Sunday, 13 January 2019

Weeknote: 12/1

Knitting:
I got the sleeves onto the needles and have managed one stripe so far. It's fiddly and annoying striping when you're doing sleeves two at a time on one long circular. I knew this already but I the fear of running out of yarn partway down the second sleeve necessitates this approach.

My aim is to get five stripes done before going to knitting group on Saturday. Hold me accountable.

Going to:
Sleep, mostly. My body clock is MESSED. UP. It's not behaving like normal west-to-east jetlag, which would be up late and sleep late. It's bed early, wake early - still. I went to be at 10.30 last night (I made myself stay up) and was awake at 6 this morning, though I made myself stay in bed until 7.30. On Tuesday I was in bed by 8pm; on Thursday, by 7. It has had a devastating impact on my work rate, which is almost lower than it was in the holidays. I am hoping next week will be better.

I have been to our sister school in the south of the city twice this week, once to deliver some training, a second time to do some joint observations, and I've hosted my opposite number to observe too. This is part of a plan that was put in place last term and I'm quite enjoying working in a different school a bit. It's very different. It's given me an epiphany or two.

Yesterday I went to London for the day for a big history meeting. There are big changes afoot. I got promoted to a role that won't require any additional work from me. That was exciting.

Entertained by:
I haven't had much time in my life for entertainment, what with all the sleeping I've been doing. No books have been read. Barely eny TV has been watched, though I did watch the first episode of Marie Kondo on Netflix. Hilarious. When she suggested the children might like to be included in the clothes folding as a fun activity, I thought the parents were going to crack up, but they did hold it together. I'd heard of Marie Kondo before and some of what she says makes good sense. I was encouraged to do some putting away and some tidying today.

Feeling:
Sleepy, obvs. Excited about skiing - only 5 weeks to go. Keen to get started on the next set of house plans - new hall flooring, stair carpet and built-in shelving under the stairs.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Weeknote: 5/1

Knitting:
I have continued to voraciously knit Westbourne, which I started the weekend before Christmas. I was desperate to get the body done and knitted on the flights home, only to realise I didn't have enough yarn or the right sized needle for the final rows. However, today (which is Sunday, I lost a day to travelling) I caught up with Christmas Poirot and finished the body. I am thrilled with it. It is a little longer than I was expecting but it's such an excellent fit. The stripes sort of blend in the middle and then come out again as the colours get brighter. I thought I would be annoyed about this but actually, I think I like it better. Secret squirrel stripes.


I've tried to weigh down the bottom so you can see the curved hem. Even though I changed the last 4 rows to garter stitch to try to ward off the curl, it is still curly. Hopefully blocking will help. The neckline is a lost cause though, I feel; but it's also very wide so I'm not too sorry about picking up for a neckline that isn't in the pattern.

Now, to rewind the colours a bit so I can knit my sleeves two at a time. I am afraid I am not going to have enough grey yarn for full-length sleeves. I have 3 skeins and I had to break into the 3rd for the final few rows. When it comes to it, if I'm unhappy with the sleeve length, I can always frog back some of the body. We'll see.

Going to:
I spent the week in Vegas, being spectacularly lazy. Mr Z and I went to see Lady Gaga's show, Enigma, and for a wander around Red Rock, but other than that our excursions were limited to IHOP and various shops. It was a very lazy holiday.

It's odd, being at Father Hand's. I always feel like we should be doing things but it is also like being at home, where I mostly don't do anything other than relax. I couldn't be bothered to go skiing in the end, because I decided it's just not fun to go on your own and Mr Z would not be convinced. So I spent much of the week feeling slightly guilty for not going out and making the most of Vegas, but, meh. I've been there a lot. I'll go back. I saw a very good show. I ate some pancakes. I slept a lot. It was a win.

On Thursday, I decided to put a price on how much I didn't want to drive back to LA and it turned out that flights to LA + the penalty for returning the rental car to Vegas airport instead of LAX was less than this price, so we didn't have to do that drive again. Hurrah. I was so relieved about it. The drive isn't awful but it is long and we would have had to have left very early because the car rental people wanted a whole day's fee for returning the car after 2pm, even though our flight wasn't until 8.35pm. It was much more civilised doing it this way. I really must not repeat this folly next time. It was a big saving on flights initially, but not worth it.

