Thursday, 23 December 2010

Books- 2010

I keep a book journal, where I list all of the books that I read in a year; it got to the point where I was buying books I'd already read and needed to keep track (oh, if only I'd done that with my yarn stash; I still haven't found the two skeins of Cherry Tree Hill Supersock merino in Java...) Anyway, I thought I would share some of my favourite books of this year, just in case you are interested. They may not be books released this year, but just ones I've enjoyed.


Knitted Socks East and West

I'm slightly obsessed with Japan and Japanese culture and I am obsessed with knitting socks. This is gorgeous and I had to buy it; for less than £9 there are 29 patterns! All sorts of patterns are in here- lacy, thick, traditional Japanese. What I love about this is that Judy Sumner has named each pattern after some element of Japanese culture. I'm going to finish my 'vanilla' socks and then start the Tsunami socks. Almost like a Christmas present to me.


The Secret Scripture- Sebastian Barry- This book is amazing. I can't tell you exactly why, only that Barry has captured the atmosphere of Ireland in the 40s and beyond perfectly. The story covers the time in which I have been researching and the ending, although not totally unexpected, was surprising enough to make me cry. And I don't cry when reading novels.

The Owl Killers- Karen Maitland- I read this on my second journey to Ireland of the year and found it completely un-put-down-able. The story of a group of religious women settling into a strange and scary 14th century England wouldn't have been my cup of tea had I seen it in a bookshop, but a good friend sent it to me and I just thought it was amazing.


The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister- Helena Whitbread- I'm going to 'fess up- this is my grandma's book. She found a diary that had huge parts in code. She decoded it and found an account of lesbianism in Regency England that is fascinating (and maybe not as racy as many people expect!) It also gives an insight into how women were expected to behave at this point in time.

Desperate Romantics- Franny Moyle- I loved the TV series, but I loved the book even more. It's interesting how the artists seem on screen compared to how they do in the book; for example, I thought Holman Hunt was much more sympathetic in this book and you find out much more about one of my artistic heroes, William Morris and actually, what a nice chap he was, even to Rossetti who stole his wife. I also liked the infomation the reader is given about the women involved in the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood, which, with the exception of Lizzie Siddall and Annie Miller, is kind of glossed over in the adaptation. Also? Aidan Turner is on the cover and that's never a bad thing.

So, this year, I read 40 books. Not bad going, I reckon!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Wedding shawl help...

So, I want to knit a wedding shawl. The fabric of my dress (hopefully) will be this:

I want to knit a wrap/shawl to go with it. My options so far are these:

Cloisters Wrap
Tudor Wrap
Tolovana Shawl

What do you think? What yarn should I use? Hopefully it'll be a May wedding and I'd like to splash out a little on the yarn. What colour would you choose?

Thanks, Knitters! x

Sunday, 12 December 2010


I am a terrible blogger (on this blog, anyway) I got distracted by my tea blog and by life in general. I make no apologies for this though- sometimes life gets in the way and that is a good thing!

So, what have I been up to? Well, I got engaged last week! We'll be getting married next May. So I'm planning a wedding.

I've travelled to Ireland twice and discovered a lot about my roots. I saw the house where my great-grandfather was born and I've visited his parents' and grandparents' grave. I've made new friends and discovered the joys of hot whiskey! I met a Yorkshireman and South African in a tiny pub in rural West Cork. I went to my first Mass, which was in Irish.

I got better this year. I'm no longer (for the time being, anyway) on any medication. I'm a happy and content person. I think that this may be due to the fact that I no longer work Fridays. I read interesting books and I'm having a go at writing my own, although that comes in fits and starts.

Knitting wise, I've made a plethora of socks and a couple of shawls. I've added bootees to my repertoire! I'm planning on knitting something for my wedding, I have a couple of ideas. I've been dyeing up a storm and am knitting some pretty cool socks at the moment.

I'm now looking to Christmas and the New Year. I hope to blog more frequently on this blog!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

When the cat's away...

