Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hair. Also, weirdness.

I got my hair cut, did I tell you that? I freaking love it and have been wanting bangs/fringe for ages so I dig having it now. In yellow nursery one of the assistants had the tykes tell me that they liked my hair yesterday and OH. I blushed so bad. Thanks, tykes.

On Sarah and Desh's last day in London we were down by St. Pauls and found these furry people. None of us have been able to figure out what on earth they were doing. There were about 30 of them on the steps of St. Pauls and they all refused to tell us when asked point blank on the day. Sarah described this guy as a "skunk who fell in some windex." Which I think is so. great. In any case, I don't have a good explanation for this photo- but look: Bangs! (Fringe!)

The faces pictures is just because.

Bright Colors/Busy and Social

I have been SO busy recently. I don't think I've been at home for an evening in two weeks- though of course, going to Scotland helped with that...So I want to tell you about some of what I've been up to.

That being said, the real reason I decided to start blogging right now is because of the incredibly bright colors I happen to be wearing- red hoodie, pink yoga pants, and my delightfully warm rainbow patterned knit socks from Andy and Nancy. I think I may be a little bit blinding in this outfit.

Last night I went to the Science Museum for one of their late night events-this is the second one I have been to and this time the theme was "music" which was, as you may have guessed, right up my alley. In addition to having their regular exhibits open (and free from small children, so you get to play with all the toys too!) they also have all sorts of special events to do with their theme. My favorites from last night were the silent disco where everyone is given a pair of wireless headphones and you choose from two competing DJs, KaraUke, and kazoo making with clothes pins and rubber bands.

Silent disco is hilarious to walk by because you can't hear anything anyone is listening to because it is all through headphones and half the group is bopping around to a completely different beat than the other half. It's especially great when the two DJs have chosen music that encourages very different styles of movement- like reggae on one channel and a Ramones remix on the other.

KaraUke is karaoke with a ukulele backing band. It was ridiculous and *awesome.* I am going to go to some more of their gigs because...well, do I really need a reason? My life will not be complete until I have sung Eye of the Tiger with them.

On Monday Ella and I went to the South Bank Centre for
Hide and Seek: Sandpit which is a "monthly" pervasive gaming testing ground. It's getting to the point where I've now been to enough events like this that I am recognizing a lot of people. Am I turning into a groupie a little? Yes. In addition to playing an intense version of "Mafia" I also ran into my friends Emma and Will whom I haven't seen in six months since they left on a train trip through Russia and the rest of Europe and then moved to Bristol. What were they doing in London? Clearly they showed up for the express purpose of catching up with me...

On Tuesday I went to Gwen and Rob's friend's album launch which Rob was doing the sound for. Gwen and I also spent Tuesday afternoon talking to an accountant friend of hers about how to do taxes in the UK. He was incredibly generous with his time and we both feel both more relaxed about the whole tax situation and far more knowledgeable.

On Friday I took Meredith to a game run by Fire-Hazard called "Survivor Sports" which basically boils down to dodge ball in the dark with glow sticks. It was totally sweaty and fun.

Saturday was another Jezebel meet up followed by scrabble with Rob and Gwen. (I lost, not as badly as possible, but still. Gwen won. AND made cool words. Go Gwen!)

Sunday I went to the lamest Chinese New Year celebration ever with Linda, my tiny tykes co-worker. Man, they really needed a stage manager. The event was in Trafalgar square, and to be fair it had been raining, but really- don't have 5 minutes of down time followed by 15 minutes of random people painting the eyes of the dragon that no one in the audience can see, followed by really lame audience participation (clue- if the giant crowd isn't cheering for you and hasn't yet done so at all- don't heckle us. It doesn't create goodwill between the audience and you. It creates quite a lot of ill-will actually.) Linda and I were out in the rain for over an hour and they finally started doing a dragon dance for 2 minutes but cut that short to do another photo call, so we left. But we had a really nice time chatting! So it wasn't a total wash!

