Joy

Week 4 of advent is Joy, can. You see it on the faces of the children? It’s an exciting time of year. I love the anticipation in the week before christmas, final preparations and carols in church. The beautiful sparkly decorations all around and smiling to yourself in anticipation of the joy those carefully chosen gifts will bring.

Luke 2:10-11New International Version (NIV)

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 

Listen to Joy to the world. I will let you choose your own prefered recording this week. You tube offers everything from Dolly Parton singing this track to a group of heavily tattooed men beat boxing to it – have fun, keep it joyful.

Pray: we thank you Lord for the joy you give. As we prepare for Christmas time light of the world, shine in us. In the midst of sorrow bring joy to our hearts. Help us to find joy in serving you. Amen.

(Prayers adapted from an advent liturgy available at engage worship)

Do: bake some gingerbread or build a gingerbread house, dance to all your favourite christmas songs (the sillier the better) or go carol singing and spread some joy to your friends and neighbours.

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Gluten free shortcrust pastry recipe 

If you follow my blog you’ll probably have noticed that my recipes are all gluten free. I cut gluten from my diet over 10 years ago and it makes such a difference to my health. Whilst i have managed to make most things gluten free pastry, has always alluded me. If you’ve ever tried to make gluten free pastry you probably ended up with a pie top that you could have thrown across the kitchen like a Frisbee and shattered into 1000 inedible pieces when you bit into it.

This phenomenon has always perplexed me. When you make ordinary pastry light handling is key so as not to activate the gluten molecules so flours without gluten should be perfect for pastry – right? Apparently not. Today I thought i’d give it another try in an attempt to be spared the misery of shop bought gluten free mince pies. So I put my thinking cap on. I use an excellent gluten free gingerbread recipe every year. It’s chewy, cuts really well and holds its shape. We build our gingerbread house with it. It’s made with rice flour and gram flour (chickpea flour). Both of which are readily available in supermarkets. The dough tastes awful but the bitterness of the gram flour disapears after baking. So I though maybe this combination of flours would work well for pastry. It did! My pastry didn’t crumble, cut well, went into the moulds without cracking and tastes buttery and short. HOORAY!

  • 200g (7oz) gram flour
  • 175g (60z) rice flour
  • 1tsp xanthum gum
  • 150g butter

Put the flours into a bowl or food mixer, blend the flours by mixing gently. Cut the butter into cubes and rub in or blend until your mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add cold water 1tbsp at a time until you have a dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 20-30 mins before using. If you wish brush the pastry with an egg wash before baking – this gave a beautiful golden bake.

Love

Week 3 of advent already, this week is often very busy for us. The last rush before school finishes and all those last minute activities to cram in. I’m going to try really hard to show God’s love to my children this week – even when i’ve asked them to put thier shoes on 5 times already.

 1 John 4:8-9New International Version (NIV)

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

Listen to Lo,  how a rose E’er blooming

Pray We thank you God for the love you give. As we prepare for Christmas time light of the world, shine on us. As we seek to worship you shed love in our hearts and help us to share your love. Amen.

(Prayers adapted from an advent liturgy available at engage worship)

Do show some love this week pick up some litter, feed the birds or give a neighbour an early Christmas present.

Peace 

The second Sunday of advent varies in theme but I have chosen one of the more popular themes peace.

 

Luke 2:14New International Version (NIV)

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests”

Listen to Christ be our light or silent night

Pray: “we thank you God for the the grace and peace you give. As we prepare for Christmas time light of the world shine on us. Help us to share the peace you give” Amen.

(Adapted from an advent liturgy available at engage worship)

Do: Take some time this week for a little contemplation. Remember it doesn’t have to be silent or even very quiet to feel God’s peace (but it doesn’t hurt to be quiet either). Turn off the TV and the radio, put your phone and other distractions out of reach. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. You may wish to listen to the songs i recommended or to light a candle. However brief this moment may be, just enjoy it.

If you have more time you may want to try some journaling or colouring, if you find this relaxing. This advent star by flame creative would be a lovely activity to do as a whole family, whilst listening to some simple carols.

Hope

I’ve spoken before about what an important season advent is in our household.  It’s also an incredibly busy season with 3 children and all thier activities, parties, nativities, bake sales, fundraisers etc. to cram in. It’s the same for so many families. Trying to find a moment to stop and reflect on the true meaning of christmas is really hard! 

