Monday, 28 February 2011

Saturday bake...

Poppy Seed & Orange Cupcakes (makes 10-12)

2 tbsp poppy seeds
2 tbsp hot milk
85g / 3oz butter, softened
85g / 3 oz caster sugar
finely grated rind of half an orange (or clementine!)
 1 large egg, lightly beaten
100g / 3.5oz self raising flour

  • Preheat the oven to 180 (degrees C)
  • Place the poppy seeds and hot milk in a small bowl and set aside for 10 minutes
  • Put the butter, sugar and orange rind in a bowl and beat together until light and fluffy
  • Gradually beat in the egg
  • Sift the flour in and fold gently into mixture (using a metal spoon) along with the poppy seeds and milk
  • Spoon into cases
  • Put into the oven for 20 minutes
For the icing:
85g / 3 oz butter
finely grated rind of half an orange
175g / 6oz icing sugar
1 - 2 tbsp orange juice

  • Put the butter and orange rind in a bowl and beat until fluffy
  • Gradually beat in icing sugar and orange juice
  • All that is left is to artistically decorate your little cupcakes 
  • Eat!
The recipe is from the Marks and Spencer Easy Cupcakes book and is really quite unusual.  I like the delicate crunch from the poppy seeds and the subtle orange flavouring is sublime.  Be careful with the icing though, it can overpower the cake!  Baking is not really what was intended for this blog (see the title for the clue), but I thought it might be a nice diversion to have the odd recipe here and there.  I'm no whizz in the kitchen but it certainly is a relaxing, gentle Saturday afternoon activity.  Happy baking and feel free to share your successes and favourite recipes!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Springtime is the land awakening...

Have you noticed the nights are starting to creep away?  The daylight is lasting a little longer, there are little bursts of colour dotted around as snowdrops, iris and crocuses begin to push their way through the heavy sodden soil.  The pale sun has taken the bite out of the cold wind (important to note when you're sitting in a field taking soil measurements!) and the lambs are starting to boing into the fields.  Yes Spring is finally on its' way!  We're almost through February and I can feel my heart begin to lift, knowing that warmth and new life is on its' way.  It won't be long before we can go out without a coat, lie on the ground making images without getting wet and then before we know it we will be inundated with poppies and golden sun.  Long days of reading and walking with sand between our toes will be upon us.  There will be joy, fish and chips under salty air and the sound of happiness all around.

So let us celebrate Spring, with its' colour and the raw beginnings of life.  Feel the excitement of the new and embrace it, be swept along in its' glory and colour.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Eternal optimism . . .

The weather is, and has been for several days, foul.  Heavy grey skies, torrential downpours and gale force wind to knock you off your feet.  It is miserable, with a chill that constantly gnaws away, but should we succumb?  Do we need to be all gloom, like tiny reflections of the ominous clouds above, walking around spreading grump?  Surely that way, it has won.  A darker force has taken us over, world domination to the weather!  Not only does it have power over the elements but human feeling too.  

Within an hour of leaving the house this morning, I had been chastised by both a neighbour and a colleague for greeting them with "Good morning".  I know what they meant but it got me thinking.  Now I don't think I am an overly optimistic, cheerful character but today could be so good for so many other reasons than the weather.  It may be the day you get that long awaited new job, you get a shy note left on your desk from the boy you secretly like or you hear your childs' first word.  Something may happen today that makes you feel alive, makes you want to run outside and dance in the rain.  Don't give up on it yet!

The photograph accompanying this post was taken on a gloomy, wet day.  The sun came out for one glorious minute and resulted in my most favourite photograph.  The sun shining down onto the raindrops really make this special.  Look out for the moments, real or metaphorical, that make your heart leap.  The snapshots that make the blood race through your veins; cling onto them and treasure them, for it is those memories frozen in time that will get you through the rainy days.

Friday, 4 February 2011

The Winter of Dreaming Trees

 "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower"
~ Albert Camus

Rich auburn, soft light, deep crunching, the very smell of the season.

I love autumn, the final glorious swansong of the year in the life of a tree.  Hmm, what a pithy phrase, "I love ..."; for words that should, in theory, be so evocative, they do nothing to describe the sense of cheer this season brings into my sometimes heavily grey world.  The stirring that it does of my heart!  There is a magic to October, one which spreads a lightness of feeling as threads of majestic golds and reds are woven through the clear, crisp air into the Welsh skies.  It doesn't matter how foggy or drizzly the weather, the trees burn with a light that radiates warmth and casts their alchemic spell over the world.

This post is long overdue.  I have been meaning to put pen to paper (as it were), but I have not been able to, frightened of a bereavement.  I've been desperately clinging onto the glory of autumn, the buoyant feeling it gives me, and it was as if by writing about it I'd be losing it in a sense.  As if somehow the commital to paper would be synonymous with the golden leaves falling to the ground, to their death.  Thoughts of the radiant season have been like a life jacket through the starkness of January.

It is easy to get carried away on the wave of autumn glory; the colour, the smell, the resplendence, but lurking are melancholic undertones.  The leaves are reaching the end.  They will fall, they will crunch, they will die.  But, during the month of October, oh death I salute you!  For this is not a time to mourn, this is a celebration, a season of joy, the pinnacle!  From the first buds in January, through flowering in May to fruiting in August, it is all leading up to this.  To the final, most beautiful and intricate part of the cycle.  Like the most delicate ballet, every twist, point and leap is leading up to the final scene, the great crescendo.  As the end nears, the music builds and there is a spectacular burst of life before the end.  It is a moment most lovely, most full of life.

And the added beauty to this sweeping leafy zenith?  It is not over, we have been fooled!  Indeed the individual leaves may have dropped and long gone but the tree is far from gone.  There it sits in a dormant state, having arrested all growth while the weather is harsh.  For it too does not like winter, it sleeps, it dreams and prepares for the season ahead.  This survival strategy pulls the tree through winter, where conditions are too difficult for plant growth.  The internal biological clock protects the tree and is triggered by temperature, moisture and changes in light levels.  I wonder what they dream as they sway in the wind, as they tick over, waiting for that spring burst with their new lease of life.