Finking with Basic Woozle

I’ve had my little box of Fink cards for a while.  The RDI objective is that I use them at mealtimes to prompt conversation.  For the uninitiated amongst you Fink cards are ‘thought provoking’ conversation cards, each card contains a question, for example ‘what is your favourite sound?’ http://finkcards.co.uk/  When we have used these in the past they have been of limited success, as Ellen tends to listen to what everyone else is saying rather than contribute herself.  Last night however she wasn’t Ellen she was Basic Woozle and as I found out, Basic Woozle rather liked the Fink cards.

Basic Woozle is one of nine woozle and heffalump characters who appear in the playstation game ‘Piglets Big Game‘.  Ellen loves acting out the sounds all these different characters make and asking me to guess who she is (if I’m really lucky I get to act them out as well :-)) and she particularly enjoys having her face painted as them. Now, as you can imagine, it’s not that easy trying to facepaint heffalumps and woozles but luckily, Ellen isn’t that fussy as long as I get the right face colour, nose/trunk and ears.  Today, for example, she was Sporty Woozle.

Sporty Woozle

Sporty Woozle

You get the idea.  Suffice to say, if I was ever on Mastermind, my specialist subject would be the characteristics and noises of the Heffalumps and Woozles from Piglets Big Game.  I would win hands down.

Last night anyway the face painting paid dividends, as Basic Woozle was in the mood for Finking.  Over supper we went through the entire pack of 54 cards with some fantastic conversation.  For example, in answer to the question “would you like to be famous?  If so, in what way” she answered “Pop Star”.  Slightly further off the wall was her answer to the question “What do you want to to be doing in ten years time?” – “have stripes like a zebra” she said.  “Fair enough” I answered.  I had to answer all these questions too, and I got a bit stuck when BW asked me “If you were invisible who or what would you like to observe?” – “Observe means look at” I told BW but then I ummed and ahhed trying to think of a good reply.  “You could look at the birds” BW said, obviously bored of waiting for me.  Basic Woozle was certainly on the ball last night.

Today wasn’t our normal Wednesday as I had to go into work and Ellen came with me.  Usually at work she spends the whole time printing off all the pictures from the Cbeebies website (and going through about half a ream of paper).  She still did this, but I told her she would have a job to do before we left for the day.  Her task was to help me clear up from the students’ lunch; stacking the dishwasher, putting things away in the fridge and wiping tables.  Luckily we had already agreed that she would be Sporty Woozle when she got home as I wasn’t quite sure whether Sporty Woozle was well-behaved enough to be around the students.  (Sometimes the heffalumps and woozles can be a bit unpredictable).  Ellen was perfect though, three sprays of cleaner on every table and I did the wiping – a nice RDI pattern.



Sporty Woozle needs to burn off some energy so we’re about to take the dog for a walk.  Tomorrow she’s apparently going to be Road Sweeper Heffalump – great stuff!  The kitchen floor needs a clean and I think Road Sweeper will be the perfect Heffalump for the job.  Now I’ve just got to think of RDI tasks for the other seven…..



Hailstorms, Buses and McDonald’s fun

Some strange weather was falling in Wilstone this morning.  It was raining when Ellen and I set off on the five minute walk from our house to the village shop but halfway into our journey hail suddenly began to lash down on us.  Ellen had my umbrella clamped on top of her head and I was left to the elements.  By the time we got to the shop we were both soggy and cold and the umbrella had a layer of ice on the top of it – not an auspicious start to the day!

Our plan for today was for Ellen to complete her shelf-stacking job at the village shop and then we would catch the bus to Aylesbury.   Ellen is getting more confident at the shelf-stacking now to the extent where she doesn’t just bring out the things which need re-stocking but also the items she likes the look of – whether they fit on the shelves or not!  She also spends quite a lot of time stroking the ice-cream freezer and looking at me hopefully. How she could even contemplate an ice cream in today’s Arctic conditions is beyond me.  I think after Christmas I will see if the good folks at the Wilstone Community Shop can devise some more duties for Ellen, so she continues to be challenged.  Work done, we made our way to the bus shelter and waited for the 164 to arrive.

I had written Ellen a shopping list with the name of the shop we needed to go to in brackets.  It said:

Address labels (WH Smiths)

Penne pasta (Marks & Spencer)

Cotton wool pads (Boots)

Christmas present for Daisy.

I have to admit these were all fairly random items and not easy for Ellen to find.  Neither were they very exciting. The first things we did was find the present for Daisy – as she may read this blog I’d better not say any more on this subject other than the choice was entirely Ellen’s and she was very definite about it – and surprisingly there isn’t an animal print in sight.

Ellen then decided that because her jumper was wet (water must have run down her coat sleeve as she was holding the umbrella) she needed a new jumper.  There’s nothing worse than wearing damp clothes when it’s freezing cold – my jeans attested to that, so I felt this wasn’t an unreasonable request and we looked in Top Shop, River Island and New Look in vain for a jumper which fitted all Ellen’s requirements.  In H&M we finally found what she was looking for, a plain grey soft knit with a glittery leopard’s head on the chest – it’s bling!  As soon as it was purchased, on it went.

