Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Fully Booked

Serious relaxation includes serious [and not so serious] reading time. Here's my stack, courtesy of Norfolk Libraries - Dereham and Fakenham branches.
From top to bottom. 
Seven Dead - a British Library Crime Classic by J Jefferson Farjeon. Not started this yet.
Numero Zero - by Umberto Eco. I loved "The Name Of The Rose" but gave up on this after one chapter.
Two by Peter James, from his Roy Grace detective series. Halfway through the purple one: Not dead yet [that's the title] Set around Brighton with plenty of detail of police procedure. ***
Making Peg Dolls And More. Great ideas,  clear instructions and templates but look
I don't want to seem picky, but none of these is a peg IMHO. But I will let her off because I think there are a lot of fresh interpretations and inspiring creations. 
I like the swallow marionette with the Thumbelina inside it, based on the Hans Christian Andersen story. There's a similar dragon too. 

The Comfort Friends, filled with soothing lavender are sweet, along with a similar tooth fairy cushion. And you will find Christmas decorations, cake toppers and more. This gets a definite *****
Happy Stitch. Jodie Rackley's 30 projects are well explained but nothing particularly innovative ***
Everything Oz is a great book from the team who produced 'Everything Alice' [review here] It's full of great patterns for items to make for a Wizard of Oz themed event. Foods, favours, fun stuff. Some is rather trivial, some very time consuming to create. But I love the book for this one item... if you make lime jelly with tonic water instead of regular water then it will glow in the dark under ultra violet light! I cannot wait to try this out *****
Wild Things to Make is a follow up to an earlier book [reviewed here] Very similar ideas [dresses, capes, pinafores etc] Good stuff - but Rosie is not in need of any more clothes right now ****
Sew classic clothes for girls [details]  comes from the author of the Cottage Mama Blog. There's an accompanying CD with all the patterns. It's intermediate /advanced level sewing. Good tips re piping etc. But the designs are a bit too 'girlie' for me. ***
I cannot review the bottom two yet as I still haven't looked at them! 

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Treasure Seeking

Five years ago I went with my friend Christine to the Norwich Records Office to see an exhibition about the Paston Letters. These letters were written during the 15th century by an influential Norfolk family. The collection is interesting because of the diversity of the correspondence - both in the authorship and the content of the letters. 
This year Norwich Castle is holding an exhibition entitled "The Paston Treasure : Riches and Rarities Of The Known World". It is all about this painting
Painted around 1655, by an unknown artist, this is an amazing 'Vanity Piece' - not just a regular still life composition  but one designed to showcase the treasures belonging to this family. At this point, the family were at their most wealthy, hosting visits from the King at their mansion [Oxnead Hall] bringing back souvenirs from trips to Europe and the Holy Land... And they wanted to keep a record of these things.

And so the painting displays their refined tastes [art, music, fashion, foods] exotica, scientific interests. We see a lobster, a monkey, shells, plus a young girl and an African youth. But there are subtle messages too - clocks, fading flowers and fruits, and a guttering candle- symbolising time passing, decay, vanity and death.
And modern techniques have enabled us to discover more about how the painting evolved- and was changed during its execution...
There are mysteries - who commissioned the piece? who painted it? who is the girl? who is the African slave? The music book under the girl's hand shows a song about mortality "O Charon, Charon"  - and only recently has this song actually been identified. It was written in 1630 by a Scotsman, Robert Ramsay - just one manuscript survives [in the Bodleian Library] At the exhibition you can listen to the first ever recording of this piece
Meanwhile on the shell cup, the golden stem portrays a satyr holding a tiny music book. The real cup is on display [loaned by the current owners, the Prinsenhof Museum in Delft] and now experts have managed to decipher that song too [another 16th C round, also about death!]
It is believed that either William Paston - an epic traveller and collector commissioned the work- or maybe his son Robert, to mark William's death in 1663. It is believed the little girl is Robert's daughter who died in childhood.
But Robert spent his fortune lavishly [especially on entertaining the King] he died aged just 52. The family went into decline, overwhelmed by debt. The treasures were sold off and Oxnead Hall was neglected, then mostly demolished in the 18th century.
Scholars have been fascinated by the treasures and research has gone on for many decades. The painting was originally sold in 1709, and in 1947, the then owners, the Buxton family of Norfolk, donated it to Norwich Castle Museum. I have enjoyed reading about this artwork [eg here]
Of the 130 objects depicted, just the whereabouts of just 5 are known - and they have been reunited for this exhibition, for the first time in 300 years. Other items of a similar style and period have been brought together to give a better idea of what treasures the Pastons enjoyed.
We both really enjoyed this, and learned a lot about the family and the time in which they lived. Your regular Norwich Castle entry fee includes entry to this exhibition - so we were able to visit the keep, the Roman and the Egyptian sections. Well worth seeing  *****

Monday, 13 August 2018

A Good Hare Day!

