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Archive for June, 2011

Last night we had a great time at Messy Church – the next one in our series on the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus. This time we were looking at ‘I am the True Vine’ and the craft team decided that they’d like one activity to be making playdough grapes to place on a vine drawn on a paper plate. The Vicar then volunteered me to make the playdough, knowing that I had a recipe up my sleeve.

Every playgroup leader has a  recipe for playdough – that ubiquitous soft dough which mums hate to find in carpets. But many folk I’ve spoken to have found their homemade dough to be too sticky or oily. This recipe always seems to come out well, though, as long as you don’t mind your fingers getting a bit stained with food colouring. It lasts a few weeks if kept in an airtight box in the fridge.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250ml) plain flour
  • 1 cup (250ml) water
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) salt
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • Few drops food colouring

All you do is pop all the ingredients together in a pan (preferably non-stick) and heat it up, stirring, until the dough magically forms. You can also do it by heating it in a covered dish in the microwave for 1-2 minutes but it’s so fast on the stove top I use that method. Also, the food colouring can make the inside of a microwave dish look rather interesting.

I know these were meant to be grape coloured, but the local shop only sells colouring for pilau rice and Indian sweets, so the colours are a little lurid and approximate. For Messy Church I made a quadruple batch, which was ample. It’s great fun to hold and knead – we gave a couple of handfuls away to some of the teenage tearaways who were lurking in the church yard. One came in especially as he reckoned it would help him to deal with stress.

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I drove into tow-un yesterday morning to get some messages (as the Scots like to say). As I was driving I noticed a few new shops that have opened recently that should give you the flavour of the boom industries in our neighbourhood. They were:

  • A Polish delicatessan. I think we must now have half a dozen of these shops in town now, along with a good few Polish hairdressers and beauticians. A sign of the changing face of immigration in the area – many Eastern Europeans have joined the mix that brings a buzz alongside many challenges and gives us 22 languages spoken in the homes of the children in our church primary school.
  • A new ‘wine’ shop. There are very many off licences in our high street, and all the grocers sell cheap booze along with the chapatti flour. I saw a chap who must have patronised one of the local off licences in the carpark of Lidl at 11am, rolling as he walked and clutching a bottle of Frosty Jack cider.
  • A Brook ‘Young People’s Health Shop’. A sad indicator of the ubiquity of the sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility that is the norm here and that contributes to the brokenness of so many lives around us.

Talking of my trip to Lidl, as I went into the shop a chap charmingly spat generously on the floor by his car, which his wife and child were sitting in. He looked shocked when I mentioned to him that his behaviour was both disgusting and a health hazard.

I didn’t wait to discuss it with him any further though, chicken that I am, and dashed into the shop to stock up on cheap sliced ham and fresh peaches.

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I found an impressive mushroom on our lawn yesterday and was wondering about eating it. I was under the misapprehension that there were only a few types of poisonous ones and it was likely to be fine.

Then I went googling and searching around the internet and it’s a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. So we’ve not eaten it – it’s sitting in my kitchen but I think it will just be going in the compost. I think I’m best to stick to the radishes and salad leaves I planted myself.

Bit of a pity, but best not to poison the family, eh?

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I have recently started leading regularly at our Junior Church. When I began, we were using materials which were tailored to a narrow age range and which were tied to the lectionary and sometimes seemed to miss the point of the passage.

Since our group has an age range of 3-14 and we don’t follow the lectionary in church, we have now switched to using On The Way for 3-9s. Although this still misses the top age range we have, it caters for a greater number of the children, and also enables us to design our own programme of teaching.

On The Way has excellent craft resources and helps you to get into the passage you’re teaching yourself. It doesn’t, however, always help you to prepare the teaching of the passage very easily. At the moment we are doing a little series on some of the kings of Judah, which has been great for me as some of the passages were unfamiliar to me, let alone to the kids!

So to help me to tell the stories of some of the passages (and to source some good colouring pages for less well-known stories) I now turn to Deaf Missions – their daily reading notes are available online and give some excellent short summaries of bible passages together with clear black and white illustrations which blow up very well for colouring in. Check out their page on Jehoshaphat and Ahab to see what I mean.

I always like to have a colouring page and a wordsearch for the children – sometimes I like to get them to colour in a picture as I explain the bible passage, as it can help with concentration. And it’s always useful to have something up your sleeve in case the Vicar preaches too long and you’re in Junior Church for an unplanned extra ten minutes.

