Thursday, 30 September 2010

Thursday morning

I think I'm renaming those oo-oo biscuits. They are now going to be called oo-aaaarrrrggghhhh biscuits. I put the ingredients into the recipe function on Weight Loss Resources and they came out as around 150 calories per biscuit. That's seriously eek with a large dash of ooops thrown in for good measure! Definitely one to keep for pressies and special occasions, I think. Such a shame they're so utterly yummy!

I've just peeked out and it's pretty damp and cold out there. The forecast looks more encouraging though, which is good because Thursday is outdoor games day and I think we'd all rather have that than indoor maths, which will be the alternative! Fingers crossed!

Apart from George coming round and the usual Sunday tea with DD and DG, I have a weekend to myself, which feels pretty good! What shall I do, I wonder? Maybe have a go at using that second pineapple. I have found recipes for pineapple jam - yum - and also a couple for pineapple chutney. To be accurate, one is for orange pineapple chutney and it looks delicious. The other is for plain pineapple chutney and, to be honest, looks rather too simple for real depth of flavour. It has apple, pineapple, onion, sugar, white vinegar, mustard and tomato. The other has oranges, pineapple, brown sugar, vinegar, onion, garlic, cloves, allspice, cayenne, cinnamon, dates and sultanas. Given that I have most of the ingredients in the cupboard already, it won't be too much of a hassle. I just need to go over to Morrisons and get some more of those pineapples on special (assuming they still are . . .). I hope they are - I've rather taken to the idea of using it as Christmas pressies.

I shouldn't really talk about Christmas just yet, but it's inevitable really. Teachers have to start thinking about it now - shows, parties, entertainments - they don't just materialise out of thin air, unfortunately.
A few weeks ago I thought I had found the Christmas Show. It was Christmas with the Aliens, from the wonderful Out of the Ark people. However, I had a close look at the book on Tuesday and, unfortunately, it is just too difficult for our youngest children. I have an antipathy for doing something that the very littlests will not be able to access fully and the words to the songs are just a little too hard for them. So it was back onto the web site and I have now ordered Ooops a Daisy Angel instead. This met with huge approval from K, our 'receptionist', whose daughter played the part of the unfortunate angel some time ago and who still remembers it with huge pleasure. I'm hoping to get the script and the music out before half term, so there is still time, assuming it arrives fairly quickly. Fingers crossed . . .

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Wednesday evening

The ankle support bandage caused a bit of a sensation among the children. They were all worried about it, bless them. I had to explain in great detail and I expect they were sorry for their poor old teacher because they were super all day, bless them. I think the Try Out Teacher Time is now over, more or less, and we've come up smiling! They will have their moments, of course, but I hope the worst is now over and done! They're a lovely class and we are going to be very happy together.

Wednesday morning

Everything's back to usual again now. Must put away the toaster and the coffee maker again, although I succumbed this morning and made a pot of 'real' coffee which is smelling deliciously through the house.
There's an awful lot of fruit left over from the visit, not helped by the fact that not only did I buy a punnet of yellow plums yesterday, because they looked good, Morrisons also had pineapples on special - one for about £1,29, two for £1.50. As I love pineapple, that was just too good to miss, so I didn't. One is ready to eat now and the other nearly ready but not quite. Isn't pineapple supposed to be a 'superfood'? I hope so, because I will be eating plenty over the next days. I wonder what pineapple jam is like - must look it up and see how it's made (thinking Christmas pressies here).

I went to the after school dancercise class again yesterday. It was great, really enjoyable, although, unfortunately, my ankle was playing up somewhat so I had to be careful and couldn't 'bounce' as much as the first week. I must remember to take my support bandage next week. I'm wearing it now and will keep it on all day - that should sort the twinges out!

As mentioned on the other blog, the three pounds I seemed to have gained by Monday have now disappeared again. Fluid retention, I guess, after eating a lot more simple carbs than I usually do - sandwiches for Sunday tea, for a start! One more day before the end of the month and the 'official' weigh-in. I can't believe it's nearly October! Nearly four weeks back at school! Where *has* the time gone?

And talking of time - better go and get ready for school, I suppose. There's lunch to prepare, dinner to prepare, resources to check, a dishwasher to unload . . . it's staff meeting this evening so I don't want too much to do when I finally get home. And there's a considerable amount of coffee to drink . . .

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Tuesday morning

. . . and my guests are on their way home this morning. It's sad - I've loved having them and, although the healthy eating has gone up the spout, it's been lovely to come home from work to a house that is not empty. Don't get me wrong, I like living by myself, being my own person, making my own decisions, etc, but it's been nice to have others around too.

We had a scrummy meal together yesterday evening. The Pig and Whistle was closed (how dare they?) so we pootled off to another local pub, the name of which a cannot for the life of me recall at this precise moment, which had plenty of tables, very quiet background music and a good pub food menu. Nothing posh but everything we had was well cooked and tasty! The service was very poor though - Mum had to wait for nearly 15 minutes for her dessert which was three scoops of ice cream - we reckoned they must be churning it fresh - although the place was not completely full.

It was a good day at work too. The children always like swimming and the afternoon went very smoothly and quietly. It was nice and gentle. Today is PPA and then coordinator time in the morning with theme in the afternoon. After school it's dancercise again and I'm looking forward to that as I haven't done much exercise all week what with visitors and so on. Should be good!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Monday morning

Thank goodness the rain seems to have cleared away, for now at least. It's been raining overnight though. Please, please, let the children get their playtimes! Please!!

The chicken casserole was absolutely delicious. Chicken thigh meat definitely has a much better flavour than the white meat, and the sauce was absolutely wonderful. I had made some 'real' gravy as well, because I know Dad likes gravy with his runner beans, but it wasn't touched. Everyone ate their fill and I ended up with five single portions left (each enough for a whole meal), for the freezer, which is now full again, so I must not make any more freezer meals for a while.

Before dinner, Mum and I hit town together. We went to Lakeland where I spent more than she, then on to Debenhams where we hunted low for what she was looking for - a light coloured skirt and a navy duffle coat. There were plenty of super duffle coats - indeed, I may go back and get one for myself at another time - but nothing in navy. Navy doesn't appear to be one of this season's colours. Loads of purple, loads of raspberry, black, red, but precious little navy. And there were hardly any skirts at all!! Oh, dear! Fortunately, a new catalogue had arrived on her mat just before they came over here and there was a nice navy duffle in it which she will probably send for online now. The skirt will have to wait.

We also looked in M&S and found the same thing. I DID find a skirt though, a purple 'moleskin' skirt, which I decided to get. I went to pay and handed over two M&S gift cards which has been lurking in my bag for some time. One, to our collective amusement, held 37p, but the other was for £20, which was great!! The skirt is lovely, fits fine and replaces the skirt that is so big it now threatens to fall down again as soon as I start walking!

And finally, the bush in the garden is a bush again. Hopefully it will fill out and look reasonable next year - it looks rather sorry for itself right now. We will see - if it has to come out, I will want to get another similar plant to replace it.

So, all in all, a busy day and a busy weekend and I'm off back to school for a rest!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Sunday morning

. . . and a rotten night's sleep. I didn't seem to get into a deep sleep at all, so I was up and doing in the kitchen early. Never mind, after hitting the town with Mum this morning, sorting midday dinner for five as soon as I get back and then tea for five later on, not to mention some gardening this afternoon and I should sleep very well tonight.

Working in the kitchen in the early morning is very satisfying, I find. I've sorted out the casserole from yesterday (plenty for today and three portions for the freezer (most likely more after the meal because I've allowed plenty for the meal) and it's now ready to start re-heating with the jacket potatoes. Must work out how to set the oven to come on while I'm out! There's also a loaf on which will be finished by about 8:30.
A friend said to me recently that she loves the thought of me pottering around in my kitchen, getting such joy out of the most fundamental homey things - wasn't that nice!

I'm sure Mum and I will have a good trawl around Lakeland. She loves it as much as I do. Then we're hitting Debenhams as it's the best bet for her finding a skirt - she's been hunting for a skirt for ages but, being a dressmaker/home-tailor in earlier decades (not professionally, just for herself), she has high expectations and standards. I hope she finds something, not just for her sake but also, selfishly, for me too. You may remember that at the end of last school year my lovely class gave me a thank you voucher to spend in Debenhams. I haven't been able to find anything in there - I don't want to get anything 'consumable' in any way, so perfume and clothes are out. I want to get something that will last for ages. Years ago I bought a super double steamer with another gift, an M&S voucher, and I still use it regularly. Another one bought a pretty carriage clock that I look at many times each day. Mum said that if she manages to find something in there, I can pay with my voucher and she will give me the cash, which will broaden my choice considerably.

