Sunday 31 December 2017

My Blog-Word For 2018

Last year my #word365 was "Hope" - Hebrews 6 tells us that our hope in God is an anchor for the soul. I began the year with a number of uncertainties, and hope has been an important thing for me. This time last year, Liz was facing return to work, and settling Rosie in Nursery. Steph was about to begin a new life in Manchester. I was still waiting for some Supply Teaching to materialise. Other situations with church, friends and family required faith and hope.
God has answered our prayers and so many things have turned out even better than we could have imagined.
But I said to Bob last week that I was really struggling to find a word for 2018. Then suddenly on Wednesday night I realised that the word I want for this coming year is

Yes, you did read that correctly. I want more! I have been reading so much about the joy of less, and how minimalism is the way forward. But this more isn't about having more stuff.
There are two Latin words which contain the word more - one is AMORE and the other is MORES. They mean love and behaviour. This is what my more! is all about.
When Jesus said he wanted his followers to have life that was more abundant, what did he mean? I haven't thought it through yet, the next few months will be exploring the ideas, but I do know I want 2018 to be a year when
I am more generous
I am more attentive
I am more thoughtful
I am more tolerant
I am more patient
...I am sure other things will occur to me as days go by. I suppose the bottom line is that in 2018 I want to be more like Jesus.

Do you have a word for 2018?

Saturday 30 December 2017

History Repeating Itself

A couple of weeks ago, the death was announced of Prof. Heinz Wolf. He was a clever, kind, funny man who loved introducing science to both adults and children. For years I had a piece of paper on my kitchen pinboard with a something I'd heard him say on the BBC written on it. "We must teach our children to be numerate, literate AND manipulate"
I'm not sure about using 'manipulate' as an adjective, but I agree with the idea. Yes, reading, writing and maths are vital skills - but children also need to know how to do things and make things.
Learning to tie shoelaces, to make pastry, to wrap a parcel, to  make Lego models, to sew on buttons - these  basic abilities are the start... Children who are taught them stand more chance of growing to be young adults who can do knitting, attempt dressmaking, tackle bicycle maintenance, prepare a roast dinner, maybe even assemble flatpack IKEA furniture. They will manage repairing, recycling and repurposing.
I mentioned last week about the rods from our dropside cot. It was ancient [about 5th hand when we were given it] Nothing like as lovely as the one here - but it was adequate. One evening, just before her 2nd birthday, about half an hour after I had put Liz to bed, I heard a noise from her bedroom. A crash and a thump and then a little voice "Oh dear. Broke it!" 
I dashed in to find the cot base on the floor, and the four sides all leaning inwards- and a bemused toddler, standing unharmed in the middle of the chaos.
To this day, we are not sure how she managed to completely dis-assemble her bed. But I was rather proud of my little girl proving herself to be so dextrous at a young age. Her skills have progressed through the years.
On Boxing Day, we had a meal with the family, and then it was Rosie's bedtime. "Say goodnight to Grandma" said Liz. So Ro walked over to Bob and clearly and confidently said "Night Grandma" then turned to me and repeated "Night Grandma" - and then went upstairs for bath and bed.
Liz came downstairs later. Rosie was in her cot, and chatting cheerfully to herself. But then we heard a bang. Liz dashed upstairs, and called me to follow. "Sounds like a repeat of 'Oh dear, broke it!'" I said to Bob.
There was Rosie - standing in her cot with a determined expression on her face. She looked at us, and said "Books! Help! Books!" and pointed to the objects of desire just beyond her reach. Liz has recently put some books inside the storage unit beside the cot. Rosie had reached through the bars and managed to get the lid off, and knocked it on to the floor - but couldn't reach the books inside.
So we gave her a book, reassembled the unit, [moving it further from the cot] and went downstairs again. If a girl is that keen to read in bed, we are not stopping her!
Like mother, like daughter...