DLTK have a good selection of colouring pages. For wordsearches I tend to go to Calvary Church‘s site first – they also have colouring pages on many passages and other word puzzles, although the bible version they use (possibly the American Standard?) doesn’t usually mesh with the readings we use, so I don’t use the more complex puzzles. If the passage isn’t in the Calvary Church curriculum, I go to Teachers Direct, where you can make your own wordsearches – cool, eh? Unsurprisingly I used this when teaching about Jehoshaphat.

Do you have any favourite online places for Sunday School resources? Do share!

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Last week I had to bake for Cake & Chat and wanted something a little different. I also had a packet of rhubarb that I’d picked up on the reduced section at our local Morrison’s. And so here is a recipe for rhubarb pudding cake (I found the original online at a National Trust historic cakes site).

It went wonderfully with creme fraiche on Thursday and with cream on Sunday. I had to bake a second one this weekend as the first one had disappeared before lunch on Thursday. The leftovers are in the fridge tempting me now.

The recipe involves three separate sections – a cake batter, chopped and sugared rhubarb and a crumble topping. Althought it’s slightly faffier than a bog standard sponge, it’s worth the extra trouble for a delicious dessert cake. The one in the pictures has some gooseberries in it aswell as I didn’t have quite enough rhubarb second time round – they worked very well.

Ingredients

  • 1lb rhubarb (or gooseberries, or mix of both), chopped into 1″ pieces and sprinkled with 1-2tbspns brown sugar

Crumble topping

  • 2oz butter
  • 3oz plain flour
  • 1oz caster sugar

Cake batter

  • 3oz soft marg or butter
  • 3oz caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3oz self raising flour
  • 1 tbspn milk

Firstly, prepare the rhubarb, chopping it into chunks, or top and tail your gooseberries. Place it in a bowl and sprinkle the brown sugar over the fruit and set aside. Then make the crumble topping, chopping the butter into the flour and rubbing it into small crumbs with your fingers. Then stir in the sugar and set aside. Finally, in another bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar, beat in the eggs and fold in the flour. I do this using an electric hand mixer – there’s not enough mix for my freestanding mixer. Add enough milk to give a dropping consistency – if you’re using large eggs you might not even need the milk.

You’ll need an 8″ cake tin, lined with baking paper (or a reusable liner). Then you layer the cake up – first the batter, then the fruit (with another sprinkling of brown sugar) and finally the crumble topping mix. Bake at 190ºC (Gas 5, Fan 180ºC) for 40-45 minutes until the cake feels firm on top.

This cake is delicious hot or cold and best served with some sort of cream. It would be good with custard too.

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Well, a small one, anyway. Last year we bought some very cheap strawberry plants and stuck them in a flower bed where they failed to produce anything edible. This year, however, they have given us some sweet strawberries – a whole (small) bowlful. And we’ve been able to pick them at peak ripeness. Delicious. Please excuse the shocking lack of focus in the picture. The one I took using the flash made the strawberries look purple.

We also have some small and very sour cherries, about five radishes, a handful of gooseberries, some spindly rhubarb and some snail-chewed bok choi. And there will definitely be potatoes. It’s better than last year, and if our gardening continues to improve at this rate I reckon that we might have a good harvest by the time the Engineer leaves home (he’s six btw).

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As we nibbled our rhubarb crumble cake and gingerbread loaf at Cake and Chat this morning, we were discussing (as usual) the state of the neighbourhood. Our local PCSO was visiting to eat cake catch up on intelligence and he and I were talking about the broken Vicarage windows and the local children who play together most evenings. Often there are more than a dozen of them, and they can often be playing out for four hours until the dark drives them home.

We decided that there is likely to be a mathematical formula for the likelihood of trouble eg broken windows that could be developed, using the number of children (C), the number of hours they spend unsupervised (H) and the amount of trouble (T). Something like this I would guess:

CxH = T

So if there are fewer children, or they are driven inside by rain after only an hour, or parents come and supervise, the amount of trouble is much less. The broken Vicarage windows didn’t happen first thing in the evening, but towards the end of things, and there were always a good few kids playing together.

Of course, the formula is really more complex than that, and should include such factors as emptiness of tummies, sugar recently consumed, time since the last big telling off and air temperature. Perhaps if I work on it I can develop the definitive predictor of Trouble and head it off before it comes. Or maybe I should stick to prayer and building relationships.

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