Thursday, 17 December 2009

like pieces of a puzzle


Consequences. A game of little consequence but fun all the same. Grace & I have taken to playing this the last couple of Wednesday's when we go for our weekly trip to Costa. We don't exactly play by the rules, and I think this makes for a better game.

How we play: One of us starts the story, then folds over what they have written. Then the next person writes something. We only share necessary information, then back and forth we go until the story is written.

Our story this week: Moochoo's Friend.

And this is how it went:

It was a cold, blustery Winter day when Moochoo the Mouse realised he needed a friend.

Moochoo then remembered about the mittens that Gran knitted him.

QHile sitting by his fire, which was a mouse-sized-matchstick-fire, Moochoo thought about what he should do. He decided he should leave his house at once and go on a search for the thing missing in his life.

He searched and searched and found nothing but a button and some fluff.

Having walked for almost a whole afternoon, whcih, for a mouse, was like awhole year, Moochoo sat on a berry and thought. He had not found what he was looking for and he decided maybe he should look somewhere else. Just then, he saw a tree branch waving at him. 'He looks friendly', thought Moochoo. Maybe he can help.

So Moochoo found it, at last. The End.

Like pieces of a puzzle that somehow fit together, a story created by two minds makes just a little bit of sense using a lot of imagination. I like this game.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Children's quotes of the week


There are many moments when children come out with beautifully heartfelt comments which you want to treasure. This week has been one particularly full of those words from the depths of their little hearts.

Yesterday morning, one blonde haired blue-eyed little girl said to me,

'Miss Barnes is it my turn to do cooking today?'

'Not today, but you will definitely be doing cooking either tomorrow or the next day.'

'Yes, I will, because I can feel it in my heart.'

Another child was writing a Christmas card to his Mummy. Having written in his own writing, he told my colleague:

'It says, 'I love you Mummy. I love you so much that my heart might break.''

It's when I hear comments like these that I am so glad that I work with children. There are not many other workplaces where you'd hear such brilliance spoken.
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Friday, 11 December 2009

Light Up


Last night, having finished my babysitting stint earlier than expected, I relished the opportunity to walk home as my chauffeur {aka John} was not quite available to pick me up.

It was a wonderfully crisp evening and lights were a-glow at every turn. What made the journey even more brilliant was my walk through the churchyard. I could see the lights were on from a distance and wondered at the possibilities of who might be meeting there. As I drew closer the chorus of many dulcet tones greeted me with a familiar song. I couldn't quite put my finger on which song it was, so I paused in the pitch black church yard to listen. I stood there for a few moments surrounded only by the dark and the sounds of harmony, totally inconspicuous, delighting in the moment I was in.

The choir was singing Run by Snow Patrol. I walked the rest of my journey home with the lyrics, 'light up, light up, as if you have a choice, even if you cannot hear my voice, I'll be right beside you dear' ringing sweetly in my ears, the perfect accompaniment to the glowing Christmas lights. Oh how I love Christmas.
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Monday, 7 December 2009

Christmas Craft



I've had this beautiful handmade-glitter-adorned Christmassy paper lying on my floor for the past week so it was finally time to do something productive with it. I made my first Christmas cards of 2009.

Simple stitched stars.

It's surprisingly fun to twist and turn card&stars under the needle of a sewing machine. Straight lines, wiggly lines, any kind of lines you like. And the bonus? I get to be covered in glitter. I think this is going to be my new look for the next two weeks. The floor at nursery is well & truly looking like a tonne of glitter has been poured over it. Actually, that's not too far from the truth, and I have no shame in admitting that I have been joyfully contributing to the glitter-beauty everywhere.
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Friday, 4 December 2009

Seventy.



Here she is. 1.3kg of chocolate & a whole lot of musclepower later. Numero 70 in chocolate. Enough to feed a small army of large men, required to feed 8 mouths.

There's a whole lot of spare cake which I plan on distributing round to various people, first stop: my colleagues. Second: John. I wouldn't want you to think that my colleagues are more of a priority (absolutely not) but John has special cake requirements. He needs his portion of the off-cuts to be crafted into a replica of his face. Yep, you heard me right. I don't think there'll be any photos of that.
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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Bake me a cake



A few months ago, a wonderful friend who likes to think of herself as my marketing agent, got me some cake business. My very first cake business.

