Monday, 22 July 2019

Weekend WIPs

Plural, because it's the holidays now and I'm ambitious.

First, I cast on the Diatom Shawl from the kit I bought from Knitpicks in the US in 2013.

The FO is going to be very large and, as it works outwards, there are five colour changes so it becomes something of a rainbow. It's theoretically intended to be a baby blanket for my very first niece/nephew, but it may not really be suitable for that. We'll see. I'm quite enjoying knitting a complex lace pattern again, though I did make some mistakes just while knitting it in front of the TV, so I took something else to cast on at knitting group yesterday.

It's the Volt sweater I bought the pattern for at Wonderwool in 2018, along with the delectable blue Triskelion, and the yellows I picked up this year. I'm thrilled with the way the colours are coming out and the fabric is just luscious so far. The bright yellow is noticeably thinner than the others, in spite of being the same weight as the others; I don't think it will matter too much in the end, though. My main worry is that the blue will bleed and the flash will turn sickly green. But, I won't dwell on that too much. 

So lovely! I can't put it down. The Diatom might take a bit longer than I thought...

Weekend FO

My second Wonderwool kit, finished! With enormous thanks to Kat for doing the Kitchener for me. Feeling quite pleased with myself, especially as knitting almost never gets done in the month of June. I am now well past the total knitted for 2018 and we're only halfway. Go me.

Pattern: Peeky Catsocks (link is to the kit I bought)
Yarn: Coopknits Sock Yeah! DK - the kit came with a skein of each colour and there's probably enough light grey and yellow left for another pair
Needle: 3.75mm - I used DPNs in a fit of nostalgia
Mods: Nothing intentional, but the toes are meant to match the cuffs...oops

These worked up really quickly, in spite of the slightly fiddly colourwork-on-DPNs vibe. I had to rip back the first cuff and thereafter followed the pattern advice to knit them inside out, allowing a bit more room in the floats.

They really need blocking but Mr Z put them on as soon as I gave them to him, so it might be a while yet.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Weekend WIP

I've been working on these for about 3 weeks. I had to rip back part of the cuff on the first one because I'd pulled my floats too tight, but were it not for that they'd be even closer to being finished. DK socks are speedy, and therefore perfect for somebody who is really busy. I started the second one at knitting group yesterday and I'm almost ready to start the colourwork on the foot already.

My first top down socks and I don't hate it, although Kat had to graft the toe for me at knitting group yesterday (thanks Kat) because I am inept. I do well out of knitting group, people are always doing helpful things for me. I lead a charmed life, truly.

I messed up the pattern a bit because the toe and cuff and heel should all match, but obviously don't on sock one and so won't on sock two either. But it matters little.

For the foot of sock one and all the colourwork since, I have followed the suggestion in the pattern instructions and knitted it inside out, giving plenty of play to the float by holding a finger between the yarn and the sock so it doesn't pull tight. It has worked a treat. A little fiddly, but that's the benefit of the DK, I suppose - there are not masses of stitches to worry about.

Weekend FO

I finished this about three weeks ago but, yknow, June. Every year the end of it catches me by surprise.

 Pattern: Bee Happy Shawl by Samantha Hinks
Yarn: Unbelieva-wool Sparkly Sock. Most of two skeins (a bit less of the grey)
Needle: 3.75mm
Mods: I knitted the moss stitch sections as moss stitch as I know it, rather than as instructed. I skipped the final two rows of yellow garter stitch and went straight into the cast off. The designer was selling the kit at Wonderwool without the sparkle, and reluctantly swapped them out for me after explaining that she really didn't want me to run out of yarn, so I came up with a couple of contingency plans. My other thought was to knit the bind off in grey, of which there is more left, but in the end I liked the yellow edging with the yellow beads.

Blocking, Wrong side up. Sunny day. I liked the light and shadow but it doesn't make for a great picture, sorry.

I couldn't get on with the picot edging instructions. I couldn't make the yarn overs work - I think I was having brain freeze. Moreover, I couldn't find an instructional video or website that used the same instructions, so in the end I used some others. K1, CO 1, BO 1st knit stitch, CO1, BO 1st CO stitch, place bead, CO 1, BO beaded stitch, K1, BO1, K1, BO1 - each picot bound off 3 shawl stitches together with 3 cast on stitches. It looks good. 

It is just as well that I kept on with this until I'd finished, even when it looked like Naomi wasn't leaving in July - she got a last minute reprieve and is heading back to Northern Ireland at the end of this term. Very sorry to see her go but delighted to get this done in time.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Weekend WIP

I am very close to finishing the bees shawl, thanks to half term and a whole Saturday spent knitting, between knit group and the Flock gathering hosted by Birdstreet UK. I had stiff hands by the end of the day, but it did mean that this afternoon I was ready to start the beaded picot edging.

Six picots down, 165 to go...

I found the instructions a little confusing and difficult to work - lots of YO, bind off stitch over YO, but then a weird instruction about picking up the last bound off stitch in each picot and passing the YO over it. Well, I couldn't make this work - I kept losing my last YO. I went away and watched picot edge videos on YouTube, read picot edge blogs and looked in my stitchionary, to no avail. I don't think there's anything wrong with the instructions: I just can't make them work for me. So, in the end, I am doing something a bit different -

K1. Cast on a stitch. Pass the knitted stitch over to bind off. CO a stitch, pass one over. Bead that second CO stitch. CO another stitch, pass beaded stitch over. K1, pass over, k1, pass over. 

