Friday, 26 November 2010

snow!

Quite unbelievably, for the last 4 hours, snow has gently been falling from the skies, lightly peppering the land in the south west with its beauty. Even though I know it will probably be gone after one sleep, I am still loving it and feeling like I'm in Narnia as I walk under street lamps with my head tilted skywards, feeling the weight of the tiny flakes on my eyelashes.








I'll be spending my weekend writing an assignment and perusing the Christmas treats on offer at Christmas at the Orangery. I've wanted to go to this Christmas market for the last few years, so I am very excited about going this year. The snow has made me feel like I really need to start getting ready for Christmas and I think I might start by making a list of all of the tasty festive treats I'd like to bake. If there's anything you'd like to see me baking, please do tell in the comments section - I always love getting new baking inspiration!

Happy weekend! And wishing any Americans who might be reading this a very Happy Thanksgiving.

capacity




About four years ago, in 2006, I started to run. I ran with my good friend Ros and we would chat away the miles, not realising how far we were running. 

The more we ran, the further we went. We pushed ourselves beyond the boundaries that our bodies and minds knew, learning physically and spiritually as we went. We ran in all weathers, greeting the dawn of the day in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Morning was our preferred time for running - with Ros being a Mum of three and I being a university student with a job - we had children and work to attend to.
Four years on, and I often wonder at how we did it. Let me explain a bit how things have changed. Until a year ago, I was running regularly, rarely having a break of more than a few days for my body to rest. This changed when I met John. In the early days of our relationship, I was living on far less sleep than my body had ever been used to, still working my two jobs that started at 8 in the morning and ending at 7 in the evening. They were long days and with this wonderful new man in my life who I needed to give time to, my capacity for running changed.

When we got engaged in March of this year, I felt a shift in my capacity again. I was now planning a wedding in any spare minute I had, working at school and childminding, and trying to maintain a relationship in a way that meant we didn't spend every moment together wedding planning. I physically felt like I did not have the strength to run. During those months, I consoled myself in the fact that my body was being exercised through my daily cycling to work. In those months of engagement, running would not have served as a means of strengthening me spiritually, it would have felt like a chore, something that I thought I should do rather than something I enjoyed doing.
Now, eight months on from our engagement, we are now married, and I find my capacity changing once again. I remember once asking my church leader if he had found his capacity increasing as he grew older. At the time of asking the question. I felt like my life was very full with different responsibilities and roles and could not envisage the day when I found it easier to juggle so many balls. In his wisdom, he explained to me that in marriage, your capacity increases. You are joined with another person to become one. In that process of joining and growing together in marriage, you are strengthened and enabled by the different skills and abilities of your spouse. This is something that I have found to be very true so far in the very short time I have been married. When one of us feels weak, the other is able to buoy the other up, spurring on where one might have otherwise stopped.

The week after we returned from our honeymoon, I started my PGCE - Post Grad training to become a Primary School teacher. The course splits my time between lectures at university in Bath, and teaching at a school in Portishead. Where I was once able to cycle to my jobs, I now have to spend about 5 hours a week driving. My mode of transportation slows me down completely and reduces my physical activity to the point where I have started to feel like I need to run again. I need to get my body moving, to remind it of what it is capable of. To stretch my complacent limbs and feel the gentle ache of good exercise. My capacity is once again changing due to other areas of my life slowing down.

On Tuesday evening as I ran, I thought about how the slowing down and settling of my life has caused my capacity to run to increase once again. In one sense I am now travelling greater distances than before, but in a way that requires nothing of my body.  In making my body redundant, it's as though I am realising what it needs to be doing to feel more alive and well. As I ran, it felt like my body was remembering how to respond well to being pushed physically. I loved the feeling of my feet and my heart pounding to the rhythm of the music in my ears. All that I could feel was my body responding to these things, as though running on autopilot, not having to consciously take every step as my body yelled at me to 'stop!' because it hurt. 


