Wednesday 31 August 2011

Fit For Florence

When we were on holiday in Norfolk with Liz and Jon, it was really good to meet some more of his family for the first time – especially his new niece Florence – only three weeks old!

DSCF2291She was wearing a particularly sweet little babygro, with a holiday print of boats, beach huts and bunting. But her Mum was lamenting the fact that the legs were quite short, and she was concerned.

Flo’s Toes were already pushing to the end of the feet of the babygro. So I suggested cutting off the feet [on the garment, not Flo] and that way she would have a few more weeks wear out of the babygro. “I’ll do it, if you like” I said “There’s another one,

they came as a set – a gift from a friend” said Louise.

Yesterday they arrived in the post


You can see that compared to the body, the legs do seem short! Carefully I removed the round ‘soles’. The remaining legs were


longer at the front than the back. There was no spare fabric for making a hem. I found a plain white tee shirt in the stash [unwearable, due to with a red ink stain]and got my large bias tape maker.

I trimmed straight across the legs and measured the width



Then I used the white to bind the edges – first machine seaming round the bottom [right sides matching] then turning fabric to the inside and handstitching a neat hem.


So once Mum has found some socks or bootees to keep her toes warm, baby Florence can wear her smart new outfits again.


I am not sure that ‘up to one month’ is a sensible size for baby garments – especially if your baby weighs 7lb plus at birth – they are going to grow out of those clothes so quickly. It’s all a plot by the manufacturers to get us to buy more!



I love this story from Mark’s Gospel…

Jesus then…went on through Sidon to Lake Galilee. Some people brought him a man who was deaf and could hardly speak, and they begged Jesus to place his hands on him. So Jesus took him off alone, away from the crowd, put his fingers in the man's ears, spat, and touched the man's tongue.

Then Jesus looked up to heaven, gave a deep groan, and said to the man,  “Ephphatha” which means, Open up! At once the man was able to hear, his speech impediment was removed, and he began to talk without any trouble. Then Jesus ordered the people not to speak of it to anyone; but the more he ordered them not to, the more they told it. And all who heard were completely amazed. How well he does everything! they exclaimed.
He even causes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak!

I remember my Dad telling the story to me when I was really little, and getting me to say “Ephphatha!” and showing me that even someone who was deaf would be able to lip-read that important instruction.

I have been thinking about this story a lot this week – I have a mild infection and I am quite deaf in my left ear. It’s only a minor problem and will soon be sorted – but the fact that my balance is affected [no running] and listening is difficult [so limited radio] means I am not doing some things I usually do. It is good for me – it is making me aware of how people with this sort of impairment are restricted all the time.

I spoke to my SIL on the phone – my brother also  has an ear infection this week, but he is deaf in his right ear. How bizarre!

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Every Little Helps!

Benjamin Franklin is supposed to have said…

penny saved

[mind you, allegedly he also said “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” and “Never take a wife till thou hast a house (and a fire) to put her in.”]

There were a lot of comments on the ‘Mean, Mean, Mean’ post.  I have realised that there are 5 Thursdays in September, so I am planning to make my post on each of them something related to thrift with hints and tips on money saving.

thrifty thursday

If you want to join in, and post a few ideas, thrifty recipes, frugal hints, links to other good websites, whatever – well that would be brilliant. Leave a comment here so that I can post a link to your blog, and put the logo in your sidebar. Unlike Mags and Floss, I have not done one of these before – so please be patient if I don’t get the technical bit right.

norfolk thrift

To finish with, here’s a picture of thrift flowers growing along the Norfolk coast. So pretty!

The plant 's name 'thrift' possibly came about as with its compact shape it serves to conserve the plant's water supply.

Thrifty Thursdays – come and join the fun

Mean, Mean, Mean!

lilac treeApril is the cruellest month…breeding lilacs out of the dead land.

So wrote T S Eliot in The Waste Land.

