Heavenly Angel Cakes

CAKE 2

Icing cakes is an art, the intricate details will never cease to amaze me. My fumbling fingers could never achieve such elegant royal icing roses, but surely everybody has got to start somewhere. I decided to find out by speaking to a professional. I found Claire Jackson, owner of the Heavenly Angel Cakes company.
Claire is a baking and icing entrepreneur, she started baking after she brought a children’s cake decorating book for her two young nieces. Inspired by the beautiful cakes inside when stumped for a christening cake for her daughter she decided to give it a go. All in all the cake turned out to be a success and after posting a picture on her personal Facebook page Heavenly Angel Cakes was born.

If I’m honest though, a beautiful cake is brilliant, but it really matters what it tastes like. I mean we’ve all had a vanilla sponge, but have you ever had ‘luscious Madagascan vanilla’? Not only does Claire offer this but a whole range of flavours from chocolate fudge to lemon or orange zest. My mouth is watering at the thought, and this is without mentioning the array of delicious filling, white, dark and milk chocolate ganache and a whole marching band of buttercreams too be combined with raspberry jam, lemon curd or marmalade. On top of all of this, if you have special requests your cakey dreams can become a reality.
‘Cake making for me is a true passion and I’m always looking for inspiration from everyday things.’
99.9% of Claire’s decoration are handcrafted or painted start to finish, Claire encourages her customers’ to use handcrafted pieces rather than models where possible, mainly using sugar icing so that your little models are still as edible and delicious as your cake.
These detailed creations take hours to perfect, Claire says her more simple cakes take about three and a half hours but a very detailled cake can take twelve hours plus.
Claire is completely self taught, having taken only two short courses at College, which covered only simple royal icing, she has learnt everything she knows from the internet and books. She has achieved numourous awards at wedding and cake shows, competing at the Cake International and The Cake and Bake show.
‘I absolutely love my job and am extremely passionate about it. Every creation I make I treat as though I am making it for myself. If it isn’t good enough for me, it’s certainly not good enough for my client. The hours are long and working well into the small hours is not uncommon. I heard a saying the other month that went ‘When you find the job you love, you’ll never work another day in your life!’ That describes my situation perfectly.’
Claire will soon have her webpage up and running but for now you can contact her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/heavenlyangelcakes, where you can see even more of Claires wonderful creations.

Hitch Hiker

It was one of those cold winter nights. The weather was horrible, sleety slush crashing down against the windscreen. Me and a good friend of mine, Ryan had been up in the fields working on the house I’m building. It’s always been a dream of mine to build a house of my own to live in. The fastest way back home in down the country roads, we decided that although the weather was bad we could brave the deserted country roads. We were in Ryan’s Landover you see, it can make its way through snow drifts. I’d say we were about twenty minutes into our journey when Ryan spotted someone at the side of the road just ahead of us. Ryan slowed down squinting through the windscreen to see what or who it was. The Landover eventually ground to a halt and I was extremely surprised to see a young girl probably about 16 or 17 year old staring into my passenger side window. She was drenched her long blonde hair was clagged together sticking to her face. But her hazel eyes were warm, with freckles dashed under like pebbles, she just needed help. I rolled down the window and asked her if she wanted a lift. I mean we couldn’t just leave her there. She didn’t speak at first, she just nodded timidly. She must’ve been scared. She clambered into the back of the rover, her knees were clanking together from shivering. I was wearing my big puffer coat, I passed it back to her telling her to keep warm. She said thank you, her voice was quiet like a whisper, almost angelic. As we drove she became more confident and told Ryan where she lived thanking us repeatedly for the lift. We pulled up outside a small cottage eventually, red and white roses climbing up the aging brick work. I asked her if she wanted walking to her for but she said ‘no and we had been far too good to her already.’ She jumped out of the rover, turned around to look at us and said ‘thank you again, I’ve been trying to get home for years’. I smiled at her over reaction typical of girls that age. We waited as she walked towards the front gate. Ryan turned to me and asked if I wanted the radio on. I must’ve only looked away for a second, but when I did she was gone. I can only assume she ran into the house. It wasn’t until I was through my own front door that I realised I hadn’t got my coat back of her. Too tired from the fays work I crashed down against my soft pillow and fell into a deep sleep almost instantaneously. I rang Ryan the next morning and asked if he could give me a lift up to her house to retrieve my coat. The snow had fallen heavily overnight and my car would never make it through. As we drove up to the house we talked about the events of the night before, how strange it was. The way she spoke so much older than her years, her outdated clothing. We walked up the path and I knocked on the door. The roses hung low over the door, knocking on the back of my head. Everything about the cottage was run down, the bricks were broken, falling apart. Looking at the garden I could hardly believe the state, weeds popping up through the grass. In fact there might have been more weeds than grass. I became distracted by the large oak door creaking open to reveal a frail old lady, her hair stained orange, obviously a smoker. Her face was wrinkled in a friendly way, smile lines. The smell of fresh baking rushed out of the door and I was hoping we might be invited in for freshly baked cake and a cup of tea for the previous night’s kindness. She spoke gently and kindly ‘How can I help you, young gentlemen’ I cleared my throat trying to regain a voice after my distractions. We explained to her the events of the night before but as we were her expression changed, he friendly eyes became sad and her friendly smile morphed to a blank expression. Once we had finished she said ‘you must be mistaken, it wasn’t my daughter’. Me and Ryan shared a confused look, we had definitely dropped her at this house. I explained this and asked if there were any other young girls in the area, I described her looks from her long blonde hair, to her freckles and the hazel eyes. ‘ That’s my daughter, but it can’t be here, I’ll show you’. She took her walking stick and lead us across the road to a graveyard. We went round the back of the church. The gravestones were planted and off angles. It was eerie hearing the gate at the entrance creek. She led us to the grave in the back corner. There it was. My coat. Folded and balanced on the top of her daughters grave.

