Sunday, 21 December 2014

Pause in Advent #4

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This week has been tiring and emotional, saying goodbye to colleagues and students. This final Sunday before Christmas is always special at the Church here in Kirby. In the morning, the children have a Praise Party in the Church Hall, whilst the adults have a more reflective Christmas Communion Service in the Chapel.

And in the evening, it’s the Big One- the Candlelight Carol Service. The Dance Group who use our premises to practise will dance, we will sing carols old and new, and listen to the old, familiar story again. And people who do not attend church the rest of the year will come and slip inside, in the darkness, and share with us in the singing and the story. And it feels really Christmassy – students will be back home from Uni, old friends will be there because they are back in the village for a few days to visit family. And we laugh and hug and swap news as we drink hot chocolate after the service.

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Mags had a lovely Pause Post this week about the ‘mulling pot’ – rich in fruit and spices, warm and colourful, full of flavour – and likened it to the other meaning of the word ‘mull’ – to ponder.

Mary kept all these things, and mulled over them in her heart. I too have been ‘mulling it over’ – looking back at the last year [well, the last 19 years actually] and seeing how God has led us and blessed us. Life here has been rich, and full – with variety and spice and colour – so much joy, but not cloyingly sweet.  At Christmas we usually read John 1 – In the beginning was the Word …this year I shall be going on into chapter 2 as well, and thinking about that first miracle – the water turned into wine. We have been provided for, every step of the way, in our time here, far more abundantly than we could ever have dreamed of. So much to be thankful for…

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Upstairs, Downstairs

I did like the original series back in the ‘70s – not so keen on the more recent incarnation [somewhat overshadowed by the rather better Downton] But I could certainly do with a butler, cook and chambermaid at the minute. My house is in chaos!

Thursday was incredibly emotional, leaving the school where I had worked for 10 years on and off as a Supply Teacher [and made an infinite number of play costumes, and given SATs support to lots of 10 year olds] In assembly, the Head asked all the pupils I had taught to stand up. It seemed that almost every child got to their feet. I was in tears when presented with some gorgeous gifts, and more flowers and cards – and all day, random kids were running up and hugging me. Even a few Mums hugged me at 3.15!

I didn’t sleep well last night, and kept remembering different pupils and many of my good [and less than good] lessons. So on Friday  morning I was not really on top form when it came to getting the house ready for our Christmas Open House.

6.45pm downstairs was fine – my Belvoirdale ‘Tree card’ is already framed and on the wall – the sofas had a quick steam clean, the dips and crudités and nibbles are all ready for the guests. You can see my lovely flowers on the table.

open house chaos

but upstairs…I had a disaster emptying the shredder, lots of school stuff was just thrown [literally] into Steph’s bedroom, there are heaps of clothes in my bedroom awaiting sorting [wear them, pack them, send them to a CS]Utter and complete chaos reigns!

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Today we have Carol Singing at Cherry Tree Gifts, and then an evening with friends. Sunday will be busy preparing for the Candlelight Carols [and hot chocolate afterwards] So Monday is going to be a rather busy day, as I seek to find the floors again!!

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This little metal star shaped tray is really meant to hold a candle – but I thought it made a good spoon rest for the little spoons I have put out to use for the dips. I decided to use up all my disposable plates/napkins/cups. No washing up, and less stuff to move to Dorset!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Open The Box AND Take The Money!

When I was a child, there was a programme called “Take Your Pick” – the first game show on commercial TV, and the contestants could choose between ‘taking the money’ or ‘opening the box’ [which may, or may not, have a greater prize within] This week I chose to ‘open the box’ – a small money box which I got in the M&S 125year celebration Penny Bazaar back in 2009.

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I’d padlocked it, and left it by my PC. Whenever I found any small change [emptying pockets before laundry, lurking in the bottom of bags etc] I have been putting it in this tin.

It’s been getting quite heavy. I decided that I would empty it before we moved and do something significant with the contents.

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I drive past this golf course each week en route to Belvoirdale School, and a friend told me that they serve excellent lunches. They’re currently advertising midweek meals at “Two For £10” So I told Bob that if there was enough in the tin, I would treat him to lunch. There was nearly £20 - mostly 10ps, 20ps and coppers - and one £5 note. We had to get up early as we were doing a Christmas thing at Playgroup, then we did some food shopping, and delivered yet another box to the Charity Shop.

Then we went off to Forest Hills Golf Club at Botcheston. We sat in the conservatory by the bar, and enjoyed salmon with hollandaise sauce, asparagus and new potatoes. Beautifully cooked, and very ‘cheffy” presentation on slate tiles. It tasted delicious. Dessert was not included in the offer- but as I had enough cash left, I said we should treat ourselves to a sweet.

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He’s looking remarkably serious here – or maybe it is fatigue? You can quite clearly see the shadow of my head as I take the photo!

Bob opted for Cheesecake, and I chose to have a cup of coffee and Milllionaire’s Shortbread. I’d expected it to be a small cube of biscuit with toffee and chocolate topping – but I was quite wrong. It came in a wine glass…

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In the bottom was a layer of crumbs – very buttery shortbread biscuit. Then the dulce de leche toffee layer. Above that a generous layer of chocolate mousse, and on top a blob of double cream, garnished with a strawberry, and a chocolate ‘cigar’.