It may sound very silly, but I think what I really want is a hand held sweeper to clean the stair carpet. It may sound weird, but sweeping the stairs with my Dyson is a hassle so it only gets done when absolutely necessary. It's awkward and time consuming and I hate it. I got a small hand held thing, but the suction is weak and it doesn't do the job properly at all. I think if I buy a more powerful one, it will work extremely well and save me shedloads of time - but they cost! It doesn't have to be cordless but it does have to be small-ish and easy to handle. And each time I use it, I will bless the children who gave it to me!

This afternoon Dad and I are hitting the garden. Remember the bush with delusions of grandeur? The bush that thinks that it's a tree? Well, this afternoon it's getting its come-uppance. Dad's brought along his tools and I will manhandle the brown bin!! I will tell it firmly that if it doesn't like it and behaves badly next year, it can and will be replaced! That should do it, don't you think? :0)

And right now I am going to print out next week's planning and make sure I have all the resources needed.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Saturday evening

I made some absolutely scrum-diddly-umptious cookies today, from the book I bought last week, Baking Magic. They're called Oo-oo biscuits because, and I quote:
'. . . people say 'oo' when they see them and 'ooooooo' when they taste them. And calling them 'cinnamon-nut-crispy-biscuits seemed too dull'.
They are simply gorgeous, dangerously calorific (they ought to be called 'look and gain a pound instantly biscuits') and I have already had more than is good for me. Well, someone had to nibble the rough ends! This link takes you to a blog with a photo of them. Mine don't look nearly so nice - but they will, I will practise. I intend to bake them as Christmas pressies, you see.

Going to Sainsbury's is dangerous. Last week I bought Baking Magic, this week I bought Nigella's new book, Kitchen. It looks fantastic and I'm looking forward to snuggling down in bed with it in a little while. I wonder what it will be next week!

Another thing I cooked today was a chicken casserole which simmered all day in the slow cooker. I used thighs instead of breast fillets: it may not look so pretty but thigh meat is so much more flavoursome. Some is for lunch tomorrow and some is for the freezer.

And finally, I had some roasted potato, sweet potato and parsnip left over from Thursday evening. I chopped it all up, put it in a saucepan with some water and some chicken stock powder and simmered it away for a while, then zizzed. The result was a thick, yummy soup that filled a few corners and I have promised myself I will make it again at some point. So simple and so satisfying.

It's been a good day! I hope yours has too.

Saturday morning

Today is a time out day. Mum and Dad are going home, just for the day, to deal with mail and pick the runner beans which are coming thick and fast at the moment. I'm kind of hoping they will bring some back for me, for the freezer! Fingers crossed! :0) I think they are also being very sensitive and caring and realise that I need a bit of space to myself, to get the weekend chores done in a timely way, and I'm not likely to do them completely with guests around. They are such lovely people!

It'll be a lovely busy day though. Shopping first, rather than early evening, as I will be starting dinner at that time. Then back here to sort out the food for the next few days, including the chicken casserole for tomorrow dinner and some cakey stuff for tea. Washing and ironing, of course, goes without saying. And, hopefully, a little bit of sitting around doing not very much at all would be rather nice.

The chicken casserole will just be a 'bung it all in the slow cooker' type. Chicken thighs as well as a couple of fillets (because of the gorgeous flavour), various vegetables including whole chestnut mushrooms and shallots, white wine, stock . . . oh, you know the sort of thing. If I can get it done today, it will just need gentle re-heating tomorrow. Also, I can make more than we will need so that'll be a couple of extra dinners for later on.

Talking of extra dinners, the Chinese take-away was scrummy and - yes, you've guessed it - enough leftovers to make two more meals!! So that's all in plastic pots now, waiting for me to make the trip to the shed!

I'd better get moving. There's a shopping list to finish and a hot bath to run! Should be a good day!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Friday evening.

It's the weekend again. Wonderful! Time to rest and relax. Time to do what I want to do. Best of all, time to switch off the alarm BEFORE it goes off!!! Like about 8 or 9 hours before, in fact! Bliss.

I got a lot done today, including the chance to get to know one of my Bright Little Buttons a bit better. I heard BLB rather noisily through the curtain while I was trimming some laminated phonic resources, so I called him through to Talk About It!
Me: Oh, dear!
BLB: (looking sheepish)
Me: Why do you think I want to talk to you, BLB.
BLB: Because I was writing silly words in my senses book.
Me: (pausing for a moment and thinking fast) Go and get your work and let's have a look.

So he did, and I did, and yes, he had, so we started again and my goodness, he's one bright little button who will do better for being extended, I think. He'll need to learn not to give stuff away though!!

Another little story I have just heard about and have permission to reproduce. Kind and Loving Little Girl was writing rhyming couplets in literacy this morning and, by the sound of it, doing rather well. However, this evening her mum heard her sobbing in her room and asked what was wrong. Turns out KLLG was somewhat distracted by what her friend was writing and wrote 'This is the hen who went for a jog' (instead of this is the dog) and had just realised that it DIDN'T RHYME!! Disaster. Bless her . . . I just wish all my students were as conscientious and responsible as she!

And the Chinese take away this evening was so nice I am falling asleep over the keyboard. Sleep tight, one and all!

Friday morning

Another SEN day comes round. After yesterday's disrupted and frustrating day I am selfishly glad to have a day out of class and I very much hope I can get on with some phonic assessments today. I intended to make great inroads into it all last week but didn't manage to get very far, what with one thing and another.

I believe Mum and Dad will be staying here in Chelmsford today, rather than gadding further afield. Coffee with DD is on the cards, followed by a trip to her allotment to admire and advise as both my parents are very keen gardeners. This family trait seems to have skipped a generation as far as I am concerned - George is my mainstay in this area, bless him - but both of my 'children' have the gardening bug too. Me? I was glad to be able to afford to patio over the mess several years ago and have my pots and three raised beds. So much easier to manage, especially when one has a George!!

I felt very guilty last night. Remember I talked about tidying my kitchen and putting away some appliances that really weren't being used, one of which being the toaster? Well, Mum asked if the toaster had broken because they couldn't find it and didn't know which of the many knobs on my range controlled the grill. They ended up having bread and butter instead of toast for breakfast. Ooops! So it's now out, cluttering up the working surface again, as is the coffee maker!

Better go and empty the dishwasher. I would normally leave it until the evening, not being in all day, but I ought not to while I have visitors!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

This morning I wrote:
Just a normal day . . . Hopefully it will all go well.

(hollow laugh)

I got to school to find that it was individual photograph day. That means each child in the school has their photo taken by a professional company in the hopes that the parents (and relations) will buy some for Christmas pressies.

It also meant a thoroughly disrupted morning.

First of all, Year 6 . As they were working through the system, those with younger siblings were sent to get them for a family photo. So some of mine got collected, not all at the same time but in dribs and drabs.
Then Year 5. Same thing happens.
Then Year 4 . . . and so on, all the way down the school.
Every time I got started with any teaching, along came an older child in search of little Johnny or Annie . . . and the whole lesson paused while it was dealt with.

Year 1 wasn't 'done' until the end, because L (other Y1 teacher) was being observed earlier. So no outdoor games as no-one wants a photo of their little dear in a white T shirt and shorts when they were sent to school spick and span in uniform. As everything was running late and it all happens in the hall, as does dinners, Year 1 had their photos taken under the slightly jaundiced gaze of the MDAs who were, justifiably, more than a little put out to find the dinners ready but the hall full of cameras, equipment and 58 five year olds!

And then it rained. Well, actually, it poured. The children started getting worries about afternoon play. They were reassured that if it was only drizzling they could go out. It looked as if it was clearing up. Happy faces all round. But then, with just a few minutes to go, the heavens opened. They were Not Pleased!

So all in all, a bit of a day. Maybe tomorrow will be better!

