Kindness its not just for Christmas

Quick Christmas appeal

Christmas is amazing I love Christmas. I love trying to guess what presents I’ve got and if my partner will like what I’ve got him. I love cooking and baking in the run up to the big day. I always try to save some money in the run up to Christmas so I can get something nice for Christmas day and New Year’s Eve.

In all seriousness though Christmas is a time for family, forgiveness and thoughtfulness it’s not just about the presents. Whilst many people are getting ready for Christmas day, worrying if they have bought the perfect gift for their children and if the everything will run smoothly or if there will be another argument over what to watch on tv, others just see it as another day on which they have to somehow make ends meet and survive.

Giving and receiving presents is lovely but there is no need to panic if your gift costs less than their gift. That is not what Christmas is about it’s about appreciating what you have and trying to share a little of what you have with others who have less.

This year I am supporting a Christmas charity organisation called the big give (link at bottom) who raise funds and co-ordinate their appeals to help you help the charity of your choice. You can choose from location and cause to decide where you want to spend your money.

I am also trying to make Christmas go further by trying to raise awareness of the need to help others and be kind not just at Christmas but all year round. This doesn’t have to be a financial commitment it can involve donating old items to charity or donating time or even just letting someone else get on the bus before you or holding a door when you didn’t have to.

I am collecting the stamps I receive on Christmas cards and giving them to charity. It’s a small gesture that doesn’t inconvenience me in any way and can help someone else.

Don’t just be kind for Christmas be kind wherever there is opportunity. The benefits include making another persons day and being aware that you have helped someone when you could have not.

I hope you all have a lovely christmas full of love and appreciation.

WARNING: over kindness can lead to a sense of fulfilment and the need to help strangers.

Links

http://www.thebiggive.org.uk/ -charity donations to location and cause of your choice

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The mystery of the missing year

For those of you who have been dedicated to supporting my blog I have to apologise for my MIA status of the past year.

There have definitely been several major changes. I have moved house, finished university, started full time work and now have a SMALLER kitchen than ever before.

The least eventful of these was the finishing university. Although I have spent 4 years working and playing hard I have now graduated with a 2:1 BA in Religious studies. Leaving me more aware of religion in society but ill equipped to apply this knowledge to life outside university or the world of work.

Next was moving house, I have moved from beautiful wales to still not sunny Yorkshire. The move was the biggest thing I have had to organize in my life so far and for any last year students thinking of moving I suggest to start planning early.

There were several setbacks with the move itself. We had to be out of the house by June 28 and were going to hire a man and van however one of our friends suggested we hire a van and they would drive which was considerably cheaper. Unfortunately they fell ill with pneumonia and were unfit to drive a few days before the move date. This left us with a mad scramble to find a man and van or substitute driver.

We had several offers of friends who wanted to help however due to the short notice ended up hiring a man and van from www.anyvan.com to move the contents of our house the 500+ miles.

The guy who arrived was lovely he loaded everything into the van and helped with a few last minute jobs such as emptying the bins for the final time and vacuuming the stairs. He kept us well informed of arrival times making a stressful day that bit easier.

The new house is a two bed with a basement which has now been converted into a ‘gym’.

There is 3 of us sharing as well as two cats, two rats and a very lonely singular mouse (due to an unfortunate death).

Finally, the new job. Well it’s a job. AND I LOVE IT!

I’m working full time in a job I got offered whilst still at Uni. I walk to work most days and feel like it’s something worthwhile. I’m three months into my six month probation and looking forward to further training.

And that’s it. Here are some photos of things I have been doing over the past year:    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 054

Houdini

Houdini

Houdini

Houdini

Baby Houdini October 2014

Baby Houdini October 2014

Last years snow

Last years snow

Getting ready for christmas

Getting ready for christmas

My Easter Present from Lampeter University

My Easter Present from Lampeter University

Trip to St Davids

Trip to St Davids

Trip to St Davids

Trip to St Davids

Spot the kitten dec 2014

Spot the kitten dec 2014

Day at scarborough

Day at scarborough

View of Lampeter over the valley

View of Lampeter over the valley

Baby Echo jan 2014

Baby Echo jan 2014

Links

http://www.anyvan.com/view-profile/GordonF – profile for our lovely removal man.

http://www.uwtsd.ac.uk/lampeter/ – Lampeter University website

http://www.stdavidscathedral.org.uk/index.php?id=760 – St Davids Cathedral Website

Free legal resources; reading and films.

