Still Here, Still Breathing

This photo always makes me feel at least a tinsy bit better ...

You know those times when everything seems to hit you at once? Those times when it feels like life is kicking you when you’re already down? The times when there are so many big things on your mind that every little thing becomes a momentous struggle? The times when if you let yourself stop and think, the only way your brain (and mood!) goes is down? The times when it feels like it was way too long since the sun last shone? The times when you have to do the next thing that needs doing, when all you really want to do is crawl into a hole and hibernate until everything is “better”?

I know those times. And yes, right now is one of those times. Today there were times when I didn’t think it was possible toΒ  see a way through the trees. There is a way, but it kind of involves following compass blind … which made me think – aren’t you glad that that Compass is God? I am! I don’t know about you, but I can get to feeling pretty down about most things … um, well, let’s just say a bit too often a bit too quickly! πŸ˜‰

So here are some good things about today:

  1. God has given so much, and yet continues to give over and over again!
  2. My wonderful hubby is one of the best examples of the amazing things God has given me! πŸ˜€
  3. Thanks Mum for being here and being a class A+ trooper!!
  4. It’s wonderful how long flowers can last in a glass of water!
  5. Thank you for Christmas book tokens Vic! πŸ™‚
  6. A be-e-aut-iful clean kitchen, with sparkling worktops and a draw full of clean cutlery!
  7. Blue sky, sunshine and not wearing a winter coat!

Here’s a Bible verse I read this morning, whichΒ  made me so thankful for Jesus, feel better about being alive and has stayed in my head all day:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4v4-7 (ESV, emphasis mine).

What good things come to your mind about today?

Bread Making – Surprisingly Exciting!

Surprisingly exciting?! You may be looking at this post title and thinking one of two things: either 1) Why is it exciting? Making bread is so boring, or 2) What?!? Why would the excitement be surprising?!? Surely the whole process is a guaranteed excitement?? So I’ll let you in on a little secret …

I have made bread countless times since I was 12 … everyday wholemeal bread … white bread for special picnics when we had guests visiting … special bread for Jewish Holidays … gluten-free bread for some of my family (the two members of my family that couldn’t eat gluten didn’t always appreciate my experimental approach, but hey, yes, the egg and cornmeal bread was beyond-gross, but the barley bread?! As a gluten-eater, I loved it!!! πŸ˜› Poor guys! :D), sweet and savoury Chelsea/bath buns (someday I’ll post the recipe, cause I made that one up – much to my ego’s deflation, when I discovered a few years after that it was an already published recipe!! :P) and numerous batches of gluten-free drop-scones …

So when I moved out on my own, bread-making was a well-known – and yes, honestly: slightly despised! – accomplishment. I moved into the world of bargin-buying-at-all-costs; if-it’s-on-sale-it’s-got-to-be-good; it’s-reduced=I-buy; make-from-scratch?!-Where-did-I-ever-find-the-time?!? Having grown up with the privilege of home-cooked food, as a just-moved-out-y, there was nothing wrong with store-bought food in general and in particular – store-bought bread.

The truth? All of us that move out go through that drastic – and often extreme – re-evaluation process, right?!? Whether it’s before or after we get married, questioning the beliefs, values, standards and life-style choices of our parents is a natural and healthy process of becoming an adult. And that includes what we eat.

I have gone from being a vegetarian to an all-out meat-eater! Yup, I was brought up (from the age of 9) eating no meat and only occasional fish, but now I will try just about anything (I’ve tried lamb’s liver and haggis and the fish that is cooked whole, bones and guts inclusive, but no-way will you get me taking a bite of tripe, snake or pig-trotters – gag!)! I very much enjoy cooking with meat and experimenting with how to combine the nutrition-focoused ideas of a vegetarian diet with the meat-centered approach to a meat-eating diet – it’s lots of fun, and I’m learning much about the disadvantages to both! Sorry to both of you guys but, yes – you’re often pretty bland veggies and you sometimes don’t think beyond the meat non-veggie! πŸ˜€

Ahh, but bread … I don’t eat hardly any bread, so L. is the bread-consumer in this house. On the mission for money-saving grocery shopping, I started buying the store’s-own-brand-basic bread. After all, what could be wrong with it?! It was still made with flour, yeast, salt and water, right? It was just 65-80 pence cheaper. Puffffttt.