Thursday morning

I find myself with not a lot to say this morning. Just a normal day with the added bonus of having my lovely parents here. Hopefully it will all go well, smoothly and without accident or disaster!

Have a good 'un, one and all.

Photos: Another couple from yesterday morning. And when I cleared the mass from the mirror, it all disintegrated into nothingness. How easily and thoughtlessly is beauty mangled!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Wednesday evening

Mum and Dad are here, settled in front of the telly after dinner at the Flyer. Yes, I did stick to the chicken tikka salad and very nice it was too. I had rather a large diet coke though, so will be running to the loo several times overnight to get rid of all that liquid!

The 'environmental walk' in staff meeting wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be and I picked up some useful ideas on the way, which is what it's all about. We also had 'golden moments' which sounds, and is, very twee, but gave us a few giggles. The idea is that you mention one thing that has really been good in your class over the last week. Everyone played ball with it, which helps, and there were some nice things said. It was nowhere near as bad as it could have been.

Thursday is one of only two days when I have my class all the time. It's also the day when we have outdoor PE/games. Unfortunately, I gather it's most likely to rain ! Fingers crossed that it doesn't!

Lunchtime extra

I don't normally post at this time from school, but I was so pleased with the way a photo turned out that I wanted to share . . . just a point and click on a misty early morning.

Wednesday morning

I woke this morning expecting to feel very achey all over after the dancercise but, to my surprise and pleasure, I didn't feel anything of the kind. Yes, there were a few twinges, but nothing out of the way at all. Proof that the Wii Fit Plus exercises may seem fairly low key but they're doing quite a good job. All most encouraging!

Today Mum and Dad arrive for a holiday from my home. They did the same last year and it worked very well. It's a shame I can't be with them, but I doubt the head would be too pleased if I asked for time off for such a reason. The only down side is that the healthy eating each evening will probably take a bit of a nose dive - no, I don't mean the healthy eating, I mean the calories. I'll try and keep it healthy most of the time.

Today, at school, it's a pretty easy day (I hope that's not famous last words). It's family assembly, ICT suite after play, library and PPA in the afternoon! Good stuff!! And then the environmental walk (around the school, not a stroll in Melbourne woods or anything like that) in staff meeting. Finally, out to the Flyer where they do a chicken salad with low cal dressing. Yum!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Tuesday evening

. . . and I'm feeling extremely stretched after my first dancercise class. I managed to stagger my way around most of it without too many mistakes. I was glad I'd had a little practise through the week and also that I've been doing Wii Fit Plus - without the latter I'd never have managed it! My goodness, I was hot by the end though. I'm going to go up for a warm bath soon (most unusual for me to have an evening bath) and then go to bed. No need for Wii after all that, no need at all! What is good is that I thought my foot and ankles would be painful, but they weren't, not really. I felt them once or twice, but it never got beyond that. Seems like they are getting stronger. Good!

My performance management went well today, with targets set that are both helpful and manageable. That's all over for a while now - as I said this morning, first in, first out. Phew! Now I have to 'do' my team. It's always easier to do others after you've been done yourself.

L was off on an NQT course today - I gather it was on 'safety in PE'. I hope it was helpful and that she can tell me stuff, PE never having been my strongest point! Although I suspect I go the other way and play it too safe! I'm sure she will say.

Tuesday morning

PPA and coordinator time today. It does seem to come round quickly. L (other Y1 teacher) is out on a course so I have two hours of time to myself. As the planning is pretty well done, one way and another, it means I have two hours (one and half if you take out infant singing) in which to get my classroom environment up to scratch and ready for the 'walk around' (can't remember its proper name) tomorrow in staff meeting. The idea is we go to each bay and note good things about the environment. It can give one new ideas, perhaps. As with all these things, it's often a bit forced and a bit false but . . .

My coordinator time this morning will be mainly taken up with my performance management meeting, an annual necessary 'evil'. Mine is the first of this year's cycle and I will be glad to get it done and dusted! First in, first out!

And then this afternoon is split pin puppets! It's at times like this I am very. very glad to have some help in class. Body shapes on card for my littlies to colour in, cut out and fit together with split pins so some of the the joints move. Attach a stick on the back and hey presto, a little dancing man! Yay! Lovely. And this year I haven't palmed it off onto a supply cover either. Oh, the fun!

Photos: Snaps from the garden. You know it's autumn when the cyclamen emerges, and the cosmos is still doing well too. Amazing how lush and green everything still is after all the August rain.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Monday evening

It's been a pretty good day one way and another. The littlies are playing ball with Operation Indoor Voice and the weather was super for playground duty (morning and afternoon). My main worry now is that the house is a tip and my parents are coming here for a little holiday. I suspect they will have to wear their 'she's our darling daughter' blinkers just this once. I usually manage to get things sorted but this time - I doubt it. So why am I blogging instead of housework? Because I'm totally worn out and will be off to bed shortly. I'll pull the housework finger out tomorrow morning.

I'm slowly working up to having my hair cut a lot shorter again and, to get some ideas, I've been looking online. However did we manage before the Internet? I've now got a fairly clear idea of what I want and some pictures to show the hairdresser - when I get round to arranging it! Hopefully that will be this side of Christmas!

Monday morning

I had a big sort out yesterday! For months and months I have been squirreling away all the foody magazines that I am such a sucker for and buy in such quantity. The pile was getting ridiculous so I took some time out to flick through each one and snip out all the recipes I want to keep, using a wonderful little gadget I bought from Lakeland quite a while ago, for just that purpose. It was quite an eyeopener to realise which magazines have the more useful (to me) recipes and which don't really. One magazine, which I love and enjoy reading very much, had hardly anything I wanted to keep, whereas another found me snipping something from nearly every page at one point.
Now I have a pile of cuttings which take up a lot less room that the magazines. They now just need sorting and filing away in my recipe file. The recycling bag is, of course, now considerably heavier!

There are times when I think I would love to be a cook somewhere, perhaps in my own little eating house, where I could cook 'family fare' with my own twist. Nothing fancy and changing from day to day. That way I might get to try some of those many yummy looking recipes that I have kept.
Maybe, when I win the lottery . . .

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Sunday morning

I've managed to sleep a whole eight hours with just a few interruptions for trips down the landing! After Friday evenings little ooops, I made sure I drank a lot of water yesterday through the day and, of course, what goes in must come out again!

Today I will be sorting things out prior to my parents arriving on Wednesday. We're starting up a little tradition, I think - last year they came for a week for a holiday from my home and this year they're doing the same thing. As Dad said, no longer do they enjoy the long journeys to stay in places afar off as much as they used to and, if either of them is taken ill, they can get home quickly and without too much trouble. I love having them round: they're two of my best friends!
I'm lucky, I know.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Saturday evening

It truly has been a busy day! Apart from the usual chores, when I went shopping in Asda, they had mince reduced - good, lean mince, I mean. I got two packs and set to making a savoury mince which has just come out of the oven and smells and tastes delicious. Some will be for a savoury crumble on Thursday evening and the rest will be frozen in single portions as usual. Just as I make room in the freezer, it gets filled again!

I had a go at making lower calorie cupcakes. Note, I said lowER, not low. I weighed an egg (in its shell), then used the equivalent weight of SR flour, You'd Butter Believe it Light (Asda's version of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter - and who thinks of these names anyway?) and Half Spoon Sugar. I only made the one egg version because I really wasn't sure and didn't want to waste any more good food than I could help but, you know, they rose well, smelled good and tasted pretty good too. Those ingredients made six cakes - one has been eaten, the others have been iced and will do for tea tomorrow! 160 calories each (without the icing)

I also had a go at making some mushroom pate. It looks - well, mushroomy, but I haven't tasted it yet. It's also for tea tomorrow.

I'm feeling tired now after all that culinary exercise, so I shall curl up on the sofa with either the reading records to sort out the reading groups, or a book I got called Baking Magic.

Which will I choose? Guess! :0)

Saturday morning

. . . and I have a list of things to do as long as my arm and beyond!