So, Benn is away on his annual cricket tour. Before he'd been gone 12 hours, the flat was a tip. And I burnt a baked potato. Today has been slightly more successful, although I really should tidy up. The weird thing is, although Benn will be back on Saturday, I won't actually see him til Sunday, as I'm at a wedding on the Saturday and staying over night. It feels very strange when Benn goes away, but I am getting better at it, especially as he has had to go away for courses regularly in the last year. Also, I feel much safer in this flat then I did in the previous one.

Anyway, speaking of weddings, I got the first half of the wedding present done.

The bride has requested something hand-stitched and I know she likes her kitchen, so tea towels it is! I'm doing two with this design, this one (which someone said reminds them of Kylie Minogue in Moulin Rouge) and another in which the fairy has dark hair. That one will be mostly reds, pinks and oranges. The pattern is part of the Fairies and Gnomes set from Sublime Stitching (I have a ton of these transfers, which I just whip out for occassions like this or boredom) I might actually do a few of these for my own kitchen.

I also got my fascinator type thingy, which is a headband with a peacock feather. Now, I am slightly superstitious, so I wouldn't wear it if I was getting married myself, but it matches the dress I've decided to wear.  Also, I finished the knitted leaving presents, which were well received (phew) and I wrote my review. Most of the marking got done too. Woo-hoo!

The last two weeks have been very interesting- my school has a link with a school out in Ghana and a party of teachers and students came over for a visit. I am now sorting out a really exciting project between the two schools, in which I teach African poetry and the teacher in Ghana teaches Victorian literature. We're hoping that our students will also email each other and forge links. Right now, 'Ghana' is a very distant idea for a lot of the kids at school, I'd like the project to be a more positive one, so that some members of the senior team realise what a valuable exercise it is.

School ends in a day and a half and I have to give my form up to a new teacher. Although I am excited to meet my new year 7 form, I will be sad to see my kids go. We all started on the same day in 2007 and I've watched them grow from being tiny, with their blazers and backpacks being too big, to confident young adults. It has been amazing. I hope I don't cry on Friday when we finish! We had a party at lunchtime last week and I spent a small fortune having special badges made for each member of the form.

However, onwards and upwards towards a brilliant summer break!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Things I need to accomplish by Friday next week...

So, it's the final weekend before the summer holidays start and I have a mountain of things to do before Friday (also- just worked my last 'full' Friday for at least a year! Woo!) In order to be able to chill out a bit, I need to do the following:

- finish the leaving present scarf
- finish reading, and review, 'Helen' by Maria Edgworth
- Embroider some tea towels as a wedding present
- mark some essays about 'The Crucible'
- create a scheme of work about African Literature (I'm going to be the English Department link with our partner school in Ghana... v exciting!)
- re-mark and file away media coursework
- clean out the rabbit
- buy a fascinator type thing
- update my tea blog

I am also, at this point, very, very tired and just getting through the day is hard, but I am trying to be enthusiastic- this week, I created TWO new schemes of work. Very pleased with myself, as hopefully it will mean that I will have a more organised year. If I'm honest, the hell of the last year at work has meant I haven't been as good at my job as I am capable of being. I want that to change; there are so many exciting  things I could be doing. Hopefully, going part time will help me get my positivity back.

Once I've finished the scarf, I have to knit something for a swap I'm participating in and I have to start thinking about my mum's 50th birthday present (I'm thinking a shawl- a big one to help her shoulders when her arthritis plays up. Any suggestions welcome. I'd like pretty too, if poss.)

Monday, 12 July 2010

Life is lovely when work doesn't get in the way...

So, remember that list of things I put up a few weeks ago? I failed miserably in the 'don't buy any books part', as I bought a book, The History of Tea at my favourite book shop in the world, Much Ado Books in lovely Alfriston. And I got sent a new book to review too. So that one's gone out the window... And I did get a new lipstick, but I won that courtesy of the Flake/Benefit giveaway.

Other than that, I'm sticking to the no new yarn/clothes thing really quite well.

