Tuesday 26 January 2010

Tuesday Ten

Ten Reasons to be Cheerful (again)

1. Ebay. Perfume going for more than I paid for it. Result! Which leads to...

2. Chanel sunglasses. I decided they were too frivolous for buying with real money, especially because I am terrible with looking after sunglasses, so I set myself the task of raising enough money on ebay for them. I am currently a scant (!) £70 away with 5 days left on my extremely popular auctions.

3. Fireflies by Owl City. It really reminds me of something but I don't know what.

4. New skirt coming from Boden soon.

I love when Boden release their spring catalogue. How summery is this skirt? I am going to be living in it, especially since the sad demise of my workhorse denim skirt, which finally wore away at a seam this winter.
The new skirt will go with my favoured sunglasses, which have denim arms and red frames but are not nearly as dodgy as they sound (cannot find a picture of them anywhere, though).

5. The functionality of this SuperMacbook which sucks all my time in the evenings now it sits by my chair, with a siren song coming from Facebook, Ravelry etc. It is easy to use, though. I didn't have to go through right click, save etc with that Boden snap - I can just highlight a bit of the page and take a picture of it which goes right to the desktop. Did you know that? I think it is very clever.

6. Tomorrow is Happy Wednesday: I don't have to drive to work or teach until after break, and I've got belly dancing with Parpy Jo in the evening.

7. Glee. Especially this bit of the football team dancing and Kurt making the goal in the episode which aired here yesterday. It may be my favourite bit of TV so far this decade.

8. Travels. I booked tickets to Malaysia for the summer holidays, Caroline from work and I are going to see an ex-colleague, Rhiannon; and I booked train tickets to Manchester for Feb 13th to see Sian, and then I'm going to visit Jen and the mini-Jen (or, more correctly, mini-Ben since she is the absolute spit of her daddy) afterwards.

9. Cadbury Caramel Bunnies. Small, yet perfectly formed.

10. I am having trouble thinking of number 10 because I just remember that fricking Ofsted still have not been in and the whole school is wound tight as a very tightly wound spring that won the Most Tightly Wound ribbon at a tightly wound spring contest. At least I haven't lost my sense of humour....yet.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Weekend FO

And suddenly, all the YOs, fiddly SSPs and knitted joins were forgotten, as a small choir of seraphim seemed to descend on the sunbeams this afternoon to flutter around the scarf of wonder...

Pattern: Myrtle Leaf Shawl, from Victorian Lace Today
Needle: 3.75mm
Yarn: Malabrigo Laceweight, natural, just over a skein...maybe 1.2 skeins
Mods: I cut the number of pattern repeats by 2 because Jo wanted more of a scarf than a shawl.

I cast this on while I was in the US in the summer. I don't know why I thought a my first attempt at lace in a laceweight yarn would make the ideal project for travelling; it really didn't. It took me until the end of October to finish the body of it, by which point I knew the 12-row repeat well enough that I no longer needed the pattern; then it took about a month to pluck up the courage to start the border, I was convinced I would mess up the whole thing with that; then I lost my nerve again as I approached the corner and it was set aside again.

It would have gone a lot quicker, is what I'm saying, if I had had a little more confidence in my abilities!

The yarn is very delicate; it had started to fuzz a little at the cast on end by the time I finished, so one end wouldn't block out as far as the other, but it doesn't notice. In fact, blocking made it look far better. Blocking is truly a form of alchemy. I followed advice given to me on the Malabrigo Rav board, and soaked it for half an hour in luke warm water with Eucalan. Then I ran the blocking wires through the YOs between the border and scarf body, so that the edge stayed wavy. It was dry within 12 hours.

I would be sorry to give it away, were it not for the fact that (a) I got a gorgeous ladybird ring out of it and (b) I would RUIN it within a week.

Friday 22 January 2010

Fave Friday

It's the depths of winter now and my skin is always looking at its worst this time of year. I don't notice that the central heating dries it out too much but I do come out of my classroom at the end of the day feeling baked and it's difficult to get the temperature in my car just so, which means I spend much of the evening flushed and just a splash of water on my face makes it feel tight as a drum. Plus, no healthy sun glow, and even if I were the sort to use fake tan I can't, because it smells just like feet on me. So I have to work hard to do skin maintenance other way. Here is my amassed wisdom on the subject.

