Tuesday 31 January 2012

Guerilla Gardening!

Some flowers to brighten your day. Find more of Steve’s work here

So pretty!

I just love the fact that these little gardens are in the most unexpected places- making good use of the holes in the road, turning something ugly which might be criticised or ignored by others into something surprisingly beautiful.

But you know me – anything that illustrates grace, and the wonder of redemption always thrills my soul!

Friday Night For Folk And Fun

Friday’s Annual Africa Aid Folk Night went incredibly well. We were entertained by Eric the Turtle, The Dangerous Dogs, Sam Rodwell [keep an eye out for this 18 year old guitarist, he is going places] and the melodious Lyn Gouldbourn and Steve Hicks [here]DSCF3246





And of course, the ebullient Dave himself.

Bob wore his best HK Sound Engineer's Tee-shirt.

We loaded both cars and left home around 4.30pm Friday – and got back at around 12.15am.

It took Bob ages on Saturday morning to rewind all the cables and sort out all the gear.

But it was worth it – loads of money raised for a very worthwhile cause, lots of good music and refreshment – and time with friends.


[and sometime I must modify this teeshirt – the answer to Question Five is patently incorrect, even if all the others are probably true]

Monday 30 January 2012

Hanging On…

I have been haunted all week by something I typed in Thursday’s post – “I need more than seventeen hangers”


But do I really? How many clothes does one person need? I’m told that Mother Teresa only had three identical saris, and Mahatma Gandhi had just one shawl and loincloth – and they managed. But there are problems here

  • I have worn a sari, and found it somewhat restricting – if I moved too enthusiastically, it started falling off, and it seemed to drag on the ground, however securely I tried to hoist it at the waist.
  • Loincloths? No way! I struggle, in the privacy of my own bathroom, to keep myself decent wrapped in a bath towel. The Amish may eschew buttons as a sign of pride, I rely on decent fastenings to maintain my modesty.
  • What did MG wear on washday? Did he somehow wrap the shawl round himself when his loincloth was laundered and vice versa?
  • A loincloth and shawl ensemble is not appropriate for the sort of life I lead here in cold wet Britain, [even MT was seen wearing cardigans and a coat on occasion]
  • I need different clothes for the different parts of my life – I would not wear the same outfit for Sunday preaching as I would to wash the kitchen floor on a Monday. And I wouldn’t wear the same clothes when helping messy 5 year olds to paint as I would to go out for a meal with Bob. Then there are ‘specialist’ things like running shorts and motorbike leathers.


But the fact remains that I think I still have too many clothes. So I emptied out the contents of the wardrobe onto the bed. I discovered I had more of my original blue floral hangers, lurking under jackets, and a few more wooden hangers awaiting padding and covering.

I’ve done the all the padding and covering, and sewn on a few more buttons to hold skirt loops. So now I have just over two dozen pretty padded hangers – and everything hanging on them neatly. I’ve retained two metal 5-bar hangers which hold my jeans and leggings, and a couple of plastic 3-bar ones for shawls and scarves. And my wardrobe looks neater and tidier without all these…


I also have a bag of clothes for the charity shop, and a vast collection of plastic hangers I no longer need. Perhaps the charity shop can use them too?

keep toss

And I am determined to operate the ‘one in-one out’ rule if I acquire any more clothes. I am not planning to purchase anything though – there are plenty of outfits there to be going on with.


That’s Always Be Clearing, Declutter Everyday

Here’s a traffic light challenge for you in this Leap Year –copy this list of 29 items, and try to cross off all the items as you declutter them during February. You can aim for one a day – or just cross off a few as and when you find them


Old Tupperware without lids [or lids w/o bases]


Old sunscreen

Plastic milk / drinks /shampoo bottles

Out of date medications

Dried up pens/ crayon stumps

Old lotions & make-up

Seriously out dated food

Odd socks or gloves

Very old cleaning products, and dead dusters

Empty Detergent  / soap bottles

Any appliance you hate or never use

Old birthday cards from people you barely remember

Empty boxes

Recyclable glass bottles

Anything that is broken

Clothes you never wear

Old batteries

Napkins, straws, sugar sachets from takeaways

10 pieces of junk mail

Ancient Receipts

Plastic/paper  grocery bags

Old Phone books

Burned candles that are less than 3” tall

Books you really don’t need to keep any more

Kitchen gadgets you hate

Dead plants or flowers

Dried up pieces of soap

out of date Magazines/ Catalogues

I am not saying you need to chuck all your old magazines, or every plastic bag – but I bet there is a ballpoint pen in that mug which doesn’t write, and probably a receipt or two in your bag which does not need to be kept.
Posting this a day or two in advance of February to give you time to get yourself ready. And don’t just put it all in the bin - remember to recycle or donate things if they are of use to others.



