A Pillow Book

I wanted a blog to reflect my life and, as with most people, I do and am many things, decided to create a Pillow Book. It will have thoughts, ideas, observations and little snippets of my day to day life. So, thank you Empress Consort Teishi....... I bow to you and your great work and hope, in some small way, mine might be great too.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds."


 








When my eldest daughter was 5, I took her off to school as usual,  by lunchtime the news was full of the massacre at a school in Dunblane, Scotland. When I collected my daughter that afternoon, as she ran out across the playground, I gathered her in my arms and hugged her very tightly, thanking God that she was there for the hugging.  As we walked home the usual chatter from the day ensued but I, like every mother in the land, tucked my children in a little more tightly that night, kissed them more lovingly and lingered a little longer to watch them in their sleep. For a good while I made sure there were no cross words in the mornings and gave big hugs goodbye, but soon real life continued, normality of cross words and morning niggles.

It will be an extremely long time before any parent of a child from Sandy Hook School will have a day that is anything close to normal. It is out of the natural order of life for a child to die before the parent and is, most certainly, the hardest pain to bear. I watched President Obama's address yesterday, I saw his tears and felt the pain in his heart. He must have slept fitfully last night for he is a good man, caring and thoughtful and must, in some way, have felt a sense of responsibility at his and  Congress' failure to address the gun culture in the US. After the Dunblane massacre  the Snowdrop petition was started some 700,000 people signed it, all wanting the law changed so the ownership of handguns would be banned, the law was changed. It would be an extremely onerous task to outlaw handguns but the fact that per head of population the death rate, due to shooting,  is 50 times lower in the UK than the US must indicate that we did the only sane thing. The American's site the right of a free citizen to own a gun, is it not also the right for a child to be safe in their classroom? Wake up America, is now not the time to follow our lead?

“The true test of the American ideal is whether we’re able to recognise our failings and then rise together to meet the challenges of our time. Whether we allow ourselves to be shaped by events and history, or whether we act to shape them.” Barack Obama Feb 5th 2008

Let yours be the generation that said enough and now we must change, as President Obama said yesterday 'now is the time to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds', help the healing by making their deaths be the catalyst for that change.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Be still....

Rest - Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1905 

It is that time of year, rush, rush, hustle and bustle. Feelings of panic...every day I am asked 'are you ready yet?'. I will not be rushed, I will not be forced into purchases that are pointless, a gift is a precious thing and should be bought with thought not just stuffed into a bag because no better alternative can be found. Don't be rushed I implore you. This festive season take time to 'be still'. Only stillness will allow you time for breath, to take stock and really see what is all around you. Go to a Carol Service and be still, watch The Snowman and be still, read a Christmas story to a child and be still. Take  time to meet with a friend and share a hot chocolate...really listen to what they have to say, be still....Walk on a frosty night, hopefully holding the hand of someone you  love,  look at the Christmas lights, or the stars, don't speak just be still. Sit by the fire with a book on your knee, watch the flames and be still. This modern life gives us little time for quiet and reflection. Turn off your phone, light a candle, embrace silence, be still, not for long, but for a while.....and hopefully the true spirit of Christmas will stealthily slide in beside you, a gift to yourself, that costs nothing and is worth more than I can say....so this weekend, do as I ask  and take time to just.... allow your soul to be still......







Monday, 10 December 2012

Oh Christmas Tree......

Over the past few years a new tradition has begun in our village church, the annual Christmas Tree Festival. I have no recall of such events as a child, and on searching they do indeed seem to be a modern phenomena started in America. Most often held in churches, each tree is decorated by an individual, family or organisation and dedicated to their charity of choice. Visitors are asked to vote for their favourite and to make a donation. Cakes are baked and the urn moved into the bell tower, festive music is played on a loop and the church buzzes with life for a couple of days. There were around twenty trees with various themes, some delightfully adorned with homemade decorations, the local school's tree had a contribution from each child. The winner was gloriously called 'Toilet Twinning' The tree sat resplendently in a beautiful old commode and was decorated with mini loos made by the local Cub pack, the charity supports the supply of toilet facilities to villages in the Third World. The weekend ended with story telling and music for children in the church gently lit by the festival of trees. If our churches wish to remain part of the community they must be inventive and engage with their neighbours, children should feel welcomed and have a memory of a warm place with an always open door. Our village church is trying hard, with weekday Messy Play sessions for toddlers. The local school walks down on the last day of term to listen to the Christmas story and sing the carols learnt over the previous weeks,and it holds an outrageously raucous Christingle service on Christmas Eve that sees the building bursting at the seams with noise and excitement.Much needed new traditions and new life into an ancient building at the heart of this little Dorset village....

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Apple Butter



Normally at this time of year you can walk through any rural area and see boxes of apples at the ends of drives, on walls, balanced in old prams, mostly for the taking, an abundance shared, sometimes, if they are particularly marvellous, a sum of money is asked for. Sadly this year after a summer of weather never of which has been know for many decades, there are no such boxes. So when a friend was glad to share the harvest of his apple tree I happily accepted. Many years ago when living in Canada for a short time I came across apple butter. It is one of the many ways to preserve a harvest, mostly found in North America and Eastern Europe. It's silky flavoursome richness can be eaten on toast, swirled through a cake mixture or pancakes. If minimum sugar is added it can be eaten with pork, or on cereal, a particular favourite for me on proper wet muesli.  I had  made it once before but found the long slow simmering problematic but in my research came across a recipe that used a slow cooker...the recipe didn't disappoint.....



Apple Butter

5.5 llbs of apples peeled, cored and finely chopped
4 cups of white sugar
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. In a large bowl mix cinnamon, cloves, salt and sugar. Add apples and mix well.
2. Place apple mixture in the pot of a slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 1 hour.
3. Reduce to low and cook for 9-11 hours (overnight). Stirring occasionally until mixture is thickened and dark brown.
4. Blend with a hand blender until smooth.
5. Pot in sterile jars, seal. Keep cool and refrigerate once opened.



So thank you to the giver of apples..... a pot of Apple Butter is on its way x

Monday, 10 September 2012