Tuesday, 21 February 2012
It's Tuesday again already! How can it be that a whole week has gone past since St. Valentine's Day? Those days have just slipped past so quickly, I almost didn't notice them going! What have I done with my time?
Well ... I've had ...
A time to plant ... just now I'm taking especial care to plant more deeply a real, stirring passion for the Lord in my cubs' hearts. They've grown up in a Church going, Christian home, and I know that the seeds of love for our Saviour have been planted and blossomed many times over, but they're now on the threshold of adulthood, with so many worldly temptations all around, and it scares me that despite the solid ground in which those seeds of faith have been sown, it will be a difficult life for them as young adults living in a secular world. We cannot cushion our children from the fallen world around them - but we can teach them to be "in it, but not of it", and that means not just setting them an excellent example in all that we do, but in giving them plenty of scriptural reinforcements!
"Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." (Ephesians 6, 11 - 18).
A time to heal ... I've spoken often about humility, which I personally feel is a character quality that many of us don't find very easy to cultivate. I know myself that it is all too easy to build ourselves up, and become prideful, because we've been taught by the world to believe that we should delight in ourselves, and seek pleasure for our own ends, which, in the materialism which this drive for constant self-satisfaction feeds, can lead to greed, covetousness, and pride. Consequently this pride can easily lead to us saying, or doing things that can indirectly cause hurt or damage to our relationships, in our quest to ensure our own desires are satisfied before those of our fellows. When we think we're more deserving than everyone else, we develop a sense of entitlement which can make us insensitive to the needs of others, and to the effect our behaviour has on them. It's a negative, dangerous mindset, that quickly leads to self-destructive, sinful behaviour. I feel that humility is a noble, Christlike quality that takes a lot of courage to nurture and grow. We none of us want to be "shrinking violets" (though I adore violets - they are such sweet, shy little flowers, so pretty, and they smell wonderful), but do you know, being humble makes us much more admirable than being proud (the opposite of humility is pride). It takes even more courage, to admit when you are wrong, or when you have hurt or offended someone, and take that first step to mend and heal your relationship. But how blessed we are when we do!
"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father". (Phillipians 2, 3 - 11).
A time to laugh ... our pets make us laugh every day! We only have caged pets - in our culture, animals like cats and dogs don't live with us in their homes but are kept outdoors, as they are considered unclean because of some of their natural behaviours and grooming habits. Small animals that do not engage in these are OK to have indoors, and birds are especially welcome. We have 4 cockatiels (parakeets) and they are delightful creatures. One of them loves to sit on my head! It is the funniest thing to see and everyone always laughs when he does it, which makes him "laugh" in return (he kind of nods his head up and down and sais "ack, ack, ack, ack" at the same time). They do make us smile! Pets are good entertainment and company, and a valuable way to teach young children simple husbandry responsibilities. Both Papa Bear and I grew up in rural, agricultural environments (me on a farm, him with horses) and we feel the lessons we learned in our lives seeing animals not as mere toys, but as resources to provide labour or a livelihood, helped to ground our emotions in dealing with our pets, and keep them in perspective. They are loved members of our family, but they are not as precious as humans. We care for them and treat them with compassion and respect, but we realise their place in our lives, and do not seek to elevate it inappropriately.
A time to embrace ... change! I need to make a few changes to the schedules in my "daily treasures" box. I've realised there are a few tweaks that I need to do to make the basic daily timetable run more smoothly. One change I need to make is to the timing of how I do the laundry. I've decided that it makes more sense, and is less intrusive to our morning routines as a family, if, at least in the winter when the laundry is hung indoors, for the time being, I do it in the evenings, rather than first thing in the morning. Another change I plan to make is to alter the timing when I do my week-ahead baking and food preparation. There are a few more changes too, all of which are minor adjustments, but which will hopefully make our home life run even more smoothly. I'll share the changes, and the new timetable, when it's up and running! I also want to create a simplified timetable that Little Bear can use, if I am ever ill and unable to carry out my homekeeping duties myself. She already does many chores herself and can run our home nicely all by herself, but has not previously had to do so, for more than a couple of days at a time. Not that I'm planning to be ill, but I like to be prepared for every eventuality and she's plenty old enough now to take over the reins, in an emergency.
A time to keep ... precious memories of the special times! In our home, we don't have a camera, so therefore, we do not have photographs. This is Papa Bear's personal choice and as head of our home, we honour this decision. But it does mean we have to look to other ways to keep memories alive. I've been thinking about this and wondering how I can do it in a way that is neither intrusive nor clutter creating. Scrapbooking is one idea, but I get the feeling that this could be a tempting project that steals time from my chores, and perhaps should be approached with caution. This blog does provide an opportunity to journal some of our special times, so maybe that is the way forward. I am giving this some thought and prayer, this week and will share what I come up with in a future post.
A time to sew ... after talking with Papa Bear some more about my dressmaking plans for the spring, he had yet another bright idea about how I can create some lovely, customised garments! We were looking online at fabric stores (there are some WONDERFUL ones out there, which I'll share in another post), and whilse we were looking, we came across an English website that sells patterns as well as fabric. Although they're more expensive than buying pattern paper and drawing the pattern yourself, they can be reused, so are still more economical than buying ready made clothes, though cost is not why I have avoided buying them in the past. It is more to do with the fact that certainly in England, even dress patterns it seems, are not quite as modest in design as we would prefer. Some are quite pretty, but many are as ugly and flesh revealing as ready made garments. But then Papa Bear suggested, why not look at the CHILDRENS patterns? I'm quite tiny (I fit a child's age 11-12), and generally if I do buy ready-made clothes, I get them from the children's department where they not only fit me better, but are cheaper, and also usually (but sadly not always) more modest too. I'd never thought to look for dress patterns in that department though! Well we were amazed! There were so many gorgeous dress and skirt patterns to choose from! We were both delighted. Papa Bear has picked out 3 or 4 that he especially likes, and some fabrics too (he prefers me best in pink!) and I can't wait to get started on some stitching now! I think the knitting will soon be taking second place (I tend to sew only in the summer months, as I can only do it in daylight, which means I don't get much time to do it in the winter, when it gets dark too early). We are going to order a couple of patterns first to see what they are like, and then see how it goes from there! I'm so excited!
A time to speak ... I'm still working on NOT speaking. I do believe this to be one of my greatest character faults. And I'm not just referring to the words that come from my mouth, but from my fingertips too! It's very easy to think that the rest of the worldwide web is eagerly hanging on to every word that issues from my small keyboard as I tap away. And it's lovely (and very humbling) to think that anyone beyond my immediate family is even slightly interested in what I have to say! But I need to learn to keep it concise. Time is precious to all of us - and if I'm spending it writing very long blog posts (like this one!) instead of with my family, then my "speaking" is getting in the way of what's important - and possibly intruding on my readers' time too. It's about priorities. I like blogging, but my family must come first.
A time to love ... What an over-used word LOVE is! We say we "love" a particular song or TV show, or a well used phrase. We "love" certain foods (especially the ones that aren't good for us!) and we "love" our pets, our daughter's cute dresses, the smell of roses, the feel of the fresh air against our faces, the pretty snowscene that greets us on a winter morning. But do we really truely LOVE these things? What matters most in our lives? If we say we love most anything that we find pleasurable, then it devalues that precious word. Let's resolve to say it only where it really carries value - to our husbands, our children, our close family - and most importantly of all - our Saviour, Father God. That way its true meaning is preserved, and it becomes a precious gift that we give to the ones that matter most in our lives.
A time of peace ... it's easy to focus on our imperfections and linger over what is wrong with us, our lives, our goals. But I think it helps to keep in perspective the fact that all of us ARE imperfect - only God is perfect! It's hard work constantly striving for perfection - not just for us, but for the people around us. Let's resolve to have peace in our hearts as we go about our daily duties, knowing that as long as we are doing so with willing, humble hearts, we are good enough for our Father. That's not to say we can afford to become complacent, but if we strive to always follow the teaching of the Bible, and to keep our priorities in order, all shall be well.
