Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Winner of the Psalms and a Box of Blessings Giveaway

 So its Wednesday and I know that you are all eager to know who won the Psalm Box of Blessings kindly supplied by Christian Book Discounters and of course the CD by Rhema Marvanne.

 And the Winner is Number 5 entry Brigitte and her comment was: 

Ps 121 has been a huge encouragement to me, and I just have to look out the window at the mountain to remember that "my help comes from the Lord".

 Well done Brigitte!  

Psalms is possibly one of my favourite books in the Bible.  I feel like somehow it speaks into every situation I am faced with.
 I love the fact that these writers wrestled with God, praised Him in their circumstances, questioned Him, doubted, or expressed their frustrations at the unfairness of life. Real people with real struggles.  No matter who we are, we are faced with daily challenges - family, finances, children, work - so many.  But within the pages of the book of Psalms, there is a place where we can be refreshed.  Where we can drink deeply and have our peace and joy restored.
 Part of that is as a result of thanksgiving.  When we stop focusing on what we don't have but what we do have- our perspective changes.  Some of you may remember 1000 Gifts - a List of Thankfulness by Children for Children, an activity I did with the children to remind them of how fortunate they truly are.

Because our American friends are celebrating Thanksgiving and we want to celebrate with them, even though they are on the other side of the world, there is a lovely Giveaway up for grabs.  

Thanks to Christian Book Discounters, who have generously supplied our Giveaway for this super prize of 101 Promises from PsalmsOne lucky reader will receive these 51 special inspiration and blessings from the Psalms. Each glossy card features a verse from Psalms and its packaged in a little sturdy storage box.  They are delightful and would make a perfect gift for someone special over Christmas.

And because I am feeling really generous and kind - because it's Friday and because I am really a generous and kind type of person (when I want to be), I thought I would add another delightful gift to the winner of this giveaway.

This young singer, Rhema Marvanne is only 8 years old and has an inspiring testimony of how she came to sing.  This is her story. (She has  a website where you can find out so much more about her and her mother who passed away after suffering from ovarian cancer.)

And so as part of this Giveaway, I will be giving away her CD "Believe" with tracks which include: * Just as I am *Over the rainbow * I thank God *Hallelujah * Just as I am * Hurt * No more night  

Her voice and her story are touching. I marvel at how someone so small can be so talented! But all for God's glory!  Again I am reminded of how we should never underestimate what God can do through our children.

This is How to Enter the Giveaway

Simply leave a comment and tell me what you favourite Psalm or verse in Psalms is.

Anyone can enter our Giveaway AND you can enter even if you have won one of the Giveaways before.  Its open to anyone whether you live across the ocean or next door.
The Winner will be announced on Wednesday.  

And for those of you that love Giveaways and if you want to enter another Giveaway, why not head over to Jenni C's who has a pair of children's Green Cross shoes to give to one lucky reader.

Have a super weekend and special times with family and friends

Monday, November 28, 2011

Intangible Giving by Brynne Mack

‘Tis the season of trees and lights.  ‘Tis the season of toys and clothes.  ‘Tis the season of  the 3D HD TV and the latest gaming system.  Ornaments and gift cards.  You have to wonder…what does any of this have to do with Christ?
The tradition of giving gifts to our family and friends as the wise men gave gifts of gold, frankincense,  and myrrh to Jesus isn’t just hard on our wallets, it’s hard on our souls.  We become so obsessed with material giving (and, unfortunately, in some case receiving,)  that we forget the biggest gift of all that was given that day:  our Savior.  

Here is a way to teach our families about the Lord and give priceless gifts without spending a penny.

Gather your family.  Discuss the gifts that Christ gave us throughout his time on earth.  In our household we spend a lot of time talking about the wisdom and learning that Jesus brought.  We value this greatly because without it we would not know the way to salvation.  But Christ gave us so much that you can talk about whatever your family thinks is most important.  The important thing is emphasizing how the gifts Christ gave us weren’t tangible. 

Now have everyone commit to giving an intangible gift this year.  It can be to a friend.  It can be to a family member. It could be to Jesus himself.  You can either share your gift ideas or keep them private.  For younger children, the ideas can be more simple and will probably need to be more fully discussed.  For example, hugs as a gift could be appropriate.  As children get older, you can discuss things a little more fully.  “I’m going to give commitment to my football coach this year.”

