Saturday, 31 March 2012
In our house, this is called "spotty dog" (because the sultanas in it make it spotty!) and we normally eat it for brunch or breakfast at the weekends. I made it today for everyone to enjoy for a late breakfast after we had shopped at the supermarket, and we all agreed it is definitely best eaten warm, straight from the oven (butter and jam are optional!). I normally make this in one big scone and divide it into wedges, but you can also cut it into individual portions before you bake it, in which case you will need to shorten the cooking time a little.
To make this big scone you will need (this is a Taste of Home recipe, of course!) ...
3/4 cup dried currants or raisins (I use sultanas, as they are bigger and juicier)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
5 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream (I didn't have any today - to make your own sour cream, take the same quantity of milk, and add 1 teaspoon lemon juice to it)
2 egg yolks
(I also added to these ingredients half a teaspoon mixed spice, as my family prefers the spicier flavour)
For the glaze ...
1 egg white
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (again, I used mixed spice instead, otherwise they taste a bit too "Christmassy").
Start by putting the dried fruit you have chosen to use in a heatproof bowl, and covering them with boiled water. Leave to soak whilse you prepare the next stage.
Sift the flour then add to this the sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda and spice if using.
Cut in the butter, then rub into the flour until the mixture resembles rough breadcrumbs.
Mix the 2 egg yolks into the sour cream (you could also use buttermilk or yogurt in place of this), and then stir into the flour mixture.
Blend gently, then add the drained, soaked fruit (drain well so there is no extra moisture).
Knead the dough gently just a few times (I do this whilse it is still in the bowl I mixed it in).
Take a greased baking tray and shape the dough on the tray into a large flat round about 1/2 inch thick. Alternatively, you can cut it into individual shapes. If you do as I do and make one large round, score it into eighths with a sharp knife (but don't cut all the way through). The recipe says it serves 16, but, well, in our family it doesn't ... 8 pieces is plenty!
Make the glaze by gently beating the egg white, then in a separate bowl mix the sugar and spice together.
Use a pastry brush to cover the scone pieces with the egg white, then sprinkle with the sugar mix. Sometimes I don't bother with the glaze, and go for a rougher look (as above). Other times I smooth the dough out quite well and glaze it, often using double the amount of sugar and spice mix recommended!
Bake in a hot oven for about 18 minutes (as one big round, this takes about 25 - 30 minutes in our fan assisted oven). About halfway through, I usually cover it with foil to prevent the top from browning too quickly.
Cool on the baking tray for 10 minutes before removing to a rack to finish cooling (if you can wait that long!).
These are also delicious made with other types of dried fruit, such as blueberries, sour cherries, apple or apricot. Where we come from, this recipe, cut in the same wedge shapes, is sometimes cooked on a griddle instead of baked in an oven, and is known as "singin' hinnies" because of the noise the scones make as they cook (you are suppose to grease the griddle with lard, but I normally use butter though I am not sure it is much healthier)! If I am making these, I usually use the traditional ingredients of mixed dried fruit of the sort sold to make Christmas cakes instead of just sultanas. Papa Bear LOVES singin' hinnies with lots of butter - and I've promised to make them for him as a treat for breakfast next week on Easter Sunday!
Friday, 30 March 2012
Today marks the end of a beautiful spell of sunny weather here. It's much cooler now, and looks as if it is going to stay that way over Easter, with a return to wintry weather, and even the possiblity of some snow showers! We are use to this here in England - we may have 4 seasons, but sometimes the weather isn't quite sure which season it is in! There is a saying in our part of the world which we think is very wise, though it seems as if many of the younger generation don't share our opinion - "nee'r cast a clout till May is out" - a motto we take very seriously, where we live!
When the cubs were younger, I was always so grateful for the sunny weather. It made it so easy to keep them busy, and learning - for free! We could go to the park, visit the lake, take a trip to the seaside or go for a walk in the woods, and it would cost us almost nothing to do this. Finding inexpensive ways to keep the family amused was always easy for me, living where we do, although in winter, it was sometimes a little harder if we could not get outside. Now that the cubs are older, they are able to make their own amusement more often, but we still enjoy sharing outdoor activities as a family, and we still like to try to keep the cost of these to a minimum if we can!
Here are a few of the outdoor activities we enjoy doing as a family now, that don't cost much to do ...
Fishing - OK, this one really applies to the men in my life only! But Little Bear and I will gratefully enjoy any opportunity to come fishing with Papa Bear and Cubby, as long as they don't actually expect us to catch anything! It may look easy, but casting a line and then watching it and reeling it in when there's a bite, requires quite a bit of skill, and Little Bear and I aren't all that keen on the idea of having a slippery, live, wriggling fish to deal with at the end of it! Of course, fishing is a timeless occupation that has brought pleasure as well as sustenance to generations since Bible times, and once you've got the basic kit, all it costs is the price of a year's rod license, which is about £30. If you intend to eat your catch, of course, you can recoup some of this cost back, but Papa Bear and Cubby (and their friends who fish with them) don't do this - they throw all the fish they catch back into the water, still alive, after they've had a chance to record what their catch is and admire it with their friends. The pleasure for them is in the whole activity, and the lovely calming experience of sitting peacefully by the water. They've been doing it for a long time now, and both really enjoy this time spent together (with or without us girls!). In the winter they go sea-fishing, which is a lot more challenging, as the weather can be very harsh indeed, but they find this very exhilarating (they don't go out in a boat, but fish from the pier, where they can watch the waves roaring and crashing and sometimes rising as high as the level of their faces!).
Sports - most sports do incur a cost, of course, but as a family we are not keen on organised sporting activities, so we don't tend to spend money on these (Papa Bear and Cubby do like to watch the football, but this they do from home, on the TV, as the team we support is not local). From a modesty point of view Little Bear and I choose not to engage in activities that would require us to wear sports clothes that would be too revealing, so we don't swim or go to the gym (in any case we believe it is much cheaper simply to get your exercise by keeping physically active throughout the day, and leaving the car at home and walking instead whenever you can). But we do enjoy playing frisbee, rounders, swingball or badminton outdoors though, as a family. When we had a home with a garden it was easy to do this sort of thing whenever we wanted to. Now we go to the park, or to Grandmama Bear's house, where there is a large enough garden for all the family to join in the fun!
Riding bicycles is also fun and a cheap way to get fit, and to get you from one place to another. Where we live in England it can be quite hair-raising riding along busy main roads on a bicycle, so we tend to only stick to journeys that take us on quieter roads. Obvously it is essential to be sure that everyone understands the rules of the road, and wears sensible safety equipment, including a bicycle helmet. That means everyone - even small children on bicycles with stabilisers, or in child seats (which I personally don't like as they seem so flimsy). We had a bicycling holiday a few years ago, which was wonderful - but oh my goodness how we ached at the end of every day! Nowadays we don't seem to do this so often, but I am sure there will be many opportunities again in the future.
Picnics - of course, everyone loves a picnic in the summer! Being lucky enough to live so close to a large park, we have lots of opportunities to enjoy doing this, and it has meant many lovely occasions spent celebrating anniversaries, birthdays, graduations and other special days, outside as a family. We've even taken disposable barbecues with us so that we can have cooked food, and we have such a cute picnic basket - it's shaped like a heart! I really enjoy planning for and preparing picnics, and I know there will be lots of these in the coming months. You don't need to buy special food for a picnic - just be inventive with what you have. I use cookie cutters to cut novetly shapes for sandwiches and scones (biscuits), and I'll make pitta bread or tortilla wraps as well as sandwiches. I make sure to pack plenty of dressings and condiments (I usually decant these into miniature plastic bottles, that you can buy at the chemist or drugstore, meant for putting shampoo and such in for travelling) for salads, and I sometimes bring a flask of soup as well. Cupcakes are great for dessert as they come in their own packaging, and if it's someone's birthday, I bring LED candles instead of real ones, so the flames don't go out! Paper plates and napkins add to the sense of occasion, and no picnic would be complete without a blanket to sit on and a parasol to give you some shade. Oh, and don't forget a package of wet wipes to clean up with afterwards!
