Saturday 31 December 2011

Crafty Photo Scavenger Hunt: December

Emma is still guest hosting the Crafty Photo Scavenger Hunt. Have a squizz at her blog to see the other entries this month.

1. Inspiration

This is my stash cupboard. It represents just under half of my stash, I type, shamefacedly. However, it has been my inspiration this month: I've quite enjoyed going upstairs, opening it up and rummaging around for something new to knit. A lot of the yarn is bagged up with a project in mind, so it keeps me from having to think too hard about what to knit. Perfect for this time of year.

2. Something I Made

Looking a bit sorry for itself after two days of wear, and covered in fuzz from the Christmassy hats I was knitting, this was my last minute attempt at a Christmas jumper for the end of term. I loosely stitched a Yule tree onto the front of a plain jumper from New Look and decorated it with a star brooch. I thought the result was pretty tasteful for a Christmas jumper.

3. Motif: Geometric
Nobody does Geometric like the Malaysians.

Even the drain covers are beautiful.

4. Colour

I think I've put pictures of this bush up before but I am so grateful for it in December. I'm a terrible gardener but this camellia has survived all my neglect and every winter blooms with these bright pink flowers just as it gets coldest. It is best viewed from the kitchen window and makes the washing up that little bit more palatable.

5. Festive

Not the obvious, but when the mitten curled up on the stair above my latest pair of beautiful shoes, it was a lovely sparkly picture of two of my favourite things, and made me feel quite full of the joys of the season.

Friday 30 December 2011

2011 Resolutions Round Up

I set myself ten resolutions here

1. Be capable of doing five full press ups without stopping. At the moment, I can do one - badly.
Yes - ish. I told personal trainer Jenny that this was my goal and she promptly stopped allowing me to wimp out and do box press ups, and now all press ups are full ones. But, I dispute them being proper, because I can't press down very far. It looks kind of pathetic. But I'm going to say yes anyway, because actually I can get to 12 without stopping, which is a big achievement.

2. Wear the flowery Coast dress I bought in the charity shop to the staff Christmas party - or have worn it to the leavers' ball, if it fits by then, in which case I will allow myself to splash out on a new dress.
No. It is still a little snug, though not as bad as it was. There was no weight loss this year. I am mega strong and a bit buff now, though.

3. Have finished the Knitpicks sampler lace shawl I started last June.
No. I have added precisely two rows to this. I worked out, when I pulled out the shawl in September, that if I added one row a day I would be finished by the end of the year. That lasted 2 days.

4. Be able to crochet....yes, it is a Dark Art, but there is this beautiful crocheted scarf pattern that I have an urgent need to make.
No. I borrowed Rachel's book but I still haven't opened it.

5. Have done something high. By which I mean, parascending, sky diving, rock climbing....
Yes. I did glacier walking in Iceland. It was pretty high off the ground.

6. Be a regular contributor so my savings account.
Yes! And in March my final student loans payments go out, so that contribution can go up. I'm a proper grown up.

7. Have decorated Bunny Towers with lots of photographs and pictures. More to look at on the walls, please!
So, I haven't exactly done this, but there is decorating afoot at the moment which makes it a bit difficult. I keep looking through pictures and picking out a few new ones to get printed. It's on the back burner.

8. Have to come up with a new ultimate goal, having finally crossed the equator into the southern hemisphere.
Yes. Visit Machu Picchu. Then I can also say I have visited six continents (I'm not sure I'll ever make it to Antarctica, but asfter watching Frozen Planet religiously these past few weeks some kind of penguin colony visit sounds very tempting.)

9. Finally have an A* in a GCSE, hopefully. I had better started revising now.
Yes! A* Geology GCSE is now mine.

10. Be up to 150 projects on Ravelry. This one is going to be difficult...
It was. I am up to 129, from 111. It hasn't been a great year for my knitting mojo. However, working on small projects has helped so I am going to continue in that vein next year.

Hmmm...not bad. Win some, lose some. I am pretty happy with how this year went, to be honest.

Thursday 29 December 2011

December Goals Round Up

An outstandingly successful month in terms of goals! Especially considering it's December.

Knit hats for Mother Hand and Sib's girlfriend for Christmas.
Done! And I blogged about them here and here.

Write and post at least ten Christmas cards.
Done. I bought some beautiful cards from the Natural History Museum, with pictures from the Nature Photographer of the Year exhibition, and wrote them on the coach home. Win!

Have all marking up to date by the end of term.
Done. It may have given me neck ache, but definitely done.

Plan 75% of lessons for the first week back after Christmas.
By the end of term, I'd planned 10 out of 16 lessons, which left only the sixth form lessons. I thought this was good enough, in spite of it not being quite 75%. Of the six lessons left, I can double up two, which improves my score to 10/14. I'll take that.

Do my tax return for 2010/11. This is always a Boxing Day job but I may have to do it a bit earlier this year.
As of December 22nd, this was basically the last thing on this list I had left to do (not including short turns but I'm quietly confident about those) - so I was motivated to complete it a full four days early. And motivated to keep my documents better organised for next year, and complete my tax return earlier, in say, April. And not make a mistake on it. I think I might have made a small mistake. Not as big as last year's mistake, when I missed a decimal point and briefly owed more than £3 million in tax, but a mistake nevertheless.

Take five new ideas from the Google Teacher meet up in London I'm going to and blog about them on my work blog.
Didn't come away with five ideas - it wasn't that sort of event - but I did blog about it.

Get very drunk at least twice. I seem to avoid drunkeness these days but I think it's good to cut loose now and again.
Definitely done....

Really crack short turns when I'm skiing in three weeks.
Since I am currently away doing this (the joys of post scheduling) I can't say with all certainty that I have achieved this. But I am very hopeful that I will have.

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Places I have been in 2011

It's been a manic year of travelling. My passport is well-thumbed, and my little car racking up its mileage. I managed seven trips out of the country this year; three of those were thanks to work so I have not done too badly at all! I think seven foreign trips might be a little excessive, though. It adds up to a little over two months. I wonder if I could claim back some council tax for that?

February -
Warrington - to see my friend Siany
Switzerland - long weekend skiing with Mr Z, Sib and Elise

Iceland - school trip

March -
Cornwall - weekend away with work friends

Shaftesbury - knitting group weekend away

April -
Austria - Saalbach - school ski trip

Sheffield - Easter weekend with best friend Jen
Taunton - royal wedding barbecue with Ben and Kirsty

May -
New York - with Mr Z to visit Keith & Gina

(My favourite moment on this particular day was when we were in a juice bar and a girl in a Batman t-shirt walked past, and she and Mr Z had a moment)

Pittsburgh - road trip to see Lisa, for the first time in 10 years!
Can't believe I don't have any pictures of this.