Books

Books (Photo credit: henry…)

Hello nice to be back. Sorry it has been a while since my last post I have been busy with end of term chaos. For this post I decided to write about the availability of free books on the internet.

I have just got a new tablet so have spent several hours creating a collection of books for different purposes. However you don’t need a tablet to access these books just access to the internet.

If you download the amazon kindle application there are thousands of free books available. Not just the classics. Some are specifically published free for kindle. Some are free when first made available however then the price goes up. So if its free its worth grabbing it whilst you can.  The best thing to do is type in any key word and then tell amazon kindle store to order it cheapest first. There is usually about a hundred pages of free books available at : http://www.amazon.co.uk/b/ref=amb_link_157681107_38?ie=UTF8&node=434020031&pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=left-2&pf_rd_r=0VNJN4GXSQZ8ETZMSX28&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=361270347&pf_rd_i=341689031

I may have got slightly carried away and downloaded 700 free books yesterday.

For those of you who have a tablet but can’t access the kindle software I recommend Aldiko.  This allows you access to feedbooks who have a variety of books written just for them and made available for free. Their website can be found at http://www.feedbooks.com/ they are fantastic with free original and classic books. The ordering isn’t always as consistent ass amazon but its worth bearing with for some truly awesome free reads.

Then for those of you who like romance books check out https://www.allromanceebooks.com/ just read the description first as there is a selection of teenage and adult romance. Depending on your preference of graphic detail and avoidance of sex I suggest checking the category before purchase.

There is loads of websites that offer free reading; both online and available to download to your laptop so don’t miss out.  The latest sight I have found is http://www.free-ebooks.net/ which I will be testing out in the next week or so. Also don’t forget anything out of copyright is often available free online.

I use sight such as http://www.gutenberg.org/ for out of print academic texts. There is also http://archive.org/web/web.php which has a range of out of copyright resources including films. These are legal ways to pass the time. I particularly love the films found on archive.org as they are often a bit different from the mainstream genre.

If you have ideas of where to get free films and books legally why not share. It is always nice to support the websites that give something back by sharing with friends.

Until next time I wish you a fabulous week.

Best wishes

Rachael

Test subject A- a follow up TEFL: Finding Legitimate Companies.

No one want to apply for a job half way across the globe, only to be short changed and have no one to turn to.

So, I’ve spent the better part of the evening looking into different companies which claim to offer jobs all over the world.

Of course sometime you can tell from just looking at the site. However, that is not always the case, from there you need to do more searching.

As is common with most companies now a days, they have twitter and facebook account, and becoming more common, having a LinkedIn page. I consider these to be good places to check. The more likes or followers they may be more trust worthy. Of course if you click on the link and the page doesn’t exist then you get away from that site.

Another good thing to look into is partnership information. If the site has the icons and names of other companies that are backing them, go look them up and see how credible they are. Some times this can be really easy, other times you are might have to search for online Australian newspapers to get information about AustChem. Even after you have seen a photo of the Australian PM at a lunch set up by the AustChem, can’t be too careful.

It’s not just sites with jobs offers to worry about. How can you work out the trustworthiness of a site that is offering TEFL courses? In this area I didn’t really do much searching. I found i-to-i from a graduate job website, so I took it as okay and I ended up doing my course with them.

I did go looking at other courses when I decided I did want to go through the process of getting TEFL qualified. Some of them again I judged on the look of the website, while others it was based on how much they were offering the online courses for. If a 120 hour course is normally around the top end of £200s and they are offering it at £60 something not right there.

