Friday 30 November 2012

Fave Friday

I'm out tonight for Christmas dinner with my local besties, Ali, Crabby and Parpy Jo. We are eating at one of my favourite places, Browns in Bristol, which is colonial style with ceiling fans and big green plants. They also do amazing cocktails. This is a Krakquiri. It has rum and lime in it. It is delicious. Number 2 is on its way!
Happy weekend everyone (and a weekword tomorrow, I promise).

Thursday 29 November 2012

Today I wish I was...

...dining on Greek salad with a carafe of retsina here.

I'd have spent the day sunbathing here -

(bit difficult because it's a different hotel I think) and swimming in the hot springs, generally spa-ing it up and recuperating from ... meh, well, it hasn't been the busiest November ever by a long chalk.But I still feel like a bit of sun and warmth wouldn't go amiss, since we've had weeks of cloud and dismal rain, recently replaced by bitter cold. I had to scrape my car windscreen both to drive to work this morning, and to drive home. That's not fun. In the words of Father Z, "That ain't right".

I've never been to Santorini but it is on my list of places I'd like to visit. Looking at pictures of it is one of my favourite things to do on Flickr. I think it would be best in the spring when it's not too scorchio.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Make like Tom, and Cruise

Yesterday in my list, I said I had cooked for Tom Cruise. I feel this may be a little bit less exciting than it might have sounded! I do have a flair for the dramatic. But it is true.

I worked at a restaurant at Stirling Corner near Barnet in 1996 when I was taking a gap year before uni. Tom Cruise and the whole family were living nearby during the filming of Eyes Wide Shut at Elstree Studios. He came into the restaurant with his adopted kids (no Nicole) and ordered dinner, and I cooked part of the meal that was served to him. I didn't meet him, get an autograph, or even see him - it was all quite low-key at the time. We used to get a lot of actor types in that are locally famous. But now I can always say I cooked him dinner!

As for my book - getting a real kick out of being searchable on Amazon! As you see, not the most scintillating tome in existence (unless you are studying for this particular exam, in which case it's a fascinating and very topical read with lots of great activities and tips) but it's very exciting nonetheless. I always wanted to be a writer growing up (or an authoress, as I used to constantly refer to it - definitely a flair for the dramatic) and I never imagined that teaching would be a way into it for me. I've enjoyed researching and writing it and it's given me a taste to get my teeth into something similar in the future.

Thanks for your visits and your interest! Looking forward to touring your lists at the weekend - my new favourite Saturday morning task.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Tuesday Ten

Over at Artsyville it's all about ticking the boxes today, so here are...

Ten Things I Have Done

1. Visited five continents. Only South America and Antarctica left, and I don't know if I count Antarctica.
2. Seen the Northern Lights - bizarrely, from a field in Wisconsin in July, and not in Iceland, which is where you'd expect to see them.
3. Been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans - twice. Rio next.
4. Written a book, shortly to be published. It's not a very exciting book, but it's a start.
5. Seen the sun set, and rise, at Uluru.
6. Skied the Hahnenkamm....and the Olympic halfpipe and women's downhill in Italy.
7. Cooked food for Tom Cruise.
8. Been selected for, and attended, Google Teacher Academy - the first one in this country. I still feel pretty proud of that.
9. Kept a blog for 13 years (happy birthday blog for last month, missed that again). I don't think there are many people who are at 13 years at the moment.
10. Completed a mud run. Still feeling quite proud of that as the muddy trainers are still sitting next to my back door!

I'm sitting here gazing into space, certain there are other things I could write but desperately short on time and with work still to be completed before bed. Everything I can think of is to do with travel! Really fun thing to list this week, thanks for the inspiration!

Monday 26 November 2012

Good Intentions

No weekend FO again this week - I am having a mad rush of starting lots of projects so that they are at least on the needles. Some have been going for a while and need finishing. I am determined but busy. C'est la vie.


(Oh look - could it possibly be that Christmas is on the way, with a spread of colours like that?)

Clockwise from left -
Flip-top mittens for Mother Hand for Christmas, knitted in the sumptuous Debbie Bliss Andean Silk. I have some very lovely buttons with tiny purple flowers on for buttoning back the flip. These mittens have a lovely cable pattern and I really like how the twisted rib looks in this yarn.

Christmas socks. I'm ready to turn the heel. This is the second sock - I WILL be wearing them to school in the week before Christmas, by hook or by crook.

Yarn for Elise's fingerless mitts. I knitted her a pair two years ago and then they had to be hastily gifted elsewhere. This time I will strand the Malabrigo with this slightly sparkly Kidsilk I've got knocking about.

Baby jumper for Baby Parpy Jo. She requested a hoody that zips at the back, all the way through the hood. She requested a neutral colour which does not show up the dirt too easily (this matches Parpy Jo's ideal decor). I am giving her a Welsh Dragon intarsia. She does not yet know this. Her consolation will be that he will grow out of it quickly. She is against fancy dress but I think all 1-year-olds need to be dressed in picture knits at some point.

A sparkly Christmas decoration for a swap.

In my copious free time - a few more Yule trees, with any luck.

