Lent challenge

Lent Challenge – “Hospitality”


Here’s my take on today’s #LentChallenge prompt of “Hospitality”.

We were treated to a carvery tea tonight by my lovely littlest brother and his equally lovely other half to celebrate a couple of recent family birthdays. It was nice to sit and eat together as a family and to catch up on what’s happening in each other’s lives at the minute. The place we ate at was very hospitable, with plenty of good food and happy smiling waiters. The photo above shows the meat counter where we got loaded up with our slices of meat and our ginormous Yorkshire puddings before we moved onto the vegetables and the rather excellent roast potatoes.

My take on “hospitality” is the sharing that we enjoyed tonight. The sharing of company, the sharing of food, the sharing of stories, the sharing of laughter and the sharing of the cost. Thank you little bro, you’re a star.

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Daybook

Daybook Entry 28th January 2018


For Today 28th January 2018

Looking out my window… one could almost imagine Spring is round the corner. Having said that, the weather forecast is said to go down to -9oC again this week. Brrr….

I am thinking… that the throat infection and flu I had over Christmas didn’t fully go away. I have had a pretty rough night last night and day today with swollen glands, fever, sore throat, aches and pains – oh my word the pains! I have just about had my morning shower (and it’s nearly bedtime now).

I am thankful… for the simple medication of paracetamol and the wonders it does.

One of my favourite things… is seeing the Spring flowers poking their heads up.

I am creating… a film script exploring different angles of “loss”.

I am wearing… my favourite rainbow crocheted blanket round my legs. For comfort more than warmth.

I am reading … “A Game of Thrones” by George R R Martin. Yes, I know. I am one of the 0.1% of the population who has either never seen the show nor read the book!

I am praying… for healing in a world of brokenness.

I am learning… that “showing” and “telling” work differently in real life than they do when writing drama and prose.

In my kitchen… Kevin made our dinner tonight, a lovely chicken “stewp”. It was halfway between a soup and a stew and absolutely delicious.

Post Script… It is four weeks now until the annual brass band “Area” contests take place, and we are well into rehearsals preparing for our performance at Pemberton Band. The “Areas” are qualifying competitions that are held each year in different areas of the country, and the winners of each section go through to a national final held later in the year. The Pemberton Band organisation is in the North West of England, so we compete in the North West Area contest, held in Blackpool. Ours is the first one this year, and the Yorkshire Area is held the week afterwards, with others around the country over the following weeks.

The bands who compete are graded according to their ability, with the best bands competing in the Championship Section, down to the Fourth Section (a bit like the Premier League down to the Second Division in football). Each section has a designated piece of music to perform on the day – the same pieces across the country – which are more and more difficult the higher up the sections they are played in. So, the Fourth Section piece is usually quite straightforward and tests bands on their attention to the “basics” of individual and ensemble playing rather than technical skill and as the sections go higher, the pieces get more technically difficult.  We are lucky at Pemberton that we have two competing bands – the “A” band (mine, which competes in the Championship section) and the “B” band in the section below, as well as a youth band and a training band.

The pieces are chosen by a panel during the summer and are announced at the finals in September  so that all competing bands have the same amount of time to prepare them.  There is always contention about the selected pieces being either “too difficult”, “too easy”, “not a test of skill”, “no music” in them and so on, and some pieces suit some bands more than others depending on the strengths or weaknesses as individual players and as an ensemble. The piece we are rehearsing at Pemberton is called “Odyssey” and it is technically quite a challenge to me as a player even with all the years of my experience. I’ll let you know how we get on.

A moment from my day…

 

Meet Terry, the terrapin. He’s our adopted pet. I wasn’t too keen on him to begin with, especially when we were told that he would outlive us, but when you look at the exquisite detail on his skin and on his shell, how can you not love him? I could tell you about his little “moods” – which is something to behold, him being a reptile and all. But I can read him like a book and I know when he’s hungry, when he’s playful and when he’s bored. He lives in water but we get him out of the tank every now and again to dry him off completely and to allow him room to roam round the house. He is great in the garden when it’s sunny and quite often brings himself back in and heads for his tank on his own. He loves prawns. And carrots (don’t ask how we found that out…)

Closing thoughts… I am so fed up of feeling ill now – I wish this flu bug would just GO AWAY!!!

