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Archive for January, 2014

Apologies. We have had the lurgies. And hence the exciting 2014 regular posting phenomenon has gone a bit down the tubes, after lasting for all of about a fortnight. The Queen got sick and then kindly shared her bug with three of the four grown-ups in the house. BytheSea had the Daddy Bear version, involving treatment with antibiotics, I have had a Mummy Bear attack which has merely confined me to bed for four days, and the Vicar has had the Baby Bear lurgies and has felt terrible but still managed to lead a massive funeral and attend a 2 1/2 hr school governors meeting midweek plus all his normal vicaring duties.

Anyway, I’m pleased to report that we’re on the mend and I’m able to have a small blogging catch-up.

FIRST: The winner of the caption competition – randomly generated as I found it too hard to choose – is Shaun. Please email me at thevicarswifey [at] gmail [dot] com to claim your prize of an e-book of The Ministry of a Messy House.

SECOND: Book news: The Vicar reviewed my book (I’m relieved to say that he liked it) – and Claire Musters posted her review on Christian Today (she seemed to understand the writing process in the Vicarage perfectly).

THIRD: Ace apps – I’ve been meaning to mention a couple of excellent free apps – the Bible App for Kids and PrayerMate for iPad/iPhone and Android (free until the end of March courtesy of London City Mission). My kids are a little on the big side for the Bible App but they have enjoyed noodling about with it. It looks like a fun way to get kids familiar with bible stories. Recommended for ages 3-8. And PrayerMate is a truly excellent way to order all your regular intercessions. Over the years I have used various versions of prayer lists and abandoned/lost them pretty regularly. PrayerMate is a superb app which enables me to keep my list fresh and has some whizzy features like alarms and prayer diaries from mission societies (all in iOS, some still to come in Android).

FOURTH: I have come across a couple of interesting programmes on Alba – the Gaelic language BBC service which we can get on iPlayer. There’s a gentle series about ministers’ wives in Scotland (Bean a’ Mhinisteir) and tonight we’re going to watch Reaching Out with Hope (Na Soisgeulaich) which is about three evangelical churches in Scotland reaching out to their communities, including Niddrie Community Church, led by Mez McConnell of 20Schemes. Two of our children have Gaelic names, but that’s the extent of my knowledge, but it’s okay – the programmes are subtitled in English.

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When the Vicar and I lived in Singapore, we had a lovely neighbour who was from Mumbai/Bombay. We celebrated the Millenium on her roof and shared recipes. And the Vicarage cat came to us through her feline loving contacts. Nomi also taught me to cook dhal. Spiced lentils is a staple of Indian cuisine, and there are heaps of different recipes. When I cooked this recipe for our Tamil church friends, though, they pleasingly said that it was ‘restauarant dhal’.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of toor lentils (not the oily ones) – these are yellow pigeon peas and can usually be found in specialist Asian grocers (or Tescos in our tow-un). If you can’t find them yellow split peas or red lentils would work as well.
  • pinch asafoetida (if you can find it, otherwise not a biggy – it’s meant to decrease the wind quotient of the lentils, but doesn’t really affect the taste)
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 tbspn black or brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tbspn cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup of curry leaves – dried or fresh if you can find them
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1-2 green chillies, chopped fine OR 1 tspn chilli powder OR 1 tspn crushed dried red chillies (use a smaller amount the first time you make this & increase next time if you’d like your dhal spicier)
  • 1 tspn turmeric powder

Cook your lentils in water according to instructions. I use a pressure cooker so I can cook them in about 15 minutes (plus all the time taken for the pressure cooker to calm down so I can open it without scalding my nose). When the lentils are cooked, you can add your asafoetida to make them less fartful. Then heat a good slosh of oil in the bottom of a frying pan. This oil will be flavoured and added to your lentils, so don’t skimp or you won’t be able to distribute the spiciness too well. I cover the bottom of my pan in oil – about 4-5 tbspns I guess. Heat the oil and then pop in the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves. Once the leaves start to discolour and the mustard seeds start to get lively, add the garlic, chillies and turmeric. Once the garlic has cooked and taken on some colour, add the spiced oil to the lentils. And stir and serve. This is brilliant with rice, naan, chappatis or pitta. And freezes really well. Great for lunch or supper with another curry.

The spiced oil

The spiced oil

A pot of dhal

And a pot of dhal

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Last night The Church Mouse posted this scintillating church marketing leaflet on Twitter. I imagine that it’s actually pretty tricky to come up with a good picture to illustrate a deanery synod recruitment brochure, so I do understand that this may have been the best of the options available. However, it does lend itself to some alternative captions. So for this weekend only I offer you a caption competition. And as I seem to have a spare e-book code for The Ministry of a Messy House, there will even be a prize. So join the fun – how would you caption this picture and recruit for deanery synod?

