Friday 31 July 2015

Predictable Picnics?


The sun was shining, so I quickly packed a picnic and we went off to Hunstanton. Here is Bob, sitting on the grass after lunch, enjoying the sunshine. It was fantastic – now we are back and I am about to prepare a meal as Adrian and Marion are coming for the evening.

Thanks for all the comments on the last post – especially ElizabethD’s brilliant suggestion about a few elastic straps in the lid for napkins and tablecloth. I shall add them soon. But I have a confession –despite my Glyndebourne-worthy hamper, my picnics are often rather predictable.

picnic1I have grand ideas about fancy sandwiches wrapped in paper and tied neatly, interesting desserts in screwtop jars, fresh cherries served over ice , and in my wildest dreams, those lunches all packed inside the loaf picnic2of bread.

In reality, the sun is suddenly shining, so I sling a few items into the bag [or hamper]and we hit the road as fast as we can.

The Very Uninspiring Almond Family Picnic is almost always as follows, for each person there will be

  1. A round of sandwiches [ham or cheese, and a bit of salad]
  2. Bag of crisps
  3. A Yogurt
  4. A piece of fruit
  5. A Tunnocks, Breakaway or Penguin bar [or Lidl equivalent]
  6. A can or carton of drink

Just occasionally, if there is some in the tin, there will be a piece of cake. And if it is very cold, there will be a flask of coffee.

Please reassure me that others of you serve up my sort of picnic – and that the Jamie-Oliver-Feast is for those high days and holidays when you have had ages to plan and prepare!

Bag Lady becomes Basket Case


The Mole waggled his toes from sheer happiness, and leaned back blissfully into the soft cushions. 'What a day I'm having!' he said. 'Let us start at once!'

'Hold hard a minute, then!' said the Rat, staggering under a fat, wicker luncheon-basket. 'Shove that under your feet,' he observed to the Mole. 'What's inside it?' asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity. 'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly;coldtongue coldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscress sandwichespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstasies: 'This is too much!' 'Do you really think so?' enquired the Rat seriously. 'It's only what I always take on these little excursions!'

My picnics have usually been transported in a dull red coolbag [freebie from Sainsburys, years ago] but I have always hankered after a proper wicker luncheon basket like Ratty’s.

P1010903 Then Steph said that the woodland themed wedding would entail some wicker hampers, and I saw one going very cheaply in a CS in Wimborne [it has now closed, sadly] so I purchased it. It had the fittings inside the lid – but no crockery or cutlery.

P1010901-001I already had some  cutlery, and a set of plastic picnic ware, but it didn’t quite fit the existing straps. I spent £2.50 on 2 foil lined lunch-bags and a pack of 3 icepacks.

P1010902I also bought a metre of spotty plasticised fabric in The Range.

I measured up and sewed a liner for the inside, and then I covered a piece of card for the lidP1010905.

As you see, I simply sewed up the corners, then I tucked them inside. I stitched the fabric in place [the holes in the basket work make that quite easy.

P1010904I made a little spotty bag to hold the cutlery, having realised, quite serendipitously, that the plastic bag from the ice packs was exactly the right size.

Here’s the finished basket, loaded and ready to go [well, not really, I padded out the bags with paper for the purposes of the photograph!] You can just see the spotty cutlery bag tucked in between the plates and lunchbags.


Just a few comments…

  • Sometimes we are just 2, sometimes more – I didn’t want to put in lots of straps for cutlery I wouldn’t need, so I just put the cutlery in the bag, and tucked plates and beakers around the lunch bags. Fewer fittings give more choice for contents.
  • With a smaller picnic, I can fit my blanket in the basket.
  • I lined the lid, even though it has no fittings, so that it would be easier to wipe clean. Food trapped in wicker is a pain
  • My large plates fit neatly under the 2 lunch bags.
  • My sewing machine didn’t like sewing the plasticised fabric – and it was quite thin, so if I sewed just one layer, it tore. I should have purchased thicker stuff I think!

F&M hamperThe basket, plus fittings has cost me around £12. It measures 40 x 60 x 20cm. That makes it the same size as the Fortnum and Mason “St James Hamper” I have realised that I have yet to put a tablecloth and napkins in mine and I have plastic, not porcelain crockery.

