Thursday, 30 April 2009


It's funny how doing a photography course makes you see things around you more. I was walking to school today and had to take my camera out twice to snap interesting looking stuff - oh, OK, the class camera then! Goodness knows what the neighbours thought!

It's nearly the weekend again and I'm looking forward to going to stay the weekend with my parents and seeing the Letchworth Arcadians' show, 'Kiss me, Kate'. They always provide an evening of excellent entertainment and I'm sure this time they will be just as good as ever they are. It will all be enhanced by the knowledge that Monday is a no-school day - maybe I could go on a photograph hunt!
Photo: A bit of someone's front garden tree!

ISO on my camera

Found it!! Good old Google!

This digital photography course is really very interesting. It's getting a bit technical now, with ISOs and stuff like that - groundbreaking for a technotwit like me! I've borrowed the class camera because I have a feeling mine is rather on the prehistoric side now - I can't even find out how to change the ISO (or even if you can - must look for the instruction manual).

But the best bit is digitally messing about using the effects function. I'm mixing Paint Shop Pro with Elements 6 (because they have different effects) and it's fascinating. Real potential for creating images that will make great cards - the cookie cutter function looks pretty good too.

In the rest of my life, school is racing along. We had some new construction equipment delivered this week - more lego, some k'nex (if that's how it's spelled) and lot of little cars - and it's arousing great interest! I love watching them 'play' with this sort of thing - I learn more about them than ever I do marking their work! It's easy to forget that they are little children - only five and six - and this is how they learn best, through practical play situations.

Photo: The bottle photo, using the kaleidoscope effect in Paint Shop Pro.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Thank goodness

. . . for digital photography! For an exercise in week 1 of T189, we had to take three views of a bottle to show different things. It was called 'Message in a Bottle'. It took ages and loads of shots for me to get anything decent at all. I was VERY chuffed with one perspective though and that's today's photo. All I did was put the close up on, made sure the flash was on, but the lens right up to the opening of the bottle and snapped.

It's just an ordinary Wednesday today. Hopefully, nothing untoward or out of the way! Have a good day!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009


I had a taste of ultimate power today. No, my finger wasn't on the button, I didn't get elected as US president and I didn't even don a traffic warden's uniform.
Today - wait for it - today I was In Charge Of The School.

Well, OK, let's be honest, not the whole of the day, just this morning. Thankfully, nothing happened!! But that's not the point - it could have, couldn't it?

Tomorrow I will just be an ordinary teacher again! Phew.

Photo: Taken from a bridge in the Peaks

At the end of the Easter break I said something to the effect that once the children were back at school it would be glorious sunshine all the time, just when we couldn't get out and enjoy it!
And I was so correct!
However, yesterday made up for that - it started raining before morning play (so they couldn't play on the field), rained through playtime (so us duty teachers got somewhat damp) and continued raining for much of the day!
Good for the garden and nice if one happens to be a duck, but I think I'd rather have the sunshine, please, if you don't mind.

Having had the family round this last weekend, I now have a relatively clean and tidy house again - any bets on how long it will stay that way?

Photo: Flowers in the wall at Willow Cottage, Priestfield Grange, Old Brampton

Monday, 27 April 2009

Monday again

Another week starting. Time rolls on inexorably. It's been a good weekend one way and another and I feel refreshed.

It's just an ordinary day today - usual school things - until this afternoon, which is when we're planting those runner bean seeds. Every year I wonder if they will grow and every year they do, despite the children prodding them, poking them and generally encouraging them to give up and die!
It should be interesting!

Photo: A view of the courtyard at Haddon Hall, taken four years ago and edited using either PaintShop Pro or Elements 6 - can't remember which! I called the photo 'Face' - for obvious reasons

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Yesterday evening we all went out for a meal together - 'all' being my parents, one of my brothers, Daughter and Grandson, Son and Partner (sorry, I'm not giving names in here so it sounds rather formal).

We all pootled off to the Blue Strawberry in Hatfield Peverel, a place I can thoroughly recommend (advert alert), and had an excellent time.

On the next table along, there was a large party celebrating someones 60th birthday. It horrified me to think that it will be me three years down the track.

60? I mean, that's just daft - so close to 60!! I don't feel a day over 35 most of the time! I think I am going to take a leaf from Grandson's (younger) book and be fifty ten, then fifty eleven, etc. I CAN'T be 60, not possibly, no how!! So there! :0)

It's going to be a nice day today. Mum and Dad are staying till Monday morning, I have a nice chicken to roast for dinner, followed by some sort of apple crumble (maybe apple and sultana). I shall make the stuffing myself: at Christmas I made the stuffing totally from scratch without using a packet mix as a base and it was so nice I vowed never to use another packet mix but to always make it from scratch. Today it will be just a simple sage and onion stuffing with onion, sage from the garden, fresh breadcrumbs, some appropriate spices (hmmm - how about smoked paprika?) and maybe a little sausage meat to moisten, and held together with a little beaten egg. I wonder if a few sunflower seeds mixed in would be nice too. Then either bake with bacon over the top until cooked through or fry in a little butter on the hob. I'll make my mind up on that later on.

Then Daughter and Grandson will be joining us for tea and we're having a selection of cheese with different breads and some cherry tomatoes, olives and chutneys on the side.

