Friday, 31 December 2010

For the New Year

"LORD, thou has been our dwelling place in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

Thou turnest men to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
Thous carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep; in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.
In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.

For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.
Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

For all our days are passed away in thy wrath; we spend our years as a tale that is told.
The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off ,and we fly away.

Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.

O satisfy us early with thy mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.
Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.
And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

Psalm 90-a prayer of Moses the man of God.

"Let thy work appear into thy servants and thy glory unto their children"-may the Lord grant this to us in the coming year.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

End of the old year

Today was grey-fog lingering after thick fog yesterday. The sort of day when grey threatens to become a mood not just a colour.
Today, we found bulbs the children planted weeks ago with little shoots.

On grey days, I like to do something creative so started some marmalade-the first of the season. It is too early for Sevilles so used some blood grapefruit. The fruit is sitting in my slow cooker waiting for its long cooking-ready to be made into the finished product tomorrow.

Today, was the anniversary of my Grandfather's birth, 103 years ago. Today, a guest with us became an aunt and strangely, the little one has been given the same name as my Grandfather.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Just so I don't loose the plot

It is twenty to eleven on Christmas Eve. I ought to be ironing, washing the kitchen floor, sorting out medication and the time that the turkey has to go on tomorrow. There are some tired children asleep including the almost two year old who was so tired and excited that he took hours to go to sleep and eventually slept in my arms: a lovely cuddly bundle.
Yes, I do like Christmas-really.

A thought provoking article today that reminded me of the grace of the dear Lord Jesus and of the lines by Isaac Watts

How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast
Each of us cry with thankful tongues
“Lord, why was I a guest?”

“Why was I made to hear Thy voice
And enter while there’s room
When thousands make a wretched choice
And rather starve than come?”

’Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in
Else we had still refused to taste
And perished in our sin

Pity the nations, O our God
Constrain the earth to come
Send Thy victorious Word abroad
And bring the strangers home

We long to see Thy churches full
That all the chosen race
May with one voice and heart and soul
Sing Thy redeeming grace.

I had a package today. Not a Christmas present-unless a present to my self is counted. My copy of "An all-sufficient God" arrived. I've taken the plunge and joined a book club run by Ossett Christian bookshop. It should be great to have the accountability of this to push me along with the reading especially as the other ladies that I know who belong to this are definitely on the upper quartile of busyness so no excuses for me!

The book is D Martyn Lloyd-Jones' sermons on Isaiah 40. I haven't read much Lloyd-Jones although my Mum used to get up early, every Sunday morning, to read one of his sermons-a good example to follow.

Back to the chores!
Happy Christmas to you all.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Blessings of being a three generation family

We've had three generations of us living in the same house for three and a half years now. The adjustment, to what was once the norm, hasn't always been easy but we can see clear benefits for all of us.

Our children are used to having an older person around and don't think older people are different or strange. The four year old particularly is very close to Grandma, they spend hours together. Grandma has taught her to identify many garden birds.

Grandma can see the children grow and change. She doesn't miss the first smiles and steps.

In the middle, we don't have desperate evenings when we have to travel 90 miles to see someone in hospital and get back that night. We don't worry about who will do Grandma's shopping in the snow. We know that three meals a day are offered and eaten.

I've had a willing helper with washing up after the main meal. This was something that I had never anticipated but makes a vast difference.

I've had to learn to live with someone very different to myself and learn more about my reactions, not always pleasant.

We can attend church together. It was difficult for us to help Grandma go to services regularly in her old home.

For Grandma, we have been able to ensure that medication reviews have happened,  leading to an improved health. It is easier to accompany to hospital appointments, although I know that I have sometimes been less than gracious about attending numerous visits.

Yes, it hasn't always been sweetness and light and we have all had to adjust but the benefits, for all of us, have outweighed the difficult times.
I may post, on another occasion, about practical issues and about effects of three generational living for different members of the family.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Slow cooker stock

Apologies to anyone who thinks that I'm teaching my grandmother to suck eggs. I had to be taught about this by my friend Carol and being domestically challenged found this very useful.

This is great for using up the last remains of the chicken or turkey, is very quick and provides the base for another meal.

Take any meat off the carcass, throw it into the slow ccoker with one chopped onion and any left over vegetables (not potatoes or brassica group veg), add mixed herbs, heat any remaining gravy to boiling point and add this plus enough boiling water to cover the carcass. Cook on high for twelve hours or overnight. Skim out the bones and vegetables and store in the fridge or freezer.

This stock is especially good in lentil soup. Served with cheese and wholemeal bread this provides a filling meal.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Recipe books

This is the promised next installment of the book lists. In fact, I've been meaning to post for days but life has been busy, I drafted two posts and didn't like them so at last, here is something!

The best cookery books have lost their covers and have splashes on them. Books that stay pristine on the shelf aren't much use. My best cookery book is in such a state that I'm too ashamed to take a photo.
Anyway, in my opinion, my favourite recipe book is my old hand written recipe notebook that I was given as a teenager. It has lost its cover and is bulging with print outs of recipes from the internet and yes, it is splashed, used and loved. It contains favourites like my Mum's fruit cake, Grandma's Christmas cake, Auntie Jo's salmon roll, Erinn's microwave cake and Mrs Ward's chocolate cake. So many names, so many memories and real recipes that really work.

Two out of three of my older children have their own hard backed recipe books-note to self, the other child needs one too!

The first two years that I was at university, were spent with a lovely couple who fed me really well. Baked Alaska, roasts and savory pancakes were part of the fare. The following years, I had to cook for myself in private digs and then in hall. I was reasonably good at making cakes but soon found that main courses were another matter especially when I wanted them to be quick, cheap and nutritious. Only sardines on toast fell into this group. After a few weeks, it was a long, long time before I wanted sardines again.

My cousin Naomi, not for the last time, came to my rescue and taught me to make lasagne. This was a happy choice as then I could cook mince, pasta and cheese sauces which lead to a few variations. The book that came in useful at the same time was "The Student cookbook" by Jenny Baker. I hardly use it now but it taught how to substitute ingredients and how to make basics without scales and without frills. It only comes out now for the banana loaf-made with yogurt not egg but after reading this a few times, I wasn't going to starve or live on sardines.

Whizz on four years and some time friends gave us a Tower slow cooker as a wedding present. It is still going strong. This came with a great recipe book which has again lost its cover. It has recipes and explains how to use a slow cooker to make marmalade and cook Christmas pudding. It does seem to be available second hand.

Enough for now-there are more. Interesting, the books by celebrity chefs have been used but aren't worn out in the same way. I've made one or two recipes from each book. I would be fascinated to know which of your recipe books you use and love.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Christmas pudding spice sauce

We serve our Christmas pudding with a spicy non-alcoholic sauce-a good substitute for brandy butter. Here is the recipe

3oz margarine (needs to be good quality table margarine) or softened butter
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg or cinnamon depending on which taste you prefer
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
grated rind and juice of 1/2 orange
10 oz icing sugar

Beat the margarine/butter with the spices and orange rind then add the juice and icing sugar and beat together.
Store in the fridge.
This also tastes good with mince pies!