The memorable quote made by Eric Liddell in the film Chariots of Fire came to mind while running through the streets of Bristol: 

'...when I run, I feel God's pleasure...'

There is pleasure to be had in running and I love that I am starting to remember that pleasure again, where for so long, that pleasure has been replaced by complacency & weariness.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

chocolate courgette loaf



Simply said in pictures. A lovely chocolate loaf, slightly moist with a gently crisp crust. The chunks of chocolate provide a little surprise with every few bites. And it has courgette in it. You'd never know...


Monday, 22 November 2010

apple sauce




For the last couple of weeks, our fruit bowl has been full to the hilt with a lovely bunch of cooking apples that needed using. Alonside this, I have had the desire to bake. It'd be accurate to say that this is a pretty much constant desire, but these days I have far less time to satisfy my baking needs. So, on Tuesday evening, I carved out a bit of time after school and coupled the apples together with my baking needs and made apple sauce. The main reason for making apple sauce was so that I could then bake this recipe for Chocolate Courgette loaf / cake posted by the lovely Summer Harms last week.

So off I went on a hunt for an apple sauce recipe and found this one. It is so easy to make - you just pop everything in a pan and leave to simmer - there's even enough time for a run while the sauce is simmering away! Coming home to the smell of apples and cinnamon is quite simply, wonderful.


The brilliant thing is, you can make a batch of apple sauce for chocolate courgette cake, then put the rest in jars for presents! Oh how I love these jars....


Next up: How the chocolate courgette cake turned out.
If you're not completely converted on the concept of using vegetables in cake yet, I assure you, they totally work and you feel like eating cake is a good, healthy thing to do!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

as winter rolls in


I am... 
drinking hot water to warm my belly
donning my ski socks to soothe my cold toes
hugging hot water bottles
buying these mittens
wondering how much earlier I'll need to leave to scrape the ice from the car each morning
wearing a quilt over my knees at my desk
appreciating that we have finally worked out how to get the shower hot
wondering how much longer we can last without heating
enjoying eating soup, soup and more soup for lunch 
listening to Brooke Fraser's new album
very much looking forward to Christmas time

Thursday, 11 November 2010

remembrance



Today at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month we observed a two minute silence at school to remember and respect all of those who lost their lives in the Great Wars this world has seen. For as long as I can remember, the image of people wearing poppies to comemorate this occasion, has been familiar. I never questionned why it was a poppy that was the flower of choice, and it is only in the last few years that I have gained a greater appreciation for the symbolism of the poppy. 

During my first degree, I studied a unit on therapeutic work with children. One of the suggested readings for the course was a book called Poppies on the Rubbish Heap. 
It was not a light read. It was a book about children who had suffered horrendous abuse. While this book by no means made light of the abuse cases that were contained in the text, it did speak of the inexplicable joy that therapists saw in the children they worked with, in spite of their circumstances. Invariably, this joy was hidden and rarely seen, but to read account after account of child abuse that provoked many tears, the fact that these children who had experienced such dark times still reflected glimmers of a lightness of spirit, was all the more moving. These children were, in the truest sense, poppies on a rubbish heap. 

I find it quite miraculous to think of how bright, beautiful poppies would grow upon land that had seen such slaughter and sacrifice during the war. To me, this echoes the message of Salvation. Jesus Christ causes life to spring forth in us, through all of the muck and mire in our lives. And this is most definitely miraculous.

Today, I learned that all of the 34 million poppies that people wear across England in memory of the soliders who died, are made at a single factory in Richmond. The man who started the factory in 1922, Major George Howson, designed the poppies in such a way that ex-service men and women who had been disabled by the war, would be able to make the poppies with one hand. Amazingly, Major Howson did not think his idea would be a success. How brilliant, then, that 90 years later, the paper poppies worn around the country at this time are still very much a known symbol of remembrance.

The poem that first inspired an American woman named Moina Bell Michael to wear a poppy that would become the symbol to represent remembrance was this:

In Flanders Field by John McCrae


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
 
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.