"The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace". (Numbers 6, 24 - 26).
Monday, 20 February 2012
I've been busy baking today and yesterday, so I thought I'd share another recipe with you that we frequently enjoy - cinnamon buns. These are so popular at our home and are requested so often, that I usually find myself making them on a Sunday morning. If I have time, I can get the dough ready for the second rising before we leave for Church, and put the buns into the oven, set to come on so that they will bake whilse we are out at Church and be ready when we get home! Mmmmmm! It doesn't seem to do them any harm sitting out for a bit longer than the required 45 minute rising. They make a wonderful brunch, and I often serve these to follow home made apple coleslaw (recipe also to follow) and taties (potatoes baked in their jackets - in North East England, where we are from, this is what they are usually called), which I part bake beforehand so they can then finish baking in the oven along with the buns while we are at Church.
I use one of 2 recipes for my cinnamon buns. The basic recipe has some vanilla pudding mix in it, and the fancier one uses yellow cake mix. These 2 ingredients really elevate these delicious buns out of the bread roll category and into cakes, becuase they both somehow seem to make such a beautiful light, sweet dough. It is really worth having a go at these, if you would like to try to recreate the wonderful taste of the store bought versions (we don't have a chain bakery that sells cinnamon buns anywhere near us - I am not sure they are found anywhere in England - but you can buy almost the same thing from the Waitrose supermarket chain). These are much cheaper - and you may be surprised to know that even with the frosting on (which I don't always bother with) one bun is 350 calories, which is not over the top in my opinion (especially not if it forms part of a meal).
Anyway here is my basic tried and true recipe ...
For the buns ...
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup butter (melted after measuring)
1/2 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix (I use sugar-free)
1 cup warm milk
1 egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon of white sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
4 cups bread flour
1 sachet (7g/25 ounces) dried yeast
1. Measure the ingredients in the order given into the pan of your breadmaking machine, and prepare on the dough cycle.
2. When done, remove from pan (the dough is light and easy to handle) and place on a floured surface (I have a pastry sheet which I find helpful to use for this as it has measurements on it).
3. Carefully stretch the dough into a rectangle about 16 inches long and 10 inches wide or thereabouts (you can make it thinner than this, but I wouldn't make it any thicker, as you're going to roll it up).
4. Spread onto this the following ingredients ...
1/4 cup butter, softened (I use margarine, which is already soft)
1 cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
You can also add about 1/2 - 3/4 cup of chopped nuts or raisins, we tend to have them just plain as this is what our family prefers.
5. Spread the butter on first, leaving a margin about 1/2 an inch all around.
6. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, and then spread these on top of the butter.
7. Using the wider end of the dough nearest to you, roll up, jelly roll style, tucking the opposite end neatly underneath the roll and sealing the ends. Mould it a little with your hands if necessary to ensure it is the same width all along.
8. Now take a knife or pair of large kitchen scissors, and chop the roll into 16 equally sized pieces (you may want to discard the ends of the roll as these often don't have so much filling in them).
9. Place the rolls on a greased baking tray or pan, and cover with cling film. Leave somewhere warm to rise for about 45 minutes.
10. After they are doubled in size, place in a warm oven (175 degrees) and bake for about 20 minutes (mine took 17).
11. Allow to cool on the tray before separating them and placing on a rack to ice.
I think they look lovely just as they are, don't you?
However, if you decide you do want to frost your buns, I usually use a glaze made of about 2 tablespoons milk, approximately twice that amount of icing sugar and a drop of vanilla essence. I wait until the rolls are warm, rather than icing them as soon as they come out of the oven.
A traditional cinnamon bun frosting recipe is as follows ...
1/2 (8 ounce) pack cream cheese, softened (I would use Philadelphia)
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup icing (confectioners) sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 1/2 teaspoons milk
However more often than not, I tend not to bother to ice these at all, as the Bear family particularly love them warm, right out of the oven! The ones you can see in the picture, which we had yesterday, I did ice. Obviously 16 rolls is a great deal more than a family of 4 needs, so once they are cooled, I tend to freeze about 10 of them, wrapped individually in foil so that whenever anyone gets the urge to have a cinnamon bun, all I need to do is remove one from the freezer and warm it up in the oven! Yum!
The fancier recipe can be found here. I thoroughly recommend the Taste of Home website. At least 70% of the recipes I use come from here. It is so easy to search for a recipe for something you want to cook, and you can even create your own customised "recipe box" where you can save all the recipes that you think you'd like to try. I really like it, and am always delighted with the results of everything I've cooked from the Taste of Home magazine collection.
As I said, we often have these buns to follow hot taties served up with my home made apple coleslaw. Papa Bear really likes this, and frequently I will make up a big bowl full so that he can have some in his pack up for lunch during the week. It really is a meal in itself, although sometimes I'll embellish it further with a small tin of tuna as well.
For 4 people you need ...
6 sweet apples (Gala is a good one)
1/2 small head of white cabbage
1/2 small red onion
5 or 6 ribs of celery
2 oz red cheese (red Leicester or coloured Cheddar is good)
6 tablespoons mayonnaise (I use Hellman's extra light)
1 tablespoon salad cream (I use Colman's extra light)
juice 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1. Chop the apples into small cubes. There is no need to peel beforehand.
2. Chop the cabbage into small strips.
3. Finely dice the red onion.
4. Chop the celery ribs into 1/2 inch cubes.
5. Mix vegetables in a large serving bowl. Grate cheese over the veggies.
6. In an empty screwtop jar or a bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, salad cream, lemon juice and seasonings. If using a jar, give the jar a good shake.
7. Pour dressing over salad and stir to mix.
8. This is really yummy with taties! It keeps pretty well because of the lemon juice, but to save time you could prepare everything other than the apples beforehand, and keep the dressing mix in a jar in the fridge. I have also made this using blue cheese, but we all seem to prefer the flavour of the red cheese as described above.
Finally, I just had to share with you these cute pictures. We don't usually have dessert during the week, but I really wanted to try out my new "pie bird", that we got this weekend. See how cute it looks peeking out of the cherry pie I baked for our tea? Did it help the crust any? Well, yes I think it did! It certainly prevented the filling from oozing out the top of the dish!
We certainly enjoyed slices of this, today! Tomorrow we'll have a much plainer meal though. We can't have treats like this every day, or they wouldn't be treats any more!
Sunday, 19 February 2012
(Source for this picture here).
We had such an interesting and inspiring sermon at Church today. The theme was about life - not merely the life we should be living as servants of our Father God, but also, the priceless sanctity of all human life. We should be advocates of the glory of life, the gift that God breathed into us, when He created us in His image -
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Genesis 1, 26 - 27).
Thinking about this more deeply now that we are home again, it seems to me that the as advocates of the sacredness of human life, the example we must set to our fellow humans, should be one that clearly demonstrates that this is a belief fundamental to the teaching of Christianity, as stated plainly in the sixth commandment in Exodus 20, verse 13 -"Thou shalt not kill". Thus we should demonstrate in our behaviour and beliefs as we go about our daily activities, that our commitment is to preserving life, because this is what God demands of us. This is not merely a personal interpretation of the teachings of the Bible, as some issues may be. But how should we demonstrate this? It is not enough, just to state what our beliefs are, and what the teaching of the Bible states. We must demonstrate it through our actions. And these actions should be ones, that reveal clearly to others, the true nature of Christian people - a nature formed in the image of our creator, whose Holy Spirit works within us.
"And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ". (Colossians 3, 23 - 24).
