Wednesday, 30 December 2009

visiting with Sonya (and a new camera)

Ant and Mum and Dad bought me a new camera for Christmas. I have been playing with it and both Ant and I have been getting tutorials from Paul. I took it with us on a visit to Sonya's home (away from home) where we had a wonderful lobster dinner. (More about the food over on my food blog.)

Sonya and Kevin's children didn't remember us, but who can blame them since it's been a year--and that's a large proportion of their lives so far! Claire was keen to help me make cookies, which turned out rather well considering the mistakes I made.

Max handed Ant a book and then climbed on his lap. Ant began to read about Thomas the Tank Engine and both Max and Claire were enraptured.

Later in the evening Kai slept in my arms while we four adults chatted.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Merry Christmas

How wonderful it is to be with family for Christmas. My mother was hosting the big dinner this year, and she did a great job. Grammie supplied the mince pies (above) and a few other key items. Mum made the turkey and I helped a bit with the vegetables. Ant fluffed the mashed potatoes, Dad cleaned the whole house, and Paul moved furniture. There were fifteen of us and it was wonderful.

Two games of cards were set up after lunch. In the living room Ant and Grandad took on Linda (and Glenn).

In the kitchen Paul is chatting, while at the cards table in the dining room Dad and Lillian were playing with...

...Grammie and Katherine. I was happily reading and observing from my easy chair. Thanks to God for Jesus, his indescribable gift. And thanks also for all the gifts he has given us, including family and food.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

no, I am not ignoring you

Christmas time is always busy with special church events, gift buying, and parties. But I have more reasons (or "excuses") than these for neglecting my friends and family. Ant and I are moving this weekend and the whole flat is in total chaos at the moment. There are half packed boxes in most rooms and big piles of things to give away in the corridor. The fridge is becoming bare and there is paperwork littered everywhere. Trying to sort it all out while still working full time has proved to be a challenge.

But there is another excuse for my blog-post-less-ness. My laptop's hard drive has crashed. When I switch it on there is a clicking noise as the needle searches for the disk like an old LP trying to find the groove (or at least that is how I imagine it!). On Saturday Ant and I managed to use the boot disk to turn the computer on. We tried to use the "disk repair" utility only to discover that the computer thought it no longer had a hard drive at all. Next we managed to prise open the case--yes, the hard drive is still there, and no, it is not working at all.

I have ordered a new hard drive that is meant to arrive today, so hopefully I will soon be back in business. But all my photos, music, and personal files are probably lost. (Consider yourself told: Back up! Back up! Back up your files!) You think it will never happen to you and then--wham--the needle is knocked off the track and everything is gone.

Well, things are looking up. We will soon be a bit more settled in our new home (pictures to follow!) and my computer will be restored to new-born health. More updates when those two things have happened.

PS. Don't tell Ant that I wrote this post at work today in my down time. He has banned me from doing this becuase it makes my productivity go way down (duh!). But he hardly ever reads this blog, so please don't tell on me! :)

Friday, 4 December 2009

maths department

Today we took a group photo in the maths department. At lunch time we all met up in Scott's classroom and posed in front of the whiteboard. (You can see the posters of Pythagoras' Theorem and the area and circumference of a circle, so check back if you ever need to remember them!) We've got a great team of teachers in the department and I feel privileged to be working with them all.

I know that I winge (:complain) about teaching quite a lot, especially in person. I try to tone it down online.... But I realised today how much I love my job and it's mainly the pace and pressure that can get me down. I have been making more resources lately and noticed how much I enjoyed devising and creating them. And I have turned a corner (almost, I think, she said tentatively) with my most difficult class, so I am starting to feel a great sense of satisfaction with them. If they do well in their GCSE mock exams next week I will be really pleased. And my colleagues are great to work with. I wish we had more time to share ideas, both maths related and otherwise. What a great team.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

moving house

We have exchanged contacts on a flat to buy! We are so excited and it all feels a bit surreal. The exchange was on Friday last week and our completion and moving date was set for exactly two weeks later. So we are starting to think about packing... but to be honest each evening when we get home we are so tired that it seems insurmountable. Sigh. The weekend will be busy!

Matt is coming with us for a few months and then after that we'll convert the current lounge (pictured above in its current state with our vendor's furniture) into a dining room and the front bedroom into a lounge. We can live in the flat as a one bedroom property, but then convert it back to two bedrooms when we come to sell.