F&M hamper lidI have a thermos flask that will fit, if we want to take hot drinks. I have spent £538 less than I would have paid at F&M so I am very happy! [should I stencil A & B on the lid of ours, do you think?] Now all we need is some sunshine!

Thursday 30 July 2015

Time To Relax!

kids club team

Here’s the brilliant Kids Club Team. Miriam, our gifted Youth Worker, who planned it all, is front row, left. Lindsey in the spotty hat has been second-in-command. The guy in the rainbow shirt is Steve – who has been masterminding the building project. The other two characters in hats you will recognise as the newcomers to UCF.

P1010898But now we are holed up at Cornerstones. Our journey here in the wind and rain [with sheets of plywood tied firmly to the roof] was long and tiring. We got here at 1.30am Monday morning. Most of that day we were too tired to think straight. Christine popped round for a cuppa, and the Sainsbury's guy delivered the groceries. Tuesday morning Bob prepared breakfast in the Summerhouse.

It was fun to sit outside and enjoy coffee and croissants – then the sky got even greyer and the rain started again! A quick trip into Dereham for library books, and a CS meander – we found this bargain


At £2.50 for the pair, I was really pleased. I made a couple of individual lasagnes for our meal [Bob’s with cheese on top, mine without] These Hornsea bowls are around £5 for one on eBay right now.

Lots of ‘house’ jobs to do this fortnight – sort out the damp in the garage, fix the dishwasher, do the garden, get the PC working properly. Blogposts may be a bit less regular – and I don’t think I shall be dealing with emails at all. But we are planning some trips out, and lots of reading [and I shall be crafting] I went up into the loft yesterday [first time since we moved house] and found a few things I’d put there at Christmas and forgotten about. And a small plastic bag containing £2.45 in small change. Well that’s the new china paid for!

The weather is very hit and miss – wet and windy, then warm and sunny - but we don’t care at all. We are just thrilled to be here and able to wind down completely. We feel so blessed.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Stitching For Victory

stitching for victory
Sue, over at Frugal In Suffolk, mentioned this as being one of her recent library books, and it looked interested so I ordered it from our library. I did wonder if it would be a cut-and-paste lightweight affair, with a picture of Mrs Sew-and-Sew and reproductions of all the ‘make do and mend’ leaflets. But I was delighted to find it was not that at all!
This excellent book by Suzanne Griffith is proper history, interesting facts, well presented, beautifully illustrated, and cleverly and thoughtfully set out. Well worth the read – even if you are not a stitcher yourself. Ms Griffiths treats the word ‘stitch’ as an abstract noun, as a virtue like courage, fortitude, faith, or thrift. She argues that ‘stitch’ was an essential part of the ammunition which helped Britain win WW2.
Woman's friend No.997 Friday, June 15,1945 (1)
Yes, the cheery Mrs S&S does appear, along with diagrams showing how to turn hubby’s suit into  outfits for the children – but the book has so much more than that. The book begins with  the Kindertransport- German Jewish children brought to the UK and safety between 1938 and 1940– and how their mothers sewed precious small things for them to carry. Toys, scarves etc…or they gave them mementoes- granny’s sampler, a monogrammed hankie…and afterwards, these children said that all that remained of their family heritage was that tiny piece of stitching – because everything else had been burnt at Auschwitz or Belsen. I have to admit that this first chapter was so moving, I had to stop and recover before I could read any more!
WAAFs_and_Balloons_10But the book says so much about the power of stitch in wartime. The women who sewed the ‘Blimps’ and the parachutes, the men in POW camps secretly stitching clothes for their escape attempts, the wedding dresses made from bed sheets, and the curtains from flour sacks, the thriftiness, and other clever recycling of one fabric item into another. Clemmie Churchill adopting a ‘turban headscarf’ as her signature style, in recognition of the girls working in the factories. The sheer determination of the British people not to let wartime restrictions remove the joy from life – finding bits of ric-rac trim, and skeins of embroidery thread in order to add brightness to plain, dull dresses, or make hand-me-downs that little bit more special for the recipient.
I have genuinely loved reading this book – and learned so much from it. I am thrilled that so many younger women in their 20s and 30s are currently taking up knitting, crochet and needlework – and hope this trend continues. ‘Stitch’ can bring so much pleasure, both in the creation, and in wearing the end result. Developing craft skills, sharing them, using them to redeem rags and remnants – all this is good. This book reminds us of an important time in our history, and the fact that many of the men, women and children in WW2 really were Stitching For Victory. Definitely I would rate this *****
[thanks Sue, for your original blogpost!]

