Wednesday, 28 July 2010

my day.



Do you ever have days that just seem to go from the sublime to the ridiculous? 

I am absolutely sure you do. Would you mind me telling you about my day today? On reflection, 'ridiculous' might not be totally accurate, but hey, I'm going to tell you anyway!

So, it all starts off normally with a bit of early morning internet shopping for wedding related items. Today, it was envelopes. Tomorrow, who knows? 

Having purchased roughly 140 envelopes, booked a train ticket to a wedding two weeks before my own and blogged about banana muffins, I headed off to childminding.

My morning's duties started off with learning about the mating rituals of Amazonian creatures - did you know that dung beetles roll a large ball of poo to impress their mates, and wire tailed manakin males show their tail feathers to their prospective female mate before shaking those tail feathers right in the female's face?

Next, Grace & I headed over to feed the neighbours fish & cats while they're away. This is where the fun of the day started to roll on in. I once heard that if a cat thinks you're not a very good hunter, they'll keep on bringing you dead animals until you prove your hunting prowess. Now, I am not sure whether it is normal practise for Sooty & Saffy (the cats we're looking after) to go hunting for their owners, or whether they see Grace & I as fresh, hopeless hunters, but either way, they feel the need to show us how good they are at hunting. Today, we went into their little cat lounge to find a dead bird, feathers & blood strewn across the floor. Oh how wonderful. Grace was highly traumatised & went and sat on the front step, refusing to feed the cats for doing such a disgraceful thing.

Upon our return to Grace's house, I was told by her Father that clearing up dead birds comes under the 'any other jobs' category in my job description. I was so thankful to have that clarification because I was wondering...

The rest of the morning was spent trying to figure out how to work the Match Attax game online. Remember how I feel about Match Attax? Well, yes, believe it or not, there is indeed a way to play this online as well as with cards. This is the new level of the Match Attax craze. Will is now becoming highly specific in terms of the cards that he deems worthy of owning. So much so that when his friend came round to play this afternoon, Will decided to give away his  entire, well, very nearly, collection of Match Attax cards. I hadn't quite realised the extent of Will's intended generosity until his friend's Mum came to collect him & told her son that he really couldn't take all of Will's cards  because Will might just have a re-think and wish he hadn't been so quick to give them all away, and then it'd be too late. 

Well, you'd think at times like this a child's response would be, 
'gosh, you are absolutely right! There I was, getting all giddy with excitement at the new-found possibilities of Match Attax online, that I thought giving away a hundred bajillion cards was a brilliant idea! I now see the error of my ways. Thankyou from saving me from untold disappointment.'

But no, our decision that Will should keep his cards was most definitely not met with approval. We had one disappointed boy sat on the stairs, head in hands refusing to move, and Will looking at me with his 'how could you?' look in his eyes. He then asked me, 'why is it that adults always have to spoil our fun? We have fun then you come along and spoil it?! always!'

After this little episode, baking seemed like the perfect consollation to me. I was wrong. Our batch of cookies was a total disaster. Actually, it could have been worse. I could have burnt the cookies. That was perhaps the only good thing about them, other than the delicious chocolate chips buried inside each one. While the cookies were baking in the oven, I decided to do a little bit of pantry tidying. It was perhaps the shortest lived tidying episode ever. Having moved one tray, I was incredibly successful in bringing a home made jar of blackcurrant jam to the floor - with no hands!!! They don't call them black currants for nothing, I assure you. The whole jar shattered and there on the camel coloured, textured carpet was a mountain of jam.

If you've ever wondered how to get out horrid, horrid blackcurrant stains from your carpet, I can tell you the first four pages of suggestions provided by google, ranging from lemon juice to vinegar to milk and cornflour. Take your pick. I chose nearly all of them and found the most successful one to be one that's not listed which consised of searching in the cleaning products cupboard for any kind of stain remover. Vanish oxi-action was my weapon of choice & it didn't let me down. So, although there is still a horrendous stain there, it is no longer purple.

My day of childminding ended with cooking dinner for children, knowing that one of them would complain endlessly about how he doesn't like jacket potato and asking how many mouthfuls he needed to eat. As it turned out, neither of them ate a bite of all I had cooked because their Mum rang and asked if they wanted to go out for dinner with her. I thought this to be a far better option than sitting through a mealtime of complaints and so calmly put all that I had prepared into separate bowls & into the fridge for another day.

{image: wire tailed manakin :: google images}

Friday, 23 July 2010

the end of school.


