Thursday 31 December 2020

The End Of The 20-20 Vision

And so the year ends. Those who had a bright "20-20 vision" for the last twelvemonth have probably ripped up the schedules, year planners and to-do lists they worked out so carefully this time last year. As I write this, all round the world the covid19 statistics continue to rise, and the hospitals are at breaking point. People are anxious about the Brexit deal - both here in the UK and Europe. US friends watch the goings and comings at the White House with bated breath. So much has been lost in this past year - 

  • celebrations, and public events have been cancelled
  • our freedoms to meet, to travel, to be together have been restricted
  • church, community, arts and sports programmes have changed beyond recognition
  • educational opportunities lost or postponed
  • family life has been stressful for many- and for some, sadly, to breaking point
  • homes and livelihoods lost, income and employment situations drastically altered
  • health destroyed, both physical and mental, many operations cancelled
  • and thousands of loved ones have died 

Will next year be just as bleak? In 1939, as World War 2 had just began, and the whole nation was anxious, the King quoted Minnie Haskin's poem in his Christmas speech, which begins

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.”

This Christmas, the Queen said

The teachings of Christ have served as my inner light, as has the sense of purpose we can find in coming together to worship ...The Bible tells how a star appeared in the sky, its light guiding the shepherds and wise men to the scene of Jesus’s birth. Let the light of Christmas — the spirit of selflessness, love and above all hope — guide us in the times ahead. 

No party or fireworks today - just a quiet reflection on the year gone by - and gratitude for the Light that will guide us into the future

There remain faith, hope and love, these three- but the greatest is love.

Wednesday 30 December 2020

Watch The Birdie!

The Twelve Days Of Christmas are the 12 days between Christmas Day [birth of Jesus] and January 6th, Epiphany [visit of the Magi] and the song has been around in print in England since 1780 -  before a similar French version, and a Scottish one involving baboons [!]

There are two popular theories- one is that it is a 'secret code' explaining the beliefs of Roman Catholic Christians at a time when they could not worship openly. The other is that it is a sort of Memory Game- each person had to remember all the lines sung in the previous round, and add one more day.

The Catholic explanation goes like this - The Partridge in the Pear Tree is Jesus Christ, The 2 Turtle Doves are The Old and New Testaments. The 3 French hens are Faith, Hope, and Charity, the theological virtues. The 4 Calling Birds are the four gospels and/or the four evangelists. The 5 Golden Rings are the first five books of the Old Testament. The 6 Geese A-laying are the six days of creation. The 7 Swans A-swimming are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments. The 8 Maids A-milking are the eight beatitudes. The 9 Ladies Dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. The 10 Lords A-leaping are the ten commandments. The 11 Pipers Piping are the eleven faithful apostles. The 12 Drummers Drumming are the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed.That seems too contrived.

If it is a secret code, why have the word Christmas sung openly in every line? Let's go along with the Memory Game Idea. But here's a crazy thing, Stephen Moss, of Somerset, well known natural historian, birder and TV producer [he did a lot of bird programmes with Bill Oddie] has a theory about all those birds. More than that, he thinks every line represents a different English bird. Here's his take

Partridge in A Pear Tree - the grey partridge, a game bird. Stephen thinks Pear Tree is a mistranslation of the french word for partridge perdrix. Hard to find, except in East Anglia

Turtle Doves- traditionally a symbol of love - also less common now

French Hens  domestic chickens - abundant!

Colly Birds [not 'calling'] this is coalie i.e. blackbirds - with almost 5M breeding pairs in the UK

Gold Rings -a mishearing of yoldring the old dialect name for a yellowhammer [their song is "A littler bit of bread and no cheese"]

Geese-a-laying -the wild greylag goose, today's farmyard geese are their descendants

Swans-a-swimming -mute swans, and wild swans [Bewicks and Whoopers] It is a myth that all swans belong to the Queen 

Maids-a-milking  - the nightjar. Because their old name was the goatsucker, as people genuinely believed they sucked milk from farmyard goats after dark. [if fact they were swooping round the livestock to seize the insects, moths and beetles, attracted by the animals]

Ladies dancing -the common crane- they dance during courtship rituals. Almost extinct 50 years ago, they are now breeding in East Anglia, and the Somerset levels.

