Je Suis Charlie: An Excuse for Religious Hatred and Violence?

Jean-Jullien-Je-Suis-Charlie-illustration_dezeenIt takes only a web search on Charlie Hebdo or Paris and the violence that took place there last Wednesday to bring up thousands of conspiracy theories claiming the truth about what really happened on that day. You will also find hundreds of pages dedicated to Charlie, or the slandering of Muslims and Islam. The truth is we will never know the real motive behind the attacks; all we have is the information that the media feed us. This blog post however is not to argue for or against any of the multiple theories. It is about the implication of our humanity since the attacks happened.

Over the past couple of decades the words ‘Muslim’ and ‘terrorist’ have been used in conjunction so often, that it’s rare to hear one without the other. We’ve become so used to (brainwashed) the idea that acts of terror correlate to Islam, but the truth is, they don’t. Terrorism is defined as the use of unauthorised violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. By definition the war on Gaza is terrorism. The acts of the British and US governments in Iraq were terrorism. UKIP and EDL violent riots – terrorism. Yet, if it’s not a man who calls himself a ‘Muslim’ we do not define it as such. Our religious hatred has become so high, that as a nation we refuse to acknowledge any of the positivity that comes from Islam.

Freedom of speech is one of the main issues that was highlighted after the attacks. It has been argued that our right to free speech is being attacked, by disabling us from ridiculing and making a mockery of Islam. I would like to point out that homophobic and racist comments and active discrimination against any minority is considered a crime. We work on a double standard that is not only confusing, but disgusting.

What happened in Paris was no doubt horrific. Any attack, abuse, or murder of another human being is horrendous and I will in no way defend the actions of the men that committed such a heinous crime. However, does that mean that those who carried out the attack represent their religion? If we call all Muslims terrorists for the misguided handful, do we call all Christians paedophiles for the actions of a few catholic priests? Or if all Muslims are to blame for the attacks, are all Christians to blame for the Spanish Inquisition? All white people to blame for slavery? All Germans anti Semitic? All Jews to blame for the actions of Israel? Once upon a time this country blamed all ‘black people’ for the continuing rise in crime. Yet if anyone said that now, it would be considered racist, distasteful, criminal and misinformed.

Mosques have been attacked. Innocent Muslims on the street are being abused. The religion itself is under attack constantly. There are lies all over the news about No Go Zones, and it is further driving humanity apart.

The truth of the matter is that by blaming Muslims, we are shifting the blame from ourselves as humans. It is us, the Human Race, that carried out these attacks; that caused them; that fuelled them. It is easy to say we need to stop terrorism, or as this Fox News person suggests, say that it is a problem of Muslims, that can only be solved by MusIralims. But the only way terrorism can be defeated, is by defeating the cause. Acts of terror have increased since the Iraq invasion in 2001, and the so called ‘War on Terror’ began. We have spent the last decade spreading hate and animosity. We alienate those who are different from ourselves, we exclude and we become ignorant. The only way peace will ever come to humanity is through spreading love and educating ourselves and others. We need to stop trying to find someone to blame. Stand up and accept that we all need to make a change.

Posted in Politics and Current Affairs | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Unsolvable Riddle of Life (Words I Wrote Down on a Page at 3 am)

These are words I wrote down on a page at 3 am

When sleep seemed like a distant, golden myth

When, within the confides of these four walls

Everything around me was small and I was infinite

But beyond the glass everything was infinite

And I was small

When I was simultaneously a spec of dust on the greater landscape of life

And the central image on the portrait of being

When the stars seemed to shine, only for my eyes

And the moon was bright as headlights

When for one single moment everything was still

Frozen in one instant of solidarity

Before the rush of the howling winds

The city lights clouding the natural beauty of the skies

When panic roared in my chest and the frantic mind

Worries about the past, the present

The future.

When it was dark and light seemed to have vanished

When I could not imagine 2 weeks, or 2 years

2 decades, I have been alive

I have not achieved

I have not created

I have both lived and not.

Who am I?

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Black Forest Gateu

cakeBlack Forest Gateau is a luxurious, indulgent, retro dessert that is creamy, rich, chocolaty and tangy. It has been one of my favourite cake desserts for as long as I can remember, but it was always something that was bought from the supermarket. I used to look up recipes, saw the ‘level: advanced’ signs and just click away. This winter break however, I wanted to be challenged. I wanted to make a Black Forest Gateau that was better, tastier, more heavenly than the ones from the shop. I looked up lots of different basic ideas of chocolate cakes, black forest filling, and Black Forest Gateu recipes and devised my own recipe which I have tweaked and adapted after re-baking.

Serves 12

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 200g of self-raising flour
  • 175g of chocolate (I used a mixture of plain and milk but you can use all plain if you want a richer cake).
  • 200g of unsalted butter
  • 25g of coco powder
  • 300g of muscavado sugar
  • 4 eggs

For the filling and topping:

  • 400g of  black pitted cherries (frozen, fresh or from a jar)
  • 2tbs of caster sugar
  • 2tbs of water
  • cherry jam ( I used blackcurrant jam once and it was just as tasty)
  • 450ml of double cream
  • 2tbs cherry juice (or the syrup from the jar of cherries if that’s what you used.
  • 50g of grated chocolate (milk or plain).

Method:

For the cake:

  • Grease 2 x 20 cm round cake tins and line the bottom with grease proof paper.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ gas mark 5.
  • Place the chocolate and  the butter in to a heat proof bowl and melt over a pan of hotIMG_2500[1] water.
  • Once the chocolate and butter have fully melted, remove from the heat.
  • In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour, muscavado sugar and and coco powder.
  • Beat in the eggs.
  • Pour in the chocolate mixture and mix until smooth.
  • Divide the mixture between the two cake tins.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until firm in the center.
  • Remove from the oven and turn out on to a wire rack to cool.

For the filling and topping:IMG_2344

  • Put the cherries, caster sugar, and water in to a pan and heat for 5 minutes until the cherries are soft.
  • Stir in the cherry juice.
  • Once the cakes have completely cooled place one flat side up on a serving plate.
  • Spoon over the cherry juices from the pan and allow them to soak in to the cake.
  • Spread with jam.
  • Top with most of the cherries ( save a little IMG_2513for decorating).
  • Whip the cream until thick.
  • Spread half the cream on to the cake.
  • Put the other cake on top and spoon the remaining cream over the top. (I also spread it on the sides but that is optional).
  • Arrange the remaining cherries on top and sprinkle on the grated chocolate.
  • Serve chilled

IMG_2521

Tips and Variations:

  • Make sure your cakes are completely cooled before adding any cream because the cream will melt on a hot cake.
  • Muscavado sugar can get quite lumpy so I would advise just breaking up any big lumps before adding it in to the mixture.
  • If you’re a bit more confident you can cover the sides of cake with grated chocolate but again, that’s completely up to you.
  • If you’re not a big fan of cherries or they’re out of season, you can use other black forest fruits, or a mixture of fruits.

