Monday 31 May 2010

May Goals report

It has been good to have some goals to follow for the month. I feel it has helped with my productivity, because I keep going back to look at the list and remembering things I wanted to do but hadn't got round to.
Here's how I did. I have categorised into success, fail, and almost.

Adapt the lesson observation thingie I've had in my inbox for a month

I did not adapt it, but I had a good look at it and decided it didn't need any changes. I was kind of scuppered, anyway, because after years (literally) of badgering me about observations, now I have finally formulated my plan senior management have decided they don't want me to focus on that, they want me to look at coaching instead. I shall keep my peace about what I think of that.

Meet with the T&L group to arrange paired lesson observations for term 6

I did meet with them. We discussed other things. The wind was sort of taken out of my sails by the embargo on observations, so I didn't think the meeting was great, but oh well.

Finish writing a scheme of work...any scheme of work

I have finished teaching the English Civil War and the scheme of work is basically complete. I have really enjoyed it this time round, I think a combo of Ofsted and writing the SoW has made me really concentrate on progress, and I feel both classes have made loads. Hurrah!

Start sending tips out to the Y11 Facebook group for revision

Yes, done. I am not as regular as I could be, but I have at least sent out some.

Wear all my work/season appropriate shoes at least once, and charity-bag any I really can't face wearing on the basis that they are too uncomfortable

No. I have worn a lot of different shoes and earmarked one pair to get rid of, but I haven't worn them all.

Go to circuits at least four times...make that three, because there are only three Mondays left in May when circuits will run

Lack of car has made this impossible - by the time I walk to the leisure centre there'd be no need for me to do any more exercise. But I HAVE been to Zumba every week this month, except for the week I had governors and couldn't go.

Remove 10 books from the bookcase and send them to the used book man

This was really tough, because I cleaned out my bookshelf fairly recently and got rid of two boxes of books. But I managed it!

Tidy under the stairs

No. But I might try and do it this week.

Wash the living room curtains

Done. This annual event always involves picking little felted balls of cat hair off the curtains whilst they are drying on the line. FUN. But done for another year now.

Finish the endless blue jumper (all the knitting it done, I just need to stitch it together and weave in the ends)
Finish one other knitting project

Done and done! Blue jumper was finished in the first 10 days of the month, and then I finished the Versatility shrug/scarf thing, and I started and finished Hey Teach, and also picked up for one button band on the Central Park Hoody and finished it. I am pleased with my knitting achievements this month.

Get some pictures printed.

Ohhhhh yes. Definitely. In spades. I had well over 300 printed by Photobox and I have albumed up a lot of them and planned how to display the rest. This was a really fun task!

June goals coming up this week.

Sunday 30 May 2010

Very belated button bands

Long time readers of my blog might remember the Central Park Hoody. It was my first attempt at a garment and I was ever so pleased when I finally finished it....oh yeah, except I didn't ever finish it. I just started wearing it without any sort of button band, fastening instead with an old stitch holder I acquired somewhere, and tried to ignore the fact that the hood wasn't quite wide enough to cover my whole head comfortably.

At first, I convinced myself it was a problem of finding buttons. I managed to make this excuse last over a year, until UK Rav day when the perfect buttons presented themselves, and Liz Lovick armed me with teh skillz. Since then it's just been laziness.

But today, I finally bit the bullet!

That's 157 stitches, down from the 221 I picked up with a 1.5mm needle and then decreased with a 5mm. It is so neat and perfect, I love how it looks.

BUT MY HANDS ARE KILLING ME. The worst part is, I have to do the other side at some point. It will be like second sock syndrome - except, I have already had it as a wearable garment (unlike a single sock) and I can't wear it with one button band, so if I want this to be a wearable cardigan I will have to man up and do it.

Do not want.

In other knitting news, the Hey Teach is done. It needs washing and blocking, and the buckle sewing on, and pictures taken, but it is done. Three weeks, from start to finish - not bad at all.

Friday 28 May 2010

Fave Friday

Five Favourite Knitting Tricks

1. I-cord bind off
I have just used this on the neckline of Hey Teach, which has 3 rows of 1x1 rib and seemed a little brief to me. It adds a really neat finish to things. Takes bloody ages, though.

2. Three needle bind off
I honestly don't get why people seam shoulder seams. Why would you? Three needle bind off is the way forward.

Both of those bind offs are explained in this Knitty article, although I usually knit in the back of the stitch closest to me when I'm doing 3NBO. I don't know why, now, but that was the way I learnt.

