Friday, March 30, 2007

It's the holi- holi- holi- days!

Thank goodness for that! It was fun seeing Mum and Dad over the February half term, but it made it feel like I hadn't had a rest and I've been trying to catch up all this half term.

Over the next few days, I'm going to try to recreate some of the exquisite pieces of arts and crafts that were produced as my children made their Easter cards and I desperately tried to hear all my reading assessments.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


I just had to post this today, it's made me feel really good (even before I saw my new yarn!).

I've been finishing up my reading assessments for this half term and today I assessed a lad at Book Band 7 who came to me on September on Book Band 3. If you aren't a teacher, this means nothing, but believe me, 4 book bands in 2 terms is brilliant progress. He's worked so hard (as have his mum and dad now) so he deserves a hearty three cheers.


I don't believe it...

...but I'm actually posting pictures of my yarn.

Isn't it lovely? All Opal Rainforest 2, in (from L to R), Snake, Peacock and Toucan. I bought two balls of each, because I thought I might send some to my Secret Pal, but I've fallen in love... Particularly with the snake.

I keep looking at it, and thinking ... Clapotis? I know I don't have anywhere near enough, other knitbloggers seem to be using silk blends, not plain old 75% 25% and I don't even know if it's the right weight, but it's calling to me...

Whaddya think?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

What a glorious day

The sun was shining today, a clear crisp day on the cusp of spring. I was just finishing a bacon sarnie and gearing myself up to mark some writing assessments and review the children's writing targets (a potentially large job) when K rang and asked me to go for a walk with her and Bruce. What could I say? She had heard that I was a bit down and thought I needed to get out of the house. Delamere Forest was lovely (although somehow I ended up pushing the buggy up some very steep paths...) and Bruce was an angel for most of the walk.

Thanks K. And thanks L for the immediate perspective you gave me on Thursday. All in the past now and no doubt one day I'll be able to laugh at it (circa 2009?)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sunshine in a Box

Yesterday I had a really crappy day. I'm not going to go into why here, but suffice to say I was a bit of a mess by the time I got home. That's what made this:
so nice when I got home. I mean, even the packaging made me feel better. My Secret Pal sent this from Helsinki and I was thrilled to open it to find these goodies:

Yes, that does indeed look like an egg box!
So I started to unpack it, and I found two types of herbal tea - Cheery Rainy Day (the name itself made me smile!) and Caribbean Sun, treats and toys for the girls, an egg box with real eggs in, a parcel and a card.

On closer inspection, the eggs are a Finnish Easter speciality - almond nougat inside real egg shells.

Aren't they pretty? They survived surprisingly intact, and I've been very self-controlled - after all, it isn't Easter yet! Finally I opened the card (I forgot to take a photo of that) which had a lovely drawing of daffodils on (my favourite spring flower - they always make me smile!) and the parcel, which contained three skeins of a gorgeous silk and wool mix and a 2.5mm 80cm circular needle - Addi no less!

My Secret Pal correctly surmised that I have not tried any lace knitting yet so suggested I might try a shawl with it, although she says I can do socks if I want. However I think I may have found a lace shawl pattern that I understand, so you never know, I might well rise to the challenge!

This really was like a ray of sunshine on a dull day and it cheered me up more than my Secret Pal could possibly know. Lilly and Stella send big purrs for the toys and treats, and I send my heartfelt thanks. I hope you are as spoiled as I have been!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Woo Hoo!

Posting from school (home PC doesn't like Blogger - long story), so only quick.

Went to sorting office today, to pick up a parcel (I've been expecting two, from two different yarn suppliers). Imagine my excitement when I realised it was from Finland - my Secret Pal!

I'm so excited, I can't wait to open it tonight! It really cheered me up, since I was feeling a bit groggy.

Thank you, Secret Pal!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Rugby, stash and FOs

Hurrah, hurrah and thrice, hurrah!

After 4 pretty dismal matches, Wales beat England! Shame we couldn't play like this more often, but there you go...

So what else did I do on Saturday? Well, it was very exciting, I went shopping for ... oven gloves. Jeesh. I have all the fun, don't I?

