Saturday, October 29, 2016

Formal 2016

The three dancers.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Warrior Princess - Chapter One

This is the synopsis and first chapter of the novel I'm writing. Hopefully I'll be able to post a chapter every few days. 

17 year old Princess Rachel, had lived most of her life with out her mother, who died when she was two. She always knew she was different, she could talk to animals, but she never thought that maybe her mother had something to do with this. Then the Prince of the neighbouring kingdom declared war on them, with the sole purpose of killing her. Why did the prince want her dead? Why does her father not want to talk about her mothers death? Why can she talk to animals? Will she ever be able to find the answers to these questions? And will she be able to stop the Prince?

Chapter One
Parry! Block! Thrust! Parry! I spun my sword around combating my fathers blows. "Father?" I asked, while blocking another thrust. "Do I have to go to the ball tonight?" I parried and gave a thrust of my own. " I mean, you know almost everyone thinks I'm weird because I can talk to animals, so it's not like I'm going to have a lot of friends there. And it will mean getting dressed up all fancy. None of my other birthdays have been like this. So why this one?" I parried one thrust and spun around just in time to block another.
"Rachel, just because others think you are weird, does not mean that you are." My father said, lowering his sword. "You are a very talented young lady. And you know why this birthday is different. You are seventeen. You're old enough to take over the throne." He smiled. "And besides, I think you are old enough to be thinking about who you will marry."
I looked at him, my eyes wide. "Marry, father? Need I be thinking of that now?"
He laughed at my indignant surprise. "I am not saying you need to make a decision now, but it is something to start thinking about. I want to know that you will always be looked after. Surely there is someone who you might care for?"
I shook my head. "No. Well, maybe. I don't know." I looked down. "And even if I did, who would want to marry me?" Father came over to me and tilted my chin up.
"Look at me. You are a beautiful, talented, kind, and wonderful young lady. Don't ever think you are weird or worthless." He hugged me. "I love you Rachel."
I smiled up at him. "I love you too father." We put our swords away and sat down on a bench near by. "Father, since I'm now seventeen, won't you tell me about mother please. How did she die?" My father stood up, his posture stiff and his eyes cold.
"I will not talk of this now. I must go see that every thing is ready for tonight." He turned away.
"Father! Why won't you talk to me? She was my mother! Don't I have a right to know? I've waited all these years, please, tell me!"
"I said no!" He shouted back, without turning around. I turned away with a frustrated sigh.
"Do you want to come for a ride with me?" I called to my best friend Caitlin, who was standing a little way away. When she was little her family died when their farm burned down. Ever since, she has lived at the castle.
"When have I ever said no to a ride." She said, laughing. We turned and made our way to the stables. I saddled up my black mustang stallion, Destrier, while she saddled up her strawberry bay Thoroughbred mare, Sparkles. Once ready, we cantered out of the castle and up into the hills. We had been riding for a while when Caitlin spoke up. "What happened at the end of your training? Your father didn't seem very happy."
I sighed. "I asked him about mother. He never talks to me about her, Caitlin. Every time I ask about her, he completely shuts down. She died when I was two. I've spent fifteen years of my life without her. Not knowing anything about her. I don't know what she looked like. I don't know what her family was like. He won't tell me anything. He won't even tell me how she died." I fell silent for a while. "I know I sound like I hate him for it, but I don't. He is the only family I have. And he cares for me, I know he doesn't want to hurt me. I just wish he would talk to me."
"Maybe it still hurts him to talk about it."
"I suppose that is probably why." Cantering over the hills with the wind in my face, helped me calm down, and soon a was smiling again, enjoying the ride. Not long after a forest rose up in front of us.
"Where are we going?" Caitlin asked.
"How about to the tower? I always have liked sitting there."
"Perfect!" She grinned at me. "Race you there?"
"Try to keep up!" I laughed, racing forward. We galloped for a while, through thick forests, until finally, we broke out into a clearing. There stood an old tower, beside a laughing brook. We dismounted and sat down beside the brook, watching the sunlight dancing on the water. "What do you think my mother was like?" I asked, breaking the still silence.
"She was probably like you." Caitlin said, looking at me. "Although you are like your father in some ways, in many ways you are not. I can only assume that you are like your mother in those ways." I smiled, dreaming about what my mother was like.
Destrier came over to me and nudged me. "We must be going or you will not have time to get ready for the ball." I shook myself out of my daydream and nodded.
"Destrier says we need to be going" I said to Caitlin, getting up. We both mounted, and cantered off toward the castle. Once back, we hurriedly got out horses settled in and then went to our rooms to get ready. It was horrible! My ladies-in-waiting covered me in perfumes, plastered my face in makeup, and dressed me in a ridiculously decorated pale pink dress. And then, as if that wasn't bad enough, they piled my long brown hair up on top of my head in such a way, I though I must surely look ridiculous! But finally, I was ready.