Lords-a-leaping  - the black grouse - these also prance around and leap to attract the females, Mostly found in Scotland now

Pipers Piping - the common sandpiper. Migrating to Africa each autumn, these return to Wales, Northern England and Scotland each summer. But it lives alongside rivers and muddy marshes, not sandy beaches

Drummers drumming -the woodpecker, so distinctive as they drum loudly on treetrunks to signal to their mates. Three species in the UK - green, and great spotted both thriving - but the tiny lesser spotted is in danger of disappearing.

I think this is a really interesting take on the old song. And Moss isn't alone in this idea. I found another birder site which was mostly in agreement - although they thought the gold rings referred to the ring necked pheasant, the milkmaids were cattle egrets [like nightjars also found near livestock] their dancers were cormorants not cranes, and finally, the leaping lords were herons.

What do you think ? 

I quite like this ornithological twist. A good reminder we need to do our best to preserve these different species. On the other hand, it is great fun to sing the trad version with appropriate actions than do an interminable Birdie Dance.. I have followed Larissa's blog for years, and keep wondering about making a set of her beautiful embroidered felt ornaments. Perhaps this should be a retirement project? 

Tuesday 29 December 2020

Pick A Card, Any Card

We've received more Christmas cards this year than last I think. Perhaps people are eager to reach out and make connections. I have appreciated almost every one, because it represents love and care [though I'm still not sure about the one which came to Bob from a local funeral director, thanking him for his custom during 2020 - especially since he's not done any services with them] Only a few make it to the mantelpiece, for my 'main display' - and they tend to be the ones from closest family and friends and special handmade ones. I've chosen just a few to share here

These two, from George and his cousins. "Mistletoes" and "Jingle Bells- Covid Smells" These are very witty foot-prints. I am not sure which of his two Cheshire cousins put her feet in the yellow paint - but George's feet are definitely getting bigger!
Only the left, a card which looks home-made, but isn't. I love this one because Rosie has handwritten her name so neatly inside. Well done to Connor, her teacher, for the work he has done this term. Like her Mother before her, Rosie went to school both able to write, and to read simple words, but in the last few months I have definitely noticed a great improvement in her reading, skills, and also her letters are mostly even, and consistent in size now.

The one on the right is from our young neighbour. "Oh, I've got a die-cut in that same pattern" I said as I opened the envelope. Then I remembered that I'd passed a bag of cardmaking bits to her Mum, when she said "We need to have an afternoon making Christmas cards this week". These were leftover discs which I had made from my 2019 cards. I love the way she's combined them here.

Finally this stunning piece of parchment craft from Alison. You really need to see this 'in the flesh' to fully enjoy the detail. The intricate cutting of those tiny stars and the lacy edging, and the  holly leaves [some carefully shaded green, others applied on top to give a 3D effect] This is meticulous, painstaking work - I'm not surprised Alison is a nationally recognised expert. 

Like Bless, and many others, now Christmas Day is over I have already started sorting this years cards.

Some have lovely pictures for my 2021 cards, others will make gift tags, and the 'non Christmassy' scenes will make general greetings cards and gift tags. The really big cards can be cut and folded to make gift boxes. And all the trimmings go into the recycling. The stamps have been trimmed and will go to BMS World Mission, to raise money for their global projects. For almost a hundred years this creative recycling has raised thousands of pounds to bless and help other.

Top Tip - so I do not lose any important information, I keep my phone beside me, and take a photo of any vital info before a card is cut up - like "We've moved, our new address is..." I can transfer that to my 'proper' card list on the computer later.

What do you do with your old Christmas cards?

