Wednesday 28 February 2018

What Was THAT All About?

I'm currently in the middle of a huge audit of my Great Stash. Not the fabrics but all the haberdashery, papercraft, patterns, embroidery paraphernalia. 
I am being terrifyingly ruthless, and filling a large crate with usable supplies which I personally will never use. I shall then find a good home for the contents.
Part of the problem is the multiples- acquired when I was running a Sewing Group, or teaching Girls' Brigade girls etc, and I needed to have more than one tape measure. And then there are all the knitting needles. Believe me, I keep giving them away, and then other people pass on a bag of Granny's stuff "Nobody in our family does craft, and we knew you would use these, Ang ..."
I've found some treasures along the way - a large file which turned out not to contain knitting patterns- but love letters from Bob, and birthday/anniversary/Mothering Sunday cards from the girls. 
I also found this folder. It is one that used to contain worksheets and be in my Supply Teacher's Bag. 
Along the top is scrawled this wonderful message
Tell Mrs O Dea my dad says please can my dauter to the spleling test again
What was that all about?
How come a child wrote the note on my file?
Could she not find a piece of scrap paper?
And who on earth was Mrs Oh Dear? 
Was that her real name, or a nickname the family gave her?
Did I leave a note for the class teacher about this? 
I do hope so!
And I do hope that the child did better in her repeat spleling test !

Tuesday 27 February 2018


This is a bit scary...tonight I am being interviewed on our local community radio station, Hope FM.
One of our Church members, Janet, presents the Tuesday evening show - and she has asked me to go in and speak about the Women's World Day of Prayer - which is THIS FRIDAY!
I doubt that many of you will be able to hear the show- but I shall be telling people that this year's service is prepared by the women of Suriname and it is all about our responsibility to God's Creation. All very topical. More details of the day and nationwide events here.
At least with radio, I do not have to worry about clothing, make-up, or being small and overweight!

Monday 26 February 2018

Everywhere You Look, There Are Swedes!

You really cannot escape them this month. Winning lots of medals at the Olympics, surrounded by cheering supporters in their blue and yellow outfits.

If you are not into sport, there are two 'Scandicrimes' on at the moment.'Walter Presents' on 4 is showing the Rebekah Martinnson Arctic Murders. Usual thing, hot shot investigator with dysfunctional lovelife wandering around in snow and ice solving mysteries.Meanwhile BBC4 on Saturday evenings is showing the second series of Modus. The [female] US President has gone to Sweden, and disappeared...
If you don't like sport or crime, but are happier with an Allen Key, then you can watch Flatpack Empire, all about the growth of the IKEA furniture business. This twenty second trailer tells you all you need to know.

Apart from making Semlor Buns for Lent, I have also started wearing a Swedish Skier's Headband. No, I cannot ski, and do not intend to learn. I bought it [reduced] in Lidl in Norfolk, during a very cold visit a couple of years ago. 
I have discovered it is the thing to wear under my cycle helmet in very cold weather; it keeps my fringe out of my eyes, and keeps my ears toasty warm. Brilliant [even if the green headband looks odd under the red cycle helmet]
My final mention of Swedes is the recipe I made this week from Hugh FWs Veg book. It is Swede Speltotto!  HFW likes to make 'risotto' with other grains, such as spelt. Hence the bizarre name. I did not have any spelt, but I tried his alternative ingredient, pearl barley, as I had a small amount in a jar in the pantry. 
It was deliciously nutty, warm and filling. Probably not Scandinavian, but definitely Swede-ish! [Recipe here]

Sunday 25 February 2018

More, More, More

The Winter Olympics in Korea come to an end today.
The motto, as always, is Citius, Altius, Fortius, meaning
Faster, Higher, Stronger...
The athletes endeavour to run faster, reach higher, become stronger - generally to achieve  more in their different disciplines.
While we were away at our Conference, the speaker asked us to get into pairs, and talk about one thing we felt that God had put on our hearts during the course of our time in Cheltenham. I was talking with Bob, who said "Your blog-word for the year 'More'..." and he explained what he meant.
The next morning, as we were preparing for the final part of the conference [we always end with a communion service] and someone else was speaking, I wrote this on my notepad