But I ended up at Lakeland Limited, on my own, which was a bit of a sneaky pleasure. I think it is the most amazing company ever, with fantastic customer service. A hates it with a passion, accusing it of selling "useless gadgets that women don't realise they don't need".


Anyhow, he's been moaning about the state of the space down by the side of the sofa where I stuff all my knitting clobber. So I found a solution! I found a storage box with a padded lid, and filled it with (most of) my stash.

Yes, nearly all that top layer IS sock yarn. Do you think I have a bit of a problem? There are three layers in total, I really hadn't realised how much I had, but it's not all sock yarn, honest! Some of it doesn't even have a project in mind, I just thought at £1 a ball it was too good an opportunity to miss...

So that's, rugby and stash dealt with. FOs? Well, there's two! Ta da!

First up, it's another pair of baby socks, finished on Sunday evening. These are for my cousin's new baby and because they are proper sock construction, they also qualify for my first pair of socks for SAM3.

Pattern: Meg by Megan Humphreys
Yarn: Opal Rodeo in colour 1156
Needles: 2.5mm bamboo DPNs
Modifications: picked up 8 stitches each side of heel flap, added one extra decrease row when shaping gusset.

I finished the second project tonight. It feels like it's been around for ever, but actually, it's only been about five weeks. This is a blanket for Bruce, based on the one I knit for Anna last year (the one that started me knitting again) It doesn't show up very well in the picture, but it has a moss stitch border and and reverse squares in the centre panel. I felt Anna's was a bit small so I increased this.

Pattern: Baby Blanket from Teach Yourself Knitting by Sally Walton.
Yarn: Sirdar Snuggly DK in shade 0303
Needles: 5.5mm bamboo
Mods: Lots! To start with, the pattern is wrong - follow it and you'd knit rib not moss stitch! I used bigger needles this time around, did 12 rows of moss stitch top and bottom (not 10) and put 8 x 5 panels in the centre, not 8 x 4.

So there you go. I guess I'd better get on with some work now...

Saturday, March 17, 2007

F1 widow

As I type this, A is excitedly watching the Grand Prix qualifying that he recorded last night...

That's the weekends jiggered then.

Roll on October.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Peace - at a price?

As today was Red Nose Day, we all went to school wearing a red top and paid our pound for the privilege. The children were a bit confused as to why I was paying since, as they pointed out, I can wear a red top any day I like, but I always like to enter into the spirit of it (and at that point, all I'd done was buy a couple of noses).

BTW, is it just me, or are this year's gloriously large foam noses really... noxious? I love the way they grow, and I love the fact that since they aren't hard plastic they don't chaff or collect condensation on the inside (TMI? Sorry!) but when A and I put ours on last week, we both found them to smell really strongly of chemicals. Bleurgh!

Anyway, I digress.

Today, because of an absence, I sat with one or two children I don't usually get to sit with during extended writing. I didn't need to coax them, just gently reassure them that they could write on their own. There was a whole different feel to the lesson as they wrote their own traditional tales and they wrote quietly for around 50 minutes, with a quick "brain break" in the middle to help re-energise them. One table was slower to settle (big personalities who can't always keep their noses out of other people's business and space!) but on the whole I was really impressed with their stamina. However only two children had finished their writing by playtime.

During the assembly, which a group of Y6 girls had pulled together to tell us all about the aims of Comic Relief, The Y6 teacher told us how she had challenged her Year 6s - for every child with full marks in that morning's mental maths test, she would donate £1. Flushed with this, and knowing that trying to carry on extended writing after playtime and an assembly is usually on the tortuous side, I similarly challenged my children - £1 for every child who could sit and carry on writing without talking to other children, and £2 a head for the fussy group. Only 4 children couldn't contain it during this extra session, so I am donating £28 to Comic Relief in their honour.

I am so proud of them!

And it was blissfully quiet...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It's started!

So, I've contacted my Secret Pal who I'm spoiling, I'm enjoying reading their blog. I've also been contacted by my own SP, so.... let the spoiling commence!