Sunday 29 January 2012

It’s Unusually Quiet Round Here!


I’m feeling a little hoarse! Woke up with a very sore throat. Managed to take the service and preach at another church this morning, but my throat’s become increasingly painful as the afternoon progressed. Bob made me a lovely hot drink with honey, lemon and soluble aspirin. Then he suggested I stay home this evening. I hate missing church, but it is a special Praise Event, and I’d find it really hard not to sing my heart out!

I don’t think it is laryngitis, tracheitis, or anything as serious as that. I hope to be back to normal tomorrow – but here’s a picture for you. How good are you on first century rulers?

philip tetrarch

This is Philip, otherwise known as Herod Philip II, who married his niece Salome [yes, that one]

He gets mentioned in the Bible, in Luke 3 – and I am sure he must have suffered from some sort of painfully sore throats] too, because there he is given the fabulous title

The Tetrarch of Trachonitis!

Wesley, The Widow And The Man In The Bank


John Wesley, the founder of Methodism preached on the “Use Of Money”, with these three wise points

  • Gain all you can
  • Save all you can
  • Give all you can.


I had a fascinating time in the Bank recently, I went in with just one question to ask about our account, and ended up having to undergo a full annual financial review! The guy said he’d like to check our income and expenditure patterns. I know our finances and budget plans very well, so was able to answer his questions easily. He began by noting our incomes, then all the outgoings on his list [mortgage, food, insurance etc]. He got to the end, and subtracted the Outgoings from Incomings in Mr McCawber fashion. and said

"If you have that much left each month, Mrs Almond, you could consider saving some of it."

“No,” I said, “You need go back to the top line. That's our total monthly income isn’t it?”


“Right, now calculate one tenth of it. and include that in expenditure.”


“Well, we are Christians, we begin each month by giving back one tenth to God. It’s called a tithe”

There was a look of genuine horror on the man’s face as he realised how little we have to spare after all our expected bills have been paid.

“There’s really not much left. Do you do this tithe thing EVERY month?”


“I am a Moslem. I only have to do it twice a year. Once at Ramadan, and one other time”

“That’s interesting”

“God knows what's going to happen to the economy”

“Yes, I believe He does, and He has always looked after us, so that's why we always give back to Him. We have wobbly moments occasionally, but it works out in the end”

“Oh…Well thank you for coming in, love**. I will make a note that we do not need to see you till January 2013. Do get back to us if we can help you again.”

“Bye, Imtiaz, God bless you!”

Poor chap, I think he was totally baffled! **He did! he went from a very formal ‘Mrs Almond’ to a somewhat less professional ‘love’ in his confusion. At least he didn’t say “Me Duck”

When I was in Belfast with Mags, we went into City Hall and looked at their Bible Exhibition [part of the KJV 400 celebrations] I was really taken with this Bible, and just had to photograph it. The picture is from the story of the “Widow’s Mite” in Luke chapter 21.


I was really challenged. Look at her closely- she is a young woman, with a small child tugging at her hand. All my life I have imagined ‘the widow’ to be a bent up old lady, with a shawl over her head, shuffling arthritically to put in her coins. The artist who illustrated this Bible makes her a young mother, with family responsibilities. A woman who had only herself to think about might not find it so hard to put in her coins – but one who also had a small mouth to feed, and little feet wanting new shoes, needed a lot of faith to give her tithe.

I guess that’s why I was brought up with the teaching [I Cor 16;2] that the first thing that goes out of the bank each month is God’s portion – and He will make sure that what is left is enough.

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give to you. For with the same measure that you measure, it shall be measured to you again.

Saturday 28 January 2012

Initial Reaction

You may remember the hassle we’ve had with the NatWest Bank, who could not accept cheques made out to Bob Almond. The saga continues.

