Wednesday 30 November 2016

Today I wish I was... to get a good picture of the sunrise. The only benefit of a frost so thick it didn't thaw all day/being at work before the sun comes up/having to climb up endless stairs to get to my office has got to be the gorgeous clear skies and beautiful colours. I spent some time with my arm wedged out of the classroom window 4 storeys up, trying to get a picture of the colours, but to no avail.

In other news, I may need to cave and start wearing tights. This bare-legged lark is all very well when I'm walking to my car and back, but the bus was late this morning and that was not fun. If you thought it was cold when you got up, you only have my sympathy if you were also up and out of the house by 6.20. In my humble opinion, 6.20 cold is considerably colder.

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Plum chia seed pudding

(I know, three posts in one day: I told you I was on top of my workload this week).

Much as I was enjoying the apple chia seed pudding, I thought I had better mix it up a bit, so I brought home some plums at the weekend and had a go with them. It's a new favourite.

5-6 plums, quartered and destoned
1 star anise
Vanilla caster sugar, to taste. Normal sugar probably OK too, especially if you use vanilla yogurt. Or you could put a bit of vanilla pod in with the plums
2 cups almond milk
200g Greek yogurt (I ended up using honey yogurt, because Asda delivered it to me by accident and I was already stirring it in by the time I realised it wasn't ginger)
Half cup chia seeds
2 tbsp flaxseed (this is a usual inclusion, only left out of the previous recipe because I had run out)

Stew the plums with a little bit of water and the star anise until they have disintegrated. Fish the star anise out and add a bit of sugar if the plums are a bit sour. Wait until they are cold, then mix everything together in an ice cream tub and put in the fridge overnight.

I am not a huge fan of aniseed in its most common forms (balls, Pernod) but this is an absolute winner of a combination. The flavour is quite subtle and - I can't put it better than this - cold, but not overwhelming.

I might try again this weekend if I remember to buy a cinnamon stick - I think that would be a great further addition.

The Bikram Diaries: 9

You might be forgiven for thinking I'd jacked in the sweaty yoga, since I haven't blogged about it since last December. Well, we're all on a journey, aren't we? My journey has not involved masses of visits to the bikram studio this year, but there have still been some. Nineteen, to be precise, so I will aim to get to 25 by year's end. I am managing once a week now that I have figured out Monday is always a better day to go than Tuesday, on account of Tuesday being a lighter work day every week. I did go on Tuesday this week, though. Managing my workload slightly better this week.

As I commented to the very keen lady who recently completed a 30 day challenge tonight, the only problem with only coming once a week is that progress seems to be non-existent. I grope for my foot in standing head to knee and standing bow, and it never feels like it is getting any closer. I lean back in camel, but my back bend is no deeper. I tilt my pelvis and think fondly of gravity, trying to lower my bum actually onto my heels, in half tortoise, but there is still at least a finger's width of air between them.

I had a very busy day today (my Fitbit congratulated me on reaching my best-ever score of 50 floors climbed today, which explains why I am so tired) and as soon as I got into class my mind just exploded, like I had been ignoring it all day. So I wasn't fully in there. But having said that, a little progress tonight: I did manage to catch my left foot very briefly in standing bow, but only briefly, and then I hurt my shoulder and had to be a bit careful for the rest of class.

Laura came over to help me with the lying down bow pose too, and even though she retreated the first time (probably in horror at the enormous crack my hip made as she attempted to lift my foot for me), when she came back in the savasana and tried again, I was successful. It was a joyful moment that has not occurred for going on 18 months and I wanted to remain in that pose for the rest of class.

I also have to take my wins elsewhere. I can now get through an entire class without drinking and without wiping my face. Small steps. My self-control is improving, even if my muscles are not.

Another little positive: I have lost 10lbs since starting the new job, purely through the additional walking (it must be, because I still eat too much cake). I only know this because the number on the scale has changed: I don't notice the difference in the mirror. But I did tonight, as I gurned through another set of Awkward pose, posed like a duck and sucking in my stomach. It looked flabby and hideous, as usual, but there was a ghost of something underneath it all that I hadn't seen in a while.

So yes, bikram. Still happening. Still hard. Still magic afterwards. Even better in this freezing weather.

Tuesday Ten: The Avarice Edition

10 things I'd like for Christmas

1. A new cord coat, exactly like my old cord coat but not faded and with no loose buttons. Said cord coat is now 8 years old and has been through the washing machine several times, but there's no denying it looks its age. I have been hanging out for Boden to release it again, but not happened yet.
Really I should be asking Santa for a sensible long waterproof coat with a hood, but I haven't seen one I like.

2. Some L'Occitane Cherry Blossom shower gel. I got a mini one in my beauty box subscription one month this year and I love the scent, AND it hangs around for a while.

3. The perfect navy blue gel eyeliner. It doesn't exist. Shu Uemura did a great one which I am still mourning. All the others seem to have some sparkle or are the wrong colour blue.

4. That Marc Jacobs scarf I mentioned a few weeks ago. I might end up making this a present to myself.

5. A digital radio walkman, ideally one that is also an MP3 player. I haven't found one that does both yet. I think I must be searching for the wrong thing. I really miss Radio 4 on my journey home from work.

6. Some fancy headphones to go with my new radio MP3 device. Bose ones would be nice. I don't want to have to listen to people on the bus.

