Women Of Excellence

Yesterday I attended a breakfast with many from Pastor Joyce Vassell's 'Women of Excellence' Ministry. She is now retired from this work and is ministering more locally in Milton Keynes (Can you believe she is nearly 60!) and the breakfast was the second annual meeting of the 'Proverbs 31 Woman' Ministries run by a lady called Esther.

It was a great time and whilst taking notes I was inspired with ideas to write many posts, so you'll be hearing a lot about it over the next coming weeks.

The first thing I want to share is a message that Pastor Olivea Ebanks shared with us. She wanted to talk about how we read the proverbs 31 woman. The first thing she did was show us verse by verse contrasts throughout scripture. I didn't write them down in time, so here are a few of my own: God's character

Proverbs 31:11
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.

Psalms 84:11
For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

God's character is not to withhold anything good, neither is the proverbs 31 woman's.

Proverbs 31:20
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.

Psalm 140:12
I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor.

God's heart is for the broken, the poor and those in need, so it the proverbs 31 woman's.

Proverbs 31: 26
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Job 12:13
With Him are wisdom and might; To Him belong counsel and understanding

God is wise and offers good counsel, so does the woman in proverbs 31

Proverbs 31:27
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Psalm 121:3
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.

God who watches over you is not lazy and will not forget his duty; neither will the proverbs 31 woman.

We could go on all day, but hopefully that's enough to illustrate the point. The proverbs 31 chapter isn't a checklist for women of 'how to be a good wife', it's an illustration of a women who is displaying the fruits of God's character in her life.

We are all called to bear fruit in our lives, the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentlenss, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance (gal 5:22,23). Reading the proverbs 31 woman's description and setting it as a goal is enough to make any woman throw her hands up in despair and cry out 'it can't be done!' but it's not a goal. It's an illustration of what a women following God's heart looks like.

If we are firmly rooted in God, and our character is being conformed not to the world, but to that of Jesus Christ, then we can rest assured that as the incredible as the proverbs 31 woman is, we will be just as precious, worth more than rubies to any man.

We need to take our eyes off the goal posts, and start looking at God. Only then will we start to bear His fruit in our lives and attain the characteristics of the proverbs 31 woman, who's characteristics are that of our very God.

Samoas (caramel delites)

I love girl scout cookies, but let me be more specific, I love samoas.

What frustrates me is that they aren't homemade, they are obviously factory produced, so what does that factory do for the rest of the year when it isn't cookie selling season? Why can't they sell them all year around?

I've found some pretty ropey recipe suggestions online for creating these wonders, but after much experimentation I think I have finally discovered a reasonable substitute for those little bites of deliciousness.

So here it is:

For the cookie:
3/4 of softened butter
2 cups of sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp vanilla
2 cups flour
Splash of milk

Mix it all together (sans milk and flour) then add flour bit by bit until you get a nice dough. If it gets to dry add a little milk.

Pop it in the fridge for 10 minutes, then roll it out and cut circles. You could use a smaller cutter to take out the centres, I just stabbed a wooden spoon handle through them.

Next bake until golden and leave to cool.

2 cups shredded coconut
2 bags werthers original caramel melts
2 bars dark chocolate
1 bar milk chocolate

Toast the coconut until golden and beautiful.

Melt the werthers and stir in the coconut.

Press the mixture onto your cookies, being sure to cover them completely.

Melt the chocolates together and stir really well.

Dip cookies in the chocolate and leave on a sheet to cool. Melt chocolate again and dip a second time to get a good chocolate base.

Finally drizzle chocolate over with a spoon.

Okay, so its not a masterpiece, but let's face it, only the taste is important and these are De-Licious!!

- Kj

Festival of lights

Our town had a big celebration of Diwali today, with dancing and music and Indian food for you to sample.

Although we are committed christians, we took the kids along to show them what it was and let then see how different cultures celebrate. There were lots of stalls and they let William help with some kind of sand art, called rangoli, that they use to decorate their homes.

