The Advent Event

This is my first ever go at a link up for bloggers, so I hope it's going to work!

My plan is to have a link up for the season of advent. I love Christmas, but it's easy to get swept up in the gift giving and parties and forget completely what advent is about; preparation.
Now I know that some will say that there is nothing special about any one day over another, but then why are you celebrating Christmas at all? It's a time to remember the birth of Christ, and I think advent is a great way to extend the season, to teach our children through repetition about the story of redemption.

In fact, we celebrate all the Hebrew festivals too in our home. Ever heard the phrase 'a Jews cathecism is his calendar'? It's so true. The festivals represent so much, and are such a wonderful teaching opportunity for our kids. Advent is that little prompt I need in my diary to start drip feeding my children the scriptures and reminding them of how the world was awaiting a messiah. It's a time when I can explain that we are still awaiting the return of that same Messiah.

So what do you do for advent? Do you celebrate in any special way?

I want to encourage you to be intentional about advent this year, and then blog about it. And then link up to this post. Let's encourage each other with our plans and ideas, and make sure that this christmas isn't all about presents for our families.

Thanksgiving hangover

Soooooo much food in our house!

Why do we always over cater on thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter/?

As I warm up a turkey, cranberry and green bean casserole panini (jealous?) I figure we can stretch thanksgiving through one more day before I start really believing it's Christmas (don't judge me, I love it so much and I wait all year for this season).

Here is my little thanksgiving round up of all the best tweets from or retweeted by people I follow over the last 24 hours.

@FakeJohnPiper Turkey is most glorified in you when you are most stuffed with it.

@JonAcuff If the question is "Are you watching Swampsgiving right now?" My answer is, "Across the Bayou, Troy is looking for a turkey."
Dear Dad, , how come we never caught 40 bullfrogs as a father/son bayou team for Thanksgiving dinner?

@Abbey_Queenofall My mother just informed me that I'm sitting at the kids' table. I am 36 years old.

@Steve_Dangle Canada had thanksgiving this year before it went all mainstream.

@AM_1010 My pants are still falling...I demand a refund Thanksgiving!

@thepioneerwoman If zombies appeared in the yard and headed straight for my living room, I still wouldn't be able to move off of this couch.

@MattChandler74 It's almost noon and I haven't punched a health care worker yet

@JimmyCarr 'It’s Thanksgiving today. Long story short it’s where Americans give thanks to the English for inventing them. You’re welcome.'

and finally, a girl after my own heart, @Kaylee_Cuoco wrote
Day after Thanksgiving- pulling out my Christmas socks- woop woop!

The socialisation question

There isn't a homeschooling family that I'm aware of that haven't come up against the age old 'socialisation' question. I'm told it becomes less frequent when your children are teenagers, but those of us with small children are hounded by it. It reminds me of one of my favourite youtube videos How Do You Socialise Your Children?

I'm indebted to a homeschooling mother, who was a teacher in her former children years, for bringing to my attention the work of Dr Gordon Neufield, who is a canadian clinical psychologist who works with children with aggression problems.
He states that 'the prevailing assumption is that the greatest drawback to homeschooling is the loss of social interaction with peers. Times have changed however, making peer interaction more of a problem than an asset. Instead of peer interaction facilitating the process of socialization, it is now more likely to lead to the premature replacement of adults by peers in the life of a child.

Such children become peer-oriented rather than adult-oriented and are more difficult to parent and teach. Furthermore, peer-oriented children fail to mature psychologically and their integration into adult society is compromised.

Because of escalating peer orientation, it is now the school that has become risky business. What was once the most powerful argument against home-schooling is now its most persuasive defense. Contrary to prevailing concerns, home-schooled children are showing evidence of being more mature psychologically, more socially adept and more academically prepared for university. They have become the favored applicants of a number of major universities.

If current trends in society continue, homeschooling may very well become a necessary antidote to escalating peer-orientation. We may need to reclaim our children not only to preserve or recover the context in which to teach and parent them but also for the sake of society at large and the transmission of culture.