We break up at the end of next week and I am so looking forward to it. I find that I am more relaxed mentally, but more active physically. For example, I have been making a real effort to exercise on a regular basis, even though I do pretty much loathe it. The loathing is beginning to subside a little bit, so who knows where that will lead? (To not having cankles and bingo-wings, hopefully...)

Also, I had a massive tidy up yesterday. People who know me well know that I am messy. Not intentionally so, I just have so many things on my mind at once that tidying seems to fall to the bottom of my to-do list. Anyway, now the way to my side of the bed is clear and it really is marvellous. However, give it a week or so and it'll be total chaos.

I've also found that, after months of hiatus, my baking mojo has come back with a vengeance. This weekend, I will be baking up cheese scones and possibly some oat-y, peanut-y biscuit-y things.

I've done all the major school related compulsory activities (one day was at work from 7.30am to 9.10pm and didn't get home til 9.45- that was with a lift; had it been by train I dread to think what time I would have got in) and so everything now is slightly more fun. Tomorrow, I teach a media studies lesson to the visiting Ghanaian students and on Friday, my form is having a tea party. It's all good.

I really like this time of the school year; you're glad that the end is nigh, that new classes and stationery are coming your way and best of all, you get a nice break from children. Except I do a week of summer school classes every year. Oh well, glutton for punishment and all that.

And then it's Ireland!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Bloody Hell

I'm knitting another leaving scarf (garter stitch, 3.5mm needles, 4ply, based on a description the recipient gave me of a long-lost treasured grandma-knitted scarf.) Not v interesting, I grant you, but I am SO tired that anything more interesting might just make me cry.

I was feeling very pleased with myself as it craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawled along. Then I realised. I've dropped a stitch a fair way back. Do you reckon I could get away with leaving it? (As it's a leaving scarf for a non-knitter, I reckon she won't notice.)

Sigh. Can't even do bog standard garter stitch scarves now.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

I need to be more organised!

So, I think I need to reassess some things. June/July will be an expensive month and I need to plan ahead to Ireland. I have a wedding to go to on July 24th and nothing to wear (day after next payday) and I have a leaving do next Friday. Also, I'm going to be paying my petrol money (£20 a week) instead of monthly... So, this will be an expensive month. Then I'll need some money to pay for my half of the Ireland trip... sigh.

So, as a public declaration, I am going to do the following:

1) Not buy any more yarn. Swapping yarn is fine but NO NEW PURCHASES.
2) No more brand new clothes. I shall have to find a dress on eBay for the wedding and it shall be one that I can wear again.
3) Ditto shoes. No new ones. Not even flip flops (can I get away with a pair of flip flops at aforementioned wedding if I paint my nails?)
4) Don't buy any more tea. I have plenty to be getting on with. (Have you seen my tea blog?)
5) Don't buy any more books. I counted my unread books and found 38. And then I also have library books and a copy of Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book on the go.
6) I don't need to buy any more make up.

So, that leaves me with a small amount with which occassional purchases of tea and cake and a haircut.

I can stick to this, right? Right?

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Sometimes I wonder...

... why I love knitting so much when it causes me so much frustration. For every fab project (hello, Adamas Shawl) there are two that are really, really not working for me. For example, recently, I have tried to knit both Multnomah and Mountain Peaks Shawls. Both have ended in tangled frustration.

On the other hand, a Branching Out scarf I made turned out to be brilliant.

This is a relationship like a few I've had (soaring ups and crashing lows), but at least I get something back from this one, I guess. Like handknit socks. Boyfriends, bosses and rubbish friends never gave me those.

So, for a while, I am going to knit socks. Plain socks in fancy colours (which is especially easy now I'm a member of the Three Irish Girls sock club). I'm going to stockpile in case we get another bitter winter, hopefully with attached snow days and everything.

In other news, looks like that from September, I'll be off on Fridays to concentrate on my writing. Yay!

