A Catch Up

I am sitting writing this (and hoping it will save as I have no wi-fi) in the car in the middle of a field near Sandwich in Kent. I realise this seems a little strange, but I can explain. Mini Mister fell asleep during our drive out here, and since his routine is totally out, any time he actually naps at the moment is a blessing. Hubby had to sit in the car with him yesterday, so it is my turn today. At least I have all the windows open and there is a lovely strong breeze blowing through to keep us cool. It has been rather too warm the last few days for me (and the children, to be honest, as it makes them more crotchet than usual). As for the where, well, the picture shows my current view, Richborough Fort.

Richborough Picklepiemama

Richborough through the windscreen

We last came here when Maxi was a baby (and bumped into the then Archbishop of Canterbury in the shop/exhibition), so decided a return visit was needed. It is a huge open area, with loads of Roman ruins and plenty of space for the kids to run around. Since we are staying near my Dad’s place (and my middle sister and her family are staying with Dad) we have 4 smalls between us to entertain. This should keep them occupied for a bit (well except Mini, as previously mentioned). Richborough was the site of a huge port until the area silted up. The coast is now further away and the fort has fallen into ruins. But the remains of the Saxon walls are impressive (the Saxons used the remains of the Romans fort to build their walls).

Richborough Picklepiemama

Spot the child – Maxi in front of one of the walls at Richborough (picture courtesy of Hubby)

So, a catch-up. Yet again, I have not been writing my blog as often as I should. But it is the summer holidays and we have been quite busy. I have worked my way through some of my sewing projects whilst Mini has been at Nursery and Maxi has been either at football camp, Playscheme or his grandparents’ place in Suffolk. Some housework and clearing out has taken place, but I still have loads to do. I have attempted some baking and making, but since I am following Slimming World, I haven’t tried that many cakes and biscuits. I have, however, discovered that quark is quite good for mousses, learnt how to use powdered and leaf gelatine, rediscovered how many different kinds of dishes can be made with 0% fat Greek yogurt (sweet and savoury), and eaten my bodyweight in fruit and veg! Some experiments didn’t work well and need tweaking, some we never want to eat again, but mostly they have been successes. I do get through an awful lot of fat-free yogurt though!

Summer visits with the kids have included soft play in various places, the beach in Southwold, a few castles (we are planning on another this afternoon, and yet another tomorrow), RSPB MinsmereThames Chase Forest CentreThameside Nature Park (Essex Wildlife Trust), a railway exhibition, the East Anglian Transport Museum in Carlton Colville, the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (all the way out to the power station at Dungeness), the Sealife Adventure in Southend, and a theatre trip with Maxi only to London to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and hunting Dream Jars near the theatre. We have read a lot, done lots of crafty things, been paddling in pools and the sea, got muddy, got very tired, caught the sun, poured sand out of clothes and shoes, got through a lot of suncream, and had a lot of fun. Me and hubby even managed to get a night away to go to Birmingham so I could go to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC (so much creativity in one place was truly inspiring – and I now have even more projects lined up…).

Anyway, I think I will wrap it up there for the moment, and go back to sewing hexies. Mini is still asleep, so the above image may be my only view of Richborough today 😊

Afternoon Tea Bites – Baking Fun!

I made another visit to Sarah at The Cupcake Oven a couple of weeks ago. It was for a course, Afternoon Tea Bites, I have been looking forward to for months, and it didn’t disappoint.

 

Sarah has always done a wide variety of decorating courses, from sugar flowers to royal icing, to modelling. See here for the results of many of the classes I have taken with here over the years. More recently, she has started teaching people to bake, from the basics, cake-wise, to cookies and cake pops. This class is one of her more recent inventions, and I was gutted when I missed its first outing a few months ago.

 

Bright and early (well, mid-morning), with lunch bag clasped in hand (which I forgot at the end and had to go back for), I bounced up to Sarah’s front door ready for a long day of making yummy treats. I had actually forgotten how long it was due to be, and didn’t dare tell hubby during the day – oops!

 

Sarah and Maddie (a fellow Cupcake Oven Course addict, and Sarah’s help for the day – can’t remember her job title, sorry Maddie, but she did a fab job of keeping us topped up with hot drinks and washing up the detritus of our making) had a packed day planned, and the 4 of us attending the course set to work after going through everything we were going to cover.