Sunday night we found out that Rob had finally gotten a job! So Gwen and Rob and I celebrated- which was bunches of fun. (Who finds out they've been hired on a Sunday? Isn't that weird?) We ended up at this delicious Belgian restaurant that I don't remember the name of. They had long, sort of communal tables, so we ended up talking to the guy next to us who is a buyer for some sort of knock off fashion house in America. He travels all the time and ended up buying us drinks because he felt so bad for us that eating at this restaurant was a treat rather than just a matter of course. He left his billfold on the table at one point and it was full of $100 bills. We were like "....right. Different world."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Scotland: All Done

Scotland: Eye Candy Continued

Scotland: Eye Candy

I have no clue where most of these pictures were taken beyond "The Highlands" but aren't they nice? Most of these were taken by Desh, so thanks very much for sharing them with me, buddy!

Scotland: Number 4

We were on the tour bus for two days and then spent one more day in Edinburgh before hopping onto the Caledonian Sleeper at midnight that took us back to London. The sleeper train was a decently good idea- it was cheaper than other train times and it meant that we got to maximize our time in Scotland while minimizing the amount that we spent on hotels, but it was not the most comfortable sleep I've ever had. Ah well. Anyhow- on our Edinburgh tourist day we goaded the guide at the gate of the castle into taking a pictures with us, walked around the grounds, looked at a tartan mill, wandered through the writers museum, looked at stained glass windows in St. Giles' Cathedral, and were walking down towards the National Museum of Scotland to look at Pictish artifacts when museum walking caught up to us and we needed a break to rest our backs.

Fortunately Edinburgh is full of the best looking, most inviting, and characterful pubs I've ever seen. So we wandered off the main road and ended up in The Royal Oak. Man, were we lucky enough to wander in there. The pub is about the size of my parents' living room. Snug, inviting, and covered in "Best Folk Music Venue" awards. Being such a small place it was easy to get to chatting with the other folk there. Chief among the chatters were Mike- the 6'4" bartender from England and Alan- the bekilted genealogist who is from another branch of Wylder's clan. They had a wee tiff about being racist towards the English in Scotland which was settled quickly with a handshake and another beer.

Alan told us all about Sarah's clan and the connections between the various branches and then, upon being asked about a plaque we'd seen in St. Giles' called up a friend and reported back that the Bailey's came to Scotland with the Normans and were part of the Lamont clan? Or something like that? (I have to admit, I wasn't totally following his explanation.) We fully intended to come back that evening to listen to whatever music was playing that night, but when we announced our intention Mike jumped in and said that we needed to go two minutes down the road to The Green Mantle where his band was playing that evening. Which is how, that night, I ended up borrowing a bodhran for one song, singing "where have all the flowers gone" along with the rest of the pub, and trying to figure out if I liked the mandolin or the banjo solos better. Thanks, Mike.

Scotland: Number 3

Many of you who read this blog will know that the first time I came to England was when I was nine. (Heck, many of you who read this blog were ON that trip.) Many of you who read this blog will also be familiar with my family's tendency towards remembering trips and events by the food that we ate there. Many of you have probably heard about the potato story. (Which isn't so much a story as it is a tall tale.)

Which brings us to Edinburgh.

The first time I was in Edinburgh was on a one day side trip during the Great England Adventure. We took the train, it rained all day, we saw the castle, we had lunch in a pub and watched a practice parade for the Norwegian (?) King, and we had huge, massive, "shipping container" sized potatoes with shrimp curry on them. It was totally delightful and a highlight of the day. (Possibly even the trip. Well, that along with the family of swans that I fed while we were on the canal boat so that they followed us and picked at the stern for the whole week.)