It's so nice to be able to cook a meal for more than one. I'm anticipating that I will have enough chicken left over for another meal for me tomorrow, maybe involving 'bits' rather than slices, followed by a boiling up of the carcass and a chicken soup or hotpot the next day. So not only delicious, but also good value.

Photo: Tree trunk at Chatsworth

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Brain ache

I started looking at the T189 materials on the web site this morning. It looks as if it went live on Thursday.

I've done an hour and my brain aches! So much to take in and all that new vocabulary to master. Ouch.

One of the first exercises is looking through Flickr and identifying photos that really appeal in some way, with the view to identifying what speaks to me and why, is there a pattern to what I like, etc. There's some incredible photos on there - it's just WOW. Take a look at some point and you'll see what I mean.

Photo: An incredibly inadequate photo, edited - another in the 'Leaves' series (that makes it sound more posh)!!

Friday, 24 April 2009

So sweet

Just photos this time and they speak for themselves really.

Birthdays . . .

. . . are very pleasant, especially when celebrated with two people as lovely as Daughter and Grandson (plus three cats and two titchy, cuddlesome kittens - more photos another time).

And when I got home a short while ago, there was, sitting on my doorstep, a beautiful plant to join the bunches of flowers given by colleagues at school, a bottle of pink chilled stuff to join the one from two more colleagues and a card from a lovely friend. People are so kind. Thank you, one and all, for making it such a lovely day for me.

Photo: Birthday cakes, baked and decorated by Daughter, bless her. Love you!!

Ho hum!

Sorry about the lack of bloggy activity last night and this morning - I've been so very busy one way and another. I'm snatching a few minutes in my bay at lunchtime to write it, seeing as I am supervising four *very* naughty little children who thought it would be a good idea to talk all the way through assembly, EVEN after the head had told them to stop. So now they are practising sitting quietly and sensibly so that they can do it properly next time (that's the theory)!

Wonderful way to spend your birthday, isn't it? Mind you, they were all wingless angels in maths.

Never mind, this evening I am over to Daughter's place for a yummy lentil lasagne and cake (but not together). Hopefully, I will be taking more photos of the kittens too. Something to look forward to.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

The wow factor! (aka 'awe and wonder')

Whoever would have thought it? When you split a stick of celery half way up and put one side in water with red food colouring and the other side in water with blue food colouring, part of the tip of the stick turns purple.

And when you grow some cress seeds in the light and some in the dark, with water, they both grow but the ones in the dark are growing the WRONG COLOUR!!! After all, in Somerfields, the cress is green, not yellow. Yellow cress is silly!!!

That's the wonderful world of discovery in year 1 at the moment and the children are loving it! Year 1 science is fun, fun, fun, made even better because we don't then have to make them 'write it all up' (which would rather destroy the fun element anyway!). Next week is runner beans! YAY!

Photo: sunset over the countryside taken from the front of my house a few days ago.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Aaaahhhhh . . .

I couldn't resist it any longer. I went over to Daughter's after school to see the kit . . . er . . . I mean to take over some cookies that accidentally jumped into my trolley while shopping - any excuse!

My goodness, they've grown (no - not the cookies, although they were pretty big, I have to admit)! They've gained half their birthweight in two days. They've both got a dear little white patch on their chest and have, at the moment, ghost tabby markings which, I gather, will go soon (shame).

Sofia's sister is very put out and is needing a lot of TLC at the moment. She refuses to go into the room where the kittens are. I wonder how much she 'understands' about it all

Photo: Kittens (and Sofia) at two and a half days old.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Nearly the end of another lovely day. It's so spring-like at the moment, I was moved to abandon the planning this afternoon in favour of an art session, inspired by a beautiful row of trees in full blossom along the road by the school.

It was very simple - they used a paintbrush to paint a tree skeleton and then finger printed the blossom on top of the branches and twigs. Several thousand finger splats later the bay looked like an explosion in a confetti factory and I had twenty seven very satisfied little children, proudly surveying their creations. We just have to finger print some leaves tomorrow. Not too many, just a hint of buds opening.

Photo: Just one of the works of art . . .

It's a beautiful, cold, misty, mysterious early morning which means, I hope, a lovely sunny day to come, like yesterday. The children are so cheerful on sunny days and they bring the sunshine into the classroom after playtime, on a wave of hope and happiness. It makes such a difference to us all.

Yesterday we were talking about what plants need to be healthy - I was after things like light, warmth, food, air, water, etc.

Thoughtful Little Girl was pondering hard.

Me: What do you think, TLG?
TLG: Mmmmm - I think . . . WORMS!
(sniggers from certain little individuals)
Me: (Glaring around) can you explain that a little bit more, TLG, it's a very interesting thing to say.
TLG: Well . . . (deep breath) . . .

And then followed a most intelligent (for her age) explanation of how the worms enrich the soul 'with their poo, Mrs Clark', (which was a cue for more sniggers from certain little male people - sorry, but it usually is the boys in this sort of situation; the girls tend to go pink and look down!) which puts food into the soil and the plants eat that food with their roots by . . . etc.

And I could see More Practical Little Boy wondering how plant roots could possibly use a knife and fork . . .

