Saturday 6 December 2008

Are you well read?

(Shamelessly stolen from another blog I read).

This one is originally from the Big Read. Apparently they reckon most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Underline those you intend to read. -
3) Italicise the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list so we can try and track down these people who’ve only read 6 and force books upon them.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott - only a kiddy picture book version, though
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - J D Salinger - started it, couldn't get into it.
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen

36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving - started it, couldn't get into it.
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie - tried to read this when I was 13, should maybe try again.
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

31 - not bad!

OK, firstly - isn't the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe part of the Chronicles of Narnia, and Hamlet part of the complete works of Shakespeare?

Secondly, how did anything by Dan Brown get on this list?

Thirdly, I didn't italicise anything. I am much too fond of everything I read, or I don't finish it, as evidenced by the "couldn't get into it" comments. But, of all that are bolded, I've read the Colour Purple several times and I would read Nabokov again if there weren't so many other books that need reading.

Finally, I don't think I'll ever read a full-length novel by Dickens. I try, but I find it such hard going. I do want to read a Tale of Two Cities, though, simply for the French Revolution link.

Thursday 27 November 2008

Thanksgiving Rickrolling

It may just be the wine talking, but this made me laugh until I cried. I love that Rick Astley doesn't seem to quite get it.

Sunday 9 November 2008

Some finished hats

After ignoring the Hat project for the entire half term, I got right back on that wagon during a trip to Prague with school this week and have managed to finish three and start a fourth this weekend. I have now knitted six in rasta colours and two more, both of which look like confections - one so much like a cake even Mr Z commented on it.

On the left is a strawberry flavoured effort for Bryony W, and on the right, some sort of lemon puff for Sharon. Sharon's friend Tash wants the same hat in reverse colours. I'm not sure of the morality of knitting a pink hat for a ginger kid, but that's what she wants.

I didn't take my knitting onto the plane with me, since Easyjet clearly state no knitting needles, and while I might have smuggled some wooden ones on, I was afraid I might be forcibly removed from the actual plane once I broke them out, so instead I took one of the new Eee PCs I've bought for the G&T department at school (so very proud of my fund-raising abilities - we managed to buy 10!) and an SD card full of episodes of Big Love (now loving Chloe Sevigny) and a book I couldn't put down, and amused myself with those instead. Then we noticed that Richard's Sunday paper had an advert for the new diploma in it, and the pictures were of our kids. In fact, one of them is one of my tutees - a future recipient of a rasta hat. What's ironic about this is that he isn't doing the diploma, and in fact was a year too old to opt for it.

Prague was amazing, though my ankles are still swollen from all the walking. Prague will be a post in itself, when I have sorted out the pictures. Henry came home yesterday, it was ALMOST worth it just for the amazing clean they gave him, inside and out. I never manage anything close to that with my hoover. He also has a nice clean tailgate, devoid of rust. Must remember not to slam the boot with the keys dangling out of the lock anymore. The MOT was considerably cheaper than expected, which is just as well, considering the small fortune I handed over for garnet jewellery whilst on holiday.

I'm such a sucker for sparkly things.

Friday 31 October 2008

Bad history

I've nearly finished my latest writing project for the revision company, but I am having a problem getting started on the last chapter. This audiobook is all about the struggle for between the Native Americans and the white Americans for domination of the Plains, and today I've written chapters on the Battle of Little Bighorn and Wounded Knee and all the other horrific acts of genocide which were committed during the 19th century, and I've found it all quite depressing, really.

Now, I have to write a chapter about the army commanders who were responsible, and I don't want to. I don't want to give them a place in history. They were bloodthirsty, and arrogant, and they were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. They attacked camps while they were flying flags of surrender, while they were sleeping, while they were disarmed and vulnerable. And even when they lost - like Custer - they were turned into martyrs and their deaths avenged a hundred times over. Why should their story ever be told?

Something I find interesting about this feeling of outrage I am feeling - when I teach about the British Empire and all the unspeakable acts that were committed in the name of it, I have no trouble in laying bare Britain's most shameful histories, and I think it's important to do that, because I want to be sure I've done everything in my power to prevent any of those thins from happening again and education is the best way I know to do that. When it comes to the history of another country, however, I am quite squeamish about telling it.

Why is that, I wonder?

Sunday 26 October 2008

Fall back - let's use the extra hour for blogging

Henry's going to be OK! The man in the garage said it was a close thing, but due to the credit crunch small, economical cars like him are in high demand and when he looked up the price I'd have got on Autotrader they realised it would work out cheaper to fix. Yeyyy! He will be back good as new in a couple of weeks - I can't believe it's going to take so long, but apparently they don't keep such parts as boot floors in stock. I hope they are giving me a new tailgate, because the old one was a bit rusty.

Meanwhile, I have The Beast (tm) from the hire car folks. It's only a Corsa, so I suppose it's not that big, but it does feel a bit like driving a tank in comparison to my ickle Ka. It is diesel too and I'm not enjoying driving it at ALL. Within 2 miles of the dealership, I pulled into the kerb to take a phone call and scraped the hub cap. I have no notion of how big it is.

I am also a bit worried since Henry will be MOTless by the time I get him back and so I'll have to give the hire car back and then get all the MOT stuff done which is going to make life tough, especially since this might happen while I'm away in Prague. This will all be explained, in detail, on the statement I'm making to the solicitors and I'm hoping the insurance company will let me keep the hire car for a few extra days. All the effort I've made to keep my MOT date in the school holidays, come to naught.

Mother Hand, incidentally, named him Henry, since he is a Ford, and he's black. "Any colour as long as it's black Henry," she said. I never call the car by its name. But since it got damaged, it has taken on a personality in my mind.

My neck is feeling a lot better, although it gets quite stiff by the end of the day and I can't turn my head to the right properly yet without it hurting, and I'm also having some lower back pain. Not happy. I also had to cancel my plans to visit Sian in Warrington next week because I don't want to drive The Beast any distance. Last time I had a hire car after an accident was when I fetched the mitten from her old home to bring her home, and I was so busy cooing at her through the bars on the cat carrier that I took my foot off the brake, rolled into the car in front and ended up having to claim the (minimal) damage on my own insurance. Cue enormous raise in premium, and a long-lasting fear of driving hire cars. I like to think I'm not that stupid anymore, but, as was proved this week, it's not my own stupidity I need to worry about.