Now, I don't know if this is the same potato shop- because for one thing I remember there being a counter with stools on the side of the room and for another thing this potato shop is all vegan and vegetarian. But it is red, it is in roughly the right location, and 16 years can change any number of things and so I suppose it is possible that this is, in fact, the same potato shop. Regardless of the authenticity of the shop, I will tell you that you can smell the baking potatoes from half a block away, they are generous with the cheese, and the whole place is a hippie haven. Yum.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Scotland: Number 2

Scotland is full of Lochs. (This is one of those "No duh" realizations I had on our quick trip. Other ones include "Scotch Broom is native to...Scotland") A less obvious realization is that Haggis is actually delicious. Okay, I don't eat mammals and I didn't have proper haggis, but we had Scottish breakfasts every morning we were there and to my delight I found that vegetarian haggis was a regular part of that. Desh even found a vegetarian haggis samosa- taking fusion food to its outer limits.

But back to the lochs- I have many, many photographs of beautiful Scottish lakes. I have no EARTHLY idea of which ones are which. I do know that we saw Loch Ness, and it was much bigger than I expected it to be. I've always had this mental picture that I created when reading a book called The Banshee in elementary school (which isn't even about Loch Ness, but hey) of a crumbling castle next to a dark lake- a lake that, while large enough to reasonably row a boat in, was still small enough to see all sides of from one point. Loch Ness IS dark, and there IS a crumbling castle, but it is most certainly not small.

Desh spent most of the trip taking pictures with his fancy schmancy camera. Mac would give us instructions like "don't go on the rocks, they'll be very slippy in this weather" and out Desh would head, to go set up his tripod on those rocks. Anyhow- the light on the above picture is not ideal- but it *is* of me on Loch Ness. So there ya go.

Scotland: Number 1

My friends Wylder and Desh are visiting from DC on their way to India. Since it is half-term for me we decided to spend a couple of days up in Scotland. We decided to take a two day, small bus tour into the Highlands with a tour company called Rabbies which is maybe not the nicest name ever, but they did a great job.

We had a 16 seater bus/van thing with 12 of us on the tour. With people from Spain, US, UK, Japan, China, Australia, and New Zealand, we were a very international group. Our tour guide was Mac Scott. I haven't decided yet if that could possibly be his real name- but we'll roll with it for now. He showed up all kilted out and proceeded to spend the next two days regaling us with dozens of stories of battles and heroes and the organization of various clans through his microphone. His accent would get thicker the deeper into a legend he got and then would abruptly drop back into a fairly normal Edinburgh accent whenever we needed to make a decision about where to go next or when we almost ran over a pheasant. He would also act out some parts of various stories using hand gestures and sound effects. The sound effects were fine (because life is better with sound effects) but the hand gestures were sometimes a little much- like when we would be careening through the snow and suddenly both hands are off. the. wheel. Yeah, that's lovely that you have to fold and fold and fold the Feileadh Mor but drive!

Not that I ever actually felt unsafe- we were in very good hands.

We didn't have the best of luck with weather while we were out there- heavy mist covered the city on our way out of Edinburgh and it snowed overnight when we were in Inverness- but had I not been told that we weren't following the original plan- I don't think I would have noticed.

We frequently left the bus to go look at and take pictures of stunning scenery and lochs. I fell massively in love with the "hairy ginger cows" (Highland Cattle) and would frequently squeal when they were visible outside the windows. They're just so cuddly and ginger and they can't see very well through all their hair! Cute.

I should probably point out that Scottish people do not, to my knowledge, refer to the Highland cattle as "wee 'airy ginge' coos" but MAN Sarah, Desh, I do.

Everything was stunningly gorgeous, and if we ended up in a foot and a half of freshly fallen snow trying to take pictures, well, at least I had 4 extra pairs of wool socks to change into.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tom Kha Gai

Do you know when Chinese New Year is this year? On Sunday. Once I figured this out it explained to me why all of the Asian food stores that I passed (or went through trying to find galangal without asking anyone if they had it) were PACKED with people. Also dragon fruit. Anyhow. I was brave and finally picked my way through the largest shop I could find finding all of the ingredients for Tom Kha Gai. Gwen came over for dinner and we made elaborate food with fancy, fun, exotic ingredients. I have pictures. We also used her brand new mixer to make cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. Because we are just that cool.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tykes' Teachers Get Assessed

My mid year assessment was meant to have happened weeks ago, but due to a number of reasons(unexpected visiting doctors during "people who help us week" and an instrumental concert) it happened today.