It's going to make a pretty, wavy edge when it is finished. If I can do 20 picots a night, I should be able to FO it next weekend....we'll see. It's not the funnest bind off ever. 

Monday, 27 May 2019

While-ago FO

I forgot that I hadn't posted about Mother Hand's cardigan. Here we are, a scant two months after Mother's Day and it's already finished! (Heavy on the irony). I finally sewed on the buttons last weekend when Mr Z was rewinding the shawl yarn. They're nice horn ones that I got from Brimstone buttons at Wonderwool.

 Sans flash.

Pattern: Shapely Boyfriend Cardigan by Stephanie Japel along with a charted motif based on Sarah Lund's jumper from The Killing. Mother Hand and I are having a Scandinavian holiday this summer, so it seemed apt.
Yarn: Laal Bear, from deep stash. It's been in a hatbox for so long it smells of Lush now, instead of sheep. It took just over 5 skeins of cream and just under 1 skein of brown.
Needle: 5mm
Mods: I knitted it in the round from the neck down and steeked up the front. I started in one size and increased to the next size up after the waist shaping.

Avec flash.

I really hope it is a good fit. In the end, I just oversewed the colourwork edges with the ends when I was weaving them in; the crochet reinforcement held where it was just over the cream rows, so hopefully it will hold. We're off for a little spa break with gin tasting and afternoon tea this week, so I will hopefully be able to add some pictures of her in it to this post after I get back.

Weekend WIP

I've been working on this bee shawl for Naomi for the past week and a half.

It's a kit I bought from Wonderwool. It's knitting up really soft and with just the right amount of sparkle (which you can't really see in the picture).

Naomi is a colleague who loves bees. She announced her intention to leave at the end of this school year, so I got started asap. Well, she hasn't yet found another job, so I guess I have a bit longer to finish, but since it has a 500+ stitch picot beaded bind off and exam marking starts in 10 days, I'm still knitting as fast as I can.

I had to take a brief hiatus last weekend when I had a catastrophic ball collapse. It took Mr Z the best part of two days to untangle the skein. Now I'm up to row 110ish, which is around 350 stitches of moss stitch per row, 16 times. Sigh. It is slow going. The pattern calls this moss stitch but then instructs me to purl every stitch on the wrong side. That's not moss stitch, in my book, so I am knitting the purls and purling the knits, which means it is going even slower than it needs to. After that, though, it's only three more sections until the bind off. I'm feeling determined.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Weekend WIPs

Technically this should be a FO post, but I need to weave in some ends and get it blocked before I will declare it FO'd.

Bonus toes in this one.

I bought this yarn at Wonderwool in 2017 and fully intended to knit them into this Spice Market for myself, but then decided to knit it as a gift for Mother Z, a decision I regret only more keenly since Fivemoons didn't have any mini moon sets on her stall this year - I can only assume she's not creating them anymore, which is sad if true. The colours are just lovely and blend very subtly. I am also a big fan of this pattern. It is written for six colours but I made it work for five without too much trouble - I think it is probably 12 rows shorter than it should be, but it's not exactly noticeable. I went up a needle size from the last time I knitted it so it should block out to have a nice drape.

Damn me and my altruism. I knew there was a reason I only ever knitted anything for myself.

I dived straight into my next shawl project this evening, a Bee Happy which will be a gift for Naomi, a colleague who's probably leaving at the end of the year. I wanted to get right on with Volt but I'm afraid that when exam season hits there will be no time to finish a shawl and I don't need a DK jumper for summer anyway (though I did wind the yarn for it today).

Once I've finished the shawl, I will be over halfway to my best ever yarn total for a year (2016: 8,163m) and it will only be halfway through the year. I might have finally found my knitting mojo again.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Sunday Selfie

I have been looking through my pictures and GoPro footage from Alabama and came across this accidental capture. I spent a lot of time shouting GOPRO TAKE A PHOTO at the GoPro, with limited success, so in the end I set it to image burst and took a dozen or so each time. This was a side capture and quite blurry but it was good early morning light and I was filled with pancakes and therefore extra cheery.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Wonderwool 2019

April has been a luscious month full of all sorts of treats. I started with a weekend of geeking out over history topics in London; then popped off to Alabama for a few days where I was thoroughly spoilt by the tourist board and their able helpers; and it's been rounded off with the annual visit to Wonderwool.

I've been looking back through previous years and realised I've been considerably less restrained than I have been for a while. I first thought I'd buy nothing. Then I aimed for some yellow to go with last year's blue, for a Volt jumper (a pattern I bought last year). Then I added something for a shawl for my friend Naomi to the list. Then the buttons for Mother Hand's cardigan. Then I burned the list and just went for it.

