Sunday, 22 October 2017

Caught In The Crossfire

Our Women's World Day Of Prayer Committee was sent this set of photos from a WWDP person in the USA. These are some of the recent forest fires raging across California.
Look at this photo above, and notice the tall concrete cross on the right side of the picture at the bottom of the hill.
This cross was put up many years ago to honour the veterans of World War 2. The flames surrounded it and engulfed it, as the fire raged across the countryside.

But the next morning, the photographer [Gene Blevins] went back to get more shots - he was amazed that the cross stood firm, and was not scorched or damaged by the heat.
When I received the email, I found myself thinking of the first verse of an old hymn
Beneath the cross of Jesus
  I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty Rock
  Within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness,
  A rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat,
  And the burden of the day.

Much as I love the very old hymn, I rather like this new take on it, written by Keith and Kristyn Getty in 2005...
Beneath the cross of Jesus
His family is my own—
Once strangers chasing selfish dreams,
Now one through grace alone.
How could I now dishonour
The ones that You have loved?
Beneath the cross of Jesus
See the children called by God.

May God help all those affected by these destructive fires, and bless the firefighters working to extinguish the flames. 

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Happy Birthday Steph!

Whether it's helping street children in Brazil with BMS
running a marathon for East African Playgrounds
painting pictures for your parents, 
being a loving little sister, 
becoming the world's best Auntie, 
and generally Wonderwoman...
- you bring so much love, life and laughter to your friends and family. 
Have a wonderful birthday. 
May the year ahead be full of unexpected blessings.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Take Five!


Not just an excuse for a great piece of music from Dave Brubeck - but a sideways nod to the new Jamie Oliver programme on Channel 4. I have concluded JO is a bit 'Marmite' - you either get on with him...or you don't. This current series works on the premise that each recipe just has 5 ingredients [and there is also a list of a few store cupboard staples - oil, vinegar, salt and pepper] Some of his tricks are quite clever. I did the Chicken Tikka at the start of the week. 

The recipe says it serves 4. We ate it Monday, and I plated up and froze 2 more dinners for a Friday night. I also stripped off the remaining meat from the carcase and made a stock. The remainder of the cauliflower [I couldn't find one only weighing 600 grams for the recipe] plus some cubed spuds, and most of the rest of the meat made a sort of hash [Wednesday] With a few leftover potatoes, I cooked up the stock and a few chicken scraps, liquidised that to make soup [Thursday]
OK, it's a bit repetitive - but we really did enjoy the meal and using the jarred Tikka Paste saved a lot of time.
800 g potatoes
1 small head of cauliflower (600g)
1 bunch of fresh coriander (30g)
1 x 1.2 kg whole free-range chicken
2 tablespoons tikka curry paste


Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Wash the potatoes and chop into 3cm chunks. Trim the cauli stalk, remove any tough outer leaves, then chop the cauli and nice leaves the same size as the spuds. Finely slice the coriander stalks (reserving the leaves in a bowl of cold water). In a 30cm x 40cm roasting tray, toss the veg and coriander stalks with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper, and 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Sit the chicken in the tray and rub all over with the tikka paste, getting into all the nooks and crannies. Place the chicken directly on the bars of the oven, scrunch everything in the tray and place exactly underneath the chicken to catch the tasty juices. Roast for 1 hour, or until everything is golden and cooked through, turning the veg halfway. Sit the chicken on top of the veg to rest for 5 minutes, then sprinkle over the drained coriander leaves and serve, tossing the veg in all the tasty juices before dishing up.
I have always used Patak's Tikka Paste in the past, but just discovered that Sainsburys do their own [cheaper] version which is also very good. It is important to buy the paste not the sauce though! Sorry - the photo above is the one from Jamie's website- we staring eating ours before I remembered to photograph it! I picked up a large enamel dish like this for £1 at a boot fair in Norfolk over the summer, and it is getting a lot of use!

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Life's Too Short...

