Sunday, 10 December 2017

Pause In Advent #2 - Let The Light Shine

My good friend Chris Duffett writes a great blog called "Be The Light". It is full of bright ideas and helpful tips, for people who want to share their faith in a gentle, unthreatening, but meaningful way.
Light is so important at this time of the year, here in the Northern Hemisphere. 

I know some of you in the Antipodes are preparing for your Christmas beach BBQ - but here in Britain, some of us - like Steph, and Mags, have snowy weather to contend with, and it gets dark so early in the evenings.
At 6pm on Friday, I was at my second Carol Service of the season, and it was an open air event. At 6pm, we gathered round a trailer in a car park at the end of the main street in the next town - there were hundreds of adults and children singing, and I don't imagine many of them were regular churchgoers. But the familiar words were sung, and the brass band played, and the school children read the Nativity Story from the Bible, and the Vicar said some jolly good stuff about Jesus the Light of The World, and we wished one another a Merry Christmas. [but it was cold, so Bob and I left before the Red Barrows Charity Wheelbarrow Race, back up the street]
The event began with a "Procession of Light" - from the Church at one end of the street down to the Car Park at the other [traffic is re-routed for 4 hours for this annual community event] Bob had his fancy torch, others had Star Wars, light sabres, and the two churchwardens carried amazing candle-lanterns which are over 100 years old and belong to the Church. My picture did not come out- but here is one from 2015. You can see the candle inside the glass lantern atop the pole.
I love candles, and I am conscious that I blog about them frequently. But I have learned a new thing about them in this past week which has challenged me.
If I buy candles, they tend to be cheap, unscented pillar candles, or tealights [usually from IKEA or Wilko] Mainly because I have often found the perfumed ones to be a disappointment. I've just found out why - it is all to do with the "throw".
When you sniff an unlit candle - in the shop, or maybe as you open the jar/unwrap the cellophane/etc you can smell the perfume. This is called the cold throw. When you light the candle, and smell its perfume, that is the hot throw. It seems that cheaper candles are often produced with a strong cold throw, so in the shop you think wow, this is good for just a quid! but when you light them, the hot throw is much weaker and often disappears altogether.Many are made with only a layer of scented wax on the top, and after a few hours burning, that's all gone. What seemed initially attractive proves to be temporary, superficial and disappointing. A really good scented candle will have a strong hot throw, throughout its life, and will perfume the whole room, every time it is lit. That is why you have to pay so much more for one.
2 Corinthians 2:15 says "Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance" If we are to be the light, let's make sure that when people encounter us, they're not only drawn to the initial signs of love and concern we display- but that we do not prove to be superficial, showing care for just a brief time, and turning out to be a disappointment in the end.
Jesus bids us shine 
with a pure clear light, 
like a little candle, 
burning in the night.
In this world is darkness, 
so we must shine
You in your small corner,
And I in mine

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Run, Run, As Fast As You Can...

...you can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!
An early form of gingerbread can be traced to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians who used it for ceremonial purposes, and the Indians and Chinese who recognised this spice as a cure for digestive ailments. 11th-century crusaders brought the spice back from the Middle East for the tables of the rich. As ginger and other spices became more affordable to the masses, gingerbread caught on. An early European recipe consisted of ground almonds, breadcrumbs, rosewater, sugar and ginger.
The resultant paste was pressed into wooden moulds. These carved works of art served bore the likeness of new kings, emperors, and queens, or religious symbols. The finished cookie might be decorated with edible gold paint (for those who could afford it) or flat white icing to bring out the details in relief.
In the 16th century, the English replaced the breadcrumbs with flour, and added eggs and sweeteners, resulting in a lighter product. The first gingerbread man is credited to Queen Elizabeth I, who delighted visiting dignitaries by presenting them with one baked in their own likeness. Gingerbread tied with a ribbon was popular at fairs and, when exchanged, became a token of love.

