Monday, 31 December 2012

Mussel Man

pasta#

We went to the coast on Saturday – a picked up a generous bag of mussels for £4 [I love the trusting nature of the Norfolk locals – they leave out bags of mussels and a tub for your money!] When we got back to Cornerstones, Bob tried out his new pasta machine [birthday gift from Steph last month]He made tagliatelle, and then cooked the mussels with a simple sauce [celery, carrot, onion, garlic, cream and white wine] Delicious!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Last Sunday Of The Year

new year

As usual we are away from home this weekend. I shall be thinking a lot about the year just gone – and the year ahead.

2012 -There have been some good memories, great things which have happened. Weddings, babies, new jobs,

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anniversaries, graduations to celebrate. And some sad things too. Friends and family members who have died. Marriages which have faltered and fallen apart. Jobs lost,

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promises broken, opportunities missed.

But a New Year beckons, with all its promise of fresh starts, new adventures – and the certainty that God will be there for us, and he knows what is ahead, and we can trust Him.

Since I prepared last Sunday’s post, I must tell you that I have some teaching work lined up for January, which is a real answer to prayer. I cannot say more right now – but thank you everybody who has sent kind and supportive comments in recent weeks.

Green pastures are before me, which yet I have not seen

Bright skies will soon be o’er me, where dark the clouds have been

My hope I cannot measure, my path to life is free

My Saviour has my treasure, and He will walk with me

May 2013 be full of unexpected blessings for you all

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Hobbit Forming

The Sudafed seems to have kicked in and the cough is easing. So we went to the little cinema in Dereham to see The Hobbit. It is nine years since the final part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was released – and believe it or not, Prince William saw that film at the very same cinema! [please note; I am not intending to spend the entire holiday travelling in the steps of the Royals]

hobbit unexpected journey poster

We both enjoyed the film. Bob knows the book better than I do, and he felt it was a good interpretation. I thought the casting was very good [although I kept thinking “Isn’t that dwarf being played by….?” and then missing other bits] Martin Freeeman was superb as Bilbo.

Watching the credits I noticed that ‘Necromancer’ was played by Benedict Cumberbatch [Holmes to Martin Freeman’s Watson] I hadn’t spotted him during the film. Bob muttered mysteriously that he was shadowy and you saw his legs. No I didn’t understand either!

There were rather too many goblins for my liking. And apart from a few minor female Hobbits at the beginning, and Ms Blanchett, the actors are almost all blokes. Andy Serkis was brilliant as Gollum.

If you enjoyed the LOTR trilogy, I think you will like this one!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Bells And Whistles

bells&whistles

I do not usually type blog posts at 2am, but if I lay down, my cough returns, so here I am, sitting up in an armchair, swathed in blankets, with a laptop on my knees. Please do not start feeling sorry for me – the cough is getting better, and we’ve had a fabulous few days…

After a great Christmas Day with Steph, we left Leicestershire on Wednesday morning, collected Liz and Jon from J’s family in Nottinghamshire, and drove to L&J’s place in London [160+ miles] Once there, the five of us had a Christmas Meal and exchanged presents.

kewOn Thursday Bob, Steph and I went over to her new house in Wimbledon [which is fab] then all five of us spent the day in Kew Gardens – including a picnic lunch. Normally this would have cost us EIGHTY QUID in entrance fees. Liz had managed to get us the free Christmas tickets. [that’s my girl!!]

In the evening Bob and I drove to Cornerstones[115 miles], calling in briefly on Adrian and Marion on the way. So we did much travelling. Five adults with a lot of luggage was going to be a squash, even in our capacious Skoda Octavia – so we borrowed a roof box to accommodate some of the bags [thank you Richard and Rachel] We discovered that when you get to 70mph on the motorway, it WHISTLES! Furthermore, one gift has a bell on it – and when we went over bumps, the bell JINGLED!  The M11 was certainly more interesting than usual.

littlehefWe decided to stop for something to eat on the journey. We pulled in at the Barton Mills ‘Little Chef’ [the one where Prince Harry once had breakfast with a load of his army chums] It was 7.20pm, and the sign said they were open till 8 for ‘evening meals’. Once inside, we discovered that this meant we could have a hot drink and a toasted teacake, but no other food. We left!

