Sunday, 25 September 2016

A Prayer For Coffee Time

On Tuesday at the WWDP Committee,  we all received a gift from Nola, who had finished her term of service.  It was a handmade patchwork coaster,  each one different,  but all with a little slip inside the bag.
As  you drink your morning coffee :
LOOK at your coffee cup and pray:-
Lord,  please POUR out your Holy Spirit into my life today.  STIR  within me the wish to do your will.
HOLD  your cup with both hands :-
Lord,  I know I need your forgiveness  for the wrong things I have done and the things I have been doing.  FILTER from me all that doesn't please you.
TASTE - drink and pray :-
Thank you Lord for the reminder to pause and reflect on all you have done for me.
SMELL  - take a long deep breath : give me willingness to share my faith with others as easily as I would share a cup of coffee with a friend.

Thank you,  Nola,  for a lovely gift.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Grylls Grilled [Bear With Me On This!]

As promised, the review of this book which I borrowed from the library last week. A few initial comments- yes, I think he is a Jolly Nice Chap, and an excellent Chief Scout, husband and father. I am glad that he and his wife are Christians, and people of integrity. He appears to have done some amazing things, surviving in the craziest situations [by choice!] and helping other people to be more confident about what they can achieve, and he is a great encourager, and competent teacher. All round Good Guy.
BUT I am not altogether sure about THIS book!
The basic premise - which I go along with, is that food is primarily the fuel that keeps our bodies going, and it provides us with the building blocks which our bodies need to be maintained and kept strong and healthy. Bear suggests that we must eat the right sort of healthy food, rather than poor substitutes.
He has a fondness for analogies, which make for good reading [if not pressed too far]  He talks about a house - you can either repair the walls with bricks and cement, and burn firewood in the grate - or bung up cracks with sand and dirty water, and burn old plastic on the fire. The former approach keeps the house solid, and warm - the latter repairs do not last long and look ugly whilst the burning plastic makes smelly soot and smoke. But it is so much cheaper you just keep doing it...
Similarly, he says, if we fail to eat healthy food and eat rubbish, we will not heal when we are sick, and what we eat may even contribute to our ill-health.
So far so good. More stories about protein [think Lego - the different coloured bricks fit together to build a solid structure. We need different proteins to build strong bodies] and cholesterol [more complicated stories about lorries carrying little tubs of butter round your system]