Note: I actually used 1 1/2 x this recipe to make a large cake because I was having family round the second time I baked. The recipe I have shared with you serves 12.

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Bread Rolls

IMG_2539[1]Bread always seemed like a daunting bake to me. I once made doughnuts and the process of getting yeast to rise and allowing it enough time to do so, instantly made me think that it would be really difficult to make. It was only recently that I decided to challenge myself to making bread rolls. It was surprisingly simple and they turned out really well. So much so that I’m considering asking my family to stop buying bread given all the recent news about the chemicals and hair that are added to it, and just making my own. So I thought I would share my very simple recipe, which is really adaptable to any flavour you fancy. I’ve made onion seed  (black seed) rolls, oregano and thyme rolls and sun dried tomatoes and black olive bread so far, and all of them have turned out delicious.

To start off, here is some bread science that I learned while researching bread before I attempted it:

– Many experienced bakers said that recipes on the back of bread flour packets have very little respect for the art of bread making. They usually consist of quick recipes that don’t tend to turn out very well.

– Bread making is very simple, but it takes time. To save time many recipes will ask you to leave the dough in a warm place to allow the yeast to work in so the dough can rise. Yeast works quicker in hotter places. However, making the yeast slow down it’s process not only makes the bread softer and more delicious, but stops that fermenting smell that often comes with yeast and heat. Allowing the yeast to rise in the fridge for an hour (or overnight if you want to make it before hand) gives you a much better dough to work with.

Ingreedients: 

  • 500g of Plain FlourIMG_2529[1]
  • 2tsps of Salt
  • 1 1/2 tsps of Caster sugar
  • 1 tbl of Yeast (or one 7g sachet)
  • 300ml of Lukewarm Water
  • 3 Tbls of Olive Oil
  • Any flavour you want 1Tbls of Onion seeds/ 1tbls of Oregano and thyme mixed/ your own flavour

Method: 

  • Combine the flour, salt, caster sugar and yeast in a bowl.
  • Once combined make a well in the center of the bowl.
  • Pour in the water and olive oil.
  • Gradually bring in the flour mixture from the side of the bowl to combine with the water.
  • Mix in to a dough.
  • Add any flavourings you wish to add.
  • Transfer to the worktop and begin to knead. Please note that the dough will be quite wet at first, but will become the right consistency (elasticy and smooth) through 8-10 mins of kneading. Adding more flour will only make the bread more dense).
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a cloth.
  • Allow to rise (preferably in the fridge) for at least an hour, but can be kept overnight if need be.
  • Take your dough out of the fridge and knead again for about 10 mins.
  • Divide the dough in to 8 equal sections and roll in to rounds.
  • Leave the rolls to prove for another hour. (They usually double in size).
  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius/ gas mark 6.
  • Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 mins until they are golden brown.
  • Enjoy hot, spread with butter, or slice in half and toast.
Posted in Food | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Light Inside You Stole

There was a light you took from me a long time ago. A light that was not yours to take. A light I needed. I’m here to take it back. 

For years now, I’ve been in darkness, never being able to see the colours of the rainbow,

Only the shades of grey in the rain.

I grew to love it, misunderstood,

A beautiful song falling through the trees, pattering on the pavement,

Each drop a note,

Sad and mournful,

Fast and angry,

Tired and alone,

I am the rain, the rain is me.

There is comfort in the familiar, but it’s all I ever see, and I’m ready to see more.

The world is black and white, but this Earth screams in colour.

I want to smell the purples, feel the heat in the yellow, the cold in the blue,

The warmth inside me, letting go of you.

I’ve been afraid to open the closet.

It’s not so much that I was scared of seeing the cold white bones that make up your skeleton, than the raging beast of your blackened heart, held only by the weakest strings of mine, hidden by faltering smiles and false laughter.

I’ve been afraid, but now I’m here to rescue myself,

To take the reds and greens, the oranges and browns, the purples, the blues, the pinks, the yellows, and put them back inside.

You can fight,

You can break me,

Take everything I have,

Walk over the shattered pieces of my heart that I never learned how to fix,

But I will stand up, and I will come back

Again and again,

Until I take back what belongs to me.

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Regrets, Resolutions and Sticking to Goals

As a new year begins people often have the intention to do or be certain things for the next 12 months. They make resolutions and vow to stick them, though many never do. I was never one for making new year’s resolutions, as I rarely saw anyone be successful with theirs, so I saved myself from the embarrassment of giving up or forgetting just a few days down the line. As someone who has a slight cynical streak, especially regarding commercialised festivities, I always believed that new year’s resolutions were made on a whim. Still in good spirits from the holidays, people generally tend to think they have more will power than they actually do. I was always more likely to make goals for myself during the course of the year and stick to them instead. That being said, now 20, and about to enter my final semester of university, quickly followed by entering the world of work, or the ‘real’ world as many like to call it (because up until now I’ve been living where?), I feel the need to set myself goals to make the transition as smooth as possible. I think one of the main problems with new year’s resolutions or goal is the way in which we make them. If made properly I think people would be more likely to stick to them, and so, what I am going to share are ways in which we can stick to our goals for the year.

1. Regrets

Regrets are something we should all aim to never have. They’re a resonance of the idea that something went wrong and we weren’t able to recover from it. I think to be successful we have to be brutally honest with ourselves and reflect on those regrets. What went wrong? Why did it go wrong? How could we have prevented it? A step down from regrets is things we wish we had done but never did. Could we have done them? Why didn’t we?

2. Positive Language

Think positively. As humans we are more likely to respond to statements that are positive or suggest gain than those that are negative or suggest loss. Instead of saying ‘lose weight’ the aim should really be ‘be (more) healthy.’ Instead of ‘stop being lazy’ we say ‘be productive.’ Or even ‘eat more fruit,’ rather than ‘stop eating chocolate.’

3. Flimsy Goals

Make resolutions that aren’t going to be broken in seconds. If you’re resolution was to not eat chocolate and you put a square of dairy milk in your mouth, you’ve lost. Resolutions like that can be really unproductive and in just a matter of a few seconds can make us lose our will power. Instead we should make goals that focus on our overall aim, but give us some leeway so not to be broken instantly.

4. Breakdown the Resolution

Another problem with new year’s resolutions is that we make one and then expect to follow it through for a full year. Not only can that get boring, but it can also be hard to follow, and overwhelming. We should, of course, have an overall aim, but we should have smaller aims along the line to help us reach it. For example if your goal is to be healthy, or get to a goal weight, you could break that down. By then end of January where would you like to be? February? March? etc. Each month is a new goal and that keeps you engaged with your resolution the whole year long.

5. Write it Down!

We are much more likely to stick to something written down than we are to something that was said. Write down your aims. You can eve write down how you’re doing with your resolution if that helps.

