Friday, 26 February 2016

Seven Quick Takes, ep. 5: Emptying my Pocket(s)

I've been using the Pocket add-on for Firefox since before it was called Pocket. It's a great way of saving things to read later, but somehow, I tend to forget that part... 
For today's 7QT, I've sifted through the 37 (37!) pages of links I haven't read yet to bring you some highlights.

I find colouring to be quite a meditative experience, to the point where I've used it as an aid to prayer in the past: having something to do with my hands helps to focus my mind. From a more practical perspective, my kids love it if I'm doing "my" colouring whilst they do theirs! Hobbycraft are offering a number of free colouring pages for adults, so if you haven't tried it yet, why not give it a go?

Today's readings at Mass focused on themes of greed and jealousy. I think the time has come for me to read this article on St John of the Cross and overcoming self-love, "the biggest enemy of mercy".

I've always been a "list" person - for me, few things are more satisfying than crossing something off a list. Combine that with a love of reading, and you get one of my favourite things: reading lists. This one has a lot of things I haven't read on it, and covers a broad range of themes.  

Kendra's reflections on Luke 17:11-19  at Blessed is She really hit a nerve when I first read them, to the point where I saved the article to come back to. We do a lot of thinking about family size around here at the moment, and it's fascinating to see how that works for other people.
It can be hard to carve out specific times for prayer whilst herding toddlers 24/7. 10 really short prayers to say during the day offers some great ways to build prayer into our daily routine.

On a completely unrelated note, potatoes.
This video by the former British Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, looks fascinating. I've only seen the first five minutes (like I said, toddlers), but it's on my list for next time I have a quiet half-hour (hopefully before 2023...)

Happy weekend, internets!

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't the Lyceum!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Five quick ways to save energy

Linking up with Ashley for Five Favourites... hop on over to see what everyone else is up to!

I know, I know, we've heard it all before. Turn off appliances, switch off the lights when you leave a room, etc. etc.

Here, for a change, are five quick tips you may not have come across.


Mothers of littles: you know how it is. You go to make yourself a hot drink. You set the kettle to boil, but whilst that's happening, someone takes a tumble, or whacks someone else over the head with a plastic dinosaur, or tries to draw on the baby with permanent marker. By the time you remember you were making a drink, the water's gone cold again, and the cycle starts over...

My husband actually came up with this solution for me: boil the kettle once, early in the morning, and fill up a Thermos for the rest of the day. That way, when I go to make a cup of tea, I can just make a cup of tea. Getting to drink it before it gets cold is a whole 'nother matter, but hey, we're making progress, right? 

As a bonus, doing this has dramatically reduced the number of times a day we have to boil the kettle, and kettles are, to use the French term, energivores (why do we not have this word in English? WHY, internet? WHY?).

2.  This is the only thing standing between me and a tumble dryer. Well, that and the fact that we don't have space for one in the house, and the electrics in the garage are decidedly dodgy. It's basically a heated airer which speeds up drying time. With three children under five and a husband with a manual job, we generate a lot of laundry, so the DrySoon is a real godsend on rainy days when I can't hang the washing out (i.e. 90% of the year. This is Northern England, people).

How do I love thee? Let me count the loads...

 Another laundry one: play "beat the washing machine". We often find ourselves having to pre-rinse things (particularly dirty nappies - we're that kind of family). When you launch a rinse cycle on most washing machines, it isn't just a rinse cycle, and the machine will go on to spin the items. Spotting when the machine has finished rinsing so we can stop it from spinning stuff that's about to be re-washed anyway has become a bit of a game in our house.

4. Have your groceries delivered. I know this isn't an option in all areas, but we live within the delivery area for 6 different supermarkets. They often have introductory offers with money off your first shop and/or free delivery, and our preferred supermarket has delivery slots from just £1. A delivery van out doing the rounds consumes much less energy than if all of those customers drove to and from the store. Also, it means I don't have to do battle with the kids in the middle of the aisles. Win-win.

