find fun activities under a shady tree… there were puppet shows from the Two Oceans Aquarium and so many different earth friendly crafts and games for them to join in too…
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And after the sweetest most inclusive talent contest for the kids… the best I have ever been too thanks to the great host and story teller: MAfrika… All big and small and smaller still could join in…


This was followed by an evening…


Around the campfire and live music… with Brian Ernst (you have to check him out… loved his back story and his music), as well as… Adelle Nqeto, Crosscurrent and the Brothers Remedy.


Sunday morning and tents as far as the eye could see…


Was spent listening to Ted Talks under a canopy of trees… thanks to TedxCapeTown…


There is just so much to learn about green living and zero waste and steps we can take ourselves and global steps… we can take together. Including Change the Way we Learn by Lebo and Antidote to Suburbia by Epiphany.



GreenPop Signage is the Best

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And why oh why do I forget to take a t-shirt for screen printing every single time I attend a GreenPop event!!! Note to self, remember for next time… there will definitely be a next time.


GreenPop Family ForestFest 2017
click on the image for a photo tour

Huge thank you to GreenPop again, for their wonderful hospitality, and for providing me with a ticket to the Family Reforest Fest. This is not a sponsored post, I was not paid to write it and of course opinions expressed are as usual my own.

→ 1 CommentTags: Saturday Spot · Thoughtful Thursdays

Pass Your Learner’s Licence Easily… It’s a GiveAway…

March 15th, 2017 · 7 Comments

It’s been a while since we had a GiveAway and I have not one, not two but three fantastic GiveAways for the month of March… so without further a do… I am going to tell you something, and you won’t believe it, that your children are going to grow up and they are going to learn how to drive. I know, I looked forward to this time for years and now, to be honest the thought horrifies me. I suddenly have two kids old enough to drive. I’ll say that again… two kids old enough to drive. This is daunting beyond believe, and much as I pretend it is never going to happen and much as I put off doing anything about it, the time has come.


Now in South Africa, from the age of se7enteen you can get a learner’s license, which allows you to drive with a passenger who has a valid license and then from age eighteen folk are free to get a drivers license and launch onto the road. From what I have heard it is standard practice for folk to fail their driving test and their learner’s license a number of times. We aren’t discouraging our kids at all but they do have to pay their own way to get through their tests… nothing a little financial stress to improve your chances of passing. My guys got the K53 Driving Test book from the library and studied it carefully, but they really weren’t test ready…


I must say that I cannot take away the queues or the fact that you have to actually study for the test. Yes, there is that confidence of youth that they have been driving about in a car all their lives and so they know what is in the actual book. Basically, your innate road knowledge is not enough to pass… you have to study all those little nuances that are included in the laws of the road. Not to mention, in a country with multiple languages the test may appear to be in English, but those questions can sure seem very confusing. So studying is not enough, in fact most of my kids’ friends use the first test as a practice run, just to learn how to answer the awkward questions… But I discovered a solution to the multiple failing problem… there is an app!!!

K53 Learner’s App

Like everything else there is an app even for your Learner’s Licence. Indeed there is an app for South African Learner Drivers who are aiming to pass the K53 Learner Drivers Test. My guys made full use of the app and passed their test first time round with flying colours. To be sure my other kids are going to follow suit.


Here is how the app works: Firstly it has absolutely everything you need to know on how to pass your learner’s license. But the critical thing that the app has is the practice tests… you can take a look at practice questions for the K53 Test here. There are over 250 questions, in each of the test categories, for you to practice on and you can review your answers and see where you went wrong as well. It has the latest questions available from the Official K53 Test. For more details you can take a look at the K53 Learner’s App Website here.

Typical test questions look like this…


And solutions look like this…


Both my tech loving and non-tech loving kids found it really easy to use… The thing that they loved about it was that they could head into the test confident that they knew what to expect. Not only was the app a good simulation of the test, but they could practice timed and untimed tests. Also they couldn’t just review the test answers, they had to fill in the practice test first and only at the end of the test does one get the solutions. So, you absolutely have to practice the tests to make full use of the app. Being able to practice the tests and review their mistakes was really essential to their official test preparation.