7. A Tiffany mini smile necklace in rose gold. I perused these in Singapore and they are lovely and understated. The chain was a smidge too short, though. I wonder if they do extensions. They are eye-wateringly expensive so I would hope they could be accommodating.

8. A fruit bowl for my office at work. I'm tired of keeping my fruit in a drawer.

9. Swarovski bracelet. This one, ideally. One of my A-level students works for them and is always rocking plenty of crystals - I love these bracelets. When they're not being worn they're like fascinating sparkly snakes.

10. A Bunnies and Zen yoga towel. I really, really do not need one of these - I already have two yoga towels which is excessive - but they are exceptionally cute. Even the twee ones.

Mr Z said he would get the decorations down very soon. I can't wait to get my robins back up. Robins are more a winter decoration than specifically Christmas, aren't they?

Monday 28 November 2016

Blue Monday

June 2015 turned out to be my last ever Murder Mystery weekend with my old school. It was my 11th, and made all the better by the fact it was taking place in June rather than March. It was knocked on the head this year because apparently enrichment for the more able is no longer desirable. Totes not bitter about this, as you can tell.

Part of what I loved about MM, other than the aforementioned enrichment, was the opportunity to hang out with colleagues and spend time talking to them about Stuff They Know. In school, outside of the department, people rarely talked about Stuff They Knew, preferring the more mundane entertainment of, how many times in a row can you get the ball in the cup, or how much is too much to spend on Lego? and the like. During the school day, when you're in the zone, isn't the best time to try and inspire colleagues with your knowledge.

MM, however, it the perfect time. Everyone is slightly giddy from lack of sleep and trying to make enough fake evidence to throw the kids off the scent of the murderer. Hence, we found ourselves (staff and students) crowded onto the lower field on Saturday night while Mr F the physics teacher told us all about what was happening in the sky.

It was a glorious sky, too. 10.30pm and there was still some dusk left in it.

There was a very bright star. Or was it a star? Mr F explained that this was actually two planets - Jupiter and Venus - converging in the sky so that they shone doubly bright.  This is a very rare occurrence.

Of course, this sort of thing is very tricky to catch with a phone camera but I did my best. Very blue. One of those perfect midsummer evenings.

Sunday 27 November 2016

Weekend WIP

I have finished the sleeves and picked up for the button band: very nearly there. No picture because the whole thing is all bunched up on the needle for the neckband now, but it is a lovely fit and feels very warm.

The purple made it through to the final stripe but with absolutely nothing to spare. I actually had to cut the remainder in half and knot it onto the end for one sleeve (I know, KNOT....ugh) and was still left with an end that I am going to struggle to weave in. But I made it.

As for the rest, I have used almost the entire second skein of pink and have only a few metres of the fawn colour left, and quite a lot of lilac - about a third of a skein. I will probably use that to neaten up the sleeves where the colour changes have left them looking wonky. Will see what it looks like after blocking.

Upon hauling out the buttons I realised that the identical set I thought I had were actually very miniature versions, so I had no qualms about using the original set. I toyed with the idea of using these blue shell buttons instead, as they are so lovely -

But I think the silver ones will work best, and the Ravelry consensus agreed with me. I have made the cuffs double length with a thumb hole, so I can button them back onto the little silver ones. Love it.

I am really hopeful about finishing this during the week this week. I know I had good intentions last week but it really was a marathon of work weeks and I didn't have any knitting time. This week should be different, hopefully.

November traditions

It seems that I have a few traditions, not all the usual type, in my kitchen during November.

Firstly, the Christmas cake. I followed Delia's Creole Christmas cake recipe once again, but adjusted it this year as I had a surfeit of cherry brandy. I decided I would make it a cherry cake instead. Here were my subs:
* The soaking booze consisted of 9 tbsps cherry brandy and 3 tbsps amaretto
* I replaced the currant with dried cherries
* I left out the molasses sugar and reduced the amount of sugar in the cake by 50g: it is virtually impossible, I have found to buy unsweetened dried cherries and even though these were only spiked with apple juice I don't want it to be too sweet
* I replaced the mixed nuts with flaked almonds

Once again, it smelled a bit clovey to me so I have made a note in the book this year to reduce the amount I add next year.

Secondly, mango chutney.

There comes a point every autumn when the local green grocer sells off cheap mangoes, hard as bullets. That point arrived two weeks ago (2 for a pound) and this weekend they were soft enough for chutney. The whole house is currently steeped in the smell of vinegar and coriander. Loving it.

Finally, gin. I have been patiently waiting for Sainsbury's to do their usual price lowering trick with Bombay Sapphire, and had actually given up hope, but this weekend the litre bottle was finally down to £18 so it came home with me and more citrus gin has been made. As good as my word from last year, this year's vintage will be two lemons, two limes and 200g caster sugar.

The first bottle is still living it up in the boot of Mr Z's car. He insists it must be ready by now but I think it needs to go for at least another year.

Saturday 26 November 2016

Strictly: My Dance of the Night

I hesitate with Danny Mac, because surely he had some dance training before? Stage school, and so on. But then I decided that might put me in the same boat as all the people I see complaining that Ed Balls needs to be voted off because it's a dancing competition. No, it's an entertainment show.

Anyway, the samba Danny and Oti did this week was jaw-dropping and I loved it. No surprise that it was the first full-scoring samba ever on Strictly.


As for the others: I really enjoyed the waltz, even though I don't usually, and I felt very sorry for my personal favourite Claudia, holding back the tears as she failed to get a 10 again. She must be wondering what else she needs to do. Might have actually voted for her this week: got to support the local girl.

