I love the summer

Photo on 2013-07-09 at 18.12

 

I can’t believe we’re getting a summer. This is the first ‘summer’ I remember since 2006. No, really – I’m not kidding. And I’m doing everything I can to make the most of it – because who knows when the next time we get a summer will be?

Sunshine just brings out the best in me. I love being less like the colour of milk. I love all the fruit and veg that is coming into season. I love walking to and from work. I love driving a car with the windows down blasting out Noah and The Whale. I love sitting in the sunshine reading a book. All the books I’ve not finished I’m now working onThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, Stephen Fry in America and catching up on Corduroy Mansions and 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith. I’ve got a pile of books on my to-read list. Some in a pile on my shelf. Some tormenting my wallet as I fight the temptation to purchase them. My current ‘handbag’ book is a series of essays by F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Cruise of the Rolling Junk.

I’d heard a new Mimi’s had opened not far from where I work, and so with the sun still in the sky and the centre bizarrely quiet (we’re usually quiet in June-August, but June was insanely busy for some reason) I left work at 4 p.m. and went to investigate. A chocolate raspberry brownie purchased, I went to get the airlink bus home but decided to make a detour. A detour into the South end of Princes Street Gardens, sit on the grassy slope and eat my brownie and read Rolling Junk. I ended up having a wee power nap in the evening sunshine.

It did my soul good.

Yes, life is still busy and crazy. I’m making new friends, and catching up with old connections. I collected my Fringe tickets today as well. People keep asking where I’m going on holiday. The truth is I have no plans as I try to save pennies – but then I guess my ‘holiday’ will be enjoying everything Edinburgh has to offer this summer.

I realise the summer is flying by. Almost 2 weeks down already. There’s so much to do until then – not least of which getting this open college course completed.

And I still need to pick a Quote for this week!

It was the summer of 2012…

Years in youth work have often made me feel like the year begins in August. As the Edinburgh festivals begin to peeter out, nighttime returns and school begins.

It has been a busy summer. It’s strange to think that this now makes for 3 years since I went to South Africa, which means it is 3 years since I’ve been out of the UK. I don’t think I’ve gone for so long being in the UK ever in my whole life! But I wouldn’t have missed this summer for anything.

Starting with the Queen’s Jubilee, Beacon Night was fantastic. I was after that couple of weeks properly campfired out – because after Beacon I built campfires 3 times in a 2 week period! One night I went straight to my friend’s house covered in mud and smelling of fire so we could take her sons to see the Olympic torch run through Dalkeith. It’s a morning I hope I’ll remember forever.

Then the school year ended and I headed South. A few days in the South West with my lovely friend Ruth before we headed through the rain to Cornwall. Our time with friends old and new in and around the beautiful Constantine Bay was much needed. The return home wasn’t so fun – 10 days of living on raspberries and digestive biscuits meant that I wasn’t too productive. But soon, I was off work again so I could catch every second of artistic gymnastics I could.

When the gymnastics was over, the Edinburgh festivals had begun. A meeting with a favourite author, fun with new American friends seeing a rather famous A Capella group known affectionately as ‘Ted’s Band’ (actually called The Blanks). Comedy. Random reunions. An unexpected night that lasted way longer than expected. Discovering that my favourite Italian takeaway had changed it’s name after discovering the old name was a Jamaican phrase associated with orgasms (yes, you read that correctly). Taking pictures of postboxes painted Gold. Standing in New College belting out the Scottish anthem in honour of  an Olympic medallist. A hen weekend. Doing some stealth worship pastor type work.

And on Monday, a new year began. We expected some of our Guides would not return. We were pleasantly surprised to discovered all but 2 had come back, and we have 3 new additions. Rules were discussed and written. Games were played. I was reminded how loud the cheers and screams of eighteen 10-14 year olds could be.