Friday 29 December 2017

Luscious, Lovely Leftovers

The end of "Christmas Week" approaches. At which point you look in the cupboard and fridge to see what's needing to be eaten up, or you zip to the shop for "just fresh bread and milk" and return with a reduced panettone and a half price punnet of cranberries.
We've had a family meal at which I'd offered to bring the pudding.
I had everything to hand for this one already, so this is my take on Martha Stewart's "Kris Kringle Pudding"**
Quantities are flexible. This serves 6 generously. But you can multiply or divide easily! 
In a large jug, beat up 750ml milk, 3 eggs and 2tbsp sugar. 
Cut up some panettone into 2cm cubes. 
Now layer cubes with 3 tbsp cranberries (these are optional, you could substitute other fruit) into an ovenproof bowl, reserving 1tbsp cubes. Pour over the liquid. Strew the remaining cubes and half a tbsp sugar on top. [as Nigella would say] Bake at 165' for 35 minutes. 
Serve with cream, custard, ice cream, whatever. Or you can cool it, then reheat for 15-20 minutes in a moderate oven. If you freeze it, thaw in fridge before you reheat. The golden crunchy cubes, studded with jewel like cranberries looks very festive. It works with all sorts of leftover enriched breads- Italian panettone and pandora, French brioche, Jewish challah... 
I keep a carton of 'emergency' UHT milk in the cupboard over Christmas, and used some for this. It's always useful for cooking with, but I prefer fresh for my tea! 
**I ought to say that I loathe the name, and I'm not at all sure about MS's statement that "I give these as gifts, and on the tag write clear reheating info,  along with the instruction that if they do not return the bowl, they will never get any more gifts from me" 

Thursday 28 December 2017

Purple Prose

In literary criticism, purple prose is prose text that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself. Purple prose is characterized by the excessive use of adjectives, adverbs, and metaphors. 
Pantone have just declared their colour of the year for 2018 - Ultra-Violet. Here's what they have to say about it... 
Complex and contemplative, Ultra Violet suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now. The vast and limitless night sky is symbolic of what is possible and continues to inspire the desire to pursue a world beyond our own. Enigmatic purples have also long been symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality, and artistic brilliance. Musical icons Prince, David Bowie, and Jimi Hendrix brought shades of Ultra Violet to the forefront of western pop culture as personal expressions of individuality. Nuanced and full of emotion, the depth of PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet symbolizes experimentation and non-conformity, spurring individuals to imagine their unique mark on the world, and push boundaries through creative outlets. Historically, there has been a mystical or spiritual quality attached to Ultra Violet. The colour  is often associated with mindfulness practices, which offer a higher ground to those seeking refuge from today’s over-stimulated world. The use of purple-toned lighting in meditation spaces and other gathering places energizes the communities that gather there and inspire connection.
This is definitely purple prose! 

Wednesday 27 December 2017

Of Butties And Buttons

Thus far, Christmas has been wonderful. All the services at church on Sunday and Monday well attended, really good atmosphere, and it was lovely to be with friends old and new, to worship the Christ-child together. The lights twinkled, and the Lindt Teddybears were well received by all who came [thank you Steph]
Then 11.50am on Christmas Day we locked up the church, the last to leave, and headed off up the motorway. Brief stop at South Mimms Services for Bacon Butties in Starbucks. 

You will notice that Bob's wearing his best Christmas waistcoat. I read an article about them on Saturday. It is traditional for gentlemen to leave the last button unfastened. There are three opinions as to why this is so.
In Georgian times, dandies [think Beau Brummel, or the Scarlet Pimpernel] often wore two waistcoats, one over the other- by leaving the bottom button undone, the under-waistcoat was visible. This was an early example of 'layering'
I don't believe this- all the pictures I can find show the buttons all done up.
The second idea is that country gentlemen found it much more comfortable when on horseback, to loosen the lowest button. If that was so, why did they bother to put one on at all?
The third theory, and this is the one which I think is most plausible, concerns King Edward VII who was Victoria's son, and reigned from 1901-1910. The King certainly enjoyed his food, and his waistline absolutely ballooned because of all the banquets. The King found himself unable to do up the bottom button. His loyal subjects at the meal table observed the protocol and undid their buttons to match. My photo of Bob conveniently omits to show what he has done!