Five Favourite Tips for Dry Skin

1. Exfoliate over oil
I slather my face in Lush's Babyface (which is basically cocoa butter plus other stuff in small quantities) before exfoliating because otherwise I find scrubs a little harsh on my skin.

2. Use a facial oil AND a moisturiser before bed
I read in a magazine that Sienna Miller advocates this and I thought it was ridiculous. I mean, just how overloaded do you want your skin to be? But I hate to admit - she's right.

3. Drink tonnes of water
Boring, but so helpful. I really notice the difference when I'm not guzzling enough of the clear stuff.

4. Use cream and liquid make up formulations
They'll add extra moisture and they sink in, instead of skittering across the surface.

5. Moisturise all over
I am rubbish at this. I hate sitting around waiting for the cream to sink in. So I use King of Skin in the shower (this product is definitely misunderstood; you just have to make sure you wash it off before you get out of the shower) or I put some sort of oil in my bath. I am convinced that dry body skin makes my face feel drier. It's probably all in my head.

Have you got any good skincare tips?

Thursday 21 January 2010

Really, blessings should be counted

or - I don't think my problems count as a gnat bite on a rhino's arse compared to what is happening in Haiti and I should curtail my whinging fingers, or at least use them for typing something more interesting and helpful.

So, I didn't know much about Haiti. I knew it was poor and there was crime. I had heard the song Haitian Divorce by Steely Dan - my parents used to have it on their juke box when I was a kid. I had a fair idea they spoke French there. But I didn't know it was part of the same island as the Dominican Republic, and when I found that out, well, I had to do a little research and find out - why does one half of this island speak French, and the other Spanish?

Ah, murky colonialism, you are often lurking just below the surface of human tragedy, making it just that bit more awful.

I found an excellent, and brief, article detailing Haiti's past as the French colony of Saint-Domingue, the subsequent slave rebellion (incidentally Haiti is the only slaving colony which earned its freedom this way) and the heinous reparations wrung out of them over a period of more than 100 years. Naturally, that article is now buried somewhere way down a list of new articles which have appeared online in the past few days and I can't find it, but if you're interested in reading a little more of the history, I have found this article which, while more verbose, is still very good.

I didn't think I could feel any sorrier for the people of Haiti than I already did, but there it is. I have been sharing a convoluted version of this story with my classes this week, all of whom have been interested and actually quite coherent on the subject. We're having charity events next week to raise money for the relief effort....as long as Ofsted don't come in.

(An aside - The head upset our finance dept today by telling them the way they collated CRB checks was all wrong and if Ofsted come in on Monday we'll go into special measures just on the strength of that. They are all expecting to have to work all weekend to fix it, and looking very glum. He's over-exaggerating in his panic, I have no doubt. Ohgoodgriefjustlethtemcomesowecangetitoverwith!)

Wednesday 20 January 2010


I am grumpy.

I finally had to fork over my taxes, after ages of putting it off and jumping every time Moira Stuart appeared in the airing cupboard on that advert.

I had my first line management meeting with my new line manager (the head) and...well, the less said about it the better. Let's just say, he is verbose.

I got the final invoice for the ski trip via email which they expect me to raise a cheque for by Friday. Er, no. And when I rang and said they'd got the numbers wrong, and we also might have one more drop out (kid's mum hasn't paid anything and isn't returning our calls, hmm hmm...) I was warned there might be a surcharge. WTF.

I can't shift myself to DO anything! I bunked circuits. I bunked the second session of bikram yoga (more on that shortly). I didn't even manage to update my blog yesterday. I am just like a slug, in permanent recline in front of the TV with the laptop, watching episodes of the Biggest Loser and marvelling about how much weight those people are losing. OF COURSE THEY ARE LOSING WEIGHT. THEIR BUMS ARE NOT ATTACHED TO THE SOFA.

I have a serious grump on this week.

On a positive note...the car windscreen has been replaced. Today, my horrible year 9 class fought to model the best trench out of things they had in their bags, in order to win a banana, a teabag and 2 Mr Bump plasters, which were pretty much the only things I could find in my bag to give away; so that was amusing. I went belly dancing with Parpy Jo tonight, which was fun.

