Tuesday, 28 October 2008

kensington palace

I had a lovely day sightseeing at Kensington Palace. The Palace grounds have been made into a park and I saw some coloured leaves there today! I have been craving them. They seem to be very uncommon here in London. One day the leaves are green on the trees and the next day they are brown and lying on the ground. It makes me really sad and I feel homesick for the colourful leaves of Nova Scotia.

Kensington Palace was bought by King William and Queen Mary to be away from the centre of London. They had Christopher Wren fix it up into a palace and today half of it is open to the public (the other half is still used for residences for members of the extended Royal family.

I walked through William's and Mary's suites of rooms, a lot of which was original and other parts very well restored. Victoria lived there as a Princess and her rooms very very interesting (and smaller). This sculpture of Queen Victoria is outside the Palace and was made my her daughter, Princess Louise.

I went into the Orangery restaurant for lunch--a conscious decision to enjoy a more luxurious meal than usual for me when I'm out on my own. I have never eaten at a table for one at a restaurant, but I had a really enjoyable time, helped by the delicious food and the calm surroundings.

Each table had a little orange plant. The whole restaurant was light and white; one can imagine rows of citrus trees growing here.

In order to keep spending down (a bit), I ordered two starters and a cup of tea. One was a delicious salad that I can definitely imagine making myself.
Items in my lunchtime salad:
curly endive (also called frisee)
goats cheese
plum poached with lots of cloves, skin on
honey dressing
Served with not too sweet raisin bread

I had courgette and sweetcorn soup as well served with "artisan bread", one slice of which had garlic pieces baked into it. Yum, yum. I ordered tulsi mint tea to drink, which was a proper English pot of loose tea served with a cup and a strainer. I ate my lunch very slowly, enjoying each mouthful and the view out to the manicured gardens. I also was reading my book (the book club selection for November, The End of Mr Y).

I walked through the park and then nipped over to the V&A for an hour to complete a really relaxing day of culture and history in London.

inside out

I have started reading Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, a book which I always saw on my parents' bookshelf, but never picked up. Then when I saw it at a local second hand bookshop I thought it might be a good choice from which to learn. Here is what I am learning so far.

Change happens from the inside out. I know from experience that willing change is only partially effective. In our unguarded moments, what and who we really are becomes obvious. And Jesus says that our right living has to go beyond that of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20)--and the way in which we go beyond their righteousness is by gaining internal righteousness, not just an outward control. Right living must be an "internal work of God upon the heart." In Ephesians (which I am reading at breakfast) it says that we need to "be made new in the attitude of your minds" (4:23).

Our--My--ingrained habits are not God-pleasing. "What You're after is truth from the inside out," says David in Psalm 51 (The Message), "Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life." God works in our hearts to change us, and as well as being changed, we can stop judging others as well. Reading the first chapter really inspired me. "Our world is hungry for genuinely changed people," Foster says, and I think, I could be that changed person. God, change me. "The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."

And the Spiritual Disciplines are a way for us to get ready for change. They are a way of "sowing to the Spirit" (Galatians 6:8), a way to prepare the ground for the growth that God will bring. We do not produce our own right living, we only tend what God is doing there. "The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us." And so, Foster says, we are called to a "path of disciplined grace". It is called grace because it is a free gift of God and disciplined because it is a conscious action to follow this path.

"I want to drink God.... I'm thirsty for God-alive" (Psalm 42:2, The Message). I have now read the first, introductory chapter, and now I am on to the chapter on meditation. It has been odd to read about meditation while on the train or bus--I think this may become more difficult to continue. I was visiting St Martin in the Fields church yesterday and I read a bit there in the quiet sanctuary. I hope I can learn to practice the Spiritual Disciplines. Lord, change me.

Sunday, 26 October 2008


It has been a lovely birthday this year. Two close friends came over last night and helped me eat the Harvest Cake that I have been dreaming about for quite some time. Matt and Helen and Ant all agreed that it was very tasty--success! it is a recipe that really suits me; it starts off with grated beetroot, carrot, and courgette.

The batter is a mellow pink colour, not unlike the beetroot spice cake I made recently.

The icing is made with goat's cheese and cream cheese sweetened with maple syrup. So delicious. Although I chilled the icing as directed it was still a bit runny and so I tried to convince everyone that it was really a sauce. We served it with some Merlot, and enjoyed it heartily. (Nice photography, Helen!)

Ant gave me these lovely flowers for my birthday, along with the Wii Fit, which I am quite excited to try. (I was so tired from work on Friday that I opened the box but didn't set it up. I hope to use it most of this week, though.)