6. Don’t Let One Bad Day Dishearten You.

We’re all going to have days when our resolutions just fly out the window. It’s at this point, when there’s been a bad day, that many people give up. Accept that not everyday is going to go perfectly, and start each day a fresh. Just like this is a new year, every day is a new day. Forget the over indulgence from the night before, and vow to do better today.

Those are my tips for sticking to resolutions. If anyone else has any others I’d love to hear them down below in the comment section. Hope you all have a wonderful year and enjoy the last couple of days of the holidays (if you have them)

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Simple Chocolate Cake/ Cupcakes

IMG_2495[1]Simple chocolate cakes/ cupcakes are the most requested bakes I get on Instagram. These cakes are simple, really quick and require very little expert skills, but taste amazing. They melt in the mouth and the chocolate satisfies that chocolate craving. This mixture also works for both a small simple chocolate cake and cupcakes so you can make whatever it is you fancy.

To make 12 large cupcakes or 1 small cake

Ingredients:IMG_2487[1]

– 250g of softened butter or margarine (I like to use margarine as I think it makes the cake much fluffier).

– 200g of caster sugar (if you have golden caster sugar  I would recommend using it, but white caster sugar is also fine).

– 3 large eggs

-225g of self raising flour (sifted).

-25g of coco powder (sifted)

– 150g of chocolate plus extra for decorating.

IMG_2430[1]Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 Degrees Celsius/ Gas Mark 4/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Whisk together the margarine and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy (I find the longer I do this the lighter and nicer the cake).
  • Add the eggs and whisk on a lower speed.
  • Sieve and add half the flour and coco powder and mix well.
  • Mix in the melted chocolate.
  • Sieve and add the rest of the flour
  • Take care to make sure that the mixture is well mixed and then pour in to cupcake cases or a greased cake tin.
  • Bake in the oven for roughly 15 minutes for cupcakes or 30/35 minutes for a cake, until a toothpick comes out clean or the cupcakes are springy to touch.
  • Take them out and transfer to a wire rack.
  • While the cupcakes are still hot add one square of chocolate to each cupcake or about 12 on your cake and spread over while the chocolate melts.

Tips and Variations

  • If you want a simple plain cupcake the 25g of coco butter can be replaced with 25g of self raising flour (so just 250g of flour) and the chocolate can be taken out.
  • The cake batter may seem a little runnier than other cake mixtures because of the melted chocolate, do not be alarmed. This is how it’s meant to be.
  • You can make your cupcakes or cake as fancy or as simple as you like. I like to add chocolate orange instead of milk chocolate to create these cupcakes, or add chocolate buttercream which you can get a recipe for here.
  • You don’t have to add chocolate on top, you can keep them plain or add icing, frosting or buttercream.
  • The cakes usually last 3/4 days if stored in an airtight container.
Posted in Food | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

15 Most Inspiring Literary Characters

The worst question that can ever be posed to someone who is obsessed with books, is who are your favourite characters? Narrowing down the hundreds of fictional people, close to your heart, that you feel you’ve connected with over the years is agonising. So I thought it would be fun to put myself to the torture challenge and choose my most inspiring characters. Picking just 10 was impossible, and while 15 was still very difficult, I thought I had better stop before it became a post thousands of pages long with the name of every character who has ever made it in to my heart.

  1. Geogeorgerge Milton – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

“A guy needs somebody―to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. I tell ya, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick.”

At number 15 comes in George Milton from the GCSE favourite Of Mice and Men. George’s friendship and loyalty to the simple minded Lenny is selfless and admirable and his mercy is heartbreakingly inspiring. While he is complicated, intelligent and hard working, his best quality is his the size of his heart.

  1. Allan Karlson – The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

“People could behave how they liked, but Allan considered that in general it was quite unnecessary to be grumpy if you had the chance not to.” 

I hope that if I ever reach h the ripe old age of 100 and I accidentally pee on my fluffy slippers and can barely stand the people around me, I have not only the guts and the nerve, but the sense of allanhumour and outlook on life of Allan Karlson. This guy had me in hysterics from his very first thoughts and had well earned my support by the time he was being chased around the country by an angry drug dealer.

  1. Matilda Wormwood – Matilda by Rohal Dahl

“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”

I began my journey with Matilda at the age of 7 and have revisited her every holiday since. Her intelligence and determination despite her cruel and neglecting parents and then her scary head mistress Ms Trunchbull was a true source of inspiration as a child. Her love for books and her sense of adventure, and commitment to doing the right thing made a wonderfully relatable character.

  1. Lucy Pevensie – The chronicles of Narnia by Lewis Carroll

 “I don’t care what you think, and I don’t care what you say. You can tell the Professor or you can write to Mother or you can do anything you like. I know I’ve met a Faun in there”

Lucy Pensive, another childhood favourite. Lucy’s sense of adventure and her amazingly good instinct and judgement were what made The Chronicles of Narnia so fun to read. When she becomes a Queen, she is known as Queen Lucy the Valliant, which gives a strong sense of her character as a warrior.

  1. samSam Gamgee – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy By J.R.R Tolkein

“And yet their wills did not yield, and they struggled on.”

Let’s be honest, Frodo would never have succeeded with the task without Sam, and he barely gets the appreciation he deserves. So for his unwavering loyalty and his keenness to assist Frodo, I award Sam a place on my list.

  1. Dr Jekyll – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

“I learned to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both.” 

While Dr Jekyll may seem like a bit of twisted choice, he recoginsed that no human is purely good or purely evil, which was demonstrated by the Jekyll/Hyde split personality drama. I learnt that as just a person, I am going to make mistakes and that is okay, because I am not configured to be perfect. A very nice message indeed to contract from a Gothic Horror novel.

  1. Charlie – Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still Charlie_profiletrying to figure out how that could be.”

Charlie is a character that always felt real to me. There are very few literary characters that can acknowledge the true range of emotions that people feel, yet the character of Charlie managed to portray them so well, even if they were contradictory. He went through something truly tragic and we see him trying to deal with those events, while simultaneously balancing school and attempting to make friends. The fact that he suffers with anxiety and bouts depression, and yet has special moments of optimism is a true source of hope.

  1. Atticus Finch – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

Atticus Finch is one of the most inspirational and memorable characters of the 20th century. He stays true to the belief that every single person is equal regardless of the colour of their skin and he actively fights racial injustice. In the 1960’s this would have been a very bold move for a white man, but he sticks to his guns and sees through that justice is served. Doing what’s easy, is rarely doing what’s right.

  1. Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collinskatniss

Despite the lack of inspirational quotes in the Hunger Games, the strong, independent, female lead, Katniss Everdeen, is a symbol of women’s strength. She is not only physically strong, and skilled, she also has a strong mind and will, which are the kinds of qualities that need to be attributed to women more.

6. Hermione – The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

 “I never wished to see you sorry; now / I trust I shall.”

The original Hermione who gave her name to the Harry Potter character we all know and love was very slick herself. She pretty much faked her own death to teach her over jealous and judgemental husband a lesson.  The tragic-comedy is set in a time when women could only dream of showing their men how wrong they were, but Hermione takes her fate in to her own hands and decides enough is enough.

