Monday, 30 April 2012
This stew is usually a staple on our table througout the autumn and winter months. It has a warm, smoky flavour ideally situed to cold frosty days, and the bold colours bring welcome brightness no matter how grey and gloomy it is outside. Every year when I first cook it, around about the middle of September, standing in the dusky kitchen as the shadows start to grow longer and the leaves spiral down from the nearly-bare trees outside our kitchen window, the scent of it cooking makes me think of Christmas, and the joy of being cosy together indoors again after the long light evenings of summer. After Christmas and with the coming once more of spring, we tend to move more towards dishes that are less intensely flavoured, but just recently, this stew has been separately requested by each and every member of my family, so today, this was what was on the menu for our evening meal - and it was received with great delight! We eat this served with rice and perhaps some bread, and somehow - I know not why - it always manages to make five servings - so there is enough left over for Papa Bear to take to work with him the next day for his lunch! It's packed with goodies - plenty of vitamins, iron and fibre, and keeps well in the fridge for a day or two - or in the freezer for up to a month.
To make this delicious stew you will need ...
1 red onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
200g Spanish chorizo sausage or other spicy sausage of your choise, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices. If you use chorizo, ensure the casing has been peeled away before you cut it into pieces. Little Bear loves doing this - she says it is almost as fun as popping bubble wrap!
1 14 oz can butterbeans (or the same amount prepared from dried)
1 14 oz can chickpeas or garbanzo beans (or the same amount prepared from dried)
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes with garlic and herbs
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 dessert spoon sherry vinegar (or apple cider vinegar, if you don't have sherry vinegar - I do usually use sherry vinegar but once when I had run out, I used apple cider vinegar instead, and no one noticed! Don't be tempted to leave it out altogether - it adds a tangy but subtle depth of flavour that is missing without it)
Enough stock to cover - chicken or vegetable
Half a bag of fresh spinach leaves, well washed
1. Start by sauteeing the onion, celery and carrots in a large pan until tender but not browned.
2. Add the chorizo pieces, and turn up the heat. Stir well and allow to braise in the pan until the bright red juices of the sausage have been released (about 5 - 7 minutes). Your kitchen will quickly start to smell wonderful!
3. Add the paprika and sherry or apple cider vinegar, and stir rapidly for a minute or two. More delicious scents will start to fill your kitchen. Stir until the vinegar has mostly cooked away (about 2 or 3 minutes), then reduce the heat and sautee whilst stirring for another 5 minutes or so.
4. Add the tomatoes, and turn up the heat until they are bubbling.
5. Now add the pulses, and stir to combine well.
6. Cover with stock (I usually put the kettle on to boil when I start cooking, and then just quickly reboil it at this point, to make up enough stock to cover the contents of the pan - don't overfill - you will need about 1/2 - 3/4 pint at most).
7. Now cover the pan with a lid, and turn down the heat to the second-lowest setting (5 on our hob). Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the liquid starts to reduce too much, add a little more stock.
8. After 30 minutes, uncover the pan and add the spinach. It will seem as if there is too much at first, but it will quickly wilt and can be combined into the stew. Allow this to cook for about 10 more minutes, and then the stew is ready to eat! Yum! It's so easy - and if you use canned pulses, this dish can be ready from scratch in less than an hour.
Sunday, 29 April 2012
"The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.
Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting.
The floods have lifted up, oh Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves.
The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.
Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh thine house, oh Lord, for ever". (Psalm 93, 1 - 5).
Today I did not go to Church, as my arthritis was very painful indeed. The pain woke me early this morning and I did not go back to sleep, so I am very tired also. But when Papa Bear came back from Church with the cubs, he was singing Alan Jackson's version of this beautiful hymn (I knew it was Alan Jackson's version, because when Papa Bear sings, it sounds very much like him. He likes his country praise music a lot). They had not sung this hymn in Church today but they did have a reading of Psalm 93, and the words are very fitting! Papa Bear knows I love this hymn and it cheered me up very much indeed to hear his lovely voice filling the room. My pain began to get much better then! He also told me of a lovely idea - a way for us to celebrate our wedding anniversary this coming Friday. We had not planned to do much, because I had expected that he would be working. But he told me today, he has taken the day off! And better still, he is going to take me out on a special trip ... to the seaside! Best of all, we shall be having fish and chips to eat whilse we are there - outside, which is the very best way of all to enjoy our favourite takeaway meal! Ohhh! Papa Bear you are so sweet to me! I am very excited about that, and so are the Cubs (who will be coming with us too). I hope the week doesn't go too slowly while we all have to wait for our special day out! Whatever the weather, I know it will be fun!
Saturday, 28 April 2012
Oh dear me! The weather where we live just now has been so terrible! It has rained nearly all day today. Dark clouds and icy winds haven't helped - it feels as if it is November, not almost May! But we always look forward to rainy Saturdays like this - it means we can all enjoy being cosy at home together!
We had to stop by in the town today, which necessitated catching a bus, as the parking is so difficult (and nearly as expensive as the bus) where we live. It was nice and quiet on the bus and in the shops because of the dreadful weather, which was very nice, and although it poured with rain on the way there, and on the way back, it did not actually rain whilse we were doing our shopping, so it was not nearly as dreadful as we had been expecting! Little Bear and Cubby had one or two items they needed to get (socks - they seem to wear up their socks, past the darning stage, so quickly!) and I wanted to buy some wool so that I could make a couple of gifts for people at Church who have birthdays. They aren't people we know well, but I wanted to make something small and sweet for them, so I am knitting a couple of the funny, characterful chicks that I made at Easter, and adding a few embellishments to them to make them more personal. Home mades gifts are nice to give to someone that you don't know well enough to be sure of their tastes, and because they're unique, they also add a little extra reminder of the people who gave the gift too! Then we enjoyed looking at different things in the shops we had visited before deciding we would far rather be back at home!
I put some potatoes into the oven before we left, set so that they would be cooked when we arrived home from our trip. We had hot taties waiting for us as we walked through the door, and what with them and the scents of some home made granola baking in the slow cooker and the delicious new vanilla candles that Papa Bear bought for me this morning at the supermarket (even in the packaging, the scent was beautiful), our home smelled very welcoming! It was so lovely to have a hot meal almost ready to eat as soon as we had arrived. We had a salad with them with cress that I'd been growing on the windowsill, and lots of other bits and pieces besides, and then this afternoon I did some baking, in between reading, knitting, doing a few chores and - oh, we are excited about this! - working out how to edit the template for our new website, which eventually we hope will be linked to our blog, as a stand-alone resource with lots of features that are currently on the blog at the moment, such as recipes and weekly menu plans, which I haven't had time to update just yet this week - because I've been busy with the website! We have been planning this ever since we started the blog, and with the new Blogger interface being so challenging for us to adjust to, we felt that now was the time to get started on the website! We will keep everyone updated with our progress ...
We don't usually eat dessert during the week unless it's a special occasion. But we do eat it at the weekend, and today everyone decided that a cake was what they wanted! Then of course was the difficulty in deciding which cake to bake! Among the suggestions were coffee walnut, raspberry mallow, lemon ice, cherry, or the one that was the definite favourite - pineapple upside down cake! I think we all felt it would be a very welcome treat during this dreary weather, with its topping of cheerful yellow pineapple rings and bright jaunty cherries like jewels in their centres! A hint perhaps of sunnier days to come? We do hope so!
Please do let me assure you, if you've not ever thought of making a pineapple upside down cake - or if you have, and have been deterred by the idea that it's quite tricky to do - that this is a really easy cake to make - and really delicious to eat too! It's also not expensive either. All it consists of is a basic sponge recipe, which is baked in the usual way in a tin into which you have placed the drained contents of a large can of pineapple rings (or the equivalent of fresh pineapple, which does taste really wonderful). I normally use a cake mix of 8/8/8/4 - that is to say, 8 ounces of sugar, 8 ounces of margarine or butter, 8 ounces of all-purpose flour and 4 eggs. Converted into cups, this translates as ...
1 and 1/4 cups caster sugar
1 cup margarine or butter (I used margarine)
2 cups all purpose flour
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
One 14 oz can pineapple rings, drained (or the equivalent of prepared, fresh pineapple, which really does make a difference - and is what I used today, as pineapples were on clearance in the supermarket, so we bought 2).
Enough glace cherries to fill the centres of each pineapple ring.
Prepare the tin first - grease, then line with greaseproof or baking paper. Place the pineapple rings on the top of this, arranging them so the pieces do not overlap. Fill in any gaps with left over segments or cherries, and add a cherry to the centre of each ring.
Preheat your oven to a medium heat (this takes about 35 minutes in our fan oven at 200).
For the cake ...
1. In a large bowl, cream the sugar and margarine or butter until light and fluffy (it will change colour when it is done and become paler).
