Wednesday 29 February 2012

From Washington To Downing Street

I am quite enjoying Homeland on a Sunday evening [although I think the plot is moving rather slowly at the minute]


I read somewhere that President Obama enjoyed it when it was shown on American TV. The male lead is Damien Lewis – like Benedict Cumberbatch, he is yet another Old Etonian [but DL is 5 years older than BC so they probably weren’t schoolmates]

damien lewis

He has quite a long list of acting credits, on both sides of the pond. This week I have also listened to him on the Radio[on iPlayer as I cannot usually manage to hear Radio 4’s Afternoon play ‘live’] It has been series  five of ‘Number 10’ – in which he plays Simon Laity, a Tory Prime Minister. Where was I when series 1 – 4 went out? I’ve found this series clever,witty, poignant [and – as it is about MPs- very irritating in places]

How did I miss the earlier stuff?

Is anyone else watching Homeland? or listening to Number 10?

What do you think of them?

What Are You Waiting For?


Blessings, everybody!

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Like A Mighty Army

In 246 BC, the Emperor Qin Shi Huang began the work on his Mausoleum – in 1974, some Chinese peasants unearthed the first part of the amazing terracotta army. Now over 8000 figures have been discovered – along with horses and chariots.


A few years ago, our friend Steve went to China on business, and brought back a set of three model warriors for Bob. They’re each about 15cm high.


On Friday last week, I took the models into school, to show some of the children who are studying China this term. They were fascinated by the detail, and the fact that every single warrior is unique. This week the children have made their own warriors, using clay and cocktail sticks [each with a green plastic milk bottle top as a flat base] They were working with a Supply Teacher, and I think they tried so hard, to reproduce the textures of the fabric and armour.

terracotta warriors

I’m really impressed by the work these children have put into their creations – they are a mixed year class- aged between 8 and 10 – and I asked them if I could take photos.



Don’t they look good?

One Target I DID Hit!

In fact, I have managed it a day or two early! My Twenty Nine For February Declutter sheet has been on my clipboard, and I have been crossing off as I have decluttered.


  • My electric pencil sharpener [bought in 2000] finally gave up the ghost, so that went in the ‘anything that is broken’ box.
  • A Tesco Banoffee Pie Mix was ‘seriously out-dated food’. I had two of these and made up the first one in December. It tasted horrendous – so I decided there was no point in keeping the other one in the cupboard.
  • My hated kitchen gadget was a very blunt potato peeler [I always use my Good Grips one]
  • The ‘appliance you never use’ was a sandwich toaster [with additional waffle maker and Panini maker plates] That has gone to Hayley our Youth Worker to equip her new flat.

thomspon localThe one I struggled with was ‘Old Phone Directories” as I am quite disciplined about recycling them as soon as our new one arrives- but a new ‘Thomson Local’ came on Saturday so the old one went, and I could cross off another section on my chart. This was a very satisfying exercise.

I haven’t yet mentioned my other activity for the past week- I have taken up the suggestion of Frances[Left Handed Housewife] of sending a note or card to somebody every day during Lent. I had a couple of overdue ‘thankyou notes’ which I did, and some birthday cards as well – but I have found a few leftover Christmas stamps and put them onto postcards, so it is easy to grab one each day and fire off a message to a friend.

Did you do the 29 items challenge? has it worked?

Are you doing anything special for Lent?

Monday 27 February 2012

A Man With Drive!

Froogs posted on Saturday about pressure washing her drive. Bob has been working on ours today. I was busy visiting the Doctor and then the Dentist.

dentists chairWhy is it that fillings crack late on a Saturday night when you are cleaning your teeth at bedtime?

You spend the whole weekend with your tongue constantly worrying the space in the tooth.

And why does that hole [which cannot be that big in reality] feels the size of a large volcanic crater? I am extremely grateful that our Dentist could not only fit me in today for a temporary filling, but also that she can do the permanent replacement next week. Let us not mention the hole that will subsequently appear in the Bank Account.