The awkward thing about all these projects is that none of them are at the "knit whilst catching up on Game of Thrones*" easy, non-pattern-referencing stage at the moment. This kind of cuts back on the time I spend on them. Tonight, for example, I have done no knitting and watched one episode of GoT. I really need to get a tree or a mitt cast on, either of which will fly by with very little concentration from me.

* Still can't decide if I love or hate it. I am getting quite absorbed in the characters but it has a slightly cheesy edge which I am not used to experiencing with things made by HBO.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Sunday Baking: Banana Bread

I've had this one in draft for a while; I didn't bake it today, I must admit. Instead I made tea loaves with a mixture of fancy dried fruit and chopped prunes, which is delicious I already blogged about the recipe here and it's not really that different.

I was reminded to come back and post this recipe on Friday, when the librarian and I shared a slice of banana sponge with passion fruit icing, lovingly baked by Waitrose, and discussed what it was that was wrong with it. It was delicious - but it didn't taste quite right. We agreed in the end that banana, when in a cake, is best when it's a bit more earthy and wholesome as a bread or a loaf, and that it was a little sweet and fluffy with that icing.

I found this banana bread recipe earlier this year when I was looking for something that would use up (a) my brown bananas and (b) some of that wholemeal flour I almost never touch. This is a Dan Lepard recipe, him what wrote the baking book that is my solid favourite these days, but he wrote it on the Guardian website so I have no qualms in pinching it from there and tweaking it with my changes. Of course it wasn't quite right as his says wholemeal bread flour and I'm pretty sure mine was just wholemeal flour, but it worked anyway.

300g ripe bananas
15ml lemon juice
125g shelled walnuts, chopped (I use the walnut pieces as I like a chunkier nut, personally)
75g unsalted butter
175g dark soft brown sugar
50ml walnut oil
1 tsp mixed spice
3 medium eggs
325g wholemeal flour
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Line the base and sides of a large, deep, 19cm-long loaf tin or similar with nonstick paper, and heat the oven to 180C. Peel the bananas and in a medium bowl mash them and the lemon juice with a fork until smooth. Stir in the walnuts and leave to one side.
Melt the butter in a large bowl the microwave, then add the sugar, oil and spice. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, until everything is evenly combined.
Sift the wholemeal flour and soda into a bowl (pick out any bran caught in the sieve and add to the flour in the bowl). Beat half the sifted flour into the egg mixture, fold in the banana and walnut mixture, then fold in the remaining flour gently.
Spoon the mix into the lined tin and smooth the top. Bake for about 60-70 minutes, or until a skewer poked in comes out barely clean.

I'm pretty sure I used light brown sugar when I made this (twice, now - it got a request at work)because I never have any of the dark stuff in. It tastes delicious and quite worthy at the same time; a rare combination, I think.

Whilst typing this I have just remembered that banana cake can be fluffy and cake-y when it has plenty of chocolate chips in it. If I have brown bananas next weekend (and this seems a distinct possibility) they might become chocolate banana cake.

Saturday 24 November 2012


I have to admit, I'm a little stuck for a post today. I have spent the day hibernating, enjoying my first weekend with nothing to do since half term. I sort of felt sorry to be missing out on the history conference that happened today but also quite grateful that I didn't have to schlep across to the Smoke in this weather. I slept well last night, pottered around reading work blogs this morning, did the food shopping, visited the salon, did lots of knitting and caught up on Game of Thrones and Dancing With The Stars. I am so disappointed Watch are not running DWTS anymore: I love Strictly Come Dancing but they are quite purist about it, whereas DWTS is a bit more showy and fun. When I heard Shawn Johnson was back for the All Stars season I had to take steps to ensure I was able to see it. I am only up to the fourth week but this dance beats out my all-time favourite DWTS number (also Shawn Johnson - the Cha Cha) and really brightened up my day.
 She is so very speedy and sharp, it's a real pleasure to watch. Darcey often mentions the importance of a strong core on SCD and I feel like Shawn probably has the strongest core of them all, which really adds something to her performance. As someone who has done a LOT of planks in the past couple of years, I can appreciate (a) how hard it is and (b) what a difference it makes to things like posture and balance.

Anyway. It's proper cats and dogs outside and has been all day. Waiting to wake up in the morning and discover what new bits of the southwest are underwater. So grateful for living on a hill!

Friday 23 November 2012

Bonus snug post

The mitten has a cave when we wash the bedding and hang it over the banisters to dry. She loves it, especially when there are fireworks about. How snug she looks! I can forgive her not wanting to sleep on our bed when she looks this content.

Happy weekend, all.

Weekword: Snug

I really couldn't have picked a better word this week, I think! So. Much. Rain. Last night the last thing I wanted to do was trundle out in it, and drive in a shallow river all the way to Bath, but the show was at least worth it. Today has been dry and pretty beautiful, as all the water on the ground meant a low hazy mist across the fields as the sun set. However, it has been very cold - that special British cold that gets into your bones because it's so damp. Obviously I don't mind the cold, as a lover of skiing, but this kind of cold is a bit wearing. All the way home I was making up...

