Wednesday 31 October 2018

Holiday Humour

I think I have posted this picture before- but it makes me smile every time I visit Cromer.
It's as bad as this one

Conversation in the dining room, when my sewing tin was spotted on the sideboard  "Please can I have a biscuit?" "Rosie, you will soon learn that when you see a biscuit tin at Grandma's, it probably contains buttons" 

Sunday afternoon at my brother's house. Adrian went out into the kitchen to make hot drinks, I followed, and got out plates and pastry forks, and prepared to slice the coffee and walnut cake. We were followed by Rosie, who promptly returned to the rest of the family, chanting "Cake is coming! Cake is coming!" Bob says this is much better than Game of Thrones [about which I know nothing]

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Some Day My Plinths Will Come!

Months ago we started planning the redecoration of the Futility Room at Cornerstones. It has taken us absolutely ages, mainly because it only gets worked on whilst we are on holiday- and who wants to spend their holiday redecorating when they would prefer to be relaxing with their nearest and dearest?
Earlier in the year we took down the boring white melamine cupboards and started painting the walls grey- and we continued to plan.
Somewhere in between an old English   country house and a French provincial     farmhouse...

And strictly Wickes&Wilko not Farrow&Ball.
Everything was to be repainted or repurposed, no new units, worktops or taps.
And at last it is finished - walls and cupboards repainted, shelves up. Fancy undershelf lighting [dirt cheap from Lidl] Metal lampshades repainted [red in Leicester, then yellow- now gunmetal grey] with new red flex [five quid in IKEA bargain area]
Yes, there is a posh french soap by the sink [Christmas present] and a new piece of artwork [charity shop bargain] but doesn't it look brilliant now?

As per the glossy magazines, I have put a few stylist's props in place. Thank you to niece Lucy and her fiance Josh, I have a lovely bouquet of orange flowers to display [they go well with the Swarfega, and Le Creuset fondue pot!] Please note my new roller towel, made from an antique piece of French linen.
Do not look at the bottom of the cupboards - as yet there remains a gap.
There have not been any plinths under the units since we moved in 9½ years ago.
That job, plus tiling the window sill remain unfinished.
But for now, I am utterly thrilled with my lovely room!
Thank you Bob for all your hard work on this.

Monday 29 October 2018

See Life At Sea Life

Liz, Jon and Rosie arrived on Friday evening. On Saturday we had a family trip to the coast to visit the Hunstanton SeaLife Centre. Liz had two free tickets, and a one pound bag of Cadbury's chocolates got us a BOGOF coupon. Rosie got in free- so it worked out relatively inexpensive for five of us to get in!
The weather was overcast when we arrived- and raining really heavily when we left. Our alternative destination had been Wroxham Barns and the children's play farm, so we were glad we'd opted to be inside on such a wet day.
Rosie has been before, and took great delight in explaining about the sharks, fishes, turtles and penguins to us.
We were not that keen on the special spooky Hallowe'en 'extras' [other Mums with toddlers were saying their kids didn't like the groaning pumpkins either] but on the whole it was very good. 
Plenty of information about looking after the wildlife of the oceans [thank you David Attenborough for raising public awareness] Lots of info panels, helpful staff members - and 'hands on' areas [with child-level handwash facilities right beside them]
The tanks were large and well set out so even little people could watch right up close [and there were stepstools for higher displays] Although it was Halfterm, it wasn't crowded [I think the weather put people off]
We enjoyed looking at Clownfish ["I've found Nemo!" said Bob] and huge Rays, and sinister Cane Toads.
There is a Seal Hospital where you could see creatures which had been beached locally being nursed back to health.
A 'rainforest room' where huge ants marched along branches carrying bits of leaf back to their home. 
And the penguins! These were great. Fortunately we got outside to their enclosure just before the heavens opened. Rosie likes them, but thinks they are rather smelly ['pungent' was Liz's description]
The penguins were swimming happily up their little channel and we were all watching them, when suddenly the one at the front hopped out of the water and waddled along the wall - rapidly followed by all the other birds.
They stood there patiently in a line, looking for all the world like they were waiting for a bus. It was so funny!