Linda was my assessor and even though I have now been at school for a year (official! I started last year right after spring-term half-term break and half-term break starts next week so I have now done a full and complete year cycle.) I had yet to go through an assessment. Now, Linda and I work together every week- we teach club together on Wednesdays and we've done quite a lot of planning for the department together- so Linda ought not to be intimidating. She wasn't really intimidating so much as the concept of being assessed was intimidating. In spite of regularly being told by my co-workers that I am doing a good job, I am still convinced that I'm due for a talking to at any. moment.

I had filled out an Official Lesson Plan form with things like "Key Learning Intentions (WALT)" ... and "Plenary" .... I think this is one of those places where if I actually had teacher training I would know what these things meant. As it was I listed what concepts we were covering and how we would review the songs at the end of the class.

The lesson went well. We worked on Staccato (short and discrete) and Legato (connected) in the form of Frogs and Snakes as well as continuing work on our "Do You Know The Story" song.

We've already listened to staccato sounds and jumped like frogs on the down beat, and last week we listened to legato sounds and moved our hands like undulating snakes. This week I introduced the idea of using our voices like Frogs and Snakes (super short, barking out each syllable individually or completely slurred together). We started by repeating the names of our teachers in the style of whichever laminated picture I was holding up that we we were working on and then moved on to repeating all the tykes' names in that manner as well.

Following all that we reviewed "Do You Know The Story" and tried out writing and singing some new verses. Then we sang the verses with "frog" (staccato) voices and "snake" (legato) voices.

So there you go. There were some warm up and ending things as well- but pretty much- that is what the meat of one of my lessons looks like. The kids did a very good job with the staccato/legato contrast and though I really should have set up the writing of new verses in a different way a couple of lessons ago- they still came up with some interesting and fun verses today as well. Mostly about Power Rangers.

Part of the assessment is immediately sitting down with your assessor and talking about how the lesson went. There is also a written portion that Linda gets to write up tonight. She said that I had an exciting and engaging manner with the kids and I that I was very clear with both what I was doing and with what I wanted the tykes to do. Also that the lesson plan was excellent. (Woo!) She said these things a couple of times and a couple of different ways and I'm sure my facial expressions were concerning her but I couldn't relax until I got to hear what I needed to work on. (Casey! Relax!)

What I need to work on is classroom management- I'm very positive with the tykes- praising good behavior and pointing out kids who are correctly modeling what I'm looking for, but I need to gain more confidence and the authority or presence or whatever that is that means that the kids do what I ask them to the first time I ask them. Also- the teachers in the classroom. A lot of the time a considerable amount of noise is coming from the classroom teachers or assistants who use my class as an opportunity to catch up on things around the room like typing, tutoring one of the tykes (seriously?), chatting with the other teachers, microwaving the tykes' lunches, and today: stuffing a bunch of plastic bags into another plastic bag. (The bags were so loud that I actually did ask her to stop, which was fine, but everything else? Not so much.)

The other thing I need to work on is Plenary (apparently the final section of a traditional three part lesson...huh. I still don't know what WALT stands for.) And Linda and I are going to continue to work on that. We came up with some good ideas that might help both issues- namely small group work and giving creative or quizzing tasks to pairs of tykes. So all in all? Good.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tykes and Firehoses

On Tuesdays I am meant to be doing planning with Linda and only sticking around for two hours. This has never been the case, I've always stuck around longer than that. Recently, because I finally figured out the utility of lesson plans and sort of figured out a good system for doing them (we'll see if it keeps working. If it does then I'll say that without the "sort of"), I have found myself chaperoning field trips. This morning that involved a trip to the Fire Station!

