Tuesday, 30 December 2008

End of year confusion!

Life round here is never dull - on Sunday Liz went off to spend the remainder of the year in Nottingham with Jon's family, and on Monday, Steph was planning to go up to Liverpool to Mark's family - and we were off to Rugby for the day, to meet up with Bob's family, then Wednesday to Norfolk to my family. That was the original plan anyway!

travel Except just as Liz left on Sunday, Steph said she was staying an extra day and would come with us to Rugby. But difficulties with trains meant she needed a lift to Birmingham New Street Station on Tuesday. And just as we left for Rugby, Liz rang to say she was really poorly and Jon's Dad was bringing her back to us on Monday afternoon because Jon had two gigs in Bristol and she didn't want to go back to a cold empty flat on her own. And could I leave a doorkey under a flower pot or something, please??!! Oh, and Bob was getting bothered because he still hadn't sorted out his tax return which ABSOLUTELY MUST be done by Wednesday.

Are you following this saga? I've just about got my head round it all - and my head was not in a good state on Monday morning [see below***]

However, we went off and had a super time with  Bob's bro and sis and their spouses - Steph was the only one of the six cousins who made the Family Get-Together this year. Frank had made the Hairy Bakers' "Cranberry, Turkey and Ham Pie", which was fabulous. We also got to play on their new Wii.

When we got home,Liz was wrapped in a blanket looking very sorry for herself. meanwhile, Mark and phoned Steph to say they were going to Northumberland [where? what? why?] for a New Year's Party, and could she rustle up some fancy dress, on a Lord of the Rings type theme?

So I went into the loft and dug out the Official Family Cloak,some old curtains and two sewing machines [ignoring my comments 2 weeks ago about No More Sewing Till Next Year!]

IM003118 Here is Steph in a Wizard Outfit - having the cloak already I only needed to produce a hat. I made the cloak in 1974 when I was a student. It has appeared many times since

And at the bottom, here she is modelling Mark's Elf/Pixie costume. Made from green Dralon curtains which I had secondhand in 1983! Women have been making clothes from curtains since Scarlett O Hara in 'Gone with the Wind' and Maria Von Trapp in 'The Sound of Music'


This is a tradition worth maintaining!




Charlie the dog was quite baffled by this outfit.

The hats are dead easy. For a tall wizard hat with big brim, you need to draw a circle pattern 50cm in diameter [blue IKEA tray!] and in the middle of that cut out a circle about 19cm cm in diameter [saucepan lid]

Cut TWO of these brims in black. Then use a pen and bit of string to draw a quarter circle 40cm in RADIUS on a large bit of paper [eg the Sunday Times] Cut two of those crowns in black.

Now sew two cones from your 'crown pieces, by seaming the straight sides

LEAVE A 5CM GAP IN ONE PIECE THOUGH. Pin and sew the crowns to the inside of the brims. You have two [almost] identical floppy hats now. Turn one inside out, then put them one inside the other, right sides together and sew round the outer brim. Turn the whole thing out through that little gap you left, and pull the hat into shape. Sew up the gap and put that on the inside of the crown.

For the pixie hat use a 35cm circle [smaller tray] and same 19cm pot lid - and the crown is one third [not a quarter this time] of a 35cm circle.[pattern made as before]

By 10pm last night, the dining table was back to its pre Christmas state !

IM003122 I did out everything away though, before we went to bed, ready for this morning's trip to Birmingham and assault on the Tax Return.

I got Steph to her train OK, and Bob took Liz to our GP who gave her antibiotics.

Mark went to the wrong station to meet Steph and Jon has phoned at regular intervals to check on Liz. And Bob keeps muttering at his PC. There are receipts and bills all over the dining room - it no longer looks like thisIM003123... trays and pan lids are back in the kitchen now and the sewing machines are away in their cases.

*** My head is confused because in August the Dr said my blood cholesterol level was VERY VERY HIGH. He gave me till Christmas to get it down,lose weight, and exercise more.

I have rowed miles on the rowing machine, I have dieted , I have drunk dozens of little pots of Benecol and Flora Pro-Activ and I have lost a full stone in weight - 14 whole pounds!  I went early on Monday morning for the result of the cholesterol test taken the week before Christmas - and my levels have not altered AT ALL!!I Not one measly decimal place.

