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Category Archives: Seasons

Food for thought this Lent

Lent is traditionally known as a time of prayer and fasting, a time reflecting on Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, where Christians give something up to provide extra time and space to concentrate on God.  For many 21st century Christians, and I count myself among them, fasting is not part of their spiritual life.  In the past I have made the token gesture of deciding to give up chocolate or cake; in a society where we are surrounded by such luxuries (there is always cake in our office!) it can be a challenge and a good discipline but I’m not that sure it ever brought me any closer to God.  It might be different for you, but I’m sure my motives were more about losing a few kilos rather than spiritual in nature.

I find giving up food difficult, mainly because I am a foodie, but also because I get headaches if I don’t eat frequently. Perhaps giving up a meal each day would allow me more time to spend with God. If I also gave up eating out I could give extra money to charity. Call it an excuse if you want but I decided this year that I was not going to give up food for Lent (although I’m sure I would benefit from a little less excess).

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I’ve often heard people say that giving something up is negative and they are going to do something extra, something positive for Lent, like giving to charity or spending more time in bible reading.  There is certainly nothing wrong with starting new positive habits and charities need all the support they can get, so its a great idea.   For me this year in Lent I wanted to do something positive and spend  more time in silence, escaping the seemingly never-ending rush of life, being still with God.

However, to do this required ‘finding time’.  I needed to give up something  to ‘find’ that time to make a real difference to my spiritual life, in the hope that the habit started for 40 days would become lifelong.  This Lent has been about slowly changing my lifestyle so that I am able to get a better balance in my life.  I’m trying to limit my excessive ‘work’ time to provide more time for family, friends and stillness, trying to take a few minutes each day in silence (not just those moments on the loo) to sit and be with God, to be mindful, appreciate the beauty around me and to thank God for all He provides.

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Books that have been helpful in this include Stephen Cherry’s book ‘Beyond Busyness – Time Wisdom for Ministry’. I’ve learned the difference between time management and time wisdom and have used various tools he suggests for making wise decisions about how I spend my time.  It’s a must read for workaholics and anyone in ministry.

The other book that has inspired me has been Mary C. Earle’s book ‘The Desert Mothers – Practical Spiritual Wisdom for Every Day’.

12745639_10208284540649310_1344397817639724825_nShe writes, “When we fast (whether it be from food or noise or busyness or buying too much), our fast is not only for our own health and deepening love; it is offered for the life of the world.  When we fast from mean-spirited conversation and from the need to be always in control and think ourselves to be right, we are allowing open space in which God’s healing silence can bring forth something new, if we give it time and care. When we fast from hurry and frenetic, non-stop rushing, we not only allow the distended stress of our bodies and souls to heal. We also practice one of the most subversive acts in this society: rest in God, trusting that God’s own recreating and restoring grace will be sufficient for the tasks at hand. We put aside the addictive behaviour of working as if everything depended on our own efforts, and allow real questions to surface…..the questions are an essential part of discovering who you are and who you were called to be.”

I don’t know about you but I so relate to this passage.  Up until now my life has centred around doing…..now I’m trying to balance the doing and the being.  Who are you and what has God called you to be?  My food for thought this Lent!

 

 

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Earthquake hits small town in Rhymney Valley, house destroyed with child casualties

December 23rd was a day when floods swept across South Wales, roads turned to rivers, with many lives and homes devastated.

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But this was not the only tragedy to hit one post-mining community. At 10pm local time an earthquake struck with its epicenter in Bargoed.  Reaching 7.5 on the ginger scale, it demolished a house with its debris landing on two young children.  The house, in the town of Bargoed, was newly constructed.  The first quake resulted in part of the roof collapsing, which landed on the two children who were playing in the front garden. They died instantly.  Later tremors caused the then unstable property to collapse totally with just the front wall of the house remaining standing.  It’s a well known safety measure that when an earthquake strikes you should stand under the door frame of the house.  If only these children had done this then they would be alive today.

Neighbours stated, “It was a beautiful house, we watched the young owners pour their heart and soul into its construction and decoration.  Its so sad that a freak act of nature could cause not only the house to be destroyed but for the children to meet such a tragic end.”

The following before and after photographs illustrate the terrible scene….

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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Reflections, Seasons, Uncategorized

 

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Making a Gingerbread House in Gingerbread Land

Staying for Christmas hols in Nana’s in Bargoed, South Wales; the festive season started today with a nativity play at church and then the three generations planned how to carry on their festive activities.  Ice skating, going to see The Hobbit, making paper chains and baking gingerbread were all on offer, but it was the excitement of making a Gingerbread House in Gingerbread Land that won the day.  Since no one had ever made gingerbread before it was going to be a challenge.