All over Europe, for the last 500 years, gingerbread has come to be associated with Christmas -the Germans claim to have invented the houses, the Swedes had guilds to which the artisan bakers belonged...and they all have special names for these beautifully cut and decorated shapes Polish pierniczki,  Czech pernik, Russian pryaniki, Croatian licitars, Scandinavian pepparkakor and Dutch speculaas.
Bob's Flemish roots mean we have a family fondness for speculaas. So when Steph mentioned that she needed decorations for her Christmas tree, I decided to make her a couple of Christmas Gingerbread characters. At our recent UCF Girls' Night In, Nadia had brought felt pieces for people to stitch - and although I was busy with other things on the night, she kindly gave me a couple of sets afterwards.
I made the boy and girl - but also stitched two minuscule pieces of Aida evenweave to make labels for their backs.
The boy's tag reads "Steph's 1st Manchester Christmas 2017"
The girl's says "Made by Ang, Xmas 2017"
I have also passed on to Steph some of the decorations from the 'family' box, which were ones given to her in childhood. So now she can start her own collection. 
I have just one new item for this year's tree here - more on that another time.

Friday, 8 December 2017

What's For Dinner?

The experts have been busy predicting the new food trends we should be expecting next year - the BBC have a helpful one minute clip whisking us through the new menu. 
There's 'fusion food' - anyone for a croissushi [how do you even pronounce that?] the light, buttery pastry of the archetypal French Breakfast - wrapped round Oriental rice, seaweed and fish.
Or how about pasta donuts - eggs, cheese and pasta combined in an easy-to-hold snack? 
Maybe Homer Simpson might like these, not sure I would
Vegan food is set to become more mainstream - here are taco shells made from carrots!
We are told that the Millennial Generation are more concerned about what they eat [some of them anyway] and shun their parents addictive caffeinated brews for 'healthier' alternatives like mushroom coffee. That is not a trend which will catch on in this family, I am sure!
Other unusual ingredients include activated charcoal black martinis,  which allegedly "grabs all the toxins in your body, and helps them find their way out" Yeah, right! Just eat fibre rich baked beans, on slightly burned toast for the same benefits!

The trend I am happiest about is the one to encourage people to make more meals from foodstuffs they would otherwise waste. But I am not clear as to why that is 'new for 2018' - haven't people been doing this for ages?

This is a good place for me to include a seasonal tip sent anonymously to me this week, about recycling mince pies; Make a mince pie fridge cake
Fridge Cake Recipe
300g dark chocolate 4 chopped mince pies 1 orange zested 50g of pecans roughly chopped. 
  1. Line a 20cm x 20cm tin. 
  2. Melt half the chocolate and when melted pour into the bottom of the tin, put in the fridge to set. 
  3. Melt remaining chocolate add mince pies, orange zest and nuts, stirring gently so it does not turn to mush. 
  4. Pour over the layer of chocolate, then return to the fridge to chill until firm. 
  5. Turn out onto a chopping board with chocolate side facing up and cut into 12 squares.

Thank you 'unknown' for this one - it sounds delicious!

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Looks Like Rain, Dear!

...said Santa to his wife, as he drew back the curtains. Joking apart, did you know that reindeer do not like rain? Their coats are designed to keep them warm in snow- but rain is not good for them. A Dorset woman, Susie Stewart, is Britain's only registered Reindeer Breeder, and she was recently featured on the BBC News Website in a brief video clip about her animals.
In the clip, she explains her concern about the future of these Finnish reindeer in their native habitat. 
Global warming is seriously affecting them - and the other reindeer in Russia and Alaska and Canada...all round the Arctic. A study a year ago showed that reindeer are getting smaller. Less chilly winters mean that whereas before, there were reliable snowfalls, often the higher temperatures mean rain instead. So there are sheets of ice, which the beasts cannot get through to forage their food. There has been a 15% decrease in adult body weight. Some reindeer starve, others give birth to stunted young. There is an imbalance in the food chain- the arctic foxes who scavenge on bodies of dead reindeer] are thriving. The change in weather patterns affects the reindeer migration routes - and often when they reach their destination, the food they are looking for is already past its best.
Other things, like drilling for oil in arctic regions is also impacting the future of these beautiful beasts. It is happening in Russia right now. 
A year ago, in one of the final acts of his Presidency, Barack Obama sought to protect these Arctic waters, as he and Justin Trudeau both brought in laws to ban drilling. This strengthens laws which have been brought in by the US government since 1960 and the days of Eisenhower [and built on by Jimmy Carter et al]
In case you missed it, Donald Trump's Tax Bill has just overturned all this. I do not understand these things - but fail to see how granting permission for drilling for oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge has any place at all in a tax bill.
I read somewhere [cannot find it again] that shoppers in a mall in the States complained to the management because "The reindeer in the display are smaller than last year"
The report did not say whether these were Republicans or Democrats. Perhaps they should take this issue up with their President.

