Tuesday, 31 August 2021

August round up

Books read: Two and a half, go me! I started with The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes, a novel about a woman teaching Greek tragedy in a PRU, which I devoured in two days flat. I chased it with another Natalie Haynes, A Thousand Ships, which is a retelling of the story of Troy from the perspective of the women. I remembered just enough of the story (and had been reminded of more in my previous read) to make this refreshing and enjoyable. Cassandra's sections in particular were pretty brutal but I thought her ending was written beautifully. 

These stories are so heavily connected to my youth that they stir some quite interesting memories. I gather there is quite the fashion for this sort of retelling at the moment and I've got my eye on The Children of Jocasta by the same author and Circe by Madeleine Miller, but I have held off for now - I will borrow them from the library and space them out a bit, so I don't get Greek mythology fatigue. 

Once I'd finished with that I thought I'd better do some reading for the new A-level so, naturally, most reading progress ground to a halt. I re-started 'An English Affair: Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo' as recommended by Father Hand and it has been quite enlightening about Britain in the first half of the twentieth century, particularly the rise of the tabloid press and the aspects of today's society they managed to create; but it's not exactly bedtime reading. I think it's probably going even slower because it's on Kindle. So I've picked another novel off the shelf to start today. 

Metres knitted: I finished the Gemini tee - let's call that 160m. I knitted a skein of hexagons - another 187m. That's 31 hexagons for this year alone, go me! Not a great monthly total but I have spent a lot of it away on holiday. That brings my total for the year so far to 5300ish - some way off my goal but still a fair amount knitted up. I have just started a new linen top which is a mistake, I should be going into the autumn with a nice woolly 4-ply on the needles, but I will persevere. 

Sleep: very good, of course. My friend Zoe is an early to bed, late to rise person so I ended up naturally sleeping a lot more whilst we were on holiday, even though I went to bed after her and got up earlier. One week this summer, my weekly sleep average was actually over 8 hours. Impressive. 

That said, I struggled to sleep last night. I am hoping that was the bad night's sleep before the new term, as I went into school today. 

Pounds lost: amazingly, three. I have eaten well, all summer long, saying no to neither starters nor desserts, quaffing wine at every opportunity, fuelled on long drives by wine gums. But I have also done a lot of walking and been generally a lot more active. Just as well, as I have stupidly entered a Tough Mudder in October. 

Blogging: I'm in the mood for writing so there might be more of this in September. 

Monday, 30 August 2021

Wardrobe clearout: playsuits

I'm participating in a challenge at the moment, where I wear the same dress for 100 days. If I do this and take a picture each day, I get $100 towards a new dress. This is a challenge with many benefits, though the cynical part of me says this is mainly really good advertising for the company that makes the dresses, especially judging by the number of people in the Facebook group that own half a dozen. Benefits for the participant, however, include learning to wear dresses (I don't own a wearable pair of trousers that aren't exercise related); washing clothes less (I don't wash clothes until they smell bad); learning to live with fewer clothes. That's the one for me.

My wardrobe is heaving. I have a lot of clothes I wear, a lot of clothes that almost fit and a lot of clothes I would never wear again but want to keep. The problem is that the volume obscures what is in there: it is difficult to riffle through the rail, for example, because it's quite tightly packed. I've observed that this is a trait I've inherited from Mother Hand, who gets round this problem by buying new wardrobes so that she can retain items of clothing Sib and I wore as children...I cannot become this. 

I've spent some of the summer musing over my clothes-hording instinct. I've figured out a few things -

  • Plus sized shopping has been, in the past, very tough. I had a habit of buying things because they fitted rather than because I liked them. This is not a problem any longer, as the next generation swarm the castles of fashion and demand inclusivity, so now is the time to start being discerning about what I buy and really think about what my style is, rather than my style just being 'what fits'. 
  • I keep hold of items of clothing because they have good memories attached to them. I don't need the item of clothing to keep that memory: a photograph of the memory, or of the garment itself in a pinch, is all that is needed.
  • I buy clothes via mail order and then don't send them back, even if they don't fit quite right or aren't what I want. Then I don't want to get rid of them because it is wasteful to pay for clothes I've never worn. I still believe that to be true, no matter which way you slice it, but it is less wasteful to pass the clothes on to someone who will wear them, rather than keep them squirrelled away until they're well out of fashion and nobody will wear them at all. And the best way to avoid this is to not order them in the first place - or, at the very least, to send them back. 
  • Using the cost-per-wear argument or 'the most sustainable garment is the one you already own' argument to justify keeping hold of clothes I don't wear is not the one. While clothes I don't wear take up storage space, clothes I do wear are in neatly folded piles on the floor, getting dusty. 
  • If I like something and it is a flattering item, I will quite often buy it again in another colour, or sometimes even the same colour, so I have a spare. But. I buy good quality clothes (and justify the spend on the basis that they will last) and so they last and last, because I'm wearing each item half as often. I can't expect the clothes I own now to be the ones I will wear for the rest of my life. Wardrobe turnover is normal. Buying two of everything is not necessary. I do not allow Mr Z to order spare food items for the kitchen on the basis that we don't have the space to store them: I should also be applying this logic to my clothes.
  • My clothes are not my car: I do not need to use them until the fall to pieces to make them worth the spend. 

