Monday, 18 December 2017

Things I Learned Last Week

Last week I learned lots of new things - from a variety of sources -
In the Guardian, I read about the Oxford Dictionary's choice for "Word of the Year" 2017- it is Youthquake; a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people. This word has been around since the 1960s, but its use in the UK has increased five-fold in the past year. Other words on the shortlist were
Broflake : A man who is readily upset or offended by progressive attitudes that conflict with his more conventional or conservative views. Gorpcore; A style of dress incorporating utilitarian clothing of a type worn for outdoor activities, Unicorn; Denoting something, especially an item of food or drink, that is dyed in rainbow colours, decorated with glitter, etc.

In the Post Office, I discovered that it is no longer possible to send brown paper packages tied up with string. This was a little disappointing, as I felt I had done a beautiful job on Auntie Peggy's Christmas Gift. However, I'd already sealed all the edges well with Sellotape, so I just whipped out my Swiss Army Knife there and then, and cut off the string. The guy behind the counter was a little bemused, and apologised that their machinery cannot cope with strung-up parcels. When I got home, I discovered that Royal Mail has a whole page of twine and string on their website to buy from their Mailroom Accessories section. WHY, if you can't use the stuff for mailing?

In Sainsburys, whilst hunting for Pudding Rice to make my Karelian Pies I was having little success. The "Rice Aisle"  had long grain, wholegrain, white, brown, easy cook, basmati, microwave, pilau, arborio, sushi, Thai, carnaroli, black, Sea Island pre-fluffed[what ?] and wild...I asked an assistant and was directed to "above the very last freezer - opposite the ice-cream cabinet, in the traditional puddings section" I finally located it, but was too short to reach it. Fortunately I spotted a taller friend and asked him for assistance. In my childhood, I think that was the only sort of rice you could buy in Sainsburys. Now it has to nestle between the semolina and Angel Delight.

Mags alerted me to the wonderful custom of Jolabokaflod. [pronounced Yo-La-Boka- Flot] Oh the utter joy of the entire family each being given a new book on Christmas Eve, and being able to go off to bed and read whilst eating chocolate [I think I'd prefer a mug of hot drinking chocolate...]
This seems and excellent idea.

Bob pointed out to me that Jeremy Corbyn has recently won a prestigious award from the International Peace Bureau, because of his commitment to Nuclear Disarmament. This seems a good thing to me - but this event was not mentioned at the time in the British mainstream press, nor on the BBC News Website. Which is rather sad, imho. [A week or so later, it was picked up in a few places, after people complained]
In the bathroom, I discovered to my cost that when it says "leave to develop for 30 minutes" on the box of hair colour, that is EXACTLY what you should do. MY SIL Marion rang- and Bob said "Ang is upstairs dyeing" and handed me the phone. I sat chatting, and the timer in the bedroom went off, and we went on talking...and when I came to rinse it out ten minutes later, my hair was somewhat darker than I'd planned. In fact, the word goth was actually mentioned by my beloved. But fortunately somebody else said how nice my hair looked at church on Sunday, so I think I can live with this for a while.
It's been a very educational time in one way and another. 
Have you learned anything interesting lately?

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Pause In Advent #3 - Food For Thought

If you'd ever been in one of my lessons about the Tudors, especially in the Autumn Term, you'd have heard my two penn'orth on the subject of mincemeat. How in those days, the little Christmas pies contained the dried fruits, but also a piece of meat - and the pies were shaped like a manger, with the meat representing baby Jesus.
Here is an amazing little Tudor Pie mould. [Cromwell didn't ban them - he just disliked the effigy and considered it idolatrous - so after the Restoration, mincepies missed out the meat and became circular in shape]
So if our forebears had pies like this, what right have I got to get steamed up about an advert like this?
I don't recall Jesus getting annoyed about sausage rolls [or whatever the first century Jewish equivalent was]
But he did get very concerned about poor people going hungry.
I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’
Then they will say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

The Lord will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’
Please support your local foodbank this Christmas...

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Forest Festival

It finally all came together
The ladies knitted the squares [about 600 in the end]
Bob made the frame, and Carol and Val helped me cover it
And finally Barry took the seat sout of his people carrier, and helped us transport the tree to St Martins for their Tree Festival. The first festival in 2016 attracted 18 trees, last year it was 23, this year it was 30 - and the trees were down both sides of the chapel, up the centre and in the Hall at the back. 

Churches, Schools, Clubs, Local Charities...all came and decorated their trees- some real, some fake - and one woollen.
Handmade decorations from the children, symbols of faith, winter wonders, charity themes - it was a riot of colour.

