October

How thou hast deceiveth me with sunbeam
Smiles and a golden moment of youth
When thou shalt in turn strip bare of this dream
This whimsical facade masking a truth
So grey in grace as in crippling tears
Of thunder queens by kings’ charcoal clouds choked
Thy blustering temper invokes a fear
Whence darker days soon will smother with smoked
Quilts frenzied urbanscapes of trembling souls
None sweeter than mulch does your name to my
Taste buds delight, whilst pond’ring upon foul
Omens summoned to cast the world awry
O when will spring bound rejuvenation
Reap its distant blessing of salvation

Captain Of The Night

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Love the Words competition:

  • Download the opening paragraphs of Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milk Wood” (click here), print them out and cut up the words
  • Re-arrange the words to create your own poem in either English or Welsh
  • Take a photo and share your poem on Twitter, using the hashtags #DylanDay and #LovetheWords
  • The competition is open to anyone aged 7-25 from anywhere in the world, and it closes on 5th May 2017 (for more information, see The Poetry Library website)

Raspberry & White Chocolate Cupcakes

img_0286Delicate and delectable, these cupcakes have an exquisite balance of sweet vanilla, fragrant raspberries, and a white chocolate surprise that will melt in the mouth. These cupcakes are easy to make… but even easier to finish eating… 

 

Ingredients:

For the batter…

200g caster sugar

200g self-raising flour

200g butter

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 box of frozen raspberries

100g white chocolate chips

To decorate…

500g icing sugar

250g butter

1tsp vanilla essence

2 drops raspberry extract (optional)

1 handful freeze-dried raspberries

Method:fullsizeoutput_301c

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180°C
  • Cream the butter and caster sugar together
  • Mix the eggs and vanilla essence together before adding to the sugar and butter
  • Sift the flour into the batter and combine well
  • Add a couple of raspberries to the bottom of each cupcake case
  • Spoon in the cupcake batter until the cupcake cases are 2/3 full
  • Add a generous sprinkle of white chocolate chips on top of the batter before putting in the oven for 20 minutes (take out when they’re a light golden brown colour)
  • To prepare the frosting, cream the icing sugar and butter together with vanilla essence (you can also add a couple of drops of raspberry essence but this is optional)
  • When the cupcakes have cooled, pipe the frosting in a swirl and finish with a sprinkle of freeze-dried raspberries (and edible glitter!)

Marble Monogram Cookies

In need of some sugar and spice? Treat yo’self to these aromatic gingerbread-esque cookies. They’re quick and easy to make, and are great as homemade, personalised gifts this winter. Will you save these as late-night snacks with a cup of tea, or gift them to a friend with pumpkin spice withdrawal symptoms?

Ingredients (makes about 20 discs):IMG_0353.JPG

  • 175g plain flour (plus extra to roll)
  • 50g butter
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 85g light brown soft sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup or honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 egg
  • 2 colours of fondant
  • icing sugar to roll
  • gold piping gel
  • glitter to decorate

Method:IMG_0352.JPG

  • Pre-heat oven to 180°C 
  • Combine all the dry ingredients (flour, ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and sugar) in a large mixing bowl
  • Add the wet ingredients (golden syrup or honey, vanilla essence and egg) to the mixture and combine well
  • Soften the butter in the microwave and use your finger tips to rub the butter into the mixture as best as you can – you’re aiming for a squishy crumb-like consistency
  • Use your hands to gather the crumbs in the mixing bowl and pack together to form a dough
  • Dust a surface and rolling pin with flour, then roll the dough out to the thickness of a £1 coin
  • Use a round cutter to cut out discs of the dough and place on a lined baking tray
  • Bake for 10 minutes and check, but they’ll likely need an extra 2 minutes (they should be golden brown in colour and shouldn’t be rock hard – they’ll harden as they cool)
  • Warm up the fondant in your hands to soften it – use 2 shades of the same colour
  • Roll the two colours into sausage shapes and twist them together before rolling them out (on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar) to create a marble effect
  • Use the same cutter to cut out discs of the marble fondant
  • Make a simple icing to glue the fondant discs to the cookie discs (add a drop of water to some icing sugar) when the cookies have cooled
  • Use gold piping gel to monogram your cookies – if you have a fine nib you can probably do 2 initials on each cookie, but I could only fit 1 letter on each
  • Dust your monogram cookies with glitter (obviously)