Once again – the truth? You buy it dry, you freeze it dry, you defrost it day-by-day to be even-drier and besides, there’s all-white or all-brown – no happy-medium. My hubby didn’t like it much. I swap to nice brand-made bread. Yup, it tastes much nicer, and you can get that nice compromise between wholemeal and white … but either it’s just as dry when frozen-and-toasted or it goes whiney-smelling and mouldy when L’s only got half-way through the loaf!

So then I find out at a restaurant that the hubby really like fresh olive and tomato bread, and the hubby finds out that I know how to make bread!!!

Ta-da!!! Maybe bread-making isn’t as stereotyping an idea as I was thinking … especially if L. would really like yummy home-made bread … oh yes, and it would be much cheaper, right? I could make half-quantities that he could eat before it went bad, and wouldn’t have to worry about the lack of room in a titchy rented freezer.

And that is when I re-discovered the excitement of bread-making! πŸ™‚ I love making things, from little thing to big things, and I had forgotten the pleasure to be found in mixing, proving and creating a loaf (or in my case, four little rolls) of lovingly created and personalized (olives and sun-dried tomatoes!! :P) fresh-baked bread, that has brought lunch-time-contentment for L! πŸ˜€

Now, lets just see if I can keep this bread-making malarkey up …

 

Gathering the ingredients

In on the action of kneading the dough ...

The bread dough left to rise/prove in my warm, but not so tidy, airing-cupboard

Olives and tomatoes all ready to go ...

Ooh! It's doubled in size!!

The process of kneading the olives and dried-tomatoes into the dough was not a pretty one and besides, my hands were so covered in doughy-oily-goo, that made my dry-skinned-hands itch, that I decided that that step in the process would have to be skipped photo-wise …

 

The shaped rolls ready to rise, complete with Italian additions ... that made 40 minutes of kneading in total - who needs weight-lifting when there's bread-kneading to be done?!? πŸ˜›

Whoopadoo!!! Mixed, baked and cooling - and not burned!!! ;P

Have you ever made your own bread? What’s the story?!

What’s your favourite kind of bread – store-bought or home-made?

Makings for a Perfect Afternoon

Sea, sun, no winter coat and lots of sand … oh yes, and my camera! πŸ˜‰

 

I love that first glimpse of the sea!
I loved the shadows and the shape in this
Imagine the feeling of stepping on the hot, grainy sand with bare feet, and sinking down into the cool sand beneath the surface … Oooooh! Shivers!!
Don’t these beach houses look fun?! Two of them were open and were being enjoyed by their owners, who were sitting in front of them reading in the sun – bliss!
A dad was flying this kite with his two toddlers, although the little girl seemed more interested in the sand between her toes then this smiley kite in the sky! πŸ™‚
I love shells on the beach and no, of course I didn’t bring ANY shells home with me … cough cough … πŸ˜›
Don’t you love the way beaches curve round like that as they meet the sea, and never go in an absolutely straight line?

… and yes, it is ME saying that I actually like something that doesn’t go in a straight line!!! But don’t spread it around, just incase it becomes known, ok?! πŸ˜‰

I love the way this picture looked at this angle

What words would add to the beauty of this?!

Oozey, wet, warm sand between your toes ...

One of my favourite bits of the beach to photograph - where sand meets sea. I never get tired of watching the waves lapping up and down over the sand!

This paw-print was massive! Don't know why I had to get a photo of this! πŸ˜›

*Deep sigh of contentment*

Have you got to go on a spring walk and not had to wear your winter coat yet?! I love the-first-time-this-spring when that happens – yummy!!! πŸ˜€

Grandma’s Garden

My Grandparent's house from their garden

Grandma’s garden has always been a place surrounded by a certain sense of mystry and excitement. My Grandparents (these are my Dad’s parents) have always had big gardens and devoted a lot of care and attention to looking after them.

