Thursday, 17 September 2020

Scenes from the Classroom #40

 Y11: Oooofff urggghhh it's soooo hot in here

Me: You think this is hot! My dad lives in Las Vegas and it hasn't rained there for 154 days!

Y11: Wooaahhh, that's ages!

(A minute or so passes)

T: Miss, does that mean your dad hasn't showered in like....150 days or something?

It's like a gift that keeps on giving. 

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Scenes from the Classroom #39

I'm not well-known to most of the younger students in the school. Sadly my timetable is really top heavy these days, so they don't tend to have me as a teacher until they get to GCSE, meaning their only interaction with me is as a grumpy cover teacher or when I'm on duty. Plus I'm, yknow, me, so it isn't unusual to find that students are a bit nervous around me when I start teaching them. 

By lunchtime on Friday, when I met my year 10 class for the first time, we were also all exhausted: new term tiredness compounded by months of lockdown. So I wasn't surprised when they were really quiet. But I was surprised when they stayed really quiet, for an extended period of time. I can't wander the room anymore to check on them, so I had to ask, instead. 

'Year 10, are you being this quiet because you're exhausted, or I'm terrifying?' I stage-whispered into the room.

'It's about half and half, Miss,' someone whispered back. 

I expect we all slept well on Friday night. 

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Scenes from the Classroom #38

 It's been a while since we had one of these. I'm sure it's because I have forgotten to share, rather than fewer funny things have happened. 

Today was my first lesson back with a full class, since March. It's day 6 of the new year but there has been a lot of faffing and fortunate timetabling which has meant a respite, although I get grumpy when I have to spend too much time in school without teaching - what's the point? 

My first lesson was with my y11 group. I had two y10 classes last year but gave up the nicer one to a colleague, on the basis that this year would be long and catching them up would be difficult. The class I kept would have coped a lot less well with the transition to a new teacher, I feared. But, in the past, they have been hard work. There are a lot of them and a small number are not very nice to each other. I have to say though, that it was a joy getting them back and I gave myself a telling off for being negative. 

At some point in the double lesson, I showed them kitten pictures.

Chorus: What are their names?
Me: This is Lenin...
Me: No, Lenin. 
T: Whose that?
Me: He was a Russian ruler. And this is Krupskaya...
T: KRU..KRI...KRIPSKAYA?! What...who...who names their cat Kripskaya?
Me: I do. Me. I name my cat that. 

Meanwhile my student of Georgian heritage was hysterical with laughter, being pretty much the only one who has heard these names before. 

SO nice to get back to it. I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about how nice it would be not to work anymore but this ignores the fact that, actually, it is quite nice to work, too. Though I wish I didn't have to work right now, but those Politics quizzes won't write themselves. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Things I learned in lockdown

We're back in school now, trying to work out how to manoeuvre around the new distancing rules. I remember realising early on in lockdown that Covid was not going to just GO AWAY one day but that, much like that niggling pain in my foot that began as something that hurt when I walked, it would just slowly fade away until, one day, you realise it's not there anymore. At the time I decided it was going to be intensely irritating and I was correct. So I'm irritated, but also pleased I was right about it. 

During lockdown I started a list of things I had learned but I only put two things on it. I didn't think I learned much. Reflecting has made me realise there are a few things to add.

1. You can use a cafetiere to froth milk for a latte (definitely my number one discovery). You heat it and then pump the filter up and down through the milk until it froths. Jenny from knitting group pointed out that this is unhelpful for anybody that doesn't have two cafetieres; apparently you can also put it in a jar and shake it until it foams. Anyway, I can make my lattes at home now which is exciting. 

2. Isle of Wight Tomatoes will ship you a box of their delicious tomatoes in 2-3 days. If you order more than £25 of produce, they will ship them for free. What a time to be alive. I really hope they don't withdraw this service. 

3. I don't wash my hands anywhere near enough and I touch things I don't need to touch. I cannot stop touching my face and I gave up trying very quickly.

4. I need more sleep than I get on the regular. I'd started waking up some time between 6 and 7, 7 days a week, all year round, excluding after very late nights, even if I went back to sleep; I'd therefore concluded that I was naturally meant to sleep for 6-7 hours a night. This is not the case. 

5. I could probably do very well living in the middle of nowhere, actually. Mr Z and I have the constant tension of me wanting to live further into a city and him wanting to live in the middle of nowhere, which is why we live in the worst of both worlds. Spending weeks on end with only a once-a-week visit to the supermarket was surprisingly calming, though. Online gatherings are sufficient. There's mail order for everything. So, maybe. 

6. Those beds-of-nails mat things really do work if you've got a sore back. The Shakti Mat was my first inappropriate lockdown purchase (I wish I could say it was my last - much like my first year as a senior examiner, the hours I spent glued to my computer meant that I bought a lot of things I really didn't need). I still can't quite manage to lie on it with bare skin for more than about 30 seconds, but it got rid of my too-much-sitting lower back pain pretty tidily.

7. If you've got stubby eyelashes and you really want them to grow, Revitalash really works. It's expensive. I bought it because there was a stonking goody bag on offer from Cult Beauty with a fairly high minimum spend. But it was worth it. And if it lasts 6 months, as it claims this tube will, that works out to be about 70p a day. Yes it's a lot, no matter how you pitch it. 