But back to the driveway. I returned home at 2.30pm to find it all clean and neat, moss and mud all washed away. I promptly fished out the camera, and said “That looks great – you have done a brilliant job. Stand over there and look smug, please.” So he did!


I should have taken a ‘before’ picture so you can truly appreciate how brilliant the ‘after’ is.


So then we went out and had a celebratory cup of tea. We chose the delightful Jade Tea Rooms –  just up the road from my new school, and that meant I could pop in and collect some stuff for tomorrow – and show Bob where I am working till Easter.

Not Quite On Target!


Saturday evening we had sausages and mashed root veg [potatoes, carrot and swede**] I decided to serve them in one dish – arranged in a sort of tricolour target roundel. These were half a 50p bag from M&S [reduced to clear] I followed with mini trifles, made in ramekins [cherry plums from freezer, 5 floz custard and for the sponge base I used half a Sainsbury's ‘basics’ Swiss roll – which had been reduced to 10p] Total cost of meal – including the [reduced] sausages was well under £1 for the pair of us.

I haven’t hit my £30 target for food spending this month, sadly. After January’s stunning £20.10 [all those Christmas leftovers, plus desserts which were Xmas present biscuits and sweets] this month has cost £52.93. That included £4.28 for Approved Foods [my order was four times that- but I am spreading the cost over four months]

DSCF3202Looking at my food budget notebook, where I have been diligently keeping accounts and sticking receipts, I notice there are quite a few ‘pantry staples’ purchased [on offer] this month but not opened yet - including bread flour and cheese triangles and Trex etc – totalling around £3, and there are still quite a few meals waiting in the freezer.

So I am very pleased with a weekly food spend of less than £12.50 for the two of us. I think my £30 was perhaps a little over-ambitious!

DSCF3320I am not counting the Perfick Pork Present which Bob brought back from Norfolk for me – but he did return with two lovely pork steaks, a small pack of bacon, and a dozen fresh free range eggs. Thursday night he cooked the pork – and served it with some lovely mash, and a generous dollop of my Larkrise Potted Apple Sauce.

This apple sauce has a lovely spiced clove-y [not cloven] taste. Now the jar has been opened I have also used it for a dessert – a dish of natural yogurt, with a spoonful of sauce, plus a sprinkling of chopped nuts. Delicious!

**Where do you stand in the great swede/turnip debate? I know the Hairy Bikers have disagreements on this one.

Bob maintains that northerners call them all turnips, southerners refer to the larger ones as turnips [and only consider them fit for cattle food] but the smaller ones are swedes [and they originally came from France, but were inexplicably called ‘swedish turnips’]

When you think about it, we have a plethora of Euro-Veg - Swedish turnips, French beans, Spanish Onions, Greek Olives, Brussels Sprouts… have I forgotten any?

Sunday 26 February 2012

Easter Encounter

Our young people have been away on an N:counter weekend, learning how to share their faith, demonstrating practical acts of kindness, litterpicking, clearing weeds, studying the bible, discussing faith …lots more.

AND making this very brief video about the Resurrection.

At church this morning, they asked if I would post it on my blog today so that lots of other people watched it. PLEASE have a look [the number of hits this weekend is very important to them apparently] It is not brilliant, it is dark and full of giggles and there are absentee cast members – but I do want to encourage them. They’re full of irrepressible joy, and eagerness to do good. They are trying so hard to tell the people around them about Jesus, and I am thrilled about that!

Yesterday I thawed out a box of frozen plucked pheasant [don’t try to say that too fast] and we had a casserole for lunch today. Wonder where that woodcock went?

Pause In Lent #1–Diligence

A Pause in Lent Floss

Why ever did I email Floss with a list of ‘virtues’ as a suggestion for ‘themes’ for PIL? From the moment she thought it was a workable idea I have been desperately lacking in inspiration. I can only apologise to other PIL bloggers who may be struggling too!

charley harper cardinal cradle

Floss introduced me to the American artist Charley Harper [1922 –2007],who painted a whole series of pictures of Cardinal birds –which seemed to be apt illustrations for the theme. This one is ‘Cardinal Cradle’- a mother bird feeding her young.