The one thing I haven’t really mentioned here is church and faith. For the first time in 10 years, I have no idea where to head with that. The wounds from rejection and being drained from fighting and pushing it all down are definitely still there. This summer I came away from a conference a little bit disturbed from what I saw happening. It definitely makes you question who you can trust and what you believe. Is the sacrifice of relationships with people who don’t get that part of you – the part of you that believes such strange and unusual things – worth it? The word that keeps coming back, is the one marked indelibly on my skin. The question is now – how to find it again.

 

 

Sunshine & flip flop burns

Ahh, you may have been wondering where I’ve been the last few days. The truth is that I’ve outside basking in the sun’s sweet rays. And when I’ve not been doing that I’ve been in our kitchen baking to destress!

Saturday morning I lazed about – the previous week had been STRESSFUL and pretty disheartening so I confess I’d sat in my pyjamas (read: t-shirt and shorts that I chose to wear instead of pyjamas to bed the night before) on our patio reading a book. I’d been out on Friday night watching the movie Soul Surfer at Casa Allen with Brisaac, Vicky and Miss Sweetroot. They made pizza and yummy salad. I made honey popcorn and brought round leftover results of my Thursday afternoon  bad mood baking frenzy (banana chocolate chip cookies & some lemon-blueberry cakes). Miss Sweetroot is so inspired by Bethany and her story since she first saw the film at the cinema last year and earlier this year I lent Vicky the book which she & Brisaac read with Miss S. If you don’t know the story – Bethany who was an up and coming surfer sponsored by Rip Curl got attacked by a tiger shark on Hallowe’en during an early morning surf with her friend Alana. She lost her arm along with 60% of her blood volume, but 3 weeks later was back in the water and decided to train even harder to make it to the professional circuit. And she did!

Anyway. Saturday I’d literally just washed a spider out my shower and got in to wash my hair when my friends came round with Elastatoddler & Mr Teapot on their way to the beach. Soggy haired and slightly stubbly I went to the beach with them…and got a little bit burnt while paddling in the freakishly warm water! I came home, and fell asleep in the garden and burnt one side of my face to match the flip flop shaped burnt feet I’m currently fashioning! You can actually see the line across my forehead where my fringe kept part of my face from the sun in the photo above.

Classy.

The rest of the weekend was spent celebrating birthdays. Out on Saturday night, then out having a barbecue (after I’d baked some more – lemon white choc chip cakes this time) on Sunday afternoon.

Now it’s back to the grind. Work (still without internet) and Guides.

The weather was hot and balmy this morning – I walked to the bus stop in a sundress and flip flops. I came out of work and the weather was still sunny but about 10 degrees colder. With a chilly breeze. Thankfully I had other shoes and a jacket in my bag otherwise I may have just cried all the way home with cold!

Thus ends the Scottish heatwave…

What did you get up to this weekend?

Summer is here!!!!!

Sunshine has FINALLY arrived. Though I’m jealous that it’s actually hot in Glasgow (28 C there today!) and only warm in Edinburgh (18 C). My flip flops came out and I didn’t even need a jacket until I went to the supermarket at teatime.

My favourite part about summer though is all the yummy fruit and veg. Last week I had my favourite frittata and tonight I had roasted aubergine with pesto and mozzarella.

It was the first time I had ever roasted fresh vegetables. I made a chicken dinner with roast potatoes and yorkshire pudding (as well as other veg) once when I was a student but the roast potatoes were those kind you get in the freezer section at the supermarket (ew).

The frittata I usually have with wholemeal pitta bread and/or salad. But when I’m saving pennies, it’s good ol’ sliced bread and butter! I usually have one half for tea, and save the other half for the next day.

I bought my first summer punnet of blueberries today too. Berries are cheap as they are now coming into season in Britain. Yay! I know lots of friends are down with colds at the moment, so I recommend you all get plenty of berries into you. Berries are the best source of vitamin C and have antioxidants that help build your immune system.

Sadly, I my day off tomorrow has been cancelled since the internet is STILL down in our office, so I need to be there for the second engineer coming to try work out what the problem is (and hopefully fix it?!). I’m pouting a little bit because I want to sunbathe.

But don’t we all?

