Thursday 31 March 2011

Cheesed Off!

I do feel sorry for the ladies at tonight’s committee. First I arrived late, having misread the time of the meeting – and they all waited so patiently for me [I was leading the Opening Devotions, so they did not feel able to start without me] and then I berated them for not knowing their Bibles properly!

stiltonNext week we are having a Farmer’s Wife at our group, speaking about her cows and the milk they produce for Stilton Cheese. So Jan said that as she was leading the devotions at that meeting, she had been looking up references to cheese in the Bible and only found three. [in 1 Samuel 17, 2 Samuel 17 and Job 10]

“What about Jael and Sisera?” I said. Blank looks all round.

“You must know that story” I said enthusiastically “I mean, I know it says ‘curds’ so that could be yogurt or cottage cheese or something. But it’s a brilliant story. She bashes a tent peg through his head! Didn’t you lot do the Old Testament stories in your Sunday Schools?” They were all sure that one had passed them by.

On reflection, I guess many Sunday school teachers would shy away from recounting the more violent episodes in Judges. But this is a wonderful story in Judges 4 & 5, showing that a mighty army commander was defeated by a woman with a tentpeg and a mallet.

jael-sisera artemisia gent

Here's the picture by Artemisia Gentileschi [a brilliant female artist] from a museum in Budapest. It is enough to put anyone off camping and tents!

As I began typing, I realise I have ranted before on this subject [here] but I feel that the Bible is so full of great stories, and we need to pass them on.


I was doing supply teaching the other week, and the lesson plan for the RE was about Moses in the bulrushes – and referred to his mother Miriam. “Miriam was his sister, his mother was Jochabed” I said to the person giving me the material. I was particularly annoyed because these were pre-printed lesson plans which the school had purchased. Lessons Carelessly Proofread. It isn’t the first time I have found errors in these plans.

Sometimes I just wish I could spend my time sitting with groups of children [and adults] telling all these glorious stories. Like…

  • why there is a lion on the treacle tin
  • why falling asleep in a sermon can be dangerous
  • the man who called his daughter after a make-up bag
  • great needlewomen of the Bible
  • fruitcake in scripture

golden syrup

Is there anyone out there who will sponsor me for a World Tour?


It is three whole years, and almost 1400 posts since I began blogging.

breakfast march 08

My first post had a picture of a lovely red and white breakfast table, set with croissants and coffee etc. I took two photos that morning – this is the other. I think Bob had just remarked something to the effect that he wondered how long I would sustain this new blogging habit. Neither of us expected this long!

I am not doing a Blog-Birthday-Giveaway today – after all, I am in the middle of six Lenten Giveaways at the minute. But thank you friends, for all your encouragements and kind comments through the past 3 years. So much has changed since I began these ramblings – for us as a family, within my local church and community, and for our world.

I am glad that whatever else changes, we can rely on God

Faithful one, so unchanging
Ageless one, you’re my rock of peace
Lord of all I depend on you
I call out to you, again and again
I call out to you, again and again

You are my rock in times of trouble
You lift me up when I fall down
All through the storm
Your love is the anchor
My hope is in You alone

My blog’s tagline is “Experiencing God’s Grace In The Everyday” – it has been true since Day 1, and I see no sign of that changing.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Lenten Giveaway #4

My fourth parcel is of assorted buttons, beads and buckles and other bits for those of you who like sewing crafts – or have mending to do.DSCF2003

Simply leave a comment on this post before MIDNIGHT Saturday 2nd April to be entered into the [drawer] draw. That’s all!

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Feed Our Friends

Within hours of my last post, one friend had signed up to Graze, and I had an email from them - saying I could choose £1 off my next box or £1 to help a school in Uganda. That, as they say, is a no-brainer!

The graze website says

uganda school

Our school of farming is based in Kabubbu, a village in the heart of rural Uganda. Students are taught how to grow, maintain and then harvest fruit from their own trees. Graduates are then given support by Mr. Augustine Napagi (the head teacher) throughout their first few years of farming to make sure their orchards grow as much fruit as possible.