The developmental needs of children were never paramount in the arguments that led to the inception of compulsory education. Indeed, there was little that was even understood or known about child development at that time. It should not be surprising therefore to find that developmental science does not support school as the best context for children to learn, to mature or to become socialized.

Although the school has become a central institution in our society, it is not without risks to emotional health and development.'

In his presentations on this topic, Dr. Neufeld presents five factors that, when all things are considered, tend to favour homeschooling over traditional schooling, given the home is suitable of course, the parent capable, the child receptive and the option exists. These factors include the enabling of parents, the emotional health of the child, interest and curiousity, the socialization of the child and the teachability of the child.

Dr Neufeld's book 'Hold on to Your Kids' will definitely be going on my christmas list this year.

Glo Bible

I can't believe I haven't posted about Glo Bible before.
That seems odd to me, because we love it.

Glo is an app for the iphone/ipad, but also software for your PC and/or Mac that makes bible study, history, art and geography fun and interactive. It's already been useful in looking up dates for our timeline to supplement the 'Mystery of History' course we use, but it also keeps track of your bible reading plan, notes and allows you to make presentations (something the kids will be doing more of as they get older).

I'd recommend this software to anyone, and you can download a trial for free. The graphics are incredibly slick and it's so intuitive to use. Better yet, if you upgrade from the free trial before monday, they'll even give you 30% off.

To have a look at all the awesome stuff it does, check out this video:

The Consequences of Sin

It's five am and I should be baking bread, but instead I've been distracted by some revelation I had last night.

I'd been reading about King David recently and something has been puzzling me. Why would his most trusted friend and advisor, who has given him good counsel for year even before he was king, turn traitor the minute his son brings a rebellion against him? The bible gives no motive for Ahithophel's betrayal and it seems so strange.

In fact, even more strange is the fact that Ahithophel tells Absalom (David's son) that he should sleep with David's concubines on the palace roof, so that all of Israel will see it 2 Sam 16:20. What on earth could have possessed him to advise such a thing?

In the Arab world there is a saying that goes like this:
If a man takes revenge before forty years have passed, he has been too hasty.
I believe this phrase holds the key to this passage.

I'm indebted to Grant R Jeffrey's book 'The Signature of God' for helping me to unlock this passage. You see Ahithophel was a very close friend to David, he and his Son Eliam - who was part of David's bodyguard, along with Uriah the Hittite. Eliam was also Bathsheba's father, making Ahithophel her grandfather.
That fateful day when David spied Bathsheba bathing from the roof of his palace, he wasn't overcome with love at first sight; he knew Bathsheba well. The fact that she was living so close to the palace was probably in honour of, her husband, Uriah's service. When David committed adultery with her and murdered her husband, all Israel would have known that the baby she carried was his. Ahithophel's granddaughter had been shamed, and his grandson (by marriage) murdered; but to speak against the king was death.

So Ahithophel kept silent, for many, many years - until the opportunity arose. Not only was he able to counsel a rebellion against the King, he ensured that the kings women were humiliated in the same way that his grand daughter had been; that all Israel knew she had been defiled by another man.

When David had been confronted on his sin by Nathan, he had been truly remorseful and repented. Nathan warns that, because of David's sin, the new baby boy will die; but when he did, David got up, cleaned up and said 'While the baby was still living, I cried and refused to eat because I thought, ‘Who knows? Maybe the LORD will feel sorry for me and let the baby live. But now the baby is dead, so why should I refuse to eat? Can I bring the baby back to life? No. Some day I will go to him, but he cannot come back to me.' 2 Samuel 12:22

He presumably thought that with the baby dead, it was over, God had forgiven him. So had God forgiven him?

Absolutely yes. I can say with 100% certainty that his sin with Bathsheba will not be held against him on judgement day, but the effects of sin are like the ripples after a stone has been skipped over a lake. The stone may be gone, but there is no way to make that waters surface still again.

David's sin had consequences, not only in his life but in the lives of others. Ahithophel must have been consumed with bitterness for a long time to betray his friend and king in such a way.