We had a lovely morning at the SeaLife Centre, then walked up to Fishers Fish&Chip Restaurant for an excellent lunch [soaked through by the time we sat down to eat!]
I'd recommend the SeaLife Centre for an enjoyable family day out - and I would imagine all their other venues would be quite similar to the Hunstanton one. BUT I would strongly recommend checking the internet and local tourist information places well before you go, to find the offers available [Liz picked up a leaflet in the centre offering 50% off a subsequent visit, and I found one on a 'local tourist info' display giving a #5 per person reduction. We paid just 16 pounds - it would have been four times that without my thrifty daughter's forward planning! Oh, and as you leave, be sure to hurry your children through the gift shop before they develop any desires for pink pirate eye patches or fluffy orange octopi.

Sunday 28 October 2018

Leaf Peeping

Friends in the USA tell me that when the autumn comes, and thousands of tourists flock to states in the NE, to view and photograph the stunningly beautiful foliage, the locals refer to these visitors as 'leaf peepers'. I have a leaf for you to peep at today. Not one which has turned to golden, amber, red or brown - but one which is still fresh and green, symbolising life and growth.
I started work on this project in August whilst at Cornerstones. My friend asked me to produce a leaf which represented the work of a female Baptist Minister. There are hundreds of women in the Baptist ministry, working as Pastors, Chaplains, Youth Workers, Lay Preachers etc. We're very blessed to have Miriam as our gifted Youth Minister here at UCF. And we've had Baptist women workers for centuries - even Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary about listening to a Baptist woman who was preaching in the street!
I was given details of a specific woman [but anonymous!] I was told she is working as Pastor in a small church with just 32 members - but these faithful folk really support her work. They give what they have of their time and limited financial resources. [nobody goes into the Baptist ministry dreaming of earthly riches!] The brief was that it could be in any medium [fabric, paper, clay, wood...] and no bigger than the palm of the hand. Here's what I did. I found some old linen, and some embroidery silks, given to me by some ladies in our church back in Kirby, and made a double sided leaf.
On the back, above the central vein, I put my initials and the date. Below that the words "1 plus 32 sowing the seeds". I wanted to show that she was not working alone in her task. 
All the threads used were shades of green, ranging from pale eau-de-nil through to dark olive. Sorry, my photography isn't very good, so the green colours don't really show in the pictures.
On the other side, I back stitched the central vein. Below that, thirty-two sparkling green bugle beads represent the faithful members. I filled in the space with seed stitch, and at the bottom edge sewed sacrificial giving - their contribution to the work. 
In the top section, I chose phrases which were either symbols of the pastor's faith, or actions of her ministry.
dove of peace
anchor of hope
heart of love
cross of faith
pastoral caring
gospel sharing
kingdom building
The leaf has gone away now,to join nearly 100 others.[I do hope we are sent a photograph of the final display]
As I stitched, I prayed for this faithful worker and her fellowship. May God bless her as she sows the seeds of the Kingdom of Heaven in her corner of the UK [wherever it might be!] And may God bless all those- women and men- who are preaching the Gospel this morning - and may the good friends whose faithful support makes the work possible know his blessings too.

Saturday 27 October 2018

Prayer For The Changing Of The Clocks

[thank you to Richard S for sharing this] 

Friday 26 October 2018

The Pajama Game

I don't ever remember watching this 1950s film, and I've always wondered why the word pajamas is spelt differently over in the USA*. But this week at Cornerstones I've finally got round to making my new pyjama trousers.
When I finally settled down, the whole job was over and done with in less than 90 minutes. I used a Simplicity pattern. #3935 easy-to-sew, and some tee-shirting left over from another project. 
I bought this pattern earlier in the year when I was making a costume for the Cowardly Lion. I used it again last week for tops and trousers when I was making the play costumes. I would recommend it as very good value for money. The pattern is multi size, with 9 sizes from child age 4-5 through to adult chest 46-48“. The pattern is printed on recycled paper and also includes simple slippers in 6 sizes, plus a holder for your TV remote control. 
1 piece of elastic, 3 hems, 4 legs and 5 seams [I cut out 2 pocket pieces too, not in the original pattern] So easy and very quick. 
This is a really good pattern. The top is simple too, having no fastenings, just a simple slipover V-neck. 
I'm not making a top for these - I've got a navy vest which which will be ideal  

I did make up the top last week, with modified sleeves, to provide the Giant with a baggy shirt - using another old beige sheet. 
If you want a good pj pattern, then I think you'll certainly get your money's worth from this one!