School has finished. Today, the academic year ended & I left the gates of Bishop Road Primary School for the last time. 

It is amazing to think that this time last year, I had no idea where I was headed. 

I had spent a year working in the Nursery Class of a Primary school where I learnt lessons daily about my flaws & inexperience, alongside a brilliant teacher who so gently taught me about education & children, showing grace again & again in the face of my ignorance. It had been a challenge, not just because of the daily holding up of a mirror to the cracks in my character, but because I did not know what it was all for, or where I should go. I felt like I had spent yet another year drifting along, not really achieving anything & this was disheartening.

And, just like that, another year has passed & I have left the school. I couldn't quite believe how simple it felt to hand in my fob key - my elite access to the school - and walk out the gates knowing I won't be going back to work there in September. 

My leaving card from the teacher I have worked with this year said:

'she is planning an elaborate escape'

In all honesty, this does not feel like an elaborate escape. This just feels like doing life. Some things are ending so that others can begin. That is not to say that I am not excited about the changes that are happening - going back to university to train as a teacher and more importantly - getting married to a brilliant man - I really am excited but in this moment I am amazed that this is how it feels for it all to have ended. It just feels normal. And I think that's ok, because endings & change don't have to be scary or sad, they can happen in the context of everything else. Sometimes the changes might make up the foreground, sometimes the middle ground, and sometimes they might be so subtle that they are only feint in the background in the context of everything else.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

granola





Ever since I can remember, my Mum baked granola for our breakfast as we were growing up. I remember thinking that there really wasn't anything else I would rather have for breakfast than a bowl of my Mum's granola. 

When I moved away from home six years ago, I knew that I couldn't leave without taking this recipe with me. My friends at university thought I was a bit crazy to be baking my own breakfast but I didn't mind, I needed this incredibly sustaining breakfast & memory from home. There were even times in my first year when I ate granola for breakfast and lunch. 


The last couple of years I have taken to eating weetabix with banana & sultanas when baking granola on a regular basis has not been part of my routine, and for quite a while I thought this was brilliant because it was healthy and felt like it filled me up sufficiently. But oh no, I was forgetting just how brilliant granola is.

Recently, I have craved the oaty goodness that granola provides. So, I've made time to bake a few batches over the last few weeks & I am still relishing the feeling that comes with eating a bowl for breakfast at 7.30am and still feeling content at 12.30pm after a morning of running around with the Nursery children. (I assure you, this is serious hunger-inducing work.) 


I have no idea where this recipe originates, other than my Mother's kitchen. 

Here's how my Mama makes it...


ingredients


1.5 mugs (as in the regular tea or coffee sized mug that you use multiple times a day) of oats
1.5 mugs plain flour (you could use wholemeal to be even more healthy)
1/6 mug sunflower oil (about 50ml)
1/6 mug honey & hot water

for the topping

After baking a batch of granola, I sprinkle a generous amount of wheat germ & sunflower seeds on top. The batch pictured above also has pumpkin seeds & pine nuts in as this is what I had to hand.

method

1) Measure out the flour & oats into a large mixing bowl

2) Pour in the oil & stir with a wooden spoon

3) Meanwhile, place the jar of honey with the lid removed into a pan of simmering water. This will heat the honey to make it runny so you don't have to wrestle with lots of stickyness when trying to get it out of the pan. Leave to simmer for about 5 minutes or until you're ready to use it.

4) Remove the honey from the pan, with a tea towel to hand to wipe off any drips of hot water from the jar, and pour about 0.5cm of honey into the trusty-oh-so-accurate measuring mug.

5) Add a little of the hot water to the honey to make it up to about 50ml (looks like 1.5cm in height in a mug) and stir to combine.

6) Pour the honey mixture into the oat mixture and stir. The mixture will look rather clumpy and like there's not enough liquid - this is all good. Keep stirring until all of the liquid is combined then use your own fair hands to rub together the lumps with the oaty bits until the mixture resembles a slightly lumpy crumble mix.

7) Pour into a roasting tin (no need to grease) and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 160C / Gas Mark 3, stirring every 10 minutes or so, so that it bakes evenly.

8) When you remove the granola from the oven it will be pale in colour - if you let it brown too much it won't taste great.

9) Sprinkle with your desired selection of nuts, wheatgerm, etc and leave to cool.

10) Enjoy topped with yoghurt & milk, or whatever liquid base you fancy!


Granola freezes brilliantly, so feel free to increase quantities and freeze a batch. This size batch usually lasts me between 5 - 7 days, depending on my hunger levels!