We’re here in Norfolk for a few days break. When I unpack my camera I shall post some pictures, but now I am going to try to get to sleep. Don’t expect anything coherent for a while…

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Chocs Away!

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Not my idea – I think I first read in in Martha Stewart Living, years ago. But here’s a simple way of giving gifts to a lot of people without major outlay – but still making them personal from you.

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Begin with a stack of interesting chocolate bars. These came in packs of 5 from a Continental supermarket of which I am very fond – some is plain, some milk, some has orange flavouring, some has nuts.

Now design your labels

DSCF4739You need to measure your bars, and make them wide enough to cover the whole bar, and long enough to wrap round and overlap

Find some suitable graphics, and decide on your personalised greeting.

Some Pritt stick or double sided tape will hold the label in place.

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Wrapped in pairs, they’ve gone to our deacons and the members of our worship team – with much love and thanks for all they do all year

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Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Sugar And Spice And All Things Nice

…that’s what my girls are definitely made of!
liz spice rack
Liz has a lovely spice rack which she refurbished beautifully 3 years ago. All her pots match beautifully. You can read about that here. My rack is inside the kitchen cupboard – full of randomly shaped jars.
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Now Steph has moved out of rented properties with minuscule kitchens,into her own place, and she said she wanted to build up a proper collection of herbs and spices [and Kilner Jars!] I decided I could help with that.
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At my recent conference, the breakfast marmalade came in little pots [always so useful] I picked mine up and then my friends, realising I was collecting, gave me theirs. I brought home 20 which I have washed and sterilised.
Now I have filled a dozen of them with a selection of spices from the stock in my cupboard. That should give Steph a good start. I labelled the jars with Bob’s P-touch labelmaker for a professional finish
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Yes, the middle one on the bottom row is Sugar Shapes – but I had a huge tub, and Steph frequently makes cakes, so will enjoy using them. And I remembered to label the jars not the lids, because as Liz pointed out, with identical jars, it is easy to screw a top back on the wrong jar – and juniper berries and allspice, or cumin seeds and caraway seeds could be easily confused!
DSCF4942I took a tea-towel and used that to protect the jars and placed them inside a Kilner Jar.
Steph stressed that she didn’t expect a lot of money spent on her Christmas gifts – so I hope she enjoys using this home-made contribution to her new kitchen!allspice, caraway, cardamom, coriander, cumin, juniper, mustard seeds, onion seeds, sesame seeds, star anise, sugar shapes, turmeric
Happy Christmas, to my lovely daughters- whose cooking skills are far better than mine!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Joy To The World!

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Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth

Hark! the herald angels sing “Glory to the newborn King!”

Monday, 24 December 2012

Oh YES Believer!

Thankyou Musicademy for sharing this one

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Deck The Halls With…

…lots of triangles!

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The Jesse Tree [made in 2008]

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The Advent Calendar [that dates back to 1986]

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And yet more bunting [this year’s effort]

I wonder what shape will be my favourite for next Christmas?

Pause In Advent 2012 – #4

Pause in Advent Logo from Floss

Soon it will be Christmas Day, and in nine days we will be at the start of a New Year.  Lots to think about…

As you know, I have not had any supply teaching since June – and then I missed a job interview because I was ill. Another friend was also due to be at that interview- and she too pulled out because of illness.

at-the-end-of-your-rope

She emailed me, about feeling at the end of the rope, but holding on. I joked that the trouble with having the flu was that it had left me too wobbly to tie a secure knot!

Then I remembered the motto of the college where our two husbands trained together for ministry around 30 years ago.

Et Teneo Et Teneor

spurgeons window

There is a beautiful stained glass window at the College showing a hand holding a cross. The Latin motto can be translated

“I both hold and am held”

I have no idea what will happen in 2013. We’ve got to the end of the year solvent [just] – Bob still has the motorbike [awaiting a new shock absorber] and we have managed to find the mortgage payment every month.