We were all very smart on Christmas day - Rosie in a particularly fetching dress decorated with llamas, and the rest us almost as grandly attired.
But in the 2 hours between our arrival and Rosie's bedtime, we forgot to take a family photo. Steph and Gary had to leave early on Boxing Day, so here we all are, in slightly less glamorous attire recording our Very Happy Family Christmas.

We were blessed with some lovely gifts, and delicious food, and lots of laughter - but just being together was the best part. One young lady is now fully equipped to join the cycling clan. I love the Miffy Bell on the handlebars, and the wicker basket.
Hoping you've had a happy time wherever you have been.

Tuesday 26 December 2017

Traditional Tracklements

This is, in my opinion, one of the best days of the year for meals - you can really enjoy yourself with the leftovers. Cold meats and cheeses, jacket potatoes, bread and crackers, simple salads, mayonnaise and "tracklements"
This is when you are glad you spent time back in October, using the bounty of the hedgerows, gluts of garden vegetables, dried fruit, vinegar, sugar and spices, to make jars of chutneys and pickles.
I hope that friends who received such preserves in their stockings will be enjoying them as much as I plan to do in the coming days.
A tracklement is a savoury condiment [for example a mustard, relish,pickle or chutney] usually served with meat. The word was coined in 1954, by the cookery writer Dorothy Hartley in her book Food in England. Probably derived from similar older dialect words [e.g. tranklement, tanchiment] used across North and Central England, meaning trinkets, bits of things, ornaments.

Monday 25 December 2017


This is the design we used for our Church publicity this year - a reminder that Christmas is all about Immanuel- God with us. May He be with you and bless you today, wherever you are. May you know the love of Jesus, the peace of God, and the joy of His Spirit - not just on this day of celebration, but in all the days ahead. 
With best wishes from me to you, dear friends and followers.

Sunday 24 December 2017

Pause In Advent #4 - What's On The Divine Wish List?

Do you have a 'Christmas Wish List'? Is it a 'gifts I would like to GET' or a 'gifts I would like to GIVE' list?
I have not written today's post myself- I have taken it straight from the Advent Conspiracy Website, because I think is good, and worth sharing. As my fiend Nick would say "Be blessed, be a blessing"

The SIX Gifts JESUS asked for 
In Matthew 25, Jesus gives us something like a Christmas gift wish list.
He said that whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, that we do unto him. Then he listed six specific gifts, saying that when we offer them to those in need, we do the same for him:
1.  Food for the hungry.
2.  A drink for the thirsty. 
3.  Hospitality for strangers.
4.  Clothes for those without. 
5.  Care for the sick.
6.  Company for the prisoner. 
These are the gifts Jesus asked for, and today more than ever before in history we have all the resources and tools we need to solve address these problems.
We can direct our Christmas resources toward the mall, or toward the manger.
With a fraction of our holiday retail spending alone the Body of Christ could take on the world water crisis, and offer Jesus a drink everywhere in the world.
With a fraction of the time we spend consumed by the rat race Christmas has become, we could offer presence to brothers and sisters in need of love, and in loving all, love Jesus.

As long as we’re going to celebrate Christmas, we may as well give at least ONE gift to the birthday boy! 