2. Add the beaten eggs, a tablespoon at a time, and stir in gently. If the mixture starts to curdle, add a tablespoon or so of flour from the amount you have measured out.
3. Add the vanilla.
4. Sift the flour into the mixture, then fold in lightly. The mixture should have a thick consistency that glides easily, but fairly slowy, off the spoon. If it is too thin, add a little more flour. If it is too thick, loosen with a tablespoon or so of milk.
5. Now put the mixture on top of the pineapple, and bake in the oven until it is lightly browned and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
6. Remove from the oven and turn out onto a rack to cool. This cake is lovely eaten warm (as we did!) with soured cream or vanilla ice cream - but it is also delicious cold. You can also make a sauce with the left-over pineapple juice if you have used canned pineapple - simply warm it through with a little arrowroot or cornstarch to thicken, and enjoy! In our home we have even been known to eat this cake for breakfast ... perhaps we will tomorrow!
Friday, 27 April 2012
Now, this week's Frugal Friday is not at all what I had intended, this morning! But we had a surprise for tea today, so instead of what I had planned to write about, I am going to share this "fishy tale" with you instead - as it has a message about the virtue of frugality too!
On the menu for our evening meal today was fish and chips. Papa Bear was going to collect them on his way home from work from the fish and chip shop near our home for us to all enjoy around our kitchen table with lots of conversation and laughter. This is a big treat for us, as eating out (or in this case, having a takeaway) is a great indulgence, because it is expensive, and therefore we don't often eat food that hasn't been prepared at home (by me!). Often my family will tell me that they prefer my home-cooked food to any restaurant or takeaway meal, which is so lovely to know! But we do also enjoy the great treat of a bought meal too. So we were very surprised when Papa Bear arrived home this evening, not with a big bag of warm, delicously scented packages from fish and chip shop as we had expected, but with instead, a cold, slippery, plastic wrapped package - which turned out to be ... a freshly caught rainbow trout! No, he had not caught it himself - he does catch such fish, often, when he goes fishing, but he does not keep them. He and Cubby both throw their catch back into the water again, still alive, rather than taking it home with them for us to eat. They could do so if they wished to, but they prefer to leave the fish for the sake of the environment and other wildlife. Too many people fishing our waters will leave them dangerously depleted and this can cause an imbalance of food sources for other animals, and have potentially devastating effects on the environment. That being said, this fish was a "farmed" fish, so although it had been caught on a line (by one of his workmates who drove by with a bucketful of them this morning), it had not been living in the wild, but in a stretch of river where the trout and other fish species have been encouaged to breed specifically to be caught by anglers. Papa Bear's workmate did not want any money for his fish, although Papa Bear did offer - which meant we had a free meal for our tea this evening!
Well, I was minded of the miracles of Jesus feeding the multitudes of followers that are described in the Gospels, when I saw that fish. How on earth was one fish going to provide us with a whole meal for 4 grown people, two of whom have big appetites? I had planned on Papa Bear bringing chips and mushy peas, the traditional accompaniments to fried fish, for us to eat, and so apart from drinks, I had not anticipated preparing any other food for this evening's meal!
I sprang to action and went to look in the fridge, where I saw that we had just enough potatoes for me to make a generous helping of spicy potatoes. I have shared the recipe on this blog before, but they are very simple to make. You don't even need to peel or parboil them. Simply cut into chunks about 1 1/2 inches square, place in a large, oiled roasting tin and toss in a mixture of oil, seasoning mix, chilli flakes, nutritional yeast flakes, garlic salt, and regular salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes, turning once or twice to coat. This happened to be just the right amount of time for the fish to cook. I put it in a large tin (as pictured above) and seasoned it with lemons, butter, salt, pepper and dried herbs (parsley, thyme and chive) and then wrapped it loosely in tin foil. It was done perfectly after 45 minutes at 200 degrees in our fan oven. Together with the potatoes, we had a salad made of all the left-over bits and pieces of fresh veggies that were in the fridge waiting to be used up, and Cubby made our usual salad dressing, as described in last week's Frugal Friday post, and I also warmed some rolls we had left over, in the oven. And do you know what? Our unexpected, cheap-and-cheerful tea was ...
Of course, it helped that the fish was beautifully fresh - caught this morning (that is the time to catch trout, when they come to the surface of the water to feed). It shone like a jewel as it sat in the tin before I seasoned it, and looked so pretty, that I had to take a photograph of it! Papa Bear gutted it for me, as that is quite hard work if your hands are not strong, but we left the outside of the fish intact as it looked so beautiful (you don't need to descale a fish like this as the skin is very thin and delicate). When it was cooked, the flesh became the most gorgeous soft, pastel pink, and the flavour was very pleasant, almost sweet, with a lovely moist texture like salmon. It was really wonderful, and we were all so grateful to Papa Bear's generous workmate for sharing his bounty with us. Of course, this isn't a miracle in the way that Jesus's feeding of the multitudes was, but nevertheless, this act of kindness, which provided us with an unexpected and delicious free meal, was for us another sign of God's goodness and of His work in our lives. It also minded us of something else that is important.
The act of sharing our bounty with others is one which is commanded by God - Jesus taught that it was "more blessed to give than to recieve" (Acts 20, 35), but also, as regards all our possessions - not just our food and other necessities, but all our belongings, everything that we have - we would do well to remember that, as Jesus demonstrated, if we place all our trust in God, He will supply all that we need - whether it be food, shelter or comfort -
"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee". (Hebrews 13, 5)
Our efforts to pursue fulfillment of our desires beyond what we actually need to live will lead to misery and sinfulness, as we feed our flesh, rather than our spirits, and as Jesus tells us, speaking in Matthew 6 -
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these". (Matthew 6, 19 - 29).
We did not eat fish and chips for tea today - but we did have a wonderful meal - and we shared soul food as we ate too, which was by far the sweetest part of that meal. We have each other, we have our lovely home. We have plenty to eat, clothes to wear, and more - lovely things to look at and to entertain us, a car to get us where we need to go, and all our physical blessings too - our good health, our hearing, our eyesight. And so much more. Why waste our days pursuing a life of hollow acquisition, when we already have so much more than we need? Our real treasure awaits us in Heaven. For now, we shall be content with what we already have.
"Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." (Matthew 6, 30 - 34).
Thursday, 26 April 2012
Papa Bear and I have been talking still more about "Courageous", the film that we watched together on our "date night" on Saturday last week. That film had so many important messages in it. We were both greatly moved and inspired by it, but Papa Bear felt that there were some particularly pertinent issues that were very relevant especially to him. There is a beautiful scene in the film in which one of the central characters, law enforcement officer Nathan Hayes, presents his teenage daughter Jade with a purity ring as part of his desire to mend his relationship with her, as God has commanded him. We both thought that the idea of a father givng his daughter a purity ring was lovely. What a beautiful way for a him to show his Godly commitment to protecting and guiding his daughter as she matures and becomes a woman, and what a wonderful symbol of commitment for a girl to make to the rest of the world - that she belongs to her father, as God wills, until her wedding day. We loved the idea, and Papa Bear is prayerfully considering whether he might do something similar for Little Bear. We have been praying about it together, and it is therefore, we are sure, not a coincidence that we have read and heard a couple of things just recently, which we believe are messages that resonate loudly, as part of God's message to us about how to conduct our lives in a way that is pleasing to Him.
I've posted previously about the need for marriage to be viewed as a lifetime commitment, and how by living together, couples today are cheapening the purity and preciousness of the marriage union, and reducing it to something as transient and ordinary as a casual friendship. Yesterday we read in our newspaper of how almost one in eight couples who married at the same time as Prince William and Princess Catherine did, in April last year, are now regretting their decision, and almost one in ten husbands and wives had second thoughts as early on as six months after their wedding day. Given that in England, according to the Office of National Statistics, in 2006 45% of marriages ended in divorce, that is an awful lot of people who are rushing into their marriages without, as I have said, considering what they are doing as a permanently binding covenant. But what is almost as surprising, is that these same couples, are spending on average, as much as £21,000 on their weddings! Yes, you read that right. £21,000 - more than many people in England earn in a year. But why? Who on earth would be prepared to invest such an enormous sum of money on something they haven't even really thought through properly - and certainly don't intend to commit to forever? Why the huge disparity in terms of willingness to invest so much in marriage materially, but yet not emotionally or spiritually?