I think this half term's theme is going to be very interesting . . .

Photo: Photo of said mysterious misty morning, which hasn't really shown the mist, but never mind!

Edited to add another photo taken from bedroom window over the countryside, showing the mist a bit more more effectively.

Monday, 20 April 2009

One down, twenty-two to go.

Well, we've all survived - me and the children. I was pleasantly surprised how calm and settled they were and how well they worked. It was lovely to see them again after two weeks - one forgets how much of a friendship base a teacher/class relationship needs to have, especially with the little ones. They need to know that they are liked by their teacher and they are happier and work better for that knowledge.

Looking forward to tomorrow now.

Photo: Another Sofia and kitties photo from yesterday.

And so it's back to work again.

The good times have to end, don't they?

To be truthful, it will be very nice to see the children again and to get back into a routine. Reading revelry. firework phonics, diary, assembly . . . and so it goes on.
And I wonder who has not done their spellings!

Photo: Theo, who really couldn't understand why everyone was fussing over the kittens when HE was there!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

So sweet

Tiny, black, hungry and very, very noisy if mum dares to move away! Just gorgeous.
Photo: What else? You have to look carefully!

Kittens from newborn to 12 weeks

(grandson is typing most of this)
Sofia's kittens have arrived. One of them was born at half three and the other was born at half five. When they were five hours old (for the second kitten, just 3), they were feeding on Sofia's nipples. Both of them were black when they were born. When they are a day older than when they were born, they are extremely noisy when hungry. When they are 8 days old, their eyes will open. When they are 12 days old, they first learn to crawl (in a kitten way, walking if humans). When they are 3 weeks old, they first learn to go to the litter tray. They first go to the litter tray because 1. They mustn't go outside before they are sold 2. The litter tray is a cat's toilet 3. They belong to indoor cats, and 4. They are too small to go outside. When they are 1 month and 4 days (5 weeks) they are ready to run. When they are 7 - 9 weeks (1 1/2 - 2 1/2 months) they are sold AND they are already handsome (if a boy, if a girl, pretty). Let's go back to newborn kittens. My mum will name them when they are 4 - 6 days (or just before their eyes open). Sofia takes care of the kittens. I don't know any clues about their names yet, but I think there is a boy, and there is a girl. It's a lie, unless my mum says it's true.

Photos to follow!

Stew day today

At about 10:00 I pick up dear Grandson and bring him back here for a lesson on How To Make Chicken Stew. I gather he's quite excited about it - so I'm hoping it will go well and he won't return home minus any digits or having set my house on fire! Or both!

And then we eat it (the stew, not the digits).

And then I HAVE to get stuff ready for tomorrow. The holiday is nearly over now - for five weeks, anyway. However, I encourage myself with the thought that two of those weeks are four day weeks. Just at the moment, retirement does have its attractions.

And it's lovely and sunny outside so I might even get to sit on my newly clean chairs and work at my new garden table.

Photo: another edited leaf photo (I can keep going with these for ages)

Saturday, 18 April 2009


Oooh, I have had fun today! I've been playing about with the software for the Open Uni Digital Photography course (T189) that starts on May 1st, Adobe Photoshop Elements. It's new to me: I've always used PaintShop Pro, geriatric version, so there's a lot to get used to.

I took a very ordinary photo (in the garden) of some geranium leaves and edited it, using various weird and wonderful effects. I've worked my way through rather a lot of photographic paper and almost a whole colour cartridge, but, oh, it *has* been such fun.

I've learnt a lot, printed enough to make loads of nice cards and made some bigger prints to go inside a five mount frame I bought from IKEA last week.

And while I've been slaving away at my OU study, Sofia still hasn't produced . . . I told DD she needs to squeeze them out, but the suggestion didn't go down all that well.
I wonder why - seems common sense to me!!

Photo: One of the edited geranium leaf photos . . . the effect is called 'glowing edges' . . . with the original underneath.

Curry for breakfast

Last night I treated myself to a curry ready meal from Asda - rather nice it was too, but way too much, as is often the case, especially when you like a bit of variety.
So guess what brekkie is today? That's right!!!
Maybe I ought to feed Sofia some - it might get things moving a bit!

I could have frozen what was left but I didn't know if it had been frozen previously. You know, I've never really understood why it is considered dangerous to re-freeze pre frozen food, but OK to cover it over, keep it in the fridge and then re-heat the next day and eat. I could have frozen it last night as soon as it had gone cold - surely that would have been 'safer' than what I did do, regardless of its previous chilly history?

Photo: Looking out this morning, I was reminded that Sofia isn't the only creature doing what comes naturally. The fact that most of what's in the beak has been nicked from the lining of one of my hanging baskets doesn't matter one flying fig!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Poor Sofia

As fat and stodgy as a Christmas pudding, walking with a pregnant 'waddle', unable to lie comfortably and with one or more kitties playing 'tag' inside her most of the time! It really takes me back thirty years or so!

I hope she has them soon.

Photo: Who else but the expectant mummy, taken today. The handsome gentleman in the background is the soon-to-be proud father.