To me, it seems that God desires that we should be showing compassion, benevolence and love to those for whom the end of life is drawing near, rather than looking to the world of medicine and law to hasten this end, and similarly, towards those who are forced into a situation where a decision must be made about the preservation of unborn life. Sadly, this goes directly against the current secular teaching that it is kinder, to prevent someone's suffering, than to prolong it, and that euthanasia is preferable to palliative medical and nursing care, and furthermore, that a mother's life is more precious than an unborn child's. How disposable life seems to have become! In a world where having a child is seen as a possession and a right, rather than a privelige - a gift from God, it seems that the child matters least of all, when it comes to the sanctity of life.
These are difficult issues for anyone to address, but as Christian wives and mothers, we are placed in a prominent role as advocates for God's teaching on this important matter, and it is therefore our duty that we take on the mantle of setting an example by our actions, and that we are not afraid to defend the teaching of the Bible when we are challenged on this issue. In our daily lives, how can we demonstrate our commitment to upholding the sanctity of life, in keeping with the commands of our Saviour?
Of course, our responsibility starts at home, with the education of our own children, ensuring that from the earliest age, they are familiar with the Bible teaching about the preciousness of a life created in the image of God, and how this impacts on the decisions they will make and the activities they engage in - both in terms of their own lives, and those of others. We have a duty to teach our children, both by example and by instruction, about the importance of fulfilling God's teaching about the marriage relationship, about how the creation of new life should only happen within this union, and that it is God's will, not ours, that should determine how many children we are blessed with. It also means teaching our children to be caring, empathetic, selfless, considerate, responsible, sensitive, virtuous - willing to put the needs of others first, and to have compassion for the weak and ailing, rather than seeing them as a burden or inconvenience.
So many character qualities to cultivate, but which will provide them with a firm foundation for sound decision making, as they become independent adults themselves, and able to begin a new generation of Godly men and women. And if we can do this, then we are ourselves, serving God in our roles as mothers who have sole responsibilty for the training - and future well being, of our offspring.
But it doesn't stop there. Whether we like it or not, as Christians, God teaches that we also have a wider responsibility to society in general -
"And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these". (Mark 12, 31).
Of course, our duties lie first with our families, and we should not think of neglecting their needs, for the needs of others. That is not God's plan for us. After serving Him we are commanded to serve our husbands, and then our families. But there are still ways in which we can be seen to set an example for others, in our compassion, considerateness and commitment to God's teaching about the sanctitiy of life. We can do this in many ways. There are charities we can support, education programmes to which we can contribute - materially, if not in person. There are hospitals, care homes, residential units, childrens' centres, where we can give our support - and our children can, too. Just by showing an interest and finding out more about the good work that they do, and encouraging others to use their services, we are supporting them. Depending on the season of your life in which you are presently, you may even be able to offer some of your time, if your husband is agreeable. Or you could think about providing practical support in the shape of meals, clothing, toys, toiletries or books, to enable the lives of others to be improved and enhanced. Even bringing a cake you have baked to share with others during coffee after the Church service on Sundays, is a way of extending our love - God's love - to our fellow beings.
We cannot change the world, corrupt and sinful as it is, alone. But despite this we should not shy away from upholding the teaching of our Father God, whatever we are doing, wherever we are, in the hope that others may be inspired by us - and led to Him. The failings of society are due to a complexity of causes, at the heart of which lies the deterioration of the traditional family unit and therefore, it is in unity with our loved ones, that we should seek to set an example. It is simple really, for at the centre of all this, is a humble willingness to serve joyfully, regardless of our circumstances. As we go about our daily activities, if we do so with a joyful heart, we are telling the world that we are grateful to God for the role He has placed us in, and accepting of His will in our lives. This is a precious lesson to accept and to demonstrate to those around us. As Christians, we should be shining our lights in all that we do, that we may inspire others around us and draw them closer to God. Our duty is to show, through our own actions, that life is ALWAYS valuable - at whatever stage it is - whether the beginning or the very end of life. God loves all of us, and He wants us to share this love, with everyone around us - as His son Jesus Christ, taught. The best way we can do this, is to follow His example, and rejoyce in the precious gift of each day, that He has given us with which to live out His plan, knowing that we are humbly serving Him, as we follow faithfully the commands of His word.
"For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ". (1 Corinthians 2, 11 - 16).
Saturday, 18 February 2012
I have worked through all the "extras" on my chore and to-do list this week, except for one - the fun one! We decided that, given the expense of buying the raw ingredients to make marmalade, weighed against the cost of buying a ready made jar, and the fact that we don't eat a huge amount of it in our home, it wasn't really worth the cost of making it myself, so I took that item off the list. I've made chutney and jam many times, which is a good way to use up a glut of vegetables or fruit, but marmalade is not so economical (it is the season for Seville oranges, but they were not on offer in the supermarket).
Everything else, I have done. I made the Valentine hearts, painted the chair in the bathroom, tidied up the bathroom ceiling, sorted out files and paperwork, and washed the car (I LOVE washing the car! It is such a great way to get a workout, outside in the fresh air, and the result is so satisfying! Our car is black, so it always looks terrible when it is dirty, and wonderful once it has been cleaned, really sleek and shiny, even though in truth it is a real "old banger"! It makes me SO happy to see it all clean and bright again, when I have washed it! It has to be one of the most rewarding cleaning jobs there is. I have to take the car to Grandmama Bear's home, to wash it, as it would be impossible to wash it at home - we have no garden and the garage where we keep it is quite some distance from our third floor apartment. So I get to see my mams as well, which is an added bonus!).
I also made these ... heart shaped Valentine's pizzas! (I made a cake too. If you want to see how to make that, please click here. I'm sorry I didn't take photographs of it - we don't have a camera and it is quite tricky to take photographs of food using a laptop. The bear family were more than ready for their meal by the time I'd taken the final pizza photos, so I didn't feel I could take any more pictures! The cake was heart shaped also, and delicious, but very time consuming and not that economical to make, though I did make a few cost saving adjustments, so I don't think I'll make it again. I have so many other delicious cake recipes! Papa Bear liked it, but his favourite cake of all is still apple caramel, which he asks for every birthday. That means you might have to wait until October to see that recipe!).
To make home made pizzas, I use this simple dough recipe, which I make in my bread maker ...
Put into the pan of your bread maker in the following order:-
1. 1 1/4 cups water
2. 1/2 teaspoon sugar
3. 2 teaspoons oil
4. 1 teaspoon salt
5. 3 cups strong bread flour (I used white)
6. 2 teaspoons dried yeast
1. Use the dough programme on your machine, and when it is done, remove from the pan (it will be sticky).
2.Place on a floured surface and knead a few times into a nice round shape. Then break this into 4 equal sized pieces. I find this easiest to do with my hands, covered in flour, but you may prefer to cut it with a knife or pair of scissors if you have some large enough.
3. Grease a large baking tray, and then place the 4 pieces of dough on it. I find it easiest to shape them into hearts right on the tray. If you make the pieces into rough circles first, it is then easy enough to fashion a heart shape if you are patient. I find it helps to pull one end towards you with one hand, whilst pinching in the middle of the opposite end with the other hand. Then pull out the 2 corners either side of where you have pinched. They will not be perfect, but they'll rise and look better afterwards.
4. Leave your dough hearts in a warm place (I use the top of the stove, if I have been baking earlier in the day, or our airing cupboard, if not) to rise for about 30 minutes. During this time, you can sort out what toppings you want to use! I selected these ...
5. You can see in that picture, anchovies, spicy sausage, tomatoes, red pepper, sweetcorn, red onion, mozarella, cheddar, parmesan and tomato sauce. I just get a small jar of pasta sauce, but you may be able to find pizza sauce in your supermarket.
6. When the hearts are nicely risen and puffy, you can cover them! I used about 2 teaspoons of pasta sauce to spread as a base on each heart, and then a selection of sliced vegetables as listed above, and small pieces of spicy sausage and anchovy. We could have also had olives, but none of us are that keen on them yet. We keep trying! I like to put plenty of mozarella and parmesan on my pizzas, and occasionally also add cheddar as well (in fact I didn't this time, although I did get it out of the fridge! There simply wasn't room to put anything else on!). Here they are ready to go into the oven ...
