Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Secret Pal 10 Questionnaire

I've signed up for Secret Pal 10, so I need to post the answers to my Questionnaire. Non-knitting readers have my permission to glaze over at this point...

1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
I have really enjoyed knitting with Debbie Bliss Cashmerino and RYC Cashsoft Aran. Both of these feel gorgeous, and they knit up quite quickly too. Opal self-striping sock yarns are also fab - I love watching the patterns develop! I'm not overly keen on acrylic mixes - I made a whole load of hats before Christmas using some acrylic mixes and I've had my fill for a while...

2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
Nothing - they are currently shoved down by the side of the sofa.

3. How long have you been knitting & how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?
I learnt when I was maybe 7 (I was definitely knitting in Brownies) and although I can't really remember, it will have been my Mum who taught me. However, although I learnt to knit 30 odd years ago, I've only moved beyond rectangular pieces of garter or stocking stitch within the last 6 months. Since then I have learnt how to combine knit and purl for moss stitch and rib and mastered SSK as well as k2tog. I haven't really done much increasing and no fancy stuff! I can knit socks, but I've never tried sleeves, necks or button holes.

4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?

5. What's your favorite scent?
Trésor by Lancôme
UPDATE 11-3-07: Doh! I've just been reading other people's answers and I'm so... LITERAL! I assumed it meant perfume. In terms of general smells, I love vanilla, cinamon and other mixed spice type Christmas smells, lavender when used sparingly, anything that smells of the ocean (apart from rotting fish - did that when I lived by the harbour in Whitehaven), coffee, fresh bread, freshly mown grass and rifle grease.

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
I like Green and Black's dark chocolate, but I'm not that big a fan of chocolate bars themselves. Crunchies and dark chocolate Bounty bars are good though...

7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
I make my own cards and when the light is good and I have the patience, I do counted cross stitch. I have never tried spinning.

8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s?
I like most kinds I suppose. I'm particularly fond of 80s, folk and indie, but most things with a catchy tune and lyrics I can hear work for me. My iPod seems to have a very eclectic mix...

9. What's your favorite color(s)? Any colors you just can't stand?
I love all sorts. Greens and purples are particular favourites, black's bit of a no-no (see the cats...)

10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
A and I have been married for over 12 years (known him over half my life now...) and we have two cats (see blog for details...)

11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?
Yes to all, although I only have one poncho, when they came back in again a few years ago. I love it, but it's black, so picks up the cat hairs terribly. I don't really do lacy, crochety things - they catch on cat claws and door handles too easily!

12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
Currently hats and socks - let's be honest, I haven't knitted much more than that!

13. What are you knitting right now?
A very tiny sock, a blanket, a cotton tote bag and a tank top in alpaca.

14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?

15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
I don't have much preference at the moment. If using straight, then I prefer bamboo; I have used circular needles for knitting the tote bag and the blanket, to take the width better. I knit socks and hats on DPNs (bamboo or Addi turbos, which are brill!)

16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?
Since I don't know what they are, I'd have to say no!

17. How old is your oldest UFO?
The tote bag was started in November, I have a scarf started about a year ago in Curly-Wurly (I got frustrated with trying to knit with it so put it away) and of course, I still haven't stitched the flippers on that whale...

18. What is your favorite holiday?
Italy! Or do you mean like "Happy Holidays"? Well, here in the UK we have Bank Holidays that are days off work, but no-one really links them to the old reason for having them (do you actually know anyone who celebrates Lammastide?). I like Easter, because I love Spring. I'm a sucker for Christmas, but I don't always enjoy it these days - too much rushing about, I suppose.

19. Is there anything that you collect?

20. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
I wouldn't mind a book on sock knitting. I don't have any subscriptions (A says I'm not old enough)

21. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?
I'd like to try cables. Also I remember a lovely Fair Isle tank top Mum knitted me in the days when Woman magazine had weekly knitting patterns - it was in soft greens and lilacs and I have very fond memories of it. I'd love to be able to knit something similar.
UPDATE 6-3-07: I've just seen a pattern for an entrelac cushion cover - can't currently make sense of it, but I'd love to master this too! Could urgently do with some illustrated instructions!

