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Do you have a child with a smart phone or tablet? Are they reluctant to remove their eyes from the tiny screen because someone is droning nasally on YouTube about Minecraft? Do they fail to hear calls for meals or run away from table too early in order to play Angry Birds? Let me share with you an app I came across recently that has aided our parenting and helped us to ease the Queen (aged 13, now a proud possessor of a smart phone on a super cheap but strangely comprehensive contract) into learning some self control:

DinnerTime

Seriously, I cannot recommend this free app highly enough. It works by allowing you to control your child’s smartphone or tablet from your own phone. It’s available from Google Play, the Apple App Store and the Amazon App Store. We have the Queen’s set to switch off at bedtime and we can summon her to the table at the touch of a screen. She doesn’t mind, and it can be quite funny to see how quickly she appears once I’ve used the ‘Take a Break’ function.

Of course, I want her to develop self control, but I never had the challenge of having to switch off my phone at night when I was 13. It was bad enough trying not to read under the covers. So this app enables us to help her let go of the phone without having to physically remove it from her grasp. If you are buying a device for a child this Christmas, you could install DinnerTime (or DinnerTime Plus for even more functionality) before the child has it and then bedtime screen battles will not even begin. I have mentioned DinnerTime to other parents and to a headteacher recently, and there seemed to be some keen interest. Perhaps it will help you or someone you know who’s battling in this area. It’s been a blessing to us.

A great weapon in the battle of the screens

This is a brilliant recipe that I mean to post every Christmas but then decide I can’t because I don’t have a photo. Anyway this year I still don’t have a picture of the salad, but here’s the recipe anyway. It is perfect for Boxing Day with cold turkey and ham, and a great way of using up the end of a jar of cranberry sauce or some extra sprouts.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

1/4 red cabbage
1 celery stick (with leaves)
6-8 Brussel sprouts
1 small eating apple
1 carrot
75g/3 oz mixed nuts or walnuts/pecans
Stilton (optional – for a full meal of a salad)

Dressing: Mix together 3 tbspn vegetable oil, 2 tbspn cranberry sauce & 3 tbspn orange juice

Shred cabbage, apple, celery & sprouts in food processor or finely slice, grate the carrot (I use my processor for this too). Roughly chop the nuts by hand – the processor blitzes them too fine I find. Mix with the dressing and crumble stilton on top, if using. Feel vaguely healthy and like you’ve neutralised some of the Christmas cake and sherry.

No salad picture, so here’s some festive fairylights instead

Linus Gets Christmas

Shared by a friend earlier, this is from A Charlie Brown Christmas and was made nearly 50 years ago. Good stuff never grows old. I’ve not read a Peanuts cartoon for years (my parents had loads of the books when I was growing up) but this has made me want to revisit them.

Rest Merry

Advent Sunday is fast approaching, so (with apologies to all the fans of Advent carols) here’s a great take on the Vicar’s favourite Christmas carol from Beat Convention:

 

It’s more than a year since my book The Ministry of a Messy House was published. It’s been a fun year, seeing something I can’t quite believe that I produced stocked in catalogues and bookshops and conferences. I’ve had opportunities to speak on the grace of God in our messes and muddle and have a couple more speaking engagements coming up next year. People have commented encouragingly on the book here and in a few other spots on the internet. Comments have come from the UK and also further afield: Australia, New Zealand and the US I think.

And this week I’ve had confirmation that The Ministry of a Messy House is going to be translated and published in Germany by Neukirchener. The contract has been signed but I’m not sure when it will be available to buy. I can’t say that a German translation was something I anticipated as I was writing! The proposed new title seems rather lengthy:

Herrlich Unperfekt: Erfrischende Geständnisse einer chaotischen Pfarrfrau

which according to Google translate is:

Delightfully Imperfect: refreshing confessions of a chaotic pastor’s wife

I think they may have sussed me out….

Heading for Halloween

The blog hits from searches on Halloween have begun. So here is my annual pointer to some good ways for Christians to redeem Halloween without drowning in a sea of witch masks and ghoul costumes. This is a great time of year to bless our neighbours and reach out with the good news of the light that Christ brings to our dark world.

One popular activity in many churches is to hold an alternative party. We’re making our Messy Church next week a Light Party. This year Scripture Union sent us a magazine with some excellent ideas for games and activities that we have used. They have free packs and downloads available. We found last year that a light party held on Halloween itself isn’t so popular as people are off to other parties so that’s why we’re holding ours before half term. The next door parish are holding one on 31st October, though, so we’ll encourage any parents who do want an alternative to go along to that. We are wondering if we still have time to get kids a Bag of Hope from UCB. But if your party is in half term, you should be fine.

Here in the Vicarage we’re stocking up on tracts (try 10ofThose or The Good Book Company) and sweeties to give to Trick or Treaters. And we’re planning our pumpkin carving. Dreamer is holding some afternoon drop in activities in the church hall over half term and plans pumpkin carving as an option. Last year we carved ‘Light of the World’ on ours, inspired by a gallery of other people’s pumpkins I posted a few years back. The excellent cartoonist Crimperman has some other ideas for pumpkins, in case you end up with too many. I have found from bitter – and tasteless – experience that supermarket Halloween pumpkins are utterly hopeless for roasting or making into soup or anything really useful.

Pumpkin cartoon

Eyebrow Surprise

I was in tow-un the other day when I spotted this sign. How long do your eyebrows last? Can’t honestly say that I’m all that tempted by this ‘experience’.

Seriously.  My eyebrows  have lasted more than several months.

Seriously. My eyebrows have already lasted more than several months. Without any expense.

 

 

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