Sunday, 20 December 2009

the most wonderful time of the year....

It's been a weekend of fabulous highs and lows...
a brief list:

  • we saw Wicked on stage yesterday - amazing! We had a great day out in London with our friends Karen and Shaun. I loved the end of Act One and the fantastic staging with the dragon and wowza costumes...and enjoyed my fillet steak at Browns! mmmhmmmm!
  • we've had a great afternoon and evening today singing carols at Maldon Deli and at various church member's homes, encouraging them to invite their neighbours and friends in for us to 'serenade'!
  • This morning's service at CGC Maldon was fantastic fun - the little ones doing a Nativity, both live and on film and the older teenagers performing their own 12 Days of Christmas, with audience participation.
  • We were also 'sent out' from CGC this morning, prayed for and released to take the next step on our unknown journey into (hopefully) ordination and a life in church leadership within the Church of England...
It's been a sad and painful thing to move from a church which has put so much into us and where we have had so much fun and significant memories. But today has been so fun - to hang out with some of our favourite people, to celebrate the joy and hope of this Christmas season and to know that God is in control - whatever happens next.
So, 3rd January, we start at All Saints as our new home church - and while there is pain in the offering and at the moment it feels like we're giving a lot up - we know that in God, each and every experience is and can be used for his glory, if we just let Him do His thing. So we shall!

A couple of great blog links that I've come across today:
Here from Rachel Marszalek on the whole Santa dilemma that we have faced this year!
Marko has a brilliant post including a Christmas playlist which I shall be downloading later...He also references an organisation called Kiva which is an innovative system to allow loans to be made to alleviate poverty. They have a giftcard system which seems a brilliant alternative Christmas gift, if you still need inspiration?!

Officially, it's now the Christmas holidays - so Andy is off and he and the Bean will be undertaking various food and fun related projects over the next few days. I am working Monday and Tuesday and we've got some people for lunch and dinner through the week, catching up and celebrating.

This has been a weekend to remember, significant in many ways and the launch pad for new things while also enjoying looking back on what we (God!) has achieved in and through us and how far we've come.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Birthday pictures

Some birthday pics...
The new Peppa Pig brolly!I love this girl!!

Opening pressies in bed                                           The Smiths after a lovely dinner!!

Monday, 14 December 2009

To my daughter, on her 3rd birthday...

Today, my baby Bean, you turn 3! I can't believe how big you are!
3 years since there were just 2 of us at No63, three years since we had a choice of what to watch on TV before 7pm...three years since I lay there at St Peter's, being told I had a baby daughter and wondering whether it was all over and was someone kidding me??!! three years since I became a Mummy and Andy became a Daddy...where has that time gone?
I know you won't be able to read this little post of mine for a while yet, but I wanted to make a memory of how I feel and what I remember at this juncture...and hope you enjoy reading it when you can.

Being 3 is brilliant - we know you love being 3 and we love you at this age. You never stop talking from the minute you wake up (hearing you singing in your bed as we try and ignore our alarm clock in our bed is one of my greatest joys each day) and you ask such clever questions and never stop enquiring.

This time 3 years ago I was huge, getting very fed up and was desperate to meet you - and I was convinced, as were the midwives, that you were a boy. When you eventually arrived (12 or 9 days late depending on which scan you refer to!) you were a girl and you took us all by surprise! That first Christmas when you were only 10 days old was a bit of a blur and you have kept us on our toes ever since.
In total, we've know you a little bit longer than 3 years - from that first positive test, 6 weeks in, you have been a part of me...and there are so many things about you that I know are 'me' too, mannerisms, habits, ways of reacting...and there are so many things in you that are what I love about your are our perfect mix and a uniquely created individual at the same time.

Here are some things that I love about you:
Your independance - your insistence that you do it 'all by myself' - teeth brushing, toilet, mixing hot chocolate powder into your milk, choosing your bedtime books or clothes for name it, you can do it or will try to do it!
Your giggle - when you're being tickled or when you are just tickling yourself with your funny stories or wacky ideas!
The way you accept people - last week at your party, you made sure everyone was OK, introduced 'my grandma' to everyone who came in case they didn't know who this lady was. It made me so proud to see you making space for people in your life and your home - and you definitely see it as your home!
I love the simplicity with which you view life - everyone is your friend, whether you have known them 2 minutes or all of your life. Every new thing is something to get stuck into - no fear here!!
I love that fact that you would eat pasta for every meal because it's tasty and you can have it with peas and ketchup and everyone is happy.
I love the fact that when you play hide and seek you assume that if you can't see everyone, they can't see you...
I love the fact that although you don't always sleep when I put you down for a nap, you never attempt to leave your room - you just potter about and 'reorder' your clothes and books - you call it 'being busy'.
I love the fact that a piece of cake and a babyccino cures all ills...just like Mummy!
I love the way you take such pride in making things for people - cards and crafts, food, even making up a bed on your bedroom floor for your friend in anticipation of that long promised sleepover (I promise, it will happen!!)
I love the way you learn your favourite stories off by heart and read them along with us...keeping us in check more like!
Some of my best times in the last 3 years have been the insignificant times, the everyday things - doing your hair in french plaits for your Great Grandparents Diamond wedding party, helping you articulate your baby prayers at night, helping you make sense of sharing and playing nice...tucking you in each evening, making sure you're warm and smelling the smell of your skin which hasn't changed since your early hours, singing in the car on the way to nursery, having you help me cook and stir in the kitchen, your excitement when the phone rings or the doorbell goes....the list is endless!