But I am a Baptist, and these Catholic virtues [cardinal, capital, theological etc.] are not things I have studied much before.

I decided to begin with ‘Diligence’ – I did some research and came up with these definitions [mostly from various Catholic websites]

  • A zealous and careful nature in one’s actions and work.
  • Decisive work ethic [that sounds quite Protestant to me!]
  • Budgeting one’s time
  • Monitoring one’s own activities to guard against laziness.

Then there was this one on another website – the Definition of Diligence from the Catholic catechism.

  • The decision to fulfil all of the responsibilities in our vocation or state in life.

I have been pondering this for a few days now- and conclude that diligence is an important virtue, because it is all about the things we put on our ‘to-do’ list, whether it is a physical list written in a book, scribbled on a whiteboard, or typed into an electronic gizmo – or even if it is just something in our head.

I need to be clear about the things that are my responsibility – and the ones that are not. And concentrate on completing the former to the best of my ability, and leaving the latter to the Almighty to sort out.

JugglingwifeFrom my own experience I am conscious that many women who are working wives and/or mothers get bogged down with guilt about the things they haven’t done. I know Pastors who burn out because they try to do all the tasks in their fellowship by themselves. I’m sure you can come up with other people who find their workload impossible, and struggle with the “work/life balance” issue.

Years ago, I remember going to bed [far too late] and being really cross with myself because my to-do list for that day was almost entirely bereft of crossed-off tasks. There had been a lot of interruptions, mostly of a ‘pastoral’ nature, plus some minor ‘family crises’ relating to the kids. Bob calmed me down [with a cuddle and a cup of tea] and reminded me that the things I had done that day had all been important, and even if I hadn’t put them on my agenda, maybe they were on God’s to-do list for my day. Other people had been blessed and helped, and the children had gone to bed safe, fed, warm and happy. And that was because I had been diligently fulfilling my responsibilities.

If Lent is about re-evaluating priorities, and living more simply, then learning diligence is part of that. Making sure I am clear about the things I need to do, and doing them well – and guarding against the laziness and time-wasting which may prevent me from being effective.

And before anyone comments that I am always busy, and they cannot believe I am ever lazy, I have to tell you that I keep an oven-timer by my PC, as I can easily get sucked into time wasting web-surfing. And as for ‘activities I can do to put off doing the ironing’ …

Part of developing the virtue of diligence is recognising the areas where one is tempted into its opposite vice of sloth.

I am so grateful for those ‘diligent’ people – the friends at church who will say “I can do that job” and I know they will do it, and do it enthusiastically and well for the glory of God.

‘Cardinal Cradle’ seemed a good choice of picture today – the mother diligently fulfilling her obligations towards her young.

For other Pause In Lent Blogs check out the list Floss has posted

Saturday 25 February 2012

Long Live Liberty!

Very excited to receive a parcel in the post this morning


I had won Pomona’s recent Giveaway! The book is absolutely lovely – and when I have had a chance to look through it slowly and carefully I shall give you a proper review of it.


Pomona had sent me a note on one of her cards. Her blog is called ‘Little Cottage Comforts’ and here is the cottage…


So by way of a thank-you, I’m doing a bit of advertising here! Kent is a wonderful county for holidays [I lived in various parts of Kent on and off for about 12 years, married a man from Kent, and both my girls were born there – so I speak with experience] More details about booking the cottage on P’s blog and her website.

Thanks Pomona!

Work In Progress

A few photos of our Wednesday night activities at the church.



We have been very busy at Sewing Club lately, working on some strip-and-flip patchwork.

These are for a project we are doing for the EcoHouse in Leicester.

The girls are all working incredibly hard, and producing these rectangles which will end up as cushion pads for the Bistro Chairs in the cafe. All using donated and thrifted fabrics.