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Hey P[r]esto!

I have tried and tried to be a gardener – and failed miserably down the years. Each summer I seem to buy a packet or two of vegetable seeds, and usually have very little success [THIS was the pathetic crop from 2009’s efforts]  But arriving in Ferndown and finding a raised bed just beside the patio, I thought I really should make one more effort. So I planted out all the remaining seeds which had been accumulating in a tin in the garage in Kirby for many years. I labelled each row very neatly [but got the carrot and beetroot rows mixed up – not a good start]

leavesThus far I have managed some salad leaves. And just FIVE radishes! I hope that on my return from holiday there may be more stuff to crop. But the radishes have produced loads of leaves.


Ever frugal, I have made a couple of batches of radish leaf pesto. It isn’t a particularly original idea – here is a recipe from the internet. Unlike the usual recipes, I changed mine to suit.

I had some walnuts which needed using up [the end of an inexpensive bag from Lidl] so they replaced the pine nuts. The radish leaves stood in for the basil – and as I cannot digest cheese, I missed out the Parmesan [but stirred grated cheddar into Bob’s portion] Mine was not too bitter- I notice some US recipes add sugar. Other recipes also add lemon juice to keep the colour green and fresh- I prefer to make small quantities and use it promptly. I stirred mine in to some freshly drained penne along with a tbsp of crème fraiche. It was creamy and delicious.

My friend Peter says there is an awful lot about food on this blog. I checked the categories stats – and he is absolutely right- food comes second to family, just beating crafts, friends and faith. I shall have to work on that!

Does anyone else have any recipes for pesto-made-without-basil ? I do know that some people use almonds instead of pine-nuts.

Monday 27 July 2015

Fun In The Sun!

After an utterly appallingly wet day on Friday, Saturday was brilliantly sunny. Bob was at church by 8am to help demolish the back wall, opening up the worship area. The new chairs arrived – and it was all very exciting. Then at midday we were back again, setting up for the Family Fun Day

kids club 2015-004

Here is the Splat-the-Rat which we made together [he did the tube, I did the rat] and the Story Tent. I should have photographed it with the floor cushions in, it looked very inviting!

P1010885The children really enjoyed soaking the staff with sponges and water pistols, and people really took it in good part. We noticed that the faces at the lower apertures got much wetter than those at the top. Here’s Miriam taking a picture of 3 wet teenagers.P1010887


There was lots to do – inside craft activities, outside circus skills [buy a set of juggling bags, 50p!] giant jenga, temporary tattoos, balls-in-buckets, horseshoe-toss, hook-a-duck, nerf-shooting cans…and of course, an inflatable.

Miriam and I felt it was important this should be thoroughly tested before the children arrived. So we did this…it was fun!


It was hot and sunny and loads of people came, children, parents, grandparents… I was too busy chatting, and telling stories, to take photos once the event started. It went really well.

kids club 20151-002

Many of the indoor games were built by Neil. I was incredibly impressed by the trebuchet. In two parts [the trebuchet itself, and the castle target] You line up the engine, load it with a yellow leather ball, and fire it. If it hits one of the castle towers, they fall over and reveal a prize underneath. Fabulous fun! Lots of people bought sets of juggling bags to take home and practise.

Two views of the chapel – the wall which came down this morning was the original back wall – the new space is the part with the white roof. The lower picture is from the new area looking up to the front – you can clearly see where the new floor meets the old green carpet – and the stacks of chairs on either side.


Everyone has worked hard and pulled together as a team –not just this week at Kids Club, but generally as we have gone through the disruption of the building work. It is so exciting to realise we have been at Ferndown just six months – and seen this project go from a set of plans to an actual building. Interior redecoration and new PA yet to get sorted – but so fantastic to have been part of all this. Praying now that more people come in - to fill the new seats, and to find out more about Jesus.

Sunday 26 July 2015

Kids Club - Final Sunday


I got in the car and we were about to leave for church in heavy rain, when Bob noticed the side passage was flooded. So he cleared the drain blockage before we left.

The service itself was great, lots of children and parents. We sat on the New Chairs! And the teens did a fabulous drama.



