Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Photo walk / blue

When I started doing the 50mm challenge series, my main intention was to use my 50mm lens more, and to challenge myself to look at things from different perspectives. I have found that photo walks have got into my mindset and now, I can't help but notice potential themes for more photo walks popping up everywhere.

Last week, as I stared at the blue sky, drinking in its colourful brilliance, I resolved to do a photo walk that centred around the theme of blue. Our time at the beach in Broadstairs provided the perfect opportunity for my blue photo walk, except that I forgot to take my camera. I didn't want to completely miss the opportunity, so I borrowed Tim's Panasonic Lumix G1.

Here are the blue hues that caught my eye:

 {cracked paint on a beach hut}
 {intentionally over exposed - I liked the stark contrast between the bright white and bold blue}
{bright blue, light blue}
I loved how frequently more than one shade of blue appeared  in a number of the photos. Every Spring when the skies turn this colour I find myself thinking how it is one of my all time favourite colours. Another small difference with this photo walk compared to my previous ones was that I switched more between portrait and landscape composition, whereas before, I have shot exclusively in landscape. I did this in order to capture the multiple blue hues that were visible, depending on my composition. I love the way this little project is evolving all by itself. 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

on running

{the feet that I run with}

In the lead up to the 10k race, I wondered on a few occasions why I was bothering to do this again. As I waited at the starting line for the race to begin, the famous music from the film Chariots of Fire played out over the speakers, and my favourite line from the film came to mind:

'I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.'  - Eric Liddell

I thought about the Bible verse that is etched into the back of my ipod, given to me by a dear friend:

'And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.' Hebrews 12 v 1-2

And in that moment I remembered why I was running this race again; why I keep on running even though at times it feels like it never gets easier and in training I so often battle with myself to overcome the mental challenges. When I run, I am reminded of how remarkable the human body is, and thank God for his brilliance in the way he has created us. I looked around me at my fellow runners and marvel at those running with bodies that have lived for many more years than I have, and hoped that in years and decades to come, I can still run. I hope this not just because I would like to maintain physical fitness with age, but because of the metaphor that the verse in Hebrews speaks of - that this 'race' in life requires perseverance, just as a long run does.

As I thought back to the last time I ran the Bristol 10k, I smiled at how much has changed since then. The tiny hands of children that I held on the way to the race in 2009 were replaced this year by the hands of my husband, who made his intentions oh so clear on that very day when I ran my personal best in 2009.

I mentioned previously that in training for the 10k, we started going to a running club on Monday evenings, coached by two brilliant people, one of whom is a Physio by profession. These training sessions are making the world of difference to me, and at the end of each hour, I go home with a smile on my face (except for the one 3 weeks ago where we got pelted with hailstones and I cycled with gritted teeth), and am already looking forward to the next training session. The training is hard work in the sense that I am learning a huge amount about running technique, how to adapt my running style to be more efficient and to run in such a way that should prevent injury. For much of the time, I feel like I am concentrating on getting my stubborn body to do what it is supposed to be doing, and then there will be brief moments where all that I am learning clicks into place. My legs and arms are correctly aligned, my upper body is leaning forward just enough to propel me, but not so much that I am stooped, I'm taking short fast steps and landing on my midfoot (not heel striking), and my legs are moving in a circular motion. And I feel like I am flying.

I write these things that I might remember when I am feeling like running is impossible and the flow of running I am in at the moment has turned to an ebb, where every hill feels like too much and my body has forgotten the technique training I am putting it through. I write this also in the hope that perhaps my body won't forget; that my nervous system will remember the messages I am giving it and will re-train itself to forget bad habits - that I might just be able to move forwards in my running. I write these things about running to remind me of the constant parallels with the rest of life. As I grow older I want to mature in faith and godly wisdom, and I know that this requires work. It takes the same persistence as running does to affect change in my life, but thankfully, I know that ultimately it is not my efforts that change my heart, but the work of God within me. And the more I know myself, the more I see my great need for God, just as the more I run, the  more I am reminded of these same lessons in perseverance, hope, joy, pain, persistence and faith.

Monday, 28 May 2012

the weekend / Broadstairs

John and I spent the weekend by the sea in Broadstairs with our good friends, Tim & Becky. (We are going on an even bigger adventure with Tim & Becky this Summer - more on that soon.)

