Monday, 25 October 2010

sunset over the village

As many of you will know, I love to take photos. My Canon EOS 450D serves me as a very faithful companion, and I love the freedom it brings to photography in that I don't have to limit the number of photos I take anymore because of the cost involved in printing. While my love for this camera has not grown cold, I have had a hankering for a little compact camera that I can take everywhere with me. There are so many occasions when I think, 'I wish I had my camera with me.' So, although the quality from a compact is not as good as with my DSLR, it means less photo opportunities would be missed if I owned one.

Well, I can now say that I am the proud owner of a lovely little compact camera! It's the Canon powershot sx210. My lovely husband very generously gave me this as my birthday present. So, when John and I went for a run on Wednesday evening, baby Canon came along with us and allowed me to capture the sunset over Westbury on Trym.

Sadly, baby Canon is having some teething problems and the screen is a little bit busted after less than a week, so she's got to go back to her first home to be sorted out. Thankfully, because the fault was not an 'act of God' all should be easily resolved. (This is the actual phrase used in the terms & conditions of the warranty, believe it or not.)

autumn frost

While the cold chill in the air that is descending upon us is not particularly fun, the blow is definitely lessened by the beauty of Autumn. I think I shall be spending most of my day of studying with a quilt wrapped around me and a mug of hot water or coffee permanently on hand to keep me from turning to ice.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

a few wedding details

After getting back from our honeymoon in early September, I had imagined that I would be writing a good number of blog posts to tell you about our wedding. For those of you who were there celebrating with us, it would be a reminder of all of the fun we had; for those of you who I have not had the pleasure of meeting, it would be a glimpse into our wedding day; and for me, it would serve as a visual & written record of some of the details I did not want to forget.

However, life seemed to come at us so quickly that I have ended up documenting the here and now far more than our wedding memories, in an attempt to simply keep up with all that has been happening. I like blogging for that reason - that it provides an outlet for day to day documentation that allows me to use both words and pictures to express my thoughts in a way that I could not with journalling, putting pen to paper. I still love the process of doing that, but I love the creative outlet that I have found in blogging.

So, if you will bear with me, I'd like to share with you a few snapshots of our day.

We had our wedding reception in a little village called Long Ashton. When our guests arrived, they were served Pimms cocktail from under a gazebo which had glass jars strung with pink & green ribbon (our colour scheme) all around the edge. Our wedding cake (which I promise to write about over here very soon) was covered in 150 white roses. These roses were removed from the cake so it could be eaten, then lovingly transported to the reception venue to find new homes in the beautifully hung jars.

I had wanted to have a vintage feel to our wedding, and Sarah resourced this wish wonderfully. We had piles of books, topped with flowers & jars of sweets, that Sarah had gathered from the university library - all of the books had something in their title which reflected our names, John's job as a wind turbine engineer, or love, and they all co-ordinated beautifully with the colour scheme.

I had chosen to have peonies in my bouquet and in the reception flower arrangements. They are my favourite flower, and the first flowers that John bought me were pale pink peonies, identical in colour to the ones you can see in the photo above. I loved having this detail that represented not only my favourite flower, but also John's incredible attention to detail when it comes to taking notice of the things I love. (He had read my blog entry about peonies, before I even knew that he had found my blog, taken note, then sent me a bouquet on our one month anniversary.)

A long time ago I came across Rebecca Thuss, a creative stylist, who did wedding photography styling for Martha Stewart Wedding for many years. I was so inspired by her work, and when I saw this, I knew that I wanted something similar at my wedding - it seemed particulary fitting as I am such a lover of cake, and didn't want to limit our guests to just one choice of cake! We used my collection of cake stands and some items that I picked up in charity shops, along with some of Sarah's glassware to present the confectionary.

The tables were laden with glassware & flowers & antique lace squares.

For the place settings we used pages from an old copy of pride and prejudice that I picked up for £2.50. We folded these around the napkins & fastened with the fabric left over from making the bunting, and tucked a sprig of rosemary or sage under the fabric. For favours, we had personalised miniature pencils made, which people used to write us a message in our guestbook - we had placed blank cards inside the envelopes with the guests' names on for this purpose.

John has made me quite a number of origami roses during our relationship, and Sarah took this romantic gesture and added it to our reception through making origami swallows and swans from the pages of an engineering journal and from the Songs of Solomon in the Bible. I loved that John had no idea that his romantic gestures had become inspiration for our wedding decor, and that the birds had hidden information in them that spoke of love & John's profession.