First stop… Google….. to search a recipe….It was the BBC good food recipe that was decided upon for the gingerbread and then the design would be adapted to decorate the house…. out with the almonds on the roof and in with chocolate buttons, etc.

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For the gingerbread

  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 200g dark muscovado sugar
  • 7 tbsp golden syrup
  • 600g plain flour
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 tsp ground ginger

To decorate (adapted from…)

  • 200g bag flaked almonds
  • 2 egg whites
  • 500g icing sugar, plus extra to dust
  • 125g pack mini chocolate fingers
  • generous selection sweets of your choice, choose your own colour theme
  • 1 mini chocolate roll or a dipped chocolate flake (or Twirl)
  • Cake board

Plus a rolling pin, baking trays, foil, greaseproof paper, wooden spoon, tablespoon, teaspoon and mixing bowl.

Nana, the Generation 1 non-chef, was asked which of the above she had in her kitchen.  Her response? A rolling pin, a baking tray, spoons and a bit of foil….. time to go shopping…. not even a mixing bowl in sight!

It took three shops to find an appropriate mixing bowl, but outside the last one I caught a glimpse of the angel of Bargoed, quite apt this Christmas season…

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The trip to Bargoed’s new attraction…. Morrison’s supermarket…… yielded thousands and thousands of calorie-filled sugar and fat!!!  And the box was kindly donated by a shelf stacker after he had unloaded his trays of frozen raspberries.

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Ingredients in place, it was time to start baking. But the one thing that had been forgotten in the rush was a weighing scales; yet another piece of essential baking equipment missing from the Generation 1 kitchen.  It was time to ring the neighbours!

A lady kindly popped round with a red contraption that looked like it had come from a museum.

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Then came the history lesson….. we were asked how much we wanted to weigh. The answer of 600g was looked upon in despair. Awch!!! It only measures in pounds and ounces!! Back to Google to find out conversion rates, and after some debate over how many ounces in a pound and 1.3lb not being equal to 1lb 3oz, it was time to start weighing the ingredients.

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The 250g of butter and 200g of brown sugar were put in the saucepan (pronounced sospan in Wales!!) and then a tablespoon found to measure out the 7tbsps of syrup. Generation number 2 dipped it into the syrup tin to be greeted by Generation 3 saying “If you were a chef you would have put the spoon in boiling water first and then it comes off easily”. 2 seconds 2 late!! Now two spoons were covered in syrup as one was used to scrape the syrup off the other spoon.  Generation 2 was sacked and Generation 3 took over!  Good to know she was taught something useful in school!

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This was then heated over the stove until everything melted.

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After which time the dry ingredients of 600g of plain flour, 2 tsp of Bicarbonate of Soda and 4 tsp of Ginger were placed in a bowl and a dip made in the centre; into this the melted mixture was poured.

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This was then gently mixed together…..

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Then rolled out on some greaseproof paper to about the thickness of 2 £1 coins.

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The three Generations did not have access to a printer to print out the Gingerbread House plan from the BBC Food Guide website, so it was time to quickly design a template and use it to measure the gingerbread walls and roof.  Care (although in hindsight perhaps not enough!!) was taken as a fatal flaw here could mean construction problems.

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The leftovers were used to make trees for the gingerbread forest, Hansel and Gretel, and stands to help them all remain upright.

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Then, with just one baking tray lined with foil, the first walls were placed in the oven at 180 degrees C for 12 minutes.

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And while they were baking, a piece of cardboard was covered in foil to make Gingerbread land…

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While each tray was baked and cooled the ‘cement’ for putting the house together was made, with two egg whites mixed with 500g of icing sugar.

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Then the trees were decorated using an icing bag made from greaseproof paper, and Hansel and Gretel put on their coats with three dolly mixture buttons….

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They were then stood up on their bases.  But next came the big challenge; the walls had expanded on cooking, some were larger than the others, and because they were cooked one after the other rather than together (due to lack of baking trays and lack of oven space) this was not realised until they were cool.  Oh dear, sticking them together was a challenge.

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This was left to cool for a few hours while the Christmas tree cookies were decorated to give to friends. The door was added made from sour strings and the path with fizzy tiles. There was a cut made in the roof top for the chimney and an attempt was made (and failed) to put it on the roof.

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The roof fitting ended in disaster, with walls about to collapse and roof panels sliding off as the icing seals had not set. Just as Generation 2 thought all was well, the chimney fell in and one panel fell off…..

It was decided to leave one panel on for it to set overnight and to try the other again tomorrow… so watch this space and see if we manage to get a half decent gingerbread house and garden constructed.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Church, cooking, History, Seasons

 

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