Always look into a company as far as you can before applying. With doing a TEFL course you can gauge if it’s too good to be true. Whereas with the jobs the more common benefits always seem a bit too good to be true when you first go in. To me if someone offering you free accommodation, to pay for your flights there and back AND offer to pay for one round trip home, something’s always going to feel off. However, these are some common features, so it can be hard to gauge at times.

Anyone else have any tips for doing research let me know! J

Ellie aka Test Subject A.

Resource review

In my last post on teaching I decided to test some of the different resources available to revise for the QTS skills exam. I struggled to find any official QTS website so concentrated on basic skill sites instead. If you missed it you can check it out here: https://frogandcount.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/grammer-girl/

I noted that I would examine the following sources:

1) http://www.grammar-monster.com  – a basic literacy site with tests

2)http://www.aplusgamer.com/index.jhtml?partner=^AF4^xdm005&gclid=CNKG8tmYibcCFWXJtAodU3QAxg  – an online game app for maths and english

3) http://keyskills4u.excellencegateway.org.uk/ – a key skills site that requires a free login but provides feedback

4) http://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resources/ – a website for teachers or those hoping to become teachers.

Here’s how I got on:

1)      Grammer Monsters a basic literacy site with tests. It is a down to earth easy to navigate site with plentiful information on the structure of the English language. This basic guide was just what I needed to get to grips with the ins and outs of adjectives and adverbs. I am now far more confident about my use of language and ready to progress to more complex grammar. I might even (possibly) have another go at the official literacy practice test.

 

2)      An online game app for maths and English. Despite the enticing image and description of this product I did not test it. This I due to the need to download it and my aversion to downloading anything that isn’t from a 100% credible source. It may have been the best resource however I do not know. Instead I contented myself with the other resources, the contents of my university library and the suggested reading for QTS revision.

 

3)      Key skills 4 you a website with a free login and provision for feedback. This website has audio explanations with the option to test yourself. There is the option of training or testing. Training teaches the basic skills for ICT, maths and English. I really enjoyed this resource and found the use of interactive tools very helpful in remembering all the new skills. It was especially useful as you could change your preference of font size, colour and background colour making it easy to read. I am going to continue using this, especially for maths, as I continue to progress towards my exam.

 

4)       A website for those hoping to teach. I liked this site as whilst it did not provide any resources it did provide moral encouragement and the chance to interact with other students in the same situation. I would definitely recommend this to anyone going into teaching.

 

So that is my short review of four resources available online for anyone who wants to brush up on their literacy or numeracy. Please do share if you have found a useful resource.

Hope you are having a fabulous week.

Rachael

Guest post – TEFL adventure!

HI! I’m Ellie, or Test Subject A. Rachael asked me to do a bit of a blog about TEFL, which stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. This is because I am on my way to getting TEFL qualified and hopefully getting a job from it soon. This is just a basic overview of what I have done and found out so far on my journey. I am now on a 120 hour course so I may write more as I go through the course and learn more.

TEFL came to my attention from a graduate job website. It was offering me a TEFL job in China, with some very nice additions to it, the main one to me being free provided accommodation, while also being a paid job. Both there’s areas were appealing. Owning to the fact I want to find a job in order to be able to pay my way thought a Master Course. However, I’m not one to just jump into something without looking round it.

I also looked around at the different ways to gain a TEFL qualification. You can one either online, in a class room or a combination of both. Some jobs offer to put you through a TELF course, which would be done online, and with the last 20 hours in a classroom in the country of the job.

The courses differ in length from 20 hours to 120 hours, and ranged in price from around £90 to around £300.  The cost of the courses meant I had to be sure about wanting to going into TEFL.

So I went about looking at the different locations that employ native English speakers and the range of payments and benefits you could gain. This was to make sure it wasn’t just the China job I had seen that offered accommodation. As it turned out most jobs did come with this benefit, or provided money to use in renting an apartment or flat and help in finding one.
The majority, if not all (if a long term contract), of them offer help with VISA applications. A small amount will also pay for flights or provide you with a flight allowance. As well as all many other benefits that I shall not list here.  Along with this the pay seemed to remain good for the different types of jobs.

