Dancing Poppet

Because it made me laugh like a drain....

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Neighbour Gifts

Source: Live Like You Are Rich

I found this post the other day when researching little gifts for the upcoming holidays. Such a cute idea!  I love the idea of giving a small gift to neighbours at festive time - do you have a 'go-to' gift?

I like flowers, candy, cakes, but this post has me inspired to see what else I may be able to do!
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A Day In The Life: Monday 17th November

I love both reading and writing 'day in the life posts'.  Naturally nosey, I like glancing at what others do in their days (I'm always in awe of how busy and effective people are!), and it's quite fun to reflect on what my day-to-day holds too.  So every so often I like to do a good 'here's what I did' post.  Here's my day from Monday, November 17th:

 5.15am: Alarm goes off.  It's so dark at the moment (really starting to feel wintry!), it's all I can do to blink myself awake at five in the morning!  Quick stretch, ablutions and change, before heading downstairs to give the katzen their first breakfast and have a nice glass of water.  I eat breakfast when I get to work - making food and coffee this early doesn't quite compute!

My standard school outfit - classic and comfy!



6.00am: Leave house, walk to station, catch one then another tube across town.

The Jubilee line at 6.20am is a quiet place!  Perfect to tuck into a book or the paper.
 7.00am:  Arrive at school.  This time is ideal for ad hoc meetings, photocopying, hoovering up some marking, setting up for the day and having breakfast (of course!).

Mmmmm, desk-fast.  Coffee and muesli.
8.00am: The boys arrive and we have some form time - we chat, take books from the library, catch up, play card games.  Usually we'd have an assembly but it's been moved, so we get an extra long form time!

8.40am:  It's review paper week so I start getting the boys set up for their creative writing paper.  I'm exited to see how they do!

8.50am:  While the boys write their stories I am invigilating (and giving our tonnes of tissues - the joys of cold season!).  It's a great chance to write a few notes home - I send about a half dozen to dozen a week to keep parents in the loop on our adventures!  Perfect task to work on while keeping the boys calm and happy.
I love choosing new stationery every term or so!

9.50am: We finish up the papers and get them filed.  Then the boys head off to break and I hit.....

10.00am: The marking!



Haribo helps improve sentencing, right?
10.35am: After a silent session for reviews, we have a nice, loud, active maths session.  Blackjack, anyone?

11.10am: Monday is my main day for planning and marking, so I spend the next hour in the ICT suite making resources and filling in my planner.  So lucky to find pockets of time in the day for this!

12.10pm:  I popped to the office to see if my packages had arrived and then headed down to lunch - a spot of macaroni cheese and a big old helping of salad, YUM!

Christmas presents arriving :)
1.00pm:  Back to the planning and marking.

'Challenge lists' for our reading focus.

And more marking - gold stars agogo!
2.05pm:  English with my 5s - we are working on debating at the moment - such fun!

3.15pm:  A nice chilled RS lesson on the Bible.

3.50pm:  It's my turn to do 'shakey handy' duty - bidding all our Middlies a good afternoon.  I love times where I get to check in with the boys.

Monday is my earliest finish (along with Friday) - Tuesday through Thursday I tend to stay until 6, 7, or 8, but on Mondays and Fridays I'm often done by 4.30 or 5.  That's still nine or so hours, and definitely feels like hometime.

4.45pm:  Jump on the tube home.  Arrive to a cross Poppet - she gets very indulged with attention over the weekend, so she does NOT like Mondays! 

Where have you been???

6.15pm:  After a quick sip of water and some supper for the cats, it's back out of the door to the grocery store.  Luckily it's close by!

Yay!

I bought *so* much Christmas stuff.  I did remember milk!
7.20pm:  Home, and attempt a selfie while unpacking the shopping.

Failed utterly - Leela was not having it!

7.30pm:  My Dad used to make Dundee cake every Christmas, and this year I've decided to try.  First attempt tonight!
It begins!

Oh-so-many-dishes....

Yay!
While this is going on I also check emails, mark a bundle of mental maths scripts, send about a dozen Junior League emails, catch up with Matthew, read a couple of papers on division and generally whirl about.

Fry is getting sleepy...
11.30pm:  It's finally time to wrap up for the night....close down the house, have a cup of decaf and curl up with a good book.  Another Monday done!



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Making a house a home

Source: This cute printable is from Nessa Makes.

During the holidays, our house tends to be clean, tidy, well-kept.

During termtime....it's a different story.

I make lists, plans, schedules, but choosing chores rarely happens - there's always other stuff to do!

My friend E posted this schedule on pinterest the other week, and I liked the simplicity.  Just a few things to do each day.  

My problem otherwise is that I get too ambitious.  

Past Me always woefully overestimates how much Future Me will be willing and able to do.  

It's very easy to write in my planner that on a Wednesday night I'll hoover the sitting room, iron a pile of shirts and cook up a batch of treats.  

It's very hard to do so on that Wednesday night after an extra long day at work, or an impromptu late night chat with the girls, or a date with Matthew!

Just called me a wannabe housewife.  I love a good bit of homemaking, but it's hard to fit it all in sometimes!  So I try my best.