  1. Neville Longbottom – Harry Potter by J.K Rowling

‘It takes a grenevilleat deal of courage to stand up to your enemies but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.’

Mr Neville Longbottom may not have been ‘The Chosen One,’ but his character is fundamental to the plot. The clumsy, forgetful, 11 year old we grow to love in The Philosopher’s Stone grows in to the bravest kid in the book. Not only does he stands up for himself and the entire wizarding population to none other than the most feared, dark wizard of all time, but he karate chop, sword slices, the head off the final horcrux, Nagini. I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s pretty bad-ass in my eyes.

  1. Nick Caraway – The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

 “Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.”

“It occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well.” 

“Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever know.”

You might have noticed that there are a couple more quotes for Mr. Nick Caraway than there is for the other characters, but there were at least 50 more that I could have included. Nick is a beautiful, sensitive, eloquent character; quiet, un-judging, yet highly observant.  He supports what is right and true in the company of those who would sell their souls for wealth and power.

  1. hermioneHermione Granger – The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling

‘The brightest witch of her age.’

Being extremely intelligent, extremely brave and extremely loyal are qualities to be celebrated. Hermione is inspiring due to the fact that she is a strong, smart female character who saves her male counterparts from uncertain fatalities consistently throughout the series.

2.Severus Snape – The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling

“Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to snapeSnape, and his eyes were full of tears.
“After all this time?”
“Always,” said Snape.” 

Severus Snape is a character I loved from the very moment I met him. I sensed something very special the first time Harry Potter saw him sitting on the teachers’ table at the top of The Great Hall, and his scar prickled. From then we were taken on a rollercoaster of emotions regarding his true motives and his real alliance. But Snape was good. Good from the very moment that Voldemort threatened Lily Evans because he loved for all his life. I can only have the utmost respect for a man who risked his life everyday to honour the memory of a loved one, and truly defeat the one who killed her.

  1. GatsbyJay Gatsby – The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life.… [Gatsby had] an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.”

“He smiled understandingly—much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”

No amount of words could ever convey the love I have for The Great Gatsby himself, which is why he makes it to the top spot on my list. Gatsby’s dedication, commitment, determination is infectious to say the least. His optimism and his innocence and naivety pulls on my heartstrings in a way no other fictional being has been able to do. Gatsby is the kind of person I would like to be; to be able to believe the good in evil, to be able to love wholeheartedly, to believe so strongly that I could have anything if I wanted it enough. Gatsby is a one of a kind character who, despite his shortcomings, and delusional ideas about the world, is sensitive and beautiful, and worthy of number 1.

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Malteser Tiffin

As a university student with a mum who works full time, it can be difficult to find the time or activities to do together. Especially as my mother’s idea of a good time doesn’t involve bowling, or the cinema, or listening to me go on and on about the latest book I’ve just read. So when, on one cold October Saturday, she suggested we do some baking, I was more than happy to whip out the old recipe books and find something I’d never tried before.

The great thing about Tiffin is that it doesn’t need oven time, it’s simple and because of the tons of chocolate that goes in to it, it’s also delicious. While the recipe is easy enough for a single person to get on with, it’s also a great one to get the kids involved in. Mashing up biscuits in to crumbs and breaking up chocolate seems to be something they particularly like.

IMG_2259.JPG
You will need
For the tiffin:
– 200g of milk chocolate
-100g of butter
-2tbs of golden syrup
-225g of digestive biscuits
-135g of maltesers
For the topping:
-200g of milk chocolate
-25g of unsalted butter
-1tsp of golden syrup

Method:
– Line a 20cm square baking tin with grease proof paper.
-Place the 200g of chocolate, butter and syrup in bowl and melt over a pan of hot water. (This can be done in a microwave but I think it works better with water on the gas)
– when the chocolate has melted, remove from the heat and stir. Allow the chocolate to cool a little to cool a little.
– Put the biscuits and 35g of the Maltesers in a food bag and crush with a rolling pin until fine. (A few chunky bits don’t matter).
– Add the crushed mixture and whole Maltesers (keep 1 or 2 for yourself) to the melted chocolate and stir it in well.
-Press into the prepared tin and make the topping.

-Melt the chocolate, butter and syrup in a bowl over hot water as before.
– Pour over the tiffin
-Cover the tin in cling film and pop it in the fridge for a couple of hours to set before cutting it in to squares or triangles.

Tips and Variations
– Make sure you use the right amount of butter and chocolate as too much butter will result in a layer of fat on top of the tiffin, which doesn’t taste great.
– We ran out of maltesers and topped up with some chopped up crunchie which was delicious, so try your favourite chocolate bar.
– Patience- Allow the tiffin to set! It tastes so much better than when it’s runny.
– The tiffin can be kept in the fridge for over a week so make it in advance and keep it if you like.

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Prisoners of Forgiveness

They say that forgiveness is setting a prisoner free and then realising that all along the prisoner was you. They say that only the stupid and the weak do not forgive and that as people, we need both to forgive and be forgiven. But if that were true, and all along as humans we have the innate urge to forgive, or that is what we are morally obliged to do, then why do we have the unforgivable?

There are catastrophic events that stem from an accident; a house down in flames because of a split second of carelessness, or someone being seriously injured or hurt because of one bad judgement. In cases like those, we know that the person at fault never intended harm and is probably weighed down with guilt and shame. Somehow it’s easier to forgive someone who can’t even think about forgiving themselves. Then there are people who went out in to the world with evil on their minds; the murderers, the rapists, the paedophiles, the abusers. Those who did bad, knowingly and intentionally: those who never felt remorse for their actions, no matter how much damage they did.

There will of course, be past sinners who repent and pay for their actions every day. They will acknowledge that what they did was wrong and spend their whole lives trying to make up for what they did. Those people have changed. But the people who never did and never want to, do they deserve forgiveness? It’s easy to say, forgive and forget and it’s also easy to say forgive but never forget. There are things in life that are unforgettable, no matter how hard you might try to erase them, they’re etched into your memory forever, and if you can’t forget something, can you ever really forgive it?

What people fail to remember is that every action has consequences. The murder of someone close to you doesn’t just affect you for a few months or even a few years. The pain of losing them lasts a life time. Every time you see something that reminds you of them, it brings back painful memories. The effects of rape and sexual abuse don’t ever go away. It brings a life time of insecurity, anxiety and an inability to trust, and the images of the attacks or years of abuse will constantly flash in a victims mind, making the scars and wounds of the abuse seems raw and fresh. The abuse of a child will negatively impact on their whole life. The transition in to adulthood is difficult enough as it is, without a painful past, so how do we expect a child who has only ever known violence and abuse to get through unscathed?