Well he was wrong – all wrong – the cruellest month for me is August

billsAugust is the month when both motorbike & car need an MOT, the car needs to be taxed, the house insurance premium is due, the car breakdown cover needs paying, we have extra holiday expenses – and because there is no school, there is no work, and therefore no pay, for Supply Teachers like me.

And as we approach the end of the month, every year, I wonder how we will get through, and berate myself for buying frivolous things in the early summer [I didn’t buy that desk though] and I tell Bob yet again that the budget is tight, and there is no loose change for trivia.[ie gadgetry from Maplin etc]

I am not complaining – working part-time and therefore having a lower income is a ‘lifestyle choice’ for me. I want to have more time for other things and so that means less cash. It is all part of my Christian beliefs about being a good steward of my time and resources. But sometimes at this time of year I wonder if I have got the balance right.

faginThis year I have noticed even more blogs than usual referring to the recession, and making ends meet, coping with redundancy, student loans, paying off the mortgage, getting out of debt etc. There are many blogs just devoted to the topic of frugality – with titles that indicate their subject.

They frequently have such miserable names – TightWad, MiserMom, PennyPincher – those I find utterly depressing.

These ones are the same week in, week out. Typical example…

Monday – went to see Granny, walked 23 miles to save on fares. Found car tyre in skip and 50p on pavement. Brought both home.

Tuesday – spent day repairing worn out shoes with old car tyre. Granny died.

Wednesday – walked back to Granny’s place. Cleared it out, sold much of her stuff on eBay. Brought rest home in old wheelbarrow.

Thursday – No Spend Day. Stayed at home dressmaking.

Friday – Went to Granny’s funeral wearing new dress [made from old WW2 blackout curtains found in her cellar] and took bunch of  flowers [50p - reduced in Aldi - only slightly wilting]

Saturday – Walked up to the common, did lots of foraging – got 7lb of nettles and a punnet of blackberries.

Sunday – Made 8 gallons of nourishing soup using nettles, berries and 3 shredded telephone directories. That should see us through the winter

But many of the frugal blogs are really funny, and clever, and approach their financial woes with a positive outlook – and share their thrifting joys with us in a bright and breezy way that probably hides a lot of inner turmoil and many sleepless nights. [Scott Fitzgerald said ‘In the dark night of the soul it is always three o clock in the morning’] I enjoy those, and read them diligently -cheering when they find a bargain, laughing with them at the minor disasters along the way, commiserating with crises. One of them says “I try to live within my means” and I thought that was a good description of the frugal life.

Mean, Mean, Mean – some definitions

mean – to be tightfisted, miserly [that word has same root as mrs sew&sewmiserable!] No I don’t want to be like that – I want to be nifty and thrifty. Bright and cheery like Mrs Sew-and-Sew in WW2. And I want to reclaim the right use of the old word ‘prodigal’ – to be ‘lavishly abundant, giving freely’ – not hanging on to things for myself, but rather sharing all the abundance that is mine with others. Luke 6:38

mean- statistical term, a sort of average. No, I don’t want to averagebe ‘average’ either. I want to live the ‘life more abundant’ Jesus has promised us. Like Glen Campbell, I believe in the pot full of beans. But that doesn’t mean I expect to be  rich in financial terms. Ephesians 3

mean – to determine, to have an intention. That’s more like it! DSCF2237My intention is to use what I have been given wisely and well. To be a good thrifty woman displaying sensible husbandry [wifery?] of my resources. And find much joy in doing so.  Proverbs 31

A number of my friends are going into this autumn in what they used to call ‘straitened circumstances’ – anticipating lower incomes than this time last year. Let’s not fall into ‘recession depression’ – but rather encourage each other. So please do share some of your thrifty triumphs, and false economies* if you can – let’s have a laugh. But tell us glorious stories about how the jars of windfall plums are shining like jewels on your kitchen shelf – not how to make a Halloween costume with the grey fluff from the tumble dryer** [I kid you not – see here]

* I will share some of my disasters – there have been many

**if you are being thrifty, you should not be using a tumble dryer

Monday 29 August 2011

One Amazing Day!