We stayed in a lovely apartment that overlooked the sea. The sunshine, refreshing sea breeze and sound of waves were a welcome sight to our weary souls after 6 hours of travelling in a hot car on Friday evening. Broadstairs is very near to where I grew up and where my parents still live, so we paid my Mum and younger brother a visit on Saturday evening. My Dad was off adventuring in the Peak District, so we sadly did not get to enjoy his company.

The weekend consisted of:

plenty of sun
charity shop thrifting
good food
gluten free cake (made by my Mum)
lots of time for reading ('A face like glass' and 'Fundamentals of Aerodynamics' - guess which one I read)
sand between our toes
collecting lots of chunks of chalk from the beach for school - free marking making materials? Yes please, and thank you very much!
early morning car boot fair fun on Sunday that took an hour for us to track down
homemade chocolate cake on the way home (via London) from John's Mum

{sun over the sea at 6.30am on Sunday - photo by Becky}

I loved being by the sea - that is one thing that Bristol is lacking - but thankfully the coast is never too far away. The only problem was that we were just beginning to feel like we were on holiday, then it was time to go home and get ready for another week of work. 

Friday, 25 May 2012

Foodie Friday / White Chocolate and Pecan Cookies

I've had my eye on this cookie recipe all week. There were 3 things that excited me about this recipe:
1) That you turn the dough into logs to slice up nice & neatly
2) The brown sugar content
3) Their pale prettiness

Would it sound weird to say that I wasn't overly excited about what they might taste like, and I was more interested in the baking process? I made these cookies to take to school, so doubled the original quantities and gave my Kenwood Chef quite the work out with the amount of butter, sugars and flour it needed to mix. As always, Kenwood did his job with great finesse. 

Another thing I liked about this recipe was that I could make these cookies ahead of time, so they fitted in perfectly with my schedule this week. I prepared the dough on Wednesday evening (the perfect way to get out of a post-work slump), chilled overnight, then took to Hannah's house to bake on Thursday afternoon, ready for school on Friday.

White Chocolate & Pecan Cookies
ingredients (yields 24 cookies)
250g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
100g caster sugar
200g soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
400g plain (all-purpose) flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
100g white chocolate, chopped
100g pecans, chopped

1) Put the butter and sugars into a bowl & beat until light and fluffy.
2) Add the eggs one at a time, beating each in well.
3) Add vanilla extract & combine
4) Add flour, salt & baking powder (no need to sieve) and combine
5) Stir in the chocolate & nuts and evenly disperse
6) Divide the dough in half, shape into logs and wrap in clingfilm
I found the most straightforward way of doing this was to put the dough on greaseproof paper to shape into a log before transferring to the cling film, as it is quite sticky at this stage.
7) Chill for a couple of hours in the freezer, or until you are ready to bake.
8) Preheat oven at 170C / gas mark 3 /325F
9) Slice the logs up into pieces 1cm diameter then lay circles flat on a greased baking sheet, leaving plenty of space in between each cookie.
{When taking photos, I like to use the best available light, wherever that may be. On this occasion, it was in Hannah's conservatory in the middle of the floor. I had a little helper, as you can see, so it only seemed right that she got to be in the photo too with those lovely little feet poised so perfectly on the threshold.}
10) Bake for 15 minutes or until the cookies are starting to become golden around the edges.
11) Leave cookies to cool & harden slightly on baking trays before transferring to cooling racks (approx. 3 - 5 mins).
12) Eat & share with anyone in the near vacinity!

Baking notes: 
I'd like to try this recipe again and make more of the brown sugar flavour by using 50g of caster sugar instead of 100g. I think this dough would work well with chocolate chips instead of white choc & pecans, so I might try using it as a base dough again sometime. 

{On another note entirely, does anyone know why blogger crops the right side of my photos? In draft mode, they are perfectly cropped, then when I publish each post, it looks like I've done some slightly funky cropping. If you can shed any light on this, please do share your wisdom in the comments section.}

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

50mm focus / round

I had a lot of fun on my 50mm focus walk this week. Having been inspired by Elise's photo walks and her theme of round this week, I went for a wander to see what I would find. 