The amazing thing about the school is that it provides our graduates with a sustainable source of income. Each student is given the means to grow food for themselves, their families and to sell at local markets. Every penny donated to the school is spent on the ground in Uganda so it’s well worth donating your feed your friends rewards.

So thankyou, Eleanor, for signing up – as a teacher yourself, I know you will approve of a school receiving a donation like this!

I apologise to all my non-UK friends, I am sorry if I whetted your appetite, only for you to discover they do not post Graze Boxes outside the British Isles.

UPDATE - twelve hours on, and we have donated THREE pounds to Uganda - thanks!!

In Praise Of Graze

This arrived on Saturday


Inside, a generous selection of four different ‘nibbles’


And helpful advice on nibbling them!


With a slogan which pleased my pedantic grammarian[he is very fussy about the correct use of ‘less’ and ‘fewer’]


This box was free, and I get another one next Saturday for just £1, after which I have the option to subscribe on a regular basis.

More details here at the Graze website.

We have been enjoying the little dishes of nibbles.


I also had an email from them at the weekend saying this…

hello Angela,

we hope you're enjoying your first graze box.

if anyone's taken a fancy to it, you can give them ALL a free graze box (for a limited time only) and earn discounts on your future boxes. Just forward on this special promotion code to give ALL your friends a FREE graze box and another half price…

free box code:

they enter at: "> >

For every friend you feed, you can get £1 off your next graze box or donate £1 to the graze school of farming - Uganda.

Liz and Steph tell me they have both enjoyed these snack boxes in the past too. So, dear friends, I am sharing the details with you.

Final thought  - If sisters and brothers are called ‘siblings’, should nephews and nieces be called ‘niblings’?


Monday 28 March 2011

He Stuck Up For Himself!

superglue inventor harry coover

Dr Harry Coover, the inventor of Super Glue, has just died. 

He discovered the sticky adhesive by accident during WW2, whilst working for Kodak.

He was trying to create a suitable plastic to make precision gunsights for soldiers in 1942, when he noticed his materials were all stuck together.

superglueIn 1951 the American christened the product "Super Glue" and launched a small company  - then the popularity of the glue soared and soon Dr Coover was being asked to test his product in public, including lifting cars with winches held together with Super Glue

Since then, the glue has been used for all sorts of weird and wonderful purposes.

Mending broken items, sticking skin during surgery, and lots more uses.

Urban myths abound about accidents and practical jokes – apparently in the ER departments in the USA, there is actually a situation named “"inadvertent self-administration of superglue"

Mr Coover himself stuck around a long time – he had recently celebrated his 94th birthday.

Miss Pym Disposes*

pym tame gazelleJust finished another Barbara Pym – this time it was “Some Tame Gazelle”

It was a large print edition. Leics libraries supply of ‘regular’ BPs is rather limited. They obviously feel that her books will be more popular with myopic readers

It is another one which left me smiling, and often laughing out loud.

A gentler read, “reminding us of the heartbreaking silliness of life” says the novelist Anne Tyler.

The plot centres on two spinster sisters, the Misses Bede, who are at the hub of parish life in their little village. Harriet is plump, elegant and jolly, and loves fussing over the new curates. Her sister Belinda has silently harboured affection for the Archdeacon for 30 years since their student days. He is married to the dire Agatha. Two older single men, a librarian and a Bishop come into their lives and disturb the peace. But all ends happily.

There were some wonderful quotes…

“It isn’t right” thought Belinda indignantly “for a clergyman’s wife to get her clothes from the best houses. She ought to be a comfortable, shabby sort of person, in an old tweed coat and skirt and skirt or a sagging..suit. Her hats should be shapeless and of no particular style and colour. Like my gardening hat”

garden hat

Well that’s told me, then!