Last proper day of the holidays

. . . and it's chucking it down with rain. Such a shame for the children. It's not been brilliant as far as weather is concerned this Easter break. We've had a few lovely days but generally it's been dull with some rain, especially this week. Of course, the moment we all get back to school the sun will break through and we'll get weeks of sustained sunshine, just when we can't go out and enjoy it!

My new garden table arrived yesterday. It doesn't go with the chairs at all, being made of wood, but I don't mind that. It's a lovely octagonal shape, was easy to put together and will sit four round it comfortably. Now all I need to get is new cushions for the chairs and I'll be all ready - bet it rains all summer now!

As for today - lesson planning is top of the timetable. Not looking forward to it really, but it has to be done and I'd rather like a work free weekend, if possible. I've promised Dearest Grandson I'll teach him how to make chicken 'stew' on Sunday morning and he's all excited about it. This means the kitchen will need to be clear (so there's room for the mess he will undoubtedly make) and all sorts of ingredients available in case of changes of mind. At the moment he wants chicken (obviously), chopped tomatoes, two kinds of pepper (the grindy sort and the orange sort), carrots, onions, potato and something else I forget right at the moment but I'm sure he will remind me! Oh, yes , I remember - tomato ketchup! I've told him the herbs will have to come from the garden, like it or lump it.

Actually, given that he's autistic and has many of the food issues associated with that disorder, he's doing very well to consider mixing up so many things and, as he will have made it, he will also have a jolly good go at eating it too! He's coming on so well!
While he's creating omnivorous stuff under my watchful eye, I will be making a similar but vegetarian mixture for DD, with butter beans instead of chicken so everyone should be happy.

When it's all made, over we will go, back to his home, to eat it all! And I bet it will taste wonderful!

Photo: Flowers in the garden, taken at dusk last night, so not terribly good quality!

Thursday, 16 April 2009


There are so many definitions of 'friendship'. Fear not, I'm not going to write an essay about them all. However, today I went to have lunch with someone I haven't seen for a couple of years - somehow we just lost touch after she moved, even though she didn't move that far away.
But - and this, I think is one definition of a true friendship - there were no awkward moments, no difficult silences (although there were a few sympathetic ones at times) and it was as if we'd seen each other every week without any gaps . . . straight back into the warm friendship.

It was a lovely time - thanks, Val.

Photo: garden plant with slightly out of focus nice white garden chair in background!

. . . and they still look white!
They're still there!!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

I now have . . .

. . . four nice white garden chairs (the bits that show are white, anyway) all ready for those hot days. And you know what finally did it? Bleach - plain bleach. First a wipe over to get rid of the gunge, then gentle wiping with bleach until all the stains vanished. Then wash off the bleach and give them a good hose down. Super!

Hopefully I won't look out tomorrow and find that they've collapsed in a heap of crumbled plastic stuff!

I have a day of housework ahead of me

. . . which probably explains why I'm feeling so terribly tired after a good night's sleep.

Strange, isn't it. One can toss and turn all night and then be fresh as a daisy come the morning, but when one sleeps heavily, one can feel lethargic in the morning. Or maybe it's just another proof that housework is really bad for the system.

I think I'm genetically programmed to react badly to housework. I've passed it down to both children too. I can't imagine where it comes from - obviously not from my mum, whose house is always neat, tidy and very welcoming! Darwin would be thrilled at this evidence that genes take a different turn now and again!

So - boring day ahead . . . I may be gone some time, gentle reader!

Photo: A little friend in the garden.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Time part 2

I went to hospital this afternoon to have a scan of the uterus and pelvic area. A quick glance at the letter said to be there for 14:00 and to drink at least a pint and a half of water an hour before the scan was due.

While a pint and a half of anything is hard work to get down, also my bladder ain't what it used to be and the thought of holding onto all that fluid caused me a fair bit of concern . . .

So I set off early and got to the hospital in good time to get a parking slot - no easy matter at our local hospital and also ridiculously expensive - £3.50 for more than an hour, would you believe!! Turned up at the ultrasound place to be 'booked in' and was told 'Goodness, you're early!' I wittered on about being in good time to find a parking slot, etc, and sat down where I was told - half an hour to wait didn't seem too bad to me, especially sitting with legs crossed.

Then, because there was a distinct lack of reading material on display, I got out the appointment letter to re-read it and . . .

I was supposed to be there for 14:40!!!

Fortunately, the bladder lasted out - just. The scan started 20 mins early (phew) so all was well . . .
But I will check a lot more carefully - if there's a next time.

Photo: Another cat photo!


Time is very strange - it is never constant, is it?

Last Monday I had the whole of a glorious two week break ahead of me. Time moved slowly as I slept, rested, relaxed and then slept again.
This week seems different. Suddenly time is accelerating away as the list of unfinished/unstarted tasks gets longer and longer. Slow down!!!

I think I will need another week off to recover from this week!

A hint for those of us who were too lazy to put away our plastic (OK PVA or whatever the term is) garden chairs last Autumn. The cleaner that works best for me is the liquid used on sinks. Shiny Sink, it's called, and it's getting rid of the accumulated grime and gunge a real treat without damaging the surface, as far as I can see! The chairs are certainly going to be used again this year now, not chucked out as too nasty for decency!
I got them out of some supply teaching money some time in the late eighties, which means they have been giving good service for twenty years or so - definitely value for money!