I run a fortnightly bible study group for several such busy Mum’s – a group of women who’s friendship and support truly is a comfort and Joy to me. My gift to them this Christmas was a book (of sorts) written and illustrated by me. Focusing on the 4 themes of advent accompanied by some very simple ideas to celebrate each theme and designed so as they could be done either alone or with the whole family. I thought i’d share it week by week here too.

Each week there is a very short reading, a prayer, a song and an activity

Week one, the first sunday in advent. Hope.

Read: Romans 15:13New International Version (NIV)

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Listen to:  may the God of hope (apologies I can only find children’s versions of this song on youtube)

Pray: “In this world of pain and darkness bring hope to our hearts. To all the people who don’t know you, light of the world shine through us. Jesus you are coming again, help us. To live in the hope you bring.

(Prayer adapted from a version found on engage worship)

Do – Collect items for a local homeless charity (do check with them first as to what items are most needed in your area) or buy a copy of the big issue and have a conversation with the seller. Maybe you could offer to buy them a drink of their choosing. Do something this week to bring hope to the hopless.

You may also like to make an advent candle decoration to accompany this series. This can be as highly decorative or simple as you choose to make it. 4 tea lights on a pretty plate will work just fine. You could add seasonal foliage or labels to each candle, if you wish. Light the first candle – the candle of hope. Last year I made this so year after year it’s ready to use.

November favourites

Here we are at the end of November. What a busy time of year it is. Excitement is definitely building for next months big event. But before that our November favourites.

I adore gingerbread! Too good to save just for christmas I love to make heaps and heaps of gingerbread leaves all through November. I use this wonderful gluten free gingerbread recipe 

I bought a copy of Emma Mitchells lovely book making winter. Like Emma I also find the winter month tough. I suffered with SAD through my teens and early 20s. I manage it better now bringing out my winter tool kit at the first signs and i’m pleased to say I haven’t had a significant bought of depression in nearly 10 years. I won’t lie it’s been hard at times not to slip back there and this beautiful, itelligent and creative book is definatly going in my winter tool kit.

My eldest daughter and I were delighted to meet Emma at a workshop and book signing she ran at Angelsey Abbey in November. She taught us both how to draw the most equisit little stylised wreaths and neither of us has been able to stop drawing them ever since. More to come on that.

As the temperatures dropped and light faded we have spent more time indoors this month. We have crafted and baked and planted bulbs to grow indoors (see my last post) but one of our favourite activites on especially grey days is to cuddle up and  share a good book together. I love childrens book that reflect the changing season. Some of our favourite autumn books that envoke that cosy feeling are 

  • The House in the Woods by Inga Moor
  • The Mousehole Cat by Antony Barber and Nicolas Bayley
  • Coming Home by Michael Morpurgo

Simple, sparkly planters

I thought i’d share a very simple and inexpensive little DIY with you. Maybe you’d like to make one for yourself to brighten your own home or as and christmas gift for a friend or neighbour.

You will need:

  • Jam jars
  • PVA glue
  • Masking tape 
  • Fine glitter
  • Bulbs  (we chose hyacinths bit other favourites are grape hyacinth and paper white daffodils)
  • Potting compost
  • Grit
  • Moss (easily foraged for but only take what you need)

Cover your table or use a tray as this DIY is a little messy. Wash and dry your jars. When the jars are completely dry decide where you’d like your glitter to come up to and place a strip of masking tape at this point. Thin your PVA with a little water (aprox 3 parts PVA to 1 part water) use a brush to apply a thin coat of PVA all over the jar below the masking tape. Now sprinkle on your glitter, not too thickly but make sure you get good coverage. Shake off any excess. I apply the glitter over a sheet of paper or newspaper so that the unused glitter can easily be tipped back in the pot. Allow the jars to dry, this is quite quick.

Now to plant your bulbs. Firstly add a layer of grit to the bottom of the jar then add the compost. Depending on the type of bulb you are planting will depend at what lavel they need to be. Our hyacinths sat on top of the soil with a some moss around them. Other bulbs may need to be planted in the soil. Use the moss to cover the soil this not only looks lovely but helps retain moisture.

Leave your bulbs somewhere cool but frost free and dark until the shoots apear.