The Archdeacon had taken pleasure in making a selection of books for [the Bishop’s] bedside table…a volume of sermons…Beowulf...Poems of Mrs Hemans, an Icelandic grammar, and as a concession to the Bishop’s connection with Africa, a particularly dull anthropological work…The Bishop would naturally want thrillers, the clergy always did, he found – but he was keeping his own supply locked up in his study.

abc book

Well, yes, Bob does enjoy a good thriller.

[The curate] had that evening preached a most successful sermon…on the text “We heard of the same at Ephrata and found it in the wood”

Nope – I think it is fair to say that neither Bob nor I have ever taken that somewhat obscure text into the pulpit for exposition! [It is from Psalm 132 btw] I feel it would be something of a challenge to get a meaty three-point sermon out of such a verse.


Anyway, if you enjoy BP and haven’t read this one, do try it. I somehow feel her portrayal of Anglican ladies is more accurate than Jodie Picoult’s portrayal of Amish women.

*Miss Pym Disposes is actually the title of a detective novel by Josephine Tey – another of my favourite authors.

Sunday 27 March 2011

Who Wun?

Giveaway #3 goes to


so send me your details and I’ll post it to you!



Next Wednesday’s Giveaway is Buttons, Beads and Buckles.

Don’t forget to enter.


A Pause In Lent #3

A Pause in Lent Floss

Isn’t it strange how things all seem connected ? I hadn’t thought about Malawi for ages, then…

Last week I met a Bishop who had worked in Malawi, a family whose son is currently doing mission work in Malawi – and Steph phoned to say she had found some Malawi currency in a drawer [she visited in 2008]

But the other subject that has been surrounding me like a cloud in the past couple of weeks is the whole topic of “People who settled in the USA to escape religious persecution” Sorry – that’s an awfully long definition, but I cannot come up with a tidy précis.

amish wedding

There’s been the whole Amish thing – the Plain Folk – that book, and the recent TV programme, and then ElizabethD blogging about her beautiful cross stitch “Amish Wedding”. And the soft colours on that piece reminded me of the fabulous Quaker Tapestry in Kendal

quaker tapestry fox

I have this postcard beside my desk as I work – George Fox, founder of the Quakers [or Society of Friends, as they prefer to be known] This term I have spent every Wednesday working at a school less than 15 minutes away from GF’s birthplace.

The Quakers settled in Pennsylvania – and then on Thursday night, I listened to the bluegrass music and thought of those who settled in the Appalachians, and how the English folk music brought with them had contributed so much to the musical heritage of that region.

I have found myself comparing and contrasting these two groups, [great websites here and here btw] and have concluded that in many ways the Amish way of life is summed up by the word Simplicity, and the Quaker faith by Listening.

And in many ways, I do want to live more simply, and listen more.

One of my favourite Fox quotes is “Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit” I know I need to work harder at being still, and keeping cool!

BUT - and here is the thing – as much as I respect these people, and would not in any way wish to judge their lifestyles, in this past week, I have seen the aspects which just would not work for me personally.

Simplicity is great- one of my favourite magazines is called ‘real Simple’. But unlike the Amish, I have embraced modern technology, and I want to use electricity, computers, telephones, electronic sewing machines and cars. In the right context, these things have so much potential to bless others, and to make life more comfortable. Of themselves, these things are not sinful. I’m just too ‘techie’ to be Amish [and I’m certainly not submissive enough]

quaker prayer meeting

Listening is fine – we all need to do more of that. But having heard God’s voice, we need to go and act on it. Now I am not saying Quakers don’t act - historically, they have a rich heritage of social action [Elizabeth Fry with the prison reforms, Sophia Sturge with her anti-slavery campaign, war service in the Ambulance Corps etc] However I am a get-up-and-go-girl, the consummate multi-tasker. I really struggle to ‘just sit there’. So I can’t join the Friends either.