I did take a photo, but for some reason it didn't save, so here is a picture of someone else's much fancier handy work:

There were lots of girls with beautiful head dresses and stunningly bright silk costumes, Elisha thought they were beautiful and pointed whilst squeaking her trademark 'look!' noise at us.

And this is how I know that even a one year old is capable of covetousness:-

As I got her out of the bath, dried her off and started to dress her in her white, flannel pyjamas; she looked at them, pulled at the chest, and looked at me with what I can only describe as utter contempt.

'No gold? No silk?' was the angry glare in her eyes. It was all I could do not to laugh.

Fortunately a one year old is easily won over with milk.

I can see we're going to have our work cut out in dealing with materialism as this one grows up!!

- Kj

Stuff Christians Like and Widening Our Children's Horizons

Stuff Christian's Like is one of my favourite blogs, and if you don't follow Jon Acuff on Twitter you should, he's awesome.

He recently posted this video on the SCL website:

Surprise from Patrick Tohill on Vimeo.

I love the innocence in Ellie's question 'That's just pretend though, right Dad?'

How many children around the world have absolutely no concept that there are children around the world suffering that don't know what it's like to eat every day, let alone have three meals a day?

Will struggles with the concept of 'pretend' and still thinks lightening McQueen and Buzz lightyear are real people, so he should relatively easily follow the concept if we showed him a picture of a starving child, but I just never have. It seemed to morbid.

We introduced the idea of orphans when he was very small (under three years old) because we wanted to make sure he wasn't surprised by the idea of us adopting at a later date. He talks about orphans a lot, and often wants to send them clothes and toys, because 'they don't have a mummy and daddy to buy them any'.

I think this year I want to introduce to him the idea that there are people not just missing their mummies and daddies, but physically suffering. How do you do this with three year old? I'm not quite sure, but I know it's something we need to be proactive about. I can't just tell him that there are people suffering, and then leave him to dwell on how terrible it is. I need him to understand that the are people suffering, and here is how we can help them. It's got to be more than just awareness, I want him to understand compassion.

A tall order from a toddler, but unless we model it he will never learn it.

I think I'm going to start with some kind of shoebox appeal. Making up care packages, as a family, to send children is something he can be involved in, and feel like he's making a difference.
Any other ideas, please let me know in the comments section.


I was asked to review this movie, although I'm not convinced they understood how old my kids were when they sent it!

Snowmen is a coming of age movie about three small boys and their adventures over a winter.

The problem with this movie is that the acting/production/storyline had the feel of a cute kids movie, something you watch on Christmas day with the little ones, but there were definitely bits that made me wish I wasn't watching it with my four year old.

Maybe I'm over sensitive, but some bits you should be aware of before you show this movie to your kids are:

Phrases like 'p*** off' and 'oh c***' are fairly frequent. Nothing hardcore, but not pleasant to have a preschooler repeating.

There's violence from the school bully, but also from our 'heroes' several times. We're supposed to think it's okay when our hero stands up to the school bully by throwing ice at him (something we are told at the beginning is illegal in their state) and making him bleed. The bully also punches a small child in the face several times, and at one point holds an ice skate to his throat and face threatening to 'cut him up' for humiliating him in an earlier scene.
The boys also narrowly escape death when they are buried by a snow plough. It doesn't sound bad, but it's quite a tense moment for a small child.

The hero lies to us and to other children throughout the movie, and only gets pulled up on it once. In fact, most of the time he is glorified as having been able to put together some amazing events.

There is one point where the boys find a corpse, and another rather graphic and long scene where a boy drowns. Neither of these are particularly 'feel good' moments for a small child.

I know these are petty for older children, but the problem is that I think older children would be bored. The humorous moments were few and far between and aimed at younger children. The story was based on a true story, and you can tell. It's the sort of movie my mum would have on in the background whilst she was ironing. Okay, just not great.

There is a cameo appearance by Christopher Lloyd (remember 'doc' from back to the future?) but that's about the best part.