Everyone I have spoken to agrees that this year's charity Go-Go trail in Norwich/Norfolk is the best yet. So many hares, and leverets all over the city [and some out in the county] I've tried to take photos of all those I have seen - but it began to delay our progress - and so some ended up out of focus as I tried to hurry the photography [waiting for small children to clamber down, so I could snap the hare, but anxious not to lose sight of Bob disappearing up the street] 
As well as all the actual hares, there are hare window displays too. Can someone tell me how to take photos of these without getting all the reflections? It has been excellent, and I admire all those who have taken part. 
Here are just a few of this year's animals...

Don't YOU think they are good too? 
But there are an awful lot of BLUE ones!

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Strengthening Faith

What then is faith? It is what gives assurance to our hopes, it is what gives us conviction about things that we cannot see [Hebrews 11:1]
Two years ago, my friend Val gave me a MudLOVE bracelet bearing the word faith.
I've worn it a lot and it has sparked interesting conversations. 
The other morning I went to put it on, and the pink elastic snapped.
Fortunately I found some narrow black cord elastic in my stash. I put it with my holiday packing. I carefully photographed the way the pink stuff was knitted then dismantled everything. It took three attempts to get it right - but it is now repaired and back on my wrist. 
A good reminder that sometimes life takes it out of us, and our faith may be weakened. But God longs to strengthen and renew our faith. Even when we are weak, he holds on to us.
I know my sheep, and no-one shall pluck them out of my hand

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Happy Holiday - Week One

Holidays mean the chance to relax
Stacks of books from the local library
Candlelit suppers [cooked by Bob] 
A new charity shop jigsaw to do
Time to repair things properly 
[what sort of woman takes her awl on holiday? ] 
Planning the decorating of the Futility Room
Our sermons to prepare for 12th & 19th

Lawns to mow
Cupboards to sand
And a trip to the cinema
Lunch with a relative
BBQ for family and neighbours
Pottering round Fakenham Market
Eating Sicilian arancini on Norwich Market
Strolling around charity shops
Watching TV
Enjoying knitting and embroidery
Appreciating sun, rain, rainbows and glorious sunsets
...and waiting for Liz, Jon and Rosie to arrive... 

Friday, 10 August 2018

Tender Is The Night

Summer holidays offer a wonderful opportunity to catch up on reading - and I have been saving a 50p John Grisham I picked up in a CS especially for this week. 
I get on well with JG's stuff- I like his writing style, and think he is generally a good bloke - he raised 8.8 million dollars, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, to help rebuild the Gulf Coast, and he has done much work to help the impoverished people of Guatemala.
Camino Island came out last year - it isn't his usual courtroom/legal stuff. This one is a thriller about the theft of some F Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from Princeton University Library. I polished it off in 2 days [and nights - when the heat and my cough kept me awake!]
Mercer Mann is a young woman who is struggling with writer's block - who ends up being involved in the hunt to recover these precious documents. Grisham writes about books and publishing, and knows what he is talking about!
This is all about writers, not lawyers- and summer romance, hot sun on your shoulders, and sand between your toes. There are moral dilemmas, plot twists, and all you'd expect from this accomplished wordsmith.
It is clever, entertaining - and just the right thing for holiday reading

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Bikes And Mikes

With our  car insurance, we now get 'Meerkat Movies' - so we were able to go 2-for-1 [seniors] to the cinema to watch Tom Cruise and co in the latest M.I. film.
It is just like all the others. 
I enjoyed the motorcycle chases round Paris - especially where Rebecca Fergusson, on a lovely British Triumph Tiger, beats Cruise who is driving a BMW [car]. 
I cannot find a picture of RF on said bike - any attempt at Google Images of bikes in Fallout seems to show pictures of Tom on his BMW.
It did bring back happy memories of our summer holiday in 2006, when we took our bike to France, and sped along the Peripherique. Except that we rode round the Arc De Triomphe in the correct direction.
I have clearly spent too many years listening to Bob talking about PA gear- when Vanessa Kirby picked up a microphone, I spotted that it was a Shure 55! [VK plays Princess Margaret in 'The Crown']
Age must be creeping up on me- I found Simon Pegg's character far more interesting than Tom Cruise!
The London and Paris scenes had more action and suspense, I felt, than the final denouement. Some bits of the plot were a little too guessable.
But as MI's go, this was was all you'd expect. I am 7 years older than Mr Cruise and certainly couldn't attempt the stunts he does.
I would give it ****

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

You'll Look Sweet, Upon The Seat...