 

 

 

Blogging, Daybook

Daybook Entry – 9th January 2018


For Today 9th January 2018

Looking out my window… I can see the frost on the ground that has still not disappeared from this morning.

I am thinking…that sometimes, it’s the small things that affect us more than the big ones. For example, the papercut on my finger is distracting me beyond measure, yet the sore throat that I thought I had got rid of with antibiotics is now about half-way developed again and until I try to speak or swallow, it is not bothering me at all. And still, that papercut is making me feel utterly miserable.

I am thankful… for the easy access we have to medicine in our world. I know there are places on earth that don’t have ready access to even the basic medical care, so for those people, the throat infection I have had might have proved to bring a totally different outcome than the one I had.

One of my favourite things… is hitting on a great story idea and starting to plan out the characters and plot points to tell it properly. One of my least favourite is editing it once it has been written. Feels so much like destruction for a while, and then it gets creative again, but that initial destruction of an idea is one of my least favourite parts to writing.

I am creating… I made myself a long, chunky scarf a couple of weeks ago and I am trying to create a hat to match it. I am on for my fourth attempt so far (completed and undone to save yarn) and I am still not happy with it. The colours are great, but I just can’t get the right shape of hat. It’ll come!

I am wearing… warm clothes today. It’s not that cold outside, but as I’m still under the weather a little, I am feeling chilly in my bones.

I am reading … “Origin” by Dan Brown. I started it last week but I haven’t really been in the mood for reading since, and I am still only about three-quarters of the way through it. I will do a proper book review when I’ve finished it.

I am praying… for a tiny baby born too small for his gestational age and who is facing some complex health issues; for an old friend who has to face a serious operation in the next few days.

I am learning… to take care of my health. Not easy because I don’t like to say “no” to things, and because I have a tendency to push through things just so I can keep going. I have learned particularly over Christmas that that is not always possible – or advisable.

In my kitchen… we are “budget cooking” at the moment, and the challenge is on to find nutritious and filling yet inexpensive meals for the family. We are eating a lot of inexpensive protein, such as grains and pulses, which turns out to be a bit healthier too. Win win!

Post Script… You may already have a prayer pattern which you use daily, but if you haven’t or are perhaps looking for something different, why not give this a go? It is the Examen prayer as defined by St Ignatius of Loyola and is something I have used quite a bit and I find it useful when prayer is difficult.

St Ignatius of Loyola

Shared Quote… “The beginning is always today.” Mary Shelley

A moment from my day… Just your average Grandma playing about with your daughter’s Navy uniform…

Closing Notes… I am struck again by the valuable contact that I have through the people who come and read my blog. Thank you all for making yourselves known to me and for our conversation and debate we strike up online. Social media has such a bad reputation, but when I make contact with friends through my blog I am minded that we shouldn’t just take a reputation blindly, and be thankful for those times we buck the trend.

 

 

I like to do the Daybook entry now and again, and it is hosted by Peggy at http://thesimplewoman.blogspot.com. Please hop along and have a go yourself if you’d like to link up with her.

Blogging, Family

Our Daily Bread


I tried to make bread today. Yeah, I know…bread right?

I have only ever made it in a bread making machine before, but my friend Hils has recently begun to make her own bread and I was inspired to have a go myself after she shared a loaf of focaccia bread with me last week. Hers was delicious. Packed full of sun-dried tomatoes, olives, rosemary, garlic and red onions… I had to try it for myself!

So today I tried.

D’ya wanna see how I got on?

Well let me tell you, finding a recipe for a “standard” focaccia bread is nearly impossible. So many to choose from! With water/without water; with lots of oil/with only a drizzle of oil; with sea salt/with rock salt; with/without toppings and fillings… The list was seemingly endless.

Once I had weeded out the ones I could understand the measurements for, (note to my American friends: how on earth do you manage with cups of stuff??) I settled on what seemed to be a fairly easy one to a) measure out the ingredients, b) understandable terms like “fold” and “knead” and c) wasn’t going to take up the whole afternoon to make.