3. Liz Lovick's way of picking up stitches
She recommends picking up every stitch without knitting it, on a much smaller needle, then knitting the stitches you've got and decreasing down to the right number. It is foolproof. I went to her workshop at UK Rav day last year and she shows us there. My picking up used to look really shoddy but now it's neat every time.

4. Slipping the first stitch in each row
Easy seaming a-go-go. Much neater, and even on a non-seamed edge it looks a lot neater than a regular edge.

5. Spit splicing
I know I have mentioned this before. It never gets old. There is something quite magic about being able to rub two wet ends of yarn together and thus save yourself the hassle of having to weave those ends in at a later date.

We saw SATC2 tonight. It was not good. The writers have turned three of the characters into brash caricatures of themselves, all the more to shine to spotlight on Carrie, I suspect. The plot was vacuous. It had grand designs, but didn't get close to achieving them. I particularly liked this article on it (though there is some very strong language in it, be warned!)
The outfits were amazing though, and let's face it - that's the main reason I went.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Tuesday Ten

Ten things I love this week

1. Sleeping with the windows open. Yesterday morning when I woke up I heard some huffing outside and when I went to look at what it was, it was a hot air balloon, right overhead. Not unusual around here but it still makes me cheerful seeing them - and I wouldn't have heard it with the windows shut.

2. Barbecues. Especially those kebabs my grumpy butcher does. Yum.

3. The point in the evening when it becomes cooler and I'm sitting indoors and get the cool breeze around my feet, like now.

4. My airy classroom, with all the windows open and the doors propped wide and the trees and shrubs in the thicket shading the windows: it's like some sort of colonial paradise (except on Thursdays, which is the day they cut the grass on the field; I know this because it is also duty day and I have had to do damage control on several pairs of shoes after tramping through damp grass cuttings in them).

5. Light knitting. Nothing big, heavy or hot. Like the shawl I want to start, or little sleeves, or cowls.

6. Light mornings. So much easier to get up early when it's been light for hours: I don't feel like I am missing out on any sleep at all.

7. ZUMBA! There's no right or left in Zumba - there is only FLAVOUR! There is no extra charge for singing! And basically, you can dance around making a fool of yourself and getting a great workout and NOBODY CARES! Not even me, as long as I don't catch sight of myself in the mirror....

8. Ice cream maker. I had been holding out on buying one of these until I could afford one of the mega posh ones with the built in freezing device but the freeze-the-bowl ones were on special in Robert Dyas at the weekend and I couldn't resist. Perfect for low-fat frozen treats. So far I have made lemon curd frozen yogurt, and toffee Malteser. Awesome.

9. Amazing plants. We have 2 courgettes, 4 tomatoes and a cucumber in the garden, plus some thyme and parsley coming up from seed. One of the tomatoes already has flowers on it! And the lilies we planted 4 years ago are really going for it this year. I may even feel confident enough to plant them out of their pot for next year. I can't wait for them to flower.
Next stop: get rid of the shed and plant pumpkins and beetroot.

10. Mooing reverberatingly at random stuff like balloons. Mr Z added this one while I wasn't looking. I don't do this, but he does seem to enjoy it, when he's not playing his current favourite thing, Red Dead Redemption. He is slightly obsessed with his new horse.

Something I do NOT like today is falling over in front of my neighbour because I was too busy looking in my bag for my keys and tripped over my own feet. Skinned knee a-go-go. I hate falling over in high heels because I feel like people are judging me..."Shouldn't wear the shoes if you can't walk in them!" I can, as long as I am not trying to locate something in my bag at the same time. Honest.

I got up early today to shower before work and had enough time to pick up the collar on the Hey Teach, which is now done! So only the sleeves and buttons bands to go. And since the sleeves can be done on DPNs in the round, I have now freed up my 5mm tips for the Chinook shawl. Dilemma: finish cardigan or start shawl?

Monday 24 May 2010

Weekend FO

A recent FO and a month old one I haven't blogged about yet....

Pattern: Versatility
Yarn: Araucania Azapa (the yarn with the dodgy yardage), about 2 and a half skeins
Needle: 7mm
Mods: I knitted a cable twist instead of the bobbles. I didn't want bobbles.

I got some amazing hessian covered buttons to go along the edge and it is soft and lovely. I don't know if I'll ever wear it as a bodywarmer, but I love it as a shrug and a scarf. It would have been super quick if I hadn't kept putting it aside.
Of course, it's too hot for it now. It was too hot to hold in my lap as I sewed the buttons on yesterday.