Friday 25 November 2016

Scenes from the Classroom #26

I'm teaching the new GCSE. It's an old topic, that I used to teach when I was a newbie. It involves a look at the work of Koch, who is always good value because his name sounds like cock. My old colleague used to say it "cotch" but I don't see the point in playing it that way. Usually the first time I exaggerate the ccchhhh ending, but then afterwards revert. In my first year, I had students make posters to support his successes over those of his rivals, and one particularly memorable lad came up with the slogan, "Vote Koch - he won't flop". Bet he remembered it in the exam.

On a tangent, my art teacher friend used to have her classes do a drawing project on cockerels. Then she'd put them up on the wall and invite her other classes, with an absolutely straight face, to view her wall of cocks. She is my hero.

Anyway, it's been probably a decade since I had to teach this, so when I first brought it up I looked around expectantly. Not a whisper. Not a ripple. Not even so much as an eyebrow twitch. I moved on, incredulous. Further mentions occurred: still nothing.

This week, the back row asked me to confirm how the word was pronounced.
Me: No, not cotch - cock. You'll remember it because it sounds a bit rude.
C: You know Miss, I never even thought of that until you just said it.
M: But wait, Miss...I don't...
C: Sssshhh it's OK...
M: No, Miss - I don't get it. Why is it a bit rude?

I genuinely thought she was trolling me. I went all in.

Me: Well, cock is a slang word for penis.
M: *looks confused* Oh...right...
C: *whispering* I would have told you! I knew what it was!

Not trolling me, then.

I might be the least mature person in that classroom. As a post script, I explained to my year 8s what a codpiece was this afternoon (it was in context) and we all chuckled wildly about it for a minute or so. They are probably closer to my level.

Thursday 24 November 2016

Throwback Thursday

Throwing back to this flattering portrait a year 8 student drew of me during my second PGCE placement.

Note the enormous mole, the Hitler moustache, the nobbly knees, the "I heart muffs" socks and the American football shoulders. I was pleased though, because he didn't draw me fat!

Still remember having to tell him off with a straight face and then laughing until I cried once he'd gone.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Today I wish I was...

I know skiing comes up every year, but I have been reorganising my Easter ski accommodation this week so it is fresh in my mind. Hurry up, skiing!

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Tuesday Ten

Ten ways I like to celebrate

1. Prosecco. I always keep a bottle in the fridge in case there is an emergency celebration. It was very handy the day that Gove was shuffled out of the DfE.

2. Cake and ice cream. Well, any dessert, really. I like the fact that going out for dessert is now A Thing, thanks to the rise of the ice cream/dessert parlour.

3. Balloons. Nothing says celebration like a helium balloon, does it? You're never too old. I love a helium balloon.

4. Cocktails. The Canary Gin Bar in Bath is my favourite place, narrowly followed by the Dark Horse. I think the Canary wins because the cheeky barman calls me miss instead of madam. Who doesn't like to have their ego massaged, albeit with blatant chicanery, when one is celebrating?
I found out last week that there is a coffee shop next door to school that has a gin counter. Hmm.

5. High fives. I don't care how out of date they are, I still love a good high five.

6. Sharing the news on social media. I like telling people I rarely see: it is nice to get their congratulations (and I like the reminder of the anniversary when I look at Timehop).

7. Victory lap/victory dance (had to say victory twice so it did not look like victory lap dance). I do tend to save this one for when I am celebrating on my own, but I have been known to get up and run around the classroom cheering myself when I finish marking a set of books. Hey, you have to take the celebrations where you can get them.

8. Rewarding with time. Just finished a big project? Take the weekend off. Please feel free to go and sit in a coffee shop with no marking, stay at knitting group all day on Saturday, take a yoga class on Sunday and binge watch four episodes of something in the afternoon. Bonus points for managing to spend a period of 24 hours in pyjamas.

9. Pictures. I like having them to look back on, like the social media.

10. You knew this was coming, right? - a gin and a nap.

(Unbelievably, I wrote this whole post on Tuesday night - and it was a labour of love: more difficult to think of 10 ways I celebrate than I thought. Then I forgot to post it! I blame Mary I and her foreign policy. I spent so long trying to get my head around it that I got distracted. So back-dating. Not cheating, promise.)

Monday 21 November 2016

Blue Monday

Back in February, when my Wileyfox phone was new, I was playing with the camera filters and came across one that makes everything blue. Hence: blue Brandenburg Gate.

Truth to tell, I had forgotten about this setting until I was flicking back through the pictures just now.

That was a great school trip. It might even be my favourite ever, in spite of having a bad back and the impending result of my exam board interview hanging over me, and the rain, and the closed shopping centre on the day I'd set aside four hours for shopping...I'm tagging it a holiday. I remember it as a holiday.

Here's me accidentally taking a selfie when I didn't mean to.

Weekend WIP

After ignoring it all week because the tangle of yarns was so intimidating, I have really gone to town on these sleeves this weekend.

I've added another 13 stripes and now that I am here, I think 40 stripes might be quite close to the right length after all, plus the ribbing. The single skeins have held up splendidly but I fear there might only be one more purple stripe left in the ball. I can manage eight more stripes on just one more purple so hopefully that will do it.

