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Archive for September, 2011

Things in parish have been a bit crazy since the new school term began and my blogging habit has rather dried up. But today I’ve just about got my act together and thought I’d share a great recipe for autumn – my mother-in-law’s lentil soup. The Vicar comes from a small town in the Scottish borders with views over heather clad hills and a high street of family run shops. This warming soup is very inexpensive and simple to make and feels like a little slice of old fashioned rural life. Lentils are especially great for those on low GI diets and for diabetics as they are low in carbohydrates and release their energy slowly.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 leeks, sliced
  • 2 or 3 carrots, sliced
  • Other diced vegetables such as swede, butternut squash or potatoes, even leftover veg from Sunday lunch such as mashed potato or runner beans can also be used
  • 1 cup (250ml) orange lentils
  • Ham stockcube (or genuine ham stock if you’ve cooked a ham recently, but usually I haven’t, or the ham’s been cooked in coke, which isn’t so great in soup)
  • Approx 1.5l boiling water

Gently fry the veg until softened, then add the lentils, stock cube and hot water. Simmer for about 20minutes until veggies and lentils are soft. Then use a stick blender to create a smooth soup. If you don’t have a blender, a potato masher will give you a slightly chunkier soup. The Vicar likes to add a lot of pepper – no need for salt because of the ham stock.

Serve with crusty brown bread if you remember to pick some up. This soup is very filling. I often make a double batch, which fills a casserole dish and keeps us going for Vicarage lunches for most of the week. Lentil soup has the strange property of thickening every time it is cooled, so you may have to add a little water on reheating or after freezing. It freezes brilliantly.

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So now we’re all back to school and back to the realities of the parish after a great summer break. I’m glad that today the Vicar dragged me up into the tow-un to run some errands. On the way we passed our open air market, where you can buy cheap fruit, mobile phone accessories, underwear, overalls and all sorts of clothing. Everything on the market is pleasingly good value. We bought the Queen a gorgeous deep pink furry fleecy throw for her bed there. She adores it and sleeps under it in preference to her duvet.

The jumper stall is my absolute favourite, though. He sells a random selection of very end-of-line (but still brand new) knitwear, from shops I’d buy from anyway. Over the last couple of years I have bought (or been given) three excellently warming long cardies for Vicarage wear from the market. And today we had a great jumper day, stocking up for the Vicarage winter. The Vicar acquired three M&S v-necks (including a gorgeously toasty lambswool one) and I bought a Next jumper dress and a Monsoon angora/wool mix cardie. Total bill £17. Result. Sometimes I can be cheered up by pretty shallow things…

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This week I finally put into action a project that I’ve been wanting to organise ever since our friends the Rocks showed us their fantastic puppet theatre constructed from PVC plumbing pipes. After a bit of internet research we decided that we’d try and make a fairly large theatre, as we usually have two puppets in the sketches that we do in church and school.

A quick trip to our local plumber’s merchants and £34 later (after they gave us a special discount) and we had the piping for a theatre that’s about 2m high at the back, 1.4m at the front (for a kneeling adult or standing child) and 1m deep. Our plumber’s merchant didn’t advise gluing the thin-walled 32mm piping we had, so we had to cut small joining pieces to connect the T-pieces and 90 degree bends.

Yesterday morning we had one of our holiday Cake and Chat sessions. These are pretty much the same as the ones in term time, except they start later (for holiday lie-ins) and we have more kids with us. So we took all the pipes and connecting pieces down to the church hall, together with a couple of hacksaws, and got down to work. Rocky was the man with the saw, and we had a team which included his fiancee Bee and her mum, and various children who particularly enjoyed applying washing up liquid to the joints to make it easier to connect the pipes in.

Once we’d assembled everything, we found that the frame was still a little wobbly (especially at the beginning when we were still missing the strut for the middle of the front). We will be applying some silicone (the sort you use to line the side of the bath) to the T-pieces, which should stop the rotation that caused the wobble by fixing the connectors to the pipes.

Bee and her mum have kindly offered to make some proper curtains (today’s were a random selection from my materials box) and also a kit bag to carry the rather unwieldy piping, so we are hoping to have everything looking pukka in the next couple of weeks. I’ll blog the first official appearance of the theatre so you can see the final product.

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We were not only greeted by a scraggy old flytipped sofa in our drive on our return home last week. As we unloaded the kids, the camping gear and wet swimming towels from the car, we also spotted a couple of items which made us think that we might soon again be seeing Gone, our on/off doorstep lodger.

The traditional bottle of Frosty Jack in our flowerbed

We were proved right the next morning, when he sat on our doorstep until lunchtime and tried to persuade the Vicar to ‘do just one small thing’ for him (take him out to McDonalds). After our previous experiences with Gone, we now say that we will take him to Betel to start rehabilition, but that is all we will do for him. Anything else seems only to sustain his destructive lifestyle and terrible cycle of living rough followed by living at Her Majesty’s pleasure. In the meantime, he’s back in our drive, sometimes singing loudly at 6am, sometimes aggressive, sometimes sad and wanting to talk. Pray that we are able to treat him with grace as his behaviour seems so intractable, and pray that his self-destruction stops.

Some information that Gone is too far gone to really make use of...

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