“Okay.  And how are you going to give that commitment?”

“I’m going to show up to every practice.  I’m going to show up on time.”
“That’s great.  And maybe while you’re there you could make sure you’re always playing your hardest, too.  That’s an important part of commitment.”

One gift that I, personally, could give this year is the gift of music to my mother.  Despite the fact that I get embarrassed every time I play the piano (as my fingers stumble across keys attempting to play tunes they knew long, long ago,) my mother absolutely loves it when I play.  Somehow she is deaf to all my faults.   I could even practice so that when I did play for her there wouldn’t be so many errors that she would have to overlook.

Other ideas for intangible gifts include giving respect to one’s parents, love to ones neighbor, empathy to anyone around us that is going through a hard time we can relate to,  prayers and praise to God, and quality time to our children.
Brynne Mack is a 20-something student, mother, and Pittsburgh native.  She has always valued savings and spirituality, but got really serious about it with the start of her young family.  You can check out ways to save on things to do, things to cook, and things you have to do anyways on her blog, Femme Frugality.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

40 Reasons Why I Homeschool My Children

After almost another year of homeschooling, I often revisit and reflect on some of my reasons for homeschooling.  As the end of the year draws near, and I get tired during this last stretch - its good to remind myself why I do this thing called - Homeschooling

1.  I get to spend the day with them every day - what a privilege. 
2.  I get to witness first hand how they grasp a new concept, learn to read or watch the excitement on their faces when they have learnt something new
3.  5 o'clock, 6 o'clock and sometimes 7 o'clock wake ups are only for special events or occasions
4.  We sit down together as a family for breakfast, lunch and supper.
5.  My children get to work at a pace that suits them, not based on the average of a class
6.  We get to learn by seeing, doing and investigating - learning through life

7.  Textbooks are a resource - not the focus
8.  Their subjects are not limited to the National Curriculum, they can focus on a lot more subjects that interest them.
9.  I can slow things down when they struggle, and speed things up when they understand.
10.  No homework!
11. And because there is no homework, we have time to spend enjoying our afternoons together.
12.  We learn together, I don't just talk and they have to listen but we engage in meaningful conversations about subjects.
13.  No day is the same
14.  Life is less hectic

16.  Friends are not just according to class or age group but extend from really young to very old.  They learn to interact comfortably with anyone.
17.  Colourful bright books, that are alive and interesting, no 50 year old textbooks!

18.  Special days and celebrations can be enjoyed
19.  Flexible terms, school days and working hours
20.  Family holidays during off peak season when the price is just right.
21.  I can easily see when they don't grasp a subject and take corrective measures straight away, rather than waiting until an exam, a report or a call from the teacher.
22. Learning opportunities and experiences are not limited to "school hours" but life becomes school.
23.  I don't miss out on their lives, I am part of it every step of the way
24. A healthier learning environment - less distractions and unnecessary waste of time

25.  FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM! (as Mel Gibson says it best in Braveheart) - I am not bound by time schedules set by others, work set by others, sport set by others where neither I nor my children have any say.
26.  I get a chance to learn subjects or concepts that I never learnt or heard about
27.  I used to think - I can't - I don't have patience, I could never - Now I know I CAN!
28.  Laughter and special moments - we laugh a lot, and simply enjoy life
29.  Close relationships with family and extended family
30.  Being able to study the Word of God with my children and include that as part of their education
31.  This teacher cares more about their well being, what they learn and their destinies than any teacher they could ever have in a school.

32.  To fulfill the calling to disciple my children
34.  Teachable moments
35.  Children teaching each other, special moments as Declan teaches Chad reading or Maths.  I don't have to teach them everything.
36. Hours and hours of reading the most amazing living books!
37.  Learning under blankets on cold days, while sipping hot chocolate
38.  Learning on a picnic blanket on the grass, on hot summer days
39.  Allowing my children to learn according to their own learning style
40.  Finances - its not the cheapest way to school but with 4 children it definitely beats a private school's fees

I would love to hear from you.  What are some of the reasons you homeschool?  Is it because you love spending quality time with them?  Do you enjoy those special moments of revelation?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Are you living romance or just reading about it?

