Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Cake Clubs

A first birthday cake for my now 25 year old son.
 I caught a few seconds of a TV programme last week which showed pictures from a 'cake club'. The lady was filling a cakebox with slices of various cakes that had been made by members. Did anyone else see it? Or do you belong to a 'cake club'? How do they work? I've started reading groups and craft groups, I know people meet to knit, patchwork and paint ...but eating cake sounds good to me!

 I remember creating birthday cakes for themed parties just as The Vicar's Wife blogged about her son's Dr Who cake (this is far more professional than my efforts). Early efforts were ladybirds covered in red dyed dessicated coconut. I can remember pirate ships, treasure chests  and treasure islands all constructed in the kitchen the night before a birthday. ( Pirates were a popular theme for quite a few years!) Ready made supermarket birthday cakes were not available then.

 I love baking but since my sons have left home, cake baking equals inches on the waistline for The Curate and myself so I rarely make a cake these days. At work we have an enthusiastic new baker who tantalises our staff room with his latest bakes (very good lemon drizzle sponge this week).  I read blogs about baking. I enjoyed reading about Welsh cakes in  Life on a Small Island and save many different recipes but I don't often have the occasion to bake and taste.

So how does a cake club work? I'm guessing members meet and share recipes and slices of cake. Perhaps they have themed evenings - fruitcake, iced cake or traybakes perhaps. I don't know but I would love to know how to set one up. They seem to me to be an excellent way to learn new skills and recipes and a great reason for a social gathering.
If you have ideas how a cake club might run, - would you let me know?
Thank you Catherine - I have just google 'Clandestine Cake Clubs' - brilliant!
A second birthday cake for my now 27 year old son.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Friday walk and called to the sea again.

Living on the edge.
The fog was too dense to walk on the moor today, so The Curate and I returned to the South Coast to walk a familiar section of the coastal path. Even in the grey gloomy weather, this coast is spectacular and we had it all to ourselves except for a few South Devon cattle and some distant sheep who seemed to be sitting right on the cliff edge. 
We love this coastline. I have walked our dogs on sections of the coastal footpath, our sons have surfed 'secret spots' not seen from the footpath and, since the boys were small, we have walked this section together as a family many times.
We walked towards Plymouth Sound and then followed the cliff path round into the Yealm Estuary. A single yacht motored its way out to sea, through the falling tide. We spotted a few hardy surfers on the opposite coast trying their luck with some very meagre waves. The skylarks sang out high above us, celebrating the slightly warmer weather.

The Curate and I chatted about the different opportunities that might lay ahead of us. Much as we love the vast open spaces of The Moor, we are also drawn back to the sea and the wild rugged coastline ....actually - any coastline. We both have an empathy for rural communities and parishes that so often seem to be sidelined in favour of urban communities. People forget that loneliness can happen anywhere and isolation is exacerbated by the cuts in local buses, poor roads and reduction or removal of local services. Equally, The Curate's background of ships and shipping, means that he understand the problems of sailors separated from their families and the pressures of spending long periods at sea. Our sons both have work connected with the sea. So we are uncertain where our future might lie - perhaps that's the best way to be?
Looking out to sea

I write about our deliberations in these blogs so that I will be able to look back and see how our journey progressed. Going on previous experiences, I doubt we will have much choice about where we end up! Someone much greater than us seems to have a say in it! At the moment, The Curate is exploring any doors that are slightly ajar and peering round to see what is there.

I do appreciate the kind comments of readers, (some of whom have travelled a similar journey). Life is pretty full on at the moment and I am slow to respond to comments but I am glad to hear from you. 
It's great to be able to share the beautiful scenery that we live in.
And finally...the pub lunch!

Looking up river.

Just one more passing thought, I know this is vandalism but I smiled when I saw this sign. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were places where we had to stop and sing before we carried on with our journeys? What would you sing?

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Friday walk and Friends of Friendless Churches

Our Friday walk was in Essex this week and we enjoyed the warm spring sunshine as we exercised the dogs before starting our drive back to the south west. The Curate and I have had an excellent week visiting friends and family. The week started with a blanket of snow and ended with warm sunshine.... and there was very little rain all week. 

We have spent the week walking around the huge flat fields to the fishing lakes that were very near to our lovely cottage. The owners had told us about an abandoned church that could be reached by walking along the disused railway line. I am always intrigued by ruins and abandoned buildings and I have collected quite a portfolio of photographs  - often of houses in remote situations that I like to imagine myself living in!
This railway line was closed as part of the Beeching Axe in 1964. All over the country the remains of the rural railway lines can be seen. Some routes have been retained as footpaths or cycle ways and you can only imagine the scenic journeys that could have been enjoyed. The great advantage is that these derelict routes make excellent flat paths. It was along one of these branch lines that we walked up to St Peter's church which was set off the road, along a track. 

The dogs enjoyed the warm weather and we appreciated  the flat walk after all our climbs on Dartmoor. The Collie chased squirrels and rabbits, we enjoyed views of the surrounding countryside and the Lakeland was just grateful for an easier walk! There were few visible signs of spring - only the willow beginning to bud and the occasional snowdrop daring to show itself after the snowfall of last week. The landscape was dotted with huge oak trees that were tall and majestic and were hundreds of years old. The fields stretched into the distance and we saw flocks of Brent geese and the occasional Egyptian geese raiding the winter wheat crop.
After a short walk we saw the abandoned church across the field. The unkempt graveyard was carpeted with snowdrops but it did look in a sorry state. This church dates from the 12th Century but was declared redundant in 1970. In its remote situation this church had become a target for vandals and the window was smashed. I was interested to see the notice board  said that it was leased to the Friends of Friendless Churches. This is the first time I had heard of this group and  I was interested to see how they try to rescue neglected churches. I fear that there will be many more old church buildings that will fall into disuse as congregations shrink. The location of many of the historic churches, often outside the main residential areas, is not ideal for encouraging regular worship. They are historic buildings and a legacy that The Church of England has to deal with, so I am so glad that there are Friends of Friendless Churches.
We have had a lovely week in Essex. The Curate and I love the mud flats and the majestic barges. We appreciate the wide open skies and the never ending fields. We have enjoyed the company of old friends and family and we have enjoyed 'touching base' with where we both come from. 