June -
London - exam board meeting. Yawn. But I got to meet Kerrie's new baby and see Sib's new flat.

July -
Cardiff - Conference I organised for eight schools at the university.

Australia - THE holiday of 2011.

August -
Australia - still! Well, I did go for a month.

Singapore, very briefly

October -
Sheffield/Mansfield - Combined visit to Jen and first aid course
Austria - Stubai, via Munich - ASCL course.

November -
Redditch - finally did my grandaughter duty! And said goodbye to Sian who has now moved to Australia.

December -
Two day trips to London: one for the Natural History Museum, one for the Google thing.

France - Briancon - personal ski trip. Expect lots of pictures in the new year!

I realised, when I looked at Flickr, that I haven't been diligent in uploading my pictures there this year, so I am rectifying that. My 2011 collection is here, if you want to look at more pictures!

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Tuesday Ten

Ten Gifts of Christmas

1. This Dualit hand whisk, from Mother Hand. I particularly love that it has beaters, dough hooks AND a balloon whisk.

2. This amazing pillow, from Sib and Elise.

3. A very generous voucher for aforementioned home goods shop, to go with the pillow. Really looking forward to browsing at length and buying stuff for our newly decorated living room.

4. Three boxes of After Eights, from various members of my tutor group. I don't know what it is about me that says chocolate mint. I've played a lot of rounds of the After Eight game this season.

5. A Chromebook, from Google. I couldn't quite believe it when they said they were giving them out at the teacher meetup.

6. A reel of Merry Christmas ribbon and some very lovely gift tags from my work secret Santa. Since I organised it this year, I gave myself the deputy head who line manages me, thinking it would make it a little easier because she knows me, and she has bought me a nice gift in the past when I knitted her a tea cosy. She didn't disappoint.

7. A red and white spotty lunch bag from my forum secret friend (just the right size for my Bento box!), along with a pair of snowflake socks and a bar of Milka.

8. Two boxes of story cubes from Mr Z. LOVE!

9 and 10 reserved for gifts from my local friends whom I could not see before Christmas, thanks to the obligatory end-of-term cold I was briefly struck down by. Damn cold.

Hope you all got some lovely things too!

Sunday 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas, and final FOs of 2011

Thank you for reading my blog. In November I had the most number of monthly readers ever, which was quite nice. I do wonder who on earth finds this stuff interesting, since I still seem to be writing this blog merely to amuse myself - but I do appreciate you for popping over and partaking of my ramblings. I hope you have a lovely Christmas and a very merry New Year.

Here are my final FOs of 2011:

My Christmas Hat

Pattern: Peace Street Hat by Grace Akhrem, again
Yarn: The so-lovely Araucania Azapa, about 3 metres less than a skein
Needles: 4mm and 4.5mm
Mods: I thought I knew better, this time around, and added an extra stitch in the garter edge on the right hand edge to stop the brim edge from curling. Turns out I hadn't thought it through properly, and I should have added it on the left hand edge; so when I was time to pick up stitches for the crown I had to do it opposite to the pattern, which meant I had to knit an extra row before I did the increases (I purled it instead of knitting so my hat had a solely stockinette crown), and the button flap is on the opposite side. But it was OK.

I finally used this very special Victorian glass button I have been hanging onto for a while:

I put it with three grey-black glass buttons I scavenged from Gill, who comes to the Get Knitted knitting group and is unfailingly generous with her buttons and brought in the entire collection for us to rummage through a few months ago.

I really love this hat. Like, really. Like, so much, it has bumped the double-pointed Santa hat for the last few days before Christmas, which is kind of sad really because the Santa hat can't be worn any other time of year. So much, that I got it cast on and finished in less than 48 hours. Just have to make sure I don't wear it when I'm around Elise.

Another chevron headband

Pattern: Made it up
Yarn: Rico Design Creative Poems Aran
Needle: 3.75mm

When I went up to look at my stash this jumped out at me for my friend's Christmas present, so I knit her a headband with it. It's the same basic pattern as this one but I decreased towards the crown so that it bows inwards a bit, more like a hat. Quite pleased with how it turned out.

By Ravelry's reckoning, that's 15 projects FO'd in 2011, slightly down on 2010's 17 but I will take it, since many months seemed to pass with no knitting happening at all. Eight of those were stashbusters, and I have a further five new projects on the needles; one is this rose chair which is going to be a long, long WIP, and the other is a two row lace scarf I keep for when I need something easy and portable. I have nearly finished my first sock - maybe for next Christmas. That gives me 365 days, since it's a leap year. Better go and get started now....

Friday 23 December 2011

Weekword: Mail

Emma picked this week's word. Please pop over to see her post, especially about her inspiration by post project (which I would love to take part in next year!), and read everybody else's.

I like getting nice mail, and I like sending it too. I have a stash of nice cards which I break out when I have a little spare time, which isn't often enough to warrant the amount of cards I buy. I guess they fall into that stationery bracket and are therefore irresistible to me.

My love of nice things in the post is probably what keeps me signing up for the secret swaps on my favourite forum. I've been doing these for years, but their current incarnation is secret friends, which lasts a year and involves three pieces of post and endless stalking. I love coming home to a surprise gift at a random moment, and this year my secret friend has had a good line in cupcake cards with recipes on the back which I LOVE. Putting the parcels together is really fun, too.

I particularly like getting magazines in the post. I subscribe to a knitting magazine and a History teacher magazine and I love it when they arrive, because flicking through them fills the hour or two between getting home and eating dinner. I think I might start subscribing to one or two more next year. We get quite a lot of junk mail and it would be nice to have more good stuff in there.

This is my 22nd Weekword post for this year, and I've really enjoyed learning some new words and reading some new blogs, as a result of participating. I hope we can continue our little word-picking circle in the new year - have a great holiday season, everyone!

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Tuesday Ten

Ten Random Things

1. I've got a roll of Christmas paper that I bought roughly eight Christmases ago. I wonder if it will ever be used up.

2. I really hope I don't have to have a filling again at the dentist tomorrow.

3. All I want to do is buy festive food but there's no point because I won't be here to eat it.

4. Must buy Mr Z ham and assorted pickles tomorrow or the next day. Probably the next day - I couldn't get it in the fridge at the moment, thanks to the turkey.

5. I wonder if I can make inroads into my stash in 2012? I mean, proper inroads. Inroads enough that all of my yarn fits in all of my storage without lying around the house in plastic bags and boxes, upsetting Mr Z.

6. Odds and Todds up the 'wood is THE. BEST. PLACE. to go when you need to buy a gift for someone who is usually impossible to buy for.

7. Woody's girlfriend in This Is England '88 has the same haircut I rocked for basically the whole of the 90s. And she was wearing one of the best Christmas jumpers I've ever seen.

