Tuesday, 30 October 2012

out in the quiet

John and I have flown our little nest for the week, taking full advantage of the school holidays, and are enjoying a week of quiet and relaxation. We are staying in a little cozy cottage in Wales at the end of a woodland track, surrounded by nothing but fields, horses and pheasants. I am loving having the time to read and read and read, to run every morning and do little else except enjoy time together with John.
I brought my new birthday typewriter with me, and enjoyed spending the morning yesterday typing as the sun shone through the door and all I could see was the horses out to pasture. 

And I still think that Autumn leaves are the best by far. I only wish they would stay on their branches a little longer before falling to the ground and getting downtrodden.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Five Minute Friday / Voice

It's Friday and I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday for a little bit of writing practice.

GO.
As dusk draws in and the last week of the school term draws to a close, I take a deep breath and breathe out slowly as my thoughts circulate at a far greater speed than my exhaling breath, and I think of finding your voice. For me, finding my voice this week has come in a diversity of ways from the whispered morning prayers, the first words that leave my mouth as I usher in a new day, and bring it all before God, bringing a quiet stillness to my heart and mind before the flurry of three year olds that I greet everyday. My thoughts circulate around to the quietest of children in my class, who only find their loudest voices when all is silent, and something within them rises up and out roars a sound like one I have never heard them utter before.

I hear my voice daily - as we all do - but it is only in the reflective process of watching footage of myself teaching that I really hear myself. I hear my voice through different ears because my eyes are tuned in too - watching the quirks, the gestures, the unashamedness of my dancing with the children that become the participatory audience in this acting role of teaching that I put on every day. Hearing so much of my voice makes me crave just a little bit more quiet than I have been allowing, for those moments for the inner voice of the Holy Spirit to refine those rough edges that I hear in my voice - for out of the overflow of my heart does my mouth speak (as the Bible says in Matthew 12).
STOP.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

work within your waking hours / baking


When I was 14, I started my first ever job. I worked as a Saturday girl in a bakery in the town I grew up in. I loved my Saturday's there. I got paid a pittance but I was undeterred by the number of pounds I took home with me each Saturday.

Every Saturday I got up at the crack of dawn to start loading the shelves with freshly baked baguettes and loaves of sweet fruit bread at 7am. Whether it was the influence of 5 years of waking up early at the weekend to do my stint at the bakery, or whether it is my Mother's influence on me, I still wake up early on a Saturday, and as soon as my eyes are open, my mind is wide awake and it feels like I should start the day.

{I learned to make these miniature piping bags at the bakery, perfect for decorating gingerbread ladies with dresses or for piping figure 40's}
This Saturday was just the same, waking at 6am. The thought came to me that it just makes sense to work within your waking hours, whatever they may be. Of course you are not going to work within your sleeping hours, but what I mean is that I am realising more and more that the mornings are a good time for me to be productive, and while I would sometimes love to have a little more rest, lazy mornings in bed is not the way my body works. Early nights? I am there, and that's how I get enough rest.

For me, when I wake up and it's 6am, I am learning to embrace that this is the perfect time to bake. So that is what I did this weekend. I whipped up batches of raspberry buttercream, cream cheese frosting and whipped chocolate ganache icing, while making candied carrot shavings for the first time ever - a surprisingly satisfying process where you boil carrot peel in sugar syrup, then roast for a short while, before twirling round the end of a wooden spoon, then roasting until crisp. The perfect way of making a healthy vegetable completely unhealthy! The end result was a tasty selection of cupcakes for a friend's 40th birthday. 
{carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting, candied carrot & chocolate orange figure 40's)
 {lemon cupcakes with lemon and raspberry buttercream marbled together in a beautiful union of pastel shades and delicate flavour}
 {rich chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream and whipped chocolate ganache frosting}

Monday, 22 October 2012

belated birthday post

Last Thursday saw the dawning of my 28th year. We planned to keep celebrations perfectly simple plenty of good food to enjoy with good friends over a few days and a coffee date celebration at Boston Tea Party on Sunday. It was just what I needed. Food is such an integral part of celebrating isn't it? We have eaten oh so very well over the last few days and I have enjoyed every mouthful. My birthday was full of enjoying and celebrating the small delights in life:

a breakfast latte
a surprise cd waiting in the car for my drive to work (I might have shed a tear at how happy this made me)
my children getting very excited at hearing it was my birthday
a girl in my class saying, 'but we haven't even got her a cake!' then made me one with playdough, turned the lights out and the whole class sang an impromptu rendition of Happy Birthday
small mouthfuls of the most chocolatey cake I have ever baked
autumn light shining through red leafed trees
an afternoon with John enjoying a lunch out at a local brasserie
bumping into friends in the brasserie and their newborn boy
the most delicous pulled pork that my mouth has ever tasted
enjoying the scent of new birthday candles filling my home
birthday brownie
laughter with old friends and new