Don't we all?

How do you get it all done, lovelies?  Do you have a favourite chore? (Mine? Cooking and ironing)  Or a most-hated chore? (Hoovering!).


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Life Lately (According To Instagram)

Here's how things have been recently...


It's slow cooker season, so much yumminess has been added to the menu (above, beef in a red wine sauce with roasted Charlotte potatoes).


Lots of real coffee too - love my new cafetierre!


As we lollop towards the festive season, it's baking time.  Gingerbread, mint choc cake....


It's also Holiday Hampers time - above is the HUGE amount we were able to collect at school.  Inspired and touched by the generosity of my students!


There have been lots of snuggly weekend mornings :)


And reading sessions with my littlest reading buddy.


New box of food klaxon!


Tidying, organising, and planning.


I've been battling a chest infection and a back 'thing'.  This has involved my body waking me up most days.  At silly o'clock.

Quite.  A motivational message from my lovely boys!  :)

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My November Jam

Growing up, I used to love making mixtapes and mix CDs.  The opportunity to share favourite songs, discover new artists and the unique joy of knowing your friend/crush was listening to the exact same music somewhere else?

Awesome.

With the advent and ascension of iTunes and spotify, it's fallen out of vogue, but I still yearn for that sharing economy, that "here's my jam", that "I-realise-this-song-is-fifteen-years-old-but-I-am-currently-obsessed-with-it".

So every month or so, I'm going to post a youtube playlist of what's currently rocking my little musical world.  Before it all gets VERY Christmassy next month (39 days, guys!), here's my November mix....



1. Blank Space - Taylor Swift

Good heavens, this woman.  Love this song, love this video, love the whole album.  I am super-psyched to see her live again next year!

2. Funny Little Frog - Belle and Sebastian

I always have time for a good Scottish indie tune.

3. If I Were A Boy - Beyoncé

So help me, I like this song.  B can belt like nobody's business and this is a good old tune!


4. Thinking Out Loud - Ed Sheeran

I never used to really have an opinion on Ed Sheeran.  I'm well beyond his target demo and he was an artist I didn't like much...but was pleasant enough not to rile me!  However, his recent songs ('Sing' and 'Don't, as well as his duet with Taylor Swift) I've enjoyed, and this song I love.  It's just so sweet and the video's lovely.

5. Criminal - Fiona Apple

Angsty girl music of the indie-rock variety.  This was a repeat player in my youth!

6. Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) - Green Day

:)

7. What Goes Around....Comes Around - Justin Timberlake

I love how OTT this video is!  Great pop song.

8. Underneath The Stars - Kate Rusby

Kate Rusby is one of my favourite folk singers, and this song is beautiful.

9. Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago - Lee Ann Womack

Ah, country.

10. I Won't Give Up - Lennon and Maisy (covering Jason Mraz)

Speaking of country, when is Nashville back?  Man I love that show.

11. "Let It Go" via Google Translate - Malinda Kathleen Reese

I first saw this a few months ago and still love it.  Always nice to break out some comedy in a mix.  

12. Signed Sealed Delivered - Stevie Wonder

This song always reminds me of 'Now and Then' - awesome movie!

13. When It's Raining - Striking Matches

SM were one of my favourite acts at this year's Country 2 Country extravaganza.  I cannot wait for their album to drop!

14. Untitled - D'Angelo

I used to love this song and the album from whence it came.  I was reading a piece about RnB stars of the 90s and 00s and promptly fell down an internet hole of career paths.  Such is my bag.

PS Loving this whole album



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Great Books for Children aged 8 -12


There are many brilliant things about being an English teacher.

One of the very best has to be sharing a love of words, of books, of language.

I'm a voracious reader, and that's very much something I like to share with my students.

I currently teach two classes for English, focusing on readers in KS2.  Recently they have asked me for some suggestions on what to read next, so I made them some bookmarks full of quality reads!  In the real world I trimmed these and laminated, and gave each child a copy to have with them next time they are stuck for a read.  I thought I'd share them here in case they were of use to someone else with a bunch of bookworms!

Mrs R’s Challenge List (c. 8-10)
How many have you read?  How many can you read?
Carrie’s War – Bawden
How to Train Your Dragon – Cowell
The Tales of Despereaux - DiCamillo
Artemis Fowl – Colfer
The Borrowers – Mary Norton
The Demon Headmaster – Cross
Matilda – Dahl
A Bear Called Paddington – Bond
Swallows and Amazons – Ransome
Flour Babies – Fine
My Naughty Little Sister – Edwards
Finn Family Moomintroll – Jansson
The Adventures of Tintin – Hergé
The Queen’s Nose – King-Smith
Holes – Louis Sachar
Stig of the Dump – King
Pippi Longstocking – Lindgren
Mister Magnolia – Blake
Goodnight Mr Tom – Magorian
Little House in the Big Woods - Wilder

Mrs R’s Challenge List (c. 10-12)
How many have you read?  How many can you read?
Skellig – Almond
Wolf Brother – Paver
Millions – Frank Cotrell Boyce
Keeper – Peet
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Aiken
Eating Things on Sticks – Fine
The Witches – Dahl
Sparks – Kennen
Once – Gleitzman
Friendly Matches – Ahlberg
Journey to the River Sea – Ibbotson
Charlotte’s Web – White
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - Lewis
The Arrival – Tan
Private Peaceful – Morpurgo
The Hobbit – Tolkien
Truckers – Pratchett
The Little Prince – de Saint-Exupery
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone - Rowling
Ribblestrop - Mulligan

Note: these are not meant to be exhaustive, but are more a stepping stone in a readers' journey.  I'd say most of the titles could be enjoyed by both age groups, but a few of the books on the older list might be a little too advanced in theme and approach for younger children.