Entertained by:
As always, when visiting Father Hand's, many movies were watched and series tasted as he reacted with horror to my lack of broad movie viewing. We watched Three Billboards outside of Ebbing, Burn After Reading, Gold-diggers of 1933 and probably others that I have already forgotten. I got through the rest of series 2 of The Crown, all of the IT Crowd (still don't understand why I didn't watch this the first time round) and half of American Gods. Good to see Ricky Whittle has moved on from Hollyoaks. In return, I introduced Father Hand and Frankie to Whiplash and Killing Eve.

I didn't get much reading done. It was all about the knitting.

Feeling:
Slightly harassed by my workload. So much to do for tomorrow. Those mock papers are haunting me. Two classes and two papers - I knew it was going to be painful, but I wish I had been a bit more motivated to do them before the holidays. The data deadline is tomorrow so time really has run out.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Happy New Year to all!

I was going to wait until I had some fireworks pictures to post this but I am pretty sleepy now and think, although I'll make it to midnight, all bets are off afterwards. Technically it would not have been a 2018 post then anyway and this is my 127th of the year, hurrah hurrah, I did it! Only some minor cheating necessary and I prefer to think of it as careful planning. Technically, you see, it is 7.21am on January 1st back home, but since it is only 11.21pm here, I think I've got away with it.

So, instead of fireworks, you get my last spritz picture of 2018 - in the Park MGM Italian food court bar, which is heavily packed with Aperol. Sadly this was made with somewhat flat Prosecco and the Americans don't really get sparkling water as a concept, so this wasn't the best spritz of the year; but it was the last.


NYE nails, too. I got them done at my preferred Vegas nail place yesterday. They are disturbingly hard.

Here's to a 2019 full of spritzes, sparkly nails and joy.

The Last Bake of 2018

My step-sib Alex's birthday turned 28 yesterday and picked out a cake that he found disappointing. He said he wished he'd got a cheesecake or a Boston cream pie, since he'd never had the latter and always wanted to try one. So, today, we put one together for him.


I used my foolproof vanilla sponge cake recipe from here and chocolate glaze recipe from here (without syrup, or vanilla...there's no such thing as golden syrup in this country and I simply forgot the vanilla), so the only thing that was new to me was the creme patissiere to go in the middle. I debated not bothering and going with just whipped cream, but, meh, best to do it properly.

The creme pat was as follows -

3 egg yolks, whipped with 5 tbsp of sugar until pale and thick
Beat in 1 and a half tbsp each of flour and cornflour
Heat 1 and a half cups of milk with 1 tsp vanilla in a saucepan until just boiling
Pour slowly over the egg yolks, whisking all the time
Put the mixture back into the saucepan and heat gently whilst whisking until super thick. Mr Z was in charge of this and was very cautious with the heat, so it took a while, but if I'd been doing it I would undoubtedly have burned it, so I guess that was for the best.
Scrape into a container, lay clingfilm on top of the surface so it doesn't skin over, and chill until required.

It tasted pretty good. The cakes rose more than I thought they would; it could maybe have done with a thicker layer of creme pat, but since we were just talking yesterday about cakes having, in general, too much frosting, I think this was fine for today.

2018: Part 4

October:

The first part of October was pretty miserable, although I managed a weekend away in Portsmouth to celebrate my friend Zoe's birthday. We went clubbing. I wore false eyelashes. It was fun.


The rest of it was just the grind of work. I really struggled, particularly with the last few days - thank goodness we broke up on a Wednesday. I went straight off to Hampshire for a mini spa break with Mother Hand and that sorted me right out.


Most of half term was spent doing housey things. Chutney. Knitting. Picking curtain fabric. I went to Wells to have lunch with my old work friend Kaff and we had a wander around the outside of the cathedral. An impressive place.


