Saturday 26 December 2009

Happy Boxing Day

Christmas is done with for another year. I always get a little bummed right afterwards because it's such a long time until it's Christmas again, and I'll have to take down the lights and everything; but it doesn't last long because I'm usually quite excited at the prospect of a new year. A whole new decade, this time, too! I can't believe 10 years has passed since the millenium. There have been loads of programs on about "the noughties"....well, one....I can't believe DVDs were invented this decade. They've surely been around forever!

Anyway. I make this every Christmas for Boxing Day breakfast, and can never find the recipe and have to trawl back through pages of thread on a forum I no longer participate in to get it every year, so I am posting it here once and for all. It's terribly indulgent and I only allow myself to make it at Christmas, but it's so good!

Blueberry Bread & Butter Pudding

1¼ cups milk
1 cup double cream
4 eggs
½ cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
6 croissants
1 cup blueberries

Beat together all the ingredients apart from the croissants and blueberries. Layer the croissants in the crockpot. Six or eight is right for my size of crockpot. Sprinkle over the blueberries, I usually tuck some between the croissants too. Pour over the liquid. Leave for a while until the custard has soaked in a bit. I leave mine overnight with a timer plug. Bake for around 4 hours on low until all puffy and delicious.

I hope you all had a lovely festive season, readers. My next post will be number 200 on this blog! I think I got to number 100 in April or May and said then I hoped it wouldn't take me as long to get to 200. It has not. I think it's safe to say I am well back on the blogging track.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Domestic Goddess Day

I have decided I love Sundays in the holidays. I have spent today doing all dom.god. things and haven't felt bad about not doing any school work at all.

Here's what I've been doing -

Bad phone camera picture, sorry.

The Mango Chutney is from a recipe in Delia Smith's Winter Collection. I love Delia. She has had a huge impact on my cooking over the years. For example, I eschew ready chopped mixed peel in a tub in favour of whole candied peel I cut myself. She rocks, and I blame Nigella entirely for her demise. Anyway, this mango chutney is the bomb. It's way better than what one buys in the shops. I am just gutted I have to wait 8 weeks for it to mature.

The lemon curd is from this recipe. I am typing it out because I have a fear of the link going dead -

4 lemons, zest and juice
1lb caster sugar
4oz butter
6 eggs

Beat the eggs and add all the other ingredients (I add the finely grated zest instead of putting in strips of peel and fishing them out later - it ends up with a slightly mealy texture, but I like it like that). Put in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. The sugar and butter will melt, and eventually the lemon curd will thicken up nicely and then you put it in a big sterilised jar. The one I used is a 2lb jar.

Then I made peanut butter cookies to this recipe -

8oz butter
1 and a half cups dark brown sugar (I subbed this for the light brown in the recipe as it was all I had)
1 and a half cups peanut butter
1 egg
2 tsps vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
Chocolate chips - but I used some PB M&Ms I brought home from the US in the summer

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg, vanilla and PB, then add the flour and baking powder to make a dough. Add the chocolate chips and chill for an hour. Roll the dough into small balls and put on a greased baking sheet and bake at 180 degrees C for 16-18 mins.

Finally, I made some experimental Christmas cupcakes. They are a clementine version of lemon drizzle, filled with a cardamom-infused ganache. I am not overjoyed because I think the cake batter needs a bit more citrus kick - I wish I had some orange oil or something - and the chocolate seized a bit when I poured the cream over it for the ganache so it's not perfect. But not bad for a first try.

I found out today that Father Hand has a cancerous tumour on his kidney. He's having surgery on January 18th. I am less concerned than I probably should be, but the prognosis is good.

Friday 18 December 2009

Fave Friday

5 Favourite Things About Me

1. I don't get hangovers. It was the work Christmas do last night. I drank a vast quantity. By all rights I should still be suffering, but I am just tired. I slept all afternoon. That was it, though.

2. I have an excellent memory. Not short term - I regularly forget what I'm saying halfway through a sentence. But the rest of my memory is great. I think it might be because I have kept diaries (or this blog) from the age of 12. Writing things down helps me remember them.

3. I have great hair. I do. I always have. It's long and in good condition, and it does what I want it to do. Plus, only one grey so far and I think I will be lucky and it will keep its colour late, like Mother Hand and her mum.

4. I'm flexible. I think it's because I did so many dance classes as a kid (this also helps me to pick up dance steps quite quickly...). It's not really useful, but I get the feeling that if I practised often, it wouldn't be long before I could do the splits again.

5. I'm a quick study. I pick things up quickly...except maths.

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Tuesday Ten

No, I'm not dead. I had the annual KS4 weekend away this weekend past which was amazingly fun and very low maintenance but required me to be absent from my home for a few days, and last week I was out every night, so blogging time has been in short supply. Blogger is on the work blocklist and I could access it through the unfiltered proxy but I have a sneaking suspicion that is more closely monitored and anyway I'd have to use IE. BLERGH.

But anyway.

So, I found out that I stole Tuesday Ten from another blog I read but that it is actually a big blog thing thing and there is a weekly Ten on Tuesday topic posted over here. So, I have stalked the blog for the past few days waiting for the topic and slightly relieved I didn't have to think up my own topic; only, it has not been updated. BOO.

Ten Things That Made Me Happy/Laugh This Week

1. Sweet, sweet karma.
My year 13s told me off about laughing at this but I couldn't stop, in spite of the fact somebody got really ill and that's in no way funny. I don't know if humans are responsible for climate change, but climate change IS happening and the fact that this guy went to a climate change conference, said it was rubbish and then had a heart attack....well. I found it funny.

2. This new pattern on Knitty.
I had a little fake moustache pattern that you put on your finger in my queue for a while, but I like this better. Funny!

3. This article on TreeHugger
(TreeHugger has had a lot of reading from me so far this week)
It's making me want to plan a whole new camping trip to the US, although I can't make it a reality until 2012, thanks to other holiday plans.

4. Getting a Christmas card from Australia. It was from my friend Beccy and her new husband Ian. I couldn't figure it out.

5. Fixed chair. My armchair has had broken springs for as long as I can remember and required me to sit on 2 cushions and 2 blankets and it was STILL low. Then Mr Z fixed a computer for an upholsterer. Today my chair returned, good as new.

6. New pattern. I knitted cabled beaded wrist warmers, based on a pattern I made up as a new knitter, and they turned out lovely. I am going to write the pattern up and put it on here. I might even get to keep them, because I made them as a secret Santa gift for somebody at work who had opted out of secret Santa.
They were my weekend FO for this week but I haven't had time to make a post. Maybe tomorrow?

7. It's almost the end of term. And Ofsted didn't come in. But the governors did, to ask us how we thought school was going. That was a long meeting. I got a lot off my chest. Very cathartic.

8. Baths. Lush. Especially at this time of year.

9. Seeing friends. We had a ski trip staff meal last Wednesday and I had Ali and Parpy Jo over on Sunday for Chinese and X Factor. It really makes me more relaxed for the rest of the week.