You are fiesty and full of fun and opinion. You have a way of infuriating us with your dawdling when you know we want to be out the house or doing something else - you know your own pace and you know the way you like things to be done. You have your own sense of style and coordination - insisting on red tights with a pink dress, along with a spotty coat and tartan hat.

You help me to understand how deep the Father's love is for us - how wide and deep and high and strong, in a way which passes all understanding. You make me grateful for all the things that I have been blessed with and you enhance every blessing in my life by being in it. I seek to put the word of God and the love of Jesus in your heart so it becomes part of you - something that is at your surface shining out but also at the very depths of your being.
You are my miracle - the baby they said I would never have and the surprise to beat all surprises. We cherish you - and we're speechless with wonder so often when you come home having learnt something else new or having had a wonderful adventure that you are excited to tell us about. How did we get so lucky??
You are growing up fast and I wouldn't want it any other way - but when you are all growed up and getting your life settled - who knows who with or doing what? - I want to remember what it was like when you were 3 and I was 31 and we were getting ready for your birthday...if only we could bottle it...? I remember it sweetly and with thanks and with tears too, just a few.
Happy birthday MG - we love you and we know you love us.
Thank you God for this wonderful gift - help us do our job well.

Thursday, 10 December 2009


After the excitement of the birthday party last weekend, this week has been still full of preparations...for both 3rd birthday on Monday and Christmas, which is looming too - why are we always surprised by how quickly it comes round!!
I have a fair amount of work to be done before 23rd December when I finish for 10 days...including marking of portfolios, preparation for a Labyrinth in early January and possible preparations for an office move in the New Year too.  I might even attempt some filing...!
In the midst of all that, I hope to be able to take Monday off to do things for M's birthday - she will still be at Y's, her childminder's, having a party, but I want to make her birthday cake to take to her favourite restaurant for our meal that evening as well as making sure our tree is in situ so we can decorate that on our return, which has become a bit of a tradition. Christmas starts once we have properly celebrated M's birthday!

I've been doing the vast majority of our Christmas shopping online this year - made even easier by the fact that I only have 1 present to buy out of my immediate family instead of 5 as we are doing a secret Santa system this year. I'm pretty pleased with who I picked out and have managed to get them some gems of their submitted list as well as some surprises, all within the £50 budget.

Tomorrow being Friday is my day off and I'll be doing a food shop which I hope, barring necessary fresh foods, will be the last before we go away on Christmas Day morning. Also, I'll be going to St Francis School nativity play where my god daughter Megan will be playing Mary - which makes me very proud! Following that I have an evening in by myself while Andy is out on his works Christmas do - lovely!

I leave you with our virtual family greeting which we will be emailing in lieu of international Christmas cards and to save on the paper consumed doing our usual Family newsletter...most of you probably sighing with relief at that news!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

hokey cokey

We held the Bean's 3rd birthday party yesterday - for lots of reasons...
1. Because my mother in law (MIL) was down for the weekend (more of the other reason for that in another post).
2. Because it is earlier in December and so people are less busy
3. Because her birthday falls on a Monday (14th) and we're crazy busy the weekend before and after...

We had a brill time - lots of singing games (Dingle Dangle Scarecrow, Row Row Row your Boat etc.) proper party games (Musical Statues and Bumps/Cushions) and a multiple rendition of the Hokey Cokey. It was fancy dress so we had Snow White, an angel, a witch, a fairy (M) and a scuba diver, complete with flippers all in attendance!!

It was very fun and lovely to have a sense of the group of friend's our daughter has gathered - some of them family or children of our friends, but others friends she has adopted herself. She particularly enjoyed Pass the Parcel and giving out the party bags at the end!

So, we now have a quieter week - and on her birthday itself we will go out for an early tea to her favourite Italian pasta place and then come home to decorate our tree, which has been the pattern for the last 2 years. It helps to give her birthday it's proper place and then we move on to getting ready for Christmas...useful when you have a 10 day break between Big Days!!

It's hard to believe that she used to look like this: 
but she is more beautiful and more funny every day! 
We didn't imagine that she would still be our only child at the age of three, but that is the way it has worked out. As I sit writing this, I am especially grateful for my family who love her and us so much (thanks MIL for all your help this weekend!) and for the other special people in our life and in M's therefore who support, love and enjoy her as we do!
3!!! wow, thank God for those years, memories and times together and here's to many more raucous parties and fun with one another and our extended family.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Con of Christmas - hear me out!!

This post also appears on the my work blog here

This has been a post in formation for weeks and I was never sure I felt brave enough to write it in a real way for people to see...but Bishop Nick Baines has got in before and dealt with the stick over the I feel a bit like I'm jumping on the bandwagon - but hey, we all do that in the world of blogging!