Top row - two skeins of yellow from WYS, to go with the blue, for the Volt. The colours are spot on but the brighter yellow isn't quite the texture I wanted. Still, it was the best I could find.
Two projects bags from Siobhans Crafts. The woven one was made by Siobhan's friend using Siobhan-dyed yarn. It is the softest, squidgiest thing I found all day. I might have been tempted by a wrap if they're had one in these colours.
Three skeins of Coopknits DK and a pattern for some sekrit socks.
Second row - five mini skeins of Mr B's yarn from Birdstreet. They're local Bristol sellers. They had some lovely things. I'm going to match these with the red fivemoons, middle of the row, to make some kind of variegated shawl.
One the right, a skein of Triskelion Heulwen 4-ply from the sale bin. Just because. It's a nice neutral and so soft.
Third row - five skeins of Triskelion Hama Sport, also from the sale bin. I dithered for a long time over these, particularly because they had several colours and I couldn't choose. I found a pattern that will work, though, so it came home with me.
In the middle, another skein of Riverknits Starry Night BFL 4-ply - now I have three and can do a garment.
On the right, another wholly unnecessary purchase- 4 skeins of Giddy Aunt DK - but LOOK AT THAT BLUE. It almost glows.
Bottom row - Buttons for Mother Hand's cardigan. A gradient set from Riverknits - the display and the colours got me. And finally, a shawl kit for Naomi. She is a fan of the bees. They had a sample knitted up and it was the first thing I bought. The sample was sparkly but the kit wasn't she was very good and swapped it out for me when I asked. It was from Unbelieva-wool.

I'm closeish to finishing Mother Z's birthday shawl and then I'm a bit spoilt for choice. I think Volt first, then the sekrit socks (which should be quick) and then Naomi's shawl, though I really need to have cast that on before May half term, so perhaps I should begin with that.

We stayed in a new bunkhouse this year, near Tirabad, which had epic views.

There was a brutal storm on Friday night and it rained most of the day on Saturday. I was freezing. I really must remember to pack leggings next year.

Very enjoyable! Now, must knit more...

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Weeknote: 31/3

I've been furiously working on Mother Hand's cardigan. Last weekend I bit the bullet and cut the steek; this week I have finished the second sleeve and picked up and knitted the button band. The knitting part is finished now (in the nick of time, though not in time to send it for Mother's Day) - I just need to weave in ends, block and add buttons. And figure out what to do with my steek edges. In spite of my efforts at crochet, it has not held on the colourwork sections. Weirdly, it's fine where it's just plain knitting, but the ends on the colourwork sections began escaping almost immediately and caused me some issues when I was knitting the button band. In some cases I've pulled all the ends together in two bunches and felted them together with my fingers, but I don't really want to do that with all of them, because it some cases the ends are just about holding. I think I'm going to need to work out a way of sewing the ends over without it showing on the other side. Headache.

BUT. At least I have attempted a steek and the v neck came out fine.

Going to:
Not really anywhere this week, but last weekend I went to Sheffield to catch up with Jen and speak at a conference. Jen is moving to Edinburgh very soon so it's probably the last time I'll see her in Sheffield. We went to a Take That tribute with a three course meal. It experience. They weren't very good as Take That but it was a fun night. There was plenty of this.

The conference went well. I spoke on the topic of ethnic diversity, which made me very nervous (a lot of people have Opinions) and I was also quite freaked out by the number of people who seemed very excited to meet me. The words 'idol' and 'fangirling' were thrown around. I was uncomfortable. I literally just turn up, teach and sometimes write/speak about it - I've just been doing it for a long time. But it was really nice that people were so friendly and my talk went down really well, so that was good. I got a lot of love online and almost no criticism so I am going to chalk that up as a success.

Last week I went to a lecture and out to dinner with my friend Vanessa, who I work for at the exam board. Always an interesting evening. She's one of those people that makes me think really hard about things. This weekend we've had a two-day exam board meeting online. There are definite negatives to doing it this way but the positives are that I got a lie in on Friday and I got loads of chores done - washing, bed stripping, shopping, grass mown, hallway tidied and hoovered, kitchen clean. Just think how nice it would be if I worked from home all the time.

Entertained by:
I've finally watched Fleabag, at least the first series. Since I loved Killing Eve so much and it was written by Phoebe Waller-Bridger (Bridger-Waller?) I thought I should watch the series she wrote from scratch. It is very, very funny, whilst at the same time being quite tragic. Her relationship with her stepmother reminds me of my relationship with Father Hand's second wife, who never forgave me for running up a gigantic phone bill when I stayed at her house.

Not much reading has been happening. I've been too busy with the knitting.

Elaine, a colleague at work, has decided to go vegan for the good of the planet, so I made an effort to provide a vegan cake last week.

I used this recipe, purportedly the best vegan chocolate cake recipe. It was very good. You wouldn't have guessed it was vegan. I used Trex instead of butter but I also bought some Stork, which I will try next time. The buttercream was missing something but now I think about it, I wonder if that might have been a little salt - I usually use some salted butter in buttercream, alongside unsalted, usually because it's what I've got most of hanging around. It looks lumpy in the picture but that's because I spread raspberry jam in the middle and mixed some more into the buttercream. Elaine likes raspberries and my attempt at quick homemade cheery jam ended up a smoky mess on the stove when I got distracted by an email.

Next I'm planning to try an Earl Grey and lemon vegan cake. I'm keen to try something using chick pea juice.