Gosh, golly fire stations are fun. I was arguably more excited than some of the reception students that I was brought along to chaperon. Definitely more excited than poor Z whose face was pure misery the whole time. She found the whole thing rather frightening, and that combined with the frigid weather and lengthy trek to and from the fire station meant that Z was not a happy bunny.

J on the other hand? MAN fire stations are COOL.

"Did you know that the fastest car in the world is longer than a bus?"
"Is it?"
"Yes, and it can go faster than the fire truck!"

All of the children got to climb into the fire truck, ask questions from Fire Man Charlie (isn't that just an ideal fire man name?), wear fire helmets, play with flashlights (oddly the highlight of the event), and this super-neat view finder with heat sensing...ness. THEN everyone got to try out the hose. With water going through it.

Some of the mothers were taking photographs and they got a little in the way of the fire hose. Guys? When a four year old has control of a fire hose, may I suggest that standing anywhere in front of the hose is a poor idea? J-N's mom got rather wet.

You know I said that everyone got to try out the hose? I mean it. I totally tried it out too. And it was *awesome* (though really it' just like a large shower head attached to a red truck...)

Friday, February 5, 2010

See How I'm Posting This?

This blog entry right here- see how it has come up on your computer? Isn't that so cool?!

You may think "Oh, that's not so great. We've seen these blogs before..." and be all unimpressed. But hmmph. This blog is *special* and want to know why? Because last week our downstairs neighbors whom we had been sharing internet with abruptly moved. This means that we were abruptly without internet. Alas.

So I got online at a friend's house and ordered The Internet. Well, I ordered the modem and the router and all that jazz. And THEN, because I was feeling both all cheap and all feisty, I clicked "self install" which was 20 quid less than getting a guy in to come do it for me.

So this internet? That I am using to write this blog with? Yeah. I installed it all by myself. And it WORKS! WOo! And it was delivered in a giant red box by UPS!

Thanks. I just wanted to share.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I love my yoga class. With a maximum of four people, it is always so intimate and filled with personal attention.

Things I have learned- I've been doing triangle poses wrong for...going on nine years now. Basically you stand with your feet apart and your arms out at shoulder height, then reach one arm out over your front foot as far as you can, fold over, and rest your hand on your knee or shin or whatever. "Rest" was where I've always gotten that wrong because I really do just support my whole body weight on my hand there and it's not so very hard. What is actually supposed to be happening, however, is that your abs are both folded and holding you up. This is so very hard. My core aches today.

The other thing I learned this week is that I LOVE and adore arm balancing postures. Okay, I knew that already, but we did a new one on Tuesday and it involved hooking a foot around one arm, blancing on your hands, and then extending the other leg back behind you. And I did it! (This is pride right here. The whole point of this post is to be all "look at how cool I am!" and brag about the types of poses that come easily to me. Notice I'm not saying anything about forward seated folds because I am rubbish at them. But arm balancing? Looks impressive as all get out and works well for me.)Also I think it is cool how well you can feel your body's weight when all of it is resting on your elbows.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Singing Lesson

I had my first singing lesson with Jilly today. (That's Ella's mum for those of you who don't know.) It was super fun and excellent. We are working on using my voice properly and freeing it really, making sure that I can make a big, relaxed sound so that when I'm teaching my tykes I can model good singing habits. We geared the lesson specifically towards my teaching which was great because it immediately felt useful. This did mean, however, that I spent the majority of the lesson sitting on the floor (learn how you mean to use the skill, right?)

The mechanics of singing are just fascinating- we worked with relaxing my jaw and accessing different parts of my voice and different techniques to bypass various physical and mental blocks. The muscles involved are, for the most part, small and not readily visible (what with being down your throat) so they way that you teach and learn singing is basically by metaphor (and then, of course, by the sound that you manage to produce.)By the end of the lesson my voice was HUGE. And I'm not going to lie: I'm pretty pleased with that. At this point what I feel I most need to get a handle on is breathing and how to do that properly and efficiently. We're having another lesson next month when she comes back down to London again. I'm looking forward to it.