So, check out Nick's post here Grumpy Bishop. He's recently published a book which I'll say now, just like all the media who have entered the scrum of interviewing him, I haven't read yet. But based on this post, he is from the same stable as me - if you'll excuse the pun! (Cos it was probably a cave!!)

My problem with Christmas (I love it really, don't get too worried!!) came with the arrival of M 3 years ago - her first Christmas didn't really matter as she was only 10 days old. But come her first birthday, followed rapidly by Christmas Day, it was very difficult not to get caught up in the assumption that Father Christmas would be visiting our house in the dead of night and delivering presents.

I love the idea and the legends of Father Christmas and the root of it's story in St Nicholas who was a 3rd century miracle worker, renowned for secret gift giving and whose feast day is this Sunday. But I have a problem with the commonly held assumption that Santa (who is a character developed by cartoonist Thomas Nash in 19th century America and then taken on by mighty Coca Cola), who in contrast to St Nicholas is a jolly, red faced, red suited old man living in the North Pole, are one and the same.

The titles Father Christmas and Santa Claus seem to be interchangeable - indeed in the North East where we used to live, Santa is often Santee (try it with a Geordie accent!!)

But the roots of these characters - fictional, historical, the stuff of legend, whatever - are very different and portray different aspects of the Gospel and the Christmas story. Whilst I am not going to go down the extreme line of saying the whole thing is a lie and Father Christmas can't possibly visit every house in the world in one night etc., I am going to make sure that the traditions we have and the story we tell is faithful whilst also being magical and not ultimately confusing to a 6/7/8 year old in years to come.

Ultimately - I want M to understand that she receives gifts, not because she has been a good girl, but because we love her and because we want to celebrate the wondrous story of Jesus' birth and his life given out for her and for us. It always has everything to do with GRACE - and giving gifts is not because we are good, but in fact the opposite - but we are LOVED, by God and by one another and so we can bless one another...that is our call as disciples.

I HATE it when people ask small children whether they have been good this year and if Santa is going to come - of course they haven't been good...they are small children!! But in our house, M will get a small stocking of presents, outside her door, from us to open in bed and Father Christmas will have visited the house overnight - drinking a bit of something, scoffing a mince pie and maybe leaving some gold coins as the original St Nicholas is said to have done. All her other presents will come from us - real people who love her and know her and want to be part of the pleasure of giving gifts as she is in the giving of gifts to others.

Ok, so that's the Santa bit done...

Now a quote from Nick Baine's blog, referenced above: Now, some commentators say that Christmas is about sentiment (feeling), nostalgia and ‘magic’. They say that simple carols are great for children to begin to learn the story. Absolutely right. But the people arguing this are not children, but adults who want to stay as children when it comes to matters of God and faith and so on. Think like a child when you are a child, but, for goodness’ sake, grow up when you are an adult.

I find it ironic that for the rest of the year, a majority of our population want nothing to do with Christian tradition in any way but suddenly at Christmas they become hugely defensive of anything being different or changing or being criticised. The depth of understanding of what Christmas and this huge celebration are really all about is missing - and I see 2 reactions as I go about my work and experience life.

Some churches and Christians do nothing to celebrate carols or Christmas services or trees or anything which is vaguely pagan or rooted in tradition - everything just carries on as normal until the BIG DAY. Missing out Advent, in my opinion is the real shame here...but that's another issue!

On the other extreme, there are many churches and Christians who do everything traditionally and don't question 'why' or whether it's helpful. I remember one of my first parish posts and the whole of December being taken up with either visiting or hosting Carol Sevices or nativity plays - by schools, Townswomen's Guild (yes seriously!), nurseries etc. You did want to tear your hair out by the end and it had slightly lost it's magic in the repetition.

My reaction is to try and do something in the middle - I love Christmas carols but hate Away in a Manger and the 'How silently' verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem. Mary was NOT silent in labour, OK!

We'll be having a tree even though it stems from pagan tradition...(!)because it forms a focal point in our home for Christmas celebrations and it is a precious family occasion to buy the tree and decorate it. We will feed people, host people, visit with people - mainly those we know or are related to, although when M is older we endeavour to be spending time with those who don't have the advantages of Christmas traditions and family that we are blessed with.

The difficulty of taking an extreme reaction to Christmas traditions and popular culture is that you get bah humbuged by everyone else...which is difficult to take, in what is supposed to be a season of goodwill after all!! But if we Christians can't communicate seriously the true meaning of Christmas, then how can we expect those who only take part in the traditions once a year to really know what we're all about??

+Nick continues: The ‘magic’ of Christmas is fine – up to a point. But ask any clergy and they will tell you about the ways in which Christmas is hard for many people and how the ‘magic’ makes it harder. It is for them that the reality of Christmas hits home: that God has not remained a million miles above contradiction, but opted in to the muck and messiness of the world and meets us where we are – in the vulnerability of the baby in Bethlehem. To tell that story is not to be miserable – but the opposite.

I am just not prepared to encourage people to live in a fantasy world, but doing my job as a Christian bishop in calling people back to the original story. Grasp it – and then celebrate hard and fully. I’ll be belting out the carols and watching the nativity plays along with the rest of them. But I will also be living in the real world and engaging my brain.