5. Plan your cooking. Not long after I graduated, I was living in a house-share with three others, and our gas was on a card meter, meaning that if the card ran out, we had to go to the shop down the road and pay for a topup. Let's just say we were very, very conscious of how much energy we were using! I got into the habit of having the oven on once or twice a week, and planning all my meals from there: preparing things in advance to reheat in the microwave, doing one batch of baking a week and freezing things to defrost at a later date, and so on. Thankfully, we no longer have a card meter, but I still try to optimise oven usage as far as possible.

How about you? Any tips?

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Hymns of the Week: 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year C

I'm running a day behind this week because, well, life happened, but here are this week's hymn choices:

Entrance: God is Love, His the Care
Offertory: Blest are You, Lord
Communion: Bless the Lord my Soul 
(can you see a theme developing here? Yes? Good!)
Recessional: Guide me, O Thou Great Redeemer

In other news, I spotted a minivan full of Jehovah's Witnesses a couple of streets away this morning, so I may well have them to deal with this afternoon... the problem is that we usually agree with them on their preferred topics for discussion, and they don't quite know how to handle that. I've even tried to change the subject to transubstantiation, Our Lady or the Holy Trinity on a number of occasions to try and get rid of them, but they refuse to deviate from their "assigned" subject. Anyone have any tips?

Friday, 19 February 2016

Seven Quick Takes, episode 4: In which it DOESN'T RAIN

Friday = Seven Quick Takes. That's just how it is around here.

1. I'm pretty sure it HASN'T RAINED here this week! (That's kind of a Big Thing around here, even in summer). Our lawn is still squelchy, but the water doesn't come up over the tops of our shoes each time we set foot on it. This is progress.

2. Ze Husband took the big kids out on Saturday afternoon in search of something. They didn't find it, so he ordered it off Amazon, and it arrived on Sunday (he has Prime. I still can't get my head round things being delivered on a Sunday. It turned out to be a box of Kapla, which is widespread in France, but virtually unheard of in the UK. It also turned out not to be for the children, as I discovered when I came down after putting the baby to bed on Sunday evening...

"Go forth, and make disciples of all nations..."
It's basically a load of identical wooden blocks which you stack in various ways in order to make things.

A couple more pictures (from the outside):


We named the church Notre Dame des Pins (Our Lady of the Pine Trees). It survived for about thirty seconds after the children got up the following morning.

3. Being off sugar for Lent is HARD. I've been eating a lot of fruit to try and make up for it (I'm still feeding the baby at the moment, so I need the energy), but it isn't quite the same. Also, Granny sent cake.

4. It was half term this week, meaning I had all three children home, nearly all of the time. I know this is normal for some families, but I just cannot even BEGIN to see how they deal with it. Mx, in particular, needs to be around people all of the time, and just doesn't get that no, I can't stand around waiting for her to finish on the toilet when the toddler is trying to repaint the bathroom toothpaste and the baby needs feeding. Aaaaaaaarghhhhh.

5. On a similar note, I'm trying to work out how to manage when naps don't happen. The big two are in bunk beds now, and Mx stops R from going to sleep, then the pair of them tend to empty a wardrobe and a couple of drawers of clothes onto the floor. Not good, people. Not good. Suggestions?

6. I just found out that the mass setting our parish uses - with a Gloria which spreads over 6 pages of A4 photocopies and falls off the organ on a regular basis - was actually in the back of the hymn books all along. This represents a HUGE improvement to my organist-quality-of-life! (I'm not a huge fan of the mass setting itself, but that's another issue for another day).

7. No, I think I'll have to stop at six quick takes for this week. I'm seriously lacking inspiration, and my son is whacking me around the head with a reflective cycling armband... which I think means he loves me, but I'm not 100% sure.

Head over to Kelly's for more (better) Quick Takes!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Five Favourites: Books for Boys

A quick disclaimer to start with: there is nothing to say girls can't read these books. I've just noticed boys can be a little bit... harder to please, shall we say. 