Thursday, 4 November 2010

the rugged cookie




A few weeks ago, John needed to do some baking to provide his colleagues with something scrumptious to celebrate his 2nd anniversary of working with the company. He decided on oat & raisin cookies and happened upon this recipe

I'd like to take some time to tell you about this cookie recipe which I would like to dub 'the rugged one'. 

I used to have a love-hate relationship with baking cookies and biscuits and was sure my solution would be to move to America where cookies were born, where I would be sure to find the secret to the perfect chewy cookie (because these are the best kind). The main problem? The cookie dough always spread over the entire surface area of the tray - having started out as nice neat little blobs of dough - as soon as the dough hit the heat it just went everywhere and I would end up with one giant weird cookie-biscuit that was too crispy around the edges and just didn't really taste right. I had problems, you see? Feel free to share if you've experienced anything similar. I will fully empathize with you, I promise.

My problem was solved, not by a trip to the States, but by the discovery of using condensed milk in cookies. Oh my, how good cookies can be with a healthy serving of condensed milk. However, the only condensed milk recipes I found had some form of chocolate in. This is definitely not a problem as I am a lover of all things chocolate, but when one fancies some oaty goodness, condensed milk is perhaps not the best solution.

So, when John found this recipe, and I smelt the wonderful aroma of oats & cinnamon wafting from our oven, I knew I had to try these babies for myself. So I did. If you follow the recipe from the link, it will yield about 30 odd cookies - I can't remember precisely - but it was a lot. I froze over half the batch because we couldn't eat them fast enough. I made them nearly a month ago and we still have some of the frozen batch left. Now that's what I call a good yield.

Of course, John added his own John Twist when he baked these cookies. Rather than making individual cookies, he made two giant cookies that took up the whole surface area of one baking tray each. I love his style.

If you have some oats, sugar, butter, raisins and spices in your cupboard, I highly recommend you put them to good use and make these cookies. Happy Baking!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

grey skies and stolen books

 
Dear Friends,

Sorry for my quietness at this little space this last week - it has been filled with lectures, studying, teaching and running by a lake taking photos of swans & toy animals. (Sound a little strange? Welcome to the world of teacher training in Bath.)

I am finding that I miss all of the good light during the day for taking photos to post - it is now the case that it is dark when I leave in the morning and dusk when I come home at night, which makes for poor photography.
 
Friday was a particularly grey day when the sky has looked ready to rain for the whole day. Normally I find the grey skies make me sad, but today, they did not. Today, I enjoyed watching the weight of the clouds shift and change until they relented to let the rain fall. I waited all day for the rain, and on my way home it finally came.

My day ended on Friday with a trip to the University Library. One of the wonderful things about Bath Spa Library is that it has a room especially dedicated to teaching resources for people like me who are trying to learn how to be a teacher. I have discovered their children's audio books, which I have started borrowing to listen to on the hour long journey to and from home and uni. Having finished listening to 'The Hostile Hospital', a Lemony Snicket story, I went in search of a new audio book. In the process of browsing the aisles of the resources room, I happened upon a lovely old orange book called 'Nonsense songs and stories'. The title alone was enough to allure me, and with a quick flick through the pages to discover simple pencil drawings reminiscent of old childhood books, I added Nonsense songs and stories' to my growing stack of books to withdraw.


There is a clever self withdrawal system at Bath Spa Library, whereby you can check-in and check-out any books you would like to return or withdraw. As I was merrily scanning my books, I discovered that Nonsense songs and stories was so old that it had been missed out when the university phased out the old-school date-stamping system and brought in electronic barcodes. Anyhoo, this story is going on for far too long. What I am trying to tell you is that I ended up inadvertently stealing this lovely old book - having intended on asking a librarian for help, I had carried on checking out all of my other books and popped them into my book bag. Nonsense songs just so happened to end up with all of the other books in my book bag. While I am sure the library probably won't miss this unassuming orange book, I will do the honourable thing and return it after I have enjoyed its contents.