Baby's age counter

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Email that made me laugh

It's silly but being a teacher it is easy to become cynical. This email below epitomises this. It's meant to be a comparison between schools in the 60s and schools now. Judge for yourself...

Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fistfight after school.
1960 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up mates.
2007 - Police are called, Armed Response Unit arrives and arrests Johnny and Mark. Mobiles with video of fight confiscated as evidence. They are charged with assault, ASBOs are taken out and both are suspended even though Johnny started it. Diversionary conferences and parent meetings conducted. Video shown on 6 internet sites.

Scenario: Jeffrey won't sit still in class, disrupts other students.
1960 - Jeffrey is sent to the principal's office and given 6 of the best. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.
2007 - Jeffrey is given huge doses of Ritalin. Counselled to death. Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADD. School gets extra funding because Jeffrey has a disability. Drops out of school.

Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his neighbour's car and his Dad gives him the slipper.
1960 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.
2007 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. Psychologist tells Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy's mum has an affair with the psychologist. Psychologist gets a promotion.

Scenario: Mark, a college student, brings cigarettes to school .
1960 - Mark shares a smoke with the school principal out on the smoking area.
2007 - Police are called and Mark is expelled from School for drug possession. His car is searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario: Mohammed fails his English exam.
1960 - Mohammed retakes his exam, passes and goes to college.
2007 - Mohammed's cause is taken up by local human rights group. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that making English a requirement for graduation is racist. Civil Liberties Association files class action lawsuit against state school system and his English teacher. English is banned from core curriculum. Mohammed is given his qualification anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers, puts them in a model plane paint bottle and blows up an anthill.
1960 - Ants die.
2007 - MI5 and police are called and Johnny is charged with perpetrating acts of terrorism. Teams investigate parents, siblings are removed from the home, computers are confiscated, and Johnny's dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario: Johnny falls during break and scrapes his knee. His teacher, Mary, finds him crying, and gives him a hug to comfort him.
1960 - Johnny soon feels better and goes back to playing.
2007 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces three years in prison. Johnny undergoes five years of therapy. Becomes gay.

Clearly it was a bittersweet laugh that I had.

Banana rum tart

When I was in France I translated this recipe from a magazine. Since my fruit and veg intake has been significantly lower since I've be told to cook everything I am always looking for interesting ways to eat my 5-a-day.
This was a simple pastry case with 4 sliced bananas, some cinnamon powder, lemon/lime juice, a few tablespoons of demerara sugar and a small amount of rum. I baked it for abotu 30 minutes and it was tasty. A few days later I had the inspiration to use up some homemade butterscotch sauce on it and that was even more delicious.

Cookalong with Gordon Ramsay

I'm a fan of a lot of the food Gordon Ramsay makes even if I don't approve of his potty mouth. So I was excited when I saw the ads for a cookalong programme. I looked up the menu on the Channel 4 website and wrote out a shopping list.
Some of the ingredients I bought elsewhere but the majority came from Sainsburys. It soon became clear why the food was going to taste so good when we got to the checkout. We spent more on the ingredients for that one meal than I would usually spend on feeding us both for a week.

I reminded myself that it was a one-off and drew a deep breath.

Friday quickly rolled around and I laid out my ingredients, got out my saucepans, preheated my oven, chopped my tomatoes etc. I wanted to be prepared as we don't have a tv in the kitchen so I knew there'd be a lot of running back and forth. Luckily I also printed out the recipes on paper so if I missed something I could look.

The menu was as follows:

Scallops with a tomato and basil salsa. This was really easy and quick. You just heat up tomatoes with some herbs and olives etc. while you fry the scallops over a high heat. I wasn't sure about my tolerance for scallops but ate them anyway. Turns out I am allergic to them but it wasn't too bad - took plenty of medication to counteract the negative results. Just to check it was the scallops that made me ill, I tried the leftovers again on Saturday. Yes, it's definately the scallops. Pah!

Next course was steak with 'chips' and salad. The salad was really good - rocket leaves with a light dressing and some shavings of parmesan. Knowing I am definately allergic to that I lightly microwaved mine before eating and it was still nice and peppery. Will definately be cooking that again.
The 'chips' were just potato wedges, which I make all the time so that was simple. I was glad I remembered to pre-heat the oven or they would never have cooked in time!
The steaks were quite plain, just seasoned and fried in groundnut oil. Just before they were taken off the heat we added some butter so they were really rich. I have finally had to admit how important resting the steaks is. They had about 10 minutes on the side before we ate them and they were sooooo juicy and yum. I will have to get some restraint and let my steaks rest more in the future. In fact that course was so good I forgot to get a photo until half way through eating it!!!