Nature trails and rambles - there are so many opportunities to do this right on our doorstep. We can see the park from our kitchen window, and in the opposite direction, just a few steps further is the lake where Papa Bear likes to fish, and where we can enjoy seeing many different species of birds, plants and flowers throughout the year. It is a wonderful environment to enjoy without having to travel very far at all, and we love being able to watch the turning of the seasons reflected in the changing scenery at the lake. Whatever the time of year, it is beautiful. We make sure to visit the lake for a walk at least twice a month - more if Papa Bear takes Cubby fishing as well.
City walks are fun too - in quite a different way. The best time to go for a city walk is when the stores are all closed! These days that's harder to achieve than it use to be (when Papa Bear and I were cubs, no shops were allowed to open on Sundays or in the evenings. It was quite different to the have-it-now culture that is all around us today. Sundays felt quite different from the rest of the week, and if you wanted to buy a loaf of bread or a pint of milk, you had to wait until Monday when the shops opened again. Some shops even closed at lunchtime during the week!) - we try to do this on a bank holiday, when at least the shops do close earlier than usual, and in the summer, it is very pleasant to walk around the town where we live and see it as it should be seen, without crowds of shoppers everywhere. It's interesting to see all the architecture on the buildings around where we live, some of which is many centuries old. Somehow you notice it more, when there are fewer people about. We have a beautiful ancient cathedral in the centre of our town and it is really very lovely to visit here and walk around the very gracious and peaceful grounds - like stepping back in time to an era before cars or computers or televisions. You can leave all the hustle and bustle of the town behind, and enjoy the lovely surroundings without any distractions. It is quite another world, and we have spent some very pleasurable occasions there. It has a very special significance for us as a couple too - it's where Papa Bear proposed to me, one evening down by the river right at the edge of the grounds - soooo romantic!
Finally, one of the things we often do as a family, is go for a walk just in the streets around where we live - after it has got dark. On a clear night you can see many different constellations of stars (Little Bear and Cubby know what all of these are, but I can never remember them!), and they look so beautiful sparkling in the navy blue night sky. Somehow in the night, the air outside smells quite different - in winter it can be cindery with the scent of frost, and in summer, sweet from the lime and apple blossoms in the park and gardens we walk past. The darkness makes the streets look quite different, and sometimes a bit creepy, but that's all part of the fun! Of course, we only ever do this when we all 4 can go together!
We like to experience nature in as many different ways as we can - but it isn't necessary to spend lots of money doing this. Of course we could spend thousands going on holidays to far flung parts of the world in order to see and experience things we can only dream of, but for now, this isn't possible, and I think even if it was, Papa Bear would have much better things to spend our money on! We are very content to be able to step right outside our front door, and find nature in all its glory and wonder just there on the doorstep, waiting for us - and we are very thankful to God that He has made it possible for us to enjoy it together as a family in so many different ways.
Thursday, 29 March 2012
Source for this image here.
Little Bear will be celebrating her birthday soon, and as always whenever one of our cubs celebrates a birthday, Papa Bear and I enjoy looking back over the happy years we've shared with our precious children, and think with excitement and enthusiasm, of all the wonderful experiences they have yet to look forward to. Of course, for our daughter, one of the most exciting of these, will be her marriage! It is incredible to think that in just a few years, likely it is that Little Bear will be a Mama Bear herself, and we will be grandparents! What an amazing thought! We were talking about this at our evening meal today, and enjoying hearing the cubs list all the attributes they hoped for in their spouses-to-be (apparently Cubby's future wife needs to enjoy fishing as much as he and his dad do, but she's got to be able to make apple caramel cake as well as his mam, and not mind if he needs to have the occasional lie-in!). Little Bear was much more theoretical. She wants to make sure her husband has the same values and principles as she does - and so do we!
Visit any marriage guidance website - Christian or secular - and you will find in all of them a list of key qualities that are thought to be necessary for a happy marriage. Up there with all the other important qualities such as good communication, a strong commitment to each other and mutual aspirations, is almost always, the key issue of shared values - a vital foundation for a harmonious relationship, which includes spiritual beliefs, moral standards, role responsibilities and of course, attitudes to child raising.
For Papa Bear and I, this has never been an area of our marriage that has come into question. Because we were raised in the same culture, the same values were instilled in us by our parents and siblings from the earliest of ages, and when we married, it was something that we never felt we needed to disuss, because it was never an issue. We just assumed, without ever talking about it, that our expectations and standards would be the same, and it was accepted, when Little Bear and then Cubby came along, that they would be raised in just the same way that we were, as children. I realise that it is not always this straightforward. If a couple come from very different cultural backgrounds or from different faiths, it must be much more difficult to find that common ground - although I know that it is possible and that happy marriages can and do result even when the 2 spouses are from very diverse backgrounds. However for us, our approach to childrearing has never been an issue of contention, and I know that we are very blessed in this, becuase it has meant for us, a very beautiful and harmonious marriage, with very little if any disagreement (well OK, no marriage is perfect - we do have some disagreements - over things like, which flavour of cheesecake I should make, or whether it's acceptable to eat said cheesecake as a healthy breakfast choise. He he!).
I was so excited when our first baby was a little girl. Papa Bear was too - he has no sisters, so having a wee girl in the family was a great novelty for him! I was so pleased to give him a daughter, and all the joy that she would bring us both. I was especially looking forwards to teaching Little Bear all the skills necessary to assist her in womanhood and marriage, just as my mother had taught me - and her mother had taught her. That is one of the most rewarding things about carrying on the traditions of our culture. I feel as if I am making a very important contribution to the nurturing and upholding of these traditions for another generation, in a society where tradition seems to count for less and less. Our culture will remain intact for my daughter's children, and hopefully her children also. But although this has been an important motivating factor in the way that we have chosen to raise our children, it is not the most important. There is another more significant motivation, which has been that we ensure that our children are prepared for a lifetime as servants of God - responsible, dutiful Christian adults who are able to witness to others their faith, through their behaviour and the relationships they choose. This has been one of the greatest challenges for me as a mother. In a society that is increasingly secular, it has been a great worry to me that our children would be swayed by the negative influences all around them, and stray from the narrow path, for
"wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it". (Matthew 7, 13 - 14).
However, as Little Bear approaches an age when she will be ready to marry and start bearing children of her own, we are starting to feel quite confident that we have successfully prepared our daughter not only for a marriage that will mirror the standards and traditions of her parents', but also one which will be pleasing to God. I don't say this to congratulate myself - but out of joy, that our wonderful girl, on the brink of her birthday, has become a young woman we can truely be proud of.
How have we achieved this?
Well, partly it has been an unconscious, regular setting of examples. I've written about this before - and I will say it again - we believe that it is essential, if you want your children to behave in a way that you consider acceptable before God, that you do so yourself. Children's minds are like little sponges - they soak up everything around them, that they see and hear, and it is therefore so important that we guard our tongues and our minds, when we are with our children. It's surprising how difficult this can be - but it is really important. It is all part of the self-denial that goes with being a parent, that is not so much about putting your child's material needs before your own (though to an extent this is important too - we would always see our children fed, clothed and kept warm before ourselves, though that goes without saying) - but is about considering how your conduct will shape the future conduct of your child, and having enough will-power to ensure that at all times, you are modelling the behaviour you wish for them to exhibit, even when you don't feel like it, or don't feel you should have to.
It has also meant ensuring that from the earliest ages, our children have been raised to know God, and to know that He is central to everything in our lives. What an essential factor this has been in their upbringing, as it was in ours'. It has meant taking part in worship, daily devotionals, Bible readings and studies, and understanding what a Christian life means, in practise, in everyday life. It has meant that having been given this grounding, then encouraging our children to make decisions for themselves, as they get older, using their Christian faith as a benchmark for measuring whether those decisions are acceptable or not. This trust has had to be cultivated - it did not come easily to Papa Bear or myself, but we have both found it to be essential, to equip our children, as young adults, for a life where they will not have us to help them in every aspect of their lives, as they had when they were younger. If they have had a good solid Christian grounding, then they should (and do!) make decisions that will be pleasing to God, and that will enable them to continue to live a wholesome, productive and Godly life away from the family home.
We don't expect that our children will want to move too far away - they've both chosen to stay at college here at home, instead of moving hundreds of miles away to study like many of their contemporaries. We're very flattered that they have chosen to do this, and see this as one example of how our nurturing of their values, using the models that we ourselves grew up with, has grown deep roots within their hearts, and blossomed so that now, as young adults, they are making choises themselves, that reflect these very values which we've instilled in them. Values such as kindness, humbleness, meekness, forebearance and forgiveness (Colossians 3, 12 - 13), love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, gentleness and faith (Galatians 5, 22). This element of trust is essential if we are to allow our children to "leave and cleave" in the way that God commands in Genesis, Chapter 2. Our job is to provide the tools for a lifetime of good works - and to do this, we have to let our children leave us, and make their own way in life.