Other plans for my half term week: dentist, optometrist, new washing machine delivery, and a hopefully a trip to Liverpool next weekend with Ant to see his family. Also, a half day of marking, a book review to write, and some sightseeing to do!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

tate modern

Felicity, who is staying with us, came out with me tonight to visit the Tate Modern briefly. I just try to get out into the city as much as I can so even an hour at a museum makes me happy. It was lovely to be in the city at dusk on a crisp day. It was close to dark when we came out, as you can see by the picture of the Tate Modern above.

We walked over the Millennium bridge, enjoying the view of St Paul's. Felicity was taking a picture and I caught her at it with my shot.

The City of London was beautiful tonight, and wasn't even marred for me by the cranes and construction.

lunch salad

Another recipe, this time by request. :) I made this cauliflower and chicken salad at lunch today, from the Moosewood cookbook.

Roasted Red Pepper & Cauliflower Salad

1 roasted red pepper, sliced
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 large russet potato, sliced into rounds
2 T olive oil
dash of salt

4 c spinach or salad leaves
2 T chopped parsley
8 olives

2 T vegetable oil
2 T olive oil
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 T cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 t fennel seeds
1/4 t salt

Roast the cauliflower and potato slices, tossed with olive oil and salt (about 20 minutes). Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Arrange the salad leaves on plates or a platter. Mix the red pepper and roasted vegetables and place on the salad leaves. Drizzle the dressing on top, sprinkle with parsley and olives.

When I made this salad today I increased the quantities of cauliflower to a whole head and used several potatoes. I omitted the olives since Ant is not a big fan (and hence we never have any in the house). And I added grilled chicken on top to make this into a meal. I cooked the chicken on our new, bigger George Foreman grill.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

two recipes

I am so obsessed with food that I plan our week's meals in advance. I do this so that I can decide which recipes I want to cook and make sure I have all the ingredients on hand. Tonight I had planned two recipes to make from my new Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special cookbook.

The Tunisian pumpkin soup was delicious and came with a "spice swirl" (pictured below). The spice swirl is an essential part of the soup, I discovered. It was the tastiest little thing I have ever eaten! And I served the soup with a bulgur salad with artichoke hearts and a little feta. The steak on top is not part of the Moosewood recipe but is an addition to satisfy my carnivore husband.

My food obsession means that once I find a cookbook that fits my style I start working through it pretty regularly. I have been fortunate to get three new cookbooks in the last two months and I am using them to plan all our meals at the moment. On a quiet evening, I make a list of all the things currently in the cupboards, fridge and freezer. Then I pick recipes from my current favourite cookbooks that use up these ingredients. I add in a few more recipes and ingredients and order it all online. I keep the planning notes on the fridge so that when I get home from work I know can get to work without the dreadful feeling of having to think up what we are going to eat each night. We get to eat a lot of different things this way and I get to try out loads of new recipes.

Tunisian Pumpkin Soup

2 c chopped onions
2 T olive oil
1/2 c sliced carrots
1/2 c sliced parsnips
1 1/2 t salt
2 1/2 c water or stock
1 1/4 c apple juice
1/2 c tomato juice
1 t cumin
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t paprika
1 3/4 c cooked pumpkin (=15 oz can)

Spice Swirl
2 T olive oil
1 t minced garlic
4 t coriander
1 t ground caraway seeds
1/4 t cayenne
2 T lemon juice
2 T chopped cilantro
1/8 t salt

In a large soup pot, saute the onions, then add the vegetables. Saute for five minutes, then add stock, juices, and spices. Cover and bring to the boil, simmer until veg is soft. Add pumpkin and then puree the soup until smooth.

To make the spice swirl, heat the oil in a small skillet and briefly saute the garlic. Add the spices and cook, stirring constantly. Remove from heat after two minutes and add the lemon juice, cilantro, and salt.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top each with some spice swirl.


I use Google Reader to peruse lots of blogs and websites, more than I could ever visit individually. One of these is No Impact Man. His blog is self-described as being written by "a guilty liberal who finally snaps, swears off plastic, goes organic, becomes a bicycle nut", etc, etc, "and generally turns into a tree-hugging lunatic". Some of his posts are very much too political for me and too extreme. A couple of days ago, though, he posted something that really resonated with me. Should we all commit suicide?, he asked. Why are we saving the planet? He mentioned a conversation he had with a friend about saving resources. If our aim is to use resources as sparingly as possible, surely it would just be better for the earth and for this aim if there were no humans. So the question emerges, is human life a positive? What could life be for that it would warrant the use of resources?
For what should we use our lives and our precious time here on this planet in order to justify the resources we use? For what should we use our lives to justify this precious gift?
Because if we're making waste of our lives and all the impact they cause, isn't that even worse than wasting the resources?