A colleague needed a 70th birthday cake which not only looked good but tasted good too. My very wonderful friend mentioned to this lady that she just so happened to know someone who baked fabulous cakes that met her criteria of looking good and tasting amazing. (I feel I can say these things about my cakes because I am simply quoting someone else, not blowing my own trumpet.) I was delighted to hear about this possibility of being paid to bake. How brilliant!

So, I set about e-mailing back and forth with the lady-in-search-of-a-yummy-chocolate-cake, and baked her a couple of samples. To my delight, she was delighted by the cakes. What fun I had making up little name labels for my cakes.

Yesterday, the baking began. After some good old maths caluclations to work out surface areas of my tins and quantities of ingredients, I set about filling two big mixing bowls with huge quantities of chocolatey goodness. This was greatly intriguing to my articulate 2 year old housemate, who asked me with a puzzled look on her face why I had so many eggs and why did I have so much chocolate?

I was greatly relieved when I took the cakes out of the oven and they had baked beautifully - albeit a bit large - but I see that as a very good problem to have.

My challenge today: Crafting a figure 70 out of my humungous chocolate rectangle & circles. Here we go...

Friday, 20 November 2009

Post.

I love post. I love to give it and I love to receive it. I think I love it all the more when we live in a time where e-mail and text messaging enables us to send news instantly. There's something wonderful about the now slightly old-fashioned 'snail mail'. I was musing on this as I queued in the post office yesterday. There always seems to be a queue in there, which I count as a blessing because it means the postal service is still in business. So, rather than get frustrated at having to wait to send my post, I delighted in what makes the Post Office an even more wonderful place to be, besides being the place where post is gathered to be send to hundreds of different destinations. It's a place where lives mingle together for a few brief moments.

Yesterday, there was the old man with a wonderful West Country accent, in his green mac with a walking stick that doubled up as a chair. Seeing the queue, he said, 'I'll remember I was behind that man', and pulled up a seat beside the passport photo booth. Having sat for a few minutes, he said to the gentleman in front of me (who had reprimanded me for shutting the door behind me because the postman was about to come out with bags of parcels), 'It's Friday today, isn't it?' Alas, it was Thursday. In some ways I think there's something brilliant about being of an age where the days of the week don't matter so much. Upon realising it was Thursday, he picked up his chair and left, realising he could run his errands the following day.

Then there was the man who had a bee in his bonnet about our country, expressing his concern to the local church minister behind him about the tragedy of living in a place where the poor live in council housing, stay locked up in their own homes all day watching tv on the latest plasma hd-blu-ray-widescreen-thingame-bob-whattsit, living next door to the same family for ten years, never knowing their names. Behind him, the lady who was sending post to all corners of the globe, informing the lady serving her that there would be plenty more post going to New Zealand over the years, courtesy of her. I wondered why this would be the case, smiling at the fact that you get an insight into people's lives as a result of being at the Post Office that you wouldn't otherwise get. It turns out her husband is from NZ so they have family there. I love the way being in the Post Office seems to bring a little bit more out of people that you wouldn't otherwise see, simply because they feel compelled to share something of what has led them to be posting the post that they are. It's a funny old thing, feeling like you're looking into a stranger's life without invitation, as you stand in the queue silently waiting your turn, yet they are the ones openly sharing, so in effect, there is some kind of unspoken invitation there.

I think I need to visit the Post Office more. It's amazing what you learn.
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Wednesday, 18 November 2009

a little bit more of this


I was in the queue at a supermarket today, standing in a daze, very aware of the thick foggy feeling in my head which has taken up residence for a while due to my cold. As I stood there in my daze, two teenage girls ran past me, fresh with the vigour that the end of the school day brings. These girls had one thing one their mind and they shared it with me and the other bystanders in the supermarket. 'Magazines!' They had popped into the supermarket on their way home from school to get their latest fix of whatever magazine they liked to read.

The thought crossed my mind, 'I remember a time when life was so simple that all I needed was a magazine to fill my time...' I never thought I would become someone who felt like there was not enough 'time'. I never wanted to use that as a reason for not getting things done, or not doing the things I love, but somewhere, somehow, I have become that person.

While I find this very difficult, it also means that I delight all the more in those moments where I am deeply content and at rest. Last Sunday had an afternoon that was made up of those moments. The best moment was standing on a hill at Ashton Court, breathing in the fresh wintery air, and watching the skies. Something I love to do more and more. I never cease to be amazed by their beauty, put there by God and we get to delight in the beauty.