8. The Blogger interface doesn't work properly on this Chromebook. How ironic, since this is Google's OS, and Google's blogging site.

9. I'm not complaining because this Chromebook was free! Definitely worth going to the teacher thingie yesterday, even if it rained solidly and I have the obligatory holiday cold.

10. I know Mr Z would be happiest if I were now to just say - moo.

Weekend FO

Elise's Christmas Hat

Pattern: Peace Street Hat by Grace Akhrem from Interweave Holiday Gifts
Yarn: The ever-luscious Araucania Azapa
Needles: 4mm and 4.5mm
Mods: None. Except, I didn't sew on a row of buttons. I treated Elise to three buttons from my Swarovski crystal set, which hopefully made up for the fact that I bought Sib a Kindle whilst she, his girlfriend of two years, got a hand knitted accessory. She is dark-haired and pale with very lovely dark eyes and I thought the contrast of the buttons on the yarn would suit her, which I think it did.

I loved this hat a lot. If I hadn't finished it 30 minutes before she arrived, I might have kept it for myself and knitted her something else. But there. I think I have another skein of this, I can always make myself one.

(By the time I published this post, I had already finished the one for me!)

Saturday 17 December 2011

Weekword: Resolution

Late to the party AGAIN this week! It hs been quite a full-on week, though, so I am letting myself off. Again.

picked this week's word, resolution. Good word! I have been thinking about it this week, too, because I have been reviewing my resolutions post from January to see whether I can get any of them done in the next two weeks. You might have noticed, if you read regularly, that I make monthly resolutions too.

These are very motivating for me. For example, a resolution for December was to get all my marking done and my lessons planned before the holidays. One Thursday afternoon when my neck was sore and I was tired, I used this as a motivation to mark that last set of books, even though my trainer then had to rub my neck for me for 15 minutes because I was so stiff when I got to her; and on Friday morning, when I was even more tired and really not feeling like it, I worked through several slides of a year 11 lesson I needed to plan to reach my goal.

I don't know if I would have done it without the extra motivation of having to account for my actions on this blog, even though nobody is going to tell me off in the comments for not doing it ;) Again, it's the action of writing things down and ticking them off that makes me get my head down and do the task.

Just a quickie today, unfortunately, because I have to go and fetch Sib and Sib's girlfriend from the train station, ready to scoff this enormous turkey dinner I (or Mr Z, actually) have been preparing all afternoon. But thanks for picking such an apt word for this week, Emily!

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Yule Trees in the Wild

I felted my Yule Trees last weekend.

One went out in a secret swap, one went to Mr Z's work and the other is on my desk at work.

I cut a semi-circle out of some card I no longer needed and stapled it together to stabilise the base. And then I coloured in that star myself and attached it to the top with some sellotape. I like it a lot! Next year, when we have a decorated lounge that we can put Christmas decorations up in, I hope to have a small forest of them. I certainly bought enough green cascade for a forest. I am also quite pleased that the medium sized trees came out at a very nice size, because I don't know if I could face knitting the biggest ones.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Tuesday Ten

Ten things left to look forward to this year

1. Natural History Museum school trip tomorrow. Bring on the fossils. And the gift shop.
2. "Wine tasting" on Thursday night. I use quotes as I don't imagine, it being the last full day of term, that I'll be spitting any out.
3. Drinks with the ski trip lot on Friday afternoon. Something mulled, hopefully.
4. Get Knitted Knatterers Christmas do on Saturday morning.
5. Early Christmas dinner with Mother Hand, Sib and Sib's girlfriend on Saturday night. I have ordered a turkey crown as big as my head.
6. Meeting Parpy Jo's new baby son, Morgan, who was born by emergency C section on Sunday night (Mother Hand's birthday!)
7. Going to the Google offices again next Monday night to catch up with the people I met 18 months ago and share new ideas.
8. Being off school and getting a few lie ins.
9. Actual Christmas, obviously. Looking forward to Father Z mixing me a gin and Dubonnet as I go through the door.
10. Hard to think of a 10. Hmm. OhyeahI'mgoingSKIINGagain!! New Year on the slopes, woop woop!

Monday 12 December 2011

Weekend FO

Mother Hand's Christmas hat

It's quite literally blowing a gale tonight and I wasn't home in time to get a good shot of this in natural light so you'll just have to lump it I'm afraid - I've been trying to get a good picture for the last five minutes and have run out of patience!

Also there is something seriously wrong with Blogger and its picture uploader. It's almost as if they want me to use Flickr instead....

Pattern: Star-Crossed Sloutchy beret (Rav link) - third outing for this one and I actually used a smaller needle for the ribbing, for once!
Yarn: Knit Picks Andean Silk - I really love this yarn; so soft, and has a lovely sheen about it in the finished article.
Needles: 5.5mm and 6.5mm - I reduced needle size due to the thinner yarn.
Mods: None, other than the needle size. Hence, the hat does not slouch the way it is supposed to; but it's for Mother Hand, and I think it will suit her quite nicely.

I am officially, therefore, halfway towards completing the first of my December goals. And I'm halfway through Sib's girlfriend's hat, so it looks like I'm going to make it.

I also got very drunk at Friday night's Christmas party, so you can see I am really dedicated to my goals this month.

Sunday 11 December 2011

Weekword: Colour

Late to the party this week, thanks to Friday's Christmas party frolics and yesterday's sucky internet connection.

Sally picked the word colour. It is a good one! I am a big fan of all things colourful. We live in one of those houses that will need repainting before being put up for sale, you know - red bedroom, dark purple spare room, sky blue office, and a red and black kitchen with a big red fridge. It was a surprise to both of us, I think, when we selected a relatively muted green and insert-euphemistic-name-for-beige-here for the living room, but I have some vintage blue batik fabric for curtains which needed something to contrast with.

Monument valley in 2007. It was a bright day and I love blue, so I tried to get as much sky in as possible. I'm not quite sure what happened to make it so dark, but I like it.

I follow a similar pattern when it comes to clothes. I avoid black. I have a black summer dress, a black winter dress and one black t-shirt. I avoid white as well, because I like to be able to spill. Being my own pop of colour around the place is the best way I know to brighten up a grey day.

Wildflowers - I'm not a fan of yellow but I make exceptions for natural yellows.

This year's "Autumn tree through the front door" shot. I love the colours of this tree and we get to enjoy this for almost a month. It looks even more splendid when the sun is on it and the colours are reflected into the hallway. It almost makes up for having to brush past it to get out of the house - never great when it's been raining.

