Monday, 31 October 2011

thirty-one::newlywed::the end

on a wing and a prayer

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so we've come to the end.

31 posts in 31 days. whew. it was a little stretching at times. and there were times when i kinda, sorta, fake-posted. but. i did learn a whole lot.

first - le boy is incredibly supportive, even with my hair-brained weird schemes like blogging for an entire month. he reads every single post. and we are glad for what we are able to do with this blog - declare jesus. share our lives with people far away. record the details of what makes up a life. together.

second - i respond incredibly well to limits. my parents are wondering where their strong-willed seven-year-old came from, but hey, it's true. and so - here are some new limits:

food friday: hopefully this will keep me making food. making new recipes. enjoying being in the kitchen.

slow sunday: i'm trying to be more intentional about sabbath-keeping. about slowing down. i'll try to reflect that here.

and hopefully i'll be a more regular blogger - but i may not post every. single. day. i might even take tomorrow off.

and so - on with the regularly scheduled programming - there's knitting to share and decorating that's been happening, cooking and thoughts ruminating around my head, and i've got knee surgery coming up in november, so just a few things. hopefully if you've stopped by this month, you'll keep doing so. you're welcome here.

Sunday, 30 October 2011


on a wing and a prayer

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slow sundays. in the christian faith, we are commanded to keep the sabbath. to slow. to settle. to sanctify.

it's been just that. a lazy morning in bed, relishing the time change here in britian, an extra hour today, delightful. and birthday brunch for one of our dearest. we braved the supermarket for the weekly shop and came home to the smell of apples bubbling away in the slow cooker. now, i'm going to change your life. should you not have a slow cooker - go and get one. find one on sale, or on an online swap site, or in the pile of items you received for your wedding and relagated to the back of the closet. do it. now. i'm an official convert. brisket is done. applesauce is made. a quick wash and we're on to a chicken!

at the farmer's market yesterday apples and pears were on three kilos for £3! a kilo was dumped in the slow cooker this morning. after six hours, it's heavenly.

apple sauce was always sitting in the bottom of our freezer at home. grandma kept the entire extended family stocked in apple sauce and canned peaches and pies. on nights in the deep of an ontario february these small reminders of summer were bits of gold. gobbled up, juices dripping down our small chins, bowls cleaned well enough to be returned to the cupboard. i'm not certain how grandma made applesauce, but as the homekeeper on a busy farm, with four children and many men to feed daily, i'm pretty sure there were times things were kept simple. grandma's applesauce was never the light straw colour of the store bought variety, and it tasted deeper, richer.  i can only now surmise this was because the peel of the apple was left on. in my hope to get the apples going before we headed out this morning, i decided against peeling. for one it seemed like a lot of work, for two, i generally believe that most things taste better with the skin left on...

we returned 5 hours later to warm cinnamon, sugar, apple smell. a quick peek told me the apples were mushy but not completely dissolved, i left them for another couple hours while we spent some time napping and reading on this grey late-october day. and dissolved they were. a couple minutes with the immersion blender and i've got the smoothest applesauce. it tastes almost as good as grandma's. but not quite. i expect i'll never be able to exactly recreate the taste of love canned in october and remembered in february.

grandma's applesauce re-interpreted


1 kg apples, cored but not peeled (over here i use cox, at home i'm a macintosh fan all. the. way.)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp cinnamon
zest and juice of one lemon
1 tbsp butter


place all the ingredients, save the butter, in a slow cooker. set to low. leave for 6-8 hours until everything is completely mush and the sauce is a caramel brown colour.

stir in butter. using the immersion blender, blend until smooth.

Saturday, 29 October 2011


on a wing and a prayer

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a perfect saturday:


& slow-cooking:

more to come on both!

Friday, 28 October 2011


on a wing and a prayer

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food friday. i'm starting to really like the idea. this month of blogging has been amazing, for one, it's given me the opportunity to see what i really like blogging about. one of those things is food. big surprise, eh?

as i mentioned yesterday we had a dinner guest last night. a good friend whom we've not seen in ages. and the chance to sit down around the table and just talk and love and enjoy the friendship was such a blessing. i mentioned yesterday that one of my keys to weeknight entertaining is to keep it simple, but also, to make sure that we're eating food that we'd serve to others. (to clarify, i'd serve a good homemade soup with cheese and bread to a guest, so it doesn't have to be fancy, just tasty!)

