Monday 30 September 2013

Moules Merveilleux

After Bob cooked me such a stunning meal last Monday night, I thought I ought to push le bateau out a bit tonight. Having found some mussels on offer [already prepared in a lovely sauce, just needed heating through] proper Belgian “Moules et Frites” seemed to be in order. Two portions of oven chips [co-op, bogof], and Approved Foods mayo. Dessert was AF instant whip with banana slices, served in pretty little pots . We had a great candlelit meal – all for less than £5. Beat that Jamie O!!


For Sarah

Sarah – a good friend from church – has done spectacularly well in her A levels and yesterday went off to Durham to begin her degree course. Her friends at Breathe [the Sunday Night Youth Bible Study Group] asked me to make a special keepsake Farewell Card which they could all sign for her. Gary – one of the group leaders, and member of the Worship Group had written a song for the occasion so here is the card…

Front cover…


…and inside. Before returning it, I used my friend Janet’s Cricut to cut the letters for her name.  You cannot see it, but rhe beige backing paper is printed with sepia music [Sarah is an accomplished flautist] Gary’s song…

Leaving our familiar surroundings,
Going on to something new
New horizons,
New beginnings.

Leaving behind all the things we know
All the things we love so well,
Moving on, To the new things.

Wherever we go, God goes with us,
Whatever we do, He is there,
We can follow our dreams, wherever they take us
Because we know we’re in His care.

We don’t know what lies ahead for us,
We don’t know whatever will be,
As we move on, Go where He takes us.

With confidence and with strength
We can take it in our stride
Stepping out In faith.

We can face whatever is before us,
We can keep moving on and have no fear,
If we pray to God for the strength we need,
He’ll show us where the way is clear.

Wherever we go, God goes with us,
Whatever we do, He is there,
We can follow our dreams, wherever they take us
Because we know we’re in His care.

© KMFC Breathe 2013

God bless you and keep you safe Sarah – we shall all miss your smile, your laughter, your music…but we know God has a plan for you, and will bless you in this new stage of your life.

Sunday 29 September 2013

The Community Tales…

…stories of pilgrims on a journey

That was the title of our day conference down in Wiltshire yesterday. We had a great time, and I came back energised and encouraged, having listened to the team at The Stowe [the Baptist church on the Wichelstowe development, in Swindon] telling us the ways in which they have worked to bless their community.


Here are a few pictures of our day. A great welcome from Sally and Zane when we arrived.

The key words were

calling, listening, obeying, following

Ali Boulton was enthusiastic, and shared the story of hoe The Stowe church came into being. We laughed a lot – but also heard the difficulties, and problems encountered en route.


We spent some time listening to Ali and looking at presentations on screen.

“Church” is very different when you are working in a new estate, still being built, and the only shelter you have is a portakabin and a large gazebo – and baptisms are conducted outside in a large paddling pool.

But the team told us of the way relationships were built and people supported as they IMG_0818moved into the area

This is Liz, one of the original team members. She works incredibly hard – here she is bringing the stuff for lunch to our discussion table.

The loo roll? That’s tere to symbolise the ‘welcome baskets’ Ali delivered to each family as they moved into a home on the estate.

IMG_0816When you move in, it’s really useful if someone brings you basics [loo roll, teabags, contact details for essential shops and services, a map…]



We were served some delicious food[chilli and rice or jacket spuds, fruit, cakes, biscuits…] Ali’s husband Neil is clearly a splendid cook.

There were many helpful conversations, and useful ‘networking’ opportunities.

I think the person on the left of the photo [in the blue cardi] is Emily. She shared her story with me, of how Jesus has completely turned her life around since she moved into Wichelstowe – and now she’s a happily married Mum, very proud of her family, acknowledging that this is all by the grace of God and his power.

It was inspiring to be in the lovely new Community Centre, and hear all the inspirational stories, but nobody was telling us that this sort of ‘new development’ ministry was an easy road. We learned about the challenges, the opportunities, working with the other agencies involved [councils, housing associations]. Much for us to think about in terms of the new Lubbesthorpe Development being planned just miles from here. Thank you Ali, and your team, for such a lovely day.