... Of A Bicycle Made For Two [Or More]
Recently Liz and Rosie were commuting home when they saw a Pedal-Me bike. This cycle taxi service has been operating in London since the start of the Year. Rosie was very taken with the "Special Bike" and has been watching out for them ever since.
So on my first afternoon London the other week, l went over to UCL to meet Liz from work. We collected Rosie from nursery and then Chris arrived on his taxi, to take Rosie and me home, with Liz bringing up the rear on her own bike.

It was enormous fun. Chris told me he'd been a rider for the company since March, explaining that he began "while we had the Beast from the East - this sunshine is much better" 
The bikes are built in the Netherlands [not surprisingly] and the P-M riders.go over to collect them, and ride them back, as that is the cheapest way to get them into the UK. They will transport people or goods, operating 8-8 on weekdays and 10-6 on Saturdays. Sunday is their Day of Rest [well done for that]

Liz booked with the app, and knew exactly when our bike would arrive, and the name of our rider. The ride was speedy and smooth. Rosie had a brilliant time, and so did I. We sat astride the comfortable padded bench, and could hold the side rails if we wanted [Ro occasionally stuck her arm out to signal when we were turning!] I did remove her shoes: the floor is not solid, but a series of tubes - I was concerned that if a small shoe fell off, it might fall through the gap.

It was a blistering hot day, but whizzing along on the bike was cool - I every sense. We attracted lots of admiring glances and Ro has developed a very regal wave, accompanied by smiles and giggles. 
I was particularly impressed by the route we took home, which is the girls' regular commute. 95% was on cycle paths and the London Cycle Superhighway. We had hardly any interaction with cars, buses or lorries. It was Rush Hour but I felt remarkably safe. It's reassured me to experience their daily journey and Liz was wise and thoughtful to organise that.
Enjoy this jolly little song from the Seventies... 

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy

I saw this in a bookshop, and liked the look of it - so borrowed it from the library! Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Light & Easy Cookbook. He stresses this is not a diet book - but in an effort to lose weight and reduce his cholesterols, HFW decided he should cut down on gluten and dairy products.
This book has some 'obvious' recipes, and shows Hugh's penchant for re-naming tweaked recipes [e.g. he adds oats to his smoothies and calls them 'thickies'] but there are a number of interesting meals. I am interested to try out sometime his 'healthy' chocolate mousse, and his 'Chocolate Bean Cake' 
But last week, I was using up the fridge contents, prior to the holiday. I had some baby spinach and new potatoes to deal with. I liked the look of the recipe below - and Hugh said that canned sardines would work as well. They did!

[this isn't a picture of my salad]

Mustardy Mackerel, Spinach and Spuds [serves 4]*
800g new potatoes, cut into bite sized chunks
150g baby leaf spinach
3 medium smoked mackerel fillets **
salt and pepper

For the dressing ***
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp smooth mustard
1 tsp grainy mustard
scrap of garlic, crushed
lemon juice

Put the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 7-10 mins, until just tender.
Put the dressing ingredients into a jar, add a pinch of salt and some pepper and shake to emulsify.
When the potatoes are cooked, drain them well and return to the hot pan.
Fold the spinach through till it wilts – put potatoes and spinach into serving bowl.
Pour over the dressing , flake the fish, gently fold everything together.
Squeeze over some lemon juice

* I halved the recipe 
** I had a can of sardines to hand, so substituted them
*** I also subsituted the oil from the can, wine vinegar, and some IKEA mustard&dill

I would make this one again. I think this would make a good salad for a packed lunch. A slice of bread is useful for wiping round the bowl and mopping up the dressing!

Monday, 6 August 2018


On June 4th, the former President Of The United States, William Jefferson Clinton, published his first novel. He co-wrote it with thriller writer James Patterson. Hardback copies then cost £20. Less than 8 weeks later, I picked up a pristine copy for just £1 on a secondhand bookstall in Lower Marsh, London.
Despite the excessive heat last weekend, I read the whole thing over the course of 3 days.