I'm happy that we'll be moved in just before we leave for Christmas. Matt will get to live with all the boxes while we are away visiting family in Halifax. We may just collapse from exhaustion when we get there.

Sunday, 22 November 2009


Ant and I have been doing paperwork today for our upcoming flat purchase. Yes, it looks as though we might soon be moving out of rental accommodation and into our first real home. We have been trawling through 105 pages of information on the title deed of the flat and compiling a long list of questions for our lawyer to help us with. We are hoping that it will all be sorted out by Christmas or at the beginning of January. Watch this space!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

visiting the south bank

Today it was a wet and grey London day. But I had a lovely wander around the South Bank anyway. One of my favourite places to while away time in London is at the used book market nestled under a railway bridge near Waterloo station.

The tables are groaning with books and your can browse there for as long as you want while the sellers perch on their stools next to the Thames and read. I don't always buy books, sometimes I just walk up and down and enjoy looking at them!

Also at the South Bank this weekend is a slow food market. Many stalls were selling hot food that smelled delicious: steaming sausage rolls, lentil soups, and hot mulled wine. I bought a couple of cheese straws (to take home for Ant) and some hummus for Pari and I. I mused over clotted cream butter--what an idea!

I stopped by at Pari's new flat on the way home to give her hummus, and convince her to come home with me for roast chicken, roast potatoes, and cabbage cooked with Worcestershire sauce. (Thanks to Geary for lending me the Jamie Oliver cookbook that taught me this cabbage recipe.) Ant whisked up some gravy and we ended the night with tiramisu that Pari brought. What a great weekend.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

maths and vegetables

My two favourite topics come together again! Look at this gorgeous romanesco cauliflower. Its florets make a fractal pattern. Fractals are self-similar, which means that as you zoom in on any section, you see the same repeating pattern as in the larger view. Fractals are quite common in nature. For example, pine cones and ferns both have fractal growth patterns. Also, on a map of the coast you can see a lot of wiggly ins-and-outs, and when you look closer and closer at stretches of the coastline you see the same wiggling line.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

visit to Guildford with Geta

Geta and I went over to Guildford for the afternoon yesterday. I have never been there despite how close it is to London, but I have heard frequently how lovely the historic buildings are. Below is a building called Abbot's Hospital, which is assisted housing for the elderly and infirm that was founded (and has been in operation) since 1619.

The highlight for both of us was Guildford Castle, founded soon after 1066 and used for royal accommodation for hundreds of years thereafter. We went inside and looked through the spacious (and draughty) rooms. We climbed to the roof and saw some amazing views of the town.

Geta was so thrilled to be wandering around the Castle. And taking pictures!

Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson) lived (some of the time) in Guildford. This little statue of Alice through the looking glass is tucked away in a nice little park near the Castle grounds.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

galleries and museums

Over the past two days I have been wandering around London. Just as I so much enjoy, I have been popping into shops (mostly used book shops), finding museums to visit, and drinking tea in cafes. For example, on Tuesday I drank this delicious fresh mint and cinnamon tea. Such an easy idea--it's little wonder I suppose that fresh leaves give a really vibrant taste when steeped in boiling water. I was at a little vegetarian restaurant recommended by one of my guide books called Eat and Two Veg.

I visited the Wallace Collection on Tuesday. It's a small, free museum in Marylebone that is less well known. But the rooms were beautiful and there are lots of important and interesting paintings there. I wasn't allowed to take photos inside, unfortunately.

I was quite taken with the fabrics in the rooms. Each room had a single fabric that was used for the curtains, the upholstery on the chairs and sofas, and also for the wall covering. (You can see it a little bit in these small pictures.) I wonder how difficult it is to hang walls with fabric. It was really lovely.

Yesterday I was walking around in the City and saw something that I think is so typical of London. Next to a group of office buildings there was this ruin with a little plaque explaining the dates and uses of this fort. There were lots of men and women in suits rushing past as I took this photo.

I went into the Museum of London, another smaller, free museum. I wish I had learned from past experience, though, not to visit any family-friendly places in half term. The Museum was very interesting but thronged with families and running, yelling children. I'm sure they were all enjoying themselves and relatively well-behaved. I just want a break from them. Sigh. I saw a reconstruction of a Roman pantry.