Click on the collages to see some of the details.

But I am unashamedly biased - I loved our tree, with the Knitivity alongside, best of all. It received a lot of comments - and at least one other group locally are considering doing their own 'blanket tree' in 2018.
Thank you to all my dear friends- near and far, who made this possible. Some church folk, some friends and neighbours locally, and some followers of the blog - your squares were gratefully received - what a variety of shades of green too!
In the New Year, ! hope I will have pictures of blankets for you.
I've already been asked what we are doing next year. Well, there's an idea dancing around in my head  even now, but I am not saying anything till it comes into proper focus!

Friday, 15 December 2017

Finnish Up Your Food

I have enjoyed reading the Nordic Bakery Cookbook, and decided to try another one of the recipes before it went back to the library. Something Finnish, in celebration of their centenary. I opted for "Karelian Pies". The cookbook says "These are an old favourite in Finland, sold everywhere in supermarkets...The contrast between ... rye crust and sift rice filing is unusual but addictive"
The recipe is complex and time-consuming. You make the filling, then the pastry and then combine and cook. Meanwhile you prepare the optional topping. It took over an hour and a half - but the results were surprisingly delicious. I made half quantities
150gm pudding rice, 2m0l water, 750ml milk, 1 tsp sea salt
Put the water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the rice, simmer 5-10 minutes. Add the milk, and simmer for 30 minutes until rice is cooked to a thickened pudding consistency. Stir in the salt and set aside to cool while you make the pastry.
250gm wholemeal rye flour, 1 tsp sea salt, 200ml water, 1 tbsp oil, plain flour for dusting, 75gm unsalted butter, melted.
Preheat oven to 220ÂșC. Line two baking trays with nonstick baking paper.
Put flour and salt in a bowl, add oil, and stir in water gradually with round bladed knife, or by hand, till dough is formed. Transfer to a surface lightly dusted with plain flour, shape into long sausage shape. Divide into 20 pieces and roll out with pin to circles about 10cm in diameter.
Now spoon 2tbsp filling into the centre of each circle leaving 2cm border all round. Lift up the edges of the pastry to make an oval shaped open pie. Pinch with thumb and forefinger all round, so edge stands up and encases filling. The thinner the crust, the better the piePour melted butter into a medium sized bowl. Put a pie onto a spoon and lower into the butter, coating the pastry crust generously with butter. Put pies onto baking sheets. Cook for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and crispy round the edges.
1 hardboiled egg, 40g softened unsalted butter, pinch of sea salt.
Chop the egg finely and mix with softened butter and salt. Serve topping alongside the pies in a small dish, with a spoon - this is traditional .
My rye flour is from Marriages- the old Essex Millers. Bob's pewter tankard is a lovely 10cm measure for the circles.
These were a delight to eat - the pastry worked, and the sea salt flavour complemented the soft rice. Bob suggested that in future I chop the egg more finely. Mine look authentic too - it was worth taking time over.

Karelia is a disputed region on the Russian/Finland border, celebrated in the fabulous eponymous piece of music by Sibelius.

My other favourite piece by Sibelius is of course "Finlandia" - used as a tune for a number of popular hymns [Be Still My Soul, We rest on Thee etc ...and Girls' Brigade Vespers] This year at UCF we've sung this modern carol to the Finlandia tune.
Come now with awe, earth's ancient vigil keeping;cold under starlight lies the stony way.Down from the hillside see the shepherds creeping,hear in our hearts the whispered news they say:                `Laid in a manger lies an infant sleeping,                Christ our Redeemer, born for us today.'
Come now with joy to worship and adore him;hushed in the stillness, wonder and behold,Christ in the stable where his mother bore him,Christ whom the prophets faithfully foretold:                High King of Ages, low we kneel before him,                starlight for silver, lantern-light for gold.
Come now with faith, the age-long secret guessing,hearts rapt in wonder, soul and spirit stirred;see in our likeness love beyond expressing,all God has spoken, all the prophets heard;                born for us sinners, bearer of all blessing,                flesh of our flesh, behold the eternal Word!
Come now with love; beyond our comprehendinglove in its fullness lies in mortal span!How should we love, whom Love is so befriending?Love rich in mercy since our race began                now stoops to save us, sighs and sorrows ending,                Jesus our Saviour, Son of God made man.
[by Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith]
Here is a translation of the original words written for the tune. A song for peace among the nations. Very pertinent right now...