I've tried to pick books you may not have heard of, or which may not come to mind immediately - Lewis, Tolkien, Dahl and Rowling, I'm looking at you. Age-wise, think 7 to early teens, depending on the reading ability of the child in question. They'd also work as read-alouds.


1. Jules Verne, Around the World in 80 Days. 

Ze Husband would never forgive me if I didn't include Jules Verne on this list. He was pretty prolific, so if this one goes down well, then there are a lot more to read. Also, the books are in the public domain, so everybody wins.

2. Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons.

The first in a series of 12. I may be slightly biased, having grown up just down the road from the places the books are based on, but objectively, they're still pretty good. There's also a TV series.

3. Lucy M. Boston, The Children of Green Knowe.

I loved this book, and its sequels, as a child; I seem to remember my brother liking them too. It's a ghost story, but not a scary one. Actually, almost everything in the Faber Children's Classics catalogue is pretty good.

4. Gerald Durrell, My Family and Other Animals.

Funny. Very, very funny.

5. Terry Pratchett, Truckers

Truckers and its sequels, Diggers and Wings, are some of the funniest books I've ever read. I wouldn't recommend the Discworld books for this age group, but the Bromeliad trilogy is a work of genius. A note of warning, however: Pratchett was a very vocal advocate for euthanasia. This doesn't come across in his books, but it's something parents may wish to be aware of.

Happy reading! 

Linking up with Ashley at The Big White Farmhouse for Five Favourites. Hop on over and share the link-up love!

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

In which lions and tigers may be Catholic

So we went to the zoo this weekend...

I didn't ask if they were only doing it for Lent or if it's a year-round thing.

Also, there was a lemur pile-up...

Ok, the photo is dreadful, but you can see why I had to share!

Monday, 15 February 2016

Hymns of the Week: 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year C

This Sunday, we celebrate the Transfiguration, a relatively easy feast to pick hymns for...

Entrance: Immortal, Invisible
Offertory: Lord, Accept the Gifts we Offer
Communion: Be Still, for the Presence of the Lord
Recessional: Christ be our Light
Comments and suggestions welcome, as usual!

Friday, 12 February 2016

Seven Quick Takes, episode 3: in which spring is sort-of sprung, and the sewing machine is STILL broken

Goooood morning the Internets! It's Friday, which means it's time for Seven Quick Takes...

seven quick takes friday 2 

1. Lent is now upon us! This year, we're going vegetarian, and I'm cutting out added sugar. I tried the sugar thing last year, but I was first-trimester-pregnant, and the only things that helped me feel a bit less nauseous had sugar in them, sooooo... that didn't last long. I suspect Ze Husband will be more affected by the meat thing than I am (he eats out a lot for work), so good luck to him.

2. Read this. Please. Then share it with ten other people or you'll have bad luck every third Sunday when the moon is full (wait. This isn't some dodgy chain email). Brilliant.

3. We're probably a few years behind the rest of the world on this one, but Ze Husband and I have just started watching 30 Rock. It's fantastic.

4. We're going to the zoo tomorrow! Woooooo! My parents got us an annual family pass for Christmas - an amazing not-stuff present if ever there was one.

5. So this happened in our garden this week: 

Followed closely by this:

It's been a very mild winter, so the plants have decided it's Spring. In February. We're just hoping there won't be another cold snap to damage the plants.

6. My sewing machine is still not fixed, which somewhat limited the opportunities for finishing projects this week...


We're trying the bean jar technique in an attempt to improve the 4YO's behaviour at meal times. If she eats with her hands, yells at the table, rocks her chair,  pokes her brother with a fork or similar, a bean will move from the "happy" jar to the "sad" jar. No beans left in the happy jar at the end of the day? No dessert. We'll see how it goes.

Thanks to Kelly for hosting again!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Mxed out

Life round here has been pretty hectic recently. Ze Husband has been working away a LOT, and I'm still working out how to do this whole three-children thing. The four-year-old is particularly difficult at the moment, but sometimes you just have to laugh...