I understand that morally, religiously, spiritually, many believe that it is better to forgive. It is often said that we should forgive, because we would want to be forgiven. But honestly, if I were to ever commit such a heinous crime, and not feel remorse, I don’t think I would deserve forgiveness. For me, forgiveness is all about intention. I can forgive a mistake; I could forgive a hundred mistakes.  But there are some things, committed only with wrong intent, like rape, murder and abuse that I can’t. I feel that forgiveness in situations like that is in a way pardoning the crime. It is like saying that it is okay and it opens up a door to recommit those crimes with your blessing. I also think that it retracts from the seriousness of the actions, and downplays the damage that is done by them.

Maybe I am wrong or weak as the countless quotes on forgiveness might suggest, but that is how I feel. Are there things you think are unforgivable? Or do you believe that everything can be forgiven, and if you do, how would you deal with forgiveness in a situation that deals directly with you or someone very close to you?

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The Art in a Broken Heart

There’s something deeply satisfying about taking negative energy and turning it in to something positive; an achievement, something to be proud of.  Sadness, anger and negativity can often get the better of the best of us, and it can be really difficult to get ourselves out of a downward spiral without doing something with all those feelings, and the best thing to do with those feelings is to express them. And the best way to express, is through art.

Now art can be anything if you do it right. It can be the traditional painting, drawing, rose and girlglueing, crafting kind but it doesn’t have to be. Art can be words, in the form of poetry or fiction. It can be therapy through cooking and baking. It can be sports or fishing or even gaming. Anything can be art if you put your heart and soul in to it. It is one of the rare, amazing, gifts we have that is so personal and yet easy to share. Art is part of every single one of us and I think it is that which makes it so beautiful. Art is literally a piece of our hearts.

As a more traditional ‘Art’ist, I write, draw, paint and bake my feelings away, and I think my best pieces have come from a sore heart. Raw, uncensored art is always the richest. I write both stories and poetry and even just words that mean something significant. There’s a lot of cobook and penmfort in being able to record a feeling. Perhaps it’s because, as Dumbledore said, in his not so humble opinion, that words are the most inexhaustible source of magic we have. Words can make you feel better in a way that is unexplainable. It is magic. And for those odd occasions where words fail me, or there are just too many words to even begin to comprehend, I like to pick up a sketching pencil and draw the hurt away instead. Perhaps I’m just a little too emotional, but I have to say, it really does help, if even temporarily.

Baking is the best natural stress relief I have ever come across. If you’re angry take it out on the butter and sugar. Let it whisk away your stress (pun intended). Baking is therapeutic and at the end you get to eat your feelings if the beating didn’t help (which of course should only be done in moderation).

And even if your artistic endeavours don’t quite go as planned, take a look at other people’s art. If writing is an art, then a book is an artists’ product. Escape reality for a few hours by jumping in to a fictional world. Let yourself only have the characters problems, not your own. Go to a museum or an art gallery and look at paintings, or search Google Images if you don’t want to leave your room. Find something that makes you smile and take it from there.

The next time you’ve had a particularly bad day, or you just feel like giving up, pick up a paint brush, or a spatula, or whatever tool it is that helps you express yourself and immerse yourself in an art that keeps you driven and motivated, but above all makes you happy.  lots

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Raspberry and Almond Shortbread Cookies

IMG_2171-0.JPGEvery once in a while we have those
days where we crave the taste of a home made treat but just don’t have the energy to spend a couple of hours beating, blending and baking up a masterpiece. For those days there is this gift of a biscuit that has the buttery, melt in the mouth properties of shortbread, the beautiful aroma of French almond extract and the tangy sweetness of raspberry jam. The best part of this biscuit however is that it takes less than 10 minutes to prepare and only 15 minutes in the oven (and even less time to demolish) making them the perfect, quick and simple, yet delicious biscuit to satisfy the cravings.

To make roughly 15 cookies:

Ingredients
225g of butter, softened
125g of caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon of French Almond Extract
250g of plain flour
Seedless raspberry jam

For the glaze (optional)
60g icing sugar
3/4 teaspoon of almond extract
1 to 2 tablespoons of milk

Method IMG_2170.JPG
– Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ gas Mark 4 and grease and line 2 baking trays

– Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth

– mix in 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract

– add the flour and bring together to form a dough

– roll the dough in to balls roughly 3cm in size and place on baking tray far enough apart from each other to grow while cooking.

– Using your thumb press an indent in to each ball and fill with raspberry jam

– place in the oven for 15 minutes

Glaze
– To make the glaze mix together the icing sugar and almond extract and add the milk until smooth and thick (but pourable for drizzling)
– when the cookies are out of the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes then drizzle the glaze over them.
– Enjoy!

Tips and variations
– to beat the butter and sugar using an electric mixer to speed up the process but use your hands to form the dough when you add the flour
– the cookies should be slightly soft when they come out of the oven. They will harden a little while they cool
– you could try your own flavours with variations of jam or extracts, or even add fruit or chocolate chips to the dough.
– the glaze is optional but I think it really finishes the biscuit and it smells divine!

IMG_2176.JPG

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Lets Talk About Depression

It is predicted that at least 1/5 of the adult population of the UK suffers with depression. It is also a fact that 80% of people with the illness do not seek treatment. It is the most common mental health disorder in the world, with a worst case scenario side effect of suicide, and yet it is so stigmatised that the majority of sufferers are unable to ask for help. We must ask ourselves why, in the 21st century, when we have the sensitivity and the awareness of the scientific, medical and physical effects of depression, we alienate and isolate those with the mental health issue.

Depression has long been the object of ridicule. It has been branded as everything from sadness to self pity and has  been responded to with pull yourself together or get a grip. With the medical knowledge that we currently have and the sheer amount of mental health awareness schemes, it isn’t feasible to suggest that our information regarding depression is limited. We know that there are very physical and very real effects on both the mind and body.princ_rm_pet_scan_of_depressed_brain We know that depression can lead to many other serious health conditions such as increased risk of stroke, or coronary heart disease. We know that is the second greatest killer of people in Europe and America, and yet we do not make enough of an effort to deal with the problem.

depression2The fact of the matter is, depression is uncomfortable. For those of us who have or are suffering with it, we are well antiquated with the uncomfortable nature of the ugly disease and for those who haven’t, I would suggest that the problem is not the lack of knowledge of depression, but the lack of knowledge on how to help those who are dealing with it. Depression hits each and every person in it’s own unique way and it is that which makes it that little bit more tricky to deal with. We don’t know whether to offer our condolences or offer our insight. It’s a game of operation with very real and dire consequences.

Depression is not sadness. At least its not just sadness. It can be the complete lack of feeling, or even feeling too much. It can be like feeling alienated, bitter, irritated, angry, isolated, alone, deflated, lethargic, like having all of your energy sucked out of you. Or as Bilbo Baggins’ put it feeling thin and stretched like butter scraped over too much bread. It is the most horrible darkness and it can be weeks, months or even years before the mindless fumbling leads you to a light switch. And even then, it’s an energy saving one and it can take a really long time before it finally gives you enough light to find your way out of the tunnel. And the worst part is that there is no guarantee that you won’t find yourself back lost in the seemingly never ending tunnel of meaningless.

