Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Enemies And Friends…

hobbitWe went to see “The Desolation of Smaug” in Norwich last week. I won't spoil it for any who have yet to see it. But I was a bit disappointed. There is a lot in the film which is not in the book, and I thought the spider sequence was a bit much [I would not say I was arachnophobic, but they terrified me. I’m glad I wasn’t watching in 3D]

There also seemed to be a lot of gratuitous decapitation. Some of the costumes were lovely though. Oddest bit? the fact that the enemy of the Hobbit [played by Martin Freeman], the Smaug dragon, is voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. Next week we shall see the return of Sherlock, where MF is Watson, with his friend Holmes [played by BC]. Quite bizarre!

I suspect I shall enjoy Sherlock more than Smaug.sherlock

Monday, 30 December 2013

Family Christmas Meal #3

We began with a meal with Steph and Mark on Dec 6th, then on Christmas Day met up with my brother Adrian, plus Marion and Lucy – then finally we enjoyed seeing Bob’s sister Denise and her husband Kevin, as they were in Norfolk for the weekend visiting his parents John and Ruth. We met up at The Peddars Inn in Sporle.


IMG_1336We’d pre-booked and were seated at a lovely round table in the window. The staff were very attentive and the atmosphere was good. I would definitely recommend this venue for a family meal!

IMG_1337The meals were excellent, and the portion sizes very generous. Everything was presented in cheffy little towers – I had to dismantle my roast dinner before I could cut it up and eat it. It tasted lovely.

Others had the chicken and tarragon, and the liver and bacon. All cooked well, tasting good


We were too full for desserts and just had coffee, while we swapped our gifts. [I may post some pictures later] Denise was very taken with the robin on the windowsill – she asked me to photo it for her. Not sure I could make one like it though


This year it has been super to be able to see so many family members – hoping we can get to see Liz and Jon again before too long.

At chapel on Sunday we were welcomed so warmly too.

In case you were wondering about the name of the pub, it comes from The Peddars Way - which follows a Roman road built along the line of an even older trackway. The name, Peddars Way, is said to be derived from the Latin “pedester”, which means “on foot”. The trail starts in the Brecks, a unique area of forest, heath and low river valleys, running north from Knettishall Heath in Suffolk, for 46 miles through changing countryside to the Norfolk coast near Hunstanton.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

A Pause In…

…in what? Advent has finished, and so has Christmas - but the New Year has yet to begin. This is the last Sunday of the year – celebrated by some as the feast day of Thomas A Becket, and according to the Church of England website “The days after Christmas Day until the Epiphany traditionally form a unity of days of special thanksgiving.”

Indeed, for many of us, we have much to be thankful for – another year of God’s blessings and faithfulness, and in recent days, the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with our nearest and dearest. To give and receive gifts, to enjoy happy times together.

But not everyone has a life of unalloyed joy right now. I can think of people I know for whom Christmas was spent mourning the loss of a family member, or watching by the bed of someone sick, or being in pain, or being lonely and anxious – and others I don’t know have been unexpectedly without heat or light, or made temporarily homeless by flooding, or were unable to get to their planned destinations. Round the world there is suffering and pain, hunger, homelessness and war. There have been moments when I have felt utterly powerless to do anything, and I have asked God “In this new year, how should I be serving You?” And over and over, a simple little tune has come into my mind. It is one I learned as a very small child – but it has challenged me greatly during this past week.

Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, so we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

Jesus bids us shine, first of all for Him;
Well He sees and knows it if our light is dim;
He looks down from heaven, to see us shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

Jesus bids us shine, then, for all around,
Many kinds of darkness in this world are found:
Sin, and want, and sorrow – so we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

IMG_1331 This beautiful candle was a Christmas gift from a friend. I am amazed how much light it produces [the box says ‘up to 45 hours burning time’]. I have decided it is not going to stay unlit, an ornament to be brought out every December along with the other decorations. Rather I am planning to light it frequently , in order to remind myself that I need to ‘be the light’ for Jesus, here in my small corner.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Boxing Day

I have been playing about with leftover Christmas Cards [from 2012] and doing origami to make some little boxes. I use the picture for the lid, and the back for the base. I cut a square from each piece- making the side of the ‘base’ square 1cm shorter than the lid. You can find a good tutorial here.