November:

I started the month by heading back to Llandudno for the final day of my internship. I went for an extra day (just as well, since there are no trains to Llandudno on Sundays in the winter) and visited Conwy Castle and the Tudor house, and had dinner at Dylan's with the other trainers. Good fun.


It was great to be back at the school and see how excited they were to share what they'd been doing.

After the work excesses of the previous months, November felt like a rest. Exam board work abated, finally, for the first time since May, although I still had to write some training and record a feedback event (very weird, speaking into a microphone at my computer non-stop for 60 minutes). I ran a training event for some primary teachers in a sister school, visited another sister school with a view to supporting them, went to another history lecture and generally tried to catch up on a term's worth of neglect in my department. I think I managed it.

I went to the opening of the Bath Christmas markets with my old colleagues, as usual, and to the English national Ballet performing Swan Lake with Parpy Jo. I went to see Six in Southampton with my friend Vanessa and had dinner with my old colleague Paul. And right at the end of the month, the new sofas arrived. Win!

December:

The wind down to Christmas began with a visit to Hampton Court with year 11 - a wonderful day, in spite of the torrential rain we had at the start. My first PGCE student in years, George, finished his first placement and I met the second one, Sonia, who will join me after Christmas, thus making my department a little less lonely. We had a Team Hums night out painting pottery, and a staff Christmas night out drinking (apparently) cocktails. You know all this because I've been frantically over-sharing for the past couple of months, so I won't go into too much detail.

I posted this clip of me making a snow angel in Pritt sticks on Twitter and it got over 150 likes. Weird.


After breaking up for Christmas, I did my best to clear the decks of work but failed miserably. Mother Hand came to stay on the Friday and we spent Christmas at Sib Z's. Then, on Boxing Day, we flew off the Vegas (thankfully out of Heathrow - no mysterious holiday-ruining drone for us). And I think you're all caught up on what we've been doing here, as I frantically over-share right up to the wire to get my 127 posts. I think I need to let it go now I have reached 10 years of having the same post count. Well, I either need to let it go or do it properly and post all year. If I did a week note every week of the year and blogged every day in November I'd be at 80ish posts without even trying. I think I remind myself of this every year.

So, how was 2018? Well, busy. I'm always saying it's a busy year. This year has been busy to an entirely new degree. I was excited to think I could make the exam board work my only work, since they were paying me like a (not terribly well-paid but well enough) full-time job, but it never occurred to me that that was because they were asking me to work the hours of a full-time job, only in the space of 4 months, while working another full-time job. The learning curve was steep. There wasn't a lot of time for myself or for Mr Z. I think it will be better in 2020, as long as I can be a little better organised, but who knows? I suspect I'll be back here writing a similar thing this time next year.

But there you go! This was all exactly what I wanted, career wise. It has been good, though educational, to spend this year doing.

Blue Monday

Rounding off the year with this stunner from Lady Gaga last night. I tried very, very hard not to take any pictures at all but I couldn't resist this, during the encore, because the lighting was so beautiful.


Sunday, 30 December 2018

Weekend WIP

I CAN'T STOP KNITTING IT.


I'm seven stripes through a fifteen stripe sequence. At the moment I am just assuming each coloured stripe, combined with its grey rows underneath, is an inch, but I should probably actually measure it at some point.

Two things. Firstly, this is the same colour gradient I used for Wingspan and I duly grabbed the leftovers with a plan to use those up first, before winding the new mini skeins, but then when I was rifling through them I decided I must have dropped a few of the early colours because they didn't match. Then, later on, I went back to them and counted and I have 14 of the 15 colours, but none of them seem to match this gradient kit. I am really surprised, because the Moonlight woman looked haunted and said she was never dying this set again once the last kit had been sold, so I assumed she must have dyed them all at once.

Secondly, I have been a little concerned about the darker purples blending too well into the charcoal background and I've been wondering whether I should have knitted it with a pale background. Maybe even white. But, I can't easily wear white or pale grey (I spill) so this is probably for the best. I could maybe use the leftovers from the other gradient kit to knit it again with a paler colour later on. You know, because I have so much free time for knitting the same pattern over and over.