However, it was not these benefits that made me choose this line of work. The possibility to travel and earn money while doing so where the defining factors. The ability to help others in learning the convoluted mess we call the English language also played a factor.

I came across a few websites that offered TEFL courses, job lists or both.  Here are the main ones I am using:

  1. http://www.onlinetefl.com/ i-to-i was the first company I found, and not really thinking about it I signed up to the sight, which included giving a phone number. I didn’t question giving them this until after I had done it. It is easy to search for jobs on this site, however, it has a habit of saying it is unable to load the pervious when you click back, and when you tell it to try again will load and early search result. This is annoying if you had been looking at jobs in Asia and have moved onto Europe. There is also a tester here: http://taster.onlinetefl.com/index/start
    ADVICE- DO NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS SITE UNLESS YOU ARE SERIOUSLY THINKING ABOUT GOING INTO TEFL. They will call you up, and ask you about it. However, if you are thinking about and are still unsure it is useful, and the guy I spoke to was very friendly and helpful.
  1. http://www.tefl.com/ This site I used to look into more jobs. So far I have just looked into Europe, but they offer a larger selection of jobs than the previous website. However, the majority of the jobs in Europe they have seem to be based in the UK, which is not something I personally want to do. At the same time they have more, paid, jobs available in Russia than i-to-i which I like.  They seem to also offer training as well, but as I am using i-to-i I’ve not looked into it. They also offer an overview of the cost of living in a country you are viewing a job in (you do need to be logged in to see this page) With an account you can save jobs you are interested in, making it easy to find again when you want to apply.

(More to come later as I find them)

Other sites I have come across:

http://www.teflengland.co.uk/about-the-course.asp :- This one claims to find you a job as soon as you have finished your course.

http://www.eslcertified.com/ :- Same as above and they also offer a free tester, however, you need to make an account to access it.

http://www.britishcouncil.org/teacherrecruitment-tefl-qualifications-tefl-or-tesol.htm :- Definition of different teaching qualifications.

Some books that might be useful:

Lessons from Nothing: Activities for Language Teaching with Limited Time and Resources Bruce Marsland

Learning Teaching: A guidebook for English language teachers. Jim Scrivener

A Training course for TEFL. Peter Hubbard.

Well that’s it for now. May do more later, with details on what the courses give you.

Test subject A

May’s Jump Off The Ladder Challenge

Flickr today

Flickr today (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I found an amazing challenge that I am going to attempt to undertake. This involves jumping off the social ladder and then learning to live with just the things you need leading to less stress and commitment. More info can be found here: http://tshirtsandtwine.com/2013/04/08/jump-off-the-ladder-challenge/  according to

Today is the first day of the challenge as per the rules

I have to remember to check back on the website and record my updates four times:
~ Once during the week of May 12th-18th
~ Once during the week of the 19th-25th
~ Once during the week of the 26th-31st
~ Once on or after June 1st.

According to the blog here is what you have to do:

  1. Enter the Jump Off the Ladder challenge by filling out the form at the top of the right sidebar before May 12th.
  2. Chronicle your progress by submitting updates once a week for the three-ish weeks of the challenge, and one final submission on or after June 1st to summarize your experience (for a total of four updates.)
  3. Win free stickers, and be entered in a drawing for a t-shirt!

How easy is that?! Now for some quick reminders about the criteria for the challenges.

Choose from one of the following “umbrella” categories:

  • Possessions
  • Time
  • Money

Design a personal challenge for your selected category. Some examples of personal challenges include not eating out (money), cutting all time commitments other than family and work/school (time), or living on only one or two pairs of shoes (possessions). Get creative, but remember that jumping off the ladder involves making a dramatic, scary, and possibly uncomfortable change for 20 days. If at the end of the 20 days you decide to go back to your status quo, that’s fine. Just be prepared to be pleasantly surprised by your success!

So there you have it. How easy is that? You can tailor the challenge to your own needs.

I am going to concentrate on Time and Money. I want to slow down and reclaim my time for myself. I also want to spend less money on processed food and supermarket shopping. Instead I want to use the few local shops more often and try making more food from basics.