Saturday 23 December 2017

Poor Man's Panforte

At the beginning of December, Anon sent me a recipe for leftover mince pies, calling it "Fridge Cake". After last Monday's "Christmas Open House @ The Manse" we had a few pies leftover. I looked at what I had in the cupboard, and realised I didn't have as much chocolate as I thought. So I tweaked the recipe. 
Here's my take on it. It's very rich, so you only need a small slice. 
  1. Line the base of a loose bottomed 15cm cake tin with parchment.
  2. Melt 50g of dark chocolate - I did this in a jug in 10 second bursts in the microwave
  3. Spread this over the base of the tin and put into the fridge to set
  4. In a food processor, pulse 50g chocolate [broken up into squares] three mince pies [cut into quarters] one tablespoon of nuts and the zest of an orange.
  5. Put this mixture in a pyrex bowl, and heat in 10 seconds burst, stirring each time, till melted.
  6. Spread this mix over the chocolate in the tin, press down evenly. Return to fridge.
  7. After an hour, turn out, so the smooth chocolate is on top - cut into 12 segments.
I served it with our after dinner coffee on Thursday, and as dessert, with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream on Friday.  

Bob has declared that these taste infinitely better than the original Mince Pies!
If you go to Siena, they serve Panforte- "strong bread" which is made of dried fruits, spices and cocoa, and baked in the oven. This is much easier, although not quite as satisfyingly chewy as the original. But it still has the spices, dried fruit and cocoa flavours. The nuts give a good crunch, and the zest gives a lovely fresh citrus note. Next time, I am planning to use four mince pies, and skip the chocolate layer altogether- and put the whole 100g bar broken up, into the processor. Then I could tip it all into the tin, and just use the residual heat of a cooling oven to melt the chocolate mix in the tin. If I did it in a rectangular container, I could make petit fours.
As there is always an orange in the fruit bowl, and a few nuts in the pantry, the only things I would need to buy is a bar of chocolate. 30p from Lidl - so the slices are less than 3p each. 
Thankyou Anon, for the inspiration!

Friday 22 December 2017

Post Early For Christmas

Actually, if it's not in the box by now, it's probably too late! Did you know that the Canadian Post Office has used an address for Santa since the 1980's ? 
They receive around one million letters annually addressed to 
Santa Claus, North Pole, 
Canada, HOH OHO
Here in Britain, Royal Mail handles 800,000 messages to 
Father Christmas/ Santa
Santa's Grotto
Reindeerland XM45HQ
People post the weirdest things - it used to be legal to post people. The record for this is W Reginald Bray, a clerk from London, who successfully posted himself three times - in 1900, 1903 and finally in 1932. Two suffragettes, Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan attempted to post themselves to Prime Minister Herbert Asquith on 23rd February 1909, in order to personally present their case for "Votes For Women".
Here we see A S Palmer, Messenger #25, outside 10 Downing Street. Unfortunately the man who answered the door refused to sign for the ladies, and poor old #25 had to take them back to the Depot and write a full written report as to why he had not delivered his mail!

The Postmaster,
Sir, I beg to state in reply to the above report that I took the Ladies to Mr Asquith’s house but the police would not let them go in. I went in but the butler would not sign the form because he did not have the letters to sign for, because the ladies themselves said they were the letters. And Mr Asquith refused to see them.
I am, Sir, Your Obedient Servant
A.S. Palmer [Messenger number] 25
W R Bray was the most eccentric mailer of them all. Having purchased a copy of the Post Office Guide, Bray discovered it was possible to send living creatures by Express Messenger as long as they were larger than a bee but smaller than an elephant. As a result he successfully posted not only himself but also his faithful Irish terrier, Bob. By the time of his death at the age of 60 in 1939, Bray is thought to have put about 30,000 random items in the mail. These also included messages sent in unusual envelopes such as a crocheted letter created for him by his mother, and a postcard addressed to "The Driver, Locomotive No. 133, Caledonian Railway, Glasgow Station".
I had had my mad mailing moments, I confess
In the 1970's, I was discussing the merits of the postcode system with the younger brother of my boyfriend. We wondered how brief the address had to be to get to somebody. I returned to Uni and sent a postcard with just his name and postcode [e.g. John, AB12 34CD] on the front, and the time and date when I put the card in the box written on the back. I used a 2nd class stamp - I seem to recall it took 2 days to arrive!
Five years ago, I did my first jumping-on-a-parcel-dance in the village post office, and have repeated that performance since. It saves my money and amuses those in the queue!
In 1982, my inlaws were kindly looking after our baby equipment just before Liz was born [we lived in the tiniest flat] and when they delivered the cot, the rods which held the drop-side front were left behind. So my resourceful FIL taped these two together [imagine a pair of 3mm knitting needles, about 1 metre long] and attached a brown paper tag with the address on it. He posted them to us, and they not only survived the journey, but were diligently fed through the letter box by the Postman!
As a child, I met a man who played chess by post with a friend who lived at the other end of the country - I marvelled that anyone could sustain the interest in a game which took so long.
I knew another family who exchanged the same Christmas card year after year with their cousins. 
I try to be as accurate as possible when the post office clerk asks what is in my parcel. "It is an embroidered gingerbread man made of brown felt" "6 miniature woolly hats for the top of Innocent drink bottles" "An icing bag, two piping nozzles and an embroidered butterfly"...
What is the strangest thing which you have ever received or sent in the post?