I grew up on a diet with very little sugar, so you might find that this is not sweet enough for you. Feel free to alter it to suit your taste - that's the joy of granola - the recipe is very adaptable.



Wednesday, 21 July 2010

according to the children


Marriage is a frequent, perhaps even daily, conversation at Nursery.

And it has nothing to do with me getting married & talking endlessly about it.

The girls like to talk on a daily basis about which boys in Nursery they will be marrying. The boys are more than happy to join in.

So, on Monday, Miss Martin said to the girls, 'I think it might be a good idea to tell the boys that you are planning to marry of your intentions - that might be a good place to start.' 

Miss Martin then asked the children how old you have to be to get married. One child loudly and clearly stated that 25 was the right age. I breathed a sigh of relief that I fit into this category. I don't know what I'd do without these children - I might have ended up getting married when I wasn't supposed to.

Then another child said:

'No, you can get married at eleventeen, fourteen or nineteen.'


Hmmm. Well in that case, I'm a little bit late. If only I'd know when I was eleventeen that this was the age to marry it, I might have had five babies by now.

Monday, 19 July 2010

the weekend round up

This weekend John & I journeyed across the country to my home town where I grew up, so that the people who have known me since I was knee-high to a grasshopper could ooh and aaah at the tremendous height of my soon to be husband, spend time with my family and eat a lot of cake. 

In a photo documentary style, here's how we rolled....



We baked some delicious cranberry & white chocolate cookies which will feature over here very soon.




We walked in the park & admired the town's model boating club who had all come out to play on the pond.





We watched in awe as the Sun set. One of my favourite things to do. So very glorious.




I admired John's brilliance as he told me all about the motor's inside the coastal wind turbines. He teaches me many things I would never have otherwise know.




We admired my mother's handiwork - she has well & truly worked her magic on my bridesmaid's dresses. 




As we left my parents' home, it dawned on me that this is probably the last time we visit them before we become Mr. and Mrs. King.  We will be starting our very own 'family' and at the same time, extending our families as we have always known them to be. Somehow, this feels perfectly normal & right & good.

Friday, 16 July 2010

perfect presents

 

One of the things I have loved about working in a school community for the last two years is that I have caught a glimpse of a wealth of talent amongst the staff & parents. There are bakers, artists, crafters & musicians (to name but a few talents) in every year group of parents. I know that of all of the talented people I have come across, I have only scratched the surface in an enormous school (there's about 800 children).


Alison Murphy is a name I have heard a number of times & seen her beautiful work adorning the neck of one of my colleagues on many an occasion. Yet it wasn't until today that I got to meet the artist herself. I went to her stall in Woolies, an indoor market in Bristol, and had great trouble in choosing which one of her creations to buy. I finally made my choice, and gave it to the friendly looking lady sat on a chair, in charge of the stall, who said, 'I love this one - I made it and had great trouble parting with it when deciding to sell it.'


Knowing that only Alison Murphy makes these unique necklaces & brooches, carefully crafted from broken pottery that she has sourced from here, there and everywhere, I said, 'Are you Alison Murphy?!' with excitement in my voice. We spent the next 40 minutes engrossed in conversation to the point where I totally missed the huge downpour of rain that was happening outside the window, taking place of the fleeting sunshine that had been in the sky before I went into Woolies. 





Not only does Alison Murphy carefully select each piece of pottery for her necklaces, she makes origami paper boxes out of music manuscripts & maps as homes for each piece of jewellery, making them even more brilliant & unique.

Sadly, Alison doesn't have a website that I can direct you to, but if you like the look of her jewellery, I am more than happy to purchase you a piece on your behalf.




I mentioned a little while ago that my nesting habits were beginning. Now, they are in full swing.

I am getting married to a wonderful man & that means that we get to have a lovely home together. The thing is, my future spouse is less interested in the 'lovely' part of lovely home. He's more than happy with just 'home.' And that is great.

Whereas I, on the otherhand, simply cannot wait to make our home lovely. We've found a little flat which suits our newly-wed needs perfectly & I'm moving there in three weeks to lovelify our home. (I just made that word up.)

The result of having dreamed for a long time about having my very own home with my very own husband is that over those years, I have built up in my mind, pictures of some of the things I would like to have in that home.

