Four Things to do with Over-Ripe Bananas

Bananas are very popular in my house but the moment the skins start to turn brown, my children turn their noses up at them. I often get left with a few in the fruit bowl that needed using up. Here are some ideas for what to do with them.

  1. Banana Muffins These are delicious and can be eaten at any time – even for breakfast. There are plenty of recipes on the Internet but I used this one. I couldn’t find any paper muffin cases in the cupboard so I used my silicon muffin tray to make these.

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2. Banana Loaf This banana loaf is so delicious! There are a lot of recipes online. Some call for cream cheese icing which I think goes really well with banana. I drizzled this one with glacé icing as I didn’t have any cream cheese. You can add lots of different things to banana loaf such as chopped walnuts, raisins or cinnamon.  It’s also nice if you substitute some or all of the flour for wholemeal flour.

 

3. Cooked Bananas You can do these in the oven but I usually cook them in a frying pan for speed. Slice the bananas in half along their length. Put in a pan with some butter, lemon juice and brown sugar. Cook until they are brown and soft, and the sugar is becoming a sticky sauce. They are delicious served with cream.

4. Banana “ice cream” I have put the words ice cream in inverted commas because there is no cream involved with this recipe. It is very simple and healthy as the only ingredient is bananas, although I like to experiment by adding other things such as cinnamon or peanut butter. The one pictured here has cinnamon added which gives it its lovely golden brown colour. Chop up some bananas and put them in a plastic bag in the freezer. Freeze them until they are almost solid but not quite. If they have been in the freezer too long, take them out and leave them at room temperature for about an hour. You can also add other soft  fruit to the bananas such as strawberries, raspberries or peach. Blend the fruit with a hand blender until it is smooth and resembles ice cream. You can fool yourself (or your children) that you are eating ice cream when it is actually just fruit.

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Four Ways to Use Your Learners as Equipment in Maths Lessons

 

I cannot take the credit for these ideas; I got them from an excellent session run by John Suffolk at the Association of Teachers of Mathematics conference. John explained that it is a good idea to use your students as equipment because then you don’t have to carry the equipment around from one classroom to another. Another advantage of this kind of teaching method is that taking an active part in the lesson, rather than just listening passively, helps students to learn.

  1. Learning about multiplication tables, factors, and prime numbers. Ask ten students to stand up. Can they get into a solid rectangle shape? (5 x 2) Can they do it a different way? (A long rectangle 10 by 1). Now ask two more learners to stand up. Now how many different rectangles can they make? Now ask a thirteenth person to join in. What happens now? Why is this?

2. Sum of the angles in a polygon. Three students form a triangle. A fourth student moves around the inside of the triangle, being gently  guided by the three corners to make sure they turn through all the angles. When the student returns to where they started, they will be facing the other way because they will have turned through 180 degrees. Now try with a rectangle. What happens now? What about other polygons?

3. Algebraic Graphs. This requires a big space. A playground would be ideal. Mark out the x and y axes, either with chalk or with cards. To start with, each student stands on the x axis and they are told their x value according to where they are standing (x = -2, x = -1, x = 0, x = 1 etc.) and they all hold onto a long piece of string. You can give the more able students the negative numbers for differentiation. Then you give the students an equation such as y = 2x – 1. Each student has to move to the correct position. They should note what shape they make – a straight line for a linear equation and a curve for a quadratic. You can even solve simultaneous equations in this way – use two groups of students and two pieces of string. The point where the two strings cross over is the solution to the equations.

4. Loci. This is best done outside where there is plenty of room, but can be adapted for the classroom. Ask the students to stand approximately two metres from you. Ask them to note what shape they are making. (They should be roughly standing in a circle.) Now if you have two trees nearby, ask them to stand so that the trees are equidistant from them. You could also use two chairs, two students, or any other objects. What shape are you making now? The students should be in a straight line. This activity can also be used to show the loci of all points a certain distance from a straight line (just draw a line on the floor), the bisector of an angle (stand so that two walls are the same distance from you). Perhaps you can think of others.

Five Things that Have Made Me Happy Today

Today is International Happiness Day. There are a lot of things going on in the world and in the UK that make me unhappy so I thought I’d take some time to make a note of the things that have made me happy today.