Much to my delight, the birthday celebrations will continue this week too with a trip to the theatre to see The Lion King. I have wanted to see this performance since I was 16. I cannot wait!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

today

Making me smile today: Tiny nine day old baby feet. Babies are brilliant and precious friends who birth their babes are heroes in my eyes.



Monday, 15 October 2012

chocolate chip cookie sticks

When Friday evening rolled around, I had no inspiration for cooking dinner, so I baked a batch of cookies instead. I consider it a very good thing that I married a brilliant cook, otherwise my diet would be far worse off and cookies for dinner would probably be far too common for my waistline to handle. So, while John came to the rescue with dinner, I got to work on the cookie dough. 

I found this recipe on My Baking Addiction's blog and loved the idea of switching the regular cookie shape for sticks. Aside from being a fun alternative, they require a little less work than rolling out circular ones. Not that I consider rolling cookie dough to be arduous work, but if you're in a hurry, making cookie sticks will save you a few precious seconds. 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Sticks (slightly adapted from the original recipe)
ingredients
125ml vegetable oil
50g crunchy peanut butter
100g caster sugar
100g dark brown sugar
1 free range egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g plain flour
half tsp bi-carbonate of soda
200g dark chocolate, cut into chunks or regular choc chips

method
1) Preheat oven to 180C / gas mark 4 and grease a large baking tray
2) Mix the oil, peanut butter, sugars, egg and vanilla in the bowl of your freestanding mixer / large mixing bowl. 
3) In another bowl, combine the flour and bi-carb. 
4) Gradually add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture and mix until well combined. 
5) Fold in the chocolate chips and divide dough in half.
6) On the prepared baking tray, shape each portion into a rectangle with a little bit of space to spread.
7) Bake in preheated oven for 6-7 minutes. Cool for about 10 minutes. Cut with a serrated knife into 1 inch strips while cookies are still warm then remove to wire racks to cool completely. Or eat before they get cold, depending on how you like your cookies!
Baking Notes: These were beautifully chewy and incredibly moreish. The peanut flavour was very subtle and using crunchy peanut butter added a lovely little crunch. I went a bit overboard with the chocolate - could easily have used half as many - but I loved the chocolateyness.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Five Minute Friday / Race



GO.

I recall those race experiences with vivid clarity. The nervous anticipation that only sleep and running can console. Will I make it to the end? Can I run and not stop for 13 miles? How will my body feel? Will I be able to run through the pain? 
On many nights before and after races, I have dreamt about running - getting to the starting line hours after the race has started, still determined to complete what I have started; starting a race and having to stop to tie up my shoe. I remember the wondering at what those dreams might mean - what they told me about my physical running - and my life which is certainly not a sprint. My thoughts connect with one another, distant memories of these dreams joining up with more recent stories my ears have heard - of an African culture where people who are in a hurry stop to tie a knot in the leaf of a tree. To deliberately pause when they are racing against time - a tangible reminder that we need to slow down before we speed up. A reminder to hit the ground kneeling in prayer and stillness in those busiest of times.
Back at the starting line of the race, and I put music in my ears to help me focus; I remember the scripture engraved on my ipod from a dear friend which reads,

'let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us' - Hebrews 12 v 1'

an ever present reminder, as my whole body runs those miles in the physical present, of the long view of this life, preparing for the rest of the race that lies ahead that is not yet tangible.

STOP.

When I started this post, I did not expect it to look like this. Perhaps this is a timely reminder to my legs that have been a little lack-lustre with running that it is good for not only my muscles, but my heart, mind and soul to keep running.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Enamoured by Autumn

The weekend was a quiet, sunny one, and I relished every ounce of the silence and light, taking the opportunity to greet the dawn and dew of an Autumn morning on Saturday with a little stroll in the woods. 
Aren't water droplets on buds exquisite?