+Nick - I'm with you. I'll be doing mobile carolling on 20th December, going into London and experiencing the Christmas lights and soaking up the excitement. I'll be making mince pies and sausage rolls and wrapping presents and sneaking about on Christmas Eve, stopping Andy from squeezing presents and we'll probably be eating and drinking too much. But I hope in the midst of all that, I'll be reminded of why we get to celebrate this amazing event - because it changed the world, it changed my world and I want it to change the world of my daughter and her friends and our families and our community because we tell it how it really is - check out the Gospels - if you take the 'text' out of 'context' - what are you left with??

Comments awaited!!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

must share this with you...

I cooked lamb on Sunday...
It was very simple, tasty and I had enough left (from a 2.5kg leg, after 3 of us ate) for a shepherds pie tonight aswell!
The recipe was from Jamie's Magazine but I cannot find it here's my method
Basically you roast the lamb for 1hr 20 minutes and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

You soak cannellini beans overnight for 12 hours, then boil them for 2 hours.
Sweat off an onion, 2 heads of garlic (yes, I'm's worth it!) and the cooked bans for 20 minutes. Then  add 2 pints of chicken stock and cook for 1hr 45mins. 
Serve the lamb (well rested) on top of the beans - and we added carrots and spring greens but you could have it with salad or even on it's own?

Buy your Fair Trade Gifts....

and save lives...

pop out

Linked from which is a great website from sojourners...add it to your google reader!

Monday, 30 November 2009

Advent Card

waiting, expectancy, hope, nerves, wondering...
Happy Advent - watch out!!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

a sunday night catch up!

November is half way through and 4 weeks tomorrow our Baby Bean will turn 3!! Who could believe that, least of all us! Plans are in place for her small scale birthday party here at home with a fancy dress theme...and the usual party games and kids food. We'll also be making some Christmas decorations, watch this space!! The weekend before her actual birthday will be a bit quieter, just the three of us, getting our tree and going out for lunch at her favourite pasta place with her favourite friend...! Bless...three years ago today I was HUGE!!

Last week went in a whirl - I was working a lot of evenings and also working very hard on a presentation movie for our Youth Strategy presentation at Synod yesterday - it took me hours!! But I'm really pleased with it and post it here for your perusal! 

We had Lacey Theatre Company performing at the Town Hall last night which was excellent - their one woman show called The Story so Far. It was great - thought provoking, funny, full of variety and really engaging, all focusing on the great storyteller, Jesus. The amazing thing about Lacey is that they do some much work in schools and they don't charge a fortune...£300 for a day in school with a performance and workshops...bargain I think and totally geared to the Key Stage 3 RE curriculum. Go on, book em!!

Today has been the usual busy Sunday - church this morning (CGC) with the dedication of our friends Tim and Kath's son Caleb. Followed by lunch with the lovely Stone kids and then GIraffe here...on God's protection which was fun and random in equal measure!

So, now I'm catching up on some ebay bids for playclothes to get M through the next month or so...she keeps growing. And watching don't tell me the result!
I have some reflections to post which are only brewing in my mind at the mo about our church move and the next season for watch this space.
Happy Sunday!!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

an unexpected weekend of time

This weekend we were supposed to be running a Youth away day at Asheldham Centre, down on the Dengie. However, it was cancelled due to lack of numbers which has given us an unexpected Saturday to do nothing.
However, Saturdays doing nothing are not really possible with a toddler, so we have done some lovely things and had a splendid day! Let me tell you how it panned out - and it's not done yet!

Andy was Street Pastoring in Chelmsford last night and despite a not too busy night, didn't get in til 4.40am - so M and I kept quiet this morning, having a leisurely breakfast and watching Angelina while also ploughing through a few new library books and doing some drawing.

Andy stirred around 10.30am - just as M and I were about to go off out.  I had found a new Garden Centre advertised in a local freebie magazine which had a farm shop and animals and a shabby chic style Christmas shop! It seemed like a nice cheap and lazy option for a beautiful autumn day and when Andy heard what we were doing, he decided to join us! We were delighted to make a great find, just 8miles away from us!
Growing Together doesn't seem to have a website but it is in Smythe's Green near Layer Marney, just west of Colchester. They have a great selection of plants and bulbs, a fabulous farm shop with local meat, fish and groceries as well as scrummy cakes which you can eat on site with a cuppa - always a winner! They also house a variety of animals - ducks, hens, pigs and all in all, it was a fab 2 hours! We love Barleylands, but it is expensive for how long it keeps M's attention and while M isn't even 3 yet, she is perfectly happy with viewing animals and getting her hands dirty here, rather than a purpose built entertainment venue for kids! Long may it last!
On the way back, we popped in to Oasis Christian bookshop in Tiptree, got a couple more Christmas pressies (I did well yesterday and am pretty confident I'll be shopped out by end November!) and then bought some chips from the chippy to bring home for lunch. Yummy - M declared 'this is my best lunch ever' - her father's daughter indeed! She didn't like the mushy peas tho!
I've chilled out with some chores at home this afternoon while M napped - including wrapping some parcels to send to friends with new babies and some gifts to go to the States in time for Christmas. I've also got ahead with the roast dinner for this evening, while Andy has headed out for a small but significant event in Maldon this afternoon.