I'm afraid this movie only gets a 2/5 from us.

- Kj

Look who's walking...

I know it's the third post today, but I couldn't resist posting this:

YouTube Video

She walks!

- Kj

'We Love You' Cake

Will wanted to surprise his daddy with a cake that says 'I love you' and what better reason is there to have cake?

I posted some pictures on instagram, and a few people asked after it, so here, belatedly, is the recipe. I will admit it's not very conventional, and having mostly made it up I cannot guarantee results will be the same twice, but here is roughly what we did.

You will need:

50g Cocoa
230ml of Sprite (or 7up - I'm not brand loyal)
100g butter
280g sugar
2 eggs
180g flour (we used part sprouted grain, but you don't have to)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 Carton of extra thick double cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
8 chocolate chip cookies
Copious amounts of dark and milk chocolate

Mix all the cake ingredients (except the sprite) in a large mixing bowl. Make sure it's really big, as it's going to fizz like crazy when you add the sprite. You can separate the eggs and whisk the whites first if you want a really light cake, but I skipped this step.

Next, add the sprite and stir it until the batter has no streaks left in it. Split between to pans and bake until it looks and smells great. Explain to one year old that no matter how much she strops in the buggy we are not going anywhere until the cake has finished baking.
Pop them onto a cooling tray and leave to get nice and cool. One year old can now be taken for a short walk.

For the filling:
Have kids smash up some cookies whilst you whisk half of the double cream with the vanilla until it's thick. Stir in the cookies.
Use this mixture to sandwich together the cakes.

For the frosting:
Melt together most of the dark and light chocolate, stirring until it's all one colour. I'd like to tell you that you should do this in a double boiler, but the reality is I used a microwave.

Add a little of the cream (not too much at once) and stir it through. Keep adding more until you have added about half. When that is nice and smooth, throw in the rest and mix it all up. You should have a lovely glossy smooth ganache.
Spread it over the cake and then grate the remaining chocolate on the top.

Et Voila! You can now present someone with their very own 'we love you' cake!

The health benefits of Kefir

As promised, I have finally found the time to write about the health benefits of Kefir - Goodness knows how, I've been up with a vomiting toddler all night and a small baby all morning, but they are both quietly cuddling and watching a movie right now, so I have a few minutes!

Loads of people will claim all kinds of benefits to drinking Kefir, many of which have little or no scientific backing. That doesn't mean that some of them aren't true, but I want to stick to proven benefits, so that we aren't just listing every ailment under the sun and claiming that Kefir is a miracle cure for all.
The first benefit is that if you grow your kefir in milk, it is a complete protein. Complete proteins are only found in dairy products. Your body needs all kinds of different proteins and meats fish only provide specific ones (which is why it's a good idea to eat a varied diet). Milk and eggs are the only source of complete protein that has everything your body needs, and when you culture your milk with kefir, those proteins are already partially digested, which makes them much easier for your body to absorb and very gentle on your digestive system.
Kefir also contains plenty of Vitamin K and 'B' Vitamins, which are great for your immune system and can boost energy levels - helping you to lose weight.

Kefir contains strains of friendly bacteria and beneficial yeasts including; Lactobacillus Caucasus, Acetobacter species, and Streptococcus species. The beneficial yeasts dominate and eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in the body. Your body then becomes better in resisting pathogens and intestinal parasites.

Kefir is a probiotic drink, by multiplying in the intestine, the bacteria in kefir can reduce potentially pathogenic bacterial populations to. It is interesting to note that, etymologically, an antibiotic means "against life" and probiotic, "for life". In fact, antibiotics destroy intestinal flora, indiscriminately striking down the good bacteria along with the bad ones. When microorganisms that inhabit the intestines and live in symbiosis are scarce, the body sends signals, because bacterial activity and vitality are closely related. Drinking Kefir after a round of antibiotics is an excellent way to help repopulate your gut with 'good' flora.