The ribbon tied around the vase says, 'To have and to hold from this day forward' and was purchased from Cox & Cox.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

the John twist

One of the things I love about John is the way he cooks. There might only be a select few ingredients in the kitchen, but let John loose and he is sure to whip up a delightfully tasty meal. John loves to experiment with flavours, adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that. This is often much to my dismay, because, although there's a part of me that loves to experiment with food, there's also the part of me that is happy with the way things are and doesn't want to stray from the norm.

I am noticing more and more when we cook and bake together that there is much banter back and forth of 'let's add a bit of this' and 'no rules apply when I cook, don't worry about what the recipe says!' This presents a challenge to my stubborn character and takes me by surprise when I don't tend to think of myself as someone who likes to be in control. Apparently, when I'm in the kitchen, I do.

Anyhoo, what I wanted to tell you about was the delicious meal John cooked for us last week. In his true style, he added the john twist. This is when John takes a basic concept for a meal, and as he adds his little bit of this, little bit of that, the meal is taken to a whole new level.

Growing up, one of my favourite meals was my Mum's sausagemeat flan. it's a simple, homely, hearty meal that revels in the few ingredients required to come together to create it. I had a lot of reading to do for my course, so John was very kindly cooking for us. Having phoned my Mum for the recipe and dictated to John, he set about preparing the dinner. I was a little anxious that the pastry wouldn't work because the butter was at room temperature and not chilled, andd John had mixed the butter & flour together without adding the egg. Having given John my thoughts on the potential problems while trying to leave the kitchen but wanting to give a helping hand, he assured me that all would be fine.

Was it fine? Well, of course it was. While I was busy reading up on teaching children Science, John had created a delicious sauasagemeat flan. He built on the basics of sausagemeat, onion & a handful of oats by adding apple chutney, wholegrain mustard, and a generous shake of cayenne pepper & smoked paprika. The pastry turned out just fine, despite the warm butter and the omission of blind baking, and to top it all off, John made jam tarts out of the leftover pastry. Brilliant. I need to learn that for the most part, the john twist is a very good thing.

Monday, 18 October 2010

26 years young

This is me as a baby, in the first year of my life

Today is my birthday! This year I am celebrating simply. with just my husband in our home, eating some yummy food & birthday brownie, celebrating another year of my life. it's funny to think that I am now closer to 30 than 20. i am thankful for this life I have been given by God & I am looking forward to the adventures that this next year of my life might hold.

Tomorrow we are going to see the kodo drummers perform at the Colston Hall as a birthday treat (which was a surprise that I completely spoiled...) which I am sure will have me on the edge of my seat, wishing I could drum like a pro.

Wishing you a very happy day!

Friday, 15 October 2010

come, sit awhile & let us read

On Wednesday, in our English class at university, we were thinking about children's literature. The first thing our teacher asked us to do was to think of a memory we hold of being read to as a child. We wrote down our memory of the name of the book, where we were at the time, and who was reading to us.

I have memories of books being an important part of our childhood. I say 'our childhood' because in some ways, it is impossible to separate my childhood from that of my siblings with whom I grew up with. No-one else shared the experiences we did together because they were unique to our family, and I love that. There were books everywhere in our home. I remember once, my older brother John, decided to count how many books we had. He stopped at 2000 I think. The books lined the picture rail in our hallway and every bookshelf had at least two rows of book per shelf. The memories I have of my Mother asking the question, 'has anyone seen my book?' are countless. She would walk around the house with her book & a cup of tea, rarely sitting down with them as she knew that if she sat down, she would get engrossed in the book and find it hard to get up. Still to this day, I am sure my Mother could quite happily live on a diet of books.

Even though books were a big feature of our lives, when I was asked to think of a memory of being read to, initially, only one memory came immediately to the forefront of my mind.

I remember our Mum reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to John and I. We were sat either side of her, snuggled up in our parents' bed. I knew the story well, and I knew that at some point, the White Witch was going to appear and I still remember the feeling of fear in anticipation of her arrival. I remember thinking, 

'I don't know when she's going to come, but as soon as she does, I can hide under the covers, and I know that it will all be ok because Aslan will come and save the day.'

There was a deep comfort in knowing that Aslan would always appear in the story, just as I knew the White Witch always would. He was gentle, safe & powerful. I was amazed at my memory of the feelings I had experienced as our Mum read to us, not realising how deeply set in my memory such things could be. 

As I listened to the memories of my coursemates, I was reminded of other stories that featured in my childhood, which hadn't sprung to mind as I was trying to recall being read to; Memories of Hafferty Hamster, Millie Molly Mandy, Harry's Mad (our Year 3 teacher read this to us), Winnie the Pooh, Dogger, and so many other books that felt like true companions, allowing me to befriend them in my childlike way and read them over and over again.