10. Scrabble games that aren't Scrabble. I learnt speed Scrabble and anagrams at the weekend, which are both played with Scrabble tiles but no board. I killed at both of them. I am a Scrabblemeister. I wish that was cool....

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Proud owner

I said it would be mine! And, in fact, it panned out pretty much as I said it would on Friday...

Posted by ShoZu

Monday 7 December 2009


1 Thing I am knitting which I said I never would

I was seduced by the sparkly, seasonal sock yarn in GK at the weekend and had to buy it. I was the first person there who wanted the red, and there was only one ball left, so I got it. I have had to cast it on already because it didn't seem fair to take the last ball of red and then not knit socks with it.

And besides, as you see, it is yarn made to be socks. (It's not mouldy, btw, that's just a leftover whisp of Jade Sapphire cashmere which was in the project bag).

I am doing the simple ribbed sock pattern which is NOT toe-up, despite my (extremely arrogant, considering I have never previously knitted socks) insistence on this being the best method. I just wanted to get going and this was a simple pattern, freely available. It does remind me a little of my old ribbed grey school socks, but wth - it's retro.

3 things I need to finish knitting by Christmas

1. Sam's hat. Assistant head at school asked for a hat in her rugby team's colours last year. She's leaving at the end of term. It is now an urgent concern.

2. Secret Santa gift for work. I am knitting some beaded wrist warmers, based on a pattern I made up when I started knitting. I knitted the original out of Debbie Bliss navy cotton angora which (a) didn't show up the cabling at all and (b) had no stretch to it, which is why I am talking about the original in the singular, since I never made the second one. I never wrote down any instructions, either. But I'm using plum coloured Kid Classic by Rowan and silver beads, and have enough sense now to be knitting the beaded stitches TBL on the next row, which saves a lot of shuffling beads about.

3. Parpy Jo's scarf. I finally got over myself and started adding the knitted on border at knitting group on Saturday, and it's really not as scary as I suspected it would be, although I did have to buy some sharper DPNs. I don't know why, since I could hav just used any old needle - it dosn't need DPNs. But oh well.
Parpy Jo has returned from her Russian holiday afianced (hurrah!), and I am seeing her next Sunday, so this one is the most pressing of them all.

5 things I want to bake over the holiday period

1. Delia's mincemeat nut strudel. YUM.

2. Something with chestnuts and chocolate. Chocolate chestnut cheesecake, probably. Or chocolate chestnut trifle.

3. St Clement's roulade. I can't even remember where the recipe for this comes from, which may prove to be an issue. It is some sort of citrus sponge, filled with lemon curd, passion fruit and cream. It is very tasty.

4. Blueberry bread and butter pudding in the slow cooker. Made with double cream and croissants. This is so deacadent and calorie crammed that I really can't justify making it any other time. I looked forward to it all year. It's best made overnight ready for Boxing Day.

5. Christmassy cupcakes. I would like to do some experimenting and come up with a really Christmassy blend. I am thinking, lots of spices, a cranberry filling, and an icing flavoured with Liquid Christmas spirit (the name of which escapes me's Czech, and in a blue bottle with a yellow label).

Sunday 6 December 2009

Christmas wishlist

The time has come for unashamed materialism. Here is my list for Santa. I have been relatively good this year.

(with apologies to Amazon, because I appear to have pinched quite a lot of links from their website).

Notebooks with cherry-print covers - I have been googling, but can't find anything. I have found a lot of cherry blossom print...not quite the same, though.

Wrap Style, by Pam Allen. I've become somewhat obsessed with the Shetland Triangle, but I can't allow myself to buy any more pattern books until I knit something out of the last two I bought.

Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. And Superfreakonomics, which is along the same lines....I loved the first Freakonomics.

Silicone bakeware. Especially a bundt "tin". This makes baking so, so easy - no greasing, no lining, no need for loose bottomed tins, easier to store....

Scrabble. I will probably end up buying this for myself though, because I want it for the AG&T weekend in the middle of December. My sixth formers have strongly suggested I trawl the local charity shops before buying a new one, so I think this will be my weekend task.

Some more Jade Sapphire 6-ply cashmere. Having knitted the Tudora in this, I now want something for myself.

Fancy make up brushes from MAC - especially a concealer brush.

The box set of Big Love season 3, which seems like it's never going to air over here, not even on channel 5. Though a cursory google suggests it's not out to buy yet.

An Oliver Bonas jewellery stand. And, in fact, quite a lot of their jewellery to put on it.

A new lava bulb for my lava lamp.

A red and white polka dot stair runner. Mr Z has suggested it and now I can't stop thinking about it.

This lovely, but expensive, garnet brooch. It is vintage, two crescent moons side by side. I have been looking at it for a while now, but it seems a little silly to shell out that much dosh for it, because I am not terribly good at remembering to put brooches on.

That's all I can think of for now. I think that is probably enough...

Friday 4 December 2009

Post script

The car, or Henry The Wondrous Car of Miracles as it shall hereafter be known (until it breaks again), was indeed waiting for me when I arrived home. The bill was a bit eye watering (coincidentally about the same as I was going to spend on Mr Z's Christmas present...) but the mechanic said he had no idea how it was still going, since the clutch had basically disintegrated. He said he wished he had taken pictures.


Fave Friday

Five Favourite Things About This Week

1. My vest and knitted scarf collection. The time has come for a nice cosy vest under whatever I'm wearing, and a big thick scarf wrapped round my neck. Lion & Lamb really has come into its own this week, as have the thrummed mittens I made last year (and then had to rescue after I stupidly took them dry skiing). And the new green hat.

2. Little coursework surprises from my naughtiest year 11s. I love it when they turn up, looking all proud of themselves, and give me their late essays.

3. Sour Strawbs. Having recently discovered Haribo Strawbs, I found a sour version in the (fantastically overpriced) garage local to work. They were worth the money. Not quite as sour as Malaysian sour Skittles - which apparently made a PE teacher cry, the mouth of one of the Malaysia trippers go numb for several hours, and Father Z's face fold in on itself, so sour are they - but a good level of mouthwatering regardless.

4. The Hairspray Soundtrack. As I trudged across the sodden field in the icy wind on break duty yesterday, chasing off smokers, it was the only thing that kept me from crying with exhaustion and self-pity.

5. Henry getting his death rattle fixed. I might be over-optimistic about this, because I am still at work, waiting for Vicky to get back from a school trip and drive me home - but he certainly went in this morning to have fixed the scary rattling which sounds every time the clutch is depressed, and I haven't had any phone calls saying he won't be back today. None too soon, either, since the clutch had started to grate yesterday. I had another tense drive home. I hope it was caused by the original problem, and the clutch isn't finally going. I have a tax bill and Christmas to pay for this month!