And, as if I didn't have anything else to do, I have joined the Sock A Month Knitalong, so I am now obliged (obliged, do you hear me??!!) to knit socks regularly!

Like I need an excuse...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Happy 1st Birthday!

Well, it's been a year since I first dipped my toe in, so to speak. Hasn't it gone quick? Looking back, I didn't start with a "Why am I doing this?" type of post - I just jumped straight in with a very muddy walk. "Sound familiars...", I hear my friends mutter, "always in feet first...".

So, why did I start this? The honest answer is, I'm not really sure. I wasn't knitting then, so I didn't need anywhere to show off my socks - in fact a year ago, if someone told me that within the year I would have knitted 10 hats, 2 pairs of socks, 2 and a half scarves and one and three quarter baby blankets, I would have laughed outright. It's not like I post exclusively about education like Primary Teacher UK - after all, why try and make a poor imitation of what is a very good blog? Unlike Neil and Claire or Lou, I don't have a bundle of joy to blog about, and even I'm not sappy enough to think that the world revolves around my cats - I mean, I love them, but since one spends most of the time under the bed and the other, whilst in full view, spends most of the time asleep, it's not exactly... scintillating.

But I did enjoy reading my friends' blogs and, because I am such a dingbat at times and stupid things do happen to me on a sometimes frightening frequent basis, I thought it might be interesting to jot these things down - even if all they did was provide A with a way of keeping up with my disasters whilst he was abroad. So far this has been a good way to inform him of outrageous spending, conversations with nutters, cat abuse, my attempts at grand larceny and fessing up to fancying Hugh Grant. Bless him, he's taken it all in his stride...

But then something lovely happened. You started to read it too. Then some of you left comments and now... well, it's really nice to feel that someone's reading it somewhere. I'm no writer or poet (I'll leave that to those with the talent, like Jane and the Mad Muthas) but I do enjoy burbling away to myself, and you, Dear Reader.

So... happy blogiversary to me, thank you for reading and raise your glasses to Neil and Claire, because if I hadn't read theirs, I wouldn't have got started. (See Lou, Claire's an inspiration to us all!!)

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Six Nations Result: Italy 23 Wales 20.

The last minute was a disgrace of refereeing.

I don't think I can bear the heartbreak...


Finished Object, that is!

I finished these baby items over a week ago, but I wanted to wait until they were delivered before I posted.

Last year, I knitted a tomato beanie hat for Anna. I found the pattern on Knitchicks and got all excited because it was free. I was pleased with it, but it didn't look like the photo on the site (pic on left is from the pattern) and I couldn't work out why. The decrease sloped the wrong way, but it was the first time I'd tried SSK, so I thought it was me.

Having made my socks, I now know my SSK was correct, so I decided since Eleanor and Bruce had arrived, to try again.

Here is my first effort (right) - again, following the pattern exactly but not looking like the photo. Can you see how the slope is in the wrong direction? On closer examination, I realised that the photo didn't match the instructions at all. the instructions generated a pattern based on right-angled triangles (with the right angle top right) while the photo they posted was more like inverted isosceles triangles.

I realised I needed to introduce the colour changes at a different spot and also start the SSK decreases further down towards the point of the leaf. Anyway, the upshot was I tried a third hat, changing the pattern, to include my modifications. Et voilĂ !

OK, so it's not EXACTLY like the picture in the pattern but it's a lot closer than when I followed the pattern stitch for stitch. Because I started the decrease earlier though, it's not quite as long as the original. Good job Bruce has a small head, that's all I can say!

Of course, I couldn't leave it so close to perfection (ha ha), so I ripped the top off of the second hat and reknit it, with a few extra red rows to get the height back. (remodeled second hat on left, prototype third hat on right) .

I am really really really pleased with this - I feel now like a knitter, since I've been able to alter a pattern to make it fit the photo (but why oh why was it wrong to start with?!)

Pattern: Tomato Baby Beanie from Knitchicks
Yarn: RYC Cashsoft Aran in Poppy (010) and Bud (006) (one 50g ball of Poppy is not enough to do two hats (that's another story), but two balls is enough for 3)
Needles: 4.5mm DPNs (Addi Turbos - I love 'em!)
Modifications: Yes! I can remember though, and have written them down.