The Snug Routine
1. Place warmest PJs on hot radiator (I have some made from fleece. These are ideal.)
2. Wedge thick socks on there too.
3. Change bed sheets. Clean sheets are definitely snugglier.
4. Make hot water bottle and place this in the bed.
5. Squirrel out fluffiest towel. If you have a tumble dryer I suppose you might dry it for 5 minutes to fluff it up a bit.
6. Run warm bath. Bathe, using snug-inducing bath products, which for me would be anything spicy or with lavender or rose.
7. Dry thoroughly in fluffy towel.
8. Put on PJs and socks.
9. Dive into bed.
10. Acquire All The Pillows.
11. If there could be some sort of fluffy animal, such as a cat, this would presumably make it even better, but our mitten does not do snuggling so I can't speak from experience.
12. Now there should be some reading, playing Draw Something on a device of some kind, and possibly some sipping of a hot beverage, possibly laced with some kind of warming spirit. I personally find gin to be a very warming spirit.

This makes me warm just thinking about it. I think I may run through part of it now, to see how it works.

Just a solitary weekworder this week - please go and see what Carmen has to say on the theme of SNUG - and Carmen, I am tagging you back for next week since we're the only ones playing!

Thursday 22 November 2012

Today I wish I was...

...the proud owner of one of these.

As the southwest disappears under flood waters and the wind drives the rain in sideways, I can think of no other way to reach my classroom from the main block dry and un-windswept.

Now, because driving sideways rain and gale force winds is ideal for an evening out, I am off to the theatre to see a work friend play the lead in the Sound of Music. So, just a quick one tonight.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

An historic day

So! Today I rang up the Student Loans Company and they were able to confirm (after I had read out all my payments in this tax year and the woman had added them up) that I have finally, FINALLY finished paying my student loan. That was my much-smaller PGCE loan; the original BA loans were paid off in March.

I'm feeling pretty happy about this, not least because of the small spike in income it will create. But it gives me pause: I advise students I teach often not to fret too much about university costs if they want to go because, hey, nobody ever avoids buying a house because they don't want a mortgage (well, not many people I'll bet). However, it has taken me until now - 15 years after I started uni - to finish paying and my loans were miniscule in comparison to today's, since I paid no fees and received a full grant. One year's fees now as about 50% more than my total loans for my first degree. Those debts they're coming out with really will look like a mortgage.

Maybe I had better direct them to student finance instead and keep my mouth shut.

Interestingly, I bumped into an ex-pupil recently who was in to do some observation before applying for teacher training. He did some kind of medical degree at Cambridge. He was complaining that in his final year he had been offered 4 hours of lectures a day. When he revealed this he paused for effect but I wasn't quite sure whether this was a good or a bad thing - in my final year at uni I had 4 hours a week and I thought it was great. He thought the opposite. "I mean, we're paying the same as the students on the such-and-such courses, but they get 8 hours a day!" he complained. Hmm, yes. I never thought of it like that. Value for money didn't really come into it when it wasn't paid for directly.

I wonder what impact this will have on degree courses in the long term.


Tuesday 20 November 2012

Tuesday Ten

Artsyville is wishlisting this week. Lots of inspiration for Christmas gift-giving over there!

Ten Things on my (Fantasy) Christmas List

1. This light. I haven't decided on a letter. Send them all in all colours and I'll pick my favourite. Just kidding...don't send yellow. I don't like yellow much outside of nature.

2. A Do it Later! 2013 Planner (or Non-Planner) for the Creative Procrastinator, from The Literary Gift Company, who unhelpfully do not have item-specific links on their website, meaning I have to basically browse their entire website every time I want to find something I've looked at. Such a CHORE. Anyway - it is pointless me buying a diary because I have tried, and failed, to use them for writing appointments and the like down (I basically keep all that stuff in my head) but it still looks like it might be a fun thing.

3. Some Scrabble cushions - as last year. We have decided to buy a couple of Ws, and then I will knit some nautical-themed cushion covers with anchors on them, and arrange them saucily about the place. In your own time.

4. A Kenwood Chef. I have decided I need one and I am willing to sacrifice my coffee pot to get it. It has planetary mixing action. IT CAN MIX. ACTUAL. PLANETS. Also it might help me successfully create meringue buttercream icing.

5. Somebody excessively green-fingered to come and repot my endlessly multiplying ginormous Aloe Vera without killing it in the process. Mother Hand is coming to stay though so this might be a possibility.

6. As always, additional time. I would settle for five extra secret days. I'd like to be able to take these one at a time whenever I like in the next calendar year, without notice.

7. A rebuilt garage with a lovely, palatial room over the top with windows on all sides so it is really light, and a roof terrace accessed by a spiral staircase. Overlooking...hmm, the neighbour's garden, so not the best thing ever but it would have a lovely view out across the hills at the back.

8. A case of English Sparkling Wine, as reviewed in this blog post. My ideal home has a cellar in it, in which I can keep large quantities of wine and a variety of other things. At the moment I'm still working my way through the Cava we bought but didn't drink at the hen night I went to in the summer.

9. To be supreme queen of the world for the day. I have a LIST.

10. A Giraffe Manor holiday. I am becoming obsessed with visiting this place.

Making these lists is always fun but takes a long time! I think it only takes a long time because I am very blessed already. Maybe I should have things for other people on my Santa list, but I don't think that's quite the point.