Thursday 21 December 2017

My Knapsack On My Back

I had a fluffy lion, which I planned to give a young friend who likes cuddly toys - then I decided to add a little backpack. There's a great little tutorial here

For speed, as it is only a few days till Christmas, I made it out of felt - and embroidered her name and some stars on the back. I stuffed the backpack full of chocolate teddies, and now he is ready to go to Norfolk.
When I was younger, people talked about rucksacks [from the German, meaning 'back-sack'], or knapsacks [from the Dutch 'snap-sack'], or occasionally haversacks [from the French -an 'oat-sack'] I don't recall the word backpack being around till I was a student - in fact the OED defines a backpack as a rucksack!
Hands up if you are old enough to remember this one - the only song I can think of with the word 'knapsack' in it!

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Good But Not Brilliant!

NO SPOILERS HERE! A friend went to see The Last Jedi on Friday, and I texted him for his verdict. "Good but not brilliant" he replied. 
I saw it with Bob yesterday at our local cinema [where all Tuesday tickets are cheaper]
Yes, I enjoyed it, yes, there were some good parts, but no, I didn't think the plot was very strong, and no, it didn't need to be that long. There were some parts which seemed a little extraneous to the storyline, and would not have been missed if they had left them out. 
I know that some bits are always there to lay a foundation for the sequel, and when we get to Star Wars Number Nine these things may be revealed. But I can't believe these were all titbits to whet our appetite.
I would have liked to see a few more females, there still seemed to be an overwhelmingly male cast [Bob disagreed, listing all the strong females with significant roles - I pointed out that 95% of them ended up dead so wouldn't be appearing in the next film!]
Costumes were varied and well-designed - if a little too tidy at times [how come Leia can maintain a good manicure through a major evacuation from their rebel base when mine is chipped after 2 hours of Carol Singing?] I loved the appearance of a steam iron.
Bizarrely, Mark Hamill's shoulders seemed to be incredibly narrow for the size of his head [perhaps that's just me, or maybe the Stormtroopers Shoulder pads make everyone else look small] Locations were beautiful - I recognised some of the Irish Island locations from our motorcycle tour in 2008. 
I felt rather sad the first time Carrie Fisher appeared on screen - and felt the need to hold Bob's hand. Unfortunately I managed to spill hot coffee on his leg in the process. Fortunately he's a brave man, and did not cry out!
At the end of the film, there is a tribute "Dedicated to our Princess, Carrie Fisher" which I deemed to be appropriate, and struck the right tone. After 40 years there is something sad about the end of the Hamill/Fisher partnership.
I have some other thoughts which I will not share, as I really do not want to spoil it for people. My rating is **** - yes Gary, it is "good, but not brilliant."

Tuesday 19 December 2017

On Yer Bike!

Very proud of my other half, who has just finished restoring a bicycle. The frame came from Jon - and Bob has refurbished it completely. I love the way he has added the leather saddle, and bound the handlebars beautifully in matching brown tape. He kept the original white/green paintwork - and even found a green water bottle [which Steph gave me a few summers ago, as I was about to drive back to Leicester from London on a very hot day] There is something so satisfying about bringing something back into use when it has lain neglected for a while. Bob worked hard to make this an authentic restoration as far as possible. A brilliant project completed successfully.