There's the usual shopping to be done, I need to get something suitable to wear for the dancercise class on Tuesday, which isn't going to be easy for someone my size, there's the oat thins to make, I want to try out Liz's cake recipe and I need to re-plan my menus from Wednesday onward because when I did them I forgot Mum and Dad were coming to stay, silly me. Oh, and I have to get the house in some sort of order too! Fun, fun fun!!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Friday evening

When I got up this morning it was very cold. I turned on the heating and - well, it stayed cold. OK! I went up and ran the bath, which should have been nice and hot after I remembered to turn the immersion off yesterday because the boiler trouble had been mended. Cold water. Oh, no!! I dearly love my piping hot bath each morning. Before I phoned Matt (again) I reset the controls to continuous hot water. When I got in this evening I ran the water for two minutes- cold, cold, all cold. Oh, drat and drabbit (or words to that effect, probably less polite)!

So, one phone call to Matt later, round he came to sort it out. He said (and I totally believe him) that he left it all working on Tuesday. He looked, opened up stuff, and got it working again - something to do with condensation creating a short circuit somewhere or other. Now the house is warming up nicely and I am looking forward to my first piping hot bath of the week tomorrow morning. Bliss.

It made me think - we are so lucky around here, having Matt. Matt Hickey. If you live round here, take note of the name. He's gradually built up for himself an outstanding reputation. He is first port of call for our school and for many, many households in this area. He is not cheap, but he's reliable and skilled, which is why I trust him. I first met him at consultation evening when his daughter was in my year 1 class. Since then he has done a great job on several occasions and that's why I can recommend him. And he's more than likely to still be in business when I am old and grey and doddery (well, even more than now) and I will continue to use him as long as I can afford him.

And now it's the weekend. Wonderful!!

Friday morning

And so the SEN day comes round again. I'm rapidly getting used to the idea of PPA on Tuesdays and SEN on Fridays rather than the other way round, as last year. The main disadvantage is that our Educational Psychologist doesn't work on Fridays so getting head to head with her is going to be pretty difficult. Also, going to cluster meetings is likely not to happen - we used to host them at Newlands Spring on Tuesday afternoons but now Sheila and I are not available on Tuesdays and the room we used is being used for music lessons while the School House is developed and extended.

But it's Friday again. The planning is done. The weekend beckons!! And on the wonderful Delicious Days site there is a recipe for prosecco jelly with raspberries and passionfruit which I rather fancy making, if I find ripe passionfruit in the shops. It looks gorgeous and would make an ideal addition to those Christmas hampers!

Yesterday, after school, I went round to Liz's for a cuppa and a natter. If you remember, Liz was the other year 1 teacher until her retirement at the end of last term. She had made some cupcakes (I had just one but could have eaten more!) using I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Light and Half Spoon sugar with the SR flour and eggs. She, like me, uses an all in one technique and they were delicious. Another thing to try this weekend - just a one egg version to see how it goes and to 'calorise' using Weight Loss Resources. I did a rough calculation and it looks as if I could use them for the occasional snack.

Sweffling - I've posted Annabeth's hummus recipe on Virtual Slimming for you to read and save, if you want. I hope you find it!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Oh, dear!!

Is it old age creeping on or should I start getting worried.

This morning, being a good recycler nowadays, I checked the rota and put outside the bag with plastics and the paper sack before trotting off to school. When I came home this evening, I was dismayed to see them still sitting where I'd dumped them. Funny, thought I, they've taken everyone else's, have I got the wrong week? When inside, checked the rota on the fridge door but no - it was the right week. Had I offended the collectors? Has I put the bags a couple of mms off the prescribed spot? It was several minutes before I realised that it was recycling collection day YESTERDAY, Wednesday, not today. Ooops

So I had dinner and then set to making more copies of the Barnado's backing track, mentioned in a blog earlier. They had been well received but there weren't quite enough of them for all the children to have one. I put in the master CD as requested and then, when that had finished, I put in the first blank CD and told the program to make a copy. Waited for what seemed for ever (probably about 20 seconds which *is* for ever where computers are concerned) and the message came up asking me to put a CD in. I had!!! So I took that out and put another one in instead. Same problem. It was then that I realised I hadn't put in recordable CDs, I'd put in re-recordable DVDs. I'd grabbed some spares from the cupboard at school and didn't look carefully enough. Ooops again.

Off I went to Morrison's to get some - they do them pretty cheaply, thank goodness, and I can put the bill into the office at school. While I was self-checking out, I remembered that I needed some money to give to Lou for the lottery syndicate. So I asked the machine for £20, packed my bits of shopping and walked out only to be chased by an extremely tall and good looking young man clutching my £20 note! I'd left it in the machine! Eeeeek.

When I got home I decided I needed a coffee to help me recover. I carefully got down two mugs, spooned coffee into each mug and then thought 'Why?????'. Why two, when there's just me?

So - are the brain cells dying a little too fast, am I going doolally or am I just extremely tired?
I think I'll go with the last.

Well, wouldn't you?

Thursday morning

Goodness, it does feel cold this morning. On went the heating just as soon as I got downstairs. Even wearing a dressing gown I felt chilly and that's unusual. I went out to the freezer (kept in the shed) to get today's foods out and brrrrrrr . . .
Where's our Indian summer, that's what I want to know! It feels way too cold for September: a frost would kill off much of my my still merrily flowering garden and that would be sad. However, it should warm up later on, so by the time it's outdoor PE, it'll be comfortable, I hope.

Someone on Virtual Slimming (thanks, Katy!) posted a recipe for mushroom pate which is basically mushrooms, onion, garlic and butter, with seasonings. It looks very easy and DD loves mushroom pate, so I might have a go at it on Saturday for Sunday tea. She says it lasts for three days - I'm hoping it will freeze (or maybe DD will take any leftovers home with her). I'll let you know!

I'm slowly working my way through the frozen single portions in the freezer but there's not really enough room for the results of any batch cooking yet. There are some lovely recipes in the foody magazines at the moment - one-pots in particular - which look simple, tasty, balanced and reasonably healthy. I'm itching to try some of them but while I have food a-plenty in the freezer there's no point. Roll on, half term: by then there will be space and time too. And in the meanwhile my pile of 'recipes to try' grows ever taller!

One-pots. They used to be called casseroles or stews or hotpots but 'one-pot' is so much more descriptive, isn't it? I have these two lovely pots with small side handles which are just right for one-pot recipes (and the larger one is perfect for jams and chutneys too) and which work just as well in the oven or on the hob. They were very very cheap from Matalans and I got them thinking 'they won't last long but, at this price, it doesn't really matter'. After several years of considerable use they're still as good as new. The smaller one also doubles as a steamer and I use that an awful lot. Potatoes or carrots in the bottom, leafy veg in the steamer. Perfect!

I'm umming and ahing about going back to that market stall on the high street to get the week's fruit and veg. I'm just not sure whether it will be cheaper all round, once I have taken the cost of parking into account. I think I might give it a whirl and see how much I end up chuckling out because it's manky. That used to be my experience of market stalls - very cheap but not necessarily any better value because of the waste. Maybe things have improved since then though! We will see.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Wednesday morning

Isn't it funny how you can go for days and days - weeks, sometimes - eating healthily and doing your daily dozen, whatever form that may take, and the weight refuses to drop and maybe even increases a little. Then, suddenly, it takes a clear nosedive. It's nice to see the numbers going down and using Peeves (the Wii balance board) as scales is great because, even when there's no stated weight loss (it measures in whole pounds), the BMI might have dropped a little bit and it registers that in o.o1 increments.
So when even that stays the same for days in a row (or even goes up a bit), it can be frustrating, especially when you know that you've been doing the right thing 95% of the time (well, nobody is perfect, are they, not even me?).

So today, when there was that sudden drop, I could have booted Peeves out of the window when he told me it was too much. Sorry, Peeves, but it isn't, it's just about right looking at the longer term, even if it is a bit up and down from day to day, and it's extremely encouraging and motivating. I think it's perfectly normal and a very good reason why one must not take daily fluctuations too much to heart, either way - up or down. It's the longer term results that really count.
When one is looking at another year of steady, gradual, sensible weight loss and a whole change of lifestyle, what happens from day to day really is nothing. So Peeves can just shut up and put up! I'm sure there will be times when he'll be fussing because the weight goes up a bit.
In this country 2 lbs loss per week, which roughly translates into a stone every two months, is considered a good and healthy rate. That's what I'm aiming for and that's what I am generally achieving at the moment. However, when I reset my target as that (eight pounds in a month) , Peeves said that three pounds every fortnight was the best weight loss to aim for. Is this a difference in thinking between cultures, I wonder. I'm sure that when I get closer to a healthy weight, if I lose three pounds a fortnight I will be delighted but, right now, with the ultimate target nearly a year away, two pounds a week sounds a pretty healthy aim and Peeves will just have to put up with it!