…but this past week, the main word has been HOLINESS. I have kept coming back to the need for my own personal holiness, being more like Jesus. I suppose this was the inevitable conclusion of my reflections last week about spending more time thinking about Him.

wwjdIt isn’t enough just to wear a WWJD bracelet [although I frequently do]

Having asked myself the question, I need to act on it, and act like He would in each situation.


An old hymn about the importance of seeking holiness – and two phrases in it which bring me back to Amish and Quakers again…

Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.

Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.

Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.

[I am certainly not there yet, but I am working on it…]

Saturday 26 March 2011

Don’t Forget!

dont forget

To enter Wednesday’s Giveaway – comment on that post before midnight tonight


Put your clocks forward tonight if you live in a country where “British Summertime” is about to begin

clocks forward

Fill in your census form tomorrow if you are in the UK


Signs Of Spring



Look! the first new leaves on the fig tree, and tiny baby figlets appearing.

See! The winter is past; 
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth; 
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit; 
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling; 
my beautiful one, come with me.”

[Song Of Solomon 2:11-13]

The sight of the fig tree returning to life always fills me with enthusiasm and hope.

Something else which is becoming an annual event is my attempt at Giving Away in Lent. Yet again, as fast as I try to pass on things to others, I find myself on the receiving end of unexpected gifts…

Last week, Bob mentioned a sewing project he would like me to investigate for his PA gear. “I would need to experiment with some Lycra” I said [now you are all intrigued- but you will have to wait] Tis week at school, a colleague gave me a whole bin-bag absolutely full of pieces of Lycra


Admittedly it is all fabulous shimmering, sparkling, brightly coloured stuff [she makes costumes for her daughter’s Dance School productions] but for my test pieces it will prove just the thing I need.

And then I used up a fair bit of The Great Stash for the Nursery Rhyme Animal Costumes – only to be presented with two carrier bags full of fur fabric at church on Sunday.

It does look like I’ve put a load of wild animals in the washing machine!


Meanwhile, Bob has been spending his odd moments attempting to repair the side fence. The posts rotted and it was in danger of collapse. On the other side, the ground level is higher. No repair job like this is ever straightforward – but our neighbours are lovely, patient people [and fortunately do not have any pets which could escape through the current gap] and Bob is slowly getting everything sorted.

Yet again, we find the Pastor on his knees.


To amend the old saying

Good neighbours make good fences

Friday 25 March 2011

Music For Malawi

Our good friend Dave Ford put up a poster about a folk night in a nearby village. In aid of a young chap doing good stuff in Malawi, he said. Same crowd who do the music for Africa Aid, he said. So we went.

He was right – the usual suspects [Dangerous Dogs, In Any Order, the Bohos, and Sam the Teenage Guitarist] raising money for Ian Thomson, who runs Mtengo Guitars in Malawi. This is a project to train local people to use the beautiful African woods to build guitars. You can read more here and here


What we didn’t realise until we got there, is that Ian’s father Andy is the local Baptist minister [Bob had met him before] and I had met his mother, Rose, at a Connexion meeting. Tonight we met his brother Craig – and he used to be a pupil at Hebron School in Ooty, India –where my friend Elizabeth was his computer science teacher. The connections are endless!

The music was great -  I particularly enjoyed ‘In Any Order’ singing “Some Glad Morning [I’ll Fly Away]”. This is a really old song, but Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch sing it in the film “O Brother Where Art Thou?”

OBWAT is a fabulous film to watch if you need cheering up. [The fact that George Clooney stars in the film is an added bonus!]

from O Brother Where Art Thou?

Some glad morning when this life is o'er,
I'll fly away;
To a home on God's celestial shore,
I'll fly away

I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I'll fly away

When the shadows of this life have gone,
I'll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
I'll fly away

Just a few more weary days and then,
I'll fly away;
To a land where joy shall never end,
I'll fly away

I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I'll fly away

[written by Albert Brumley of Missouri in 1929, when he was only 24 years old! He is the same chap who wrote “Turn Your Radio On”]

Thursday 24 March 2011

Plain Truth

picoult plain truth

Having quite enjoyed ‘House Rules’ and been recommended ‘Plain Truth’ as another good JP novel to read, I was pleased to find it going very cheaply in the YMCA charity shop last week.