Interestingly, reading research on the reasons for why couples decide they no longer want to be married, the number one reason that women gave for wanting a divorce was the infidelity of their husband. The mens gave their number one reason as lack of physical intimacy. It doesn't take much figuring to work out that the two are obviously interlinked - and that these figures add an interesting and very important facet to the reasons why people are prepared to spend so much on their weddings, but so little on their marriage. The need for a fulfilling physical relationship between a husband and wife is intrinsic to their happiness as a married couple. It is the most important element of what draws them together in joyful union to produce children, as God has commanded, and is part of the cement that holds them together as the years pass. A passionless marriage must never be a happy one. And yet for many, it seems, this aspect of marriage is considered to be the least precious. In a culture where it is being proposed, only today, that girls as young as 13 - 3 years below the legal age of consent - should be offered the contraceptive pill without a prescription, the idea that saving one's body to give to your spouse on your wedding night is considered by many to be as out of date and obsolete as the penny farthing bicycle. A physical relationship is seen by many as all about personal satisfaction - fulfilling the needs of self, not the other person. And for many it is also equated with love - but it is not the same thing as love. Basic physical need is being confused with emotion. Love must come before the physical relationship for it to be meaningful, and you cannot love someone, without having spent time sharing, growing and learning. A physical relationship without this shared experience of deepening understanding is nothing but the satisfaction of a basic, animal need - and it is an ugly parody of what God intends for us when we join together as man and wife.
Nowadays many people have had several physical relationships before they marry - and quite frequently, children also. This means that by the time they do finally find someone that they want to make a serious commitment to, there is nothing left that they can give this person that they haven't already given to someone else. And consequently, there is no motivation to work at the relationship when it starts to go wrong. It is as if everything is back-to-front. Love comes first - after friendship - but it can never develop naturally, if the physical relationship has been forced, and if the physical relationship is all that there is to bind the couple together it will not be long before this ceases to be pleasurable. Add to this the notion that our throwaway, materialistic culture has of instant gratification and the expectation of meeting one's own needs before those of anyone else, and it is possible to see why so many relationships fail so quickly.
The Bible has plenty of advice to give us about the preciousness of our physical love for our spouses - and why it is so important to save it only for the marriage union. By their fallen nature, human beings are inevitably given to self-indulgence and weakness of spirit. They will be tempted - not because God is testing them, but because they are imperfect. But we have an alternative - and it isn't all about self-denial. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, advises that couples should not with-hold love from each other, because this will lead to temptation outside the marriage union -
"Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency" (1 Corinthians 7, 5).
The consequences of not observing this instruction have been proved in the statistics I've quoted above. With-holding physical love from your spouse will eventually lead to problems - it can be no other way. God knows this, and that is why He wants us to enjoy each other physically. But only within the union of marriage. Before this, in Chapter 6, verse 18, Paul also speaks of the need to "flee fornication", because it is a sin against ourselves - and therefore against Christ Himself, our bodies being part of the "body of Christ" (verse 15). This demonstrates just how precious we are to God - and how precious, therefore, we should consider ourselves. Our love for our spouses is unique and beautiful, and to cheapen and taint this by defiling ourselves, offends God because we are hurting not only each other, but Him, too.
By keeping ourselves pure - by avoiding such sinful and offensive behaviour as "fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness" (Colossians 3, 5) we are investing in a gift for our spouses that is incredibly precious - worth far more than the value of any wedding celebration, no matter how luxurious or ostentatious. To save ourselves for our marriage relationship in this way is to show not only respect for our spouse, but for ourselves, too. It is a demonstration of our commitment and willingness to serve our Father God, but it is also a pledge of our desire to treasure our marriages as a lifetime union, one in which both the husband and wife, and any children that they have, are able to grow and develop to their full potential. This may be hard work - it may be more challenging than simply investing materially in our lives, but the rewards will be immesurable.
"Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass" (Psalm 37, 3 - 7).
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Yippee! I have a new knitting pattern! And as you can see, I have already got busy with it! A very kind sister at our Church shared this pattern, and I am so enjoying working on it! It is a pattern for a scarf which, as you can see from the picture above, is very frilly and ornate - like a piece of seaweed, or a "sea lettuce" as the pattern calls it! I'm just using some of the wool that I've been using for the crochet blanket that I'm also working on just now, but if it works out well I shall probably buy some prettier, variegated colour wool and make another one, which I shall use as a gift for a birthday or Christmas present. This scarf looks very complicated but in point of fact, once you've set the pattern, it is quite easy to do and you don't need to keep checking back.
I am using size 4 (English) needles and 4 ply yarn as this is what I had and what seemed to work best, but if you preferred you could use larger needles and a thicker yarn and get a bigger scarf, or even smaller needles and a finer yarn to create a thinner, more delicate version. I am going to try using thicker yarn next time, to make a larger scarf more suitable for our cold winters. As the name suggests, I think it would look beautiful in different shades of soft green and aqua blue.
If you would like to try knitting this scarf, you can find out more details about the pattern here.
I'll share with you again how I am getting on when it is done - but here's another picture to inspire you! Happy knitting!
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Today I have been busy in the kitchen, reorganising things. It's surprising how just a few small changes can make such a big difference to how tidy and efficient the room seems! It was hard work - not just actually doing it, but trying to work out ways to use the small amount of storage space we have sensibly - but now I've got it all done, it looks great - and it's so much easier to find everything now! I keep opening cupboards and looking all around at the newly organised space we have, and feeling really satisfied and happy!
The kitchen is probably the room where we spend more time than anywhere else (other than our bedrooms at night but we are asleep then, so I guess that doesn't really count!). I've tried to make it cosy and welcoming without seeming cluttered or untidy, and I think I've succeeded. Well, we all seem to enjoy being in there, anyways! Me especially. It's where many of my happiest moments are spent each day! With that thought in mind, I decided to use Tuesday's Time To as an inspiration to share with you what's going on in the heart of our home today ...
A time to plant ... there is a bowl of cress seeds just planted on the windowsill - which will be used for a salad at the weekend - and for our birds to enjoy too! Cress has a pleasant, peppery taste that complements lots of other salad vegetables, and adds a nice crunch as well.
A time to heal ... in a decorated tin caddy in the cupboard next to the sink I keep my herbal teas. I say "my", but both the cubs enjoy them too! Herbal teas are very soothing and are especially good if you have a delicate stomach. They don't contain caffeine like regular tea, and don't need to be drunk with milk. Our favourites are blackberry and nettle, blueberry, apple and cinnamon, and peppermint. The very best peppermint tea I ever drank was produced by a company called Celestial Seasonings. Sadly you can no longer buy this particular blend in England, but there are other lovely ones to try. Papa Bear prefers his tea the regular way with milk and sugar, but regular tea can be good for you too - the tannins in it are said to protect against stomach upsets if it is drunk black, and it is usually less caffeinated than coffee (though not always!).
A time to laugh ... so many smiles and happy moments happen in our kitchen. As it's the room right next to the entrance to our wee apartment, oftentimes the kitchen is where special news first gets shared. The cubs bringing home good news about their college work, or a happy event they shared with friends, or Papa Bear telling us about a particularly challenging work project that he's excelled at, or a new job he's secured. It's also where we open our post, so we often get happy news that way as well! Last week we got a sweet magnet for the fridge sent to us by one of our lovely aunts along with two new books to read. It said "thinking of you and smiling. Some things never change". Ohhhh! That warmed our hearts and made us smile too!
A time to embrace ... of course lots of hugs happen in our kitchen! The best ones of all are when someone comes in from the cold, shivering, perhaps wet or frozen with snowflakes in their hair, and the best thing in the world then, is a hug to warm them up! Quickly followed by hot chocolate and marshmallows, and a warm cookie or muffin from Mama Bear's oven. The cubs still love my hugs and cookies - and they'll always be there for them too.
A time to keep ... when I was reorganising the kitchen, I was surprised at how little I actually needed to declutter. I do decluttering regularly, but I think I've managed to pare down what we have in our cupboards now to a reasonable minimum. It's very easy to get carried away with purchasing items (both food and non-food) for your kitchen without really seeing it as wasting money. Somehow because they're going to be used for a purpose such as preparing or serving a meal, the expense seems more justifiable than if that same money had been spent on, say, clothes, or a decorative item for your bedroom or living room. When I discovered I was unintentionally duplicating items like jars of spice and cupcake cases, I realised it was time to streamline my storecupboards! Of course, it's sensible to keep a stock of long shelf-life items that are used regularly like canned goods, seasonings and such, it's also wasteful to buy more than you need. I've learned the hard way - and check now on my stocks before I add items to the shopping list!
A time to sew ... although I enjoy it as much as knitting and crochet, I don't sew often - I need to do it in natural light, and I don't get much time during the winter and spring for this before it gets dark I can't see what I'm doing. By June or July I will have more evening so hopefully I shall actually get some of my projects started! A bird cage cover ... two new dresses ... some new headscarves ... cushion covers ... and now, today, I've added a new tablecloth and matching serviettes to that long list! Not to mention the wedding anniversary embroidery which is definitely not going to be done before our special day - next week. Eeek!