Monday 19 November 2012


Carmen nominated me to pick a word this week which is most helpful because I didn't have any time for knitting at the weekend and thus have no weekend FO post for today.

The word I am picking for this week is snug. A good word for a blustery November week, I think. It has been so windy today that all those beautiful leaves are largely blown off the trees, and now my two big exercisey tbhings are out of the way and the training day I had to contibute to today, I feel it is time to settle in and start thinking about enjoying winter.

So, your best efforts on the word snug please, for Friday - leave me a comment and I will link to everybody.

Sunday 18 November 2012

A Little Proud

Today has been long and work-filled, thanks to two of my employers being unable to meet the deadlines they set themselves/communicate effectively with plenty of notice. Frustrating is not the word. Possible alternative words muttered today include "Taking liberties", "Ridiculous" and "Moon on a stick". This leaves me with very minimal time for blogging, since I have missed my intended bedtime by 36 minutes and counting.

So, I thought I would share a little proud with you. Yesterday I pass a ski qualification. It doesn't really mean anything; I didn't desperately need it, or even a little bit need it if the rumours about the changes in trips policy are to be believed. I have managed to run several ski trips (six, actually) without it and nothing awful has occurred. When I took the course last October (here is a little mention of it in my blog), I really did think that I might not pass, but I wasn't too concerned because it was a formality.

In spite of thinking this, on the penultimate day, I overheard the course tutor chatting with his second on the chair lift behind me, saying that I was not good enough. It made me cry. So much so that I faked a painful knee so I had an excuse to hang back and bawl my eyes out as we went down the next slope. I mean, I think I had a bit of altitude sickness and I was over-tired, but I was properly sobbing.

I had worked quite hard to pass, you see. The whole point of seeing a personal trainer - who has now been a weekly fixture in my life for over two years - was to fitten myself up for the intense amount of skiing that needed to be done, and I'd taken a ski lesson here and there and made a point of really attacking the skiing on my previous trip. So, it was hurtful to know that I hadn't quite made the grade, however much of a brave and stoic face I put on it after that first dreadful hour.

Yesterday saw that work all, finally, come together - and in fact, it was almost better than passing it first time. I know my skiing improved massively last year when I was on the course, because we were working 2:1 with one of the most experienced coaches around and another teacher of many years' experience - under their tutelage I couldn't help but improve. However, there is something a lot more satisfying at knowing that I took their advice away and worked on it by myself for three more ski holidays and was able to make enough of an improvement to pass - with the same tutor, I note.

I've not ever seen myself as a sporty person. I was deeply unsporty as a child and teenager. My interest in exercise was minimal until I started skiing, since when I have been well and truly bitten, and today Cara actually scoffed when I said I didn't think I was sporty, so ridiculous did she find this statement. It all comes down to working hard for this course, I think. Without it I would never have started seeing Jenny the PT and that has made a big difference in my life.

So I am having a proud now, as the minutes tick closer to midnight. Very proud that I passed that course because it did not come naturally to me and I had to work really quite hard to be able to do it. 94% on the written test means nothing without the physical ability, which did not come naturally to me - but I was able to conquer it. Woop woop!

Normal service (less boasting) will be resumed tomorrow.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Weekword: Library

Biomouse tempted me back to Weekword this week with the word Library.

I have to admit that this played right into my hands, almost as if she had read my mind, because since I wrote this post about my local library as a child and how disappointed I was with the local library where I work, I have had cause to be extremely impressed with the local library where I live.

Shamefully, when I went there to look for a course book, my library card was so old it had to be replaced. And it turned out my gym membership card (local authority gym) doubles up as my library card. And they send me an email to remind me to renew my books so I don't incur late charges. AND I CAN DO THIS ONLINE.

Hellooooooo, sexy new library - where have you been all my life?

Online is the handiest bit. I can search the catalogue and reserve books, and request a book from any library in the surrounding counties to be delivered to my local library for the princely sum of 50p. And when I go and check it out, I can do it via a machine. A MACHINE! It doesn't even need a person to stamp it! Which means that the librarians are free to ring up parents and ask if they're bringing their offspring to the next reading circle, which seems like a much better use of their time. 

I realise none of this is probably news to the library-going population, but I am a fresh new convert and all prepared to be evangelical about my new discovery. Why would the government cut funding now when they've got so good?

I do have one bugbear, though, which is that when I went in last week, I perused the History section and saw there was a biography of Edward VI on the "Recommended" shelf. I rolled my eyes at the tagline which was something about the search for England's soul, thinking that it sounded like a vanity project for some bored historian. Then I realised it was penned by our local MP. I reckon he'd been in and put it up there himself.

Thanks, Carmen, for tempting me back! You're like a library, you are :p

Friday 16 November 2012

Fave Friday

Autumn is looking particularly beautiful this year.
I don't know why I think it is better this year than previous years. It feels like usually the season changes quickly, during October, when I'm not driving to and from work, and then when the journey restarts all the trees are bare - but not this year. Maybe it's because we've had such a wet year. There is still plenty of foliage left to admire and the grass at work is carpeted with what is finally beginning to fall. I only wish I had more time to spend outside, the better to admire it - or that there were a few more golden blue days and less cloudy grey ones, because they look even better in good sunlight.
But I'll take whatever colour I can get as the grey deepens towards winter! I swear it was getting dark at 3.30 today....
Blogging via the official Android app today which doesn't get amazing reviews - wonder where the pictures will end up?