  • dig deeper
  • look longer
  • listen harder

I really felt challenged that I should be digging deeper into God's word, looking longer at Jesus, and listening harder to the prompting of His Holy Spirit. Doing more.
I continue to work at my "40 Acts" Challenges for Lent - some days more successfully than others. Like an athlete who knows that regular training is essential to maintain good performance, and being disciplined about practices is vital, so it is important for a disciple of Jesus to practice what she preaches!

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it...that will shoot adrenaline into your souls [2 Timothy 2:5 from The Message translation]

Saturday 24 February 2018

Happy Birthday Rosie!

Two years old today! How you have grown, my precious grand-daughter.
Rosie, you bring us so much joy!

 Liz and Jon, thank you for letting us be a part of Rosie's growing. 
We're grateful for the technology which enables our crazy teatime WhatsApp conversations involving waving, and chats about food and Peppa Pig and the cat, even though you are miles away.
We hope you have a lovely party with your cousins up in Nottinghamshire today, and look forward to seeing you very soon.
God bless you today and always, Rosie!

Friday 23 February 2018

Poor Little Billy Elliot!

I'm not much good at swimming - but we have been away at a Conference for a few days and on two afternoons, I grabbed a moment to swim 10 lengths of the half size pool [OK that's only 5 lengths - but it was all I could manage in terms of time and energy!] This is a picture of the pool from the hotel website.
Despite being a passionate Baptist, I really don't like having my face under water which doesn't help my technique!
The hotel pool is used in the afternoons by swimming teachers - they rope off a couple of lanes for the classes and hotel guests can use the remaining space. The first day there was a lovely group of toddlers and Mums - how I wished I'd had Rosie with me! They were singing the tune of The Wheels on the Bus, with verses like "We we swim our feet go Kick!, our arms go Splash!" etc. There were about 7 other 'regular' swimmers swimming up and down
On the next day, just myself at first - and then one little boy [aged about 6 I'd guess] arrived for an after-school lesson with his gran and an instructor.
"You are going to learn to do your breaststroke properly!" barked the instructor.Was she looking at me when she said this?  Slight panic on my part, that's the only stroke I can do [apart from floating on my back, and doggy paddleNo, it was directed at the Little Splasher the other side of the rope.
""Pencil! Star! Bend! Snap!" she shouted, over and over and over. It's very hard to ignore that, and not find yourself getting into the same rhythm. Her shouting speed was slightly faster than my gentle style, I found myself getting quicker!
But poor little Billy Elliot - his major problem was his feet "Do NOT point your toes! They MUST be at right angles! Legs like a FROG!"
But he could not get it right. At this moment, the lesson took an uncomfortable turn. The entire focus was on his pointy toes. "You are a frog, not a ballet dancer!"she berated him. A few moments of splashing. 
"RIGHT angles, NOT pointy toes!"
Then..."STOP pointing those toes!"
Then..."Do you want me to bring you a frilly pink tutu next week, to wear while you are swimming?"
For the next few minutes, this tirade against Darcey Bussel and friends continued.
I hoped desperately that the little boy was OK with her teaching style. I'd got to the end of my ten laps. I could probably have done a few more, but I was feeling quite miserable - I knew my swimming style was a long way from perfect, but eavesdropping that sort of lesson wasn't helping at all. I felt quite inadequate - more like a snapped pencil than a star. 
I appreciate that with their waterlogged ears, she probably needs to shout to her pupils ...but I somehow wished there had been more encouragement, and less harassment.
And what if he does want to be a ballet dancer, and is learning to swim to strengthen his muscles and improve his flexibility?...

Thursday 22 February 2018

I Want You To Get Out Of Your Seat...