A time to speak ... I enjoy having the radio playing when I'm in the kitchen alone. We tune it to a news station which doesn't have adverts or music. But I've realised that it's also important to allow my family to have time to speak to me too, when they're in the kitchen with me. When the cubs were younger they would often come and share things with me that they wanted to tell me alone, when I was busy cooking or washing up. Then I would switch off the radio and let them talk to me undisturbed by interruptions. I love it when we are all together in the kitchen chattering at once as a meal is prepared. Sometimes I'll be at the sink rinsing salad vegetables, Little Bear will be at the worktop cutting them up with Cubby next to her, arranging them nicely in a bowl, and Papa Bear will be at the table checking out the newspaper as he unwinds from a hard day at work, and we will all be sharing our day's news together. It's noisy, but so friendly and cosy!
A time to love ... it's rumoured that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and certainly Papa Bear seems to love my cooking! In our culture, being able to cook is regarded as such a fundamental skill for a good wife that a slim man is still, even in the 21st century, considered to have made an unfortunate marriage -the assumption being that a well padded man, has a wife that cooks so well he can't resist her meals! A woman who can't cook is seen to be bringing shame on her husband and family, so girls are taught from an early age to be experts in the kitchen. I still can't make pastry as well as my own mam, but Little Bear can! She can also make her own pasta and bread, and can fry bacon and eggs to perfection. Her cheese sauce is never lumpy and her cakes always rise ... so I hope I've done a pretty good job! Of course, there's much more to being a good wife than being able to cook but it's definitely a valuable skill for any girl to acquire - and it's fun, too. Little Bear and I have shared some marvellous experiences along the way as I've taught her all that I know - that my mam taught me, and her mam taught her - and we make an excellent team in the kitchen now. That being said, Cubby Bear has also had an interest in cooking too, and I've never tried to discourage that. He really likes the creative, visual elements of cooking, and it's fun to see how inventive he can be. Cooking is so much more than just preparing food. It's about fellowship, creativity, generosity, nurturing and of course, most importantly, love.
A time of peace ... at the end of the day, before I go upstairs to bed, the very last thing I always do is to go into the kitchen and check that everything is tidy and neat. I switch all the sockets off, and make sure that the fridge and freezer doors are closed properly, and that the oven rings are all switched off safely too. I like to give the sink one last wipe down, and maybe a quick switch across the floor with my broom. And then in the peace of the heart of our home I stand back and sigh and smile and thank God for all that He has blessed us with - our small safe home, with a kitchen that is all my own, where I can prepare meals and serve them with love and a thankful heart to my precious family.
Monday, 23 April 2012
It is St. George's Day today - St. George is the Patron Saint of England, although interestingly, he was not English but born in Turkey and was of Palestinian descent. It was in fact his bravery during his life that came to make him an icon for the country where we live.
Historical records tell us that he lived in around 300 AD and was a member of the Roman Army. He was executed on 23rd April 303 AD after speaking out against the cruelties and repression of the Emperor Diocletian, who was persecuting Christian people for their beliefs. Before his execution he was tortured to try to make him denounce his Christian faith, however he resisted and was killed, and therefore came to be honored by Christians of the time as a martyr.
The famous legend of him killing a dragon is of course just a myth. The tale goes that a dragon had made a nest (the mythical creatures were said to lay eggs rather than giving birth to live young) over the well and only water supply of the land of Silene in Libya, and when it demanded a human sacrifice in return for its relinquishing its nest to the Silenean people so that they could draw water from their well again the King of Silene was forced to offer his daughter to the dragon after drawing lots. George rescued her and slayed the dragon in a typical fairy-tale ending to the myth!
The flag of St. George (a red cross on a white background) is still the flag of England, however together with the flag of Wales and the flag of Scotland, it now forms part of the flag of Great Britain, the Union Jack.
We don't celebrate St. George's Day - in fact St. George's Day is not a public holiday in England - but we do see it as an opportunity to think a little about the history of the great country where we live, and to enjoy the hymn above, which along with the words, features some interesting pictures of English landmarks and customs! Some of the features of England that we are especially thankful to our Father God for ...
Tea brewed properly (of course tea leaves themselves are from China or India, but the way it is prepared here in England makes it taste wonderful)
Traditional English meals such as fish and chips, pie, mash and gravy, and roast beef with Yorkshire puddings
Rain (it makes you feel very cosy when you are indoors, and helps the plants to grow)!
Queues (everyone is so polite when they are waiting)
Double decker buses
Red pillar boxes
The Royal Family (especially Queen Victoria, whose life I am learning about just now)
The beautiful countryside and coast of North East England
English gardens, full of beautiful old-fashioned flowers such as climbing roses, lavender, foxgloves, hollyhocks, lupins, daisies, wallflowers and forget-me-nots.
Thank God for creating such a wonderful world!
(Apologies for the poor quality of layout in our posts currently - especially the muddly papargraphs. We are having some problems getting to grips with the new Blogger interface, which we are not finding very user-friendly. Hopefully these issues will resolve themselves quickly!).
Sunday, 22 April 2012
"And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things". (Luke 24, 35 - 48).
This was not one of the hymns that we had at Church today - I couldn't find the ones that I wanted to share. It is Saint George's Day tomorrow here in England, so we had a very jaunty hymnn in honour of that, but I could not find a video of it anywhere online to share, nor even the words.
Well, Courageous was ... BRILLIANT. Yes, I did cry - lots - but I think you would need to have a heart of stone not to. It was such a moving, but relvant film, which resonated with us in so many ways. It worked on every level and there were messages for everyone - not just fathers! Papa Bear was very moved indeed by it, not just because of the strong command from God for fathers to be bold enough obey His commands and serve Him as providers to their families, standing up for truth and integrity, honesty and commitment, and as fine examples to the next generation, but also because there were many parallels in that film that we could relate to - the worries about money and work, bereavement, the relationship between a father and his son. But there were many other messages in that film aside from the main one. Some of the other themes that the film portrayed were the role of women in supporting their husbands to be God's servants, protecting the hearts of children as they grow, the difficulties male Christians face in a secular world where having a faith can be seen as a weakness, the challenge of standing up and being different - because that is what God has commanded you to. There were many others besides that I don't have time to write about - but we will be watching the film again soon with Cubby and Little Bear. We were sure they would find it as inspirational and moving as we did. We went to bed yesterday feeling uplifted despite the poignant moments in the film that had me not just tearful but actually howling! It was a wonderful evening - watching that film not only drew us closer to God, but to each other too, and I felt so proud of my wonderful husband, knowing that he is indeed serving our Father God just as he has been commanded - with just as much courage and determination as the men featured in the film.
Saturday, 21 April 2012
Ohh! Papa Bear has organised a date night for us today! We are going to watch this film - Courageous - which has only just been released on DVD here in England. I'm very excited and really looking forwards to watching this, although I know that I'll probably need a box of tissues beside me - luckily I'll have Papa Bear to mop up my tears! The cubs are at a fellowship evening tonight so we shall have a few precious hours together alone which will be very special (we'll probably watch the film again together with them another time as a family - we have family film nights much more frequently than date nights!). Everyone knows how important it is to spend time together as a couple - but how often do we actually manage to do it? That being said, today has been a lovely day - the weather has been dreadful, almost continuous, very heavy rain, but after going to the supermarket as usual this morning, we've been all at home together getting things done, and in the afternoon Papa Bear listened to the football whilse I sat next to him and enjoyed reading through some of my favourite books and doing some knitting - a real treat. Best of all, Papa Bear's football team won, so he has been smiling ever sinse! Sometimes the simplest things bring the greatest pleasure - and you don't need to spend lots of money, to have a really lovely evening together!
It's nearly time to start watching our film now, so I'd better go and put the kettle on!
Friday, 20 April 2012
In yesterday's post, I wrote about the home made salad dressing that we all enjoy (and which indeed we were pleased to have with our salad for today's tea). That dressing, as are many others, uses apple cider vinegar to give it a pleasant tang and to bind the other ingredients together. Apple cider vinegar is created from the liquid of crushed apples which is fermented and then has acidic bacterias added to it which remove the alcohol formed by the fermentation process and convert it to vinegar (apple cider, which is alcoholic, is also made this way. We don't drink alcohol, so when a recipe I use calls for cider, I will use either apple cider vinegar, or apple juice, as a substitute).
Apple cider vinegar can be used for a number of other purposes around your home as well as to create tasty salad dressings and as a useful condiment in other recipes. Many of its other uses are as cheap alternatives to more expensive options and so I thought it would be interesting to have a look at some of these for today's Frugal Friday post.
Please note - we are neither vets nor medical experts. If you decide that you would like to use apple cider vinegar to benefit the health of either your pets or yourself and your family, please do as we did, and check with your relevant medical professionals beforehand. There are some conditions, such as diabetes, in which the regular addition of apple cider to the diet might be harmful.