Stephen Carter is licensed/installed as the new Rector of All Saints Maldon this afternoon and his arrival is the beginning of the transition for us into our new church and season. From tomorrow, Andy will be dividing his time between All Saints and CGC Maldon, getting to know Stephen and preparing for us to move fully as a family in January. In order for Andy to progress on the journey of discernment and selection for ordination, we need to be in an Anglican Church and we need to have a 'recommend' from the priest there! So welcome Stephen and family, and we look forward to getting to know you and pray God's blessing on you as you begin your time in Maldon. It is good to see, from his newsletter linked to above that young people and children are a priority for him...reassuring as parents and with our other hats on!

I'm grateful today for extra time - just to be and to think at what is a time of much change in our lives. M has been great company the last couple of days, her insightfulness into things we forget to or no longer notice is often a real awakening. It's crazy to think that in just over a month she will be 3, we have nearly been in Maldon for 4 years and I am now in the 4th academic year of my job. God has really been doing so much - settling us at the right time, enabling us to deal with many aspects of uncertainty that have been present, drawing amazing people into our lives and at the right time is now moving us into a new 'place' with a new worshipping community, but still in a place that we love and surrounded by people who love us. That is the crux of the church - it is the kingdom of God and it doesn't matter what building you are in, or who leads you or preaches to you or who you affiliate yourself with, it is the seeking of God and of his loving community that will make a difference to those around us.
I leave you with this quote from the brilliant and irrevent Archbishop Cranmer blog:
Being Anglican can be one of the most difficult Christian paths to follow: one often feels that one is neither one thing nor another; as was once observed, that one is somehow 'crucified between the two thieves’ of the Puritans and the Papists; suspended between doctrinal fanaticism and superstitious ritualism. 

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Pretty Handmade Recipe Book

I'm compiling some of our favourite (original and stolen) family recipes as gifts this Christmas and will be taking my inspiration from here:

Pretty Handmade Recipe Book

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Letter from God

This is a great clip - lots to prompt discussion and a cool track too! also posted on my work blog


Thursday, 29 October 2009


I'm still deciding whether I have successfully juggled my time over this half term. The guilt of the full time working mother has kicked in this morning as I have risen at 5am in order to work so that I can have time with M and Andy and then with my mother who arrives later today.
I didn't want to take any time off this week during half term when both the Bean and Andy are at home, as I'd like to have a couple of days leave later in November for Christmas and M's 3rd birthday preparations on 14th December. I also want to take a full 2 weeks off over Christmas and New Year as we do so much travelling. 
So, these last few days I've tried to juggle work at times when I would normally be sleeping or watching telly so I can have time with Andy and M and the fun things they have been doing.
So, 5am start this morning...6 am yesterday, managing 5/6 hours work before midday. Last night I babysat for some friends in our babysitting circle and I worked for 3 of the 4 hours I was there.
I'm tired...and I was ill on Tuesday too with a sicky bug or something, so time is even more stretched. But through it all, I'm looking forward to all aspects of my life, generally! The Labyrinth we are doing in St Albans Diocese on Friday is exciting and creative and stretching in terms of theology as well as good youth work. The time we've had with M this week and with each other, particularly because we have all been ill and run down at various times has also been precious - quiet, relaxed, homey.
I can't imagine having to work full time and not love my job - but equally I wish sometimes that I could have more days without feeling that something else is tugging at my sense of responsibility - M and Andy and home life when I'm working, work and deadlines and ideas for development when I'm at home being mummy....

Jenny Baker over at Sophia blogged on some stuff around this issue yesterday and I know she has commented on my previous post about us getting a cleaner and how I felt about that with all it's mixed emotions. I think these times are helpful reflections for me and perhaps you, my friends, will help me be real about my drivers to do what I do and why I work like I do - hard!

Here is some text from Jenny's post:

"There's no doubt that the demands of work on both men and women have a big impact on family life and social relationships, particularly the culture of working long hours that seems as endemic in the church and in Christian organisations as in business. That doesn't just apply to couples; people who are single can have as much expectation or pressure to work long hours.  Helen Jarvis from Newcastle University has identified eight 'drivers' for working long hours:
  • tight deadlines due to working in competitive or under-resourced fields
  • demand-led services - a few workers have to put in long hours to meet a seasonal demand
  • portfolio worker survival - people on insecure or short-term contracts put in long hours to show their commitment or to update their skills
  • enthusiasm for the work and a 'can-do' culture
  • presenteeism where people feel they have to be seen at their desk or in the workplace to show their commitment
  • moral obligation due to loyalty to colleagues or to the cause you're working for
  • financial incentives - working overtime or more hours when self-employed means you have more to spend
  • 'macho' goal-oriented motives - the lunch is for wimps mentality
I'm self-employed and I know how easy it is for work to expand to fill every available moment. So join me in a moment of reflection - do the hours you put in at work have a detrimental effect on your relationships with friends and family? Which of these drivers is behind the long hours that you work and do you need to resist them? Are you making enough space for rest and restoration?"