I cannot explain how we have managed – other than by the grace of God, and the love of his people. But my trivial problems are just that, minuscule, in comparison with others…

There have been moments in the past few months when holding onto faith has not been easy because of what has been going on in our world…

  • The whole Jimmy Savile thing, when men have thought it was OK to abuse children, and deny anything has happened, to protect reputations.
  • The hoax phone call to a hospital- where ‘entertainment’ took precedence over the privacy and dignity of a young pregnant woman – and another innocent woman caught up in it all, one who lived by values of honesty and respect, was so distressed that she took her life.
  • The awful murder, by a deranged gunman, of twenty little children and six adults who were at school preparing for Christmas  – in a nation which believes both in the right to ‘the pursuit of happiness’ and ‘the right to bear arms’
  • Nine young girls killed last Monday by a landmine in Afghanistan – triggered accidentally as they were collecting firewood for their families. "Most of those killed were aspiring engineers, doctors and teachers. Only four bodies can be recognised," said a tribal elder.
  • Closer to home, one friend’s husband died suddenly and another friend has been diagnosed with a very serious cancer.

These awful, heart wrenching situations have frequently left me weeping for those affected, as they suffer indescribable grief. And these things cannot be brushed away with glib answers.

holding handI cry out Why, Lord? – but as I struggle in these dark moments, I realise that I am not stumbling alone in the dark – His hand is holding mine so firmly, that even if my grip weakens, I will not slip.

“I both hold and am held”

When I get to the end of my rope, I find God is always there with me.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Objets Trouvés

I have found a number of things in the past few days

A cardboard box containing a lovely little cake was at the church

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‘Kidz in Kirby’ is the youth group organised by Duane, our Police Community Support Officer [who has his office on our church premises] They have done all sorts of useful stuff round the village – painting community property, litterpicking, visiting Care Home Residents… and also decorating Christmas Cakes. Thanks Kidz!

I found some Carol Singers – and Signers outside Cherry Tree Gifts

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[this year we had no snow, and the rain held off so that was great]

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While getting Steph’s room ready for her return tomorrow night, I found a jar of broken necklaces which I had mislaid. I am trying to corral all my small jars of beads into one large jar, it will make crafting a lot easier!

Also in Steph’s room, I found some food…

DSCF5098A bag of granola cereal was packed in with the Get In the Picture costumes [I took this to the church for my breakfast two weeks ago – but was already feeling ill and flu-ey and never got round to eating it!]

What I have not found yet is that wretched half mince pie!

Top Tips For Christmas 2012–#5

hairdryer

Don’t just use your head,

use your hair dryer!

There are loads of useful things this tool can do, quite apart from styling your locks for the Christmas party.

Just remember Christmas Elf-and-Safety. Don’t let it overheat, and keep it away from water, and small children.

You can spruce up tired and dusty silk flowers

dryer flowers

If the Christmas arrangement you got out of the loft is looking sad, then gently waft it with the dryer to blow away the dust [if possible, hold it upside down!] The flowers can look surprisingly refreshed afterwards [I guess anyone would if inverted and given a blow-dry!]

You can remove sticky price tags

dryer label

Be gentle, use the warm setting, and just go patiently until one corner can be lifted and then peel away the lot. Remove any remaining residue with a little baby oil or isopropyl alcohol applied on a cotton wool ball.

You can dry your boot linings

boots

Cold wet feet are horrid – and if the lining of your boots gets damp, that's not a good thing. But use a cool setting, and do not put the dryer right inside or it will overheat and cut out. After a good blast from the dryer, stuff with paper to absorb remaining moisture.

You can make your icing glossy

dryer frosting

Channel your inner Mary Berry and give added frisson to your frosting. A few seconds with a warm dryer will give an added sheen to buttercream frosting.

Mind you, in this house, cakes are for eating, not admiring. Not sure I’d waste the electricity on this one!

You can shift candlewax spills

Christmascandles

This is a time of year when there are lots of candles around. If wax drips on the furniture, then heat it gently and blot away with paper towels. And do remember not to leave candles unattended. They can burn surprisingly quickly and start fires!

You can dry your nail varnish

nails

If you are running late, and need to get the manicure complete before the party starts. Personally I would not advise this shade of Tango Orange. And on the rare occasions when I do paint my nails, I feel it is good for me to sit still for 10 minutes to let it dry thoroughly.

You can speed up defrosting the freezer

freezer

Despite my good intentions, I just had to do this myself. The door had been left just slightly open, and the drawer that holds the ice trays was completely frosted up. Five minutes with the dryer and we were back in business!