In light of this, somewhere, somehow, I want to get some time back. Not that it's something that can be retrieved, but that I want to learn how to use my time more wisely. I think it's going to take a lifetime to learn.
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Monday, 9 November 2009

through john's eyes





A few snapshots of the weekend, taken by John. I love having an aspiring photographer as my companion on all of my adventures.
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The words we speak

Over the last week, my children have come out with some wonderful gems that you just wouldn't get with adults. For instance, one girl at nursery informed me:

'I grew in my Mummy's tummy and Sam grew in Daddy's tummy.'

What a brilliant mis-understanding of how babies grow.

Another child asked, 'Do I look like Humpty Dumpty?' referring to a drawing he had just done of himself, complete with the scar on his knee and the veins in his face. He is one on-the-ball four year old.

Most weeks this term, I get to spend the time between the end of school & the end of football club with Grace in Costa Coffee. It has become a bit of a routine that once we are seated with our drinks - one hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows on the side, one cinnamon / vanilla / caramel / gingerbread latte - whatever takes my fancy that day - we play games. The good old classis hangman is a favourite. Although, it only occurred to me the other day that this is a bit of a funny game. One where if you guess a letter wrong, you are one step closer to dying!
Anyway, Grace being the lovely Grace that she is, was taking her turn of deciding a phrase that I had to guess. The photo is the evidence of her decision. What a treasure.

I think sometimes with adults, it's not so much a case of the words we speak as the words we don't speak. Our inhibitions that come with age seem to cloud our ability to be kind with words in the way that children are so brilliantly free and unbridled in. We see people doing wonderful things and don't say anything for fear of embarrassment. What is it exactly we think we'll be embarrassed by? Bringing a smile to someone's face? Surely not. Speak kind words more. That's my thought for the day. Simple but oh so effective & powerful.
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Friday, 6 November 2009

Days like these




I love Autumn for the days when the moon stays high in the sky, way after sunsise, and for the clouds that seem to dance more in the dusk. For the blue, blue skies and fresh, fresh air. I love days like these.
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Monday, 2 November 2009

Always time for chocolate


Despite having packed up my life into boxes, I was not held back from doing one last little bit of baking.

Chocolate gooey pots. Mmmm mmm.

John things mini marshmallows are a perfect accompaniment. I think Rocky Road goes down a treat.


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These are a few of my favourite things

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And so it goes


Thursday was moving day. And so was Friday. It turns out I have quite a lot of stuff. A lot of lovely things that I have accumulated over the last few years that in a small way represent a little bit of me. Of the things I love. From all the books to fresj linen candles to photos to more books to baking supplies galore. They all came with me. Well, nearly all. I had to leave about 18 cake tins for the recycling men to collect and turn into some new wonderous things because there simply is not room for all of those tims at my new lodgings. While a little sad, it has helped me to dream. Of the day we move into our new church building where I hope I will be able to bake on premesis, saving me the need of vast numbers of old sweet tins to store my cakes in when I bake for church. That day is fast approaching...And I dream of a day when I might have my very own cake shop with drawers and boxes especially for cake storage...that day is a little further away, but maybe one day, some day...
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Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Splendour




Autumn, I do love your colours, and I love you even more when you decide it's ok to let the sun have a look in.

Today has been a grey and dreary day, but that has not stopped my productivity. I have cooked, cleaned, e-mailed and completed my teacher training application. Success! And all before midday. The moment I clicked the 'form complete' tab on my application, the sun started shining. I decided not to waste the glorious moment, grabbed my camera and ran out the door to the park next to my house. I took one photo only to discover that the memory card was not in my camera.

So I ran back to my house, praying that the sun would keep on shining, just for a few more minutes, retrieved my memory card and ran back to the park. It was a wonderful interlude to my day, just me, my camera and the leaves in all their crunchy, colourful splendour.
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Friday, 23 October 2009

Birthday Cake

Last weekend was my 25th birthday. It was wonderful for the celebrations to be spread over the whole weekend, spanning from Friday night to Sunday. Every day featured cake of some kind. Lots of different kinds, in fact, so here's a little rundown of the cake-friends that attended my birthday celebrations:


some of my very own :: vanilla & orange combo



seriously thickly coated vanilla with chocolate orange



mini meringues with pistachios & white chocolate




crafted by Mr Dave Evens :: chocolate lake




courtesy of the Hummingbird Bakery :: chocolate brownie with raspberry cheese cake





black bottomed cupcakes



Thankyou hummingbird bakery for enticing me with your spectacular cakes, comfy stools and bright, classy pink decor. You were brilliant.