And I went to bikram yoga with Amaryah on Sunday. It was hilarious. The guy who took my money said that, since it was my first class, my objective was to stay in the room. I barely managed it. For those not in the know, bikram yoga is practised in a room that is heated to 42 degrees C. I broke a sweat 5 minutes in. After 15 minutes, every time I stood up from a bending-over pose, a rivulet of sweat would cascade off my nose like the Angel Falls, until eventually my towel was wring-out-able. Oh, it was pleasant, I can tell you. The worst part was when I had to do any of the grabby-leg poses - I couldn't keep hold of myself. I was too slippery.

I did manage to stay in the room, though, and I felt pretty good afterwards and WOW did I sleep well that night. I just haven't been able to bring myself to go back yet. It's an expensive class but I paid the January special £10 for 10 days option - a total bargain considering the drop in class rate is £12. So I should try and go at least once more.

In knitting news, I am very close to finishing the border on Parpy Jo's scarf, but I have really hit a wall with it. I think it goes back to this general ma'laze (sic) I seem to have contracted this week, though.

Bring on the weekend. Even though Ofsted will surely be here next week.

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Tuesday Ten

Ten Warm Things

1. Hot water bottles. I am now grateful that Mother Hand keeps them bringing them to my home and leaving them behind.
2. Duvets.
3. Thermal tops - especially this handy sport one I am currently wearing, on which I cut the neckline down so I can wear it under my summer dresses.
4. Central Part Hoodie, made from Debbie Bliss Maya. I promise, if I'm not at work tomorrow, that I will (think about) finally picking up for the button band on it.
5. Thrummed mittens. I have a desperate wish to thrum myself a catsuit right about now.
6. My classroom. I think myself and Ian (in the other half of the mobile) are the only people able to control our own thermostats.
7. Malaysia. It was warm there. I remember lying awake at night trying to decide which was the lesser evil - the heat or the air conditioner noise. Good times.
8. Curtains. They at least keep the heat in even if they are not independently warm. I must get some for the enormous French door at the back of the house.
9. The Mitten. Though, admittedly not at the moment - she has just been out in the snow. She looks like the snow now.
10. My fur lined duvet duck slippers, annoying though they may be (they are shedding feathers all over the house)

It is snowing again. Work tomorrow is looking unlikely, though this is not really a good thing because I think school will still be open, so cover will need to be set....and I have things to do, dagnabbit! But Mr Z snaked all over the road when he went out to fetch us dinner earlier and he saw a transit van do a nifty sideways curb mounting move, so I don't think driving seems like a good plan.

The worst part of it is, the snow is very wet, because it's rain coming from the Atlantic and hitting the cold front from the east. It's not fluffy snow like last week - so that means that, even though it's not officially as cold as it was last week, it's so mofoing DAMP. It's get-into-your-bones cold. Worse, in my opinion.

I am too depressed and cold to even knit. Though, at least I can catch up on some sleep tomorrow if I'm not going in.

Monday 11 January 2010

Weekend FO

Pattern: Corseted Necklet from Knitting Daily - free staff pattern
Yarn: Noro Silk Garden Worsted, about two thirds of a ball. I lovelovelove the richness of the colours.
Needle: 5mm
Mods: I put buttons on instead of a lacing. I didn't have any suitable ribbon - though some thin green velvet would work - and I fear it would be a bit fussy anyway. It is snug round my neck though; a lacing would make it looser, I guess.

I just finished this today, but the bulk of the knitting was done last night so I think it counts! I had a ball of Silk Garden left from my stripey cardi and thought this would use it all. Turns out it used about half of what I had, which meant I didn't even get to my favourite colours in the skein! Drat. I guess I will have to make another. It was superquick: 3 hours of knitting tops; and the cables are reversible. It was fiddly but interesting to knit, and it satisfied my itch for some instant gratification knitting. I have done well over half the border on the Victorian Lace Today Scarf but I needed to finish something quickly!

I am having a bit of a love-in with plastic buttons like this at the moment.

Saturday 9 January 2010

Fave Friday

Five Favourite Things About Snow Days (of which there have been three in the past week)

1. Sleeping in. Even if I have to get up to await the call from the deputy head telling me school is closed, I can do what I want to do every dark, cold and frosty morning and crawl back into my cosy bed and steal warmth from Mr Z and sleep until I wake up of my own accord. I feel very rested this week.

2. Getting extra work done. I don't have a great deal to do at home - truthfully I thought we'd only be out for one day. Consequently, Monday's lessons are the best planned lessons I will have taught in ages. I have actually made all the slides for them and everything; normally I'd make one and then do the rest on the fly while the kids were doing their starter.