Monday 18 December 2017

Things I Learned Last Week

Last week I learned lots of new things - from a variety of sources -
In the Guardian, I read about the Oxford Dictionary's choice for "Word of the Year" 2017- it is Youthquake; a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people. This word has been around since the 1960s, but its use in the UK has increased five-fold in the past year. Other words on the shortlist were
Broflake : A man who is readily upset or offended by progressive attitudes that conflict with his more conventional or conservative views. Gorpcore; A style of dress incorporating utilitarian clothing of a type worn for outdoor activities, Unicorn; Denoting something, especially an item of food or drink, that is dyed in rainbow colours, decorated with glitter, etc.

In the Post Office, I discovered that it is no longer possible to send brown paper packages tied up with string. This was a little disappointing, as I felt I had done a beautiful job on Auntie Peggy's Christmas Gift. However, I'd already sealed all the edges well with Sellotape, so I just whipped out my Swiss Army Knife there and then, and cut off the string. The guy behind the counter was a little bemused, and apologised that their machinery cannot cope with strung-up parcels. When I got home, I discovered that Royal Mail has a whole page of twine and string on their website to buy from their Mailroom Accessories section. WHY, if you can't use the stuff for mailing?

In Sainsburys, whilst hunting for Pudding Rice to make my Karelian Pies I was having little success. The "Rice Aisle"  had long grain, wholegrain, white, brown, easy cook, basmati, microwave, pilau, arborio, sushi, Thai, carnaroli, black, Sea Island pre-fluffed[what ?] and wild...I asked an assistant and was directed to "above the very last freezer - opposite the ice-cream cabinet, in the traditional puddings section" I finally located it, but was too short to reach it. Fortunately I spotted a taller friend and asked him for assistance. In my childhood, I think that was the only sort of rice you could buy in Sainsburys. Now it has to nestle between the semolina and Angel Delight.

Mags alerted me to the wonderful custom of Jolabokaflod. [pronounced Yo-La-Boka- Flot] Oh the utter joy of the entire family each being given a new book on Christmas Eve, and being able to go off to bed and read whilst eating chocolate [I think I'd prefer a mug of hot drinking chocolate...]
This seems and excellent idea.

Bob pointed out to me that Jeremy Corbyn has recently won a prestigious award from the International Peace Bureau, because of his commitment to Nuclear Disarmament. This seems a good thing to me - but this event was not mentioned at the time in the British mainstream press, nor on the BBC News Website. Which is rather sad, imho. [A week or so later, it was picked up in a few places, after people complained]
In the bathroom, I discovered to my cost that when it says "leave to develop for 30 minutes" on the box of hair colour, that is EXACTLY what you should do. MY SIL Marion rang- and Bob said "Ang is upstairs dyeing" and handed me the phone. I sat chatting, and the timer in the bedroom went off, and we went on talking...and when I came to rinse it out ten minutes later, my hair was somewhat darker than I'd planned. In fact, the word goth was actually mentioned by my beloved. But fortunately somebody else said how nice my hair looked at church on Sunday, so I think I can live with this for a while.
It's been a very educational time in one way and another. 
Have you learned anything interesting lately?

Sunday 17 December 2017

Pause In Advent #3 - Food For Thought

If you'd ever been in one of my lessons about the Tudors, especially in the Autumn Term, you'd have heard my two penn'orth on the subject of mincemeat. How in those days, the little Christmas pies contained the dried fruits, but also a piece of meat - and the pies were shaped like a manger, with the meat representing baby Jesus.
Here is an amazing little Tudor Pie mould. [Cromwell didn't ban them - he just disliked the effigy and considered it idolatrous - so after the Restoration, mincepies missed out the meat and became circular in shape]
So if our forebears had pies like this, what right have I got to get steamed up about an advert like this?
I don't recall Jesus getting annoyed about sausage rolls [or whatever the first century Jewish equivalent was]
But he did get very concerned about poor people going hungry.
I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’
Then they will say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

The Lord will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’
Please support your local foodbank this Christmas...