The death has been announced of Billy Graham, the great Baptist Evangelist - at the age of 99. 

I have known about him, and been challenged by his enthusiasm for Jesus, for just about all my life.
My parents first met Dr Graham in 1948, on his first visit to the UK, when they were students. He came briefly to Scotland- and they had tea with him when he visited their theological college in Glasgow.
Then again, 6 years later, he came to London to conduct his "Haringey Crusade". Beforehand, he visited Romford, where Dad was a Baptist Pastor, and they met him, and his wife- plus Cliff Barrows and the rest of the American Team. My grandparents sang in the choir at the Crusade and Dad was on the team of counsellors who spoke, and prayed, with the 'enquirers'. These were the people who had got up from their seats at Billy's invitation, and come forward to find out more about what it meant to have a faith in Jesus.
He was a man with a simple faith, and a clear message- Jesus loves you, and he died for your sins - and he wants you to live in relationship with him.
I watched the episode of "The Crown" recently which portrayed his meeting with the Queen. It seemed to me to paint a very clear picture of the man and his message. Others disagree - nobody knows what the sovereign and the preacher spoke about except God and the two people concerned. Now he has gone, and she will not say anything. But I have much respect for him, and his ability to share his faith with the highest and lowest in society.
Well done, good and faithful servant- enter into the joy of your Lord.

NB This post is about a good man and the Gospel he preached. So I will not be publishing any comments here about the rest of his family. There will be space for them another time, thank you.

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Swedish Semlor [Again!]

Last year I made Semlor Buns - a Lenten tradition in Sweden. After Liz had a blood donor session last Tuesday, she treated herself to a visit to Scandikitchen in London, and bought a semla [I now know that semla = singular, semlor = plural]
Scandikitchen has gone a bit wild this year, and has tried some variations on the traditional [here]
I made some last Saturday - I used wholemeal bread flour, as I didn't have any white bread flour to hand. For the custard filling I used a carton of vanilla sauce from IKEA. They were sweet,creamy, and fragrant with the perfume of the crushed cardamom seeds.
Here they are, just out of the oven, and then filled.
I used Brontë Aurell's recipe again [here] which she says will make 15 small buns. I weighed the dough very diligently to make 16 [so I could freeze a dozen] and I used only 2/3rds of the amount of filling and cream suggested.
It was very pleasant to sit down with Bob and enjoy a moment of fika, and hygge! I am rationing our consumption of these little treats - they can be dangerous...
King Adolf Frederik of Sweden died of digestion problems on February 12, 1771 after consuming a meal consisting of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring and champagne, which was topped off by fourteen helpings of semlor, the king's favorite dessert!
I am thinking of contacting IKEA - we were in the Southampton branch on the morning of Shrove Tuesday, and I really hoped they would have these Shrove Tuesday buns in the restaurant. Maybe if I suggested it to them, they might serve them next year?

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Let There Be Light

We have new street lighting. Dorset Council say it will be cheaper to run and cause less light pollution. The team of men came in the middle of last week, and parked their vans all down the road [unfortunately it was dustbin day, but the binmen still managed to empty all our bins] 
Four different guys worked on the light outside our house and completed the whole road in one day. The new light is noticeably bluer- not yellow, and the shade on the top deflects the light downwards. The light went into the same hole- so I still have to take care coming on and off the drive in my car.

I am grateful that we have good street lighting - it makes us all a little safer, don't you think?

Monday 19 February 2018

A Stitch In Time

Did you watch the recent series "A Stitch In Time" on BBC4? I loved it - slightly eccentric Suffolk girl, Amber Butchart, looked at 6 outfits from history [paintings, a sculpture, and a jacket] and gifted tailor Ninya Mikhaila re-created them.
Nina is amazing - check out her website
Here she is in Tudor garb with darling daughter Holly.