Lovely word! Looking forward to reading all the other interpretations. Make sure you go to Sally's blog and check them out.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Goals for December

This time of year, my thoughts turn to survival. I feel like I'm one side of a war of attrition and my single focus is not allowing myself to be ground into the mud that threatens to envelope my classroom, and not giving in and just going to sleep as soon as I get home from work. So my goals are going to be quite focused on things to help me with this!
  • Knit hats for Mother Hand and Sib's girlfriend for Christmas.
  • Write and post at least ten Christmas cards.
  • Have all marking up to date by the end of term.
  • Plan 75% of lessons for the first week back after Christmas - we arrive back from skiing on an 8pm flight on Monday, and term starts on Tuesday, and although it should be an inset day, it's now been changed. So straight back to the chalkface and the only way I won't feel like it's a whole new attrition war is if I plan it before I leave!
  • Do my tax return for 2010/11. This is always a Boxing Day job but I may have to do it a bit earlier this year.
  • Take five new ideas from the Google Teacher meet up in London I'm going to and blog about them on my work blog.
  • Get very drunk at least twice. I seem to avoid drunkeness these days but I think it's good to cut loose now and again.
  • Really crack short turns when I'm skiing in three weeks. Assuming there is actually some snow by then. Crossing everything.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Tuesday Ten

Ten Things I'd Like For Christmas (an annual post that makes me hopeful)

1. A red Dualit handwhisk. Mother Hand's getting me this. My old handwhisk was a gift from my grandparents for my 18th birthday, so it has lasted well but it's time to put it out to pasture, with easy things like egg whites and cream.

2. Scrabble cushions. They will go beautifully in our newly decorated lounge. Sib is in charge of purchasing these.

3. In fact, almost anything from Literary Gifts. I like this, these (would be so amazing for school!) and these which made me squeak OMGSCRABBLEONTHEFRIDGE when I saw them, in a voice only dogs could hear.

4. Some more of this yarn. There was a pattern for a whole cardigan knitted from it in one of the summer Vogue Knittings, and although I think such a thing preposterous, given the cost of the yarn, I am hankering after it a little.

5. A hypoallergenic pillow. I'm so tired of wishing I could take my sinuses out, rinse them and put them back in. Itchy, tickly nose, begone.

6. Amazon gift vouchers. I seem to buy basically all my music and books from Amazon these days, and some credit with them would go down a treat, particularly since you can't buy Kindle books as gifts at the moment.

7. Some of this Neals Yard moisturiser. They gave away free samples with a magazine, which were passed on to me by Parpy Jo, and I have become a fan. Feel a bit guilty because I still love Lush skincare, and their Gorgeous moisturiser is still my favourite, but since they discontinued my all-time number one facial product, I am making sure I have some alternatives available.

8. Some thermals. Funky ones. Something I can wear for skiing and also around the house. I can't find any I like online.

9. A big bottle of Moroccanoil. This product allows me to leave my hair to dry naturally, without putting up with stupid frizziness. Ergo, it is a much cheaper version of a Brazilian Blowdry.

10. Credit cards to be paid off. Hey, it didn't have to be a realistic list, did it? And if Father Hand ever strikes it lucky on that gold claim he's got in Idaho, you never know....

Friday 2 December 2011

Weekword: Novel

Emma at the Gift Shed picked this week's word, novel. A fitting word for the end of NaNoWriMo!

I am always tempted by NaNoWriMo, but I know my limits. I remember the first year I picked applicants for the Malaysia trip, and I was super-impressed that one of the girls had completed the challenge, in her GCSE year no less. I questioned her about it during the trip and she recommended a great tool to use when you want to write but are distracted by other things. It's called Write Or Die. If you stop typing for a certain length of time it starts eating your words! I note it is now available as an app, too.

Once I was writing a novel, back when I moved to Bristol and had very, very dull office temp work. I reckon I'd written about a fifth, and I had my whole plot outlined, but then I started teacher training and it all got a bit lost. I didn't have time and my own story had diverged completely from the character I was writing. I used to think the best novels were written by people writing semi-autobiographically but since I've started to favour historical novels, obviously that has changed. Now I think that good writers draw on their experiences but perhaps only in terms of an emotional reaction or a relationship dynamic, though these might appear differently through the lens of the story around it.

I did always want to be a novelist, though. Perhaps there's still time. I love writing enough, and I have experiences a-plenty - time, as ever, is the only issue.

Please pop over to Emma's blog to read the other entries this week!

Thursday 1 December 2011

November Goals Round Up

Send out letters to parents that I usually send in term 1.
Analyse the Y7 data and identify the key group for which I'm responsible.
Done and done.

Write a development plan.
Not done - but, tbf, nobody has asked me for one. I have a feeling it may not be necessary this year, and anyway I have a mental development plan of the things I want to concentrate on at work this year. I can't believe it's almost a third over, though.

Review and set performance management targets.
Done. Eventually. I had to be a bit stroppy about it, but that's not a surprise.

Distribute new technologies questionnaire to staff.
Yes, and lots of people have responded - even more since I offered a prize draw for everybody who completed it.

Try three new recipes from my baking book, one involving yeast.
I tried two. I bought yeast and strong flour yesterday to make babas, but in the end I decided I didn't have enough time and I didn't want babas that much yesterday.

Finish knitting Louzle's ski mask.
I let it beat me! I am not enjoying the intarsia and so I put it aside and got on with the Christmas tree cones instead.

Work methodically through the chapters of this text book I'm writing.
It is all finished in terms of content. I'm wrestling with the syntax and the revision tasks now, but it's basically done, and the deadline was yesterday so that's good. I haven't sent any of it off yet, though. Well, I haven't had a contract yet. It feels a bit small to refuse to send anything until I get a contract, but it is also sensible behaviour.

Read a book.
Yes, I read Dissolution and I'm part way through Dark Fire, both featuring a hunchback lawyer in the reign of Henry VIII, solving mysteries. Very enjoyable. I may go and read some more now, actually.

Not a bad month! Maybe I made it too easy. It has felt like quite a busy month, though, and blogging every day has been quite a challenge. I noticed that I managed to, by complete coincidence, achieve 127 posts in both 2009 and 2010, so now I am focusing on achieving 127 posts in 2011 too. I reckon now I've only got 17 to go. Expect to see this on my monthly goals list for December.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Crafty Photo Scavenger Hunt: November

1. Inspiration

When I visited Nanny Hand last weekend she had some pictures of her wedding on the mantelpiece, which I had never seen before. This was (I think) 1949. This picture is inspiring for me in several ways.
Firstly, my grandparents had an amazing relationship that lasted from their early teens until he passed away at the age of 79. Definitely something to aspire to.
Secondly, I love the style! I love the sweetheart neckline and the peeptoe shoes, and the headpiece.
Finally, when I told Nanny Hand I liked the headpiece she told me somebody leant it to her and she didn't much care for it. This inspires me to let go of the fact I didn't like the shoes I wore for my own wedding. In 50 years, somebody might be picking them out as their favourite feature in the pictures.