I will update you on my progression. Support and feedback is as always appreciated. Why not  check it out for yourself at: http://tshirtsandtwine.com/category/blog/lifestyle/jump-off-the-ladder/

Homemade flour

After all the examining of back to basics I had a sudden inspiration. Could I make my own flour? Most of my favourite recipes involve some sort of flour but if I made my own would it be cheaper than buying it from the shop.

I decided to test this theory out. I have never made my own flour before so started by doing some research. I wanted to discover what flour could be made out of. Were there any ingredients I could forage for or anything lying in the back of my cupboard that could be used.

I found that often you don’t need specific flour for a recipe and can adapt the recipe to suit the flour.  One example, which shows how to use normal flour instead of self-raising and vice versa can be found here: http://southernfood.about.com/cs/breads/ht/self_rise_flour.htm

Then I remembered that acorns are sometimes used to make flour. There are no acorn trees near us but there is a recipe for acorn flour here: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Acorn-Flour orhttp://www.self-sufficient.co.uk/Making-Acorn-Flour.htm  Don’t forget to rinse out the acorn mush before drying to remove tannins (which are bitter and poisonous but thankfully water soluble)

Next I looked at rice flour: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Rice-Flour . However after reading reviews about white rice flour is mainly used for thickening soups, stocks and stews and not for baking. What I needed was an all -round multi-purpose flour that was inexpensive to produce.

 I found a handy list of different types of flours you can make and level of difficulty at: http://www.attunefoods.com/blog/2013/04/how-to-make-your-own-gluten-free-flours-in-3-minutes-or-less/

The two that appealed to me were rice and oats as I already had these in. I decided to make a small batch and see how I got on.

I made a batch of oat flour which was fantastic and my old blender processed in seconds. I now have a tub of oat flour which I will be using in my next bake session. Probably to make pasta or bread.

cooking attempts flour 003

However when it came to producing the rice flour I tried both blending it with water and blending it dry. Blending it with water slightly crushed the rice but that was all no sign of flour after a good ten Minuet’s of holding my hands over my ears to counter the noise made by the machine.

Rice flour wet blend

Rice flour wet blend

Blending the rice dry in an attempt to crush it was more effective with an obvious sign of flour. As you can see against the plastic of the tub. Unfortunately my poor old blender was not up to the challenge of totally crushing the grains. In the case of rice I think some kind of grinder definitely needs to be used.

Rice flour dry blend

Rice flour dry blend

Eventually after much searching of the web I found this awesome recipe for multipurpose gluten free flour and the importance of the ratio of different ingredient with suggestions and a how to video. Check it out at: http://glutenfreegirl.com/2012/07/how-to-make-a-gluten-free-all-purpose-flour-mix/ . This site was amazing as it showed how to balance my homemade flours to ensure that they could be used for most cooking just like normal flour. I didn’t intend to learn how to make gluten free flour when I set out but it was an added bonus as several of my friends are gluten intolerant (celiac). I will definitely be using some of these (easier to crush) combinations in future when we have a baking spree.

At Gluten-Free-Girl they suggest using 40% wholegrain flour to 60% white flour or starches and provide a list of examples for each category.

I have now learnt how to make my own flour and would love to make some acorn flour when I get a chance. However, I think for now I will be sticking with basic shop bought flour. For those of us who can get away with gluten flour it is still cheaper to buy it from the shops at 65p for 1.5kg of Sainsbury’s basic flour compared to 40p for 500g of basic rice. This can be made cheaper if you buy in bulk but not everyone has access to bulk-discount store and for this experiment I only wanted small amounts and had to rely on the local supermarket. However, for those who are intolerant to gluten making your own is a much cheaper alternative to the shop priced packs.

Related

http://www.forgivingmartha.com/ – a blog by a gluten free dairy free chef who cooks amazing masterpieces from her apartment.

http://www.self-sufficient.co.uk/index.htm – website for anyone interested in foraging and recipe ideas.

https://frogandcount.wordpress.com/

Basic Pasta

This week I decided to concentrate on back to basics. I have had a request for how I make pasta so will be covering that today. Fresh pasta is easy to make without too much hassle, tasty and inexpensive with plenty of variations available. I tend to make mine in batches freezing the spare before cooking to eat at a later date.