I'm really looking forward to going on Youthwork the Conference this year and also taking in the Retreat for the 24 hours before - although it will mean me being away from home for 3 nights which I have only done once before, I am sure it will be a great opportunity and an enforced one too!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

wonderful weekend, wacky week

hey all, we've had an eventful few days in Smithville. 
We visited friends for curry (thanks Paul and Heather) on Friday night to talk about Anglican things as part of Andy's discernment journey in the ordination process. Paul and Heather have 5 children - the last 2 added in February as their beautiful twins arrived on the scene. M got stuck right in, introducing herself as 'Tilda' and enjoying watching a video of Morph and having stories read to her by T who is 4 and just at school, very impressive. 
Andy came away with a hoard of books to add to the huge pile by his side of the bed and lots of other stuff to think about!
Saturday was chilled day at home - I was writing a sermon on Phillipians 2 for Sunday morning at CGC and Andy and M pottered about, doing some gardening stuff, cooking and visiting the garden centre. A bunch of us went out on Saturday night to Imli Lounge for a curry of dreams! 

Sunday included church, my sermon (which was pretty well received, especially the buzz groups and the quiz part way through!), a fabulous Greek Lamb stew for lunch, disgustingly unhealthy puddings for afters and a tendency for about 4pm we decided we needed fresh air before the kids went into meltdown. We headed for the Tesco park in Maldon (not sure that's its real name but that's what we call it!) and had an hour of crazy fun...

In our time at the Park it got darker and darker, so that eventually it was pretty dark and we had the park to ourselves....

This made for some cool photos when we put out camera onto 'twilight portrait' setting...

Not sure if the kids or the adults had the most fun!!
Unfortunately Sunday night seemed to be the point where we all went downhill a bit :-( M was sick just before she went to bed - we put it down to her having a cold and not being able to breathe properly and getting a bit over excited, but kept a close eye on her through the night. All seemed fine and she slept well. Monday morning, she got up as usual, had her milk and cereal but when she has taken a small sip of her medicine we could see she was about to throw up...and throw up she did! Everywhere.... I won't add any more details!
She seemed much better after that little episode and a 2.5 hour nap also helped! As the day went on however, both Andy and I started to have patches of nausea, culminating in me going to bed at 8.30pm with a bucket. Today, as I write this, I haven't been sick, but I also don't feel 100% - very weak, hot and cold at intervals and I would actually love to be sick. Better, but not completely.
It's such a horrible feeling, being completely helpless while your child is ill. M is so rarely properly under the weather and she was so distressed at being sick on the sofa and making a mess. She has a way of just curling up and staying really still...and I know it makes her feel better but we keep trying to prod her to make sure she's OK! Am sure she must wish we'd leave her alone!!
So it's been another chilled day at home for all of us today - and tomorrow we're still hoping to see Jenny R for the day...
The rest of the week for me will be work, preparation for the Labyrinth on Saturday, a weekend of family time and an appointment for M's eyes at the hospital so please pray for that.

Monday, 26 October 2009

We had a great time on Sunday at the 'Tesco park' as M calls it in Maldon...this photo was taken with the twilight portrait setting...looks like they are swinging in the middle of a load of fireworks!
Great fun had by all - especially the adults!
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Friday, 23 October 2009

half term beckons

Half term started a bit early for us today, as Andy was working at home during an Inset day at school. He understands now how difficult it is to combine concentration with the myriad of jobs, clutter and chores you notice when working from home!!

Usually our half term breaks are filled with visits to us, or us visiting other people. This time we've elected to stick at home. It's been a busy and emotional half term since early September - and with the knowledge that we'll now be in Maldon and in our current jobs for a while yet, it's good to take the opportunity to chill out and just 'be' in one place. We're often tempted to go off and see people, cos that's where we get our energy from, but we know we need this upcoming week as a time to sleep in, eat together, watch movies, walk a bit, sleep a bit more and generally enjoy each other's company.

We were due to have the RB's come down but JRB is now on a training course so that's been postponed. JennyR (M's godmother) might come for a night or two, but it's just like family to have her around and she doesn't need entertaining!! Andy is going to have breakfast with the men from church tomorrow morning and also with our friend AlexR at Heybridge Basin.

I'll be catching up with KarenC for lunch too - so hopefully a good mix of time all  3 of us together and some other folk stirred in!

As well as that, we'll try to include some working in the garden, going to Mersea for the day or part of, doing some 'make ahead' Christmas cooking and perhaps doing some shopping at Lakeside or Bluewater....maybe it is all looking a bit busy? 

I'll be working around all that, probably most of Monday and Wednesday - combining some big project work and some funding applications with fun family time.

At the end of the week (Thursday) the Hodson parents are arriving for a few days, to visit and also to have M for us while Andy and I go over to St Alban's Abbey to set up and lead a Labyrinth as part of a Lock In event that the Diocesan Youth Officer, Dave Green is running there. I ran a similar resource/event at the Solid ReMix event in January in Chelmsford Cathedral so it'll be good to develop those ideas in a bigger space and with only 1 responsibility! Some other youth workers from the Area are joining us and we will be offering a self guided journey through the Labyrinth path on the theme of darkness into light. Much of my week of work will be on fine tuning the elements of this event and I'm really looking forward to it. It'll be a night of little sleep tho as we run from 8pm through til 8am!
Finally, we'll be having a bonfire and some small fireworks in our garden at the end of the half term week and I'll be 'releasing' some young people from a Big Brother fundraiser event in Chelmsford...which should be good fun!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Christmas Cards 2009

Just so you all know THIS is what we will be doing this year - saving paper, time, unnecessary waste and putting some money in a more productive direction.