Hoping to get the complete set done by Easter if we can [14 cushions]

Friday 24 February 2012

Foxy Fun

lcfcFoxes are very important here in Leicestershire. The county claims to be the birthplace of foxhunting, and the fox is the symbol of both the county cricket club and Leicester City Football Club.

leics mapThe shape of the county is also supposed to resemble the head of a fox. I suppose it does, if you squint a bit!

Liz has sent me this picture of a very cute fox


He is from the Guardian website Lifestyle section [here]

Right now, I don’t think I am going to sew one of these, but I thought it was a good opportunity to point out this excellent section of the Guardian website.

There is a regular craft project [knitting, sewing, papercraft, crochet…] usually from someone’s latest book. This one is taken from The Busy Girl's Guide to Sewing by Carrie Maclennan. The articles are well written with clear explanations and pictures.

Frequently the projects have a seasonal relevance, often they are charity related [like the Battersea Mice I made last summer]


Thanks Liz for sending the link [I may take up the suggestion to make some cubs at Sewing Club sometime]

Very Old Joke about foxes

teacher “What is a vixen?” pupil “Is it the wife of a Vicar, Miss?”

Bargain Of The Week!

DSCF3313In the Post Office, to send off the Giveaway to Fat Dormouse, I spotted these high up on a hook.

15p for 20 sets. Admittedly they are for 2lb jars, not the more common 1lb size – but I can cope with them being a little too large [I have scissors, after all]

I only had a 20p coin left in my pocket, so only got the one set [and I had to ask a tall chap in the queue to fetch it down for me]

I have checked out on line and most places charge more than four times that price. The pack has gone into store all ready for the autumn.

Who would have thought that spending 15p could bring such happiness! There’s nothing quite like a spoonful of home-made marmalade on your toast, or a slice of ham with some chutney made from autumn windfalls, or a blob of plum jam stirred into a dish of creamy rice pudding…

Thursday 23 February 2012

Apostrophe Catastrophe

Steph has forwarded a photograph of a mobile coffee stall, belonging of the Apostrophe chain. Their coffee shops are springing up all over central London. Their slogan is

“Apostrophe – the accent on taste”


The faulty grammar is painful enough- but the name of the company just compounds the error even more! Steph knew how much we would appreciate the picture. Thanks, daughter, you’re a star!

[btw, are there any other words in common usage ending ‘ophe’?]

The Mysterious Affair Of The Vanishing Game

On Boxing Day, my brother went on a shoot, and bagged some pheasant and some woodcock.



When we were at Cornerstones a few days later, Adrian and Marion invited us over to their place for a meal. As we came to leave, Adrian said “I’ve put two freezer boxes in your bag – one’s pheasant, one’s woodcock, both prepared and ready for you to casserole”

Which is very typical of the generous bloke that he is. Neither box was labelled, so I wasn’t absolutely sure which was which, but I put them both in the freezer. I decided at the weekend to make a casserole. Delia Online has a recipe for pheasant casserole [with whole birds], so I tweaked it a bit and prepared it before church. Now I did think that there was quite a lot of blood in the box, and the texture of the pieces of meat was a bit erm…unusual.

oval le creusetBut I have little experience of cooking game – and was grateful that the box was full of ready prepared bite-sized pieces. So I duly stuck them in the Le Creuset as per the Blessed St D’s recipe, and toddled off to church.

When we sat down to eat it, I was bothered. My meat tasted just like liver. I said nothing. Then Bob said “This tastes just like liver” – we fished out the bits of meat and sliced them up – and yes, these were very clearly pieces of liver. “How odd” we thought. [but we ate them all the same- it was our Sunday lunch, after all]

“Perhaps Marion bought some liver and put it in a similar box in the freezer, and Adrian got out the wrong box” I suggested.

“I don’t think they eat liver. Perhaps she bought it to feed the dogs” said Bob.

