Old blanket box refurbishment.

So I can’t seem to locate my ‘before’ picture on Joel’s camera but my blanket box looked basically like this one I just spotted on e-bay.

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I decided to move the box from the boys’ bedroom to the kitchen but there was way too much pine in the kitchen for it to look right so I decided to give it a make over.

I painted it with a couple of coats of Annie Sloan Chalk paint (old ochre) and Paul gave it a coat of  wax.  I then covered it with a layer of foam so we could sit on it more comfortably when we have a crowd in and chose a bright material for the top.

Here is the finished product, we’re really pleased with how it turned out :-)

 

(Click on the photo to see a larger image)

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I’m going to make a few cushions to prop along the wall in a contrasting material but am waiting to see what material is left after I make my blinds.  All a work in progress!!

Potato & Oatmeal Bread.

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You don’t actually taste the potato in this bread (not like our own potato bread here in Northern Ireland) but it just seems to give a nice texture to the bread.

8oz floury potatoes (peeled weight)

7.5floz hand hot water

1lb 2oz strong white bread flour

3 tbsp rolled oats

2 tbsp skimmed milk powder

1.5 tsp salt

1.5 tbsp dark brown sugar

1.5 oz butter diced

1.5 tsp dried yeast

Topping

1 tbsp water

1 tbsp rolled oats.

Place the potatoes in a pan, add water to cover, bring to the boil and cook for 20-25 minutes, until tender.  Drain and mash until smooth.  Set aside to cool.

Pour the water into the bread pan.  Sprinkle the flour  over the liquid, then sprinkle in the rolled oats and skimmed milk powder.  Add the mashed potatoes to the bread pan, then place the salt, sugar and butter in 3 corners of the pan.  Add the yeast.

Set the bread machine to the basic setting, medium crust, and press start.  About 5 minutes before the end of the final rising (about 1-1.5 hours from the start), add the topping.  Brush the top of the loaf with the water and carefully sprinkle over the rolled oats.

When the cycle has finished turn out the bread to cool.

This recipe is taken from the Essentials Bread book which so far all the recipes seem to be very compatible with my Morphy Richards Bread maker.

Reading for pleasure, on holiday….

DSCF5592When it comes to holiday reading everything seems to switch round in our house.  My husband spends a lot of time reading in the general course of things at home and I find it increasingly hard to find time to read.

When we go on holiday, I guess for JP not reading (so much) makes it more of a holiday, whereas for me getting through extra books makes my holiday.

This year I seemed to get through quite a few books.  I was determined to read a wider genre and things that were “different” to me.  I generally stick to non-fiction books on living the Christian life, Christian biography, theology etc.  but I wanted to read random things and I think I mostly did.

One of the reasons I accomplished reading so much is my car-friend, the GPS –  a few years ago I spent all our car journeys with a map in one hand and a printed route guide in the other.  Now the GPS has made me redundant and I’m blessed to be able to read in the car!!  Result!

So here is what I read – check out reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, I’m just sticking to a short list here.

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The Island by V Hislopp – this book was recommended by a friend and I really enjoyed it.  It’s described as an award winning best seller, I’m not sure I’ve ever read an award winning book before but this was certainly a good book for a holiday read.  A real page-turner!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Shaffear and Barrows.   Again, recommended and again a delightful book that was written quite differently, all in letter form.  I love a fiction book where you really can’t guess what’s going to happen so this one again suited me well.

Her hand in marriage by Douglas Wilson.   Truth is, I had a small amount of space left in my book box for the car and I walked into the study knowing I needed a thin book!!  I read this book many years ago (probably before I had kids) – it was a good book to be reminded of many of the principles and ideas Wilson presents even though my kids aren’t at this stage!

Loving the little years by Rachel Djvorac.   Sarah (whose home we stayed in) said “Feel free to read the books”, and so I did!  (Thanks Sarah).  I’m so glad I lifted this book off her shelf, it was the only one I read, more due to time constraints as I knew I would have loved to have read many of them.   This little book was excellent, really short chapters, ideal to give as a gift to a new mother, or even a non-reader.  I will certainly be looking out for this book again and would thoroughly recommend it.

Screwtape proposes a toast  by C S Lewis.   I had never heard of this book before, but picked it off the shelf in the little Devon flat.  It was excellent, CS Lewis was a genius.  JP and I are “fans” of Screwtape after seeing an excellent play on The Screwtape Letters by the Saltmine theatre company.  Again, I say why does Belfast not have a “centre” dedicated to this genius.