Monday 28 December 2020

Home Alone Lunch

The "Christmas Lunches For Those At Home Alone" operation went like clockwork - "with military precision" was how someone described it. An appropriately masked and distanced team went to the church premises on Thursday and prepped veg etc. Then on Christmas Day, Rick and Angela went and cooked the meals.These were ready for packing by 12.20. The food was put on the hatch. Nadia and Geoff collected it, put the meals in foil trays and then into the hot trolleys. Bob and I were further down the room and requested "four meals" or whatever and labelled the trays, put them into insulated bags - along with cards and chox-in-a-box, then we called out the drivers. They stepped across the room, grabbed their bag and delivery list and disappeared.  By 12.45, every lunch had gone - and all 40 were delivered by 1pm. It was pretty impressive and incredibly efficient.

Angela's incredibly efficient [she's one of lunch club cooks] and there was virtually no wastage. She had the final numbers the week before- but still managed to produce an extra complete meal for a church member whose wife had unexpectedly gone into hospital - and two turkey dinners for Bob and myself, as we'd planned for Christmas dinner in Norfolk! The pudding had all gone - but she also gave us a couple of the turkey carcases.
Bob stripped what meat he could find from these - and we put the bones in the slo-cooker. Eight hours later I had 1½ litres of gorgeous jellified stock - and the Bob made a turkey pie filling with the meat, and I finished the task. 
We have had so many messages of thanks from the recipients - it was well worth doing. 
It's been good to be relatively quiet for a couple of days - we've had a couple of family Zoom get togethers. The children have certainly enjoyed their new gifts. 
We could have gone to Norfolk whilst it was still in Tier 2, and stayed quietly at Cornerstones, then returned under the "Exceptions for travel include work and education" clause. But that seemed to be inappropriate really, and not setting a good example. 
Travel on Christmas Night in the bad weather would have been difficult- quite a bit of flooding. Jon and Liz found their garden was flooded around midnight, but mercifully the waters receded. Cornerstones was ok, but there were flooded roads nearby. We had our own weather excitement here in Dorset, losing two fence panel in Saturday's storms, and the garden store finally cracked up completely. We moved stuff into the shed, and stacked the broken plastic panels ready for a Tip Trip. 
Bob's ancient garden gloves are quite holey. I said they could be worn by Anne Boleyn.
So now we have a week of "Holiday at Home" - like so many others have experienced this year. And we will make the best of it. Our priority is Rest and Relaxation and we can do that almost anywhere!
Talking to a friend earlier, she said how difficult things are in the hospitals - her daughter, a nurse, has been offered pay incentives to take on extra shifts. A neighbour said they her hospital was offering free meals to staff who worked longer hours - and she fully expected her annual leave next month to be cancelled. Yet another friend told us of his cousin who works in a Dutch hospital has said they too are overstretched and understaffed. Nobody is clapping for the nhs key workers any more, yet they seem to be working even harder than ever. 
Everyone is feeling the strain, I think ..the polar bears down the road are totally deflated too. 
I thought the Queen's words were excellent. You can watch her here. And this year, for the first time ever, you can say "Alexa, play Queen Elizabeth's Christmas Day Message" - and hear it all over again!
Her themes of Light and Hope, and respect and gratitude for the sacrifice of others, were an encouragement and challenge to us all.

Sunday 27 December 2020

Worship for "Christmas Sunday"

 The link to this morning's UCF worship is here.  

This Christmas, as in many other years, I have read the passage from Isaiah 9 - included verses which are sung in Handel's Messiah [and His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace] But this year, it is verse two which stands out for me

"Living in the land in the shadow of death" is a pretty good description of life in lockdown during covid.

But the gospel of John assures us, that the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot put it out.

Let's walk in the light, and have hope

Saturday 26 December 2020

The Icing On The Cake!

I made my cake, and iced it, and stood the figures on the top. Then took the figures off, and packed the cake in a box, ready to transport to Norfolk.

But the goalposts have moved, and there won't be any visitors to Cornerstones, because we are not there, we are still here in Dorset. 

So on Christmas Eve, I got the cake out of the box, and replaced just some of the figures. And added a 2020 modification

My family may be all over the country - but I know God is with us, in every place. If you too are separated from your loved ones, then I hope you are still bound together in love and hope. Happy Christmas

Friday 25 December 2020

He Was Born For Us


May you know the love, peace, joy and hope of the Christ Child, today and always. 