I just knew this was going to be an exceptional Bank Holiday when Bob got out of bed just after 7am and announced he was going for a run! I turned over and dozed- and he returned, full of energy and cooked breakfast. Then I turned on the PC and was astounded by the great number of blog comments [thanks everybody]radio 4 but quite overwhelmed that Rana [Tripoli Witness] had read yesterday’s post and made such a gracious comment. Which proves she is just as nice as I’d thought. Someone from the BBC read my blogpost! Woohoo!

We went off to Fosse Park to buy Bob some new running shoes, as his were in as parlous a state as my old pair. A quick coffee, and we bumped into Carole and family - then on to M&S to see what it would cost to have Bob’s suit trousers altered. Only £8 for the waist to be taken in – that’s cheaper than a new suit, and their tailors would make a better job of it than I could. But they can only alter up to 2” – he needs 4” removed – perhaps Sir should get a new suit? Forget that idea whilst he is still losing weight.

Then we attempted to get to the bank on the edge of the city – we wanted to pay in some cheques, and they have an ATM at which you can deposit as well as take money out. However every access road appeared to be closed. We finally got there, to discover it was right next to a Police cordon, and lots of police cars and officers.

exploding kebab shop

The pleasant female officer informed us there had been an explosion at 02.20 this morning. Apparently the Kebab Shop blew up! Mercifully there were no serious injuries. Details on the BBC site.

“What shall we do with the rest of the day? It’s only 11.30” said Bob. “My blogfriend Sandie mentioned a flower festival/craft fair somewhere beginning with ‘B’” I said. Umm…Botcheston, Barwell, Blaby, Bagworth, Barton-in-the-Beans…this county is full  of ‘B’ places! So we came home and checked the blog. It was Bardon Hill.

2012 catalogueThen the new 2012 IKEA catalogue tumbled through the letterbox. That is a treat for me to read later on this evening.

Steph rang for a brief chat, and we swapped news of our weekends

st peters

Off out again, to St Peter’s Church. As we got out of the car, a voice said “Angela?” and it was Sandie herself, with her sister Rita, She recognised Bob and me from the pictures on the blog!

How utterly amazing – we had never met before  - and it was wonderful to meet another blogfriend. Further conversation revealed that I had actually sent Rita a thank you card last year. When Sewing Club made the children’s dresses for Africa, Rita had heard about it and sent us some fabric. And I have taught her grandchildren whilst doing Supply Work! asapharts2The Fair was fun, and we enjoyed looking round. I spent quite a while talking to Lesley asaphartsHollingworth of Asapharts, a very enthusiastic Christian artist.

Into the church to look at the flowers – theme; “Women of Renown” and at this point, my camera batteries gave up on me.


I did manage to snap the Emmeline Pankhurst display, in the Suffragette colours of purple, white and green.

A quick pub lunch and we began the short journey home- but got diverted by a sign to the “Wood Fair”. This is organised in the nearby National Forest, by Leicestershire County Council.

It was tremendous fun – loads to see – chain saw carving, charcoal burning, willow weaving, chair making, all manner of country crafts, and artisanal food products. I watched a willow weaver at work who then presented me with a fish on a line! Bob took some photos [on his new phone this time]




Mark 8:24 says “I see men as trees walking…”



Here’s me, with willow fish on stick, standing next to yet another wood carving.

Please notice my new Prostate Cancer Charity Hoodie- this is my ‘Runner Of The Month” prize!

I love my fish.

Bob preached on John 21 yesterday and said that Jesus could multiply fish. He speculated as to “What’s 4 fish multiplied by 3 fish?” I told him that it is important to consider the relevance of the Decimal Plaice when answering such a question!