Re-cycle, Re-use, Re-sell

We all have got to the fatal point where there is just no more room in your wardrobe for all those clothes, but we just can’t let them go. That dress you brought a few years ago and has always been a bit too short, and quite frankly are you ever going to wear it? It gets to a point when everybody needs a clear out, however there are ways of clearing your wardrobe without it completely crushing your soul.
The most obvious way of recycling your unwanted clothes would be donating to charity; there are a few different ways you can do this. Firstly, any items that are still in good quality will be accepted by charity shops, bag them up and take them down to any of your local charity shops. I am aware as much as the next person though, that some of us like to wear our clothes to death. Charity shops don’t want clothes that they can’t sell, for example clothes with holes in or stains, this doesn’t mean you can’t still recycle. Textile banks, which you can find at supermarkets and local recycling sites, will take anything, from shoes to clothes and blankets to bed sheets no matter what the condition. Textile banks are still a donation to charity, but in a slightly different way. Rather than reselling your unwanted items they are shredded and recycled into something new.
But let’s say you’re like me and don’t drive and aren’t entirely keen on the idea of carrying bin liners full of clothing on the bus, charity will collect from you. For the majority of areas now if you look out for a charity bag coming through your letterbox, you can fill this with your unwanted items and charity will come to you to collect.
However, if your pockets are feeling a little light, there are ways you can still recycle your clothes and get money back for yourself. There are lots of place where you can get cash back based on the weight of your cloths, there are also places where you can sell your clothes as individual items.
There are loads of different place where you can send your clothes and get cash back based on weight, but one that has particularly stuck out is Return to Earn. Return to Earn provide a very simple service to get cash for you clothes. You visit their website, returntoearn.co.uk, type in your name and address and they will send you one of their collection bag. You then fill your bag with a minimum of 10kg of unwanted good quality items and revisit their website, type in your name and address and select a day for collection. Return to Earn will then come and collect your bag and you will receive 60p for every kilogram.
If you’re thinking of getting a little bit more than 60p per kilo, you can sell you clothes on eBay. Most people already have an eBay account, but if you don’t its very simple visit eBay.com and create an account. To sell clothes on eBay you need to have good quality items, preferably with brand names. A big part of selling on eBay is the description and images of the items you are selling. This method, does take more effort but you will get better money for your clothing.
So theres no excuses for that overspilling wardrobe anymore, better get clearing!

What Are We Doing About Wildfires?

Wildfires are a plague to many parts of the world, but particularly Australia. Most recently in January this year wildfires consumed 80,000 hectors of land in Tasmania. In Dunalley temperatures reached a shocking 40.11 degrees Celsius, almost topping the hottest recorded temperature of the region, fire broke out due to the extreme heat, although fires are virtually unknown in the season and usually occur during the summer.
However, looking away from the facts and reasons behind the fires, this is a natural disaster that affects real people. Tim and Tammy Holmes of Dunalley, Tasmania, were babysitting their five grandchildren when Tim evacuated his family from their home after spotting smoke. Tammy Holmes and her five grandchildren, ranging in age from 2 to 11 years old, were forced to take refuge under a nearby jetty to avoid being injured. Tim Holmes took photographs showing the devastation caused by the fires, capturing his family under serious distress, he said ‘We had water up to our chins and could barely breathe, it was so toxic’. Holmes however was able to use a dingy to rescue his family and bring them to safety. The Holmes’ daughter has said ‘I braced myself to lose my parents and my children’. Luckily nor the children or grandparents where hurt and were reunited with their family.
Although this seems like a happy ending, is this enough. Why can’t we find ways to prevent these disasters? Or at least a way of controlling them? Nobody was physically hurt in this wildfire but one hundred houses were burnt to the ground, leaving only their foundations behind, taking away each families livelihood. Cars left by the beach after a day out now a metal frame and melted tyres. Personally I wouldn’t class that as nobody being hurt. It is granted amazing that there was no physically pain, no rushing to hospitals, but surely there is a better way of coping with such a disaster.
David Jones the Bureau of Meteorology manger of climate and monitoring and predictions said ‘There’s little doubt that this is a very, very extreme heat wave event’, however as useful as that information is, it is purely an observation and quite frankly not changing an awful lot. There were 35,000 fire-fighters braving the blaze, but this force alone is not enough to cover the vast fires at the rate they spread.
There are a few spots online that provide information for your average household on how to protect your home against wildfires, and yes, this helps. However when considering the heat produced, it enough to dry out a stream and watering your lawn every morning might not do a lot in hind-sight. Looking at the facts available there seems to be little more people can do, so you can water your lawns and listen to the warnings, it may just be cynicism, but it seems you can save your families but not your homes.