Photo: Another of Daughter's cats . . .

Monday, 13 April 2009

Living close to the workplace

Following on from the last post, it started me thinking of the advantages and disadvantages of living close to the school at which one works.

I'm very aware that I ought not to go into my local supermarket, just opposite the school, unless I look reasonably presentable and certainly not after a glass of something chilled, dry and white. As a senior teacher, I feel that I have a certain 'standard' (for want of a better word) to maintain in front of local families whose children attend the school.
When I had some issues with a local family, years and years ago and now sorted, to be a teacher in the school their children attended was definitely a hindrance.
For my children, attending the school their mum taught at must have been, at the very least, an embarrassment at times, especially when said mum had to take Hymn Practice with all the juniors once a week, not terribly confidently, when she was the only 'musician' on the staff. They learnt very quickly that I could partially lip read and could 'see' the alternative versions my quick witted daughter worked out and shared around (e.g. I will ping your braces, instead of I will sing your praises!) Fortunately that pressure has been lifted for nearly two decades now - little toads that they were!!!
And I still remember the dilemma my son had deciding what to call me when I took his class on supply (eventually we compromised with Mrs Mum which was all round acceptable).

On the other hand, it's wonderful to live and work in the middle of a vibrant community which has an 'outstanding' school at the heart.
It's wonderful to be pushing the trolley round Somerfields and suddenly hear 'That's my teacher!' followed by a pair of little arms thrown round me in a warm hug. Or even 'Hello, Mrs Clark' followed by a discussion about spellings!
It's wonderful to see someone who was a 'parent' and who has become a good friend and to spend half an hour or more chatting about this and that, trying not to block the way for other shoppers as we do so.
It's wonderful to see one friend and colleague talking to another friend (also a teacher), to say 'I didn't know you two knew each other' and to be told by one of them 'We didn't, but I said "you must be a teacher, hovering round the wine shelves like that" and she said yes, I am'.
Now we all work at the same school in one way or another!

Several months ago I met the father of girls I taught in Foundation Stage, years and years ago. We had a bit of a chatter and then he mentioned that one of the two had applied to my school to do either work experience or community service (can't remember which right now) at the school, specifically with me, because 'Mrs Clark started my interest in music'. I still remember being 'attacked' on both sides by the two of them when they were little while doing the weekly shop , with one (sorry, two) of the biggest hugs I have ever received apart from Dear Grandson!
She's starting in September and I am so much looking forward to having her on board.

The husband of a friend who used to teach at the local secondary expressed serious reservations about living within his school's catchment area. Not me! I think I'm so very lucky to be a complete part of the community. Working, shopping and living in the area is brilliant. I know and am known. Yes, there are disadvantages, but they are far outweighed by the good point and I consider myself very fortunate, very blessed.
Long may it continue!

Photo: Daughter's cat is about to have a kitten, or kittens, this week. You can see the bulge!

Supermarket encounter

On Saturday.

I'd just entered out local supermarket when I heard a very clear, very loud little voice shouting 'Hello, Mrs Clark!'
No mistaking who that was - there's only one child in my class with a voice that travels like that, bless him.
Up runs Bright Little Boy from the other end of the checkouts.

BLB Hello Mrs Clark.
Me: Hello, having a good holiday?
BLB: Yes. Mrs Clark - about those spellings . . .
Me: Mmmm?
BLB: I haven't done them.
Me: Never mind, there's still two weeks before you need to finish them
BLB: (face falling) Oh - is there?
Me: Yes, so never mind, you'll get them done, won't you.
BLB: Oh - yes . . .
(BLB wanders off slowly looking cheesed off)
Me: Are they very hard?
BLB No - I know them already . . .
Me: Then why are you worried?
BLB: Because I haven't done them yet . . .
Me: (Speechless . . .)

At that point I gave up and we chatted about Easter eggs and other far more relevant matters.

No photo because I'm at DD's home at the moment.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Sunday lamb

Slow roasted with white wine, garlic and rosemary. Yum yum!

On his blog, Eric reminds us that it is a month since Liz died, so I will spend a few moments thinking about her quietly this morning, maybe with a lit candle. Also I'll be thinking about her family, of course, who must be missing her pretty badly.

Photo: A bit of garden, getting there slowly!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Where's the time going?

It's Saturday again. A whole week since the start of the holidays. I really, truly did intend to get into school to do some tidying up stuff in my bay, but that round tuit is an elusive item and one I didn't get this week.

And it won't be here today either. I want to be up and dressed by 8:00 so I can go out and wave goodbye to neighbours who live opposite in the cul-de-sac. They're moving to Australia, initially for a few years, and they will be missed. Good luck to them all!

Once they've gone, I will go for an early swim to make up for the one I missed yesterday. Then it's back home to potter, doing a little casual clearing, cleaning and gardening as the day drifts by! After all - it *is* Saturday!

I also have some fold up garden tables to look at courtesy of the Internet. How ever did we manage before the Internet? I reckon it's one of the most helpful things in my life and I'd hate to be without it. Having missed the Ikea table, I now see that maybe it was a Good Thing, as there are loads of good value little tables (and not so little) to be ordered on-line.