I've heard people preach before on 'cheap grace' - the idea that some christian's believe that they can do what they like and repent of it later. That it's of no consequence to God if you say sorry. While it is true that you won't be judged for your sin if you plead the blood of Jesus, rarely does God remove the physical and emotional consequences of sin in our lives, or of those around us. To say that God doesn't care what we do as long as we repent would be incredibly ignorant. The effects and consequences of sin are found all over this world where people are suffering in their millions. I believe God suffers with them.

To forgive someone doesn't mean it stops hurting, for us or God. His forgiveness is absolute, but your sin still make Him suffer along with his people.

Pampering with the girls

If you're not signed up yet (and you live within travelling distance of Bedford) what are you waiting for?

This is a free Christmas event for ladies and it's going to be great. It's the first of hopefully many similar events that are being hosted by the kings arms church, so although there's no cost, they are asking that you book online, so they can get an idea of how many people are coming.

There's going to be professional hairstylists and make-up artists to give you tips for the party season, and I've been asked to do a short demonstration on destressing facial massage.

If you're very lucky, I may even pick you out of the crowd to be my demonstration model.

Mostly it's just going to be a fun event with some mulled wine, some girly chat and being waited on by some of the men.

Book now!!

- Kj

We’ve really been enjoying watching the Frozen Planet series on BBC iplayer as a family on Sunday afternoon’s. Lychee pretty much sleeps through it, but Cosmo is fascinated. So much so that the other week he clicked ‘more like this’ and found ‘The Secret Life of Ice‘ and begged to be allowed to watch. It looked educational so I figured ‘why not’? In fact, it looked a little too educational. I didn’t think he’d last more than a few minutes.

I was wrong.

Not only did we end up watching the entire episode, he asked LOADS of relevant questions. I was amazed. The bit he found most amazing was how ice crystals formed under pressure (hot ice) and how supercooled water could form crystals instantly. In fact he though crystals in general were amazing and so we decided to look at them a bit more closely.

We made Rock Candy lollies.

If you want to have a go (and you should), the basic instructions are here.

We made it a bit more exciting by doing jars with different coloured food dyes and flavourings in them, and put them in our boiler room to speed up the process. The most interesting part was that some of the colours/flavourings behaved differently and the crystals came out all different shapes and sizes, so we were able to talk about large crystals forming more slowly than small crystals etc…

I’d really encourage you to have a go with this experiment. It was great fun. Even a three year old (properly supervised with the hob) is able to carefully measure out the correct amounts of the ingredients and stir until they are completely dissolved.

I wish we’d taken photos, but we didn’t, so here are some I stole from google, but they look pretty much the same.

Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me

Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me - A Memoir of sorts, to give it it's full title, is probably only a 3/5 star book for me.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but if you put 'the CIA' in the title, it sounds like its going to be exciting. It really had very little to do with espionage, and had you taken those two words out of the title it would have reflected the book better. Unfortunately I also probably wouldn't have picked it up.

If you enjoy books about peoples hard lives ('a child called it' et al) then you might like this Christian version (as long as you aren't just in it for the gory details. Ian spares you most of them). I just don't particularly enjoy this genre.

It was inoffensive, just not my style. He's also catholic and has some ideas about the Eucharist and calling to be a priest that not everyone will agree with.

It's well written though, and I think my mum would love it.

- Kj

Thankful 241!

I forgot to post yesterday, so today you get a double whammy!

- Kj

November challenge day 12

- Kj

November challenge day 11

- Kj


Okay, this is the last sourdough recipe, I promise!!

But if you have got plenty of sourdough that needs using up (and you just can't bear to throw out that cup every time you feed it) then this is the recipe for you. The best part is that it doesn't need a lot of prep/rise time, so you can make it for breakfast whilst your kids are getting dressed, even if you get up at the same time as them.