Bob recently received a fee from the Co-op Funeralcare for a service he’s doing next week – but it was made out to “B Almond”


I like the staff at the Co-op –they are always polite and friendly when they ring up, and very helpful and efficient. Not that they advertise with the slogan “The Co-op good with…coffins”

The local ones have recently taken delivery of an amazing new hearse too. [Lead us in thy Triumph to our home above…]

co op rocket trike hearse2

Bob rang them up, thanked them for the cheque but explained the problem – he needed it made out not to “B for Bob” but to “R for Robert”. He called in at the office on Friday to collect the new cheque.

It appears that I am now married to Arthur Robert Almond!!

Look After The Pennies…

January is when all the newspapers and magazines carry articles about managing your money properly in the New Year, and this year is even worse than last, with even more talk of recession.

Have you seen this one from Pie Foundry ? [buy the postcards here]

spend a £

And this one from the Buy Nothing Day website


Frugal Queen has this wonderful Wordle on her sidebar, entitled You Are Not What You Buy


It’s 70 years since the US Government issued this poster in 1942. Back then, people signed the pledge to show their commitment to the War Effort. Perhaps it should be re-issued in an updated form, to remind us to shop sensibly.

victory pledge

Like others I have been thinking about my New Year Budget Plans. I am amazed by the variations in people’s methods of spending and saving, and the proportions of their income they allocate to different items. I shall post more about this later. But two Bible passages about money to be going on with…

The Pharisees came to Jesus and said, "Teacher, we know you have integrity, that you are indifferent to public opinion, don't pander to your students, and teach the way of God accurately. Tell us: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

He knew it was a trick question, and said, "Why are you playing these games with me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it." They handed him one.

   "This engraving—who does it look like? And whose nameCaesar-Augustus-Coin is on it?"

   "Caesar," they said.

Jesus said, "Give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his."

   Their mouths hung open, speechless.

[Mark 12, The Message]


You can't worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you'll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can't worship God and Money both.

[Matthew 6, the Message]

Friday 27 January 2012

Thursday 26 January 2012

Dealing With One’s Hang-Ups

Judy!Judy! Judy!

When I was 19 and a student, I bought myself a pretty summer dress in Coventry C&A. It was made of two co-ordinating blue floral cotton prints. My landlady always referred to it as the “Sweet Little Alice Blue Gown” I loved it – and there were many happy memories attached to it. Nearly twenty years and two babies later, I had to admit I would never fit into it again, and it really should leave my wardrobe.  But rather than get rid of it, I dismantled it, and covered five coathangers.


ikera hangersI always intended to have a wardrobe full of pretty hangers like this. I dislike plastic hangers – they snap, their sharp lines leave marks on the shoulders…Bob has all his shirts and suits on wooden IKEA hangers. I have always been too thrifty mean to buy these for myself – and anyway my clothes seem to drop off the sloping shoulders.

But this year things are going to be different!

After all, I made lots of pretty hangers as Christmas gifts for other people, and taught the Sewing Club girls how to make them too. So I took all the random padded hangers in my wardrobe and did three last week. I put tiny buttons on the shoulders to hold skirt loops.


This week at odd moments, I have made five more. I have not put buttons on all of them yet. I am still undecided about adding bows.DSCF3244


These are the last four wooden ones in the wardrobe**, and they need to be wrapped in wadding and covered.

The one at the top has a tiny price sticker on the end. It says “Woolworths 1/9” – that came from my Mum. The one at the bottom is Belgian, and came from Bob’s Mum. I will choose something special to cover those two, to remind me!

You’ll notice that the hangers I have already made are in different colours. It seemed better to me to use a selection of pretty fabrics from the Great Stash, rather than make them all the matching.how not to look old

According to Charla Krupp, author of the 2008 bestseller “How Not To Look Old”, “Check your wardrobe. Nothing ages you like outfits that are too matchy-matchy: Matchy-matchy makes you look oldie-oldie.”

And I certainly don’t want to have an oldie-oldie wardrobe, do I?

How do some people get into the bestseller lists when they use such odd words? Congratulations to my blogfriend Frances Dowell, who writes very well, and has just got into the best fiction for young adults list produced by the USA Young Adult Library Services Association.

**I need more than seventeen hangers so I must find a source of some more cheap wooden ones. Dunelm or the Poundshop, I think!