Jenny did some very supportive cheerleading on Saturday at knitting group as I stared dolefully at the growing yarn tangle caused by knitting sleeves two at a time using both ends of four separate cakes of yarn, so I persevered for as long as I could; but in the end I had to cut and untangle because, while it has a goodly proportion of silk in it and was therefore sliding nicely, the yarn did eventually get glued together with little scraps of fluff, as happens sometimes, and I couldn't do anymore sliding. I'm not mad about it: I can use those ends to cinch the start of the rounds together at the end because they're looking a bit dodgy.

Aim for this week: finish the cuffs and pick up for the button band by Friday.

Sunday 20 November 2016

Sunday recipe: autumn apple chia seed pudding

I started making chia seed pudding for breakfast some time last school year, but it was always the same and I realise now I was making far more than I needed. This year I have upped my game a little and managed to figure out a quantity that makes exactly enough to fill the breakfast chia seed pudding jar five times over. Perfect for a week's breakfasts (as long as I remember to eat it).

This one is my favourite so far.

2 cooking apples, peeled and sliced
2 tbsps raisins or sultanas
Cinnamon, maple syrup - to taste
2 cups almond milk (or you can use normal milk. I just don't like normal milk)
200g ginger yogurt (the Rachel's Dairy one is the richest but the Yeo Valley one has big chunks of ginger in it - you decide)
Half a cup of chia seeds

Put the apples in a bowl with a bit of water, cover and microwave for about five minutes until squashy. While still hot, stir through the raisins, maples syrup and cinnamon. Chuck in some other spices if you like: nutmeg might be nice. Leave to get cold.

Beat the yogurt and milk together in the ice cream tub you will be using to store the pudding for the week ... or a bowl, if you've got a dishwasher. Stir in the cooled apple mixture and the seeds. Cover and leave overnight before eating. Stored in the fridge this lasts a week. It may last longer but I've always eaten it all within a week.

Strictly: My Dance of the Night

I am a big fan of Strictly and its American cousin, which used to be shown on Watch but sadly is very tricky to get hold of now. I tend to watch back some of my favourite dances if I need a little break between evening marking or as a cheering up strategy, so I thought I would share my favourites from this season to make them easier to find.

I loved the Blackpool episode. It's so much grander in that ballroom, somehow.

Dance of the night for me was Ore and Joanne. I just loved the style of it, I think. Viennese waltz doesn't normally do it for me but I liked the glamour and Vegas overtones and I really liked all the slow-motion stuff with the other dancers. In fact, I had to watch it a few times so I could have a good look at what everyone was doing.

It's not getting a great deal of love from the commenters, many of whom think that it wasn't worth three 10s. Humbug. There's a lot of guff about a 10 having to be perfect. This makes me think of when I very first started marking for the exam board and we had it hammered into us that an answer does not have to be perfect to score full marks: it just has to tick all the boxes. This is surely the same. I mean, these are not professional dancers: making it perfect is all but impossible.

Saturday 19 November 2016

End of Year Goals

I went back to my faithful prompts today for some inspiration and they suggested I think about...

What do you hope happens by the end of this year?

1. Write that outline.
2. Mock up those spreads.
3. Finish those questions (these are all non-work work things that I keep forgetting are on my list).
4. Decide on a summer holiday or three.
5. Change my Easter skiing accommodation to the area where my friends are going.
6. Reorganise my yarn stash....again. Always a delightful holiday job.
7. Mark the coursework I didn't finish marking from my old job (BLUSH).
8. Finish my current jumper and knit another one. Preferably another two.
9. Do my tax return.
10. Get to 127 blog posts.

At least there are some nice ones on there.

Friday 18 November 2016

Silver Linings

This week, I have been particularly trying to see the silver linings and repay negativity with kindness - I know this sounds like some hippy pretentiousness but I was inspired by the article I mentioned last weekend about being kind to everyone.

Today felt like a few silver linings happened. It has been a week of little sleep - I still can't adjust myself to going to bed earlier even though I am getting up earlier, so my Fitbit tells me I have averaged a tragic 6hrs 14mins a night this week. I am tired. It is dark. I was grouchy. So I made an extra effort today.

I forgot to eat my breakfast.
But this means I now have a good breakfast sitting in the fridge ready-prepared for tomorrow (it's chia seed pudding...hmm. Maybe I actually am a hippy).

I missed my Y11 lesson because they were in a Science test and I hadn't been taken for cover - except then I was taken, because an English teacher went home sick, 45 minutes before the lesson. I think that is a bit of karma for being a bit sniffy with the cover lady yesterday (long story). And when I turned up for the lesson, the power went off and school network went down, so I couldn't access the cover work.
But this meant I wasn't distracted by the internet, and the students were delightful and I had nowhere to go for an hour, so I marked a whole set of books that would have had to come home with me this weekend AND made a start on my y12 essays.

I went to the pub for a drink after work and delaying my journey by half an hour meant I got caught in the pouring rain and was soaked to the skin.
But the extra walk pushed me over my step target for the day and I found an excuse to buy a new coat and maybe also new boots.

Silver linings, people! I feel very positive. And tired. Very tired.

Thursday 17 November 2016

Throwback Thursday

One of the pictures I found in my search for the blue sweater vest pictures on Monday...