On a seasonal theme, we went to a home education group session at the National Gallery yesterday. We saw the Norwegian tree in Trafalgar Square.

 It was given by the City of Oslo to thank the country for help given in the Second World War-sorry about the quality of the photo-photos aren't my strong point especially combined with a pushchair, being behind the rest of the group and the cold!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Books-of course

I've just put up the beginning of the book lists. I'm sure there are many more to be added and I was running out of steam after age five! Hope to expand this in the near future.

Thinking ahead, past all the things to be done in the next month which I haven't started, I wanted to put together a list of books to read next year. This would be for me rather than read alouds for the children. Like many mothers, I don't get much time to read but having a list would be a push to read more. I'm not thinking about a crazy number but perhaps 15 over the year and a variety of types of books.
My current wishlist seems to involve only books from the US. If anyone has read them please let me know your opinions as I'm debating whether they are worth importing. One, at least, is very heavy!
Anyway, the list is
Large family logistics which I'm told is very heavy! I'm waiting for a quote on postage hopefully before the end of the Vision Forum 50% sale!
Lessons at Blackberry Inn. This is a novel with teaching about a lady home educating in the 1920s using Charlotte Mason's ideas. I've read "Pocket full of pinecones" which is the first book in the series and found it inspirational. Karen Andreola has also written "A Charlotte Mason companion" which is my current reading. We certainly wouldn't espouse all of Charlotte Mason's ideas and are especially dubious about her ideas about the will. However, some of the practical ideas around nature journals, narration and music are interesting and we may use.
Nourishing traditions sounds interesting and controversial in its ideas on nutrition. I can't decide whether it is wild and wacky or whether there is something in this. I think I shall have to read and decide!

Ossett Christian bookshop has a Ladies reading club which is another aim for next year.

Has anyone any suggestions for good reading? How do you find time to read?

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Reading pleasures

Mrs Morecraft has written an article which beings joy to the heart of this book lover. Her lists of children's books are worth perusing-some of my favourites and some others that will go on the wanted list.
She recalls having her family read to her as a child. The sort of memories that I want to create for my children and that my Mother gave me. There is something special in reading the same books to another generation.
If you read aloud to your little ones, you really ought to read this.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Our thanksgiving

This half term, the children and I have been learning about the Stewart monarchs. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had postponed this so that we could celebrate Guy Fawkes night and Thanksgiving whilst we were learning about the Stewarts.

We had never celebrated an American style thanksgiving before but thought we would try! So we had a thanksgiving jar for collecting slips of paper on which we wrote the things for which we are thankful. I must say that thinking about the many things for which I have to be thankful, cheered up the otherwise miserable last weekend when most of us were ill with a virus.

We read about the Pilgrim Fathers, in prose and poetry, and  had a Thanksgiving meal.
Sweet potato casserole:
and veg:
I chickened out of making punpkin pie and used some of our apple store, for which we are very thankful, to make an apple pie.

"O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever." Psalm 107 v 1

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Getting it done with little ones

I guess that many people struggle cooking with the "help" of their little ones. Having older children, I can see that it was good to have gone through the difficult phase as they are great helpers and even independent cooks. It still doesn't make that early phase any easier so I was delighted to have read this series by Trina. The latest article talks about the thorny subject of more than one helper-well worth a read.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Jesus is precious

I re-found this hymn, in a copy of Steven's hymns, that my Grandmother had given to her Mother in 1923 although I do remember it being used when I was a child.
The hymn is by Samuel Medley who, like John Newton, was a sailor, and an unbeliever. After an injury, he became ill with gangrene in his leg and it was feared that he might lose his leg or die. This event made him think about spiritual things but he came to trust that the Lord Jesus had died for his sins, after hearing his Grandfather read a sermon, by Isaac Watts.

Unto you therefore which believe he is precious 1 Peter 2 v7
Jesus is precious, says the word;
What comfort does this truth afford!
And those who in his name believe,
With joy this precious truth receive.

To them he is more precious far
Than life and all its comforts are;
More precious than their daily food;
More precious than their vital blood.

Not health, nor wealth, nor sounding fame,
Nor earth's deceitful, empty name,
With all its pomp and all its glare,
Can with a precious Christ compare.

He's precious in his precious blood,
That pardoning and soul-cleansing flood;
He's precious in his righteousness,
That everlasting, heavenly dress.

In every office he sustains,
In every victory he gains
In every counsel of his will,
He's precious to his people still.

As they draw near their journey's end,
How precious is their heavenly Friend!
And when in death they bow their head,
He's precious on a dying bed.

In glory, Lord, may I be found,
And, with thy precious mercy crowned,
Join the glad song, and there adore
A precious Christ for evermore.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Iron sharpeneth iron

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." Proverbs 27 v17

I thought of this verse today.
Three local Christian home educating families met. None us had met before a couple of weeks ago.
The children spent time doing art, dressing up and enjoying being together.
Salad spinner art. All my art ideas are from others-I borrowed this one from Anna at The Imagination Tree.
Badge cards-idea from Mister Maker, watched on BBCiplayer!
I found so much cause for thanksgiving in my meeting with the Mums. They've shared practical thoughts, with two curriculum sites to explore and a great idea to inspire French learning. I can't wait to try bagels with bacon and maple syrup for breakfast and yes, I am going to be brave and get the pressure cooker out again.
Thank you, ladies.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Amazon and bookshops

After recently publicity about Amazon stocking books of a distinctly family unfriendly nature, I've had a think about my affiliate bookshop and decided to close it down.
I don't want to be promoting an organisation which has offered products which are an antithesis of all I believe to be right.
Having said that, I may still buy occasional books, especially when I can't get them elsewhere, but I don't want to be promoting the organisation.
This leads to a practical problem. I like the books that I've had in my affiliate store and would still like to have lists of these up. My plan is to have a page for these and also for links to my bookshop recommendations. These are recommendations and not affiliate links.
Anyway, my current bookshop recommendations are
Metroplitan Tabernacle bookshop sells a good range of Christian books at competitive prices.
Conquest Books has a wide range of home education books plus plenty of children's books including the lovely picture books by Johannah Bluedorn. They are very helpful and books arrive very quickly.
The Christian bookshop Ossett is owned by Jeremy and Lorna Roe. They are great at ordering books, recommendations. Lorna runs a ladies' reading list which I'm hoping to join in the New Year.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

My favourite books-part 1

I realised that I've written about the books that the children enjoy but not about my own much loved books.

My husband and I both love books. I don't know how many we have; I occasionally get rid of some so we only have thirteen bookcases. The cookery books in the kitchen don't really count nor do the books on shelves in a wardrobe. Books are more important than clothes, of course.