2. Something I made

Here are all my yule tree cones so far.

They need felting, but I'm waiting until I have enough for three trees before I felt, so they all felt the same amount.

3. Motif: Stripes

Inspired by a post I read about boot socks, I have been rocking this look lately.

I bought three pairs of these stripey over-the-knee socks from a supermarket years ago, but always felt a bit too self-conscious to wear them. However, I am not loving tights this year for some reason and I still don't own a pair of work-appropriate trousers, so I was encouraged to try something new. To good effect, too, it seems - I wore a red/black pair last week to school and one of the gobbier year 11s said, "Miss, I like your socks" as I walked past. I replied with a sardonic thanks and a raised eyebrow, but she said, "I'm being serious!" And then her friend said, "Oh yes look, they sort of match your red and white stripey top!" Yes, it's almost like I planned my outfit...

I've always been a spots girl but stripes are slowly creeping into my wardrobe and I am becoming more and more fond of them.

4. Comfort

When it's cold, this is my favourite snug thing to wear.

The Central Park Hoody. This was the first garment I ever knitted. The sleeves are ever so slightly long and it is super warm and has a hood, so it's perfect for chilly days or for wrapping up at home. When I eventually got round to adding the button band (this took, no word of a lie, 2 and a half years) I put buttons right up into the hood, so I can button it up over my chin. This is just comfort in a sweater. I can't believe the designer didn't intend for there to be buttons on it: it's way better with the buttons.

5. Texture

I took this picture at the Great Ocean Road. I was rather taken with the different
textures in this rock. It had a twin which was missing its yellow sandstone top - evidently worn away by the crashing waves. There were round rocks and layers of rock and jagged rocks, and some very interesting weathering patterns. The 12 Apostles might have been more spectacular, but they didn't have the textural interest this rock had.

If you'd like to play, or see anybody else's pictures, please pop over to see Emma at the Gift Shed.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Tuesday Ten

Ten Things I'd Quite Like To Do*

1. Dance the quickstep in a killer satin dress.
2. Knit a dress.
3. Do some wilderness camping, with bear-proof stuff.
4. Make a really good pie.
5. Enter a Scrabble tournament.
6. Complete a parachute jump.
7. Have a Bliss Fully Loaded Facial
8. Get a tattoo. I want one on the sole of my foot, though, and that doesn't seem logistically possible. I mean, I wouldn't be able to walk for several days.
9. Have a bouncy castle in the back garden. Maybe for a birthday party. I remember a playscheme party once that involved drinking on a bouncy castle. Good times.
10. Take tea at the Savoy, or Clardiges, or something.

* And I only mean quite like - this isn't a bucket list or anything. They're just whimsical things I think I'd enjoy.

Monday 28 November 2011

Today I wish I was....

...drinking this.

A delicious lychee martini, being sipped on a sultry street in Kuala Lumpur, sitting close to one of those misters which takes the killer humidity out of the air. The perfect antidote to the freezing cold rain we've had today, and this almost-headache I'm having trouble shifting. Mmmmmm. It looks good.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Crafty Photo Scavenger Hunt: September (yes, I know it's November)

So. These were topics from SEPTEMBER. I got a little caught up in the business of life and forgot, but I had already created the post and rediscovered it when, in my slightly OCD way, I was going through my posts list checking for unpublished posts. And, since I had already picked things for all the topics and found some of the pictures, I decided I should finish it up.

1. Inspiration

Cheating a bit here - I'm not my own inspiration (well...sometimes I am but it feels a bit self-indulgent to use it in this context!); this picture was taken by Cara at the Harvey Nichols fashion show we went to with Phillipa in the middle of the month. Another aside here: I have realised I now just refer to my friends by their names, instead of explaining who they are each time. I wonder if this encourages people to read back, or puts them off coming back?

Anyway. The fashion show was very inspiring. Of course it was stuffed with clothes I couldn't even afford to dry clean, but it was full of ideas, especially on how to put an outfit together. We were all provided with a little notebook with the full outfit listings in it, and a Harvey Nics pencil to make notes. My notebook left full of sketches and notes about what I'd particularly liked. It made me think about my knitting and how I could play with texture a bit more. In my copious free time.

2. Something I have made

I really like this picture! This was the first of a series of five balaclavas I am knitting for my endlessly patient fellow ski trip staff. I am trying to forget that the ski teacher on my course said it was a bad idea to wear balaclavas with helmets because it might stop them fitting properly....

3. Motifs: Florals

I love the hibiscus, in spite of its overuse among various surfer chick brands. I currently have this decal on my phone, for example (what I especially love about these decals is that they come with the matching phone background). I was looking at the hibiscus a lot in September because I used it as a motif for balaclava number two.

4. Crafts on the go

Here is a selection of my project bags. The brown is Della Q via Jimmy Beans; the red and white spotty is Stitchy McYarnpants via Etsy (this is actually the inside of the bag, the reverse being a print of a burlesque woman with a red feather boa, but since it is a white background and would get dirty before I got out of the house, I use it inside out); the others are Baggus I picked up at Purl Soho when I visited in May.

5. Vintage

I was spoilt for vintage this month!

Needle case Kath bought me for my birthday. It's awesome - it has a twisty lid with a hole in it so you can select the right needle size.

Buckle Kath bought me at the Shepton mallet antiques fair. There is a trend here: can you spot it? I love a good piece of vintage haberdashery and this is just crying out to adorn a lovely soft white knitted headband, in the style of those all the cool kids are wearing this winter.

And this little haul was from Katy at Creating Misericordia. I won her draw from a Weekword she did and unwrapping this was so much fun! It was like a little treasure trove without a bottom. I think my favourite thing was the darner. I have no idea what to do with it but it looks really cool! Thanks Katy!

Saturday 26 November 2011

Weeknote: 26/11

This week I have been mostly...

More yule cones. I have almost enough for two trees now. I also have a list of things I want to knit for Christmas that is growing every day.

Going to:
Work, gym, home, repeat. Oh, I had a governors' meeting on Monday. SCORE.
Fate has conspired against me this week. I have had three sets of plans cancelled due to illness (thankfully not mine) - I reckon it's a sign that I must finish the book, or never be allowed out again.

Endlessly, chicken breast, green vegetables. With a Wispa Gold thrown in for good measure. I am feeling decidedly lumpy so the Bento has been a rather plain affair lately. Jenny the PT told me to swap some of the fruit in my lunches for veg. I can't say I love it, but then she can't agree that cherry tomatoes count as a fruit, so I guess we're even. It does seem to be working.