3. Knitting time. Shedloads of it! I have added border around half of Parpy Jo's lace scarf now, and I fully intend to do at least half of the remaining long side this weekend. I have the pattern down pat now so I don't even need to look at the chart. It is so much easier than I thought it would be; I was such a wuss about starting it!

4. Birds. We put food out, because the mitten does not enjoy being outside in snow, so they can feed in our garden in relative safety. We have some blackbirds that have been coming for our crumbled digestive biscuits and dried fruit. We've been calling them all Dickory. I saw some blue tits on Wednesday which prompted me to put out the food, but they haven't been back....not while I've been watching, anyway.

5. Snow play!

Snow Henge!

I am trying to remain positive, because there are quite a lot of things I don't like. Firstly, until this morning (tis Saturday...I am late with the Fave Friday I know) I hadn't been further than 50 feet from my front door since Tuesday.

Secondly, we spent 2 hours helping the neighbour dig, rake and sweep the ice off the lane and drive yesterday so we could get our cars out - and then it snowed again, a bit. It should be OK though.

Thirdly, people driving like morons. My cracked windscreen was due to be replaced yesterday; Autoglass pushed my appointment to the end of the day because I was at home and not in the town where I work. Autoglass man rang me at 1.30 to say he was just leaving said town - 45 minute run, on a good day. At 3, he rang to say he was in stationary traffic but still hoped to get to me. At 5 he rang and said he was still 22 mins away but it was too dark to bother coming. School was open yesterday for 6th form and staff, but I'm so glad I decided not to drive in, or I'd either have been stuck in that traffic, or causing it.

Fourthly, people shopping as if for a siege. I have heard dark tales on Facebook; I have to go food shopping today. Do not want.

Finally, the Tories turning the gritting into a political issue, because the country has ground to a halt and consequently they can't find any other sticks to beat the government with. I hate election years, I'm so, so sick of this political bullshit already. In my book, he who whinges the loudest will never get his own way. And surely grit supplies and how it is spread is a local government issue anyway - and don't the Tories control the majority of local councils?

Le sigh.

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Tuesday Ten

Ten New Year's Resolutions

1. Lose weight. 15lbs by the end of the year (let's start realistically)

2. Read a book every month.

3. Declutter the house. I have started well - I am doing 20 minutes a day. My bookcase no longer looks like it is about to collapse any second.

4. Finish a knitting project every month - at least one. The stripey cardigan counts!

5. Halve my credit card debt. I hate paying it off, but have started to put whatever I have left in my account at the end of the month towards it.

6. Make an effort with the garden on a regular basis. I hate that it looks so messy.

7. Not get sunburned. I have found half a dozen bottles of suncream which I must dot around everywhere I go - car, gym bag (snort), work desk....

8. Make inroads into stash. This is not just yarn; this also includes wax tarts, perfume and bath products. This goes hand in hand with....

9. Buy less. At least whilst decluttering. I really want to buy some of the Jimmy Beans ltd edn Lorna's Laces this month but I am not allowing myself to, because I cannot find a project to match it with. Though...damn, it would make a GREAT clapotis....

10. Take more photographs. Of everything. Then maybe I will get better at it!

Henry the wondrous car of miracles has a cracked windscreen. I am hoping it might heal before Autoglass can finally make it (Friday...5 days after I rang them!) and I might get my £75 excess back. The worst part of it is, we haven't even got any snow, so we don't even get tomorrow off work!

Monday 4 January 2010

Weekend FO

Pattern: Candy, by Jackie Wong, from Knitty
Yarn: Noro Silk Garden Worsted, about a ball and a half, and Knitpicks Elegance, just over 8 balls.
Needle: 4.5mm
Mods: I messed about with this pattern a lot. I reworked it to fit my gauge, and then I added a proper button band because I had these amazing buttons from the bead shop by Jimmy Beans, and because I only had 5 buttons I knitted in a v neck. I am not SUPER happy with how it still has corners but I can fold them under and seam if it bothers me that much. I may need to do something with the cuffs too because they are all curly.

It's a really good fit and supersoft, I just wish it wasn't so cold so I could wear it! I cast on because I had a grey and white striped summer dress that I knew it would be perfect over, but it is brassic here at the moment and I'm wearing about 15 layers a day so this might have to wait a while.