Happy Christmas, my friends

Thursday 24 December 2020

Christmas Eve Communion


Advent At Home - Christmas Eve

It’s been a difficult year. The whole country is unsettled, confused- and sick of the instructions coming from those in power. Some days even I have found it really difficult, and I’m usually laidback, and cope with all the stuff life throws at me. But I’ve so missed seeing my Mum – she’s up north, I’m down here in the south. I’ve really needed her reassuring hugs and wise words – but it is impossible for us to be together right now.

I never thought it would be this hard here – he’s got family all over the town, but it seems we can’t stay with any of them, so we are in this dreadful temporary accommodation. He can’t find work, we are dependent on the kindness of others for the most basic necessities of life. Will our nation ever get back to ‘normal’, with a government that actually notices the poor and the marginalised?

Joe has been so patient, so caring. I’ve been sick, or weepy, and complained about having such a huge belly and he has brought me warm drinks, and rubbed my back so gently. But even he has had times when he’s struggled with it all. 

The birth pains have started, and I hadn’t realised just how much it would hurt. But I’m hanging on – because I do believe it will all come right. I don’t know how…but my baby is going to be born very soon. I still don’t understand why the Lord chose me – I’m nobody. But the angel told me – and Joe – that this child is be called Jesus, Saviour.

And once our son – God’s Son – is here, then things are never going to be the same again for us – or for anybody. I know that when he grows to be a man, he will speak out for justice and truth, for peace and love. His grace and mercy will be unbounded, and he will be the king whose kingdom never ends.

But tonight I imagine there will be just 3 of us here – me, Joe – and the baby whose bed will be a blanket on the straw in the manger…

[I wrote this piece last weekend for inclusion in one of our Christmas Services]


Wednesday 23 December 2020

Love, Bears, All Things

LOVE I love the Christmas lights in our road. Neighbours have worked really hard this year - with reindeer, Santas, trains, snowflakes, projected images. Our road sparkles and twinkles like Blackpool illuminations.[most of our lights are on timers at Cornerstones- we just have a lighted wreath and two big stars this year]

Although we haven't had the big "Switch-On" event of previous years, the centre of Ferndown has decorations on the lamp-posts, and the covered entrance to the shopping precinct is festooned

Look, that's one of the Priority Post Boxes

BEARS - In the next road to us, there are some terraced houses. For the last few years.they have had a lighted, inflatable polar bear family decorating their home. The bears used to sit on the flat roof above the front door. This year, I notice, they have moved down to occupy the top of the wheelie bin store.

There are LED lights inside, and it comes with an inflator fan. The thing is, every year, the bears appear, bright, white and bouncy. And a few days later, they are lying deflated, with the mother bear's flat face and floppy cap, hanging over the window by the front door. It stays like that for a day or so, then perks up again. I am not sure if the fan is faulty, or if it is on some sort of timer. Or maybe they unplug it to use the hair dryer, and forget to plug it again. Has it been moved to a lower position so they can manage the fan better? I wait to see what happens this year.

ALL THINGS - absolutely everything seems difficult right now. And it is so hard to say the right thing- 

if you are cheerful, people think you are belittling the awful death toll, the appalling mental health issues, the lack of employment, food and housing. 

If you are miserable about the pain and sadness, people think you should snap out of it and be grateful for the blessings you do have. 

If you are angry, people tell you that the politicians, scientists, and powers-that-be have an impossible job so you should forgive their lies and screw-ups unfortunate mistakes. 

The apostle Paul reminds us, love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. While we have love, we will get through this together. I've revised the words of O Little Town of Bethlehem. Here 's my 2020 version

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the Everlasting Light

The hopes and fears of all the tiers are met in thee tonight.

Tuesday 22 December 2020

Blags, Bags And Boxes Of Blessing

The "Christmas Lunch" plans are well under way, to take meals out to people who will be on their own on 25th. Ferndown Council, and the Ferndown Coronavirus Support Group have helped with publicity, and Sainsburys and Tesco generously helped with food. Rick and Angela, two key members of our Lunch Club Catering Team are the meal - and a number of people will be working, under strict covid-safe conditions in the church hall and kitchen, on Thursday and Friday to get everything ready. 