What are some of the skills that are necessary, for a young woman entering into adulthood with a heart to serve? Apart from the qualities that I've listed above, I would add to this a number of practical skills that I've taught Little Bear from an early age (Papa Bear has done the same for Cubby, but that is for another post) -
Budgeting and frugality - including how to manage on a very limited income
Home organisation - storage, furnishings, essential items
Sewing and Mending
Laundry and ironing
Hygiene and cleanliness
Scheduling and timetabling
Bookkeeping (at the guidance of her husband)
Modesty, purity and humility, including the choice of appropriate garments, headcoverings and conduct around men who are not family members
Childcare and education
Charity work including ministering to the elderly and sick, and fundraising for various organisations
I've also taught her some fun crafts that she'll be able to use to make her first home look pretty too! She's almost as nifty with her knitting needles as I am - and dare I say it - although she's still a teenager, she's a better pastry maker than her mam already!
I'm looking forwards to the next few years, as we get to know the young man who will be courting our daughter, and share in the precious joys of their marriage and early days as husband and wife - living out God's plan for them, just as Papa Bear and I try to do in our own marriage. We believe that as we watch our daughter and her future spouse grow together, the characteristics and qualities of their marriage will reflect those in ours - and by this we can measure the success of our own union, which we believe to be as solid and unshakable, as our faith in our Father God is. It's so exciting to think of this next season of parenthood, which we are sure will be just as rewarding for us as all the other seasons have been - and I hope and pray that the grounding we have given both our children, will be sufficient for them to enjoy the same contentment and joy that we have experienced ourselves.
"Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.
For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.
For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother.
He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.
Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.
She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.
Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many". (Proverbs 4, 1 - 10).
Wednesday, 28 March 2012
Today I am feeling so much better! I have been very busy catching up with all the things that had to be left undone yesterday and on Monday because of my bad hip. I ran some errands, sorted out the bookcase in the living room, did some more decluttering and was able to tidy out the cupboard under the stairs - and in the process of doing that I made several exciting discoveries! The first of these might seem very trivial indeed, but it made me smile very much! I found my pretty pink straw bag, which contains fabric scraps, which I shall use to create some pretty trimmings to decorate our home with for Easter - and in emptying the bag out to make sure it was clean, I found right at the bottom, a very tiny wee screw, about 1/2 cm long and just a couple of millimeters wide. I didn't know where it had come from or how it had got into the bag (or indeed how I managed to see it), but I knew exactly what I was going to do with it now that I'd found it - fix my reading glasses! Recently one of the arms fell off them, and although I have a glasses repair kit, there was not a screw the right size in that kit, and so Papa Bear had said they could not be repaired properly unless we could find a store that sold the right size of screw. He had fixed them as well as he could by winding a bit of wire around the arm, but it kept coming loose and the glasses would fall off. So you can imagine how delighted I was, when I tried this wee screw in them and it fitted exactly! That made me so happy. I have glasses that stay on again!
The third thing that I found in the cupboard (which has to serve as our loft, basement and all purpose storage facilitiy as we have no other storage space, which is good because it reduces clutter accumulation, but difficult sometimes as it really does limit what we can keep, and I do find myself occasionally having to discard items we'd really prefer to hang onto, as a result) was a bag of craft materials left over from when I was working on a big collage that I created as a birthday card for a member of our Church who celebrated her 60th birthday last summer. She's from Scotland, so I collected lots of pictures of famous things associated with Scotland, such as a kilt, Greyfriar's Bobby, some bagpipes, Edinburgh Castle, some haggis, lorne sausage, a bottle of whisky and such. I also found out what the colours of her family tartan were, and managed to get some ribbon that was almost that pattern to decorate the card with. And I also cut a few sprigs of heather and dried them out to put on it too. With a few embellishments I managed to make quite a pretty picture - and the birthday girl loved it! There were quite a few bits and pieces left over, including some sheets of tissue paper. All the pretty colours, the pinks and purples, were gone, but there were still some nice summery colours left, as you can see in the picture above. Inspired by what I'd found, I decided to use this left over tissue paper to create a little Easter ornament.
It took about an hour to make, and this is how I did it ...
You will need - a polystyrene (styrofoam) shape - I used a heart.
coloured tissue paper - about 8 sheets.
glass seed beads.
a piece of tape or ribbon to use for a hanger.
any other embellishments you like!
You'll also need a pair of craft scissors to cut the tissue paper.
I started by cutting small circles, about an inch in diameter, out of several layers of tissue paper. I pinned these in the centre onto the heart, using a sequin pin and a glass seed bead for added colour. Then I scrunched the paper to make it look more ike a flower bud. I made a row down the centre of one side of the heart first, then worked outwards before turning it over and doing the same on the other side. I kept the circles quite close togehter, and when I was done, I then tidied up any gaps with smaller circles of paper applied in the same way, and a few additional pins with seed beads of a contrasting colour (mine were blue and green). I added the flower motif in the middle using the same technique of pinning it, and then put a hanger in using 2 more pins. Little Bear thought it looked great! They're very easy to make, but I would advise that you keep these out of the reach of small children once they are finished - the pins are quite easy to remove, so hang it well out of their way for safety purposes. We already had the polystyrene hearts, which can easily be found in any craft store, but Little Bear and I liked this so much that we think we might investigate some other shapes to try - we might even attempt an indoor wreath for our door!
Next week, I shall show you how I make some cute fabric birds to use as seasonal decorations.
Tuesday, 27 March 2012
The spring weather we are having at the moment is wonderful. For the past week at least, the sun has not stopped shining all day. It feels so good to be able to put out 2 or even 3 loads of laundry and have it all dry by the end of the day! I love the smell of it too when it has dried outside, so fresh and sweet. But apart from the laundry and my basic daily chores, I've not been able to get done many of the things on my to-do lists the last couple of days. The arthritis I suffer with intermittently in my right hip has been hurting me very much recently and this morning I could barely walk. Fortunately, thanks to the Lord's blessing, some strong pain medication and Papa Bear's insistence that I rest, the pain is beginning to ease now, but I have been worrying about not getting everything done! I needn't have though - Little Bear has been very helpful so that between us we've got most things covered indoors, and Cubby has been helping with fetching and carrying things, sorting out the animals, and putting out the rubbish (we live in a high rise apartment that has no lift, which means a lot of stairs to climb!). Oh! I's wonderful to be so well cared for! When I told Papa Bear how grateful I was for everyone's care and attention, he said that I did not need to be grateful, because it was my time for being looked after, just as he and the cubs also have their time for being taken care of too. Of course, he's right - we all have a season for being ill, and a season for being well. And with that thought in mind, here I am writing today's Tuesday's Time To, which, continuing with this theme, is all about our health.
A time to plant ... many people hesitate about taking conventional medicine because they do not like the idea of taking chemicals into their bodies. But did you know that a great many medications are actually derived from plants? Popular painkillers, such as Aspirin and Codeine, come from plants, as do some anticoagulants, such as Digoxin. Many stomach treatments are also plant based, as are some cough medicines. In fact many of the medications that we take now, have been developed from simple home remedies that were used by herbalists many centuries ago when only plants and herbs were available to them. That's not to say that they are all without side effects, but it's worth remembering that almost everything we ingest has its origin in something that God created - modern medications included.
A time to heal ... the only treatment available for me to permanently heal my painful arthritis is to have a joint replacement. However I am hesitating about this just now, as they only last for 15 years or so. At the age I am now, this would mean having to undergo this same operation perhaps 3 or possibly even 4 times during my lifetime, which obviously isn't very good for my overall health, as it is a major operation with all that this entails. So until the pain becomes an everyday occurrence and is impossible to manage with painkillers and rest, I shall carry on as I am, and wait on God to guide me, or see fit for me to be healed in another way.