End of rant! Have a great day, everyone!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Tuesday evening

It's been a lovely day. Children well behaved and quiet (yay) - mostly (well, they are only five)and enjoyed the planned activities. Planning all done for next week (double yay). Display created and ready to put up (another yay). Eating plan for today changed but far from a disaster (phew)!

On Tuesdays, at 4:3o, just for school staff (we have to pay, it's not free), there's a dancercise class. I've never been before but what with wanting to lose the weight, get a bit fitter and so on, I went to watch and the outcome is that I've committed to going next week. Eeeeeek! It's going to be hard, what with my dodgy ankles and knee, but - we, we will see, won't we! I will just have to take it at my pace and do what I can do without worrying about the rest. It's got to help and as I said to the leader, it can only get better!

And it's now half past seven and just about dark, lashing with rain and very windy - at least it was last time I looked out. I'm so glad I have got my heating back. Thanks Matt! It's going to be an early night tonight, even earlier than usual. I'm so tired and can hardly keep my eyes open.

Tuesday morning

. . . and I'm wishing my life away: I just typed 'Wednesday' in the title box. Doh

PPA day today; for the first two hours L and I will be putting together the planning for next week, getting our 'Meet the teacher' information ready and generally sorting stuff out. It's such a helpful time that it's easy to forget what it was like before PPA when meeting with your coworker was a matter for juggling with time after school, or mailbox communications at the weekend. For those readers who don't know, PPA is short for Planning, Preparation and Assessment and we are lucky enough be have it with our opposite number so that we can really work together.

Then it's my coordinator hour. A wonderfully useful time which I have once each week when I can work at anything pertaining to my KS1/FS duties. I think that today I will be taking a little look at how the new little children are settling and getting to know them a bit and then I have phonic assessments to continue. I won't get much of the latter done in the remaining time but, as the saying goes, every little helps!

It's an edible day today. Linking our theme with science (the five senses), D&T (preference tasting), maths (handling data), ICT (recording data using appropriate software) and PSHE (healthy and less healthy foods) we are tasting apples and crisps. Not together though. In the morning they are deciding which of three different apples they like the best. I'm afraid the choice of apples was determined by their colour, so we went for braeburn (red), golden delicious (yellow) and granny smith (green) and using a simple little computer programme to create a pictogram.

The crisps activity in the afternoon is similar but with the twist that the flavours won't be named and they have to see if they can also identify the flavours. They will then help to create a pictogram using little pictures of the packets.
Last year it proved to be a very enjoyable activity and so I'm hoping that this year it will also go down well with the children. It will certainly appeal to their tummies!

I took a look online at little boxes for cupcakes. They do seem pretty expensive, although, if you look at what you're getting - a little box with an insert to hold the cake still - maybe it's not that dear really. I could probably disassemble one and use the template to make my own, but I doubt they would look anywhere near as nice and, card costing what it does, I'd save very little. Also, I wrapped C and K's cakes in small poly bags from Lakeland, gathered at the top with a double bow and curly ribbon and they did look pretty: not a terribly protective wrapping though.
I will ponder until next payday!

I think I mentioned in here last week that I came home to find the boiler making the most frightening noise, resulting in a panic call to my lovely, local central heating chap and instructions to turn off the boiler at the fuse and that he would come to sort it out. Today he comes. I'm glad - although it's only September, there have been a few times when I would have appreciated a little bit of heating. Mornings and evenings have been cool and I'm spoilt nowadays! If it had to happen, better now than on a snow day, definitely.
So I must remember to leave the spare key with K on reception, from where he will collect it and deal with whatever the problem is.

OK, must go and do my Wii Fit stuff now. How non-early risers fit everything in, I shall never know . Have a good day.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Monday evening

Quite a pleasant day today although rather disrupted and bitty. First of all, it was supposed to be violins but the teacher didn't turn up. Fortunately, a mum who plays the violins and always comes along to help ,did a bit of revision of notes with them. Then, instead of assembly, it was house meetings to vote in the new house captains. This led straight into playtime so we had to have fruit after play. There was time for just 30 minutes of maths before we had to stop and get the swimming bags sorted for the afternoon, as the first group would need to leave as soon as they came in after lunch. And so it went on. It was surprising how much we did actually manage to do, in fact, given the circumstances.
They were quieter, definitely quieter, until right at the end of the day, when it all rather disintegrated. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt as, to be fair, they did have an awful lot to carry - all their usual stuff plus swimming bags. We'll see how tomorrow goes and if the same thing happens I'll tighten up.
No funny stories yet - I hope they come out with a few gems soon. It does so liven up my day!
And finally, those cupcakes went down a storm with C and K, which was most pleasing! They do seem to make most acceptable little gifts so I will have to get some boxes in to display them. I thought Lakeland did them but they don't seem to. Time to go online and search!

Monday morning

And so another week begins, with the challenge to implement Operation Indoor Voice without upsetting the more fragile members of the class. Will they be quieter by the end of the week? We shall see!

I've had a bit of fun wrapping up a couple of cupcakes (the rose topped ones) for K and C at school, 'office' staff without whom the school would rapidly grind to a juddering halt. A few weeks ago K and I had a Facebook chuckle - she said she wanted a cupcake, I said I'd give her one in exchange for her directing the Christmas show! So today she gets her cake with the reminder that rehearsals start after half term!! And I can't give one to K without also giving one to C, who was incredibly helpful last week when I wanted to track down and order some whiteboards. There's not the remotest chance that they read this blog, but thank you both anyway!

It's the first violin lesson of the school year this morning and the first swimming lesson this afternoon. Should be a whole bundle of fun! Where did I put my ear plugs? And the headache pills?

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Sunday evening

. . . and the end of another weekend. It's all gone more or less to play today, except that I had breakfast so late, I didn't want any dinner - so I could eat my cupcake for tea with a clear conscience. Luckily, I hadn't defrosted anything so no food has been wasted.

Photo: OK for a first effort, needs to improve - my verdict on my first attempts! I think the roses have come out OK though.

Sunday morning

Last Saturday, while driving to and back from Sainsbury's, I was struck by how green everything looked: I think I commented in here on it. Yesterday the verges were still emerald as were the hedges, but there were quite a lot of brown leaves on many of the trees and a few were falling - such a change in a week. Autumn really is knocking on the door now with winter chasing closely behind.
As I said in my other blog, yesterday was something of a calorie nightmare. Diane, those parmesan oat thins are just too tempting. Out of sight was definitely not out of mind, unfortunately, and I will have to make another batch today for my lunches for the week. At least these my DD will be able to eat: Sainsbury's 'Italian cheese' in their Basics range is OK for vegetarians. I would never normally buy it, but I'll give it a whirl and see.
I now have four pots of sweet, gooey, greengage jam cooling on the side. I did half of the process yesterday and the rest this morning. I find that if I do up to the cooking of the fruit and the adding of the sugar, then take the pot off the heat and let the sugar to dissolve in the residual warmth, aided by the occasional stir, then allow it to cool and stand overnight, setting point is extremely quick and easy to achieve the next day when I boil it all up. I'm not sure why that is, but it worked for the blackberry and apple jam and again today.
Right beside the greengage jam stand two bottles containing my efforts at making limoncello. Unfortunately, some of the vodka was consumed yesterday evening but there was enough left for the recipe (phew). It seems remarkably easy - boil up some sugar and water to make a syrup and allow to cool, add the zest and juice from six lemons when it is still a little warm and finally add the vodka. Pour into a sterilised bottle (or, in this case, two bottles), put them in a cool, dark place and shake them daily for a week. After a month, strain the contents, discarding the zest and that's it. Ready! This is a trial run and, as we're most likely having another family get together during half term, it can be tested than. If it works, I'll make some more for the Christmas hampers.
Last night, while lazily watching Merlin and then an old Doctor Who Christmas special, I had some fun trying to make roses from royal icing. I used to make something similar from fimo, so it wasn't a totally strange technique, but icing is a lot harder to work than fimo and when I'd made each one and tried to stand it up to dry, it kept falling over. Grrrr. The good thing was that at least disasters could be squidged up and tried again. They've been drying overnight and today I will ice a cupcake or three for tea.
So, what with jam, oat thins, cupcakes, vodka and icing, I went to bed in sugar/carb overloaded mode and am suffering the consequences now - stodgy and slow. However, I need to keep going. I've made the jam, made the limoncello and the kitchen is a tip so that's the next job!
See you later.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Saturday afternoon

Now, as the weather starts getting cooler, the nights lengthen and the first frost can't be that far away, my cosmoses start to flower properly. They're beautiful. I have never noticed before what a starry centre each flower has - absolutely gorgeous.