Most of the children seem to have inherited the book gene. We found our youngest sitting on the kitchen floor, by the wellington boots, with some books, the other day. We've probably made a rod for our own backs with reading in the evening. We read and pray with the little ones individually then read them various books-it starts with one or two but one or two baby books aren't many so we read a few more and end up with children bringing us a pile of books. I left Mr Exhuberance this evening to the cry of "More books".

Anyway, here is a small sample of my favourites. Many are easier to find second hand-it seems silly to be constrained by whether a book is in print or not. Many of the best books have been found in second hand shops or came from my Grandparent's home.

The best book, as the chorus says, is of course, the Bible. It is in a completely different league to the rest being God's inspired word. I will only comment on the peripherals. We use the Authorised (King James' Version) mainly on textural grounds. Being Varifocal Mum, I like a Bible with large print. My current favourite is the Concord Edition from the Trinitarian Bible Society.

Perhaps the most exciting and least well known Christian history book is Axminster Ecclesiastica.
This is the church book of a persecuted non-conformist church in Devon in the years prior to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. It is a great read with some amazing stories of escapes.
I suspect that it suffers from its Latin title. It was edited by the late KWH Howard whose ministry I found very helpful, as a teenager, when he pastored Union Chapel, at Bethersden. When I outgrew the Sunday School, at the church I attended with my parents, I used to cycle to Bethersden where my Grandmother was in membership. As a young Christian, Mr Howard's ministry was searching and helpful and I looked forward to those Sunday afternoons,all week. Mr Howard was a scholar and could never have been accused of being glitzy. Sadly, the book could have benefitted from a more snappy title.
Christian Bookshop Ossett stock more of Mr Howard's works and are a great bookshop, prepared to order books in or give recommendations.

Completely different and about the other side of the world is a book called Thousand Miles of Miracle in China.

This is the hair-raising story of the escape of a young missionary couple with their two young children and a single lady missionary from China at the time of the Boxer Revolution. I read this as a child, and enjoyed it but read it again after I had children. Second time round, I couldn't put the book down and read into the early hours.. The thought of all the hardship and danger with little children and whilst Mrs Glover was pregnant was amazing.

I have many more to write about but no time now so hope to post more on another occasion.
Please feel free to recommend your favourites-it is great to discover new books.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Grandma's Christmas pudding

Most years, I make my own Christmas pudding.

My husband is sensitive to red wine pigments so if we have a brought pudding we choose between him being ill or a poor quality pudding. In our experience, which isn't great, we gave up after a couple of samplings, non-alcoholic Christmas puddings contain inferior ingredients.

The recipe that I use came from my Grandmother who was given it by a friend. I don't think it is especially old as you will see from the ingredients. I've modified it a bit. This is what I call a "forgiving recipe". A forgiving recipe is one where many of the ingredients can easily be substituted for something else without a poor outcome! My children know that I often talk about "forgiving recipes".

The ingredients are all in Imperial measurements as the recipe doesn't give anything else. This converter helps with changing ingredients to metric or American cups. I usually cook in Imperial and thought that this was just because I'm old but recently found that my elder daughter also cooks in Imperial. Having cooked with my younger daughter, a few days later, I realised that it was much easier to ask her to find the 4oz or 8oz marks than the line three markings after the 100g. Over a few years, this probably becomes a habit.

1/2lb currants
1/2lb sultanas
1/2lb mixed peel
3 apples
1/2lb raisins
1/2lb cherries (I use rinse in hot water to remove the syrup from glace cherries)
1/4lb apricots or prunes-chopped
Large mixing bowl
Most of the dried fruit can be substituted as you wish. Grated carrots can be used instead of apples-we have lots of apples so I don't alter this.
Nuts can be used instead of 1/4lb dried fruit.

Method (1)
Soak the fruit in stout/coco-cola/orange juice over night. Stir from time to time.

We use orange juice. Not sure what the coco-cola would taste like. Sounds strange to me.

Next day, drain off excess juice. Don't throw the juice away-use it to soak the bread for bread and butter pudding. This makes the most excellent bread and butter pud.

Ingredients-day 2
6oz brown sugar
7oz self raising flour
3 large eggs
7oz bread crumbs
8oz vegetable suet
1 heaped teaspoonful of mixed spice

Method (2)
Mix fruit and dry ingredients-add wineglass of rum or sherry or orange juice. Mix well-not easy as the bowl is likely to be very full.
Place in 1 and 2lb pudding basins, cover with greaseproof paper followed by foil and tie with string.
Traditionally, these were boiled for hours in the kitchen which meant constant checking to ensure they didn't dry out and burn the saucepan. My Mother's generation used pressure cookers,maybe, I'm saying that because I'm a bit scared of pressure cookers!
Anyway, I find that a slow cooker is a great way to cook these. Once made they need to be cooked on high for 12 hours each. The recipe makes three puddings which needed to be cooked one at a time, immediately after they are completed.
Change the foil and greaseproof paper once cooked.
I store our puddings in the fridge as they don't contain alcohol although they do have a high osmotic pressure from all the fruit.

To re-heat, cook on high in the slow cooker for 3hours.
Please, please never try to reheat in the microwave-it leads to an unpleasant chewy pudding.

The pudding can be served with various sauces but we use a spicy sauce with orange juice.
Christmas pudding is very, very filling and leads to somnolence.

This is a great recipe to make with little children especially the weighing of dried fruit and stirring. There is a story in "My naughty little sister" called the "Bonfire pudding" which goes well with making Christmas pudding around 5th November although if making the non-alcoholic version it is better not made until December and kept in the fridge.


This is linked to the Holiday recipe linkup with the four Moms.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Christian home educators in South East London

I've recently been able to make contact with two other Christian home educating families in the South East London area, thanks to a friend (thank you, Sarah) and a Christian home educators e-mail list. None of us previously knew each other nor do we attend the same churches.

We are hoping to meet together in the next few weeks for some activities for the children and lunch.

More in hope than expectation, I wondered whether anyone knows any other Christian home educators in this area who might like to meet. Please contact me, or preferably ask the person you know to contact me,either via the comments (I won't post anything with personal information) or via e-mail.
The families meeting have younger children, pre-school and early primary school, with the exception of one of mine who is late primary school age.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Stop trying to do it all

The Money saving Mom has posted a helpful article about time management. This, the first of a series, is about not trying do it all.
There are times when it seems that everyone else has life so much more together and gets so much more done. It can be a miserable and wrong thought. This article is a useful antidote.

Monday, 1 November 2010

A tree planted by the waters

We went for a walk in Westerham, the other day. A fine autumn day. This tree reminded me of the verses below.