So, as I work through the challenge, my plan is to work through my wardrobe and make some donations. I would like to donate 100 items to charity by the end of the challenge. Ideally these should be wearable items, not things going for ragging. 

To begin with, I went through the box of clothes I weeded out of my wardrobe two years ago, that were in the spare room. These are clothes I don't want to part with but that I don't wear. Having worked through the box, I turned out a pair of shorts and a dress that I put in there for reasons I cannot work out, and reintroduced them to my wardrobe...a fail. But I got rid of half the garments in the box. I then worked through my holidays clothes - tricky, because I haven't been on a foreign holiday for two years so I don't really know what I need, but I went on colour and shape for now - and added to the pile. 

Today, I have tackled playsuits. A big fan of the old TV programme Life Laundry, I pegged them all out on the line to have a look. 

I started wearing playsuits in 2018 when I turned 40. I was overjoyed to find something so comfortable and easy to wear. In 2019 I shopped for them heavily. Since then, I have added to the collection annually, without throwing any out. I am, in truth, searching for a replacement for my very favourite playsuit: a blue floral, button up number from Gap that is rapidly fading. 

The favourite one, pictured here with the assistant head's dog that I unsuccessfully tried to kidnap. 

Hence, I have ended up with this situation - 13 playsuits. Enough to wear one a day for nearly a fortnight. In truth, I wear three of these on rotation. Time to be brutal. 

I started by removing all the playsuits without pockets. 

I'm already sad. One of those, I'd never worn (but it was too big on the chest, a hazard of ordering such a garment as a pear shaped woman). 

One, I wore to my 40th birthday party and my 12th wedding anniversary dinner and to a fancy beach club in the south of France. We had adventures. But no pockets and it was very short and the fabric was quite thick, so it's going. 

Fancy Montpellier beach club (waitress's thumb just seen). I don't think I have worn it since this holiday, to be honest. 

One had a print I just loved, so I swapped it out for another which I had washed with a garment I'd dyed red, inadvertantly turning the white in the print into a sort of grey pink. I reflected and was sad again: I wore this one to work on an inset day and the head said I looked lovely. But she said I looked lovely in the version I hadn't accidentally dyed. Granted, the cherry print is too blousy on the bust, but I can fix that. I swapped it out. 

My final swap was for the other red print. I received this at school, tried it on and wore it immediately to go to teach a taster lesson. It is just about smart enough and long enough to wear to school...but it has a back zip, making it hard to wear, and the v neck has a little rip. I couldn't decide what to put in its place: a plain black jersey with a split back that is good for wearing out, or the patchwork that prompted me to start the playsuit experiment in the first place after I saw it on a plus sized instagrammer. 

I tried them both on and decided to keep the black one. I am sad about the patchwork: the print in it reminds me of a playsuit I had when I was a teenager (and wore the very first time I went clubbing, with DMs, shedloads of black eyeliner on my eyes and in my brows, and a long medallion necklace...ahh, the 90s) and it is light and airy, easy to wear on holiday. But, it spontaneously unbuttons and is a little short in the body. So it is in the charity pile. 

Said garment on our wedding anniversary trip to southern Italy in 2018. I do always allow myself one buy-back from the charity shop bag and it is possible this will be it. 

The remaining seven playsuits fit in their box. Two of them are almost worn to death: a faded navy and a bird print that has holes in the shoulder, somehow; I will aim to retire them next summer. The cherry print will need some adjustments and, if I haven't made them by next summer, I will charity shop that one as well. 