I LOVE the buttons! The tail broke off one already because I managed to smack it onto the tiled floor at Knatterers on Saturday, but I can glue it back on.

I love the Noro colourway, too. I wound off the grassy green bit at the start of the first ball and that meant I ran out with about 3 stripes to go, so I rewound the second ball and started from the other end, which was blue instead of purple...Noro is weird. Same dyelot and everything. I especially like, though, the way the turquoise fazes into the purple.

I have been knitting this off and on since September, but it would have gone a lot quicker if
(a) I hadn't had to stop knitting it for Christmas stuff
(b) I had finished Parpy Jo's scarf first and didn't have teh guilt about knitting on anything but that
(c) I hadn't cast off with the neckline WAY to wide and had to unpick, rip back and pick up 200+ stitches. That took me a whole evening, along with picking up and knitting the button bands. I watched The Holiday, which SOUNDED like a great movie, though I didn't SEE very much of it.

The Knitpicks yarn colour has sadly been discontinued, but I have nearly 4 balls left and think I will combine them with the turquoise and minty green alpaca I bought at UK Rav day and knit some sort of colourwork tank top.

Saturday 2 January 2010

2009 Knitting Roundup

I managed 28 projects last year. It wasn't as good as the previous year, but then I did knit all those hats the previous year, so that sort of skewed the figures. I feel slightly guilty as well, because the cherry blossom bag was mostly knitted in 2008; but coming up is my first FO post of 2010 and I knitted almost the whole garment in 2009 so I suppose it balances out. The 28 break down as follows -
  • 5 tops
  • 5 hats
  • 3 baby items
  • 2 cardigans
  • 3 pairs of handwarmers
  • 2 bags
  • 2 necklets
  • A shawl
  • A headband
  • A teacosy
  • An iphone sock
  • A practice Fairisle pouch
  • Some igneous rocks
An incredible 11 of these projects were gifts for other people, too. I am perhaps not the selfish knitter I claim to be. I fear I have added a LOT more to my stash than I have used, but I certainly have some good knitting ahead of me this year...

I should write about the final FOs of the year. Firstly, there were these -

Pattern: Cabled Beaded wristwarmers, a pattern by ME!
Yarn: Rowan Kid Classic, plum
Needle: 5.5mm (should have been 5mm really but I couldn't find them)
I knitted these for a secret Santa gift, intending to knit a second pair for Kath for Christmas and improve the pattern a bit, but in the end they weren't needed for secret Santa so she got the first pair. I was very pleased that I managed to remember this pattern, which I made up as a new knitter, and was able to improve it with a few little tweaks I wouldn't have known when I started. I am intending to write the pattern up and put it somewhere for downloading. One day.

Then this...

Pattern: Belted Hat by Meg Swansen, in the current issue of Vogue Knitting
Yarn: Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, worsted held double (black and white) and bulky (blue)
Needle: 6.5mm
This was a gift for my line manager at work, who has just left. She was a good line manager and friendly, but I am not sorry she has gone. She took things extremely personally. I don't know how a person can survive in teaching and take things so much to heart, but there you go.

Anyway, she asked me to knit her a Bath Rugby hat last year when I was doing the tutor group hats and I thought I had better get on with it when I realised her leaving date was coming up so quickly. Then the perfect pattern popped up. I messed up the crown a little, but not so you'd notice, and I fastened it with a BRFC pin instead of a button. When I gave it to her, she cried. Result.

Then this:

Pattern: Sideways Grande Cloche, from Boutique Knits
Yarn: Araucania Azapa, less than a whole skein
Needle: 5mm, 4.5mm, 4mm
Mods: I bound it off with the CO edge as a 3 needle bind off (of course...I am a bit obsessed with the 3NBO) and knitted the top in the round. I don't get why you wouldn't do this in the first place. I didn't even have to faff with provisional cast on because the mock cable covers the seam, which is in any case much neater for being 3NBO'd.

I also cast on less stitches than required, and I didn't go down 3 needle sizes through the course of the hat as written. I went down 2 needle sizes and was still way off gauge, and feeling time pressure because this was for Parpy Jo (she is the one pictured) for Christmas and I left it soooooo late to get started. I was only saved by the snowfall which pushed our Christmas celebration back a day. Anyway, I started with 36 stitches instead of 42. Then, I was closer to gauge than I thought so it was a little smaller than it was maybe intended to be, but a perfect fit nonetheless.