7. Then put them in the oven at about 200 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes (mine took 15). And they're ready to eat! (They are also delicious cold, much nicer than bought ones, but we rarely have any leftovers, when I make pizza!).
Yum! We LOVED these! I'll admit, the dough is quite tricky to handle, if you aren't use to making your own pizza base, but so worth it - it makes a wonderful light, crisp base which bakes really evenly, with no horrible soggy bits! I think making individual pizzas is a great way to serve everyone their favourite toppings, and they do seem to turn out better if they are not so big. I have made one huge heart mind you, which was also successful, but these were really lovely. There was not a scrap left of these pizzas on St. Valentine's day, which I served with a simple mixed salad and French dressing.
Friday, 17 February 2012
This week here in England it has been "half term", which means that for all school-age children attending public school here, there has been a holiday. As we don't have school-age children now, it did not make any difference to our plans or activities for this week, but yesterday, seeing all the families busily enjoying the unexpected sunshine in the park as we walked through there for a breath of fresh air in the afternoon, it made me think of all the times that I use to go there with the cubs and their friends, when they were younger! I was always on the lookout then for cost-free ways to keep my wee bears amused, and I thought it would be fun to share some of the most successful ideas we had over the years, with you now for this week's Frugal Friday.
Here are a few of the most popular activities we've enjoyed ...
(Please note - some of these activities aren't suitable for children to do unaccompanied by an adult, or for the very young. They are all tried and tested by the Bear Family and their friends!).
Salt dough. You probably have all the ingredients for this in your kitchen cupboards already, but even if you don't it is extremely cheap to make. All you need to make a batch of this is 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon oil (this last is optional, but does make the dough easier to knead, if you are making this with tinies). Simply mix the ingredients together, and use to create fun ornaments and models. We always used biscuit cutters to cut out ornaments for the Christmas tree. They can then be baked on a lightly greased tray in a very low oven for a good hour or more, until they are firm. Don't forget if you are making ornaments that you wish to hang, to put a hole in them before you bake! Afterwards allow to cool, and then decorate with poster paints, glitter, stickers, whatever. We often used to make gingerbread people, and we would decorate these by painting them brown (allow one side to dry before painting the other), then allowing that coat to dry before using an old toothbrush to spray dots of white paint, like icing sugar, over the "cookies". Very effective! Finally they can be varnished to make them more durable (slightly dilute PVA, which dries clear and is reasonably washable if it gets on hands or clothes, can be used for this).
Home made butter - again, you probably already have all the ingredients you need for this! It isn't "real" butter in the sense that it is churned and then rinsed many times (you could try this if you wanted, but it is quite a lot more time consuming, though you will finish up with some real buttermilk if you do!). All you need to do is get a very clean, empty jar, and put into it about a quarter full, some double or whipping cream. Screw down the lid on the jar tightly, and get shaking! It will take a fair while but eventually, you'll see the butter start to form in the bottom of the jar. Keep going and after a looooong time, you'll get some butter! If you're homeschooling this could be turned into a science lesson, as well as giving you the chance to create something you can actually eat at the end!
Pasta jewellery - we all, even the boys, used to love creating ornaments and jewellery out of pasta shapes! Use the hollow kind like macaroni, and thread onto a thin knitting needle. Then get painting! Again, to varnish once they are dry, you can use dilute PVA (if you don't dilute it at all, it is a little bit too thick to use to "paint" with) to make them more durable. If you want to use paint that won't need varnishing I reccomend Acrylic paints which you can buy from most craft shops. Gouache will also provide a pretty shiny finish but is water soluble. Powder paint is the cheapest option, or if you really want to be frugal, old magazines or wrapping paper can be used to create collage effects. Once the pasta "beads" are dry, they can be removed from the knitting needle and threaded onto cord or elastic to make necklaces and bangles.
You can also make jewellery using paper mache and a knitting needle. Paper mache is made by pasting strips of newspaper onto an object (or in this case, around it) and you can use a simple paste created from 1 cup flour and 2 cups water, or some dilute PVA, to stick the layers of newspaper together. Using moulds such as plastic bowls, inflated balloons, empty plastic bottles etc, it is possible to create paper mache objects quite simply. Once it is dry (it takes several days) you can then paint and decorate it as you wish. A couple of helpful hints here - tear the newspaper pieces quite small, and use a reasonable amount of paste. Don't be too sparing - you are aiming for a pulp, rather than just a collage effect. If the paper isn't wet enough, your finished item will fall apart once it has dried. To protect reusable items that you are using as moulds, and to make the paper mache finished item easier to remove when it is dry, coat the mould with a layer of cling film first. (This is a messy activity so be prepared to do a bit of covering-up of furniture, floors and children before you get started)!
Bubbles are great fun for tinies, and don't need to be confined to the bath! On a sunny day, simply fill up a bowl with water and plenty of washing up liquid, and a few extras such as straws (not for real tinies!), bubble wands, an egg beater etc, and let them play. I personally never had a problem with my children making a mess, as long as it was at an appropriate time and in an appropriate place. Another game that was very popular at that time, was "painting the fence" which simply involved a bucket of water and a large paintbrush! Little Bear was extremely keen on this activity, and goodness knows how it kept her amused for so long, but it always did!
When my cubs were very wee, one cheap and quick way to keep them amused was to make them simple jigsaw puzzles, using an old cereal box and pictures cut from magazines or freebies that had come through the door (fast food menus are particularly good, or the brochures that come from gardening nurseries or department stores). I'd just open out the box, paste a picture onto it and then cut it into several pieces, the younger the age of the child, the fewer the number of pieces. This would keep them occupied for a surprisingly long time although obviously the pieces aren't as durable and don't last as long as a real jigsaw.
I've spoken before about knitting - just the process of teaching this to a child will keep you occupied for some time. Little Bear's girlfriends use to find this a real treat, and would beg me to get out my knitting bag and needles and help them to learn to knit! It was such fun seeing their pleasure when they realised it wasn't all that hard to do! If knitting seems a bit too complicated, crochet is easier, using only one hook and a simpler technique. It's a great way to use up all your scraps of wool, and I used to keep them specially for this purpose. For the boys - well, the best use for a ball of wool was to create a giant "spider's web" in the living room - the wool wound all around the furniture with a "den" right in the middle! Dens are a great way to keep a group of children occupied - whether indoors or out. Whenever Papa Bear did any tree pruning, he always use to make sure he left some of the branches out for the cubs to use to make dens with. Along with a few old towels or sheets, a den could easily be made and keep them busy for hours. Indoors chairs, tables and beds can be implemented in the same way. Oftentimes if the house seemed "too quiet", I'd know it was probably becuase the cubs had got busy making a den! As long as they were willing to tidy it all up afterwards, I didn't mind them keeping themselves amused in this way, when appropriate. Far better this than watching TV.
Outdoors there are endless opportunities for fun to be had for free! Visiting the park, the lake or river, the seaside if you're close enough, or just going for a walk round and about the area where you live, gives a chance to see the world, get some fresh air and exercise, and allow you a chance to really chat and enjoy the company of your children. Family walks have always been a regular activity for us. We live close to a lake as well as a park, and love to go for long walks around there, where along with beautiful greenery and shrubs, lots of wild birds and other animals live. We usually make sure even now, to bring some stale bread along to feed the ducks with!
Of course if you're lucky enough to have a garden, you can also enjoy growing things from seed, which costs pence and yeilds wonderful rewards. Radishes are a great "first" vegetable to grow, as they are virtually indestructable, grow fast and are easy to harvest, and squashes, pumpkins and marrows are also good. When we did have a garden we always had tomato plants as well as sunflowers, and each year had a sunflower growing competition which one of the cubs always seemed to manage to win! I do miss having a garden, but even if you don't have one, there are things indoors that you can grow - we like to eat egg and cress sandwiches in the summer, and it is so easy to grow cress from seed! All you need is a plate or shallow dish lined with moistened kitchen paper. Simply sprinkle the seeds onto the paper, and keep moist, and within a week you'll have cress that you can put in salads (or feed to your pet birds or small animals, if you don't like it!).
