Friday, 22 May 2015

Education, education, education

Having a daughter, who sat assessments at age 7, had to go through rigorous 11+ exams to get into the next school and will soon be facing GCSE, AS and the choice between A-level and International Bacc, while at the same time already applying for Uni ...

Having an eleven year old son who has been sitting pretests and was interviewed for schools that maybe take him on in 2 1/2 years (explain that to him!) ...

Being confronted with an exam culture that leaves parents and teachers exasperated and in straight jackets, I have gotten more and more frustrated.  And mind you, I am getting frustrated with the top tier of schooling in this country, or to be fair and more accurate: with the mind set of politics  that seems to hinder evolution and blocks brilliant teachers.

“…research shows that creativity can suffer when people are promised rewards for creative work, when learning conditions stress competition and social comparisons, or when individuals are highly aware of being monitored and evaluated by others. Conversely, creativity generally thrives in environments that support personal interest, involvement, enjoyment, and engagement with challenging tasks” —Beghetto & Kaufman, 2013

Recently I came across the immersive education start up AltSchool. They are trying to make education customisable, immersive and non-restrictive as well as scalable. Non of their ideas are, on their own, cutting edge  (I am no expert but there is a bit of Steiner, Montessori and Dewey etc to be found). However, putting them all together and employing digital tools to transform education could be a step in the right direction. 
There is so much out there that could push the educational boundaries - starting with Apps, tablets, digital books, e learning, computer programs etc. It’s become increasingly clear that integrating technology into traditional education is vital to make students fit for the 21st century and all it has to offer, and all there is to get on with!
However much schools here in the UK use these devises though, it seems to me that they only transfer old fashioned teaching onto a new devise (as demanded by the rigorous exam culture).

This centralised exam culture in the UK and the focus on introducing more and more tests is stopping schools to move into the 21st century as well as ignoring a holistic approach to learning which, instead of bringing us forward, denies children to understand the world and its subject in an altogether more 'organic' way.
In our world the Renaissance man of the past is not possible anymore, but we should not deny our kids (and teachers!!) an interdisciplinary approach, aided by technology. Otherwise they will loose the connection and understanding of so much that is going on out there and we will end up with disciplines that do not know how to interact with each other.

Here is a link to the Altschool website and a link to a graduate school, the Makeschool that also tries something a little bit different. Exciting!!!!!

found here

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Easter Ideas

Love the colours

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Boat Race

Here in London the unofficial start of spring coincides with the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race. This year the race will take place on Saturday April 11. The men will start at 17.50 but - for the first time ever, the women will join!!!  Hurrah and high time !!! They start at 16.50!!

The whole race takes around 16 to 18 min (Cambridge holds the record of 16 min 19 sec). It starts at Putney Bridge (see Blog photo above). Blink at your own peril. Depending on where you stand, you will see them for about 2 min or less and then you have to find a guy with a radio or follow it on your phone. The atmosphere however along the river is very jolly, pubs are full, obviously, and the bridges are bursting, too.

If you like t see a bit more action, come to the Head of the River Race. The women's race will be on the 14th March with an early start at 9.30., the men's race is on 29th March with around 400 crews who row the championship course in reverse, from Mortlake to Putney. If you miss a boat, chances are very high that you will be able to follow a few others ....

The Schools' Head is this year on Monday 16 March, from 13.00. According to the website there are 347 boats!

Blue prints: 100 years of vintage Tube Boat Race posters
found on Pinterest

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The Fourth Plinth

The Fourth Plinth on Trafalgar Square was originally intended to hold an equestrian statue of William IV, but remained bare due to insufficient funds.
After over 150 years of debate and a commission of three artworks by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce (love that name!) to be displayed temporarily on the plinth in 1998 it was finally decided to keep a rolling program of contemporary artworks.

After last year's very blue ( and arguably french) rooster by Katharina Fritsch, Hans Haacke's Gift Horse will be installed this Thursday.