So what a thrilling Bank Holiday I have enjoyed

  • adventures with The Slim Running Man
  • a blog comment from a BBC journalist
  • an exploding kebab shop
  • a new IKEA catalogue
  • a great phone call from daughter #2
  • a new warm hoodie to wear on a cold wet day
  • meeting a blogfriend in person –Hi Sandie!
  • discovering a gifted Christian artist
  • acquiring a fish on a stick

Could any girl ask for more? Now a quiet evening knitting, and reading my new catalogue.

A Tale Of Love, Lust, And A Beautiful Oak Desk

I was in a charity shop recently when I saw a glorious 1950’s oak desk exactly like this – and I fell in love with it. Oh wonderful wood!

my desk!

It took my breath away – honestly, I just stood there, fascinated.

It was in really good condition – apart from being utterly filthy and having sticky labels on the drawer fronts. It was £45. I so wanted it! Some elbow grease, soap and polish and it would look fantastic. My dress patterns could be filed in the drawers, there was room on top for standing a sewing machine- or for cutting out – or spreading out a whole collage of crafty bits. The nifty pull out shelves to the left and right would hold still more stuff. Such potential!

craft-roomI could have a craft area looking just like the ones pictured in Mollie Makes, all covered with photogenic items.

I walked round it, stroking it, dreaming of what I would do if it were mine. Then I made a list

  1. if I purchased it, would it fit into my little car?
  2. if I did get it home, do I have any idea where would it go?
  3. when we retire to Cornerstones, could we possibly take such a large item of furniture with us?
  4. do I have £45 to spare?
  5. has the dining table proved inadequate for cutting-out activities?
  6. am I dissatisfied with the table in Steph’s room where I often use my sewing machine?
  7. do I actually need this beautifully made piece of furniture?
  8. will it significantly enhance my life
  9. will it help me do more for the Kingdom of God
  10. what would Bob say if I went home with it?

matizI tried out all these questions in my head, and also shared them with the kind assistant. Then I reluctantly climbed into my little blue car and drove home. When I got home, I asked Bob the 10 questions. His answers were just the same.

  1. No
  2. No
  3. No
  4. No
  5. No
  6. No
  7. No
  8. No
  9. No
  10. Where are you planning to put it, Ang?

So I concluded it wasn’t love at first sight, just lust. If I had bought it, I would have ended up being cross with myself for spending money I could ill afford, on a piece of furniture too large for the space available, which I did not really need in the first place. And I would come to hate the desk, and be miserable whenever I saw it.

Shakespeare was right about lust [Sonnet 129]…

Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight;
Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,
Past reason hated, as a swallowed bait,
On purpose laid to make the taker mad.
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind a dream.

…I’ll get over it. And someone in Oadby will go into the AgeUK shop and get a real bargain. But not this woman!

I just had to tell you about it -  and now I can forget about it and get on with the Important Things In Life. Thank you for listening!

Sunday 28 August 2011

Tripoli Witness

libya rana jawad

A few months ago, the BBC stated that their overseas correspondent Rana Jawad was on ‘Indefinite Leave’ – as a newlywed, living with her Libyan husband from Benghazi, that was not altogether surprising.

But Rana did not stop working – in that time, she has been sending her reports under the name ‘Tripoli Witness’ – and they have been voiced by a man, in order to help preserve her anonymity, and keep her safe.

This brave young woman is as far from the sleazy scumbags hacking into Milly Dowler’s mobile as you can get. She is a real journalist. She has put herself at risk, reporting the situation in her adopted country. And now the BBC can admit who was behind those reports. Listening to her speaking on Radio 4’s “BH” this morning before I went to church, I was moved by her honesty as she spoke about her decision to go on reporting in secret…

"They have a death brigade that specialise in people like you, I can't help you, no one can!" [my husband] warned [me]. "They will knock on our door and drag you out in front of me and execute you! You have no idea what they are capable of. What will I do?! Tell me!"