As Liz led our closing act of worship, she said she had prepared some prayers and quotations on slips of paper – these were on the table by the door, and she invited us to take one home if the words resonated with us in any way. Because I do so much sewing, and I am constantly taking random pieces of material from the Great Stash to create other things, I chose this prayer…

Let me use disappointment as material for patience

Let me use success as material for thankfulness

Let me use trouble as material for perseverance

Let me use danger as material for courage

Let me use reproach as material for long-suffering

Let me use praise as material for humility

Let me use pleasure as material for temperance

Let me use pain as material for endurance

Come Ye Thankful People, Come…


…and share God’s blessings with those who do not have enough.

As a small child, I remember that Harvest Festival usually involved lots of information about starving little children in Africa [and my grumpy discussions with my Mum over Sunday lunch about “well, why can’t you send them this cabbage to eat, I don’t want it!”]

I am saddened that in recent years, there have been so many genuinely hungry people in my own county that our harvest collection has involved amassing tinned goods to support the Foodbank just a few miles away.

foodbank network logo blue

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Saturday 28 September 2013

Stowe Away!

Leaving the house Very Early this morning to go to Wiltshire, for a day conference led by my friend Ali Boulton [in pink, behind the Mayor in the picture below]

ali & co at stowe

You can read the news report about Ali’s church here

the stowe logo

Ali came and spoke at our Lubbesthorpe Day back in February [here] so it will be great to actually visit the place where Ali lives and works, and see what they have been doing to build a healthy, happy community.

Friday 27 September 2013

Polly Put The Kettle On!

Because I am teaching [almost] fulltime this month there has been less time for knitting. Also it means I will miss this village event

macmillan 2013

[I did manage Sarah’s Macmillan Event in August though] So I have decided to send some items to be sold along with the cakes at the event in St Bart’s Parish Hall this morning. Having had great success with this pattern in the spring [one cosy lives here, and another at Cornerstones] I thought I’d knit retro teacosies for charity…


Same pattern as earlier, from the Debbie Bliss book, although I am clearly more tired in the evenings, and my output seems slower – I only managed to make three. The left hand one is the same basic pattern, but I just reversed the colours every 10 rows.

I cut cardboard tea-pot from paper plates and tucked them inside each cosy, and put them inside plastic bags, with a note saying they would fit a standard 6-cup pot. I hope the trio sells [I suggested a £2 minimum donation]

Yes there are three teapots in the picture- but the middle one dribbles too much, and the left hand one is missing its lid – so they are just used for flowers occasionally. And artistic photographs.“Stylist’s own” as the magazines always say. Have you noticed that when you look at a picture in a mag, you think ‘there is nothing there I would particularly want to buy except that’  and it usually turns out to be a stylist’s prop, and therefore not for sale anywhere?

I’m sure many of you are supporting Macmillan events this weekend. Please enjoy a coffee and cake on my behalf!

Thursday 26 September 2013

It’s A Mug’s Game

I have just discovered the website of the Literary Gift Company – lots of witty gifts for bibliophiles and philologists. Were I to have pots of money at my disposal, I think I might treat my nearest and dearest to this little selection at Christmas…

Liz and Jon would get these – because this is what they do so well


Steph and Mark might get these [Steph’s because we went to LMA’s house and we saw the desk where she wrote Little Women, Mark’s because he seems to spend so much time travelling]



Bob [who can be a teensy bit pedantic** at times about grammar] would get this one. I think I’d get myself the lilac one because I love the book, and have always considered myself to be one of the LW!



But as I don’t have £60 or thereabouts to spare, and we all have plenty of mugs anyway, I shall not be buying any of these – delightful though they are. [**this may be litotes, but I am not sure about that, no doubt someone else in my family will put me right here]

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Sachet Sashay

sa·chet noun : a small bag that has a mixture of dried flowers and spices inside it and that is used to give a pleasant smell to clothes, sheets, etc

sa·shay verb [informal] : to glide, move, or proceed easily or nonchalantly

One attempts to sashay through life, proceeding easily and nonchalantly along, but it doesn’t always work like that [think swans gliding gracefully along the river- but their little feet paddling like mad under the surface] My little feet – with or without the odd socks – have been paddling away furiously lately.

I was asked to help a friend turn seventy of her daughter’s tiny cross stitch samples into lavender sachets for an autumn Craft Sale. Not having a lot of time I went into production line mode.