One of my jobs has been 'blagging' - and M&S have given us a whole load of their classy thermal bags so we can safely deliver the hot meals. I usually get this sort of thing by asking politely, whilst wearing a winsome smile - it is much harder when you have a mask on!

Our 'diners' will receive a main course, turkey with all the  trimmings [and yes, we are catering for vegetarians] follow by Christmas puddings and custard. My other job was to prepare some after dinner chox-in-a-box.

I designed this and photocopied it onto thin card, then using my £5 bargain WRMK box maker, I made the boxes, and popped a couple of sweets in each. Here are just some of the finished boxes, along with pictures of the construction. Bob has produced special Christmas cards too

I really hope that those people in our community who are on their own are blessed by these meals. There will not be an opportunity for the distributors to stop and have a chat, or give a friendly hug [and even their smiles will be masked] But delivering them a carefully prepared meal is something we can do to show them they are not forgotten, and share God's love in a practical way.

Thank you to everyone who has made this idea a reality

Monday 21 December 2020

Advent At Home #4 - The Storm Will End

Someone mentions something, and it's a bit 'left field' - not quite what I was expecting. And then this theme crops up over and over in just a few days, and I think "OK, maybe this is what I should be thinking about right now" [and in my more spiritual moments, I think "Is God trying to get me to understand something here?"]

I blame Mags, she started it - in her post last Sunday, she linked to an Advent YouTube talk she has done for her church, about the storm on the lake. The disciples are in the boat, Jesus is asleep, and there's a great storm. And they are terrified, they wake him up and say "Jesus! we're going to drown" and he replies "Where is your faith?". Mags said maybe Jesus wasn't telling them off for not having any faith, but rather questioning them about where their faith was placed. [you can watch Mags in the clip below, explaining it further]

Then I was reading the BBC news website, and there was a piece about the artist Charlie Mackesy [one of these days I may get a copy of The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse,,,] and his artworks full of hope, and he said "Don't give up, the storm ends"

And then I was sorting out some books and a greetings card fell out. One I had sent to myself, in 1993. I was on a training course with my work colleagues, and in that sleepy session straight after lunch the trainer came round with a box of blank greeting cards. We had to take one at random, turn it over, and consider what the picture was saying, and write a message to ourselves about it, We then put the card in the envelope and added our name and address. The trainer said that in the next few months, he would post these out. This was my picture, a big yacht, buffeted by the waves. And sure enough, our cards did arrive eventually, when we had forgotten all about them. And we showed each other what we had written, and commented on how relevant it was [or wasn't, in some cases]

And reading my card again, 27 years later, when we're all feeling a bit buffeted by the storms of the pandemic, and the boat's rocking, the words are very comforting. Yes, there is a storm, but it will pass, and we must keep our faith in Jesus.

The storm may roar about me, my heart may low be laid, 

but God is round about me, how can I be afraid?

Sunday 20 December 2020

The Nation Is In Tiers

In the last twenty four hours, things have changed again here in the UK - the 4 day Christmas 'break' is reduced to just one day. We have the even more restricted "Tier 4". Families have seen all their carefully made plans, which they thought would be ok, go out of the window. 

But we are still able to praise God, even if the way we do it is not the same as last December. Join us here for this morning's UCF Worship - we will be singing carols old and new, and you can still sing out loudly -  in the privacy of your own home, without a mask, and suitably distanced from others. 

Lord this is time is proving so hard 

When we feel isolated  from everyone else

May we know your presence with us

Help us to trust you  

And show us how we can be a blessing to others


Saturday 19 December 2020

I'm Using All Five Senses!

It is so easy to take our five senses for granted. But I have been trying, as I work on re-training my nose, to be more conscious of the other four. So here are five things from this week

SIGHT - this fell out of a poetry book. I looked at it and looked at it. I have no idea why I marked my place in Emily Dickinson's book with a heart bearing the words "Archimedes and ½ a cup of butter". I see the words, but they make no sense!