Her team were truly brilliant, researching and experimenting, to try to find the techniques used by needleworkers in history.
The nearest I have got to historical stitching recently has been to refurbish a needlecase. I found it in a 20p bin in a Charity Shop, and thought it was lovely.
The cover is a piece of vintage Cash's woven embroidered silk.
Back in the early 19th Century, Coventry was full of weaving companies- many of the founders were Huguenots who'd fled religious persecution in mainland Europe. One such company was being run in 1846 by two Quaker brothers, John and Joseph Cash. They employed outworkers, who had Jacquard looms in their homes. They produced beautiful ribbons and trims, and as their business grew, switched to a factory model, but maintained a high standard of welfare for their staff. In the 1870s, they introduced their now world renowned woven name tapes.  Even the Queen uses these! They last forever. I have towels and a PE bag from my schooldays, and a pillowcase Bob took to Oxford as a student, still neatly labelled. And my tin of Elizabeth and Stephanie's labels are frequently trimmed, whenever I need to stitch "Almond" onto a bag holding PA gear!
But Cash's also produced embroidered pictures, and bookmarks. This needlecase incorporates a picture of snowdrops. Inside the back cover there is piece of one of the descriptive cards which would have come with these miniature works of art.
The stitching had come adrift, and the button loop was missing. It was in a sorry state. I mended it neatly.

Now it looks much better, and is strong enough to be useful.

Sunday 18 February 2018

An Idea Borrowed For Lent

My turn to do Sunday School today. We are going to look at the Temptations of Jesus - and I decided it would be good to do an activity which reminds us that alongside the negative [do not yield to temptation and make a bad choice] there is the positive [trust God for strength to make the good choice]
I borrowed the idea for the thankyou card I made after Holiday Club 2012
It unfolds beautifully into an A4 sheet [tutorial here]
My Lent card is very simple, and opens to show the negative/positive ideas. Temptation to be lazy, selfish, greedy, wasteful and unkind [and one blank for the children to add their own idea] And opposite this, thinking about having the right approach to working, speaking, helping, sharing, and using things.
We have another task to complete on Sunday morning, but I will explain that one later!
Fortunately numbers will be lowish this weekend as it is half-term. It has taken me ages to fold and assemble these cards. Even looking at my own tutorial, I couldn't remember how to fold the paper sheet and stick it into the card cover!

Saturday 17 February 2018

This Verse Comforts Me...

 ... if you need these words today, may they be a comfort to you too.

Friday 16 February 2018

A Flippin' Good Party

Here's Bob in his chef's jacket [a Holiday Club Costume from many years ago] with his new pan. He and Geoff knocked out around 120 pancakes over the course of Tuesday evening. Guests were coming and going from about 6.15 onwards.
It was lovely to have so many visitors. One of the younger guests appointed herself sous chef and assisted Bob with the cooking.
Geoff used the regular electric stove, and Bob was on the other side of the kitchen with our little gas ring.
One change this year - Bob made a batch of gluten free pancakes. He used Doves Gluten free flour, and also some xanthan gum which apparently helps thicken the batter.
They tasted fine - no different to all the rest - and they were greatly appreciated by the friends who have gluten intolerance.
Have you had pancakes this week?
What is your favourite topping?

Thursday 15 February 2018

I Believe In Angels

It is twenty years this week since Antony Gormley's amazing sculpture"Angel Of The North appeared on a hillside in Gateshead. Valentine's Day 1998. Here he is, next to his creation.
It very nearly didn't get there! You can read the amazing story here
I don't really like much modern art, but we visited Newcastle in April 2007, and I was incredibly impressed by this mighty figure, arms outstretched as if to protect the North East. I cannot find the picture Bob took of little me beside the enormous feet!
This brief video clip gives some idea of the size and majesty of the construction.
I think it is amazing. It has withstood gales and appalling weather conditions. Despite initial reservations, the highways Agency now believe it actually contributes to safer roads rather than being the distraction to drivers they initially feared. It has incredibly deep foundations, and so it stands firm through the seasons.
It is a great reminder to me of the comforting words of Psalm 91 - The Lord will command his angels concerning you- to keep watch over you, wherever you go...