I have a confession to make - oh yes, here I go again. 
I used to read mountains and mountains of Mills and Boon. You may never have read one, but you've probably heard about them.  Tragic I know.  My mother loved them too, so she never saw the harm in me reading them. I would.  I don't want my children brought up on these types of books (hope I am not standing on some offended toes - but hey we all have our own flavour).

I know that this type of reading can lead to expectations that cannot be satisfied by my husband.  The happy ever after - perfect orchestrated moments - moments only found in movies or books like these - and the alpha male (yes you know the one - always good looking, always successful and most of the time fairly wealthy too).

I did some research as I am no expert (seriously!), except in watching chick-flicks which I confess (OK this is the second confession) are some of my favourite movies.  I love the happy ever after, the laughter, the fun - and yet at the back of my mind something always bothers me a little about these - and sometimes they bother me a lot!

But where does this leave my husband and my relationship?

Psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery reports she is seeing more and more women “clinically addicted” to romantic books, and that for many women these novels promote dissatisfaction with their real relationships. Some experts claim there are parallels between what happens to a man when he watches pornography and what happens to a woman when she reads a romance book. While other experts say addiction may be too strong a word, sex addiction expert Paula Hall agrees that romance books can become an “unhealthy preoccupation.”

And it’s not just novels. In 2008, a study at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, in Scotland, found that romantic comedy films promoted unrealistic expectations when it comes to love.

Dr Moore says “Pornography and romance novels aren’t (or at least aren’t always) morally equivalent, but they ‘work’ the same way. Both are based on an illusion. Pornography is based on the illusion of a perfectly willing, always aroused partner without the ‘work’ of relational intimacy. Often romance novels or their film equivalents do the same thing for the emotional needs of women that pornography offers for the erotic urges of men.

“And in both cases, what the ‘market’ wants is sameness. Men want the illusion of women who look just like women but are, in terms of sexual response, just like men. Women want the illusion of men who are ‘real’ men, but, in terms of a concept of romance, are just like women. In both artificial eros and artificial romance, there is the love of the self, not the mystery of the other.”

Here are some interesting reads, of people who have struggled in their marriage due to their interest and preoccupation with romantic novels.

1.  I was addicted to romance
2.  Are you in love with romance?

Now that is not to say that I don't read romance and watch romance and in fact if you are lucky - you may even find a review on a book of that genre.  However, it is definitely not the only thing that I read or watch.  At any given time I am reading 5 to 10 books.  Crazy I know but it depends what I am in the mood for - a biography, a devotional, parenting book, marriage book, homeschooling book, novel.  But there is a healthy variety.  The problem comes when we start to live more through the lives of the novels we read, rather than our own lives

I especially enjoy a good crime novel but my eldest son loves to read, and often will pick up one of my books and start reading.  One day, I had one of Michael Connelly's novels lying around and saw Declan picking up the book to read the back and my first thought was to rip the book out of his hands and hide it under my pillow.  The scenes are often very graphic as many murder scenes are, just not the right type of thing for a child to read.  So I changed my reading philosophy.  I never wanted to worry about them ever reading one of my books again.  I decided to only choose books, that should they fall into the "wrong hands", it wouldn't matter.

I have realised that so much of what I read, can affect my marriage, my children, my mindset and my heart. And if it is going to affect them, I want to make sure that its in a good way! 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  What are your favourite books?  Do you like mystery novels or does historical fiction capture your imagination?  Who is your favourite author?

Linking up with Unveiled Wife

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Sacred Inbox

I don't know about you, but as a homeschooling mother of 4, wife to a husband who runs his own business from home, homemaker, daughter, mother of sports lovers, and all the other things I could list - I don't have time for twaddle ( a word I borrowed from Charlotte Mason).  I get so many emails every day, I don't want to waste precious time reading junk - but there are some definite must-reads that I really enjoy!

1.  Confessions of a Pioneer Woman
I love the way this lady writes and the fact that she has red hair, kind of entitles her to my support.  Her posts are funny, aesthetically appealing and she never sends out space fillers. And if she has I have never noticed.  (though this probably doesn't say much, I am not always the most observant)  In fact she has been declared one of the top 10 most influential woman bloggers globally.  I mean when she has a competition sometimes there are almost 40 000 entries - that's a lot of readers!

2.  A Holy Experience
I could just open her website to listen to her music.  I feel like a peace descends on my soul when I listen to the music she has there.  Now I know this sounds so superficial but let me just say, she writes beautifully. She was also the motivation behind the 1000 gifts article, I started writing with the children.  You should read the introduction to her book here. She will have you simply riveted from the beginning.