This will be my last Top Tips for this year – please let me know any good tips you feel are worth sharing.

Friday, 21 December 2012

What A Welcome!

Joy!

I love this! [full story here]

OK Mags and co, next time I fly over for a holiday with you all, I shall be expecting something along these lines, please!!

Marvellous Mini Morsels

I did some baking for our Christmas Open House – and used my Lakeland mini morsel maker for everything

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I did some tiny sponge cakes – 24 paper petit four cases fit beautifully into the pan, and my 1” ice cream scoop deposits a consistent amount of cake mix. [6oz each of flour, butter and sugar, plus 3 eggs makes 48 mini cakes]

And I made some mini mince pies – cutting different shaped pastry pieces for a variety of tops.

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Being small, these have the advantage that you can eat them in one mouthful – no risk of losing half of one of these!

DSCF5074But this year I also copied an idea from an ancient Donna Hay magazine full of Christmas recipes – she suggests making baskets  for canapés using Chinese wonton wrappers.

The new Chinese supermarket in Leicester sell packs of 36 wrappers for just over £1. You just push them in the tin and bake in a hot oven for a few minutes.

DSCF5075I love the fact that the label says “Wanton Pastry” – it seems deliciously decadent somehow! I used a little bit of “Cake Release” in the tinDSCF5077DSCF5078

They came out as crisp little baskets. Into each one I put a tiny dollop of crème fraiche, a snip of smoked mackerel, and a garnish of orange pepper and sliver of green spring onion tops. One fillet of smoked mackerel yielded enough to fill 24 baskets.

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Red pepper would have been more festive – but I only had orange peppers in the fridge!

They tasted very good – but I realised you must fill them immediately before serving, as they go soft very quickly.

The few left at the end of the evening had quite soggy bottoms

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As well as the three sorts of mini morsels, i did some celery crudités, and retro cheese, pineapple cubes, and sausages on sticks, and some cherry tomatoes. I also put crisps and tiny biscuits in bowls.

For drinks we had various fruit juices, tea, coffee and apple wassail [recipe here]

What ‘nibbles’ do you serve your Christmas guests?

Thursday, 20 December 2012

I Spy Half A Mince Pie…

quince tree half a pie

Thank you Sue, of the delightful Quince Tree blog, for permission to use your photograph. If you don’t know QT, do check it out, and you can find Sue’s excellent mince pie details here. But why the picture?

A Cautionary Tale.

Once I started recovering from the flu, I got back into Christmas Mode, and the other afternoon, spent a little while upstairs, pottering around sorting some things which needed to be posted. I wandered from room to room, amassing a heap of stuff on the bed. I was busy and happy and humming carols to myself.

After about 45 minutes, Bob came upstairs- he had a mug of tea in one hand and a mince pie in the other. “Here you are” he said. I thanked him and told him what I had been doing. Then I sipped some tea and had a bite of pie. This is where it started to go pear shaped…

mug...I put the mug of hot tea down on Steph’s bedside table, [the pie was still in my left hand] and picked up something in my right hand, and transferred it to the bed-heap. I had another small bite of pie.

“This is not a bad mince pie” I thought

Bob had made the mincemeat last year, Jus-Rol had provided the pastry and I’d assembled the pies the day before. I had a sip of tea.

Now things become a little hazy in my brain

A few minutes later I was in the spare bedroom, picking up some papers, when I realised I was holding neither mug nor pie. I returned to Steph’s room. The mug was standing on the only small clear area of the desk not covered by sewing stuff. But I could not find my half-mince-pie anywhere!

I called Bob “I have lost half a mince pie!!” and he came straight upstairs to assist in the search and rescue operation. But it was not anywhere. “Are you sure you did not eat it all?” “Positive!” [Bob usually eats his pies in one, at most two, mouthfuls, and cannot understand how I need at least three or four bites!]

That, my friends, was five days ago. I have continued pottering and tidying, and clearing surfaces. But the pie has yet to be revealed.

Moral Of The Story

Husband – Put the pie on a plate, or tray, before serving to wife. That way it will be easer to spot.

Wife - Stop what you are doing and eat the whole pie before continuing with other tasks. And try to be tidier. Much tidier.