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Archive for March, 2020

The boys have been somewhat resistant to exercise that isn’t the gym, taekwando, bouldering or school sports. But today we insisted they venture outside with us and the Vicarage Hound. They emerged, blinking, into the afternoon and we all went down to the secret field, hidden just at the top of the park, near to the gate where we come in. In deference to the Engineer’s desire to not actually really walk anywhere we took a tennis ball and the favourite floppy ring frisbee and installed ourselves in the field.

The Vicarage Hound is very keen on the frisbee, which he can catch in the air, and loves to shake vigorously to ensure its complete surrender. The Vicar and the boys threw the frisbee around and the Vicarage Hound ran between them, at full racing tilt, occasionally successfully grasping the prey and then looping around the field to remind us all that he is by far and away the fastest runner in the family.

I am a little embarrassed to report that I, meanwhile, walked gently round the outside of the field, looking at Spring flowers and tree buds. Although I was taking my exercise more gently, I did have to bellow instructions when the Vicarage Hound took an impressive tumble on an unsuccessful mission to take the frisbee in the air. In his usual fashion when sustaining a minor injury, he held his paw up and whimpered pathetically. No amount of patting on the back was enough to comfort him. The boys had not realised that a sore foot requires attention. You have to look at it properly like a medic called out to a footballer clutching a hamstring. Then you have to stroke the afflicted leg tenderly before the hound will even attempt putting it back on the ground. This is then followed by a limping walk for ten paces or so until, to everyone’s relief, normal service is resumed.

After all the dashing about, and the pseudo injury, the Vicarage Hound took a well earned rest on the grass whilst the rest of us continued with our vigorous and not so vigorous exercise. He has barely moved all evening, and the boys have been much jollier, so I think we were successful in our government mandated exercise: happy teens and dog make for a far better lockdown.

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Into the second week of lockdown and, in common with the rest of the country I’m sure, things are somewhat unravelling here in the Vicarage.

The Engineer has had to deal with double woes today, not even including having to do homeschool. Since there are no leaving things on the bus woes at the moment, we have had to find them somewhere else. And so it proved. Last night he’d left his headphones on his computer screen and caught his feet in the wire, pulling the screen over onto its face. When he came down this morning he found that the screen was completely borked. There’s a new one on its way, but until then there will be some less pleasing gaming, which is important when you’re 15.

After recovering from that shock, he took solace in playing the piano, only to find that the D and E flat keys above middle C were sticking together. I’ll not tell you how the Vicar dealt with the sticking keys, in case you know anything about pianos ought to be mended, but now the D doesn’t play at all but at least it doesn’t play the wrong note. We can live with that until the piano tuner is allowed out again.

Anyway, after that start, I asked the Vicarage Hound what he thought about it all. And he gave a very considered opinion. Since I last blogged WordPress has disabled videos, so I’m afraid you’ll have to click through, but I think what he has to say is worth hearing.

Blond lurcher looking thoughtful

The Vicarage Hound being thoughtful

 

 

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I thought I’d tell you something new I learnt about recently. I was introduced to Canva, which is a free site for creating publicity of all sorts – flyers, Facebook posts, animations – all sorts. I’ve used it for a couple of flyers before, and have uploaded them to our church Facebook page. But this evening I went for it and created a bunch of posts for our notices tomorrow morning. Nothing like a proper deadline to generate creativity. Here’s a sample:

So pleasing, eh? It’s so much easier when someone else has chosen the fonts! And made a layout too. I’m not on commission, honest, but it’s definitely worth checking out. Maybe a project for next week, now all the clergy have got live streaming sussed *laughing hysterically emoji*?

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It’s strange in this time of weirdness that the Vicar is still working and is keeping the rhythm of having a day off. But today was the Day Off and so we did things a little differently. There was gardening and fridge cleaning, and the boys started addressing a Google Keep list of chores that the Vicar has drawn up to save us all from killing each other going nuts.

And it turns out that a sunny afternoon in the garden is a thing of beauty and joy. And even better is standing in the sunshine with a cup of tea, talking over the wall at the bottom of the garden to our dear friend Dreamer, as she sat in her front bedroom window. And following that with throwing a frisbee around the garden to entertain a loopy Vicarage Hound.

Me and the Vicar peeking over our six foot red brick wall

Another joy today was also courtesy of Dreamer, who took an upholstery course during her sabbatical last year. She took pity on us a few weeks ago and offered to repair our disgraceful piano stool, which has totally lacked any sort of padding or cover for far too long. And today she delivered it to the front door and the Vicar reattached it. We are very pleased with it.