I probably shouldn't have told the woman off, though. She was obviously quite shaken as well. I think my teacher persona takes over when I'm in shock.

It's the holidays now, thank goodness! I'm exhausted. I've got a lot of work to do but mostly fun stuff like writing new schemes of work and scripts for the GCSE website. They want me to do the unit I teach and examine next, which I'm really pleased about. There are hardly any revision materials for it out there, and it will also mean a new TV or a big chunk off the credit card or something.

I promised mitten pictures but I want them to have a fresh post!
(As it turns out, the mittens post published before this one which will only go on as scheduled - perhaps because of the time shift? I am curious to see if it shoes up before or after the mittens post!)

Thrum, th-thrum thrum thrum

I'm not looking especially lush in this picture. It was taken late in the evening in the last week of term and I was wearing a thermal because it's been cold and I refused to put the heating on until yesterday. Those are my excuses, anyway.

Pattern: Thrummed mittens from the Yarn Harlot's Thrum-a-long
Needle: 3.25mm and 4mm DPNs
Yarn: Malabrigo Worsted in azul; thrums are 100% new wool tops for felting by a brand called Filz-It. Not especially soft, but a gorgeous colour, very warm, not scratchy.....a perfect yarn for my first attempt at thrumming.
Mods: I did a K1P1 rib on the cuff, instead of a 2x2. This was only because I started off using a different pattern. I wish I had used a slightly larger needle because the cuffs are pretty snug.
I cheated and didn't thrum properly, as detailed in a previous post.

I love them. Really, really. I am looking forward to wearing them in Prague, and hoping they will cut the mustard as skiing mittens. Perhaps I should look into treating them with something to make them more waterproof.

I moved straight on to a pair of Evangelines in the other skein of Malabrigo I bought, which is variegated blues and greens. I nearly finished the first one today whilst watching the first 8 episodes of Big Love on TV On Demand. Big Love is good! Kind of creepy in parts. Also I can't decide how I feel about Chloe Sevigny and her character is making me swing towards the negative feeling.

Anyway, there must be many blue accessories because I bought this coat yesterday and I'm waiting for it to arrive. Boden! Loves it. Not quite as lovable as that amazing spotty coat I was lusting over in the summer, but a fair whack cheaper and, according to reviews on the website, warmer and more suitable to winter. I am not a big coat wearer, so I thought I'd better really go for it if I was going to shell out for one. My very naughty friend Parpy Jo told me I should buy both and send back the one I don't like, but that was disaster lies.

I realised I never made a post about my finished swing jacket. That might be because, when it was first finished, I didn't much care for it. However, having had a few wears of it since, I realise how well it suits me, how warm it is, and how pleased I am with it. Still, I only have a rubbish picture I took on my mobile in the bathroom before I'd even woven in the ends. I'm waiting for a fine day so we can have a photo shoot. There's been some gorgeous autumn foliage which would look lovely in the background, but it may have all gone in the last round of high winds and toreential rains. I heard that the Original Mountain Marathon in the Lake District this weekend had to be called off and hundreds of the participants are stranded. Not a good weekend to be a fell runner. Hope everyone's OK.

Wednesday 22 October 2008


I had a car accident yesterday. I was waiting to pull across one of the extremely busy roundabouts near my house, and the woman behind me thought I'd already gone and smashed into the back of my car.

Poor Henry.

(I always see people blank out their car registrations when they put car pics on the web so I have too, though I don't really know why.)

It felt like she hit me at 100 miles an hour but she was pulling out so it can't have happened at any speed. I was standing on the road looking dumbly at the damage and there were coins falling on it, and I couldn't understand where they were coming from. They seemed to be coming from me. It wasn't until I got back in my car that I realised the force of the impact had shunted all the pennies off the coin tray and most of them had landed in the turn ups on my new trousers.

I had to take the day off work to go to the doctor because my neck is quite sore. Henry's being fetched to the garage for an assessment tomorrow and hopefully someone will ring me about a hire car very soon - I can't believe I am still waiting. I am currently panicking that the damage will cost more than the car is worth and the insurance company will insist on scrapping it. I finish paying off the loan for it next month. Le sigh.

Luckily it won't affect my no claims since she's admitted liability, but the car was due for its MOT on Monday and I've had to reschedule that, and it's just generally a Bad Thing. I can't do the make up for Highsicle Musical at school this week like I was meant to. Today's lessons would have been a write off, even with the cover I set, and they included double year 12 and double year 11 who can barely afford to miss the time. I couldn't do any work last night so, in spite of working for almost the entire weekend I am now behind on the coursework and may have to bring marking home over half term.

Hrmph. Bah. Grrr.

I have new mittens, though. I'll put those in a separate post when Mr Z gets home and tells me where he's put the pictures. I finished them on Monday night and they're extremely snug.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Autumn days, when the grass is jewelled

...and the silk inside the chestnut shell.

I remember thinking those lines didn't make great sense when singing that hymn at school, so perhaps I was singing it wrong then, and it's wrong now. Why was there a line about jet planes waiting in the air to be refuelled? Does that only happen in the autumn?

Well, it's autumn, anyway. It smelled very autumnal last week, the way the air smells when somebody might be having a bonfire many streets away and you can ALMOST smell the woodsmoke....but not quite.

I have managed to hold out in my resolve not to switch the heating on before the end of September this year. In fact, the heating still hasn't been switched on. I attribute this to the amazing toastiness of Bunnyland now that the loft insulation has been augmented, and the cavities have been stuffed with foam. There may be brick dust over everything. There may be unsightly cement-coloured spots all over the house where they didn't even attempt to paint over the holes they made. I may be nearly £400 poorer. But I am certainly warmer, and that's the important thing.

I can live an extravagant life now, you know, since I am sort of a published writer. I didn't think they would name me on the website, especially since they gave me a fat payment for the work and I don't get any kind of royalty, but it seems my name will be attached to this project everywhere it goes, which might some day include Amazon. There'll be something I wrote for sale on Amazon, how exciting is that?! Much like that nonsensical hymn, it takes me right back to my primary school dreams of being a successful authoress in my later years.

In the spirit of keeping warm, I am working on these thrummed mittens from the Yarn Harlot. I don't read her blog. I like bloggers who write a couple of times a week at most, and am not terribly good at keeping up with anything more frequent. Hey, if I've got the time to be reading someone else's blog I'd rather be writing in my own, right?