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and the spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

Jeremiah 17v7 and 8.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Training up our children

Training up our children is a new blog which was the brainchild of my friend, Henrietta.
The aim of the blog is to be useful to Reformed Christians thinking about home education, how it actually works, what a typical day might be and so on.
I'm one of the co-authors but am hoping to learn being, very much, the new girl on the block.
Henrietta has home educated all her twelve children. She currently teaches eleven. Her eldest is now working.
The other authors are Sharon who is a single mother home educating her two children in Texas and Anne who home educates her four children on a Scottish Island.
We are all Bible believing Christians who educate outside the school system but the methods we use are different and tailored to our own families.
Do pop over and look at the new blog. Hopefully it will be interesting and useful not only if you are considering home education but also if you already home educate or have children in school. It may also be of value if you don't have children but want to know what home teaching looks like.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Autumn in Rye

Rye is one of my favourite places. The four younger children and I spent a day there, this week.
We love to wander and wonder at the quaintness, the history, talk about some of the books we have read which feature Rye and taste some of the delicacies.

We had hoped to walk up the church tower but it was closed as the weather was damp making the steps slippery. I can believe it-some of the cobbles were slidey. We did see the famous clock and found that there was a Geneva Bible in the church.

We love the eclectic mixture of architecture,

the cobbles,

the fudge shop,
and the autumn colours.
So good to have a day out of London and to relax together.
Thank you, children, for the photos and for being such good company.


Over the last few weeks, I have realised that frequently I cannot write out the Bible from memory. This, often, isn't because I can't remember the words but because I am unable to manage the punctuation. I don't for one minute think the punctuation is inspired but I suspect, no, know, that the people who punctuated the Authorised Version, which I use, were far better grammarians than me.
My punctuation is a bit wobbly. There is probably the odd semi-colon on this blog but I doubt that I have managed a colon. In fact, I only know one use for colons; they can go at the start of a list. It is fairly obvious that they are used for other purposes in the AV.
Anyway, having become interested in this subject, out of the blue, there was an article on marking in the AV which includes punctuation, in this edition of the Trinitarian Bible Society Quarterly Record. The Quarterly Record link is found on the left hand side of the home page and the relevant article is Called "Aspects of the Authorised Version, Part 2: Marking the text." It also covers the other interesting but uninspired features of capital letters and italics in the English translation. It is worth a read.

Monday, 25 October 2010

God counts His people's sorrows.

This is the theme of an Isaac Watts hymn that I hadn't noticed before; despite that fact that it is in our church hymnbook. Anyway, it was mentioned in the service yesterday morning. The version below is actually the one that I found in CH Spurgeon's "Our own hymnbook". I don't know how close it is to Watts' original.
This is a real hymn of encouragement.
The hymn is loosely based around Psalm 56.

God counts the sorrows of His saints,
Their groans affect His ears;
Thou hast a book for my complaints,
A bottle for my tears.

When to Thy throne I raise my cry,
The wicked fear and flee;
So swift is prayer to reach the sky;
So near is God to me.

In Thee, most holy, just and true,
I have reposed my trust;
Nor will I fear what man can do,
The offspring of the dust.

Thy solemn vows are on me, Lord;
Thou shalt receive my praise;
I'll sing, "How faithful is Thy word;
How righteous all Thy ways!"

Thou hast secured my soul from death;
Oh set Thy prisoner free!
That heart and hand, and life and breath,
May be employed for Thee.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Becoming a professional wife and mother

At the end of January, I plan to hang up my professional tools and become "just" a wife and mother-a housewife. This is a fairly considerable change after 21 years in the workplace-admitted 17 of them part time and the last year or so very part time.

I'm not leaving because I don't like my job-I do. I worked for years to have this type of job and more than that, it is useful and I like to think, helps others.

It isn't because my post is immoral or wrong in some way. There are ethical issues as in most professional posts but not such that I couldn't, with a clear conscience do the job.

So why? Because I'm leaving the good to do the best-the job that God has designed for me at present. I'm becoming a professional wife and mother.

Those verses in Titus 2 about the younger women that they should be taught to "Love their husbands, their children" have become more meaningful to me. Not that I hadn't loved my husband and children before-of course, I have but that they need a practical expression of that with me around to run the house, to take control of the home education rather than leaving set work on a couple of afternoons, to ensure that my husband has the freedom to work in peace without worrying about the doorbell or sorting out grammar questions or what Mum really wanted on the timeline. Perhaps, more they need someone around who will be able to listen, to pray with them, to look after them when unwell. Someone who is able to just be there.

In thinking about this over a long time, it has struck me that a good wife and mother has many characteristics of a good professional although without the dispassionate interest. A wife and mother is, and should be, emotionally involved.

The professional works way beyond set hours-this has been a major issue for me trying to balance my job and home. There is extra reading, going back to sort things out, writing proposals and business plans and going to conferences. Similarly, what wife and mother has set hours?

A professional will be trying to improve the service. A home maker tries to improve the home to produce a better and more welcoming atmosphere.

A true professional wants to pass on their skills and teach others. What is God's command to parents? "These words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children".

This analogy becomes limiting. God's role for parents is so much greater. We are training children not only about earthly things-how to read and write, blow their noses and tie up their shoe laces-important though these are but we are given the task, if we are Christian parents, of teaching them spiritual things and given the responsiblity of praying for those children.

Pray for me-this is a major change and one which most of you will have accomplished without any ado, years ago.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Present wraps

We are in birthday season. During October, we have three birthdays at exactly weekly intervals.
I may be mean but it never seems a sensible use of resources to spend loads of money on wrapping paper so we tend to recycle reasonable pieces of paper and present bags are tended with special care!
I do splash out on wrapping paper in the after Christmas sales. Usually, I buy generic type paper that can be used for various occasions. In my opinion, gold wrapping paper can be used for Christmas, birthdays and babies!
My friend Carol has gone a stage further and uses cloth to wrap presents. I have been the recipient of a present wrapped in cloth that I was able to use to make an apron. Carol has blogged about cloth wraps A year or so ago, I made a half hearted attempt by making some cloth bags for presents but ran out of time and gave up! I'm not sure what the younger children would think-they like tearing paper but for older family members this may well be a less wasteful idea than wrapping paper. Has anyone else tried this?

Friday, 15 October 2010

False economies

I guess we've all made false economies. Here in the interest of honesty and, maybe, stopping someone else making a silly mistake are some of mine.

-Value washing powder-blocked the pipe draining the washing machine. Dh and I spent some time with old wire coat hangers and finally, rather nasty and expensive chemicals undoing the damage. I don't buy anything better than own brands but haven't had the same problem since. Lidl's washing powder seems fine as do the other own brands.
 I haven't tried making my own washing powder-I've tried soap nuts and some sort of plastic ball that was meant to substitute for washing powder but haven't been impressed.

-Cheap baking trays-spill hot food onto hands. I was given some heavy duty Prestige tins which are great and don't buckle.

-Second hand strollers. I've never seen a second hand stroller for less than I could buy a new one and anyway, most second hand strollers look as though a wheel could drop off anytime. My stroller, that has been through just two children, has wheels which may leave it at anytime. Not an issue, as Mr Exuberance likes to try to climb out and walk so the need for wheeled transport is unlikely to last long.