Susie Stewart says that people from Finland have been to see how she manages her herd in England's warmer climes. She too is very concerned about the future of these lovely animals. SS is from the family that runs Stewart's Garden Centres- the people who opened Britain's first ever Garden Centre, right here in Ferndown back in 1955. This little town certainly has an amazing past.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

La Vie En Rose

Bob's getting over his cough, slowly. We'd decided that we would be Very Lazy on Tuesday [day off] and not attempt anything too exhausting.
Just before 7am [my default time for making the first cuppa of the day] Bob declared it was too early to get up. He brought me a cup of tea, and asked what I would like for breakfast. "Coffee, croissants and orange juice, but we don't have them" I said. I drank my tea, then turned over and went back to sleep. That's unusual for me, but I was still feeling tired. I vaguely noticed him getting out of bed.

When I went downstairs for breakfast, there were warmed croissants in a basket, coffee, juice- and a vase of 15 red roses [and candles!]
I'm feeling very blessed and greatly loved [and yes, he even remembered to trim the stems of the blooms!]
Excuse for romantic interlude listening to Edith Piaf, and dreaming of a holiday in Paris...


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Pedal Power

I feel very strongly about the need for better provision for cyclists. I am pleased that there are more and more safer cycle routes in London these days. Liz, Jon and Rosie cycle to work at UCL each day. We've noticed that recently they have been frequently filmed on their commute. Last week someone posted a clip on Twitter entitled 'Spot The Baby' - there they are at about 1minute 7seconds in!  
And here's "I took some videos ...yesterday, so here's peace and quiet enough for a baby to ride home in!" from last summer.
0:10 / 0:25
How many more such films does Rosie need to appear in before she qualifies for an Equity Card?


Monday, 4 December 2017

"Right" Said Fred...

"Both of us together 
One each end and steady as we go."
Tried to shift it, couldn't even lift it
We was getting nowhere
And so we had a cuppa tea …
I have always been fond of this Bernard Cribbins song. It came to mind this week as I watched Geoff and Bob moving the Christmas Tree. 
Bob constructed the wooden frame in the back garden, and I drew a semicircle on the front drive with string and chalk, as a template for the chicken wire.
Then we put it all together in the lounge, and I made the green felt cover, and pinned on a few squares for effect. Then we realised I'd need to open up the seam and insert a zip, so we could sew on all the squares and then put the cover back on. Carol and Val came round on Friday afternoon, and we sewed strips of squares around the tree.
Over 400 on the tree, and more than 100 left in the box. After Christmas that's going to make quite a few blankets for Romania .
Saturday afternoon, I cleared a space at the front of the garage.
After removing the side gate, Geoff and Bob carried the tree - 6 foot in the air - down the narrow side passage to the front of the house, and put the tree inside the garage. I am really sorry I never got a picture of that part of the story. Perhaps Mags' Boys could recreate this event in Lego for me?
Barry will arrive with his people carrier [sans seats] and help us transport the tree to St Martins this afternoon . Once there we will replace the cover, and festoon the tree with lights, and stand the Knitted Nativity [Knitivity?] alongside.
The Festival begins on Wednesday morning. Expect more pictures of more trees then!
This project has involved an awful lot of people - my friends are always so willing to help despite my ideas being so off-the-wall! Thank you everyone.