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Oh dear. The sump pump the Vicar thought he’d got working last night didn’t do the business. When he went into the basement to check this morning he found that the water was at the same depth. As he’s off on the diocesan clergy conference for a couple of days, a church member is going to look into what needs to be done. But the Vicar wanted the water to be out so the church member could quickly get on with the work. And he was worried about the boilers that are in the basement. Thankfully, the Vicar had a brainwave and dug out the pump that we normally use to empty the portable baptistry.

A bit of Heath Robinsoning later and the Vicar and BytheSea had popped the pump in the sump and the delivery hose into the churchyard. The Vicar then left for his conference and BytheSea has been cementing his ministry training by popping out regularly to ensure that the water isn’t running back down the basement steps.

This was the sight that greeted me as I went down to the school to help with Christian Club. And BytheSea has now reported that most of the water has gone. For now.

Unexpected Churchyard Water Feature

Unexpected churchyard water feature

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Today the diocese sent some chaps round. Don’t worry, they’ve not discovered that I mistook the liturgical season for Christmas instead of Epiphany. We’re keeping that one quiet. The chaps came round after we reported the repeated leaks in our living room ceiling. They’ve known about them for ages actually. And sent chaps round before. The chaps sealed the window in the living room a few times. And then they sealed our bedroom window sill a few times too. And then we’ve had more weather (strong winds and heavy rain do it best) and the leaks have continued and the Vicar has worked out the path the water has been taking (under our bedroom window sill, down the inside of the wooden panelling above our window and then into the panel above the window in the living room).

The panelless living room ceiling

The panelless living room ceiling

The Vicar’s latest email to the diocese mentioning possible damp and rot elicited a rapid response team who arrived today. And they had to take the panelling down in the living room. It was rotten. And there are some patches of rot in the oak lintel above but they can be treated. And the window sill above is now covered in felt. They’re going to reinstate everything when the promised double glazing arrives next month and things have dried out.

And this evening the Vicar had to head to the church basement, where the boilers live. There, appropriately dressed in wellies and rubber gloves, he discovered that the sump pump intake was blocked with leaves and other debris. A trugful of slimy gunk later, he was able to start the pump again and hopefully tomorrow the basement will be free of water.

These have been minor irritations compared to what others have suffered in this recent damp spell, but I’ll be glad when the weather perks up a bit, I must say.

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Gone has been staying in our chicken shed for a few weeks now. It’s dry and sheltered and he feels safe there. We haven’t seen him much because he can get in there through a side gate, so he’s mostly been coming in to sleep and then leaving without knocking on the kitchen window or the front door. He spends the day on the streets and visiting other helpful Vicarages.

It had been a few days and I mentioned to the Vicar that we’d not seen him for a bit, so the Vicar turned off the light in the shed, which ensures that Gone will come and talk to us to get the light put back on. That was last night, and then this morning we were told by a friend that Gone has gone. He’s gone back to prison. And that’s why we’ve not seen him. He’s not going to be away for long, but at least he’ll be dry and sheltered and fed for a few weeks.

GoneOnce again he will be inside for a short while and then released with money and a room in a hostel allocated to him. He’ll spend the money on Frosty Jack and buying a mobile phone and a radio or video camera, and he’ll come to our doorstep and tell us he’s not going to the hostel because he doesn’t trust people in hostels. And I expect he’ll ask to sleep in our shed again and we’ll go through the cycle of approaching various agencies and wondering what on earth can be done for him.

Sometimes I think this loop will continue for ever. He’s someone who cannot really cope with the system there is. Over the years many kindhearted people have helped him, but he’s never managed any long term stability.

So please pray for him, and for those of us who know him and want something better for him. We have a short break now and it would be good to think through some options for him. Pray that he’d work out what he should do himself, and pray we’d be wise too and have the energy to help again. Pray for Gone.

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I was teaching the first of our new Junior Church series on the Ten Commandments this morning. We had a great time thinking about Joshua 24 and the people being reminded of all the great things God had done for them before they thought about their choice to worship God or the gods of the various ‘ites they’d come across in their journey to the Promised Land.

I also taught the kids the Ten Commandments using hand signals for each one. I first learnt these a couple of years ago – and now I actually know which commandment is which after years of having only a vague idea about their order. Here’s the Joker showing you the moves:

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And we all enjoyed a rather cheesy song: the Ten Commandment Boogie. A good opportunity to practice your signals!

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