 Are we ready to go back .......who knows?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Is this where I really belong?

 It's half term and we have braved the freezing weather to travel across to the East side of the UK. This is where I grew up, went to school and university, met the Curate and got married. The red brick houses with their red tiled roofs look familiar. The wide open skies and the flat muddy stretched fields are part of me.

  I woke this morning, in the cottagey bedroom where we are stayingand opened the curtains to see the surrounding countryside blanketed in snow. I was whisked back to the time when we stayed with my grandparents in North Essex and I had woken to see the world covered in snow. I must have been about 3 or 4 and today, I experienced that same feeling of awe,! How wonderful to experience that again. - Am I really an Essex girl?

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Sunday Morning

I woke at 4.o'clock this morning and listened to the road report on the radio saying that the M25 was gridlocked in places around London because of the snow. Lorries had jackknifed and cars were travelling too fast, the drivers were too keen to get their destinations with little consideration for others. This is the serious and unpleasant side to any snowfall in England. While I had played in the dusting of snow on Dartmoor on Friday and had hoped for more, those who have to travel today, are faced with disruption and delay in the south east of England. 
Sunday morning here is a different matter. I have walked the dogs without hat and gloves and I felt too warm to keep my coat fastened. Spring is back in business and the ground is covered in snowdrops, crocuses and early wild daffodils which yesterday, had been frosted and limp. It didn't seem possible that they would stand tall again, but there they were this morning. I was stopped suddenly by a rapid hollow knocking coming from the tree I was passing under on the way to the moor. I waited ....there is was again! It was right over my head and as I scanned the leafless branches, I caught sight of a flash of red. The woodpecker was too shy to stay around but it was thrilling to hear the hollow knocking pulsing through the clear air.

When we reached the moor, the dogs were released from their leads and they ran off chasing the scents left by the nocturnal creatures. Yesterday the ground had been frozen solid, today rivulets of water criss-crossed over the sodden turf. Only the few distant dog walkers would enjoy the sunrise with me and the clearing of the skies into brilliant blue, sliced by the wispy trail of two passing aeroplanes.
In these surroundings, and while The Curate is at work, I can toss the new ideas for our future that arrived yesterday. Maybe this is my time of prayer. Time spent in the wide open countryside is certainly time when I have the clearest thoughts. We have another invitation to explore possible future employment. It  is exciting but unsettling. 

Will we know when is the right time to jump?  Will we both feel 'called' to the next change?  Do we play safe and wait to explore vacancies in known territories?  Or should we be brave and step outside our comfort zone?   It's too soon to be having to think about the next step, but as I said, an invitation is on the table(again). 

Not a job offer just an invitation to explore............... and it is exciting!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Friday Walk - laughter at Laughter Tor and Bellever at last!

I finally reached the top of Bellever Tor (443 metres)

On Thursday we parked in Bellever Forest car park to walk to Bellever Tor. The Curate assured me we needed to go through the village before parking the car and I trusted him - after all - who had a GPS for Christmas?  So we followed the path through the trees and out though the gate onto the moor. It was a glorious afternoon and  the dogs were enjoying the snow. We climbed higher and only stopped to take in the view and there behind us was.......

Bellever Tor! Whoops! We were climbing the wrong tor! Someone had left their GPS behind. The only time we had needed it because of the tall trees, it was sitting on our kitchen table. 

We climbed on and enjoyed wonderful views of the tor we were meant to be on and wonderful views of the snow sprinkled countryside.

When we got home we discovered that the tor we climbed was called Laughter Tor - which was very appropriate.                                                                  If we hadn't climbed this tor, we wouldn't have seen some amazingly clear icicles and some tremendous views from laughter Tor. 

Having failed several times before, we knew we had to make a fifth attempt to climb Bellever Tor

So today, we parked in a different forest car park. We walked through the forest of Christmas trees and I hoped The Curate knew where he was going this time. It is very easy to lose your sense of direction among rows of tall trees.
When we reached the edge of the plantation, our elusive tor came into view. Having attempted to reach this tor from various directions and in various weather conditions and failed, we were glad of the most perfect day we could wish for. It was clear, crisp and bright - superb walking weather!
We didn't actually have much of a walk because the path was  so well trodden. This is a very popular tor and we had it all to ourselves. (We must be the only people to fail to find the right path.)

The Dartmoor ponies led the way.
Do we really have to go up there?

This is an enclosed area for breeding the native Dartmoor pony. There were plenty of ponies for us to see. This one was breaking the ice with her hoof to get to the water underneath. She wasn't bothered by dogs or The Curate and I.

And we all enjoyed the view from the top.

What better place for contemplation.........and sermon writing!

Roll on the snow - our sledges are waiting!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Could this be The Beast Of Dartmoor?

What a wonderful world!

Day break
An autism training course in Exeter, gave me the opportunity for a wonderful drive across Dartmoor.

Exeter Cathedral

Eclectic mix: -  Exeter Cathedral, Occupy camp, Richard Hooker, Japanese tourist

Old tin workings