What are your favourite sights to behold during Autumn / Fall?

Monday, 8 October 2012

{Saturday Morning Glory}
 'The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.' Psalm 19 v 1
I love the glorious Autumn mornings where the sky is clear and full of beauty. Most of the time I am driving while the sun is rising and so photography is not an option, so I took advantage of the quiet morning on Saturday to pop outside, enjoy the view and breath in the fresh, crisp air. This is my favourite kind of beauty.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Five Minute Friday / Welcome

Five Minute Friday: 'Where a beautiful crowd spends five minutes all writing on the same topic and then sharing them over here (Lisa-Jo's blog.) Where we just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.'


{GO.}
As I sit here with the company of my sewing machine beside me, I think about my trip this afternoon to my local fabric shop. A smile of familiarity from the owner greets me, welcoming me into her shop. She extends her welcome further, offering me a chocolate from the fresh box of Celebrations that sits on her desk and I wonder if all shoppers receive this welcome, or just those with familiar faces. Although it's just a fabric shop, I feel at ease here, welcomed in and given the freedom to browse, knowing that there is no pressure to buy. And this is the feeling that I see as synonymous with welcome - ease. I wonder in contemplation at how much I value that feeling. When I go somewhere new - I value a friendly face, welcoming me. My desire for the children I teach and their parents who entrust me with their offspring's first encounters with education, is that my classroom would feel like a welcoming place - not simply through the physical environment, but through a consistent warmth in the welcome I have the privilege of extending daily. Welcome says, 'I value you being here, come stay awhile and be yourself.'
{STOP.}

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

cookie jar goodness

With Autumn making her presence fully known, I am feeling the need to warm my kitchen with the heat of the oven to take away the chill in the air, to fill our home with Autumnal smells, to fill our tummies with delicious treats of coffee and cookies, and so that is what I am doing. I'm also set on spreading some cookie love this season.
Now, I don't know about you but I have little bit of a thing for pretty glassware. For our wedding, I had great fun searching charity shops for glassware delights to stash sweets and treats in, and I would never say 'no thankyou' to another glass cake stand.

{a little peek at some of the sweet treats from our wedding}

My latest love? Glass jars of all varieties. On our last trip to London, I treated myself to a Kilner Jar. If you are thinking, 'glass + jar = treat? What?' well, I understand that it is perhaps a little odd. But if I were to present you with such a glass jar, full to the brim with cookies and tied with a bow, would you say 'no'? I think not.
If you're looking for a quick, delicious present to make for a friend, I would highly recommend this double chocolate chip recipe. Even if you can't think of a friend who might need a cookie, bake a batch for yourself, nibble a few then share the love with a neighbour (not the nibbled ones though).

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Bristol Half Marathon 2012

At the weekend we had the pleasure of seeing John's parents and Tim & Becky for the second time in two weeks - they all travelled over from London for the Bristol Half Marathon. We enjoyed much good food, the last of the hot sun of Summer before October rolled in, and watching the men run. I didn't participate this year and I was quite happy to sip away on a latte in the warm, knowing that this time last year, I was running. While waiting for the men to cross the finish line, I held my camera at the ready, and spent more time photographing birds flying in unison than I did taking photos of runners.
They all did brilliantly, beating their times from last year, and finishing still smiling. We filled up our hungry tummies at Bordeaux Quay - a firm favourite restaurant for when John's parents come to Bristol.
How was your weekend? Did you eat any delicious food or have any kind of adventure?

Monday, 1 October 2012

baby quilt

Good evening one and all, how has your Monday been? Mine has been full of children sharing their wonderful ideas with me about how many windows a house should have (69), lunchtime pilates, a surprise visit from a brilliant friend and her equally brilliant daughter, and an evening of baking big quantities of carrot cake and cookie dough, Right now, the aroma emanating through our home is the very scent of Autumn spices as they bake their way through the carrot cake.

Do you remember this wedding I attended last year? The one that I had the privilege to bake the cake for? Well, the beautiful bride is soon to become a Mummy for the first time, and I had the honour of making the babe a quilt. 

The original inspiration for the quilt came from this incredible blog - I could look at her quilt creations for hours. 
Amy (the mother to be) chose a calico fabric for the quilt backing, which I decided to add a splash of colour to with the left over fabric.
As soon as I had put the final stitch in place, I wanted to start another quilt to put into practice some of the techniques I picked up in the process of making this one.