I stood at the top of the stairs, out of sight of the crowd, listening to the music and people mingling, waiting for me to come down. I looked over at Caitlin, standing beside me. She too was dressed in a pale pink dress, but hers was far more simple, some might say plain, and her hair was hanging loose over her shoulders. I admired for a moment, how beautiful she looked, until I heard the herald announcing me. I took a deep breath and started down the stairs. Once at the bottom, everyone bowed and I curtsied in return. I then turned and made my way to my father, I curtsied to him and then took my place at his side.
He stood and addressed the crowd. "Thank you all for coming to celebrate Rachel's seventeenth birthday. She is now officially old enough to take over the throne." Everyone clapped. "I can not tell you how proud I am that she is my daughter." He turned and looked at me. "Happy Birthday!" He sat down, and one by one different people came up and made a speech, saying how glad they were that I was their princess, and how I would make a wonderful queen, and whole lot of other such rubbish. I knew they didn't mean any of it, they just wanted my father to be pleased with them.  
Finally the speeches were over, but now the dancing would start. In my opinion this was even worse than the speeches! I sighed as I saw a young lord making his way toward me. But before he could reach me someone touched my arm. It was Cedric, the youngest of the knights, and a good friend of mine. "May I have this dance?" He asked with a bow.
"Your timing couldn't have been better!" I said, taking his arm. He led me to the centre of the dance floor and we began to dance. He swirled me round and round. Finally the music came to a stop and I curtsied to him, breathless and laughing. Suddenly the door swung open and a guard ran in, hurriedly making his way between the dancers to my father.
"My Lord!" He cried, kneeling. "I bring urgent news. The Prince Tirindalle has come. He and his army are camped between the mountains." I saw my father's face go pale. I looked at Cedric and then ran over to my father.
"Father? What is wrong? Who is this Prince Tirindalle? Why has he come?" I could feel myself growing anxious. He said nothing, just looked at me. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Story of a Slave

Swish! Crack! The whip flew through the air and cut into the back of the slave working next to me. I dared a sideways glance, it was my friend Ernest. "Work harder!" the slave master yelled. I bent down and carried on working as fast as I could, hoping I wouldn't be the next victim. As I worked my thoughts were filled with anger and hatred toward the whites. "What right did they have to own us, and make us work. Who gave them the right to beat us when we didn't work fast enough." My thoughts were interrupted by the slave master yelling at us to stop work and gather in front of the Big House.

Once we were all gathered together in front of the Big House the master came out with a man I had never seen before. Master said that he had been told that a man had been seen around the neighbouring properties and that he was a danger to us all. The stranger held up a photo of a man with curly brown hair, laughing eyes, and a bandanna tied around his neck. We were told that he was an abolitionist, and if we ever saw him we had to tell the master. We were told that if we did, we would be rewarded. I didn't know what to do, the man didn't look dangerous, and could anything be worse than the life we were living now?

Over the next few weeks I overheard talk of someone called Abraham Lincoln who wanted all the slave owners to free their slaves. Some said he was going to start a war to try free us. I didn't know what to think of all this. Why would people risk their lives to free us when they didn't even know us? All I knew was that I wanted to be free.

A few weeks later, we were woken up in the middle of the night by the slave master coming in and herding out all the males. Once we were all gathered in front of the Big House the master came out and told us that a war had started. Major Robert Anderson had surrendered Fort Sumter. We were told that we would have to fight to protect the South. I was shocked. We were being made to fight to stay slaves! That was the last thing I wanted. I didn't want to be a slave, I wanted to be free. To live my own life. But there was nothing I could do. If I tried to refuse they would beat me. I knew I had no choice, I would have to fight.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hobbit hole birthday cake

Today Rachel and I had one goal - to create her Hobbit Hole Brithday Cake. We were rather pleased with the results. :-)
The rest of the post is for anyone who would like to give it a try themselves and would like some tips.
We made two round cakes. I cut the top one in half and then used that extra to add little triangles to the bottom cake - helping to form a more flowing hill.
Rachel then covered the base with butter icing.
Put some icing on the tray too so that the fondant can stick on there as well.
We then rolled out some green coloured fondant and used this tool to create a bit of a grass effect (rather than it just being totally smooth).
Then use that to cover the bottom cake.
Then add the top cake, cover in butter icing,
and then the fondant.
Then start adding your extras. We added a little chimney, the door and windows, the path, steps and even a little bench. Rachel was basing this on Bilbo's home, so the steps and bench were all copied from "his".
For a nice touch - Rachel wrote "Happy Birthday" in elven writing. We used a licorice pen - so it's edible.
And then around the back she wrote in moon runes. :-)
Then add frames around the windows and door - this does a lot to "finish" it. As well as flowers and pot plants and little tufts of grass.
Rachel was so pleased.