They are small – the side of the final box is about one third of the original cardboard square. However they are still useful for tiny gifts. I have put a few items in to show you – lip gloss, cuff links, ear-rings, small toys…

little boxes

I plan to put these away with the Christmas stuff, and then think about what tiny trinkets can go into them next year! If you plan really carefully and centre the picture before you cut the square, you can get end up with a very pretty box…

little boxes1

This year’s cards will be saved and used to make other things [more cards, gift tags…] and the scraps will go into the paper recycling. They are too pretty to discard the moment the season is over!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Martha Stewart, Move Over!

After a brilliant Christmas Morning Service, we left the church* and drove to Norfolk. We stopped briefly at Macdonalds [Hamilton, Leicester branch] I went in to buy 2 coffees and 2 donuts, whilst Bob re-tied the tarpaulin down on top of the car [covering our two ‘new’ doors] I never thought I’d be in MacDos at midday on Christmas Day!! I had a great conversation with the one other customer. She’d just moved to the area and been to Midnight Mass at ‘the church on the corner’ and the people had been very friendly. I urged her to go again in the New Year. I was more concerned to chat to the staff and find that they got no overtime, nor ‘time off in lieu’ for working Dec 25th. I thought that was sad. We got to Norfolk mid afternoon and went over to my brother’s.

Adrian, Marion and Lucy were busy preparing a delicious meal in the gorgeous new kitchen, recently fitted by A himself. [Clever bloke]



Here’s Bob watching the action. After eating, we opened presents and watched Dr Who together. And I fell asleep on the sofa.

Thanks A,M,L for a super family Christmas. * I admit that when we left church I realised how much I missed having Liz and Steph with us. I was glad they had both telephoned early in the morning to wish us well.

Marion’s clearly been making good use of the new facilities-their gift to us rivalled anything Ms Stewart could turn out. Here’s the gift basket as it arrived, next to my festive foliage, then dismantled…


Contents; spiced chutney with apricots, shortbread ‘petticoat tails’, chocolate truffles, cheese straws, and ‘Christmas Traybake’


All beautifully presented in cellophane bags with stylish labels and Christmas ribbons. What a treat – thanks so much for this! We have been given so many lovely gifts by friends and family – and feel greatly loved, and greatly blessed.

I hope you too have enjoyed these past few days too.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Sweet Talk

We have lots of people to give a little ‘thankyou present’ to this year- so I printed off some labels, and bought a big jar of humbugs



I loaded a few sweets into each little tin, and then channelled my inner Julie Andrews…IMG_1007

…brown paper packages, tied up with strings…


Around three dozen of these have gone to friends with love and thanks for all their kindness and support in this past year.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas Presence

king size bed

The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father's only Son.

May God fill your homes and your hearts with his presence, his peace and his power today and always.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


Sunday Night’s Candlelight Carols went brilliantly, lots of visitors, wonderful singing, and the hot choc and marshmallows were greatly appreciated at the end. The Senior section of the 2B Dance Group, who practice each Saturday in our Church Hall, did a beautiful dance interpretation of ‘Silent Night’ Their costumes, especially the golden angels, were truly breathtaking [thankyou Jane and your team]



The other breathtaking thing around here is my bowl of hyacinths – a leaving gift from my colleagues at the school where I have worked this term- two weeks ago they were just bulbs, but now they are blossoming and filling the house with their scent. [thanks, friends!]


Monday, 23 December 2013

Our “Open House” And More Carol Singing!

Having watched Alex Polizzi telling me how I should decorate my house, I ignored her advice completely [not being a multi-millionaire with access to unlimited fairy lights] but I did decorate the chandelier with some baubles, and I kept to a red/white/green colour scheme for the table, with gold highlights. 


and I prepared some pretty drinks


and I set a fancy table ready for Friday night’s Open House


I copied one idea from the internet, of making a wreath of rosemary as a base for little nibbles- cherry tomatoes, grapes, feta cheese [I put them in petit four cases] I thought this looked very festive. I am sure Ms Polizzi would approve – it is the colours of the Italian flag!