*I've now checked it out - the original Urdu/Persian word was pay-jama meaning leg-clothing. 

Thursday 25 October 2018

Holiday Reading

Firstly this one. My blogfriend Lesley recommended it a few weeks ago [her excellent review here]
It was fun - but possibly aimed at the young adult market, not an old granny like me. But lightweight enough to be read when you are winding down and relaxing. Plot not too complex. A girl discovers that she isn't the gardener's daughter after all, and sets off to discover the hidden secrets of her early life. 
Like Lesley I did want to yell "don't do that!" when Ava, the impetuous teenager did daft things. 
Two things did feel a bit odd - nobody used swear words, and some characters' were rather weird. Boody [not a misprint, her name is a corruption of 'beauty'] is a worldly wise woman who is tasked with showing Ava the ropes when she gets a cash-in-hand cleaning job at the holiday camp. Her strongest expletive appears to be "dirty dusters!". A couple of times we're told "he swore at me" but other than that the language is very mild. Perhaps I've spent too long in the wrong company, but it did feel rather bowdlerised in places. I suspect that angry arch criminals don't converse a if they are having tea with the vicar! Perhaps this book is aimed at elderly sweet-natured  grannies [who read The People's Friend] after all... That said, it was a good holiday read, thank you Lesley for blogging about it ****
This one was reviewed by another Blogger last year. I am so sorry, I cannot remember who. It is part of Jemima Schlee's "Take A..." series, along with tin, seat, ball of string and bandana. 
I was rather disappointed with this for one simple reason - every single project in the book used a linen union glass cloth like this. 
Which is fine if you have a stash of these lurking in the airing cupboard. But I don't - and sadly all the 16 projects [which were useful and attractive] relied to some extent on clever positioning of the printed text for good effect.
That said, you could use the ideas with other more colourful teatowels, but the end results would be very different.
The instructions are well written with clear photos. The end of the book includes a whole section on techniques and templates. This features a very good piece on making Dorset buttons, which the author uses to trim some of her designs.

I'm reluctant to shell out £3 or more on a pukka Irish Linen towel. But I may look at my stash when I get home in case anything inspires me. The tea towel bunting I made 5 years ago has flapped and fluttered here every summer since [Here] ***

Wednesday 24 October 2018


Have you come across this phrase? It refers to those short videos which keep popping up on the Internet [usually in a Facebook feed] where you see a recipe being prepared. Usually in speeded up time, very simple instructions - but with no sound, just overhead shots of the pans, the ingredients and the hands doing the preparation. [Guardian article Here]
It makes everything look so easy - clever fingers roll the dough and plait the pastry, and pipe the icing. And voila! Fabulous meals produced with apparently no fuss. And you can do it too. Except that you can't. Your 24 cakes are not perfectly matching, your feathered icing is too runny, your puff pastry is partly burnt, and your sprinkled garnish is in a clump on one side, not evenly spread...
We called on my Bro and SIL yesterday on our way back from a day out. Marion offered us freshly made scones. She apologised because "Mary Berry wouldn't pass these. They're a bit dense" Actually they were extremely tasty. 
Heaps better than the dry bicarb laden offering which I was served at a coffee shop in Dereham in the summer. That was part of a 'cream tea' allegedly. But my tea was served In a mug. I hoped for a cup and saucer, and possibly a teapot. Marion's tea and scones were much nicer. We told her not to apologise. 
I blame Bake-off**, and Hands&Pans. People feel that their baking just isn't good enough anymore. Sadly it seems that many people have given up, and feel inadequate in the kitchen. I freely admit to the most spectacular kitchen disasters. But I love my family and I keep trying [and they love me, and they still eat my meals - in between laughing] 
This is Elizabeth, born an ordinary Essex girl, she grew up and became the wife of a Fenland farmer. Then her husband became an MP, led the army, and ended up running the country. Yes, she's Oliver Cromwell's Mrs. After he died and Charles II was restored to the throne, a recipe book was published. "The Court and Kitchen of Elizabeth Cromwell"
The people who printed it failed in their aim of portraying her as a country bumpkin. Their attempt at satire misfired. And I'm glad. She was a loving, faithful wife, mother to nine children. I stood in her little kitchen in Ely and admired a woman who showed such courage and forbearance when her family life was turned totally upside down. Simple pies and nourishing breads nourish people more than high-faluting banquet fare. As it says in Proverbs 15, "better a dish of vegetables served with love than prime steak cooked with hate"
Do your best in the kitchen, serve it with love ... And don't worry about achieving perfection. 