Pattern: Improvised from a stitch pattern in Vogue Stitchionary - it's a modified counterpane cable
Yarn: Sublime Cashmere Silk Merino, off-white, just under 2 skeins
Needle: 3.75 and 4.5mm

I like this hat, but it isn't as awesome as I had imagine. I wanted a really chunky band of ribbing at the bottom but was impatient to get on with the cabling so it's not as wide as I'd imagined. Also, even though I went up 2 needle sizes for the cabling, it is tight around the bottom and the cable is slightly deformed. I mean, in the scheme of things it doesn't matter because that is covered by the ribbing - which in turn makes the ribbed band look, meh. I would still put this in my 'Could do better' category. Either a bigger needle, or a yarn with more stretch.

The cable is beautiful, though. I am back in cable love again, which is ironic since I have just started my second lacy top. It's a Hey Teach and it's flying off the needles - back and both fronts done in under 2 weeks, and 3NBO'd to each other. Just the collar and sleeves to go now. I am supremely motivated because I want to start a shawl, and I wound the yarn and everything, only to find I need the 5mm needle tips I am using on the Hey Teach. BAH.

Half term next week though, and since I am carless and have no plans and will be all up to date with my work by then, I will have ample time for knitting. I can't wait to start the shawl. It is a Chinook Shawl Kit from Knitpicks I bought last year: 6 shades of sea blues that phase into each other.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Sad today

I found out one of my ex-students died yesterday. It's made somehow worse by the fact that it happened 10 minutes from where I grew up, in a car park I know very well, where we used to park when we went to the library, but which I wouldn't go near late at night.

He would still have been in school, except he left last year at Easter to join the army. He came on the ski trip and it was the last thing he did before he left. He got compliments from all the reps for being so helpful and lovely. He was a PITA sometimes but his heart was definitely in the right place. One the last night of the trip, we let him and the other sixth formers stay up a bit later as a sort of leaving do for him, and I heard them come to bed and the girls went into the room he was sharing with two other year 12 boys. I gave them 5 minutes and then went and banged on the door. No answer. I tried again, and heard scuffling. He opened the door in his underwear, no lights on, pretending to be all sleepy, like the girls weren't there and I'd woken him up. I was not fooled - but it was a good effort and it made me chuckle. Still makes me chuckle.

I am sad today :( it is sad, that he should have died so young. He hadn't even been in the army for a year.

Monday 17 May 2010

The Carless Life

Alas, Henry the Car is dead. Well....almost. He has a problem which requires an engine rebuild to fix and, since he's going in part exchange soon, I am not fixing it. Thus, the spark plug keeps fouling up with oil, causing a misfire, rendering my car undrivable for all but the most urgent of journeys. This might be alright, it there weren't a national shortage of Piccantos, meaning a 6 weeks delay on my new car.

So, I am currently on day 5 of life without a car. Mother Z schlepped me round the shops on Saturday; Parpy Jo took me to breakfast in Bath so I could pick up a dress I'd ordered into a shop there; and I have a regular lift to work in Vicky, thankfully. It's not easy, though. I can't believe that I didn't have a driving licence for so long and now I feel all at sea without a vehicle. There is, sadly, nothing to be done about it.

This means I have to adjust my May goals: I can't, for example, get to the leisure centre for circuits. But at least I am going to be walking around a lot more, and I bought a bicycle pump!

In other goal news, I have of course finished the blue jumper and I am just now ordering some pictures. I went back to Photobox, the people I used to make Mother Hand a photo album from my wedding, and discovered that thanks to a handy Facebook app I can order prints directly from there. It really couldn't be easier, and it will also connect to my Flickr and do (I think) roughly the same thing. What a revelation! I haven't ordered anything from there since we got married, and how times have changed.

Monday 10 May 2010

Weekend FO

And lo, it was completed.....

Pattern: Shirley by Snowden Becker
Yarn: Knitwitches Seriously Gorgeous Swiss Silk Laceweight in Lapis Nights, a measly 200g
Needle: 3.5mm
Mods: Well, some. Not really on purpose. I messed up the neck a bit by forgetting to decrease at the same time as increasing for the armholes (I was a long time ago now) and that, combined with the added drape of the silk, made for a rather risque neckline. So I knitted the scarflet in a 1x1 rib and didn't double it over when I seamed it to the collar, giving a little more coverage. And I wore it with this brooch which is a little heavy but totally works. I had 2 compliments on it at work today but one was about my "cardigan". I guess it does look a little like a cardi. Next time I might knit it as such. I do intend to knit it again some time, this time out of something a little fluffier and lighter.