Wednesday 14 February 2018

The Meaning Behind The Dust...

I was very impressed with the class I taught last Thursday - who knew that the Palm Crosses from last year were burned, to make the ash and dust which would be smeared, by the Priest, in a cross shape on people's foreheads, to make the beginning of Lent this year.
I'm a Nonconformist through and through - but glad that there has been a resurgence of interest across the spectrum of the Christian Church in these days of preparation for Easter.
I don't agree with everything that Pope Francis says- but I think these are wise words. from his 2017 Lenten Homily...
I imagine that many of you feel as sickened as I do by the stories from Haiti about the appalling behaviour of some of those who went out there to distribute aid after the hurricane in 2011 [and wonder why this information was suppressed for so long]
Dave Walker, who produces some great cartoons, has reposted this one from a few years ago - and I believe it is worth sharing. 
99.99% of those who go from the UK to deliver aid do it conscientiously and well. I am glad my country has 'international aid' as a part of its budget.
As Dave himself says -
Thanks everyone for tweeting the image. 
The Oxfam scandal: hold people accountable, learn lessons, make changes. But this mustn't be used as an excuse to cut overseas aid.

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Where Did Napoleon Keep His Armies?

...up his sleevies!
There's no joke like an old joke, as they say. 
Bob's problem recently hasn't been old jokes, but old jumpers. The sleeves have got saggy and baggy. When we were engaged, his Mum taught me how to 'pick up and knit down' from the top of the sleeve ribbing to make fresh cuffs. A useful skill with handknits- but not possible with machine made sweaters.
However, you can improve things if you've got a sewing machine [or two]
I restitched the sleeve seams on my machine, tapering the cuffs. Then I trimmed the surplus fabric and overlooked the raw edges.
That's a stack of five jumpers which will last a bit longer!
This evening is the GPP. Monday was spent in tidying up. A good move - I found the birthday gift I purchased for Rosie in November, put away 'safely' and then mislaid.

I have no idea why I put it into a bag of wool! We will be "flippin busy" this evening. Drop in if you are nearby

Monday 12 February 2018

The Cat's Whiskers

Eighteen months ago, I borrowed this book from the library, and reviewed it here.
"I have no idea if I shall ever make any of these for Rosie" I said at the time.
Well, I did, a few weeks later, I made the reversible pinafore dress with a bicycle print from the fabric shop in Hunstanton.
The book went back to the library, I thought no more about it.  

Then I had a message from Liz. Please could I make Rosie the cat cape from this book? It costs £55 to buy [what!!!] from Etsy, but the tutorial and pattern is free on-line.
So I downloaded the pattern, and checked the Great Stash for supplies. I had some black velour, but not enough to make the cloak, and not enough black lining fabric either.
Off to Fabricland, and the black materials cost around £10. I had the contrasts and Bondaweb and thread already. It was a simple pattern, but lots of detail, and fiddly to execute. It took me about 6 hours. So I guess if you are charging for your labour then maybe that price isn't too unreasonable.
I made the hood first, appliqued the features with bondaweb, and satin-stitching round the edge on the machine.
Then I made the cape, and the lining and sewed them together.
My only addition to the pattern was to add a little hanging loop inside the neckline. I know you can hang capes like this by their hood, or fasten the button and loop and use that over a hook - but imho those methods can easily damage the garment. Here is is...all ready for her birthday party

Sunday 11 February 2018

Paused In Lent

Since 2010 I have been involved with others in posting each Sunday of Lent. This tradition was started by my friend Floss [I don't know when] and then I took over collecting the list of participants.
But this year, I am pausing* my tradition! If anyone else wants to take on the list, that's fine by me. [explanation of the PIL here] I'm still 'doing' Lent though...