One of the main uses that I have found for apple cider vinegar in our home is as an antibacterial additive to our birds' drinking water. Just a tiny drop (barely a milileter) is enough. Research shows that apple cider vinegar has a protective effect on the health of aviary birds, and can assist with their digestion. We have found this to be proven when we started introducing it to our birds' drinking water after one of them developed polyuria which our vet could find no cause for. The polyuria cleared up after about a week on apple cider vinegar, and it has never returned. We continue to use it on a weekly basis now for our birds, and they all enjoy good health and vitality, which I like to think may be contributed to by the addition of the apple cider vinegar to their drinking water.
I also like to use it as a general cleaning agent in the birdcage and surrounding area. As well as being antibacterial, apple cider vinegar is also an effective anti-fungal agent, which is an important consideration when cleaning the area where you keep your birds, as the mould spores of aspillergum can be fatal to pet birds. In additition, because apple cider vinegar produces less fumes and is generally less toxic than commercial aviary cleaning agents, it is far less damaging to the delicate respiratory system of birds, which is an additional benefit.
Of course, it isn't only our feathered friends that benefit from the use of apple cider vinegar as a cleaning agent! As a general household cleaner it has the advantage not only of being environmentally friendly, but also very effective - and cheap too! If you have a blocked sink, pouring a cupful of apple cider vinegar (or any other - I normally use white vinegar for this purpose, as it's much cheaper) and half a cup of soda crystals down the drain will unblock it without introducing lots of potentially harmful chemicals into the environment. It's a great all-purpose cleaner, and a drop added to the water that you use to clean windows with will give them extra sparkle.
I also like to use it to clean my crystal flower vases for the same reason, as it is gentle but effective, and it's great as a final rinse for the glass doors on our cooker - it really degreases them and makes them shine.
If you like to use home made washing powder or detergent, it's worth knowing that you can use apple cider vinegar (or once again, white vinegar) as a frugal and environmentally friendly fabric conditioner. I use one capful with a few drops of essential oil, and really and truely you cannot smell the vinegar when the laundry comes out the machine - in fact instead, it has a lovely fresh scent as if it has been dried outside. I don't find that it is quite as effective at scenting our clothes as regular fabric conditioner but it does seem to get them just as soft - and keeps the static away just as effectively. It is much cheaper, so if you are trying to make savings with your laundry I would certainly advise having a go at this - though personally I have never found home made washing powder to be as cost-saving as the home made conditioner is (the cheapest store bought washing powder works out at less, per cup, for us than the home made variety).
There are various health claims made for apple cider vinegar which you will find very easily on the internet just by entering it into your search engine. Some of these claims are likely unsubstantiated by any solid medical research but I know several people who believe that drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar daily has helped their ailments - in particular, digestive problems, and arthritis. I have not found this to be so for me (I have arthritis in my right hip) but that is not to say that it won't work for everyone. If you do decide to give it a try I would strongly recommend that you use a straw to drink it with as it is extremely acidic and regular drinking of it could cause damage to the enamel of your teeth. It will also probably be less easy to taste - good luck!
I do know, from childhood experience, that apple cider vinegar added to the water used to rinse your hair after you have washed it, will bring a beautiful shine to it. Rinse afterwards with lots of plain water - unless you don't mind smelling like a fish and chip shop!
And of course that brings me to the very best purpose of all for apple cider vinegar. Vinegar is the perfect condiment for a bag of hot, salty chips (fries - though English chip shop chips - especially ones in the North East of England, where we are from, and where fresh fish is caught locally every day - are absolutely nothing like fries from anywhere else. They are big, thick, not at all greasy, crisp on the outside and fluffy within, and very moreish indeed. For perfect authenticity, of course, it should be malt vinegar - but any vinegar will do - and they should be eaten outside, ideally on a pier overlooking the sea)! Mmmmm! Even if you don't want to try any of the suggestions I've given above, do try a dash of vinegar on your chips if you haven't before!
Thursday, 19 April 2012
Salads are great fun! I wanted to share this picture with you today - it's of one of the salads that we enjoyed on Little Bear's birthday a few days ago. Don't you think it looks beautiful? I love having fun making our salads and other side dishes look really pretty. You can be especially creative with salads - there's no need to be confined to the typical ingredients of leaves, cucumber, tomato and perhaps a bit of celery. There are so many other lovely fresh ingredients you can use. This one has rocket, pea shoots, tomato, romaine, red onion, cucumber, spinach, watercress and lollo rosso in it. But we could just as easily have added shredded carrot, strips of pepper, mushrooms, avocado, radish, sweetcorn, sundried tomatoes and perhaps even some strawberries, cubed apple, mandarin orange segments, walnut halves or flaked almonds - tomorrow when I prepare our evening meal, I shall probably add some extra embellishments like these, to go with the tuna loaf we will be eating. The sky's the limit when it comes to salad! In fact I wasn't the creator of this particular salad pictured above. It was put together by - wait for it - not Little Bear, or even Papa Bear ... but Cubby Bear, our son! He's the best salad "designer" in our family, and we always appreciate his inventive and attractive creations! Thank you for your special effort, Cubby Bear! We really enjoyed this salad on Little Bear's birthday - and it looked wonderful on the table in its blue glass bowl. So wonderful in fact, that I just had to take a photograph of it with our laptop! Cubby Bear didn't know what all the fuss was about, but I think he's got a real flair for design - don't you?
With our fresh green salads, we usually enjoy a home made dressing. Our basic salad dressing consists of two tablespoons of vinegar (usually apple cider or red wine - balsamic vinegar is nice too - it has a rich and fruity taste which goes well with walnut oil, but it is quite expensive so we don't have it regularly), with a teaspoon each of honey, mild mustard and garlic paste (this is much milder than fresh garlic), plus the juice of one lemon, a tablespoon of low fat mayonnaise, and some freshly ground salt and pepper. This makes a lovely tangy dressing which we all enjoy. I find with this home made dressing there is no need to add oil, as the mayonnaise emulsifies it without adding lots of extra calories (it is only 11 calories per tablespoon, far less than regular mayonnaise). Sometimes I'll simplify this - for example, when we have tuna nicoise, and use only the lemon juice, garlic and then perhaps a drop of walnut oil (which tastes wonderfuly nutty, without being overpowering). Occasionally I'll replace the lemon juice with lime juice (limes are much more expensive, where we live, than lemons). Although I always serve homemade dressings cold, they taste just as good on warm salads such as tuna nicoise, and we think it really is worthwhile having a home made dressing - the mixture of flavours is so much more delicious than in store bought ones.
Salads are so good for you, and so quick and easy. They don't need to be side dishes - a coleslaw or potato salad can be served as a main dish with other side dishes to complement it, and we find they are a great way to ensure we get our "five a day"! There are some brilliant recipes online if you are looking for some inspiration - in fact, I think I'm going to go and check some out now - so watch for some new salad recipes to follow in the next few weeks!
Wednesday, 18 April 2012
We're staying with crochet again for this week's Wednesday's Workbox. I've really taken a break from knitting just recently - I finished the wee cardigan I shared about a few weeks back, but I didn't photograph it before I took it to Church to give it to the family whose new baby I'd knitted it for. It came out fine, but I think I need some new knitting patterns as sinse I finished that small project, none of my usual well-loved patterns really seem to be begging me to be knitted - I've used them all so many times! So instead I'm concentrating on using up all those spare bits of wool that accumulate (particularly when knitting baby items) and creating a new crocheted blanket.
The new piece of crochet I started just a couple of days ago is pictured above. It uses a cluster stitch which creates a thick but soft fabric that is ideal for blankets and shawls. This one I think will go to Little Bear when it is done. She's not so keen on crochet as her mama, but she enjoys knitting and has created some very colourful scarves and shawls for herself and her friends. I was so glad to have this new piece of crochet to work on when we all attended a dental appointment on Monday! It kept me busy whilse I was waiting my turn! I appreciate how portable crochet (and knitting) is when I have anything like an appointment to attend. It is easier to keep occupied with this, than it is to read a book in a busy waiting area, or where you need to keep an eye on small children - and it packs up nice and small (well, at the moment it does! I wouldn't want to haul it to the dentist's when it's nearly finished and big enough to cover a bed!) which makes it great to carry with me when we need to go out. I can't reccommnend it highly enough!
Here is the pattern for this cluster stitch motif. It assumes a basic level of prior knowledge of crochet and the ability to read crochet pattern instructions - but if you are a total beginner, don't be put off. Just keep working at it and you will soon be able to enjoy making your own shawls and blankets too! You can either work this as one big square as I am, or you can create many smaller squares and graft these together, which makes a beautiful design. I tend not to attempt this because as I am using up scraps of wool I am never absolutely sure how large my finished item will be! I just keep adding to it until all the wool is used up! Anyway, here is the pattern ...