You will need:
  • 2 cups of starter
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  1. Mix all of the ingredients together, except for the water and baking soda
  2. Heat your pan
  3. Mix water and soda together and then fold into your mixture
  4. Ladel into your pan and flip when bubbles start to show through
  5. Serve with something delicious
We serve with everything from fresh fruit and maple syrup to chocolate spread and bananas, to peanut butter and yesterday Will had his with Marmite. Not that I'd recommend it, but just wanted you to know how versatile they are.

My favourite is serving them with Ice cream.

These really are the lightest, fluffiest, melt in your mouth pancakes you will ever cook, and you don't even need any milk.


Sour dough: The Recipes

Several people have been asking me for the sour dough bread recipe I've been using, so here it is:
  • 1 1/2 cups white flour
  • 1 cup of sprouted grain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup of starter
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • optional 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds
Mix all the main ingredients together and knead for as long as you like. The dough should be very wet, that's fine. The wetter you can manage the light your bread will be. If it's too wet you could add some more flour.

Cover and place in a warm spot (we use the boiler room) for 2-3 hours.

Knock the dough back to original size and form into whatever shape you want your bread to be in a well greased tin. If you are using them, now is the time to sprinkle pumpkin seeds on the top.

Cover and place in that warm place for 2-3 hours again.

Bake in the oven at 180c for 35-40 mins.

Et Voila! Delicious sour dough bread.

Now the problem with Sourdough is that the started needs to be fed a lot and you can keep it in the fridge, but then you have to remember to take it out a while before you can start using it. You also have to throw out half of your starter every time you feed it (every day if you keep it on the side like I do)! Rather than throw that starter away, you can give some to your friends or, use it.

You don't necessarily want tons of bread, but there are plenty of other recipes that use sourdough starter. We had some lovely blueberry and mango muffins (thanks to my mother in law bringing us some yummy fresh fruit) this morning, so here is the recipe for that too.

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup starter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup bluberries
  • 1/2 cup of chopped dried mango
Just mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, pour into muffin cases and bake. The blueberries explode like little volcanoes of deliciousness. Mmmmmm......

Thankfulness day 9

Hermie & Friends

My kids love Hermie and Friends or 'Hermie & Wormie' as my son called it for the first few years of his life. It's such a cute show and a welcome relief from the mind-numbing 'junk food' that seems to be designed for preschoolers most of the time.

So when book sneeze sent me a copy of 'Thank You, God, For Blessing Me' by Max Lucado I knew they were going to love it and I wasn't let down. It's models a prayer of thankfulness, in the style of a short poem, and the illustrations are absolutely true to the cartoon series, but drawn in a softer way. It's certainly a book my littlest one will enjoy reading over and over again.
We really liked this book, and would thoroughly recommend it as a gift for someone with a small baby and for £6 on amazon you can't really go wrong.

Thankfulness day 8

Home brew

Hard cider has been by far the easiest of my homemade adventures.

The recipe we used is officially titled 'inmates brew' and it calls for a carton or two of apple juice, lots of sugar and a bucket with a lid. Apparently these items are all available in prison.

What we used was a large crop of apples from the boarding house orchard (beautiful pink apples - I have no idea what variety they are), which we juiced, then added sugar to, and placed in a bucket with a lid.

The instructions suggested shaking/stirring once a day for three days and releasing the air, then leaving for four to six weeks.
We left outs for seven and boy was it firey!! There was also plenty of sediment, so after bottling it needed to be decanted again to get that really clear beautiful liquid.
It does taste remarkably good though, and after a cider tasting evening with friends, we decided it was actually tastier than many of the shop bought varieties. If you have access to some apples in your garden, this is definitely worth a try.

Warmed up and served with spiced cookies, cheese and crackers, this was the perfect autumn drink.

- Kj

Blog flog

As I was perusing mumsnet this week I came across a bloggers section (I know, I'm so behind the times) and someone had the idea of a blog flog.

It's basically a link up where you tell people about four blogs that you love, in the hope that they'll love them too.