But she has kept on – sending her well written, honest reports of life in Libya through this time of turmoil – with resolute cheerfulness.

libya map

You can read her final report here and that page also has links to her previous ‘Tripoli Witness’ reports. When Paddy O’Connell interviewed her on BH, he asked how she coped when the stress became too much. She laughed and said that she went off to the kitchen, got out the weights and the flour and the sugar, and baked cakes. She made up recipes to use the ingredients she had “So if I lose my job with the BBC, perhaps I can make cakes for a living” BH has printed some of her recipes on its webpage [here]

This is one of them

For a 23cm round pan, sides and base buttered, and base lined with greaseproof paper.

3 eggs
280g sugar
50ml of strong coffee [made up of 1 tbsp. of instant and hot water]
1 shot of milk
225 ml corn oil

With hand-held electric mixer: cream the wet ingredients starting with the eggs and sugar until nice and thick, then adding the rest.

225g flour
50g unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp. salt
1½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. of chilli powder [or cayenne]

Then sift all and add to wet in three batches until just mixed in.

DO NOT overmix: bake at 180 Celsius for about 50 minutes or less, insert toothpick to check if it's done only after the cake has risen [30 minutes onwards].

I suspect Rana will be keeping her BBC job – they would be daft to let go a journalist of such calibre. But I look forward to her cookbook being published. This afternoon, as Bob watches the Grand Prix, I have decided that I am going to the kitchen to bake this cake.

I have all the ingredients, and clean running water, and a reliable power supply. I shall be safe – nobody will come to my door with a gun, there will be no sounds of fighting in my street. And as I bake, I shall think of Rana, and pray for her, and all the people of Libya – may God bring peace, freedom and safety to them soon.

I salute you, Rana – you are a courageous young woman – thank you for telling the world about the events unfolding around you - may God keep you and your family safe.

[I will perhaps edit this post later and a add photo of my cake]

15.20 – cake now cooked [it took the full 50 minutes, even in my fan oven – I checked at 35minutes and it was nowhere near done!] I decided a dusting of icing sugar would disguise the two cracks in the top. Fortunately I am not planning to enter the Great British Bake Off, and show Mary Berry.

Displaying it here on one of my favourite charity shop cake stands



DSCF2247All summer I’ve been wearing my WWJD wristband. This was one of Mum’s favourite mottoes [years before they made the bracelets] and I like it too - it challenges me to think about my actions.

But this year, I realised things have changed. I have lost weight – the bracelet needed to be tightened up a little - so now on the inside of my wrist, all I can see is WWJ. How do I finish that phrase?


WWJS – What Would Jesus See?

It is so easy to look at a situation and make a superficial judgement. 1 Samuel 16 reminds us that God looks on the heart. I cannot see into someone’s heart – but I can take time to look beyond the obvious, and see if there is something behind it, and respond appropriately

WWJH – What Would Jesus Hear?

So often in the Gospels, people asked Jesus a question – and his answer made it quite clear that he understood that really they were asking about a different problem. Particularly in pastoral work, that is important – I need to be a good listener.

WWJG – Where Would Jesus Go?

Jesus went to the places where He was needed, to show God’s grace and greatness. I do not often find myself having to choose between two destinations – but wherever I end up, may His Spirit empower me to ‘Be The Light’ in that place.

WWJA – When Would Jesus Act?

Do I respond instantly, or take time to pray about it first? We can be caught between two extremes – the ‘Tyranny Of The Urgent’, and the ‘Take Time To Be Holy’ positions. Mark’s Gospel is full of words like ‘immediately’ and ‘straightway’ – but I also know Jesus didn’t rush back to the daughter of Jairus, or the sickbed of Lazarus, he didn’t wake up from his slumbers in Peter’s boat, the moment the sea got choppy. Sometimes I need discernment – and courage to wait awhile [or to act promptly]

WWJB – Why Would Jesus Bother?