And here is a Roman dining room. This one is the reconstruction from a merchant's house and has vibrant wall painting (since the rooms were quite dark owing to poor lighting and a very small window). There's a small fire for heating the room in the bottom left of the photo.

Here's a monument outside commemorating John Wesley's conversion on May 24, 1978.

I met up with Bree for coffee after that, and we had the most delicious hot chocolate I believe I have had the pleasure of tasting at Manon cafe. It came with a free chocolate!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


Yesterday I went into the city to see my friend Dave. We had lunch at The Cloister Cafe in Great St Bart's Church. The food was delicious and it was enjoyable to catch up with Dave. We had a very relaxing lunch.

Then Dave walked me over to the Barbican Centre where he now lives. It's a big council housing estate unlike any other I have seen. It's built above the streets of the area with raised walkways and communal gardens.

There's a lake with a small waterfall and it is very quiet even though the busy streets are nearby. I walked through the Barbican Centre, an arts venue which is part of the estate.

My main plan over half term is to eat in cafes. Cafes with friends, or with a good book, or with marking.

Sunday, 25 October 2009


I never knew I had so many friends! Last night we had more than twenty people over to celebrate my birthday with me. We had some nibbles and drinks, and lots of chatting and relaxing.

One of my guests (a maths teacher, clearly) said that he estimated that the guest list was one third teachers, one third Canadians, and one third church-goers.

Having so many well wishers made me feel really valued and special. I was so happy that everyone was able to come over and enjoy my entrance into my thirties with me. Thanks, friends!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

loving London

A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of attending London Fashion Weekend for an afternoon. Kirbie was lucky to go on Saturday and she brought back some free entry tickets for Sunday afternoon. I went with Pari and we didn't see any fashion shows, but we did browse to our heart's content through all the designer stands. It was nice to feel as though we did not need to buy anything, and just to enjoy all the weird and wonderful things. There were some stunning handbags, and both Pari and I were seriously tempted. But a lot of the clothes were so "designer" that I couldn't imagine how they could fit in to any part of my life. Pari bought a gift for a friend, and I did too. Other than that we just took pictures and amused ourselves with giggling.

Friday, 9 October 2009


Canadian Thanksgiving seems to sneak up on me each year. A few times I have missed it by forgetting until after it has passed. Since it's not marked on any calendar here, it can be easily overlooked. This year, though, I wanted to host a big meal and this I did! But I accidentally invited everyone over one week too early. Silly me! In my excitement and determination not to forget, I didn't actually check (or remember correctly) the date of Thanksgiving. No matter, we had a delicious and thankful day anyway.

In fact, I was so excited about having people over that I probably invited more than I should have. We had eleven eating in the end (with one more who popped over for dessert) and we had a really hard time getting them all in the kitchen to sit down. We had to put our large desk next to the kitchen table in an L shape and a few people were a bit cosy. But that family feeling is a bonus, in my mind!

The night before I roasted two small butternut squash and then pureed it to make a pumpkin cheesecake. I made it last year as well, and it is definitely my Thanksgiving dessert of choice. The crust is made from ginger biscuits and pecans, stuck together with butter.

The other item I prepared the night before was the nut bake. It's a vegetarian main dish that is often served at Christmas. It was so easy to make with the help of my new immersion blender, which also has two mini food processor attachments, as well as a whisk. The nut bake is a mixture of cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, and Brazil nuts, layered with breadcrumbs, onion, and fresh herbs.

Ant and Matt were both a huge help to me on Sunday. Ant peeled about 3 kg of potatoes and ironed the tablecloths. Matt hoovered and went to the small Sainsburys down the road twice for emergency supplies.

I'm really grateful for the friends who came over to celebrate with me and share with us all the things for which they are thankful. God has really blessed Ant and I this year with new ideas and opportunities, and continuing health and jobs that we enjoy. We've grown in faith together and we've enjoyed getting to know our friends better.

Monday, 5 October 2009

busy life

The candle seems to be burning at both ends recently. Ant and I have been very busy both at work and at home. We have been flat hunting, and it is so much more involved than we thought. Hunting to buy is so much more stressful than when I did our previous lettings searches.

And work is all-go for both of us as well. I feel a bit as though I am struggling to keep up with the pace at work. I think I may need to tighten up on my productivity at my desk. But I am so tired that often I don't much feel like pushing myself; I putter around and then go home at "chucking-out time". Then work carries over into the next day and things spiral worse and worse. Sigh.