i've had enormous success with many jamie oliver recipes over the years, but particularly with his book: jamie at home. an intended inspiration for kitchen gardening, i do find that the recipes are easy because they expect the seasons. and many of them are just right for an after work dinner - nice, good, wholesome food that doesn't take an enormous amount of time, but does show an effort.

quick sausage meatballs with a tomato and basil sauce, spaghetti and green beans

adapted from jamie at home

serves 4 

olive oil
• 6-8 good-quality pork sausages
• 500g spaghetti
sea salt
• 400 g green beans
• a block of Parmesan cheese, to serve
• a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leave picked

for the tomato sauce
olive oil
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• a small bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
• 2 x 400g tins of good-quality plum tomatoes
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• good-quality balsamic vinegar

jamie's original recipe can be found here. i've adapted it to make for less washing up, and because i couldn't see the need for the separate pans...i also substituted green beans, as peas aren't really available any more.

heat a large saucepan (i used our le creuset) and add a few tbsp of olive oil. squeeze sausage meatballs out of casings directly into the hot pan, you should get about three meatballs per sausage. fry, rolling them around the pan until browned.

in the meantime put a large pot of water onto boil for the pasta, cook pasta according to directions and your preferred taste. in the last 3 minutes, place green beans in a colander on top of your pasta water to cook/steam.

add tinned tomatoes to meatballs*, add crushed garlic, and chopped basil. use a pair of tongs to crush whole tomatoes, breaking up as you stir. allow to simmer for 10-15 min, reducing slightly. add rosemary and a splash of balsamic to finish the sauce. simmer for another minute or so. (i also add a tad of either honey, brown sugar or agave nectar to all my tomato sauces to cut the acidity).

sprinkle with remaining basil leaves and parmesan to serve.  delish!

*here is where i changed things up slightly

cleared table.

Thursday, 27 October 2011


on a wing and a prayer

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how do you balance friends and work and volunteering and exercise and courses and church and laundry and housekeeping? it's such a difficult thing at times, to be engaged in what's happening around us, to acknowledge all that we've been entrusted with, to find time for everything that needs time. at the moment we're also trying to be very aware of our pennies, and so, where we used to meet up for dinner after work or grab brunch on a weekend, we're scaling back. but that doesn't mean that we don't deeply desire to be part of our friends lives, to engage with them and to share a meal.

dinner with family last christmas in rented flat.

i deeply believe in the power of food to connect and show care and love, food is a communing experience. but even food that we buy and serve to guests, while almost always much less expensive than one restaurant meal, let alone two, still costs money.

i should pause here and say that while i try to be conservative with our food budget, and to use sales and bulk up meat with extra less expensive food (think pasta and vegetables), we still eat very well. partly this is because i'm fortunate to know my way around a kitchen, and i enjoy spending my time stood in front of the stove. partly it is because we strongly believe that we need to nourish our bodies and our souls with good, healthy, nutritious food, and partly this is because i come from a farming background, i know how hard farmers work and we want to support local and national farming wherever possible. all of this means two things: i try to stretch our food dollars wherever possible, but we also don't skimp on what we serve to ourselves or to others.

setting the table in florence, italy on weekend break with friends.

so how to be hospitable while saving money? tonight we're having a good friend over, dinner is a sausage pasta dish with a salad, it's not fancy but it will be good - and may star here tomorrow on 'food friday' if i've done my maths right, dinner for three (plus leftovers for my lunch tomorrow) will be less than £7. for me the secret is don't serve yourself something you wouldn't serve a guest. this makes meal planning simple, it also means you can invite people over for dinner last minute, and it means that you are going to be eating well the other nights of the week.

last night on my way home i bought us a slow cooker - we thought about if it was worth it, would we use it and could we justify the price, given our budget - here's what we've come up with: the slow cooker was massively on sale: £12.99, normally £40, and it allows us to cook meat only once or twice a week and either using that meat throughout the week, or freezing the cooked meat to add to other dishes later. this also has the bonus of allowing us to serve great meals to our weeknight dinner guests without breaking the bank or having a stressful hour between getting home from work and guests arriving. finally, i am having knee surgery in a few weeks, and will be literally off my feet for a while. which will mean very little or no cooking, so le boy will be our primary cook - and dumping things into a slow cooker and being done with it seems like a good idea! throughout the month of november i'll report back on slow cooker life, food fridays will have a theme for the month.