I stacked my serving tower with more nibbles – mini quiches [cheese&smoked salmon] small sausage rolls, and on the bottom tier, bowls of pretzels/cheese puffs/savoury biscuits, on a base of cypress trimmings.


IMG_1295And on the top, those snowmen [again] frolicking among the trees. On the net, these were done with cucumber slices on cocktail sticks – but I had a jar of gherkin slices which tasted very odd [they were a little past their date] so I used them to create the trees. They are standing in artificial snow

They don’t look quite as Christmas-tree like as the ones I found on the internet, but they made a fun top layer to my display standIMG_1293IMG_1294

Some flowers in silver chalices brighten a corner of the sideboard.

One of my guests Friday night bought me a bouquet of folded paper blooms. Very clever- and very pretty. I shall have to try making these myself IMG_1298IMG_1299

And afterwards, the Christmas tree figures and snowmen were relegated to a shiny plate on the sideboard.

Snow has fallen, snow on snow…

It was quite cold Friday night and Saturday – we shivered as we sang…


But Sarah made us very welcome at Cherry Tree Gifts – in the end there were around three dozen of us singing and playing Carols. Thank you to Rachel and the team from Ratby Band for the music!

Only two more Official Christmas Events to go and then the Pastor & his Missus are on Holiday!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Pause In Advent #4

Pause in Advent Logo from Floss

Before I forget – thank you Floss for organising these Advent Pauses. I know that many of us have found them all to be a real blessing as we prepare our hearts for Christmas. It has been especially  good to read Pauses from blogfriends who have joined the party for the first time this year. And thank you too, to all of you who’ve commented on my Pause Posts – I’m really glad people have found them helpful.

My final Advent post this year is my Loving Angel – who has the tagline “love, pure and simple”

loving angel - love pure and simple

Last week, Bob was in conversation with someone who said he believed there were only two forces in the world which motivated people – greed and sex. Bob suggested there was a third – love

I think Bob is absolutely right – and Christmas is all about love, love for friends and love for family. It’s also showing about love to those we don’t know, but wanting to ‘share the Christmas spirit’ with those in need. Charities receive a high proportion of their annual income over this period. We often sing the carol ‘Love came down at Christmas’

The angel is holding a red rose- for generations that flower has been the symbol of love. It is a good symbol, because it has many things to show us about the nature of true love…

  • love is beautiful - and the people who see the lovely rose will marvel – it brings joy to the recipients, and onlookers. So true love is admired [and maybe even envied by those who do not experience such a treasure]
  • love is vulnerable – the delicate red petals will bruise easily – and the recipient of love should respect the cost to the giver, and not treat it lightly.
  • love is strong – a rose is not an ‘annual’ plant, which needs to be grown afresh every year – but the rosebush goes on growing year after year.
  • love is unconditional – even in the dark, you can smell the beautiful perfume of the rose. Even when life is tough and circumstances are bad, or you make a mess of things, the true beloved goes on loving you through everything.
  • love is painful – as the thorns can scratch and pierce the hand of the person holding out the rose, so true love can be costly, and cause pain to the giver. But because this love is unconditional, the true beloved will bear that pain.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Coneheads–Or “How Martha Stewart Misled Me”


Not these cones [left] but these


I have a large box of pinecones in the loft [leftover from a children’s craft project at Church] so when I was reading one of my old Martha Stewart Magazines recently, and found an article about cones, I read it very carefully. MS maintained that if you soak cones in a solution of Epsom Salts [MgSO4] then when you put them on the fire they will burn with ‘attractive coloured flames’. As Adrian and Marion have a lovely wood burning stove, I thought “This would be a great gift to take on Christmas Day – we can watch the pretty flames, and it will add extra magic and sparkle to the evening”

So I bought a tub of Magnesium Sulphate from the chemist


I made up some solution and put the cones into it. They floated!


I weighted them down by putting a box on top full of cans


After 24 hours, I fished them out [and put a second lot of cones in] and left them to dry. Notice how they have all closed up tightly.