Sorry for wingeing. I have lots to be thankful for as well. I will write about those things after I get some rest.

Monday, 28 September 2009

extended family

Here's a great picture of my grandparents with their five children. It's taken by Paul (my brother) and based on a much older photo of Grammie with her parents and siblings. I think this is my favourite recent picture of my paternal extended family, even more than this summer's photo.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

childhood revisited

I have only a very few of my childhood books with me here in the UK. One of them is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Jodi and Ron Barrett. My copy (which actually has Micah's name scrawled moving upwards on the title page) is published in 1978. It's a story about the tiny town of Chewandswallow. There are no food stores in the town since the weather comes at three times a day and feeds the citizens. There could be soup, burgers, pancakes, or any food at all. It's a beautifully illustrated story that captivated me as a child. I have it here in the UK because I used to take it with me when I would go primary supply teaching. It was a sure-fire hit with young kids, especially because there were never any who had seen the story before.

Earlier this week I saw this amazing poster. They have made the book into a movie! I will have to go see it at some point. Hopefully it will be just as whimsical and captivating as I remember.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

girls' night out

Apologies for the dark photograph. All the photos on my blogs are taken with my mobile phone camera--I always have it to hand and it's easy to get the pictures onto my computer (via Bluetooth). It was dark in the pub when we were out last night, but we had a super time. It was really nice to be relaxing on a Friday night (though I was very tired) and out with friends. Bree is taking the picture. Next to me (doh--with my eyes closed!) are Helen, Holly, and Sarah. Nice food, interesting conversation, and a great evening with the girls!

Friday, 18 September 2009

like a boy in a chocolate factory

Ant got a new phone this week and he is loving every minute of it. It's the HTC Hero (which runs Google's Android operating system) and he can't get enough of its big screen, web browsing, camera, music, games, etc, etc. He took this photo with his phone moments ago and emailed it to me from the phone! You can see me in the background, blogging, while he is grinning like a madman for the camera.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

school routine

It's amazing how little time it takes to get into the school routine again. Long days of teaching, lesson planning, marking, and cycling back and forth. I manage to make dinner, and usually do one household chore each evening (ironing, or doing a load of laundry, or tidying). Then Ant and I manage to watch one TV program or read one chapter/article or play online for a while. I do the dishes and then we are off to bed by 10 pm each evening, ready to wake up at 5:35 am the next day.

It's easy to think of the daily routine as boring or tedious. But it needn't be so, I am telling myself. At the Mennonite service a few months ago something struck me and I took notes from the printed prayer:
For the discipline of life,
for the tasks and trials which train us to know ourselves
and which bring us to accept one another,
we give you thanks, O God.

So I'm hoping to see my routine as useful discipline rather than drudgery. It's a chance to learn and develop my character. Thank you, Father, for all the ways you work in life, the quiet ones as well as the more obvious, loud circumstances.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

tutor group

I tutor a group of year nine students (fourteen year olds) and I've had them since year seven. They see me twice every day and I am meant to be their parents' first point of contact about all things school-related. I give advice and had out letters, keep communication between home and school open, and generally act as an advocate for my twenty-eight youngsters around the school. I try to solve their friendship and bullying issues and act as police for the school's policies and rules.

Do you think it would be crazy to read to them during tutor time? I thought of this last week when I was browsing on Green Metropolis, and I spontaneously bought a copy of the The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. There are lots of things we are supposed to be doing during tutor time, like checking everyone has all their equipment, all the socks are black or grey or white, all the skirts are of an appropriate length, etc, etc. But really I am re-thinking my strategy with them. I have been very businesslike for the two years I have had them as a tutor group and now I want to forge a bit more of a relationship with them. Ideas certainly welcome! I started off last term with a summer pizza party, where we ordered pizza from down the road and I brought in drinks (Coke Zero, to minimise the damage to afternoon lessons!) and treats. They enjoyed it... I think. I don't actually know them very well and I think I would enjoy them more if I got to know them a bit.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

back to work

Well, one week done! It was quite a tiring endeavour this week, to motivate myself and 155 students to get back down to some quality work. I am teaching a few new-to-me classes this year, for example, a bottom set of year 9s (fourteen year olds) that I am finding quite a challenge. I didn't realise how much detail I would need to go into when explaining how to round a number to the nearest ten, hundred, or thousand. Actually, I decided after the first lesson, that I'd better teach about the place value positions first. Because if you can't identify the hundreds digit, then you can't round to the nearest hundred. This was a hurdle I wasn't expecting! But now I know not to assume any knowledge in the future. We will be doing lots of times table tests this year, because if these students leave school with any functional numeracy at all it will be a benefit.