Photo: One of my raised beds a couple of years ago. It's not quite so tidy now.

Friday, 10 April 2009

mush to brain turned My has

Rearrange to make a well known phrase or saying - and I blame the holidays!

D said 'How about swimming?' Great, said I, 4:00 in the pool, OK?

At about 3 I went out to do a bit more work in the garden. When it started to rain I came in and checked the clock. 3:55! Aaaarrggghhhh.
So I grabbed my swimming bag, drove to the gym, went into the changing rooms and started to change - opened my bag and . . . no cossie! I'd left it on the arm of a chair at home.

And to add insult to injury, as I was working on one raised flower bed, the end of a spiky leaf went in my eye and now it's bloodshot and not terribly attractive - doesn't hurt though!

Like I said - I blame the holiday!

Photo: A most beautiful view of the Yorkshire Moors, taken by my dear friend, Sonja! A lovely lady, a lovely photo and a lovely part of the world.

Good Friday

Which is the name of today, a very special day.

I'm hoping to spend most of today getting my house into some sort of order as well as finishing off the garden. It won't last long, it never does (either house or garden) but it's nice to have a few days of 'all's well'. It might even last into next week as I'm out most of Sunday and Monday morning. You never know - and there goes a flying pig!!!

Ikea was fun yesterday but, as is always the way, I saw something on display that was just right and then couldn't find where it was to buy it. Ikea is chaotic like that at times and it can be very annoying.
I also saw a panic stricken young lad (he must have been about 3 years old) in an absolute frenzy because he couldn't find mummy, not allowing anyone to approach him without screaming blue murder, poor kiddy. He'd been well taught, I guess, because he allowed a shop assistant to take his hand and five minutes later I saw the now pacified child, red-eyed and flushed, holding the hand of a lady equally red-eyed and flushed and clutching two drawings in his other hand. I was glad to see he was OK but it was so frustrating not to be able to help the child when he was so terribly upset earlier.

Grandson went to Adventure Island with Daybreak. He was so excited he'd been watching out for me since 9:00 a.m. (I was taking him to the school where Daybreak happens) and was getting somewhat stressed because I was 'late'. He obviously wasn't the only excited child - while waiting for D to come back out after dropping G off, I saw one of the helpers bring a girl out and put her in one of the minibuses and D explained that this girl been so excited that the only way to calm her down was by getting her into the bus early!! I hope she enjoyed the next half an hour or so before everyone else came out!

Photo: A country road in Norfolk, just outside Hindolveston.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Miffed part 2

Having looked more carefully at the letter accompanying the course material without benefit of a couple of glasses of something chilled, white and alcoholic, it does actually mention the different versions and that there will be a document summarising the 'key differences' on the course web site - which doesn't open until some time during the week I go back to school!

So much for getting ahead a bit.

Today I am hoping to get to Ikea with Dear Daughter, having left Grandson at Daybreak (MENCAP play scheme - brilliant). I have a nice short list - things like paper napkins, more souflee bowls (great as serving dishes), a mirror . . .

So why am I planning to clear the boot of the car? Because I know that by the time I've got round the place my trolley will be full, that's why! And that's before I count what DD will be getting.

Note to self: Transfer money over to bank account!

Photo: a view across from the back of the Oast House, Streele Farm, taken with a rather inadequate telephoto thingy.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

I'm miffed . . .

The software I am to use for T189 is Adobe Photoshop Elements 6. That's what they have sent me. I'm sure it's very good.

I was working through the introductory tutorial today and at's all about the basics of using Adobe Photoshop Elements . . .5!!
And they're different!!!

Whinge, mutter, complain!!

Photo: The Oast House, Streele Farm (where we stayed last summer)


After some very hard work (and an aching back) yesterday evening, clearing the weeds and gunk from between the paving slabs in the back garden and getting about half the area done, I was hoping to do the rest early this morning. However, it looks as if it either has been, or is, teeming with rain, which is rather a pain as the motivation is high and that, believe me, doesn't happen very often.

Ah, well, swings and roundabouts. At least the primroses, pinks and cowslips will be well watered in round the front.

Looks like it will be straight to Daughter's this morning to look after Grandson. Maybe when I get back it will be brighter.

Exciting stuff. The CDs for my next OU course (T189 Digital Photography) arrived yesterday. It looks brilliant.

As a holiday treat, I'm reading through the Molly Hughes' 'London Child' autobiographies. Wonderful books about a girl growing up in the Victorian era. I'm halfway through the second: 'A London girl of the 1880s'. I don't know if you can still buy them but, if you can, I would thoroughly recommend them to you.

Photo: One of yesterday's plantings!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Baked beans

Lovely, and I did change the recipe a bit so here's my version

Ingredients to make quite a lot.

400g dry weight cannellini beans, soaked for about 12 hours (place in bowl, cover with water and leave)
2 red onions, finely chopped
150g pancetta or smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I think I will use more next time)
400g chopped tomatoes
400ml water
2 tbsp dark muscavado sugar
3 tbsp cider vinegar
a good grinding black pepper
10ml to 15 ml smoked paprika (to taste)
1 tbsp marigold low salt vegetable bouillon powder
about half a tube of tomato puree

Drain the soaked beans, cover with fresh water in a large pan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Cook for about 45 mins to 1 hour until softened. Then turn off the heat and leave for half an hour (I cooked them covered). Drain and leave while you do the rest.

