Reprieve

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It feels like spring is just about here.

Without winter really having shown its face at all.

A few frosty mornings.

A sprinkling of snow.

But already bulbs are staring to push through, and curling leaf buds appearing on some of the hardier (foolhardy) trees.

A dry day on Friday and we took our chance to explore close to home.

The beautiful Warwickshire countryside

Along country lanes

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Picking up a companion for part of the way

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Stopping at Chesterton church

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And pondering a “fixer-upper”

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A good day.

Gong Xi Fa Cai 恭禧發財

The wheel is turning

The festivals are coming thick and fast.

Half term and we’ve had Valentines Day, Shrove Tuesday and now Chinese New Year

That’s in addition to Crafting Day and Grand Nerf Gun Battle Day.

I was hoping to try making chocolate noodle cakes (who could resist?) and sticky rice cakes.

But after Grand Nerf Gun Battle Day the lure of rocking in a quiet corner of the living room, twitching, was too great.

So we went with shop bought (and probably considerably more edible) goodies.

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Red bean pancakes

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Prawn crackers and wontons

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Almond cakes.

Wishing you all…..

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A happy and prosperous year of the goat/sheep/ram :-)

…In the Air

Happy Valentines Day :-)

Yoga yesterday.

We had to do a pose that involved sitting on the floor, one leg pulled back, knee bent, to the chest.

then you had to slip an arm through the crook of the bent knee, twist the arm behind the back, take the other arm behind the back and clasp hands, and then casually straighten the bent leg so it was waving nonchalantly in the air.

all the while focussing on drishti and engaging bhandas.

what popped in to my head?

a roomful of cats all poised to, erm, wash themselves

You can see the meditation practice is doing a fine job of helping me control my thought processes. :-)

So. Valentines Day. And what could be more appropriate then chocolate?

Gooey chocolate muffins with a gooey chocolate centre and gooey chocolate topping. With just a hint of orange to break up all that gooey ness a smidgen.

Perfect for a day that makes otherwise sane people go gooey.

You will need
80g softened butter
280g caster sugar
200g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
A sprinkling of salt
1tbsp baking powder
2 eggs
240ml milk
1 tsp orange essence
Grated zest of 1 small orange.

For the icing and filling
1 chocolate orange (175g) or a bar of orange infused chocolate such as Maya gold if you want to be a bit more upmarket
Plain chocolate to make the quantity of chocolate up to 250g
250ml double cream

Preheat oven to Gas 5, 190C

Cream together the butter and sugar then add the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder. The texture will be very grainy, this is fine.

Ina jug mix together the eggs, milk, orange essence and zest.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix together very well until you have a lovely, smooth batterimage

Spoon into muffin cases and bake for about 20 minutes. When cool enough to touch, place on a wire rack and let them cool completely before going any further.

To make the filling/icing, chop up the chocolates
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And place in a bowl. Put the cream into a saucepan and heat until nearly boiling, then pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Give it a stir and then leave for a few minutes for the chocolate to melt before stirring again to combine thoroughly. Allow to cool.

Take your now cooled cupcakes
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and with a sharp knife cut out a cork-shaped and sized lump from the middle of the cupcake
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Fill the hole with the chocolate & cream ganache and replace the plug of cake, trimming it if need be.
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Top with a generous, artistically swirled blob of ganache and adorn with more zest or whatever other sprinkles you fancy and happen to have to hand.

I would have inserted a picture of the completed cupcakes, but they seemed to disappear. Strange.

Eat and enjoy.

Endings

There are no “good” diseases.

But I think Alzheimer’s is one of the cruelest.

It doesn’t just attack the body

It eats away the essence of a person as well

Bit by bit

Pernicious.

Mum suffered with Alzheimer’s for several years.

But she fought it all the way.

Even when it was making her fight me, or her Carers, or Medical staff, or other patients.

Even at the end when she was fighting to say “I love you”.

But yesterday, it finally won.

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Fiction Friday

Late again.

But this has been an unexpectedly, and unremittingly, grim week.

The snow we woke up to this morning seemed most apt.

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The silence. The sense of waiting.

The meditation has been put on hold.

Too much stuff in my head for now.

And given that my zaku meditation cushion seems to have morphed into a PS4 gaming chair

And is now a bit sticky

That may be a Good Thing

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

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The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber.

The tale of Peter, sent as a missionary to a newly colonised world, to bring the Word of God to the original inhabitants of the new world. Also the tale of his wife Bea, left behind on Earth to carry on with normal life whilst Peter follows his vocation.

Only “normal” quickly disappears in the wake of environmental and economic disasters and subsequent societal breakdown.

It is a fascinating portrayal of the difficulties and vicissitudes of a long distance relationship.

The selfishness that (otherwise caring, loving) people can exhibit when focused on their own goals.

Or beliefs.

At times (many times), this is a somewhat bleak treatment on the nature of faith.
How much of that faith is dependent on believing it is part of a reciprocal arrangement. “I’ll believe in you, if you’ll give me x,y and z in return”.
And how quickly that faith can crumble when the rewards aren’t forthcoming.

I loved the portrayal of the indigenous people. How they changed from an amorphous collective, into loveable individuals as Peter came to know them, live and work with them.
How in many ways their childlike faith was stronger, more uncompromising, than Peter and Beas.

The writing is excellent.

Next Week I Shall Mostly be Reading

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The tale of a kick-ass librarian, sent to alternate realities to retrieve rare books and manuscripts.