Now to have lunch, load the car [in the rain!] and after church this evening, the long drive up to Cornerstones. I cannot wait – but they have issued a yellow weather alert – just where we are travelling!!

flood warning

Fruit Cake


We are very fond of fruit cake in this family. Christmas Cake, Wedding Cake [picture shows Bob trimming Steph & Mark’s Cake before I put the marzipan on] and the Holiday Fruit Cake. For years, just before our self-catering holidays, I have made a fruit cake to take with us in a tin.


For speed and convenience, the HFC is done with a Be-Ro Recipe [here] in a loaf tin, but Christmas and Weddings come from the Good Housekeeping Cookbook.

The important thing is that all my family fruit cakes must contain plenty of fruit – raisins, sultanas, cherries, currants [and sometimes nuts – especially almonds] but no dried peel [cos Bob dislikes it] Every mouthful should be bursting with fruit and flavour.

It occurred to me that there are some Bible passages like that, where verse after verse contains rich nuggets of truth. Not just in the Psalms, but in the words of the prophets, the epistles, and the gospels too. Currently [currantly?] I am being nourished by Isaiah 43.

verse 19

The UCF verse for the year is verse 19 [left]

But recently, a number of dear friends have been enduring all sorts of difficulties, and I have been encouraging them to hang on to these lovely  promises at the start of the chapter.


verse 1

The chapter begins with this amazing reminder that we should not be afraid- God knows us by name, and we are His.

Verse 4 reminds us how precious we are to God, and verse 13 tells us that nothing can separate us from Him.

verse 4

verse 13

verse 10

Verse 10 challenges me as it confirms my calling to be a witness to his love.

The whole chapter is full of verses to encourage, comfort and challenge – bursting with grace and goodness. As rich and dense as the best fruit cake!

Have you got a favourite “Fruitcake Chapter”?

Saturday 25 July 2015

Rock On!

I am definitely feeling my age – Kids Club has only lasted 3 days, and I have far fewer responsibilities – but I am still absolutely exhausted! Friday’s story was David and Goliath. We did not sling pebbles, but we did make Rock Creatures
kids club 2015-003
Our teenagers were fantastic again in the drama – the continuing saga of DillyDally’s Circus. Bob made some custard pies for them, which were thrown with enthusiasm – but poor Rhys struggled to hear his cues due to foam in his ears!!
kids club 20151-001
This afternoon is the Family Fun Day and BBQ – let us hope for sunshine and a good attendance.

Friday 24 July 2015

Pride Of Lions!

IMG_0352Kids Club Day 2 was all about Daniel. So we decorated flowerpots to be lions. We did a similar thing two years ago at KMFC. On the left, you will see the sort of lions we made then. This year at UCF we had a slightly different lion[below], with concertina paper ‘arms’ and ‘legs’ . The cookery group made lion waffles [waffle bases from Lidl]

kids club 2015-002

We sang Boing!!! which is a great kids song by Dave Godfrey and was always very popular at KMFC. Bob and I cycled to church again. It is very weird to pedal up the cycle path following your husband, when he is wearing a top hat and ringmaster’s red coat, with the tails flying out in the wind behind him! Goodness only knows what the local people must think of the new Pastor.

KMFC are doing ‘Banana Island’ next week – I am sure they will have a fabulous time too. Best wishes to all of you doing Holiday Bible Clubs/Vacation Bible Schools/etc this summer. It is incredibly hard work – but really rewarding.

Thursday 23 July 2015

All The Fun Of The Fair

That is the theme for Kids’ Club at church this summer. Miriam, our Youth Leader has planned and prepared everything – it is fun just to be part of the team, and not have all the responsibilities we’ve had in previous years. But we have given thought to what we are wearing


The church has been decorated to look like the inside of a circus tent [this is definitely The Year Of The Bunting]

kids club 2015

The programme runs a little differently here – the children get to do a variety of different activities and crafts each day and they take their crafts home when they leave. Today’s story was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Activities included learning circus skills, making a windmill, building a bonfire [edible!] and doing the worksheet.

kids club 20151

I think we had around 90 children. It felt like more!!! The children are divided into three teams – and at the end of the morning, the leaders of the team which has won most points have to play Pass-the-Water-Bomb. The kids love that!


The teenagers have their own programme in the evening. Day One went well – we have two more to go, and then Saturday is the Family Fun Event & BBQ, and Sunday is the Kids Club Service. And then off to Cornerstones for a fortnight [and not having to get up early]