Gift Horse by Hans Haacke, maquette
found here

An electronic ribbon is tied to the front leg, displaying the ticker of the London Stock Exchange. I am intrigued!

Friday, 30 January 2015

A Language Family Tree

language map

found here

Check out this great language tree in the Guardian! There are more detailed pictures if you follow the link. I just checked a link between Finnish and Turkish an American/Finish friend, living in Istanbul, had told me about. Love playing language detective...

Monday, 19 January 2015

Make Life Worth Living

The harsh reality of poor housing in sixties Britain. An exhibition at the Science Museum

by Nick Hedges (National Media Museum, Bradford)

Looking at these pictures, my only thoughts are: And this was in the late sixties?

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The City of London


found here

London can frustrate and anger you. It can turn you into a walking zombie with no regards for your fellow citizens but it can also bring out the most creative person in you, it challenges you and makes you feel alive. You can find the unexpected and the beautiful around a very unassuming corner.

And here are ten more reasons not to leave London!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Christmas Cookies

This year we will be staying in London over Christmas - it has been a while since we last did this. Normally we head to Germany to see friends and family - and taste all the lovely Christmas cookies friends, aunts and grandfathers are baking. The mother of a friend of mine used to make at least 10 different ones (and she was a working mum, unstoppable in every respect!) I will be missing the variety since only my daughter really likes mince pies.

My mother had two recipes, one to make with us kids, involving cookie cutters and lots of hundreds and thousands, the other a lovely tasting but rather weird looking (somewhat like the sole of a shoe) biscuit, made after an old family recipe.

Amazingly we have already managed to make my son's favourite cookies and once my daugthter's social diary offers a slot there will be more baking!!

Here are some lovely pictures from Fraeulein Klein's  blog with some of our favourites, some of them with a new twist.  Let me know if you like a translation ;-)

Monday, 17 November 2014

11 Idioms only Brits can understand

11 idioms that will make you sound nearly native! Check them out here.

if a fox can wear a bowler hat and carry an attacher case to work...then so can we! (eastwitching on etsy)
found here

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Very British Problems

Here is a link to a very useful Twitter account, which highlights the British obsession with unlimited cups of tea, profuse apologies and the right biscuit for the all important and problem solving tea break. Enjoy!!     Very British Problems (@SoVeryBritish)

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Bilingual Brains

On the subject of bilingualism - here is an interesting article, found in the Economist: "Moving between languages, not just the knowledge of two of them, may be a key part of the bilingual advantage."
The author compares this to cross fit, an approach to fitness where routine is the enemy! So, on top of all the other advantages of speaking more than one language - it can keep you fitter, for longer! I like that thought!

When you think about it, only a few countries have only one language, so being at least bilingual is the norm for most.

Check out some more advantages here.

found here
New York Times article on bilingualism from 2012

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


The exhibition: "Languages that changed my life" is being held at the Guardian offices in London until the 31. October 2014 (90 York Way, King's Cross) and here is a little snapshot about languages by Paddy Ashdown.
The Guardian, it seems, is planning a series about Language Learning in the coming months and I am looking forward to it. 

Growing up on the continent with the next border  (and language) just around the corner, it always feels so much better to be able to understand and speak at least a bit of French, Danish, Italian etc. A world capital like London should make you equally aware of other languages and cultures. However here  English seems to stop a lot of people venturing into unknown territory because it is after all a global language. 

Somehow that seems to be reflected in how foreign languages are being taught in British schools. Its rigid examination procedure stops an imaginative teacher dead in his or her tracks because certain subjects have to be covered in a certain way at a certain time. On top of that one can hardly blame the kids of loosing interest when they find out that exactly the same subjects are being covered in all the other modern languages (your pets, your home, five a day, keep fit and healthy and look after your body, environmental issues, juvenile delinquency!) etc.  - here I started to believe in brainwashing since the last few subjects are also discussed in classes like social science etc. ...)  The school books hardly touch on the culture of the country nor do they leave enough time to check out samples of foreign literature apart from the required texts. If you are hunting for good grades, you cannot divert. It is a very detached way of teaching, immersive it is not.