The GiveAway

We have five copies of the app to give Away… yup… that’s FIVE!!! With compliments from the publishers, Penguin Random House South Africa and the K53-Test App Creators. Leave a comment before the end of play on Friday 24 March 2017…


We will draw and publish the winners in the Fabulous Fun Post following 24 March. I won’t respond to your comments as I do on our other posts because I don’t want to be included in our own giveaway. Our GiveAways are open to everyone: If you have won a GiveAway before never fear – enter away. Naturally this GiveAway applies to South Africans… but if you are overseas, then have no fear we have a few more GiveAways coming your way, that will be open worldwide.

We would like to thank the publishers, Penguin Random House South Africa and the K53-Test App Creators, who supplied us with copies of the app to review and giveaway. We were not paid for the review and the opinions expressed in it are as usual, entirely our own.

→ 7 CommentsTags: GiveAways and Swaps · Se7en at School

Let’s Talk About Gym, and Healthy Weight and Especially Sleep…

March 14th, 2017 · 4 Comments

I am back from a weekend away and back at the gym. If you have been following along, I have been blogging about my journey through the Healthy Weight Program at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa. It has been four weeks of working out, and by the time you read this post I will be nearly halfway through the Program. I don’t even blink at 5:30 am wake ups anymore, in fact I kind of like the associated quiet. Can you believe it? I can’t believe it myself. Just a quick look at me and I don’t think you will notice a massive transformation… it is early days after all. But there have been a number of lifestyle changes that weren’t difficult to implement and that are definitely here to stay…


The Workouts

The first thing is I have rediscovered that I really enjoy working out. It is hard, make no mistake I am constantly surprised at how hard we are pushed and even more surprised when our whole group manages it. The power of peer pressure! There has been a fairly dramatic improvement in the things I can actually do. Remember those crunchies and planks from way back, well now we just do those. In fact I thought, that all those tummy muscles were gone for good… Seriously I have had eight kids. Turns out they haven’t. I can actually feel all those core muscles working, while I walk around in my every day life now… those muscles aren’t gone, they were literally dormant. I have to say the exercises are not for the fainthearted, and I love that we are constantly pushed, though all the while learning how do things correctly… this is all good for folk like me, who have simply forgotten how to do almost everything. So many folk say that the first step is the hardest, they might be right, if you could take away the first five minutes of every gym class that would probably be something of a bonus. Otherwise, I would never work this hard on my own, I am thrilled to have a biokineticist to encourage all the way.


The Eating Plan

My big thing, when I started this program was to make make the decision to only put really healthy food into me from now on, and honestly while I still have a few blapses, it isn’t too hard, I just don’t buy any junk ever. Otherwise, I haven’t changed my “breakfast, lunch and supper” diet radically at all, but I noticed when I kept a food diary for the sleep study that I have my own personal feast every single day when I cook dinner… so I have put a stop to that. I stopped cooking every day and started batch cooking a lot more, that keeps me out of the kitchen at that critical time of day… and makes the kids more able to put dinner on the table too. I also made sure that I had some nice crispy apples on stand by for when I am cooking. Turns out that if I am eating an apple at the same time as I am cooking that I don’t want to spoil the apple by tasting everything that goes into the pots and pans as well. Hopefully little changes like that will make a difference overall.


The Sport Psychologist

Half way through the program there is a choice to visit your dietician for some tips or the sports psychologist… My visit to the sport psychologist during initial the assessment had such a huge impact on our family and how I get things done around here that I was keen and eager to visit him again. Not to mention, I had a disastrous (even for me) Park Run on the Saturday before… disastrous in the sense that I feel like all the gym should help me be better at things but actually after a hard work out and mountain climb the day before I was just physically tired, and it was so so hard. My head went off on a little trip of “I can’t do this and I really should quit.” I didn’t quit, but I wasn’t happy. I really want to do better and not flinch so much when the going gets tough. Anyway twenty minutes of chatting and I now feel a little more amped when I do the hard stuff. This year my gang and I have been hiking almost every week, and for this past week’s hike, which was a long hard hot hike immediately after gym, I put my head down and chose to be there, and chose to stride out and just keep going. No it was not an epic sporting achievement, but I did it and will move on to the next hike next week. Step by step… its a thing.