Doesn't mean we don't love you...

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A thigh slapping night in the URC...

Ok, I've been persuaded (some would say nagged) to try blogging. As with those annual news letters you get sent at Christmas, I wonder if telling everyone what you are up to on a regular basis is a touch arrogant.

You know the kind I mean, "things have been good in the Jones household this year - our wonderful son Tristan has overcome dyslexia to achieve a First in Classics from Oxford. He did this while circumnavigating the globe on an old moped to raise money for AIDS orphans...blah blah blah...

So I will endure to not brag about M and the fact that she can now wipe her own bottom and manage to flush the upstairs loo on her own. It would be too big headed...

Our good friends Jack and Emily have convinced me that this blogging business is a good thing. I haven't actually consulted them on the subject of blogging but I do follow their progress through their wonderful blog, "Red Bay Days." So I suppose if I find the idea of having a nosey into the lives of my friends OK, then I it might be safe to assume that they quite enjoy doing the same to us.

So where to start...

For those of you who don't know, I have finally answered what I think God has been calling me to for a while now. That is to say that I have started to explore the vocation of ordained ministry in the Anglican Church. A vicar if you will...

I have had an informal chat with the Diocesan Director of Ordinands who has given me some advice on the way to go. So I have ordered a couple of books: "The Cost of Discipleship" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and "The Christian Priest Today" by Michael Ramsey. I will no doubt be obliged to review them on this forum for you at a later date. Hurrah...

Alice and I had a proper date night last Thursday (15th Oct). Not only is this rare, we managed to go and do something that we both were properly 100% excited about. There was no discussion about the right sort of restaurant, who would be the driver and what the budget was. That's because there was no food or drink involved. We managed to catch Show of Hands on the Chelmsford leg of their "County Towns" tour. Show of Hands are on of Britain's leading folk acts and are from Devon. They are made up of singer songwriter Steve Knightley and Phil Beer who can play pretty much any stringed instrument you dare to imagine. They are joined on stage by double bass playing Miranda Sykes for their live sets.

We first came across Steve Knightley at a gig he did with Martin Joseph at the South Shields Customs House in 2005 (I think). Anyway, I got a chance to chat with Steve during the intermission. It was very refreshing to be able to chat with the artist during a show, especially at the bar. I asked him a number of questions about the instruments he was playing. His main instrument, I found out, is a Mandocello - which is essentially a guitar sized mandolin. I was sad enough to take a photo of it the other night for your viewing pleasure. It's the one on the left...

The other thing that caught our attention that night was his voice. It is such a unique and powerful tool - deep and bassy but piercing at the same time. A really awesome sound.

The gig itself was excellent. The show was opened by the brilliantly eccentric Flossie Malavialle, a French singer/guitarist based in Darlington (!?!). She has a wonderful French accent, with Geordie overtones and is quite mental I'm sure. She talked (a lot) about the English language and its oddities - and for the most part was charming and funny. Flossie likes a good oxymoron (now then) and boy can she sing. She managed 5 songs in 40 mins and sang in French, Spanish and English. Her voice is incredibly powerful but remains sweet throughout. She finished with the epic "Amsterdam" by Belgian singer/songwriter Jacques Brel - her tribute to a man who has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide. Very nice...

Show of Hands finally took to the stage after 9pm and opened with a song called "Tall Ships" - a nod to Phil Beer's involvement in the actual Tall Ships race this summer. The set continued for a few songs and if I'm honest, it was a bit slow. But then the smoke machine went mental and filled All Saints URC with a thick mist. Fantastic. At one point I lost sight of the band! Despite the crazy haze, the band relaxed and started to joke around. Steve started to quote from This is Spinal Tap and played the beginning of "Stone Henge", "no one knew what they were doing or what it was for.."

After that, the evening was filled with leg smacking fiddle solos, punchy folk tunes and some new material. The new song Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed from the new album of the same name pointed to insurance company AIG talking government money to pay massive bonuses to their staff earlier in the year.

After thanking Iron Maiden for the special effects, the boys finished with an unplugged duet, off stage at the front. Good stuff, a great date night for us old marrieds.

Friday, 16 October 2009

I'm not allowed to blog today on our Show of Hands gig last night, as Andy is taking on that review...once he gets his arse in gear!

Today is Friday, I love Fridays! It's my day off and my full day each week, just me and my daughter. Usually, it involves me and the Bean having a lazy morning, maybe playing, reading, watching TV or baking, then her having a nap. Usually we end up doing something out in the afternoon or getting the paints/playdough/bike out til Andy gets home.

Today however, we got up early to take Andy to school as he is still being careful with his back. We had a lazy breakfast, enjoying the lemon curd that Susie made for us.