Another "home grown" that is possible to do indoors, is sprouted pulses. Personally we don't care for the taste of these, but our pet birds adore them. You need a glass jar for this. Get about 2 tablespoons mixed dried pulses (our birds particularly like garbanzo beans and green peas) and place in the jar. Fill with water, and allow to soak overnight. In the morning drain the jar, rinse the pulses several times over with cold water (I do this by placing a piece of muslin over the top of the jar, filling it with water and then tipping it upside down and shaking it). Then cover the top of the jar with a piece of gauze, muslin or thin cloth (a clean dishcloth can be used if you've nothing else) and fasten with an elastic band or piece of string (a hair scrunchie can also be used!). Turn the jar on its side, and leave on your draining board. Twice a day, repeat the rinsing, until sprouts start to appear (usually takes about 3 days). You can let them grow for 2 - 3 more days, but check frequently to ensure they are fresh. They should have a pleasant, clean, but very earthy smell, quite "beany". If they smell unpleasant, discard. They are ready to eat once they are sprouted 2 - 3 cm or so, at which time they should be refrigerated and eaten within 24 hours.
Treasure hunts are so much fun, and don't need to cost anything. One way of getting my cubs to go outside for some fresh air was to create a treasure hunt for them, around the garden (or park). I simply used to write a list of objects that they had to find, such as a twig, a white stone, a leaf with more than one colour on it, a pink flower petal, an empty snail's shell, a dried seed pod and so on. Obviously you'll need to create the list to make it appropriate to your children's ages and abilities. With a large group of children, it is better to write the lists in different orders (use the same set of objects, but don't list them in the same order on each child's list) otherwise you'll fetch up with a crowd of children all "following the leader" as they run around the garden in a big group, making it much less exciting, and less easy for the slower children to win. I also use to do this for long car journeys, making lists of things to see, rather than collect. Older children will also appreciate being given a list with tick boxes so that they can observe and mark off what is on the list one by one, rather than actually collecting things.
Of course, never forget that one of the easiest, and cheapest things you can get your children to do to keep them happily occupied is help you with the housework! I mean in addition to their usual chore timetable. Make it more fun by setting a timer and seeing how quickly you can get things done. Or give them each a box, basket or bag and see who can fill it first with things that they no longer need, to take to the charity shop. I've also tried this trick with getting them to sort out cupboards, wardrobes and drawers, and it turns a chore into a game. I wouldn't recommend turning ALL their chores into games as this detracts from the intrinsic value of hard work done for its own worth, but there are times when it helps to get an additional task done without a fuss, and your example in doing something potentially quite undrewarding with an enthusiastic and eager heart will help them to see that even the dullest chore can be done efficiently, with the right attitude. It always helps to have a little enthusisam!
And last but not least, don't forget that your children probably have far more toys than they really need (I know mine did). Why not try doing what I did, and rotate the toys instead of allowing your children to have access to all of them at any time? They will get far more enjoyment out of having only a few toys at any one time, and if they aren't all available to play with all the time, the novelty lasts much longer! Rotate according to interest, or, if your children are older and will be able to exercise enough self discipline, allow them to choose for themselves, from a selection. Keep the rest out of sight until it is time to rotate them. And next time you have to visit a toy store, remember this wise fact that I was taught by a friend, a long time ago - most toys are bought by parents because THEY want to play with them - not the child! I also heartily recommend NEVER shopping for toys, or even going into a toy store, if you have your children with you! Remove the temptation, and you'll find requests for toys far less frequent (better still if you avoid the TV as well). That's a money saving tip definitely worth remembering.
Oh! I've enjoyed reminiscing about all the fun times we use to have! Now the cubs are grown they're well able to keep themselves busy, but we also make sure to have regular family activities that we can all enjoy. Often it may be just a walk, or a DVD shared with a nice home cooked meal, but that will suffice for us. We rarely eat out, and less rarely go anywhere that costs money. But it doesn't mean we never have any fun! I'm glad we take pleasure in the simple things - they are usually the best!
Thursday, 16 February 2012
"I cried to thee, and thou has healed me." (Psalm 30, 2).
The 30 Day Growing In Gratitude Challenge that I am working through, is proving to be so very thought provoking - it's making me look at my day-to-day relationship with God through new eyes, and start to understand how greatly He moves in my life - and comforting, because in realising this, and accepting it, I can find assurance in knowing that whatever each day may bring, it is all part of His plan for me, and my family. The Revive Our Hearts ministry has many different challenges online that are simple to take part in - just download the PDF for the 30 day challenge you wish to take part in, and read each day's entry with your Bible. They are so useful for prompting further study and prayer, and Papa Bear has been joining me in some of the day's challenges this month, so they don't need to be done in isolation, but could even be used as a starting point for a couples' devotion.
Each day so far in this challenge has used as its theme a different passage from one of the books of the New Testament, in particular, the book of Psalms, and today's challenge focuses on Psalm 30. There's one verse in this Psalm that really stands out in its simplicity, and that's verse 2, quoted above. How glorious God is! All we have to do is cry out to Him, and He will come to us and shoulder our burdens for us. He will lift us from the depths of despair, strengthen us, deepening our love for Him, even in our days of deepest trouble. Papa Bear and I have known some difficult times, these past years and particularly in the 12 months just past. February has been a bittersweet month for us so far as it has brought with it a painful anniversary, as well as the lovely celebration of our love that we had on St. Valentine's Day. Illness and loss have figured greatly in our lives, and there have been many times when I have had to call on our Father God during our marriage to carry me through these challenges. Sometimes it has been hard to see what God's plan has been for us, when life has been a terrible struggle. And when we have felt really burdened by our troubles, it has been possible even at times, to wonder whether He is hearing our prayers. But we can be truely assured that He is!
Today's challenge encourages us to do two things, which will fortify us greatly in our times of trouble. The first, and one which I know I must work on hard, is to memorize passages of scripture. Doing this creates a treasure chest within our hearts of the Lord's word, which we can draw on whenever we are challenged by the struggles and hardships that life brings us. Precious jewels of wisdom and encouragement, that will nurture us and bring us peace in times of tempest. Now I am very good at looking up and writing down passages of scripture, but not so good at learning them! Today, Papa Bear and I resolved that we would try to learn a new passage of scripture each week. It may not sound like very much, but after a year, that will be 52 different passages! We will start with the very passage I have quoted at the top of this post! It will help us, when we are faced with new challenges, to turn to these words of comfort, knowing that no matter how despairing we may feel, God DOES hear our prayers, and answers them - and works in incredible ways that are beyond our own, limited, human understanding. All we must do, is be with peace that His Holy Spirit is working within us, and know that everything, even the challenges and difficult times, are part of His wonderful plan for our lives.
The second suggestion that Nancy Leigh DeMoss gives in today's challenge, is to sing praise to our Father God! Well that is something we are VERY good at, in our home! Nothing makes me smile more than to pass by one of the bedrooms and hear either Little Bear or Cubby (or most often, both), playing their guitars and singing praise music! It is a beautiful sound to hear. I wouldn't say we were a musical family, but both the cubs play a variety of instruments, and Papa Bear has the most beautiful singing voice I have ever heard. People have even asked him if he sings professionally! But he is very shy about his lovely voice and only sings alone in private, to me! Aren't I lucky! But we certainly have no trouble in fulfilling this part of the challenge. Up above at the top of the post there, you will find yet another of our favourite praise songs. This one almost always makes me cry when I hear it - which it has today. We hardly ever sing this at Church, but I love it and always sing along whenever I hear it! Somehow it is poignant and uplifting, both at the same time.