 

And the newly covered stool enticed the Engineer to continue playing and practising the ragtime he has discovered over the last few months. And then the Vicar recorded him so you can enjoy it too.

 

I was also going to mention the joy of discovering a short video on Twitter with instructions about how to cut your fringe. Seeing without swiping my hair back is a delight. What a great Day Off. Simple joys.

Eyes with fairly amateur fringe above

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Tonight in the Vicarage we had a favourite tea. Even the Engineer, the fussiest eater in the family, showed some definite enthusiasm when he saw what we were eating. It’s a great way to stretch a small pack of sausages out for several people, and is so simple it’s almost not a proper recipe. But here you are anyway. It might be a way to spin out some stuff you have in the cupboard. I’m no Jack Monroe (loving her #JackMonroesLockdownLarder on Twitter just now, where she makes recipes from people’s random pantry ingredients), but this is in the same spirit – made with everyday ingredients that you might just have in.

Ingredients

  • An onion, chopped
  • Garlic cloves – two or more as you like – also chopped
  • 1/2 tspn chilli flakes
  • 1 heaped tspn fennel seeds (these are great, but I know you might not have them in, so don’t worry if you don’t)
  •  Pack of sausages (there were six of them this evening to feed four of us) – each sausage cut into three or four pieces
  • Tin of tomatoes
  • Tomato puree (if you have it – I didn’t this evening)
  • Tin of beans – I used white kidney beans (cannellini), but borlotti, flageolet or red kidney beans would be fine, and if you don’t have beans you don’t have to use them

This is pretty straightforward – put a little oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic then the chilli and fennel and cook gently for a few minutes until the onion is translucent and the garlic golden. Then add the chopped sausages, like mini meatballs. I often use sausages from the freezer for this recipe and have found that they are much easier to cut into chunks if they are not entirely defrosted. Brown the sausages and then add the tin of tomatoes, a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree and the tin of beans, including the liquid in the tin. Add another half tin of water, together with salt and pepper, and bring the sauce to the boil. Then cover the pan and simmer for about half an hour.

We usually have this with penne pasta – it’s a pretty chunky sauce, and serve with a good grating of parmesan or other strong cheese. The chilli and fennel give an extra zing to the flavour. You could stretch it to six people if you added an extra tin of tomatoes or beans. Happy eating from your cupboards and freezers!

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Encouraged by a friend who was asking about sourdough a week or so ago, I posted my recipe and resurrected my starter. It had been sitting in the kitchen for many many months and had turned to a sort of strange buttery substance with a black liquid on top. I probably should have thrown it away but I kept on meaning to restart it.

I actually managed to inspire myself as I reminded myself of the joy of sourdough baking – it’s honestly like a sort of magic – making just flour, water and salt raise itself into a loaf. I used a spoonful of the ancient buttery starter, and threw the rest away, and followed the starter recipe. And today we had sourdough for lunch in the Vicarage – a sharp nutty loaf to go with some simple cheese. The starter has a bit of a way to go to make a perfectly textured loaf, and I need to get back in the sourdough groove, but it was still delicious.

When I restarted this blog, I wrote about our parish smelling of bread and spices. Sometimes the scent of bread and spices is right here in our Vicarage, not in the streets outside, but we hang onto the hope of the gospel – the bread of life, the aroma of grace. In these uncertain days, bread and spices will keep us pointed to the only way of hope.

IMG_20200325_132115161

 

 

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We’re settling into a new normal here in the Vicarage, as I expect many of you are. And in the second day of homeschool a certain amount of disillusionment has set in. Turns out that learning Tudor church history from a textbook is not that easy. But then we discovered that if you read it to yourself out loud and record it, you can actually concentrate on Henry VIII’s vacillations about communion without being distracted by squirrels.

The day finished with our small group meeting over Zoom. Although a couple of members couldn’t join us – it’s going to take a while to get everyone up to speed with the technology. But we also had the blessing of a group member who can’t usually attend because he lives too far away. I think that many churches will be doing many things – including groups – differently when this is all over.

What I won’t be doing differently in the future is my hair. I like my haircut. But for now it is certainly going to be different. I called my hairdresser to make an appointment a couple of weeks ago because it was getting a bit long, but she was off with a bad back. So I was wondering what to do about my fringe and had been thinking about finding someone else to do it. And now I can’t do anything! Except ask the Vicar or one of the boys to cut it *nervous face*. I have thick hair in a shortish bob and a heavy fringe so when it grows I start to resemble Hamish the Highland Cow, a firm favourite with our kids when they were young. I don’t keep toffees in there though. Yet.

Hamish

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