On that note, a few pearls of "wisdom" from Mx this week:

"I'm going to do my toothpaste myself. And you are NOT my mother".

(to R) "Eat your tea right now or I'm going to put you in jail". (This one was in English, and we usually speak French at home, so I suspect she picked that one up at preschool...)

Me: "I don't want to see you doing that with your teeth, you could damage them".
Mx: "I haven't damaged my teeth".
Me: "I still don't want to see you doing it".
Mx: "Well I'll wait til you've gone away then".

(Following Mass on Ash Wednesday): " God is going to come down from the sky, and djzhum the baddies, and then make Jesus' nasty bobos [hurts] better, and then we'll all go to Heaven on an aeroplane". (One of the words for heaven in French is le ciel, litt. the sky, and that's the one she used - hence the aeroplane).

 Charming, isn't she? ;-)

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Reflecting on the #ashtag

Ash Wednesday, 4pm. Only one person so far has drawn my attention to the fact I have a "dirty mark on my head" - testament to the fact we live in a very Catholic town, if ever there was one! Walking round with a pre-schooler and a baby who are also wearing ashes probably helps, too - it looks rather less accidental when there are lots of you ;-) .

Today's Gospel, from Matthew 6, raised a lot of questions in my mind in relation to the ashes. We're not supposed to "make a scene", to publicise the fact that we're fasting; we're supposed to do these things "in secret"... but then we walk round with ashes on our heads, which is, well, kind of visible...

When I lived in France, the general practice (at least in our area) was to sprinkle ashes over our heads, getting around the issue. I suspect the reasoning behind the method relates to the French focus on laicité, notably the fact that public service workers (such as teachers) are not permitted to display outward signs of their religion, like crucifixes, and ashes would be a Bit Of A Problem (BOAP).

Over the last few weeks, I've been thinking more about Matthew 6 and about the positive implications of walking around with ashes on our foreheads one day a year. So, without further ado:

  • The opportunity for evangelisation: People are inclined to stop and let you know about your "dirty mark". Often, they will ask questions, giving us a great opportunity to share our faith.
  • Humility: Yes, it's a bit of an odd thing to do, in a society which values conformity. People may think we look a bit silly - but it's a great reminder that what people think of us is not important. We are children of God, our duty is to be pleasing to Him.The ashes are also an important reminder of our mortality - from dust we were created, to dust we will return.
  • Community: for one day in the year, "spot the Catholic" becomes so much easier! There's a beautiful feeling of fellowship when you spot another person wearing their ashes in the street, you exchange glances, smile at each other...
  • Profession of faith: we belong to God; we are marked out as sons and daughters of the Most High. Every time I catch a glimpse of my reflection, I am reminded of that fact. The ashes are a sign to us, more than to others.
  • A gentle nudge to others: hey! It's Lent! That's what all the pancakes were for yesterday!   

Since that (conveniently) makes five, I'm linking up with Ashley at  The Big White Farmhouse for Five Favourites!

Monday, 8 February 2016

Hymns of the Week: 1st Sunday of Lent, Year C

Lent is on its way... so it's out with the Alleluias, and in with the penitential hymns! (Among other things, of course. We can't JUST sing about being sorry, after all - we need to praise God for his mercy, too).

Entrance: God of Mercy and Compassion (the version in our hymn book is not the one I'm used to - I suspect this version is newer. The lyrics are nice, but, well, it's not quite the same...)
Offertory: My song is Love Unknown (it's Valentine's Day, a bit of Love seemed appropriate!)
Communion: Be Not Afraid
Recessional: Be Thou My Vision (one of my all-time favourites).
Comments and suggestions welcome, as usual!

Friday, 5 February 2016

Seven Quick Takes, ep. 2: Photo edition!

I was having a play with the camera earlier this week, and decided to take a few pictures of things in our house which make me smile...


This dapper pair, by the very talented Ruth Green. We found them at a printmakers exhibition (PrintFest) and couldn't resist.



The string snail. He lived in Ze Husband's grandparents' kitchen for many years. Now, he lives with us.