M has been really enjoying the sandpit at nursery, so much so that she has a thick layer of sand all over her scalp. So we ran the bath and washed, conditioned and scraped her scalp clean of grit! She was pretty patient considering!
She's now napping, I have had a shower, made the beds, sorted out the airing cupboard and am going to head off down stairs shortly to do some other chores.
It's is so great having our cleaner - I just love the freedom it brings of not looking at the state of the house every Friday and thinking - pants, scrap the fun got cleaning to do!! Now, I can just put a wash load on or maybe unstack the dishwasher, but the rest of my time can be chilling out, with my daughter and enjoying some space for what days off are really about. 6 days work makes Alice grumpy on Fridays...but not anymore!!

Andy needs a hair cut - so we'll be meeting him in town later, probably stopping by at the Deli and having a cuppa and a cake before heading home for the evening. They do similar ones to the cupcakes pictured above, which are a particular M favourite!

Really hope your Friday is panning out well - what have you been up to??

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Properganda Blog

The Properganda Blog

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Show of Hands

We're very excited to be seeing Show of Hands tonight at the URC In Chelmsford.
We first saw Steve Knightley perform with Martyn Joseph in South Shields back in 2004 when they had just released their Bridgerow Sessions album.
Andy was captivated by the mandocello that Steve was playing and so many of Martyn's songs that we knew well were beautifully enhanced by Steve's instrumentation and fabulous voice.
Since then we have gathered Show of Hands material and enjoyed expanding our knowledge and love of folk music, especially from the South West and being introduced to Seth Lakeman and others through this genre.
So tonight, we get to see Steve and Phil Beer play together as they usually do - and we can't wait!!
Songs we're hoping for? Roots, Cousin Jack, Columbus didn't find America, Santiago, Are we alright...but we'll honestly be happy with anything!!
Gig review to follow!

Monday, 12 October 2009

the wedding of the year!

My wonderful friend Christine got married on Saturday - we've waited a long time for this wonderful day and it was well worth it!
What a wonderful weekend - and what a tiring one too!
Our journey up to Knaresborough on Friday was pretty uneventful with a sleeping Bean and me and Andy enjoying some toons on the Iphone...! We arrived at Christine's parents house in time for a cuppa before the rehearsel - which went well and made me start blubbing already!
After the rehearsel was over, M was presented with a beautiful Swarovski (sp?) crystal necklace in the shape of a star which she was very pleased with!

Our room at the Chevin Hotel which was the reception venue was excellent - spacious, cosy and well stocked with the usual toiletries and refreshments! We had a delicious meal in the hotel lounge bar, who provided a children's menu too and then opted for an early night with the big day ahead!

An early breakfast was followed by me going to have my hair done - and I had struggled to find anywhere nearby that had time for an 'up do' on a Saturday morning. So I was planning to just have it straightened and then fiddle about with the front so it was out of the way in a delicate style! However, when my hairdresser looked at my hair she said she easily had time for a pleat since my hair was 'so thick and luscious'! So I came out much happier with my finished 'do' than I would have been had I done it myself!

A quick whizz back to the hotel, via a florist to get the baby's breath wired up and the charity shop to buy the black handbag I'd forgotten and I was all set for the final preening!! I also had to buy the 'finest' cookies required for Andy's sermon visual aid!
I got dressed in pretty record time - in and out, make up done and child in tow in 35 minutes...considering how much 'pull it in' underwear I was wearing, that was impressive!
The wedding was wonderful - the service was so simple and yet so unique to Christine and Stephen. Matilda behaved brilliantly, walking down the aisle nice and slowly and dancing at the front during the first hymn.
They had great hymn choices - Be Thou My Vision, Lord for the Years and In Christ Alone. Christine looked beautiful.Her dress was so simple and yet it suited her shape and made her look just wonderful. My friend Christine is not a dress person usually so it was especially special to see her looking so - well - girly!
We enjoyed great conversation with friends we hadn't seen for a while, revelled in the spectacular autumn scenery at the Chevin with the trees turning lovely shades of red and gold. The canapes which came round were scrummy and we got to coo over some babies who weren't ours - cos our little baby had been whisked off my her grandparents so we could party the night away!
And that we did!!

Great food, lovely wine, funny company (long story!!) and a bunch of short, sweet and funny speeches.
The disco was proper old school - I haven't been to a disco for a while where I have had to request 'Reach for the Stars' by Steps!! It was a great mix of Motown classics and 70's disco with some other gems like Dolly Parton's 9-5 mixed in. I enjoyed myself immensely, with my pretty permanent dance partner Emilia (the middle sized bridesmaid!) at my side a lot of the time.
Andy put the world to rights over some beer with our friend Ben and then joined me for the bacon sandwiches!

After the 'get away', we retired to our suite, tired and happy and full - and enjoyed a fun day in York on Sunday, reminiscing over our dating days and feeling a bit flat but happy to have some chill out time together.
After meeting up with Andy's parents in Northallerton, having a meal and packing the Bean back into our car, we headed off on the drive home. It felt like a long journey, but the journey's home always are aren't they??
Today we've enjoyed looking over our photos and everyone else's that have appeared on Facebook and are all feeling pretty tired. But it was a fantastic weekend of wonderful memories which we hope and pray will continue to bless Christine and Stephen in their new life as Mr and Mrs Cahoon!