I wasn't really planning on following the same round theme, but ended up seeing elements of round everywhere I looked. I noticed so many things that had some circular, curved or spherical element to them. I am loving how this 50mm focus has naturally become a weekly challenge and a fun way to get me to look more closely at the environment I see every day, from different angles.

{All photos were taken on my Canon 450D with a 50mm lens at ISO200. Shutter speed and aperture varied. These images are straight out of the camera with no editing to give an accurate perspective of what my lens sees.}

Sunday, 20 May 2012

we ran / Bristol 10k

{team King with a silver-caped superhero in our midst}

Well folks, we did it! Today we ran the Bristol 10k and enjoyed it. John's parent's came to Bristol from London especially for the race - they inspire me.

While running, my focus was on keeping a steady and comfortable pace and keeping a good running posture, putting into practice some of the techniques I've learnt through our running club. By the time I reached 4k, I felt like I'd found my form and the next 3k were wonderful. Then I realised I hadn't seen a race marker for a while to tell me how far I'd gone, and started wondering if I'd significantly slowed my pace. Thankfully I had just not noticed the 7km marker, so when I saw the glowing neon sign signalling the 8th kilometre of the race, I felt the adrenaline kick in that helped me increase my pace for the last 2km. Chris Brown helped me along, and I had to resist the temptation to dance as I run as the beats pumped through my headphones.

As I mentioned before, John and I were running with Love Running, along with 400 or so other Love Runners. It was quite inspiring to have Love Running t-shirts in my vision at all times throughout the run, knowing those beside me, before me and behind me were also part of this team effort to raise money to help people all over the world in need of food, water, medical help. 

Thank you so much to those of you who have supported Love Running through sponsoring me. So far, the running total that Love Runners have raised is £72,151,15. Wow. There is still time to raise even more, as the sponsorship pages don't close for another couple of weeks, so if you would still like to sponsor me, go for it! 

{For the record, my time for this race was 54 mins 46 seconds.}

Friday, 18 May 2012

Foodie Friday / Melting Moments

When I started the Foodie Friday series a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I wouldn't always be blogging about sweet sugary foods. Well, I'm afraid that this week I am still on a sugar run, and the savoury recipe blogging is going to have to wait just a little longer. Continuing with the biscuit theme, I decided to bake melting moments, also known as viennese whirls.
I have to admit that I have thought twice about blogging about these melting momemts. They were a mixed blessing of totally delicious, but a nightmare to push through the piping bag in order to create their swirly nature. When it came to piping the dough, I had serious deja vu from the time I made lemon cloud cookies. I thought there was a serious chance of bursting a blood vessel or splitting my sturdy piping bag down the seams with the effort it took to push the dough through the nozzle. I resorted to the same method I used with the the cloud cookies - I put the filled piping bag in the oven to try and soften the dough. While this worked to an extent, it made the piping bag disgustingly greasy, which created a new challenge when trying to pipe.

So, by the end of baking these, I felt determined to adapt the recipe to find a way of creating a more pipeable consistency of dough, and then share the adapted recipe here for your benefit and my future reference. I haven't managed to try these again this week but decided to blog about them any way to document the journey to finding the perfect melting moments recipe.

Melting Moments {from the Great British Bake Off}
250g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
60g icing sugar (confectioner's)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
350g plain (all purpose) flour
60g cornflour

for the filling
125ml milk
2 tbsp plain flour
125g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
jam (raspberry or strawberry)

method for the biscuits
1. Beat together the butter and icing sugar until fluffy.
2. Add vanilla extract and combine.
3. Sift in the cornflour and plain flour and mix until combined.
4. Spoon mixture into piping bag and pipe 32 swirls of the mixture onto greased baking sheets.
5. Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes
6. Preheat oven to 180C / gas mark 4 / 350F
7. Bake the biscuits for 12 mins or until very lightly golden around the edges.
method for the filling
1. In a saucepan, heat the flour and milk, whisking constantly until the mixture boils and thickens.
2. Pour the sauce onto a plate and loosely cover with cling film to stop a skin forming. Leave to cool completely.
3. Beat together sugar and butter for about 4 mins (with electric mixer, longer by hand!)
4. Add the milk sauce and mix until light and creamy.
5. Add vanilla extract then cover and chill until it's firm enough to pipe. (I skipped this stage and the filling was a little on the 'loose' side!) 
6. Assemble the biscuits by spreading a layer of jam on half of the biscuit bases then pipe a swirl of the filling onto the remaining bases and sandwich the two together.
7. Enjoy the lovely light texture of these melting moments while sitting down to rest after all your hard work!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