A time to laugh ... laughter is a very good medicine! Papa Bear and the cubs did plenty to cheer me up today. Cubby is the best joke teller in our home. This is the sort of joke we get from him ... (Papa Bear brought home some hot cross buns for a treat today - yes, it's Lent, but he decided we all needed cheering up with a surprise for our tea) and so Cubby treated us to one of his favourite jokes as we ate them with our tea - "what do you get if you pour hot water down a rabbit hole?" Answer - "a hot cross bunny!" Well, we think it's funny! The buns were lovely too, by the way - apple and cinnamon - very sticky and delicious, toasted with butter on them - mmmmm!
A time to embrace ... Papa Bear makes sure I get lots of extra "huggles" (a huggle is a cross between a hug and a cuddle, for those of you that don't already know) when I am suffering with my arthritis. Even though I try to hide it from him because I don't want him to worry about me, he always knows when it is really bad, and he is so kind and caring. Just that one extra hug always makes me feel ever so much better.
A time to keep ... I always do make sure to keep our medicine cabinet well stocked. We don't overuse medications, but I do make sure we have a basic first aid and medical kit. It contains painkillers (my prescription ones, and generic ones for the whole family to use. If you have asthma sufferers in your family, as we do, it is worth noting that you should not use Ibuprofen as a pain reliever as it can cause breathing difficulties in those who already have asthma. Paracetamol is the safest painkiller for the family - Aspirin is also not suitable for children under 16) plus also a painkilling gel that can be rubbed on the skin (this contains a derirative of capiscum - chilli peppers - another plant based medicine). I also make sure to keep some stomach medicine (peppermint oil and everyone's favourite, Pepto-Bismol. It is such a pretty colour!), anti-sickness tablets for travelling (Little Bear and I are like the Duggar family and suffer badly with this), anti-histamines (both tablets and Wasp-eeze for stings), arnica for bruises, antiseptic cream and ointment, plasters and bandages, sterile swabs and fabric for making into slings if necessary. Both Little Bear and Cubby are trained St. John Ambulance First-Aiders, so we are well equipped as a family for any physical emergency! I keep my medical kit in a plastic lunchbox with a flip-top lid (well labelled, of course). It is much larger than a proper first aid box, but cost a fraction of the price. Oh - and one last thing - we always have a bottle of smelling-salts and some Eau De Cologne in our first aid box! Very old fashioned, but they always make us smile when we see them (and my goodness me, those smelling-salts certainly do make you wake up when you inhale them!).
A time to sew ... eek! The worst medical emergency we've had in recent years is when Cubby cut his hand open with a Stanley knife. In fact it looked much worse than it actually turned out to be, because of all the blood, but I was so scared! I truely thought we were going to lose him when I saw the mess in the kitchen. We drove to the A&E department with his hand wrapped in a towel in a carrier bag to stop the bleeding going all over the car and when we got there and unwrapped it, I nearly fainted! Cubby wasn't at all bothered, until he had to have 4 stitches! They were in the palm of his hand and it wasn't so much the stitches that hurt but the needle for the anaesthetic. Oh I did feel for him! He's a very brave and stoical lad, our Cubby, never one to make much fuss, and he would not let me go into the cubicle with him, but it did not stop me HEARING him. Poor Cubby! He cheered up quickly enough afterwards though, when we stopped off at McDonald's on the way back home to pick up our tea for a treat! Believe it or not he was still hungry after all that!
A time to speak .. when to speak to the doctor? When we were first young (very young!) parents, Papa Bear and I were always so worried about bothering the doctor. Were we being too vigilant? Or not vigilant enough? As our babies grew older, we got more confident. It's so hard to know whether a symptom is serious enough to warrant a visit to (or from) the doctor, especially with a very small child. But we soon learned that the doctor never minded if we went and it was nothing to worry about! Better to be safe than sorry. Little Bear, our first baby, was such a quiet and contented child that when she did cry properly for the very first time (aged 3 months old!) we were so panicked that we literally ran all the way to the doctor's surgery, convinced that she was seriously ill. She had been crying all afternoon and just could not settle. We were so anxious! And when the doctor did finally see her, of course she was as quiet and sweet as she usually was, and his diagnosis? Wind! He he! When Cubby Bear arrived we knew better and were a little less anxious, so we didn't visit the doctor quite so often, but it's worth remembering, the doctor is there to reassure you, and if you're not sure - phone and ask. In England, there are various helplines and websites you can access, and pharmacies are also good places to go if you need advice. But if you are really concerned, don't hesitate - your child's health is too precious.
A time to love ... apparently, being in a stable, loving marriage, is so good for your health that it adds as much as five years to your life! According to medical research quoted on the news channel CBN, the security and contentment of being in a fulfilling marriage leads to lowering of stress levels which in turn protects against diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimers and heart conditions. It also protects the immune system, leading to a lower incidence of infectious illnesses such as flu and colds. Yet another excuse for a hug, Papa Bear!
A time of peace ... if you struggle to get a peaceful night's sleep when you have a cold or sinusitis because of problems with congestion when you are lying down, try a traditional remedy to aid your breathing which I've used for a long time - steam inhalations. Get a sturdy heat proof bowl and fill it with recently boiled water. Add to this a few drops of Olbas or Eucalyptus oil (if you have pet birds, do not use Eucalyptus oil in the room where they live, as the oil is an irritant to their respiratory systems) and then lean over the bowl (not too close, or you may scald yourself) with a towel pulled right over your head. Inhale the steam as deeply as you can - it will feel impossible at first and you'll think you can't breathe, but keep inhaling slowly and you'll be surprised at how much clearer your nose and throat become. Don't do this for too long or you may start to feel faint - about 5 minutes is plenty. You can repeat this as often as you need to. I follow it up with a flannel soaked in warm water which I hold over the swollen areas of my face, when my sinuses are really blocked, and I also sprinkle a little of the oil on our pillows, to aid with breathing. I've found doing this is just as effective in treating my blocked sinuses, as taking decongestants.
Monday, 26 March 2012
Source for this image here.
"For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering". (1 Corinthians, 12 - 15)
It often suprises people when I tell them that the reason I wear a headcovering is as a symbol of my submission to my husband, as my headship, rather than as a visible demonstration of my faith. In fact, Papa Bear and I believe that the teachings of Scripture instruct women not wear a headcovering purely to draw attention to one's faith, as this would be to do so out of vainity, not modesty -
"In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works." (1 Timothy 2, 9 - 10).
To us, our faith should be demonstrated in our demeanour and behaviour, not our apparel. It doesn't mean however, that we believe that to wear a headcovering is not Biblical, but we do not share the interpretation of the teaching of First Corinthians, Chapter 11, to mean that women are instructed to have an additional covering, to the covering of their hair. Our understanding of this passage is that it simply means that a woman's hair should be long, not that she should wear an additional covering -
"Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering". (1 Corinthians 11, 13 - 15)
Here it is easy to see that the Scriptural teaching is that a woman's long hair is her covering - a man is not to have long hair, but a woman should - it is shameful for her to have short hair, which would make her indistinguishable from her husband (who is described in this passage as her head - the distinction which Paul is focussing on here is between men and women, not between hair and headcoverings - "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body" - Ephesians 5, 23). Men and women must not be physically indistinguishable, and this means that men are not to have long hair - only women shall.
"But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.
Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord". (1 Corinthians, 3 - 11).
This is what our Church teaches, and it is what we believe also. For this reason, I do have long hair in order that I may be distinguishable from my headship, and this command is for all women, not just those that are married, so Little Bear has long hair also. But it may therefore seem odd that we should appear to disregard such teaching, so obviously, by my also wearing a headcovering. The reason for this perceived anomaly is that for us, my wearing a headcovering is part of a cultural tradition that we uphold, as married women, out of respect for our headships. Many centuries ago, a "bride price" was paid for a wife by her husband-to-be's family. I have written about this in a separate post, previously, which you can read here. I am so happy to belong to my precious Papa Bear! And of course, sinse every part of me belongs to him, so also does my hair. This means that in deference to him I cover my long hair, his possession, that it may be only visible to him, when he chooses, and so that other men may not enjoy what is rightfully only his. Our daughter will cover her head in this way also, when she marries, but until a woman marries she does not need to cover. However, I see this as my duty to my husband, as a Christian wife, not just a cultural tradition. My headcovering is a symbol of respect and obedience to Papa Bear, in my role as his help meet. By honouring him in this way, I am honouring God - "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord". (Ephesians 5, 22). Likewise, my body also is covered, as of course the rest of me belongs to Papa Bear too! I shall post in the future about how I dress, and hopefully (if Papa Bear is agreeable) some pictures of my clothes (he bought me TWO new dresses today, which is partly what inspired this post!).