And last but not least on the cake list, lemon drizzle cake, made by John's Mum. Thanks, Sarah! This one managed to get consumed before I was able to take a photo so you'll just have to use your imaginations...

Needless to say, I was a bit sugared out by Sunday, yet somehow I have managed to gently graze my way through the leftovers this week.

Introducing: Mr or is it Mrs Spider


So, spiders. They're not everybody's favourite thing. I used to hate them. Now I just feel a little bit sorry for them - that they get so much stick, when all they like to do is hang out in their webs, catch some flies and have a little munch. Sure, they don't look very pretty, but they really are very clever, being able to spin such incredible webs. Webs that are beautiful in form and look even more wonderful when they've caught water droplets from the rain that decided to throw itself at their web. This little critter featured here lives at the front of my red brick house. Prime location to avoid the traffic noise found at the back of the house. Well done Mr(s) spider, well done. The time is fast approaching when I need to have a little chat to my outdoor resident, and I'm not quite sure how to break the news, so I thought I'd have a practice run on here first. Here we go...

'Hello! I'm really glad you've enjoyed living outside my front door for the last few months, taking in all the comings and going around St Werburghs, but I'm afraid I need to tell you something. I'm moving. And I'm a bit concerned that if I leave you and your glorious web here, the new residents might just ask you to leave in a not-so-friendly fashion. So I'm going to have to ask you to find a new home too. Oooh, maybe you could come with me! How would you feel about that? I'm not going very far - just up a few hills. There's lots of lovely green space at my new home which you might like. What do you think of that idea? I could find you a nice pot for transportation to keep you safe, and then you could spin another incredible web! You never know, there might be a few more friends who are just like you - so what d'you say? Do you want to come?'

Wow. I never thought I'd see the day where I wrote about a conversation with a spider! If you are new to this blog, welcome! I promise I am not always quite this mad.

I'll let you know the outcome...
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Monday, 19 October 2009

This is how my day goes


There are times when I am sure that my job is partially, or maybe even wholly, responsible for my memory loss.

The thing is, when you are surrounded by 30 three year olds, they need a lot of help. While we are forever encouraging and fostering independence in themselves, there are still a lot of things they can't do. Let's have a little look at today...

I was about to help one child change her pull-up, and had just adorned myself with the appropriate latex gloves, when a child comes in from outside, telling me that Horrace had hurt himself. (All names are substitutes to protect the identity of the children, so enjoy my choice of names, and yes, it is ok to laugh.) Knowing full well that the class teacher was outside, so would probably be aware of Horrace's injury, I asked Penny-the-messenger if Miss M (teacher) knew. Penny nodded so I asked if Miss M needed my help. Another nod. By this stage, two more girls have come into the bathroom, needing to wash paint from their hands. An easy task, but not so easy when you are these two particular girls. They are joined at the hip. In the metaphorical sense. So that adds a fun dimension to things. Then Timmy joins the steadily growing Bathroom Tribe and insists that he needs to take a towel outside. Penny-the-messenger likes to help people, and so tries to give Timmy a towel to go outside while she is mid-sentence, telling me exactly why I need to go outside, thus resulting in her losing her train of thought. Another member joins the tribe, to tell me that Miss M would like some more baby clothes outside for the children to peg on the line.

So, I finish instructing Helena (another tribe member - see how it loves to grow?) as to how exactly she needs to deal with her wet underwear, having not quite made it to the toilet in time, while carrying a spare latex glove under one arm, collecting some baby clothes from the Home Corner, instructing a child as to how they need to put their apron on (rather than just doing it for them), finding a towel and dealing with Horrace's bumped head. Did I forget anything there? Probably.

The knock-on effect of this constant need to thing along multiple trains of thought is that I will later on think of something that needs to be done, walk to do whatever that may be and forget on my way there why I was going. Today it was opening the curtains after showing the children a video clip about Divali. I only remembered what I was supposed to be doing when I saw my colleague doing it. I also talk to myself. All the time. Is working with children bad for my health? Answers on a postcard please.