perhaps we should warn our friends they have a season of slow roasted pork and braised beef in their future?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


on a wing and a prayer

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i forget. i forget about eternity. i get so wrapped up in this exact moment, or more truthfully, in the next, that i am blinded to what is real. jesus died. for me. because of his sacrifice, i am assured of eternity with my maker. and i forget this. regularly. i forget it when it's hard, and all i can focus on is what is in front of me. i forget this when it's all going well, and i am indulgent in the joy of the current moment - not savouring the foretaste of joy.

i've been reminded this week of the eternal significance of our lives. our actions. our words. of our marriage. of the little souls we pray we'll be entrusted to care for.

do our lifes reflect the expectant hope we have in christ? are we outwardly living for more? and do we trust god in all of it, in the intimate places of our hearts where it's scary to go? in our fear and  our failure (which is my fear)?

are we bringing god joy? if the chief aim of man is to glorify god, and the glory of god is man fully alive - are we fully alive? experiencing all he has for us in this moment?

stumbled across some new music last night while clicking around noisetrade.

this song is running through my soul right now. it's on repeat in my ears and on my heart.

Farther Along - Josh Garrels

Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
So, cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We'll understand this, all by and by

Tempted and tried, I wondered why
The good man died, the bad man thrives
And Jesus cries because he loves 'em both
We're all cast-aways in need of rope
Hangin' on by the last threads of our hope
In a house of mirrors full of smoke
Confusing illusions I've seen

Where did I go wrong, I sang along
To every chorus of the song
That the devil wrote like a piper at the gates
Leading mice and men down to their fates
But some will courageously escape
The seductive voice with a heart of faith
While walkin' that line back home

So much more to life than we've been told
It's full of beauty that will unfold
And shine like you struck gold my wayward son
That deadweight burden weighs a ton
Go down into the river and let it run
Wash away all the things you've done
Forgiveness alright

Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
So, cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We'll understand this, all by and by

Still I get hard pressed on every side
Between the rock and a compromise
Like the truth and pack of lies fightin' for my soul
And I've got no place left go
'Cause I got changed by what I've been shown
More glory than the world has known
Keeps me ramblin' on

Skipping like a calf loosed from its stall
I'm free to love once and for all
And even when I fall I'll get back up
For the joy that overflows my cup
Heaven filled me with more than enough
Broke down my levees and my bluffs
Let the flood wash me

And one day when the sky rolls back on us
Some rejoice and the others fuss
'Cause every knee must bow and tongue confess
That the Son of God is forever blessed
His is the kingdom, we're the guests
So put your voice up to the test
Sing Lord, come soon

Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
So, cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We'll understand this, all by and by

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


on a wing and a prayer

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if i'm honest, i cannot take full responsibility for this small tip. but i will gladly share the credit with my husband. currently le boy walks me to and from the train station every day. it's one of the silver linings of our current situation. when we get in the door and turn off the alarm, drop bags and kick off shoes, we wander down the hall. sometimes, i stop at the bedroom and change from work clothes into 'play clothes' (marvellous's word for the clothes that didn't get worn to school or work, it stuck. it's here to stay.) continuing my wander takes me into the dining room and the itty-bitty kitchen. and usually i'm quickly to work starting dinner.

on my best days i pause at the dining room table, the big, thick, oak dining table we're oh so happy to have been left by our landlords, and i light the candles. the thanksgiving centrepiece is slowly being eaten, or melted. and this is my first tip. light candles. we have candles everywhere - the bedroom, the bathroom, the dining room and the lounge. why not the kitchen? it's that itty-bitty. when i light the candles on the table, i take a second to pray for peace in our home.

tip two is where i can't take all the credit. i'd like to, but it wouldn't be neighbourly. le boy and i like to spend this pre-dinner time together, often he'll sit at the table while i'm busy in the kitchen, he sets the table and we chat about our days. and somewhere in there he reaches for the nearest laptop and turns on some music. we've been favouring classical as of late - it's just so calming. tonight i'm hoping we play this.

thanksgiving print found here.

light a candle. play some music. pray for peace in your home. and calm yourself. even the busiest home can be peaceful.