We realise for people who do not belong to our culture, this aspect of the traditions that we uphold must seem very alien and perhaps restrictive also. But for us it is not restrictive at all, but something beautiful, part of what is most treasured and lovely about our marriage relationship. To us my covering myself and keeping my body and my hair hidden from public view means that there is a separate and uniquely exclusive part of our relationship that is private between us and only us, which would not exist if I did not cover myself as I do. It adds a precious element of intimacy that I do not believe we could share, if I was on show to anyone and everyone. I feel as if I am giving myself like a gift, to my husband, every time he sees me uncovered. As the analogy in the Book of the Song of Solomon describes, my body is like a secret garden, to which only Papa Bear has the key -
"A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed." (Song of Solomon 4, 12).
Of course, many Christian women do cover their hair for Scriptural reasons only, and no doubt their husbands also get to enjoy this special privelige, when they uncover in private. But if they are doing this merely to tell the world of their attachment to a particular faith, then to us, this seems rather vain and hollow. It's certainly true that our faith means that we are saved by grace, not works - " ... by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2, 8), but faith alone is not enough - we need to live out that faith, every day, to serve our Father God.
"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. " (James 2, 14 - 17).
We should never be complacent in our faith - and if that means questioning our motives in how we conduct ourselves and behave then this can only be pleasing to our Saviour. Let us be certain that when we are guided by the commands of the Word, not the world, and that when we cover our heads, we are doing so not just out of mere vanity, but out of love and commitment to our husbands, and through them, our Saviour.
Sunday, 25 March 2012
Source for this image here.
This was the Psalm that we had at Church today.
"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar." (Psalm 51, 1 - 19).
Saturday, 24 March 2012
Papa Bear chose this clip from YouTube for us today! He likes Country praise music a great deal, and has the most lovely singing voice. I adore hearing him sing along to praise music such as this, which he does often, but especially when he's really happy!
Another thing I adore just now, is the wonderful selection of books that he gave me, for a Mothers' Day gift last week. I am of course not his mam, but he still gives me such beautiful gifts every Mothers' Day! Aren't I lucky to have such a generous, caring and thoughtful husband! He is always surprising me with treats and wee presents, not just on the days when the world says he should, but in between times too, and likewise I enjoy being able to do the same for him. We don't need an excuse to celebrate our love - every day is a celebration for us - and there are some very special days coming up soon. It will be our wedding anniversary soon, but before that, we also celebrate the anniversary of the day that we fell in love (we have known each other all our lives, but haven't always been lovers! Oh Papa Bear, those wasted years! He says we have plenty of time to make amends for that. He he!). I have some special plans for these celebrations, but I'm not going to share them, or it will spoil the surprise for my precious husband!
Two of the books that he gave me are by one of my favourite Christian authors, Emilie Barnes, who is most famous for writing books on organisation, as well as devotionals and guides to healthy living to name but a few. I really enjoy reading her books and have been inspired by several of them that I already have. To add to my collection Papa Bear gave me "The 15 Minute Home & Family Organizer" and "Things Happen When Women Care". He had to get these second hand, as they are both out of print now, but I am so glad that he did! They are wonderful, and don't look as if they have ever been read. When I opened them up, their pages had a beautiful soft scent of lavender, which instantly made me feel as if Emilie Barnes herself had sent them to us! So far I have only had time to browse through them, but they are brimming with a wealth of useful information and I know they are going to be read from cover to cover, and turned to a great deal in the future. I especially like all the hints and suggestions Emilie Barnes has for getting your home running efficiently and smoothly, but also at the same time managing to make it cosy and welcoming. I also like the way she weaves Scripture into her writing, so that it is always spiritually inspiring too. At the beginning of "Things Happen When Women Care", she writes about how there are so many different ways for women to demonstrate caring - such as through hospitality, nurturing, giving and listening. There are many more examples throughout the book though I haven't had time yet to read through it, of course, but I know it will encourage me greatly. She also writes however about how it can be easy to lose a sense of balance in all that we do, if we focus too much on only one aspect of our God-given role. It's important to achieve a healthy sense of balance, so that we don't overlook what is really important. No extremes - just a wholesome mixture of all the different qualities that every woman needs to fulfill her Godly role effectively. She even shares a poem with us, which she attributes to a lady called Dorothy Main, of Boger, Texas, to help us understand what she means ...
My Martha Side
My house is a tyrant, demanding each hour. Imperiously ordering: "sweep, mop and scour! Do the dishes, the laundry, then iron, dust and cook! And there's mending to do if you'll just take a look. Now, Martha, get busy and don't waste a minute: dirt is a sin, and you're wallowing in it!"
My Mary Side
My housework can wait... there's a friend I must see, who's lonely and frightened, she's looking for me. Then I'll tidy up quickly and hurry to hear that fine missionary we support every year. Home again, "Father, thank You, please help me to care for the hungry and homeless who live in despair."
Martha nags me to keep my house spotless each day; and Mary says gently, "I need time to pray. Martha's concerned with "what neighbors might think if they dropped in and found dishes stacked in the sink." While Mary chides, "selfish! I think it's a crime if you don't share with others your talents and time."
Oh God, in compassion, so order my days that Mary might serve Thee and Martha may praise Thee. (Emilie Barnes, "Things Happen When Women Care", pp 8 - 9).
What a beautiful, heartfelt prayer! After my super-busy day yesterday, I think this poem is very valuable advice! I'm going to print this out and keep it in the kitchen where I can see it every day, to pray over and remind myself that as a woman who cares, I need to ensure I am keeping a balance between the chores I have to do, and the caring that is needed for my family, and so please God as I work and grow. Sometimes I can get over-focused on the small details, and forget the bigger picture, and that's when I need to stop, take a breath, whisper a prayer and remember that I only have to do enough - I don't have to be perfect! Papa Bear was so happy to hear me say this, as I began to write this blog post a wee while ago! He was also happy to see how much I am enjoying my books! As he sais, they are there to use as a support to the teachings of scripture, which also command that we keep a balance - and that we make sure we allow ourselves, through His son Christ Jesus, to lean on our Father God, to help carry our burdens for us through the days. Thank you Papa Bear, for being such a wonderful guide! We are so lucky to have you as the wise and caring head of our home.
"For with God nothing shall be impossible". (Luke 1, 37).
Friday, 23 March 2012
I'm a little late getting started on this post, because I've been busy today decluttering! I really enjoy this job - it honestly isn't a chore! In point of fact I would go so far as to say that I find it addictive, which is why whenever I put aside time to declutter, it is never long enough! I always get so absorbed in what I am doing that I lose track of time, which is not always a good thing. Fortunately today Papa Bear was here to keep a check on my endeavours, so here I am, finally sitting down with my lovely husband right here beside me (I think he wants to make sure I don't declutter anything else. Truely, I am the opposite of a hoarder. I'm a compulsive DE-hoarder). And having now drawn breath I'm ready for today's Frugal Friday!
I thought I'd talk a little today about shopping at thrift stores (or charity shops, as they tend to be called in England). By this, I mean shops that sell second-hand items that have been donated by members of the public to raise funds for the charitable organisation that runs the shop. Here in the part of England where we live this is really the only sort of high street second-hand store that there is. Online there are lots of alternatives, such as Ebay (which we don't use, as we believe it encourages gambling) and Amazon Marketplace (which we do use) where great bargains can be had if you know how to look for them. But today I'm going to focus only on the high street type of second-hand store.
In England, charity shops nowadays are not nearly as cheap as they use to be! This is mainly due to the advent of large chain stores that sell very cheaply mass-produced items (especially clothes) for such low prices, that they're almost comparable to the second-hand stores. However they are often cheap for a reason - their staff are paid low wages, the garments are not usually very well made, and sometimes, they've been manufactured abroad in factories that use much lower welfare and ethical standards for their staff than the ones here. These are reasons worth considering the second-hand shops instead, where although the prices of the items on sale may not be much lower than these large chain stores, they are often items from the better chain stores, or items made by organisations supported by the charity that runs the store. Some of the charity shops here where we live that we like to visit are Oxfam (which supports third world countires), Pact (which supports animal welfare), Scope (which supports people who have physical disabilities), Arc (which helps people who have arthritis), and Mind (which supports people who have mental illnesses). These charities are all good causes that we personally want to support, so we're happy to spend our money in them.