Pretty good, considering I'm staring down my 13th work week in a row. I've got some amazing things coming up at Easter - next weekend I'll be in London on a teacher fellowship and the weekend after I'll be in Alabama on a free review trip. I can't believe my luck. Then it's only five short weeks until half term, with two of those being four-day weeks, and then it's basically the summer holidays. Right? Just that pesky little exam marking job in between. Lordy. I hope it is a bit easier this summer. The portents are positive.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Weeknote: 17/3

I have motored through the first sleeve on Mother Hand's cardigan. I'm just about the start the ribbing, so it will be finished today. I might then try to crochet the front edges ready for steeking, since I've got a long train journey next weekend and I think knitting the second sleeve will work better than crocheting steek edges.

Unfortunately, though, I'm currently playing a game of 'If you were my crochet hook, where would you be?' and the rest of today and tomorrow are all taken up with online meetings, so I will need to be doing something to it during this time. The second sleeve might appear quicker than the first.

My thoughts already turn to the next project. What should it be? I feel like I should knit up some of the 4-ply I bought for scarves at the previous Wonderwools. I'll have a month, though, between (hopefully) finishing this project and going to Wonderwool, which encompasses a school holiday, and I keep going back to Milou and also Thermal.

Going to:
I had a busy Tuesday. I went to a lecture on Tuesday, from a woman with a Jamaican dad and a Welsh mum, on the difficulties her dad had faced growing up in Jamaica and then coming to the UK. It was a really powerful bit of storytelling and has given me lots of ideas for how I can adjust my curriculum at school. Then I went on to the ballet with Parpy Jo. We saw Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake. Jo was surprised to discover we were seeing Swan Lake, since we say the ENB's version in November, but being Matthew Bourne is was very different - male swans, lots of hissing. Near the end of act 1, a mouse ran up the steps next to me which was a bit distracting, but other than that, it was an excellent ballet.

The rest of the week has been quite quiet. Last weekend I got 10-year-drunk at Rachael's housewarming party so I deserved a quiet week.

Entertained by:
Everything is pretty awful at the moment, news wise and entertainment wise. The Michael Jackson revelations. The R Kelly series. Ed Stafford playing at being homeless and getting lied to by a bunch of crack addicts. Brexit. The voting and chaos at Parliament has been entertaining to a point but then I remember that we have to continue to live here. Our daydream move to the Pacific Northwest becomes more tempting by the day.

Mostly I've been entertaining myself by looking forward to nice things coming up. Sheffield next weekend, for possibly the last time since Jen is moving to Edinburgh. Three fun weekends away in April. Summer holidays and days out. Maybe a little ski trip with work friends at Christmas.

In general, frustrated at not getting enough work done but also not doing enough work. I think it's long-term tiredness from being away over half term. I'm hoping to really nail it this week coming. We'll see.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Current WIP

I'm annoyingly falling out of the habit of the weeknotes. I must remember to keep doing them.

However, it gives me an excuse to post this midweek, when I've finally cast off the body.

The brown looks darker than it is.

I'm pretty happy with it, though just concerned about sizing, in spite of plenty of reassurance. I'm OK at judging whether something is the right size for me but guessing what will fit Mother Hand is a different matter, and I didn't want to ask what her size was because it's a surprise. However, once steeked and blocked with a button band, I am 90% sure it will fit OK, and if not - wider button band.

Please note it's a v-neck. She isn't that narrow across the shoulders.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Weeknote: 2/3

I've continued to work on Mother Hand's cardigan. It's been going well this week, after I had most of a week off it while skiing. I optimistically took the smaller needles with me on the ski trip in the hopes that I might reach the ribbing, but added a sum total of two rows to it during the long hours on the ski trip bus. When will I learn? Considering I started knitting to entertain me on the ski bus, I don't do a good job of knitting on it these days.

Anyway. I've got about 40 rows of body left, then ribbing, then sleeves. Then the scary business of cutting the steek and adding the button bands. It would be great to finish this for Mother's Day but I am not sure. I've got a lot of things to do between now and then.

Going to:
I quite deliberately went to ground this week. After returning from the ski trip last Saturday I wanted to give myself a nice, relaxing week. I had a parents' evening on Thursday and then drinks out on Friday with a colleague who was visiting from Canada; a couple of quiet drinks turned into me tearing myself away at 8.30, just before I became drunk enough to stay out. I don't think that would have counted as a nice, relaxing (end to the) week.

Working on:
I've been busy trying to finish up some work projects this week so this has replaced the 'entertained by' because there hasn't been much of that. There's not much good on the TV and I've not found myself much able to settle to reading. I think this is because I can see the end of a couple of tasks and I'm really hoping that once they're done, there will be a break in things. I actually turned down a summer examiner job before half term....although I did apply for another, but it remains to be seen whether they will offer me a contract.

So, this week has mainly been spent finishing off the support worksheets for my usual publisher, which will be the last job I do for this commissioning editor before he retires. I also found out I got a place on a teaching fellowship I'd applied for next month, and that the free history teacher trip to the USA that was provisionally planned for the middle of the Easter break is definitely going ahead. Lots of fun things coming up!