The Boy in the River by Richard Hoskins.    I picked this book up in one of the second hand shops the National Trust have at their properties.  We had just left the London part of our journey.  I had by this stage read a lot of fiction and was keen for something ‘real’.  I started to read this book when I got to the car and literally couldn’t put it down, it was just what it says in the subtitle, “A shocking, true story of ritual murder and sacrifice in the heart of London”.  I couldn’t honesty say I remembered this story on the national news but JP said he had.  I thought this book was very well written, very true and exceptionally interesting while terribly sad.  Having just been exposed to many different religions in London and having the joy of worshipping with many of those of like mind this book was a penetrating reminder of the depths of sin in our world.  A gripping read.

Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson.   I grabbed this book randomly from our local library before our trip.  It was the last book I read.  While I’m glad I read this book (it was an excellent thriller) – I would warn that there is some language which I wouldn’t appreciate in everyday reading.  Having said that the story was  great and as usual the bad language wasn’t necessary.

Twelve Extraordinary Women by J MacArthur.    I haven’t quite finished this book even though I started it on holiday.  I picked it up at a 2nd hand bookshop and it sat on my shelf for quite a few months.  I thought I had done with many of the “women’s” books but thankfully John MacArthur as usual does something more than expose the womens’ virtues.  He is excellent at putting you into the culture, context and really seeing the lives these women lived as well as drawing out lessons from the faithfulness/mistakes.  An excellent book and resource, I’ll probably put it in our next reading roundabout at church.

I came home refreshed in my reading and really thankful for the ability to read not only beneficial books but reading for pure pleasure!  Books are an amazing gift from God.

The National Trust.

As a family we love the National Trust.  We have been members for many years.  Here in the provence it gives us free access to one of our best beaches Portstewart Strand and also our most popular tourist attraction, The Giant’s Causeway, as well as many other great sites.

The real advantage of National Trust membership though has to be when we cross the water to the mainland.  The number of houses to visit, gardens to examine and things to do are endless, especially in the summer months.

One of the best things we have found about the National Trust is how family orientated they are, there are almost always things to do for the kids at all the properties we visit, which make the visit to say a large house much more exciting for younger members of the party.

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We normally plan the route we take on our journey round which properties we want to visit, even if you don’t spend the whole day at a property they are some of the best spots for a picnic.

You can get details of all properties from the National Trust website, they have extensive information on opening times, disabled access etc.  Here I am just going to highlight those we visited this year and what we particularly enjoyed about each.

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On the way to Devon we stopped for our picnic at Knightshayes Court, we had visited this property a couple of years ago and it’s impressive kitchen garden made us keen to return.  We had our picnic on the lawn and watched Chef from the local college make soup.  There was also live music, the weather was so hot we chose not to go inside the property but just took  a slow walk round the walled kitchen garden.   We love to see the kitchen gardens at NT properties and Knightshayes would certainly be one of the best we’ve come across.  The best would probably be at Tyntesfield.

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En route from Devon to London we stopped for our picnic at Dyrham Park on another very hot day.  We had our picnic near the car so we wouldn’t have to carry it, then we visited this lovely deer park and saw quite a few deer.  The house itself was amazing though again because of the weather and time constraints we didn’t go inside.  The chapel, gardens to the rear and ponds were worthy of many pictures, we were thankful for the courtesy bus back to the car park.  There is also an excellent play area in the woods at this property.  This one would be a definite to return to one day to see the inside of the house.

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We didn’t visit any more properties until our London stay was over and we were heading out of London on the way home.  Joel and I had visited Osterley Park a few years ago when he won a competition with the National Trust and he had to attend Osterley Park for a photoshoot.  We were keen to return and show the rest of the family these impressive grounds.  Again, it was warm, probably the warmest day of our trip.  There was much happening in Osterley Park as it was family fun day, endless games, crafts and things for the kids to try out.  Very well done to the National Trust on the organisation of these events, we were so glad we choose to stop there.

On Sunday afternoon we were always going to be at a loose end, we worshipped with Solihull Presbyterian Church  EPC and were keen to keep on the move, we had our picnic under the shade of another tree in Little Morton Hall, then went to explore.    Little Morton Hall is a Tudor property and just delightful!  There wasn’t a lot to see inside so we lay on the lawn and read books, again there were a few games scattered on the lawn for the kids and they entertained themselves in what I think we will all remember as a lovely afternoon.  There was a lady showing the kids how to make handmade soap so we ended up with 4 bars of soap for our trouble.