This year we are doing some Lent studies at our church Homegroups, and I have also decided that I will try and participate in the 40Acts - 2018 Challenge. Everyday, throughout Lent, this means I will receive an encouraging message and a passage for reflection each morning, and a challenge to generosity. 
Instead of 'giving up', it is about giving out, giving back and giving away.
God has given me so much, and so this is a great way of being generous to others. Each day there is a choice of 3 challenges in varying levels of "difficulty". The challenges vary - some requiring time, others finance, others are more inventive...but they are all well thought out, and offer scope for creativity. 
This initiative has been going since 2011, organised by the Christian charity Stewardship- and over 100,000 people have taken part thus far.
Lent starts this coming  Wednesday - Valentine's Day, and the day after Shrove Tuesday [and the Annual Manse Pancake Party] Check out the 40 Days Challenge- maybe you'd like to come on board don't have to be a Christian to join in, previous participants have been of other faiths [or no religious faith at all]

*'pausing' the tradition means I have the option of starting it again sometime!

Saturday 10 February 2018

WHAT Did That Say?

A couple of weekends ago, when Steph and Gary were visiting, we went over to the Tank Museum. Steph's as bad as her Mum when it comes to trying on the outfits!
We looked at a display about desert warfare- how the tanks are camouflaged, how the troops live when access to water is restricted etc. Then we went into the Gift Shop.
Various items on sale, including a shelf of 'homewares' with plaques bearing cheery mottoes to hang around your living space.

We all felt the wording on this one was not terribly appropriate for someone who'd been managing the artillery out in the desert.
I mentioned our experiences at Bournemouth Airport the other evening. I am still unable to decipher the meaning of this sign in the Baggage Reclaim Area.
I couldn't get a photo without the light reflection, sorry.
But what on earth is "Damage resulting from ....the vice of the baggage" ?
My suitcase is an innocent little thing, I don't believe it has any vices - just annoying rattling wheels...
My last two pictures were of a book I came across recently and thought it was exceedingly sweet. I love the English version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Next year, it will be 50 years old. This wonderful story was inspired by a hole punch - and now over 30 million copies have been sold worldwide. The French edition has the lovely name "The Caterpillar Who Made Holes" - and I am fascinated that the caterpillar in that story is female. I just had to take a photo of the cover and an inside page.
Maybe I should try and get hold of a copy in French for Rosie!

Friday 9 February 2018

Twenty Years Ago...

On February 9th, 1998, my Dad died, quite suddenly, of a heart attack. His life, and his strong faith had a profound influence on me - I am not sure a day goes by when I don't think of him. I was looking through a box of photos recently - and came across the report of his death from the local paper.
 I just love the fact that the article isn't headed 'local minister dies suddenly' or 'death of well known Baptist' - it just says "Passionate Preacher Stanley dies"
That was my Dad - who had been known since his teens for being passionate about preaching the Good News of Jesus, and who spent much of his life working as a caring, committed pastor.
Even now, I meet people who remember him, and speak of him with such affection.
Last week, Bob was preaching - and quoted something he recalled Dad saying in a sermon. The Study Bible I use when I'm preparing sermons is one he gave me on my birthday in 1991. 
I am grateful that Dad lived long enough to see his three grand-daughters, of whom he was so proud. 

On his 70th birthday, we all had a family lunch together in Norwich. I cannot now remember what prompted this characteristic gesture, and warm smile - but I am glad somebody took a photo.
At his Thanksgiving Service [for which he left comprehensive instructions, including a request for Bob to be the preacher] the church was packed, downstairs, and up in the gallery - people had come from all over the country to be there. 
Dad lived his life to the full, to the very last minute. He was utterly devoted to Mum, since they met in church when they were 15 - and in the seven years after her death he missed her so much. He loved his family, his Church fellowship, his life in Norfolk  - and most of all he loved his Saviour - as Bob said in that service "Whenever he said 'Jesus' his whole face lit up"...what a great epitaph!