There are a few hints worth knowing, if you are a charity shop novice, which will make your experiences more positive! It can be a little off-putting, the first time you visit a charity shop, as they are often a little bit more cluttered inside, than big department stores, and the items on sale may be slightly less well presented. After all, the staff that work there are usually not being paid, and therefore there are often fewer of them, with less time to organise the store. But don't let that deter you! Nowadays they are getting better, and some of them are very clean and nice inside.
As with all shopping trips, we find it makes good sense, if you are on a budget, if you determine how much you intend to spend BEFORE you go. It is very tempting, when you are confronted with all these bargains, to think "wow, I'm saving so much money", and therefore be encouraged to purchase things you didn't plan to buy, just because they are so cheap. This isn't a good way to save money, so it is a good idea to decide before you shop, just exactly what it is you wish to buy. If the shops you visit don't have the items you want to purchase, then don't be lured into spending your money anyway. You'll fetch up with things you probably don't need, and the items that you did want to buy, are still on your shopping list!
Obviously with charity shops, the selection of available items isn't uniform. There will be lots of clothes, but there won't be a selection of sizes in one same item as there are in department stores. With things that come in a set, like dinnerware, flatware, bedding, cookware etc, you'll often find that items are missing (which is probably why they got sent to the charity shop in the first place). This doesn't necessarily mean it is a bad buy, but be aware you'll probably have to look a long time, to find the missing pieces! As regards clothes, while I wouldn't normally impulse buy, I will say that if you are looking for, say, a dress, and you find one that you really like and which fits you well, don't hang about wondering whether to buy it. If this is what you came to buy and you know you'll wear it, buy it. If you hesitate, it may be gone, and there won't be another one. This is why you do need to be careful, and strong willed, when you shop in charity shops. It is all too easy to come back with things you WERENT sure about, which you bought just in case someone else got to them while you hesitated. For that reason, I do think it is a good idea to shop with someone else. Papa Bear is great at giving his honest (but always polite!)opinion about whether it is really worth buying something I'm hesitating over. And of course, he's always right!
Things that are good to buy at charity shops are:-
Books - although do check Amazon Marketplace. You can buy books there for a penny, plus postage, which is pretty much the cheapest way I have found to buy second-hand books. They're often in slightly better condition too - charity shops seem to have a lower level of quality control, than Amazon does.
Toys - especially ones for babies, but get there quickly! They really do get snapped up fast, so if you see something get it while it's there.
Other baby equipment - I've bought bedding which was good and clean, from charity shops, as well as padded seat covers, raincovers for strollers, sunblinds for the car, and towels, from charity shops. However, I would draw the line at purchasing items such as strollers or car seats. I'd prefer to know where these have come from, and whether they have been used carefully. (In England it is not recommended to use second-hand car seats. They may have been in an accident which has weakened the structure of the seat, which will not necessarily be obvious to the naked eye, but could mean that if involved in another accident, they do not protect your child as they should. Don't scrimp on safety items for your precious babies).
Clothes - obviously, clothes are the one main attraction for many people. With the cost of buying new ones rising higher and higher, second-hand garments from good stores are an attractive alternative. I have had some really excellent bargains from charity shops, including a winter coat with the price tag still on, several skirts from good stores (including a sweet black wool one, that I am wearing as I write), scarves (they are usually less than £1), nightgowns and blouses. It's a great way to find lovely clothes for a fraction of the price they would have been new. I would advise not buying shoes second-hand however. Shoes mould themselves to the original wearer's feet, and your feet will not fit them in the same way, which will mean that they are very uncomfortable (and actually damaging, in the case of children whose feet are still growing). I personally would not want to wear someone else's shoes anyway - ewwww! And of course, I always wash everything when I get it home, before we wear it.
Bedding, towels and curtains - likewise, charity shops are a great source for good quality bedding (check the label - polycotton with a high percentage of cotton is good quality. I personally don't like 100% cotton as it is so difficult to keep smooth and crease free!). We have a thick door curtain that came from a charity shop several years ago, which was a wonderful buy. I lined it with a pair of thinner curtains that I sewed top-to-bottom to make them long enough, and it is excellent at keeping out the cold!
Knitting wool and patterns - you can't beat charity shops for these. I buy nearly all my patterns at charity shops, and wool is often available for less than 50p a ball. However there often isn't enough to knit anything other than a baby garment (it's usually the left over wool from someone's bigger knitting project). It's still worth buying though - you can use it to create a knitted or crocheted blanket!
Handbags - I can't remember the last time I bought a handbag brand new. Charity shops are brilliant places to get handbags, and purses too, and you can often get very good quality leather ones for just a couple of pounds.
Jewellery - if you wear jewellery, don't overlook charity shops as a source for your purchases. I've got quite a few sweet items from charity shops over the years, and was especially happy to find a tiny sweet watch that fitted my wrist exactly! Sadly it broke about a year after I got it (and I must confess, it's one thing I haven't yet had the heart to declutter - I keep hoping Papa Bear will find a way to fix it!).
Of course, there's also quite a lot of things that aren't worth buying at charity shops. There always seems to be an abundance of what we call "tat" in charity shops - junk that really and truely, I can't believe anyone would ever want to waste their money on. I would advise that if you have small children, you sound out the contents of your local charity shops before you let them loose inside them! The "tat" element is a terrible lure for small children!
Be patient when you visit charity shops. The best way to find the greatest bargains is to keep returning to the same shops on a regular basis. The stock in charity shops turns over quickly, and different shops run by the same charity will switch their stock around to keep people coming back. When searching for clothes, make sure you pull the hangers right apart as you go through the racks. Sometimes a real find can be discovered hiding between two larger items!
Finally, don't be afraid to "round up" your bill when you come to pay. It's worth remembering that charity shops don't run to make a profit. They run to help the good causes they support, and your contribution is always appreciated. And don't forget, you can also help them out, by donating your unwanted items too! Which is exactly what I intend to be doing, tomorrow!
Thursday, 22 March 2012
Source for this picture here.
Fasting is the deliberate avoidance of food for a period of time which is longer than the person would normally go without eating. People choose to fast for a number of reasons, usually motivated either by health concerns or as a faith-based practice, or a combination of both. At this time of year, we like to try to have a fast for a set time, normally for about 36 hours (in other words, for example, if we start our fast on a Thursday evening we will not eat at all on Friday or on Friday night, but will resume eating on the following Saturday morning), at least once or maybe twice. We have been doing this as a family for the past few years.
Our choice to do this is based in our desire to draw closer to God by following the example of his son Christ Jesus during the 40 days of His temptation in the desert. For us, it is just as much about humbling ourselves, by denying such a basic human need, and in our weakness, learning to lean on God and trust in Him to carry our burdens. I honestly don't believe that we could fast as successfully if it were not for having this trust. And the spiritual benefits of fasting, if done correctly, can be great. Of course, it depends on your real reasons - in your heart, your fast should not be conducted for personal gain, but for spiritual growth which will benefit those around you - as Matthew teaches, a fast should be a private, personal act that only God knows about -
"Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly". (Matthew 6, 16 - 18).
It is not done as a show of piety but as a commitment to grow in faith and trust in God's strength.
A lot of people hesitate at the idea of fasting because they are afraid it will make them feel ill and therefore not be of any benefit to them. They are worried that they will faint, or have symptoms that prevent them from being able to engage in their daily activities (or keep their fasting a secret between them and God!) and this makes them reluctant to attempt it. But I can assure you that it really isn't quite as dreadful as it sounds - and the benefits really are, wonderful. During a fast you really can feel much closer to God. There is a clarity to your prayer and thought which can only happen when you are in a fasted state, and I believe that all Christians could benefit from engaging in a fast now and then, to experience this opportunity for self restraint and spiritual growth.
Here are a few things that I've learned, which make fasting easier and less of an ordeal.
First of all - this is the most important bit - check with your doctor or practice nurse before you embalk on a fast for the first time. There are some groups of people that shouldn't fast, such as those with diabetes or kidney disease, pregnant women and those who are frail or who have general ill health. Children under 13 should only fast gently, and not go without food altogether, as they are still growing and need the nutrition from regular meals. It should also be noted that if you take regular medication (Papa Bear and I both do) you should continue to take this unless otherwise advised by your doctor. It goes without saying also, that anyone who has an eating disorder, should not fast.