22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
Yes! I'm a UK size 7, the free pattern with Opal sock yarns fit me to a T. The sole of my foot is just over 9 inches long.

23. When is your birthday?
I mention it in my blog... it's not that hard to find!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Never Assume Anything

This should be tattooed on the back of every teacher's hand lest they forget.

This week, I forgot.

A chance comment two minutes into the start of yesterday's science revealed that about half of my class didn't think plants were living things. Now, I know they are only 6 or 7, but this is not the first (or even the second!) time they have studied plants, so I was floored. Serves me right, as I had assumed that this was a given.

Never Assume Anything.

So the science planned was thrown out of the window as we addressed this. First of all, they had to talk in pairs about whether they thought plants were living things or not and why. I waspleased that a number of the children applied a (to me) good sense of logic - if it can die, it must have been alive. However, one little girl told her partner confidently that plants couldn't be alive because they didn't have a face. Her partner was nearly tearing his hair out with frustration as he presented her with evidence - they grow, they die, they need watering - to no avail.

Next they brainstormed all the ways they knew an animal was alive. After a good discussion about these life processes, they then had to review what they knew about plants and compare it to the life processes. They agreed as a class that plants need water (and compost is a bit like food too), they grow, they reproduce and they die. We set up the plants on the windowsill with the flowers turned away from the sun, to see if they would turn towards the light (like someone had noticed sunflowers did). Therefore, since three out of the seven life processes were covered (and one was about to be tested) plus the fact that it could die, the children then agreed that plants were indeed living.

All, that is except my cherub who said: "But I still don't think it's living. It doesn't have a face"

Dunno what that says about the thinking skills in my class.

Any suggestions on how to tackle this one, PLEASE leave a comment.

If you want me, I'll be in the garden, checking the daffodils for facial features...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ton Up

Today would have been my Crendon Nan's 100th birthday.

Happy birthday, Nan.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Saturday night at the movies

Who cares what picture we see?

Well actually, it was Saturday morning, but whatever.

A went off in the early hours, having stoically refused a lift to the airport, so after taking my car to the garage for the third time to get something fixed (done this time, hurrah!) I took myself off to the Trafford Centre to see Music and Lyrics. A doesn't really enjoy the whole cinema thing (too many bad experiences with yoofs texting, talking and chewing their way through the main feature, I think), whereas I do. If I watch a film at home, I always have a nagging feeling that I ought to be doing something else at the same time - just to sit and watch seems very - wasteful. Consequently, I end up not fully concentrating on the film or my marking/planning/ironing (don't worry girls, that final one was a red herring, I can't remember the last time I ironed more than a top needed for work just before I need it...)

Anyway. If I go to the cinema, I actually watch the film all the way through. I can concentrate. I get to eat salted popcorn.


So. A had promised he would take me to see it - he had seen a few clips of it on Top Gear when Hugh was the Star in the Reasonably Priced Car a few weeks ago and laughed, and he does like Drew Barrymore. I like silly RomComs and I thought it might be good for a punt. We were supposed to go last week, but my work took longer than I thought, so it didn't happen.

So I went this morning, (it's SOOO much cheaper before 12 midday!) and guess what - I really, really enjoyed it. Far more than I have done for any other RomCom for ages (probably since the Wedding Singer. Mmm. Drew Barrrymore and 80s music, seems to be a common theme...)

And I think I've finally fallen for Hugh Grant. I've never been one to swoon over floppy hair (reminds me of a torturous relationship from college), so I've never succumbed to Hugh's charms. But now, he's beginning to look a bit craggy... lived in, even. And he has very cute crow's feet.

So, Hugh, if you're reading this and you need someone to help you get over Jemima, my husband is away for the rest of the week...

Friday, February 23, 2007

How come...

...if it's my friends who have the new born babies, it's me who's awake in the wee small hours?

Woke at 3-ish this morning and never got back to sleep.

Consequently, feel cack tonight.