Thursday 15 November 2012

Today I wish I was...

...going to Malaysia next week.

Of course, I'd not want to be organising a trip involving nearly 20 students, but instead going to lie on this beach with my Kindle and a good shady beach parasol. I know I've blogged about this beach before but for me, on that day, it really was a little slice of paradise found. A 20 minute hike up and down in muddy, slippery jungle, in flip flops - but totally worth it.

I've been teaching a Geography unit about coasts recently and keep playing them this as background to their lesson activities. Had to stop when one of them told me it was making them desperate for the toilet - but I find it really soothing!

Wednesday 14 November 2012

I died a bit inside


At Geneva airport, in the duty free.
It is LYCHEE AND RASPBERRY flavour vodka.The small print reads "For Women Only". I had a look around to see if there was a male equivalent that tasted of cigars, gunpowder and saddle leather, but there was nothing of that ilk. I can only assume this is aimed at the sort of delicate flowers that can't handle neat whiskey ... I don't like neat whiskey but I wouldn't drink this on principle.

Am I getting grouchier as I age? I find myself more appalled by things like this (which I think would be described on Twitter as #everydaysexism) than I ever used to be. I found this letter from Lady Curd today that I quite liked, for example. I do wonder what has happened to make me feel more strongly about topics like this over the years, but I can't pinpoint it.

Incidentally, and while on the topic of that blog, I also LOL'd a lot at the reader letter featured in this particular post. I have not read Lady Curd's reply because, tbh, it's late and I think I can probably guess what it's going to say. The letter is gold, though.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Tuesday Ten

The List It Tuesday topic is "Ideas for List It Tuesday topics" and I had the BEST of intentions - it involved being arty and maybe even some glitter, definite use of Sharpies at any rate - but time is short. I have 20 minutes to get this blog post done and I have a lesson to plan before bed (last week was very relaxing but now I realise all the work has been surreptitiously squashed into this week instead).

Here's what you get:

I do love a good spider diagram. This is how I do my to-do lists, so I can split them up into the different sections of my job. Helps me prioritise. And of course, it has to be in red pen....even though the new regime at work insists on green for marking, I'm rebelling. Sometimes. When I think nobody is watching.

Aimee Artsyville has the double whammy of killer red shoes and beautiful socks in that post I linked to, so go and see her and look at some other blogs while you're at it. Blog-graze, if you will. 

Monday 12 November 2012

Weekend FO

Operation Nannyhat


In its unblocked state.

Pattern: Through the Woods
Yarn: Araucania Azapa (now, tragically, discontinued)
Needle: 3.75mm and 4mm
Mods: Knitted the rib with the smaller needle, as I did the first time I made it.


When I spoke to Mother Hand last weekend she told me Nanny Hand was in need of a hat. "She complained that her hair is getting thin and her head gets cold," related Mother Hand, "but that she thinks she needs a hat with a strap on it, because she hasn't got much of a neck anymore." (Nanny Hand suffers from osteoporosis...that thing with grandparents where they seem to be shrinking but in fact you're growing? No, she's actually shrinking.)

Mother Hand suggested a slouchy beret so I had a flick through my patterns and stash and remembered that Through the Woods had been nice and quick the last time I knitted it, and pretty to boot, and that last skein of Araucania would make a very snug hat and suit Nanny Hand's iron and black hair perfectly. I did consider adorning it with buttons and knitting a detachable strap but ... well, I might still. It will be meeting its recipient on Saturday so I still have time, potentially (second book proofs are back this week though so maybe not).

I decided whilst knitting this that Azapa is up there among my favourite yarns and that I should find a source of it now Get Knitted no longer stocks it. That was when I discovered that it appears to have been discontinued. #sadface. Luckily I found a few cream skeins left for sale so I have restocked; I marked this project as a stashbuster but I don't know if it counts when it inspires me to buy more yarn!

Sunday 11 November 2012

Sodbury Slog



She finishes!


A bit muddy....


...but nowhere near as bad as it was before running through the Pig Trough.

Today was the 13th annual Sodbury Slog, which takes place in the muddy fields around Chipping Sodbury every Remembrance Day. I can't quite remember why I signed up and I was absolutely terrified that I wouldn't make it, since a variety of excuses (laziness being top of the list) had kept me from doing the training I should have done. I did a nearly-4-miler with hills a couple of weeks ago, but this is nine miles across fields. I had no business being there, really.

Oh, and the mud! So much mud. I lost my trainers twice. I have a variety of scratches and mysterious bruises from falling in the mud, reaching out to prevent myself falling in the mud and grabbing brambles, and a variety of other mud-related injuries. There are a couple of special bits, including the aforementioned Pig Trough - where you run in a stream for a hundred yards - and the Sheep Dip, which involves jumping into waist-deep pool and wading through. As I got out of that one I nearly slipped in the mud and a spectating little girl recoiled in horror at the thought of being spattered.