It was very tasty, and a clever take on the more traditional biscuit. The strawberry wasn’t brilliant [it is December, not the time for these fruits really] but I thought the general idea was worth trying to replicate. I may serve this up sometime when we have guests.

As we finished our meal, two friends came in for lunch, followed by another who was just having coffee and cake. They told us they often ate there. I’m not sure we’ll manage it again [my little tin is empty now!] but I would recommend this venue for a pleasant lunch.

In the middle of this busy Christmas season, it was great to have some quality time alone together – reflecting on the 19½ years that have past since we moved to the East Midlands - and what lies ahead of us in Dorset. When we arrived, we still had a daughter in Primary School – now she is 30 and planning her wedding. I quoted Browning’s poem as we ate our meal

Grow old along with me!

The best is yet to be,

The last of life, for which the first was made:

Our times are in His hand

Who saith "A whole I planned,

Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!''

Thursday, 18 December 2014

School Days


The Year Ones went to the theatre yesterday – my first [and probably only] visit to “Curve” – Leicester’s newest theatre. we saw Pinocchio, written by Michael Rosen [quite brilliantly] and performed really well by the Hiccup Theatre Company. I loved it, as did most of the children. No mishaps, and we all got back safely after much fun and laughter.

So very different from school days in Peshawar. My heart is aching 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Christmas Crafts

This term I have taught children in Reception, Year 1, Year 6, and a group of teenage girls. The year 6 pupils have worked hard at maths and literacy, but with the others there has been opportunity for some craftwork and creativity. My students have made a castle collage, and various Christmas decorations [spinners, giftbags, peg angels, and baubles] It has been lovely to see their work on display

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Most of these were relatively simple ideas, but the students have added their own touches to make them special. I shall certainly miss teaching them next term.

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The classroom tree is decorated with peg angels, spinners, and card baubles.

I had 100 dolly pegs in the loft [I’d been collecting them over the years for a Holiday Club Craft which never happened]

And the spinners use old CDs [we had around 500 of them – old recordings, freebies, advertising ones] A simple picture, coloured and stuck on the printed side is a quick, easy and effective decoration.

The baubles were made from strips cut from old Christmas cards [2 shoeboxes full]

Everyone else sees this as a Christmas Tree – I regard it as a triumph of decluttering!

If you have some bored children, here is the instruction sheet for making the baubles. Old greetings cards, or coloured card, and a box of paper fasteners are all that you need [and some thread or cord for suspension]

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The snowflakes and rocking horses were inexpensive felt shapes [from The Range, and Tiger, respectively] which were easily decorated with beads and sequins.

My own home may be minimally decorated this year, but I suspect that I have left a trail of glitter and sequins across the educational establishments of the county!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Thankyou, Belvoirdale

I came home on Friday with a car loaded with cards, flowers, and gifts from children and colleagues at Belvoirdale School. The card from the Reception Classes was absolutely wonderful. Every child has made a unique fingerprint on the tree – and their names were written beside. Beneath the tree it simply said “Thank you for helping us to grow” – such things make teaching worthwhile!

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I shall treasure this gift – I would like to frame it and hang it in my sewing corner when I get to Dorset. Thank you, friends!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Top Tips For Christmas 2014–#3

snoopy

Two out of three is quite enough

and the three things are quick, quality, and quids-in

What does this mean? Well simply this, when you are preparing for Christmas [or other events like birthday parties, weddings, or the school end-of-year production] do not strive for perfection in all things, remember the two-out-of-three rule. You can achieve two out the list above, but, if you are being realistic, not all three. e.g.

You need to serve 100 drinks

quick, quids-in – go to Poundland for plastic cups [sacrificing quality]

quick, quality – go to John Lewis and buy 100 lovely wineglasses [sacrificing ‘quids-in’]

quality, quids-in – go to all your friends and ask them to each lend you half a dozen glasses [quality, and quids-in – but not quick]

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You want a dozen festive napkins on the table for the family Christmas lunch

quick, quids-in – go to Poundland for paper ones

quick, quality – go to John Lewis and buy beautiful linen

quality, quids-in – buy a remnant of Christmas fabric on the market, and spend the November evenings doing appliqué reindeers, felt embellishments and blind-hemming

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You get the picture – great things can be achieved – but somewhere along the way, you may have to sacrifice time, money or ‘taste’ in order to get what is needed. [n.b. This post is not sponsored – other shops besides John Lewis and Poundland are available]

Don’t beat yourself up about the one thing that you miss out. Good planning and advance preparation can sometimes mean you are able to achieve quality at a low cost – but often you don’t know long enough in advance to plan. And whatever you do, don’t judge your friends for the choice they make. They may not have the time, or money right now. And there’s no accounting for taste!

Two out of three is quite enough

I was talking to Bob about this principle, and he said “Oh, I have always known that” so I asked which of the three he had sacrificed when he married me. The conversation went strangely silent!