It turns out the one I chose was by Paul Hollywood and if you know your bread and your bread masters, then you will know that if it has Paul Hollywood’s name on it then it was going to be a cracker. I remember seeing him make this on GBBO a couple of seasons ago and there were certain tips gleaned from there that I remembered as I went along. “Oil your work surface” being the most important – or so I thought.

This is how the first mix went:

Not pretty is it?

I turned it out because no matter how much I “folded” it in the bowl, it was still the consistency of porridge and was sticking to my hands and fingers so badly that I was starting to look like I had webbed feet instead of human mitts.

Pretty soon though, I had a lovely smooth (if very sticky) dough.

Now, if only it had stayed at that consistency I would have been so pleased! But it seemed that Paul Hollywood’s tip of oiling the workbench just made the dough stickier and more slippery in my hands and soon returned to a horrid gloopy mess. I can’t share a picture with you because I was so traumatised and Kevin was laughing so much, between us we couldn’t operate the camera.

Anyway. I managed to get it into a lump/mass/blob of goo and get it back into the bowl after about 15 minutes of wrestling – sorry “kneading” – it on the worktop.

This is what it looked like (please ignore the bottle of gin at this point. It was purely medicinal):

The recipe said to leave it for “between 1 and 2 hours in a warm place, or until it had doubled in size”. Well, to the master Paul Hollywood, he might remember what his goo looks like and be able to calculate what “double in size” actually is, but I’m not a master nor am I Paul Hollywood!

I had to recover, so I took my medicine with me to the living room and caught up with last night’s X-Factor for a couple of hours and when I returned, THIS is what greeted me:

Alleluia!!! It has risen!

I turned it out onto the worktop again (floured this time because my friend Hils said it might be in need of a bit of “dry”) and managed to get it kneaded for about 20 seconds before it returned to its original gloopy/porridgy mess. Now, Mr Hollywood’s instructions said that I would have a “lovely soft dough” at this stage.

Wrong!!

I had the Quatermass experiment going on in my kitchen and I was not winning the fight by any stretch. Not even a gluten-filled one.

Next was to “cut the dough into two equal portions”. Well let me ask you, dear reader, have you ever tried to cut a bowl of porridge in half? With a knife? If you have, you will know that any incisions made are quickly swallowed up, and there is no such thing as a “cut”. Same with my dough.

A little tip for PH when he rewrites his recipe, I would suggest that this stage is reworded to “separate the lumpy, sticky fluid into two blobs as best you can and if you manage to get them equal sizes then well done you!”.

I then pressed the two bits of “dough” (I’ve run out of synonyms for “sticky porridge”) roughly onto two baking sheets and covered them up with two damp tea-towels. I was reminded of what they do at the scene of a sudden or unexplained death. Can’t think why…

Quickly put out of their misery, I left them to it for about 15 minutes (a moment of self-preservation more than anything) and then finished them off with oil, rosemary and sea salt.

They didn’t look too bad going into the oven.

And so there they lay for 30 minutes or so to bake, as per Mr Hollywood’s instructions. More “medicine” for me…

We have an electric oven and the temperature is fairly even throughout it. So how on Earth did THIS happen??

Looks like I got Ebony and Ivory focaccia bread there!

To be honest, after the massive fight I had with that dough at the various stages of mixing, kneading, rising, kneading, shaping and finishing, I’m mighty pleased with the results, even though they are two-tone in shade.

We ate the darker one (tasted really good and the texture inside was lovely, springy and had a beautiful crust – Paul Hollywood would have been proud!) and I have put the lighter one in the freezer for later in the week when I can summon the energy to wrestle with more ingredients to make some soup or something. I might even give it to my friend Hils as a thank you for introducing me to this new fascination of mine.

I can’t see me making bread every day, but after the fight I had on my hands today, I’ll certainly be giving thanks for those who do provide us with our daily bread.