Monday, 24 October 2011


on a wing and a prayer

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it's something i do. freeze food for later. use up old bits from the vegetable bin. recently, i was on a train (a daily occurrence around here), and two men were having an interesting, if slightly self-congratulatory conversation about wastefulness and food and how people no longer know how to do simple things to conserve, things that people from previous eras would have done without thinking twice. i should probably pause and say i completely eavesdropped on this conversation, but it was a grouping of four seats, so it was hard not to hear. on this particular morning i was knitting. most mornings on the train find me knitting or reading. and i'd like to think of myself as semi self-sufficient. i do try, earnestly, to converse food, and make good use of household products and needs. i'm investigating homemade bath and body products, trying to make informed decisions about the foods we eat, the cleaners we use, the products we buy. 

after a little research i've found that in the uk we throw away 8.3 million tonnes a year of food from our homes, which costs the average family more than £50. as much as possible, we try to throw away nothing. with a little forward planning, and a freezer, most food can be kept good until later. most food can be used for multiple meals, and most food is not bad once it's past it's 'use-by' date. one prime candidate is milk and dairy products.
  • i sniff most days before i pour milk, why? i've had 'good' milk go bad, and i've had 'overdue' milk, that's still perfectly fresh. keep your milk inside the fridge and not in the door, keep your fridge cold and food stays fresh longer. 
  • use veg that is a little 'off' for soups, stews, sauces. the slightly wrinkly red pepper languishing in your crisper can be chopped up and used, maybe not for eating raw, but it can definitely be added to something cooked. wilting celery, stand in a mug of water with fresh cut ends for an hour - and it's revitilised! and in the end, when in doubt, freeze it. spinach (add to sauce), most vegetables (soups and stews), meat bones (stock), ends of bread (whizz in the food processor for breadcrumbs).
in honour of using up old bits: 

chicken soup. 

use as the recipe calls for soup. reduce for chicken pot pie filling.


3 cups chicken stock
1/2 lb cooked chicken, shredded (i had some extra bacon frozen, so i added that too!)
2 carrots, diced
2 leeks, sliced
1 lb green beans, trimmed
2 large potatoes, cubed
large onion, diced
*or really any vegetable lying around the kitchen in desperate need of cooking
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup heavy cream

 heat olive oil in heavy stockpot, sautee onions, carrots and leeks until soft. season with salt and pepper.

add potatoes, chicken, chicken stock. simmer over medium-low heat for 1 hour. 

add green beans. stir in cream. simmer for a further 5 min.  check seasonings, adjust as needed.

serve hot with toasted bread.

Sunday, 23 October 2011


on a wing and a prayer

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So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, (Hebrews 4:9 ESV)

praying you find sabbath rest today.

:posted on the go:

Saturday, 22 October 2011


on a wing and a prayer

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taking the day to enjoy our favourite things: coffee in navy mugs, glorious new days, time with jesus, pancakes and blueberry syrup, afternoon naps, walks in the park at dusk, thai green curry, old movies on iplayer.

:posted on the go:

Friday, 21 October 2011


on a wing and a prayer

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i'm toying with a food friday feature here. it will ensure after this month is over, that i've still got things to report. and really, it will keep me creative in the kitchen.

last saturday while i was being productive, i spent the time with bbc iplayer (on-demand bbc recent programming). nigel slater has a new show where he pairs two food combinations and explores the idea for the whole show. while i can find him slightly dramatic and pedantic, he's definitely encouraging creativity and substitutions in the kitchen, and really, the more people who are cooking their own food from original ingredients the better, right? this particular show was on crispy and soft. which is one my absolute favourite combinations.

the inspiration - crab cakes and mushy peas (a british delight). but i didn't have crab and (much to my surprise) i didn't have frozen peas. i did have canned tuna, and i did have frozen spinach. so? tuna fish cakes and creamed spinach. it was delicious.

here's his original recipe.

and here's my crispy and smooth dinner, it came together fairly effortlessly, it tasted amazing and since i had everything on hand, it was incredibly economical. i expect that most of us would usually have many of these ingredients to hand as well...

fishcakes and creamed spinach (serves 2)

for the fishcakes
  • 1 can of tuna (or any cooked fish)
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced (or lime)
  • 1 deseeded chilli, diced (optional)
  • 1 shallot, diced (or green onions)
  • a handful parsley, chopped
  • 100g/4oz breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
for the creamed spinach
  • 1 cup frozen spinach
  • 1/4 cream
  •  2 tbsp butter

    drain tuna. in a large bowl combine lemon zest, then juice, chilli, shallot, parsley, breadcrumbs and egg. mix with hands. form mixture into four patties. set on plate and place in fridge for 30 min to firm up. 

    melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. add frozen spinach and allow to steam off extra water. when still wet but no visible liquid, stir in cream, and simmer until thickened. season with salt and pepper. remove from heat. 

    heat a large frying pan over medium heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil to hot pan. when oil shimmers add fishcakes. don't play too much! just let the crust develop, about 5-7 min. turn over and fry for the same amount of time.