This is a fabulous book and I bought yarn today to cast on for the same hat for Ali, because it was so quick.

And finally this:

Pattern: Improvised. I used the moebius cast on video by Cat Bordhi from YouTube to put 108 stitches on the needle, and then knitted in a 2x2 rib, after trawling through moebius cowls on Ravelry
Yarn: Manos del Uruguay silk blend. Fast becoming a firm favourite with me.
Needle: 4mm
This was for Sib for Christmas. I like to call it a Bromoebius, because I am a loser.

Friday 1 January 2010

2009 in Review

In spite of blogging about poor old January being a nothing month and saying I would not treat it as such, January was a bit of a nothing month. I did buy a new digital camera, but I was exhausted after spending my Christmas holiday writing audiobooks. I had my first painful gallstone episode.

It was a month of extremes. I went from this -

to this -

We had the worst (or best) snow I can remember which led to a surprise 3 days off school, though I had to dig the ice off the street to get the car out and then the suspension went....whilst at the front of a queue of traffic. I watched some films, notably Kidulthood/Adulthood, and knitted wrist warmers and a summery hemp top.

Then I took the summery hemp top to Hurghada for a week with Mother Hand. It was windy, but sunny. I snorkelled and got sunburn, and we visited a Bedouin Village and went on camels.

I also had another couple of gallstone attacks, went to the GP and got referred for an ultrasound. And I bought a new mattress. It's fab.

We had the murder mystery weekend for KS3 gifted and talented. We were pirates

and did some orienteering at Corsham Court, which was fun. It was a beautifully sunny weekend, and as such that is how I remember March being - beautiful and sunny.

My BFF Jen had a baby, Abi. Sib found a luscious houseshare in Shepherd's Bush.

Easter holidays meant SKIING! In spite of a few teething troubles with the coach, it was a phenomenal week and I felt like I barely saw the kids (although I didn't sleep especially well). The food in the hotel was excellent, and it was bright sun all week (got a sunburnt scalp)

except for the last two days when it snowed and snowed.

Awesome. Discovered Scattergories.

Funny stories of the week came from one year 12, who skiied down the mountain on the sunny Thursday and kicked his skis in front of our deck chairs, spraying snow everywhere - except, they weren't oUR deckchairs and the people sitting in them were students from another college....and one of the girls was only wearing a vest top. Bwahahaha. Then the same year 12 and his friend, who left school right before the trip to join the army, were up very late one night and I heard them go into their room (opposite mine) with the year 13 girls. I gave it 10 minutes and then went and banged on the door. Cue shushing. Banged again. More shushing, and then one of the boys opens the door in his boxer shorts, in the dark, pretending to be all sleepy. Like, der....I'm not an idiot, or deaf.

Came home with a cold the sixth formers had been suffering with all week (undoubtedly my punishment for spoiling their fun), and so hunkered down at home for the second week of the holidays, trying to mark coursework. Worst bit of teaching.

Had another small gallstone attack at work but managed to stave it off with a brisk walk. I concluded I was allergic to lightly cooked leeks...and had an ultrasound.

Got Ultrasound results. Gallstones, but my stupid GP told me I wasn't ill enough to be referred onto the hospital. She told me to lay off the fat, even though I told her that not following a low fat diet (ie, while on holiday) did not trigger it.

Went to visit my BFF and her baby. She was in a blind panic about the baby having had jabs and being off her milk, but the second day was calm and it was great to catch up.

BUSY BUSY BUSY. I spent a day in London preparing the mark GCSEs, then rushed back to Bristol for the online standardisation of my team (first year as team leader) and then straight down to Brighton for my friend Beccy's wedding.

The wedding was beautiful. They are a really good match. She's working in Australia for 4 years so it was nice to see her again. I got sunburn, but not on my face because I had MAC foundation on.

I really should be more handy with the suncream....I am certain to end up with skin cancer.

Then my tutor group lovelies, who had belonged to me for 5 years, left school, and I was sad, and went to their ball,

(No ball pics yet, because they're at work and I don't want to wait that long to publish this entry! I wore the same outfit as for the wedding anyway, just with a huge, fresh lily in my hair)

but I wasn't feeling great. I thought it was stress because the year 9 gifted and talented conference I was organising was coming up (14 schools on a 3 days residential...) but then I stopped being able to eat and went back to the doctor who finally agreed to refer me for a gallstone discussion.