“We should test them before we give them to Marion” said Bob [He is an intelligent chap] So when we got back from Thursday’s School Carol Service he started a fire in the little BBQ . Notice his Christmas Tie dangling precariously near the flames [maybe he’s not that intelligent, then]


These just look like bright flames to me! I’d expected rainbow colours. They are bright, but not as spectacular as I had hoped. I was somewhat disappointed and felt Martha had raised my expectations unfairly.


Further internet research later tells me that MgSO4 will burn with a white flame although some websites says MgSO4 gives a red flame[for blue you need copper chloride, and for green, use copper sulphate] However, I shall bag these up anyway and take them to Norfolk with me next week.

“Gathering winter fuel” is, after all, a good Christmas tradition.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Bernie’s Bargain Benefits Book

I have blogged before about Bernadine Lawrence and her Benefit Book – feed your family for £4 a day [here] I had heard that she’d updated the book – twenty five years after it was originally written – but not seen it anywhere until this week. I was in Coalville and went into Home Bargains [which I consider is somewhere between Poundland and Wilkos in terms of prices and products] and there it was – only 99p. So I bought myself a copy [having first flicked through it, ‘speed-reading’ to check it wasn’t identical but with a new cover]


I have since read it right through and I am very pleased, considering I have definitely got my money’s worth here. Some things are the same – basic recipes [sauces, pastry, bread etc] and her ‘typical weekly shopping list’ and her ‘suggested four week menu plan’ but there are significant changes

  • she has dropped all the pricings [which were irrelevant anyway, once the book was a few years old]
  • recipes are just metric, not metric/imperial weights
  • she has far more meat-based recipes than before
  • she’s updated terms [e.g. she used cornmeal a lot in the original – now it is polenta, and soya sauce is just soy sauce]
  • she has taken into account the changes in ingredients over the past quarter century – her bread recipe now uses fast action yeast, and she substitutes honey for sugar in some recipes.
  • she has included ingredients which were not so freely available in the 1980s [sweet potatoes, vine tomatoes, tofu]
  • recipes have more interesting names – “toast cereal” is now “honey-milk toast”, “chicken and vegetable curry” becomes “rich chicken and mixed vegetable curry”

The colour photographs in the original are not in the new one – but then a bowl of tomato soup, a quiche and a casserole don’t really need illustrating, do they? If you are endeavouring to become a more frugal cook, I would really recommend this one *****

I won’t share any recipes until I have tried them – but here are two from my own Big Red Book which may prove useful over the Christmas season. Both are quick to produce, as accompaniments for making the ‘leftovers’ meals more interesting

QUICK CRUSTY BEER BREAD – ideal with ‘leftovers’ soup

  • preheat the oven to 180°C.
  • mix together in a large bowl -  400g self raising flour, 1 tsp salt, 2 tbsp sugar . Slowly stir in 300ml of beer** till you have a wet, ‘gluggy’ mixture. [add more beer if too dry]
  • transfer to a well greased loaf tin, bake 40 minutes till top is crusty and golden brown. Cool for ten minutes then turn out. Eat within the day or it goes ‘heavy’ [but will then make good toast or bruschetta bases]
  • **Bob says ‘live’ beer is best – the recipe suggests Foster’s Lager

STICKY TOFFEE SAUCE – for puds, ice cream or poached fruit

  • in a saucepan, mix together - 200gm of soft brown sugar, 250ml of cream [single, double, or whipping] ½tsp vanilla extract and pinch of salt.
  • bring to boil, stirring, then reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes.
  • gradually whisk in 2tbsp cold butter, which has been diced, whisking till glossy.
  • serve immediately, OR set aside and gently reheat when needed, OR cool and refrigerate for up to a week.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

End Of Term…

The teenagers I work with one morning a week have been having a burst of end of term creativity.

They decorated Yule Logs [noting to do with me – but that blue spotted apron is one we made in a sewing session in the Spring]


Some twirling tear-drop paper sculptures. I taught some of the boys to make these


And the final sewing session of the year resulted in two pink cushion covers.


No more Supply Work for 3 weeks. Better do some housework instead