The day before....

As the early evening sunlight streams into my study, I am flicking through maths textbooks and choosing which tasks to set for my little monkeys to do in class this week and next. Over the blissful few weeks of Easter break, a lot of this rhythm of planning - teaching - marking - planning once more has been absent (bar the obligatory few days in school / researching / planning schemes), and it always feels a little odd to get back into the groove. A bit like putting your summer clothes back on after taking them out of the box you've had them stored in over winter.

They feel known, yet different. Maybe they are a litle tighter, maybe a little looser, maybe you've forgotten how you love them, or what annoyed you about them. Same with back to school.

I love a lot of going back to school, I must say. I've missed my boys and can't wait to get in the classroom once more and get learning. The summer term is always a little bittersweet though - I love that by this point in the year I know my boys really well (and they are well and truly used to my antics, too!), but on the other hand I know this is my last term with this particular gang. And as I always tell them, they will always be Thornleyites (I'm so cheesey)...but we'll never live and learn together the way you do as a form. I love our little unit. :-)

Luckily, the summer term keeps us so busy there is little time for reflection - school and visits and concerts and events and sports and reports and away's always a mad hurry (in the nicest possible way!). Sprinkle on a social life, working out, a hen night, a wedding (Laura and Garry, can you believe it's like seven weeks now???), a major exam for Matthew, visits, picnics, a Race For Life, and the usual shebang, and you have a lot to look forward to / get through / attempt to rock.

I'll endeavour to keep you all posted. :-) Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

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PS Inspired by the beautiful Jessica, who's scrapbooking a 'Week In The Life', this week I'll be doing blog posts on that theme. This will involve me taking my camera everywhere with me (and I am so bad at that...), but should prove pretty amusing. I'm mostly excited to take pics of my lovely walks around London, and also of some of my beautiful friends :-).

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Show Us Your Life...Teacher Gifts

Show Us Your Life with Kelly's Korner

Well, it has been a few weeks since I did a 'Show Us Your Life' post - first I took a blog break, then Kelly did! This week on Kelly's blog carnival we are looking at teacher gifts. Now, as I'm not a mummy I've never been on the giving side of this, but as a teacher myself I have been on the receiving end for a good few years now.

The best thing, before we even get into the joy of presents, has to be the cards. Who can resist a note written in a childs slightly wobbly hand, thanking you for your work? And if (as many of my prior cards do) this is coupled with a note from the parents too, then that's even better. I love that feeling of being appreciated. I love what I do and try to work hard for my classes, so it is lovely when that is noted. I also adore cards and mail, so the cards make it for me!

Just some of my lovely cards. I *love* cards.

So, onto the gifts...

First and foremost, I should say that I am always overwhelmed (in a nice way) by the generousity of my students and their families when it comes to end of year, and on occasion end of term, gifts. I love my job anyway, so to get extra presents too is to be truly spoiled! And I have never had a gift I haven't liked - lucky me, huh? :-)

The beautiful bracelets two brothers made for me.

I've had so many lovely gifts, but I have to say the ones that stick out in my mind tend to fall into two categories (with some even bridging both, brilliantly). I love personal gifts - like a little badger ornament, because I love badgers. A bracelet or necklace in one of my favourite colours (above you can see two very pretty bracelets in pink and blue which were made by two brothers I taught in different years). The year one of my students brought me a box of my favourite chocolate brownies on earth...and two pictures of George Clooney! The many Christmas ornaments I have received - I am building a beautiful (and eclectic!) tree over the years. And many lovely things made by my students - the fact that they will invest time in making me a gift really warms my heart.

A Christmas tree plate (which photographed upside down!) made by one of my little pupils. I love using this plate to entertain at Christmastime!

I also love practical gifts, ones that I can use around my house and classroom and which remind me of the giver when I use them. So the books on London I was given before moving here. The biography of a writer I admire and teach about. The vouchers the parents clubbed together for which are oh so very useful when you're trying to set up a kitchen (they know I love to cook and bake). I have to say I love gift vouchers and gift cards because it means I can buy something lovely which I need and then thank the class for it. :-) And I enjoy my many lovely mugs and vases and candles....