And A goes to the States tomorrow, so we know what that usually means ...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Two pieces of excitement within the last 24 hours...

I went to see K and R and meet Bruce last night - sorry, Anna, but I've found another baby who is as beautiful as you! He has that lovely look that some boy babies have - you know the one, as if he's been on this earth before! He's had a bit of a scary start (or at least his parents have) so it's nice to see him safely home.

Second piece, doesn't really compare at all... I've signed up for something called Secret Pal, which I thought would be something different - a bit like the letters I used to write to pen pals when I was a teenager. Or swapping Guiding badges for my camp blanket.

I'll get me coat...

Thinking Skills

Yesterday was another INSET, we revisited the thinking skills from last year and have made a decision that we are going to introduce De Bono's Thinking Hats. Has anybody out there used them with schools? (Assuming of course that there is any one out there reading this... halloo..oo..oo..oo..)

I'm quite excited by it, I just feel that I'm not as sure about them myelf as I could be (story of my life!). I'm going to start this week using the White and the Red Hats to talk about the school/local environment. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Vortex

A and I went to The Royal Exchange this afternoon to see The Vortex. I haven't seen any Noel Coward since I was at school, but this was different from any other Coward I've seen - more poignant, less flippant. Mind you, that could also be down to the fact that I've grown up since then.

Will Young was okay in it - perhaps it was too subtle a role for a first timer (he was very petulant and not perhaps as anguished as I might have expected) but he was believable - you forgot he was Will Young and got totally swept up with Nicky.

It's the first time A and I have been the The Royal Exchange for ages - not since She Stoops to Conquer in May or June last year. They are staging The Tempest later this season, so I hope to get to that, too.

Home again, home again

So here I am, home again, all good intentions of having my work up to date shattered.

Guess I'd better get on with that planning, then!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

More knitting

I'm staying at Mum & Dad's for a few days over half term. I came down on the train again. I've been winding A up, telling him it's my attempt at reducing my carbon footprint, but if I'm going to be completely honest, dear reader, it's that I can't be bothered to concentrate on driving when I could be knitting.

That's really sad, isn't it?

On a brighter note, I finished my second sock:

I'm really pleased with them. I suppose I learnt to knit when I was 6 or 7, I remember endlessly knitting irregular scarves for my teddies in badly tensioned garter stitch, but I never progressed beyond stocking stitch squares for charity blankets. Then at some point in my early 20s, I got the urge to follow a pattern and I knitted a larger toy killer whale (no, I don't know why, either) but, as is my trademark, I never finished sewing the thing together. I've dabbled a bit since we moved to this house, mucking about with triangles to make mathematical patterns and last year I knitted a garter stitch scarf for myself, but I only really picked my needles up to became what I call a "real" knitter last October, when I wanted to knit something for Anna. Due to my limited repertoire (i.e. knit, purl, stuff the increase/decrease lark) I knitted a blanket with a moss stitch border, then tried four needles and knitted a hat for my Dad (same pattern as most of the Bobble Family hats) . Several hats later (including a gorgeously cute one for Anna), I decided to widen my range and on New Year's Eve, I started my first sock, using Opal self-striping sock yarn. Six and a half weeks later and ta-da! They are finished!

I even managed to get the pattern to match!

These socks have been the cause of much amusement at work. When it slipped out that I was knitting socks, there were hoots of derision, including my personal favourite: "Are you practising for when you retire?" The Head was just baffled, and K and I found that really funny (although I think K was annoyed on my behalf re: the retirement quote....). Several days later when discussing what club I could run, the suggestions I came up with were batted back by the Head. Knowing that she wanted me to run one, I suggested a knitting club, with my tongue very firmly in my cheek. Imagine my surprise when she jumped at it! I told her I was only prepared to run it for 10 children. She asked, if she helped out would I do it for 20? Ye-es I said, thinking quickly that it had better turn into a Handicrafts club, so I could work on the knitting with small groups at a time. Imagine my joy at the first one, when 29 children turned up! The second session, I tried the knitting with half a dozen.