Town was fun. There were some greengages in the high street market that really did look nice, so I bought some and they are now softened and mixed with sugar ready for a boil up into jam when I feel like it. I counted them into the pot and must count the stones back out again to make sure I have them all. I reckon I should get four or five little pots of sweet yumminess out of the mix.

I also managed to get some icing stuff, including a lovely book and the brain is buzzing with ideas. Just one thing though - why do so many of the things I like to cook/create contain so many calories?

The parmesan oat thins have been made and Diane is right - they are truly scrummy. I'm afraid I ate double the planned amount for lunch, but they're now safely tucked away out of sight and, hopefully, out of temptation's way. Sorry, DD, they're not vegetarian friendly though.

There's one thing for sure - I can't go into town all that often - the finances would never stand the strain!

Saturday morning

. . . and still up bright and early, switched off alarm to the contrary notwithstanding. Never mind, when I flake out later, as I surely will, I can have a little snoo . . er, I mean power nap . . . on the sofa!

It should be another culinarily (and if that's not a real word, it should be) creative day today. Several days ago I mentioned that DD and I were going to work together to create Christmas hampers for people. We've decided who and are in the process of deciding what. One of the things I would like to make is limoncello (I'd call it lemony vodka, but the other sounds posher) but, never having made it before, I need to do a test run - yes I do, it's essential! According to all the recipes I have found online, the whole process only takes two weeks from beginning to end so there's plenty of time to make and taste. As a result, there will be five peeled lemons going spare, so, as I don't want to make lemon curd at the moment, I will freeze the juice and make the curd just before needing it at Christmas.
I've decided I will give all my wonderful parent helpers home made gifts this year and lemon curd, blackberry and apple jam or little bottles of limoncello would be ideal, plus, maybe, some home made biscuits or cookies. It sounds good, doesn't it?

It's into town this morning! I'm hoping to get a book from Lakeland (plus plenty of other stuff as well, I have no doubt), find some vegetarian Parmesan in Holland and Barratt, have a look round Bon Marche and Evans (although I doubt I will find much to buy) and perhaps have another go at spending my Debenham's voucher. I also want to browse round Waterstones - I haven't been in there for months and months.

Then it's home to make some parmesan oat thins (vegetarian friendly, I hope) and other regular stuff, such as a bowl of fruit salad to last me over several days. There's also housework, washing, ironing . . . all the usual weekend chores.
The limoncello will have to wait until I have been to Sainsbury's this evening for the vodka, unwaxed lemons and the general weekly shopping.

Friday, 10 September 2010

The weekend is here!

Friday evening and I'm typing this with half an eye on the Doctor Who prom so please excuse any and all typos.

It's been a good day. I got some SEN stuff done, including assessments and found the Christmas Show which has now been ordered. It is, as I'd hoped, another one from Out of the Ark, it's called 'Christmas with the Aliens' and it looks really good fun. I'm sure I will be going on about it quite a lot in the next two or three months.

Operation Indoor-Voice has begun. Hopefully it won't need to go on for very long . . . fingers crossed.

And I will be turning off the alarm with great glee this evening. I'll still wake early, it won't make any difference, but there's something very enjoyable about turning it off before going to sleep. :0)

Friday morning

Nearly the end of the first full week back. Only 13 more school weeks until Christmas! Eeeeek

Yesterday was definitely a try out day. They were very, very noisy. I'm going to have to Take Action (poor children) because we can't work in that sort of disruption. I'm prepared to believe (for now) that they're not doing it intentionally, but . . .

It's very frustrating that I won't be in class today, so I will have to let my SEN cover, Andrea, know what's been going on and my angle of 'attack'.
Apart from that, they've actually worked quite well this week. It's just the noise levels. Hopefully they will get the message quickly.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Thursday morning

Two more days before the weekend - one, really, seeing as tomorrow I am out of class!

last night, in bed, I was pondering over my new class. Already I can see some patterns of behaviour developing in the way I interact with individuals and the way they interact with each other. Every teacher has their own set of buttons and canny children pick up fairly quickly what they are. Some are adept at pushing the button and then retiring to a safe distance to watch the results with quiet glee! I've always done my best not to fall into that sort of trap, but it can be hard at times and, to be fair, - reading others and knowing what's going to work and what isn't going to work is an essential life skill. Teaching them how to use it responsibly is the challenge at times.

Social communication and social relationship are a big part of life. I am being particularly careful with those in my class who are less adept at functioning within social situations and who will be pretty vulnerable at times, not only to me as their teacher but also to their peers. Building a supportive, kind, caring and considerate classroom community for every child is a challenging thing and an often unrecognised part of teaching - it's only seen and acknowledged when it doesn't happen for some reason. Academic learning is only one part of school life.

So I'm quite pleased with the way it's going, but it's still early days and they are terribly important in setting expectations, boundaries and patterns of behaviour and interaction. Fingers crossed . . .

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Wednesday evening

. . . and after muttering this morning about not having done the planning tweaking on Tuesday evening, I decided to pull my finger out and get it done before I went to school - so I did. Unfortunately, it needed more than just a little tweaking, but at least it's now done and sent to Lara too. It was a bit tight but I was only about ten minutes later arriving at work than I usually am And I've discovered a BIG advantage of PPA earlier in the week.

When I discovered that we were getting our PPA on Tuesday morning, rather than Friday morning, I was a bit dubious. It seemed awfully early; after all, we've hardly started the week and have no idea how the children are going to respond and what they will manage to learn; and I'm used to planning after most of the current week's lessons have been delivered.

However, it did mean that it all carried over to the weekend, both in terms of tweaking to suit our individual timetables and making or finding resources of various kinds. Planning on Tuesday should mean that it's all ready before the weekend and that's great.

It's been an interesting day. The children are getting used to my funny little ways now and are beginning to respond more immediately to my voice. It's always difficult at first - you go from a class that is trained and responds immediately to your voice, even if it's just an 'Er . . .' to a class that is not only a year younger but also isn't sensitised to your voice. I'm pleased that it's happening pretty quickly.

Little Pickle was picklish but, after a bit of a telling off (him and two others), threw his little arms around me and said 'I do love you, Mrs Clark'. Charming his way out of things won't work, but it was still rather sweet.

Wednesday morning

. . . and a much more reasonable waking time, thank goodness, after a really solid night's sleep. Just as well - it's a long day with staff meeting at the end of it.

Yesterday went well. The first PPA with Lara and, at the moment, she is happy to use last year's planning as a basis for this year's, although I am encouraging her to put forward her own ideas and suggestions for activities and I'm sure she will as time goes by. Right now, there's so much to take on board that to have the activities already set out and the resources read must be quite a relief.
After play it was my coordinator's time. Unfortunately, Susannah forgot. Lest year, Tuesdays were SEN time, so she called me in for an SEN update meeting which took all but about five minutes of my coordinator time. That was unfortunate as I have a great long list of things to do and I will have to remember to take an hour back on Friday to compensate.
In the afternoon I was back in class, and very noisy they were too. I think my main thrust over the next few weeks is to train them to use quieter 'indoor' voices. It's ironic that someone with hearing difficulties should be complaining about the noise, isn't it?
And then after school I had a meeting with a colleague followed by some levelling of writing with Lara. It's never a very arduous activity at this stage and, given that some had barely produced enough to provide evidence, we whizzed through it pretty quickly with a smattering of level 1c and the rest still Ws.
Yesterday evening I really should have tweaked the planning for next week and sent it over, but I was just too tired. I did enjoy dinner though. Those meatballs I made over the summer from the left over burgers are really delicious and the fruit salad and yogurt was just scrummy. Whole milk with added milk powder has produced a very thick, creamy textured result and I am going to try making almost the same yogurt again but with semi skimmed milk this time. It'll be interesting to see just what the difference is (if any)
After the weekend's fun with cupcakes, I want to learn more about making and decorating (cake, not walls) and I think I have found a helpful book in Lakeland. This is the one I am talking about and I can go in and look at it before deciding to buy, which is always helpful. Guess where I'm going on Saturday morning! Better warn the bank .