Organising my classroom, resources, and mind is always a challenge as well. I have made a lot of hands-on items over the last few years, and it is a collection I want to continue building. So over the summer I reorganised them by moving them all into stackable containers on a high window sill (more than two metres off the floor). The containers are from our favourite oriental take-away food restaurant, and I have been collecting them all year--now I have about fifty, I think. All the boxes are labelled on the front with large stickers; "rounding card sort" is new this week, and a class set of "digits 0 - 9" for use with my new place value mats (laminated 50 cm long grids which hopefully will help students see how to compute 236 x 100 in their heads).

I love organising, but if only I had more time to do it! As the week went on, my desk became the resting place for piles of worksheets, incoming mail, items that my boss asked me to look at, slips of paper, and so on. This mess was compounded by the fact that I managed to run over the bell with almost every lesson this week (I must be out of practice!). So as students were leaving the room, the next set were streaming in, and I was still madly trying to find my next set of slides, worksheets, feedback slips, cards sorts, and mini whiteboards, while tidying away the ones I had finished with. Sigh.

The weekend is a welcome break. But in reality, I might be better served by going to work and trying to get back on top of things before the madness of another week begins.

Saturday, 5 September 2009


I recently rediscovered the joys of my local library. It is very close to me and there is really no excuse for not popping in there quite regularly. As well as loaning books, they also sell withdrawn books and I like to browse through the two trollies of odds and ends there. Every few visits, I pick something up for 40 pence. In the spring, I found a little city guide of Sydney, which came in handy when we were in Australia. I get Ant some of his spy thriller books there as well. I also love used book shops and charity shops where I browse for books. I have signed up to Green Metropolis, an excellent online UK-based book exchange website.

The photo shows my new-to-me books books over the last part of my holidays. The bottom two books are on loan from the library: The Kitchen Revolution and Julie & Julia (on which the current film is based). The top two books I bought from the library's withdrawn stock: Reading Lolita in Tehran (which Bree recommended) and Cryptic Crosswords and How to Solve Them. And the other three are from used book sales and shops: Homestead by Rosina Lippi, Cook's Book of Cheese, and The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

So these are going to keep my busy for quite some time! What are you reading (or hoping to read) at the moment?

Oh, and I also recycle the books away again after I've read them. My charity shop takes them from me. (Sometimes I've wanted to buy them back months later when I find them on the shelves!)

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


Pari and I have just returned from a wonderful long weekend away in Munich. It's a very pretty, clean city. The people there were friendly and I got to practice my German quite a lot. I could have stayed in Munich.

One evening we happened upon this quartet busking along the side of the main square. Busking! With a baby grand piano!

One highlight for me was visiting the Residenz Museum, the palace where Bavarian kings lived. There are so many rooms to see that half are open in the morning and a different group are open in the afternoon. The audio guide was excellent and the historical rooms were fascinating.

Another highlight was all the interesting food I tried. Of course, there was some Bavarian food, for example on Monday when we went to the Englischer Garten and had lunch in the beer garden. I quite enjoyed my bratwurst and sauerkraut! I even managed to drink (and perhaps enjoy) a half litre of Hell Bier.

Pari enjoyed the pretzel that is bigger than your head.

But apart from the Bavarian food, we ate lots of other cuisines as well. I had a meal in a Japanese noodle bar with Sutapa (Pari's friend). Then we all went out for a tasty Tibetan meal. The next night Bipro (Sutapa's husband) cooked us a Bengali meal (which I ate with my hands, in the traditional style), and then we ate Ethiopian food another night (which I also managed to eat with my hands). Ethiopian honey wine was delicious (although very sweet, and I needed help finishing it).

Our visit to Schloss Neuschwanstein was excellent as well. It's a couple of hours outside Munich. First we travelled by coach to the base of the mountain and went for a cycle tour to Swan Lake (Schwan See).

Then we hiked up to the castle itself and took a tour inside.

Oh, how I enjoyed Munich! I feel newly inspired to continue working on my German. I brought home some children's books for language practice and Ant and I read a few pages last night--slow going but very rewarding! Our German lessons start up again in mid September.