The aptly-named Fluffy Mouse - Mx's favourite soft toy. We thought it was a boy, until it requested a dress and matching slippers (which are now somewhere at the bottom of the toy box). Mx helped make the dress, then Fluffy Mouse made her a matching skirt with the same fabric whilst she was asleep ;-)


Meet François-Régis (who would have been very jealous had I posted a picture of FM without one of him, too). Named after a French Jesuit saint - we thought it suited him. FR is R's special friend.


The Holy Family... with llamas! Probably meant to be for Christmas, but we leave it out all year round, because, well, llamas. (Llamas are a Thing in my family. I'll tell you about it sometime).

6. I've run out of useable pictures (no photgraphy skills, terrible light here at the moment, etc.),bringing this photo-dump to a merciful end! ;-)

7. R is trying on all of my shoes as I type. The boy LOVES to dress up. 

Happy weekend, the Internets!  

Linking up with Kelly for 7QT - head on over and share the Friday blog-love!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Year of Finishing Projects, ep. 2

So I found this fabric...

Hard to resist, right? DUCKS!

My grandad ("Great Maddad", as my children call him) was in need of some new pyjamas, and being fairly elderly, he has some pretty fixed ideas of what he likes (drawstrings) and dislikes (jersey fabric, elasticated waistbands, sparrows and moles, amongst other things).

And so...

(Kindly modelled by Ze Husband, so I could check the leg length. They were about a foot too long; whilst being of similar build, Great Maddad is significantly shorter). 

The sewing machine cut out just as I got to the buttonholes, so I had to go to my parents' to finish them, resulting in a three-hour argument with Mam's sewing machine - like all sewing machines, it has its own little quirks, and I'd forgotten how to get round them.

I'm thinking of using the offcuts to make R some matching ones once the sewing machine is fixed...

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Five Favourites: "family" words

I'm pretty sure every family has them - you know, those words that only you understand. I thought I'd share a few of ours for this week's Five Favourites...  

1. Knuf. This one came about when Ze Husband and I were first together, when a lot of our communications happened via MSN messenger (he was in France, I was in Scotland, these things happen). For some reason, the shortcut for an emoticon with two people hugging was (knuf) - and so a hug came to be called a "knuf". (We have since discovered that it's actually an abbreviation of the Durch word for "hug", which is "knuffel").

2. Budum. This one is derived from the French word "bonhomme", meaning man, guy, etc. Our son gets called "petit bonhomme" a lot, and Mx's version of this was "tibudum", which rapidly evolved into "budum". We use "budum" wherever "bonhomme" might be used in French - so "budums lego" are lego minifigs, "budum de neige" is a snowman... you get the picture.

3. Quickquick. Mx's earliest word for running - fairly self-explanatory, really. Cf. quickquick shoes (trainers/sneakers), quickquick clothes (running things), etc.

4. Tad. A coin. This one comes from my brother. For some reason, its meaning has narrowed over time, and tad is now only used to refer to money for the offertory collection at church.

5.Snorfle. To snore. Ze Husband genuinely thought this was the correct English word for quite a long time. We like it, so it stuck. There are a few more words of this type.

Family words really are fascinating things - they seem to play a part in creating and maintaining special bonds between brothers and sisters, supporting the collective memory, etc. Kendra at Catholic All Year has a great post on family culture - for me, words can be a really big part of that (but then I would say that, being a translator and all). I'd be delighted to hear about some of your own "family" words, what they mean and where they come from!

Linking up with The Big White Farmhouse for Five Favourites - thanks again to Ashley for hosting.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Hymns of the Week: 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Each week, I aim to share the hymns I've chosen for the coming Sunday, based on Mass readings, liturgical seasons, etc. I won't include Mass settings, Alleluias etc., since different parishes all have their own traditions.

Entrance: Will you come and follow me?
Offertory: Here I am, Lord
Communion: Come down, O Love Divine
Recessional: Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven

Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments - the more the merrier!