** Can anyone explain why so many of Pru Leith's necklaces look like the "chunky beads threaded on shoelaces" which children make in the Nursery?? 

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Fun In The Futility Room

Although we don't want to spend all our Half term Break on 'house jobs', there are a few things we hope to achieve. On Saturday whilst I was busy going to the optician to get my glasses fixed because the screw fell out and the arm fell off [thankyou Emma @Vision Express, Dereham] Bob was working hard to put up shelves and fix the under-cabinet lighting. It looks lovely!
On Monday morning we went into Norwich [I'd a preordered book to collect from Jarrolds and Bob wanted some fixings from Thorns] We strolled down St Benedicts Street - more hipster by the day g and I went to look in the Red Cross shop at the end. There was a picture propped up in the entranceway. It was greys and blues and had exactly the right feel for my newly decorated room.
And it was only £2.99. When we got it home, I saw the original price label on the back. £80, can you believe it? I looked up Chiu Tak Hak. He's a Chinese artist who moved to Paris in 1972. His style combines realism with expressionism. And you can still buy a new print like this - for over £100.
When we got home, Bob put the picture up for me next to the chalkboard. 
It looks just right. Sharp eyed readers may spot the first item on the board is "fix the decking"  It started to sag in August.
When we left, I'd put warning signs up as we family members were staying here after us. The damage has got much worse. Some of the supports of the decking have rotted away. It was very poorly erected in the first place.
Bob spent time removing rotting wood and temporarily propping things up.Not good at all
Some rather rotten planks. We're now researching what to do next. The decking is important because when the previous owners extended the property, there was quite a drop from the new back door down to ground level.
At the moment, safety is the priority, especially with Rosie coming next weekend! 
I've done some gardening and cut back the rosemary and lavender - and I'm drying them. 
And I pruned my 3 roses bushes - just one bloom left. 
No more roses till next summer - but just for those of you who remember the 70s...

Monday 22 October 2018

The Rosy Pastor Arrives In Norfolk

No, Bob hasn't turned pink during our half term break at Cornerstones [in fact this chesty cough has left him looking pale and peaky] The Rosy Pastor is the popular name for the Rosy Starling - normally found in easternmost Europe and migrating each autumn to India and tropical Asia.
But this one has somehow gone off course, and settled in a back garden in Costessey, on the edge of Norwich. The home owner, Stephen Leake, spotted the unusual bird on October 7th and reported it to the RSPB, along with his postcode [thinking that was for the RSPB recording purposes] He was surprised therefore to see crowds of birdwatchers lurking in the street outside his house. 
Over 150 have turned up thus far - and this generous man has welcomed them into his lounge, with their binoculars, so they can get a better view of this avian adventurer 
These birds have an omnivorous diet, including fruits, berries and cereal grains but they prefer insects. Their song is a mixture of squeaks and rattles delivered with much wing trembling. I'd love to observe that. 
Mr Leake is a teacher [his half term has just got rather busier I suspect] He says the visiting twitchers were "quite wowed by [the bird]... One woman even welled up" 
Apparently this 'flying visit' could last until spring. Mr Leake will have to stock up on birdseed. 
In Xinjiang, China, the farmers keep flocks of Rosy Pastors which feed on the locusts that destroy the cereal crops. This has greatly reduced the farmers' use of chemical insecticide, which must surely be a good thing. 
Now the weather is turning colder, don't forget to replenish any bird feeders you may have in your gardens. 
Maybe you'll spot an unusual bird which has flown off course too!