About Blabberize. Looks like a lot of fun - I feel a new swathe of homeworks coming on.

To check the state of my car before taking it to the garage. It needed some repairs after a small accident Mr Z had in it in August (totally not his fault) and so I took it in on Wednesday. In return I got a Clio, which felt like driving a tank by comparison. Anyway, I picked the Kia up again this morning, and after parking it to go shopping, I noticed there was a clearly visible and very poor sketch of a penis on the floor of the back seat. It was a note I confiscated from a child and then absent-mindedly wrote on the back of. Oh, teh shame. I did warn them it was full of rubbish when I dropped it off, but that might be stretching the point a bit.

Obsessed with:
Plotting Christmas presents. I am not usually a big present buyer, but I have been having some thoughts this year and I think it might actually be early enough to do something about it.
I might actually send CHRISTMAS CARDS this year. I feel excited. I think perhaps the Malaysia trip drained any energy I had to put in to Christmas prep for the last two years.

Entertained by:
I must admit to listening to a bit of Radio 4 this week. I caught the Book Show on Thursday afternoon and have bought a collection of short stories by Sarah Hall as a result. I'm still merrily ploughing through Shardlake the second, but I like to have options.

I've also been listening to Paul Simon's Graceland album a lot this week. Someone reminded me of it and when I downloaded it, I realised I remembered a lot more of the songs than I would have guessed from the track listing. This must have been one of those looped-play casettes we had in the car for long journies. I'm guessing Father Hand's choice.

Definitely more cheerful this week. Washing my pillow has helped me to sleep better: I think I am allergic to dust mites or something, because pillows always become an instrument of torture after a few months. It's not fun sneezing 17 times whilst trying to accurately and safely navigate the two-laned road up Tog Hill directly into the rising sun. It's like driving whilst being devoid of all senses. I can't recommend it.
So, a bit more sleep, and a bit more cheerful. And a bit closer to being finished with the book, and all done with KS3 assessments until the end of the year at least.

Friday 25 November 2011

Weekword: Content

Please go and read all the other weekwords posted this week:

Emma at The Gift Shed
Jennifer at Architette Studios
Rose at Rose's Year
Sally at Sow and Sew
Katy at Creating Misericordia
Jeneveve at Timballoo
Emily at Lobsterdance
John at The Healing Seed

I picked this word because it is one of those homonym things, or maybe a homograph: I can't really be sure which because I no longer have my big Reader's Digest book of grammar. I miss that book.
The first weekword I ever participated in was a homony...gra...pho.... one of those words that has several different meanings. I still remember reading all the different interpretations and how much I enjoyed it. This word had the double bonus of allowing me to read lots of reasons to be cheerful, which is perfect for a Friday. Coupled with the many "I'm thankful for..." posts coming from the other side of the pond, there has been a lot of positivity in blogland this week.

I've always thought of content, the adjective, as a really positive word. When you don't want any more, and you have enough, then you are content. It's something to aspire to. There was a thread about it once, though, on my favourite forum, and one response was along the lines of, "I hope I'm never content because then I will have settled."
For a while my perception of the word changed a little. Was it not a positive word, then? Was it like that word that makes every British teacher's bum clench in horror - "satisfactory"?
But after a while I decided that it was much better to be happy with one's lot than to constantly think all one has achieved is not enough.

I was pretty content here, swimming in Lake Tahoe. That doesn't mean my appetite for swimming in freshwater lakes had been whetted; but it's important to take the time to enjoy the moments when you have achieved exactly what you want, n'est ce pas? I wouldn't have wanted to spend my Tahoe time floating on my back, thinking about my next swimming experience. Contentment, I think, has to come from pausing for breath and thinking about all you've managed to achieve. Taking a picnic part way up that mountain so you can enjoy the view, so to speak. I don't think there's any shame in that.

Here's where I'd suggest you go and smell the roses but, well, it is November. Enjoy this picture of roses in my wedding bouquet instead. Definitely one of my most content days to date.

That's a Fee original :)

Who's doing next week? Shall I pick or does someone want to volunteer?

Thursday 24 November 2011

Blast from the Past

I hauled out an old diary tonight. My teenage years were spent scribbling in books, which I think accounts for my excellent memory and impossibly neat handwriting. I like reading back over them from time to time, although sometimes I really want a time machine so I can go back and give myself a good shake. Also sometimes I forget who the people I'm talking about are. Today I discovered a November 1993 scandal that Jodie Simmons was 5 months pregnant and moving to Wales. I have no idea who that is.

Here's my (very brief) entry for Wednesday, November 24th, 1993.

Did better in bowling today - came 3rd out of 4th (1). And I got a strike. Otherwise nothing interesting has really happened today (2), unless you count seeing Glyn (3) on the way home - I don't think I do anymore. Yesterday's snow has melted but it's still freezing cold.

(1) The previous week's entry confirms that this pathetic showing was indeed better - then, I'd failed to score even half of what the next lowest scorer had achieved. Bowling was our PE option in year 11. We used to walk to the bowling alley and back, which was around 40 minutes and much better exercise than standing around, sulky and blue-legged, on a lacrosse pitch. Crafty.

(2) Since I was regularly a bit behind in my diary writing, it's possible that this is code for, "I can't remember what happened today."

(3) THE crush of my teen years. Recently popped up again on Facebook, being just a little bit creepy. Diary entries suggest he was always a little bit creepy, but that I failed to notice at the time. I have, for example, an After Eight wrapper in my diary that he thrust down the front of my dress at a fancy dinner. I was 15; he was an undergrad. The teacher in me has alarm bells going off.
I know it seems weird keeping an After Eight wrapper, but I kept pretty much everything I could cram into my diary. It's full of receipts and tickets. I think my GCSE papers are probably in one of them somewhere.

This is the one problem with keeping a blog instead of a diary: since 2001, I haven't had anywhere to store all those bits and pieces and I've had to, shock, THROW THEM AWAY. But at least I don't have to worry about rescuing my blog if there was a house fire.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Today I wish I was...

...the proud owner of this sofa.

Not in leather, though (and it only comes in leather, so this really is a dream). And not in white. And not with that man, thanks anyway.

If I was the proud owner of this sofa, I would celebrate by having a Harry Potter marathon, knitting a load of Christmas Tree cones and drinking winter Pimms and winter warmer apple juice from a mug placed in the handy cup holders. And every time I was sleepy, I could just roll onto the bed bit and pull a big thick duvet over me and have a nap.

Mr Z and I have been looking for new sofas. I'm afraid this one might overpower our average sized living room. It does look amazing, though.

(No what-if today - I had inspiration but was in bed before I realised I hadn't posted yet today and it's too late to begin ruminating now!)