Anyway. Mitten!

And the crazy inside view...

They're so much fun. I'm totally cheating on the thrums, though. There's this crazy idea floating around knitting websites that thrums have to be pulled gently from their fellow fibres, teased and fluffed, made into loops, lightly felted between the fingers to seal the ends, and then twisted. NEWSFLASH! There are over 160 thrums in this mitten. So many, I ran out of roving. If I spend all that time making the thrums, the mittens are never going to be finished. They felt together when you're wearing the mittens anyway - this process was already under way, just from me agitating by turning the mitt inside out to look at them. So, they aren't going to fall out. The ones at the top I knotted to make sure. It was much quicker - I just cut the roving and knitted pieces in.

I'm sure I'm going to that special level of hell reserved for knitters who don't follow the proper processes, but since I always do a gauge swatch for any kind of garment I figure that buys me some good karma.

I suppose, also, that it's not traditional to do thrums this way. However, traditionally thrums were fleece coloured: they were simply undyed pieces of unspun fleece, all full of lanolin for waterproofing. So, using brightly coloured roving is already breaking the tradition. Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.

I shall report back on how the thrums hold up to constant use. I'm going to Prague with school in 3 weeks, so I'll have the chance to try them out in the proper cold....assuming I finish the second one, anyway.

The Big Hat Project is also well under way. For some strange reason, I said I'd knit all my tutor group hats for Christmas. I must have been on crack that day or something - there are 22 of them. I'm onto hat number 5. They don't take very long, luckily - I'm using double stranded DK and 6mm DPNs so they only take about 3 hours. It's tough to find 3 hours together sometimes, but I always have knitting club.

Hopefully by the next time I update, we'll have a sink in the kitchen again. We haven't had a kitchen since the last week in August. I've sort of forgotten what it's like to cook a proper meal and not have to drain my pasta in the garden and wash up in the bath. Thankfully we finally have a floor and walls again now. Father Z laid all but about 3 inches of the new floor 2 weeks ago. Around midnight, Mr Z heard some weird banging from the kitchen, but couldn't see what it was. This happened 3 times - each time, the noise stopped when he went out there. About 10 minutes later, the cat emerged. How she'd got down the gap, we'll never know, but she was a uniform filthy grey for a week after.

We were slightly concerned the next day when Father Z finished the floor and commented that he hadn't seen the cat all day, but luckily she was hiding under the bed.

Friday 19 September 2008

Internatiomal talk like a pirate day ROCKS!

We had a non-uniform day to celebrate and some people dressed up as pirates. Yarrrr! Shiver me timbers, mateys. Walk the plank ya scurvy dawg!

Posted by ShoZu

Tuesday 9 September 2008

It must be my age

Everywhere, I am surrounded by pregnant women.

There are at least 5 at work, although technically Katy isn't pregnant anymore since she gave birth to her second child 4 weeks ago. Vikki got married exactly a year after me and is due in November. Charlie got married 6 months before me and is having her second imminently. Fran started working at school at the same time as me and is onto her 3rd now. Who was number 5? Oh...Suzanne, but she's had hers now. We're taking bets on the next person. I'm giving evens on Nicky and 2 to 1 on Emma.

On top of that, there's Mandi what I used to go to Fat Fighters with, and Jane what I go and see cultural films with, and Riikka what I was at uni with, and Tasha what was in my Latin class...

And today, Jen texted me to say she'd just had her 12 week scan. Upon interrogation, she revelead that, after going to Disneyland for her birthday, she and Ben wondered what they were waiting for, and hence, the miracle of life began.

Bloody hell! I am never going to keep up with all the baby knitting. I made the mistake of knitting Katy some booties and now I fear I'm going to be lumbered with matinee jackets until Christmas. They are quite cute, though. I bet they're quick, too.

Here're the booties....

Check it. They're SO. CUTE!
Pattern: Ubiquitous Saartje's Bootees. I am totally knitting my way through the top 10 fad knitting patterns of the past couple of years.
Yarn: Sirdar Snuggly and some random acrylic I had knocking about.
Mods: I saw somebody who had knitted a pair like strawberries on Ravelry, but the buttons were totally my idea. I also happen to think I did an awesome job, even if it did take me a month to get round to embroidering the seeds onto the second one.

The problem now is - how do I top that? I have made the cutest baby item I can think of for somebody who isn't a really close friend and now I have to think of the PROPERLY cutest baby item ever for Jen's baby.

People have got to stop getting knocked up. I have things to knit for myself, you know.

Back at work now. It's daunting to be responsible for 5 GCSE groups (3 of them doing the exams this year) and 2 sixth form ones. Richard, head of business studies which is my latest "second subject" said, "You're my great white hope for this year - you've got to rescue our dismal results!" Hmm, no pressure then. And also, don't hold your breath. I have yet to excel myself in my second subject. I feel so sorry for my pupils - I am bored silly so they must be ready to chew their limbs off and beat themselves to death just for something to do. I am hoping that, as I get to know the material better, I will be able to make it more interesting.

I'm excited by the new year 12 stuff. Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin - bring it on! It's like my old A-Level all over again. I while away a fair amount of my commute trying to imagine the face of my old History teacher, Richard Wilkin, if he were ever to discover I'm teaching History A-Level. It looks something like my face when I realised I would be teaching year 13 for the first time this year. That hasn't started so well - forgot my props and had to gradnstand for 15 minutes. Luckily they're used to me being a bit verbose so they didn't notice. I can wow them with my amazing lesson on Thursday.

Hopefully I will remember to plan it.

Entries tailed off a bit in the summer. I got busy Firstly I started my first writing job, which I finished in plenty of time, to much praise from my editor, who promptly set me off on a new set of revision monologues on a different topic. It's great money, but I'm still curious to see when I fit it in around everything else.

Then, I was knitting like a fiend on my Ravelympics project, whilst simultaneously watching endless gymnastics and, to a lesser extent, other sports. I achieved a milestone - I can now knit without looking at my hands. I didn't finish the jacket, though. I currently need to seam the sleeves onto the body and pick up and knit the collar - not too arduous a task, since I left most of the required stitches on holders (why on earth would the pattern tell you to cast them off?). When I've finished it, apart from the Great Baby Knittathon, I also intend to knit hats for all my tutor group for Christmas (it's their last year) and I want a pair of thrummed mittens for the school trip to Prague in November. Little things. Some little things, next. I need to finish things!