Some points to note:

  • This is definitely less than ten years old because we were married
  • I can't believe I used to wear those heels to work
  • I loved that t-shirt. It was from New Look and had a keyhole in the back yoke. I had one in every colour. Such a good shape. This one looks quite faded so this picture might be from 2008...those t-shirts were a 2007 seller
  • I miss wearing smart shorts and that puzzle ring on my index finger, that I love but which has a couple of pointy bits on it that actually put holes in some beloved clothes
  • I sometimes wish I still had the motivation to put make up on, too
  • The garden looks ridiculously tidy. It has since lost the chest of drawers, the bench has fallen apart; but it has acquired a horrible old trailer thing full of bits of wood (currently in its fifth year of residence, at least) and that camelia is making a bid for world domination, as you can see from this post in May (though in that picture I am standing roughly where the cat is). 

Fairly sure the mitten's taking a whizz in this one. Serves me right for being such a poser.

The point of this little photo shoot is, sadly, lost in the mists of time. Maybe the shoes were new.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Today I wish I was... to motivate myself to complete urgent work in a timely fashion.

I've had a good day. Across my four lessons I had two assessments (low energy for me) and an observation that I totally bossed. I had a meeting after school which, though it was an hour long, was invigorating. I had delightful feedback on my observation from my line manager, who was so excited she talked for 45 minutes.

I am fed, I am watered, I have had relaxation time in front of the TV and a refreshing shower. Yet I have been sitting at my desk since 9.08pm and I have yet to do any work. I have a set of books I have to mark for tomorrow and a sixth form lesson to plan for period 1. On Mary I. I don't know much about Mary I. I slept for 5 hours and 57 minutes last night. If I don't improve on that tonight, I am not going to be especially nice tomorrow.

Yet I'm still sitting here, whiling away the time. Where does my motivation go? Why didn't I mark them in the assessment time? Why didn't I plan tomorrow's lesson in my free? Why am I still here beating myself up about it?

It is a daily struggle, you know. I need a doing-work-at-9pm strategy. Happily accepting ideas.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Tuesday Ten

Scratching around for new inspiration for a Tuesday Ten, I came across this impossibly chic blog and thought it might be good for some ideas. Recently the author has covered her ten favourite kitchen items. I was tempted to get up on the counter in a maxi dress, a la Celeste Barber, but my ceiling isn't high enough and I'm not convinced the counter would prevail; and it's 11.23pm and my alarm is going off in 6 hours and 37 minutes. Regardless...

Ten favourite items in my kitchen

1. This soup ladle. Mr Z and I saw it on Facebook some years ago, before it was for sale, and then forgot about it, so I was utterly delighted to come across it in John Lewis a few weeks ago. I even bought the mini version which is a tea infuser.

2. The Kenwood. I saved and saved and it was so worth it. It's just effortless! I have attachments I have never even used, though. I should rectify that. Mother Hand bought me a slicing attachment for Christmas two years ago and it's never been out of the box. I changed what I was eating for lunch shortly after I'd asked for it, so it became less useful.

3. The glittery floor tiles. A big splurge when we were putting the kitchen together but totally worth it. And in the summer when it is hot I fling myself through the front door and lie down on them, because they're always cold.

4. Mason Cash mixing bowls. I've got a red one and a white one, to match the kitchen. They are from the jubilee release a few years ago. I don't get the use of them, sadly, because of the Kenwood, but they look pretty.

5. Espresso machine. I swore I'd never have a pod one but it came free from someone who had tired of it, and it does make a nice coffee, even though I get liberal guilt about the length of time the dead pods will spend in landfill.

6. The juicer. I don't use it often, but tend to binge with it when I am using it and drink juices every day. It's fun to make combinations. It does the best lemon and gingerade. It's also exceptionally helpful for making all kinds of curd.

7. The big pink Smeg fridge. I've long forgotten that we had to crowbar the old kitchen apart to fit it in when Mother Hand bought it for us as a Christmas surprise. It's the magic fridge: it keeps food fresher for longer than should be possible.

8. My bundt tins. I have three, which is too many as they are a bugger to store. One is a star, one is a cathedral and the third is a sort of divoted affair that allows drizzles to nestle in little pools all over the cake. Absolutely genius. No home should be without one.

9. (This is quite hard. I don't own an ice crusher and I pour my oil directly from the plastic bottle I bought it in.) I love the red and white spotty bowls from Spode, and the red and white spotty over-sized teacups from Laura Ashley. One of each has a fatal crack in, but I can't bear to get rid of them because they look so nice. Every so often I get the bowl out and flex it gently. It's very tempting to just break it in half.

10. Martini glasses with little glass strawberries embedded into them. Difficult to describe, but I have a matching jug. I also have a crockery martini glass that looks like a watermelon, that I carefully transported back from America one year. It's a whole fruit-themed martini thing. I never drink martinis at home, but I like to have the accoutrements anyway.

Monday 14 November 2016

Planet Earth 2

I can't let another week go by without mentioning this and how much I love it. Those baby iguanas! Those snakes! I was on the edge of my seat. Here's a clip in case you don't know what I'm talking about (fair warning: there are snakes in it)

I think my favourite bit is at 58 seconds, when he's standing there and the snake is actually on him.
"'s on my tail Dave....I just can't..."
"Hold still, it hasn't seen you!"

If you didn't see the episode, this is actually less scary than the first scene when the baby iguana is happily trotting along and then not one but about thirty of these slithery serpents just glide out from nowhere. I thought of my friend Tom, who hates snakes but loves Attenborough. He said he had to hide behind some marking.

I very much enjoyed the eagle scrapping and snow leopards this week, too. And there were considerably fewer animal deaths in this one: no blinded crabs or kamikaze penguins or seedy birds. I surmise based on this episode that mountains are more hospitable than islands.