After all my efforts, this seems so hard - but the GP doesn't seem too fussed. He just said to keep up the diet and exercise and go back in another 3 months.

I had better go back downstairs and help Mr Micawber!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Basket of Brilliant Bagels


Liz went off to spend the remainder of her hols with Jon's family, bearing a basket of bagels. She also made the ones we ate on Christmas morning and Boxing Day. She likes the recipe from the book by Dan Lepard. I have to say they were brilliant.

Steph made a superb Bubble-and-Squeak from leftovers tonight. I am very sorry, I forgot to take a picture before we ate it!

I must get to bed now, it is late [spent the evening watching "39 Steps" and thought it was very well done]

Revelation 22:2

On Saturday, we wanted to do something together and Steph said she wanted to see some trees - so I suggested the National Memorial Arboretum. It isn't too far from here, and I had heard it was worth a visit. The website said 'free entry' and that it was open - so after lunch, off we went.

It was really very interesting - some memorials were particularly moving. Unfortunately it was bitterly cold- and rather exposed, as most of the trees are still in the early stages of growth and do not exactly provide shelter. Bob and Steph took lots of pictures

At various points, there were references to the verse from the book of Revelation

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.



Me, walking past the Berlin Airlift Memorial




These two statues are opposite each other, on the big walls inscribed with names of all those who have died in the armed forces since the end of WW2.

Sadly, they have left a huge blank area of wall for more inscriptions.One of the most recent names is that of Christopher Dunsmore- the local lad we remember each November 11th at our village war memorial service.

The man below is opening a door in the wall. Liz tells me that it was a Victorian custom to put a door in a memorial when it was someone who had 'died before their time' On the other side of the wall, along the crack, it explains that on the 11th day of the 11th month, a shaft of sunlight will shine through the crack.















It was very cold and blustery












Here is the ATS memorial. Her uniform jacket appears to be buttoned the "man's" way.Must check this out!


The wonderful little train did not seem to be running





 P1010059                                                                                                           This beautiful sculpture in the Chapel was made by members of the British Woodcarvers Association and is called "The Storyteller" - about 7 sculptors worked one day a week for 10 months to produce this, and other items in the Chapel.

On the altar were some memorial cards - a few from children, whose fathers had died during the past 5 years, and outside by many of the memorials there were fresh wreaths. It was clear that many families make this a place of pilgrimage especially at Christmas-time.

The website says

The Memorial was constructed to provide recognition of the men and women of our Armed and Merchant Services who have lost their lives in conflict as a result of terrorist action or on training exercises since the end of the Second World War. Unlike the World War memorials in towns and villages across the nations, there is nowhere that records the names of those who have been killed on duty since 1945...

During this period the men and women of the Armed and Merchant Services have taken part in more than 50 operations and conflicts across the world, often as part of United Nations, NATO or other international coalitions. These actions have ranged from hot war to peacekeeping; from humanitarian assistance to fighting terrorism; from the jungles of Malaysia to the storms of the South Atlantic; from the streets of Aden to the streets of Northern Ireland.

It is not just Service men and women who have made sacrifices. Behind every name on the Memorial there are the wives, husbands, partners, parents, children and colleagues who loved them and who live with the pain and consequences of their loss every day.

I kept thinking of the carol we had been singing just a few days earlier

"Oh hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing"

I was glad we went - and conscious that we were there as a family - so many who visit must be acutely aware of the one they are missing.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Pay It Forward

Yesterday, after bowling, we took a quick trip to Borders - cos all 4 of us love bookshops. I dithered for ages about treating myself to a  curried-lentil-soup-fb magazine, and finally decided to get the American Christmas Edition of Good Housekeeping [my sister-in-law kindly gives me a  subscription to the UK one as my Christmas gift each year]


There were some nice ideas in it [like this soup-in-a-jar] Eventually decided I would treat myself- and then when I got to the till, the girl said "Err, it has been paid for" "Pardon" "The customer ahead of you left £10 to pay for the next customer's items"

"Oh, wow! a pay-it-forward, how lovely!" I said "Thank you" There was one other person behind me in the queue, with a paperback book. "How much is your book?" I called out- and she said - so I gave the assistant some cash and said that money -plus the change from my magazine, should cover her purchase - and put the pennies left over into the charity box please.