3.  Wonderopolis - where the wonders of learning never cease.
The title says it all.  Intriguing articles like:  *  are jellyfish made of jelly? *  how do you build a tunnel underwater? *  do dogs shop at flea markets?  I love the emails that arrive every day and the children have a chance to learn something new every day.  (in fact so do the parents)

4.  Botany photo of the day from the Botanical Garden and Centre for plant research
Awesome photographs, you could get lost here.  You subscribe and they send you one every day with a write up, for the plebs like me who have no idea what they are looking and would like to know more.

5.  Se7en
Actually she's se7en +1.  A local star who has 8 children, who home schools them and still manages to blog!  And I thought I had a busy life.  Her blogs are always full of crafts, recipes and lots of photographs.  The fact that she lives about 2km from me, means that her blogs are especially relevant.  Sometimes when you read blogs based in other countries to your own, they are entertaining but seem to be unreachable or unattainable, but with hers I get some real concrete ideas.

6.  The Happy Housewife
I love her emails especially now before Christmas because she has is doing 100 days of homemade Christmas gifts.  The gifts are really quite easy and not expensive to make.  You may need to go back to see the older posts, as the ideas are already on #66 but with more than a month to go, you have lots of time to play catch-up

What are some of your favourite emails?  Do they come from specific blogs?  Are they educational sites?   I would love to add some to my list - so go ahead and comment!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Walk Green Giveaway

Shoes, glorious shoes (I am sure Oliver would have said these words too if his tummy wasn't so empty) - oh yes they really are glorious.  I love them because I always need them.  My children permanently have hole enriched shoes that have been torn, tormented and terminated as they ramp, J-Board or just simply exist them at every waking moment.

So I have made sure to enter a wonderful giveaway on Jenni C's, she is offering an awesome prize of a pair of shoes for children - yep and they are the really nice ones!  The Green Cross ones! (the ones I always eye but never buy because my budget doesn't allow for it)

  It could be a really lovely Christmas gift or those shoes you need for your vacation trip. 

And look out for a new giveaway tomorrow - some more special Christmas gifts to win tomorrow !

Thursday, November 10, 2011

1000 gifts - a List of Thankfulness for Children by Children

This is a guest post - by my children.  Yes by them.  No they didn't sit on the computer and write this but I wrote this for them as they gave me their list.  Children are funny, when they are young everything revolves around them but as they grow they start to look outside of themselves and see others and their needs.  If your prayers are answered, they will eventually put others needs before their own and look outward instead of inward.

I recently found an amazing blog A Holy Experience and the author, Ann Voskamp has written a book "One Thousand Gifts".  This prompted me to encourage my children to be thankful for what they have received from God.

So I decided to start a process with the children of making a list of things that they are thankful for - often things that they take for granted.  Its been a long walk and required quite a lot of patience (on my part as they get easily distracted) but here it is. 

As parents, why not make your own list with your children.  Remind them of God's goodness and all that they should be thankful for.  You can help God transform their minds and to change they way they look at life and hopefully as you do this with your precious children - you too will be transformed.  And don't forget to send us your list so we can grow this list to 1000.  This is not just for small children, try it with your teens too.

I haven't edited this much, as this is what they said in their own unique way and wanted to capture some of their childlike qualities.

We are grateful:....