Added to the other pile, that is 27 garments off to the charity shop. A strong start. 

Thursday, 5 August 2021

July round up

A little late this month because I've been away in Cornwall. It was lovely but, my goodness, there were a LOT of people there. A lot. I did not find it restful or even particularly enjoyable, but luckily Cornwall is gorgeous. 

Books read: I managed to finish The Return by Victoria Hislop although, strictly speaking, I finished it on August 1st. I'm going to count it anyway though because it's my goals and I can. I really wanted to love the book but I just didn't really. It was a bit too long and started to read more like her retelling of somebody's memories of the Spanish Civil War, and so I was quite surprised to get to the end and find it wasn't. I certainly know a great deal more about the Spanish Civil War, to be fair, but that wasn't really the goal.

Still - that's one more off the bookshelf. I have now fallen into a new vein of fiction, the feminist retelling of ancient Greek stories, which seem to be all the rage at the moment, so hope to have more to report for August even if this doesn't help me clear books off the shelf at home. 

Metres knitted: I've been working on a linen Gemini tee this month and it is going really quickly, in part due to my binge-watching of ER from season 1. I am amazed that I seem likely to get the whole thing out of one cone of C4 linen, and one cone that has already provided a little yarn for another project. My stash notes tell me there was 660m-ish left on the cone but the project calls for more; it's definitely not the DK it's masquerading as. All this means that it's kind of impossible for me to know how much I've knitted in metres without doing something complicated with weighing scales and a WPI measure. I don't want to know that much (my goals, my rules) so I am going to go for a middling 500m. I am disappointed I didn't finish the top in time for the start of my holidays away from home but it should be finished before the next one, in a week. Then I need to give it a good wash to see how much the linen swells, and work out how to wear a pretty sheer linen top. 

Sleep: I've gorged myself on the stuff, mate. There have been some notable fails - the last night of term saw me in bed at 3.30am and up before 8am for a first aid course, a situation I may need to accept I am not young enough to enjoy anymore - but generally I have been in bed reasonably early and slept moderately late, for me anyway. Hurrah for the holidays. 

Pounds lost: this was never going to be a good month for that. It is six on. I'm grateful it's not more. 

Blogging: I have projects to post about but I'm too busy having fun for that. Holidays to the Gower and Cornwall. A wedding anniversary celebration. It's been a great month. 

Thursday, 1 July 2021

June round up

Books read: I finished Children of Blood and Bone which was really engaging, so much so that I immediately bought the sequel for my Kindle...and then lost interest. So I powered through The Broker by John Grisham (I don't remember the casual sexism from the books I read in my youth, I used to love John Grisham, but perhaps I am just older and angrier now) and I am about halfway through The Return by Victoria Hislop, set in the Spanish Civil War. Mother Hand is thrilled that I am finally reading all the books she has given me over the past decade.

Metres knitted: Some, but not 1000. I finished Madison, which used 280g of 4-ply in the end....so much Cat and Sparrow left, I could make a whole new project with it. So let's call that 300m. I dutifully picked up a new L&L colour and did five more hexagons, so that was another 190m. And I binged on yet another garter stitch baby jumper in some Smoothie, another 320m (I have a lot of FO posts to be writing). 810m. Not bad. It's been a busy month.

Sleep: see above. That busyness I feel sure has contributed to my inability to sleep this month, along with the heat. I have been lying awake for longer than usual and then having some really vivid and quite sinister dreams just before waking up. Yesterday my brain did this wildly interesting thing where it created pictures to go with the news stories I was hearing on the radio alarm. I wasn't dreaming about news story-adjacent things - I was understanding the radio and my brain was creating a picture reel to go with it. So there was a story about wild boar mating with escaped pigs in Fukushima and my brain conjured a boar, then when the radio said the boars had pig-like features, it morphed it into a slightly chubbier shape and gave it brown piggy spots. 

No cheese before bed, no. I suspect perimenopause. 

Pounds lost: In another tale from the 'my body is weird' archive, I gained and lost 8lbs this month. So I am still x stone 1lb. I've got into an excellent habit of batch cooking lunches, just in time for school to end. Eating when not in a school routine is my next mountain to conquer.

Blogging: No. I don't want to count the hours I've given to the exam board this month because it will just frustrate me. It has swallowed all the joy out of computer time. 