Hiding in the Garden

When I was younger, I used to sit in the far corner of the garden, feeling the grass under my hands. Soft and shining emerald green in the Summer and brown and prickly thorns in the Winter. My favourite thing to do.
My Dad painted my bedroom green, muted pastel, so I felt like I was in my favourite place. Sparkling pink yellow flower lights tumbling across my window ledge and across the black cast iron frame of my bed. It wasn’t the same though. There was no crisp fresh air, no dusting of sweet smelling pollen. I sat in my window looking out into the garden longingly.
I left my window open during the day, it was freezing cold when I got back but I didn’t care. I took to buying the most majestic bunches of flowers from the florists down the road from my houses. I had about twenty five vases dotted around the room splashing fragrance and beauty.
So here I am sat in my bedroom surrounded by beautiful flowers. Hiding in the garden.

Pushing through the Gender Barrier – International Women’s Day

International Women’s day was established in 1911, held on the 8th of March, designed to celebrate different women’s groups all over the world. It is also seen as an opportunity to celebrate the women that inspire with their achievements, athletes, political leaders and celebrities. Now recognised by the United Nations and a national holiday in numerous countries, so as you could imagine it can be quite a celebration.
This year International Women’s day will celebrate the ‘gaining of momentum’ looking at the ways women have conquered the stereotypical gender roles, and looking forward to further positive progression for female gender roles within not only society but also within industry.
So what is society view on women? What are women expected to do with their lives?
The expectations of women have changed drastically in the last 100 years, through suffragettes’ movements and the power women of the 80’s feminism movement. Women have broken out of their housewife image, however there is still a gap between the employment of men and women, with 79 % of men in employment and only 70% of women. On top of this more than half of the working women are part-time, and 38% of these are working part-time because of family commitments in comparison to the 4% of men in part-time work for family commitments. But let’s not fail to recognise how far women have come, with women meeting men on a par with how successful they are in business and with the majority of jobs now paying men and women equally.
There are still many countries however where women are treated in appalling ways, because of their lack of rights and support, this based purely on their sex. In India over 35% of women are unable to read and write, they are educated less because they are considered as a burden or of lesser importance. Two thirds of the world’s illiterates are women, unable to learn, and women own only 2% of the worlds land. International Women’s day is not just a celebration of the amazing things women can achieve and there inspiring talents but also a way to raise awareness for those women who are less fortunate. Women everywhere deserve to be equal.

Life of Pi – Film Review

‘Life of Pi’ is an incredible story, based on the novel by Yann Martel, it tells a story of a young boy finding his spirituality as he is growing up in India. We follow Piscine Molitor ‘Pi’ Patel (Suraj Sharma) through his religions until his family are forced to sell the zoo they run and re-locate to Canada because of financial problems. After the sinking of the cargo ship they are traveling on Pi is left stranded on a life boat with a hyena, a zebra with a broken leg, a female orang-utan , and a Bengal tiger.
Although initially slow to start with, once stranded on the boat with Pi, the film creates a real sense of unity between man and animal. With the brilliant acting of Suraj Sharma you relate to his character, and let’s face it, there isn’t many of us who understand what it’s like to be stranded on a boat with a tiger.
Directed by Ang Lee, they is some truly awe inspiring moments, especially with the availability of 3D viewing. On top of the truly amazing CGI, honestly there couldn’t be one person leaving the cinema not saying they wanted a tiger. Transferred from book to film with respect for the novel by David Magee, from both screenplay and direction there is an amazing use between the body language of the tiger and the few words spoken to him by Pi.
All in all an extremely good film and well worth watching, fully deserving of all the award nominations.