What the heck was I thinking? I need to be committed! But it is fun, the children are making pom-pom monsters at the moment and we'll try some Binca bookmarks, too, I think.

And while I'm showing photos of my finished projects, here is the scarf I knitted my Mum for Christmas (she doesn't do hats!) . It came from a kit and was knitted on 12.5 mm needles, which felt like knitting with broom handles! The yarn was unusual too, thicker and thinner in different places. Knitted up very quickly, though.

I currently have 4 projects on the go: a couple of baby items (more on those when they are finished), a tank top in alpaca and a cotton garter stitch tote bag which was started in November but has been sidelined for more interesting projects.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Forgot this one...

When posting the photos of the Bobble Hat Family's New Year's Eve walk, I forgot this one.

Lord knows how.

It doesn't look that much, until I tell you that the blue car is parked in this spot. It is a wide junction in a semi-residential area, and yes, it is parked, parallel to the give way lines.

Only in Whitley Bay...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

As promised...

Back in the New Year I promised some photos. Finally, I've got round to downloading them, so here they are.

First up, some Christmas presents:

As you can see, there was a bit of a theme going on for A and his family! Having taught myself how to knit on four needles I went into over drive a bit... Clockwise from top left, the hats are for A, bil, fil, mil and sil. I knew from A's reaction to the first ever hat I knitted (for my Dad, with large accompanying bobble) that I stood no chance of him wearing it unless it was bobble free. Bil's is knitted to a different pattern (on two needles and seamed) and he does have a big head, but even this was a touch too large - he could roll it down and rob a bank very successfully!

Mil, fil and sil all loved their hats (in fact fil wore it for 3 hours around the house immediately he unwrapped it!) A was cringing, as he is wont to do... but not as much as he did the next day, when we went for a walk...

Having knitted everyone else a hat, I suddenly realised that I didn't have one, so I knocked one up the night we arrived. After all, Whitley Bay can be a touch windy, so our New Year's Eve walk would be foolish without one.

Stylish, huh? Large sassy bobble, if I do say so myself! And here are the rest of the Bobble Hat Family, out on their walk (fil, mil, A):

Needless to say, A was edgy enough walking with us as it was (after all, this is a man who equates bobble hats with Care in the Community), even before we had an encounter that caused mil and I to howl with laughter. We had left the house and walked two foot from the gate when a lady that mil and fil know came around the corner. "Ooh" she exclaimed, "I can see what Santa brought you all for Christmas!". A spent the rest of the walk trying to stay several yards ahead of us....

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Sorted out the Library feature!
However, now I have lost the old swirly type that I liked on my links.
Ho hum.


And now I've lost my book list! Grrr! I can keep putting the widget in HTML, but the new Blogger doesn't have a republish button, which is what you needed to do when you had made changes to your template in the Old Blogger.

Welcome to the World!

I was already wafting a little like a lost soul at work after L went on maternity in September. Since Christmas, when K went off on maternity too, I have been bereft (although there are some cracking staff to keep my spirits up!). But I've just had a text to tell me that Elvis has arrived this morning and that he's actually going to be called Bruce. Congratulations!

And in keeping with the baby theme, my cousin N also had her baby this week, in the early hours of Thursday. Welcome to the world, Eleanor!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Call the RSPCA....

Long term readers will remember the time Lilly got shut in the office whilst I was out.

Today, sadly, A has managed to surpass that little mishap.

Big time.

On Saturday he was in the back bedroom, picking his way around the clutter trying to find the clothes (he is convinced I hide them) when he kicked shut one of the divan drawers under the bed.

When we arrived home today, Lil came for some tea, but there was no sign of Stella. After and hour and a half, A decided he would go and see if he could find her.

She wasn't under our bed, on the spare bed or warming herself on the radiator pipes on the landing. Having seen her jump into the back bedroom a couple of times recently, he stepped in and stood stock still.

A very faint miaow was heard.

Yep, you guessed it. Poor Stella had been shut in the drawer for 29 hours...