1. ...for  friends so that they can play with us and have fun with us
2.  ...that we can breath so we can live
3.  ...that God created us in his own image and if we weren't we wouldn't look very nice, there would be all these funky people like in Star Wars with 3 eyes and big brain heads, with tails growing out of our heads
4.  ... for Nippers
5.  ... for our car so we can drive around in it
6. ... and glad we have beds so we don't have to sleep on a rock hard floor or uncomfortable couches, and then we would really get cold
7.  ... for our clothes so we don't have to walk around naked and get arrested
8.  ... for cake, yes yummy - can we have cake?
9. ... that we have a cat to take away all the bugs, mouses and Christmas beetles
10.  ... for technology like computers and laptops
11. ... for a brain to think otherwise we would be cuckoo, or we would have a lack of wisdom and be wisdumb
12. ...for bikes for fun
13. be able to build ramps so we can ramp with them with the bikes, and that ramps are not in the air
14.  ... for rain so that we don't have to water the plants and to fill up the sea, it sucks from the sea and then fills the sea
15. ... for light bulbs to light up our rooms in the dark
16.  ... that we have a brush and broom and pan so that we don't have to walk in dust
17.  ... for shoes so that we don't have to walk on cold hard floors, or sharp things or cut ourselves or slip
18. ... for family to take care of us
19. ... for animals to study and learn about
20. ... that we have teeth to chew our food so we don't choke and die.  Now we can chew our food and only choke a little.
21. ... that we have food so we won't starve to death, or won't die of starvation
22. ... we have money to buy things
23. ... for doors to keep the water out when it rains
24.  ...that there is water so that we don't die of water starvation or thirst
25.  ... for the sea to surf in and to play in, and no thank you for the sharks
26.  ...for our sister Ruthie, and be able to play with her - and she's our sister, no one else's
27.  ... that we have a new cousin, to increase our cousin level.  A long time ago we only had 3 cousins and now we have lots.  4 cousins now.
28.  ... that Jesus loves us, and saved us
29.  ... that Jesus loved us so much that he died for us
30. ... for brothers and sisters to play with us - though they don't always want to play with us, sometimes they just want to read
31.  ... that we can laugh and play and work, though not so grateful about the work
32. ... that we have a mom to teach us
33. ... we have hearts to love each other
34. ... and glad I got breakfast today
35.  ... that we get money, or will get money or might get money
36. ... for our hair with different colours and no one looks alike, and blonde and brown is the nicest in the whole world
37.  ... we have cellphones and telephones to talk to each other
38  ... for a table to eat on
39. ... for a heater to keep us warm
40.  ... for Bibles to read and learn about God
41. ... we have couch to sit on
42. ...the sun is there to brighten our day
43. ... for feet to walk on otherwise we would have to learn how to walk handstands our whole life
44. ... we can walk on the mountain for hours and hours to see the world
45.  ... for computers to learn and to find out things
46.  ... we have paint to express our feelings and paint things
47.  ... for a mom to cook for us, otherwise she wouldn't be the Masterchef of South Africa
48. ... there are gyms to exercise and get fit
49. ... that we have muscles to run and do competition, swim and save people, run out of water so sharks don't bite us
50. be qualified Nippers and qualified in strength
51. ...for socks otherwise we would get blisters on our ankles from ice skating
52. ... for tools to build things with
53.  ... for wood to build ramps with and do woodwork
54.  ... we have our own rooms, though I don't have my own room
55.  ... that grounding got invented so when my brothers are naughty they get punished
56.  ...that Dad's got lots of work
57. ... for cameras to take pictures of us so that we can remember things from the past
58.  ...we get to watch movies, not to get bored
59.  ... for board games
60.  ... that there are milkshakes to drink different things every time
61.  ... for chips for Ruthie so she won't scream for chips
62.  .... and glad that we have handles so we don't have to kick the door down or get police officers to kick the door down, or friends to kick it down
63.  ... for plugs to connect all the electrical things instead of batteries which cost a lot of money
64.  ... that we have paper so we don't have to write on our hands
65. ... for pens
66. .... for shops to buy stuff and then we don't have to grow our own things
67.  ... we have eyes to see where we are going, then we won't bump into any walls
68.  ... there are flowers to decorate the world
69.  ... we can eat porridge so we can swim five lengths in the pool, like it says on the cereal box
70. ... that we can go to the park, almost every day and every year
71.  ... there are different types of wood and polish so that the wood won't rot
72.  ... we can celebrate birthdays, when we were born and get presents
73.  .... we can play with toys
74.  ... for laughter and laughing to express our joy and happiness
75.  ... for our roof so we don't get wet when its raining or hailing, though I haven't seen hail in a long time
76.  ... for school so we can learn and be smart and that we don't go to school but do it at home
77.  ... we have pillows to sit on so that are backs don't turn black purple and red