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Tuesday morning

Early to bed, early to rise
Makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise
If only! Just before three does not look good, I can tell you. I'm all for early mornings but that's plain ridiculous. And it doesn't work - I'm not healthy (yet), wealthy (lead me to it) or wise! Maybe I'm just the wrong gender for all those positive side effects!
So it's perhaps just as well that I'm not teaching my class until after lunch. Before morning play is PPA and after play is my coordinator time which has increased from an hour a fortnight last year to an hour a week this. A good thing too - I already have an impressively long list of Things To Do, not the least of which is looking at possible Christmas shows. They have to be long enough and simple enough and that's not so easy to find - many of that ilk are aimed at 6 - 9 year olds and the melodies and ideas tend to be out of the reach of our youngest children. And they have an awful lot of words to learn too! My first port of call will be to Out of the Ark; I'm pretty sure I will find something suitable there.

Our PPA time used to be Fridays. That was a good time; by then we knew how the week had gone and what needed more time. We could create a week's planning that truly reflected their immediately prior learning.
Unfortunately, it was not a good time from the perspective of financial management. INSETs tend to be Fridays. Last year there were several INSETs on Fridays and, combined with snow days and other stuff, KS1 and FS staff missed out on quite a lot of PPA. When PPA is missed for some reasons, it's supposed to be made up another time and that's what we asked for. That's expensive - our cover teachers are under contract and so are paid whether or not school is open. Combined with the pretty heavy financial claim caused by volcanos and staff being stranded abroad, out supply bill was a bit of a disaster. So this year, PPA cover days are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week rather than Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
I don't know how Tuesday planning will pan out in reality. I reckon we'll get a plan written that will then need to be re-written over the weekend, but maybe that's just my cynical side speaking. We will see . . .

Monday, 6 September 2010

Monday evening

. . . and I'm worn out after unaided writing, making a model with more than 10 cubes but less than 20 cubes and discussing class rules and making Helping Hands in the afternoon, not to mention playground duty twice today. Oh, the hardships one can endure and still survive, eh? What was particularly nice about today was loads of last year's class running up for a hug and chat . . . they're still a lovely bunch and I think Sarah is very happy with them.

I goofed this morning. I read on the noticeboard that there was going to be house meeting at 10:15 to elect the new house captains. OK, though I, that means no assembly at 10:00. So we were all busy working at our unaided writing - well they were, anyway - when along comes one of the FS teachers to find out why my class hasn't turned up for assembly. It seems that the elections are NEXT Monday, not today. I swear when I looked at the notice on Friday, there was no date, it just said Monday!
Ho hum, good start!

I am thrilled with the way my little autistic child has settled in, sitting right in the middle of the group and coping brilliantly without need for support from the designated LSA. Long may it continue! And Little Pickle has also managed to get through a long day without any major hiccups. They all looked very tired as I waved them out of the bay to their parents/minders/etc. It's easy to forget how tiring a full day at school can be after a summer break and too easy to take all that learning for granted. If I'm worn out, goodness know how they must feel.

So it's off to bed and, probably, straight to sleep. Sleep well!

Monday morning

. . . and the start of the first full school week of the year and still an exploration of new territory for both me and my class. This morning's little treat is 'unaided' writing. Not totally 'unaided' of course, because it is expected that a five year old will need and receive help in this sort of activity and at this stage of the school year, but they will all have to sit and write which may - WILL - come as a shock to some!
Gone are the bad old days, thank goodness, when a child's writing ability was assessed purely and simply on how they did in this 'unaided writing' activity. Well, I say 'gone' but, in fact, they aren't, not entirely. The SATs for year 6 still mean that, as they leave year 6 and move on to secondary phase, their writing level is based on how they do in that test, but for the rest of us it's a lot fairer now. We use the APP materials for writing and can build up a much more complete picture of overall performance.

As I was making the birthday balloons, I was struck by how very young my class is this year. There are only four children who have birthdays this term, none this month at all, and just about a third of them (9/29) have their birthday in April (10/30, if you include me). Given that even a few months can make a big difference in terms of maturity and also in other ways, it's bound to have some impact on their overall 'performance'.

So, it's off to work in a couple of hours, laden with assessment sheets and activities. I hope it's a good day!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Sunday evening

It's been a most productive day, what with cupcakes, oat thins, soup, an hour of Wii exercise, etc. I had a lot of fun trying to ice the cakes, not terribly efficiently: I've decided I need a book about how to make icing roses, how to ice cakes, etc.

Now it's the end of the weekend and the first full week of school is nearly upon me. Should be fun, fun, fun!

Photo: you see what I mean? Still, I'm sure it will taste OK.

Recipe: Joy's oat thins: for Diane and anyone else who is interested.

110g oat bran (NOT oatmeal)
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g wholewheat plain flour
Sea salt and a grating of black pepper - to taste. I like quite a lot
20g (1 tbsp) melted butter – I used anchor spreadable and it was fine
hot water about 2.5 fl oz
Extra flour for rolling

Heat the oven to 180 C., less for a fan oven
Mix the oat bran, flour, bicarbonate of soda, pepper and salt together in a bowl.
Add the melted fat and the hot water.
Stir well until it makes a soft paste, then knead gently.
Sprinkle some flour on a board. Form the dough into a round and roll it out as thinly as possible, adding flour to the surface as necessary, to prevent sticking. I do it a little at a time in order to get it really thin. They can be made thicker, it's just that I prefer them thin.
Cut out the dough using cookie cutters – I cut into circles - and place on a non stick sheet. I use those Teflon sheets, placed on a baking tray. I then prick each round two or three times with a fork.
This is a very forgiving dough and needs to be warm to handle properly, so if, when you re-roll the scraps, it's gone cold, just blitz it in the microwave for a few seconds until it's warm and pliable again. This way there's absolutely no waste at all.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let the oatcakes brown; they should be a pale fawn colour. Cool on a wire rack and store in an air tight container. They're eaten long before they get the chance to go stale, but I can safely say they last a week, at the very least.

Now I need to experiment with different flavourings. Some added Parmesan, maybe, nutmeg, mixed herbs, smoked paprika, garlic . . . they're all ideas I want to try at some point.

Sunday morning

Another fine, chilly morning, with quite a lot of thin, high cloud that may or may not do something later. Everything smells fresh and clean and I've opened the french windows to get the freshness into the house. Slightly irresponsible, I know, as it's none too warm, but it's lovely! I'm so glad I am an early riser - it's so quiet and peaceful and renewed.

Cooking day today. First of all, we're having a KS1/FS staff meeting tomorrow after school tomorrow and the tradition is to lighten the load with something sweet and delicious. Hence the cupcakes (which will certainly be sweet anyway!). And can't you buy some wonderful cake cases nowadays! I have some spotty ones and some gingham ones and they do make what are basically just ordinary, common-or-garden iced buns look pretty special. The recipe, of course, is easy - everything at room temperature before you start, weigh the eggs in their shells and that tells how how much fat, sugar and SR flour you will need. I start mixing the eggs , sugar and softened butter or other fat, then briefly fold in the sifted flour before giving the whole lot a jolly good beating with the electric whisk. It's basically an all in one but I find this way it doesn't splatter the flour over the side of the bowl so much. I'm not so competent that I don't weigh everything carefully though. DD is a 'bung it all in and see' baker and her cakes are almost invariably absolutely delicious! I don't know how she does it!

I didn't get the oat thins done yesterday so they're on the list too. I don't need them today but they have been planned into this weeks menu. I'll post the recipe as a separate post rather than in here as it makes it easier to find.

And then I need some more fruit salad. I like to have a bowl of this wonderful stuff in the fridge and used the last up yesterday. It's surprising how well it keeps and if it's really too soft at the end of the week, I zizz it up with yogurt and either eat it like that or put it into the ice cream maker. Sadly, soft summer fruit is getting more expensive again, but I will be able to use apple, orange, pear, grapes, blueberries, plums and some raspberries, cherries and mango from the freezer. I don't put banana into fruit salad except just before eating, as it does go off.