The basic ingredients for pasta are: flour ( I use basic plain although you can get wholemeal, gluten-free and other types if you want to adapt the recipe to your taste), eggs, salt( a very tiny amount) and water (some people use oil) which helps bind the dough together and stop it from becoming too stiff.

How I make pasta:

I take two pre beaten eggs, a pinch of salt and 3 ½ to 4 cups of plain flour and place it in a large mixing bowl.

Then I use a silicon spatula to mix it first but it is fine to use a metal spoon or clean hands.

Once the egg and flour is mixed begin to knead together by folding and pressing the mix until it becomes a stiff, thick but not too sticky consistency.

If the mix is too sticky add a tiny bit more flour or if the recipe is too floury use a bit of the water. Make sure all the dough is well mixed together.

After this I usually cover my bowl and leave the dough to rest for a minimum of half an hour.  If you’re planning on saving some for later then let it rest in the fridge.

Divide the dough into sections and roll out to the desired thickness on a floured surface (pasta swells when it cooks and thinner pasta cooks faster). I find it easier to only roll in one direction and then flip the dough as it prevents it sticking and ensures a more even thickness.

Cut into the required shape either by hand or use a pasta machine. I cut mine by hand and find that squares are the easiest shape to get even size pieces and it is far less fiddly than trying to cut straight lines.

Very lightly flour the pre-cut pasta you want to save and place in a box/ bag into freezer.

The other pasta is ready to cook now. Boil some water and cook for 3-5 minute’s. it will float when done. Serve immediately with the sauce of your choice and enjoy.

Finally stick your feet up and let someone else do the washing up.

Dough

Dough (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other ideas

This is a recipe from one of my favourite sites that suggests measurements for serving eight: http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/2984/fresh-pasta.aspx

For those of you wanting to try something a bit more extravagant that still won’t break the bank why not try making potato pasta (gnocchi). I found an easy step by step recipe which I intend to test myself here: http://www.delallo.com/articles/making-homemade-gnocchi-step-step-guide

I haven’t tried making vegan pasta yet, but someone who has is Vegan Dad. Why not check out some of his recipes at: http://vegandad.blogspot.co.uk/2009/08/easy-fresh-vegan-pasta.html

If you want gluten free alternatives to your favourite recipe there are some fantastic suggestions available here: http://www.delallo.com/blog/recipes/transform-your-favorite-recipes-gluten-free-recipes

Grammer Girl

English: Wooden toadstools in Coed Moel Famau ...

English: Wooden toadstools in Coed Moel Famau There are four wooden toadstools at the side of the forest track here. They are labelled A,B,C and D. I assume that they are associated with the numeracy (and literacy?) trail that has been set up in Coed Moel Famau. See also 1249929 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After attempting a few of the literacy and numeracy practice tests for the QTS exam I decided I needed to do a bit more revision. Thankfully, I have a year to master the art of grammar and punctuation before I take the dreaded tests.

I already own the recommended books, but want some more practice without having to pay anything. My aim is to test a few numeracy and a few literacy websites that aim to help with key skills whilst working through the books.

The official site is:

http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/careers/traininganddevelopment/professional/b00211213/numeracy – numeracy practice test and resources

http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/careers/traininganddevelopment/professional/b00211208/literacy  – literacy practice test and resources

The first sites I am going to try is

http://www.grammar-monster.com  – a basic literacy site with tests

http://www.aplusgamer.com/index.jhtml?partner=^AF4^xdm005&gclid=CNKG8tmYibcCFWXJtAodU3QAxg  – an online game app for maths and english

http://keyskills4u.excellencegateway.org.uk/  – a key skills site that requires a free login but provides feedback

and http://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resources/ – a website for teachers or those hoping to become teachers.

I will document my success and failures here. anyone who has any suggestions please do share or let us know how you yourself get on too.

Best wishes for the week

Rachael