78. ... we have bones so that we can sit up straight otherwise we would be floppy like a snake or a puddle of skin or octopus - and your eyes would be floppy and wobbly
79. ... for curtains so the sun doesn't hurt our eyes
80. ... for sunglasses so it doesn't hurt our eyes
81.  ... we have a TV to watch learning channels, discovery channels, movies and cartoons
82.  ... that there is PG, PG10 and PG13 so little children can't watch things that are not good for them
83.  ... for pets so we can play with them
84.  .... that sugar cane grows for sugar to flavour and sweeten our food, otherwise we would not like the food
85.  .... that there are exotic foods to taste, test and smell
86. ... for ties
87. ... that we have shirts
88.  .... for our books to read and learn from
89.  .... that we get to go to the library tomorrow
90.  .... that there are trees that filter our air and give us fresh oxygen and to climb on
91.  ... there is a Christmas to celebrate Jesus' birth and His birthday
92.  ... that we are going to China because I dreamt about it
93.  ... for Granny and Oupsh
94.  ... for our extended family so if something happens we can go to them or visit them, but I think the visit is better
95.  ... we have petrol that lasts
96.  ... that we can drink out of glasses
97.  ... that we have windows to look out so that we can see the lovely view but we don't like cracked windows
98.  ... that we have ears to hear
99. ... for the work Dad does to make money
100.  ... that there is cement to build houses with bricks.
101.   ...we have printers-if we have forgotten something we can print it
102.  .... for battery chargers so that we don't have to buy new batteries all the time and waste money
103.  ...that we don't have to live in war
104.  ... for a bath so we don't have to bath in a bucket
105.  .... for baths that we can clean otherwise we will be filthy, stinky and dirty
106.  .... that there are dustbins so we don't have to litter
107.   ... for our facecloths otherwise our face will be a pimple face
108.  .... that there is jewellery to decorate ourselves - just not for boys, decoration for a woman like a Christmas tree
109.  ... for our Gran to knit our clothes and fix our clothes when they tear
110.  ... there are colours to colour in colouring books, otherwise everything would be an ugly black and grey
111.  ... that someone invented burglar bars - so when a burglar tries to break in, they can't
112.  ... for all our toys so we can play instead of getting bored
113.  ... that there are windows instead of cardboard in our house
114. ... we have hair so we don't have bald heads
115.  ... we have ears so we can hear each other
116.  ... that we have a mouth, so we can speak to each other
117. ... for a toilet so we don't have to go outside
118.  ... for our pencils so we don't have to use pens all the time and waste tipex
119.  ... that there are livestock to give us milk, cheese and meat
120.  ... for ice skating
121  ... that we have roller skates to practise to our ice skating
122.  ... for glasses to drink out of
123.  ... that there are glasses to see out of
124.  ... for the blankets to stay warm
125.  ... we can go on nature walks and learn about nature and God
126.   ... for fingers to pick up things
127.  ... for Lego
128.  ... that we have soap
129.  ... that we can fly kites
130.  ... that we have school books
131.  ... for the world
132.  ... for packets to carry things around, otherwise we would have to walk backwards and forwards every day
133. ... that we have carpets to sit on
134. ... for umbrellas so that we don't get wet
135. ... that we have chairs to sit on so that we don't have to stand while we are eating or sit on boxes
136.  ....for boxes to put things in
137.  ... that we have extension cables so that when the plug doesn't reach we can use them
138.  ... for vacuum cleaners so we don't have to use the broom all the time
139.  ... there are animals
140.  ...that we get to go to sleep otherwise we will be lazy, wobbly and tired
141.  ... for pencil cases
142.  ... we have pillows so we can have a comfortable couch
143.  ... that there are heaters in our bedroom to warm ourselves up
144.  ...for plugs so we don't have to make electricity when someone is someone is vacuuming for 2 hours, which would mean rubbing metal together, to make sparks, which makes fire, which makes electricity
145.  .... for sewing machines so we don't have to sew all the time with hands and its much easier
146.  ... that we have tables so we can eat on it, do school on it, build on it
147.  ... that there is paint so when we don't like the colour, we can paint over it
148.  ... for the 5 biomes of the world so animals can live freely in their own environment
149.  .... that there are dams for water
150.  ... for fruit
151.  ... we have skin so that our blood doesn't come pouring out, because we are made up of so much water
152.  ... for brooms to sweep up dirt
153.  ... that there are light bulbs
154.  .... for curtains so we can close them when its too hot or when its night and we don't won't people to see inside.
155.  ... God made apples
156.  .... we can go to swimming lessons
157.  ... that we can visit our Gran
158.  ... that there are phones so that we don't have to have a broken telephone and then tell everyone else
159.  ... that we can go out in the sea with malibu's and body boards
160. ... for maps so that we know where we are going
161.  ... that there are ropes to secure things
162.  ... that we can use earplugs so that when we fly our ears don't get blocked