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and pancetta/bacon. Allow to fry gently for about five minutes or so. Add the garlic, tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, water, paprika, pepper and Marigold. Stil well. Tip in the drained beans. bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about two hours until the sauce is thick and the beans soft.
Add the tomato puree and check seasoning

Serve hot or allow to cool and freeze in portions.

Changing the subject completely, I've just spend a couple of hours getting the front - er - 'garden' into shape. Some of the leaves on top of the soil under the mini-bushes are practically Time Team material, they're so old.

So, for once, the photo is related to the blog - a bit of my now tidy and presentable front of house!

Crunch food

As an avid reader of foodie magazines such as Olive, Delicious, BBC Good Food, etc, I can't help noticing that there's been a very significant turn around within them in recent months.

An awful lot of the recipes and articles now are connected with the frugality, 'make do and cook', home baked/roasted/casseroled approach and it's great to see this. There's even a new magazine called 'Eat In' which, I suppose, does what it says on the cover - I haven't had the time to read it yet.

While there are still a lot of expensive or hard to get ingredients at times, there are an increasing number of tips about how to make your own - spice blends, for example or sauces - often in corners which could easily be missed, challenging for a skim reader. It's all very helpful and interesting to a low level cook like me and my own cuttings file is now bulging at the seams and needs splitting in some way.

When you start falling over piles of magazines on your way from the stairs to the kitchen in desperate search of that first blast of caffeine in the early morning, you know it's time to sort through them and feed the paper bag, so I did, and the bulging file is the result. Will I ever use most of them? No idea, probably not, but it satisfies my hoarding instincts and keeps the house a bit tidier (always a Good Thing).

At the moment there's a panful of cannellini beans simmering away, having been soaked overnight. They're intended for home made baked beans using a recipe that includes onion, garlic, pancetta, muscavado sugar, cider vinegar and chopped tomatoes. I hope it's worth it because reading the recipe made me feel quite packish and I will be very disappointed if it doesn't work. If it does work, I will look to make another batch with smoked paprika instead of the pancetta, for when my daughter comes over, as she's vegetarian.

Will they work out cheaper than cans? No idea, probably/possibly, but they'd better taste nicer or I shall be miffed!

I'll let you know . . .

Photo: A couple of years ago, I went on a barge trip with my parents and a friend and this is one of the photos I took from the barge. Nice, but I'd worry about the proximity of the water if I had young children in the cottage.

Monday, 6 April 2009

An empty brain

I have been staring at the screen for the last minute or so, wondering what on earth I can write about this evening and I still haven't a clue. The effect of not having gone to work, I suspect - everything has gone to sleep!

So I will just say thank goodness for friends - if you're reading this, you know who you are. You're irreplacable. Thank you for being you - all of you.

Photo: A view from Curbar Edge, in the Peak District, taken in 2005 in not terribly brilliant weather.

Ponderings on a plate

I don't know about you, but one of the things I dislike about pub meals is the ginormous protions they serve. Now, I like my food as much as the next person (possibly a lot more) but my heart always sinks when they bring my plate out and it's not only very large, it's also piled to overflowing. In these times, the waste alone is something to be concerned about.

So I was delighted when, last night, the menu offered smaller portions of many of the main dishes. I ordered the fish and chips. When it came, the plate was what I would call a small dinner plate, the portions were moderate. Ten chips is plenty, especially as they were nice chunky chips, proper chips! :0)

It looked so much more attractive than those giant portions, much more achievable and the only critical comment I can make is a shame about the peas!

Photo: another garden view.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

What a lovely day!

Nothing exciting happened.

We went for a stroll this afternoon to the local garden centre, looked at the plants, had a nice cuppa and then strolled back again. Very relaxing

We went out for dinner at a pub in Hitchin. Nothing special, just very pleasant with, of course, great company.

The weather has been good and I've made the most of it as the forecast for the coming week doesn't look too good really.

And no school tomorrow . . .

Photo: I meandered around Mum and Dad's very pleasant garden this morning, clicking here and there. These are a couple of them!


No planning, no marking, no resources to prepare, no evaluations or assessments to write up. Am I in heaven?
At the beginning of any school holiday the free time stretches ahead gloriously. The days when I can do more or less what I want to do to my own timescale seem endless. Yes, I have to go into school to get things ready, but in my own time and to my own agenda. Yes, of course I do have a lot of school work to do - 'reports' is the word that most comes to mind here - but, again, when I want to do them, not when the timetable dictates . . .
It feels good from where I'm standing!

Yesterday afternoon I pootled off to Tesco's in Baldock because I'd forgotten to pack some essential stuff. While I was there I spoilt myself by buying the lastest editions of Delicious, Olive, BBC Good Food and a vegetarian mag, all laden with loads and loads of lovely looking recipes. There just aren't enough days in the year to try them all and if, like me, you tend to make enough for four and freeze three of the portions, there's even fewer days!

Mum made a lovely baked ham last night with a sauce that had in it passata, white wine, honey, paprika, soy sauce, wine vinegar, ham stock, tabasco and goodness knows what else. It was scrummy! I will try to reproduce something like it at home and if I success I'll post it here.