I'll be making new 'challenge lists' (my classes are competitive and love anything competitive!) next term.  Which books would you add?
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Cookies


One of my favourite things in the festive season is making sweet treats.  Cakes, candies, pies and puddings, Dad's Dundee cake.  One thing I find harder is making cookies or biscuits.  So many of my friends excel in this area, but it's a skill I'm keen to work on.

Over the weekend I made some gingerbread, and iced it with basic icing (milk, icing sugar, vanilla).  It was tasty, but it got me thinking - I'd really like to master the art of cookies this festive season!


So friends, I'm asking for help.  What are your go to recipes?  Your top tips?  Your need-to-knows?  Thank you in advance for making our Christmas even more delicious.
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Baking with Betty Crocker

A couple of weeks ago I was kindly invited along to a baking evening with Betty Crocker (the brand, not the fictional lady.  Now that would have made a very different post!).  In the course of the evening we experimented with different ways to use the various products and learned some new techniques, as well as learning more about the brand.

My favourite Betty Crocker factlet I actually knew before the event.  Apparently when the cake mixes and cookie mixes were first trialed way back when, they were 'just add water'.  This was too easy for the American housewife of the day, so the food designers went back to the drawing board and added a couple of extra steps (hence the eggs and oil!).

I use Betty Crocker products from time to time at home and like to bake, so I thought popping along would be a fun evening.  The items I use the most in my kitchen are the Red Velvet Cake mix (I've tried three or four recipes for a good made-from-scratch RV cake and still haven't cracked it!) and their frosting for when I have a batch of cupcakes made and ready to go - it's quick and convenient!

Here are a few pics from the event:


Sugar high in.....3......2.......1......


My baking partner for the evening was the lovely Leyla - I've bumped into her at other cooking events and enjoy her blog, so it was fun to join forces for the class.


Demo time.


Steph and Vicky are two other bloggers I've met before - it's a small world!  Always nice to see people and catch up.


Check out the look of concentration!


Oooooh, swirly cakes!


More instructions.


Leyla and I were amused that the other team's cookies had emerged beautiful and uniform in size.  Ours had become....ENORMOCOOKIE.

Betty Crocker were hosting the event to promote their newest product, Vanilla Icing and Sprinkles. So convenient when you're catering for a party or celebration.  

Thank you so much to Betty Crocker for inviting me, and for the goodies you gave me to enjoy at home.  I had to leave the evening on time for another commitment, so didn't get to see the finished articles.  I have however, been producing some lovely weekend treats at home :)


 Red velvet cake, cream cheese frosting, mini marshmallows.  Yum!
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33 things I have learned (at 33).

(Other potential blog post titles?  "Unsolicited advice" or "Brain barf")

1.You have talent and time.

2. Give.

3. Invest in decent work clothes.  Seriously, workwear you can depend on is awesome.

4. You are what you eat...in that if you eat crap, you're likely going to feel crap.

5. Some people just won't like you.

6. Enthusiasm + experience = EPICNESS.

7. Baking a cake is a great mood lifter.

8. Walking is awesome.

9. Don't yuck someone else's yum (this rule can apply to a lot of life areas!).

10. We all get down sometimes.

11. Thank heavens for your people.

12. Dance, and don't give two hoots who is or isn't watching.

13. Be kind.

14. Spending time in the company of creatures you love (be they human, cat, dog, or something else) replenishes the soul.

15. Write notes.  Send flowers.  Be there.

16. Be grateful.

17. Try your best.

18. Marry someone who makes you laugh.

19. Make plans.

20. Sometimes, abandon plans! 

21. Tea fixes most things.

22. Say sorry with your whole heart.

23. A snuggly jumper is a wondeful thing. 

24. Few pleasures are truly guilty.

25. Be gentle.

26. Be strong.

27. People are  going to talk behind your back.  Sometimes, it'll be nice stuff.  Often, it won't be.  Cope, rise above, react if you feel the need.  But it's always going to happen.

28. Comparison is the thief of joy.

29. Taylor Swift writes a darn good pop song.

30. People who dominate in meetings are rarely the smartest people in the room.

31. Rereading a favourite book is never a bad call.

32. No one else will notice that spot / kinked hair / scuffed shoe.  They're all worrying about themselves!

33. If all else fails, take a nap.
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Words, words, words....

Image found here

Yeah, I love me some vocab!
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