A NOT favourite thing this week is discovering Scattergories is out of print, or whatever you call it when a game is discontinued. The US version is still out there but has difficult categories like "US State Capitals" on it. I have developed a minor obsession with this game, since it's absolutely perfect for keeping at school for 5 minutes of downtime (ie, parents evenings) and everybody enjoys it. We use John & Lou's set (they come skiing and brought it for the bus and we really annoyed the teachers from the other school by playing it loudly for most of the daylight hours we were travelling) but I have set my heart on owning one for myself.

I have been looking around but second hand sets are going for crazy money - nearly £50 for a 21 sided dice, a crappy timer and a few cards? No thanks. I love it so much, though.....I will craftily hit up the charity shops tomorrow, but then probably frantically bid on ebay.

And, if I'm true to form, I will win, pay nearly £50, play it half a dozen times this month and then put it in the cupboard with Cranium, Monopoly and the other games I bought and never play.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Tuesday Ten

Ten Things I Would Like To Achieve before 2010

1. I want my Ravelry queue (92 items) to be smaller than my projects page (87). I would like to achieve this without deleting 5 items from my queue.

2. I will get over my irrational fear of the knitted join and add the border to Parpy Jo's scarf, and I will do this in the next fortnight, so that I can finally give it to her.

3. Knit the same Parpy Jo a hat for Christmas, that she has been hankering after.

4. Write some Christmas cards. I stopped several years ago, expecting that after a year or two people would stop sending them to me, but this has not worked and I just have teh guilt. I am putting a limit on it, though. 20, I think.

5. Knit a gift for my Secret Santa (isn't it weird how a lot of these goals relate to number 1?) This year I have drawn one of the textiles teacher, and her entire degree was in knitting. Oh crap. BUT she has never held a knitting needle in her life! It was all machine knitting. So some handwarmers are probably going to be just the ticket.

6. Mark all exercise books before the end of term and plan the first week of lessons for January, so I can relax over the holidays and just concentrate on writing new schemes of work and maybe some coursework marking.

7. Maintain my current weight. I may as well ask the fish to stop swimming, I fear.

8. Write my New Year's Resolutions in a findable place. I have just spent 20 minutes trawling fora, looking for them. No luck yet.

9. Print photographs (especially wedding pictures) and get them into albums and onto walls.

10. Receive many compliments on my new hat.

I have tired hamster face tonight.

Much better view.

Pattern: Star-crossed Slouchy Beret by Natalie Larson (free Rav download).
Yarn: Knitpicks Andean silk I got in a US/UK yarn swap; it is LUSH. It's much greener than the picture suggests. Kind of like, a dark jade.
Needle: 8mm Knitpicks circ
Mods: I knit the brim as a 2x2 rib because, honestly, who has time for a 1x1 at this time of year? I unintentionally used the same size needle for the ribbing as the rest of the hat, so it's not as snug as I would like, but it hangs off my head really nicely and it's superwarm. And it went so quick. Four hours, max.

As predicted, I had to scrape my car for the first time this morning, but the rain has set in again this evening which is what the hat is REALLY useful for. I want to knit another one right this second, but I really must do the lace scarf border. How badly can it go?

Monday 30 November 2009

Weekend FO

I would just let myself down if I didn't post on the last day of November, wouldn't I? Especially when I actually have a FO, for the first time in over a month...

Pattern: Tudora, on Knitty
Yarn: Jade Sapphire 6-ply cashmere....mmmmm
Needle: 4mm Options
Mods: None, although I had plenty of yarn leftover and wish I'd made it a couple of rows taller. I suppose it can't be too tall to be a neck cuff, though. I haven't blocked it, either. I like the cables to look a little rustic.

This is for Mother Hand for Christmas. She requested a cream and red scarf, in the same vein as the one I made her last year, but I was way ahead of her and picked up this yarn at Loop when I visited Sib in October, along with the button, from the Button Queen. I have a similar shade of yarn and two more buttons, with which to make handwarmers, but I am not sure whether there will be enough time to sort that out for Christmas. We'll see.

In other knitting news, I am chipping along quite nicely with Versatility, although the Azapa sheds over everything it comes near to (including C's black trousers on the plane back from Malaysia, blush blush); and tonight I cast on for another star-crossed slouchy beret. I knitted one as part of my Big Hat Project last year; this morning, as I ran from house to car in driving rain without a hat for the umpteenth time this term, I bemoaned the fact that I have 30 odd hats on my projects page and not a single one left for wearing in the rain. So I wasted no time in casting on this evening in some delightful jade green Andean Silk I had lying around.

I'd have finished too, if I didn't have pesky work to do. Pesky work, tsk. I expect I will be able to finish it when the dentist makes me wait 45 minutes for my appointment tomorrow afternoon.

In work news....Ofsted are most definitely circling. They've reached the next town over. Some colleagues think next week. I am torn between wanting them in before Christmas so I can relax, and wanting them to come later when the behaviour is better. There are other reasons why later would be better, which are far too dull for me to go into.

Meh. I'll just make sure my G&T action chronology is up to date and keep marking everything I can see. Don't be surprised if I post pictures of the mitten with red tick marks on her tail next week.

Sunday 29 November 2009

A couple of videos from Malaysia

I finally got my computer switched on (having been relying on Mr Z's SuperMac all week) so I am currently uploading all my hundreds of pics to Flickr, and thought I would add a couple of videos here.

Firstly - here are the mooing frogs I wrote about on my first day -

Obviously, this is just a sound-based video. There's not a lot of voiceover from me, because there were some Malaysian kids nearby and I didn't want to seem like a total weirdo. I expect mooing frogs are totally normal if you live in Malaysia. The principal and his wife actually seemed quite embarrassed about it. Here's one of the beasts in close up -

Positively rabid, I tell you. This is the same one that tried creeping up on me when I was blogging at the fake Christmas party.

...and secondly, here is a video of the Petronas Towers at night, which I took as we were leaving the spectacular shopping centre in the base of them.

They really were worth seeing, in spite of the traffic horrors preceding the visit. Here's a picture of me pointing at them.

(My gappy tooth is not really as gappy as it looks here, I promise). I took pictures like this all over the place. I had to stop people from taking the camera off me to take a picture, by explaining it was the theme to my pictures. Benny's out, I'm afraid - pointing is in. Pointing is the new Benny.

Don't tell him that, though - bison can sulk like nobody's business.

Friday 27 November 2009

Fave Friday

Five Random Faves of the Moment

1. Kelly's hat on DWTS
It's a big slouchy beret with a buckled leather strap. Here's a handy screenshot -

As I suspected, by the time I cottoned onto this beauty there was already a thread or two about it on Ravelry, and somebody managed to track down the source - the hats are made by Galadriel Mattei out of recycled cashmere sweaters and watch straps. They also cost $160. I have a better idea....and it involves those blue art deco buckles I bought last month.