Ahh, grown up responsibility. Boo hiss.

Climate change and urban gymnastics

Two years ago, Ruth laughed when I bought a summer dress the week the clocks went forward. The reason she laughed as a day later, it was blowing a gale and snowing.

Last night the clocks went forward again. I didn’t believe it, but it was almost 20 C outside this afternoon. Hard to believe that almost 2 years from those photos above, this is the same bit of our back garden (excuse the hair – I left it to dry naturally in the sunshine while I read a book sat on some paving stones in our driveway, and it needs cut!)

A building site alternative to plastic garden chairs...!

And while we’re on the subject of summer, since there has been conference gymnastics in USA this weekend (Go Gators who won SECs – gotta cheer for a team that has a British Olympian on it!), not to mention the Russian Championships and the Pacific Rims in the last week…I decided to live out my gymnastic dreams practicing some balance beam in the back garden. All dance moves of course, no tumbling for me!

24 days of Christmas: Dreaming of a Sunny Christmas (by Holly)

I’m Holly, I’m a 24 year old teacher from New Zealand. I love Diet Coke, cats and my blog, Adventures of Holly.

Picture this…it’s Christmas day. The roast turkey is in the oven, Winter Wonderland is in the background, and…it’s 30°C outside!? Wait…what? 8O
Here in New Zealand we have some rather strange traditions. Christmas here is an odd combination between a “traditional” white Christmas, and the reality that December for us is the middle of summer!
It is completely normal to have both winter-themed ornaments and seashells on your Christmas tree, and to see poor old Santa Claus walking around the (air-conditioned) mall in his enormous furry red suit.

This is what Santa SHOULD be wearing!

It’s not unusual for your average kiwi to spend Christmas Day BBQing on the nearest beach, or eating outside in the sun, although roast dinners are pretty standard too. My family has done both, depending on who else we happen to be with that year, and what we decide we prefer.

Speaking of Christmas food, something present at pretty much every Christmas dinner here in NZ is the pavlova. For those of you who have never eaten this before (and who have been sadly missing out!), pavlova is pretty much a huge, cake-sized meringue, covered with cream and whatever fresh fruit you like. It’s pretty awesome.

Pavlova

Church has never been part of Christmas for my family (New Zealand as a whole is very secular), so it’s pretty much about food, present, sun, people and spending time together.

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Holly’s post is part of a series of posts over the Christmas period. Please feel free to comment on what Holly has shared, and haste ye back for more guest bloggers who will be sharing over the next 24 days. You can find all the posts so far by clicking here. Keep calm and jingle on!

The much coveted lemon cupcakes

Back when I was experimenting with cupcakes, this recipe I created very loosely based on my Nana’s lemon cake became much coveted. If I make any other kind of cupcakes, my Mum will at some point come into the kitchen look at the cakes and her face will immediately fall “Did you not make your lemon cupcakes?” she will whine ask.

These cakes are not healthy. At all. So do eat in moderation. Perhaps only make them when you know you’ll probably only get 1 because you’ll be sharing them with approximately 11 other people. :)

This recipe makes about 12 (sometimes a little more) cupcakes. They are great for birthdays, dedications/christenings or just a fun pampering kind of day in the summertime with friends!

Ingredients

for cake

6 0z butter/margarine

6 0z sugar

6 0z self raising flour

3 medium sized eggs

2 tbsp milk

Juice & zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

100g white choc chips

1 tsp baking powder

for icing

3 oz unsalted butter

6 0z icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon juice

Method

Preheat your oven to 180 C (150 C for fan ovens).

Put your margarine and sugar into a bowl and cream it (basically mix together until it has a creamy texture)

Add your 3 eggs and whisk together with the margarine & sugar until smooth.

Sieve the flour & baking powder into the bowl, and fold into the mixture.

Add your vanilla extract, milk, zest & lemon juice into the mixture. Mix together.

Stir in your white chocolate chips.

Divide equally between about 12 muffin cases. Each muffin case should only be about ¾ full as the cakes will rise.