I think it sounds awesome, so here are my top four:

1) Ana White - this woman is incredible. I'm totally inspired and always plan to make her projects (she makes it look so easy) but never quite do.
She a wife, mum and carpenter, who is currently building a house for her mum and mum in law to live in.
Note I didn't say that she's hired someone to build; she is actually building that herself

2) un-schooled - this blog is fascinating to me because it's written by a girl who was homeschooled. I like to think it will give me insight into how my daughter might turn out.
She also writes for the huffington post and eat the damn cake, and is genuinely very funny.

3) pioneer woman - I have a love/hate relationship with Ree who authors this blog. I love the sound of her life, I hate her for finding time to do it all and making us mere mortals look bad.
Who has time to round up cattle, homeschool, write a blog and have a cookery show?
It shouldn't be possible.

4) Craftfail - this website makes me feel awesome. You should particularly check out zombie thinker, cupcakes of failure and handmade snot. Remember to check out the comments too, they're epic.

So there you have it, my top four blogs, for today. I'm sure if you ask me another day I'll give you four more, but right now, I'm pretty sure this is it.

- Kj

Thankfulness day 7

Cat allergy, bleurgggh!!!

Sour dough

Well my kefir babies are slowly making their way around Bedford. I have given away eight colonies and I have two people waiting for more.

The lovely thing is, I gave my friend Sarah from staying awake some babies a week or two ago and not only has she already divided and shared them, but she returned the favour by sending me some sour dough starter.
I've never actually tried to make sour dough, and thanks to the report on not so friendly Amish bread on I thought I might just skip it all together; but I do love growing things in my kitchen so I thought I'd give it a go.

It's surprisingly easy. I never really follow instructions properly and I really wanted to make my first loaf in one day, so I rushed through feedings and proving, never letting it sit for longer than four hours, but the bread was great!

I get away with rushing things by having access to a sauna.
Unfortunately, not a real sauna, but a massive boiler room to the boarding house that is accessed from our hallway. Between that and the cold storage in the basement (great from jams and homebrew storage) this old house is a domestic goddess's haven.

So I sat my dough on a shelf in the boiler room, next to the rock candy we're growing, and it doubled in size within two hours.

The bread was springy and airy despite the fact I only kneaded it for about two minutes (and the recipe clearly stated fifteen).

In fact, it was so easy I'm going to have another go with sprouted grain flour tomorrow. See if I don't get better results than I did with the bread machine.

- Kj

Thankfulness day 6

How's my diet?

Mary Flo Riddley of 'Just say YES'was on familylifetoday (ages ago, but I only just got around to listening to the second podcast) and she said something that I've believed in for a long time.

We should treat our children's TV time like their diet.

When evaluating what their watching (and I would extend that to what they are reading) we should ask the questions:

Is it healthy?
Is it junk?
Is it poison?

The thing is, we do allow our kids to eat some junk (some weeks more than others!) but they can't live off it. We insist that they enjoy healthy meals too, and hopefully more of the latter.

What we NEVER do is allow our children to eat poison.

And there are movies and shows that really are poison to your child's spiritual health.

It's easy when they are small, everything seems to be educational for preschoolers, and there are only one or two shows that I flat out ban in our home. It kind of like feeding the baby. All foods made for babies avoid too much sugar or salt, and would never contain alcohol or anything else we consider dangerous.

It's as they get older that the temptation for junk starts to arrive.

Even as a toddler most of the books Will read were a list of words or actions that kipper did.

Now the books he chooses have more complex storylines, and more and more I find myself taking the library books off him and saying that something isn't appropriate.

It got me to thinking though, how often do I allow myself to consume poison?

As an adult, we don't hold to the same standards we impose on our kids. I can't tell you the number of times I've said 'it's just for grown ups' about various items in the kitchen cupboard, but I'm starting to think I'm maybe doing the same with my reading/viewing.

I don't read poison, I avoid watching horror movies and pornography, but how much junk am I consuming? Or more importantly how many healthy choices am I making?

I have a compulsion to finish a book once I've started it, even if it's no good.

I want to commit to making healthier choices for myself too.

Who's with me?

- Kj

Thankfulness day 5

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