When we fast, we abstain from all food. Some people will eat fruit or vegetables whilst on a fast, but we prefer to avoid solid food of all kinds, altogether. We also avoid drinks containing milk, or fruit juices. The reason for this is that rather than filling us up, we find that the sugars in milk and particularly in fruit juices, actually make us hungrier than if we didn't take them at all (fruit juices, even pure ones, are full of fructose, a kind of sugar which in turn will raise your blood sugar and cause food cravings. It is worth knowing this, especially if you are into the "green smoothie" craze which seems so popular at the moment. I'm not saying all green smoothies aren't healthy, but ones that contain a large proportion of fruit juice, as many of the recipes I've seen do, are probably no better for your health than a bowl of wholegrain cereal). We don't chew gum, either - it just encourages your stomach to produce digestive juices which will then cause pain and heartburn (as a family, we don't chew gum anyway - we think it's not very pleasant!).
We do drink water - carbonated water is great, and very refreshing - and hot drinks, including tea and coffee (we are not fasting especially for health reasons, therefore we do not see this as a "detox" and see no reason to abstain from clear drinks like black coffee or tea). If you usually drink more than a couple of cups of tea, coffee or other caffeinated drinks, you will probably find you get a terrible headache, if you do decide to abstain from your usual fix. We choose to carry on with our caffeinated drinks, although surprisingly, I personally don't crave them much when I am fasting. Beef tea (called Bovril in England) is also useful, if you crave savoury flavours, and we also have Miso soup seasoning in hot water, which is quite pleasant without being very strongly flavoured).
The hunger pangs that everyone experiences when they fast are usually the biggest challenge to seeing it through to the planned finish. It's worth remembering that really and truely, being hungry isn't all that bad for us, and certainly nothing to panic about. It is after all partly a learned response - you'll find you feel a great deal hungrier at mealtimes, while you are fasting, for example, than at other times of day, but even when you are genuinely very hungry, it won't hurt not to eat for 24 or 36 hours. Some people carry on fasting for longer than this, but we have never done so. Although I feel quite energetic when I fast I do also feel weak and quite dizzy by the end of the 36 hours, and I wouldn't be very productive if I carried on any longer. Ditto the rest of the family!
To cope with hunger pangs, try to avoid any triggers. Your fast day is not the day to do your menu planning, or to spend the time looking up new recipes! It also helps to stay out of the kitchen or supermarket when you are fasting. You'll probably be surprised at how easy it is not to think about food, if you aren't going to be eating at all for the whole day, as you won't be preparing it, and this will take a lot of temptation out of your way. Make a decision not to think about food at all, and you'll find you aren't nearly as hungry as you expected. When you do go through a really hungry phase, try to sit it out. If it seems really impossible to carry on, try distracting yourself by going for a walk, doing something moderately challenging that you enjoy doing with your hands such as knitting, writing, drawing, a jigsaw puzzle or a crossword. A hot drink of herb tea or coffee may help, or you can also try brushing your teeth, or rinsing with mouthwash. The pangs will go - part of the challenge of a fast is learning to be patient and endure them, and it does get easier with time. Focus on the moment, and live through the harder times, and it will get better.
Although it isn't a good idea to undertake any really hard physical work (Papa Bear wouldn't ever do a fast on a work day, as he would find himself feeling very weak and faint extremely quickly), it is helpful to keep busy. This keeps your mind off your hunger pangs, but it also seems to help keep your mind clear. The fogginess of thought that people often experience when fasting, seems to be kept at bay for us, if we keep active. We usually go for a walk 2 or 3 times throughout the day when we are fasting. And it's amazing how you will find your head clearing as you walk along.
There are periods of the day when the fast will feel like a struggle. There's no denying this. These are the times when you are ready to offer up prayer and devotions to God. I often do this while walking along. I call upon Him to help me through this tough phase, and give me the strength to keep going with the fast and not fail at it. He always does give me the courage and endurance to do this! The early afternoon is a particularly hard time for me. After prayer and devotion and extra Bible study, I will then have a lie-down, to ride through the worst of it. I'll also pamper myself a bit with a book that's easy to read or a sleep.
By the time you end your fast, you'll probably be surprised at how good you feel - and how easy it would be, to carry on fasting! I always imagine we'll be ravenous, and prepare a huge breakfast for us all, but when it comes to eating it, none of us want any more than we'd ordinarily have! This is because after the first 24 hours of fasting, metabolic changes occur in the body, and it begins to convert to drawing on the internal fat reserves for energy, instead of food, which in turn will make you crave food less (this is temporary though, and should not be a motivation to keep on fasting). So go gently, and just eat your normal breakfast (or whichever meal it is that you have chosen to use to end your fast). Foods that are good to end a fast with are simple plain dishes, such as oatmeal, or a tatie (jacket potato) with a little butter, or a bowl of soup. Nothing too hard to digest. You'll find your energy levels rise quite quickly after this, but I'm always a little tired the day after a fast, so be gentle to yourself, and don't take on any extra tasks above your normal workload.
Don't be scared to try fasting, if you haven't before. Why not try missing just one meal, to start with, and work up from there? You'll soon discover the beauty and rewards of fasting. It brings a clarity of thought and a sense of deep peace with it, as your mind focuses only on what is most important of all - your relationship with your Saviour, and His plan for you. The self denial of fasting will make you stronger, more patient and enduring, more appreciative of all the good things that you have, and more thankful for the presence of the Lord God in your life.
"Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward.
Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day:
And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." (Isaiah 58, 6 - 11).
Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Today's Wednesday's Workbox is all about the pleasures of home-making your own clothes.
The two crafts which I particularly enjoy when I have enough time, are sewing and knitting. I learned both of these at a very young age, and although I'm not brilliantly skilled at either, I do have enough experience to make my own clothes, whether they are sewn or knitted, and to make garments for my family too. Having said that, from a cost point of view, I certainly don't find that it is always cheaper to make these items myself, rather than buying them ready-made. It's certainly a lot more fun - I like sewing and knitting, and find them pleasurable and relaxing pass times (which is why I reserve them for my free time, and don't indulge during the weekdays - they are entertainment for me, not work), but I am not sure that they are always more economical than buying them ready-made. You do also need to have quite a bit of skill to create garments, especially tailored ones, that look as nicely produced as ready-made ones do. Clothing manufacturers have specialist equipment, and staff devoted to making their garments (not always in very ethical ways, however, which is another factor worth considering) which we don't have access to at home, if we're only making clothes for our families. This means they are able to mass-produce well made garments for a fraction of the price that we can. If you are trying to save money on clothing expenses, as we do, I can't recommend thrift stores and charity shops highly enough. Here you can get ready-made garments, quite often from good high street stores, for just a couple of pounds. You do need to search hard - and I'll talk more about thrift store shopping on Friday - but it is worth the trouble in my experience. However, there's nothing like custom designing your own clothes - and having the pleasure of seeing your family enjoy your creations! Papa Bear has picked out a couple of new dress patterns for me recently, and as soon as the evenings get lighter, I'll be starting work on them!
In the meantime, here I've looked at a few different garments, and considered whether it really is worth making them yourself, aside from the enjoyment factor.
Dresses - simple jumper-style dresses, or loose dresses with very little tailoring, are not cheaper to make than ready-made ones (and very definitely not, if you are buying them from thrift stores or charity shops). More elaborate garments, such as christening gowns, bridal wear, party outfits and such, probably are cheaper, because the expense of these is mainly in the time they take to create, which you aren't having to pay for. However, as these require more skill to make than simpler garments, I would not recommend that you attempt to make these yourself unless you have a lot of sewing experience. I have made some very fancy party dresses, both for myself and Little Bear, and while they were beautiful (and custom-made, so they were exactly what we wanted) they took HOURS of hard work, sewing beading and sequins on by hand, adding flounces, darts, invisible seams and such. I was pleased with them, but unless you have a particular need, such as a custom-size garment, or one for a specific occasion that can't be bought to your specifications, I would think twice before taking on such a large project if you are a beginner at sewing your own clothes.