The marshals and back markers were extremely supportive and helpful, handing out water, jelly beans and encouragement, even as my legs slowly gave out and slow jog turned into purposeful stride. I was the very last to finish, after two and a half hours, for which I was rewarded with a bottle of fizz and my name being announced over the tannoy. Not that there were many people around to hear it by then.

Muddy it may have been, but it was a gorgeous day for it (still feel guilty for making Mr Z give up such a beautiful golf day to come and hang around for me - thank you Mr Z) and at one point I saw a whole field covered in spider silk which was pretty glorious. I would definitely do it again. But, I would train more first.

Saturday 10 November 2012

Goals for November

  • Finish knitting the hat for my Nan
  • Get a good whack of Christmas jumper done for Parpy Jo's son
  • Begin knitting Mother Hand's Christmas present
  • Make a list of Christmas presents to get for people
  • Bake the Christmas cake
  • Pass the ski course (Milton Keynes, next weekend - eek!)
  • Complete the Sodbury Slog (TOMORROW - double eek)
  • Do 10 minutes of tidying/cleaning/decluttering a day. This has been going well thus far.
With the exception of the ski course, there are no work goals on this list - and long may this continue.

Friday 9 November 2012

Fave Friday


This is The Bunny. He is new. We have taken him in from Mr Z's colleague, because he didn't play nicely with his rabbit buddies. He's been living at Bunny Towers for about three weeks now and has basically ruined our already questionable-in-quality back lawn.

I am prepared to let him off though, because he is both cute and clever. He is a free range bunny really, but we weren't sure as to the security of the back garden so we have been cautious. When I let him out for the first time he went directly to his most favourite nomming spot, under the triffid rosemary bush, and when I attempted to evict him, gently, with a golf club, he tried to bite the golf club, and when that didn't work he grabbed the golf club with his mouth and moved it decisively out of the way.

Then, a week later, when the shed had been demolished and the chance of escape was quite high, he actually had me chasing him around the garden as he frolicked towards the massive gap in the fence and then feinted away. Smart. He was desperate to get out that day, as he'd been shut in for three days, and when I entered the garden he started butting his head against the door. Mr Z thinks we should get him a tin cup to rattle against the cage. I reckon he'd do it, too. He has excellent hearing - everytime I go to the back door he is instantly at the house end of the cage, watching me.

He thinks our garden is paradise. He has come from a place where everything is neat and there's only grass and up-high plants, to a garden that has not seen the business end of a gardening implement for roughly 2 years. When he gets out for his run, I can only liken him to Charlie when he arrived at the chocolate factory. He runs from plant to plant, nomming wildly. His favourite, after the rosemary, is the bramble. Win.

He doesn't have a name yet, as his name is Willow but everyone knows that's a cat's name*. We've tried out Conan, and Brahms, and are flirting with Nero. Haven't quite found the right fit yet, though.

The Mitten is displeased. She tried to attack him in the garden yesterday but I wouldn't fancy her chances because he's probably about the same size as her.

* I used to have a cat named Willow.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Today I wish I was....

...back in Iceland.

On the day this picture was taken I was ill. I don't think I look particularly ill, because the air is so good and I had been hiking about in the cold. But, I had eaten something that did not agree with me and could not move far from the very cold toilet near this beautiful waterfall. So, I didn't go and stand underneath where it was falling and get wet, because I was not in the mood. I'd really like to go back and have a go! Also they are very good at heating their indoor spaces and creating warm clothes in Iceland. That is very tempting this week.

I had some pictures printed at the end of the summer and keep a little stack on my desk, changing the one at the front periodically. This is adorning my desk this week. It was such an enjoyable trip, despite the illness.

The air was so cold that the spray from the falling water turned to snow. Very bizarre and very beautiful.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Protein Powder Reviews: Amazing Meal

Since I joined the Green Monster bandwagon, I have become a reader of labels and a purchaser of protein powders. I read in a magazine (ergo it must be true) that adding a protein powder to a fruit smoothie was a good way to limit the sugar spike from the fruit. I have a lot of diabetes in my family and I'm overweight so anything that will help to keep my blood sugar constant is A Good Idea.

I must say that I cobble most of my ideas together from magazines, bits I read on websites and my own common sense (!) so it might all be hokum. But when I started adding protein to my shakes I discovered I didn't have to eat again until lunch, which is frankly amazing as the morning is my hungriest time of day.

I did a little research. I picked the brains of the forum I frequent and of this lovely lady (who definitely knows a thing or two about protein). I decided to avoid whey because I don't like milk and it doesn't make me feel well; I perused Holland and Barrett and picked up their vanilla soya protein purely because it was in the smallest tub. It was OK. Reasonable.

But now, I am branching out!


Here's my latest collection. I like to be prepared. I thought I would review them from a normal-person viewpoint; I am looking specifically at taste, texture and fill-up-ability. I suppose there should also be a consideration of how much protein is in each serving - though this is covered by the fill-up-ability really - and other nutritional info; but we'll see how it goes. Basically I'm just making it up as I go along. Again.