Circus Meringues

These soft, gooey meringue drops are a fun way to add colour to your dessert! Piped in a gorgeous rainbow swirl and topped with Funfetti sprinkles (and a generous dusting of glitter, of course), these meringues are sure to brighten your day. 

IMG_0277.JPGIngredients: 

  • 4 egg whites
  • 160g caster sugar
  • vanilla essence
  • food colouring
  • Funfetti sprinkles
  • Edible glitter

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 100°C
  • Ensure all of your equipment/utensils are free from grease/oil
  • Measure the weight of the egg whites
  • Whisk the egg whites with an electric mixer until you get stiff peaks (you’ll know it’s ready when you turn the bowl upside down and the mixture stays put)
  • Measure out double the weight of the egg whites in caster sugar (approx. 40g per egg white, so I’ve suggested 160g of caster sugar)
  • Keep the electric mixer on and add the caster sugar spoonful by spoonful (it’s a slow process but it works)
  • Keep mixing until all of the sugar is combined and you have stiff, glossy peaks (turn the bowl upside down again to check)
  • In a piping bag, drip/paint your chosen food colourings down the insides, all the way round (I used red, green, yellow and blue, and they merge as you pipe to form a rainbow), then cut the end off and insert a round piping nozzle
  • Put your meringue mixture into the piping bag and pipe a blob in each corner of a baking tray to glue down your grease-proof baking paper
  • Pipe the meringue onto the baking paper (leaving room around each one for them to expand in the oven) by squeezing down and lifting up quickly to get a delicate point on your meringue drops
  • Add Funfetti sprinkles before baking
  • Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes (you’ll know they’re ready when you can pick the meringue drops off the baking paper without the bottoms collapsing)
  • Dust with edible glitter for the finishing touch!
Recipe adapted from ‘Cupcake Jemma’ on YouTube

My Final Flag Raising {Sar-El 🇮🇱 Day #19}

My Final Flag Raising {Sar-El 🇮🇱 Day #19} | Thursday 28th July 2016 |

It felt so special to complete my 3 weeks of volunteering by raising the flag on the last day. I self-consciously walked over to the rostrum and stood opposite a soldier, waiting for the commander to lead the ceremony. There are 2 commanders who usually call out the standing positions – one guy who half-heartedly calls out a few and then it’s over before you know it, and a girl who thinks she’s the bee’s knees and shouts at us for about 5 minutes before our aching arms can rest. Today we had the moody girl, so the ceremony lasted a while – typical! I let the other soldier lower the flag so that I could have the honour of raising it.

We spent the morning packing, cleaning our dorms, cleaning the common room, returning our uniforms (I was quite reluctant to let mine go…), and I finally went to the “shekem” (tuck shop) to stuff my hand luggage with Doritos and Sappé (the delicious aloe vera drink). The commander of the base came to thank us for our work, and I couldn’t believe that 3 weeks had passed since he first welcomed us here!

We went to the warehouse for a final goodbye, and the lovely workers threw us a leaving party. One of the soldiers made us a huge banner that read: “Dear Volunteers, thanks for everything like warehouse Hhizzit”. We felt bad because they’d obviously gone to a lot of trouble, but we had no idea what the banner actually meant… Oh, and there was an abundance of Bamba, so I had to stay well away! We took loads of group photos (I thought we weren’t allowed to take photos in the work place…) and thanked our favourite managers. Some of them made speeches to thank us for our work. They said they were genuinely surprised that young people actually wanted to work here and didn’t complain about the tasks. They want us to return as volunteers some time in the future, and I might consider it (despite the fact that it would be a completely different experience with a new group). They sounded sincere when they thanked us, and it really meant a lot to me because you can never be sure whether you’re making a difference or whether anything matters in the grand scheme of things. (I also got to speak a bit more to Soulja Boy, and everyone was teasing us as we got a photo together and said our goodbyes.)