"I have never had this happen before" said the assistant. She was quite bemused by the whole business. I was really excited, and have never been on the receiving and of a P-I-F before. The magazine is full of loads of super projects.


Not altogether convinced by this tie wreath though.

It needs 19 ties - and even if I could persuade Bob to part with some, I doubt they would make an attractive wreath.

We watched the DVD of Evan Almighty the other night - that is full of A-R-Ks [Acts of Random Kindness] Should I be thinking about New Year's Resolutions like "Do a P-I-F or A-R-K each week" instead of the more self centred goals [continue to lose weight, and exercise more] which I was considering?? I haven't made a New year's Resolution for many years. Will have to think further on this one.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Come on and Celebrate



The family spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day


Not one but two Nigellas in the kitchen


Both working incredibly hard to prepare a fabulous Christmas Lunch.


Once turkey etc in the oven, we went to church, then came home to open presents.











We had splendid food - lots of healthy veggies to accompany our happy free range turkey.


Followed by a cranberry, grape and pomegranate Pavlova, and a surprising Girdle-Buster Pie!

Then Bob and I went to the Church where Gillian and her team had served Christmas lunch to around thirty people, many of whom would otherwise have been on their own for the day.




We all went upstairs into the Chapel, to watch Her Majesty on the big Screen. God Save Our Gracious Queen!


After that, the Pastor declared himself to be officially On Holiday, and buried his nose in a book.

Rudolph has appeared every year since about 1986!


Boxing Day we wanted to do something together as a family,so we went ten pin bowling. None of us is very good, but it was all great fun. Steph took most of these pictures on her new camera!




When we got home, she made a fabulous turkey pie, topped with sweet potatoes.

stephs pie

All in all a lovely time. Hope your Christmas was equally good.

For our friends


It's OK - I am not at the computer today - I have done this as a publish later post. I hope it works- otherwise some people may have their Christmas surprises spoiled!

In England, the 26th of December is called Boxing Day - traditionally the Lord of the Manor gave a 'Christmas Box' to each of his servants.

We do not have servants, but we do have lots of lovely friends.


I wish we could give everyone a gift to show how much we love and appreciate them, but we aren't that rich.

Bob likes to make sure everyone who contributes regularly to the Worship Group at church each week has a small token of appreciation. This year they are all getting key-rings.

One side embroidered with a treble clef [my bit] the other side, a graphic [Bob's work] Thank you, to you, good people, who hold the key to good music in our services!

IM002954 And then I have prepared some tins of ginger "Button Biscuits"for the deacons. I thought the buttons were particularly appropriate - after all, these wonderful, spiritual men and women are the ones who help hold the fabric of church life together![The recipe for the biscuits is here. They are really nice when dunked in a cup of tea.]

Thank you all of you - it is a privilege to be able to serve the Lord with you. May He continue to bless and guide our fellowship throughout the New Year.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Jesus is the Reason for the Season

IM003104-1For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him

Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift


May His love surround you, and yours, this Christmastide, and always

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Better Late than Never

IM003102-1 Following the example of my good friend Lesley who had a "Finnish Summer" to get her projects completed, I felt that I should finish some cross stitch Christmas decorations I purchased back in 1994! We have obviously been incredibly busy every Christmas since we got here to Leicester in 1995, because they have languished in a drawer, and the needle had rusted into the corner of the Aida fabric.

Finally, this year I got them done - one day last week when Bob was dozing, unwell, in front of the TV, I sat on the sofa stitching away.

IM003103 I was pleased with them, and so stitched "Kirby Muxloe 2008" on the back to remind myself in future years of when I did them!

Bob has just got in from another round of pastoral visiting, Liz is preparing food in the kitchen, and Steph is busy too.

I doubt I shall have time to blog for a few days so I am going to try and set up a couple of post-dated-posts!

May God bless you and yours over the Christmas season, and may the peace that passes understanding fill your hearts and minds, as we look forward to that blessed hope - the appearing of our Saviour!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Every Little Helps!

IM003099 Apparently Tesco's in Braunstone Frith had not received the message about their new staff member! So Steph is only working till 12.30pm.

I was disappointed she did not have to don a tacky nylon overall- but here is a picture of her in regulation Tesco's starry Christmas headgear!