I really do love children's stories & I hope for my collection of them to grow & grow, and to someday have children of my own to read to, that they might learn to love books too.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

the start of autumn

On Monday, I arrived home from school at dusk. The sky was that brilliant hue of blue that comes with the low level of the sun in Autumn. As soon as I got in the door, I grabbed my camera and went straight back out to the woods next to our house. I needed to be out in the fresh air, breathing in Autumn. Isn't it a wonderful season?

I love how Autumn colours slowly start to take over the trees

I love how the light falls between the trees but only some select rays make it to the ground.

I love how the sky can be so many different hues of blue all at the same time.

I love that my toes and my nose are cold as I write this. I love Autumn.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

sarah's birthday cupcakes

Susannah Blake and Tarek Malouf were my trusty baking companions for the weekend's baking. Even when the industrial oven at Church that was going to give life to my cupcakes failed me, these brilliant bakers did not.

Their recipes stayed true to their word and produced beautiful cakes. 

From The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook I baked...

Black Bottomed Cupcakes (find the recipe over here at my much neglected baking blog)


Carrot Cake (I adapted this recipe to include orange because it goes so brilliantly with carrots, and threw in raisins instead of nuts)

From Susannah Blake's Afternoon Tea Parties I made Coffee & Walnut Cake

As two of the three recipes were for cake, I simply made the quantities stated plus an extra half to make approximately 19- 21 cupcakes per recipe.

For the fourth flavour I made these chocolate classics with this chocolate buttercream frosting which I love, because it has a slight malty taste to it, provided by a dash of ovaltine (well, 50g, so a little more than a dash). The quantities of frosting will make enough to frost about 30 cupcakes.

Here's the recipe for the Coffee & Walnut Cupcakes...


270g unsalted butter at room temp
270g caster sugar
4 eggs
3 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1.5 tbsp hot water
60g walbut pieces

for the frosting:
325g marscarpone
125g icing sugar
2 1/4 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 1/4 tsp hot water
walnut halves, to decorate

1) Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas 4 / 350F
2) Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

3) Beat in the eggs one at a time

4) Sift in the flour and stir by hand to combine

5) Fold in the coffee & walnuts

6) Spoon heaped dessertspoons of mixture into a muffin tray lined with paper cases

7) Bake for 20 - 25 mins until golden and springy then transfer to a wire cooling rack

for the frosting...

Beat all of the ingredients together then either spread or pipe onto your cupcakes in whatever fashion you desire. 
(Maybe avoid using a round piping nozzle like I used, as someone commented that they looked like something that you would never want to eat...!)

I transported the cupcakes safely in trays purchased from here  and served the cakes on slate tiles, labelled so that the party guests would know what they were eating.

I added my own very small touch to the boxes with custom stickers from

If you would like the recipes for carrot & orange cupcakes, I will happily post it over on my baking blog, but did not want to inundate this post with numerous recipes.

It was such an honour to be asked by Sarah's husband to bake cupcakes for her as a surprise & I loved seeing them all lined up in neat rows in their boxes - such a satisfying sight.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


For the most part when I bake, it turns out alright without any major disasters. I am often amazed at how on earth I manage to pull this off with my track record of little mishaps in life which tend to be attributed to my clumsiness.

Every now and then, something slightly spectacular will happen when I am in the kitchen, and they always seem to happen when no-one is there to appreciate them with me.

I'd like to tell you about one of those times that happened to me just the other day. It was Saturday evening and I had taken over my good friend Ros' kitchen for an epic baking session, making 60 odd cupcakes for Sarah's birthday. As I was preparing the double cream for its iminient date with a bowl of marscapone, we had a little unexpected encounter with the rest of the kitchen. By that I mean that the cream decided it wasn't ready to date just the marscapone, she wanted to try out the rest of her surroundings first.

Being discontented with the home I had given Miss Cream of a tall, slender measuring jug, and even more unhappy that in preparation for her date with Mr Marscapone she had to be whipped and whisked a little bit, Miss Cream decided to make her feelings known. As I started to whisk Miss Cream, she stayed in her measuring jug home for less than 3 seconds before erupting. I never knew 200ml of cream could go quite so far. By this I mean that Miss Cream went all down my top, jeans & socks, all over the hobs, the floor, the recipe book, the working surface. She even found her way into the ridges of the bread bin and inside cupboard doors. To my utter amazement, not a single drop landed in the bowl of marscapone that was ready and waiting patiently to have the cream added once whipped.