The Sleep Study

My recent difficulty has not so much been the Workouts… or my head space or even healthy eating… but as I suspected sleep would continue to be my biggest problem. The irony regarding a sleep study and the alarming lack of sleep because of it. You can read about the sleep study at the SSISA website. Meanwhile, the first week I had to get up fairly early to fill in my assessment forms before gym, the following week there was one 4 a.m. start for a metabolism test in which I totally had to stay awake while sitting under a dome, followed by my usual workout and then immediately a body scan (which did involve clambering onto a large X-ray table in a hospital gown with sweat exploding from me in every direction… the glamour of science), and then last week there were two nights of a sleep study that resulted in what felt like absolutely no sleep. Heaps of wires and cables and gadgets all connected to me, not to mention little flashing lights… it took an hour and a half to set up, and then I could in theory move around freely, and in practice not at all. The kids were intrigued and it was great for a spontaneous science lesson. But I sure battled to sleep. The following morning I had to be up and at it at gym… gah!!! That dreadful feeling of having to perform well on what felt like zero sleep was exactly the sleep kick that I needed.


It suffices to say, real live science and a sudden alarming awareness of more than a few of my very bad sleep habits. I have been aiming to sleep a whole lot better for the longest time, to be in bed at a reasonable hour and up early enough to start the day with enthusiasm rather than on the back foot… well a couple of nights of sleep study and I was so very tired that I was forced to head for bed earlier and of course I naturally woke up earlier… honestly I never expected sleep, or the lack thereof, to be the thing that brought everything crumbling down and set all my bad habits straight. Lets just say after another night or two of good sleep I had another late night last week and the resulting dreadful day again was enough to pull me back inline. Turns out I could teach school and blog all night, but I cannot manage a gym workout, then school and then blog late into the night. So I am having to figure out a whole different strategy for when and how to blog. Because the time has come for me to sleep properly.

I am discovering pockets of time in the day to blog… and I am getting my work flow much more streamlined. The mornings I don’t go to gym I still wake up early… and I choose to blog then. And I am a lot more productive first thing in the morning than when I am nodding off to sleep at my desk late into the night. Otherwise, when I have a snippet of time in the afternoon I tend to edit photos and get all the prep done for the pending posts. And at night, now that I am just too tired to write I find myself reading my way through review books, this is a good thing. So everything is changing around here and it is all good. But it isn’t easy… there are a lot of three steps forwards and two steps back moments.


The Challenge for this Week

My previous challenge was to get myself some appropriate footwear and it just so happened that as I was walking past Cape Union Mart there was a shoe sale and I grabbed myself some half price Merrells… yeah!!! They aren’t exactly gym shoes, and not really what I was looking for… But they are fabulous for walking and hiking, which is what I do… so I am happy with that. I am no longer going to gym in my croc loafers and my alternatives that were boots are now shelved for the while, since I have literally stomped my way through the soles of them… and then for today’s workout we actually ran. Yes, I ran for the first time in oh about twenty years and I have to say, they probably aren’t the best running shoes. But they are shoes and they work!!!

My challenge for this week is to work out an actual plan of when and how to blog… it is time to figure out when to get the lion’s share of actual work done during the day… you know during the hours that I am actually awake. This is huge folks, this is literally looking for hours and hours in the day that I just couldn’t find before… those hours just can’t be found during sleep time anymore.

Previous Posts over at the SSISA

Previous Posts in this Series

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I would like to thank SSISA for the free training/mentoring I am getting in exchange for an honest blog post. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely my own.