Finally, we had to do the kitchen. We left this as late as possible....hence, the kitchen is now stripped to the brickwork and all we have is an oven, a sink and a piece of chip board balanced on the washing machine. And soon, not even that. The whole house is covered in plaster and brick dust (we also had some blokes round to do cavity and loft insulation, and after drilling shedloads of holes in the bricks they then blew most of the dust INTO the house with their big hose....durrrr.....) and Ikea are refusing to return any of my calls about the missing cabinet and cupboard doors.

It was a relief to get back to work and not have to look at it anymore, TBH. When Mother Z returns from holiday I shall send her to Ikea to extract our finaly pound of flesh, if they still haven't been in touch, and hopefully we won't have this situation for longer than another month.

Something nice did happen at the end of the summer - my friend Sian came to visit. We went to Poole for the day and then to a film at the Watershed on banky holiday Monday. We saw Justin Lee Collins sitting at a computer! I tried to be all nonchalent, even though I wanted to get a picture of him, because everybody else there was playing it cool and ignoring him. But I realised I was imagining that bit when I heard the ushers whispering about him when they checked my ticket.

Anyway. Must go and plan something or write something or remark a script...yes, there is no escaping the exam board (assuming they send me a new contract for re-marks). I have been put down for team leader next year, though. My star currently seems to be rising.

Sunday 10 August 2008

One Local Summer week 10

I have been looking after my friend Ali's chickens all week while she's been on holiday. Every evening, I went and shut them in and prepared their food for the next day, and I was rewarded with superfresh eggs. The boks have only been living with Ali in their Eglu for about a month so one has only recently started laying, and another started this week, just as the first bok's eggs got to be normal sized. I made a lovely lunch of this first normal sized egg, which turned out to be a double yolker, and a mini one, on some absolutely delicious seedy bread from Turner's. It was all really fresh and tasty. Yum!

Apparently, when chickens start laying, their first few normal sized eggs are double or triple yolkers, so I assume when I was getting those boxes of eggs from Whiterow and half of them had more than one yolk, they must have been from quite young hens.

Yesterday, Parpy Jo and I went to the farmers' market at Chipping Sodbury. There weren't a great deal of stalls but there were 2 good butchers and we got some bread from Hobbs House Bakery, which apparently has a national reputation. They made the seedy bread I had from Turner's this week. I also got some great-looking sausages which you can expect to see in my OLS meal report next week, and some eggs...Parpy Jo asked the preserves lady, who was also selling the eggs, if they were happy eggs. "Oh yes!" she said, "very happy - they're from chickens rescued from battery farms. When they arrive with us they're miserable and featherless but we soon set them right."

Happy eggs indeed!

Friday 8 August 2008

Balloon Fiesta, Black Cat, Birthday, Blackpool

Around 7.30pm tonight, all the neighbourhood dogs went mental. We couldn't work out why, until Mr Z slipped outside and counted 17 balloons going over the hills. We're on the route out of Bristol, because they often land on the rugby pitch, and according to my friend Parpy Jo's boyfriend, the wind usually blows this way, so balloons are quite common, but not in such large numbers. We got busy with the camera.

The mitten remained unimpressed by the whole thing.
After being snarled at by a squirrel on the fence last week, she has been a bit more cautious than normal.

We had a feline visitor last week, in the form of a black kitten, wearing a collar and bell, but starved almost into submission. She appeared at Mr Z's workplace and scarfed down 5 packets of kitten food and a whole carton of kitty milk in the space of 24 hours. We moved her into our spare bedroom while we considered what to do. She had no chip, and after 5 days there were no posters up locally, and no cats reported missing with the local Post Offices or vets, so we rehomed her with a friend of Mr Z's colleague. I became quite attached to her in the short space of time she was here - she was really very friendly (as opposed to completely ignoring me for 90% of the time, like Tilly does) and had most unusual paws - she had extra toes, so her front paws looked like real mittens. She would have stolen the name from Tilly.

The new owners took her to the vet today. Turns out she's about 6. She was teeny! She can't have eaten in weeks. I hope her old owners don't pine for her too much.

I had a good 30th birthday on Tuesday. I spent the day in Bath with Mother Hand: we went to Wagamama's and then walked around getting soaked, sat outside in the drizzle and had coffee, and then eventually went and sat in my car to keep dry. Then in the evening, I went to Waga's AGAIN (love) with aforementioned friend Parpy Jo, and then we went and drank cocktails in Brown's. I love Brown's. I love that they have happy hour cocktails all night, every weeknight, too.

Blackpool was also superfun.

We stayed in a very clean, quiet and reasonably priced B&B way up the beach, past the north pier, which was the perfect location: right by the tram, within 10 minutes of town, but far, far away from the rambunctious hen and stag parties out screeching in the streets late into the night.

We spent Saturday at the Pleasure Beach, in the surprising sun (the weather was pretty miserable before and after, and I ended up quite sunburnt - again). We went on all the decent rides - Mr Z was less than impressed with the Big One, which gave him a pain in the neck, but we both really enjoyed Infusion, which we took this picture next to. It had a pool underneath it with koi carp in. Very strange! I managed to film part of the Big One the second time I went on it, to the admiration of the girls in front of me....but the camera footage would make anybody sick, I think.

I have decided I much prefer the Pleasure Beach to Alton Towers. It's slightly cheaper - especially when you consider you can leave and come back again and there are actually places to eat and drink within walking distance; the queues are much shorter (last trip to AT we made it onto 5 rides for the whole day, and that included the chair-o-planes); everything's closer together so you get more time on the actual rides; and I think I even like the rollercoasters better, especially now Infusion is there - it's like a taller, faster version of Nemesis. Plus there's Valhalla, which has to be the funnest log flume ever. This time round, I grinned at the guy vaccuuming the water out of the cars and he bumped us to the front of the carriage so we got first-rate seats ... and absolutely soaked. We were wearing ponchos, but they did not protect us from the wave that swept over the front of the car and drenched our feet. Next time, I will take a spare pair of shoes away with me: I ended up drying them with a hairdryer so I could go out in them that night.

I remember the first time I went on Valhalla, with Jen and Richard. Richard terrified the people sitting behind him by turning around and yelling, "SIT BACK!" at them in the middle of the dark bit. It still makes me giggle.