I haven't forgotten that I must post up some recipes of the meals we have eaten this week. Sometimes it's easy to forget the small things that God does so wonderfully for us. The big things, yes. But the small things we must be grateful for too, and this week I've been very grateful to Him for giving me both the means and the skill to create some really wonderful meals for our family. Nothing complicated or expensive - just very tasty! So I will be sharing - but not just now! Papa Bear is waiting patiently at my side so that I can give him all my attention and help to choose a DVD for us to watch this evening - so I must go!
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
For today's Wednesday's Workbox, I am going to share with you how to make these cute Valentine favour bags! I probably should have shared these last week, before St. Valentine's Day, but I hadn't made them then!
I won't try to describe how you actually make them, though I will share a few hints to make the job a bit easier. The detailled instructions for making them can be found here. They do require a bit of patience (if you're not very nimble-fingered, like me!) before you can get them absolutely right. The first few attempts I made, the hearts looked great, but you couldn't open them up and use them like bags! The idea is that being woven together, they don't need any tape or glue to fix them, although you can tape a handle to them after they are finished, as I do.
They are so cute for using as gift bags, but I also like to make them in green and red paper, as Christmas decorations, which is what they are traditionally used as in Sweden, from where they originate.
Here are some pictures of one that I made ...
Empty, with the handle attached.
Filled with cute heart-shaped truffles, for my three sweethearts!
We put one in the kitchen as a decoration in the small bon-bon bowl that is on the table there. It's strange, but having that small bowl of candies on the table, means we never really crave them, becuase we know they are always there! They look pretty though.
There are a few tricks to making these bags which I've discovered over time. Firstly, when you cut the strips into the two lengths of paper, make sure that they are as long, as the lengths of paper are wide. If you don't make them long enough you won't be able to weave all the strips in smoothly.
Also, try to keep the pieces of paper turned up the same way all the time, and resist the temptation to keep turning the heart over as you weave it. If you do this it makes it easier to mis-weave, although don't worry if you do - it is quite simple to take it apart and start again. You will probably find that you need to practise quite a few times before you get one perfectly. Use some scrap paper and have a few practise attempts before you use any of your pretty papers! You can use card rather than paper to make a stiffer bag, or even coloured felt if you want to create little ornaments to place on your Christmas tree or around your home.
Of course you don't have to make the 3-dimensional bags shown here - if you don't fold the paper, but just make 2 strips, unfolded, you can make one dimensional woven hearts to stick on gift cards or make into other ornaments. But I do love how they open up into wee cones - I think I might even try making some as gift bags for birthday presents!
The possibilities are endless - and so are the dimensions - the bigger the strips of paper you use, the more weaves you can get, and the larger the hearts. Before long you'll be making them with ease, and can show your children how to create them too!
Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Today's Tuesday's Time To is devoted just to ...
We don't celebrate St. Valentine's Day on 14th February just because the secular world tells us to. We celebrate our love for each other, and for our Saviour, every day. But on St. Valentine's Day, it is lovely to be able to make a special celebration of that love, in all its abundance. Our love is fundamental to our marriage and our family - and is the cornerstone not only of our earthly relationships, but of that with our Father God, and for this reason, our marriage is a reflection of His glory - a divine institution created by Him. We offer up our thanks to God for joining us together, and for being present in our lives every day, as we work to serve Him and fulfill His plan for us both. It might not always be easy or fun, but it is always worth celebrating!
C. S. Lewis, in his book "The Four Loves" explains that there are four types of love - "storge", or unconditional, relational love, "philia", or platonic, friendly love, "eros", or passionate, romantic love, and finally "agape", or limitless, sacraficial love. This last, is a spiritual love given to us by the Holy Spirit, and is the most fundamental of all 4 forms. Without this, we cannot truely do our work as Christians. Described in the Bible as "Charity", it is a form of love, unlike passionate love, that we have to choose, and work at. But it is a beautiful, joyful love, that allows us to have compassion for others, to sacrifice our own needs for those of the people around us, whether we want to or not, and which helps us to grow in our relationship with God. It is a charitable love which moves and motivates us, and which enables us to understand, as much as we can in our limited, human way, the infinite, powerful and unconditional quality of God's love for us.
Of course, a fully mature Christian will know all 4 sorts of love, as they function both within their earthly marriage and the wider family, and as a member of God's Holy Church. And I believe that on St. Valentine's Day, rather than merely celebrating the "eros" love of romance and passion that the world focuses on, we should look to celebrate all four loves, as we look around us, and thank God for all that He has blessed us with. How lucky we are, to know true love - God's love! Let's allow ourselves the privelige of celebrating St. Valentine's Day not just as earthly lovers, but as Christians who know the divine love of our Saviour also.
"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity". (1 Corinthians 13, 4 - 13).
Monday, 13 February 2012
Here is a picture of what my Daily Treasures box looks like inside!
I made it from an old computer floppy disc holder, which we no longer use because we don't have a disc drive any more. I covered it with pretty paper, added some sweet trimmings, and that was all I had to do! It is just the perfect size to use to keep index box cards in, and has the added bonus of the fold out front section, where I can put papers and a pen to jot down any notes I need to make, and also leave any important reminders, and items I may need to grab when I head out, like postage stamps, or change for the car park. It is very handy indeed! I prefer it to a proper ring binder or book, because it is more compact and therefore takes up less space, and is easier to carry around should I need to (I usually do my menu planning, for example, in the living room, where my recipe books are kept). I also find it easier to flip through the different sections inside when I'm looking for something.
Those sections are ... a master list for important dates to transfer onto our calendars, things to remember, menus and shopping lists, telephone numbers I use frequently, a list of where to find things such as important documents, items not frequently used and passports and certficiates, daily chores (I don't write down each day's basic chores as these are the same from Monday through to Saturday, so I don't need to see them written down - they are etched in my mind!) weekly chores, montly chores and then yearly ones. The chore section is the largest. Each day of the week has a separate page (I used pink card, cut to size, as I happened to have some handy) and on this, I will write the chores which are specific to that day. For example, today, I do a deep clean in the kitchen, which includes washing the windows, cleaning the inside of the cooker, bleaching all surfaces, reorganising cupboards and drawers. I only do this on Mondays. I don't clean the fridge on a Monday - I prefer to do this on a Friday, because we shop on a Saturday for the food for the week to come. If I clean the fridge out on a Friday, it is spotless and everything is organised ready for the fresh food we buy to go in there the next day. It means I can check if anything is about to go out of date or has spoiled, and also double-check to see if there are any ingredients I may need to add to the shopping list, for the menu that I will have got finalised as well that day.
I'll also note down any chores around the house that need doing on a one-off, and add these to the day when it will make most sense to do them. For example today, I added "PVA the bathroom ceiling". I did that today, because tomorrow I plan to paint a small chair that is in the bathroom and needs a freshen up, and I dedided while I was about it I would freshen the bathroom ceiling too. As it is a bathroom ceiling though, we seal it first with PVA (a water based sealant) so that it doesn't let the moisture through. So that was one extra chore I did today! I was quite tired by the time I sat down, because as well as that, I'd prepped the cake that we are having for our Valentine Day tea tomorrow also. It is a chocolate fudge cake with a mousse filling, which took quite a while to prepare! It is waiting in the fridge now to set before I add the final fudge icing to the top, which I will do tomorrow. For our main course we will be having individual heart shaped pizzas, so on my chore list tomorrow, I've added "make pizza dough".
Having a Daily Treasures box (I call it that, fanciful as it sounds, because it makes my work seem somehow special and more precious) helps me to stay on top of things and more organised, and therefore more in control! I can add things to it, juggle the sections around, bring things forward to the front that are important, and update the cards as necessary (I write in pencil). I like that everything fits into that one little box - it is my busy life, condensed into Daily Treasures!