We all got on the coach and made our final journey out of the base towards Tel Aviv. We departed at the usual meeting point, and it was really sad to leave the friends we had volunteered, messed around, drank chocolate milk and complained with for the past 3 weeks. A group of us ventured on to Tel Aviv, and my Canadian friend and I checked into a trendy boutique hotel where we’d spend our last night. Before we grabbed a much-needed Aroma iced drink and met up with the Australian boy, Canadian boy and the girl from Calgary, I received a surprise message from Soulja Boy! For the rest of the afternoon, as a group, we were all crowding round the phone trying to reply to his messages. As much as I wanted to meet up, I much preferred spending my last afternoon and evening with my Sar-El friends – he’ll just remain a cute inside joke from my time in the warehouse.

The group of us went to a beach closer to the main stretch of hotels, and the sea there had far bigger waves to ride. We wanted to borrow a surf board from a randomer we named Raoul, and for some unknown reason I screamed “Raaaouuulllll!!!” at the top of my lungs whilst we floated about with the Australian boy’s Go-Pro and got swallowed by the waves numerous times. When I started to get a bit of motion sickness, I managed to find a solitary spot of shade on the sand: the shadow from a swimming rules sign. For dinner, we went to Neve Tzedek. There was such a buzzing atmosphere and I loved wandering around the cute artists’ market, food stalls and shops. We found the one Kosher restaurant there and tried some traditional home made food. It was hilarious when the Australian boy (who was trying SO HARD to be Kosher) asked if he could have chocolate milk with his schnitzel!!!

After our meal, we soaked up the awesome ambience and headed to the military hostel to visit our madricha whilst she was on guard duty. We finally got to see her with a gun! It was so nice to spend time with her off-base. When 2 hours had passed after the meal, we walked to Yafo in search of some ice cream (I had a chocolate soufflé with cookies and cream ice cream); Yafo has a completely different feel to Tel Aviv, for example: it’s so… Middle Eastern! We then returned to the military hostel and stayed there until the curfew (midnight) when we got kicked out. It was a long but fun evening, and I especially enjoyed the hour’s walk back from Yafo to Tel Aviv. I couldn’t believe how busy the parks were by the sea, how peaceful it was to stroll along the promenade, and how alive I felt in that moment.

The girl from Calgary didn’t manage to catch a train to her couch-surfing hosts, so she stayed with us in the hotel, and I had a good rest before arriving early at the airport the next morning. In the arrivals hall, I watched the Genesis trip highlights video before checking in, and I cried a little. I just felt a whole range of emotions all at once; I was so happy about the amazing experiences that I’d had in Israel, but I was devastated to have to go home! I stocked up on snacks before my flight – Doritos, obviously – and actually had a really pleasant flight. The plane was quite plush and the food was great (we were served ice lollies – I didn’t know that was a thing). But enough about the food… arriving in London was, by far, the most miserable moment of the summer. Why does England have to be so… GREY?! I guess I’ll have to start looking into booking another trip to Israel some time soon, because I’m already having severe withdrawal symptoms…

Ken Ha Mifakedet! {Sar-El 🇮🇱 Day #18}

Ken Ha Mifakedet! {Sar-El 🇮🇱 Day #18} | Wednesday 27th July 2016 |

It’s the last day of our programme so I don’t think the managers really had anything useful for us to do. I was given the task of making 1000 bags. We didn’t need to pack anything- just make the bags- which seemed really pointless. I cut so many bags that the scissors ripped skin off my fingers – ouch! Yesterday a manager gave us some pre-made bags (but properly manufactured ones) to use when packing random pipe parts and I was thinking “why didn’t they give these to us 3 weeks ago so we wouldn’t have to slave away making them ourselves?!”