PS- please check out my tea blog here. I'm currently taking part in a challenge I set myself to find the best Earl Grey teas!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


So, tomorrow I am going home to Yorkshire for a few days for the first time in a couple of years. This is exciting in itself, although nowhere near as exciting as finally seeing my grandma's life's work (or last 26 year's work) on TV. Last night, the BBC showed  'The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister' (NSFW) and a documentary which my grandma (Helena) featured prominently. I am so proud of my grandma's achievements! I shall be seeing her on Friday, so I can't wait to catch up with her!

Also, a quick plug for a new blog I've set up- The Tea Taster, in which I get up to all kinds of tea-related japery.

I'll see you in about a week.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Long time, no see

So, after an absence of three months (nearly), I thought it time to resume blogging duties- this may take some time to read! Lots to tell!

The last few months have been fairly quiet in some respects- just pootling along at work, although I did try and resign, only to compromise that I would try going down to four days a week next year and move over to the Media department. This was just before the bombshell that if our English department wanted a new head, one of us would have to be made redundant. So, hi-jinx have ensued and the head has shot himself in the foot, as he has now lost three excellent members of staff who figured it was time to look elsewhere. I'm going to hang on and see how going part time works. I am very angry about the whole thing, for reasons I don't want to go into here, but the whole thing is just rubbish.
I feel a bit weird going part time, but the rationale behind it is to a) save my sanity and help me deal with the depression I've been battling for a couple of years and b) to keep working on my journalism. I recently had a review published on the Fat Quarter website: and have a few more ideas in the pipeline- the extra day will free up time for research and writing; something that can be in short supply at the moment.

In terms of crafting, I finished my Adamas shawl (and few other bits!)

I also have taken up a spot of embroidery- the Mary is for my mum and the peacocks grace a bag I've taken to carrying around. I'm also attempting to stitch a Tenniel drawing of Alice, but we'll see how that works out... At the moment, I'm knitting a Mountain Peaks shawl in some yarn I dyed myself.

So, currently, I'm listening to an album I loved when I was 17 and feeling nostalgic. I'm enjoying the weather (although snails ate most of my seedlings a couple of weeks ago... gutted.) My exam classes have left- and I felt a little bit emotional seeing my Year 11s off; despite the fact that they drove me mad and I saw them nearly everyday, I watched them in their last lesson and realised how much *some* had grown up. It was a surprise even to me.

So now it's downhill all the way to summer!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Writing and Stuff

So, I'm sat here with a note book poised on my lap, listening to an as unyet released album and writing notes, so that I can write a review of it. It seems surreal; when I was a student, reviewing albums was the way I got CDs and I only just realised how much I miss it. Actually, the album is pretty good, but I don't want to say what it is yet; I have another one to do as well, so no rest for the wicked!

Never has a saying been so apt, the last few weeks have been hectic at work, hence the lack of posting. Also, I was working on an article about women in graphic novels, so hopefully I'm beginning my new year resolution of writing more in a good way...

Knitting hasn't been so succcessful, nor has reading. Looking forward to the half term holiday!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Unexpected Free Time...

I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone at the moment- my school will be shut tomorrow, making it three days. When school shut in February for two days, there was uproar and it was apparently the first time in thirty years we'd shut. I honestly only thought we'd be shut for two days maximum.

I'm not complaining, mind you, although it has been a bit weird. I've made headway on my Ishbel (which has taught me a lesson to read a pattern before I get stressed out) and I've watched the entire series one of Doctor Who. Ophelia has also been living inside and, if I'm honest, it's been like having a toddler who's eaten too many Smarties dashing around the house. Great fun though :)

I think Benn was a bit disappointed- he'd booked from Tues-Fri off for study leave for work exams and only got Tuesday with a quiet house. The rest of the week has resembled a slightly Benny Hill-esque procession of humans, headstrong rabbits, confused cats and scared mice..

We have to go and buy food tomorrow, as all we have in is a jar of honey, some dried pasta and a part-baked baguette. We're going to attempt it, anyway.

Oh, and officially? I've spent the last few days 'creating resources'!