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The last day in England was Monday and again we had preplanned to visit Tatton Park.  The house here isn’t open on a Monday but it didn’t matter to us as the grounds were vast.  The gardens were beautiful, we had a lovely walk and the kids did the Peter Rabbit treasure trail.  It really was fun, on yet another hot day.  The picnic was courtesy of M&S, but the location was the same (a shady tree, National Trust property) right by the play area which the kids proceeded to play in for about 2 hours.

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These last few days of holiday were great to view the nice gardens and relax after the busyness of the London part of our trip.  We never fail to be impressed by what the National Trust are doing.

Have you a  favourite National Trust property?

Thoughts on Legoland…

Legoland, what can I say.

It’s the sort of thing that JP and I would quite easily not have done!Generally we are glad we did.  The kids enjoyed it and talk about it a lot.

Our trip was on a tight budget but we got our tickets on a Tesco deal which enabled us all to get in for £51.00 of Tesco clubcard vouchers.   I can honestly say that we wouldn’t have paid the standard rates to go there, but we’re glad we had a cheap opportunity to take the kids.

Our kids have never been to a theme park type place before unless you count Longleat which we did a few years ago.  Note to anyone who doesn’t know, Longleat is absolutely nothing like Legoland!

So it went fairly well, as with other days we packed a picnic and had loads of bottled frozen water.  It was a hot day but we had already had much warmer days in central London.   As I say the kids thoroughly enjoyed it, we took loads of pictures and in all likely hood won’t go back.  As they say it’s all about making memories.

I have to say the staff that we had interaction with were all very friendly and helpful, at all times they seemed to be moving the queues along as quickly as they could.  The park was exceptionally clean and well maintained.  It really is a fun filled day for a family.

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Tips for anyone planning a trip to Legoland.

Our ticket was a day ticket, for us this was adequate even though the chances of seeing/going on everything in one day would be fairly slim.

If you want to be sure of doing everything at least once you really need more than a day ticket.

If you are on a budget you definitely want to have your own lunch even though there are loads of eating places, ice cream stops and coffee venders etc.   We bought ice creams and coffee which were expensive enough.

The park closes at 6:00pm, but the thing is all the rides stopped about this time but you could still look around.  When it turned 6 we went to view the miniland  and played for ages in the park.  That way you could use the earlier time for the rides.

We were tipped off that the queues to get out of the carpark at 6 were unreal so it is actually much wiser to wait much later to leave.  The shops at the entrance were also all open long after 6.  We left after 7 and there was still a bit of a tail back to get onto the main road.

Likewise for central London, I wouldn’t be bothered with a buggy wait till they are old enough to walk.

If waiting is not your thing, be warned the queues can be long – most of the locals we met said the queues were NOT long as the English school holidays hadn’t started, I’m glad we weren’t there later.  There is a facility to queue jump but I can just imagine what it costs!

One thing we probably did wrong was to start at the top, it may have been wiser to head on down the hill to some of the things further from the entrance first (which would probably have had less queues), then work your way back.

If you’ve been to Legoland, feel free to leave your own tips for others.

London with kids……

So the second half of our trip was spent in London for a week.

A friend asked me the other day “Would you do London again with kids?” – why would he ask this?I think it’s probably because of the busyness, the heat, the crowds, the underground etc etc etc

… and so the question is would we?  I’d say yes and I know hubby would too.

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Our youngest is 3 almost 4 and a good walker.  There was never any hope that I was going to do London transport with a buggy so this was probably the first year we would have done this trip.  The older 3 are thankfully great walkers too and don’t tend to grumble about miles covered on foot.  I think they appreciated and were thankful for the opportunity and took in all they could.

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No 4 did really well,  he did get tired, generally on the return journey, thankfully.  He did get the odd carry but we were very pleased at how he coped with the extra walking in the heat and of course ice cream did help.

My tips on travelling in London with kids:

If you are going to London with kids for a holiday I’d say either do it when they are small enough to be on your back/front or big enough to walk.

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We bought a backpack style strap before we left and I’d say it was money well spent, it also turned out useful in Devon for crab fishing :-)

Carry bottles of frozen water when travelling – you really never know how long you may have to sit on the bus train due to delays etc, we carried bottles of frozen water as well as our picnics every day.

Stop!  Have a break, be it a picnic or a stop for ice cream/coffee.  Kids are great at recharging their energy if they just lie on the grass for a while, paddle in a pool or  even just get 5 minutes in a play park to remember they don’t need to sleep.

Take the best routes – some of my friends pointed me in the direction of the most direct routes which may not be the most obvious.  Talk to someone who knows London to make sure you aren’t sitting on the underground in the middle of summer for unnecessary time.