Well done, BBC. Amazing, amazing production.

Blue Monday

Over the weekend I decided I would get out a knitted tank top I haven't worn in years. I shook it out and aired it on the banister until this morning, when I put it on, looked in the mirror appears to have been MOTHED. Great big hole, right in the front.

I am perplexed. It was right at the very bottom of the blanket box, under any number of bedding sets, and which has anti-moth devices scattered throughout...though, those are very old now, to be fair. Maybe time for some new ones.

Anyway, in horror I dug through until I found possibly my favourite blue knitted garment of all time and I wore it today, so I thought I would share it again as it is quite old now and I am not sure how long it will last with these rabid invisible moths infesting secret corners.

Incidentally it took me a long time to find these and I had to look at a lot of pictures of myself at a much younger age. That was traumatic to consider how much I have aged.

Anyway, I have never found yarn in a colour I have liked quite as much as this one. It was by a company I have never seen since called Yarn D'Amour who had a stall at the soggy Ravelry Day in Coventry in 2009. I cast this on right away.

I was so tight on yarn is is a little on the short side. It is aran weight and basically too warm to wear, ever. I wore it today over a long-sleeved cotton T-shirt, with a skirt and no tights and it was still too warm. It has felted under the arms - another reason it might not last much longer. But it is so soft I have been smoothing my torso for most of the day (probably starting some rumours about being pregnant) and THAT. COLOUR. Oooft.

Sunday 13 November 2016

Weekend WIP

I'm finally onto stripey sleeves.

I started binding off the body on Monday night but it took me until Thursday to finish, thanks to a few busy evenings. I knitted 34 stripes on the body and added 10 rows of ribbing at the bottom. This used one skein of lilac, one and a bit skeins of pink and about two thirds of each of the individual skeins. Interestingly it seems to have used more of the purple than the fawn, so it will be fun to see how far I get on the sleeves. I am naturally doing them two at a time so this should help me avoid lack of symmetry.

I am 17 stripes into the sleeves (including the raglan part) and the one I am using for inspiration on Ravelry has 40 stripes. I think 40 might be too long, particularly seeing as she did 36 stripes for the body and I only did 34. Another 17 will hopefully do it.

My mind has already turned to buttons. I have a few options. I have six lovely lilac dichroic glass numbers I picked up at Wonderwool last year, which might work but might be too small. I also have these from (I think) Wonderwool 2010:

Which, now I come to look at it are very similar to these that I bought at Wonderwool in 2015:

Hmm. This revelation might scupper my plans a bit. If I have 11 buttons the same, maybe I should save them for something needing 11 buttons. I am plotting a black Central Park Hoody for my next project and they might work better on that.

Cannot believe I bought two cards of the same buttons, five years apart. Even worse that I have only just realised. Further encouragement to go on a buying fast next year.

Saturday 12 November 2016

Chores I hate

I was groping around for what to write about today so I went and looked up some writing prompts from a previous year of NaBloPoMo. Hence, today -

If you had a personal assistant who would do your most dreaded tasks, which items from your to-do list would you assign out?

So, I'm assuming that this list cannot include anything I need to do for my job and therefore ticking and flicking marking cannot be added to it.

What else?

Folding and putting away clean clothes. I hate this job. This means that, particularly in winter, the downstairs of the house looks like a launderette as clean clothes are just strewn all over the place. Then there are usually a couple of piles on the bedroom floor from when I've put the clean washing on the bed and often sorted and folded it, but then not done the putting away and it gets swept off the bed for bedtime and the mitten ends up sleeping on it for a week.
I often wonder if I had fewer clothes or more storage, if this job would be less off-putting. The jury's out.

Recycling. I would estimate that 5-10% of items in the house are actual, literal rubbish that is waiting to be put out on the right day for recycling. Mr Z does this job but his heart is not in it, so it's more of a conveyer belt that transports a few things out every so often rather than a purge effect. Then there are the boxes that are waiting to go to the tip, plus all the rubbish in the garden that we both just pretend isn't there...

All car-related admin. I just can't be bothered with sorting out MOTs and services. I try to arrange them for the holidays, while I am away.

My taxes. Actually considering getting an accountant for this year because the novelty of doing them on Boxing Day with a very large G&T and a plate of cheese has definitely worn off. The problem with passing the job on is that they might expect me to have actual records, as opposed to a spreadsheet that only makes sense to me.

Organising my social calendar. Then I might actually have one.

Friday 11 November 2016

Inevitable politics

On Wednesday morning I was having a vivid nightmare. In my nightmare, I woke up and heard that Clinton had won the election, and I dreamt that I was pleased with this outcome and went back to sleep. This made it slightly more shocking when I ACTUALLY woke up to the news, although I was not really that surprised, which meant I was not really that upset - and anyway, I reasoned, it's not our leader that has just been elected.

The story was different at school. I got a lot of shade thrown at me by my right-on tutees for not allowing them to write, "Trump is on trial for rape tomorrow" (that case having been dropped, I pointed out that it was inaccurate and invited them to go away and find me something negative and true, on the basis that this would not be too difficult. Still waiting.)
One of my tutees was actually hysterical - tears, screaming, the works. There's a good percentage of Muslim students who feel this will personally affect them, of which she is one. Who can say? Nobody can say.