Busy, but not as tired and over-worked as I'd feared I would after spending the whole half term on the ski trip. The weeks leading up to it were so desperately fraught I think it would be difficult for it to feel worse afterwards, tbf. Hence the lack of weeknotes, when I'd been doing so well! I'm trying to think what fun things I did in those missing weeks.

I went to London for an exam board writers' day that took place on the top floor of a building next to the Savoy - amazing views. I went out for dinner with friends Ali, Kath and Parpy Jo, where we consumed too much alcohol and managed to outlast several other parties of diners whilst laughing raucously and endlessly. I wedged in quite a lot of non-school work. And there was skiing, of course. Skiing was lots of fun with only a few issues, none of which involved hospital visits, thankfully, but in the week before I had to deal with no fewer than four students who looked like they would be dropping out; two actually did drop out (one medical, one just 'didn't feel like going'...), one dropped out but then came back in (parent claimed she'd never cancelled; I went to the gym and did ball slams until the people downstairs banged on the ceiling) and the fourth came along and had a whale of a time, but not without a lot of drama ahead of time. It was almost more trouble than it was worth. The snow was exceptionally good, though, so the skiing made up for the drama.

How is it March already, though? I need to work less and notice more.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Snow Day FO

Pattern: Westbourne by Isabel Kramer.
Yarn: Fivemoons Sinful sock, which is a blend of superwash merino, goat mohair and nylon. It's got a bit of a halo. Plus a gradient kit from Moonlight Yarns.
Needle: 3mm and 3.5mm. I can't believe it has gone as quick as it has.
Mods: I increased to the next size up after the waist, obvs. I knitted the stripes three rows wide instead of two. I edged the bottom and the cuffs with four rows of garter stitch, instead of one purl and three knitted rounds.

I might yet pick up and stitch around the neck a few rounds, to pull it in slightly. It's very wide. I quite like it but I'm not sure if I will continue to feel this way.

It was a nice straightforward pattern and I am really pleased with how the colours come together. And just in case I forget - the Fivemoons label said handwash cold but I took a risk, since 80% of the yarn components were superwash, and put it in the machine on a cold wash wool cycle; it came out fine. Dried really quickly, too. All hail the 4-ply sweater. Maybe they are worth the effort after all (especially since this one was done in a little over a month).

Weeknote: 3/2

I doggedly finished with my last colour stripe on Monday, earlier than I had hoped, but it took me until Friday to finish off the grey and I'm still not certain the sleeves are long enough, though it's pretty much finished blocking so I will find out later today (before the FO post). Then I sewed in 100 ends. Well, I took a break in there too, to make a start on a colourwork cardigan for Mother Hand. I've just charted the colourwork across the raglan increases so I'm hoping to get onto that later today.

Going to:
On Tuesday I ran a history pub quiz with my friend Rich, at a nice little Bristol pub. It was a lot of fun but a very late night. Some of our questions were fiendish; I was quite proud. It was also nice to meet lots of people who I'd previously only communicated with on Twitter.

That was pretty much it for going out, though. Thursday was meant to be a parents evening but they cancelled it due to the snow forecast. It started snowing around 8pm, though Mr Z tried to conceal it from me for as long as possible so that it would be a lovely surprise. School closed on Friday. I went back to bed as soon as I'd had the call and slept until mid-morning, then spent the day doing all kinds of finishing off - jumpers, books, papers - which left me rested and clear-headed enough to tackle the marking mountain on Saturday. I've sat in Caffe Neros for a long time this weekend.

I made a tunis cake, very late after Christmas, but I was in a terrible mood on Monday night and needed cheering up, so I baked. Yum. Half of it is still in the department office. I hope it has survived the weekend.

Entertained by:
It feels like there is a dearth of good entertainment on the TV, so I've been watching repeats of The Closer. I tried watching Reign but didn't make it past the first five minutes. I want to give Medici a go next. Mr Z and I watched They Shall Not Grow Old - very cleverly done. I finished reading a book, Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. It painted a very real picture of Hurricane Katrina.

A little out of sorts and a little ground down. The work list does not seem to be going down, even though I am working hard on it. Two weeks until skiing, though! That's exciting.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

January Goals Roundup

Since this is my goal-setting, I decided to extend January to the end of February 1st, since it was a snow day and therefore allowed me to make significant progress on my home goals.

1. Finish the lesson planning job (eight to go. I should be doing that instead of this, you know...I'm two weeks past my deadline).
Yes! All done.

2. Write the worksheets to go with the lesson plans (around 60 in total. That is six per day).
No. A really big fat no. I didn't even do one. I really need to get started; my deadline was January 30th. Shame, shame etc

3. Write the exam papers - 1, 3 and 4.
I have written most of 1. In my defence, 3 and 4 are not due until the end of February.

4. Book all my meeting accommodations for the summer.
Done. This was a February 1st done, because they didn't contract me until February 1st, but I did it straight away. The choice of hotel was still very poor.

5. Apply for the fellowship I've had my eye on.
Done. A full day before the deadline. Then they extended the deadline...oh well.

6. School marking - sixth form mocks, 12H, 12P and 13H. 
I did 12P and 13H, and today (which I know is February 2nd) I managed half of 12H. I have to have the data in by Monday, so that really does force my hand somewhat.