I got a pack of nappy liners, cut each into four and machined little bags. Into each bag I put a cotton wool ball, a spoonful of lavender, and a second ball, then machined across the top. Like ‘teabags’




Then I cut the samples into 3” squares, and sewed a piece of printed cotton onto the back of each – three sides on the machine. I put one of my little ‘teabags’ inside, and then hand stitched the opening closed. And now I have a pile of seventy sachets to sashay over to my friend’s house!


And my lounge smells delightful!  Lavender has a very relaxing perfume, don’t you think?

In case you are wondering, I use the teabag method for a number of reasons;

  • the nappy liners hold the lavender buds tidily so they don’t come out when I am doing the final handstitching
  • the nappy liners also allow the perfume to come through, but absorb any oils which might stain.
  • some people I know use small plastic bags and puncture them with pins to allow the scent out – but I feel that plastic can get sweaty and encourage bacteria to grow.
  • the cotton wool balls mean the sachets feel softer than if the bags just held the buds – and they also cushion any bits of crackly crushed stalk which are in the mix
  • the balls also reduce the amount of lavender needed [and you really don’t need much to get the scent]
  • so it is fast, efficient and economical!

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Dish Of The Day

When we were at the Aylsham Show, on Bank Holiday Monday, we went to a demonstration in the cookery tent.


We watched Mark Sayers, Head Chef of The Saracen’s Head at Wolterton as he prepared a main dish and a dessert.


It was a superb demo, and seeing close up shots of the work, on the big screen, made it easy to follow. I have to say that Mark was witty, and a good demonstrator – making the meal prep look effortless. All the right qualities for a TV chef, I would say!


Mark prepared a main course of pork, black pudding, and potato rosti, with a garnish of apple balls [prepared with a melon baller]

At the end we sampled the dish and it was quite delicious.

On Monday, Bob enjoyed his day off- but I was busy in school, and I knew I had things to do in the evening. So my lovely husband offered to cook our meal – he replicated Mark’s menu.


Bob pan-fried the Pork and Black Pudding , as Mark did, apple pieces were cooked off in the same pan [Bob couldn’t find the melon baller so cut wedges]The potato rosti were superb- cooked through, with a golden crispy coat.

Finding half a cauliflower in the fridge, Bob prepared that as an accompaniment. First he put the oven on, and put some flaked almonds in an enamel dish on the middle shelf as the oven warmed up. Meanwhile he parboiled the cauli florets, then drained them, and tossed them in some turmeric with a few mustard seeds and peppercorns, and the [now toasty] almonds. He finished off the cauli in the hot oven.

sh logoI do not normally enjoy black pudding – but this was delicious, and went really well with the other components of the meal. Maybe I will get a meal in the Saracen’s Head one day, cooked by Mr Sayers – but until then, I am happy with Mr Almond’s cooking! Thanks Bob, for being a great chef – and also for the latest sourdough loaf in the breadbin!

Monday 23 September 2013

Is This A Hanging Offence?

So here I am, happily working with a class of children who only started school three weeks ago. Most people involved have played their part in helping these little treasures to adjust to pupildom [is that a word?] but I am not sure how the children will feel when they discover that this will be their way of life for the next fourteen years.


Carrying bookbags and lunchboxes, they arrive with Mums[Dads, Aunties, Grandparents, Older Siblings...] And because it is Autumn, they are all wearing their smart new winter school coats. 99% of the mums have put name tapes in, which is a help – and my colleagues prepared the coatpegs before term started. Every child has their name, and an icon [vehicle, animal, cartoon character] on their peg so they can learn to identify their special place in the cloakroom


Here’s the thing – in the morning, they take off their coats and hang them up, and usually the adult with them checks they have got the right coat on the right peg.

But after the children have been outside for playtime, or at the end of the lunchhour, there are always two or three coats on the floor. And we, the staff, say to them “Hang up your coats properly” or “This is your coat – please come and put it on your peg”


But on Friday, I realised something – a significant number of the coats do not have proper hanging loops inside the collar.  Maybe the manufacturers expect the children to hang the coat by the top edge of the hood. But our hooks are small single ones [left] not large double ones [right] So it is really hard to keep a thick hood on them.

Hence quite a few coats fall off when dislodged by another child.

And every coat I picked up from the floor came from the same shop


I do not blame Mums for trying to get a bargain when it comes to buying schoolwear, and I don’t suppose a hanging loop is high on their list of criteria for a winter coat. But I think that maybe the manufacturers should give some consideration to this detail!