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Tuesday Ten

Ten recent pieces of wisdom

1. You could only comment on my blog if you had a Blogger account....until today. I'm sorry. I never purposefully set it like that. I have changed it now and hopefully commenting will become easier. But not so easy I get spammers.

2. Sparkly shoes are the remedy to an awkward moment when the deputy head is hanging out in your classroom killing time. Actually, sparkly shoes may be the remedy to everything, especially when they're this sparkly. They are my matron of honour shoes for Jen's wedding and they arrived today. When they fit I was so happy I nearly cried. But it's been a bit of a cry-y week. Month.

3. I have some pretty strong childhood memories attached to Paul Simon's Graceland album, which I just downloaded and am listening to for the first time in decades. "My travelling companion is 9 years old..."

4. If genetics are anything to go by, I'm going to be still all kinds of awesome at the age of 86. Granny Hand is still in full possession of all her faculties and very sharp about it too. She doesn't appreciate Robbie Savage's thrusting on Strictly Come Dancing, though.

5. Some wisdom from a year 11: "I had pumpkin soup once. It tasted like soup." Yes, Shannon, and now let's talk about that C you're supposed to achieve in History by the end of this school year...

6. If you fancy trying some of the Starbucks Christmas drinks but you don't like milk and soy milk in a latte is not your cup, try a soy misto. It's half coffee, half soy milk, and the Christmas syrups can be added without it becoming something diabetes-inducing. This tip brought to you via The Fit Writer who contributed it to the forum and is therefore a winner in my eyes (and a lot of other people's, since she's a champion bodybuilder)

7. When I laugh too much, I get a head rush like I'm going to pass out. This was proved last week when I hid in my cupboard before Yakob's lesson in my room. Then 5 minutes into the lesson, Paul came down, told Yakob he was there for a meeting, knocked on the cupboard door and got in the cupboard with me. Yakob evicted us both quickly with an incredulous shout of, "Get out, you bad people!" while his class gaped. "Was she in there the whole time?!" they whispered. Yes, children. I heard all about 'Kieran's tits'.

8. The post-WW1 democracy in Germany had a system where a party was allowed one candidate per 60,000 votes. ANY candidate. They didn't have to nominate certain people to certain areas. This doesn't strike me as especially sensible. But, since this was the system that elected Hitler, I don't suppose it was. I wonder if there are any PR systems out there today that work this way.

9. I don't like writing about controversial history. It took me two days to write the first 22 pages of content for my book. 10 days have passed, and I have managed only 3 of the remaining pages. I have finally realised that I'm not just struggling to stay fair: I'm struggling to do it justice. Everything I write sounds trite.

10. But really, sparkly shoes do make everything better. They really do. Just wearing them puts me in a better mood.

Monday 21 November 2011

Weekword: CONTENT

So, my turn to host! I will be back with a word but am stuck at work, blogging from my phone, so please leave your comments if you want to take part and I'll be back with a word by the end of Monday.

ETA I have thought about this week's word all the way home and couldn't decide between two, so I flipped a coin. And then decided to ignore the coin flip and make it content.

Best blog efforts on the word content by Friday, please, or I'll have to ring home and talk about detentions :)

Sunday 20 November 2011


One thing I have to do, but don't want to:
1. Mark that last set of key stage three assessments tomorrow, ready for lesson on Tuesday. The one positive to doing it is that afterwards I will be (almost) marking-free until after Christmas.

Three things I have to do, that I don't mind doing:
1. Finish writing el booko. I may have a bit of writer's block, but I can sort of see the end.
2. Knit more green cones for the felted Christmas trees I'm making.
3. More reading for my sixth formers. I am in danger of falling a little behind, thanks to my new obsession with Shardlake.

Five things I am eagerly anticipating:
1. Christmas shopping. I finally decided today what to get Mother Hand and I am excited about sorting it out.
2. Spinning on those nice new bikes on Tuesday.
3. Decluttering a bit over the next few weeks. Sally wrote of a new decluttering book which has inspired her and she has inspired me: I remembered when I was trying to declutter. You wouldn't think it, to look at the house now.
4. Crystal Maze weekend with school, although we have less than 10 students signed up so far. This is a bit of a shame but will make the whole thing less stressful for me, admittedly.
5. School Christmas party. Always a social highlight.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Weeknote: 19/11

My life has been as dull as the weather this week. Sorry.

More Christmas tree cone. I need to wind my second skein of Cascade now and start in with a new colour. I am studiously ignoring the cow print balaclava in the mistaken hope that it will get easier the longer I leave it.

Going to:
Work, leisure centre, home, repeat. No time for socialising this week. Though I did have lunch at Jamie's in Bath today with some of the ladies of the Lushies forum and, as you read this post (assuming you do so on a Saturday evening) I will be driving to Redditch to see Granny Hand. I am embarrassed to say I cannot remember the last time I saw her. She doesn't live far away, but I am lazy and anyway, she's on Facebook. She's 87 next month. I use her as an example when the technophobes at work try and claim they're too old.

The usualy stuff. The chutney I made in September has finally matured, and I have been enjoying the spiced apple with walnuts version alongside my chicken for lunch this week. Very tasty, and the walnuts give it an interesting crunch.
I have also become reacquainted with Wispa Golds, following their re-release as the official snack of our Olympic team. I don't think that's going to help our medal chances.

About Commoncraft. My colleague Tony, who pipped me to the title of Geekiest Teacher in last year's leavers' book (something for which I have yet to forgive him), told me about it in a little chat we managed to shoehorn into the workday on Tuesday and I immediately put it into practice, with very positive results.
I love it and now want to do it all the time, with all my classes. Forget writing. This is way funner. I realise I am currently writing and therefore that's a bit ironic. Perhaps next week's Weeknote will be created in Commoncraft.

Obsessed with:
Trying to think of a new way to present the material contained in the last six pages of my book. It's about the conflict between the US government and the Plains Indians. I am not satisfied with any of the textbook spreads on it: they're all too wordy; but how do you do justice to the topic without being wordy? And then there's the added pressure of trying to write a fair account.

Entertained by:
I hoped, the new series of Grey's Anatomy, but I haven't got round to watching any of it yet. SO. BUSY. I am really loving Frozen Planet, though, which I am watching on Sunday nights because, as Parpy Jo pointed out, it is essential Sunday viewing, even if it's on on a Wednesday. Crabby said it's the sort of programme that makes you think, "Yep, that's why I pay my licence fee" and I'd have to agree (though Mr Z pays the licence fee, but it's the same general idea).
I'm also reading Dissolution by C.J.Sansom and really enjoying it. More historical fiction. I am reaching the end now and am convinced I know whodunnit.
Finally, I love this song this week. I pretty much love everything Calvin Harris does, but this is such a cheery song.