(Incidentally, I have been adoring DWTS this season. It's not quite the same as Strictly, but it's a very fun, with the little skits, and Bruno is positively rabid. I am watching the finale now, having managed to avoid spoilers all week - which is why googling for Kelly's hat was the closest I got to living on the edge today. I loved Kelly's Balmain-shouldered showdance outfit, and electrowatt grin, Donny's showdance, and Mya's paso. And great music choices. Still, Shawn Johnson's cha cha from last season is my favourite DWTS dance ever.)

2. Random History Facts Which May Not Be True
Like, members of Mussolini's nickname was the Phenomenal Rabbit (this is out of a textbook, so hopefully true). And Saddam Hussein made it law that everybody had to make a cake on his birthday (I cannot find any evidence to substantiate this but I wish it to be true - evil dictator forces cake on everyone).

3. Wispa Gold
I hope it's back for good. Delicious.

4. Make-do-and-mend cooking
I made a banana and chocolate cake for work today, using the 4 brown bananas leftover from before my trip, and the leftover chocolate coins from the Murder Mystery in March. I haven't shopped for so long that we've almost completely run out of fresh food, so it's been some interesting eating lately.

(DWTS update: I can't believe Karrieann just broke down when she was talking to Kelly Osborne. It has made me well up! I don't think Kelly is going to win but she has been marvellously entertaining. And I bet they had to take that dress in a lot from the first week.)

5. Duvet Duck Slippers
I am not a slipper-wearer but I bought a pair of these a couple of years ago and they're so snug and warm, I couldn't resist buying another pair this winter, since the old pair were leaving feathers all over the house, thanks to a sizeable rip in the bottom. The new pair are even better because they are turquoise, with fluffy clouds all over, and they have a furry lining. Yum.
(Though, I bought mine on ebay and now I've found this link to them I wish I'd gone for the black pair - they wouldn't get grubby as quickly).

Half an hour of DWTS left. Who will prevail? And tomorrow on Strictly - two new dances! And a group dance! Tres jolie.
(Poor Mr Z. Even the Simpsons this evening had ballroom dancing on it......and one of my favourite ever Simpsons quote, "Giving people equal parts when they're clearly not equal is called what, children? Communism!")

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Tuesday Ten

Ten Things It's Tough To Do With Jet Lag

1. Teach
2. Form coherent sentences
3. Knit (I know....horrifying)
4. Be pleasant and forgiving to your lift-share person when she tells you she can't drive all this week as promised because she has to take her car in for an MOT on Friday, and you've booked your car in to have the scary rattle fixed on Friday
5. Remember when you were told to input the year 8 data/understand why you haven't done it yet
6. Catch up on all the TV that's been recorded (I can't concentrate)
7. Return the phone call to the parent wanting to cancel the ski trip place (I'm sure she's going to argue with me about the money because we warned we wouldn't refund anything paid up to this point, and I just don't have any fighting spirit....I might write a letter instead)
8. Make interesting and witty blog posts
9. Upload holiday pictures to Flickr
10. Remember to put a title for your blog post

I think I should just give up and go to bed. It's very windy outside: just the sort of blustery evening that's best spent in bed, imo. I did sleep very well last night and felt quite with it all day, but then we got stuck in a traffic jam outside Bath because a tractor towing a trailer of 100 pigs was blown over and blocked the road, and by the time I got home I was fit for nowt.

Ramble, ramble....I promise, more effort tomorrow.

Monday 23 November 2009

Can't blog, sleeping

In 35 minutes, I will have been up for 24 hours.

I am proud to report I managed not to sleep on the plane home, thanks to plenty of DSI and movies (including the Rock - awesome) in the hopes that this would minimise jet lag. I will report the success of this. I have to be up for work in 10 hours.

In the words of my students - FAIL.

More tomorrow, but I'm back, at least. It's cold.

Friday 20 November 2009

Fave Friday

Five things Malaysians seem to love consuming

1. Coconut
In the rice, in the cakes (which are mostly made of sticky rice), in the curries, split open to drink the's lucky I love coconut, because otherwise I'd be a bit stuffed.

2. Milo
This is a bit like Nesquick, but made with water instead of milk. They serve it hot in the canteen here for breakfast, but all the students put ice in it and make it a cold drink. It's also served everywhere else - in juice boxes, cans, in fast food restaurants, and in fact pretty much everywhere I've been.

3. Peanuts
So glad none of the students is allergic. They turn up everywhere. They were floating in the breakfast curry this morning. At the feast on Wednesday night, we were served a thick folded pancake-type thing, which was filled with rough ground peanuts, sweetcorn, and plenty of sugar. It was surprisingly pleasant. And the peanut butter in the mornings is smooth (boo) but the freshest I've ever tried.

4. Instant coffee
BLERGH. And it's mostly Nescafe, I think. Luckily there is a proper-coffee machine in the teacher lounge here. Yesterday in KL I was served a cold coffee that had already been sweetened, it was a surprise. Not one I'd like to repeat.

5. CAKE!
I've never been to a country where they like cake so much, I don't think. And I mean proper cake - obviously Americans are good at doughnuts and the French push a wide variety of pastries; but Malaysians seem to really rate actual cake. I appreciate this. I appreciate Malaysia because of this.

Can't believe the week is over. We're off for a bit of beach action tomorrow so might not get the chance to update now until Monday. Try not to miss me too much!

Thursday - Kuala Lumpur

(I am most annoyed with blogger, because I posted this on Thursday evening and it date stamped it as Wednesday morning, so now it comes chronologically after Wednesday's post. This cannot be borne; therefore I am reposting it now, and deleting the other one. But it means it will look like I skipped a day of posting. BAH.)

I am currently sat in the same spot as Tuesday, listening to Santa Claus is Coming To Town sung in a distinctly Malaysian accent. As if a Christmas party in November weren't bad enough, there is sweat trickling down my back (even though it's after 10pm, it's still about 30 degrees C) and there is a frog hopping across the grass towards me, which stops every time I look at it. Crafty frog. I don't trust it. This entry will not be long.

We've been out all day in Kuala Lumpur, attending leadership seminars and then shopping, an activity which was sadly curtailed due to terrible traffic severely delaying our arrival at KLCC, the shopping centre at the base of the Petronas Towers. We weren't helped by our fantastically rickety bus and frankly halfwitted driver, who at one point tried to take a tunnel that was too short and then BACKED UP THE SLIP ROAD INTO HEAVY TRAFFIC. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, since he earlier drove the wrong way down a one way street and had to take a hair pin bend onto the dual carriageway. And the bus didn't have seatbelts. Helloooooo, risk assessment.

Shooppign was done, and takeaway curry was consumed (lamb massala in a plastic bag, parathas and zucchini oat cake which was one of the most delicious cakes I have ever eaten), and then we rushed back for the Christmas party. C got very tense because we were so late and he didn't think we should have missed any of it, but I think we've been working them very hard and they've been looking forward to shopping all week, so I don't feel bad. Protocol be damned. Nobody seems to mind that we're late.