Keeping your home running smoothly can feel a bit overwhelming sometimes, but do you know, I am glad it makes me feel like that! If it didn't, I would feel I was being idle with my time, and not making best use of the day God has given me. Even if we are to be homekeepers, and not go out to work, we should still be doing a "good day's work", whether that be in the home or not. Every evening should find us tired but happy with what we have achieved. In our grandmother's time, no one exercised, but they actually ate more than we do now without being any larger than we are, and the main reason for this, was that they had to do more hard physical labour! Now I know that a lot of this is because before the introduction of helpful gadjets such as dishwashers, washing machines, cars and hoovers, we had to do a lot more by hand. A couple of years ago, our washing machine broke down and Papa Bear was unable to fix it. While we waited for a new one, I had to take on washing everything by hand (the nearest launderette being too far away, and too expensive, for it to be practical for me to go there instead). It was VERY hard work! Wringing out jeans, towels and bedding was so exhausting that every night I went to bed aching all over. But the towels were the softest I have ever known them to be, from all that extra twisting and bashing that I had to do! I was so happy when the new washing machine arrived! But nowadays, we are very spoiled. We barely need to lift a finger, to get all our chores done. Even our bread can be baked for us by a machine now. And while all these things are wonderful and time saving, they do encourage us to be lazy. I personally aim to spend at least half of my waking day doing chores because I feel that equates to a day's work. It may not necessarily be all at one time but I do a full day's work, at home, regardless. Only when all my chores are done do I allow myself leisure time, on the computer, reading or crafting (making things is not a chore). It isn't wholesome or Godly to be pleasing only ourselves. Our chores aren't necessarily going to be fun, but they are worthwhile, and should be done with a willing heart - even if they leave us no time (or energy!) to do much else with our time. I'm not saying we should only work, but our work as homekeepers is definitely our priority, above any other activities.
What really puzzles me though, and is something I use often to hear myself say, is "I don't have time to read the Bible. I'm too busy/tired to fit it in, every day". I use to be like this, until I decided to MAKE time, to read my Bible.
I realised, if I haven't got time to read the Bible, then I have got my priorities wrong. If other things are occupying my time to such an extent that time spent in God's word is getting pushed aside, then I need to rethink my daily schedule. So I did. I looked at everything I have to do in one day, and decided that the only thing I could do to make more time for myself, was to get more hours! So I resolved to wake myself up at 5 am every day, so that I could devote the first hour of the morning to seeking God's word. That way, nothing else could distract me and occupy my time instead. It was hard at first. I found I would keep falling asleep again with the Bible in my hands (it was harder still because with Papa Bear asleep beside me, I could only have the bedside lamp on, which has a very soft light, and that light wasn't really bright enough to wake me). But that problem was solved, when we were given an original, reconditioned, 1960's teasmade for Christmas, last year! It has revolutionised our mornings! Yet another "modern" gadjet that has made our lives so much easier, but in this case, bought us time that we have happily exchanged for something much more valuable than leisure - time with our Saviour. Now, both Papa Bear and I are happy to be woken at 5 am, by the merry sound of the tea kettle boiling! Drinking a hot cup of tea soon wakes me, and we find the peaceful time together, really precious (Papa Bear doesn't read the Bible with me, but after I've read the day's verses, we then do a devotional and prayers together, which we really enjoy). It is probably the loveliest hour of the day, that first hour of the morning which we share together. And I get my Bible reading done before anything else, which really sets me up for the day, and helps me to focus on our Father God, before anything else. I feel I've got my priorities right, and can start the day with a happy, servant's heart.
I am not suggesting that we timetable every minute of our days so that we aren't wasing a single moment. While it is important to spend our time each day productively, I don't think micro-managing your time is necessarily a good idea (though if you have a large family, it might be the only way to get through the day!) because it leaves little room for spontaneity, and for me, that would cause anxiety and stress, rather than making me feel super-organised. I like to have a bit of flexibility, so, apart from that first hour of the day, I tend to work through my chore list without giving much thought to timings. If I know I have to go out somewhere, obviously I factor that in, but otherwise, I just work through, and if I get interrupted by an unexpected caller, or a disaster (such as the washing machine breaking down!) then it just works in with the rest of my plans, and I pick up where I left off, when the interruption is over. It works for me, and means we're nicely organised, but relaxed. And what better way to create a welcoming home?
Sunday, 12 February 2012
Again we were not able to go to Church this week because of the snow and ice on the roads outside. Today was especially icy and cold as it had snowed again overnight, on top of ground that was wet, so it was frozen solid when we went outside this morning. Far too dangerous to drive or walk on. It has been a difficult time for us! But even though we have had to stay at home again, we had hearts full of praise and love for our Saviour today on this Sabbath Day.
We try to make sure that Sundays are a day of rest in our home. No housework is done except for the bare minimum (I am not going to leave the floors unswept, the dishes unwashed or the laundry piling up, for that would make me feel anxious, not rested!) and we try to spend time doing things together as a family. We also make plans for our week ahead.
This week in my Daily Treasures box I have on my list of to-do things in addition to the usual chore timetable ...
Make some marmalade. I need to get the jars first as we don't have any empty ones, but Grandmama Bear has lots.
Create some woven paper hearts to put small Valentine gifts in (we tend not to celebrate Valentine's day in the way that the commercial world would have us do. For us it is a time to be grateful for the love we have for each other, and our Saviour).
Bake our special Valentine meal, which will include heart shaped pizzas and a delicious chocolate fudge cake! This will be keeping me busy tomorrow - but I hope to post up the recipe if I have time.
Paint the small chair that is in our bathroom.
Do some filing of papers and receipts.
Wash the car.
Do some decluttering (I am the decluttering queen! Friends of ours tease me because I have been known to declutter things we do actually need to keep, and have then had to go out and buy a replacement - NOT a good idea!).
Finish some pieces of reading and research I have been working on for the blog.
Spend lots of time with my family!
What are your to-do things this week? Let's pray that we are fruitful in our labours for the week ahead, for the glory of our Father in Heaven and His son Christ Jesus.
Saturday, 11 February 2012
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." Romans 12, 2.
Oh dear sisters, yesterday I went about my evening chores, the last of the day, with such a heavy heart. I don't know what came over me at all. What a Martha I was being! I felt as if I could not fold another pile of laundry, wash another floor, tidy another bedroom. The list seemed huge and endless (after everyone has eaten, tomorrow's prep is to be done and the animals must be put to "bed", there seems a whole new day's worth of work, sometimes!). How I sighed, as I stood at the sink, washing up! Thinking of it now, as I write, I feel so ashamed of myself. I didn't say anything about how I felt, but God sees everything, and He knew I had an ugly attitude, even if my family couldn't see it.
But something wonderful happened not long after this! I didn't finish my chores yesterday evening with a heavy heart. I finished them with a joyful one! This is what happened ...
As I huffed and puffed over my sink, I remembered the "attitude of gratitude" that is my 30 day challenge this month. And in doing so, a feeling of shame, and guilt, came over me. How childish and selfish I was being!
Would Jesus have sighed over the washing up, the way I was doing? No! Of course not. And neither should I! The Bible clearly tells us, that we are to strive to be like Jesus by following the example He set on earth. We are to seek to be in union with Him through a life lived with joy, perseverance, and, most importantly, humility.
Paul, writing to the Philippians, tells us that we should aim to ...
" ... fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Philippians 2, 2 - 8).
How these words helped me yesterday, to refocus my thoughts away from myself, and to direct them towards Jesus instead! I reminded myself that my calling is in fulfilling my God given duties as a wife and mother, and that I must humble myself by carrying out that work with a servant's heart, dying to self and living in Him instead.