After the Pleasure Beach, we walked on the real beach and Mr Z took lots of pictures, and then went out to eat in a nice restaurant where I ate more fish than I do in the whole of the rest of the year put together - and none of it battered, either. All-in-all, it was a great birthday weekend treat and Mr Z retouched the picture I posted 2 entries ago and had it blown up and framed for me to put on the wall of my snug.

Long entry! Lots of pictures.

One final thing - I cast on today for the aforementioned uniquitous Drops jacket. It's my Ravelympics project, and I hope to get it finished by the 24th August as a result of this. At the moment Im slightly concerned my gauge is off, but I need to put a few more rows on before I can remeasure. I should have a go at that now. I cast on whilst watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Very spectacular! I decided I liked the handbags the British female athletes were wearing, but my favourite outfits were the Hungarians' and the Swedes'. I don't know if commenting on the outfits is really in the spirit of the games, but oh well.

None of us are free until ALL of us are free

I came across this blog post today which brings attention to the international campaign to free Tibet, and requested blog posts to spread knowledge of the cause.

In the reporting from the games this afternoon, one of the journalists suggested that it was only following the break up of the USSR that China tightened its hold on its satellites. I don't know much about the history, it's definitely something I should read about some more.

Even though I disagree that something like the Oympics should be subverted to promote a political cause, I still wonder how the world can be made to notice things like this. I wonder the same about Zimbabwe: should something be done about Mugabe? I conclude, on the latter, that nothing at all can be done, because one might argue that it was European meddling that put Africa in its diabolical situation in the first place. And I wonder the same about Tibet. If it were to become independent from China, would China cut it off and impose huge sanctions, and what impact would that have? Would it be an impact, I wonder, similar to the one on Cuba when it was cut off from America?

I certainly support the Free Tibet movement, but I'm unsre about how much can be achieved through foreign pressure. I am more inclined to think that the international community, much like the friend of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship, just needs to hang around and be supportive, rather than getting in there and being threatening. I think no good can come of that.

I don't think my opinion would be especially popular, though.

After lengthy political musings this week (mostly brought on by a discussion of the American presidential race with Father Hand on my bithday) I have decided that my deal breaker is green issues. I can't think about international policies, they're just too big. That's why I vote: let somebody with more experience and an army of researchers and advisers do that job. As long as they've got it right on the green issues, they've got my vote.

Something more vacuous and shallow with pretty pictures coming right up folks....

Sunday 3 August 2008

Clafoutis, Clapotis....let's call the whole thing off!

I know those are two different words but I've made both this week and that song's been going round in my head!

The first was part of our anniversary dinner, which is also my entry for OLS week 9. We had roast lamb which I bought from Cooper's, the supermarket near work, who source some their lamb from a farm 2 miles away. The potatoes (which were the best roast potatoes I have ever cooked!) and the mustard spinach were grown at Whiterow and the sugar snap peas are from Turner's. For dessert, I made a cherry clafoutis using local eggs and milk, and served it with local cream which I flavoured with amaretto and a little sugar. There's no local sugar to be had, and I'm not a big fan of honey, so it's not all local....also, the cherries aren't from round here. I suspect they're from Kent. Turner's had a sign on the bowl that said, "English cherries from one of the last growers in the country! Support them while you can!" which seemed like a cause I could place under the locavore umbrella. I'm glad I did - this dessert was delicious.

And onto the clapotis! In this picture, only partially complete.

Pattern: Clapotis by Kate Gilbert from Knitty
Yarn: The long-awaited Lion & Lamb, in Tahoe - a few yards short of 3 skeins
Mods: After reading extensively (and there is extensive reading to be had on this project), I purled the drop stitch rows instead of using markers; I skipped one increase row to make sure I'd finish it in 3 skeins; and I knitted an extra 3 repeats of the straight rows (I might have only been 2) when it became clear that I had plenty of yarn left. I was a bit foolhardy there, though, and became concerned I'd run out towards the end. Thankfully it was OK. I now have an extra skein leftover for some handwarmers or something.

I also tried ptbl on the wrong side on either side of the drop stitches, but it looked all bumpy and wrong, so I stopped pretty quickly.

It was quite quick once I got started on it. Officially it took me 16 days, but I didn't add anything to it for several days, so if I'd been fastidious about doing a repeat every day it might have been quicker. As it was, I was up until 3am doggedly finishing it on Tuesday, once I'd realised that it's really just a scarf and I don't do scarves. Too long and dull. I love it, though. I love the size. I love the pattern. I REALLY love the yarn - I just bought 4 skeins of the August LE colourway from Jimmy Beans as an early birthday present.

Here it is on holiday with me in Blackpool this weekend. More on that at a later date.

Sunday 27 July 2008

One Local Summer week 8

No picture this week. I went to Turner's Farm Shop today, which is about a mile away from my house, and when I came home I had a great lunch of a cheese sandwich with onion marmalade and seedy bread. The bread was from a baker in Chipping Sodbury, the cheese from Shepton Mallet and the marmalade from Wincanton.

I am making it my mission to shop at Turner's as much as possible in the future. It seems that, 20 years ago when the ringroad arrived, the farm was set to become several lanes of it. They duly rehomed all their animals and closed production, only for the route to be changed ever so slightly. So the farm was spared (you can see the farmhouse from the ringroad, though) but they had to start from scratch.

The little shop is absolutely crammed with fresh fruit and vegetables, and a large amount of booze, including Black Rat, which was my downfall cider the first weekend I ever spent in Bristol. They stock quite a lot from Jon Thorner's, which I mentioned in a previous entry. I am at odds here - I want to support them, but there's not a lot of local food. Some of their eggs come from Birmingham, for example. But, there's probably enough local produce to provide one meal a week, at least, and everything looked really fresh and tempting.

My two favourite things about the shop were the large quantity of tasting plates dotted around (it was on the strength of one of these that I bought the onion marmalade) and Jess's Ladies Milk. I love the idea of a dairy farm that knows each cow by a name and can trace much of the herd back to the original three founding cows. Very cool!

I tied the tomato plants to canes today. They have really gone from strength to strength since we finally got around to planting them out, and there are a LOT of tomatoes on the Italian baby plums. I'm sorry I only bought two of them, now. The third plant I bought was a micro tomato. We put that in a hanging basket (but didn't hang it, because we're contrary like that) and it didn't grow at all. I'd given it up for a bad job, but it has about a dozen tomatoes on it and they're already ripening. I am amazed! I'll take some pictures tomorrow. Next year I'll buy four, I reckon they could all go into one basket and still produce plenty of fruit.