But I had better go and join in, before the frog gets here. I'd rather go and stand under my cold shower and wash my "going to important corporate HQs" make up off, but oh well.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Wednesday - a day working on presentations

Another thing I did yesterday that I forgot - I saw actual monkeys, sitting in tree branches, grooming each other. Unfortunately I saw these monkeys from the coach window and we were past them before I could grab my camera, but I have a great mind snapshot that will stay with me, I think.

I am not loving how this eeepc randomly gives me font change options sometimes but not others. This really messes with the theme of my blog in a way that my slightly ASD mind cannot cope with. Like in Geology last week where I left my purple pen on my desk after doing my homework and thus had to do the classwork in my other purple pen, which is not quite the same purple. It upset me, I won't lie to you. (I just figured out that the option wasn't available because I was in Edit HTML mode. I feel a little foolish).

I suffer for my art in more ways than one: I have an enormous swollen red patch on my leg where I got noshed by an opportunistic mosquito last night whilst updating, and another, slightly smaller bite on my arm. Luckily I bought hydrocortisone cream with me, which is truly a marvellous product. But then I got locked out last night because it took so long to update both this blog and the work one, so I had to stumble around the building in the dark banging on windows until I could attract C's attention.

I still cannot get any pictures to upload, even from the IT lab. I managed one, see below, but that took ages and I didn't have the time to sit around and wait for the rest, so they will have to wait until next week. I have managed to make a video of the frogs mooing - though it's useful for the sound only. Luckily I didn't actually see any of the frogs, or I probably would have dropped my camera down a drain in horror. The snails are double the size of British snails so I dread to think how big the frogs are.

We've been working in college today, on the presentations and preparing for tonight's cultural performance, which includes the Ross/Monica NYE dance from Friends and a Soliloquy Race. Should be entertaining. Off to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow for some shopping and lectures from the school's sponsor and HSBC. I am focusing on the shopping, which will be my reward for sitting through the leadership seminars. I think it's too late for me to attend seminars about being a good leader, but when I suggested I might slope off and meet an old school friend for lunch, C's face got a bit crinkled up so I had to quickly say I'd of course much prefer to represent my school at the bank. Le sigh. I suppose it is officially a school day.

Speaking of which - had better go and update the other place now. Enjoy the picture - a yellow flower at the tea plantation.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Tuesday Ten

Ten Things I Have Done Today

1. Visited the Cameron Highlands
2. Eaten a scone and jam in a very British manner
3. Trekked through some jungle
4. Fallen on my behind and skidded halfway down the path, thus making it muddy and slick for everybody who came after, ha ha ha.
5. Been round the Boh tea plantation, seen tea being processed and drunk some orange pekoe tea on the terrace, with a slice of chocolate cake, natch
6. Bought Teresa's tea and even taken a picture of a small, blue house I found on the plantation (though not THE blue house from the picture she posted last week)
7. Marvelled at the lovely weather and been thankful that the rain held off and it was cool for walking in the jungle
8. Watched part of the Battle of the Bands, until one band butchered Mr Brightside and It's My Life by Bon Jovi in one set and I could take no more
9. Unsuccessfully tried to upload pictures here, and Flickr - you'll have to wait a bit longer
10. Got chewed by mosquitoes because the only place I could get the wireless to work was outside in the quad and it's around 11pm. I am going in now, links and pictures tomorrow hopefully.

Monday 16 November 2009

Malaysia - day 1: Mooing Frogs

I can't believe I missed making an entry yesterday - but to be fair, I missed yesterday, mostly. I certainly only saw daylight for a brief time through the windows on the plane and then it was dark again, and I'd been traveling for 20 hours, trying not to fall asleep on the shoulder of the other accompanying teacher, whom I barely know. As it was, I woke up with a start more than once thanks to vivid dreams (Mr Z: do not paint the computer room walls black, please) and managed to wake him up too, and then I realised I was drooling....not great.

Since we've been here, I have tried several varieties of fruit which are new to me, and a superfresh coconut, the lid of which had been cut off and the milk gelled with something. It was not my favourite thing ever, though I am reliably informed by another teacher at work that the durian fruit (not sure of the spelling for that) is the one to look out for. Otherwise, the food has been heavy on the noodles (including breakfast) but very tasty. It's hammering down with rain which means the cat population has disappeared, including the very tiny and cute kitten which is roaming around nearby. Whilst at lunch today, one of the other teachers said he could hear a cat and we discovered one, shut into a cupboard in the dining hall. They are everywhere.

There are also frogs - though I have only heard them. The noise they make is closest to a moo, particularly with them sitting in the drains; the noise resonates deeply. I will try and record a bit of the sound tonight.

I managed to sleep last night until nearly 5am and then lay awake, wondering if I should turn the aircon off and boil, or leave it on and put up with the noise. Eventually I managed to fall back to sleep and then nearly fell out of bed when my alarm went off. It's a single bed, and almost the only furniture in the room. I think they intended me to use the other bedroom in the bungalow, but this one has an en suite and is at the opposite end from Colin (the other teacher) so today I dragged the vanity unit to the room I slept in last night. I prefer seclusion.

Tired today, but at least I got more sleep than the kids.

Cameron Highlands tomorrow, and the Boh tea plantation. I am looking forward to seeing it and going for a tramp. I think some exercise in the outdoors will help me rid myself of any lingering jetlag, and I'll be able to get some tea for one of my favourite bloggers, Teresa at Knitting the Blues (see link on right. I am on an eeepc and it's tough to navigate, so no link right here, sorry).

Saturday 14 November 2009

And we're off

We are at Heathrow now, waiting to fly. All going smoothly so far - I even managed to get some MAC. Thought there might be a photo opp but no, so am posting this depressing pic of a shop up the 'wood. Spelling is dead, people. Next update from Malaysia!

Posted by ShoZu

Friday 13 November 2009

Fave Friday

Five Favourite Things About Going Away

1. Packing. I'm not kidding. I'm an organisational geek. I like to lay out everything I'm taking, folded in piles on the bed(one for tops, one bottoms, one for dresses etc) and then decide when I will wear each piece, to ensure I don't overpack.

2. The airport/flight. That's not to say I don't enjoy other forms of transport - I must have rambled on about my unhealthy adoration for bus travel before; I really enjoy the process of being on the move. It appeals to my multitasking side: I am travelling AND knitting/reading/napping. But I love airports especially, and being on planes. Longhaul is good. I've hopped the pond so often, shorthaul feels like an anti-climax now. Oh, I'm such a jet-setter....*flicks hair affectedly*

3. Seeing a new place. Especially people watching, and looking around shops. I like going to foreign supermarkets: you can get a real feel for everyday life in them. Especially if you're nosing in other people's baskets.

4. A change in weather. Nowhere else has British weather; I like it, but sometimes it's nice to go somewhere where the weather is predictable. Like, I hear in Malaysia, it's 30 degrees with high humidity, and it rains every afternoon, but nobody cares because it's warm rain. That's great! I can totally pack for that - hot weather clothes + waterproof.