-A certain store's value teabags. I'm definitely not talking about Sainsburys whose value teabags are Fairtrade, 30p for 80 and don't require 2-3 teabags for every one standard teabag!

-Cheap jam-home made costs no more and tastes so much better. This is even more true for marmalade.

Anyone else have thoughts on false economies?

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Pesto stuffed vegetables

We had two ingredients that demanded a recipe:
a large marrow that a friend had given us
and end of summer basil which needed to be used before the kitchen window sill gets too cold at night.
Marrow needs a strongly flavoured stuffing so I decided to try something new, of my own devising. Marrow stuffed with minced (ground) beef mixed with pesto.
 This worked really well. Even those who weren't keen on the marrow part enjoyed the minced beef with pesto.
Ingredients for pesto
clove of garlic-chopped
3 handfuls of basil leaves
glug of olive oil-sorry I'm not a very precise cook
pinenuts-I used 100g
Parmesan-grated or cut into thin slices to taste
Using a pestle and mortar or a blender pound or blend the pinenuts and garlic. Add the olive oil and basil and parmesan.
Ingredients for the marrow and minced beef
500g minced beef
marrow sliced into approx 3cm sliced (just over 1 inch) with seeds removed
tin of plum tomatoes or 1lb fresh
clove of garlic
large onion-chopped
olive oil
Blanch the marrow for 5 minutes. Drain and place on baking tray.
Soften onion in olive oil, add minced beef and garlic and brown.
Add tomatoes and herbs and simmer for 15 minutes. Take off heat.
Mix pesto with minced beef mixture. Stir well.
Add mixture to centre of marrow slices.
Cook at 180 degrees centigrade (350F) for 45 minutes.
I served this with new potatoes, salad and sweet corn.

Go over to Meredith's blog for more recipe ideas.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Reformation Day

We hope to celebrate Reformation Day, this year, on 31st October. Why 31st October? Luther is said to have pinned his theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on 31st October 1517.

Whilst 31st October 1517 was probably not the real date of the start of the Reformation, it is celebrated as Reformation Day in parts of Europe and also in the US. As far as I am aware, few people celebrate it here in the UK.
Why do we bother? Not because we think that there is any reason that we have to celebrate this day but to teach our children about the spiritual aspects of the Reformation and major figures in it. As a side wind, it is also a useful distraction from other ungodly celebrations on that day which can prove quite frightening to little children.
This is the third year we will have celebrated. The first year, we thought about Martin Luther, read a little about his life, sang "A safe stronghold our God is still" and made ginger bread as it has vaguely German connotations. Last year, we thought about John Calvin and this year, we plan to remember William Tyndale.

In preparation for this, we have started a children's story about a fictional boy who accompanies Tyndale on his travels. It is always difficult to suggest ages for books but I would guess it is suitable for aged 8 plus, possibly a bit younger if read aloud.

I am planning to read a very short section of the Latin Bible to illustrate how difficult it was for the general population to understand services and part of Tyndale's translation.
In addition, we will probably eat something with a vaguely Tudor theme possibly these "excellent small cakes".
I would be delighted if anyone has any other ideas about this and to know whether anyone celebrates Reformation Day and if so, what you do.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Blessings in a busy week

This week hasn't been quiet, in fact, I can't remember what a quiet week looks or feels like so probably wouldn't recognise one. This week isn't over yet and there is still plenty to do. In these busy weeks, there are plenty of joys and blessings.
This week, we made Olympus Mons. The picture doesn't do the explosion justice.
The book we were using, "Exploring Creation with Astronomy", suggested adding washing up liquid to the explosive mixture which did add a certain extra excitement to the usual bicarbonate of soda and vinegar mixture.

I don't want to leave out my bus ride on the front seat, at the top-childish, I know, but fun.

The Exuberant one is becoming more articulate. I love this stage although I was a bit thrown when he decided to count eggs on the kitchen floor; to my amazement some survived.

Dh had his birthday this week. The night before, we were given some beetroot by someone who didn't know that dh's favourite soup is borscht, Russian beetroot soup. I didn't take a picture-the deep purple soup with a splodge of natural yogurt should have been recorded. Dd- the eldest, iced the cake-I was very grateful.

Added to this, I found another Newton hymn which I hadn't really appreciated before. This one is more well known and I'm fairly certain that I had seen it previously. Just in case anyone wonders, I do read hymns by authors other than Newton.

When any turn from Zion's way,
(Alas! what numbers do!)
Methinks I hear my Saviour say,
"Wilt thou forsake me too?"

Ah Lord! with such a heart as mine,
Unless thou hold me fast;
I feel I must, I shall decline,
And prove like them at last.

Yet thou alone hast pow'r, I know,
To save a wretch like me;
To whom, or whither, could I go,
If I should turn from thee?

Beyond a doubt I rest assur'd
Thou art the Christ of God;
Who hast eternal life secur'd
By promise and by blood.

The help of men and angels join'd,
Could never reach my case;
Nor can I hope relief to find,
But in thy boundless grace.

No voice but thine can give me rest,
And bid my fears depart;
No love but thine can make me bless'd
And satisfy my heart.

What anguish has that question stirr'd
If I will also go?
Yet, Lord, relying on thy word,
I humbly answer, No!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Why we home educate

We haven't always home educated. Our older three went to nursery aged either two or three and have then been to academic private schools. As time has gone on, we have become convicted of the need to "Provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nuture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6 v4) and that we should "train up a child in the way he should go" (Proverbs 22v6) and of the admonition on Deut 6v6-7 "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou riset up.".

We had also been increasingly convicted of our compromises in having the children in school. We were, perhaps, not interventional enough and Christians we love and respect have the courage and ability to challenge over more issues. We felt compromised by attempts at "worship" in school-nativity plays, "hymns" sung which certainly weren't reformed, the children being asked to colour pictures that were irreverent and depicted the Lord even when a travesty of Christianity was taught, other religions being taught as more than equal to Christianity, the Lord's name being taken in vain by children all the time and there being no rebuke for this. I haven't arrived at evolution and the non-teaching of creation as a credible alternative, atheistic geography and population teaching, sex education from an amoral perspective etc etc.
We had spoken to staff about issues such as witches in books, about the issue of irreverent pictures, about amoral sex education and about trips/orchestra on the Lord's Day. Our older children have missed several trips due to them being over the Lord's Day.

Almost eighteen months ago now, we withdrew our second son from school and made plans to home educate him and the younger two. We didn't have a Christian school alternative. We made the decision to leave the older two in school due to the fact that they were closer to the end of their education and major exams.
The last eighteen months haven't been easy. It isn't easy taking a child out of school, buying curriculum for a child several years into school, researching ways of teaching and explaining. It hasn't been easy starting home education with a baby and toddler. It hasn't been easy facing opposition to our decision. God hasn't promised us an easy ride.