Sunday 21 October 2018

In A Nutshell

This was one of the banners which was hung in church the other week for Harvest Thanksgiving

It reminded me of this lady - Julian of Norwich. She was a mystic, and an anchorite, born around 1342, and living nearly 80 years in what was then England's second city.
I really must find out more about her. Her 1395 treatise called  'Revelations Of Divine Love' was the first book written in English by a woman.' In paintings she is usually depicted holding a hazelnut, having written these words
. . the Spirit showed me a tiny thing the size of a hazelnut, as round as a ball and so small I could hold it in the palm of my hand. I looked at it in my mind’s eye and wondered, “What is this?” The answer came to me: “This is everything that has been made. This is all Creation.” It was so small that I marvelled it could endure; such a tiny thing seemed likely to simply fall into nothingness. Again the answer came to my thoughts: “It lasts and it will always last because God loves it.” Everything—all that exists —draws its being from God’s love.

Saturday 20 October 2018

Where Have All The Bloggers Gone...?

I've been blogging for almost 11 years- and reading blogs for a little longer than that. I have noticed that many of the blogs that were out there when I started have completely disappeared, and others have become more sporadic. Just recently someone commented on the fact that many of their 'old favourites' have 'gone dark' too.
I guess that our lives change and circumstances change, and for many people it becomes impossible to sustain a blog.
The 'monetised' ones, where people either get paid for the adverts they carry, and the 'business' ones, where bloggers are selling their crafts [or the patterns for replicating them] seem to survive. But many of the 'single-theme' ones go to the wall. And the 'I'm a Mum and this is how I'm coping with my kids' often dry up when the aforementioned kids grow older and wisely declare that they do not want Mum sharing all their secrets with the outside world. 
And if your blog is "My year of...dieting/renovating the barn/planning my perfect wedding/cooking all the recipes in Julia's book/getting out of debt/living biblically" then it inevitably has a time limit. It does seem that many of these ones end up with a successful book or film or speaking career. 
Sadly my blog has yet to be snapped up by a publisher. I am sure that's due to its weirdly eclectic nature. It's about....anything and everything - my crazily random everyday life which is underpinned by the grace of God. 
I have recently pruned my reading list - cutting out the blogs where no posts have appeared since 2017, or where the posts are increasingly repetitive. The list has got much shorter. I have not really added many new blogs of late either.
I thought I'd found a new one which promised me tips on preparing a Brexit Food Box and austerity in general. Then I read [I am not kidding you] the first item on the food list was Canned Lobster Bisque - and that I could save money on decorating by using Farrow&Ball paint on the 'feature wall' only, not the entire room. I read right through earlier posts- and realised this was not a spoof, but the author's genuine attempt to help us survive the expected economic exigencies. She's republished her blog in book format too  - that said, many of the online reviewers were pretty scathing. I shall save my money and not purchase it. [why would anyone buy it anyway, when the blog is still there for all to read for nothing?]
But many of the blogs I discovered back in the early days are still out there - and the writers have actually become 'offblog-friends' - so we exchange emails and cards and sometimes even meet in person. We've upped sticks and moved house, shared through the joy of new babies and the tears of bereavement together. You know who you are! 
I know that lots of you who read this blog also read this one. Today our good friend Sarah is getting married in her little chapel in the Fens.  I have no idea if she'll have time to continue blogging when she is loving up there in the frozen north - but I want to thank Sarah for her friendship and her lovely blog. I wish her and David every happiness in the years ahead. May God bless them both with love, life and laughter.

Just spotted a typo - I put loving instead of living. Either word will do! 