Amazing Meal Original

This was expensive. It was £2.99 for a sachet that was smaller than my regular scoop - I think 22g instead of 30. But it came recommended and it was chocful of excellent, healthy substances. I mean, just look at that nutritional infor - 80% RDA of Vitamin A! Can't be bad, right?

It was very green. I found this a bit offputting, but then it was going into a smoothie the colour of mud so, yknow. Whatever.

It didn't taste particularly bad in the smoothie - kind of gritty, and not at all sweet - but it had an unpleasant aftertaste. I drink my smoothie on the way to work and during the last 15 minutes of my journey a bitter after-taste developed to the point where I needed to break out the Extra just to get rid of it. I have never had that with a smoothie before.

I was very hungry by breaktime. Hungry enough to require a slice of cake.

Overall, I would give this only one muscle on the five muscle scale. It may be extremely good for me, but it just didn't taste good or keep me full enough for me to fork out that much for it again.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Tuesday Ten

This week's List It Tuesday is lines from movies.

1. "Do, or do not - there is no try" - Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

2. "'Patriotism is a virtue of the vicious,' according to Oscar Wilde. [Hummel strikes him, and he falls to his knees] Thank you for making my point" - John Mason, in The Rock (I love this film far too much)

3. "THAT'S Sandy Frink?! What the hell was I thinking?" - Heather, Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion (completely sums up, in one sentence, that whole thing teenagers do when they blow something completely out of proportion and then, as adults, cannot understand what the fuss was about.)

4. "A life lived in fear is a life half lived" - basically every character in Strictly Ballroom at some point.

5. 'THAT'S MY WIFE, CRONE!" - the Sheriff of Nottingham, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (this is essential ski trip coach viewing and this line always gets yelled the loudest).

6. "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything" - again, various characters, in various incarnations of Back to the Future.

7. "Oh, I'm afraid that book was accidentally destroyed maliciously" and also, "Small one, from Vegas" - both Gru from Despicable Me. Gru is based on Mr Z. I tend to use that second quote quite often, though nobody really gets it.

8. "Archaeology is the search for fact... not truth. If it's truth you're looking for, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is right down the hall" - Indiana Jones, on his Last Crusade - I use this line quite a lot in class (replacing archaeology with history), especially when teaching 9/11 to students fresh from the conspiracy theorists. 

9. "Better a silly girl with a flower than a silly boy with a horse and a stick" - Jocelyn, A Knight's Tale ("It's called a lance! Dur!")

10. "It's not funny!" "It's a little funny" - Matt and Danielle in The Girl Next Door. I use this one a lot too.

Fun trying to think of these! I also spent far too much of my evening watching Despicable Me again. "IT'S SO FLUFFFYYYYY!!" 

Monday 5 November 2012

Weekend FO



Alright...not actually mittens. They were meant to be mittens but there wasn't quite enough yarn, and then I thought it was probably better to make them fingerless mittens instead, anyway, because the yarn is so heavy that full mittens would be a bit hot for me.


You'll remember my stash enrichment post about this yarn - Maipo from Araucania. I picked two stitch patterns from my cables Stitchionary, picked a needle two sizes smaller than recommended and got to work, squandering an entire skein of it on each mitt. The result is pleasing, and very snug. The only problem I have so far is that the yarn is shedding quite a lot, already.


The wrist part is wide enough to fit over the top of my coat sleeves, thus creating an ultra-warm seal for those chilly mornings - they were finished just in time, it's been bitter today. Meanwhile the hand part is knitted tight enough in a slip stitch weave to keep out the drafts.


I will write up the pattern for them some time this month.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Sunday Baking: Smores Pies and Chocolate Lime Cake



I like this Sprinkle Bakes blog a lot. Heather makes cakes which are both beautiful and delicious, and photographs them in a way that makes me want to roll around in them whilst stuffing my face, a la Lisa Simpson in that episode where she jumps in the cake (no YouTube clip, sadly). Heather also has some very cute pets; I found this blog around about the time of this post and I may have stolen this picture and used it in my lesson slides that week, captioned "What learning do you want to be celebrating by the end of the lesson?"

Here is the recipe for her Spiked Smores Pies. I don't want to take credit for her work by writing out the whole recipe here, so go there and get it! My mods were
  • I didn't put any sugar in the crust - just digestives and melted butter. Digestives are a little sweeter than graham crackers, if memory serves.
  • I used cherry brandy instead of Bourbon
  • I kind of mixed up the quantities a little - I did the same amount of crust as in her recipe (I like a lot of crust), but with half the amount of ganache and about two thirds of the marshmallow topping (I was not about to go to the length of halving three egg whites)
  • I toasted them under the grill because I don't have a blowtorch
  • The most obvious - I made them in individual muffin tins. The one in the picture was made in a big Yorkshire pudding tin; I did four like that (they are a LITTLE too much in one go) and a dozen in a regular shallow muffin tin
I'm sure there will be more recipes from this blog in the future. Heather has me considering buying a kilo of black sesame paste so I can make these (can't find it here in smaller quantities...) and wondering where I can get my hands on some maple extract for this fudgey delight, and whether peanut butter would sub for peanut butter chips?