Now I have read it – and Bob has too, so here’s a short review.

This book irritated me intensely!

There- now I have said it – and dozens of people out there are disagreeing I am sure. Plot summary – Ellie is a hot-shot lawyer, late 30’s man-less, child-less, generally burned out and looking for some space to re-evaluate her life. She goes to stay with a relative, Leda.

Katie is a teenage Amish girl – on trial for murdering her new-born baby. Leda is Katie’s aunt [Leda has been ‘shunned’ by the Amish and has ‘married out’] Against her better judgement, Ellie finds herself taking the case. Rather than bail, the judge says Katie can return to the Amish farm, as long as Ellie lives with her, till the trial. 

Ellie stays, puts her own life in order and 99% of the loose ends are neatly tied up by the end of the book. But I remained unsatisfied!

amish farm

In terms of ‘plot’, both Bob and I had sussed out very early on who the ‘guilty’ party was – but neither of us found this credible in terms of our understanding of the Amish.

The father of the baby was a ‘ghost-hunter’ academic, studying the paranormal. All that part of the story didn’t seem to fit [apparently JP has used this ghost device in another book]

The book is rather vague about dates – but there is another pregnancy in the book – and neither Bob nor I were convinced about the timings involved.

The aunt is called Leda – now maybe she changed her name after the Amish put her under the bann – but it strikes me as exceedingly odd to have the name of someone in Greek mythology who was seduced by Zeus. The Amish are not keen on ‘book-learning’ and I think

such a name is rather a strange choice.

I was confused after the Barn Raising – when the leftover food was ‘put away in Tupperware’ – but my internet research suggests that actually the Amish women do hold Tupperware and Pampered Chef parties [that seems quite incredible, but there you go…]

witness kelly and harrisonAlso I felt that Ellie was rather insensitive wearing skimpy tops and shorts on the farm – surely Leda would have warned her that this would really offend the Amish modesty? I remember reading an interview with Kelly McGillis about her preparation for filming “Witness” She said she’d stayed with an Amish family, but had been asked to wear skirts and ‘modest’ dress. [Witness is a fabulous film btw]

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Lenten Giveaway #3

Don’t you just love scraps of ribbon and lace? For trimming a piece of sewing, tying round a gift, decorating a hand-made greetings card, or making a sweet bookmark.


This week’s giveaway is a whole heap of trims [and more] to inspire you to prettify things up a little. To join in, please leave a comment on this post before MIDNIGHT, Saturday 26th March. That’s all you need to do!

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Catch A Falling Star!


You win some, you lose some! The star costume fitted beautifully – but the child concerned had to spend half an hour of the production sitting on a bench. It was too stiff for her to sit down in comfort.

‘That’s OK’ said colleagues, we will just slip it on her when she needs to go on stage.

Then we realised that she was not just standing on the stage ‘twinkling’ – but she had to climb up the steps, then dance on stage, and climb up and down more steps in the dance. And she could not do that with the stiffening strips. So they were removed. Star still looked fitted and good, but was no longer rigid.


Rehearsal progressed – but then we discovered that the gold foil was amazingly crinkly and rustle-y once child was able to move her arms and legs easily! It made so much noise it drowned out the soft voices of the speakers.

Costume duly abandoned.

This costume is fine for a stationary star – but not an all-singing, all-dancing one.

That said, I watched the whole production and felt it was superb. These young children, under 5 years of age, performed really well. They are currently learning Makaton – they can sing AND sign

I am taking a break from costume production for a while [I think!]