So this week, when Bob visited them during his stay at Cornerstones, he mentioned the fact that our box of pheasant was in fact a box of liver. “But I never buy liver” said Marion.

Well I certainly never bought it – and it is definitely the box which came back, frozen, from Norfolk and went straight into our freezer here. I have yet to thaw out the meat in the other box.

So where did this liver come from?

And what happened to the pheasant?

The moral of the story is-

Always label the boxes you put in your freezer!

Otherwise you may find the pheasant is revolting, or something equally offal!

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Great Responsibilities, Difficult Choices

Back from a morning in school, I switched on the 1pm news, and was saddened to hear of the death, in Syria, of the Sunday Times war correspondent, Marie Colvin. She was killed, along with a young French cameraman, Remi Ochlik, in the city of Homs, when their building was shelled. Marie was a journalist whose reports were well written, and I felt I could trust her to speak for the people who were powerless to speak for themselves.


In 2001 and 2010, she was named Foreign Reporter of the Year by the British Press Awards. Tributes paid by her colleagues bear testimony to the respect she earned, for her incisive, honest reporting. She wanted to make a difference.

Sunday Times Editor John Witherow said today

"Marie was an extraordinary figure in the life of The Sunday Times, driven by a passion to cover wars in the belief that what she did mattered.”

The BBC's Jim Muir said she believed profoundly that reporting could curtail the excesses of brutal regimes and make the international community take notice. He said she would be "missed sorely" by the paper and added:

"She was a woman with a tremendous joie de vivre, full of humour and mischief and surrounded by a large circle of friends, all of whom feared the consequences of her bravery."

Marie was incredibly brave -

She was decorated for her reporting from Chechnya, where she was pinned down by fire from Russian aircraft and troops. Finding her last line of retreat cut off by paratroopers, she escaped over an icy mountain path into Georgia, but after four perilous days' journey found herself stranded. Colleagues, realised she was in trouble and contacted the American embassy in Tblisi which duly sent a helicopter to rescue her.

In East Timor in 1999 she was credited with helping save the lives of 1,500 refugees stranded in a United Nations compound in Dili which was under siege by the Indonesian army in the wake of a referendum that chose independence from Jakarta’s rule.

In 2001, she lost the sight of her left eye from a shrapnel wound, whilst covering the conflict in Sri Lanka, yet she still sent in a 3500 word report to her editor, from her hospital bed.

In 2010, Colvin spoke, at a Fleet Street ceremony honouring fallen journalists, about the dangers of reporting on war zones. She said

Our mission is to speak the truth to power. We send home that first rough draft of history. We can and do make a difference in exposing the horrors of war and especially the atrocities that befall civilians…

Craters. Burned houses. Mutilated bodies. Women weeping for children and husbands. Men for their wives, mothers, children. Our mission is to report these horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice.

We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story. What is bravery, and what is bravado? Journalists covering combat shoulder great responsibilities and face difficult choices. Sometimes they pay the ultimate price.

Marie, and Remi made difficult choices in their commitment to speaking the truth about the situation in Syria. They have paid the price for that. Let us pray that their sacrifice will, in some way, help to change the conditions there for the better.


Out of the conflict zone now, may they rest in peace.

Pause In Lent–Coming Soon

A Pause in Lent Floss

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent. As usual, my Fab Friend Floss in France is Facilitator for our Pause in Lent series. I promise not to alliterate everything! You can find details on her blog [here] Every weekend till Easter, a number of bloggers all round the world will be posting Lenten thoughts and reflections.

Right now I have absolutely no idea what I shall be posting about Sometimes I have a clear picture in my head beforehand. This year, I am in great need of the Creative Spark mentioned in Mags’ weekend post. Check her blog to hear the Rend Collective singing this…

I love You Lord – but I want to love You more
I need You God – but I want to need You more
I'm lost without Your creative spark in me
I'm dead inside unless Your resurrection sings
I'm desperate for a desperate heart
I'm reaching out, I'm reaching
All that I am is dry bones
Without You Lord, a desert soul
I am broken but running
Towards You God, You make me whole
You are exactly what we need
Only You can satisfy

rend collective album cover

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Flat As A Pancake!