I can't say that it was easy, realising this. It was a big challenge, tired as I was, to ditch my self-pitying attitude, and clothe myself in joyfulness instead, but do you know, I did it! I did it by praying, and by hearing God's answer, loud and clear. This is my God given role - the one He has instructed me to fulfill. I have no better work to do than this - His work. I must be thankful, and be glad. So I was! I cast off my sighs and grumbles, and started to smile instead! It wasn't long before I was singing the Hosannah song "Give Me Joy In My Heart", and my chores were done before I knew it! I challenged myself to see just how much I could enjoy what I was doing. Washing all the dishes from tea time was a breeze once I'd determined that I would enjoy it. How quickly that task went, once I embraced it with pleasure instead of reluctance. I placed my burden with God, and by His grace, I had the energy and enthusiasm to carry out all my chores with thankfulness and joy. How grateful I was! And how glad, when I was finished, to look around our clean tidy home, peaceful and calm and ready for the weekend, and know that everything was done, and with a tranquil heart too.
How easy it is, for us to stumble, when it comes to matters of the heart. In the secular world around us, the focus is not on dying to self, but on SERVING self. Everything is geared towards satisfaction of needs, both material and emotional. OUR needs - not the needs of others. This selfishness invades every aspect of our lives, and I know I must be vigilant, to stop it becoming a negative force in my own life. The enemy knows where our weak spots are, and he will do everything to lure us away from a Godly life, to one of self-indulgence and pride. I know what my weak spots are! I was reminded of this yet again this morning when Papa Bear and I were reading our morning devotional. We use the "Morning And Evening" meditations by Charles H. Spurgeon, and here is today's morning reading ...
"And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13).
"A Christian should be a striking likeness of Jesus Christ. You have read lives of Christ, beautifully and eloquently written, but the best life of Christ is His living biography, written out in the words and actions of His people. If we were what we profess to be, and what we should be, we should be pictures of Christ; yea, such striking likenesses of Him, that the world would not have to hold us up by the hour together, and say, "Well, it seems somewhat of a likeness;" but they would, when they once beheld us, exclaim, "He has been with Jesus; he has been taught of Him; he is like Him; he has caught the very idea of the holy Man of Nazareth, and he works it out in his life and every-day actions." A Christian should be like Christ in his boldness. Never blush to own your religion; your profession will never disgrace you: take care you never disgrace that. Be like Jesus, very valiant for your God. Imitate Him in your loving spirit; think kindly, speak kindly, and do kindly, that men may say of you, "He has been with Jesus." Imitate Jesus in His holiness. Was He zealous for His Master? So be you; ever go about doing good. Let not time be wasted: it is too precious. Was He self-denying, never looking to His own interest? Be the same. Was He devout? Be you fervent in your prayers. Had He deference to His Father's will? So submit yourselves to Him. Was He patient? So learn to endure. And best of all, as the highest portraiture of Jesus, try to forgive your enemies, as He did; and let those sublime words of your Master, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do," always ring in your ears. Forgive, as you hope to be forgiven. Heap coals of fire on the head of your foe by your kindness to him. Good for evil, recollect, is godlike. Be godlike, then; and in all ways and by all means, so live that all may say of you, "He has been with Jesus."
(You can read each day's devotions here).
It is so easy to read this and agree, but so much harder to put into practise! So often I can be deeply inspired by what I have read, both in the Bible and in my devotional texts and Bible studies, but inspiration is not the same thing as action! I might INTEND to change my attitude and my behaviour, but actually doing so is another challenge altogether. In this season as we approach Lent, I do feel it is important to consider my own character faults and how these can lead me to turn away from the example of Jesus, and follow the example of the world instead. Never more so, than when I am using the internet! As I have written previously, we need to be especially vigilant in our internet use, because it is so easy to be lured into thinking that what we are doing there is harmless, when in fact it isn't. Just recently, when I've been having rest times with Papa Bear in the evenings, I have been using the internet to visit sites of interest such as the Taste of Home website for recipes, and various nature websites, to find out more about some of the wildlife that interest us (we watched SUCH a funny programme on TV about pandas yesterday! It had us laughing out loud. They are such amazing, amusing creatures. Papa Bear was crying with laughter at their antics). But between doing that, I have also strayed onto several different blogs, chat rooms and message boards (I don't post on any of these, for it is such a time waster, let alone the time spent "surfing" in addition). Papa Bear knew what I was doing as he was right beside me, reading the newspaper and doing the "sudoku", but even so, time ticked away from me and before I knew it, an hour of my evening with him had been stolen, reading comments and blog posts that in point of fact, were not all entirely wholesome. It's such a temptation, when you are hidden behind a wall of anonymity online, to act in a way that you would never dream of doing, in real life. I have written already of the negative aspects of internet use, and how we need to employ vigilance to ensure that we don't get drawn into this, but oh how easy it is, to be lured into reading comments and debates that are in truth, despite being authored by good, Christian wives, occasionally quite ugly.
I think the real problem is that even though we all know what God's will is for us as wives and mothers, we are all still battling with the natures we were born with which are self serving and self indulgent, and therefore quite counter to the calling that we have from our Saviour. In real life, we have witnesses who can call on us to change our behaviour. We can challenge ourselves to be different, and can ask God to help us with this, as I did yesterday. But online, it is so much easier to give in to our faulty natures, because we can convince ourselves it isn't real, and is therefore harmless. We don't feel the same level of moral responsibility which we feel when we engage in negative or ugly behaviour in real life, and we know that if we do, we can walk away from the damage we've done to others and ourselves, without having to deal with the consequences. We can be proud, judgemental, condescending and shrewish (believe me, I am sure I have been all of these online, in the past, and I'm just as sure, if you're honest, that you have too, dear sisters). We can justify it to ourselves, even when we are being quite contentious, because we're sure we're right, and the other person is wrong, or, worse still, we think we are better than they are, because we have superior knowledge or experience. And we indulge ourselves in giving in to these vices, because it's all "virtual", and not part of our real world.
It may be so that we are blessed with greater wisdom or more life experience, but it doesn't mean that it is OK to behave like this, online as much as anywhere else. It is NEVER justifiable. To reiterate, God's will for us all as Christians, is to walk in the Spirit - to be like Jesus. We are told by Paul ...
"Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law" (Galatians 5, 16 - 18).
In case we are in any doubt, we are told exactly what the works of the flesh are;
"Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings and such like:" (Galatians 5, 19 - 21).
How often we can encounter examples of all or any of these - even on websites and blogs that might appear to be wholesome, Christian sites, with useful information and engaging anecdotes to read! We can be lulled into believing that it's OK to stray onto these sites - participate in them even, because as it's not in real life, we are somehow detatched from it - looking, but not touching. But the message is clear. Indulging in any of these vices (even in mind, not just in body), will mean that we cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. We are sinning. We are reminded in this same passage in Galatians, that ...
"... the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another." (Galatians 5, 22 - 26).
I have written out that passage, to put beside the laptop when I am using it, as a reminder to seek only those things which are the fruit of the Spirit! God loves us. He wants us to be like His son, so that we can receive the beautiful gift of Salvation that He has for us. But if we give in to our fleshly desires, we can't have it - we aren't saved. It isn't enough to understand what our duties are. We have to carry them out, and do so with willingness and joy. Furthermore, in humility, we must to seek the companionship and inspiration of others who also think this way, and cast aside the temptations of the world, seductive and apparently innocent as they are, and those who concur with them.
There are a great many wolves in sheep's clothing out there. Let us humbly seek to avoid them, and instead look upwards, to our Heavenly Father and His beautiful Son, that we might find our inspiration there, and not on earth.
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation." (Romans 13, 1 - 2).
More like Jesus would I be, let my Savior dwell with me;
Fill my soul with peace and love — make me gentle as a dove;
More like Jesus, while I go, pilgrim in this world below;
Poor in spirit would I be; let my Savior dwell in me.
If He hears the raven’s cry, if His ever watchful eye
Marks the sparrows when they fall, surely He will hear my call:
He will teach me how to live, all my sinful thoughts forgive;
Pure in heart I still would be — let my Savior dwell in me.
More like Jesus when I pray, more like Jesus day by day,
May I rest me by His side, where the tranquil waters glide.
Born of Him through grace renewed, by His love my will subdued,
Rich in faith I still would be — let my Savior dwell in me.