And I put this photo in too, just so that you can clearly see the elf ears Rachel is wearing for the photo. :-)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Battle of Saratoga

September 18 1777 - Battle of Freeman's Farm - Slowly we moved forward in the dusk. I might have been tempted to admire the beautiful farmland if we hadn't been heading into battle. As we moved on I tried to decipher my feelings. I was excited, I'd trained hard to get to this, an American sniper, but I was also scared. This was my first real battle. I knew I was good enough, ever since I was young I'd had a very good aim, but how would I handle a real battle.

There was no more time for wondering, it was time to attack. I saw our General, Daniel Morgan, give the signal. All 500 of us knelt and readied our guns, waiting. There it was, the signal to fire. The night erupted in the thunder of guns. I saw many British solders fall, around me I saw my companions fall. Blood everywhere. The sound of not only gun fire, but also the agonizing screams of wounded and dyeing men. I tried to block it out, the sound, the smell, the realization that I was ending others lives.

Suddenly I heard Morgan shout for us to retreat. We all turned and made our way to Bemis Heights. We had suffered 320 casualties, the British had suffered 600.

October 7 1777 - Bemis Heights - After our retreat at Freeman's Farm we had come to Bemis Heights. Here more men joined us until we had an army of 20,000. I was wondering if the British where going to attack again, and is so when, when a solder came running over telling us all to prepare to fight, the British where attacking. I jumped up, grabbed my gun, and raced out. This time I found that it wasn't as hard to kill.

It didn't take long to set the British to flight. I and most of the army followed General Gates to purse them. After several days we caught up to them, and surrounded them. The British surrendered on October 17 1777.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

3 course meal

One of the "extra" items for the girls current St John's badge is to prepare and serve a 3 course meal. It's a bit more tricky for our girls as there are a few of us that are gluten free and then Asher and I are off even more foods.
The first thing she got working on was the gluten and dairy free lasagne.
I learned afterwards that a better way of describing this meal would be by calling it a Greek Moussaka. Either way -it's a big job meal.
The white sauce is made out of cashew nuts and a leek. Rachel had fun seasoning the mince as she always does. And then she fried up some zucchini for the "fake" lasagne sheets.
Creating the layers.
For the full recipe you can have a look here. It was such a success that she has made it again for us less than 2 weeks later. It's Brendon's new favourite meal.
Then it was time to get the desert made and into the fridge to cool.
She made dairy free chocolate mousse. The key ingredient was avocado. I had often heard about avocado chocolate mousse - so today was a good day to give it a try (avocados were on a great special this week).
Then last thing to get done was the starter - getting this done just before we were due to eat. So many good lessons learnt this afternoon. I was amazed at how quickly Rachel worked. Well done Rachel.
Starters was a delicious fresh tuna and avocado salad.
She set the table and served us too.
I just felt bad that there were no flowers in the garden for her to use.
She actually ended up making 5 courses as the main meal had 3 options. The above mentioned lasagne as well as a gluten mac and cheese and a gluten free mac and cheese. The lasagne was a bit rich for the children (other than Asher who loved it) so it was nice that they had something they enjoyed. It also meant more for Brendon, Asher and I. She made two big trays of it - so a few lunches were frozen and the 2nd big tray.
The desert was delicately pipped into the glass bowls and topped with berries.
Well done Rachel. A very successful meal.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The War Nurse

The War Nurse
By Rachel Buckland

Boom!!!!! The ground shook from the impact of the explosion. The air was filled with the deafening noise of guns, and blood chilling cries of the wounded and dying. I felt sick. I wanted to run and hide. To hide from the stench of death. To hide from the reality of war. But there was nowhere to hide. No matter where I went, I would be surrounded by death. I was trapped.

Why am I here? You might be wondering. Why am I in the middle of a war? The answer is simple, I am a nurse. When the war started I decided to train to become a nurse, then I would be able to help the wounded. Little did I know of the horror of war. I thought I was brave and strong. Now I know that I am not.

My days are spent scouring the battle field for wounded men who could be saved. I take them back to our makeshift hospital and do my best to help them. It is like nothing I could ever have imagined. I see men lying mutilated in there own blood. I sit with men who have been crushed, who have no hope left. I have heard men breath their last. Husbands, fathers, brothers, sons.

As I look upon young men lying dead, I think of the life they could have had. The life that has been stolen away from them. I think of their families back home. Did they have family waiting anxiously for them? Mothers, wives, children, sisters, sweethearts? I cry. I cry for those who have been lost. I cry for those who are still to die. And I cry for those left behind.