The house we visited until I was about 6 hadΒ  a long garden and orchard, at that age, I thought it was the longest garden in the world an went on forever! A trip to the bottom of the garden and back, clutching onto Great-Grandma’s hand, was a very long way for my little legs.

The garden that my sisters and I played in when we were growing up was a tiny little garden at the back, mostly concrete, and an even smaller little area at the front of the house, which had a little apple tree in it. The back garden was so small we called it the Apron-Pocket. We used our garden well – the big tree was Robin Hood and Maid Marion’s secret hideaway, the little weeping-willow-like tree in the grass patch was a house for dandalion-soup parties, the concrete alley-way down the side of the house was the site of many a school-room, ballet studio and the place where I broke a window trying to play tennis and the poor patch of grass survived bravely for years, despite the number of time we tried to dig a hole through it to get to Austrailia!

But Grandma’s garden was a place of space and adventure, a place filled with little paths and big trees, a pond and lots of bushes which were brilliant for playing hide-and-seek! My youngest uncle and aunt were twins and only 7 years older than me, and they devoted many hours to playing with us in the garden (oh yes, and the house, where I managed to lock 4 of us in a bedroom by pushing the door-knob down the back of the radiator …), playing hide-and-seek, planning treasure-hunts with us and setting up the garden chairs for us. The garden was always shared with somewhere between 1 and 5 dogs, ranging in size from a Pekingese to a St Bernard!

This, for me, depicts some of the charm and gentleness which fills Grandma's garden

The next garden my Grandparents owned had a bigger pond, but wasn’t so long. There was an old shed with vines growing up the outside, which was filled with old books and un-used furniture. There was a line of huge fir-trees, which waved back and forth in a rather menecing way when it was stormy. Grandma had a vegetable garden, although I can’t remember how successful it was. There was a stream which passed by at the front of the house and a little tiny foot-bridge crossed over it from the road to the front door – although I don’t believe I ever went through that front door or saw it open, as my GrandparentsΒ  have only ever used 1 of the front doors of the 4 houses they have lived in since I was born! Grandma taught us to play French tennis on the lawn at this house and there was a paddling pool often out in the summer. One 5th of November we had sparklers on the patio to celebrate

Spring has definitely arrived!

Guy Fawkes! We found frogs in the stream during a thunderstorm – I remember that I actually never saw them, as one of my younger sisters, N, my youngest aunt, K, and I got scared of the thunder and ran home to hide behind the big curtains in the lounge! (K, of course, said she was just doing it to stop N and I getting too frightened … :)).

The next house was 4 hours drive away and not only had a garden, but a big field too! It was like having your own hiking trail in your back yard! πŸ™‚ This garden had different sections, devided by tall evergreen hedges with little archways in them; it had an old milling-trough and mill-stone inbedded in the grass, which Grandma turned into a beautiful centrepiece for the garden, by fillng it with flowers and little bushes; it had little stone pathways winding around beside the areas of grass, with tiny plants and flowers growing up between the cracks and it had a wooden arbour, with roses and vines growing around it, leading up one path to the garden shed – this was absolutely beautiful in the summer, when the vines had big leaves on them and the roses were in full bloom!

This arbour - or The Rose Walk, as Grandma calls it - is in their current garden, but is even more beautiful than the other one in the summer, when all the roses are blooming!