We have been blessed with encouragements; the many people who pray for us often older people with little personal experience of home education, the home educators and Christian teachers both in the state sector and in Christian schools who have spent time and effort talking us through curricula and methods of teaching subjects from phonics to art to Latin nouns.

We know that home educating is not a guarantee that our children will be converted, anymore than not home educating is a guarantee that they won't. God is sovereign. We can only cry to Him for mercy on our children. We realise that we can teach our children at home but still teach them from a worldy and not Christian world view. Our job is to be faithful and to follow His Word as closely as we can.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Love Latin

My friend Beth has posted, over at Life as a Spiritual Marathoner, about why Latin should be a part of every child's education. Well worth a read. We are working on Latin for the first two reasons that Beth states and in the hope that it will be a spring board to learning New Testament Greek.

I would be interested to know the books that other people have used for Latin. We are currently using Minimus which is a very easy introduction and rather light on grammar.

We hope to go onto either Cambridge Latin or a more grammar based course.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Reading aloud to older children

When we started home educating, almost 18 months ago, I started reading aloud. Of course, I had read aloud to babies, toddlers and early readers, and still do, but with the busyness of life and homework and after school activities reading aloud to school aged children disappeared. They read to me the school's allocated 10 minutes a day, "Could you try to use a bit more expression", but I stopped reading aloud to them.

We took our, then, 8 year old out of school and started a steep learning curve. I wasn't sure that reading aloud was a proper use of time but thought I would give it a go with the aims to reading just above ds's reading level or to encourage him to read other books.

Reading aloud has been a success although like most such things providing hard evidence is difficult. After all, performing a randomised controlled trial of reading aloud would be impossible and probably unethical.

My guess, from my own observations, is that ds has benefitted in terms of vocabulary and general knowledge although I have been less successful in persuading him to read the read aloud books on his own. The books that I read seem to be set apart as "reading aloud" books.
I will list some books that have worked well. Books to avoid-I can't read funny books well, I laugh too much. I've refused to read "The family from One End Street" for this reason so ds has to read this himself.

We often link the reading into our history or geography so when we were learning about North America, we read "Farmer Boy".

To my surprise, ds wanted me to go on to read the rest of the series, despite the fact that they are about girls so we've read the whole series which lasted rather longer than our study of North America.

We did take a break from the "Little House" series when we studied South America to read "Journey to the River Sea" which is an exciting story with evocative descriptions of the Amazon.

When we eventually finished the "Little House" series, we were studying the Tudors and the Netherlands so combined the two by reading about the Rise of the House of Orange and the Dutch wars against the Spanish.

During the holiday, I read part of "Ned" aloud. This doesn't fit into our current projects but ds loved "Ned" which is a fictional story about a Barnado boy.

I've written recently about our current history readaloud, "Lord of the Forest" so won't re-iterate here.
In addition, we are finishing "The horse and his boy".

Next, I'm not completely sure but probably some GA Henty to fit in with our history project for the next half term, the Stewarts.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Chocolate pavlova

Chocolate pavlova-yummy. I'm very grateful to eldest dd for making this.
Recipe from "101 chocolate treats".  None of us are chocoholics-oh,no.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Oddments of a frugal nature

Cloth nappies-I've just done really well buying used toddler sized nappies from the Real Nappy Exchange. This is run by Real Nappies for London but seems to cover an area larger than London. Price varies and some nappies are just for the cost of postage. Obviously, the quality may vary. Mine came from two different people and were all in good to excellent condition.

Children's activities. Some of the best things are free. One activity that our three year old loved was getting up to see the sunrise. Somehow, we avoided waking the little one and this was a great chance to talk about the sun's rotation, creation and why we need the sun. It was also a lovely bit of individual time and we finished by having croissants and hot chocolate for breakfast. Not a summer activity-we did this in spring but now the days are getting shorter, this would become feasible again.

Another free activity-birth stories. I don't mean the gory, pain and panic variety but a sanitized version especially for three year olds. Ours cover what Mummy was doing the day before, the time she went to hospital, how she got there, when the baby was born, the size of the baby relative to siblings, the colour of the baby (the fact we've had two blue boys and a pink boy causes some confusion! Conveniently, the girls have been pink), who came to see the baby in hospital and what they thought, details about going home and so on. I have to repeat various stories every day-this is a great in car activity although I do tire of it sometimes. This is a time when the child knows that they and their siblings were welcomed and loved and that we were thankful to God for them. Whilst I might tire, our three year old doesn't!

January-VAT goes up to 20% on 4th January. In my experience, there are few reasonable grocery offers at this time of year and January is grey and cold so heating bills go up. I'm wondering about stockpiling a few staples to make January feel better-probably tins, toilet roll (there is VAT on toilet roll!), cartons, cleaning materials and washing powder. Is anyone else planning to do this? Have you any tips?

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Thoughts on second hand sales

A few random thoughts and a list of best pickings!

Nearly new sales are second hand sales with pretentions. The goods are just the same.

A useful piece of advice that was given to me, is to go for the most expensive or rare item on your hopeful list first.

It goes without saying that it is best to be at the front of the queue-this is an admonition to myself-not good at getting to places early on Saturday mornings. Don't think that because a sale is in an expensive area or at a private school no one else will want to attend-this isn't true. It is amazing who you meet at second hand sales!

Don't buy trash-just because it is second hand doesn't mean something should be frayed or stained.Check zips.

It isn't worth buying more than is needed although it might be worth buying quality children's clothing in a larger size.

Some places only accept cash and in fairly small denominations-up to £5 notes are usually acceptable. I've not had any problems with having £10 accepted when paying over £10.

Just because something is sold second hand doesn't mean it is cheaper than something new. I've seem books and strollers sold for more than the new price.

Best pickings
-children's books
-baby sleeping bags-check the zip first!
-cookery books
-children's clothes especially coats and dresses

What are your second hand sale tips?

Monday, 20 September 2010

Oil and meal

Some more of John Newton's verses which I was shown recently. I thought that these are so suitable for mothers with little ones when it is difficult to have an uninterrupted service and we struggle with tiredness reading God's Word. I haven't found these in any modern hymnbook-this is from a facsimile of Olney Hymns-with the "f"s changed to "s"s for ease of reading.

By the poor widow's oil and meal
Elijah was sustained;
Tho' small the stock it lasted well,
For God store maintained.

It seemed as if from day to day,
They were to eat and die;
But still, tho' in a secret way,
He sent a fresh supply.

Thus to His poor He still will give
Just for the present hour;
But for tomorrow they must live
Upon His Word and power.

No barn or storehouse they possess
On which they can depend;
Yet have no cause to fear distress,
For JESUS is their friend.

Then let not doubts your mind assail,
Remember, God has said,
"The cruise and barrel shall not fail,
"My people shall be fed."

And thus tho' faint it often seems,
He keeps their grace alive;
Supplied by His refreshing streams,
Their dying hopes revive.