5. Taking pictures. I like to take a LOT of pictures, and then I get them home, put them on Flickr...and that's usually it. I'm determined to spend part of my Christmas holiday organising some pictures into albums, like the Life Laundry woman said. I think she probably meant it about real pictures, with negatives, which take up space, since digital pictures take up less room than albums. However, I get a real kick out of looking through my albums.

I had a brief moment of zen-like tranquility this morning, around 11.30, when I had finished all my cover and copied the entire trip file for my Head, and for about 30 minutes I allowed myseld to caper unreservedly.

Then the panic set it. OMG. What have I forgotten? What is going to go wrong? Supposing my passport is lost? ARGH I'VE LOST MY PHONE AND IT'S THE EMERGENCY CONT...oh here it is. I am going to be too hot. And other such irrationalities.
It has abated slightly now, that I have packed, but we'll see. This time tomorrow, I'll be on the plane.

I'll leave you with a picture I took before the autumn wind blew all the leaves off this pretty (but irritating) tree Mr Z is cultivating to grow right outside the front door. I think, though the glass, it looks almost like a painting. Lovely colours, at any rate.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Pretty pleased with myself today

I said I would stay in school today until I finished setting my 26 lessons of cover, and when I came home I only had one normal cover left to do (and six 6th form lessons, which is a different kettle of fish and nowhere near as difficult). I felt pleased but a little sad that I would have to do it tomorrow instead. So when I opened MyDocs on my home computer and saw a file called "---insertmissingcoverlessontopichere--- cover lesson" I actually squealed with delight. It turns out, I had to set the same lesson for cover last year, when I went on the Prague trip.

COVER IS DONE! Bring on the packing.

I think I have enough suitable clothing now, thanks to the arrival of a couple of new lovelies from Boden today. They were in the sale and I got two for less than the original cost of one, and they're very ladylike and come with a slip - I have never worn a slip before, but at the age of 31 I think it might be time to consider it. I got one in pink, like this, and a pale blue one, which looks like a cross between a nurse's dress and a nightie, but will look fine with the right belt.

So, now I have 4 summer dresses that cover my shoulders, reach to my knees and aren't too low cut (and one other which might not pass the low cut test, but might be OK with my new Oliver Bonas
cherry brooch - colours even nicer than in this picture);
two skirts that reach to the knee and one of education length (reaches the floor); one pair of very unflattering cargo trousers (ugh, so not me - but will be good for jungle trekking) and five tops with sleeves. Now all I am concerned about is what might count as smart shoes. I was only going to take flip flops and walking boots, but perhaps neither will be smart enough for the meeting at the bank. I wonder if my Birkis would be OK?

I am also hoping to sew the hooks and eyes
onto the cotton top I knitted for the summer holiday, since it is my only suitable knitted top and it currently doesn't have any fastenings. But, time may be against me. I wonder if my beautician will mind if I do it while she does my pedicure on Saturday?

I should not have gone to the Oliver Bonas site to find that picture. I now have three pieces of jewellery in my basket. Must. Resist.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Quotes, quotes everywhere

So, it turns out that the milometer in the minibus is actually a kilometre...meter. So that explains why it claimed I had covered 190 miles - because it was not miles. Mind at rest.

One of my year 12s asked me today whether it was true that Mussolini once said, "Better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep." We decided it was a strange thing for him to say, since today's lesson was all about how he wanted everybody in his country to be the same, the better to control them - and was therefore encouraging people to behave like sheep.

As it turns out, though, he did say it - it is attributed to him on my new favourite website, Wikiquote. I can quite easily see myself whiling (should that be wiling?) away hours and hours on here. Here's Mussolini's Wikiquote page. I like his quote about Hitler - "I don't like the look of him."

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Tuesday Ten

Ten things on my mind

1. Fresh sheets. On the bed now, waiting for me. Am going to have trouble finishing this post.
2. Wow, that rhubarb and Greek yogurt I had earlier was delicious. I can't wait for rhubarb season to come round again.
3. This week is going to pass way too quickly.
4. I have to mark those essays in the morning or Megan in my year 12 class will give me the disappointed look again.
5. My foot hurts from driving the minibus for the first time all the way to the ski slope and back.
6. Thank goodness I didn't have an accident in the minibus.
7. Why did the minibus milometer say I had driven 190 miles when it is only 120 round trip?
8. I can't be bothered to clean my teeth (but I will because I am not a rebel in this respect)
9. My feet are cold; I wonder if I can sweet talk Mr Z into making me a hot water bottle.
10. OMG I can't believe I have to get up for work in 7 and a half hours.

Monday 9 November 2009


One thing I have to do, but don't want to do:
1. Set 19 lessons of cover for when I go away (and I can't even whinge about it, because I'm going to Malaysia and nobody at work wants to hear about poor me and my 19 lessons of cover).

Three things I have to do, which I don't mind doing:
1. Dry slope skiing session number 1, tomorrow. I even have to drive the minibus down there. Eek!
2. Packing for going to Malaysia. I am waiting on two more parcels and then I can start laying stuff out for the suitcase.
3. Handy dying the other bags, before Thursday. This may not happen.

Five things I'm eagerly anticipating:
1. Dinner with Ali and Parpy Jo on Wednesday night.
2. Knitting group on Thursday night. I hope to distribute the newly-dyed bags, but I am uncertain whether I will have time to dye, wash and dry them before then, since I won't be home until superlate tomorrow.
I love my Thursday knitting group. We're actually going away for a weekend together in March! How exciting is that! A whole weekend of knitting, except Rachel will be crocheting and Chris will be spinning. Mary will probably knit about 15 things in the first half hour and make Hannah and me feel inadequate. It will be A Lot Of Fun (tm).
3. Geology on Friday. I was gutted I had to miss it last week, apparently they did viscosity. I could teach them a thing or two about being thick.
4. Curry and The Wire with Mrs Z on Friday night. Just what I need before I get on a plane - spicy food.
5. Um, did you know that on Saturday I am going to MALAYSIA?!

Sunday 8 November 2009

A daily post....

...seems a surefire way to make a blog boring, especially since I spent most of today working. I have spent 20 minutes thinking of something to say.

I did sew the sleeve seams for Candy, though - or at least, one of them. I cast off the neck yesterday. But I fear I will be unpicking that cast off and redoing the neckline, because it wants to continually fall off my shoulders at present. This may stall my project a little because I need to figure out how to get enough decreases in without (a) it reaching the top of my head before it gets narrow enough and (b) it looking weird and bunchy.

So, naturally, the best course of action to take was to cast on for something new - a Versatility, to be precise. I was so, so excited when this pattern was published that I wanted to go out and buy the yarn for it and cast on immediately. It has only taken me a year or so to get round to it. I'm going to skip the bobbles and include a 2x2 cable instead, I think.