And I think this is a very important question, but one that the blogger does not answer. What purpose in life could be important enough for living on this beautiful earth and enjoying it? Getting to know God is the only thing that could be a high enough purpose. Loving and being loved by him is the fulfilment of our purpose here on earth.

Friday, 17 October 2008

apple tea

We have a visitor here who is staying for a couple of nights who has just come back from a long trip travelling in Europe and Turkey. She brought back this amazing apple tea from Turkey that is served in this tiny glass cup. (The cup is about the same size as a shot glass.) It was delicious--exactly the kind of "hippy" drink that I like.

Monday, 13 October 2008

happy thanksgiving

I remembered (Canadian) Thanksgiving this year! And I also managed to cook my first real big meal. And we had a few friends round and we used my Canada maple leaf napkins. Sadly there are no pictures but it was a really good time--quite relaxing as well since I paced the cooking better than usual. Everything was ready in time and the kitchen was also mostly clean when everyone arrived--that contributes a lot to my enjoyment. We had some lovely rose wine (thanks, Matt and Lucie) and everyone seemed to have a really good time. Lucie and Dave had a vegetarian nut roast (which may or may not have been pre-prepared). Others had lovely turkey breast (which may or may not have come without the rest of the turkey). We had loads of food, but I completely failed to remember to make gravy, so the stuffing was a bit dry. Oh, well. The pumpkin cheesecake with whipped cream made up for this! You know a big meal, so the saying goes, by the number of vegetable side dishes. Well, we had brussel sprouts (with garlic--actually very nice); roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, and parsnips; carrot and fennel salad; and mushroom stuffing. Afterwards we sat around in the living room, chatting, watching TED talks, and yawning at each other. Mmmm. A lovely evening.

Oh, and aren't real turkey sandwiches a wonderful thing for lunch the next day?

Saturday, 11 October 2008


Recently we have done a few things that show why living in London is so great. Last week we unexpectedly got invited with one of Ant's colleagues to see John le Carre speak at the Southbank Centre. Ant has read two of his spy books and I have read one--next I think I would like to read The Constant Gardener. He was talking about his life and the places and experiences that led him to write. He is now 80 (I think) and still not describing his current book as his last. It was fascinating to listen to him and hear his answers to questions from the audience. We liked his voice and his new book is available as an audiobook (read by him), so Ant thinks he would like to get that.

Yesterday I went with my colleagues to the dog races in Wimbledon. I am not really sure that I would go back again, but it was fun to do something different with my work friends and we did have a good time. My friend Sarah who has moved on from the school was visiting and I took this very dodgy picture of us while we were outside watching a race. It was really cold out there and Sarah lent me her hat.

Our group went in and out to the trackside and then back in to the lounge area between races to eat, drink, and chat.

Today Sarah and I went out for lunch (with a few more of our work friends) and then I took the train with her into the city so she could catch her train home. I left her at Paddington station and popped out to look around in that area because I don't think I have ever been there before. I really like the look of the Georgian houses that are around there.

I love that there are these varied things to do in London. We don't really take advantage of them enough.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

more maths

Adding to yesterdays post, I found an amazing video today about dimensions (Dimensions by Jos Leys - √Čtienne Ghys - Aur√©lien Alvarez). The animations are stunning. I have only watched the first chapter so far, but I was impressed by how the beauty of mathematics was easy to see. The Creative Commons license means it can be used quite freely and it comes in more than a handful of languages.

I am also planning to watch a history of maths show on BBC four tomorrow, hosted by mathematician Marcus du Sautoy. Wow-ee!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

some maths links and ideas

Today I just saw this brilliant YouTube video about a chef making very thin noodles. The video illustrated the powers of two really well.

Owen reminded me of the video of James Blunt singing about his love for a triangle.

I also read this article today about how to help your child learn the times tables and a book that explores patterns in the times tables. I have decided that both of my year seven classes are going to get frequent times table tests this year because it's an obstacle that must be overcome to feel confident in maths in later years. I'm also planning on doing a lot more mental maths methods teaching this year. We have been talking about the strategies we use when adding or subtracting in our heads. The questions we have been doing started with 14 - 6, for example, and we worked up to 67 - 38. The first part of the scheme of work emphasises written methods, but I think they are less useful in the long run. Students have to be able to calculate in their head, and know when to calculate mentally and when to use a written method (or a calculator).