UPDATE 8-2-07
Apologies for the apparent tardiness over this post. I've changed to New Blogger and it's pants trying to log in. I don't know why it hasn't put this up before, but it hasn't.
Stella is now fully recovered, although a little wary of getting to close to our feet...


On Friday, my Mum and Dad celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary. My aunt and I (well really, she did the bulk of it) had arranged that a large group of the family take them out for a meal last night and A, not unreasonably I guess, assumed that we would be travelling down on Saturday morning.

Now, any other weekend, I would have said yes.

If the anniversary itself had been Thursday or Saturday, I would have said yes.

But the sheer fact that it was on Friday and there was a possibility that I could be with them on their big day was too much to resist.

The trouble is, I think only children (especially female only children) do seem to have a greater urge to be with their parents as these times. It was like a physical ache.

I wanted to be there. I needed to be there.

And A just didn't understand.

We left it on Thursday without really having a row, but with him pointing out that we wouldn't get down there until really late as he wouldn't be able to get home until at least 6, and that he didn't want me driving down by myself as I would be too tired after OFSTED. If I wanted to kill myself, that was my look out but he was not going to leave before Saturday for anyone.

Of course it made sense.

Of course it was reasonable.

Trouble was, I needed to be with them.

So I got home on Friday, very tired, and miserable because I wanted to be 150 miles away without the drive. Then I saw a solution.

I could take the train.

I threw some things into a bag, phoned for a cab and got to the station with enough time to buy a ticket.

Only I didn't.

Because the train wasn't running between Liverpool and Crewe.


This was really screwing up my plans to run away, since I wanted to be actually on the train when I phoned A and broke it to him.

And then my Saviour arrived in the form of an ex-merchant sailor with a salty sea-dog beard, a Landrover and twin daughters who wanted a night out in Crewe. Since he decided to take them himself rather than leave them for a replacement bus that might (or might not) arrive sometime within the next hour, he kindly offered the remaining benches in the back to anyone who wanted a lift.

Well, never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I took up his offer. Safety in numbers, I thought. And anyway, I could always stab him in the eye with my knitting needle if anything went wrong.

It's been a long time since I been in the back of a Landy on the bench seats. They seem to have shrunk. Or my behind has grown... Whatever, it was a touch uncomfortable.

And then I was struck by a horrific thought.

What if we had a fatal accident? No-one would ever be able to explain to my family why I was in the back of a Landy with 5 people that I didn't know, armed with clean knickers, my knitting and a bag full of extended writing books.

So I phoned A.

Don't think he was too pleased.

Haven't heard language like that for a long time...

Once I was on the train at Crewe, I phoned my parents, to ask if they could pick me up from Oxford station.

That seemed to cause all sorts of consternation from the extended family, who then decided that A and I had finally called it quits.

But it all worked out.

The best bit was, because I was there and A was at home, I slept a full 12 hours without being disturbed by cats or husband, so I felt much better on Saturday.

A arrived in time for the Calcutta Cup, having got some work done before he left (that wouldn't have happened if we had set out at 9 on Saturday morning) and the meal itself was wonderful.


That's the story of the night I ran away from home...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Into the arms of Morpheus...

Tonight I am going to sleep.

Sorry, does that seem unusual to you? Perhaps not, but since last Saturday night, sleep has been a precious commodity that has deserted me entirely.

A prize among rubies.

As rare as hens' teeth.

* Insert own cliché here

At its very worst (Tuesday, I think), I went to bed at 12.50 am and was awake again by 3.15. After lying fitfully, I gave in and went downstairs, to do some more work.

And the reason for this great disruption?

OFSTED, of course.

But they left today, and it has gone ok. We couldn't ask for more. Nothing they said was anything we didn't already know.

Saints preserve me, but on reflection I have to say (sleep deprivation aside) I found it a positive experience (Hey, couldn't be any worse on a personal level from the last one I experienced in a school...)


I am not dead, and hopefully, more frequent blogging will occur.

Thank you all for your patience, and thanks to L and K in particular for moral support above and beyond.

A is just pleased to have me back...