That was Thursday morning. On Friday afternoon, after driving home from work bawling in pain, pausing only to vom up the 2 segments of satsuma I'd tried to eat, I was admitted to hospital and put on morphine. On the last day on June, the first day of the conference I'd spent all year organising, I had a 3 and a half hour laparoscopic surgery to remove my pulsating gallbladder and the stone which had become lodged in my bile duct and made me turn yellow. Fun.

First 2 days spent in hospital - this was the hottest week of the year. I was utterly miserable and barely slept, thanks to the heat, noise and ward lighting. When I came out I couldn't move much and stayed at home for a week and a half. Went back to work for a couple of days, and then went down with swine flu. Thoroughly bored by that point.

End of term came round very quickly, yey! We finished on a Friday and on the following Tuesday Mr Z and I flew to Vegas for our summer holidays. On the last day of July, we were driving to California at the start of our road trip.

We saw this huge and very cool windfarm just as we crossed the bottom of the Sierras into California.

We spent the first 10 days camping around central California and visiting national parks.

Here we are on our way back to camp from Yosemite Valley. It was my 31st birthday - we were on the most godforsaken campsite east of Yosemite (ie, high in the Sierras) and it was too windy to have a fire for longer than was needed to cook dinner, so I drank some wine

and went to bed - and watched the tent being blown around all night, praying it would hold up. The next morning it snowed, and the wind snapped a tent pole while we were out for the day, so that was kind of a low point.

Then we moved on (after regrouping in a cheesy Carson City hotel casino) and hung out around Reno and Tahoe which I LOVED. Best campsite, too - we saw a bear. I did some more of this -

and finally got to visit Jimmy Beans Wool in Reno, who impressed me by being so very friendly. In fact, Reno in general was awesome. We spent a final few days at the Sugarloaf Motel in Virginia City which was really fun, before returning the Vegas for a few final holiday days. Father Hand and Frankie took us out to dinner at Texas de Brazil, which was an unparallelled dining experience.

After getting back, I went into work to see my tutor group get their exam results, and Caroline came back with me and we tried to go to the Banksy exhibition - my third attempt. The queue was many hours long. I never got to see it.

Back to work. Much shopping was done; I am always in the mood to shop when it's the new term. We kicked off with the challenge days - blah. The second one was better than the first. I started studying for Geology GCSE on Fridays after school with a bunch of year 9s and rediscovered my inner geek (not that it had really ever been missing), especially with homework.

More work. Really busy, as usual. Half term came around and I went to see Sib in his new Shepherd's Bush pad. I shopped at London haberdashers' and caught up with old friends, including Stu and Kerrie, and Zoe and Leila from school, and Trish who I used to work with on the chatlines. Cake was consumed. A polka dot doormat was purchased. The mitten has enjoyed sitting on it -

She likes to take her favourite catnip tea bag out to the mat, where she can get purchase on it whilst chewing any dregs of catnip flavour out of it.

One of my knitting projects was featured on the project pages of The Knitter, who featured the Get Knitted Knatterers as their group of the month. I got to write the blurb about the group, too. I was extremely excited! Mr Z took a picture for me, which became my new profile pic on Ravelry.

The first two weeks were manically busy, as I prepared for Malaysia. We had an inset day at the start which I spent at another federation school, doing a good session on learning to learn and a pointless one on Merlin. I then spent two weeks trying to set up my cover - Ian says I set a new standard and was very impressed, thankfully.

Then, Malaysia.

Then back, and for a week I was destroyed. I was fine in the day but fit for naught by 7pm. This served to ensure the final weeks of term passed extremely quickly.

And here we are. It has been a sociable month, full of knitting groups and ski trip buddies dinners and school Christmas party and catching up with the girlies. I had another weekend away at Braeside with key stage 4 AG&T. I have knitted three hats and started to feel bad about the number of WIPs I have on the go. I got Christmas cards from girls I took to Malaysia, which was sweet. A plan was hatched for an Iceland field trip in 2011 which I will get to go on, because I study Geology (knew that would pay off). It snowed again, but after we'd broken up from school so no time off was forthcoming, boo hiss.

And we saw in the new year with Ben and Kirsty, doing a 60s themed murder mystery. Much gin was consumed.

2009 was a great year, all things told. Here's to 2010!