Saturday 16 December 2017

Forest Festival

It finally all came together
The ladies knitted the squares [about 600 in the end]
Bob made the frame, and Carol and Val helped me cover it
And finally Barry took the seat sout of his people carrier, and helped us transport the tree to St Martins for their Tree Festival. The first festival in 2016 attracted 18 trees, last year it was 23, this year it was 30 - and the trees were down both sides of the chapel, up the centre and in the Hall at the back. 

Churches, Schools, Clubs, Local Charities...all came and decorated their trees- some real, some fake - and one woollen.
Handmade decorations from the children, symbols of faith, winter wonders, charity themes - it was a riot of colour.

Click on the collages to see some of the details.

But I am unashamedly biased - I loved our tree, with the Knitivity alongside, best of all. It received a lot of comments - and at least one other group locally are considering doing their own 'blanket tree' in 2018.
Thank you to all my dear friends- near and far, who made this possible. Some church folk, some friends and neighbours locally, and some followers of the blog - your squares were gratefully received - what a variety of shades of green too!
In the New Year, ! hope I will have pictures of blankets for you.
I've already been asked what we are doing next year. Well, there's an idea dancing around in my head  even now, but I am not saying anything till it comes into proper focus!

Friday 15 December 2017

Finnish Up Your Food

I have enjoyed reading the Nordic Bakery Cookbook, and decided to try another one of the recipes before it went back to the library. Something Finnish, in celebration of their centenary. I opted for "Karelian Pies". The cookbook says "These are an old favourite in Finland, sold everywhere in supermarkets...The contrast between ... rye crust and sift rice filing is unusual but addictive"
The recipe is complex and time-consuming. You make the filling, then the pastry and then combine and cook. Meanwhile you prepare the optional topping. It took over an hour and a half - but the results were surprisingly delicious. I made half quantities
150gm pudding rice, 2m0l water, 750ml milk, 1 tsp sea salt
Put the water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the rice, simmer 5-10 minutes. Add the milk, and simmer for 30 minutes until rice is cooked to a thickened pudding consistency. Stir in the salt and set aside to cool while you make the pastry.
250gm wholemeal rye flour, 1 tsp sea salt, 200ml water, 1 tbsp oil, plain flour for dusting, 75gm unsalted butter, melted.
Preheat oven to 220ÂșC. Line two baking trays with nonstick baking paper.
Put flour and salt in a bowl, add oil, and stir in water gradually with round bladed knife, or by hand, till dough is formed. Transfer to a surface lightly dusted with plain flour, shape into long sausage shape. Divide into 20 pieces and roll out with pin to circles about 10cm in diameter.
Now spoon 2tbsp filling into the centre of each circle leaving 2cm border all round. Lift up the edges of the pastry to make an oval shaped open pie. Pinch with thumb and forefinger all round, so edge stands up and encases filling. The thinner the crust, the better the piePour melted butter into a medium sized bowl. Put a pie onto a spoon and lower into the butter, coating the pastry crust generously with butter. Put pies onto baking sheets. Cook for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and crispy round the edges.
1 hardboiled egg, 40g softened unsalted butter, pinch of sea salt.
Chop the egg finely and mix with softened butter and salt. Serve topping alongside the pies in a small dish, with a spoon - this is traditional .
My rye flour is from Marriages- the old Essex Millers. Bob's pewter tankard is a lovely 10cm measure for the circles.
These were a delight to eat - the pastry worked, and the sea salt flavour complemented the soft rice. Bob suggested that in future I chop the egg more finely. Mine look authentic too - it was worth taking time over.

Karelia is a disputed region on the Russian/Finland border, celebrated in the fabulous eponymous piece of music by Sibelius.