Blogger's being weird with the pictures today, it seems! Two fab books on London.

One of my lovely teacher mugs. Great for my morning decaf.

I also love unexpected gifts - the cookie on your desk "just because", the thing they saw and thought of you, the postcard sent to you from their holiday, the aforementioned badger, the little notes and pictures my students leave me. It's so nice to be surprised from time to time! :)

One of my mummies was antique-ing and just had to get this little fellow for me. I now also have a hedgehog to keep him company!

I'm looking forward to reading what other people give and receive. I always feel so blessed to even get presents - if any of my class parents read this, thank you once again!
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Running is hard!

So, my 5K walk / run / hobble is now less than two months away. So this morning for the first time I ran outside. I've been running on the treadmill for a few weeks now (in bursts, a la C25K), but the more I thought about it the more I realised that while that's good (all exercise is good :)), it doesn't necessarily mesh with what I'll be doing in June.

So starting today I am getting up early and running just a little bit and building up gradually. This morning I did a quick warm up walk and then I ran 600 metres (woo! Over 10% of 5K! - I'm going to take every little victory, believe me :)), and I'm hoping to add 50 to 100 metres on each time I run. Hopefully this, added to gymming and swimming two to four times a week, eating healthy, drinking water, sleeping right, done girl dancing etc. should add up to increased health and pounds down.

Running in the morning is a good thing for me for many reasons - it's quieter out there (I really don't feel I need an audience for this right now!). It's cooler. It's a heck of a wake up call. I really hope I can sustain this. I was pleasantly surprised at how little running on the pavement hurt my knees...but was a little worried that I was wheezing a little. Cool air was a trigger to my asthma years back and now I'm not medicating for asthma I'd hate to knock myself back on that. Hence the very 'tortoise' approach to proceedings.

I have said before I don't mind if I run or walk the 5K, and that remains true. I'd just hate to think I hadn't tried, you know?

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Fingal Finger-Badger makes some friends...

You may remember Fingal, our finger-badger friend who joined us in Dublin. Well he also came with us to Nottingham last weekend and before my camera gave up (I charged the batteries overnight and they lasted an hour tops. Fail!) I got some cute shots of him hanging out with some of our friends at the pub. Take it away, little guy!

With Chris and Laura.

Drawing with some help from Phil.

Having a giggle with Party Jamie (TM).

With the lovely Hebba.

With Joinee legend, Mum White. :-)

Enjoying a pint with the lovely Miss Anna (this girl is a wicked talented knitter. Do check out her blog to see her mad skills!).

Meeting Kieran...

...they became fast friends!

Steeeeve was a little perturbed by Mr Fingal!

With iPhone McShovelhands himself!


With pretty Siobhán!

And with Siobhán's boyfriend, Matthew.

A lovely meet with some lovely friends. And a finger-badger. :)

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I "heart" Thursdays

Woo! Hurrah for Thursdays, right? And a Thursday in the middle of a break from school is even better. Worry not, I'll be far less chipper next week when I'm up to my ears in paperwork. ;)

Once again I'm joining in with Crystal's lovely carnival and am looking at the things I love...

I *heart* Join Meets. I had the best time at GGF last week. It was great to catch up with so many lovely people.

I *heart* Skype. I'm loving catching up with people. Christy, I'm so calling again soon! Jenna too!

I *heart* mango. It's so delicious! I could eat a tonne of that fruit. Actually, I'm pretty dippy over all fruits and veggies right now.

I *heart* being in a show choir. Like Glee, for grown ups!

I *heart* my lovely, silly friends.

I *heart* my lovely, silly boyfriend. :)

I *heart* 'Cougar Town'. Just makes me laugh.

I *heart* mail. Yesterday I got three pieces of mail and was a very happy Claire indeed! (Thank you, Shona, Laura, and Nell).

I *heart* my comfy, faithful dark jeans.

I *heart* reading. Just wonderful.

I *heart* feeling well rested.

I *heart* you guys!

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Election fever...ish...

So, finally, Gordon Brown has announced that we are going to have a General Election here in the UK. We will go to the polls on May 6th, in potentially one of the most important votes in recent times. The papers and blogs are full of opposing ideas, and it certainly feels like a time for change. But a change to what, exactly? And a change from what?