Of course, next year I'll have that whole kitchen garden in front of the house :p

Thursday 24 July 2008

Just one more

I have mad baking skills now, too.

Lamenting the demise of the Cupcake Bakeshop, I attempted my own cupcakes, cobbled together from bits of recipes on that blog. Hence - strawberry-filled cupcakes with white chocolate frosting.

I garnished with half-strawberries, but sadly they did not last long enough to be photographed in their completed state.

They were very tasty. I sort of don't want to do the Wii Fit body test this weekend now, though.

I <3 Planet Green

Ever since I started using iGoogle and became minorly obsessed with finding cool and interesting RSS feeds to add to it, I have been reading blog posts and articles on New Scientist and Treehugger. These have been quite eye opening, and also quite depressing - today, for example, I read about the tar sands project in Alberta and how the water ends up so polluted they have to use propane cannons to keep the ducks from landing in it; and yesterday I read that almost a fifth of the energy used in the USA goes on growing and transporting the population's food, because the average Yankee eats twice his daily recommended calorie limit.

I know I'm in a glass house on that one.

However, James, my maths-teaching car share buddy, did some quick sums when I told him about the article this morning, and worked out that - since America produces 25% of global emissions and has roughly 7% of the world population - 5% of the total energy of the world is going on feeding 7% of it. Does that sound right? According to those numbers, if everybody ate like an average American, the whole of the world's energy would go on food production and people would still be....well, not dying of starvation, since you don't need 3700 calories a day to survive, but you get the point.

Anyway, it's all very well to be smug and locavory and "Oh those disgusting Americans thank God I'm a Brit" about it but, actually, we still eat a lot of meat and most of our food has done a lot of miles before it reaches our plate and I still throw quite a lot of food out (sorry, Gordon) because I like to buy the nice-looking salad and fruit but I sort of forget to eat it. And let's not forget those 250 miles a week I commute.

Don't worry Mr Z, I'm not going to reduce the amount of meat in our diet (and I hope I'm across the desk from you when you read this, so I can receive the full benefit of your icy cold eyebrow raise and frosty "You couldn't if you tried"-esque comment).

So, I spent some time today browsing around the green guides on Planet Green. I was semi-inspired by a thread on Ravelry about line-drying clothes - Ravelry being at times painfully America-centric, the thread was mostly about whether your neighbours will think you're a hick if you do the completely sensible thing and make the sun work for you a little (to be fair, most contributors were pro-line drying but it really pisses me off when I hear people complaining about stiff clothes, as if the slick, static-filled clothes the dryer spits out are better - and it REALLY pisses me off when people complain that the sun bleaches them, like a dryer doesn't.....)

(This was meant to be a short update but I am evidently rant-filled today).

So, anyway. Greening my laundry. I refuse to own a tumble dryer, so I'm halfway there. I wash everything except bedding and towels at 30 degrees. I don't see the point in fabric softener. I only use half the recommended quantity of detergent - the boyfriend of somebody I trained with, a committed eco-vegan, talked me into this, arguing that detergent companies tell you to use way more than necessary, and that most dirt on clothes is just sweat and therefore no detergent is required if your clothes aren't greasy....I haven't quite taken that leap yet. Half the amount, on a 30 degree wash, removes all stains except the ubiquitous antipasti stain, in the same place on most of Mr Z's t-shirts.

However, it seems I can green it further! I was most excited to come across this recipe for laundry soap, made out of common household items. One of which is soap. Normal soap. Normal the drawerful I have in the bathroom?

I am excited by this prospect. I am not a big lover of bar soap, I find it really drying (I suspect palm oil is the culprit, since Lush's new palm-free formulations don't have the same effect). Yet, I have, in my years as a Lush fan, stockpiled a fairly large quantity. This sounds like a summer science project to me. You can even use the liquid stuff to wash dishes!

Solar panels it ain't, but every little helps.

I am also eyeing the front garden and thinking that half the lawn could be removed and the space used to grow salad vegetables and keep chickens in an Eglu. I think it would look tidier than the current excuse for a lawn, and it gets more sun than the back. Also,
we need to keep the back garden for the hammock and the cat and our poorly-attended barbecues. I think Mr Z is a bit anti, but perhaps I'll just do it one day when he's not looking. It makes good sense.

Revising History

I watched a film at the weekend called Kingdom of Heaven: the Director's Cut. This marathon of a film was so long, it actually contained an interlude - apparently Ridley Scott added 45 minutes into his cut, and the result was three and a half hours long.

Mr Z thinks I should know better than to watch any epic which claims to be historical, as it's a bit like him watching anything computery - it's too easy to find fault with it. Fair point. However, I have a penchant for historical fiction, so surely films can't be that different, right?

I'll gloss over the painful anachronisms and ambiguities and skip straight to the bit which irritates me the most. And I should also add that Kingdom of Heaven is not alone in this fault - Robin Hood, both the Kevin Costner version and the BBC version, is also guilty. It's this idea that crusaders did not agree with the Crusade. It's popping up more and more. They go and fight in the holy land, but they don't believe in it, and they think it's a waste of life, and pointless, and so on and so forth.

I don't think I subscribe to this. For a start, I don't think many people at the time would have suggested that the Pope was encouraging mass suicide for no good reason. For another thing, they had a completely different belief system and the Crusade was the way to heaven (something KoH made a point of repeating, but then seemed to forget) and God was calling people to the holy land. They didn't have an understanding of the Muslims. They didn't think the holy places should be shared for the good of the people. They certainly didn't recognise that the holy places had originally been Jewish and therefore they belonged to neither the Christians or the Muslims based on that logic.

I suppose I am being quite subjective. I can't know that none of the Crusaders felt like this. But I can't believe that the vast majority did - how would they have scraped together enough men for half a dozen different crusades? - and the stories of returning Crusaders that are coming out of Hollywood all reflect this view.

"Yes, I had to go and fight the Muslims. But I didn't want to. It's a vanity thing. I hate killing. We're all the same really, no matter what our religion is. I don't care who's wrong or right, I don't really want to fight, no more."

Hmmm. KoH further pissed me off by having a final say about how the Crusades went on for x number of years, and the conflict in the Middle East continues today, as if the 400 years of relative peace in between never happened, and the current issues all stem from the Holy Roman Empire claiming its holy places.