How could I not read this?

Lara Croft, tome raider.

Ha!

(Sorry) :-)

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Ay Caramba

Youngest child has a new topic to research for school.

Mexico and the Aztecs.

Unfortunately, the opportunities for field trips to bring this particular topic alive are somewhat limited here in the depths of the Midlands.

And after spending several hours with her doing ‘research’ on Google, -which seemed to involve looking at countless pictures of guinea pigs wearing sombreros (yes, really), something a bit more hands-on and rewarding was needed.

If only to stop me prising my own eyeballs out…

So what is Mexico famous for?

Chocolate

And what better educational thing to attempt on a blustery January Sunday afternoon that Mexican hot chocolate?

Pour 500ml of milk into a pan and add 100g of grated plain chocolate, 2 tsp of vanilla essence and 1 tsp of honey.

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Heat the chocolatey, milky mixture – but do not boil.

Mix 1 tbsp of corn flour with 4tbsp cold water.

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When the chocolate has melted into the milk add the cornflour mixture to the pan and stir vigorously

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Once the chocolate has started to thicken, pour into mugs, sprinkle cinnamon on top and serve.

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And if you happen to have a Flake handy to dunk in the thick, hot, chocolatey gloop, well then, even better :-)

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Yummy and educational.

Well the Aztecs did believe that chocolate was a gift from the god of knowledge, and who are we to argue?

:-)

I Love to Go a Pondering

I’ve been doing yoga for nearly a year now.

Still rubbish, still as flexible as a plank.

But I get it. I enjoy it (mostly, and in spite of the pain).

But I struggle with the meditation.

My mind?

It doesn’t do focussing.

Or stillness.

Or calm.

There’s too much stressing and worrying and pondering to do.

But I get that meditation is A Good Thing.

And so my intention for 2015 (I don’t do resolutions because my brains immediate reaction is to waggle its fingers in its ears, shout “shan’t” and blow a very loud raspberry) is to try and do a mini meditation every day.

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I’ve decided to do a counted meditation with eyes closed rather than staring at a statue or flickering flame or whatever.

Staring at things gives far too many opportunities for distraction.

So, for those of you who might fancy trying something similar, my meditation goes something like this….

Sits on zaku meditation cushion and tries not to think how much like a garden gnome (minus fishing rod) I look.

Painfully crosses legs and spends several minutes trying to shuffle buttocks into less uncomfortable position.

Closes eyes

One (breathes in and out, slowly)

Two (breathes in and out slowly)

Three (peeks at clock so can impress self with how long I have been meditating at the end)

Closes eyes again

Four

Five ( argh, right knee is now cramping up. Breathe into knee and try to relax muscles in right leg which appear to be in first stages of rigor mortis)

Six

Seven (wonder how much a trip to India would cost and then spend some time thinking of other places would like to visit whilst still keeping up with the counting)

Realise have lost focus and come back to meditation with guilty start

Fifteen

Sixteen

Realise am now slumped on zaku cushion like a yogic Jabba the Hutt. Straighten back and tuck chin whilst attempting to contract bhandas (still very unsure what these are or where to find them, but must show willing)

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty one (remember it is Very Important that I swap the way I cross my legs and try to hook one foot on top of other in attempt to encourage legs towards elusive lotus position. Attempt to do so and wonder again how my body got so lopsided without me noticing)

Twenty two (realise new position very uncomfortable so swap back to original position)

Twenty three

Twenty four

Twenty five (remember have several teaching sessions coming up next week and stress over flipped classrooms and related stuff for some time)

Argh, should be meditating. Where was I?

Twenty three (must concentrate)

Twenty four ( I am breathing in, I am breathing out)

Twenty five (perhaps I should be meditating over a mantra instead. Did a Facebook quizz that said my 2015 mantra should be “I am open”)

Twenty six (realise from the pain in my hips that “I am open” is possibly the most inappropriate mantra I could have come up with)

Twenty seven (Focus! I am breathing in. I am breathing out)

Twenty eight

Twenty nine

Thirty. (Looks at clock. Yay, 15 minutes of meditation. I can feel benefits already!)

Slowly and painfully unclicks joints and attempts to stand up like youthful, yogic 46 year old rather than old and creaky 90 year old.

Fails.

Om.

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Fiction Friday (nearly)

I didn’t resolve to “be organised” this year.

So I haven’t broken that resolution at least :-)

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

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Pure escapism.

Set in Glastonbury and Cambridge. A tale that combines modern day Anglicanism with pre-Christian druidry, female curates being obsessively stalked by fundamentalist Anglican vicars, the legend of Jesus visiting England developed into a tale of him studying with Druid healers.

What’s not to like?

A few reviewers on Amazon have been sniffy that the pre-Christian pagan society has not been dealt with in the exacting detail of authors such as Ken Follett.

But I don’t think this book is meant to be an historical epic.

It’s a fast paced, enjoyable piece of escapist time-slip nonsense.

With a bit of Anglican theology and mysticism and pagan spirituality thrown in.

And there’s nothing wrong with that :-)

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a21/51030994/files/2015/01/img_0459.jpg The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber.

An unexpected but very welcome birthday present from Jean (hi Jean!).

“The portrait of a living breathing relationship frayed by distance….an enquiry into the mountains faith can move and the mountains faith can’t move” according to the blurb.

Sounds intriguing.

And I’m always up for a bit of belief challenging :-)