Store Cupboard Standby

Following last week’s sort out of the Futility Room and the food store cupboard in there, I am trying to use things up. Like the Lidl Tartiflamme packet mix. Basically a cheeseless pizza type thing.

lidl flamme

This was Very Successful – not sure why the picture is of a round product, when the English instructions encourage you to roll is out to a 30cm x 40cm rectangle, though.

Sadly the cheesecake packet mix from Makro, [sale - 75p] proved utterly inedible and bizarrely salty.

I admit it was two months past its Best Before date – but I’m too frugal to discard things that easily. Fortunately it was an ‘add water’ type, so at least I hadn’t wasted any milk or cream!

There was some dried fruit, and also brown sugar, left over from the Christmas baking, so last Saturday night, I decided a fruitcake was in order. However I was almost out of butter and marg, and only had one egg left. I didn’t want to go out and buy anything [and felt I should keep the egg, just in case Bob wanted an egg on toast for his Sunday Night Post Preaching Supper]

So I made this…


I had some Trex in the fridge [I think its USA equivalent is Crisco, but I’m not sure] and I had this very easy boil’n’bake recipe which used ingredients I had in store. I did not have quite enough brown sugar, so made up the quantity with regular white stuff.

Furthermore, everything is made in one saucepan and then put in the tin, so washing up is an absolute minimum too. 45 minutes from cupboard to cooling rack! I baked mine in my blue enamel roasting tin [which measures about 9” x 12”]

  • 4tbsp shortening
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 2 cups dried fruit
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. bicarbonate of soda [baking soda]

Preheat oven to 175ºC. Grease and line a 9”x13” pan

Mix fat, water, fruit and spices etc. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring.

Tip into saucepan

  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 2 cups brown sugar

Mix well. Pour into prepared tin. Bake 35 minutes. Cool on rack

enamel roasting pan

Delicious, and couldn’t be easier!

And Bob is always grateful to have a fruitcake in the house. [that is fruitcake in the sense of ‘baked goods’, not in the sense of ‘a whimsically eccentric woman’ – though he has her too]

Monday 21 March 2011

Why I Volunteer

I found Friday night’s meeting [the one with the two Bishops] a little depressing. Mainly because the people who were very vocal were also very negative about the lack of people doing anything in their community, and also about the lack of younger people involved in doing things for others. I wanted someone else to leap up and say “But it’s not like that where I’m standing…” or “It’s Red Nose Day – hundreds of kids have done things for charity this week”

logoAnd I didn’t feel I was in a position to say “we’ve got a Church Youth Worker, who is just starting some detached Youth Work; and two of our lads are building playgrounds in Africa; and our Sewing Club has made all these dresses for Moroccan babies; and…..” in case it sounded like KMFC is doing it all.

So I sat quiet.

I did mention afterwards to one of the Bishops [who worked in Malawi for years] that my daughter had visited Malawi with a Unicef group a few years back. He asked me about my family, and I tried [unsuccessfully]not to overdo the proud Mum bit. Steph has also spent a summer with street children in Brazil, and Liz has done a fair bit of volunteering in the UK.

So here’s a link to Liz’s blog, about her reasons for volunteering.I think it is a well written article. [but then I would, I am her Mum!!]

liz at battersea

Liz looks happy being a Battersea volunteer- not sure about the dog though.



Nothing is so beautiful as spring—

  When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;

  Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush

thrush eggs

Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring

The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;   

song thrush 

  The glassy pear tree leaves and blooms, they brush

  The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush


With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?


  A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning       

In Eden garden.

—Have, get, before it cloy,

  Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,

Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,

  Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning

child garden eggs

[Gerard Manley Hopkins 1844-1889]

Sunday 20 March 2011

Winner #2 is

There were twelve comments, so I threw two dice and…

dice total 3

Comment Number Three was from Elizabethd at French Village Life. I have Mrs Nesbitt’s address now [winner #1] – so tomorrow I shall visit the Village Post Office and pop two parcels in the post. Congratulations to the pair of you!

Another Giveaway next Wednesday too!