Tho' in ourselves we have no stock,
The LORD is nigh to save;
His door flies open when we knock,
And 'tis but ask and have.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

"Lord of the Forest"

This summer, I puzzled about history, for this term. We study history in a chronological order, well usually, and had just finished the Tudors. The Tudors are exciting and there are plenty of resources, activities and places to visit. The Stewarts are another matter-sorry to any Stewart experts out there. By far the best way of introducing this topic seemed to be to celebrate Guy Fawkes night and then Thanksgiving but they were inconveniently placed at the beginning of the second half of term. I toyed with altering the calendar but couldn't quite imagine Guy Fawkes at the beginning of September.
Thankfully, at this point, my cousin came to stay and suggested using "Lord of the Forest" for the half term.

I hadn't heard of this, out of print, book before. It is written by "BB" who apparently was Denys Watkins-Pitchford who also illustrated the book-under his real name with beautiful scraper-board black and white illustrations.
The book describes the life of an oak from when it was planted in 1272, in the Sussex Weald, until the Second World War when its last acorn is planted. Natural history and scenes from English history are woven together to produce a fascinating book.
The book lends itself to so many other activities which we have scarcely even started. I am indebted to my cousin for suggesting several initially.
Obviously, scraper-board art needs to be followed. I wasn't able to find white but the coloured card is surprisingly effective.

We did think about printing using wood-cuts, as the illustrations look similar to woodcuts, but discarded this idea, on grounds of safety. The younger ones enjoyed printing with oak leaves-a safer option.
We are working on creative writing and map making around an imaginary oak.
Hopefully, ds will create a timeline, perhaps using as a base, something like the oak he painted.
Oaks in the Sussex Weald do, however, have a link with an important part of Stewart history. We have talked about the non-conformists who met in the Kent and Sussex Weald, in secret, prior to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. There were stories that I was told, as a child, about this. The services with no singing and the deacon praying a long prayer, at the end of the sermon. The minister left in this prayer but anyone else who left was known to be a traitor.
We have become much more aware of oaks rather than just the "conker" trees. The children discovered that we have an oak in a corner of our garden and have discussed how best this can be tended and whether some shrubs around it need to be removed.
Future plans may include lino printing, clay models of acorns, planting an acorn-there is some current interest in a bonsai oak, further investigation of what it would be like to have been a villager in 1272, a half term visit to Weald and Downland Openair Museum  
We've enjoyed this project which has been so much better than trying to do the Stewarts without festivals!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


This is my cheap and cheerful recipe for granola. This makes a large amount but disappears fast.

1kg bag of value oats
500g bag of value sultanas (or other dried fruit. Dried banana is especially tasty.)
1 and 1/2 American cups of golden syrup (my cup helpfully says 250ml) If you prefer, you can substitute honey.
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoonfuls of vanilla
2 teaspoonfuls of cinnamon

Put the oats in a large roasting tray. Warm the golden syrup, oil and spices gently and then add to the oats and stir.
-I've found it best to add the oil first as then the golden syrup doesn't stick to the measuring cup.
Warm in oven at about 150 Celsius for about 20 minutes (I put this in the bottom of the oven when I'm cooking something else and don't worry too much about the precise temperature). Stir once or twice during the time in the oven.
Remove from the oven. Immediately add sultanas and cover with foil until cold.
Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Schedule-one week in

We've been following our schedule for a week, now.
There have been benefits and a couple of major challenges.
The real improvement has been early in the morning. I realised, when writing the schedule, that I really did need to get up half an hour earlier (shouldn't be writing this now!). This has paid off, with other tweaking, for the morning so that we have managed to have breakfast and family worship, in one sitting, and have the older children out on time. Dh has been able to go for a walk and, in a change, to the schedule, take our 10 year old out for a bike ride, at the same time. They have come back in time to start work and home education respectively. All sounds too good to be true! Well, that part has been fine, of course, it could all fall apart tomorrow-I'm a pessimist.

The challenges, however, are around hospital appointments and our dear little toddler.

We are a three generation family. This involves a fair number of appointments at the hospital. Despite my best efforts to have all these in holiday time, there have been three in the last week. There is at least another one due next week and these may continue, at the rate of one or two a week, for weeks to months. The appointments have been at different times of day although it is possible that, in future, most might be at the same sort of time. I think that this will make things easier as it will be possible to arrange learning and also activities for the little ones, hopefully outside of the waiting room.

The schedule does involve a column for our toddler who is a dear exuberant little fellow. It doesn't really allow for all his escapades. Yesterday, he drank water from the bird bath, ate chilli powder and changed the washing machine programme before 10am. Yes, he was supervised-I was hanging washing in the garden and didn't quite get to the bird bath, which is too high for him to fall into, in time. Yes, I was in the kitchen and yes, we are working on training and yes, we probably need to work harder on training! We do have "preschool" time for him and his 3 year old sister. It works really well for our daughter-we made a "toddler friendly" recipe, from the Tesco magazine today. Dd enjoyed counting, talking, sprinkling ingredients and generally helping but Mr Exuberance wasn't really interested-standing on a chair trying to put salt in the teapot was better. Be warned, if I offer you tea.

Realistically, I suspect that the activities I offer are geared at his sister and are too hard for him. I have also scheduled a playtime for him with his sister which isn't really working. He probably needs more Mummy time. Any other ideas will be gratefully received.

Scheduling school work has worked well, as I always knew it would. I haven't altered what worked for us, last year, very much.

Overall, the schedule has helped us achieve more-it is a profitable servant. We have deviated from it parts of most days and it probably needs to be revised. I received an e-mail, yesterday from the people at Titus 2 with this message around staying the course with scheduling which certainly came at an opportune time for me.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Sufficient grace

One of my favourite verses. Always so true and, when things ratch up a few gears, so so necessary.

"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" 2 Corinthians 12 v9

Friday, 3 September 2010

What I don't buy

Recently, I wrote about where I spend. This time, I'm writing about what I don't buy. This is purely personal and idiosyncratic but I would be fascinated to know what others don't think is worth buying. I run the risk of people being rather horrified but there we are!

-Conditioner for washing. I've never quite understood its purpose-sorry to be thick.

-Cleaning cloths-using cut up holey sheets at present. We've had a glut of these, this summer. My Mum would have turned the sheets "sides to middle" before this happened!

-Disposable nappies. I will relent for brand new babies when there are always really good vouchers to be had and for holidays. Washable nappies have got so much better over the last few years. When we went on holiday, this year, and put our youngest, aged 18 months,in disposables, there were far more leaks than with washables. In fact, I can't remember a washable leak since he was about six months. Usually, I might be stingy and buy cheap nappies but the disposables that let us down on hols were one of the two main brands.

-Wipes. This is only partially true. We usually have wipes for going out but use old prefolds when at home. Cheaper and better for the eczema.

-Gravy powder. This is a bit random after the previous list and isn't really to do with cost just proper home made gravy is so much better.