8 chains and join in a ring with a slipstitch
Round one - 1 large cluster in ring (yarn round hook, insert hook, draw up a loop) 4 times, yarn round hook, draw through all 9 loops. (2 chains, 2 large cluster 7 times), 2 chains, slipstitch in first stitch.
Round two - slipstitch into next two chain space, 1 large cluster in this space, *2 chains, 1 large cluster in next space, 2 chains, (1 treble, 2 chains, 1 treble) in next large cluster to form corner, 2 chains, 1 large cluster in next space*, after treble group at end of round, 2 chains, slipstitch into first large cluster.
Round three - slipstitch into next 2 chain space, 1 large cluster in this space, *2 chains, 1 large cluster) in each space up to the corner, (1 treble, 2 chains, 1 treble) between treble groups at corner*, 2 chains, slipstitch into first stitch.
Repeat from Round 3, working 1 more large cluster on each side for each round until there are 6 large clusters on each side, or the motif is the desired size, fasten off.
Tuesday, 17 April 2012
Today I seem to have been very busy doing a little of this and a little of that. I know that sounds as if I've been really disorganised, puttering about not really getting anything done properly, but truely I've managed to achieve all sorts of things, but using one of my favourite Christian authors, Emilie Barnes's technique of getting to "total rest to total mess" by tackling your chores in 15 minute blocks, to get lots of things organised. It's surprising just what you can get done in 15 minutes! Why not try this technique too and see what you can achieve?
A time to plant ...
You can easily accomplish quite a lot in your garden in 15 minutes. That's long enough to weed a bed, mow a lawn (at least, a lawn the size of the one we use to have in our last, very small home!), plant out some seedlings, prune a bush, water your hanging baskets or window boxes. But indoor gardeners like us can still achieve something too! We've all been enjoying eating pea shoots in our salads at the moment. They're new to us, and we've only been able to find them in our supermarket just recently. They have a fantastic fresh wholesome taste, and are very good for us too! They're fairly cheap to buy, but cheaper still would be to purchase a bag of dried peas and grow our own. All you need to do to grow pea shoots is start by soaking some of the dried peas overnight. Then get a shallow dish (the sort that takeaways come in is ideal) and line it with kitchen paper or cotton wool. Moisten this and drain the excess water away, then place the soaked peas on this, and keep moistened but not wet. They will start to shoot after a couple of days. You can also grow sprouted pulses using this technique, or the one I have described previously on one of our Frugal Friday posts, in which a jar is used. The technique described here is better for growing larger shoots, as more space will be required for them to develop their leaves properly. The pea shoots are ready to eat when they are about 2 1/2 inches long, at which point they should be refrigerated and eaten within 24 hours.
A time to heal ...
Papa Bear often has a sore back after a hard day at work - his job is extremely physically demanding and frequently involves carrying heavy loads, bending, stretching, climbing and balancing. I like to help ease his aching muscles at the end of the day with a back rub. Fifteen minutes is all it takes - a little almond oil with a drop of lavender essential oil added makes a lovely massage oil and we both enjoy my healing hands helping to mend his aches and pains. It's a nice way to say thank you to him for all the hard work he does to provide for us too.
A time to laugh ...
When you've got a long list of chores it can seem very daunting and off-putting, and this can hinder you getting started in the first place. Rather than see your chore list as something to be feared, why not try to make it fun instead? Don't be unrealistic. If you have small children to care for, you are not going to be able to get a full day of housework done - at least not without lots of interruptions! Set yourself reasonable goals. Reward yourself after you've ticked off half your chores with a half hour rest and a cup of tea and something enjoyable to read. While I'm doing chores like ironing or cleaning the windows, where I'll stay in one place for a little while, I like to have our radio playing, or some uplifting praise music. I'll sing along too (and sometimes the rest of the family join in too!). I always add a few chores that I enjoy to my list, like polishing the sink and rearranging the ornaments in our bedroom. That way the time flies and I get much more done because I'm enjoying myself.
A time to embrace ...
In fifteen minutes you can easily turn your bedroom into a cosy and inviting place for you and your husband to enjoy some valuable privacy. Regardless of how disorganised the rest of the room is, you can still easily make your bed into a beautiful place to rest. Always iron your bedding - it makes a huge difference to how fresh and comfortable it feels! Add extra pillows to make it seem cosier and more welcoming, and perhaps a throw on top. It doesn't matter if nothing matches - our bed sets don't always - if the theme is the same, different patterns can look just as lovely as something more co-ordinated, and I like to add extra trimmings like scarves and ribbons as well, to create a really luxurious feel. It might be worth making sure your husband appreciates your choise in decoration though - not everyone's keen on frills and bows!
A time to keep ...
I've said before that I'm a great declutterer. In fact sometimes in the past, I've decluttered something that we actually needed to keep - which is not a good thing at all! Now, instead of just gathering items together and taking them directly to the charity shop (thrift store), I use a bag or box to put all the decluttered items in, and then I get everyone to check through it. If there are items there that they wish to hang on to, they get a chanse to rescue them before they're discarded! I've learned to respect the fact that the other members of my family are more pack-rats than declutterers - and that's their right. But doing this I've also discovered that they very often don't want to hang onto the things I've sorted out after all! This technique also works if you need to tidy a room quickly. Put everything that isn't in its proper home into a big bag or box, and then get the rightful owners to come and reclaim their belongings and put them back where they should be. It saves those panic moments when someone can't find something they've left lying about - likely it will be found in the box!
A time to sew ...
In fifteen minutes you can easily sew a button back onto a shirt, or fix a dropped hem on a skirt or pair of trousers. One way to save time doing this is to have needles in your workbox that are already threaded with enough thread for quick emergency repairs like this. White and black are probably sufficient for a temporary repair to most garments.
A time to speak ...
Fifteen minutes is a good time to allocate to making phone calls too if you've got appointments to arrange, or bookings to make. I usually find that the best time to telephone large companies is first thing in the morning (before 9 am), but that doctors' surgeries, dentists, education establishments and other public services are better contacted in the middle of the morning after the emergency calls have been dealt with.
A time to love ...
It's the small things that show you love someone, just as much as the grand gestures. I like to pay attention to the little details around our home, that show I care about my family and that their happiness really matters to me. I know it may seem a bit of a cliche these days, but I do also like to leave little notes in lunch boxes, on computer screens or mirrors, telling my sweet family how much I love them. I also like to assist in keeping their personal environments nice and tidy - so with their permission, I'll spend fifteen minutes just straightening the cubs' rooms, or reorganising Papa Bear's side of the wardrobe. It just lets them know that their happiness is important to me, and makes them feel cherished too.
A time of peace ...
Ohhh! Emilie Barnes is so right - getting your home straight and looking pretty and cared for really does bring you "total rest"! There's nothing better than the calming feel that you get going into a room that's clean, tidy and well organised - especially when you're the one that's made it that way! It doesn't have to be fancy, or well furnished (nowhere in our home is), but just have that lovely air of beauty and serenity that comes from a well ordered environment. I'd like to think that our home gives us this feeling - at least sometimes - but even if it doesn't, just aspiring towards this goal is an inspiration for me to keep working hard and getting organised. I hope it is for you too!
Monday, 16 April 2012
"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever". (Isaiah 40, 8).
In our family, the study of God's Word is a key feature of our daily lives - and always has been. Both Papa Bear and I were raised in homes where regular Bible study and Church attendance was practised, and as husband and wife, we have inculcated these same principles for our own family. We've always enjoyed sharing our Bible study time together - from the simplest board books when our children were babies, to much-loved books of illustrated Bible stories as they became older. We've always read directly from Scripture to them, and now, as our children have grown into young adults, it is a pleasure to see them turn to their Bibles independently, and to know that they are fostering and deepening their personal relationship with our Father God all on their own. We do draw together as a family to read our Bibles, but now we also all enjoy private Bible study too.
Nowadays, there are so many different opportunities for seeking God's Word. You can access the Bible online, or through daily devotionals that provide selected portions of Scripture with each devotional reading. You can hear the Bible read on the radio or on audio files online, or you can watch on TV and DVD's or listen on CD's. There are so many different written formats too - you can read Bibles specially prepared to be read through in a year, or for couples to read together. There are women's Bibles, study Bibles, Bibles with inspirational quotes or concordances, ones with illustrations, translations and dictionaries. There is a Bible for everyone - but how do we know which are truely the Word of God?