Sometimes we know why we’re there, and sometimes we have no idea. With the range ofo-DEPRESSION-facebook possibilities it can be difficult to know where to start. If you are suffering from depression, my advice would be, to talk. I know that it can seem like the hardest thing to do, but I can guarantee that it will help, if even temporarily. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if that is what you need. And if you are someone who knows someone who deals with depression, your first step is to listen. do not judge, do not interrupt. Assure your friend you will be there for them and let them say what they need to say. After all you can’t help if you don’t know what they’re dealing with. Remember each person is different, and so the way they handle things will be different. Do not assume and do not compare. And maybe if we educate ourselves on how to help and how to talk about difficult subjects like depression, we can end the stigma attached to it, and allow those who need help, to seek it freely.

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The (30 miles North of) Manchester Tart

School dinners: the Marmite of childhood. Sometimes loved, sometimes despised, but almost always the subject of some fond distant memory. In the days of hot school lunches followed by a limited but exciting range of puddings at the IMG_2055ripe old age of eight, I came across what would become the pudding I both requested the most, and failed to find the most. The Manchester Tart. I can’t quite remember what it was about the pudding that made it so appealing. I’m not all that big a fan of shortcrust pastries, but something about the way that the soft bananas merged with the egg custard made me crave it for years and years without ever finding anything that compared. And when there’s something you can’t find, the best thing to do is make it yourself. I surfed the web for days and days finding many variations of the tart but ended up concocting my own recipe with a little twist. Raspberries. I decided that the tiny tangy fruit would complement the sweetness of the custard and the banana, and though the tarts ended up tasting nothing like the actual Manchester Tarts that I remember, they were (not to blow my own trumpet) delicious.

So without further ado, here is my recipe for raspberry and banana Manchester Tarts.

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

  • 150g of unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 175g of plain flour
  • 1 tsp of baking powder

For the filling: 

  • Raspberry jam
  • Bananas
  • Raspberries

For the Custard:

  • 175ml of milk
  • 5 tbs of custard powder
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 4 tbs of caster sugar

To Decorate:

  • Grated Chocolate
  • Raspberries

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ gas mark 4/ 356 degrees Fahrenheit and grease the back side of a cupcake tray.
  • Cream together the butter and the sugar until fluffy, beat in the egg, then add the flour and backing powder to form a soft dough.
  • Roll out the dough and cut out circles using a large sized cookie cutter.
  • Place each circle of dough on to the back side of the greased tray, folding the edges down and around the cupcake tray.
  • Place in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden.
  • Remove the pastry shells and allow to cool.
  • Spread the inside of each case with raspberry jam and top with sliced banana and raspberry.
  • In a saucepan, heat 175ml of milk and in a separate bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and custard powder.
  • Pour a little of the hot milk into the bowl and mix to form a paste.
  • Then add the paste to the saucepan and heat until a thick custard has formed.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, stirring occasionally so the custard does not set.
  • Fill each of the shells with the custard.
  • Top with a raspberry and grated chocolate.
  • Put in the fridge for 20 minutes to set.
  • Remove from fridge and enjoy.

Variations and other notes. 

  • I did not have tartlet cases and so used the backside of a cupcake tray. If you have the proper tartlet cases use them.
  • You can also make one big tart to share rather than making individual tarts. Just line and grease a baking tin instead.
  • To make a more authentic tart try making without the raspberries and top with dessicated coconut.
  • Do not leave the tarts in the fridge once they have set as the pastry will become soggy.
  • Roll out the dough so that it is reasonably thin so the pastry will be crispy.
  • You can try out your own tarts with different fruits and jams.
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#HeForShe A Feminist Protest (The Language Perspective)

Throughout the history of the English Language seemingly neutral words have gone through a process of pejoration or amelioration; meaning that they have acquired either negative or positive connotations, respectively. In English we have many paired nouns that refer to either the masculine or the feminine. In the initial use of the words, they were completely equal in meaning, other than one referred to a male and one referred to a female. Almost always the case has been that the feminine noun has been pejorised while the masculine noun has acquired positive connotations. For example, an unmarried man over the age 30, known as a bachelor, is thought of in a favourable way. You can imagine a handsome, free, happy man, while the feminine version, meaning an unmarried woman over the age of 30, spinster, has been branded with negativity. The image of a frantic middle-aged woman, full of bitterness, with unruly hair and a house full of cats springs to mind.

These are the first images that came up on google when I typed in ‘Spinster’ and ‘Bachelor’.

Spinning-Spinner 201212062204 (1)

Similarly, sir – a respectable gentleman, madame – a bossy, annoying woman. Prince- royalty, princess – spoilt. Dog – a domestic pet, man’s best friend, bitch- an insult The list goes on and on. My theory is that in a setting wherFeminismradicalnotion-1e there is equality between man and woman, culturally, society has taught us that it is unacceptable, so we lower the status of a woman, and heighten the respect of a man, to correspond with societies views of the sexes.

This belittling of women occurs frequently in the English language. The pet names used. duck, chick, pet, love, baby, are all designed to be diminishing. Even the use of ‘woman’ has become a way of insult or offence, in alright woman, chill woman. And it is wrong. But I believe that with unity and passion, this could change.

I’m sure by now, we’ve all seen and heard the inspirational speech by the talented, intelligent, and successful Emma Watson for UN Women. If not, watch it here. 

To reiterate Watson’s points and add in a few of my own ramblings, feminism is not just a problem for women, it is an issue for all of humanity. As women, we should be able to be strong, passionate, intelligent, without being labelled emotionless, bossy, manly. We should be able to have aspirations despite the fact that one day our bodies may bear a child. Our bodies should not be objectified, or mutilated for the pleasures or comfort of others. We should not be treated as possession or have our thoughts and opinions discarded purely because of womanhood. We should not have our naked bodies splashed over trashy newspapers or be threatened with this either. We should have the right to be paid the same as a man for doing the same job. All over the world, there are women who are forced in to oppression, whether that is through them being sexualised, or their intelligence being disregarded, or the denial of their basic rights, such as voting, or working and then there is the massive issue of female genital mutilation.

Men should be able to talk, to have emotions, to be vulnerable in situations where they are worried or scared without being laughed at for being weak or feminine. They shouldn’t have to live up to the ideal of a masculinity that encourages aggressiveness and they should be allowed to have a good and caring relationship with their children without it being weird; care for their partner without being ‘whipped’. We should all have the freedom of being who we are without having to deal with the consequences of not fitting a social ideal.

New-FeminismThe only way we can do this is if we all stand up for our rights and our freedoms. We can educate ourselves on the true meaning of feminism instead of spreading around the idea that it is man hating. We can fight inequality and I truly believe that a massive part of this is to ensure that we do not use language pejoratively and instead use it to make a stand. This is something we can change in our lifetime to secure a better future for the generations to come.

To finish with Emma Watson’s inspirational words…

If not me, who? If not now, when?