Hmm, not bad, not bad.

1. Get the floor man round to measure up the hall/stairs/landing for new flooring.
Done. Mr Z got him round on Wednesday night. I am awaiting the quote.

2. Choose new flooring and stair carpet.
Not done, but not my fault - I'm waiting for the quote before I decide what I want; and in any case, he said it would be best to get furniture built in before the floors are done so this may wait awhile. It doesn't get a colour. Null goal.

3. Put away the clothes I took on holiday.

4. Put away all the clothes over the banister.
Done. The wardrobe and drawers are groaning. I need to KonMarie my clothes.

5. Finish knitting Westbourne.
Done! A February 1st finish, but done nonetheless.

6. Wash the kitchen floor.
Not done. I decided against it, as I was so busy and anyway, it just gets dirty again.

7. Finish reading a book. I have about three that I'm halfway through - any one of those would be fine.
Done. Another February 1st finish, but I completed Salvage the Bones, a novel set around Hurricane Katrina, which was one of my gift books from the Mr B's fundraiser. It took me a while to get into it but then I found it compelling.

8. Do two exercise sessions apart from seeing Jenny.
I did one. I ran out of month to do a second.

Not too bad at all, overall. I only had 12 days but I managed more than half of what I wanted to achieve. I had the list written on my office whiteboard too, which made it very motivational. It's time for a new list.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Weeknote: 27/1

I am extremely proud to say that I almost stuck to my goal. I didn't manage a stripe on Monday or Friday nights, when I was out late, but I did manage one on the other three days and yesterday I managed another five (basically had RSI by the end of the day); I've knitted one row of colour 14 today and hopefully I'll get to colour 15 tomorrow. I am not convinced I'm going to finish by the end of January but it will be close. I am considering extending my January goals deadline to February 3rd, as the inclusion of an additional weekend will make all the difference.

My thoughts turn to my next jumper. I'm considering knitting Mother Hand a cardigan with a Scandi-noir pattern, a la The Killing, to celebrate our summer holiday to Denmark. I was thinking about making another shapely boyfriend cardigan but steeking it this time. I've got all the yarn I need. It would be a good bus knit for skiing. The difficulty will be deciding on a size - I want it to be a surprise so I don't want to ask. Since she's a similar body shape to me, albeit it much slimmer, I might start with a 38 but increase to a 42, as I do with things I knit for me. Or I might go a size up from that, because it doesn't matter too much if cardigans are over-sized, does it?

Going to:
On Monday we had our usual history teacher geek-out night that happened every January. It was fun to chat teaching ideas with colleagues, as always.

On Friday I went for a drink with friend Charlotte, of notable drunkenness in December, and then on to dinner and drinks with Naomi, Rachael and Susanna from work. We tried to eat Caribbean food but, it turns out, everybody wants to eat dinner at 6.30 on Stokes Croft, so we ended up eating Vietnamese food instead. No regrets here, it was delicious. Then we went to Hotel du Vin for some cocktails. Rachael decided she wanted cigarettes but did not want to walk to the shop, so bought herself a £19 cigar (except it was charged to my tab, thanks Rach) and we attempted to assist her in smoking it. I left feeling like someone had trodden on my chest.

Entertained by:
I've been on tenterhooks all week, waiting to see what HMRC would allow me to keep from my pay cheque, so that has been entertaining. Thankfully it was more than I'd dared to hope.

Yesterday I had a complete day of relaxation and hit Netflix hard. I watched La La Land - I didn't love it. I am a big Emma Stone fan but it just felt like an excuse to relive old Hollywood cliches - a bit self-indulgent, if you ask me, which nobody did, but it's my blog.

After that I watched Sex Education. I'm proud to say I watched the entire series in one day. I found it extremely entertaining - I loved all of it. It did give me a big of cognitive dissonance. For a start, it's got a kicking 80s soundtrack, 80s cars, 80s clothes - but it's set in the present day. Then, it was clearly written about an American town and high school: all the classic high school cliches were there, from tannoy announcements to letterman sweaters - but all the actors were British and it was clearly set in Britain. It became quite clear in episode 2 that some of the themes would not have been possible to tackle in an American high school setting, however. I wondered if it had been written for an American setting and then, at the last minute, Netflix decided it would be banned in certain states if they kept that so they just cast all British actors in it, but they're already built all the sets and started work on the costumes, so they kept it all (even the Americanesque dialogue).

When I woke up this morning and continued meditating on it (I don't know why, either) I decided it was probably a deliberate decision to make it relevant to American high school students without drawing the wrath of their parents. 'Look! This setting is just like yours! These students are, by the same token, just like you! All that stuff you're worrying about is OK!'

I decided the 80s theme was just for fun, because who doesn't love the 80s?

Anyway. Do watch it. It is hugely fun and the characters are all fabulous, particularly the outrageously cool Gillian Anderson, to whom I obvs relate to most as she is the main adult character. It's all set up for a second season, too.

My personal trainer, Jenny, tells me off quite often for overthinking things. I can't think where she gets this impression from.