Anyway. It hasn't all been about Sprinkle Bakes today, though it could be. I also made some chocolate cake with some chocolate treacle icing, both from Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet book. I have made this chocolate cake recipe before but sent it away to a friend; I knew there would be enough mixture for the loaf tin, plus leftovers for my friend at work who does not believe cake should be messed with in any way. So, a single chocolate cupcake for her, with a dab of icing; and a layered loaf cake with lime curd and the rest of the frosting for the rest of us.


I have learned a couple of things.
Firstly, lime curd is not very sticky. In fact, it made the layers slide off like a greased child down one of those garden water slides - hence the toothpicks.
Secondly, the frosting recipe makes a LOT. Like, twice this much. I poured it on liberally hoping to lazily coat the sides which unfortunately hasn't worked as intended but there are usually some gannets left at work to scrape up the leftovers so I will leave it for them.
Thirdly, the icing is pretty dark in flavour. It has black treacle in it which is quite a prevalent flavour. I think it could do with white sugar instead of Muscovado, or half and half milk and dark chocolate instead of all dark. A bit of lime rind might have freshened it up for this recipe, but I only just thought of it. Bit late now. It is beautifully glossy, at least.

But anyway - treats at work a-go-go. 

Saturday 3 November 2012

October Goals Round Up

Complete a run/walk effort of at least 7 miles
It's weird, running. I get jealous when I drive past people doing it. I really enjoy it when I'm out there. But can I stir myself to actually do it? No. The Sodbury Slog is a mere 10 days away and to say I am in a panic about it would be an understatement. I also have a little cough/wheeze thing going on which is not helping me to feel healthy.

Attend 8 classes at the leisure centre (got to make that membership work for me!)
No; I think I managed 4.

Begin knitting Christmas jumper for Parpy Jo's son
Well. I have begun to swatch. 

Finish first sock, cast on for second sock
Yes! First sock done. The cast off was too tight and I dropped two stitches (?!) whilst doing it so I unpicked and bound off with the sewn method. Then I knitted the first lace repeat in Starbucks at Geneva airport this week. Sock knitting really is quite a quick thing if you put your mind to it. I expect everybody else knew this already.

Knit at least one of a pair of mittens that I can wear whilst driving (people seem baffled by my intention to drive in the thrummed mittens so perhaps I had better have something thinner)
Yes, with the chunky and luscious Maipo no less. I am nearly done with the second mitt. In the end I didn't have quite enough yarn to make a full mitten but decided, with hindsight, that they were better as fingerless mitts because they are going to be darn warm.

Plan and deliver a kick-arse set of assemblies based on David Rudisha being an inspiration
Yes, this was done. The first day I delivered it, I could not get the sound to work (it turns out the red light on the speakers is the off light, how ridiculous!) so I ended up commentating the entire race myself, which got me the most comments from staff and students as the week progressed.

Create a draft outline of what I'm delivering at that session I have to deliver on outstanding lessons next month, that is looming much too fast
Well, I greened this but actually I don't know if it's just that I should do so, because I put it off and put it off and finally, on October 31st when I could put it off no longer (handouts had to be with the company by November 2nd), I had an email from them saying numbers were too low for the course to be viable and it is cancelled. So I am greening it because it no longer needs to be done, which I know isn't the same as actually doing it, but the outcome is basically the same: it is no longer on my to-do list. Tenuous. I know.

Be absolutely amazing at skiing...I am off to Tignes in two and half weeks
So, as you'll have realised in my notes from Tignes, I only had two days in which to achieve this but actually I came away feeling quite positive. It was very icy on the first day and this caused a lot of complaining from the chalet staff, who did not care for the ice. I didn't really notice it. Since one of my action points was to be more confident on icy reds, I think I can safely say I have achieved that one.

Not bad! I suppose I should not be surprised that it is my exercise goals I failed to achieve this month, because autumn is typically the time when I crawl under the duvet into my armchair and don't come out for months at a time.

Friday 2 November 2012

Fave Friday


I feel I am labouring the point about Starbucks this week but really, this is my favourite thing of the moment. It is a favourite thing to do in the holidays: sit in a cafe with coffee and cake and read my Kindle. This is pumpkin loaf cake and it is delicious. That is a pumpkin soy misto.

I have finally discovered that a soy misto is half filter coffee, half hot soy milk. It is NOT a latte with extra shots, which is what I was served the first time I ordered one of these, three weeks ago. In that case I was served a triple shot latte in a small cup and it was 9.30pm. I don't even have coffee after lunch because it disturbs my sleep, and as I lay staring at the ceiling at 2am that night, eyes watering in exhaustion, I vowed I would find out what a soy misto REALLY was because I was sure it was not meant to be that strong.

Thursday 1 November 2012

NaBloPoMo 2012

It's that time of year again. Join me as I attempt to blog daily throughout the month of November. I might occasionally use one of the prompts from here if words fail me.

With that in mind, today's prompt was about favourite quotations. I don't know who said this (Teh Interwebs attributes it to Gandhi but Wiki says it's disputed) but I always like, "Be the change you wish to see in the world", particularly when things are not running smoothly at work and there's a lot of complaining going on. No sense in complaining unless you're willing to do something about it!

More wisdom (or something masquerading as it) tomorrow. And every day this month.