Ellen on the bus in her new jumper

After she had dry clothes on, we then romped through the rest of the list.  As the items were not very straightforward, I took Ellen to the right aisle in the shop and then waited for her to locate them.  It went quite well and I think it’s something we could do more of over the coming months.

There was the usual student freezing outside in the square handing out leaflets to passers by.   I avoid taking these as a rule (never useful and end up in the bin) but as I shook my head to say ‘no thanks’ I noticed the McDonald’s logo on the top of the leaflet and had an abrupt change of mind. The young woman took full advantage of my dithering by handing over a huge wedge of vouchers.  Those of you who know us will know that McDonalds is Ellen’s favourite place to eat, but unfortunately I am a vegetarian and she only eats plain hamburgers so these vouchers are actually useless after all and I now have about twenty of the things!  Any suggestions?

Voucher anyone?


Had to laugh when we ended up, as we inevitably do, in McDonalds an old man came up to the serving counter with three of the vouchers and handed them over expectantly to the rather young lad behind the counter.  The lad took the voucher and looked at the man waiting for him to order.  He said nothing.  After a pause, the lad tried again.  ‘What do you want?’ he asked.  The man laughed and said ‘a McDonalds’.  This threw the lad completely.  ‘What do you want?’ he asked again.  The man said ‘a McDonalds’ more clearly as if the boy was an idiot.  The boy then looked around desperately for his manager, he had no idea how to handle this non-standard response.  I was enjoying his discomfort rather too much I have to say.  Eventually he pointed to the voucher.  ‘Do you want a Big Mac?’ he asked and the old man nodded, smiling like the boy had finally understood him.  ‘Yes’ he said ‘a burger, a McDonalds!’  How the man was going to eat three Big Macs was another question – but that’s what he got!



Christmas is coming…

I apologise in advance for the Christmassy theme of this week’s post which will probably make you want to run for the hills covering your ears and shouting ‘no no no!’ (Geddit?)  But please bear with me, as when planning ‘experience-sharing’ activities to do with Ellen it does help the old brain cells to have a theme and so a great theme like Christmas needs milking to the maximum!

Today’s project – making mince pies.  I was inspired by our local village shop which has had its Christmas display out for a few weeks and some home-made mincemeat (vegetarian of course) for sale.  My recipe is from an old spiral bound book called ‘Lacock’s Tea Time recipes’.  I have no idea where this came from as it is ancient hence all the ingredients are weighed in ounces and more difficultly the oven, I read, should be heated to Gas Mark 5 – eh?  What’s this in fan oven temperature?  Had no idea and because I didn’t want to break off from the activity to go and look up a conversion chart on the internet the cooking times were, I admit, somewhat random.

Ellen’s first job was weighing out the ingredients and tipping them into the bowl.  Our first ‘challenge’ came when the lid of the flour jar fell onto the floor and the dog licked it yeuk!  Sometimes doing RDI feels like auditioning for RADA.  I dramatically pick up the lid and pull a face.  ‘I can’t put this back on the flour now’ I say holding the lid at arm’s length ‘it’s dirty’.  Then I wait…and eventually eureka! ‘You need to clean it’ Ellen says, I do my little internal skip of happiness and put the lid in the sink for washing.

Perhaps I was too ambitious in giving Ellen the egg to break onto a plate…?  Especially as the yolk needed separating from the white, but on the plus side she was very confident cracking the egg, it was only me who was quaking slightly at the thought of the mess.  As you can see from the photo – we didn’t stint on mess.

Ready for cooking!

Ellen still doesn’t like getting her fingers dirty, so at the moment we are working around this.  I did the ‘rubbing in’ while Ellen did the tasks like stirring and measuring which are a bit more hands off.  Having said that, she did all the cutting out and was quite happy picking up the rounds of pastry and putting them in the bun tin.  Actually she would have rather made animal-shaped mince pies (having pilfered the box of cutters) but perhaps we’ll try that next time!

Unfortunately, however much we eeked out the pastry, we could only make 11 mince pies which did sort of upset Ellen’s sense of symmetry as it left one empty space in the bun tin.  I think perhaps some of the earlier mince pies were slightly too thick – inferior rolling on my part I’m afraid.  Ellen brushed on the egg white with vigour so there was no way the lids were popping off during cooking and in fact they turned out rather well, only one got stuck in the tin and that was used as a taste – tester :-).

The mince pies will now be frozen until nearer Christmas when they will be unleashed on some unsuspecting guests.  I would like to confirm however, should any of those unsuspecting visitors be reading this post, that we both washed our hands before cooking, and only licked our fingers once….

Flopped in front of the computer later, I wondered whether I might have some valuable cook book in my possession.   With piqued interest I searched for Lacock’s on Amazon – and sure enough it was there – published 1960 – available for £3.  Might as well hang on to it then.