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Finnish Times

I meant to post about this last week. The people of Finland have been celebrating 100 years of independence.
What have the Finns ever done for us?
Well look at these
Nordic Walking Poles [to get across the snowy terrain] Saunas, Non-Skid Socks [they do not wear shoes in the house, and patented these] Xylitol Chewing Gum, all those fab Fiskars scissors and tools, and of course, the wonderful Moomins.
- you can find more items here
There are plenty of famous Finns too - Jean Sibelius [who wrote wonderful music, like the Karelia Suite, and of course, Finlandia]
Linus Torvalds [developed the Linux computer operating system]
Tove Jannson [the woman behind the Moomins]
Kimi Raikkonen [F1 driver]
and many others...
[even Brad Pitt - his mother is Finnish]
I am not sure I know many Finnish people - except one - some years ago I met a lovely lady called Sirrka - she's married to a Baptist Minister and she's a teacher. I posted about her son Lauri a year ago [here] Two weeks ago, his appeal case was heard in court - the US Government wants to extradite him on computer hacking charges. His defence counsel argue that because of his health and mental state [he has Asperger's], this would, in effect be a death sentence. He would not handle the isolation of a US Prison Cell, and would rapidly sink into depression and attempt suicide. 
Following the Gary McKinnon case, when Theresa May [then Home Secretary] blocked his extradition, on the grounds that it was incompatible with his human rights. Two weeks ago, the courts met to discuss Lauri's extradition.The hearing continues.There will be some sort of answer in the New Year. His sister has returned from Finland to be with the family- she believes the case should be heard in Britain[that is, after all, where the alleged crime was committed]
I feel incredibly strongly about this - I do not believe it would serve anybody any good to extradite this guy. Yes, he is a brilliant computer geek, and he can hack into anyone's system - usually to demonstrate that they need to improve their security. Occasionally misguided- but never malicious. I pray that the Mrs May, and Amber Rudd will block his extradition. After all, there have been 29 Britons accused of hacking US Government websites in the last 20 years - and every other one has had their case heard in the UK, been tried and sentenced here.
Oh, and by the way - do you remember the "Wannacry" Ransomware virus that knocked out the NHS computers back in May? Fortunately it was not too long before they were up and running again. That is because Lauri, Marcus Hutchins and other gifted geeks in their team worked through the night to restore the systems. 
There has to be something wrong if it is OK to use Lauri's gifts when he is saving our healthcare system and potentially the lives of others, but we cannot save him from an unjust extradition order.
His Dad, Alex, came out of the court and said "Our trust is in God, and in British Justice"
May his prayers for justice be answered soon.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

It's Beginning To Look...

..a bit like Christmas.
 We had a light lunch - note the Christmas Mugs are in use, then we fetched all the boxes down from the loft.
I put some cards on the display stands, and sorted out the decorations, whilst Bob put up the tree. He also arranged non-stop Christmas Music which added to the festive ambience!
And some hours later, the tree was done, but other stuff [the staircase garland, the chandelier decorations etc etc]  remain to be sorted.
I hope to complete it all by tonight - then I shall post more pictures...
Have you put up any decorations yet?

Tuesday, 12 December 2017


I hate sewing zips. I really do. Buttons, press-studs, hooks&eyes, velcro, toggles, drawstrings and other fastenings are fine. But zips are something I avoid like the plague. So I know I can never apply for a place on the Great British Sewing Bee. However, my niece's fiancĂ© was given an Alpinestars jacket, brand new but with a broken zip. Lucy texted me, to ask if I could fix it. I love that sort of challenge. The jacket would have cost around £170 - and a new zip was about 1% of that from Fabricland. 
So I spent much of yesterday working on the project. It took hours to remove the broken zip. The jacket was beautifully made, and has linings, and windflaps, and velcro bits which needed to be worked round. I took out the old zip and carefully positioned., pinned, then tacked the new one. The layers were pretty thick, so I used a leather needle on the machine, along with the zipper foot. Satisfactory result - zip in place, and the logo across the front matches up.
While I worked, I caught up with recorded TV.
Howard's End - don't recall reading any EMForster, but know that this is the book with the line "Only Connect" [favourite TV Quiz show]. Beautiful Edwardian costumes and houses. But the characters were so miserable. I am not sure I'm inspired to read any other EMF 

Then I watched some Kirstie Allsopp Christmas Crafting. Why does none of her stuff ever feature the Nativity Story? The nearest she gets is the occasional star. 
Finally I watched some of James Martin's new Saturday programme. I never watched the original Saturday Kitchen, but my brother said this series is good. I agree, it was good fun, and his guest was Rachel Allen on this Christmas Edition. She made Brandy Snaps. James made Beef Wellington. He stressed that the key thing is taking time to prepare properly and then it was all come together easily and correctly. A bit like putting in open-ended zips!