50mm focus / 5 minute challenge

I have had the lovely title typeface of 'A face like glass' inspiring me every time I see it, so following on from last week's mini excursion with my 50mm fixed focus lens, I decided to set myself a 5 minute challenge to take a selection of photos of items about my house with text that inspires me for one reason or another. I like the thought that when I look back on this in years to come, it'll give me a little snapshot of what I was reading, eating, drinking out of, baking with and riding. This is what I came up with.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Love Running.

Dear Readers,

Can I tell you a little story about running and changing the world?

For the last 7 weeks John and I have been going to a running club on a Monday evening. Last night as we set off on our bikes for Bristol Downs where the running club meets, the skies looked sad and grey. Within seconds of being on our bikes, the first drops of rain had started to fall. We arrived at the usual meeting point to find our fellow runners sheltered under a great tree providing much appreciated shelter from the steady rain. The leader of our running club was confident that the rain would pass as blue skies could be seen in the direction that we would be running towards. So off we went. 

Within an hour, we had seen sun and blue skies, a rainbow, hail and torrential rain. We were wet to the point of dripping. Some might ask, 'why on earth did you bother when you could have stayed warm and dry at home?' And my answer would be this:

We bothered to go because we are training for the Bristol 10k which takes place on Sunday 20th May, and this time, it is not just about us running to complete a challenge, or just for the fun of it. This race is about Love Running. Yes, it is about loving running, but much more than that, it is about seeing love in action through raising money for the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the hurting; it is quite literally about seeing love running - offering a helping hand to those who need our money more than we do through the money we raise. 

I have so valued and appreciated the input we've had at the running club from Claire and Ben Akin-Smith who lead us in our weekly sessions. Claire has taught me more about running technique in the last 7 weeks than I have learnt in the 7 years since I started running. I think about how grateful I am for Claire and Ben's input, and then think how much greater input the money raised through Love Running will have in thousands of lives in this city I call home, and across the world. It's a humbling feeling to think that the money I raise will make a genuine difference in people's lives. The money raised will go towards supporting 3 causes:

1) A village development project in Zimbabwe

2) A water supply project in Uganda

3) Lots of local charities in Bristol

So, will you join me in giving a little (or a lot) to make a huge difference? 

There are approximately 500 other people running as part of the Love Running initiative, and so far £53,000 has been raised. Isn't it incredible how much more a group of people can achieve than we could ever hope to do on our own? 

If you would like to sponsor me, here is a link to my fundraising page - it only takes 4 simple steps to donate. Simple. 

Or, if you live in the UK, you can donate by texting the number 70070 with the message:

LOVE35 £....(insert chosen donation amount here)

With Kindness,


p.s My husband John has kindly and gently asked me over and over again whether I have done anything about sponsorship, ever since signing up to run the 10k a couple of months ago. He has been far more pro-active than I have in asking for support and sponsorship. It has taken me until now to write this post and put messages in various places requesting sponsorship because I don't like asking people for money. Thankfully, this isn't about you giving money to me though, it is about helping others, and so I hope that you feel able to join me in helping others by donating to Love Running, knowing that you really are making a difference.

p.p.s in the time it has taken me to write this blog post, another £500 has been donated to Love Running. Be inspired & be generous.

Monday, 14 May 2012

out of the mouths of babes / a story

Today one of the children in my class came to me and said, 'Mrs King, I'd like to tell a story for the story square.' I asked her if it would be ok for me to type it as she told me the story so we could remember it. She agreed and told me, 'while you're getting ready, I'll keep all of the ideas in my head.' And here are all of those ideas that came flowing forth.

NB: A 'story square' is a technique we use where we invite a child to tell a story, and then they invite other children to be the characters in their story and act it out in front of the class in a 'story square' created with masking tape or chalk.