Here I am, on Shrove Tuesday, all alone, totally sans crepes!

It is my own fault- I completely forgot, and ate my last egg yesterday – and as Bob is bringing me back some lovely fresh New Laid Eggs when he returns from his Norfolk Retreat shortly, I didn’t want to go out and buy any more this afternoon after school.

I had a lovely time in school today. I took my own lunch, but the children had pancakes on the School Dinner Menu. Children who normally bring a packed lunch could sign up last week if they wanted the special Pancake Day meal. But the pancakes were savoury ones, filled with chilli sauce [somewhat bland, I am told]


Personally I feel Shrove Tuesday Pancakes should be sweet ones with sugar.

I suppose the meat filling could be considered part of the ‘Carne Vale’ goodbye meat thing.

Bob makes extremely good pancakes- I may buy a lemon in anticipation of his return and we can feast on pancakes later in the week. I realise that isn’t quite in the spirit of Lent, but never mind.

I trust you have enjoyed your pancakes if you have been eating them today. I note that Karen has golden syrup, chocolate spread and sliced bananas ready for topping hers – what do you like on your pancakes? I am sugar, or syrup, plus lemons.


Maybe, following last week’s success with the Valentine Biscuits at the Healing Course, I should have served crepes with the coffee at tonight’s session!

Target Setting

the real to do list

Monday 20 February 2012

I Am Being Unbearably Smug Tonight!


I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who has recorded ‘Whitechapel’ and not watched it yet, but the clue was clearly shown in last week’s programme.

How come it took the police to the last minute of the second programme to spot it?

I noticed it last week – and so did Bob [and he certainly doesn’t share my love of the Pre-Raphaelite brethren]

I have my theory almost completely worked out now about ‘How Sherlock escaped Moriarty and Death’ too!

Should I try my hand at writing TV detective stuff? Does it pay better than Supply Teaching? Or should I just make some hot chocolate and go to bed? [answer – bed, because you are at school tomorrow!]

Square Dance

Two teaching colleagues are going out to Africa soon to visit their ‘twinned school’. They have decided to take some blankets as gifts – so have appealed for 10cm knitted squares. Another friend has just given up knitting, and passed on some wool for others to use. So I have spent my odd moments in half term making squares.


Once I have made forty squares I shall stop, and deliver them to school [currently I have completed 32] The pattern is incredibly easy – and I can do it without thinking [even whilst watching subtitled ‘Montelbano’ on Saturday night!] It can be used with any yarn- you just need to find needles which work well with your yarn. I am using 3.75mm with DK wool.

  1. Cast on 1 stitch
  2. Row 1 - knit into front and back of stitch [2 sts]
  3. Row 2 – knit into front and back of stitch, knit next stitch [3sts]
  4. Row 3 – knit into front and back of stitch, knit to end of row [4sts]
  5. Continue like this till sides of triangle measure 10cm [for me this is when I have 28 sts on needle]
  6. Next row – knit 2 tog, knit to end of row [27sts]
  7. Repeat this row until there are 2 sts left
  8. Knit 2 tog, break yarn and thread through last stitch.
  9. That’s it!

If you change colours in a square, particularly if you change halfway at the point where you stop increasing and start decreasing. Back in the 1960’s my grandmother made a blanket of such squares using her leftover yarn. This ongoing urge to use up the Great Stash is obviously genetic. I treasure this blanket, I think it is the only thing I have which she actually made, although she was a great crafter.


However, her placement of the squares appears to be totally random, with no attempt to have all the triangles aligned. As a child I used to spend hours finding matching squares!

Now I have learned to crochet and could therefore do the edging, perhaps I should make a blanket [in shades of greys and blues]  for Cornerstones. Bob is there at the moment, spending a few days in Quiet Retreat. [I am here- no chance of Quiet if I go with him!]