Reviews have been extremely mixed - this British one is quite sniffy about it [Guardian Review].
The publisher's  blurb stresses that because it is written by an ex-Pres, it has 'insider knowledge' of the White House. But the Washington Post review suggested that "the CIA can relax...'The President is Missing' reveals as many secrets about the US Government as 'The Pink Panther' reveals about the French Government...Yet it provides plenty of insight into the former President's ego"

Real life parallels - William Jefferson Clinton lost his father early, but rose from difficult circumstances to become state governor. He met his brilliant wife in law school, and has one daughter- Fictional Jonathan Lincoln Duncan has exactly the same bio.
The story is told in the first person - so the POTUS is never really missing, as the reader [and many other characters] always knows where he is! Much of the action centres on one room full of computer nerds. Inside that room, Duncan and co are aware that the USA could be destroyed at any moment - but outside the rest of the world plays baseball, eats lunch, and carries on as normal. There's a bit of media interest in the President's whereabouts, but no sense of National Panic. 
Bob read it equally quickly when I got back from London. We felt it was enjoyable - but not brilliant. Some ends were tied up a little too neatly for me, and other parts of the plot were too guessable.  I am not sure if anyone has started planning the film yet, I am sure they have. [Ryan Gosling is too young, George Clooney is too old. Possibly Ben Affleck?] 
I think it is the sort of light summer holiday fiction which you read once, and then discard. 
Fun, but not a keeper - I'd award it *** Get it from the library, but don't buy it. Ziffit have paid me £2.18 for it, so I think I've done OK there [If I could give half-a-star, I'd give it 3½* just for the resale value]

Sunday, 5 August 2018

...Off To Cornerstones

UCF Kids' Club 2018  - Just Chillin'. What a great team we had [this shot doesn't include the half dozen people outside on car park/security duty] Everyone working really hard in extreme heat. Thank you to all those who made it so special
Final Kids' Club Event at church this morning, then
I just cannot wait...

Saturday, 4 August 2018

A False Creation

...proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain 
[So says Shakespeare in Macbeth, when he sees a dagger before him] I really have found it hard to think straight in recent weeks.
I have been conscious of completely misunderstanding things, my head  feels as if it is on fire, my thoughts are fried. 

For Instance, here is a sign on the construction site just outside the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre.
I walked past quite slowly on Thursday, tired from my train journey.
"NOTICE - PPE required beyond this point" it says.
And I found myself thinking "it must be really hard to get a job as a labourer nowadays, if you are required to have a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics" - until I remembered that in this context, it means Personal Protection Equipment.
I sent Bob a text to let him know i had arrived safely, and he replied with a string of emojis.

"Two little green men are less than three" I read. Well, this is undoubtedly true. 
It was only later that I realised that symbol may mean less than three to a mathematician, but the rest of the world sees it as a heart on its side, a symbol of love! But in all this sun-induced confusion, I have learned something interesting -
I've not blogged about the great Bronte-fest going on at the minute [it is 200 years since Emily's birth]. I've never been that excited by Wuthering Heights [I blame our English teacher, a Yorkshirewoman, who succeeded in putting me off the book by making it all so boring] I was exceedingly pleased when Liz sent me a chart from the Guardian showing I am taller that Charlotte Bronte [Jane Eyre was always my favourite of the Bronte heroines anyway]
So there I am, just between Charlotte and Thomas Hardy [and bigger than an Emperor Penguin too!] It is good to know one's place in the order of things.
I think I need to go lie down in a cool, darkened room...

Friday, 3 August 2018

Chilled Out!

KIds' Club has been going very well, in excess of 120 children daily. The beams of the chapel are decorated with snowflakes, and there are penguins everywhere.
The staff team are really committed, and working hard to give the children the best experience,

Every year I am so impressed with their efforts, in music, drama, games, crafts...
We start each day with a staff briefing - Miriam - extreme left of picture, sitting on the stage - is in charge. Look at the amazing 'Just Chillin' mural behind her. Martha painted that a few weeks back [we've missed Martha on the team this year - but she has just had her first baby, so is a understandably pre-occupied]
Every day we produce lots of craft [How I miss the space we had in Kirby Muxloe, where we could spread the teams between different rooms]
Here are Wednesday's Bouncy Penguin Pencils [our theme that day was God being with us in life's ups and downs] Apologies that Tuesday's Yogurt Pot Igloos never got photographed!
Thursday's Craft was food-related. Reindeer and Snowmen.
Rudolph is a chocolate tea cake, with half-pretzel antlers and a glace cherry nose. You can now buy the little icing eyes in the cake decorating section of the supermarket.