-Squash. We gave up squash after one of the children had teeth problems. There are so many reasons not to buy squash. We've saved loads of money-pound or two a week for about six years now. Squash is so bad for teeth and, I didn't believe this before I had a child who was affected, but some children seem to have behavioural issues after drinking squash. What do they drink? Mainly, tap water although milk is on offer and we have fruit juice for Sunday lunch.

What don't you buy? I'm curious to know.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

I'm gonna miss this

An article to encourage mothers through bath-time, and tea time, and all those other tiring times.
The older I get the more I realise that truth of this. Hope you enjoy this post too.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010


This time of year means apples. We moved to this house in December, almost four years ago. When we had looked at the house, we noticed a tree with a sea of apples on the ground. It seemed a waste. We've been so thankful for this tree as well as a few other, less prolific trees. Last year, my husband had been made redundant and was in the first throes of setting up his own business. The tree did better than ever-over 400lb of apples-plenty for us and to share. God is good.

This year, again, the tree is bearing fruit. We haven't finished, or even scarely started to pick the apples.
Apples mean apple recipes. I usually end up by gently cooking some and freezing for crumbles and pies later. The Bramley website is a source of recipes. The tomato and Bramley soup is surprisingly good-I made up two batches today, one to eat tomorrow and one to freeze.
Another recipe that I often use was given to me, by an aunt, although I've altered it.

Bramley chicken casserole
chicken portions (as many as you would usually use for your family)
1-2 chopped onions (I use 2 cooking for 8)
 chopped carrots (1/2 per person)
sliced mushrooms (I allow 3-4 for mushroom lovers)
1 Bramley-peeled, cored and cut into thick chunks)
Chicken stock-I use 1 and 1/2 pints for 8
Tablespoon plain flour
Tablespoon oil

Put the oil in a frying pan, heat and add the chicken. Brown, then add the onions. When the onions are soft, add the flour and stir. Add the hot stock and stir, add in the other ingredients and bring to a simmer.
Cook in the oven at 180C for 90minutes until the chicken is well cooked. Alternatively, I use the slow cooker-check your own slow cooker instructions for timing. I use 6 hours on high.
Serve with baked or mashed potatoes and green beans.

This year, for the first time, I've made a blackberry and apple jam in the slow cooker, using a recipe from my new slow cooker book, Ultimate Slowcooker.  This jam uses less sugar than conventional varieties and will only keep a couple of months, in the fridge. Can't say this looks like being a problem here.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Spending to save my money

Three items that cost money but have saved far more.

Clothes line-this was cheap anyway. I really could do with a second! Nothing like clothes dried on the line. One trick I've learnt, recently, is to put on a wash last thing at night so it is ready to go out first thing in the morning. In England, in Spring and Autumn, this is often the difference between a load or two dry rather than needing to use the tumble dryer or have damp washing round the house.

My steel thermos. This was brought in a National Trust shop sale in Devon, on a cold February day. I take a hot flask of coffee whenever I'm driving a long distance or when having a picnic lunch. Brought coffee is so expensive-just work out how much even one brought coffee a week is over a year vs taking your own. I do occasionally buy coffee out but try to make this a very special treat not an every day or even every month event. I had conventional thermos flasks before but they don't keep the coffee so hot and with each flask there is some dreadful moment when the toddler drops it and there is a little tinkle. The steel thermos has been dropped and has a few dents to prove it but works just as well as ever. Good for my sanity!

The breadmaker-this was expensive. We calculated that a breadmaker would pay for itself in 100 breadmakings. That was before we found that we could make a successful loaf with value flour rather than strong flour. Of course, if I was better organised I could make bread in the oven in big batches and save more but I'm not. I spent several years trying and failing to make regular big batches. The breadmaker works better for us.

I would love to know how other people have spent to save.

Monday, 30 August 2010


Some of our harvest.

Hope of things to come.

"While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter and day and night shall not cease." Genesis 8 v22

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

My schedule

Seventeen years ago, this month, I went on maternity leave, and two months later, our eldest was born.

I wasn't an intuitive mother and found that I didn't know how my days were meant to be organised. My little one was hungry, refluxy and colicky so took a fair amount of time but the rest of the day was shapeless so different from the world of work where I knew what time I was meant to start and where I was meant to be. I had always worked late but that was sort of part of the day's plan. Kind older mothers would invite me round and say things like "Come when you want". This added to my confusion. When our little one was three and a half months old, I went back to my structure, part time and left the baby with an experienced Christian mother who quite obviously knew what she was doing. Even so, my days at work were fine but the days at home a mess-not knowing what I was meant to be doing with my baby or my day and still not achieving a tidy house.

Looking back, so much has changed, through God's grace, although the longer I have children the more I realise that I don't know. I do think, however, that a schedule would have helped. Schedules seem to be one woman's meat and another's poison. Schedules are meat for me. Last year, was our first complete year of home education. We had a timetable that worked well for our nine year old and a rough schedule for the baby based around the fact that he slept twice a day at about the same time for about the same time. The three year old fitted in around things with a DVD and a visit to Grandma, who lives with us.

Now the time has come for a formal schedule. The baby is 19 months and well, is a toddler not a baby. Not surprisingly, he only needs one sleep a day but needs occupation. The three year old is almost four and keen to have some more structured activity. Our nine year old is now ten and a bit more independent but needs time especially as we hope to start a new subject this autumn. So, I've pulled out Managers of their homes and made a schedule.
"Managers of their homes" is a useful start for scheduling. It starts with the premise that God is a God of order and that we should start the day with Him and goes on with the nitty gritty of putting together a schedule. It is a bit pedantic-I certainly don't agree with what they say about scheduling babies although I'm sure that my big, hungry babies would have thrived on their schedule but perhaps not if they had been less keen to feed. I also couldn't cope with kitchen timers pinging every half an hour.
For me, scheduling is a tool. At most, we will keep to the whole day as planned twice a week but will use parts for the other days. Working out the schedule has helped me to work out why certain parts of the day don't go well and try to put in something more workable. That has included needing time to sit for half an hour after lunch and do quieter tasks-well, I mean read e-mails and look at blogs.
If I'm feeling brave, I might post, in a month or so, about how the schedule is going, whether we are still using it and how much I've altered it!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Edith Schaeffer on hospitality

"Often...I have said to the children or someone helping me, "I can't face one more person today-and just want to run". So often what has happened when I have dished out the last of fifty-two desserts and decided that I was going to dash away to some quiet spot, the answer to my cry to the Lord-in the midst of throwing the spoon into the sink, and pouring the next cup of tea-there has been a knock at the door! Cruel? No. it has so often been a sudden answer on the part of the Lord in the direction of showing me what it was all about."

From Edith Schaeffer "What is a family"

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Summer days

A few things that we've enjoyed this summer.

Bat walk in the local park. We saw plenty of bats although our three year old got rather scared-perhaps three is too young for watching bats late at night.

Teddy bears' picnic are much better for three year olds.

Making a mess with paint.

Picking, and eating blackberries.