One of the best things about The Learning Zone is our annual cookie exchange, organised by one of our members. This year we had a whole afternoon of festive fun. The English and drama group put on an amusing play with magically growing hamsters – yes seriously. Then we exchanged cookies – some of which had the most amazing wrapping this year. Then we sang a mix of sea shanties and carols rather raucously which was great!

Here are a few cookie pics to make you which you had joined in!

Our basket of rather cheaply and simplistically packaged cookies, we made chewy chocolate-chip cookies, German lebkuchen and Dutch pepernoten :

DSCF2754

But got these amazing cookies in return:

DSCF2760

And just look at this house – I think some people were just showing off!

DSCF2770 

DSCF2769

 

We loved these boxes too:

DSCF2767

and there were so many other lovely and delicious cookies from so many other generous people, we feel really blessed to be part of such a great group.

 

Between Christmas and new tear we met up with both the Gibson and Anderson sides of the family.

Boxing day saw the traditional Boxing day visit of the Gibson family.

We had the usual walks, games, food and fun.

1-P1140987

 

Telestrations – the new game Iain gave us for Christmas was so funny I could hardly play as all the hilarity was making me cough!

1-P1140991

1-P1140994

 

We had a gap in the family celebration while Martin went and played on the Saturday night with his Boy Band at The Hideaway in Shanklin

1-P1150002

 

Then Sunday saw a departure from our usual Christmas traditions with a meet up with the Anderson side of the family at a restaurant in the New Forest. The ferry was packed but we squeezed in around a table and while 3 of us played our usual ferry card game of Yaniv 2 of us were swottily attached to textbooks!

 

1-P1150016

1-P1150014

 

This was my first experience of eating at a Michelin starred restaurant and it was a really interesting and delicious experience for me. It was so yummy I forgot to take photos of the food until we got to the pudding – which was definitely the best bit!

1-P1150018

1-P1150020

1-P1150024

1-P1150030

 

We managed to meet up with some friends and found the teenagers thrashed us at Demons – did you know the Archbishop of Canterbury also plays.

2-P1150052

1-P1150047

 

And then we saw out the old year and in the new at my favourite place on the island with some of my favourite people, eating curry and chocolate, drinking some sloe vodka, playing games and generally being silly – a great way to end and begin a year!

1-P1150055

2-P1150058

This year things have not gone the way I like them to. I like to try and keep Advent quiet of extra things so we can focus on preparing for Christmas. This year I have been ill and had lots of extra training to do for a new job. Many of the things I like to do, including not being rushed, have not happened.

Some of the good things though have been:

Going to a folk festival with great friends, I loved The Young Uns and Edwina Hayes (we heard her on the Introducing Stage and she was great). We were also brave enough to sing at the sing around – first time we’ve done that at anything other than one of the local little folk nights here on the Island at The Hideaway, we opted for our attempt at Beth Rowleys’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine

1-P1140879 1-P1140870


 After the folk festival I had a week of training for a new, and only very p/t, job. This meant lots of trips to the mainland, dashing too and from the Red Jet, being in a not quite as warm as I would like swimming pool and this was not good for my cough, so I went downhill rapidly the week after and had to cancel loads of things I was planning to do – most notable the Learning Zone Christingle. However I was just well enough to manage to do the advent meditation i had planned for church and it was lovely I was really pleased I managed to get this done it was probably the highlight of the advent period for me.

However I was well enough to contribute to the cookie exchange and one of the joys of having older kids is that they can make their own cookies without help too and Jonathan took them to the meet up and distributed them and came back with a mountain of yummies from other home ed families.

1-P1140887 1-P1140902

1-P1140899 1-P1140904

1-P1140896

 

 

I was too ill to sing carols with any gusto which I felt very sad about but did manage to get out for a cocktail with some friends and we managed to:

decorate gingerbread houses

1-P1140911 1-P1140916

1-P1140933

 

Get the Christmas tree put up – the girls did it the Monday before Christmas when Rebekah came home from uni.

 1-P1140920

Get my driftwood tree up and the potato advent wreath made

1-P1140929

make a very plainly decorated Christmas cake

1-P1140944 1-P1140950

Jonathan managed a large star for the window

1-P1140939

and we played some games

1-P1140951

I’ve had a great day.

I went on a walk with Martin to work and instead of just rushing back I went down to the sea and just stood and watched for a while, peaceful and beautiful.

Then we got the pre-Christmas cleaning up done – all the children joined in and so did Caleb who, unfortunately for him, was around to help out!

We had a bit of time to spend making a few decorations and some gingerbread trees and snowmen followed by a quick spot of lunch.

Then we had friends over to decorate gingerbread houses. Jonathan made a gingerbread camp site complete with a fire and an abominable snowman. Val was quite sure we had made a brilliant gingerbread city. There were a lot more sweets at the start than managed to end up on the houses!

P1110502 P1110504 P1110510

P1110517 P1110521 P1110526

I also got some mulled apple juice going , non-alcoholic but with a little kick from some Rochester dark ginger drink  and while the icing was setting (we used Mary Berry’s royal icing method and it was brilliant) we made some decorative stars.

P1110528 P1110496 P1110486

This scene could have taken place over 10 years ago now and I love the fact that in some respects nothing has progressed and nothing has changed!

P1110476

 

P1110476

 

P1110483

P1110486

We have a nicer house now than 10 years ago, Caleb is taller, Rebekah is less bossy, but Caleb is probably her oldest IoW friend and it’s lovely that they are still sitting on the floor making paper-chains.

It seems like ages ago but at the end of May we went away to Cornwall for a couple of weeks. We had a little diversion to the Wirral first as our great friends Brian and Cathy were having a surprise party thrown for them and everyone agreed we had to go!

As we were headed northwards and we found a great discount for home educators we decided to visit Warwick Castle.

  

  

  

It was great to catch up with all our Clarke friends on the Wirral and we made stacks of cupcakes to contribute to the yummy food. And just check out Juliette’s amazing bunting in the background and Martin and Brian playing with the extremely exclusive and costly gift that we gave the happy couple!

  

  

 Then before Cathy and I even have our usual 4 hour coffee shop marathon it’s time for us to head off on the lengthy trog to Helford Passage.