We like to use several different formats for our Bible studies, in order that we are able to access God's Word, both as a family and individually, as often and extensively as we can. It's lovely to be able to have our audio book of the Bible, narrated by Alexander Scourby, playing as I go about my daily chores, or when we are travelling in the car. Or we can enjoy an online devotional and Bible reading on days when we're not able to get to Church - or feel that we need the extra time spent in contemplation of God's Word because of particular things that are happening in our lives at that moment.
We've noticed that there seems to be a great deal of debate currently about whether one particular version of the Bible is better, or more accurate, than any other. It's something that we've been aware of for quite a while, certainly since our children have been old enough to read their own Bibles, and of course is something that we've paid attention to, as a family that reads the Bible so regularly. We want to be sure that we are being guided spiritually to the text or texts that our Father God really desires for us to read. The debate often seems to focus on one particular version of the Bible - the King James Version - and whether this is a more accurate (and therefore more relevant) version than more modern translations.
Regular readers of our blog will notice that the passages of Scriptures that we quote are from the King James Version. This is indeed the version that we prefer to use for the majority of the time. This is not just because we believe it to be an accurate translation of the Hebrew and Greek writings of the original text, but because we are convicted that the beauty and purity of the writing, as it appears, conveys the true message of God's Word to us more meaningfully than the modern translations. It's not so much that it is poetic - although in parts it could be argued that this is true - but that it resonates with us more deeply, and is therefore more relevant to us, than the somehow flatter, and duller translations of some more modern versions of the Bible. Where words are omitted or altered from the original writings, their true meaning is lost, and for us this is a significant consideration.
However, this is not the only version of the Bible that we use, and there is a good reason for this, which we are sharing because we feel this may help other people who have been caught in the debate over which is the most truthful translation of the Bible, and whether or not other versions are accurate enough to be worth reading. We also use the New American Standard Bible, which we like for its clarity and plainness, and we have also several other versions, including the New King James Version and the New Living Translation. This last is a paraphrase, and therefore not a substitute for other Bible translations, but we have found it is useful as a guide text to simplify passages that may seem to be more impenetrable in other translations, which we can then keep in mind as we turn to these other translations, having had the passage explained in simpler text. It's a bit like comparing a map of a land that you are visiting for the first time, with reports written by other travellers. The map will show you accurately where everything is, but the reports will still give you a broader perspective and experience of your travels, than if you did not read them. For us, the paraphrased Bible simply elucidates and highlights the meaning of the true translation for us.
There's a good reason why we need to do this - Papa Bear has dyslexia, a mild learning difficulty which specifically relates to the ability to read fluently. For him, without these other translations, the King James Version would be almost indecipherable. For several years after we were first married, he was not able to read at all - something he's not ashamed of, and therefore happy to share here on our blog. He learned to read as our cubs did (I taught them all 3 together!) and is now able to read quite sufficiently for personal pleasure, but he will always find the King James Version quite difficult to decipher, and so he prefers to use the New American Standard Bible for his personal Bible study. To us (and to our Church) there is no problem with this. It's far more important that he reads the Bible at all, than that he did not read it because the only translation available is beyond his reading ability. To make things even harder for him, he was raised in a home in which English was not spoken except to strangers - and in point of fact, there is no Bible translation at all in our mother tongue. For us, this is not a barrier to our growing in faith, but it could easily be for other people of our culture, and for other cultures, for which there is no easily accessible Bible translation and no guidance from well-informed people around them to assist in making it accessible.
God wants everyone to know His word - no one should be excluded from being able to know the wisdom and truth that the Bible contains. We are certain that whichever translation we are convicted to read, is still the Word of God. We ask Him prayerfully to guide us in our choises, and we are certain that it is through spiritual inspiration that we choose the translations that we do - and understand them too. What matters to us is not so much the version that we choose (although sensible consideration does need to be given to the quality of the translation and whether or not it reflects accurately the original written texts), but the very fact of us actually seeking it, reading it and most importantly of all, taking it into our hearts, and learning from it.
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2Timothy 3, 16 - 17).
Sunday, 15 April 2012
"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name".
(John 20, 19 - 30).
Saturday, 14 April 2012
We've had a birthday this week! And in our home this means ... CAKE! Lots of it! We all love cake, and of course it is the privelige of the birthday person to get to choose which sort of cake they'd like to have on their special day. It was Little Bear's turn this time around, and she chose a decadent moist chocolate fudge cake that we've christened "Squashy Chocolate Fudge Cake" because that indeed is what it is! (I know that in the background of the picture above, there is what looks like a Christmas ornament. In fact it is a cookie jar in the shape of a gingerbread man, and whilse it probably is a Christmas ornament, we use it year-round! Mind though I am sure that this cake would probably make a wonderful alternative to traditional Christmas cake too!). Of course, Little Bear did have candles on her cake (and the "Happy Birthday" song, which we don't sing in English, although the tune is the same), but this picture was taken before we put them on.
If you too would like to experience the guilty pleasure of eating Squashy Chocolate Fudge Cake, here is the recipe. I have combined 3 separate recipes to create this, so I will write them out below. This cake takes a while to make because of the extra time needed for the frosting ...
For the cake (this is an English recipe, but I converted the weights to cups as this is what I prefer to use in cooking - we don't own a set of weighing scales) ...
1 cup good quality plain chocolate chips (or 200 g)
1 tablespoon short of 1 cup butter (or 200 g)
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
2/3 cup self-rising flour (or 85 g)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour (or 85 g)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (not baking powder)
1 cup golden caster sugar (or 200 g)
1 cup packed brown sugar (or 220g)
1/4 cup cocoa powder (or 30 g)
5 tablespoons buttermilk (or 75 mls)
1. Begin by melting the chocolate chips, butter, coffee and 125 mls cold water in a saucepan on a low heat (you can also do this with a microwave).
2. Set aside, and weigh out the flours, baking soda, sugars and cocoa powder into a large bowl.
3. Beat the eggs together with the buttermilk.
4. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and fold in gently.
5. Add the melted chocolate mixture and fold until smooth (may take a few minutes). The mixture will be quite loose, about the thickness of cornbread batter.
6. Pour into a lined 20 cm cake tin (I used 2 smaller tins - but read below!).
7. Bake in the centre of a moderate oven (fan 140, conventional 160, gas mark 3) for about 1 hour 15 minutes (it took 1 hour 5 minutes in our fan assisted oven, but I was using 2 smaller tins instead of one big one. However this did cause rather a dramatic overflow of batter as it cooked, becuase this cake really rises! Be warned!).
8. Test for doneness by inserting a knife into the centre of the cake, if it is done it will come out clean.
9. Remove tin/s from the oven, then very carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Whilse it is still hot it is very fragile - but it will firm up and be easier to handle as it cools. Don't worry if you get the odd crack or split. Just put the pieces back together and it will meld back as it cools (well, ours did, anyways!).
For the centre frosting ...
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1/4 cup powdered (icing) sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
Beat the ingredients together briefly (they will whip up much faster than cream alone does, so don't overdo it). Place in the fridge until you are ready to use.
For the top frosting ...
1/4 pint heavy (whipping) cream
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1. Put the cream and the chocolate chips into a small heavy-based saucepan and warm on a low heat until the chips are melted.
2. Immediately remove from the heat and stir well.
3. Allow to cool slightly, then place in the fridge.
4. Leave to cool in the fridge, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is stiff enough to spread on the cake (takes about an hour).
Embellish your cake as you like - we used white and plain chocolate curls. This cake will easily serve at least 12 people - it is very rich - but absolutely delicious - you have been warned!
(Left-overs should be kept in the fridge).
Friday, 13 April 2012
Oh! Last night we were woken by such an unexpected sound - the echoing call of an owl hooting, right outside our bedroom window! We've not heard an owl here where we live right now, ever before. Where I grew up, in the countryside on the borders of England and Scotland, hearing (and seeing) owls was quite a common occurrence. Watching them fly is quite unlike seeing any other bird. They move incredibly smoothly, almost floating, seeming to glide rather than use their wings to propel them through the air. This of course is partly what enables them to hunt so stealthily - as they move so quietly, they can approach their prey unawares - but it also makes them look very graceful and majestic, especially seen as they fly from tree to tree in the dusk. We weren't able to see our night time visitor last night, of course, because it was dark outside, but we certainly heard it! It was quite exciting - we live in a town, although there are lots of trees around our home - and was a lovely sound to be woken by in the stillness of the night.
Hearing it reminded me of our own birds, that were safely tucked away under their crocheted covers in their cage downstairs! When they are covered up they rarely make any noise, but sometimes I will catch them singing (only the male birds sing) before I uncover them in the morning! As I did it today, I was minded of the owl that called to us in the night, and as I gave them their breakfast, I thought how much more costly it would be, to have to keep a captive owl fed - their meal of choice is mice and other small animals! Of course, we wouldn't ever want to keep a wild animal in a cage, but it got me thinking about the cost of keeping animals in a more general way, and hence this is the theme of today's Frugal Friday - how to be a frugal pet owner!