I am knitting it in scrummy Araucania Azapa, in an oatmeal colour, which is truly luscious; however, I think I am the first person to notice that it is not 180ishm per skein, as it says on some labels, but actually 130ish, as it says on some others. I have edited the Rav page accordingly but I bet some people are going to be short for projects. So, I just wrote to Knitting Fever to complain, too. I think it's a bit rich to advertise it at the false, higher yardage.

I feel like I'm working for Watchdog, or something.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Charity shopping

This time in one week, I'll be at Heathrow. Hopefully eating a burger. I am wondering whether to take Benny the Bison or not. I don't think bison are native to Malaysia but I expect he'd fit in. He didn't get much of a look in during our America trip this year.

Anyway. Super long week this week, I was so tired by yesterday, and then I had to do a 4 hour meeting about Malaysia after school, which made me realise I didn't have a great deal of suitable clothing. My summer wardrobe is almost all sleeveless, and there's not much in the shops at the moment, predictably.

So I when a lady at knitting group today mentioned charity shops I thought I'd hit up the ones up the 'wood, and how pleased am I that I did! I got 4 tops for under a tenner, all with sleeves. One is brand new with tags, £8 but cost £1.50. Bargain. Last week, I got a brand new jewellery box, which I know is from John Lewis because Mother Hand bought me the a knitting needle case and knitting bag in the same print for my birthday, for £1.80. I must make more of an effort to go in.

It doesn't even matter too much that one of the tops isn't really my style - it's green, for a start, and a bit ... mature. But I can wear it for the holiday and then wash it and donate it back! It's like a clothes library.

I liked it, by the way, when the presenter of Have I Gots News For You this week said that Britain's favourite charity was the banking system.

I have nearly finished my Candy cardigan. It has become the Cardigan That Ate Yarn, as Mary (from knitting group) predicted it would. I am hoping it will be finished by the end of the weekend, but I have a gigantic pile of work to do tomorrow. Le sigh.

Friday 6 November 2009

Fave Friday

Five Favourite Drinks

1. Diet Coke. I like it far too much. I haven't been sleeping well this week and last night it finally clicked that I'd given up diet coke in the evenings because it stopped me sleeping - and then mysteriously forgot this little nuggest of info and started again. So I am limiting myself. But I especially like it out of a cup, a la fast food joint.

2. Gin. I like Hendricks, for a preference, and Gordons. But I'll drink any gin, really. I like it with soda and a lime wedge, to bring out the gin flavour. Gin is my go-to drink when I've got a long night ahead and don't want to get too drunk.

3. Lemon squash. Current favourite soft drink. I like how they're double concentrate now, so the bottle is smaller.

4. Grapefruit juice. It's a bit heavy on its own, though, so I mix it half and half with sparkling water. Grapefruit is one of my favourite smells/tastes.

5. Chenin blanc. I like white wine that isn't not Chardonnay, really. I like red wine, too, but I am in a white wine phase. I have to be careful, though, because I often find that I've drunk too much two glasses after it's too late.

Whatever it is I'm drinking though, it has to be cold. Coffee is the only exception - and I even like that iced.

Thursday 5 November 2009

Teachers have it easy

Herein lies a rant about my job.

My pet hate about my job is when people make assumptions about my time. They assume that, because I finish teaching at 2.50 every day and get 13 weeks' holiday a year, life is easy.

I spend a LOT of time justifying the hours I work, usually alone, in my car, during long drives home. Tonight I had a course in Salisbury after work and didn't get in until 7.15, so I had plenty of time to do some sums.

Here are today's sums.

I teach 40 hours a fortnight (out of 50). That's about half of a full time job, in teaching hours. That sounds easy enough, right? Oh wait, there's the marking but that can hardly take any time can it?

OK, well, now let's consider it closer. Let's think about one KS3 class: I teach them 3 hours a fortnight. That's 60 hours a year, roughly. For every 3 hours of teaching, I have to mark the books - an hour each time; I also have to mark 5 assessments and an exam throughout the year, maybe 90 minutes each; so that's 29 hours to add. Then planning. I reckon, after 6 years of teaching, I only take about 20 minutes to plan a lesson, including all the photocopying and making the resources; so another hour a fortnight, and we're up to 49 hours a year. Plus 3 for parents' evening. Plus 2 for writing reports; now we're at 54, and then there are the detentions, the phone calls and letters to parents, the chats with tutors/heads of year. That's 60 hours. So, for every hour I teach, I do another hour for that class; and now that's a full time job.

Big whoop, I still get 13 weeks' holiday, right?

OK...(it was a LONG drive home)....4 weeks of holiday would be normal, so let's look at 9 weeks, 40 hours a week, 360 hours to find.
Role as a tutor: 3 and a half hours a week, plus a parents evening = 143 hours
Faculty/tutor/staff meetings/briefings: 2 hours a fortnight, plus line management, an hour a fortnight, plus open evening (directed time, hateful), 2 hours = 62 hours
Training courses (like the one I did tonight) = 15 hours a year, approximately
Break/bus duties = 11 hours

231 hours. My 9 weeks of extra holiday now looks more like 3 weeks - and I haven't even mentioned the residentials yet. I'm doing 5 residentials this year, giving up a total of 6 weekends and one full week of holiday, not to mention the paperwork I have to spend time doing, the courses I have to attend and the meetings I have to have about them. Of course, that's my choice. I'm hardly complaining about residentials - I love them. But if you add all that on - well, look! I don't even get 4 weeks of holiday a year. And that's not even considering other extra-curricular activities, time spent endlessly updating development plans and self-evaluation forms, or any of the admin and work I do for my TLR post.

Here endeth the rant. And funnily enough, I am loving my job at the moment (though it's still as tough as it was when I was not loving it so much last term), and nobody has said anything to upset me. I just thought I'd work it out.

I can tell you're finding this scintillating. Tomorrow: a break down of how long I spend each year doing my hair and make up, shopping, knitting and bathing.

Not really, promise.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

New toys

I can't believe that, in my leisure time list, I forgot to mention two new toys I have recently acquired, which were kind of the reason for writing the list in the first place!

Firstly, and tres exciting - Mr Z bought me a DSi! I was looking back over my Tuesday Tens yesterday and saw that I did a list of material wants in the spring, and a DSi was on it. Well, I am very picky and I didn't want a black or white one, so when the new colours came out Mr Z leapt at the opportunity to order me a metallic blue one, and I was presented with it as a very early Christmas present last week (so that I can take it to Malaysia). It's so cool! I've got Brain Training for it which can turn into a real time suck, and I also like that it has wireless on it - so last week when I was baking that cheesecake I had the recipe up on it so I could keep it in the kitchen. Good times. I went and bought Zoo Tycoon for it on Friday and I can't wait until I'm sitting on that plane so I finally get some time to have a go at it.

(Ten days to go, by the way).