TOUCH instead of wrapping my Etsy package in plain paper, I've used a mismatched white cotton napkin and tied it with a plaid bow. Inside there is a sheet of tissue. I hope the recipient enjoys these as she unwraps them. 

TASTE  - on the packet, it said "Why not try apple crisps? Preheat your oven to 100°. Slice apples into fine slices, take out pips. Arrange on lined baking sheet [optional, sprinkle with icing sugar and cinnamon] Bake 45-60 minutes till dry. Transfer to cooling rack."  So I did. They are quite delicious and a healthy snack [no added sugar needed]

SCENT - how lovely to receive the gift of fresh flowers at Christmas. From a friend who hoped they'd help my nose-training. Yes! They do! I can smell the lovely perfume of the white blooms quite clearly, the yellow narcissi not so much. But I'm bunny-sniffing them daily. Thank you dear friend!

Finally SOUND - this one is quite, quite crazy. Knowing our fondness for Rend Collective, one of our deacons sent us a link to a Russian folk group called Otava Yo. Read the translation of the lyrics as you listen to this cheerful band - I hope this brings a smile to your day.

Friday 18 December 2020

Don't Tell Porkies

Pork Pie is Cockney Rhyming Slang for lie. So to 'tell porkies' is to 'be economical with the truth'. Melton Mowbray Pork Pies have protected status as a food product. The Pork Pie is quintessentially a dish from the Midlands -  at the start of the 19th century it was already a tradition to eat Pork Pie for breakfast on Christmas morning. Birmingham, Nottingham and Leicester all claim to have started this. As the pie was also considered a filling breakfast before a day's hunting, I suspect Leicestershire has the strongest claim [that county was famed for its hunting, and on the map it is even shaped like the head of a fox]

In the early 1820s Henry Walker set up a pork products factory in Leicester. They opened their shop in the city in1824, selling pies, sausages and bacon. The company did well. During WW2 with meat on the ration, they diversified and made potato crisps as well [the Walkers Crisps factory is still in Leicester, but owned by a different company] When I first went to Kirby Muxloe, a man from Walkers Pies came to talk to our women's group. 

He was fascinating - I cannot remember his name, it was something like "Ian Hislop" - but obviously not the IH off the TV. This guy started work as a teenager in the late 1940s along with two other lads. He told us that the factory closed for three days in December- 24th-26th. But on the day before Christmas Eve, the boss came down to where they were working. "I want you three lads here, tomorrow morning, 6am sharp! No arguing, your holiday will start a bit later than the rest of the workers" They were a little put out, surely they deserved a lie in? But suspecting their jobs depended on compliance, they turned up and stood shivering outside the factory gates early on Christmas Eve.

And the boss arrived in his chauffeur driven Bentley. "Get in lads" he said - and they drove [in style] right into the centre of the city, to the Walkers pie shop in Cheapside, adjacent to the Market. The crowds were already queuing round the block to get the Christmas Morning Pie.[b&w photo 1956]

Mr Hislop said the boss turned to the boys and said-"Look at these people - they got up even earlier than you to buy their pies. These are the people we are working to serve, the ordinary folk of our city - you remember that and put your best efforts into every pie you make" And Mr H told us that he had followed that instruction his entire working life, and had been with the company nigh on fifty years.

The Walkers brand was eventually taken over by Samworth Brothers, another Leicester Company. The Xmas Eve queues continued [colour photo 2017]  but they queued the other way round the block - but you can still see the wide tiled pavement and the cobbled street. Sadly the Cheapside shop closed two years ago - although you can still buy the fluted pies at many supermarket deli counters. 

After twenty years living in Leicester,  Pork Pie has become part of our family's Christmas menu too. We will have enjoy one on Boxing Day. The other thing I remember clearly from Mr H''s talk is that he said you can freeze pork pies. The trick is to keep them in the paper wrapper, then wrap that firmly in foil, and finally wrap the whole parcel tightly in cling film. Mine is ready and waiting in the Cornerstones Freezer!

Does your family have a special food item on the Christmas shopping list?

Thursday 17 December 2020

Going, Going, Gone!

A whole box of Hornsea China - sold on Gumtree. I still have more than enough for everyday use- 

but the coffee pot and espresso set are surplus to requirements- as is the cruet set. They are going, via Gumtree, to a young woman who wants them for her newly decorated brown and cream kitchen. 

The theatrical palm tree -a gift from the Baptist Women of South Korea in 2005 ["we can't afford to airfreight it back to SK, you can have it, Angela"] has finally gone. It has appeared in dozens of Nativities plays, on Treasure Islands, dismantled on Palm Sundays - in churches and schools literally across the country. And now it has been given to a local Primary School, along with a box of thirty Nativity Costumes. 

They were really excited with that gift. I culled my wicker baskets and posted these on line - free to anyone who could collect them. Within 30 minutes someone contacted me- she makes up gift baskets for new babies - and came round next morning. [I added three pairs of bootees to the bag, knitted for a Craft Fair which never happened!]

My Christmas tins were given to a young Mum who is making Christmas Biscuits with her children, so they can give them to teachers and friends - in pretty eco friendly packaging.

A stack of DVDs for the CS. Another box of books sorted for Ziffit [£17] plus one for a CS, plus a few selected to be stockingfillers - and we still have far too many to take to Cornerstones. 

And I sadly parted with my ottoman/shoe store. In 1976 I paid £5 for it, forty years later I spent £1.50 on the striped ticking - and now I have sold it for £5 online. I'm very happy with that.

There's nowhere at Cornerstones to hang my "Blessings to all who come here" embroidery [bought for £2.50 in a CS 5 years ago] 
I put it on eBay and it went for £10. I hope it will hang in someone else's home now and greet their visitors. 
Today I have appointments with two charity shops to drop off boxes of stuff.
So yes, I am working very hard at decluttering. I am not finding it easy though. Sentimental items are difficult - Bob suggested I did not need to keep every book in which my Dad had written his name, or every card the girls have ever sent me. Or a cookbook which was my Mum's but I have never used. And the large brown glass fruit bowl, the first gift Bob's mum every gave me. But I don't use it and it is a difficult shape to store... 
My linen cupboard is next in line - lots of treasured vintage napkins, traycloths and tablecloths which I think are beautiful, but have no real use for are being advertised on Etsy*. If I am not using these things, they can go to others who will enjoy them. 
But why is it that the house doesn't seem much emptier, despite all the boxes and bags which are leaving on a regular basis?
[*my Etsy Shop is called Mistress Marchpane- word play on Mrs Almond]

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Festive Food

Doesn't this look gloriously festive? Lynn posted about it at the weekend, with a link to her recipe [here]. She found her tree shaped pan for 68cents in a Charity Shop a few years back.

We were having soup for lunch, and I hadn't made a fresh loaf - so I thought this cornbread would be a quick accompaniment.I made 'a Christmas wreath' in my ring mould. I spent ages cutting circles out of red, yellow and green peppers to represent baubles.

And all the bits went into the batter, so I could have just cut random shapes after all! I made half quantities and the size and shape was fine. We both found the recipe a bit sweet, I'll reduce the sugar next time. Bob had grated cheese to sprinkle on his soup, so I put the ramekin in the middle of the ring. Next time I will make it earlier in the morning, it was very crumbly when fresh- but by suppertime, the leftovers had firmed up nicely - Thanks Lynn for a fun festive idea!


Tuesday 15 December 2020

Paintings For A Pandemic

Just a couple of 'arty' things to share with you. Many people like to send Christmas cards featuring great works of art, and obviously a high proportion of those are scenes featuring Mary and the baby Jesus. One facebook doing the rounds at the moment features a collection of such artworks with added captions. Knowing a number of Mums who are WFH [working from home] at the moment, whilst juggling childcare, I thought this painting plus comment was the best in the set. [and all the evidence shows that it is the women who are shouldering the heavy end of the load in all this]

Virgin of Quarantine was simply not cut out for this level of intense parenting, homeschooling, entertaining children, disinfecting groceries, cooking, cleaning, constant snacks, and utter lack of social interaction. She wishes she could be left alone for a while and lose herself in a few episodes of The Crown, but the children have taken complete control of the programming. 

She’ll have to settle for a podcast on her headphones and a little Bailey’s in her coffee while yet another episode of Paw Patrol plays in the next room. She spends her days refreshing her memory of Year 3 maths and searching Pinterest for a kid-friendly activity that doesn’t involve glue or glitter. She feels like she used to have a job outside this house, but she can’t seem to remember what it was like. 

Happy Hour has been moved to 3:00 these days. She’s thinking of starting a garden, but really, who has the time? And anyway, she has to check the scrolls for errors before the children hit 'submit'

 A friend in Norfolk recently sent me this YouTube clip - I thought it was very clever - some people  are brilliant at finding just the right artwork for a contemporary message.

I like the final line "Don't count the days, make the days count" - a very positive attitude to take towards the restrictions under which we are all struggling right now...

Monday 14 December 2020

Advent At Home #3 - In The Bubble

I have already mentioned my new Rend Collective CD.  I think this is my favourite track. Written this year, in the light of the pandemic, I think it expresses beautifully how I feel about the true meaning of Christmas.

It just doesn't feel like Christmas at all
It's so hard to forget about all that went on
Some friends lost their jobs and some family too
Some people said it was all down to you

But I know Emmanuel, you're one of us
You left your throne to wear our scars
Though Christmas lights may lose their spark
And winter's cold may break our hearts
Oh Christmas means, Emmanuel you're one of us

So sister and brother, be kind to each other
We've all had a journey, our own path to wander
The light will come - Just know you're not alone

I met a friend outside the Post Office, and I asked her what she would be doing at Christmas "I'm bubbling with my son" she said. I don’t know who will be in your family bubble this Christmas- but whatever the restrictions placed upon us, nothing can prevent Jesus from being included. Emmanuel means “God, you’re in our bubble with us” – and that makes our Christmas joy complete. And this is not a transient bubble, but his eternal presence, joy forever.  As the hymn says “Solid joys and lasting treasure, none but Zion’s children know.”

Christmas means, Emmanuel you're one of us

Sunday 13 December 2020

It Begins In Bethlehem

Today would normally be our Christmas Family Service, with dramas and dressing up and lots of participation from our young people. So hats off to Miriam, our Youth Minister, who has done a sterling job of getting them all involved whilst socially distanced, and Bob for assembling all the contributions and doing the technical bits. Thank you to all who have been involved. You can follow the service here from 7.30am. 

And you can also watch this years Nativity story from the Bible Society, narrated by the gifted storyteller Bob Hartmann. [Just 5 minutes long"]

Saturday 12 December 2020

50 (Minus 49) Shades Of Grey (Plus 1 Of Yellow)

Pantone have just released their "Color Of The Year" for 2021. Except it is two colours. American colour company Pantone believes that the pairing of shades will help people "fortify themselves with energy, clarity and hope" in a world that's set to face increasing uncertainty.

The bright yellow shade, called Illuminating, is meant to evoke the "optimistic promise of a sunshine-filled day”.  Ultimate Gray is a much quieter hue that speaks more of "composure, steadiness and resilience". Think of durable natural elements, like time-weathered pebbles on a beach.

The selection of two independent colours highlight how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting," explained Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Institute. "Practical and rock-solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a colour combination that gives us resilience and hope," she continued. "We need to feel encouraged and uplifted, this is essential to the human spirit."

Their choice last year was Classic Blue - which went on to provoke much comment, because it is the shade often chosen for medical scrubs - and nobody expected to see quite so much of it! 

This year's pairing has been compared to road markings, and hi-viz vests!

Liz has a gorgeous grey bathroom, which is very stylish..In Kirby we had a yellow kitchen with grey units, and in the Futility Room at Cornerstones I have my lovely French soap holder which is sunny yellow against the grey walls.  

Right now I'm all for colours that suggest resilience, steadiness, encouragement and hope, aren't you?