Friday 19 October 2018

Finding Time

Finding Time in the sense of 'finding time to get things done properly' and in the sense of 'A time for finding things'. On Sunday a friend asked if I had anything suitable to lend her daughter who has a Victorian day at school coming up soon. "Yes" I said brightly "I have a Victorian style dress, apron and mob cap in my costumes box in the loft, she's welcome to borrow that - when do you need it?" - it transpired that the date was 29th - the end of our holiday at Cornerstones. I'll said I'd deliver it before half term
So I clambered up the ladder last Sunday after lunch - and could I find it? No...nowhere. At odd moments all week I have hunted up there again [it's jolly cold now!] and looked in the top of the wardrobes, and the drawers under the spare bed.... "If it gets to Thursday night, I shall have to find time to make something".  Bob pointed out that Jack's Mother's Costume was long dress/apron/mob cap, so perhaps I could let her use that for one day?
"I'll keep checking, and decide Thursday afternoon" I said.
I continued rushing about. On Wednesday I was going out, and felt I wanted to freshen my mouth which tasted of coffee. I grabbed the bottle of blue mouthwash, poured a capful and started swishing [slowly and purposely as per the dentist's instructions] I was dismayed to find my mouth tasted vile. I'd picked up the Savlon by mistake - and it doesn't leave your mouth minty fresh!
Then on Thursday, I had a partial day of work- as an assistant in a Day Nursery. I didn't need to leave till 10am. I suddenly remembered there was a box of costumes at the back of the understairs cupboard. Oh joy! I found the Victorian outfit.
But also I found something I thought I had lost in the move here...when we did the Joseph theme at Kids' Club, Bob reminded me I'd made a coat-of-many-colours [in 2001] We couldn't find it, and concluded it must have been left hanging on the door of the Minister's Loo in the Kirby Muxloe Vestry!
But it was there in the bottom of the box and at 9am yesterday I pulled it out and cheered. Not just because I had found it - but because there is a character in the play called Aloha, a Market Trader. I'd been asked to make him  "A very colourful robe, which he can flash open, and have all sorts of dubious merchandise pinned to the inside lining.
I realised it won't take much tweaking to turn this old technicolor dream coat into the spiv's outfit.
But time was pressing and I had to leave for work. Could I find my car keys? After a frantic five minutes [I know I had them earlier....] I took the 'emergency' set instead.
The Nursery was lovely. Best conversation of the day was with a three year old boy
"What's your favourite gamer"
"I like playing teenagers"
"Why - what is it that teenagers do?"
"They fight"
"Is that a good thing, to fight, do you think?"
"Oh yes, they go out and fight the bad guys"
I checked with a Staff Member- she says he is obsessed with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He thinks that to be a teenager means to be a turtle and to battle petty criminals in the New York sewers!
I left the Nursery at 4.15 with a smile on my face - and put my hand in my coat pocket for a hankie...and found my 'regular' set of house keys. I'd had them with me all along!

Thursday 18 October 2018

A Free Kick For The Germans

This is Stalham Baptist Church- a large Victorian chapel in North Norfolk. I have been there a few times- most memorably in 1970, when a group of us from the Girls' Brigade camped in the church hall for a week. 
Two particular incidents back then - there was a clock high on the wall of the hall - it ticked loudly and chimed every hour, and we found it hard to sleep. One of the officers rectified this, by poking a broom handle up inside it. Then she panicked on the Sunday morning, as she struggled to get it going again before the worshippers arrived [and failed] The second thing was that we were supposed to take it in turns to prepare meals in order to get our cooking badge. I made a pink milk jelly for dessert, to be served with tinned peaches [so ambitious]. After three days, it had still not set. I didn't get my badge that week!
I'm happy to say that this church is home to a thriving congregation and doing lots of good stuff in their corner of my favourite county. They even have a football team, which is doing very well in the local league.
But I didn't expect to see the church, and these guys mentioned on the BBC News Webpage recently. It appears that a German gentleman, Thomas Selinger was taking a walk along the sand on Baltrum Island- a small island off the coast of Germany 250 miles from Stalham. And Mr S spotted a football.
It was labelled Stalham Baptist Church. Mr S kicked the ball around for a while, then gave it to some boys who were playing on the beach.
Then when he got home, he felt curious about the ball - and searched the internet and located SBC. 
Yes it was one of the team footballs- but they have no idea how it got to Germany. They suspect someone may have borrowed it for a game of beach football in Norfolk- and lost it in the sea.
I hope the German lads enjoy playing with it. I do enjoy stories of lost things re-appearing in random locations.
Have you any good stories of lost things being reconnected to their owners?