Having typed up this post, I have just discovered that Ms Krupp died on Monday, aged only 58. How sad that this vivacious blonde will never actually get to BE old.

Naked Chef, Nude Food, Neat Idea

DSCF3242What??? Well, last year, I purchased this in the Lakeland Store in Norwich. It’s a Nude Food Tube. It measures 210mm high, and 70mm in diameter – and it is produced by an Australian company [website here]. Their mission is to reduce the amount of packaging we use in our packed lunches [i.e. move your food nude] They are so concerned about the landfill sites clogging up our planet that over there in Oz they have all sorts of programmes for schools and workplaces to help reduce packaging – and even have a Nude Food Day each October.

My set is three small interlocking tubes- they also produce a two-tube set, with same total dimensions, and you can mix and match the pieces. They have a whole range of cleverly designed stuff, to contain and separate the component parts of your lunch, reducing the need for clingfilm/foil/plastic bags/whatever


Not surprisingly, they managed to get the Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver to promote that idea. [I suspect he’d go anywhere for the publicity, to be honest. He is all over the show these days, isn’t he?]


What I like about my container is that it is a good size and shape to tuck into my school bag [about 8” x 2¾” in ‘old money’] or even my handbag. I don’t eat a large midday meal at school – usually there isn’t time because of marking and preparing for the afternoon lessons. The dimensions of the tube force me to be creative – but as I am eating less bread these days, I don’t miss having sandwiches. I’m fortunate in that I have access to boiling water and a microwave in the staff kitchen – as well as bowls,plates, cutlery and mugs.

Here are two typical lunches which I would take.

DSCF3239Lunch #1 is a sachet of cup-a-soup [Approved Foods] some small crispbreads, 5cm square, a satsuma, and some mixed nuts.  Plus a piece of kitchen paper.


Lunch #2 is a pack of AF couscous [a double serving, so I’d decant just half of it into one of the tubes] small pear, a carrot [to be cut into batons] and a pack of chocolate buttons [another Christmas leftover treat]

I haven’t  got it quite right yet – I do like a napkin for spills, and need to make myself a small thin washable cotton one. But all this stuff fits neatly into the three interlocking tubes [the whole thing is about 10%smaller than a standard Pringles tube]

Liz has suggested filling one third with hummus, and another with assorted crudités for dipping. I could also fill one third with yogurt. By doing the decanting and loading up at home, I can put much of the packaging into my home recycling bin [it is not always possible at school or work to do that] And obviously the peel etc can be brought home again. The domed top of the tube means that a small piece of fruit [or taller carrot batons] will fit beautifully. The base of each third forms the lid of the one below it. All very clever!


The children seem to bring huge lunchboxes, many the size of a small bungalow, often only half full so their food rattles round inside.


I blame Harrison Ford, for giving Melanie Griffith that massive tin box at the end of the film Working Girl! My only disappointment is that Lakeland now appear to have stopped selling the Nude Food Movers.

What do you have in a packed lunch- and how do you transport it?


Wednesday 25 January 2012

Oatmeal Walnut Bread–As It Should Be!

Justin case you are wondering, my loaf looked like this


But it should have looked like this


Thank you to Anne over at Feather Stitching for allowing me to print the photograph of her perfect loaf. Anne made it using Marjie’s recipe just as I did, and it obviously worked fine for her.

Thanks to to Anon in Oz, who suggested that the American Tablespoon is considered the equivalent of an English Dessertspoon out there in the Antipodes – which may explain the problem with excessive sugar.

[who are the Podes anyway, and why are people anti them?]

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Loan, Not Own!


Just a quick review of this one which I borrowed recently from our library. It is full of great projects, helpfully organised into seasons from New Year’s Eve to Christmas. But I would never buy it – it’s not one I would want to keep on my shelf. I think that all the projects in it have been in MS Living magazine, and can be found on her website [like this one]. But it has been great fun to flick through the pages and look at the ideas.

One big plus – this is the British edition, so it does have a really useful, and comprehensive, list of different stockists of craft materials at the back.  I suspect that this is basically the same book as this one, for sale in the USA

martha-stewarts-holiday crafts-for-all-occasions-with-225-projects-for-new-years-through-christmas-and-every-celebration-in-between

I must say that the photography is beautiful and the instructions very clear. A few projects are considerably more complex than others and require much greater skill.