P.S There will be a post or two to come, following the weekend of birthday fun!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Today.

Autumn is well and truly here. Hello Autumn. The time has come to layer up when I leave the house in the morning, and feel the chill of the Autumn air on my hands and face, which at the moment is just cool enough to give that rosy glow without biting.

This afternoon as I left the house to go to my childminding job, I donned my running leggings and dug out my winter running top - suitable for super cold weather conditions - knowing that I was going to get well and truly soaked by the rain pounding down. This part of Autumn I do not love. So I took a deep breath, jammed in my ear buds and turned on my ipod to help me through the journey to work. I have broken the habit of listening to music while I cycle - in part due to the concern of my boyfriend that this is not very safe - and also due to me finding a little enjoyment at hearing everything that's going on around me again instead of wanting to block it out.

But today, I needed the music to block out the rain and the noise and make me feel a little less exposed to the weather.

I found as I cycled that my thoughts formed clearly. A very refreshing feeling after this morning at school, finding myself repeatedly stumbling over names and words - something that happens around this time in the term when the constant requirement to be following five trains of thought simultaneously becomes a little beyond me. As the thoughts formed of the words I wanted to write down, to type out on this blog came to mind, I found myself wondering once again how it is always at times when there is no way to physically record my thoughts that they come in the greatest clarity. I wondered why this is often the case.

The realisation came to me that this is so because when I am going through the in-between in my journeys to and from work, this is when I have head space to think about what's going on in my life and my head, as opposed to responding to the constant needs of the children around me. As I cycled and the old familiar scenery changed with each road passed, my thoughts travelled right along with me. Thoughts of how things in my life are gradually and steadily changing; Of how I will not be cycling along these same familiar routes for much longer; Of how I am enjoying the process of change. Of how change is oh so good.

I am in the process of applying for teacher training. As I complete each stage of the application, the little hexagons representing stages, adjacent to oneanother change. There is a small satisfaction in seeing this change occur, seeing the single lined hexagons become doubled as each stage is completed, reminding me of the individual cells of a bee hive, separated yet becoming more complete as all that is needed to be added is put in place, just so.

Later on, the journey home from school greets us with more rain. I comment on how we need to walk in formation like penguins, we three huddled together under the single umbrella to ensure maximum protection from the elements. That with penguins as they travel throughout the harshest phase of Winter, they have to stay in formation, yet with incredible skill, change their position in the formation to protect oneanother. Change is a necessary and sustaining thing.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Cookie Time


One of the perks of my job is that I get to cook and bake a lot. Whenever the kids request to bake, I am there, ready and waiting with the ingredients to hand in no time at all.

This week, it was double chocolate muffins for homework. (How good is that? Getting to bake for homework?!) Last week, chocolate cookies for a friend's birthday. One piece of kitchen equipment which is quite brilliant and almost vital is the good old electric beaters / whisk - whatever you want to call them. Unfortunately, Grace does not like the sound of them. So this time, instead of running from the room when it was time to turn on the noise, she came up with an alternative method. Hold a beater in your hand and whizz it as fast as you can. (See bottom left photo.) It was surprisingly effective!
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Friday, 2 October 2009

Cancer Research Run 10k


The day for my 10k run in aid of Cancer Research was here. Having dreamed the recurring dream that I had massively overslept and missed the race, I was grateful when I woke up to see I was right on time. The Autumn weather was fickle, first thing in the morning. A light fog surrounded Bristol, along with a chill in the air that told me that Autumn is most definitely here.

I filled up my tummy on trusty weetabix, banana and sultanas, having carbo loaded (at Pizza Express) the night before. I was ready to run. My wonderful boyfriend graciously picked me up, having run around various shops en route, trying to find me some safety pins so that I could pin on my race number. I knew I'd had some in my sewing tin, but I'd forgotten that I'd ended up using them to make badges for the kids at church. Considering this was first thing on a Sunday morning, I'm very impressed that John managed to find anywhere that was open & sold safety pins. Not your everyday buy.

At 9.30am we made our way to the beautiful Ashton Court Estate to be greeted with the sight of 1000 runners, dressed in blue, all helping to raise money for Cancer Research. It was such a lovely atmosphere, people running for loved ones who have suffered from cancer. There was no sense of competition at this run, just a mutual understanding that we are stronger together than we are apart, and that we want to help the ones we love and will go to great lengths to do so.
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Afternoon shadows

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