Shirts and blouses - likewise, these are generally not much different in cost if they are fairly simple designs. Once you have got a pattern that you like, of course, you can re-use it if you are careful, and this cuts down on the time taken to make them, as you'll know exactly how it will fit, once you've done it a couple of times. But shirts for men are quite tricky - fitting the collar, cuff and sleeves, and doing the buttonholes neatly. I've only made blouses for Little Bear that required this level of tailoring. Papa Bear wears plaid shirts for work that cost just a few pounds store bought, and sports shirts when he's not at work, and Cubby prefers T-shirts or polo shirts, which would be difficult to make at home with the choices of fabric available. I tend not to make these garments at home for these reasons.
Skirts - these are an excellent beginner's garment to make. In fact it is possible, if you are fairly confident, to make a simple skirt without using a pattern at all. A tiered skirt with an elasticated waist is pretty easy - it just requires a lot of gathering and pinning, but it's not difficult to do this, and most of it can be done by hand, which makes it a nicely portable garment to work on, which you can do sitting with your family or when away from home. It's only once it's all pinned and tacked together, that you need to get your sewing-machine out. You can vary the design by the width of fabric that you choose, and the colours and styles. I've been making skirts for myself and latterly, Little Bear, since I was about 13.
Trousers - really, really, don't try to make trousers for your menfolk by hand until you are very skilled indeed. In my experience they almost always look far less well tailored than the ready-made ones. A great deal of fitting and measuring is required to get them to hang right. I would also not recommend making jeans, for the same reason but also because sewing jeans-weight denim is quite hard work. I guarantee that unless the man in your life for whom you are planning to make the trousers is older than 5, he will look better in a pair of ready-made ones. The exception to this is those big baggy shorts (surf shorts?) that are popular for boys and men in the summer. I would think they were not so difficult to make, but once again, the men in my life prefer these bought from a store.
Coats and jackets - I've successfully made fleece jackets for the cubs when they were wee, but these were really no cheaper than buying them ready-made as they are not expensive. The fleece fabric that I used was, however, much better quality than the kind that the ready-made garments are made from, and it was prettier too - Little Bear's had flowers all over, and Cubby's was plaid reds and greens. They were unique, and I created matching hats with the left over fabric too! Tailored coats and jackets are possible to make, but although I can see the obvious benefit - it is almost impossible for me to find ready-made coats that fit properly because I'm small, not just short but diminuitive in every direction, and it would be great to have a "grown-up" coat that did fit nicely - the work involved would be considerable, and my sewing-machine would not be able to tackle the thickness of the fabric being used. I'd like to have a go at making wee fake fur shrug jackets for Little Bear and I to wear at Christmas one day though! In the meantime, I "make do and mend" with coats that don't fit me quite as well as they might, and Little Bear's cast offs!
Hats - these are great fun to make at home! The sort of floppy, sunhat style is actually quite easy to make too, using just 3 basic pattern pieces and some heavy iron-on interfacing. I've made LOTS of hats over the years, although now that I have so much hair it is hard to keep a hat like this on my head, so I tend just to wear my headscarves. Perhaps I'll have another hat-making phase - and share the results with you here!
Knitwear - unless you are knitting baby garments, it is never cheaper to knit your own clothes than to buy them ready-made. In the larger supermarkets, you can buy a sweater or cardigan for less than £10. If I want to knit myself one, even taking into account the fact that as I'm quite tiny, I can get away with knitting the very smallest size - or even a child's pattern - it will easily cost me twice, if not 3 times this. I usually need to buy 8 50 g or 4 100 g balls of yarn to knit a cardigan. The cheapest I can get this is about £3. That's a big price difference - and once again, bearing in mind that you still have to sew (or "graft", as it is called in knitting terms) the garment together once you've finished knitting it, you do need a fair amount of skill to be able to get it to look as nicely tailored as a ready-made garment. That being said I do really enjoy knitting - it is a wonderfully peaceful and relaxing occupation, and some of the items I've created, like fair isle cardigans for Little Bear, thick socks for Papa Bear and Cubby, and cute Christmas stockings, not to mention tea cosies, novelty egg cosies, pot holders and even a "poodle" toilet roll cover, have been fun to give and enjoy, as well as create!
I think the personal elements that make home-made garments so special, are invaluable - you can't put a price on the love that's gone into creating a home made cardigan or pair of socks, or a dress or shirt for someone that you love, and the fact that you've made it yourself makes it unique, as well as something practical. There's also a certain beauty even in the humblest, simplest home-made items. I personally like the fact that everything I've made has a wee imperfection in it. That's what makes it special! It's evidence of the personal involvement of the maker, which mass-produced items don't have. If you make clothes for your loved ones, they bring pleasure to the wearer, and pleasure to you, too, every time you see them enjoying them. For this reason alone, even though in terms of time and financial outlay, it isn't always more economical to make your own clothes, I'm more than happy to carry on doing so - although we are just as happy to supplement my creations with economical purchases of ready-made garments too!
Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Today is the first day of spring, so this is what I shall be writing about in today's Tuesday's Time To. It's our favourite season!
A time to plant ... now that its spring, it's such a pleasure to walk around the streets near our home, and see bulbs and flowers starting to bloom. Sweet violets, bright daffodils, delicate camelias and even daisies are blooming, and it's so refreshing to see! Buds are beginning to open on the trees now too, and it won't be long before everywhere is fresh with the green of new leaves.
A time to heal ... being outside is so good for you. Did you know that sunshine is one of the best natural sources of Vitamin D that you can get? Vitamin D has many functions but one of the most important is that it helps to keep our bones healthy. It is also beneficial to the immune system, so it's great for all of us to be outside as much as we can in the nice weather.
A time to laugh ... sushine makes everyone smile! It's so good not to have to wrap up with coats, scarves, gloves and hats, every time we go outside! Somehow there's a wonderful sense of freedom, in being able to step out with only a cardigan or light jacket on instead. That makes me smile!
A time to embrace ... you don't need a garden to reach out and embrace the world outside. A windowsill or balcony can still give you an opportunity to grow things. We're growing herbs on our kitchen windowsill, and will move them outside in the hotter weather if they do well enough, where they'll get plenty of sunshine and fresh air on our balcony. I'll agree it's not so easy to sit outside if you don't have a garden, but despite this, we use every opportunity to embrace the fresh air by going for walks around the area where we live. We have both a beautiful natural park and a lake near our home, and we thank God every day that we have such a beautiful environment so close to our front door for us to enjoy. Who needs a garden when you have so much more to explore, just a few steps away outside?
A time to keep ... in England, the weather is never very predictable! So while we're enjoying the warmer sunny weather now, we haven't put our winter coats away just yet! We've kept them close to hand, knowing that there's bound to be a few more chilly days before the spring is really here to stay.
A time to sew ... it's now that I'll go through all the winter woollies, hats and gloves and overcoats, to see what mending needs to be done before our thicker clothes really can get put away for the warmer months. I've found it is much easier to do this now, than to put them away without checking them over, only to find that when I get them out of the drawers and cupboards in September or October and the weather starts to get cooler again, that there are several garments that need attention to make them ready to wear again.
A time to speak ... there's nothing more beautiful than the voices of the many different birds outside at this time of year. It really seems to symbolise for us, the coming alive and awakening of the world after its long winter sleep. It's so good to hear them calling to each other early in the morning, just as we too are waking up and greeting each other in our wee bedroom. It's a very precious sound, and a very primitive one too - imagine, when God first created the world, these exact same bird songs were heard, by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden! What a beautiful thought.
A time to love ... Papa Bear and I especially like spring because it's the season when we first fell in love - and the season when we married, too. Not only that, but it's also the season when our first baby was born - Little Bear! For us, spring is all about joy and hope and new beginnings - so much to celebrate!
A time of peace ... first thing in the morning after we've said our prayers, Papa Bear and I pull back the curtains and sit in our bed together and watch the sun rise over the roof tops opposite our apartment block. Now that it is lighter in the mornings, it is so incredibly lovely to see - the colours are amazing, luminescent gold and pink and mauve and silver. In the evening, we get to enjoy the same splendour of God's creation from our living room window, where we can see the sun setting. It makes me realise just how blessed we are, to be living here in our high-rise apartment. We may not have a garden, but we have so much to be grateful for, and so much to praise our Father God for. It gives us a deep sense of peace and trust in our Lord, to know how good He has been to us, and just how bountiful our blessings are.