And finally, definitely NOT something to eat. I want to make some play dough for school next week so when I went shopping yesterday I bought some value flour and four different food colourings - red, yellow, green and blue. It's not absolutely necessary to colour the dough, but it does make it a lot more attractive. I think this time I will make use and use again dough rather than the dough that you can bake and varnish. Since I discovered this recipe, decades ago, I have never bought another pot of Play-doh, which is sinfully expensive and no better.

Recipe for play dough
2 cups of plain flour
1 cup of salt
2 cups of cold water
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
Optional: food colouring. You can also add glitter - nice just before Christmas!
Another optional: if you add some cinnamon, it smells good and makes the little hands of those who play with it smell good too!
You basically bung everything into a large pan, place it over a low-ish heat and start stirring. At some point it all just 'comes together' into a stretchy mass that can't be stirred any more. Tip it out onto a work surface and, as soon as it it comfortable to handle (it will be very hot at first) kneed it for a few minutes until it feels smooth, soft and pliable.
Store in an airtight container (I just use a poly bag and a baggie) in the fridge. Kept that way it will last a couple of weeks, maybe longer.

So, that's the morning timetabled out. The only problem is what order to do them in! Oh, and clearing up afterwards. :0)

And finally - I do love my yogurt maker. I'm still using whole milk but this time I added some dried skimmed milk powder and it came out wonderfully thick, just like soft whipped double cream in texture. So next time I will do the same but with semi-skimmed and see what the difference is.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Saturday morning

The weekend, alarm switched off, so, of course, I'm awake before four. No problem, I can get going good and early and take time out this afternoon.

The yogurt will be done in a couple of hours. I tried to make it a bit thicker this time, by adding some dried milk, as the booklet advised. We will see . . .
Also, I need to make some more oat thins. It looks as if this will be a regular weekly thing for a while. I love the taste of them and they make a great crunchy nibble too. Some people swear by the smooth, rich, creamy, sweet taste and texture of chocolate. Not for me. Savoury and crunchy is what ticks the box for me, which is why, when I go overboard, it tends to be crisps and associated stuff. These oat thins are not exactly the same, but they are a good substitute at the moment. The recipe was an accident, but a happy one!

I got an email from DD last night, suggesting that, as she has bought some really lovely rush baskets from Lakeland, we combine our creativity and fill them with home made goodies for Christmas pressies. What a great idea! So I will have to experiment with herbs in my oat thins! We break up comparatively early for Christmas this year, so I will have enough time for some last minute baking. And I can have all the fun of searching around for ideas too. Any suggestions?

Friday, 3 September 2010

Friday evening

One day back with the children and I'm exhausted, really worn out. I'm glad it's the weekend now.

First impressions on new class - nice. There's a few to 'watch', but generally I really like them. The one I had most concerns about was absolutely brilliant, fine, no problems and the LSA attached was left at a bit of a loose end at times. So that was good.

And now it's the weekend. I was so proud of myself. I could easily have murdered several glasses of wine and a meat feast pizza this evening but I didn't. I changed the food plan to have home made wedges instead and, mmmmmmm, they were delicious. Just what my soul was crying out for, a rainfall in a desert plain, pure Friday evening satisfaction!

There's nothing terribly exciting to report really. It was just a first day - rather bitty and working on classroom routines and structures. Two cried, but it was token tears really. There were FIVE adults in the bay to pounce on any sniffles so they didn't really stand much of a chance to get going, poor kids.
Let me introduce them all because you'll probably be hearing much more about them.
Me, of course (shouldn't really have been there because it was my SEN day but was as it was first day)
Lisa (my class LSA who was my LSA for the two years I was in Y4 too and she's brilliant - I'm so glad I've got her as 'my' LSA)
Karen (LSA very, very experienced in ASD and EBD type issues)
Angela (LSA attached to one child)
Andrea (my supply cover on Fridays)
So that's the family this year, alongside Faith who will be doing my PPA cover and KS coordinator time each Tuesday morning.

So - the yogurt in on and making, the shopping list is written and I'm off to bed with a clear conscience, the planning all having been done for next week. Feels great

Friday morning

. . . and it starts today. Four hundred and whatever children all coming back to our school (or starting), faces aglow, smart new uniform in most cases, not necessarily all named. Four hundred and whatever book bags, painting aprons, PE kits. It's all rather daunting to think of!

In some way it's quite nice having one day and then the weekend, but also a bit frustrating - you can't really start anything much today, it's all going to be rather bits and bobs-ish.

Complicating things rather, from now on today (Fridays) will be my SEN day out of class. Not today, of course, although I am hoping that I can work outside my class this afternoon while Andrea (new supply cover) takes them. When we did our sections of the School Development Plan on Wednesday, SEN didn't get done as we were both working on our other areas, so we really need to get it sorted today, if possible.

So, in just over two hours the doors will open and in they will all come. I wonder how many will cry . . . and thank goodness it's not likely to rain!

Wish us all luck!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Thursday morning

You can tell term is upon us again. I was awake before four, brain a-buzzing merrily, unable to get back to sleep. The only thing to do when that happens is to get up and do something - there always is something in teaching. I'll pay for it later on but at least the children won't be in today.

That's about it really. Today is a staff meeting followed by time to get things ready for tomorrow. I still have quite a lot to do, so things will be very busy, I expect. The holiday really is over now.

I just want to say 'Good Luck' to M and R who are starting their new school this week. I hope it is brilliant and that you're both very happy. I know your mum or dad will read this and will let you know.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Wednesday evening

. . . and the school 'conference' today was really rather helpful. It was basically about redefining our 'vision' for the school in terms of strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities and then focused on the School Development Plan and the role of the subject coordinator - something we all have to be apart from our two NQTs. Some of the more senior teachers have more than one area, of course.
And it was over to the pub for lunch half way through, which was a very sociable time as most of us hadn't seen each other for quite a while.

I asked about the backing paper and it seems that it should have arrived in July but, obviously, didn't, so is being chased up or re-ordered. So, do I use some of my own paper to make a white background or do I wait? I think the former, as it does look scruffy with just the hessian showing. I can stick 0n relevant pictures printed off and cut out, to enhance it, I guess.

And now - well, the Barnardo's stuff came today and I am busy making umpteen copies of the backing track. Susannah (head) is a highly gifted musician and every year she trains and conducts a massed choir, consisting of school choirs from all over the area, at the Royal Albert Hall, raising loads of money for Barnardo's. This year the whole thing is being repeated at Wembley Stadium (I think it's Wembley, anyway). I'm only involved in that I make the backing track CDs for our school choir members and I'm on top of it this year, so much so that I have no idea how many to make yet, but I may as well get started! Eight done, zillions to go!

Wednesday morning

. . . and it's back to school today. A school 'conference', whatever that means, in the morning and meeting with the governors in the afternoon. I can't say I'm looking forward to it all that much really. Tomorrow starts with a staff meeting and then we have time to work in out classrooms getting everything ready. The children are in on Friday and then, of course, it's the weekend.
It's been a lovely break. I've got a lot of little things done and sorted, the family get together was super, the Streele Farm holiday was very pleasant, even if the weather wasn't wonderful and I didn't gain any weight. But life must go on and I need to earn the daily crust. Today, just today, I am envious of Liz, who starts her retirement. I'm sure she will thoroughly enjoy the day - the start of a new life!
I will be a girl on a mission today. When I went in yesterday with the intent to get my display boards covered and ready, I couldn't find any display paper anywhere. It looks as if it's all been used up, which I can't ever recall happening before. So, if I can't track any down (and I hope I can), I'm stuck between rather dull sugar paper (an awful waste as well), or leaving it with the hessian showing and just put round a border. Neither will be terribly appealing, not will it look attractive to five year olds so some creativity is in order here, I think. The brain is buzzing . . . ouch!
Yesterday was a day working too. I printed off all the assessment materials that I think I will need - phonic checks, APP stuff for reading, writing and maths, levels . . . oh, the list is endless. Paper galore!! Piles and piles of it! You can tell I'm back at work!
Better go. I have some Wii exercise to do, breakfast to eat, a bath to have and want to get into school earlier than the start of the conference. Normality returns.