Determined and accomplished. Not many things have been ticked off the goals list yet but many of them are in progress. I've been doing ski trip planning and other school trip planning and generally Doing The Work. There needs to be more of that this week, but I am still feeling full of beans. The whole day sitting on the sofa knitting and watching TV helped, I think.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

January Goals

I know it is January 20th. It's very late for goal setting. However, I was reminiscing about years gone by when I used to make a little goal list at the start of each month and then review it at the end, and how motivating I found it. In my current mood of Getting Things Done, I have made the mental list I've been considering all year something solid.

I've split it, this month.

1. Finish the lesson planning job (eight to go. I should be doing that instead of this, you know...I'm two weeks past my deadline).
2. Write the worksheets to go with the lesson plans (around 60 in total. That is six per day).
3. Write the exam papers - 1, 3 and 4.
4. Book all my meeting accommodations for the summer.
5. Apply for the fellowship I've had my eye on.
6. School marking - sixth form mocks, 12H, 12P and 13H. The official deadline for these isn't until the first week of Feb, which I find is not helpful. I want them done. I've had them for over a week now.

1. Get the floor man round to measure up the hall/stairs/landing for new flooring.
2. Choose new flooring and stair carpet.
3. Put away the clothes I took on holiday.
4. Put away all the clothes over the banister.
5. Finish knitting Westbourne.
6. Wash the kitchen floor.
7. Finish reading a book. I have about three that I'm halfway through - any one of those would be fine.
8. Do two exercise sessions apart from seeing Jenny.

I am not sure I will get all 14 things done, but I'm going to give it a good go. Luckily I have a PGCE student now so I am about 10 lessons light in the timetable. The knock on effect of this should be considerable. Feeling determined. Grrrr!

Weeknote: 20/1

I spent much of the week steadfastly ignoring Westbourne. The sleeves were just so fiddly and I was being sulky about the very tiny job of rewinding all the colours so I had two mini balls of each. Thankfully I managed to get over myself and put four new colour stripes on over the weekend; Mr Z is now chipping in and rewinding the balls for me so I have no excuse. Ten colours left. I am making it my aim to do at least one per day, because I really want to finish this before the end of the month. One stripe a day - 8 rows - is just on the edge of achievable; I also find myself in the delightful position of having no plans for next Saturday though, so I should be able to make some serious progress if I can find myself a good boxset to watch.

Going to:
I went to see The Favourite on Monday. It had a gratifying amount of very bad language in it (very of the time) and I much appreciated the extremely heavy make up on the men vs no make up on the women (unless they were off to a ball) - surely a deliberate choice on the part of the costumers. All three lead actresses were very watchable. I was slightly distracted by trying to guess which stately homes provided which parts of the set: the gallery where Queen Anne shouts at the musicians to leave is in Hampton Court and I walked down it with students last month, and stood in the fire place, so I was a bit over-excited about that.

I can recommend. I am hoping to make a Monday movie a regular fixture in my week, since the cinema offers cheap Monday tickets.

On Tuesday we had the ski trip meeting at school. I am way too overexcited about the impending ski trip - under four weeks to go. I'm mostly checking the webcams daily and stalking the long-range weather forecast. I was excited to discover that the region we're going to is close to where Zoe and I went and had our Austrian spa experience. I think we'll take the students over there - not to the clothing optional side, though, obvs.

On Wednesday I went to an interesting evening training on Curriculum. There were some interesting speakers and I ended up randomly sitting by someone who I have spoken to often on Twitter but never met IRL. The longer I teach, the more I recognise what people are saying in their lectures, but it's nice to be reminded of these things.

Entertained by:
ITV2 has been showing all the Harry Potter films, so I've been watching them. Very enjoyable, though it makes me want to read the books again.

I've continued to watch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. I like the fact that her American customers are so utterly uncynical. In general, the series makes me sad about two things - one, I would like to declutter but feel hamstrung by (a) a lack of time and (b) a lack of storage; and two, I wish they had made more seasons of Life Laundry, which had a bit more substance to it than Tidying Up.

On Friday night I tried a Netflix movie, Dumpling, mainly because I like things with Jennifer Aniston in them. It was a pretty light and gentle film. I enjoyed the accents. I should try to browse more Netflix things.

Monday is meant to be the most depressing day of the year (though apparently this is a marketing device of Sky Travel) so I have roped in the other Humanities teachers to bake cakes for everyone and make it BREW Monday instead. I had a humbling experience, baking two tried and tested recipes and messing them both up.

Firstly, the brownies - I heated the sugar and butter too rapidly and ended up with large sugar crystals throughout, but because I had run out of butter and didn't want to go out again, I just bunged the whole lot in the batter anyway and hoped for the best. Luckily, they seem to have largely baked out, thankfully.

Secondly, the caramel slices - I attempted the coffee version I tried before Christmas, only this time, I stirred in instant coffee at the end of the caramel cooking process. The granules did not disssolve. Indeed, they went crunchy. Utter fail. I think I will take them along anyway but add a little sign to explain that I can do better. I'll have another go: third time will be the charm, I'm sure.

Much less tired this week. More productive, though still not productive enough. I got all my dates through from the exam board so I am planning the rest of my year now and looking at summer holidays so I have something concrete to look forward to. I'm excited that I might have got a place to go on a free teacher trip to America at Easter, but more on that next week, when it will hopefully have been confirmed.