So, now that this dream is becoming a reality, I have started a tiny little bit of accumulation. I am endeavouring to be respectful of my future-husband's opinion that there is a market out there to suck women in to buying all kinds of unnecessary pretty things for their home, and that you could spend a fortune on making your home look beautiful. In trying to acknowledge this, I am aiming to be thrify. (I think making my own tea towels counts as a good start.)

Yesterday, John & I had a conversation that went a bit like this:

J: When you move into our new flat, are you imagining that you'll throw lots of things away?


H: silent while I try to work out if there are specific things that John is seeing as he looks around my room that he never wants to see in our home. 
Ummm...what kind of things did you have in mind?

J: Oh I wasn't thinking of specifics but...it's just that....you have a lot of stuff here and a lot of stuff in my garage & I was wondering whether you're going to get rid of any of it or just put it in the middle of each room in our house and try and find somewhere for it to go?


H: Well, I'm not really sure what to throw away...I'm trying not to hoard things...ummm...


And that was esentially where the conversation ended. 


So I'm sorry John, that after we'd had that conversation I went and bought the pots pictured above to go in our kitchen. But they really are tiny & will take up hardly any room at all & were very cheap from a charity shop, I promise...

Saturday, 10 July 2010

bunting


 

The wedding bunting project is now well under way. 

Thanks to my brilliant friend Ros, we have managed to cut 300 triangles of fabric over two lunctime sessions & I started the stitching last night.

Following the wise advice of the ridiculously talented Sarah Trigg, I cut the triangles using pinking shears then stitched the triangles double sided, with plain fabric on one side, patterned on the other. This will increase the longevity of the bunting (I plan on using it at every possible occasion, birthdays, babies, anniversarys, and just when I feel like putting up bunting around the house) & makes it all the more beautiful! 

20 down, 130 to go.

Friday, 9 July 2010

making me giddy



At this stage in my life, I am in transition.
 
For the whole time that I have been wondering what path to go down in terms of a career, I have carried my love of baking along with me. This has become a bit of a dream of mine, that one day, I might be able to make a living doing what I love - creating beautiful cakes that taste delicious.

I feel like I have managed to reach a point of reconciliation in my thinking: 

Becoming a teacher does not mean that I can't bake. 

There might just be opportunities for me to do both.

But for the meantime, I am thoroughly enjoying that feeling I get when I open up a magazine to find an article such as the one pictured. It's all about women who bake. Women who did what they loved & managed to grow a spectacular business out of it.

Maybe, just maybe, one day this might be me.

In the meantime, I will happily bake away for pleasure & maybe a little bit of business when I am fortunate enough to stumble upon somebody who would like to pay me to bake.

Today, I have the joy of doing just that.




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Friday, 2 July 2010

little buffers

Lately my working days have begun & ended with exactly the same thing.

Tiredness? You might be thinking. Well, yes, you would be right. But no, not that. That's not what I'm talking about today. 

Children?

Yep, you're getting a little warmer...I'll give you a clue. If you know anything about anything, you'll know that this current collectors item has taken the Primary Schools by storm.

Give up?

Ok, I'll tell you. 

Match Attax. 

These are the football cards of the children of today. The little boys in my life seem to just love them. Their days would evolve around match attax, if only school would allow it to become a curriculum focus. But, alas, the school does not allow it, so instead, they fill the rest of their waking moments thinking about Match Attax.

Hmm...let me rephrase that. They don's just think about them, they talk about them. all. the. time. Does anyone relate? Or maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm a Match Attax magnet that cannot help but attract the Match Attax monologue that these boys need to vocalise on a daily basis.

It was only the other day that it dawned on me just how much I listen to a certain two boys (aged 5 & 6) about their Match Attax love affair. In my semi-wakeful coma at the breakfast table, I realised that this let's-tell-hannah-about-every-single-football-plyaer-in-the-world-cup was a daily event, and that it didn't look like it was going to stop anytime soon, regardless of whether England were still hanging on in there or not.

So I started to listen. I must confess that when I have woken up, realised I've overslept yet again, showered & readied myself for the day in a slightly frenzied manner, and run down to breakfast, my listening skills are not quite at their very best. But still, I have managed to retain a fair few pieces of information about football players & the format of these beloved cards.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

recipe card

One of the secret things we had been asked to do by the Bride's sister for her hen weekend was to write down a recipe so we could make Lizzie a recipe book, full of fresh ideas to take into her marriage & her kitchen.

So I whipped this little number up....


Quite simple, but I was pleased with my little creation. Now I have a Photoshop template that I can adapt whenever I want to print out another recipe & it will take just a fraction of the time that this one did.