The first and most obvious hint I can make is this - that all pets are expensive to keep - or at least, more expensive than most people realise. Even a small animal like a hamster or a goldfish, requires a certain amount of investment to ensure it is kept healthy and happy. It goes without saying (but I will, because there are so many unwanted animals in rescue centres, brought there by people who purchased them on a whim, only to find that they couldn't keep up with the expense of caring for them) that you should never invest in a pet, unless you are absolutely sure you can afford to keep it properly for the whole of its lifetime. A good way to find out if you can is to calculate sensibly the cost of keeping an animal for a month, and then see if you can afford to put this amount of money aside each month for a set period - say 6 months or a year. At the end of this time (if the urge to own the pet hasn't faded - which it may well have done, by allowing yourself this "cooling off" period between deciding you'd like to have a pet, and actually finding out if you can afford it) you will have a good idea of whether or not your budget can allow for the additional expense a pet will incur.
In England, many vets advise (and some insist) on pet owners having insurance for their animals to cover the cost of vetinerary fees. I would suggest that you look into this carefully and check over what the different policies actually cover. For larger animals like dogs and cats, it probably is worth having the insurance as some medical conditions these animals suffer from can cost thousands of pounds to treat if you are not insured. However some inusrance policies will increase the premium greatly once you have made a claim on them, so do check whether the long-term investment is worth it. For smaller pets it often isn't worth having insurance. Our birds would only be covered for very minor conditions that would not cost much to be treated at the vet's anyway. The one condition that they don't cover - egg binding - is the one you are most likely to require treatment at a vet's from - and this is very costly as it involves an operation under anaesthesia - not straightforward, with such a small animal as a cockatiel. It is actually a better investment for us, to put aside a sum of money each month into a savings account, where it will accrue interest while we don't need to use it, and if we do, it is there specifically for the purpose of paying for vetinerary treatment.
The best way to save money from vet's fees is to prevent your animal from becoming ill in the first place. It is incredible how many people purchase a pet without really understanding how to care for it. Never is this more true than in the case of pet birds. We have heard of (and seen) so many tragic cases where a bird has been acquired on impulse, and then been cared for inadequately by an uninformed owner. We took in a rescue bird who had been treated in this way, and sadly, although we did everything we could to improve her condition, she passed away only 3 months after we'd taken her in. Her legacy is that I try to inform people that keeping a bird is NOT as easy as it seems. They are exotic pets and they should be treated as such. It is absolutely vital that as a responsible pet owner, you find out how to keep your animal, because prevention of illness is far better than cure - not just for your pocket, but for the animal too.
Our vet has told us repeatedly that incorrect diet accounts for over 90% of animal illness, so it makes sense to be well informed about what to feed your pet and when so that you can avoid costly trips to the vet which have been caused by your animal being fed an inadequate or inappropriate diet. Having said that, rather than underfeeding, or not giving enough choice, a lot of people feed their animals far too generously, partly because it is very difficult to gague just how much to give a creature that is so different from yourself, and partly because as humans, we tend to assume that animals desire the same variety and appeal in their food as we do. This is not so. The correct diet for your pet is really important. It is up to us as their caregivers to try to replicate what they would eat in the wild as closely as possible in captivity. If you can do this, you will ensure that their good health is well maintained. The best food isn't necessarily the most expensive - it just needs to be wholesome, balanced and nutritious. Ask your vet for advice about what to feed and how often, and then stick to this. Extras and snacks really aren't necessary - pet stores are full of foodstuffs for animals that look more suitable for humans than cats, dogs or rabbits (we've even seen "beer" for dogs, in our local pet store) - because that way, customers will be lured into spending money on things that their animals actually don't need. Don't be tricked by the cute packaging and novelty shapes of the treat foods at the pet store. Your pet really will be better off without them.
Another trick the pet stores use, is to offer items for sale which are totally unecessary for the wellbeing of your pet. Your hamster really doesn't care if it is living in a pink cage or a plain brown one. Your cat doesn't need to have a matching food and water bowl set to dine from. And your dog certainly doesn't need a frilly tutu with sequins on it. The exception to this, in terms of dog garments, is small breeds that require extra warmth in winter when they are being taken outside. But even then I would not waste the money on a novelty garment. As I say, the animal has no preference - it is you, the owner, that cares, not the pet. There's something a bit heartbreaking about seeing animals being treated as children. Of course we love our pets - but they don't want to be made into humans. Let's celebrate them for the creature that they are, and embrace that by treating them as they are meant to be treated - not as a human in a furry or feathery coat!
You don't need to spend a lot of money on toys and entertainment for your pet. Many animals will be just as happy with items you already have around your home. Our birds love the inner tubes from rolls of kitchen paper, which I cut into a spiral and clip to the side of their cage, and they also adore torn up bits of newspaper. They enjoy playing with raw spaghetti or a handful of meadow hay, and if you give them a ball of string, they're busy for hours, just pulling it about and chewing it. Wooden objects such as clothes pegs, twigs from apple trees and even an old wooden spoon will also keep them happily amused. They seem to know what is safe to eat and what isn't, and they much prefer naturally coloured toys like these, to the bright primary colours of manufactured toys from the pet store. If you're not sure about the safety of an item, don't take any risks - check with your vet first, but in general, it should be indestructible and made of non-toxic materials. Watch out for plastic items, especially if you are giving them to a dog - they can be chewed into small pieces that could be dangerous, but having said that, one of Papa Bear's brothers had to spend hundreds of pounds having one of his dogs operated on, after he ate pieces of a toy ball that he had chewed up - and that was a toy that had been bought from a pet store!
It's important to provide your pets with the right environment for good health. That means keeping their home or sleeping area clean and safe, and giving them plenty of opportunity for exercise. It's common for people to pay their vet to clip the wings of pet birds to prevent them from being able to fly and supposedly make them easier to tame. We don't do this - birds are supposed to be able to fly. It is good for them, gives them exercise and is their way of responding to stress and fear - and is an unecessary expense. If you don't want a pet that can fly, don't get a bird.
Equally, if you have small children that are begging you for a pet to care for with promises that they'll do all the work cleaning their cage, feeding it and providing exercise and entertainment, then do what our good friend suggested. Tell your children that they may have the desired pet - but that they have to prove that they mean what they say first. Buy them a pot plant (one that isn't too easy to care for!) and tell them that they must take sole responsibility for keeping it alive for a set period of time (depending on the age of the child). Then watch and see if they can keep their word. We tried this (with a venus fly trap of all plants. Cubby Bear's choice!) and the plant lasted about 6 weeks! It was a good lesson for our children to learn, and it was a much longer time before they were really ready for a pet (and then we got the birds, which are a family pet that we all enjoy).
In general if you have small children, say under 6, I would advise against pets altogether not just from a money-saving point of view, but from a time-saving one as well. When you are busy caring for tinies, you really do not need the added responsiblity of a pet to care for. Some people argue that it is useful as a lesson in caring for others and in learning about life cycles and patience and compassion for a child to have a pet, and while these are indeed valuable lessons for a child, it really isn't necessary for them to learn them through caring for a pet, and even if you do feel it is important for your children to have this experience, it can be just as useful if it is learned at a later age, when they are more capable of being involved in the care and work of keeping an animal.
I would also advise, from personal experience growing up on a farm, that if you have aspirations - and a lot of people living where we do seem to have them - to keep a smallholding, even just some chickens, please do look into this very carefully indeed. Livestock like this needs a lot of care and attention - 365 days a year, whatever the weather. Although it may seem idyllic to have a few chickens pecking about in your backyard, perhaps a goat or sheep or even a cow, these animals are not easy to keep, and cost a lot of money in terms of feed and housing and vet's fees (there are various compulsory innoculations and treatments that they will need, year in, year out, if you wish to keep them outside in England) and unless you keep them on a very grand scale, the cost of keeping them will not be repaid by any possible yield you get in terms of eggs or milk or wool. My father was a farm labourer and watching him having to go out in all weathers, even on Christmas Day or bank holidays, to care for the livestock on the farm where we lived when I was a child, taught me that there is very little personal recompense for this sort of commitment -unless it is your livelihood, I would strongly advise against keeping any sort of farm animal.
I can't sign off today without saying one more time that if you DO decide you want to keep a pet, then you would do very well to consider a bird (well, two at least)! They are very definitely worth the work and expense - they are clean, relatively quiet, good company, entertaining and intelligent, and beyond the initial (admittedly quite considerable) outlay of purchasing them and the various bits of equipment they need, they are actually quite economical pets, that, with the right care, can live happily for 20 years or more. We're certainly convinced they are the right animal to share our home, anyways - and I'd like to think they all agree, too!