That's probably it, actually. I also learned how to use Zoom and MS Teams, and worked out the perfect position for napping on the couch, but these are all pretty trivial. 

I hope you learned some good things in lockdown, too. 

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Weekend WIP


I picked up this yarn at the Flock gathering back in November. It's Mr B's Hiddlestone 4-ply, a merino nylon blend. I haven't really gone for flecky yarn before but this had an irresistible combination - grey yarn, purple and peppermint green flecks - and I had recently queued a pattern that had been knitted with a flecky yarn, so it came home with me. 

The pattern is Candy Shop (Rav link) and it's a v-neck. 'Oh, you're knitting another grey v-neck?' I hear you cry. Yes. I have a type. This is my type. We all thought it was blue, or watermelon-themed things, but it turns out that this is my most commonly knitted garment. 

This is an interesting v-neck because the whole thing is knitted in the round from the very beginning, with the front dipped lower first through short rows (so far, so ordinary) and then through cleverly placed raglan increases. The need for double stitch markers has driven me a little bit bonkers and I quite often forgot to slip the stitch in between the markers every other round, but luckily this is easily rectified. I finally divided the sleeves today so I am looking forward to it maybe going a bit quicker now. 

At some point, the disparity in the length at the front/back is evened out with short rows, which should provide some interesting knitting. Four-ply jumpers are time consuming, but I have to admit that they are the ones that get the most wear in my wardrobe. 

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Weekend FO

I finished this on the first weekend in August, just in time to take on holiday to the Lake District. I was convinced the weather would be dire and I would definitely need a cosy, woollen bralette to warm me up after a day of tramping around in the drizzle; I packed 4 jumpers and 2 long sleeved tops. Naturally the weather was, therefore, glorious and I didn't have the opportunity to wear any of my woollens, but, on balance, I think I'd rather have had it and not needed it than had bad weather. 

Just the one picture because Mr Z was in some weird mood and didn't bother to focus on any of the back shots, so they're all blurry - the line is the same at the back, with slightly lower strap points. 

Pattern: The Everyday Bralette by Tiara Duncan (Rav link so don't click if you have a problem with their new interface)
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Honor in Royal Wedding, about a skein
Needle: 2.75mm
Mods: I knitted the straps as a 5st icord, to make them a bit more robust. I used Jeny's stretchy cast on. 

This yarn was leftover from 2011 when I knitted a shrug with 2 skeins of it, that doesn't really fit. A shame, or I could have had some kind of weird twinset, a la Katie Holmes. It's a lovely soft silk alpaca blend that feels really lovely against the skin.

I wondered for a while about putting up a picture of me in this with my midriff showing, wondering if it was wise, given my job. In the end I decided that it didn't matter. It's just a bit of skin, even if it is really pale and flabby. 

These trousers are Alexas from Lucy and Yak, by the way, and I can heartily recommend them - unbelievably comfy for lounging and I bet they will be great for wearing on long journeys, too. 

Weekend Cooking

 I haven't done masses of baking in lockdown. I did a bit to begin with, until I realised I was the only one going to be eating it and that this would just require a lot of exercise and dieting at the end of lockdown.

However, I have tried to do a bit more cooking, now and again. Early on in lockdown, I discovered IoW Tomatoes, who will ship boxes of delicious tomatoes (and assorted other vegetables, including asparagus when it was in season) direct to your door. We have had many boxes of tomatoes pass through the front door since. I forced myself to lay off it for a while but, when I went back this week, I found that there were many different varieties available, presumably having recently come into season, and I ended up placing my biggest order yet. 

In order to sneak these in past Mr Z, I earmarked this 3kg box to making marinara sauce.

Look how shiny! I hadn't made a marinara sauce before and most of those available are for tinned tomatoes, so I made a bit of an experiment and it turned out great. 

3kg tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
2 small red onions (or one large, I guess - I only had small), chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 tbsp salt
1.5 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Half tsp crushed fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs each of fresh rosemary, sage and thyme
A good scrunch of black pepper

If I'd had basil and oregano I would have added these too, but I didn't. 

Skin the tomatoes and deseed. The way I do this is with a big pot of hot water on the stove and a big bowl of cold water: immerse the tomatoes in the boiling water for 1-2 minutes, in batches, then plunge into the cold water - slip off the skins and give them a really good squeeze under the water to get all the seeds out. I was taught this method on an Italian cooking course run by a nonna in southern Italy and I can highly recommend.

Put the tomatoes in a pot with all the other ingredients - I tied the fresh herbs and bay leaves together into a bundle and put them in whole. Put over the heat and simmer gently for 2 hours or so. You'll probably have an idea about the desired thickness; I went until there was no liquid fill of a spoon draw, after stirring - if you make chutney you will hopefully know what that means. Take it off the heat, remove the herb bundle and blend with a stick blender until it's your desired thickness. This made about 5 and a half cups of sauce and I've frozen it in one-cup bags. 

It is really, really tasty. Dealing with the tomatoes was definitely the most time-consuming bit but I think there is a huge pay-off for using fresh over tinned.

I'm constantly trying to get better at using TikTok (I don't know why, don't ask me) so I filmed myself making this sauce, for practice. I am not very good at pausing before talking so I get cut off a bit at the start. I also don't know how to film more than a minute's worth of clips and then chop it down. But it is always fun to give it a go.