 

 

Blogging

Thanksgiving


In the spirit of Thanksgiving in the US today, I thought I would share with you a list of things I am thankful for in my life just now:

  1. homeThe roof over my head. Yes, we owe more on the mortgage now than when we took it out 18 years ago, and yes there are some fairly hefty repairs that need doing on it, but these four walls and the roof on top are my safe haven. Homelessness and the possibility of losing the family home have been brought home to me recently, which makes me all the more thankful that I have this place to call my home.
  2. The food in our freezer. It was only a few short weeks ago that we were in a position to pool a couple of weeks worth of groceries and do a big batch cookout so that we would be seen through the “silly season” ahead, yet already we have had to turn to those supplies because of an unexpected bill (and therefore massive bank charges for failed payments) and we have very little cash to see us through the next 6 weeks or so. We also have an unexpected lodger too, so the food in the freezer was well timed, and continues to be a life-saver for us. I am thankful that I was prompted to fill the freezer just before the money ran out.
  3. Spiritual support from church friends. Linked to point #2 above, this one is another big one in my life. My faith in God is as strong as ever, but sometimes, the spiritual support of other people is what keeps my grip strong. I am thankful that my faith in God has brought me to such a place that I can be part of a group of supportive and understanding friends.
  4. dsc_0949.jpgMy family. Especially my husband. We are like a tag team at the moment, and we seesaw between being strong and weak. When one is weak the other lifts them up, and vice versa. Sometimes we are on an even keel in the middle, but as anyone dealing with a financial (or other) crisis knows, emotions and ability to cope can swing quite violently from one extreme to the other and it takes a particular type of relationship to hold it together. My kids have been fantastic too, both in emotional support and simply bringing laughter and sunshine into an otherwise bleak and austere existence. My parents too – where would I be without them?!! From my mum “accidentally” making an extra Shepherd’s Pie, to my Dad transferring an emergency lump sum into my bank account over the summer to bail us out (yet again), my parents have been instrumental in me holding things together in the last few months. I am thankful for the loving and supportive family I am surrounded by.
  5. crochet-hookCrochet. A life-saver a couple of years ago when my illness first took hold and everything seemed pointless and without direction, crochet has been an activity that I turn to again and again to help with anxiety and depression. I have started some Christmas projects and I am thankful that I have been able to find a cute snowman which I am working on for our house this Christmas.
  6. Music. Like crochet, music has been a life-saver in so many ways over the years for me. Whether it is listening to it, playing it, writing it, arranging it, planning it, organising it or whatever, I am thankful for the presence of music in my life.
  7. My Kindle. I was bought a Kindle as a gift for Mothering Sunday a couple of years ago and at first, I was a bit sceptical about using it. A lifelong lover of books and reading (notice the differentiation I made there), I didn’t really want to engage in technology like a Kindle but having been given one as a gift I thought I didn’t have much to lose. I haven’t actually looked back since being given it and I have engaged in so many more books and articles than I would have done in hard-print books in the meantime, largely because of all the free books available online. I am thankful that I have got access to such a large, free, library of books to read and the mechanism to carry them all round with me all the time.
  8. bedMy big comfy bed. Might sound a bit trite, but I honestly say a prayer of thanks every time I get into my bed each night. Linked to the point about the roof over my head above, I am so grateful that first of all that I have a place to put my head each night, and second of all that it is so comfy and warm once I get in. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to rest properly each night.

This is not in any way an exhaustive list, and it isn’t in any particular order, but these things are on my mind most of the time and they are the things see me through when times are bad as they are now. I am sure that when the climate changes for me I would come up with a slightly different (and longer) list.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

happy-thanksgiving

Blogging

Share Your World – Week 36


I have Cee to thank for today’s post. You’ll find her at Share Your World

List 2 things you have to be happy about?

Food in my cupboard, and air in my bike tyres.

If you could take a photograph, paint a picture or write a story of any place in the world, what and where would it be?

I would love to be able to paint a picture of water, and my choice of location would be somewhere like the rugged Lake District in England, or maybe the stunningly beautiful Llyn peninsula of Wales. I am not any sort of artist though and any painting I made would probably not be fit for viewing. However, I would love to write about it. And with that in mind, watch this space! I have an idea for a story set in the 6th Century involving pilgrims on a journey through Wales to the holy island of Bardsey.

Should children be seen and not heard?