I can go along with the 'if you eat meat or fish, make sure it is farmed in an ethical, sustainable way - better to eat less of the 'good' sort than more of the factory fed chickens and depleted fish stocks.
But his diet is dairy, wheat and sugar free. Not for any personal allergy reasons, or even for conscience [he is not a vegan] just by choice, he believes this is the best way. 
  1. I am not convinced by his arguments about cow's milk. He points out that most human babies are fed mother's milk [almost exclusively] till about 6 months, but they don't usually go on much after that. Maybe not in the UK - but in other times and cultures, breast feeding continued for 4 or 5 years [see Isaiah and other Bible passages about the 'suckling child'] So he maintains we should stop drinking cow's milk [which is very similar] as we don't need it. He says we can get our calcium from broccoli, and protein from soy milk. But I don't want broccoli with my porridge or my coffee!!
  2. Sugar - I don't deny we all need to cut back - but I am not convinced that replacing it with stevia is the way forward [there are very few long term studies into side effects available at present] . And if you buy the pure stevia, as he suggests, it is very expensive. Dates and maple syrup are his other alternatives - but he admits these are high in fruit sugars. Perhaps we should learn to reduce our desire for sweet things?
  3. Water - drink more [I agree] but Bear says NEVER tap water. What??!! Why? well, says Bear, "chances are it's been recycled more than may have already passed through someone elses body, or a sewer" Bear drinks "artesian water...from a mineral rich underground aquifer" in top quality recycled plastic or glass bottles. That comes in at around £20 a week if you are drinking 2 litres a day. Install a reverse osmosis filter in your tap, and you can reduce your costs [but you need £250 upfront to do it] Can I just point out that many of the bottled waters on the supermarket shelf may have come from natural springs - but that water got there by filtering through the rocks, and before that it was urine, drainage, seawater, rain ...
  4. Microwaves. These work by electromagnetic radiation. ALL radiation is dangerous, says Bear. Therefore they are dangerous, don't use them. That's a bit simplistic I feel.
  5. Gluten. BAD. At one point he suggests that our grandparents didn't have gluten allergies because they didn't eat as much bread. But I remember [check it out sometime, Mags] at the Titanic Exhibition in Belfast, a notice explaining that the main diet of the men who built that mighty ship was simply bread and tea [with gluten, sugar, caffeine and milk]
So, these are some of his arguments about his healthy eating regime, and I do feel that a lot of it is cod-science, not fully borne out by research. I wonder how much of the 'eating principles' section was written by Kay Van Beersum, his co-author and nutritional therapist. Furthermore, whilst his recipes are chock full of healthy ingredients - salads, fruits, seeds etc, many are not cheap ingredients. His recipes do seem delicious when you read them - but sadly not everything is pictured in the book.[I suppose a pretty pink beetroot soup is more photogenic than a grated Brussels sprout salad]  
The first 40% of the book is theorising, the remainder is recipes - but out of 250 pages, an awful lot were just pictures of Bear [Grilling, or liquidising or just looking thoughtful in a field] I would not spend £15 on this in a bookshop. 
He does stress it is important not to get too 'preachy' about your wonderful diet, and also says that if you cannot eat like this all the time, then just go 80/20, or 70/30. Bear drinks the occasional glass of wine [organic, good quality,premium wine] and has a bowl of chips on 'cheat' days. I feel sorry for the catering team at his church - it must be a nightmare preparing his Alpha Supper.
Summary of the book - Drink more water, eat more veg, beans and seeds, limit meats and fish, get your sweetness from fruit. Avoid sugar, dairy and protein. I think I knew that already.
Oh dear, it was all a bit disappointing! I had hoped for something a little more realistic which the average family could take on board - and fit into their budget. I so wanted to like this book. 
Sorry, Bear, only ** here  

Friday, 23 September 2016

Friday Fall Facts

As well as bringing all the news of world events, the BBC website is an absolute mine of trivial information. Now we have passed the autumnal equinox, and are technically in Autumn, I found these Fall Facts...
1. Falling out  - Women lose more hair in Autumn: they hold on to it in summer to protect their scalps against the midday sun.

2. Take heart - Heart attacks decrease after the Autumn equinox: researchers at the University of Michigan believe it is because we get an extra hour of sleep and are therefore less stressed.

3. Northern Lights - The aurora borealis is visible in Autumn because geomagnetic storms are twice as likely.

4. The word "Autumn" is believed to come from the Etruscan word "autu", meaning change of season. Until 1500, Autumn was called "harvest" in Britain. After that it was ‘Fall’. Britons only adopted the French word "automne" in the 18th century.

5. Making a century - Babies born during the Autumn months are more likely to live to 100 than those born during the rest of the year.

6. And the winner is...No film with Autumn in its title has ever won an Oscar; all the other seasons have

7. Shine on...The full moon closest to the Autumn equinox is a "harvest moon" [this year it was 16th September] . In China, the Autumn equinox is a moon festival. Chinese families eat moon cakes and round foods like watermelons, oranges and green soybeans.

8. Changing face of Autumn. Tree leaf colours have been arriving later across Europe since the 1980s, and in Britain oak leaves are falling a week later than 30 years ago. Red and purple leaves are caused by the presence of sugars in sap trapped inside leaves.

9. The longest journey - In Autumn, birds prepare for winter migration. One of the longest migrations is the 11,000 mile journey by the Arctic Tern.

10. "Mists and mellow fruitfulness" - The famous Keats quotation from his poem "To Autumn", was inspired by a walk in the water meadows behind Winchester College – a walk he only took to escape the racket of his landlady’s daughter practising her violin.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

To Sell, Or Not To Sell, That Is The Question...