Jesus bothered to come to earth, and live and die, for us because He loves us. Some tasks that confront me aren’t much fun, they are jolly hard work. They can seem thankless, and frustrating. And I have to remind myself that ‘Is it worth the bother?’ is the wrong question.

How would you complete it…W W J ?

[mustn’t overdo this diet though – I should hate the wristband to be reduced to just WW and have someone think I am advertising Weight Watchers!]

Saturday 27 August 2011

Don’t Get The Hump!



We’ve had really wet, autumnal weather these last couple of days – so something warm and comforting was needed for lunch.  A lovely loaf of home-made bread [thanks Bob] and some Camel Soup.

Actually, it is Algerian chickpea, lentil and coriander [no camels harmed in the making of this potage!] bought in Lidl whilst we were at Cornerstones. It wasn’t too expensive, and served four generous portions [I added a little water which I’d used to rinse the bottle]

I’ve found a recipe on the BBC Food website [here] so I might have a go at making my own sometime. It should not be a great strain! see Matthew 23:24…

You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

The End Of The Pier Show

This week, we have been hosting a Holiday At Home at the church for the OAPs – “Kirby Muxloe By The Sea” [we are about as far as you can get from the sea here in the middle of Leicestershire, but never mind] Brian and his crew did a sterling job. Bob was involved with epilogues and technical expertise – but I said I wasn’t going to help, I would put all my energies into Holiday Club this summer.

DSCF2258The final event was The End Of The Pier Show, and I went down to see it. They were splendid – monologues, sketches, community singing – and an epilogue dfrom the Pastor. All good stuff. The holidaymakers told me what a great week they’d enjoyed – an outing to Rutland Water [sailing on the Rutland Belle] great food,good activities

DSCF2255Who needs Gene Kelly, when you have John K singing in the rain, alongside his friend Bob M.? [who then donned lederhosen, and became The Happy Wanderer]



Everyone had a wonderful time – singing by The Promenaders, and music from Janet on keyboard, assisted by teenagers Sarah and Emma [S has just got a set of stunningly good GCSE results too!]

DSCF2254As well as being entertained, the holiday makers got to make their own holiday souvenirs [it is just like a Grown Up Holiday Club!] This included being photographed through a novelty frame, and having a memento to keep.

Here is Brian with his wife Hilary. The other frame was of a bikini clad lady – but I will not embarrass my friend C by posting her picture! [she is much slimmer than the lady]DSCF2260

Thank you Brian and co for such an excellent programme.

Finally, a few remaining pictures of our holiday. Last Sunday, after Marion, Bob and I had been to church, we all went to a Jazz Event at the Garden Centre where Lucy works


Here’s the family on the grass…


I was amused by this


…but Lucy tells me that the lady sitting on the “Please Do Not Sit On the Balustrades” sign is in fact the owner of the Garden Centre!

It was a glorious afternoon, and the jazz finished around 3pm so we drove on up to Salthouse Beach. It was all very spur-of-the-moment stuff. Mark and Jon decided to strip off to their underwear and have a swim [ pictures taken on Bob’s old phone so not best quality, sorry]


They swam quite a way – and mocked us for our cowardice!


Marion walked Poppy and Pippin, her two new puppies, along the beach [they are Patterdale crossbreeds she tells me]


But what’s this? Look Pippin, over there!


It seems to be two women wearing just their underwear, shrieking about the temperature of the water


Yes, Liz and I decided we would brave the waves too. But we are not as intrepid as the boys, and only paddled about, with much squealing. [I’m on the right of the picture, in case you were wondering]

I’m not going to be one of those old ladies who sits in her armchair and says “I wish I had done that when I had the chance” – the sea was there so I went in! It was the last day of my holiday, after all.

But next year, I shall take a proper cossie with me, and also ensure that we don’t all have to share one towel [and that was the one Marion had in the boot for the dogs – but at least we got first use]