Avoid rush hour and there abouts! – The first day we arrived in Victoria Station just after rush hour and things were still very hectic, it probably wasn’t a good first experience of the underground for some of the kids.  We let 2 tube trains pull out before we got on the third.

Plan and enjoy – there is so much to see and do and remember it’s a holiday it has to be fun – don’t overdo it!

What we accomplished…..

My hubby is a wonderful holiday planner.  Really he has lists and poly pockets for everything.

It’s great.

As in I don’t have to plan what we do –  I pretty much plan what we take and what we eat and he plans the how we get there and what we do.

To be fair I have a holiday file!

There is much family discussion, some surprises kept from the kids but pretty much JP has it planned.

It works for us.

I’d say we accomplish more that way, while still having time to relax.

Day 1 – We left at 5.15am for Dublin.  Ferry to Liverpool.  Drove to Gloucester to a Travel Lodge.

Day 2 – Drove to Knightshayes National Trust property for our picnic then on to Appledore Devon.

Day 3 – Worshipped at Whidden Valley Evangelical Church and had fellowship with the folks there.

Day 4 – Toured the village, play parks, crab fishing, Concert on the Quay.

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Day 5 – Visited Barnstaple Pannier market and Museum, picnic, Instow to fly kite.  Westward Ho.

Day 6 – Beach at Westward Ho and returned after tea!

Day 7 – Visited Bideford, Crabbing

Day 8 – Instow beach all day,  Crabbing.

Day 9 – Moving on – En route to London stopped at Dryham Park National Trust for picnic and walk, arrive in London.

Day 10 – Worshipped at Metropolitan Tabernacle London and met many friends there.

Day 11 – Train into London, Changing the Guards, picnic Green Park, walked the Mall, saw Trafalgar Square, tube to Big Ben and walked to the Eye.

Day 12 – Train into London, Cruise boat to Greenwich, visited the maritime museum and Greenwich  Park, DLR back home.

Day 13 – Visited Horniman Museum and after lunch Dulwich Park, JP and JD visited more museums.

Day 14 – Legoland, Windsor.

Day 15 –  Back into London, Science Museum, Harrods!

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Day 16 – Dulwich Parkrun, Osterely Park National Trust, drove to Birmingham.

Day 17 – Worshipped in Solihull Presbyterian Church, had picnic at Little Moreton Hall National Trust, visited Manchester airport viewing centre and drove to Knutsford Services.

Day 18 – Visited Tatton Park National Trust property, briefly stopped in Chester, travelled to Bromborough

Day 19 – Tunnel to Liverpool, Ferry to Dublin, Home.

That was much quicker to type than it was to accomplish!

The holiday.

As a family we took ourselves off for a trip to the mainland this summer.  We left right at the start of the school holidays.

We are not long home and for some reason I’ve decided to chronicle some of our holiday here for those far and near to follow along.

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(No 4 enjoying Legoland)

We were spending a week in Devon in a flat we stayed in before and the second week we were moving to London to house-sit for a dear family there.

A few travel lodges on the way and that just about sums up our trip.

I’ll post more when I have done some  laundry!

Chicken Apple Wraps

Chicken Apple Wraps

Ingredients
1/2 cup chopped cooked chicken breast
3 tablespoons chopped Fuji apple
2 tablespoons chopped black or red grapes
2 tablespoons Crunchy Peanut Butter
1 tablespoon lite mayonnaise (or greek yogurt)
2 teaspoons honey
Iceberg lettuce

Preparation
Chop chicken meat and fruit, mix in bowl. Mix in peanut butter, mayonnaise and honey.

Spoon into open lettuce leaf, roll and serve

John Harper: Titanic – The Ship of Dreams, a book review by Joel.

Titanic A Ship of Dreams

Thanks to Christian Focus for sending me this book ‘Titanic A Ship of Dreams’ to review.

Living in Northern Ireland I hear a lot about the Titanic and it is especially interesting to read because it is the 100th Anniversary of its building/sinking.

This is the story of John Harper and his adventures on the Titanic with his daughter Annie Jessie (Nana) Harper. On the Journey they made many friends and saved many lives not only from the sea but also from hell. (His wife Annie died shortly after Nana was born).

I liked the way the book didn’t start at the boarding of the Titanic instead it started at a train station and I liked the way the author incorporated famous people into the story.

The most moving part would have to be the sinking and how John Harper saved many lives and even appealed to people while he was in the water. 

I thought it was a very good book and an interesting story, people ought to know about what John Harper did – I would thoroughly recommend this book to all young people.  You can read more about John Harper here.  Thanks again to Christian Focus.

(Review by Joel).