While I was buying Zoo Tycoon I also splashed out on the other new toy - Wii Fit Plus. We already had Wii Fit, but when I saw the Plus in the games shop I couldn't pass it up. It is also a lot of fun. I think the functionality is better: I especially appreciate being able to queue up activities so I don't have to keep going back to the menu screen, because I'm terribly indecisive and can never choose what I want to do. I also like using the pre-organised routines because it's reminded me about activities I never do. I am sort of addicted to the hula hoop and the rhythm boxing and tend to stick to those, or the free step while I'm watching random TV.

We're finally having some proper weather here. It's been extremely rainy for the past two days and today it is properly cold, too. This has unfortunately coincided with me noticing my winter coat is extremely grubby and needs a wash; and even worse, it is machine washable but cannot be tumble dried. I think when I finally wash it it will end up being out of service for three days while it is drying. I probably should have washed it before I put it away for the summer.

I got some of my new tutor group into trouble today. We were stood outside having a fire drill and I was teasing them into being quiet, as is my wont (going in with an older tutor group means I have to be a bit softly softly). One of the girls had terrible hiccoughs which was making her friends laugh. So, I waited til it was all quiet and yelled, "BOO!" at her and she properly jumped, and her friends burst out laughing....and then the head of year came over and told them off. I had to walk away so he didn't see me laughing. So I might be in the doghouse with them a bit now!

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Tuesday Ten

My Ten Current Favourite Things To Do

1. Facebook Scrabble. I am very good at it now.
2. Scramble, on Mr Z's iphone (or Boggle online)
3. Scrapbooking from fashion magazines. This is especially fun at the moment because they're crammed full of knitwear.
4. Knitting, particularly the grey cardigan, which is coming close to being finished (maybe another week?)
5. Baking, with pumpkin. I made this cheesecake at the weekend, it was delish.
6. Reading. I am still plugging away with the House of Niccolo series by Dorothy Dunnett, but mostly I am reading portions of newspaper, or bits of knitting books, because I am so tired by the time I get to bed.
7. Daydreaming about going to Malaysia in 10 days. TEN DAYS!! I need to buy bug spray.
8. Watching The Wire. I'm onto series 3 now. I am also loving Strictly Come Dancing, and the Closer.
9. Napping. I have been doing a lot of that this week.
10. Blogging. I refuse to say I'm doing NaBloPoMo, because (a) it's a national thing and I am not American, and (b) I can't guarantee I'll be able to blog in Malaysia. But I am going to try and post every day in November.

Watch me not post tomorrow, now.

Monday 2 November 2009

Batik Efforts #1

At the weekend we had another Spindyeweavers meeting. This workshop happens on the last Saturday of the month and grew out of the knitting group I go to on Saturdays, as a place for people to spin and dye yarn in good company, and maybe learn some new skills.

Being not one for spinning and quite happy with other people's coulours so long as they're blue, I tend to just turn up and knit in the corner, but at the last meeting I brought along a wax pot, leant to me by Caroline from work, and a number of canvas bags I had ordered from this website and machine dyed prior to the session.

It took a while (and Rachel, tbh) to work out that the wax was not sinking in properly because it was not hot enough, but once we'd figured that out we fair motored through our stash of bags, and I brought them home and ran the green lot through the machine with some black dye.

This may have been an error.

As you can see from this, which was originally meant to be a jungle scene, while the wax does not actually wash out at 40 degrees, it does crack and splinter and flake which (a) leaves a grainy feeling in the washing machine and (b) allows rather more dye to penetrate than we had expected, creating an altogether more, um, RUSTIC design.

Still, it was actually better once I'd ironed off, and the design with the most wax on it - this cactus print, below - actually looks quite good. It's definitely the best of the green bags I did.

However, I am glad I bought a cold water dye for the turquoise bags. I haven't yet plucked up the courage (or bought the rubber gloves) to do those yet, but will share my efforts when I have.

It was very enjoyable, at least. I haven't done batik since I was at school and was pleased to discover it was as much fun as I remembered. My Thursday night knitting group are thinking of a weekend away some time next year so I'll certainly be trying this again then, if not before. It's not really a craft that lends itself to one-day workshops, because you can't apply wax to wet fabric - hence the reliance on machine dying.

Sunday 1 November 2009

Haberdashery Haul

So, when I went to visit Sib in the Smoke last week, I set aside Friday for schlepping around such delightful shops as Loop and VV Rouleaux, and tracking down the Button Queen, which was recommended to me by Rosee from knitting group. I spent the whole day wandering around these places (oh well, and Oliver Bonas - but when you see a red and white polka dot doormat and you're me, you really have no choice but to go in and buy it).

Loop was lovely - lots of vintage dressers and baskets filled with yarn, jars filled with vintage buttons, and an eclectic shelving unit over one whole wall. I dithered for a very long time and eventually walked out with a skein of Jade Sapphire pure cashmere 6-ply in beige, which will become Mother Hand's Christmas gift, and a knitting magazine I hadn't been able to track down at home.

VV Rouleaux was a bit of a disappointment. I should preface that by saying that they had an extreme and delightful selection of ribbons, trims and other haberdasheries, and I don't think I have ever seen a broader choice. BUT. Having found their website difficult to navigate, I found their shop only marginally better - prices weren't always clearly displayed, which meant I ended up paying a lot more than expected for these beauties -

...which will become some sort of headpiece, along with some peacock feathers, for wearing to Christmas parties, I suspect.

I also wanted to get some shell trim. I've got it in mind to knit a lace panel in chunky yarn for the French windows, I think it will go with the art deco plans I have for lounge/dining room, and I wanted some shell fringing to go along the top. The shell trim is very expensive, and I hadn't measured for how much I needed. The shell trim on the website is discounted. Not in the shop, though.

However, there was some engraved shell trim with not much left on the card, so I decided I'd buy a metre and perhaps they'd give me whatever was leftover as a freebie, which often happens. But, it turned out, it was two pieces of 60cm, sellotaped together, and the second piece had broken shells, so that was a no-no. In fact, I came out with very little considering I spent nearly £30 and felt a little as though I'd been mugged. I don't think I'll be returning.

Onto the Button Queen, just round the corner. What an amazing find! Definitely my favourite shop of the day. I LOVED all the art deco vintage buttons and buckles, as well as the enormous amount of choice. I bought these -

...which are shoe buckles, but will be bag buckles I suspect, and were hands down favourite purchase of the day; and these -

...which will go on Mother Hand's Christmas gifts (I think I'll knit her a Tudora and matching handwarmers from a silk/wool blend in a similar colour); and these -

...which are Swarovski crystal and extremely extravagant, but LOOK HOW SHINY! I think I was sold when I picked one up and it steamed up in my warm hand. I have no idea what I'll use them on yet, and they're quite heavy so will require some though...but they're so lovely to look at.

And in case you wanted to see the aforementioned doormat - here's the mitten sitting on it. She likes to sleep on it...have you ever heard anything like it?!