The snowman is comprised of a large marshmallow, a small marshmallow, a fruit pastille and a midget gem. These were speared, in that order, onto a cocktail stick.  Buttons and features were drawn on with food colouring pens.
Unfortunately I could not find any bags of small marshmallows which were all white - most seemed to be 50/50 white pink. I don't think the children minded!
Those few children who have allergies had snowmen to create in a separate room using cardboard tubes, cotton wool, and bottle tops.

Today's craft will be candy cane reindeer [here]
Are you involved in Holiday Clubs/Vacation Bible School/other summer stuff for kids?

Do please share any successful activities - I know that lots of us work with children, and we are always in the lookout for new ideas.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Matthew 6:25 vs. Matthew 25:4?

Liz and I spent some time discussing stockpiling food, in the event of food shortages next Spring if there is a no-deal Brexit. My mother always had half a dozen packets of tea, and a couple of bags of sugar, in the corner of a cupboard in her bedroom. I think it must have been a hangover from the War Years and Rationing. Plus the fact that if there was any kind of Local/National Emergency, then it was important that the Church started serving reviving cups of tea to the community [And the Minister's Wife should therefore ensure that there was tea to hand!]
The Mormon Church encourage their families to always have a food stockpile just in case of such a crisis [they even suggest this three month list for ONE person!] I am not altogether sure about this list. We have had the same small bottle of pancake syrup in the cupboard since Shrove Tuesday - I cannot see that in 12 weeks Bob and I will get through 64 fl oz of the stuff, national emergency or not! Neither would we want any tinned yams, containers of cake frosting, or a dozen packages of microwave popcorn. So Liz and I drew up a list of items it might be an idea to set aside
drinks - teabags, coffee, instant drinking chocolate,longlife/dried milk 
dry goods/carbohydrates - pasta, rice, flour, porridge oats, biscuits 
proteins - canned beans, canned fish, canned meat, packet lentils 
veg&fruit - in cans  
bottles of oil or cans of ghee
We reckoned that if things were Really Bad, then there may be power cuts, so frozen food was not an option. Just cans, bottles and packets - with a long best before date. Also perhaps some loo rolls, soap and toothpaste.
Liz said that when we had the Beast From The East earlier in the year, her local Morrisons food supply chain broke down and for a few days they had no bread on the shelves [and that's in central London] She kindly pointed out "Mother, you are old enough to remember the powercuts and food shortages in the 1970s. How was it then?"
Well, yes, the Government did prepare petrol coupon books [but rationing was never implemented] and there was panic buying of sugar, leading to shortages in some areas. Following a very bad potato harvest, many older people realised for the first time that pasta or rice could be served as an alternative to potatoes...but we survived.
I understand Liz's concern - now she is a Mum, she will do all she can to prevent her child going hungry. But I have a mental conflict - should I follow the example of the 'wise virgins' in Matthew 25, who made sure they had oil ready - or take the advice of Matthew 6, and take no thought about what I should eat tomorrow, trusting the Lord to provide? Yes I know he will - in 60+ years, he has never let me down - but he also gives us what my Mum used to call "Sanctified Common Sense". Maybe a small box of basic groceries in the back bedroom is a prudent measure.
"I hope I am proved wrong" declared Liz "And that we get through Brexit next Spring without needing to use the Emergency Foodbox. And when that's happened, I shall take it down to the Foodbank, because if I have been rich enough to fill that box, then I can certainly afford to give it away if my family do not need it after all" And I say "Amen to that!"
However, I am sad that quite apart from the Brexit issues next Spring, the foodbanks are needed more than ever right now
It doesn't take much, when you've just paid for a trolleyful of food, as you push it out of the supermarket, to donate a can or two, does it?

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Today Is Earth Overshoot Day

Not a day of celebration, but rather one of reflection. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when we (all of humanity) have used more from nature than our planet can renew in the entire year.

We are using 1.7 Earths. We use more ecological resources and services than nature can regenerate through overfishing, overharvesting forests, and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than ecosystems can absorb.
You can read more about this here, and you can calculate your own personal 'footprint' here . The footprint calculator is fairly rough and ready - but I was ashamed to discover that I need 1.1 earths and my day is in mid-November. I need to consume fewer animal products and use less electricity! At least I rarely fly in a plane - that really does mess up the ecosystem.
The website has a helpful section on "Steps to move the date" - simple ways in which we can all make a difference. "Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed" said Mahatma Gandhi, more than seventy years ago. 
What lifestyle changes would you recommend, to better care for our planet?