The enzyme activity of kefir's microorganisms can include release of volatile fatty acids, which improves blood sugar levels, boosts metabolism of bile salts and cholesterol to synthesize amino acids and many vitamins and improve the bio-availability of all minerals.

Apparently in Beijing there were some studies done on the effectiveness of drinking kefir in curing arthritis and rheumatism. I haven't managed to find the actual studies done.

There is quite a lot of research regarding kefir, with Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov, a biologist and Nobel Prize winner in 1908, having performed extensive studies in Russia. If you are interested in knowing more he is worth googling.
Right, the movies finishing so I have to go.

Bye for now!

My Kefir Babies

This is really an old post, from about a year ago, but I thought I'd revive it as I have recently given even more of my Kefir babies away (there are now about 7 colonies thriving from my original one)!

I also never did get around to writing that post on the health benefits of Kefir, so I'd better do that soon, and I can link back to this instead of the other really old post and at least pretend my blog doesn't have continuity issues. ;o)

My Kefir babies

My son is obsessed with 'Fizzy Juice' and 'Soda' (read 'fanta' and 'lemonade').

Initially I would only allow him to drink one or two of the more expensive brands such as fruitizer, because they are literally fruit juices watered down and carbonated, with no e-numbers. It seemed fine, but the quantity he wanted to drink was going to kill us financially. So slowly we started buying cheaper drinks and I was horrified to realise the we had deteriorated so far as allowing him to drink a supermarket brand of cherryade (8p a litre) as a special treat for his birthday.

Where did it happen? There has to be some middle ground between letting him drink rubbish and spending a fortune on buying drinks, when realistically I would prefer he was just drinking tap water (a tall order for a three year old who see's his daddy drinking pepsi)!

That's when I came across Water Kefir.

These blobby little jelly like crystals are actually a bacteria which are going to turn my ordinary tap water into something infinitely more delicious and healthful, but the most important part - it will be fizzy!

So I ordered my little bacteria colony from ebay. All they needed was a jar of tap water a few spoons of sugar and off they go! I read online that you can add fruit to help the process along and flavour the kefir, so we sliced up some easy peeler tangerines and added a few raisins. I also added a little honey. I'm told they like it, and as they are new to me I thought it might help them settle in. ;) **I recently was told they shouldn't have honey, because it's antibacterial. It's up to you, but I give it to mine and they are thriving. Maybe just don't do it too often?**

Interestingly, after 24 hours you could see the fizzing and all the fruit had floated to the top of the jar. You strain the water off and put it in a jug in the fridge and add more water to the kefir 'grains' to start the process again.

I wasn't sure how it would taste, but was willing to give it a go. I was totally surprised to find it actually tastes a lot like shloer. It was delicious! A total non-alcoholic champagne substitute. I could definitely serve this up on a date night and Matt would not be able to tell the difference.

But the real test was to find out if Will would drink it, with no added sugars/flavourings. The result: YES! He had two glasses with breakfast this morning and was over joyed to be allowed soda with his cereal. He thanked me over and over again like I was the kindest mummy in the world! :D

It's not as fizzy as something like 7up, but it could easily pass for something like a fizzy grape juice from Marky Sparkys. I'm really looking forward to trying out different flavours.

Now most importantly, the Kefir grains have already doubled in size. This means they are reproducing and they are happy. If your kefir is happy it will reproduce and you will never have to buy it again. In fact you should get enough to start giving it away. If it is unhappy, it will die and you will have to buy a starter again. By keeping them alive I will only ever have to pay for sugar to make 'fizzy juice' which I can buy in bulk really cheaply. We can flavour it with fruit from our garden. A luxury drink, for virtually free!

Now that I'm trying to cultivate bacteria in my kitchen I have come to think of them as pets. I would actually be quite sad if I lost the colony. So we are now a family who keeps ants and bateria as pets. I know it's wierd, but I don't care. They are saving us loads of money and will make a great science lesson for the kids as they get older.

There are loads of health benefits to Kefir too. But I'll save that for another post.

If you're interested in how to make water kefir, here's a step by step video:

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