Photo: Views from my bedroom window here with my parents, at dusk yesterday.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

It's now the school holiday

So why am I up before four, wide awake, with the PC on? Ingrained habits are hard to break, that's why. The difference is that today I can snooze off whenever I feel like it - well, not while driving, obviously, but apart from that I can and probably will!

Friday, 3 April 2009

In the end it was . . .

. . . Finding Nemo. Personally, I prefer Bagpuss, but there you go!!

AND the head came along, showing some prospective parents around the school. I muttered that I knew we should have been showing Bagpuss, then we could claim it was history. I was ignored. Quite right too!

But now I care not one jot. I'm at home, term has ended, ahead of me there are two glorious weeks of not-a-lot, a bottle is chilling in the fridge, a Chinese is beckoning (food, I mean) and I have a hair appointment for tomorrow morning. What else could a self-respecting middle-aged teacher ask for, eh?

And tomorrow I'm off to stay with two of my best friends, a.k.a. Mum and Dad, for a few days, where I will be thoroughly spoilt and the centre of attention, something that never hurts once in a while. Also, rather more seriously, I love to spend time with them and that time gets more and more precious as the years go by. They are truly lovely people and - if they're reading this - I love you both to bits! Bless you for just being you! You are wonderful people.

Back to more mundane stuff . . .

The main body of work for the first week back is planned, the half term 'spider' is done and in to the head, the display board is stripped and re-covered with nice backing paper and all the marking is up to date. Thus my conscience is as clear as it's ever going to be and I feel light and floaty - and that's before the bottle of wine has been opened.

Whoever invented Easter Holidays has my vote, any day!!!!

And finally - I doubt any of my KS1 colleagues read this blog, but I'd like to have it down on record that I am very grateful to them for being extremely supportive and nice to me during my first half term as KS1 co-ordinator. You're a really good bunch, thanks.

Photo: this is for my dear friend, Al, who likes sheep!

Last day of term!

And the DVD is either Bagpuss or Watch With Mother.

We can justify that as this term the topic has been 'Long, Long Ago' and, of course they are what children were watching long, long ago! The fact that they are the only ones I could find is irrelevant, of course.

Apart from that, the poor little dears have the weekly spelling test and a maths test too. In-between those, they will get on with the far more serious job of Choosing and Playing.

Note to self: must remember to put the creme eggs in the little boxes.

Photo: in another place, a suggestion has been made for a Cuddy Toys Conference, so here's my beloved Tubbalina as proof of my suitability to help moderate said conference.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

One more day . . .

. . . and thank goodness for that.

I'm exhausted, the children are exhausted and things have slowed to a snail's pace. the most important decision I have to make this evening being which DVD I take in tomorrow!

Yesterday was fun! We told the KS1 children it was National Hopping Day and they had to hop everywhere. As we are an equal opportunities school, it didn't matter which leg they hopped on, we believed that one leg was just as important and valued as the other leg!!!

Bless them - they swallowed it hook, line and sinker! I have some choice photos which I can't post on here, of course. When it was (very carefully) explained to them, they laughed and laughed - and tried to catch me out for the rest of the day . . .
Kind Little Girl: Mrs Clark, you've lost your bleeper (she meant my security key which I wear on a chain round my neck)!
Cheeky Little Boy: Mrs Clark, you've got a giant spider behind you!
One caught me out. the other - er - didn't! But I do a good pretend!

Photo: it's been so warm today, I thought a reminder of what it was like at the beginning of February would be nice. I LOVE snow! (and school was closed)

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Only three more . . .

. . . you get the idea, I'm sure.

Anyone who has ever tried to get five and six year olds to produce a net that will fold into an open box will understand the range of emotions my supply went through yesterday while I was out of class cavorting with my SEN work. On my desk at the end of the day were 27 beautifully (mostly beautifully) produced nets with tabs flying off in all directions. I think some of them were playing safe, one way or another, by putting tabs in any place one could be expected to require a decent, self respecting tab.
Several rubbers later and they are now all ready for the next step - cutting and folding. Now where did I put my sellotape?

An activity like this is a good demo of the way one activity can cover so many curriculum areas.
Easter Eggs are a tradition - so that's a bit of RE
There's a lot of Maths there, with the opening activity which was making an open box with clixi and then 'unfolding' it in various ways and recording the different nets - area, shape, investigation.
The whole things was a 'Make an open box that will hold a creme egg' project - so that's DT, as is the cutting, sticking, finishing, etc.
Decorating the outside is Art! Working out which way up the pictures should go - well, that's Common Sense! We teach a lot of that in year 1, one way and another.
Helping each other when things went wrong - PSHE.
Working out the instructions together - that's Literacy.
And if we had time - which we probably don't - we could make several boxes in different types of paper and test which was the most suitable - that would be a good bit of Science! Hmm - might do that on Friday as a bit of light relief from all that hard work doing Structured Play (aka Choosing) and watching end of term DVDs,

Teacher muttering something under her breath now and again - that might be French!

So well done L - I hope the headache is better this morning.

Photo: Last summer we went to the Lavender Line for a half day - and very pleasant it was too.