The black dog is upon me. Hoping I can shake the mood next week. I need to, really, or I'll never be motivated to get my first draft finished. It's so hard to work when I'm feeling all blergh.

Friday 18 November 2011

Weekword: Sunshine

This week's word breaks through the November dullness courtesy of John. As a result, I have been singing this song all week.

I am a fan of the cheesy pop when it is uplifting. I find myself asking myself, "What AM I going to do today?" much like when I listen to a bit of Simon Webbe and remind myself that all the good times are coming around again.

Anyway. It hasn't been the easiest of weeks. I have had to work really hard with myself to prevent angry-snappy-teacher coming out and, with just a few sarcastic comments, burning all those bridges I've been building with my students. I'm a bit run down healthwise and very tired, because every spare moment is going on textbook-writing and marking assessments.
Luckily there have been a few real highs which have helped. So here are five things that have been my sunshine this week.

1. My sixth formers made commoncraftesque videos about Hitler. I gave them about three sentences of instruction and sent them off to create. They did so well.

2. The last thing I did before leaving today was ring the dad of a very naughty boy and tell him his son had made amazing progress and I was really proud of him. I love the guarded tone when I introduce myself, followed by happy surprise. It's a nice way to end the week.

3. The leisure centre has new spin bikes to go with their new spin studio and I can actually do all the runs and climbs on them! All this time I thought it was just me, but nope - it turns out the bikes are partially to blame.

4. This new Phoenix Rising bath bomb from Lush is just amazing. It smells familiar, and delicious, and turns the bath water a really strong shade of purple, and it magically manages to dissolve from the inside out. Made for a very enjoyable bath last night, which was just what I needed as the week drew to a close.

5. New Knitscene, which Get Knitted were kind enough to post out to me. It has two knitted dresses in it! As if I'd ever have time to knit a dress. A girl can dream, though.

Go over to John and have a read of the other entries, won't you? I don't know who is hosting next week. I'm going to offer, though, so you might find a new word here on Monday.

Thursday 17 November 2011

The Rock Tour: part 2

Only two and a half months later than part 1...I hope you haven't been too despondent, waiting for me to finish it. Perhaps the holiday in Bali helped.

The campsite near King's Canyon was full of these birds again, and had many good showers and very few people. It was in a very peaceful spot, and after we'd cooked dinner on the fire (I say we...I mean, we hardly did the lion's share; but I think all the heavy hints and pobremios from Oggy had hit their mark with some of us, and we did all at least stir the mince a bit) and played some games and the German man had told me off for the British inefficiently having both cold and hot taps instead of just mixers (?!), we all settled round the campfire in our swags, in a big clockface. Except for the French people who disappeared for ages and then had to sleep in the neighbouring grassy field because there was no room. Oh well.

I think it was a fairly early night. I was conserving phone battery so I lost track of time. It was quite nice, tbh. It was definitely a very early morning, though. Oggy told us he'd do something special for us, by waking us up about 2 hours before dawn. Normally this kind of special treat would join the, "I'll give you a nice new filling in that tooth" and "I'll warm the speculum first" stable of treats, but actually I was about ready to get up and hadn't felt the cold at all, and had slept quite well thanks to that wine I'd drunk. I was ready for my pre-dawn hike. The same can't be said for the youngest of the German girls, who had to be physically tipped out of her sleeping bag into her swag by her unsympathetic father.

Unfortunately, the pre-dawn hike came with a crapload of rough cut stone steps at the beginning. This took me a while. I tried to be quick, and luckily we did manage to get where we wanted to, but not before I'd stopped for this picture -

...which is a matching pair with my friend Jonty's picture from the same place. It's kind of a steep drop. The girl taking my picture was a bit nervous for me.

We continued walking along the top of King's Canyon until we reached Cotterill's Bridge, a small bridge over a deep chasm that leads out onto a flat top, where apparently the view of the sunrise was awesome. Oggy was not wrong. This may have been my favourite bit of the entire tour. I filmed it on my camera: here is 14 minutes of sunrise, speeded up (can you guess when I got tired of holding the camera and balanced it on a rock?)

After this we hiked around the rest of the rim, crossing the bit where the water is; there was some great geeky geology here, because the canyon is made of two layers of sandstone with a layer of shale underneath it. So there's always water in the bottom, because although the sandstone is porous, the shale is impermeable, so the water can't get through. I was loving the geology. The whole canyon rim seemed to be formed of beehives of sandstone, where particles had blown in between them and worn them down.

Once we'd finished here, it was back to the bus and time for the long drive back to Alice. We stopped at a camel farm, where I declined to ride a camel - I rode one in Egypt and, really, how different was it likely to be? Humbug. Instead I observed the wildlife, including the dozens of galaas that inhabited the animal sanctuary -

And we saw some wild camels by the side of the road -

And we played a game called Oggy wants, which involved a competition between the three rows of the bus to see who could get the item Oggy required all the way to the back of the bus and then to the front again. This was a lot of fun. There was some good lateral thinking and a heavy dose of healthy competition. I don't think it was at all inappropriate that I ended up wrestling with one of the French guys to try and prevent his row from winning. Nor that Oggy pulled back into Alice with this on his rear-view mirror -

I did really enjoy this game, but my risk assessment nerve was twitching horribly. Damn risk assessment nerve. I didn't realise I'd grown it. This probably means I am older than I think.
We were lucky to make it back to Alice when we did. The road has been closed due to some fires which had got a bit out of control, despite Oggy's best efforts to put them out with a water pistol, so there was a pause while we all stood around on the side of the road. The group in the bus behind toasted marshmallows over a flaming stump. We took pictures of the sun through the smoke.

The next day, the tours were turned back because the fires were too out of control, so I felt pretty lucky, even though I ended up on an off-road tour to Palm Valley instead of going to the West Hamiltons. On that bus, seatbelts were mandatory, I lowered the average age by around 20 years, and when the air-conditioning briefly broke and the bus got a little warm, the woman behind me started hysterically squealing, "There's hot air just POURING OUT OF IT!!!!!"
But that's another story.

After The Best Shower Ever back at Toddy's, I went for dinner with the bus gang at the Rock Bar, and had my first kangaroo-based meal, and was mistaken for a spritely 27 year old, which was just icing on cake. The evening was a perfect end to a perfect trip.

I really cannot recommend this tour highly enough. I wrote a glowing review of it for Trip Advisor and if you found this blog post because you're thinking of booking, read that, but then book it (as long as you don't mind outdoor camping. That added to the experience for me, but may not be everybody's tin mug of warm white wine.)

I also can't believe this was nearly four months ago. I'm glad I have nearly a thousand photos of my trip, they are good memory-joggers.