The other items are some socks for Bruce made with leftover yarn from my own socks. My hand is in there for scale! Aren't they cute?

Pattern: Megan Humprey's Nate
Yarn: Opal Hundertwasser 1432
Needles: 2.5mm DPNs
Modifications: None

And, although I haven't finished the blanket (I know, I know...) I couldn't resist last night and cast on for my first ever Monkey sock. The colours look awful, because I took this with my phone (no flash) but I'm really enjoying the pattern!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Told you...

Tropical Brainstorm by Kirsty MacColl

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Album Update

Whilst considering the albums I think fit the bill of Perfect Album (no fillers, every track worth its place - as opposed to A, who could only come up with making his own perfect album from a compilation of favourite tracks) I can't believe I didn't include the most excellent Rumours by Fleetwood Mac.

Mind you, I've probably missed loads of others, too...

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Wanderer Returns

A is back from the States. It's good to have him home.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Musing on Memories

When I was working for the Local Authority in my previous job, I missed the day in day out contact with the same set of children ... that indefinable thing that is generally what makes people choose to teach in the Primary sector rather than the Secondary sector.

But having been back in the classroom 18 months today, I realise that I miss a number of things from my old job. I miss the buzz of leading training courses and the chance during the holidays to spend time on a piece of professional thinking (that sounds really poncy, but when you're teaching your own class, it's so hard to just sit and reflect on new research and so on). In particular, I miss some of my former colleagues.

When I worked in the Advisory Service, the Consultant team was a mix of men and women. For most of the time I was the youngest Consultant there, but there was a nice balance of ages which contributed to the banter.

And oh, do I miss the banter.

Don't get me wrong, I work with some great people now. But we are a wholly female staff (including the caretaker) and I miss working with blokes. I miss 3 in particular, who made the times I was in the Office completing paperwork bearable: Mr Grumpy (who was a teddy bear really), Biker Boy and Mr Smooth, who could have me rolling on the floor with just a raised eyebrow.

Blokes have a different perspective on things and between these 3 (plus my stalwart friend whose desk butted onto mine), I could chat about music, books, theatre, film ... in other words those things that I enjoy but often leave A cold. Actually, that's not fair on A - he does enjoy going to the theatre sometimes and he likes music, but a lot of what I like music wise he just hates. What he likes is a tiny subset of what I like (to get all mathematical about it).

I also miss the flirting that you get when you and your colleagues have reached that stage in life and relationships that you're all secure enough to trade double entendres and know it won't cause offence or mean you daren't take the lift with them. A bit of gentle flirting oils the wheels of a working environment - it did in my previous life pre-teaching too.

So why the musings? Well, I miss talking about the best 10 albums in the world ever or whether Mrs Tulliver from Mill on the Floss needed a good slap or who was seen at the theatre at the weekend (and I'm talking audience as well as performers). I haven't had a good list-type conversation for ages (you know, top 10 holiday destinations, who would you be stranded on a desert island with, best gig you'd ever been to type of thing) - it just doesn't seem the kind of conversation the people I work with now have.

So in honour of Mr Grumpy, Biker Boy and Mr Smooth, here is my current list of nominations for Perfect Album (no fillers, no saggy bits, no tracks you don't mind missing to go and put the kettle on ). they are in no particular order , mainly because it changes every day! Some of these I had on LPs in the dim and distant past, but have been played so much they are showing their age. All of these are ones that got copied onto my iPod pretty soon after I got it, but they are also ones that make it into the CD player on a Sunday morning when I'm reading the paper.

Revolver: The Beatles
Led Zeppelin IV
The Stone Roses: The Stone Roses
Coming Round: Clear
The Joshua Tree: U2
Woodface: Crowded House
Green: REM
Hatful of Hollow: The Smiths
Greatest Hits: Squeeze
Dear Catastrophe Waitress: Belle and Sebastian
Bellybutton: Jellyfish
(What's the Story) Morning Glory?: Oasis

So go on then - what do YOU think is the Perfect Album?