→ 4 CommentsTags: Home Truths · Thoughtful Thursdays

The Weekend Is Starting a Little Early…

March 9th, 2017 · No Comments

So I am off for the weekend, leaving my family behind and spreading my wings… I am heading out to the GreenPop Family Fest and hopefully I will post tons of pictures on Instagram, and get back to you all on Monday and tell you about a weekend of tree planting and learning more about green living…


I had big plans to squeeze just one or two more blog posts in before I left, but actually… I am going to do the right thing and get some sleep, spend some time with my kids, and lets not forget a visit to gym in the morning!!!

Chat soon…

→ No CommentsTags: Home Truths

Making Full Use of the Wonderbag… Se7en’s 52 Weeks of Getting Things Done…

March 8th, 2017 · 6 Comments

I have been writing a series on Getting things Done this year… and in January I focused on all things to do with the computer and February I focused on the Kitchen. It turns out we aren’t nearly done with all things kitchen and I have at least three projects still to do there… so March is going to be another kitchen month and then because we are building a Library book by book, we should most definitely move on to sorting out books… because between you and me, we are in the season of literally drowning in books. The plan is finish up in the kitchen and move onto books.


So everytime I post a picture of our Wonderbag on instagram folk ask all about it. For the longest time this has been the most efficient kitchen tool we have. It all began during the season of load shedding and we needed to find a way to cook for a family of ten much more energy efficiently. Wonderbags are really just a cooking bag, surrounded by large cushions that insulate your pot and keep it cooking after you have removed them from direct heat, for a couple of hours. Using the Wonderbag has reduced our use of electricity significantly, not only that but you have to preplan and prepare things somewhat… and just the fact that I need to think about things slightly ahead of time means that when things are running smoothly and efficiently I am much more likely to use the Wonderbag.


The thing is you just have to prepare your meal in advance and then leave it to cook for a number of hours. There is nothing nicer than waking up in the morning and breakfast is made or returning from a cold wintry hike and there is a hot meal waiting for you. So we begin by preparing our meals as usual, all the chopping, all the browning and all the sautéing and then… pop a tight fitting lid on the container and pop it into the Wonderbag for a number of hours.

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I have to admit, it is a different way of cooking to my usual last minute dash… and for the first while that we had it, I looked at it a lot, before I actually began using it. And our first Wonderbag adventure was just our breakfast porridge. That is already one meal of the day that I don’t have to think to much about… We chop up apples, cook them with some cinnamon until they are soft, pop in our usual oats and water, let it bubble away for a minute or two. Put the pot lid on tight and pop it into the Wonderbag and there you have breakfast ready on the table. different folk in our house leave home at different times in the morning… all they have to do is open the wonder bag and grab their porridge, seal it up and leave it for the later risers.


Otherwise everyone knows that a good pasta sauce or stew tastes better the day after, so the day of our massive monthly cook up, we do a massive chop of all the vegetables and then saute them one by one… we put all the ingredients into roasting pans and heat them up in the oven. Then I pop them into one large dish, the fuller the better, and seal it really tight and leave it in the Wonderbag overnight. The following morning I divide the sauce up into meal size portions and freeze them until we need them.


Otherwise, we use our Wonderbag for lunch quite a lot, for dishes like savoury rice or mixed beans. We start the rice on the hot plate as usual and let it bubble away and add in all sorts of finely sliced vegetables and herbs from the garden and then once it has boiled for a couple of minutes we pop it into the Wonderbag while we do school and at lunch time our meal is ready for us. A huge family favourite is mixed beans and we often have these on Sunday evening. Finely chop an onion and maybe some bacon or chorizo into a pan until they are browned, and then add a selection of canned beans… about half a can per person… and a jar of tomato sauce. Let it simmer away for a couple of minutes and then pop it into the WonderBag. Not even ten minutes of preparation and when we get home from church on a Sunday evening dinner is ready.