In the ongoing programme of decluttering my home, with considerations of recycling and Zero Waste, I find myself frequently asking the question "Should I sell this or give it to a Charity Shop?" That might appear a selfish question - but I am not simply saying "Shall I give this away to benefit others, or sell it to benefit myself?"
Books are a case in point. We both love books, and over the years have accumulated [literally] thousands. At one point we decided in a fit of madness to try and catalogue them all. There were over 3000. But the collection must diminish in the next 5 years, we cannot take them all into retirement. But will not be of much use to the local CS if we just box them up and give them away. Some of our tomes are a specialist and of little interest to the majority of readers, so they are unlikely to sell.
When we left Kirby, we packed up 6 large boxes of the theology books and passed them on to someone who could give them to other ministers in training. That felt good!
But for the last few months, I have been spending the occasional afternoon looking at the shelves and taking out a pile of volumes which neither of us want to keep. Fiction, non fiction, classics, modern stuff, craft and cookbooks...Then I use the Ziffit website to determine quickly if these books have value. Some do, some don't. The books are sorted into saleable and nonsaleable. When I get to the magic £5 minimum, I stop - parcel up the books and send them off. The reject pile goes to the CS. The bizarre thing is that the most surprising books are accepted, and others not worth a penny. Recent literature and TV linked cookbooks are valueless [Sorry - we are currently not accepting this item] so all those paperback crime fiction ones end up in the CS. Which is usually where I purchased them in the first place.
This purchased 15 years ago, paid £3.14. and a huge volume called "Leicester and Its Regions" was £2.38 - but a paperback of Frankenstein was only worth 30p. The Leicester book was one I was given as a 6th former, when I went to a Conference in Leicester. I kept the book for 23 years - just in case I ever lived in Leicestershire. Then I finally did, and read it just twice in the last 20 years [when I moved, and when I left] It seems that these two contain useful information for writing PhD theses. They seem dead boring to me!! I have made about £50 selling 50 books over the last 18months - and given away the same number, if not more, to CS. 

I am less good with online auctions - but when I was given a die cutter, I sold my Fiskars Shape Boss to finance the purchase of some dies. And I did sell my entire Martha Stewart Living Magazine collection this way - but only made a few pounds. Some income - but not much.
As for Car Boot Sales, they have never proved that brilliant. I only take things which I think are of decent quality - and the leftovers go to a CS rather than coming home. But unlike other bloggers [who seem to make £100s] I have not had much success. I am told that this is because the best and most profitable sales are on Sundays - and I have better things to do on Sundays than stand in the rain behind a wallpaper table loaded with items I don't need anymore!
I picked up a leaflet about cash for clothes - but the conditions were so rigorous, and the amount offered so pathetic, that I decided it was not a good idea. Any clothes we no longer need, but which remain in good condition can go to the CS.
So on the whole, if things can be useful to someone else, then Charity Shops are my preferred destination for them. That way four groups benefit - we get the space, others get items they want at a fair price, the charities make some money, and the binman has less to put into landfill.

And could somebody please tell me how Ross and Demelza managed to make all that money selling a rug, a chair and a few other bits off the back of their cart on Sunday evening?

Do you sell stuff on for money? or give it to CS - or do you use sites like Streetlife and Freecycle to pass items directly to people who can use them?

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Let There Be Peace On Earth...

At our WWDP Committee yesterday, Elizabeth reminded us that the UN marks 21st September each year as 'International Day of Peace' - and that the World Council of Churches has therefore designated it as 'International Day of PRAYER FOR Peace' [it was first observed in 1982 - but I confess I had not really been aware of it] The Day’s theme for 2016 is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.”

Below is a prayer for the day, written by someone from the Philippines

Grant Us Peace 

Grant us peace that will
BREAK our silence in the midst of violence
then prophetic voices shall resonate

Grant us peace that will
PULL US DOWN from the steeple of our pride
then we'll learn to wash each other's feet

Grant us peace that will
EMPTY us of hate and intolerance
then we'll turn guns into guitars and sing

Grant us peace that will
SHUT our mouths up when we speak too much
then we'll learn to listen and understand what others are saying

Grant us peace that will
DISTURB us in our apathy
then we'll dance together under the sun

Grant us peace that will
BURN our lethargic hearts
then we'll endure burning and let love and justice glow

Whilst I recognise the importance of the UN's Goals [below] I personally believe that we need God's help most of all to bring peace in our world. Let us pray especially for the situation in Syria right now.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Put It In The Pantry With Your Cupcakes...