And yes, it is a very small branch but they still stock goose fat nonetheless!

The Selfish Giant

selfish giantThis morning [the dining table still being covered with stuff from last night] Bob and I ate breakfast in front of the TV and watched an animated version of "The Selfish Giant".

I love this Oscar Wilde Story, which I read frequently to my children when they were younger.  So I was really pleased to find there was an animated version showing on TV this morning. However they obviously decided to re-write the last few sentences of the story [the whole point of the tale] and obliterate its Christian content. Check out the much better animation here on YouTube if you don't know the story.

shack Now I am off to buy a newspaper in WHSmiths -because this week they are selling The Shack for only £2.99 a copy, and it will be useful to have a spare or two to lend people. If you haven't read it, pick one up now while it is so cheap!


Another well told tale, and good discussion starter!

Steph is already an hour through her shift at Tesco. She went armed with instructions about finding and learning the aisle location of certain products which customers are likely to ask for in the run-up to Christmas [turkey, cream, mincemeat etc] I was intrigued to see 'goose fat'.I wonder how many customers will ask her for that today? And finding it is £3.99 will they then actually buy it for roasting their potatoes?

Monday, 22 December 2008

Open House!

IM003095 Lots of food, and lots of good friends for the "Annual Christmas Open House At the Manse". I had a lovely evening, and hope the others did too!

I intended to take lots of photos, but somehow was too busy being hostess and chatting [and eating!]

IM003096 Carole and John were the first to arrive - because they knew they had to leave early to look after the grandchildren.

Carole reads this blog so it is about time I embarrassed her with a photograph! She was impressed by how [uncharacteristically] tidy the house was, I think!


Here are just a few of the others. After this, the place really filled up! I just love the way that all these people aged from 20's to 80's can get together and have fun and good conversation.

Now I shall go to bed - I have to be up really early tomorrow, as Steph is doing a stint at Tesco's and needs to be there for 8am. [Her company does Market Research for them, so she is going to experience 'life on the shop floor'] The clearing up can be left till I get back at 8.15 I think - too tired to sort it out now.

Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer!

I love Radio 4 - yesterday's morning service was from Albany Baptist in Cardiff, with our friend John Weaver preaching a great sermon. Then Clive James was really funny about giftwrap, and on PM tonight they interviewed a girl from Glenfield Methodist Church [just up the road] about her sleep-out for the homeless. And I won't even mention the Archers! All good stuff, keeping me company whilst I have been getting meals ready or preparing for church stuff.

Yesterday's Praise Party went far better than I had hoped - here is the Christmas Bunting which the children made


Each triangle has a sticker saying "Jesus is born" or "Worship the new-born King" or similar. It now  festoons the church hall!


The Carol Service last night was splendid, and all the people who took part were superb - the musicians, and the choir and the readers, and the people speaking of "What Christmas Means To Me"

Our Christmas Offerings are being divided between Mission Aviation Fellowship and our local Air Ambulance - an angelic/aeronautic theme, coming in on a wing and a prayer. Bruce spoke about his horrendous motorbike crash and how the air ambulance helped save his life - but Christmas was important, because it marks the birth of Jesus, his true Saviour, it was incredibly moving.

This morning, Bob and I went [with Gillian, Helen, Ellen and George] to sing Carols at a local Neighbourhood Centre. There is a daily group there for people with learning difficulties and for about 4 years, Bob has gone and led a Carol service for them. They were such friendly folk, and their staff work incredibly hard.

Then back home to get the house ready for tonight's party. Off to collect Steph from the station [one daughter home, one to come] IM003094 She promptly got stuck into preparations, bless her!

Here she is in suitable Nigella pose, preparing dips for the crudites!

Bob is getting back to normal, glad there there are not many services left to do before Christmas.

Thrifty tip of the day - take a pack of six cake bars. Sainsbury's budget range are fine, but I got some fancy ones on offer.

cake bars

cakebars 2

Unwrap them, and with a sharp knife, cut each bar into 3 - they come out almost cube-shaped. Pop into petit fours cases, and voila!


  On a fancy plate they look really good and make eighteen mini cakes [or 15, if there were five bars originally]

Last time I served these up, someone asked if I had bought them in M&S!

Liz gets home tomorrow, and then we will be truly ready for Christmas!