The incumbent Prime Minister and his Labour party would like to stay in power, but there's quite a lot of anger towards them. The Labour party is divided between 'Old' and 'New' Labour, and the two factions really don't get along. 'Old Labour' are rooted in trade unions, equality, and a socialism of sorts. 'New Labour' (from what I've ever been able to gather) is this slippery Blairite mishmash of centre-left and centre-right, and that's (more or less) what we have at the top right now. Labour have multiple big problems to deal with in their quest to stay in power.

First and foremost, the economy. Now, I actually have a lot of time for our current Chancellor of the Exechequer, Alaistair Darling. He's not a flashy, oily sort, but more like a serious maths teacher. He talks a lot of sense and is plainer in his policies than previous Chancellors (that would be Gordon Brown, our current PM, then), but unfortunately for him he had barely settled into the job before the current massive economic crisis hit. So we have an intelligent and potentially very good Chancellor who took over just as the poo hit the fan. After over a decade of Labour in power, the other parties (and many of the voters) are likely to lay the problems our economy is having at Labour's door. With high unemployment, more cuts due, fewer jobs and university places, and taxes unlikely to let up, this is going to be a huge factor, I think.

Next, scandal and sleaze. Many politicians have been accused of swindling the system recently, during the expenses scandal. And an awful lot of those politicians were Labour (the Tories had a fair few as well, but I think if they 'spin' it right they will get away with it...). And when you come galloping in in 1997 decreeing an end to sleaze and scandal, may just be the fatal blow which dispatches you in 2010.

Thirdly, the Iraq War. An awful lot of people are still angry...very angry. I'm one of them, for what it's worth. I feel that Blair acted selfishly and did not make a decision that was right for either his country or the global community as a whole. I wholeheartedly support the troops who have served out there, or who still serve (I am after all a military brat :-)). I also feel they should be properly resourced and rewarded (they aren't at the moment. At all). I just don't think we should have been there in the first place, or rather that we should have waited for the decision of the wider UN rather than running in when we did. Iraq will be a troublespot for a long time to come due to rash actions on that, I think.

There are myriad other elements of course (I could and may write a whole post on Labour's education policies. Many are anti-Labour due to so called 'stealth taxes'. Others in defence and health dislike what is happening in these sectors. Still others just really dislike the status quo), but those are potentially the big three, in my opinion,

So, if Labour are struggling to keep the reins of power in their paws, what are our alternatives?

My next post will look at what the other parties are hoping may bring them to power, and the possibility and potential problems of a hung parliament...

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PS I'm a bit of a politics geek, and I'm still completely unsure how I'll vote this time. It's a very interesting time to be voting.

PPS If you disagree with my points, please do feel free to say so (I have a friend, for example, who *adores* Blair. So she and I can argue up a storm sometimes!), but please keep any comments (whether directed to me or others) civil or I'll simply delete them. Mille mercis!

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Book review: George Foreman - Knockout Entrepreneur

I received a copy of this book to review and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. In the book George Foreman and Ken Abraham set out George’s main principles of business (and life!) and give his own unique perspective on how to get on in the world and be successful. Written in an accessible and charming way I was entertained throughout. There are plenty of stories and anecdotes in amongst the ideas and advice given, and this keeps the book gliding along at a really nice pace, without ever getting ‘dry’.

There is lots to enjoy in this book, but what I liked the most was the encouraging way it put forward its ideas – there is a real sense of positivity in this book and George’s “can do” attitude leaps off the page. I also enjoyed the fact that George never seems to give up or rest on his laurels. At the end of each chapter there are questions to ask yourself to spur you on to further success, give back, and grow.

There are many lessons to be learned from this book and plenty of ideas which we can all apply to our own lives. I have long been a fan of George’s boxing and his grills…now it turns out I appreciate his writing too!

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(NB: I recieved a copy of this book through the book bloggers programme at Thomas Nelson. Great fun! Here's the legal part:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”)

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April Fools

This is still my favourite April Fool for quite a while:

Have fun fooling - but play nice, lovelies. :-)

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