I am not sure where I read this, but I like it. I know it is important to keep the house clean, and [fairly] tidy. But saints preserve me from becoming like the parent of one of my pupils back in the 1980s. She said to me one afternoon "I cannot go out to work, I would never have time to keep my house properly. I feel bad that I haven't wiped down my skirting boards this month yet"
Her little girl must be in her 30s now. I really hope that her life does not revolve around cleaning. I shall have been really busy this past week, travelling hundreds of miles and [I hope] doing worthwhile things. I hope Bob hasn't been distressed by the undusted dadoes!
Sometimes when I'm conscious that life is really fraught for other people whom I love, or when I just want to connect [see earlier post!] I send flowers. The company I have been using for quite a while now is called Bloom and Wild. They have a wide range of bouquets, and a clever system of wrapping each bloom, and packing in thin boxes which go through a normal sized letterbox. Their flowers are excellent quality, and long lasting. Their prices are good. I can wholeheartedly recommend them. I sent some recently, and they have given me a discount code to share with friends. Passing it on to you if you want to try them [sorry, UK only] Click here

 "Why do you worry...consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin, nor do they wipe down the skirting boards every month. And yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Blanket Coverage Part Two

Seven weeks ago, I posted [Here] about our 2017 Christmas Tree Project. I have been overwhelmed by the response. I've received HUNDREDS of knitted squares... initially from ladies in the church, then from the Craft'n'Coffee group that meets monthly in the Church Hall, and finally little packages of squares in the post from some of you lovely friends who read this blog.[thanks, J and J!]  I am truly grateful for every contribution. Together these squares will make an amazing tree, and afterwards will be sewn into blankets to go out to Romania with volunteers from the Biggin Hill Trust. 
It's been good to have such a variety of shades of green. 
Last Sunday we collected all our shoeboxes, and the larger Family Boxes. So many gifts, lovingly prepared. 
The Trust need more volunteers to help with delivery - and already a number of church members have offered to go [at their own expense] to share in this ministry. 
THANK YOU everyone, for all your kindness. I feel truly privileged to be part of this project, and grateful to God for the thoughtful generosity and willing involvement of such good people. 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

This Brummie Artist Went To Market ...

The Birmingham Wholesale Markets have been operating in the city centre for over 850 years. That is a Very Long Time. The picture above was taken over 100 years ago.
But in the new year, they'll be moving to a new site. So a local artist, Danny Howes, decided that the bustling life of the market - which opens at 1am, and does most of its business whilst the rest of us are still asleep - needed to be recorded.
So he went down to the market and observed the people at work, and painted pictures of them going about their trade. I am so pleased he did this - not all the traders are happy about the move, and it is good that they have been recorded for posterity. You can read the full story here - but I wanted to share the pictures, because I think they are great. You can feel the bustle, imagine the banter...


Fish sellers

Fish and Game

Loading up


No Deal

Staff Only

Take Away

Lunch at 8am
These artworks were in an exhibition throughout September- not surprisingly, almost all of them have been sold already.
It seems a very male-dominated environment - not many women in the pictures! But I love the little details - the creases in the jeans, the light reflecting in the tiles and on the stainless steel teapots, the plastic bag of red and green peppers, and the feathers on the game birds hanging up. Danny visited the market 6 times and took over 1000 photographs [everything moved too quickly for him to make sketches, he said] It took between 2 and 3 weeks to complete each canvas [each about 2 foot x 3 foot in size]
Thank you, Danny, for acknowledging this little slice of real life, which is about to change after so long. I hope the workers settle in quickly to the market's new location .

Monday, 16 October 2017

Only Connect

This post has nothing to do with Victoria Coren Mitchell's excellent Friday night programme. We love it - but acknowledge that it's not everyone's cup of tea.
"Hello, Grandma! Rosie, seen here with her favourite Auntie, knows exactly what to do with today's technology. Unlike previous generations, it is so much easier to make connections with one another across the miles.
Now we have mobile phones, so we can call from almost* anywhere...
No more queuing with a pile of 2p coins by the public callbox outside the University Hall of Residence.
No more standing in the draughty hall at home, by the front door, waiting for the phone to ring.
Now we have emails pinging in our in-box, so...
No more hunting for a stamp so we can post letters** to the ones we love.
No more waiting impatiently for the postman to deliver their messages to us
Now we can take a picture on our phone and share it immediately on Instagram
No more loading films into the back of the camera
No more waiting for the holiday pictures to come back from the chemists where they are being developed
*except Norfolk, mobile phone coverage is rather patchy there
** personally, I still think a real letter is a special treat

E M Forster urged us to 'only connect' - life is better when we connect, and when we share, and when we really care about others. Let's make an effort today to really conenct with someone. Make time for a proper conversation, send a text message of encouragement to someone facing a challenge, post a card - or an email - to someone miles away. You have no idea what a difference a connection like that might mean to the recipient.