Hmmm difficult one this! I believe children have the right to be heard, but along with that right they have the responsibility to understand that so does everyone else. Children are naturally gregarious and boisterous, but they have to learn that there are times when that isn’t appropriate and adult time is valuable too. There’s nothing worse than trying to have a conversation with someone only for them to break off to answer their child who is pulling at them with “Mummy, Mummy” going on. Apart from being extremely rude to the person they are speaking to, they are giving the child the message that they are prepared to drop everything and answer them on the spot. Sometimes a quiet “in a minute, I’m speaking” is all that’s needed…so long as they don’t then forget to get back to the child! It’s all about manners and self-awareness for me, but no, I don’t think that children should be seen and not heard. They have a right to mix with company and be noisy if needed, just so long as they know that they are not necessarily the centre of attention and know when to be quiet.

List at least five of your favourite first names.

baby-nameAs a writer I’m forever trying to come up with names for my characters, and it can be a traumatic experience I can tell you! Some names conjure up a set of expectations and I try to match those expectations with my characters and sometimes I like to play around with them and name a character the opposite of what the reader would expect. However, my own personal taste – if I were to have the privilege of naming an actual child again – are very traditional. Here’s my favourites, in no particular order (the first two are my own children’s names!)

Ethan
Emma
William
Elizabeth
Jessica
James
Matthew

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I was very grateful to see a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen for several months. We had been very close for a number of years but there have been a few spanners in the works this year and we have drifted away from each other recently, so I was extremely grateful that we could spend some time on Friday catching up and just enjoying each other’s company again.

Coming up, I’m looking forward to Ethan going back to college and Emma starting her new job next Monday.

 

 

Daybook

Daybook Entry – 13th July


8598a-simple-woman-daybook-largeFor Today… 13th July

Outside my window… there is still a trace of blue in the sky and it has gone 11pm

I am thinking… about the juxtaposition of tragedy and celebration today

I am thankful… that I have a ministry in the church

I am praying for… Millie’s family, Alfie and his mum, the children of Pike Fold School who came to Messy Church today

I am wearing… my hair loose for a change

I am creating… a jacket for myself. I have cut out the pattern pieces and the fabric for the lining, but I haven’t plucked up the courage to cut out the fabric for the jacket itself yet. I’m letting my knees recover before I get down on the floor to do that!

I am going… to take my son shopping for clothes tomorrow for his band trip to Italy next week

I am wondering… when his passport will arrive

I am reading… I’m in between books at the moment having finished “House Rules” by Jodi Picoult yesterday afternoon, but I did read a short story by Neil Gaiman last night called “Odd and the Frost Giants” which was brilliant. I don’t usually read fantasy stories, but this one was a great read and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a satisfying read for half an hour or so

I am hoping… I don’t miss the delivery man tomorrow who is going to be bringing me my Dad’s birthday present in the post. I’m hoping my Dad likes it too

I am learning… that the human spirit is probably the toughest substance in the universe

In my garden… we have lavender, strawberries, thyme and parsley growing on the deck and the smell is divine

In my kitchen… we had a bit of a concoction for tea tonight – mushrooms, courgettes, yellow peppers, red onions in a tomato sauce with gnocchi. Not bad for a knocked-together quick meal

A favourite quote for today…

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

A peek into one of my days…

Dragon in the sky tonight
Dragon in the sky tonight

One of my favourite things… is seeing children singing and dancing in church

Post Script:

It has been a very trying time for me and my family recently and we have survived yet another storm in our lives. It has felt like life was giving us a bit of a kicking but we are on the up again now and looking forward to a couple of things this month now. First of all, Ethan is going away with the music centre for a few days’ concert tour in Italy next week then it will be our 25th wedding anniversary the week after. A few days after that we are planning on going camping although Emma won’t be with us this time and she is staying at home. She has been working away at a High Adventure camp for the past six weeks and between you and me, I think she’s a bit fed up of tents and sleeping bags at the minute! Our change in outlook is because of a couple of things that have come together at the same time and it has made things altogether feel better, even if they haven’t actually solved the problem. With prayer and faith, and the grace of God extended to us through our friends, life is feeling a lot happier and we have some things to look forward to now.