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The Novice No Sleeve Baby Sweater

There’s nothing quite like putting in your blood, sweat and tears in to a project where you end up with something so adorable that you’re impressed with it for approximately the rest of your being.photo 2 (2) As a novice knitter ( and somebody who likes to see results fast), I’m always looking for something simple, yet oh so beautiful that I can make. I say simple because I am a pro at dropping stitches and forgetting what line of the pattern I’m on. I know exactly how to get frustrated and start over and over again. I also know how to get so fed up that I hide from the needles for seven to eight months. And when I’m ready to face my fears, I’ve forgotten again, so I need to start over. It’s vicious cycle. So the simpler and quicker the better. I find the best way to jazz something up though, is to use bright, bold colours to hide the simplicity of the actual knitting which is why I chose this particular pattern and adapted it so that it didn’t look so dull.

With only a few weeks left of a close family members pregnancy, I was on a mission to finish this sweater in time for the birth. It was friendly and easy to get the hang of, so has become a favourite of mine.

Size:

This baby sweater will fit a child aged 9-12 months, with ages 2 & 3 in brackets alongside the pattern as (age 2: age 3).

Materials:photo 1 (2)

Yarn A – Stylecraft Teal

Yarn B – StyleCraft Mustard

Yarn C- Stylecraft Blue

One pair of 4mm (UK 8/US6) needles

2 Stitch Holders

Large Eyed Needle

Tension: 

22sts and 28 rows to 10cm over st st on 4mm

Instructions:

Back:

  • Cast on 62 sts with Yarn B (66:70)
  • Row 1 – (RS) Rib K2 [P2 K2] till end
  • Change to Yarn A
  • Row 2 – P2 [K2 P} till end
  • Work a further 3 rows inc 2sts evenly across last row.
  • Work in stripe pattern of [2 rows of yarn B, 4 Rows in Yarn C, 2 Rows of Yarn B, 4 Rows of Yarn A] throughout.
  • Beginning with a knit row, work in st st until back measures 15cm (17cm: 19cm) from cast on edge, ending with a purl row.

Shape Armholes:

  • Cast off 6sts at beg of 2 rows. (52 (56:60) sts)
  • Next row: K2, skpo, k to last 4 sts, K2Tog, K2
  • Next row: P to end
  • Rep last 2 rows x3.(4:5) (44 (46:48) sts) **
  • Continue in st st until back measures 26 (29: 32) cm from cast on edge ending with a WS row.

Shape Back Neck:

  • Next row: K12 (12:13). turn and leave remaining sts on a spare needle
  • Next row: P to end
  • Next row: K to last 3 sts, K2Tog. K1
  • Next row: P to end (11 (11:12) sts)
  • Cast off.
  • With RS facing place centre 20 (22:22) sts on a stitch holder, rejoin yarn to remaining sts and K to end.
  • Next row: K1, skpo, k to end
  • Next row: P to end (11 (11:12) sts)
  • Cast off

Front:

  • Work as given for back until **
  • Continue in st st until front measures 20 (23:26) cm from cast on edge, ending with a WS row.

Shape Front Neck:

  • Next Row: K16 (17: 18), turn and leave remaining sts on a spare needle
  • Next row: P to end
  • Next row: K to last 3 sts, K2Tog, K1
  • Next row: P to end
  • Rep last 2 rows x 4 (5:5) (11 (11:12) sts)
  • Work straight until front measures same as back to shoulder
  • cast off
  • With RS facing, place centre 12 sts on a stitch holder and rejoin yarn to remaining 16 sts, K to end.
  • Next row: P to end
  • Next row: K1, Skpo, K to end
  • Rep last 2 rows x4 (5:5)
  • Work straight until front measures same as back to shoulder
  • Cast off

Neckband

  • Join right shoulder seam
  • With Yarn A, pick up and K24 down LS of front neck, K12 from front neck stitch holder, pick up and K24 up RS of front neck, 6 sts down RS back neck, K20 (22:22) sts from back stitch holder, pick up and K6 up LS back neck.
  • Next row: P2 [K2, P2] to end.
  • Next row: K2 [P2, K2] to end.
  • Next row: P2 [K2, P2] to end.
  • Change to Yarn B
  • Next row: K2 [P2, K2]
  • Cast off in rib

Arm Bands:

  • Join left shoulder and neckband seam.
  • With Yarn A, RS facing, pick up and K70 (74:78) sts.
  • Next row: P2 [K2, P2] to end.
  • Next row: K2 [P2, K2] to end.
  • Next row: P2 [K2, P2] to end.
  • Change to Yarn B
  • Next row: K2 [P2, K2]
  • Cast off in rib.

Making Up:

  • Join side and armband seams.
  • Darn in ends

Notes:

  • This pattern is adapted from Baby &  Toddler Knits made easy with some of my own adaptations.
  • You can use any 3 colours of yarn that appeal to you. I find that it works really well in Blue, Cream and Navy.
  • The arm and neckband can be quite tricky so you might need to put in just an extra ounce of concentration.
  • Iron the knit very lightly once complete to just finish it off.
  • Check yarn label for washing instructions.
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Buttercream Bonanza

Finding that perfect recipe for a buttercream frosting can be very difficult. Sometimes you follow the instructions,obsessively, measuring out exact amounts and it still ends up too sloppy or too tough, or just a mess in every way possible. The thing about buttercream is that it is temperamental; you could follow the same instructions in the same way and it would still turn out different. They type of sugar and butter could make all a huge difference in the consistency as could the method used to beat, which is why I believe, that the perfect buttercream recipe needs to be flexible. So that if you do need to add a little more or a little less of something, you can. So without further ado, this is my buttercream recipe. 

Amount:

Pipes on 12 cupcakes.

Ingredients:

100g Butter (leave out to soften)

200g Icing sugar

15 -20 ml Milk 

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract ( you can also use essence)

Method:

  1. Using an electrical whisk, beat the butter until light and fluffly.
  2. Sift in half of the icing sugar and beat together with the butter. 
  3. Add the milk and vanilla extract and mix.
  4. Slowly add the remaining sugar until it has reached the desired consistency.
  5. Pop in to a piping bag and frost away.

Notes:

Beat the butter alone for around 5 minutes. This will make  sure the butter is sift enough to use. What usually happens when the butter has been whisked enough is that it gets paler in colour. If you’re butter is quite yellow to begin with, aim for a pale yellow or an off white colour. 

When adding the icing sugar mix in gently with a spoon first before going in with a whisk or you might end up with a massive cloud of sugar that settles all over your kitchen. Alternatively use a damp tea towel over the bowl.

You can add up to 100g more icing sugar if the mixture is too sloppy.

You can add a couple more tablespoons of milk if the mixture is too tough.  

 

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The Terrorists in Gaza

Group A: 

Death Toll – 1,800 + in 4 weeks

Injured – 8,300 +

Defence System – No real army or military

Group B:

Death Toll – Less than 70 in 4 weeks

Defence System – Multi – million funded armyincluding a protective iron dome.