    serve hot on a bed of creamed spinach with choice of sauces - homemade ketchup and some south carolina remoulade went nicely.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


on a wing and a prayer

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i mentioned that i was changing out our curtains the other day. the old curtains were intended to match a purple wall - which is no longer purple. and really, the flowers weren't really our style anyway. i was looking for an inexpensive option (remember, we're on a budget). inspired by pinterest to go with drop cloths and yes, i'm a little behind the times, i realise this was cool about two years ago, but i didn't have a flat to decorate two years ago...

i dispatched le boy to our local diy store - he's definitely making friends with the owner! and he returned with two drop cloths of 12'x12'. we've got one of those drapery hanging systems which has hooks and eyes - i wasn't really looking forward to the sewing, but determined to make this experiment work! as it turned out once i'd washed the drop cloths and looked at the whole system - that i could wiggle the hooks through the drop cloths without any sewing - a big bonus is that drop cloths are already hemmed! 

here's a before: 

and here's a few afters...taken at night (darkness is falling at about 6pm these days...)

the next afternoon le boy and i took a walk around the neighbourhood and our local park.

can i pause for a moment and just say how blessed we feel to live in our neighbourhood? there are families with children everywhere! which might seem normal for a neighbourhood with a park, except that this is london and generally children are nowhere to be seen. the park has a small pond/lake, a couple of playgrounds, a track and field area, enormous playing fields, three sets of tennis courts, a mini-putt and a fantastic running/cycle route - we LOVE it.

on the way back i asked le boy to go in ahead and draw the curtains, i wanted to ensure they looked good from the street side too! and in the process i took a few shots of our lovely house. oh how we love it!

where's le boy?

the wrought iron:

our red door:


and the gate: 

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


on a wing and a prayer

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we'll live on love. it's a statement that's said with irony. (mainly). but in actual fact, we are living on love. no love does not feed us. it does not keep the electricity running or the gas flowing. the water is running and needs to be paid for. if you had talked to me last week, i was filled to the brim with anxiety. old nasty demons were doing their best to rear their ugly heads, i gave into the castastrophizing, into the spiral of thoughts that go deep down nowhere and barely give air to breathe. i sat in pity. i cried. i worried. worried.  we are experiencing the uncertainty of joblessness here. and truthfully, it's difficult.


but it's also beautiful. it's changing us. i've written about this before.

if i'm honest, we live an enormously charmed life. we live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. we travel extensively. we go shopping without second thought. we give. we host. we treat. we are extremely grateful for our finances, but perhaps a little cavalier with them?

and we have been brought low. god is in this. even when he's hard to see. we have been, are being, humbled. and i am choking out praise. i am stumbling over words - thank you god for this season. thank you god when the interview time isn't set, when the budget isn't adding up, when the night is closing in on us. thank you god - you have ordained this. you have let it be so. and so we will praise. it is not easy. our nature fights with every ounce strength. but we are grateful. grateful for his provision - for today. grateful for the days when hope dawns on the horizon. grateful for the friends who call and text and email and pray. so grateful for prayer.

so how to walk through this (or any tough road)? by fixing our eyes on jesus. by believing his promises - the only truth. by giving thanks for our daily bread. and in succession, even as the hardest days were happening, continuing my daily reading.

why is dwelling daily with jesus an absolute? because it is only through sitting with him that we come to know his character. only through imprinting his word on our hearts do we come to see his work in our lives. because there is truth for all circumstances. because there is comfort for all who are afflicted. because the scriptures were designed for this. for knowing his will. for being known.

in the middle of us feeling incredibly alone - incredibly inwardly focused - the father reaches down from heaven and placed these verses in our lives. i am clinging to them as though they are life alone. they are.

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, andt we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Then I said to you, 'Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.' Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the Lord your God, who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go. Deut 1:30-33

red mountain music is speaking to my soul. 

lord, help my unbelief. my help must come from thee. there is little else i need. more you jesus, less of me. amen. 

I know the Lord is nigh,
And would but cannot pray,
For Satan meets me when I try,
And frights my soul away,
And frights my soul away.

I would but can’t repent,
Though I endeavor oft;
This stony heart can never relent
Till Jesus makes it soft,
Till Jesus makes it soft.

Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
My help must come from Thee.

I would but cannot love,
Though wooed by love divine;
No arguments have power to move
A soul as base as mine.
A soul so base as mine.

I would but cannot rest,
In God’s most holy will;
I know what He appoints is best,
And murmur at it still.
I murmur at it still.

Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
My help must come from Thee.