Bring on the New Year

So it’s New Year’s Eve again. I’ve received about a million text messages asking what I’m planning for my evening. But yet again, like far too many things that in our slightly upside-down culture we are told to enjoy, I can’t wrap my head around it all.
We count down into the final moments of the year we have just lived, taking into account our achievements and our failings, new years resolutions. New years resolutions can I add, that we are never, in a million years going to keep too. But we do it. Every year. Without fail.
I have found however, that there are definite age limitations to New Years. We all love it as children, staying up till midnight not really understanding the whole celebration, but god was it fun. Then as adults, we can drink ourselves silly and thank god that, that’s another bloody year out of the way. As a young teenager I found that it was almost the most horrific celebration of all. Surrounded by drunk adults and screaming children. Could it get any worse.
But here we go again, another year, another New Years Eve. And I’m shattered from the night before and wondering why on gods green earth I am about to jump in the shower, do my hair and get up and go out.
Might as well hit the New Year with a bang?

Jack and Jill – Beyond the Pail

On the night of November 20th Jack Wentupthehill, 16 and Jill Wentupthehill, 15 were enjoying the stereotypical night of teenager. However their night took a turn for the worst whilst collecting water, from their local Aldi, for their mother.
When they got in Aldi, it was the first time they had ever seen a local super market. They also were tired of going up the hill where Aldi was based.
Although tired from their long walk, Jack and Jill are part of a large family and are therefor used to running errands for their mother. Soldering on they were able to find the bottled water, needed as at their home, the Pail Estate, the water supply has been contaminated for over 6 months now.
Horrifically due to the economic crisis and the rate of inflation, to Jack and Jill’s horror their mothers prior knowledge of the prices of water was incorrect.
Following this revelation Jack underwent a panic attack, this resulted in what Jack describes as an ‘outer body experience’.
Jill found herself unable to control her brother, who was behaving out of character and unnaturally energetic. In this same instant Jack began grabbing the bottled water from the shelf and hiding them about his person and in Jill’s handbag.
Jack began to drag Jill from the scene, running straight past the security guards and setting off the alarms of the supermarket.
As Jack dragged Jill through the main entrance, which opens out onto an extremely steep gradient, Jill began to struggle in an attempt to bring her brother back to the supermarket.
However during the struggle Jack lost his balance as one of the water bottles fell from his jacket and got caught under his feet. As Jack began to wobble Jill tried to grab his jumper, but it was too late and Jack fell, with no hope of stopping until he reached the bottom of the hill.
Whilst this was happening in Jill’s attempt to save her brother she had also lost her balance and followed Jack down the bottom of the hill.
Jack and Jill are now both recovering in hospital from minor injuries. Jack will also be facing shoplifting charges when he has made a full recovery.

There’s A Little Something About That Winter Cold

I’m sat here yet again. It’s the middle of another dreary British December. And once again I’m blowing my nose for the 30th time in the last hour, with an ever growing resemblance to Rudolf wondering whether tissues with protective balm are actually all that different to sandpaper.
As you can probably imagine, like the rest of world’s population living in near freezing conditions I am no stranger to the common cold. But I am particularly bad at falling ill. Whether it be a self inflicted hangover or a sickness bug, I am almost defiantly going to announce at some point that I truly believe I am dying and if there is a God, fingers crossed I’ve been well behaved enough to get to the golden gates in the sky. Later to realise, once I’m feeling better, that maybe I was over reacting. There is a slight possibility that I wasn’t dying and I will in fact continue living. However, right at this moment, I’m pretty sure that death is knocking on my door.
But all can’t be bad can it? Science can cure such little niggles with a bit of new fangled medication. I am not denying that there is most certainly medicine that would make me feel better, maybe even drag me out of my ever growing hole of self pity. Although it’s not quite as simple as it sounds. When coping with such troubles as illness you have about 100 different medicine options to choose from. Looking at the counter at the supermarket and trying to decide whether your cough is chesty, throaty, mucus, dry or all of the above. I have no idea, I’m not a doctor. I am in no position to be diagnosing myself. Take a spoonful of all and hope for the best?
Although more than anything the worst thing about being ill has to be other people’s reactions to you. Now I am perfectly willing to admit that yesterday was not my day looks wise. There was a most certain look of death and all things grim, big dark bags around the eyes, teamed with the Rudolf nose, puffy cheeks and voice that made me sound like I’d been smoking 70 cigarettes a day for the past 80 years. However, in such unattractive times, one needs a little support and sympathy from those around. Truth be told I can just about cope with my friends backing away from the germs that evidently must be radiating from me, when your own mother comes out with the line ‘you must be ill, you look absolutely god awful’ then you know you’ve hit rock bottom. Not to mention the fact that this was the first thing she said, before even a ‘how’re you feeling?’.
But we cover our mouths when we cough, and apologise when we sneeze like we could stop sneezing if we wanted to. We are just choosing to project green rubbish through our noses. All for laughs and giggles really isn’t it. I am almost entirely sure that I was born into the wrong country.