Now the reason that this Wonderbag post is part of the Getting Things Done series is that I would like to try a lot more recipes in ours and discover more than a handful of recipes that our whole family will enjoy… So my quest in March is to discover a new Wonderbag recipe each week… and that has to include making yogurt!!!

Meanwhile this is definitely not a sponsored post, just writing about life… and I know some of you are going to ask about where we got our Wonderbag… we bought ours from Yuppie Chef. And if you want to know more about the Wonderbag on their website, where they have loads of recipes to try…

Previous Posts in our 52 Weeks of Getting Things Done Series

→ 6 CommentsTags: Monday Munchies

Se7en’s Fabulous Fun Post #349

March 6th, 2017 · 4 Comments

Last week was somewhat busy and this week is going to be crazy… with all of us off in a million directions… I am so grateful for a weekend of chilling and hanging out together in the great outdoors. Not to mention I am discovering the dawn… after years of sleeping late, I find myself waking up for gym, even on days when I don’t have gym… a peaceful time of day, when the house is quiet…


Our Book Book Giving Day Project is in full Swing, if you have signed up to join us, then you should all have your emails with the shipping details by the end of today… and otherwise… join in, join in… we are trying to build a library for over a thousand kids… we need books and lots of them. It is totally doable, book by book we can build a library. Don’t forget SuperNova Magazine has a fabulous offer for our followers, they will match any subscription and donate your order to the library when you stop and shop there. And the books are starting to roll in…

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Lovely Links from This Week

  1. If you aren’t listening to audible books, but you wish you did… or you do listen to audible books but wish you new more: Then this post on Read Aloud Revival is for you: The Great Big Audible Q&A.
  2. Cape Town the city we love was featured on Babyccino… the blog I love: Weekend Getaway: Cape Town, South Africa.
  3. Oh my word… would you look at LOTS on Playing by the Book… you have to scroll down, I love their lots of people project!!!
  4. 20 Extra Long and Totally Readable Books for your 2017 Reading Challenge… on the Modern Mrs Darcy… some of my favourites are in their… Sharon Penman, just read the series!!!
  5. And if you need a little magic in your day: Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. Philip Pullman on the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.
  6. Anyone need a decluttering challenge, I did the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge a few years ago and the habit stuck… I still toss out a bag or two of stuff every week… don’t even ask where all the stuff comes from… that is one of life’s greatest mysteries!!!
  7. I love Kristen Welch, she always says it like it is… and parents of teens, you should be tired!!! This week’s post: I’m Tired. How About You? is pure gold.
  8. Feel like a virtual trip to Africa, or you are planning a real trip then take a peak at these Top Ten African Travel Blogs on the Incidental Tourist, you will be inspired.
  9. Oh my heart… this family went on holiday to about my most favourite place in the world… Wouldn’t I love a walking trip to Wales.

This Weekend End from the 12-14 March 2017 is the GreenPop Family Fest Weekend… I am going to be social media-ing for them for the weekend and I just can’t wait. Got my spade and my boots and I am good to go… planting trees for the weekend in the most southern indigenous forest in Africa… really I just can’t wait!!! Click on the image for all the details…


This Week’s Highlights

Family Reading A-Loud: We have been reading this DK book for two years, almost to the day!!! What an adventure it has been. The History of the World in 1000 objects, from the ancient of ancients right through time until the space race. It’s been fantastic!!!

Listening: Now that I have an almost daily commute to gym and back… so I picked this epic series and I am absolutely loving it… riveted!!! I thought it would take weeks to listen to, but no… just can’t stop listening!!!

Watching with the Kids: They finally watched the whole of this… the last of the big screen watchers may now stand up… I just never think to watch stuff with my kids, but this has been fun and we all enjoyed it, though for some folk in a somewhat “scared out of our wits way.”

Watching Myself: And for the person that almost never remembers to watch a screen… I did manage to watch the entire first series of Land Girls, oh in about one sitting. Just saying. I kind of got into it and then couldn’t stop watching!!!!

A Blast From the Past:


That’s us… Hope you are all have a fabulous week!!!


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→ 4 CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun