Sunday, 31 March 2013

Your cross…

 

Your cross Spurgeon quote twixt downs and sea

Just loved this quote when I read it on Good Morning Girls.

It doesn’t need any words from me. I just found it a great reminder as I know I’ve been guilty of  all the ‘do nots’ . Praying for that cheerful acceptance.

If you want to read more check out Jen’s great words, here.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

tempered by ice?

 

tempered by ice twixt downs and sea

Late snowfall

Daffodils buried in white drifts

Flower heads broken.

But the bulbs will survive

Frost makes them stronger

Tempered by ice

next year they will be more fruitful

reminding me

this seasons trials

brokenness

have wrought in me new strength.

 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1v2-3

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

…she gets up while it is still night…

 

sunrise twixt downs and sea

I’m joining in Crystal’s challenge to rise early in March. I can’t really call this much of a challenge for our household since we have embraced the early to rise ethos for the last couple of years. In fact, when I picked up on the whole Proverbs 31 thing, I thought at least I am the woman who “gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family”.

For me, that was the original impetus behind the early rise – to make sure my son had a good breakfast and to prepare everyone’s packed lunches. And just to be that bit more intentional with my time.

And I still think that’s so important. Breakfast is that little quiet breather where we discuss our plans and hopes for the day and give each other a bit of mutual support. Time to listen, time to share.

Of course sometimes we do get into the whole ”by the way I need money for a trip/a costume/my trainers/a form filled in “ thing. But because we’re up nice and early, there’s time to find stuff without (me) getting in a panic. So it’s all good.

Crystal has a great list here today of things you can do with your time gained from getting up early. Breakfast done, I like to look at my and pray over my own plans for the day, that’s if I’m not in the cupboard under the stairs looking for a lost trainer!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Basic Home-made Scones – frugal family favourites

 

Basic British Scones recipe twixt downs and sea

Scones – the best recipe ever for when you have hoards of hungry youngsters and not a lot of cash. Easily and quickly made from cheap stuff you have in the store cupboard and don’t even need measuring when you’ve made them a few times. I think an American scone is a more fancy beast but our basic British jobs are just 8oz of flour, about 2 of butter and some milk…

They’re best eaten warm and on the day you make them. I often make a batch after school – takes less than half an hour – and they normally get eaten pretty quick.

Here’s the basic instructions

  1. preheat oven to 200°C (390°F)
  2. Sift flour into a bowl (for 8 small scones 8oz (or 8 tablespoons or just under 2 cups of self raising flour - or plain flour plus 3 tsp baking powder)
  3. Add butter (2oz, half stick or quarter cup) and first cut in then rub with cold fingertips.
  4. pinch of salt and if you want some sugar
  5. mix to a dough with cold milk (secret tip - my mother always left the milk out overnight to sour)
  6. roll out to 1” thick (to about the first knuckle on your thumb) and cut out about 8  2” diameter scones or make a round and mark into 8 wedges.
  7. bake for 15 minutes for individual ones about 25 minutes for a big one.

Make it suit your family -

  • my friend with fussy little eaters adds an egg to get a bit of protein into them.
  • sultanas, raisins, dates are all good
  • coconut and cherry too (less frugal unless you have them in the cupboard)
  • add strong grated cheese and mustard powder for savoury lovers
  • wholemeal flour is good or half and half
  • I like a floury top (see picture) but you can milk or egg wash to make them shiny.
  • put savoury scones on top of mince or a stew to make Beef Cobbler (cheaper and lower fat than short crust pastry)

OR

Cream tea easy and frugal from twixt downs and sea

 

If you happen to have a bit of cream and a few strawberries left over, treat yourselves to a lovely Cream tea. Special, easy and it’s still pretty inexpensive…

 

 

 

They’re best eaten warm and on the day you make them (no preservatives) . I often make a batch after school – takes less than half an hour – and they normally get eaten pretty quick.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Why I don’t want to write about sisterhood

 

Warning – somewhat pitiful post …

 2013 twixt downs and sea  berries

Sisterhood…friendship.

Suddenly my dashboard was full of encouraging, lovely stories of friendship and sisterhood. And I’m thinking to myself – this is obviously something all other Christian ladies do. And it sounds amazing.

Then I found an invitation to write about it. Well, I don’t want to.

If I went back ten years, I could write about the lovely Christian friends I had when my boys were little. We went to each other’s houses, shared meals, prayed together. And now, writing about this is bringing back memories of all those good times. The lovely woman who befriended me when I recommitted my life to Christ, the one who started a coffee group for new stay at home mums, the one who invited us to Sunday lunch, minded my baby while I worked at the church playgroup.

Then I moved towns. I started work. I joined a church where people just turned up Sunday. And somewhere along the line I decided I didn’t ‘do’ friends anymore. So I didn’t. And actually, I kind of took pride in it. Told myself I was avoiding being let down. Because I had been… let down. Also put upon, taken advantage of, used.  To borrow Alecia's words 'I had relegated myself to a party of one'.

I still did my service, my volunteering,  helped. Just avoided the friend bit.

But just recently I’ve started to think that I might be wrong.

So, I’m reading all those stories of sisterhood and companionship and remembering how good it felt when I was asked out to coffee, round to someone’s house to talk, what a blessing those women gave me. It’s not so easy without the babies, and I’m still afraid of the hurt, but this is the year when I want to be intentional about how I use my time, so I’m going to try for a bit of sisterhood.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

10 reasons why parents should cook from scratch

 

why parents should cook from scratch twixt downs and sea

  1. It’s more healthy. Modern ready made dishes, sauces and cakes all have more sugar and salt than the home made versions I grew up with. And the cheaper products have other nasties like saturated fats, aspartame and additives.
  2. Following on from that, the second reason is that you know what’s in it. Maybe you prefer butter to margarine because it’s natural, maybe you don’t use sodium or salt because someone has high blood pressure, or someone has allergies. It’s better for fussy eaters too,  you can leave out the garlic and maybe substitute carrots for mushrooms.
  3. And you can add some healthy extras. My boys wouldn’t choose a fruit cake but adding some berries or raisins to a chocolate muffin goes down okay, they don’t notice that a few seeds have got in there as well.
  4. It’s fresh. So no preservatives needed.
  5. It’s cheaper. We are having a big focus on frugality in our house. It is a  fact that some discount ranges may appear cheaper but I would suggest that if you look at the ingredients and portion sizes generally home made is better value. (Especially if the fruit/veg component is home grown too).
  6. You can use what you have in the house. Someone gives you apples, make apple cake. Too long until payday, use your store cupboard basics and be creative.
  7. It’s enjoyable. Baking in particular is relaxing, but so too is chopping up a mountain of vegetables for a stir fry, kneading dough, beating egg whites. My weekend wind down begins with a dozen ‘fairy’ cakes for my boys.
  8. It’s service. Serving your children, husband and family. Serving your workmates with a tray bake for a meeting.
  9. Modelling for your children. Mine was one of the generations of women who decided that house work was demeaning to women. Many young women and men now parenting have never seen how to prepare fresh vegetables, raw meat or to make a scone. The things that are second nature to me to make are those I saw my mother and grandmothers making. Our heritage.
  10. It’s a chance to do something practical with your children that has a great end result. Maybe a less academic one can shine, a studious child take a break from studying, a lively one put their energy into being productive. It’s a life skill and a chance to talk about healthy eating. And it’s a great one for grandparents too. In fact, if you’re not confident, you could learn with the littlies.

There are loads of great recipes on the internet or in cook books. I’ve shared a few of mine already and my plan for 2013 is to do a series of the real basic stuff, basic pastry, cake and biscuit recipes to start with.

Does anyone have any other good reasons for cooking from scratch? Did I miss something really obvious?

Linking up with the lovely ladies at Domestically Divine Tuesday,  Titus 2sday, WFMW, Proverbs 32 Thursday and Frugal Friday.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Casting the first stone from my high horse

or ways to avoid rushing into judgement…
why I'm putting Trigger out to pasture  twixt downs and sea
I have a sad tendency towards judgement. Being judgemental.
And even worse, although I know it’s wrong, sometimes it feels so right.
I tell myself it’s righteous anger against injustice or whatever, but it’s not.
It’s things that annoy me but I have no intention of doing anything about. I’m quick to anger, not about big things but things like shorts in church, hats indoors, bad manners, people who let their toddlers take up seats on the bus when older folk are standing.
So prone am I to jump on my high horse and condemn other people that said high horse has a name and my husband is prone to make clopping noises and call for Trigger. Which does make me feel a bit ridiculous…
Faced with the adulterous woman of John 8 I know my first impulse would involve tutting and condemnation. And I suppose the Pharisees expected the same of Jesus. But what he did was such a great example…
Ways to avoid rushing into judgement:
Firstly Jesus took time. ‘But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.‘ I am awfully prone to rush into judgement on things that don’t concern me. To leap onto that high horse. It would be good to stop and think.
Then,  reflect on your own sins, not those of others. Next, of course Jesus says “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  And it just makes it so simple, so obvious really.
And ask for wisdom, for discernment. The Bible says that At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, This gives me a bit of hope that more wisdom may come with age!
Choose to show love. In the words of St Paul and in the translation I learnt as a child, love ‘is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.’ Ouch, that rejoiceth not in iniquity stings a bit.
And exercise grace. When Jesus speaks to the woman he makes it clear he doesn’t condemn her. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t condemn the mum on the bus either. Or the teenager at church in her shorts. I’m trying to trade Trigger for Grace. To deal with the plank  in my own eye. Time to put Trigger out to pasture.
linking with Jen and Michelle.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Traditional Oat Flapjacks

flapjacks twixt downs and sea

A really easy recipe to make cereal bars for lunch boxes or guests. Baked from scratch and you can choose your ingredients and add any healthy bits your family enjoy. I’ve chosen to use traditional syrup, brown sugar and butter but honey is a more natural alternative that works really well.

I like it plain but you can ice it or top with melted chocolate.

 

Ingredients for basic flapjack

2 tablespoons golden syrup or honey (tip: run the spoon under boiling water- it won’t stick)

100g brown sugar,

100g butter,

200g porridge oats,

Optional extra ingredient (dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips)

 

Method

Twixt flapjack recipe

Why I’m fasting facebook…


set your mind on things above twixt downs and sea
I am deeply ashamed to admit I am a facebook games addict.
What’s not to like? I do stuff for friends (often ‘friends’ I don’t actually speak to). then they give me presents. I complete stuff, I get prizes. And I have a lovely well-designed and tidy farm filled with happy animals. The games seem designed perfectly to keep me entertained, which of course they are.
I gave up before, My husband, who often acts as my moral compass, told me I was spending more time in the virtual than the real world, more time feeding virtual people than real ones, more time tidying my virtual house than my real one, more time talking to virtual people than to my children. I was ashamed. And I deleted all my games.
Then the requests began again. I was weak. I thought I could control it, limit it, I can’t.
And I read that a recent study showed that one in three people feel bad after visiting facebook and dissatisfied with their lives. I don’t think I feel bad – I don’t tend to envy others but do I feel good?  Would I intentionally choose to look at and read what others post? Is it a good use of my time?
There’s always a good reason to stay on facebook. Hearing news from friends and family abroad, people who have moved on… It is, I suppose a good servant and a bad master. I have friends who left because they were reading stuff they didn’t want to know about – maybe after Easter I’ll feel that’s right for me too.
I know I need to find some time at Lent for prayer and study so in the spirit of better stewardship of my time, I choose to use that ‘facebook time’ more intentionally. And I’m hoping I won’t miss it. And I’m hoping 40 days is long enough to break my bad habits. And I’m hoping the new habits will stick.
    Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8
It’s probably obvious that I could really use some advice on what has worked well for you. I would be grateful for any suggestions.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Good parenting v responsible parenting

 

twixt downs and sea 2012 danger

When my eldest became a teenager, some friends and I went on a parenting course. We’d done ok with the preteen bit but were having problems knowing how far to shift the boundaries.

The first lesson we learnt was the difference between good and responsible parenting. Good and loving parents will do everything for their children. It’s not bad parenting to make their lunch, do their laundry, check they’ve done their homework and so forth. But, the more responsible way to parent, especially as they get older is to trust them to make their own way and give them ownership of what is theirs.

Things your teenager could have ownership of

  • carrying their own school bag and lunch box. How many parents do you see loaded down with two or more bags, boxes and coats while junior runs off laughing with his mates?
  • making their own lunch – or even making everyone’s lunch. Cooking one night a week?
  • getting themselves up in the morning. I used to do that thing where you have to go back 3 times to get them up, getting more and more irate, (even resorting to the wet flannel) but no more. One alarm clock each – job done.
  • putting themselves to bed. I discovered ‘flexible bedtime’ on that course, but that’s another post in itself.

And we have such a great model of parenting to follow. Something Christians are often asked is why doesn’t God do everything for us. Why isn’t our way made easy? He gives us ownership of our lives, a chance to choose the right way. And equips us with everything we need and the right tools. With love, a family and an example to follow.

I  recently followed a link from Tsh to read a brilliant post about this by Alameda Patch. God doesn’t lift us to the top of the slide. His word lights the way and he will catch us if we fall.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Does God want to give us designer trainers?


twixt downs and sea - James 5 13
The wedding at Canaan. I had always heard it used as a kind of illustration that Jesus was human, and lived as one of us. Sunday, I learnt what this passage teaches about prayer and provision.
I have heard of churches that preach that God wants all Christians to be as rich as Abraham. And that if you want a Rolex, pray and God will give it. I’ve been taught differently so on Sunday I was surprised to hear my Pastor suggest  that maybe God does want us to have designer trainers.
We are an older congregation. Our intercessions tend to be for healing, comfort, career decisions. I doubt we have a designer trainer between us. Although I have brought up teenagers, they’ve never asked for designer trainers, Hollister shirts, popular games or this year’s mobile phones. I always felt that seeking after those kind of worldly things was wrong, unchristian.
The lesson was John 2, the Wedding at Canaan. The wine ran out on the last day, pretty trivial stuff, a social embarrassment. But to God, all things are trivial, as much our concerns about unemployment and illness  as a young lad worrying he won’t be accepted without the right trainers. Sometimes we have so much awareness of God’s greatness that we lose sight of the fact that he wants a close relationship with us. So close that he counts the number of hairs on our heads. If we hear a eight year old praying for sunshine on their birthday, we think it’s sweet. But as legitimate their prayer as mine for provision for my family because God cares about all our concerns.
In John 2 we see how Mary models to us how to intercede. She tells Jesus the problem, `then has the faith to leave it in his hands. How often do we ask for what we see as the right solution, even as we ask for God’s will to be done. Henry Nouwen, a Dutch priest writes that when he was at a loss for words he would pray “Lord, they have no wine”.
The final message from this scripture – do we limit God by not asking?  James 5 says “ Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.” and “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.“ The provision at Canaan was not just enough of the same wine it was over abundant, overflowing provision of a better quality than was expected. This reflects back to Psalm 23 “my cup runneth over”, showing Jesus is the Good Shepherd. It points forward to the Communion cup, and to our salvation. So as God more than meets our needs, we can see that it has a cost.
Still not sure about the trainers. But as a parent, if my child was unhappy, bullied, unaccepted and I could make it right, I would probably do anything I could to help. If they asked…
linking with lovely Michelle and Jen.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Living the dream?

 twixt downs and sea - work for the Lord

 

My work, my job and my home, should be my dream job. If you asked me to describe my ideal job, my ideal home and family, this is it. As a little girl all I wished for the future was a house and garden, a husband, couple of lovely children and a part time job helping people. Some time to read, some time to be creative, a good church fellowship. Tick every box.

And I believe that whatever you do, you are doing it for God.

Why, then am I so often discontent, moaning and half-hearted.

When I feel slighted at work, looked over for a good job, expected to do extra stuff for no thanks or reward, treated unfairly, I so rarely react with grace. In fact I complain, whine and tell myself I am going to give them only what is in my job description – no more.

At home, same thing, people don’t help or do their chores, leave me a mess to clear up and I stomp about, banging the bin lid and muttering.

Result, dream job, ideal home ruined by grumpy, graceless, lazy Twiz. And of course it rubs off on everyone else. And what a dreadful witness.

Well, no more.

Last year I read The Good Wife's Guide. And I started to serve my husband. And my children. And my colleagues. And everything got easier. Rather than walk past the bin 6 times complaining that no-one has emptied it and are they expecting me to do it for them, I just do it, the first time. Joyfully. (well, not resentfully anyway).

I’m still a work in progress. A lifetime of being told to be assertive, stand up for your rights, don’t be a doormat is hard to overcome at once. Service. And following that example of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Intentional service. Intentional use of my time and gifts. that’s my goal.

And just to remind myself of my One Word, as I’m linking up with Melanie I want to steward my time responsibly and intentionally,

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, Ephesians 6:7

Monday, 7 January 2013

Who’s the greatest?

DSCN0768

I have been thinking lately about pride. It’s very easy when you are flattered and included by the world to try to please people rather than God. Strangely, I find it easier to serve and do my best when I am unrecognised. Because I am doing it for God. A bit of praise and complimenting makes me try to please people. I want to do well at work and I like it when people say I’ve done a great job. After all it says in the Bible “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart” but then the rub…  “as working for the Lord, not for human masters”. Colossians 3v23.

We had a guest preacher on Sunday. An ex-mayor of our little town, he was an amazing Christian witness during his time as Mayor (and still is), and the message on Sunday was just what I needed. The reading from the word was John 3 and he preached on John 3 v30.

John’s disciples thought he was the greatest. Why was this other teacher pinching their followers?

John answers them “He must become greater; I must become less.”

The familiar story of John and James’ mother’s request in Matthew 20 reinforced the idea that to we must become less. Salome was, it is thought, the sister of Mary making her sons Jesus’ first cousins and certainly they had a special relationship with the Lord. And any mother wants the best for her children: a place at Jesus’ side would be the top spot. But as Jesus answers

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

This idea is reinforced by the next event. Two blind men call out as Jesus and his followers pass.

And Jesus stopped

He stopped and he served. And that is our model.

The preacher said that the word Jesus used for slave was a bonded slave, one that had served his time but chose to stay with his master and work for nothing. The slave was marked by a hole punched through their ear. To show they chose to belong. So should we, should I, seek to become less.

I find it hard when non Christians praise my work to give God the glory for it. I will ponder on that. May God give me the right words, right feelings and keep me humble.

linking with Hear it, use it,

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Frugal Banana Bread

Frugal Banana Cake Bread twixt downs and sea
I couldn’t wait to start baking again after Christmas.
But, not wanting to waste anything, I had to wait for all the Christmas goodies to be eaten. Unfortunately the biscuits and chocolates were so popular, the fruit bowl was neglected and I found we had 4 blackening bananas and a sad satsuma. to find a use for - a good reason to bake Banana Bread.
This recipe is good if you have a lot of old fruit as it uses four bananas. I also chopped up all the least favoured nuts that were rejected at the bottom of the selection after we’d eaten all the Brazils and almonds!
It’s adapted from All in one Banana and Walnut loaf from my old well loved Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course.
All in one Banana Bread

75g 3oz  soft margarine or soft butter  ( ¾ stick or ⅓ cup)
100g 4oz caster sugar (or any sugar you have) (½ cup)
1 large egg
225g 8oz plain flour (2 cups)
2 level teaspoon baking powder
4 ripe bananas
grated rind of 1 orange (or old satsuma) and 1 lemon
30g 2oz nuts roughly chopped (½ cup)
  • preheat oven gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C).
  • line a 3½ x 7½ inch (9x19cm)  loaf tin with baking parchment
  • mash bananas in a bowl, grate over lemon and orange
  • weigh butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and egg into bowl and beat (I use my Kenwood stand mixer). It will look very dry and not like cake mix.
  • Add the banana and peel and chopped nuts and beat well.
  • put the mixture in the tin and level the top
  • bake 50-55 minutes on centre shelf until bread springs back when pressed. (I tested it with a skewer and needed 10 minutes more).Cool in tin 10 minutes then on a rack. Tastes great sliced and spread with butter.
PS I did my best to translate the UK weights into US volume. Let me know if it looks wrong. I cooked in oz and had a great result.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Year, New Word?

 

Wesley Best Year of my life 1875 twixt downs and sea

 

Last year I discovered the concept of word of the year. Struggled a bit to think of one that suited me but was reasonably achievable. (suggestions from the family of ‘tidy’ or ‘skinny’ were never going to work).

I had been reading a number of Christian blogs and realised that the thing I wanted to achieve was to be intentional. A bit scary for someone with a tendency to be reactive and revert to little girly helplessness at the least sign of stress.

How did I get on?

Firstly I wanted to be intentional in my prayer and bible study life. tried a few strategies; email Bible studies, good, but the fact that it was email meant it was hard not to look at the other ones: memorising and Scripture Typer went well for Lent but not enough study component for the whole year. What worked for me, and I didn’t find it until Advent is SOAP and Good Morning Girls. (I’m a kinaesthetic learner so writing stuff is good for me). Ready for Luke now, girls.

Secondly, I wanted to be intentional in my marriage. What a blessing to find Darlene Schacht’s e book. I have to admit that at first her ideas shocked me as I felt that they went against all my ideas of equality and the rights of women. But as I read on I became convicted that actually serving my husband wasn’t the same as being a doormat. Anyway, I tried it. Getting up early and making his lunch may not seem like a big deal but it sure went against the grain. I was sure it wouldn’t be appreciated and would be just another job for me. Wrong. it feels good and we start the day well. I have a few more chapters to work on this year…

I sometimes have to put an elastic band round my wrist to remind me of my good intentions but I’m getting there. A bit further on my journey. And as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians ‘we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more’

So, 2013.

The thing we kind of didn’t get intentional about until the end of the year was our finances. That little girl resurfaces at the thought of bills. We forced ourselves to read our bank statements, we renegotiated all our suppliers, we cancelled anything we could cancel and for the first time in twenty years, we wrote a budget.

And so, new word is…. stewardship. And for me that’s going to include our budget,  healthy frugal meals with no wastage and our stuff. Our time, our money and our stuff. Those great resources God has provided for our needs and others. All of those areas are going to be a challenge, ‘but one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 3 13.

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