This, then, appears to go some way to explain where this revision of the history has come from.

"Look! We've been fighting over this land for 1000 years! Can't we all just get along? None of the Crusaders really meant it, you know. They all felt really bad, but it was the Pope's idea, and he was so powerful back then that nobody could say no. We can tell the truth now because he's losing parishioners faster than rats can jump off a sinking ship. Did you see he even had to apologise for kiddy-fiddling clergymen last week? Advocating contraception in the developing world can't be far behind. But anyway, the point is that nobody ever thought the holy land was worth fighting for except some loony in a mitre, so the land is OBVIOUSLY not worth fighting over. So, stop strapping that bomb to your body, get out of that tank, let's melt down those missiles and make them into see saws and put Palestinian children on one end and Israeli children on the other. More importantly, stop bombing us, because we might be giving huge amounts of money to Israel but it's not OUR fault they're using it to buy weapons - as we've already said, we don't agree with fighting over it at all."

This is all just my opinion, you know. And term finishes tomorrow and I might be slightly brain dead. It does get on my tits when people skew history for their own agendas, though. That said, I suppose a crusader coming back covered in the blood of Muslims and screaming about how much he loves killing the infidel and can't wait to get back out there, farm pigs named after the prophet in a Meccan mosque and have a pop at Saladin is not particulaly PC.

More historically correct, perhaps, but more likely to attract a fatwah.

Sunday 20 July 2008

One Local Summer week 7, a couple of whinges and a bandwagon


I haven't had a lazy Saturday morning for what feels like ages (in reality, it appears to be a mere fortnight - time moves more slowly at the end of term, I'm convinced of it) so I stopped at Whiterow to buy the fixings for a good Saturday brunch. Bacon, sausages, eggs and bread all came from there.

The meat products Whiterow sell are made by Jon Thorner's, a farm empire based in Shepton Mallet, which also supplies them with cheese. I was most disappointed, as I unwrapped the pecorino romano I am so fond of, to discover that I'd been so focused on the "Head Office: Shepton Mallet" label that I'd completely missed the "Country of Origin: Italy" label. BOOOO. I feel swindled. I have had a good browse around their website and under the Local: Fish tab, they mention Scottish salmon and potted shrimp from Morecambe Bay. These places are not local to Shepton Mallet!

I intend to go down there in the holidays and have a good look at what they've got in their home shop. It is easily within 20 miles of here, so at least the bacon and sausages are local. It's frustrating, though, when companies say they're one thing and then are quite obviously another.

It seems there are two competing bandwagons here - local, and organic. Springleaze, another farm shop I drive past, used to do all local stuff, laid out in a barn, not particularly fancy, but it did the job. Then they went upmarket, organic and got a cafe. Now, in spite of claiming the majority of their produce is locally sourced, they've got tomatoes flown in from Holland and Scandinavian cheese. I can see them doing very well, since their entire range - down to the tinned pulses - seems to be organic, and that's a good niche to hold, I suppose. But it's not so good if you don't really care about organic, just about keeping food miles down. It's a shame the two seem to be largely mutually exclusive.

I am currently hating my neighbours and their screaming children. There must be half a dozen squalling brats between the two houses that back onto our lane and they were up, screaming, until nearly 11pm last night. And they're young kids, not teens. Then they get up at about 10am and start screaming again, and this lasts all day. It's getting impossible to sit with the window or the back door open. I have a strong desire to play some very loud and very rude gangsta rap with all the windows open, but fear it would bring me down to their level.


In knitting news, I've really got to stop starting new things before I finish the old ones. I got the bug for new projects, thanks to the scrubby, and so I ended up casting on for a clapotis on Tuesday. It's seriously addictive, I am four repeats through the straight section already. I love dropping the stitches! Plus, the Lion and Lamb may be my favourite yarn of all time. In an attempt to squirrel a ball from the four I purchased for a pair of handwarmers or something, I read up on the knitting of the clapotis, and skipped an increase row. I also binned the stitch markers and did the drop rows in purl on the knit side etc, which makes it go pretty fast. I started trying to twist the stitches either side on the wrong side as well as the right, but either I'm not doing ptbl right, or I need to practise more, because my stitches ended up looking pretty wobbly, so I stopped.

I am surprised by how motivated I am to finish the project, considering I hate knitting scarves. Perhaps I am just eager to join the other bajillion people in the world who have knitted this. Next: that Drops jacket which has also been knitted a bajillion times. Yay for bandwagons!

Monday 14 July 2008

There's a Gravy Train out there somewhere

I'm very excited, but trying not to be. There are new specifications for all the GCSEs from 2009 and my old team leader rang me on Friday (mainly to find out how close I'd got to earning the coat and how many more responses he could expect me to mark) and asked me if he could put my name forward to the publishers as somebody that might be interested in working on the new text books.

I might have capered quite a bit. I'd be a published writer! My very first choice of career, and I'd finally have achieved it. But, I'm really trying not to think about it, because it's most likely to come to nothing. Still, it's a good sign for the future.

I have now earned the coat. There were 60 responses left to mark last night, and I am sort of hoping they will have been completed by the time I get home so I can finally put the marking to bed for this year and get back to actually having a life. I intend to go to dinner and cocktails with my friends tomorrow night, and hopefully to Mamma Mia some other night this week.

Then there will be knitting. Much knitting. I'm having an attack of the must-FOs, even though Marianne is ticking on nicely, so I put an extra 6 inches on the garish sparkly skinny scarf I've been knitting from this pattern, and also made

<-------- one of these.

Pattern: Dishcloth Duo
Yarn: Wendy DK cotton from Shaw's the Draper's
Mods: The yarn seemed skinnier so I went down a needle size to 4.5mm. Next time I might try a provisional cast on and three needle bind off. I really do hate seaming that much.

It's supposed to be a dish scrubby. I don't much see the point in knitting dishcloths, perhaps because Mr Z insists on using a green scourer to wash up everything (yes, even glasses....yes, even for wiping down the counter, in spite of the fact it doesn't absorb anything). However, I have had in in mind to try and knit some reusable cotton wool pads for make up removal, much like these, made from towel offcuts. It turned out to be a really quick knit - about half an hour, including seaming, and stopping to concentrate on exciting bits of Heroes - and works really nicely as a make up remover. It's abrasive enough that I don't have to really scrub the make up remover into my face, but not so abrasive as to leave my skin red. I intend to make a lot more, maybe with some little string bags to wash them in, to give away as gifts next Christmas.