Sunday 22 September 2013

Extra Large Welcome, Very Odd Feet

We had some visitors this morning- but not as many as I had hoped. Bob and I wore the tee-shirts [supplied in one size – XL Welcome]


IMG_0802I wasn’t really 100% on form this morning, my mouth problem [details here] was playing up again. I have just realised, looking at the photo, that the left side of my face and neck was visibly swollen.

During the Bible reading, I looked down at my feet and noticed a “Wardrobe Malfunction” too. They look ok in black and white, but once you see those socks in colour…


Waiting To Welcome…

2013 poster

During conversations in this past fortnight, I have been able to invite a couple of friends to the service. Then I topped up my phone credit, and realising I had a lot of free texts, I sent invites, by text, to lots more.

Now I am waiting, praying, and leaving the responses to God.

Saturday 21 September 2013

Gripping Yarns!

The other evening we watched The Fabric Of Britain on BBC 4 [well, to be truthful, I caught up with it on i-player] It was an utter delight. The blurb on the BBC website says

In this documentary, we explore how knitting rose from basic craft to the height of popular fashion in the 20th century. It's a craft that has given us scratchy jumpers, sexy bathing costumes and the infamous poodle loo cover, has sustained Britain through the hardships of war and shown a mother's love to generations of little ones. Today, knitwear has become a staple of every wardrobe thanks to a prince's golfing taste, the Beatles and 1980s breakfast television. Warm-hearted and surprising, this is the story of the people's craft and a very British one at that


The BBC have partnered with the V&A [more here] to celebrate and explore the history of British decorative arts.

Next week the subject will be wallpaper. But if this week’s hour of delight is anything to go by, it will definitely be worth watching.

bbc handmade 1We saw wonderful archive footage of the Duke Of Windsor, 1920’s flapper girls, machinery a century ago knitting vests…and mid century stuff, the War Years and rationing, poodle bottle covers, Mary Quant minis…Vivienne Westwood & Punk,

Kaffe Fassett’s riot of colours, and right up to the more recent revival, and knitting clubs [oh, and that odious Mr Brandreth]


My only quibble was that one of the historians said something like “and then people stopped knitting completely, and it’s only just started to become popular again” 

bbchandmade3Where did she do her research? Some of us never stopped! I have been knitting for over fifty years, and in all that time I have known loads of knitters. Dear sweet ladies [and some gents] in church groups up and down the land have been churning out blankets for Romanian orphans, vests for Oxfam babies, hats and scarves for Sally Army hostels for as long as I can remember.

greenhowe bookAnd when not doing stuff for charity, they have been making garments for their families, and Jean Greenhowe characters for the children.

And Woman’s Weekly magazine is still there, publishing patterns for the home knitter. It used to be ‘famed for its knitting’ – but now its strapline is ‘we’ve come a long way together’…and it has a very useful website to help novice knitters.

The trouble was, as we watched it together, I kept saying ‘next she will mention…’ and sure enough I was right. “Are you sure you weren’t alive during the War, dear?”  said Bob at one point! He even pointed out one vintage pattern and said “that’s in one of your books, isn’t it?” [What an observant chap he is]

It was great fun though – do watch it if you are at all interested in knitting, I don’t think you will be disappointed [it is available on i-player for another fortnight]

Friday 20 September 2013

My Mum Is Fantastic

When Liz was 7 and Steph was 5, they found a book in Sainsbury’s which they thought described their crazy little Mum. So they persuaded Bob to buy it so they could give it to me. Sadly, somewhere along the way it got lost. Then last week I found a copy for 20p in a charity shop. I treated myself to Nick Butterworth’s little gem, and have smiled to myself this week, remembering their childhood and my attempts at motherhood.


I had this sort of hairstyle – and a pair of striped socks just like these


…and I brought the girls up to Make Do And Mend


…I was forever storytelling at home, at church, at holiday club


…knitting, and sewing – some garments more successful than others


…and I loved organising wild and wacky activities [Little Mermaid Party, Pirates&Princesses Party, Pancake Parties…]


…never balanced on a tightrope- but did try to balance tight budget and busy lifestyle


…no bike of my own, but I took them to the park and taught them to ride bicycles [lovingly refurbished secondhand ones]


But one page was a complete lie [and remains so, despite my best efforts]


And now the girls are grown up – and sometimes I miss them so much. Mr B. can you please write a sequel? Call it

My daughters are fantastic!