 

I have actually forgotten the order we did everything in, but it was meticulously planned (although we did end running late as we were having so much fun, but no-one minded that – except my hubby!). We made sweet pastry, which was one of the main reasons I wanted to do the course, as my pastry-making generally leaves a lot to be desired, crème pâtissière as a base for Chantilly cream, meringue kisses and chopped up sponge cake covered in apricot jam and marzipan (ready for fondant fancies).

crème pâtissière

Crème Pâtissière – doesn’t look very promising…

The pastry looked fine when we popped it into the fridge to rest and chill. I didn’t burn the crème pâtissière and got the measurements right for the sponge. Woo-hoo!

Foodie Flavours

Choices, choices… which flavour?

We had great fun choosing flavours and colours for the meringue kisses. The flavours came in many choices, and are lovely non-oily flavourings made by Foodie Flavours. I have come across them before, but hadn’t realised that their flavour range was so wide. You only need a small amount and they provide the most wonderful, natural flavours. And they didn’t ask me to say that, as they don’t know me or the fact I am posting about them (yet!). I went for Christmas Pudding, which smelt wonderful, although the jury is still out on whether it is a flavour that works with meringues, or not…

choux pastry

Choux pastry piped ready to bake – they do look rather like slugs!

A quick lunch was followed by making the choux pastry (first time I have attempted it since I was a teenager), finishing the Chantilly cream (oh wow! Mmmmmmmmmmm!), making the filling for the tarts we had made the pastry for, and covering the fondant fancies in Squires Kitchen lemon or strawberry fondant. The last was incredibly messy, but very yummy.

Chantilly cream

Chantilly cream completed

Fondant fancies

Fondant fancies drip-drying

frangipane tartlets

Frangipane tartlets ready to bake

I had a great day, met some lovely people (most of whom I had met before at Sarah’s) and went home with boxes and boxes full of yummy goodness. I have an enormous bag of Chantilly cream in the freezer, and the remains of the huge number of meringue kisses I made, but the rest has been gobbled up.

I think I did a reasonable job of everything. Hubby liked it all, especially the tarts and the choux pastries (he said they were lovely and light!). I will definitely be more confident about trying pastry myself again, and Hubby has already requested frangipane tarts, including in a larger size!!

 

Thanks Sarah! Look forward to seeing you soon 🙂

Daily Post Photo Challenge – Grid

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Grid.”

Sewing grids: 2 quilting rulers, self-healing cutting mat

Sewing grids: 2 quilting rulers, self-healing cutting mat

IMG_20150920_105155

Baking grid: silicon mat, basket weave rolling pin, cooling rack

One-word Inspiration – Writing 101, Day 3

UNCERTAINTY

I know exactly why I went for this word. I could talk for ages on all the other suggested prompts, but they would probably be saying much of what I have already said on here.

This word is different. It speaks volumes about me and how I spend a lot of my time feeling. It is quite a large step for me to write this down. But I am going to give it a go.

I have uncertainty in many things, some more and some less. But I think that the biggest uncertainty is my working life. I fell into my job. I am a teacher. I come from a family of teachers. I got told as a teenager that I would become one, so obviously I rebelled against this. Until it finally dawned on me that I had no escape.

And actually, it was a good move. I was, am, good at it. I care. That means a lot. I have done the job for a long time now (it feels it when I am tired and full cold like I am today). I have had some wonderful, amazing moments, worked with some wonderful, amazing children and colleagues. I am privileged that I get to see some fantastic creative things my students create (I teach a creative subject). I love being able to develop their skills, their understanding, their self-esteem, and their joy when it goes right!

But I am uncertain.

Believe it or not, I am uncertain whether I am doing the right thing any more. I have contemplated lots of things to do. And most of them boil back down to the same thing – teaching, in one form or another. So I think I am stuck with being a teacher, but do I want to stay doing the job I do, or do I want to change phase for a new challenge? Do I want to come out of schools and do a consultancy-type job where I work with schools but remain independent? Would I prefer to work with pre-schoolers on basic key skills?

I am uncertain. Friends try to persuade me to use my baking or sewing interests as a job, but there isn’t enough security in it yet as I have such a young family. May be in the future…

So for now, I remain uncertain. What do I do? Whatever I do, I will give my all, because I care about what happens to those I teach and nuture. I just wish the uncertainty would resolve sooner rather than later.