  1. My husband brought me breakfast in bed this morning. It was eggs and mushrooms on toast with a cup of green tea. It is a habit of ours that I bring him breakfast in bed every Saturday and he returns the favour on Sundays.
  2. I took my children geocaching today and we actually found three caches! We are relatively new to geocaching and we are not always so successful. Last time we went we didn’t find anything.geocache
  3. I made rice pudding in the oven with lots of cream and freshly grated nutmeg. It was delicious.
  4. After the children have gone to bed I will be settling down to watch The Night Manager on BBC1.  It is a gripping drama and if you haven’t seen it you really ought to. I’ve been looking forward to it since last Sunday evening.
  5. There are only four working days next week because Friday is a holiday.

Have a happy International Happiness Day everyone!

Six Facts about Women’s Rights and Equalities – a Post for International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day raises awareness of inequalities and oppression of women around the world. Here are some facts that you might not know.

  1. In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive a car. Women are generally just cautioned if they are caught driving, but some have been sentenced to be lashed.
  2. In the UK there is still a huge gender pay gap despite the equal pay act of 1970. It has been estimated that women are likely to earn £300,000 less than men over their working lives. Click here to read more about the UK gender pay gap.
  3. According to the World Health Organisation, in Somalia, about 97 percent of girls undergo female genital mutilation.
  4. In England and Wales, two women a week are killed by their partners or ex partners. 25% of children in England and Wales have witnessed domestic abuse.
  5. Fewer than one in ten executive directors at Britain’s top companies are women. However, Britain is ahead of many countries in this respect. Germany, France, Norway and Switzerland have no female CEOs in their top companies. Read more about female boardroom representation here.
  6. There are nearly 200 countries in the world but only 22 have female heads of state. These include Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar of Trinidad and Tobago.

Happy International Women’s Day and let’s keep raising awareness.

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Four Reasons why Britain Should Stay in the EU

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This is a hugely significant time in British history. The EU referendum is an extremely important decision, but many voters still seem unclear about the ins and out of staying in or going out. Here are just a few reasons why, although the EU is certainly far from perfect, I’m in the “in” crowd.

  1. The European Convention on Human Rights This convention protects some of the most fundamental rights and freedoms of all of us such as the right to a free trial, and freedom of expression. leaving this protection behind could be a very dangerous move.
  2. EU Employment Law. This legislation covers such fundamental issues as anti-discrimination, equal treatment of men and women in the workplace, maternity rights, pension rights and parental leave. It regulate the contracts that employers have to draw up with their employees containing information about the length of the working day or week, amount of paid leave etc. Without this protection I fear that we could go back to an era where employers could exploit their workers in ways that seem unthinkable now.
  3. Freedom of travel. When I was in my twenties I decided that I wanted to travel, so I went to Italy and got a job teaching English in a language school. I was able to do this because of the EU. I made friends with an Australian girl while I was there and she was only able to work for language schools that were prepared to pay her cash in hand. I was able to work with a proper contract and I paid taxes to the Italian government. I want the same opportunities for my children and for everyone in Britain.
  4. Immigration. Research shows that people coming to the UK from other EU countries make a positive contribution to the UK economy. They pay more in taxes than they take in benefits. You can read about the research here. According to an article in The Economist, “Immigrants’ overall positive contribution is explained in part by the fact that they are less likely than natives to claim benefits or to live in social housing”. This is contrary to what certain political parties would have us believe. If we were to leave the EU, these immigrants would still come but they would find illegal ways of earning a living thus making themselves vulnerable to exploitation, working for less than the minimum wage and so threatening the livelihoods of UK workers, and paying no tax to our economy. There is much talk of “controlling our own borders” in the media at the moment, but how would we control our own borders without the support of the EU? Would we build a fence around our 18,000 km of coastline and police it 24 hours a day? It would be impossible. Immigrants would come; let’s just make sure their pay their share by staying in the EU.

These are just a few of the reasons I will be voting to stay in the EU. What do you think? Post your views in the comments.