The yarn dyed my hands and needles blue, and I gave it 3 rinses in blocking and the water was still running a little blue, but it was worth it for the awesome colour saturation. It is so soft and light, and actually very warm - I was chilly in it today and thought it was not as warm as I'd hoped, until I got home and took it off and realised just how brisk the air is (and it's May, fcol).

It has a great drape, too. I was worried that if I knitted it to my actual size it would be too baggy and while it is loose, it doesn't feel unflatteringly so.

I also finished my Versatility this weekend, only 6 months after I started it. I am embarrassed: it should have been such a quick knit but it just kept falling through the cracks in favour of other things with a less arduous mesh lace pattern. However, it isn't quite finished because I haven't sewn on the 16 shank buttons yet (le sigh) - but I am saving that dull task for knitting group on Saturday. So, as soon as I had both items washed and blocking I cast on for something new, heh heh! I have been waiting a month to get something finished so I can get on. I have started a new lacy top. It reminds me of sugared almonds. It is the second of my 10 lacy tops in 2010. I am not yet losing heart.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Tuesday Ten

Ten Useful Pieces of Advice
(These aren't all my tips: I have picked up lots of them from other people or things I have read.)

1. When you feel like you're getting a cold, overdose on vitamin C. Since your body can't store it, it doesn't do you any harm, but it really works. Witness: last week I was getting a cough and I jacked my Berocca intake up to 3 a day. Cough gone by Friday, in spite of it being the hardest work week this year.

2. Get over jet lag by having a little nap. Set an alarm for 15 minutes' time and lie down. If you need to sleep, 15 minutes will allow you to function without ruining your sleep patterns. If you don't need to sleep, you won't.

3. If you've been partaking of gin in quantity, drink loads of water before going to bed (this is old advice but bears repeating)

4. White vinegar is a wonder product and should be kept in all houses at all times. It is particularly effective when used instead of softener in a laundry load. No, the clothes don't smell afterwards. Yes, limescale is removed. Result.

5. Spit splicing yarn helps it go a bit further if you're worried about yardage.

6. Round nosed scissors measuring less than 4 inches from the bezel - ie, classic school scissors - are allowed on most aircraft (but check your airline regs before you quote me).

7. Never forget the low tech version of Freecycle: the local items wanted/for sale noticeboard, often to be found in the Post Office or supermarket.

8. Hard work without a goal is prison. Nobody wants to be in prison. Always decide what your end goal is before you get started with something.

9. You should never worry about the time that something is going to take, because that time's going to pass anyway, whether you're doing the thing or not. Best to just get started, if it's worth doing.

10. Dream on - but don't imagine they'll all come true (with thanks to Billy Joel).

I had a great classroom moment today. Having lectured my year 7s for five minutes on the importance of rising to the challenge, after they'd complained the starter was difficult, I set them an even more difficult task: organising a 14 part card sort representing somebody's thought process. I pitched them girls against boys and wandered over after five minutes to see how they were getting on. When I tried to give some light-touch assistance by telling the boys to listen to one member of their group who had correctly identified the last card, the girls shouted at me, "GO AND SIT DOWN OVER THERE, RIGHT NOW! You shouldn't be helping us!"

roflcoptor. I believe my work here is done.

Monday 3 May 2010

Goals for May

I like short-term goals. I favour them over, say, new year's resolutions (btw I have already broken #2 and #10, though #10 that can be redeemed) because it is easier to not forget about them. Then today I saw a post on the blog of a History-teacher-turned-pro-techie I met at SHP in 2008, about setting short term goals, and because I spent this evening having a barbecue and drinking Pimms out of a watering can (which we had bought for the purpose to making Pimms in, I must hastily add) I left my list of goals on his comments, because, yknow, I am ALWAYS looking there....(rolls eyes)

Here are my May goals, I have added to the one from Comments list.
  • Adapt the lesson observation thingie I've had in my inbox for a month
  • Meet with the T&L group to arrange paired lesson observations for term 6
  • Finish writing a scheme of work...any scheme of work
  • Start sending tips out to the Y11 Facebook group for revision
  • Wear all my work/season appropriate shoes at least once, and charity-bag any I really can't face wearing on the basis that they are too uncomfortable
  • Go to circuits at least four times...make that three, because there are only three Mondays left in May when circuits will run
  • Remove 10 books from the bookcase and send them to the used book man
  • Tidy under the stairs
  • Wash the living room curtains
  • Finish the endless blue jumper (all the knitting it done, I just need to stitch it together and weave in the ends)
  • Finish one other knitting project
  • Get some pictures printed. My awesome efforts at decluttering this year have resulted in space on the mantelpiece for actual photo frames and today the only picture I could find of Mr Z and me was us dressed as a wild west couple from Virginia City last summer, which is good, but I'd prefer this one -

I think it might be my favourite pic of us ever.
I should maybe get some wedding pictures printed too, before our 4th year anniversary.