It was the warehouse commander’s birthday so the workers threw him a ‘surprise’ party, with loads of food etc. It was really nice that we were invited to celebrate with everyone. However, there was Bamba everywhere and I was so paranoid because my medication was back at the dorms.

In the afternoon, I was absolutely shattered so I went to sleep in the office for a good hour and a half. I felt really bad taking such a long break because we came here to work, but I really had no energy to do anything. When I’d recovered a bit, I helped the blonde German boy put stickers on a few boxes of hammers, which was an easy job for the end of the day. Everyone had helped to clean the warehouse (I started to sweep the floor but then someone blasted a hose so all the rubbish and dust got swept away in the water again and I gave up) and most of the palettes in the middle section of the space in which we worked had been taken away so the place looked strangely empty.

At 4pm we went to the flag raising spot to take some group photos and I think they turned out really well. After that, some crazy people decided to go back to work for a couple more hours!

This evening, we had a debrief session where we gave feedback about the programme and shared our reflections on the experience. Then we presented our madrichot with cards and t-shirts we made for them to say thank you, and they presented us with certificates.

Our main evening activity was very different tonight. Our Russian madricha became our commander and we had to do some simplified basic training drills outside. We had no idea what was going on, so we made jokes, but she was super severe and wouldn’t let us talk or move. After all our commands we had to say “Ken ha mifakedet!” (Yes, commander!) We had to stand in different formations like the letter “Chet” or in equal lines, and we only had a few seconds to run to the correct place and stand in position. When we got it wrong we had to do it all over again! It was hilarious because we’re friends with our madricha and we’d never seen her shout at anyone like this. At one point, she wanted to tell us to stand by a telephone pole but didn’t know the word for it in English and got really frustrated. The Candian boy made her crack up and break the straight face. She had to go off to “take a phone call” but we knew that she just needed a few seconds to have a giggle and gain composure again! It was hard for all of us not to laugh but if we did crack up, we would be kicked out. It was a cool activity to have on our last night.

Afterwards, we had a pizza party, played cards and listened as the funny quotes from the past few weeks were read out. It was great to reminisce and laugh about all the ridiculous, embarrassing, witty and inappropriate comments that we made. I’ve loved spending time with this group and because everyone was so quirky in their own way, I’m going to miss the group dynamics when I go home!

Surprise: Siren! {Sar-El 🇮🇱 Day 17}

Surprise: Siren! {Sar-El 🇮🇱 Day 17} | Tuesday 26th July 2016 |

Have you ever counted sheep if you’ve found it hard to get to sleep? Well I have, and I only usually get to 50 before I’m out. So imagine having to count not only to 50 or 100 or even 150, but 9200 without falling asleep. Today my friends and I spent most of the morning packing 9200 tiny metal rings into nylon bags (and I thought the 1950 pieces I did in one go the other day was bad…) When I got to lunch, another friend told me she did it yesterday but weighed the pieces collectively in cups so it barely took any time or effort… so you can imagine how frustrated we were that nobody told us that was an option! Can I just emphasise again that we individually counted out 9200 pieces?! 

For our evening activity, we learned about different minority ethnic groups living in Israel (ie. the Druze, Beduoins, Ethiopians, Black Hebrews, Carcissians etc…). It was so funny because our madricha talked about the French population in Israel but called them “Frenches” (we’re always making fun of her English). At one point, a siren blared and we had to duck on the floor quickly for a head count. There’s a new commander on the base who’s really strict about rules, so we had to join in with this army drill and then sit on the floor (amongst the ants, of course) for the rest of our activity. 

Update on the ant situation by my bed: I spritzed them with my bug repellent and apart from the odd woozy ant crawling around, most of them disappeared (hooray!)