Anyway, I know I don't normally talk about my political point of view on here but the whole thing reminded me of this article I read after the 2015 election; I went back and dug it out again in the face of the upsetting reports of the predictable rise in racist incidents in America since Wednesday, mirroring what happened after Brexit. Talking to some of my students yesterday I was really sad to hear that some of them have been told to go back to where they came from, in spite of being British born. "What, Southmead hospital?" responded one: loving the sass but it is awful that at 15 she is already so used to this shit that she has a prepared response.

I liked this quote from the end of the article the best:

Finally, through all of this -  be kind. Be so, so kind. Be kind to your comrades, who'll get as tired and as angry as you. If you can, be kind to those you argue with, because compassion changes more minds than anger, even though it's harder to muster. Be kind to the poor. The disabled. To immigrants. To workers. To anyone who's a bit different. The government won't be you see.

One friend on Facebook commented about the hysteria of people who don't support Trump and asked when we forgot to lose gracefully. I'd argue that it was probably at the same time we forgot to win gracefully. No election should result in an upsurge in racism and bigotry: that is never OK. Be kind. Be kind, be kind, be kind. To everyone, regardless of how you feel about them or how they feel about you. At the moment it feels like that's all that's left.

The regular service of knitting, lists and pictures of blue things will resume tomorrow.

Thursday 10 November 2016

Throwback Thursday

Throwing back all the way to my diary from 1993 today, which offers this little gem...

Lost in bowling again today - I am just doing really badly. In chemistry, [head of science] sat in on [crap chemistry teacher]'s lesson, who was being SO FAKE. At the beginning, she told us not to take notes because she'd give us a typed sheet at the end, and every five minutes it was: "Has anyone got any questions?" or "Does everyone understand?" Lisa forgot her overall but she didn't even get detention! It annoys me a bit, that she can get away with being nice once in a blue moon.
In biology we planned our assessed practicals - testing biscuits for sugar. Venice meeting.

Bowling was our PE option. I never got any better. In hindsight, I think the actual PE part was the 45 minute round trip walking to the bowling alley.

Crap chemistry teacher was dire and this entry has made me laugh wryly with my teacher knowledge. Several of my classmates left for another sixth form after being allocated her for A-level, such was the level of incompetence she demonstrated during our studies lower down the school. My diaries are littered with some serious shade about her. In the yearbook I put together at the end of sixth form, a lot of people slated her in their questionnaires; with the thoughtlessness of a teenager I put in every last shady word, partly because school refused to give me faculty assistance with it so I thought I wouldn't bother to censor it. I later heard she had not taken it well, which I still feel a little guilty about.

She was dreadful, though.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Today I wish I was...

...the proud owner of this scarf.
It is just about enough Wonderwoman for me to love it and know I could wear it without irony. I have been gazing lustfully at it for several weeks now.

But it is Marc Jacobs, and therefore on the pricey side, and I have not yet succumbed. I mean, I still have all the summer's marking money just SITTING there...but...

Tuesday 8 November 2016

Tuesday Ten

Ten places I want to visit

1. Machu Picchu. Made slightly easier now Sib has a Peruvian girlfriend.
2. Hawaii for the tropical location and the epic history.
3. The Falklands - I am fascinated by how difficult it is to get there. There are a lot of sheep there too. Good knitting yarn, I'm sure.
4. The Antarctic. If I'm to visit every continent I'm going to have to tick it off at some point. I hear there are cruises.
5. Santorini. I need to see those famous white cupolas with my own eyes.
6. Kenya. I hanker after a stay at the giraffe hotel.
7. The ski resorts of Lake Tahoe. If we're being honest, I'd like to visit any of the ski resorts in America or Canada (Whistler seems to be not too shabby) just to see what it's like to ski outside of Europe.
8. Southern Spain. I fancy Seville, Granada, the Alhambra...
9. Split. I'd like to see a lot more of the Adriatic in general, to be honest. It's been lovely on every visit.
10. Skomer. Mr Z and I have been mildly obsessed with Skomer since watching a nature documentary about the amount of rabbits that live there. They chase off marauding seagulls and everything. And now I see there is a hostel there! Maybe next summer will need to be the summer of epic holidays, even more than before.

I first wrote this list in 2010. It was very interesting going back to look at it and being please to be able to tick off Iceland, Budapest, Ayers Rock and Rome etc. I've bumped the Maldives: stunning though I am sure they are, I'm not sure they're for me. Funny how tastes change - when I was a good deal younger I used to say I would never get married until I could afford a honeymoon to the Maldives.

Brazil, Alaska, Bucharest and the lakes are still on my list, by the way. Just slightly outside the top ten.

Monday 7 November 2016

Blue Monday

Throwback to our 2010 summer visit to Prague. Back when AirBnB was not a thing anybody had ever heard of and Parpy Jo knew of a perfect little flat just off the main square. Twas glorious.

Three days of blazing sun and orthodox religious iconography. We knew how to live, by golly.

I do seem to have a bit of a thing for taking pictures of the tops of things against an endless blue sky. It's almost like I am obsessed with blue or something.

Sunday 6 November 2016

Weekend WIP

I have flown through this, especially considering it had to stay at home this weekend instead of coming to London with me. Strictly catch up is such good knitting time. Body almost finished - seven rows of ribbing left, with about a third of the individual skeins left, one whole ball of lilac and just under two balls of pink.

Sleeves next! I can't wait to see how many more stripes I can get out of my remaining yarn. I am feeling very hopeful about finishing this inside of three weeks but I have probably just jinxed myself.