Wish me luck!

Sunday 2 May 2010

Ofsted, Wonderwool, Cheesecake

So, Ofsted (the school inspectors) finally came in. They were around for Wednesday and Thursday this week, but I didn't see them, except when they introduced themselves on the first day, at briefing. I should be pleased but after all the effort I put into preparing, I am kind of disappointed. We passed. They have set teaching and learning as a priority; funny, I have deja vu - that was the priority last time. Perhaps some people at the top of the chain will pay attention, now. At least in September we'll have 3 new SLT members (if you count the deputy head who was new this year and hasn't been able to focus on her proper job due to the assistant head leaving at Christmas) so we might see some new and exciting things happening.

Anyway, it rather ruined my week. I was off sick on Monday thanks to some bug I picked up at Wonderwool on Sunday, so I got the news at lunchtime but was stuck at home with no marking to do - and I was I left home by 6.30am on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and left school 12 hours later each day. Joyful. And then on Thursday my Auntie Carol and Cousin Michelle, who I haven't seen for 14 years and 7 years respectively, were in Bath from NZ for one night only so we had dinner at Jamie Oliver's Italian, which was delicious (I had a salad with prosciutto and pears, yum), though I fear my conversation was a bit lacking.

On the plus side, though, I have absolutely NOTHING to do this weekend, since I am now as up to date as it is possible to be, and the meeting I was supposed to present at on Tuesday is now filled with Ofsted debrief so I've been shunted to the next one. So this has been a truly joyful weekend off!

Wonderwool was a lot of fun, though there were some hairy moments with the car on the way back. The car does NOT like hills anymore. I am looking forward to the arrival of the new car. Anyway, I managed to pick up some really nice bits and pieces -

That is 3 skeins of camel/silk blend and a skein of cashmere laceweight from Knitwitches (who got so sick of me hanging around dithering that the woman ended up yelling, "Oh for God's sake JUST BUY IT!" at me...great sale technique, though, because I did); a skein of alpaca/silk/cashmere laceweight from Artyarns (the pink one) and 100g of roving. Don't get excited, I'm not going to spin it - it's for thrums. It's got some silk in it so it's really tactile.

I also bought an old Vogue Knitting from 2005; it's amazing how quickly things date. And I bought some awesome vintage buttons. They are really stunning - Victorian black glass, mostly, and some mother-of-pearl ones. I was tempted by a pair of riveted Victorian buckles but I couldn't think of a good use for them and they were very dear. I am still thinking of a way I could use them, in case they turn up at another fibre show in the future.

I am in a laceweight place at present. I have a couple of laceweight jumper patterns high up my must-knit list, not to mention a burning desire to cast on something else from Victorian Lace Today. Also, laceweight can be stashed in sweater quantity without taking up too much space. I do, however, need to finish the blue laceweight jumper of endlessness before I cast anything else on. I am very nearly done. I might even finish it tonight.

We're having a barbecue tomorrow night, because it might not rain. I am baking a rhubarb cheesecake for the occasion. Rhubarb is another favourite thing about this time of year and I hope it works well with the cheesecake. Here is the recipe I adapted for it.

For the base:
Packet of ginger nuts, crushed
About 75g melted butter
For the cheesecake:
500g cream cheese
200g caster sugar
3 eggs + 3 egg yolks
175ml creme fraiche
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional - 1-2 tablespoons liqueur - I used some Creme de Framboise we've had knocking around
1 cup stewed rhubarb
Preheat oven to gas mark 4/180 degrees C and put the kettle on to boil.
Mix the biscuits with the butter and press mix into base of a loose-bottomed tin. Chill until required.
Beat the cream cheese until smooth and add sugar. Add eggs and egg yolks one at a a time. Pour in the sour cream, vanilla and liqueur and beat until smooth and creamy. Then stir in the rhubarb. Taste to see if it's sweet enough.
Pour the cheesecake batter over the biscuit base and put in the oven with a roasting tin of boiling water on the shelf below. Place in the oven for one hour, until set on top and slightly wobbly underneath.