Without labelling who Group A and Group B are, there isn’t a shadow of doubt about who the victims are and who the attackers are. However,when we name them Gaza and Israel respectively, that certainty becomes very very blurred. It shocks me that with figures like the ones presented above there are people who genuinely believe that Israel are the hard done victims of this conflict. Large companies such as Tesco, Marks and Spencer, and powerful governments like America and the United Kingdom fund Israel and provides them with arms that effectively are use to kill the civilians of the Gaza Strip. A large percentage of that money also goes to defence systems that allow a certain level of peace of mind to the public against any attack that may come from Palestine. Gaza on the other hand relies on the donation of the sympathetic public of other countries. It does not have the money, the means or the support to attack and it certainly has no provisions to defend itself effectively against the extensive strikes taken out by Israel. gaza-airstrike-2009-001

The media portrays a very narrow-minded, bias view on all news stories, including the Israel/Palestine conflict. Which is why it is important to seek further knowledge on the topic to really understand what is going on in context. There are two periods of time that are crucial to grasp what is going on here. The first pre-dates Israel and Palestine and looks at the meaning and connotations of the land where this war is now taking place. Jerusalem, which is situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea, is one of the oldest cities in the world and is considered holy by all three Abrahamic Faiths. It is thought to be the birth place of Judaism and Christianity, and is also an extremely important place to Islam. There are many different parts of Jerusalem that are important to each of the religions and one place they all share as a holy site is what is now known as Temple Mount.

Jerusalem has been holy to the Jews since the 10th century BCE. It has been given an extremely high status and is the direction of prayer for Jews living outside of the city. Jewish scriptures teach of King David’s struggles to capture Jerusalem and build the Jewish Temple there.

As it is the birthplace of Jesus, Christians consider the city to be of utmost importance. The land of Palestine is also  thought by Christians to hold the cave dwelling of John the Baptist and inhabits the site where Satan failed to tempt Jesus with evil.

In Islam the prophet Mohammed travelled to Jerusalem where he prayed and ascended to the heavens where he met previous prophets. The significance of the city to Islam is so strong that it was the first direction of prayer for the Muslims.

Jerusalem has a strong association with Abraham, David and Solomon; all of which are fundamental to all three of the faiths. Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe that Solomon built his Temple upon the place which is now known as Temple Mount, and they all believe that Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac on Mount Moriah.

Conclusively, the city and it’s surroundings hold extreme value and significance to three sets of people. Over the past three thousand years Jerusalem and the land surrounding the city has been attacked 52 times and has been captured and recaptured 44 times. All of these attacks and captures have been the religions fighting over the land that they believe is rightfully theirs. Therefore, the land cannot be claimed by a religious group purely for the reasons of significance. The land should be respected as holy and important, but by no means, should one religion terrorise and attack those who live in that land by claiming that it is historically theirs.

Now fast forward to the 1920’s when the persecution of Jews was, for want of a better word, horrifying. Jews from all over the world were fleeing from attack. Palestine, at the time, was a majority Arab state. Many Jewish people fled to Palestine where they set up there homes. At this point, with a minority Jewish population, both the Palestinians and the new Jewish community seemed to be living together in some form of harmony. By 1929 the number of Jews living in Palestine had doubled, and the conflict over who owned the Holy Land of Jerusalem began. By the rise of the second World War, many Jewish people recognised that the only way they could save themselves was if there was a Jewish state; a place all Jews could call home. After the war many were sympathetic with the Jews and the newly formed United Nations accepted the proposal that the land of Palestine be partitioned in to Israel (a Jewish State) and Palestine. Since then many attacks and wars have resulted in Israel occupying and taking Palestinian land.

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The current Gaza/ Israel conflict (which forms part of the larger Palestine/Israel conflict) which arose due to the strengthening of a political group in Gaza known as Hamas. Since 2005 Israel has had exclusive control over Gaza. It has complete control over the water supply, electricity and airspace and it continues to patrol and monitor the perimeter of the Gaza Strip. In the summer of 2006, Gaza began to fight the occupation and elected Hamas who have since been fighting the Israeli control over the land. The Palestinian people living in the Gaza strip have been forced to leave their homes, have been persecuted and have been tortured and forced to live in dire conditions.

Hamas attempted to fight the occupation and Israel fought with masses upon masses of bombs, rockets and air strikes that have caused the deaths of over 1,800 Palestinian civilians in only 4 weeks. Schools, hospitals and ‘safe spots’ have been destroyed by Israeli fire in Gaza and children playing outside in the street have been targeted and brutally murdered.Israeli’s have conducted mass arrests on Palestinians, locked up civilians in administrative detention and carried out countless assassinations of Palestinian leaders. They have created barriers, barring Palestinians from travelling and medical care. In contrast less than 70 Israeli people have died as a result of the conflict and any desperate attempt at fire from Hamas has been mainly unsuccessful due to the multi million pound defensive iron dome that protects the land from attack.  Gaza-plane-raid

Hamas has been accused of being a terrorist organisation all over the world. But we must ask ourselves, is fighting oppression a crime? Is it wrong to fight back after years of occupation and hardship? Is a desperate attempt to take back what was rightfully yours terrorism? The Palestinian people have suffered over a half a century of attack upon attack and the majority of the land that they once lived in has been taken. They have been forced to watch their homes destroyed, their family members blown apart in front of them and been made to live in fear of attack and hostility.

The definition of terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit371556_ Ayelet- Shaked of political aims. With this in mind, what would we call the occupation and attack on thousands of people to gain land? What would we call the bombing and shooting down of children to make a political point? What would we call Ayelet Shaked, a well known Israeli politician and member of Parliament that claims all Palestinian mothers should be killed so they cannot give birth to more ‘little snakes’ that wouusa_terroristsld grow up to be Palestinian men? What would we call the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, for ordering the attacks that killed almost 2,000 innocent civilians, to ensure control over the Gaza Strip? And finally, what would we call the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States and many others around the world for funding the murder, genocide, and destruction of the Palestinian people?

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A Word, A Book, Day 30. (Prince/Princess)

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Although there is no one directly called Prince or Princess in Lord of the Rings, there is royalty and characters that have royal blood and I couldn’t do a whole 30 days of books and leave out this legendary J.R.R. Tolkien Trilogy.draft_lens2282877module150837924photo_1308077450tolkien

 

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A Word, A Book, Day 29. (Clumsy)

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Everyday of this challenge I have written about amazing novels, that I think are wonderfully written and expertly imagined and I thought, towards the end, why not include one terribly written book (if it can even enjoy the honour of being called that). Everything from the charaTheTwilightSagaCollectionBookscters, to the plot and the actual writing (and the acting in the film version) of this saga is clumsy. I don’t think there’s much I can say without this turning in to some massive rant about the injustices the author has done on the world of fiction, so instead I will just say, Twilight. 

 

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