My other favourite piece by Sibelius is of course "Finlandia" - used as a tune for a number of popular hymns [Be Still My Soul, We rest on Thee etc ...and Girls' Brigade Vespers] This year at UCF we've sung this modern carol to the Finlandia tune.
Come now with awe, earth's ancient vigil keeping;cold under starlight lies the stony way.Down from the hillside see the shepherds creeping,hear in our hearts the whispered news they say:                `Laid in a manger lies an infant sleeping,                Christ our Redeemer, born for us today.'
Come now with joy to worship and adore him;hushed in the stillness, wonder and behold,Christ in the stable where his mother bore him,Christ whom the prophets faithfully foretold:                High King of Ages, low we kneel before him,                starlight for silver, lantern-light for gold.
Come now with faith, the age-long secret guessing,hearts rapt in wonder, soul and spirit stirred;see in our likeness love beyond expressing,all God has spoken, all the prophets heard;                born for us sinners, bearer of all blessing,                flesh of our flesh, behold the eternal Word!
Come now with love; beyond our comprehendinglove in its fullness lies in mortal span!How should we love, whom Love is so befriending?Love rich in mercy since our race began                now stoops to save us, sighs and sorrows ending,                Jesus our Saviour, Son of God made man.
[by Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith]
Here is a translation of the original words written for the tune. A song for peace among the nations. Very pertinent right now...

Thursday 14 December 2017

Finnish Times

I meant to post about this last week. The people of Finland have been celebrating 100 years of independence.
What have the Finns ever done for us?
Well look at these
Nordic Walking Poles [to get across the snowy terrain] Saunas, Non-Skid Socks [they do not wear shoes in the house, and patented these] Xylitol Chewing Gum, all those fab Fiskars scissors and tools, and of course, the wonderful Moomins.
- you can find more items here
There are plenty of famous Finns too - Jean Sibelius [who wrote wonderful music, like the Karelia Suite, and of course, Finlandia]
Linus Torvalds [developed the Linux computer operating system]
Tove Jannson [the woman behind the Moomins]
Kimi Raikkonen [F1 driver]
and many others...
[even Brad Pitt - his mother is Finnish]
I am not sure I know many Finnish people - except one - some years ago I met a lovely lady called Sirrka - she's married to a Baptist Minister and she's a teacher. I posted about her son Lauri a year ago [here] Two weeks ago, his appeal case was heard in court - the US Government wants to extradite him on computer hacking charges. His defence counsel argue that because of his health and mental state [he has Asperger's], this would, in effect be a death sentence. He would not handle the isolation of a US Prison Cell, and would rapidly sink into depression and attempt suicide. 
Following the Gary McKinnon case, when Theresa May [then Home Secretary] blocked his extradition, on the grounds that it was incompatible with his human rights. Two weeks ago, the courts met to discuss Lauri's extradition.The hearing continues.There will be some sort of answer in the New Year. His sister has returned from Finland to be with the family- she believes the case should be heard in Britain[that is, after all, where the alleged crime was committed]
I feel incredibly strongly about this - I do not believe it would serve anybody any good to extradite this guy. Yes, he is a brilliant computer geek, and he can hack into anyone's system - usually to demonstrate that they need to improve their security. Occasionally misguided- but never malicious. I pray that the Mrs May, and Amber Rudd will block his extradition. After all, there have been 29 Britons accused of hacking US Government websites in the last 20 years - and every other one has had their case heard in the UK, been tried and sentenced here.
Oh, and by the way - do you remember the "Wannacry" Ransomware virus that knocked out the NHS computers back in May? Fortunately it was not too long before they were up and running again. That is because Lauri, Marcus Hutchins and other gifted geeks in their team worked through the night to restore the systems. 
There has to be something wrong if it is OK to use Lauri's gifts when he is saving our healthcare system and potentially the lives of others, but we cannot save him from an unjust extradition order.
His Dad, Alex, came out of the court and said "Our trust is in God, and in British Justice"
May his prayers for justice be answered soon.