  This list is incomplete and would love to be able to add things that your children are grateful for.  
Why not send them in and we can grow this list to a 1000?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Recipe: Jam Squares

I love having friends and visitors over.  

However I don't always have all the ingredients to make something really elaborate or the time.  But one thing I always have, is a roll of puff pastry in my deep freeze - or almost always.  If puff pastry could get an award, I would give it a thumbs up. 

I realise that there are some of you who very diligently make your own, or there is some green, organic puff pastry (probably with special ingredients like spinach, herbs and the likes - yuk!) but I go for the regular stuff.  Very upmarket I know.

With this I make jam squares - yummy, sticky, crunchy, sugary, eat-some-moreish-jam-squares. In fact I have known wives to hold their husbands back as they cannot resist going for seconds, then thirds and then those hidden fourths and fifths.  If these were packaged in the shop, they would probably come with a warning label : Proceed Cautiously 

Here's the Recipe 

* roll of puff pastry
*  2tbsp jam
*  1 cup sugar
* 100 g margarine/butter
* 1 cup cake flour

Step 1
Spray your baking sheet with a non stick spray or grease it if you like.  Roll out your pastry.  Make sure its defrosted properly before you start otherwise it will crack - like mine did because I was in a hurry.  But no fear, you can just press it together with your fingers. 

Step 2
You'll need about 2 big spoons of jam.  This is a tablespoon that we use for cereal or soup.  I used apricot jam here but you really can use any type.  If your budget really is tight, mixed fruit jams are just as good.  I often make a variety.

Step 3
Spread the jam fairly evenly over the puff pastry.  You need to do this very professionally like I do otherwise someone might say you are just a housewife with very few culinary skills.
Make sure you go to the edges otherwise they will be very dry.  Its a little like putting your tomato paste on a pizza - spread it all over.  If you put too much on, it can get a little soggy and won't bake as well.  This may not look like much but its enough.

Step 4
100 g Margarine block in the bowl. Make sure that its had time out of the fridge or deep freeze otherwise it makes it really hard to work with.  I have even used the soft margarine spreads and those also work (so really just use what you have).

Step 5
Add the sugar (you could probably use brown too if you wanted to) and flour.

Step 6
Take your rings off and get in there.  Rub the ingredients together until you have crumbs. The test for me is that if I take a handful and press it really hard in my fist it should make a ball but then fall apart when I press my fingers against it.  Its nice to have some chunky bits and then the finer pieces.  It gives the jam squares a nice texture.

Step 7
Spread the crumbs over your puff pastry. Also ensure that your nails are done in a red hue as it adds a bit of colour to your otherwise rather bland unprofessional photos.
Use it all up!  Or nibble some if you can't resist.  I always have to do quality control "testing" throughout my baking process.

Step 8
The trick to these is to cut them before you put them in the oven.  You will need to cut them slightly again once they are done, as the gooey jam smudges the lines but it makes it much easier when its done.  Cut them into squares and you can decide how big you want them.  With guests, I generally cut the blocks a little smaller, because they have to go further, but when it's just us - the children like big chunky pieces. 

Step 9
Put them in the oven at 180 deg Celsius for about 20 - 30 minutes.  Make sure the pastry doesn't burn.  Take them out the oven and while they are still hot, cut along the lines again and leave it to cool.  They will be very hot so don't try and eat them. They are deceptively cool on the outside but the jam is very hot and I have had many a blister in my mouth when I sneak a taster when I shouldn't have! (confession time).

Step 10
Put on a plate and enjoy!

Now I know this looks like a huge recipe because I divided it into 10 steps but it really is such a quick one. It will take you about 10 minutes to prepare, 20 -30 minutes to bake and then you will have the most delicious treat for your guests.

And you are probably wondering where the tribe are? After all how do you keep the children out of the kitchen when there is such deliciousness going on?
I gave them a mound of washing to fold up which they did right next to me, with the promise that when all the folding was done, they could have some.  Did it work?  Of course. And they did it so quickly and so well. 
Food in our house is a big motivator.  If I want anything done, I just do it before food, snacks or treats! 

Try this one and you will have your guests asking for more.  Enjoy!