Put in oven for approximately 20-25 mins. Cakes should be golden and the sponge quite springy (if you gently touch the top with your finger, it should bounce back up. If a dent remains, they need a little longer in the oven).

Once ready, take out and place the cakes on a cooling rack.

While cooling, make your icing.

Put the Icing sugar and butter in a bowl – whisk until creamy.

Add the vanilla extract & lemon juice and mix well.

Once the cakes are cool you can use the icing to decorate the cakes however you like (you might wise to use a piping bag, or just use the back of a teaspoon..!) Feel free to add choc chips, candied peel or other things to decorate the tops of your lemon choc chip cupcakes!

If the sun stops by, the blog gets neglected

You may notice the lack of clouds in the sky above my head.

That’s because the sun dropped by for a few days…hence I’m out in the garden enjoying the sunshine, enjoying the ability to do do all my laundry without it hanging all over my room and reading those heathen non-Christian books that have been stacking up since last summer! ;)

Harry Potter being read in preparation for the last film (going to see it on Tuesday with Jenni & Gaz) and deciding on cake options for my Mum’s birthday on Saturday (she’s turning 21 again). And Revolutionary Road (may make it to Granny Green’s on Monday). So far all I want to do is drag most of the principal characters to a Marriage Course.

I even made it to the gym today.

And may incorporate counting change from baby bottles with sunbathing in the back garden.

 

 

 

Summer Recipes

My blog readers have been awesome in helping my charity raise funds by producing recipe booklets! We started with the Chocolate Recipe book, and then last Christmas we had the Winter Recipe book. (I had to doctor the cover as I can’t name the charity I work for on my blog…!!)

This time (while it’s summer) I’m looking for your Summer recipes! It could be drinks, snacks, mains, desserts…

It is helpful if you have measurements (even if they are estimates like ’1 handful’) so other people can use the recipe more easily. We always put who gave us the recipe and the town they are from. It’s always fun for people to see how far these recipes have come from.

You can send your summer recipe, your name, location & if you like a sentence or 2 about your recipe send it via e-mail. I use Microsoft Word 2004 (so please no .docx files, as I won’t be able to read them).

If you would like a copy of the recipe book when it is done, please send me your address also! (We usually sell copies for £3). And if you would like to be kept up to date with the work of our charity, let me know and I can give you details on how you can do that! :)

Apple & Strawberry Porridge

because we know bears love porridge…

It’s only right that I have a wee bit of Scottishism in grained in these recipes. But this one is the first one inspired by the  Hungry recipe book by Innocent. (By the way, if you are taking part in Bringing Sexy Back I totally recommend Hungry for helping you have healthier eating habits. They even have great tips in how to get the whole family involved – especially kids).

Ingredients (serves 1)

½ cup of oatmeal (rolled oats)

1 cup of apple juice (try to use pressed rather than concentrate)

1 cup water

As many strawberries as you like!

Method

Put your oatmeal, apple juice and water in a saucepan.

Bring to the boil, stirring the mixture continuously.

Once you’ve brought it to the boil, leave to simmer on a low heat, stirring occasionally for approx. 8 minutes

While your porridge is simmering you can get out your fresh strawberries & give them a wee rinse and chop them up into bite-size pieces in between stirs. You might want to make a drink of your choice too (a wee bit herbal tea? coffee? orange juice?)

Once the porridge is done, pour into a bowl, add your strawberries, give it a wee stir and serve!

Obviously, please beware that when leaving your porridge to cool a little (because you don’t want it to burn your mouth), you should not leave it unsupervised. You just never know if Goldilocks might come in and eat it all up before you get a chance.

Or a bear for that matter…

Disclosure: I don’t ever recommend things for the sake of recommendation, but yes, I’m part of the Amazon Associates programme, so if you purchase the book through that link I may get a small percentage of the profit or something like that! But really, I don’t care how you buy it or where you buy it. I think it’s a great recipe book for anyone – the 2.4 kid family, the students, the semi-grown up marrieds or the singletons like me!