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

May round up

Books read: even though my book of choice for May was teen fiction, I didn't finish it. I was just too busy. I was rarely in bed early enough to allow for reading time and when I got into bed I was mostly too tired to be able to read anything. Bad times. Still - I'm about three-quarters done so it should be an easy win for June. 

Metres knitted: about 600m. I have been working on Madison (Rav link), a 4-ply sweater with some Cat and Sparrow yarn I bought back in February. It was surprisingly quick when I had the time to work on it - over the weekend I finished the front, all of the back, the neckband and picked up for the sleeves. Predictably this is not going to require 1450m of yarn, as the pattern suggests - I think I would have got it out of three skeins but the fourth looked a bit different so I have started that one for the sleeves, rather than work through the half skein I have left from the body and then end up with mismatched sleeves. 

I have wicked startitis and keep looking at my queue, making plans, for the time I don't have. 

Pounds lost: I think 4. Yey me! I am x stone 1 lb now. That's a stone off since last summer. 

Sleep: not great although the slower start every few mornings has helped. It also means I can car pool with a colleague who drops her daughter off at 7.30am - another excellent reason to not get up so early. Next term I am going to start setting my alarm for 7am instead of 6.20. I might also try to get a hot yoga class in before school from time to time, which would involve a 5.30am start. Just mixing it up a bit. Sadly my preferred bikram studio was a victim of the pandemic so I have to start somewhere new, but it always helped with the sleeping so probably worth the initial discomfort. 

Blogging: no. There has been enough time at the computer this past month. I'm finding it harder and harder to ignore the people bleating on about how exam boards are doing nothing this year, because I have been really flipping busy for this 'nothing'. 

Sunday, 2 May 2021

April round up

Books read: I finished Empireland - the first non-fiction I have read in its entirety for a long time. It was fantastically well-researched (he seems to have written a lot of it during the pandemic so, no surprises there) and extremely readable. I'm chasing it with a teen fiction a student recommended to me that is going down very quickly. 

Metres knitted: The baby jumper was about 400m. I started a 4-ply jumper and managed to knit one skein of yarn into it by the end of the month - another 400m. Then a skein of Lion & Lamb into hexagons - 187m. I basically made it! All I needed was two weeks off work haha

Pounds lost: Yeah, none. Still maintaining my pre-covid weight though. Not too bad. 

Sleep: I am hitting 7 hours more often than not these days. I'm starting to adjust my work schedule a little. I've been aiming to get to school for around 7.15 for well over a decade now, since I had to do it during an inspection and realised that traffic is better and I'm way more productive. When I was getting the bus to school, it was a necessity because I was so anxious about being late. 

Then, when we returned to school after Easter, I had a really spacey Monday so on Tuesday I lay in a bit and went to my favourite bakery on the way to school for a breaktime pastry. I got in by 7.45 and found I was a lot more purposeful in my work before school. 

It makes sense to get in very early when my lessons aren't planned. I can usually get together all my lessons for the day in that hour. But more and more, at this end of the school year, there's just not that much to plan. The bulk of my teaching is GCSE and A-level and I've been teaching those lessons now for five years. So, instead of using the morning time for useful things like marking, I faff around with emails (this week I got my inbox down to 16 emails, satisfying but utterly meaningless) and tidying my desk, ultimately pointless tasks of that ilk. And I could be asleep, instead. 

So, over the next few weeks I am going to make a concerted effort to go in half an hour later at least a couple of times in a week, see how it affects my workrate and sleep patterns. 

Blogging: An improvement. 

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Weekend FO

 Presto Chango!

This is my attempt at the Spurs logo, which I charted myself. It is hard to be precise in aran weight over 16 stitches but I don't think I did a terrible job. 

Pattern: Presto Chango, a freebie pattern
Yarn: Rico Essentials Aran, a soft, superwash 100% merino
Needle: a satisfyingly chunky 5mm
Mods: I finished the sleeves with a 3NBO by picking up the cast on stitches to bind off with the live stitches, once the sleeve was finished. I think I did the seam on the wrong row on the second sleeve because the seam looked different, but still very neat, so, meh.

I took the opportunity to try out the bunny cable pattern I've wanted to try for a while now and I am thrilled with how it turned out. I probably prefer it without the colour change as the stitches have a slightly strained look around the edges, but the bunny tail was a particular win. 

The baby's name is Indiana.

This was the original lace panel that came with the pattern. I knitted this one first, to give me a feel for buttonhole placement and number of rows. 

Lovely and quick! 400m out, too.