The dessert was a lovely chocolate mousse. Who doesn't enjoy a spoonful of rich chocolatey-goodness, right? Well by that point we were a bit tired so dessert was much more thrown together. The nice touch was some mashed up Crunchie bar pieces. They were delicious. Having eaten about 1/4 of my steak I couldn't manage more than a few mouthfuls of dessert so it's still in the fridge waiting for me. All in all, it was a fun night in but definately not something I would do regularly unless I got a tv installed in the kitchen (which I don't plan to).

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Farnborough Make it craft show

I am getting really excited about this event. It used to be held at Thorpe Park, which although it’s not far away, was much less convenient than this venue. I’ve treated myself to a 3-day pass although I won’t be able to go on the Friday. I’m also booked on some courses. Hooray!!
Will add more about it later.

eBay crazy

Since before Christmas I have been saving up items to sell on eBay; it’s basically clearing some space for the new stuff that’s arrived as there isn’t enough space for everything. Being an enterprising Business teacher I thought I would try and cash in on the situation.
I’d sold stuff on eBay before but generally it was quite worthless stuff. Now I have unwanted DS games, new shoes etc. and these items are worth something. So, on they went to eBay. Shockingly they sold! My strategy was to see just how much demand there was by putting everything on for 99p, that way many people added it to their ‘Watching’ list and hopefully will come back and bid. The strategy has worked well so far. I cannot believe people have paid good money for things I did not want in the first place.
I have now become obsessed with thinking of things to sell on eBay because I know that when Sunday rolls around I am going to have an urge to put something up for sale… perhaps I will be able to achieve the minimalist look after all?!

Monday, 14 January 2008

Raindrops keep falling on my head

It's happening again. This is the time of year when each day feels like a battle. I wake up in a foul mood not wanting to do anything and then hating myself when I get to the end of the day and nothing has been achieved. I can't tell if I am waving or drowning.
The worst thing is it upsets everyone around me, which makes me feel even worse than I did to begin with. There is no rhyme of reason for feeling low. I've done a lot of the strategies I've learnt over the years to try and overcome it: making myself busy, trying to eat regularly and not sleep too much, sitting in front of my special daylight lamp. To be fair, I am much better than I used to be, but I'm still p!ssed off that I get like this at all. Why me?

Sunday, 13 January 2008

American Elections

It’s started already. There isn’t an election until November but already we’re hearing about the candidates and their efforts to secure backing from various states. I admit to not being overly interested in American politics even though I understand that America has quite an influence over the UK. However from my visits to America, I realised that very few people I met over there (East Coast, West Coast, Great Plains) knew who our Prime Minister is. They couldn’t even name him!
Yet I bet we’re going to hear about the 11 months running up to the elections with a blow-by-blow account of what is happening to various wannabe presidents. Surely we have enough news in our own country without having to hear about America’s elections non-stop?

Addicted to Brain Training

As mentioned in a previous post I wanted a Nintendo DS for Christmas and managed to buy one on Boxing Day. Since then I have been addicted to my DS and playing Brain Training. I thought that it would be a phase and that I would only use it occasionally but it turns out to be a daily ritual already.
I look forward to getting home and giving my brain a little training. When I first checked my 'brain age' it told me that I was a depressing 56 or something. Now I have got my age down to 30 - the ideal is 20. I am working hard to bring it down to 20. Although occasionally it does cross my mind to wonder WHY I'm so keen to lower my brain age to lower than my actual age, but it's probably best not to ponder this one for too long.

Non-Raw Food Diet

On Firday night I watched a documentary on C4 about people who live on a Raw Food Diet. There are loads of websites online about this and I have looked into eating this way before my allergies kicked off.
So instead I watched this programme about people who only eat raw food, no wheat, dairy, meat or other animal products. They don't heat their food above 45 degrees Celsius either. All I could think about was how, even if I wanted to, I could never eat this way. My sensitivity is now so strong that even having wasabi with some suishi rice is enough to melt my tongue.
It's kind of brought home how restricted I've become. Eating out is now a minefield - it's amazing how many garnishes are tossed about on dishes. Strawberries cut up on the plate next to the dessert, bits of lettuce and tomato next to a starter. Plus you don't know what is in anything. It's really quite scary. Is there anyone else having to eat a non-raw food diet? If there are, I've not had much luck finding them online. It's a bit lonely really.
PS - that is not my tongue! I think that should have been evident as I don't have stubble all over my face either but it's probably better to clarify.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Whose fault is it anyway?