Old friends catch up

I had dinner last night with my old school friends Zoe and Leila. I was reflecting on how, "I'm going out with Zoe and Leila" was something that happened at least once a week throughout my sixth form years and how long it has been since I said it: at least eight years since I saw Leila, although Zoe has popped up a bit more over the years.

We relived old times, old outfits, old scandals and old relationships, like catching-up pros. It was so lovely to spend some time in their company again! Leila has been a very successful business woman for most of her adult life but is now raising her daughter and doing a much easier job close to home so she can appreciate some quality of life. She's planning to start her own business however; with Zoe just starting a career as a teacher and me just starting a new exam job it does feel a little like we are all starting out all over again, only with some very significant differences from our 18 year old selves.


(Much discussion was had about how all our favourite, and less preferred, 90s styles are back in the shops now, by the way, particularly my very favourite A-line button through skirts. I'm very familiar with the phrase, "If you're old enough to remember it the first time you're too old to wear it the second time" but I have never quite appreciated it until now.)


Saturday 5 November 2016

Saturday Night Treever

During the summer tour this year Tutt and I went to Gardens by the Bay, a very large park complex built on reclaimed land in Singapore. We went for the night music show by these "trees"

They are actually massive exhausts for the biofuel generators that power the domes. Amazingingly cool. Singapore is just something else.

They also danced (or rather, their extensive lighting systems danced) to a 70s medley for 20 minutes.

It was completely surreal to watch in the tropical heat of a Friday night, but we had a great time. The place was crawling with people and it was a really fun atmosphere. Afterwards our taxi driver took us to an amazing hawker centre for dinner, which is also a very Singaporean thing to do. Want to see a picture of my dinner? Of course I took one.

Every type of food you can imagine. I think I might have got a bit stiffed on the price as I paid about $12 for this and Tutt's Chinese choice was much cheaper, but it was still the cheapest meal I ate in Singapore and it was absolutely delicious. No regrets.

Friday 4 November 2016

Scenes from the Classroom #25

Today was a special day at school. There were no lessons, just a service in the local church in honour of our founder. All staff, students and alumni were given a particular type of flower (apparently the founder's favourite flower) to wear as a button hole. I was entrusted overnight with a cardboard box of flowers for my tutor group, which I had to carefully transport home on the bus, and told to store them in the fridge to keep them fresh. As a joke, I wrote "Do not eat" on the box for Mr Z's benefit.

At the end of the service, the admin staff carefully collected all the boxes in to flat pack and reuse. Mine has my tutor group label on it.

How much trouble might I be in?

On the plus side, the day finished before midday and I'm on a train to London for the first of many meetings for my new exam job. This is the job I interviewed for nearly nine months ago and tomorrow is the first day of that job. Very long time coming. Like a Blogger app that actually works properly....I am giving up all hope of that.

Thursday 3 November 2016

Throwback Thursday

I went to a school reunion a few weeks ago. As well as a very detailed tour of the upper school, we also had the opportunity to visit the junior school, which is on the site of a large old home with beautiful grounds. Even though lots of those grounds have been built on as the school has grown, it was most satisfying to see the lawn where we used to play in the big red barrels; the temple and the dell - an achingly mysterious chamber and passage dug underneath the temple which was presumably only ever meant to be a very dull storage place or potting shed; and the rockery-lined paths where we used to play shop and where a friend fell over and broke her nose when we were running away one from something imagined one day. We were sadly not friends again afterwards.

Most exciting of all though was seeing the giant rock under the tree which we used for sliding. This represents one of my oldest memories. When I visited this school to look round, we were taken on a tour and I was given the chance to slide down this rock. It was like the biggest rollercoaster ride ever (I was 4).

It sadly did not last so long now I am 5 foot 8, but I was overjoyed to see it was still there. Decades of overjoyed little girls have polished this thing smooth.

NB: Zoe took this picture. If she finds it and I haven't credited her she is bound to be annoyed. She took this one too: a favourite of the day. Two of my oldest friends!

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Today I wish I was...

...prepping for Malaysia.

As long-time readers might remember, in November of 2009 and 2010 I was lucky enough to go on a school trip to Malaysia. In spite of this being a mammoth work undertaking, involving organising teenagers for seven different schools, being in loco parentis for them several thousand miles away and having to set six days' worth of cover (this is no small task in itself), it definitely had its perks.

Dawn from my balcony.

The Museum of Islamic Art in Kuala Lumpur. Absolutely fascinating place.

Beach time at the end of the trip.

It was a lot of work, but it would be nice to be looking forward to it happening in a few weeks.

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Tuesday Ten

Ten things about noro virus

1. When your husband wakes up with it on Saturday morning, know that there is no hope for you.
2. Even staying at a hotel on the Saturday night (this was pre-arranged, not due to the noro) won't help.
3. You may choose to not eat anything for two days in an attempt to fend off the evil bug. This might work, if you avoid eating until you are actually hungry.
4. If you eat an omelette and some cake on Monday night, be prepared to see it again 4-6 hours later.
5. And 6-8 hours later.
6. And 8-10 hours later.
7. Drink water where you can and sleep as much as possible. I slept for the entire day of Tuesday.
8. If you get time between your spouse getting it and coming down with it yourself, make your life a little more pleasant by bleaching the whole bathroom and changing the bedsheets before you succumb.
9. Be prepared to feel very weak afterwards. "You could knock me down with a wet kitten," Mr Z commented.
10. It's very hard to blog when you've got noro. Creativity goes out of the window. So you end up writing about the illness.