Fun little knit! Now I am planning what to knit for the Ravelry Olympics, and wondering how much knitting time I will have if we do remodel the kitchen this summer as planned.

Thursday 10 July 2008

£138.45 down

£36.55 left to earn. I hope there are that many responses left in the system.

This is very motivational. I should try and fall in love with something I'd never normally splurge on every year. Last year it was those amazing boots from Duo, but that all ended in tears when they were revealed as having the worst customer service/turnaround time ever (srsly - if you have boots on back order from them and they say 4 weeks, IT'S A LIE. They meant 4 months).

I wonder whether it will be the same this year, and I'll do all the work and the damn coat doesn't fit right, or is of poor quality. That would be just my luck.

Maybe I can find a nice discount somewhere.

One Local Summer week 6 - 2 meals

I finally pulled my finger out and made gnocchi on Monday (I used that recipe without the basil or the sauce).

It was a lot easier than I expected, though the dough was very sticky, and it was slightly bizarre in that I put the remainder of the dough in the fridge to use up for lunches later in the week and unlike pastry, it got softer and soggier as time passed, so that when I finally got it out again I had to add even more flour. These were some very healthy gnocchi - they have that wholemeal flour taste.

I served the gnocchi with a pork chop from
Norwood farm and a home made pesto, into which went a big bag of the very peppery Whiterow rocket, a very healthy slug of garlic olive oil, and a fairly large quantity of locally produced pecorino romano, with a very strong cheesy taste.

And a handful of unlocal pine nuts. Sssshhh.

I whizzed all this up in the blender and then stirred it through the gnocchi. It was very strong. Neither of us could finish our serving....I had my doubts about Mr Z liking it in the first place, but the truth was, I probably put too much pesto on the gnocchi and it was overwhelming. I finished up the leftovers for lunch the next day - much to the disgust of my colleagues, who said it looked so disgusting I should go an eat somewhere else (but this is par for the course with my lunches, which quite often look awful but taste great) - and it was better cold and with a quantity of the pesto left on the plate.

I cooked up the rest of the gnocchi last night and will serve it variously with salsa, a creamy mustard dressing...anything I can find in the fridge, really. Gnocchi. It's the way forward.

As well as cooking up the gnocchi, I also made a mostly local meal for dinner - potato gratin (non-local onions) with mustardy sausages and broad beans. I used up the last of the pecorino romano on the potatoes and it was much better than the usual cheddar. I will definitely be buying more of that.

I decided last night I should subscribe to a vegetable box scheme. I looked up Abel & Cole, who are always putting leaflets through my door, but then thought I should shop around a bit, so I started searching and found this great tool for locavoring. Even better, the great tool told me about a farm shop a mere mile away from my house. I could bike there! Well....I could. We'll see. Maybe in the holidays.

Top marks this week also go to Cooper's, the supermarket local to where I work, who, I noted yesterday, have a whole cabinet of meat from a local farm - and even have a big sign up saying, "This farm is only 2.2 miles away from Cooper's!" It's a semi-independent supermarket and I fear that, if we end up selling our school site to the developers, one of the giants will move in an Cooper's will be no more. I think there should be more shops that sell knitting yarn, local meats and out of date chocolate repackaged and discounted.

This week I am also loving....

Igoogle. Having finally worked out how to reap RSS feeds, there's no stopping me.

Extra marking. Strangely. I am up to £75 worth of additional work now (I finally was able to work this out when they sent me the item fee, 2 full weeks after my request) - roughly half way to that Boden coat, then.

Naps. Nuff said.

Year 10 work experience. My timetable's dropped to 12 lessons, out of a possible 25.

My impending birthday. I'm going to Blackpool for the riding of rollercoasters and the drinking of gin, in celebration of the turning of 30.

Vertical gardening.
Want. Can't manage the garden I've got already, but want anyway.

Hypermiling. I may be really pissing off the drivers behind me with my enormous gap between me and the car in front and my coasting down hills and up to traffic lights, but I can already see the difference in my petrol consumption. Impressive.

Not much loving....

The weather. It's too rainy! I hope the sun is being saved up for August.

Work. How is it possible there are 12 more get ups until the summer holidays? Whose bright idea was that, eh? The kids have given up, I've largely given up....having my full quota of classes back next week for the first time since February (student teacher has also gone now) may well be the end of me. Bring on more naps.

Sunday 6 July 2008

OLS week 5 - triumphant end weekend

I spent my weekend here -

Well...I did spend most of my time out of this halls bedroom, but it was the penthouse room number 43 of Ripon Hall at Leed Trinity & All Saints for me this weekend.

I am slightly concerned that, between this and the Bath Uni conference last week, I have spent 4 nights out of the past 11 in a halls bedroom. Really, after living in Commonwealth for a year, I thought I had done my bit for student accommodation, but it seems this will be a recurrent event in my life.

Anyway, this room was hooge but didn't have an en suite, but it DID have a fridge which was nice. I was there for the 20th Annual Schools' History Project Conference. It was every bit as exciting as I had imagined, particularly because Sarah, my PGCE student from last year, and Rachel, who I trained with, were both there also, not to mention countless people from the School History forum. I went for curry with them on the Saturday night but felt vaguely awkward, in that "I'm always gobbing off online but don't really know what to say to you irl" way. Especially since, in the bar on Friday evening, they were all talking about their babies. And this was men. It was like some bizarre role-reversal moment. I am quite socially inept in such situations. Even after the curry, I ended up back in the bar with Sarah and a couple of teachers from Taunton (one of whom bore an uncanny resemblance to Dr Who - Sarah and I spent most of the weekend catterwauling the theme tune at him whenever he was off guard) drinking triple gin and tonics and talking about bizarre sexual practices. It turned into, "I know a more disgusting one than you" quite quickly.

I also went to quite a lot of lectures and workshops, I hasten to add. It wasn't all reminiscing about my days on the chatline.

Most exciting of all was this sign in the refectory -

How exciting! I ate local all weekend long! I think this really means that, on top of those three local meals I cooked for myself last week, I can add the 5 meals I ate whilst away. Score! Not sure how local the tinned tomatoes at breakfast were...but it's so nice to see large-scale eateries committing themselves to locavoring too. I love universities for being such pioneers of new and better ways of doing things.