Today I thought I would give my students a proactive approach to their mock exam result. They were given their papers back, equipped with the mark scheme on a computer (see I’m environmentally-friendly too!) and told to add more to their answers until they were perfect answers. While they did that it gave me the opportunity to speak to people one-on-one for personal feedback.

You’d think that they’d be glad of the opportunity to read the mark scheme and improve their answers. But no; I am so naïve it turns out. Instead they just messed about chatting. I moved students, I shushed them and still they weren’t working. Then someone from senior management came in a yelled at them. It was annoying to be a bit undermined but on the other hand they were wasting their own time.

After the lesson I got to thinking about it. Why should I get so annoyed with them? It makes me quite annoyed that so many people are applying pressure to me to ‘get results’ when really, I can’t force the kids to write. There is a limit to what I can do. I am happy in my own mind that I have provided them with ample support and opportunities to maximise their marks. However when it comes round to results day there will be plenty of stakeholders letting me know that I have let them down and not done enough because, when it comes down to it, what is enough?

My first proper Bento boxes

I thought I would try my hand at making a bento box after being inspired by my favourite bento website: It came out pretty well and my BF was pleased with his too. The box contains:
· Quail egg chicks – hard-boiled quail eggs that were peeled and decorated with black sesame seed eyes and carrot skin beaks
· Soya bean cocktail sticks – the beans were boiled for a couple of minutes in water, cooled and then threaded onto the sticks
· Simmered root veggies – one carrot, potato and turnip boiled in water, sake, dashi stock powder and a drop of soy sauce
· Sushi rice rolls – vingeared sushi rice rolled in nori (seaweed) and cut into little logs. I added some pickled ginger and wasabi decorations to make it look a little but more interesting.
I’m really proud of it and I hope to try my hand at making a few more. I’m in that mode now so I should make the most of it.

New Year in France

So I’m back from France. It was so great. We spent the week chatting, eating, sightseeing, shopping, playing Brain Training on my DS (what a cliché) and watching quite a few episodes of Jonathan Creek.

It was fabulous to catch up with my family and see how they are getting on. They have such a nice lifestyle in France that I leave and am full of envy and plans of how I will change my life to be more relaxed like them. Then I remember that I am a teacher and that my life doesn’t work like that. I have weeks of intense working and then weeks of intense relaxing!

We ate some amazing food too. We tried snails (again – yum!), frogs legs (not my cup of tea at all), frois gras (controversial but interesting to taste), chocolates and galette (bakewell tart pie without the icing). It was all delicious and now I’m in that stereotypical position of wanting to go on a diet in January. Instead I’ve decided to be sensible and just take up exercising again; something which had become a somewhat foreign concept.

The sightseeing we did was breath-taking. As we were near the Alps we went up them and took in the view. It was lung-freezingly cold at some points, but the sky was blue, there was little rain and lots of snow up there! It’s funny how the more I visit the mountains the more I like seeing them. As a child we used to visit and I was not overly interesting. I liked seeing the cows but other than that I thought it was quite dull. Now I relish going up there and seeing the massive expanses of rock.

Shopping of course is a must with my relatives. We have various paces when we shop: dashing for groceries, medium pace for when the shops are likely to shut and relaxed paced for seeing all the great things in the tourist shops etc. To be fair I was relatively restrained. I bought a necklace and some tins of food and that was about it.

Brain Training on the DS has proven to be quite a distraction on holiday. I took it to play while we were travelling as I thought there might be delays and I only got the DS on Boxing Day. Everyone had a go and it was quite funny seeing how everyone did on the different challenges. Since I’ve gone back to school I’ve had to resist the urge to leap in my car and go home to play on it. Surely that’s not healthy? I feel like one of the kids I teach who loves his computer games. Perhaps I am regressing.

Jonathan Creek DVDs were quite a hit on holiday. We’d taken them because I received them as a Christmas present and thought we could entertain ourselves with them for an hour or two if there was a lull one afternoon. Instead we got everyone huddled around the tv late after dinner to enjoy an episode. The concepts are really very clever on that show and even when I’ve seen them before I like to see them again because then you look for the clues as they go along and figure everything out. So over the course of less than 2 weeks we’ve watched all 4 series plus the 2 Christmas specials. I will remember Christmas/New year 2007 as the year with Jonathan Creek!

So there you have it – New Year in a nutshell.