Glad I got this off my chest. Therefor, on a more humorous note, have a look at James Chapman's approach to languages - the Soundimals.

found here

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


We loved doing this game on a piece of paper. Someone would draw the head, fold the paper over and pass it on. The next one draws the belly and so on. Wild and wonderful creatures would finally jump of the page!
I also remember wonderful books where you could flip different parts back and forth to make the most scary creatures. And now, of course, there is an app for it: Miximal (for Iphone and Ipad). And it looks fab! You can mix and match over 1000 animals and it comes with 5 languages incl. German!! Will pass it on to my nieces pronto. I am sure it will shorten any drive (half term is coming up).

found via SwissMiss

Monday, 6 October 2014

Anselm Kiefer

We went to see the Anselm Kiefer Exhibition at the Royal Academy with the kids last weekend. His work is monumental. Kiefer is an artist who inspires on so many different levels. I love the size, the colours, materials and the thoughts and connections Kiefer makes in his works. There are difficult questions being asked regarding our recent German history and our dealings with it. We are let way back through layers upon layers of the history of the world, Paul Celan, Ingeborg Bachmann, Wagner and the Grimms at our side.

This is one of my favourites of this exhibition, made especially for the Royal Academy (till 14.12.2014)

Ages of the World
Ages of the World by Anselm Kiefer
found here

The Catalogue is worth checking out as is this review in the Guardian

Friday, 26 September 2014

Bricks on Brick Lane

Get in touch with your inner child and take your kids along, too. This is beyond any Star Wars creation collecting dust on the shelf .... The Art of Brick by Nathan Sawaya at the Truman Brewery.

found here

Ed Miliband's 2014 Labour Conference Speech

Here is a link to Ed Miliband's speech at the conference.

I don't want to get all political on you but I just can't understand why these conference speeches have to work with the lowest denominator possible. It just does not flex the brain one bit, it does not inspire nor does it fill me with confidence that he / his party will tackle the problems ahead. I am not taking sides, I think this is a problem all these speeches have, no matter which party! I at least want to get the feeling that he has something to bring to the table I might not have been able to describe, envisage or thought of in that way .... Not everybody has to grasp absolutely everything immediately. And please leave out the "personal encounters" with the general public. It is so condescending and really gets to me every time!!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Great River Race

Don't forget the Great River Race this Saturday! It should be a sight - much more colourful than the Oxford - Cambridge race ;-), and it last longer !
My son's school will take part and it is just astonishing, that these boys (helped by some teachers) make it all the way to Ham House!! And all in the name of their chosen charity Macmillan Cancer Support!!

found here

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

grey or green - oh, the choices

This should help my vocabulary beyond 'grey or green' - just what I need to get inspired, at my desk and out there !!! I know there are many more names out there (some quite outlandish - just picture a builder ordering 2l of cat's paw ...). but these names mostly have a good link to the actual colour. However, it also shows how very personal colour description can be.

found here (and there is more)

"Ingrid Sundberg, a writer and children's book illustrator, created a useful info graphic chart for anyone struggling with colour names. The writer says that she loves to collect words that can help give her stories variety and depth."

Monday, 22 September 2014

Exhibitions, Exhibitions, Exhibitions,

I am terrible when it comes to planning ahead. I am more a spur of the moment kind of girl, which does not always work in London, especially with blockbuster shows like

Anselm Kiefer at the Royal Academy

Rubens and his Legacy

Rembrandt - the late works

Then there is the Frieze Art Fair in October

and so much to see in the East End of London, when it comes to Modern Art

This is when you have to get in touch with Eastlondon Art Tours! Hymie really is in the know when it comes to known and not yet so much known modern artists.

Rubens' daughter Clara
one of my favourite paintings!

Friday, 19 September 2014

Scotland said NO !!