Eight Not-So-Wonky Types of Vegetable

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Today I bought my first wonky veg box from Asda. In an effort to reduce food waste, Asda are rolling out the wonky veg box, containing vegetables that would normally be rejected by supermarkets for their imperfections, in many of their stores. At just £3.50 it is a bargain, especially when compared to what you can pay for a veg box of a similar size elsewhere.

This is what my veg box contained, and most of it is not wonky at all.

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I was disappointed that there was only one parsnip, but it doesn’t seem wonky in the least.

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One cabbage, also not in the least bit wonky.

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One of my two cucumbers had a little discolouration on one side.

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My box contained several carrots and I could only find one that could be described as wonky.

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A couple of the peppers had a slightly uneven shape.

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The leeks were a little on the small side but otherwise perfect.

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The same could be said for the onions – small but perfectly formed.

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A couple of the potatoes had some green patches, which I assume can be easily cut off. Most were perfect.

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I highly recommend this wonky veg box. It is great value for money and by buying it you are doing your bit against food waste, and helping the farmers to sell the vegetables that supermarkets have turned up their noses at until now.

Seven Things that Go with Peanut Butter in Pancakes

P1090347.JPGThe wonderful thing about peanut butter is that it can be sweet or savoury, just like pancakes! So why not put the two together on pancake day? Whether you prefer it crunchy or smooth, it adds flavour and texture to your pancakes. Here are some ideas.

  1. mushrooms, peanut butter and cream cheese

Mushrooms are delicious in pancakes, and the peanut butter adds a little saltiness.

2. cheese, peanut butter  and marmite

Love it or hate it, marmite adds a special savoury taste to any dish – even pancakes.

3. peanut butter and mars bar

Cut the mars bar into small pieces and roll it up in a hot pancake straight from the pan, with a dollop of peanut butter. The heat from the pancake will melt the mars bar making a gooey chocolaty caramel filling. The peanut butter adds that extra nuttiness.

4. peanut butter, chocolate and banana

These three things are perfect together, rolled up in a pancake.

5. peanut butter, maple syrup and ice  cream

It’s not pancake day without maple syrup, and it’s even more delicious with peanut butter.

6. Peanut butter, cinnamon and mascarpone.

Mascarpone tastes amazing in pancakes – so creamy and luxurious. The cinnamon and peanut butter add flavour to the creamy texture.

7. Peanut butter with Baileys

Pancakes are great with alcohol and the peanut butter adds a bit of texture.

Have a great pancake day and let me know if you try any of these ideas.

 

 

Three Reasons to Visit Newport in South Wales

Quite a while ago I won a £100 voucher to spend at The Co-operative Travel, so we decided to go for a family weekend away. We wanted to go to a hotel that wasn’t too far, with a  swimming pool, and some interesting things to do nearby. The Co-operative Travel only deals with a limited number of hotels so we looked on the website and we chose the Hilton Hotel in Newport because it ticked all the boxes and kids go free. My voucher almost paid for 2 nights bed & breakfast; we just had to top it up with a few pounds of our own money. Here is what we did (as well as a lot of swimming and sitting in the Jacuzzi.)

  1. National Trust Tredegar House.

I’m always keen to make the most of our National Trust membership so we took a trip to Tredegar House. Unfortunately the house itself is not open in winter but we had a walk around the extensive parklands. You can find out more about Tredegar House here.

2. Caerleon

Caerleon is a Roman village very close to Newport. There are lots of places of historical interest such as the Roman museum which is free to enter (hooray for the Welsh government!) and has lots of things to see and do. The kids can try on replica helmets and clothes. There’s also an amphitheatre which was built around AD90.

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The museum garden

 

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The Roman Amphitheatre

3. Big Pit

Big Pit is not to be missed. It’s an old coal mine which has been turned into a museum. You have to put on a helmet (so you don’t bump your head) with a torch on it (so you can see where you’re going) and you are taken down into the mine by an ex miner. Our guide was called Gavin and he was a mine of information. (See what I did there?) I’m not usually one for guided tours but his commentary was so fascinating that I was enthralled for the fifty minutes of our tour. he told us of the times when seven-year-old children used to sit in the mines for ten hours at a time in complete darkness to open and close the doors for the miners. Times when miners weren’t paid in money but in tokens which they could only spend in the shop belonging to the pit owner, who could then raise his prices as much as he wanted because the miners had no choice but to shop there. Big Pit is also free to get in. (Hooray for the Welsh government again!)