This week is going to be a solid week of Doing The Work!

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Weeknote: 12/1

I got the sleeves onto the needles and have managed one stripe so far. It's fiddly and annoying striping when you're doing sleeves two at a time on one long circular. I knew this already but I the fear of running out of yarn partway down the second sleeve necessitates this approach.

My aim is to get five stripes done before going to knitting group on Saturday. Hold me accountable.

Going to:
Sleep, mostly. My body clock is MESSED. UP. It's not behaving like normal west-to-east jetlag, which would be up late and sleep late. It's bed early, wake early - still. I went to be at 10.30 last night (I made myself stay up) and was awake at 6 this morning, though I made myself stay in bed until 7.30. On Tuesday I was in bed by 8pm; on Thursday, by 7. It has had a devastating impact on my work rate, which is almost lower than it was in the holidays. I am hoping next week will be better.

I have been to our sister school in the south of the city twice this week, once to deliver some training, a second time to do some joint observations, and I've hosted my opposite number to observe too. This is part of a plan that was put in place last term and I'm quite enjoying working in a different school a bit. It's very different. It's given me an epiphany or two.

Yesterday I went to London for the day for a big history meeting. There are big changes afoot. I got promoted to a role that won't require any additional work from me. That was exciting.

Entertained by:
I haven't had much time in my life for entertainment, what with all the sleeping I've been doing. No books have been read. Barely eny TV has been watched, though I did watch the first episode of Marie Kondo on Netflix. Hilarious. When she suggested the children might like to be included in the clothes folding as a fun activity, I thought the parents were going to crack up, but they did hold it together. I'd heard of Marie Kondo before and some of what she says makes good sense. I was encouraged to do some putting away and some tidying today.

Sleepy, obvs. Excited about skiing - only 5 weeks to go. Keen to get started on the next set of house plans - new hall flooring, stair carpet and built-in shelving under the stairs.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Weeknote: 5/1

I have continued to voraciously knit Westbourne, which I started the weekend before Christmas. I was desperate to get the body done and knitted on the flights home, only to realise I didn't have enough yarn or the right sized needle for the final rows. However, today (which is Sunday, I lost a day to travelling) I caught up with Christmas Poirot and finished the body. I am thrilled with it. It is a little longer than I was expecting but it's such an excellent fit. The stripes sort of blend in the middle and then come out again as the colours get brighter. I thought I would be annoyed about this but actually, I think I like it better. Secret squirrel stripes.

I've tried to weigh down the bottom so you can see the curved hem. Even though I changed the last 4 rows to garter stitch to try to ward off the curl, it is still curly. Hopefully blocking will help. The neckline is a lost cause though, I feel; but it's also very wide so I'm not too sorry about picking up for a neckline that isn't in the pattern.

Now, to rewind the colours a bit so I can knit my sleeves two at a time. I am afraid I am not going to have enough grey yarn for full-length sleeves. I have 3 skeins and I had to break into the 3rd for the final few rows. When it comes to it, if I'm unhappy with the sleeve length, I can always frog back some of the body. We'll see.

Going to:
I spent the week in Vegas, being spectacularly lazy. Mr Z and I went to see Lady Gaga's show, Enigma, and for a wander around Red Rock, but other than that our excursions were limited to IHOP and various shops. It was a very lazy holiday.

It's odd, being at Father Hand's. I always feel like we should be doing things but it is also like being at home, where I mostly don't do anything other than relax. I couldn't be bothered to go skiing in the end, because I decided it's just not fun to go on your own and Mr Z would not be convinced. So I spent much of the week feeling slightly guilty for not going out and making the most of Vegas, but, meh. I've been there a lot. I'll go back. I saw a very good show. I ate some pancakes. I slept a lot. It was a win.

On Thursday, I decided to put a price on how much I didn't want to drive back to LA and it turned out that flights to LA + the penalty for returning the rental car to Vegas airport instead of LAX was less than this price, so we didn't have to do that drive again. Hurrah. I was so relieved about it. The drive isn't awful but it is long and we would have had to have left very early because the car rental people wanted a whole day's fee for returning the car after 2pm, even though our flight wasn't until 8.35pm. It was much more civilised doing it this way. I really must not repeat this folly next time. It was a big saving on flights initially, but not worth it.

Entertained by:
As always, when visiting Father Hand's, many movies were watched and series tasted as he reacted with horror to my lack of broad movie viewing. We watched Three Billboards outside of Ebbing, Burn After Reading, Gold-diggers of 1933 and probably others that I have already forgotten. I got through the rest of series 2 of The Crown, all of the IT Crowd (still don't understand why I didn't watch this the first time round) and half of American Gods. Good to see Ricky Whittle has moved on from Hollyoaks. In return, I introduced Father Hand and Frankie to Whiplash and Killing Eve.

I didn't get much reading done. It was all about the knitting.

Slightly harassed by my workload. So much to do for tomorrow. Those mock papers are haunting me. Two classes and two papers - I knew it was going to be painful, but I wish I had been a bit more motivated to do them before the holidays. The data deadline is tomorrow so time really has run out.