I stood still in the kitchen for a good 5 seconds, mouth wide open, before the laughter of disbelief kicked in and the disappointment that Ros would not get to see her new and improved creamy kitchen, as I had to clear it up before she got home because it really is impractical to bake in a slippery creamy kitchen.

Thankfully, I had enough cream left over to make it back up to the right quantity, and Miss Cream did her job properly the next time. Or perhaps it would be moreaccurate to say that I was more sensible and put the cream in a bowl that was big enough to contain the cream, which I totally knew I should have done the first time but didn't want to wash up the bowl that I needed. That'll teach me to cut corners next time.

Tune in later if you'd like to see the cupcakes that I baked...

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


Today I...

learnt how to tie a clove knot

learnt how to lash pieces of wood together to make a frame

made a 'smelly cocktail' at Forest school which I called marzipan magic - who knew that leaves could smell of marzipan?!

spent a lot of time searching for signs, colours and textures of Autumn and realised that they are everwhere
got lost in the library

read all about the history of the English education system

ate some fluffy chocolate torte

watched Jamie's American Food Revolution
the end.

home made apple syrup

This little recipe was created by John, my husband, last weekend while I was cooking Sausage & Apple Casserole.

He came up with a brilliant idea which meant the apple peel would not be wasted. I have fond memories of eating apple peel on Sundays before lunch, as my Mother prepared apple crumble. While she lovingly cooked our lunch in the kitchen, the rest of the family got to munch on long strips of apple peel, filling the huge hole in our bellies ever so slightly while we waited for lunch to be ready. As we don't have a house full of children, even with a bit of apple peel munching, there really was too much for John and I to eat by ourselves.

So John made apple syrup. Brilliantly simple and Brilliantly tasty.
Apple Syrup

Simply put however much apple peel you have on hand into a sauce pan with some water, sugar and a bit of cinnamon and let it simmer until it becomes a syrup.
Pour a small amount of syrup into a glass and add water, ice & a squeeze & slice of lime.

Alternatively, make with hot water to create your very own apple tea.

Friday, 1 October 2010

this is why.

A few weeks ago I started a course that will train me to be a teacher. I have talked before about how it has taken me a long time to reach the decision to go into teaching, and I still have a lot of questions now, as to whether it was the right move.

Yesterday we had a lecture entitled The Creative Curriculum. The man giving the lecture has been a headteacher for twenty years, and working in the education system for thirty years. For some reason, the venue for our lecture was a Church. Our lecturer was not a man of faith in God, but was, very clearly a man of faith in education & children. He quipped, 'I am proud to say that I am standing in a Church, not evangelising about God, but I will definitely be evangelising about education.'

While, from my perspective as a Christian, it would have been wonderful if he had the faith to do both, but even so, I have to say that he was brilliant.

Here was a man who had been shunned from the education system himself during Primary School, expelled for being obnoxious, now speaking very passionately about his love for the children and staff in his school. He defined for us a turning point for him which was all thanks to a teacher he had in sixth form. One day, this teacher changed the heart of a sixteen year old boy who had been deeply affected by his school experience, by responding to him in a way that no other teacher ever had. He made him feel that his soul mattered. That sixteen year old boy was the man who was now standing in front of 140 teachers-to-be, telling us that we need to give to teaching the things that we love.

During my time at university, when it was summer exam season, I would travel up to Stoke on Trent with my good friend Lizzie to stay with her parents while we revised. I remember reading a quote that hung from a mobile in her dining room which read,

Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do it because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

I so desperately wanted to find what it was that makes me come alive so that I might be able to use what I have in some way to make a difference. As I sat and listened today about how as teachers we need to be seeing the impact of our teaching as aiming to grow young children into oak trees, memories of teaching children came back to me; of times when I taught them how to cook & I felt truly alive, my eyes alight with excitement that the children in front of me were learning and loving what I was teaching them; of times when the whole class sat wide-eyed & captivated as I told them stories that were so tangible it felt like we were a part of them; of times where I was able to show a child in some small way that they mattered, that they are brilliant & that their heart is precious. These are the moments that make me want to teach.

In that moment of listening to a seasoned teacher tell me that what children need is for me to give of myself, I remembered that this is what makes me come alive. The giving of myself & all that I love that I might in some small way help children to love learning & love exploring the world that is at their fingertips; to give children confidence to know that they can learn and grow & love the process.

I know that there will be many children that I fail. There will be time after time that I fall short, that I don't give my all and I leave children with bad memories. But my hope is that for the most part, the education of the children in my care will be enjoyable & character building.