Some of the Fourth Of July Projects look like they could be modified this year for the Queen’s Jubilee.


Here in KM, we’re already thinking about the Big Lunch in June!

I enjoyed this library book – but was happy to return it!

Oh Crumbs!

Oatmeal Walnut Bread – first attempt


Something not quite right here! The Troubleshooting Section suggests that “bread collapsed” means either I had too much liquid, or too much sugar. The recipe required 2 tbsp honey, and I thought at the time “this seems rather a lot” Maybe American honey is runnier and less sweet than British Honey?

I am sure we can salvage something from this loaf. I shall slice the denser bottom section for sandwiches, and perhaps rip the soggy top part into ‘rustic chunks’ and bake them off a little in the oven to eat with ghome-made soup. It’s given us something to smile about anyway.

[btw -The sinister black thing in the corner of the photo is my oven glove!]

Monday 23 January 2012

We Knead The Dough

Bob declared at the weekend that we may have bought our last bagel. Well, I certainly haven’t bought my last book. I saw this in the Oxfam shop today and caved in on my ‘no more books’ idea.

breadmachine lambert

I have looked at this book before in charity shops, and this time I decided it was worth treating myself.

Many of the breadmaker books I have looked at contain just three or four basic recipes with minor variations.

This one has a wide range of recipes – and very clear instructions.

There is a useful troubleshooting guide at the beginning. For many of the recipes, there are two ‘ingredient lists’ [for a 1lb or 1½lb loaf] There are recipes for basic breads, grain breads, fruit/veg/cheese breads, oven baked goods [just using the breadmaker for the dough function] sourdough breads, sweet breads and holiday breads, breads from round the world, and more…

lavash armenian-flat-breadbaguette

The bagel recipe is very similar to Karen's. But I want to try the lavash  - that’s Armenian flatbread, and the oatmeal walnut bread, and also see how I get on with French baguettes.

If Karen’s costing are correct, and I am sure they are, then a batch of bagels represents a saving of around £1.70 – so making two batches will more than cover the £2.99 spent on the book. I will let you know how I get on.

A brief update on the Morrison’s Foccacia story – they have never replied to my letter, and we thought the bread, made as per packet instructions, was not particularly tasty. But we ate it anyway!

Spit And Polish

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Years ago, I went to a Retirement Event for a Minister – and one thing that concerned me was the suggestion that his spouse was the Perfect Pastor’s Wife – because she always made sure his shoes were polished ready for Sunday. I freely admit that shoe-polishing is not high on my list of priorities for Being Ready For Worship.

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I am not sure it is terribly spiritual to hide behind verses like “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart” and make that an excuse. But I confess that although I have always ensured that we had the necessary polish and brushes in a box in the Utility Room cupboard, I am not very diligent about using them.

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However, the other evening, I was tidying the cupboard, and decided to sort out the box. Then one thing led to another…


“You’re very fond of red shoes, aren’t you?” said Bob when he came home. Yes I do. Well, in truth, I preferred the Powell and Pressburger film to the rather gruesome Hans Christian Andersen story.

I think you have to be tall to be a ballerina!

When I was a child, I actually met Esmond Knight, who plays the conductor in the film, when he came to our church for his stepson’s baptismal service, along with his glamorous wife, actress Norah Swinburne.

How often do you polish the shoes in your house?

And do YOU have any RED pairs? or other interesting colours?

Sunday 22 January 2012

Character Study

For the last few months, I’ve been acting as a mentor to someone who is doing a study course in Christian Leadership. Session 4 was all about developing a Christ-like Character.

This was on one of the handouts from that session. I thought it was worth sharing…

Reputation is what you are supposed to be.

Character is what you are.

Reputation is a photograph.


Character is your face.

Reputation is what you have when you come to a new place.

Character is what you have when you go away.

Reputation is learned in an hour.

Character does not come to light for years.

Reputation is made in a moment.

Character is built in a lifetime.

Reputation grows like a mushroom.


Character like an oak.

Reputation is made from a single newspaper report

Character is built from a life of toil.

Reputation makes you rich or poor.

Character makes you happy or miserable.

Reputation is what people say about you on your tombstone.

angel tombstone1

Character is what the angels say about you around the throne of God