It is amazing to think that it is 48 years since a fresh faced young Dustin Hoffman appeared on screen as The Graduate. 

It was a film with the most fantastic soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel. I loved these songs - even if I couldn't always work out the lyrics. I was aware that Mrs Robinson really needed to know that Jesus loved her - and that she had a pantry full of cupcakes. Back in those days, we had 'fairy cakes' - and cupcakes were an American mystery, along with McDonalds, Oreos and Pizza Hut. These were food items I had heard of, but never seen in reality.
I was humming the tunes on Sunday afternoon - I decided to make some cakes - for Sunday tea and also to leave in the tin for Bob to eat whilst I was away at WWDP committee. I found this recipe in my Rachel Allen 'Food for Living' cookbook. It was unusual in that [a] it had a very small amount of butter- and that was melted into warm milk, and [b] the method involved whisking the eggs to great volume, for about 10 minutes. I decided to give it a go...
Rachel specifies that these are 'pretty little cakes' so I decided I should use some pretty little paper cake cases.
A friend in Leicester, who has long since given up baking, gave them to me - I think they must be 1960s vintage, they are so retro and sweet.
Rachel does warn that the cakes come out flat on top, so that was useful to know.
My   cakes looked fine - I didn't have any sugared almonds or crystallised flowers, so I just put sugar sprinkles on top. 
But here's the thing. I have three packets of paper cases in my cupboard.
One is a pack of Sainsbury's Cupcases [bought cheaply after the Queen's Jubilee in 2012] One is a pack of Supercook cases - 100 for 45p from the Co-op, no idea when that was, and the last one is the amazing pack of floral ones from my friend. Here they are

The thing is, they are clearly different sizes.
The capacity of the newer Sainsbury's ones is at least twice that of the other two.
The oldest, floral ones are slightly shallower than the plain white paper ones. Here is how they line up.

The experts are always telling us that portion sizes are getting larger- this seems to bear that out.
No wonder we are all getting fatter!

Monday, 19 September 2016

Gregg's Gal Or Bear's Babe?

I have finally caught up with the last programme in the BBC's Eat Well For Less series. The irrepressibly cheerful Gregg Wallace and Chris Bavin have worked with six families to help them cut their food budget and eat better. [I blogged about an earlier series here]
Episode 6 dealt with a single Mum and her young daughter - the latter, quite a fussy eater, and the former obsessed with taste [she maintained that organic always tastes better] Each day Mum prepared two different evening meals, despite time pressure and added cost. Her Mum was appalled by the grocery bills, but seemed unable to help.
As with the earlier programmes, I admired Chris and Gregg's patience. They genuinely wanted to help, and clearly got a kick out of passing on the simplest of cooking and budgeting skills. I genuinely found the ones where they taught knife skills to the disabled girl, and 'family friendly' recipes to the coeliac dad quite moving. 
They are currently seeking applicants for the next series. I checked it out to see if we would qualify.
  • Do you despair at your family's poor eating habits? [YES the two of us ate a whole bag of leftover donuts from a church event last week]
  • Have your financial circumstances changed and you need to reduce your food bill? [YES still no supply teaching, trying to reduce all bills]
  • Are you trying to improve your diet and eat healthily but you simply can't afford it? [YES have you seen the price of chia seeds, amaranth and coconut oil?***]
  • Are you wasting food each week? [actually, NO I rarely waste anything]
Bob says he thinks I am keeping our food budget so low anyway that they would struggle to pare any more pence from the total, we're well below the national average already. But I still found their website fun and their tips and recipes interesting. Best tip - I keep a bag of 'basics' frozen fruits in the freezer now, and use it with fruit I already have to pep up smoothies and desserts.
But if I can't do it 'For Less' what about 'Eating Well'? I have borrowed Bear's book and I am working through it thoughtfully. I confess I have never watched any of BG's programmes - unless you count the video he made for the Alpha Course. He does seem a Jolly Nice Chap [and he is Chief Scout] I'll review his book on food later!! [***these ingredients seem to feature highly in it]

But I am in total agreement with BG about faith in Jesus. [check out an Alpha course near you if you want to know more]