This huge waterfall isn’t tumbling from a Central American plateau: it’s the 60-metre-high Mealt Falls on the Isle of Skye. The imposing cliffs in the background are Kilt Rock, a rocky outcrop with vertical basalt columns said to resemble a pleated kilt.

found here

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Summer Reads Part 1

David Sedaris is an American comedian, author and radio contributor. His work is seriously funny and so well observed and when he reads his short stories himself, they are even better! Most of his material is autobiographical, about family life and his séjours in London, the South Downs and France. "Let's explore diabetes with owls" is his latest, but do check out "Me talk pretty one day", and don't spill your ice cream laughing.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Sales are on

The sales are on in London, summer clothes galore, but when you shop in your winter coat it seems to be only half the fun.

This is what caught our eyes instead at Joseph's in Fulham:

Glass staircase by Eva Jiricna

Friday, 21 June 2013

Summer Solstice

Dear Friends,

found here

I cannot believe that the longest day of the year has arrived and we are still waiting for the summer.

But, let's make the best of it and try to ignore the gloomy weather. Here are some dates, that should be able to distract you, and even better: they are all free!

Moon Gazing : Should the fog lift, we can enjoy a super moon on Saturday night

Whale watching in Greenwich

West End: free and live performances of West End musicals on Trafalgar Square

Fête de la Musique : at the Institut Francais this Saturday, and it is free, too!

And keep up your strength by visiting the intriguingly called Boutique Food Market at the Taste of London all weekend in Regent's Park.

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Easter Shopping

at Chockywoccydoodah on Carnaby! If you can cope with it (toffee covered marshmallows anyone!!)  … …. I think even the Easter Bunny would probably fall into delirium. It does look amazing.


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Hide and Show

Brighten up a dull day with the kids. Very much like the idea of an ever changing wardrobe (and so much cheaper ;-))

HIDE || SHOW, a cabinet for kids with drawing board hidden in the doors

found here via

Friday, 15 March 2013


whatever the forecast 

Netball Part I

We are learning about the beautiful game of netball since my daughter took it up 2 years ago. Not played on the continent it was a new ballgame to me, but it is fun to watch and the girls like the tactical and strategical side of it.
Why however netball is considered a winter (outside!) sport, is admittedly beyond me, but maybe I am missing the stiff upper English lip.

Be that as it may, even the Brits have to give in to wintry conditions sometime: the National Tournament on Saturday with 62 teams was cancelled today, due to a forecast of severe winds and rain - the tournament is normally held right next to the sea near Brighton! The girls will be disappointed, though!!

The view from the courts
this is how it would look like on a good day - spectacular!
found here

Sunday, 10 March 2013


Just in time for Easter: Marbling with Nailpolish - a new take on these crazy nailpolish colours out there. (And great for using all these colours that looked great in the shops but just don't go with anything you have in your wardrobe ;-))
The technique is explained over at Design Mom (thank you so much). There you can find some lovely examples - we are still practising …. but loving it already.

 by greyorgreen

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, 8 March 2013

International Women's Day

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Painshill Park

Painshill Park is a lovely park 30 min down the A3 from West London. Restored to its former glory as a18th century landscape garden, created by Charles Hamilton between 1738 and 1773 it is a 'tranquil landscape, and although you will hear the cars from time to time this 'living work of art' will definitely be able to distract you from your modern city life.
Apart from plants and wildlife there are quite a few 18th century follies to discover like a ruined abbey, a Gothic temple and tower or a grotto. The people of Painshill Park even restored the vineyard!

the Tower at Painshill Park

 the Lake at Painshill Park
taken in February in the evening

The kids will love it - our two went there over half term for two days of woodland den building and  tracking down bugs and beasts with the two lovely people, Adam and Lindsay, who run it (I cannot recommend them highly enough!). I dropped mine at 9.00 and picked up two absolutely excited and very dirty ones at 16.30. Painshill Park offer a wild Easter Camp again this year. Check it out here.