It made me stop and think how lucky we are to live in a time when we are protected by EU employment laws, and fearful of what might happen should the British public choose to leave the protection of these laws. I’m pretty sure the current government would be only too happy to go back to a time when it was possible to exploit workers in ways that seem unthinkable to my generation.

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Big Pit

And here’s a picture that my son took of the hotel lobby.

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Seven Reasons Why I Hate Graded Observations

This week is the dreaded observations week in the English and Maths department. Everyone hates observation week. Here’s why.

1. It’s so stressful! We find out on Monday morning that we will be observed at some point during the following week. This means we are in a state of anxiety for at least a week and possibly two weeks. I teach about twenty lessons a week and I could be observed in any of them. My anxiety levels rise just before the start of each lesson and then I relax again when it becomes clear that it won’t be this lesson.

2. It literally gives me nightmares; a few nights ago I dreamt I was in a huge open plan classroom with teachers and students all over the room, tucked away in corners and behind curtains, and I didn’t know who I was supposed to be teaching or what I was supposed to be teaching them.

3. It’s so subjective. We don’t know who is going to observe us until they turn up at the classroom door. It could be a subject leader or head of department from any department in the college. Although in theory they are all using the same criteria, there is bound to be subjectivity. Will they even know what an outstanding maths lesson looks like?

4. The outcome affects our pay. If I don’t get a grade 1 or 2, I won’t go up a point on the pay scale this year. That seems unfair when I might be observed with a lovely, compliant, enthusiastic class or it might be a group of unruly reluctant learners. (Thankfully I taught my big group of boisterous rugby boys today and I wasn’t observed!)

5. It wastes so much paper. Normally my lesson plans are kept digitally, but in observation week they must be printed out to give to the observer along with a scheme of work, class profiles and other paperwork.

6. It wastes so much time. Teachers spend hours writing lesson plans in minute detail, remembering to indicate where they have embedded English, maths, Equality & Diversity and now also British Values.

7. It does nothing to improve learning or teaching. Even a bad teacher can pull it out of the bag for one week and then go back to teaching badly the following week. And good teachers teach well whether or not they are observed once a year. There are better ways of improving teaching than stressing teachers out for a week.

So wish me luck. It is Tuesday evening now and I haven’t been observed yet but it will happen at some point over the next three days.

Ten Things You Can Relate to if You are Married to an Albanian Man

  1. Your husband’s dream is to own a car wash. (If he doesn’t already own one.)
  2. Instead of trying on trousers, when you go clothes shopping together, he will put his forearm in the waist of the trousers to measure them. If it fits snugly then he knows the  trousers will fit him.
  3. If you go to visit your in-laws in Albania, don’t be surprised to find a dead goat in the bathroom. It means you are an honoured guest and they are preparing a special meal for you.Flag_of_Albania_svg
  4. Whenever you go and visit his Albanian friends, you will be offered a drink on a silver tray, with a dish of chocolates. Every Albanian wife has to own a silver tray.
  5. There has to be bread and salad on the table at every meal, otherwise it’s not a proper meal.albanian-map
  6. Your husband seems to have thousands of cousins, aunts and uncles but you are never sure exactly how they are related to him because the definitions of these words are so much more complicated than they are in English.
  7. Your mother-in-law will perform strange rituals involving matches and water if your baby is ill or wakes in the night.
  8. If he shakes his head he means yes and if he nods he means no.
  9. If you are offered a cup of coffee in someone’s house you are expected to say no several times, even if you want one. The host will continue to offer until you say yes. Likewise, if you offer your Albanian guests a coffee and they refuse, don’t take them at their word. You are expected to keep on offering until they accept.
  10. Above all, if you are lucky enough to be married to an Albanian, you will be accepted as part of the family and will always be shown great hospitality and warmth.keep-calm-and-marry-an-albanian