The garden my Grandparents have now is back down closer to where my parents live and, in my opinion, the most beautiful out of all the gardens they’ve had! I might be wrong, but I think it’s also the garden whcih they have put the most time and effort into improving. It was a lovely garden when they first bought the house 10 years ago, but now it is a place of beauty and peace and charm. The big flower beds have now been broken into smaller ones, with little grass paths running in and out between them; they have built a long Rose Walk down a stone path and out alongΒ  a stretch of grass; they have put a little spring going into the pond, put a bench by the pond and cared for and improved the beautiful pink and white heather growing around

The spring feeding into the pond

it; the little wooded area at the bottom of the garden has been planted with daffodils, cleared of piles of branches and garden rubbish and had benches and wooden archways put in it and although the number of big old apple trees in one part of the garden is lowly decreasing, as they are being suffocated by the miseltoe growing on them, Grandma’s garden is a wonderful place to be, filled with little surprises round every corner. As my Grandparents have got older, they have needed more help with the heavier duties and have dug over the vegetable garden and are slowly turning it into more flower beds. The greenhouse stands at the bottom of the used-to-be vegetable patch now largely un-used, and filled with dead or dying plants, old flowerpots and broken garden forks, but standing steady in the spring afternoon sunlight, it still seems to have something about it that the garden would be lacking, if the greenhouse was to be removed. The summer after moving in, Grandma discovered giant

The old greenhouse

raspberries growing on the fence behind the greenhouse, which when sampled, turned out to be lovely, juicey, sharp loganberries – I was the only one who loved the sharpness and didn’t want to have sugar on them! πŸ˜‰

All of Grandma’s family still enjoy her garden – my Grandparents enjoy working in the garden, looking after the flowers, mowing the grass and walking their dog there in the evening; My parents and uncle and aunts enjoy the space and peace when they visit and enjoy walking round the garden with my Grandparents, talking and catching up; my sisters and I still love Grandma’s garden and enjoy exploring it, watching the season come and go and taking photos; my youngest cousins 2-7 years old, enjoy what I used to enjoy when I was little – exploring the paths, finding glorious freedom in a long garden that seems to go on forever, playing hide-and-seek behind the trees and bushes, throwing balls, playing with the dog, riding the trycicle and walking round the garden with Grandad.

The sun peeping through the hedge by the old vegetable garden - beautiful!

My aunt K got married from this house and had her wedding reception in the garden. One summer my Grandparents put up a marquee again and this time celebrated my Great-Aunt S’s 80th birthday, my Grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversery and my parent’s 25th wedding anniversery in one big family-reunion and celebration! When my older sister, J and I were little, we stayed over Christmas at my Grandparent’s house and on Christmas Eve watched as Grandma hung J’s, my, aunt K and uncle B’s stockings on the banisters, before the next morning we lept out of bed and scanned the garden for any sign of snow! Two Christmases ago I stayed with my Gradparents over Christmas and Grandma dug out the old stockings and left mine, filled with little treats, just outside my bedroom door – I didn’t leap out of bed exactly (a slow, stretching crawl describes it better!) but I just had to look out of the window and check for any snow on Christmas morning – even though I knew there wouldn’t be any! πŸ˜‰

My Grandparent’s garden has seen many celebrations and happy times and I hope that my Grandparent – and their garden – will get to witness many more! I didn’t get married there and I don’t think L got to see the garden when I first took him to meet my Grandparents, but who know what will happen in Grandma’s garden in years to come?!

Imagine sitting there with a good book in the summer ... hmm, for me, that would end up as having a nap there ...!

Some of the fish living in the pond

The smell of this heather is heavenly in the summer!

What memories do you have of your Grandparents and their garden/s?

Six months!!!

Six months?! Already?? Wow, where did all that time go?!?

The time has gone in laughing and crying, evenings spent cuddled on the sofa listening to music and talking, days when we’re so rushed we don’t get a hug until 7:30pm! The time has gone in learning whar L means by medium-rare steak and discovering that even at 24 and married, I still can’t sleep without my teddy-bear; in working out how many times a week I need to do laundry and how much pickle L likes in his sandwiches; that even in my own home I don’t like cleaning the bathroom and that I need L to put the duvet cover on a double quilt! The time has gone in learning when teasing goes too far and having fun doing childish things together; in enjoying how much we love opening our home to others and learning that the mountain of washing up left afterwards is much better worked through together; in planning birthday surprises and planning a budget; in facing trials together and learning when to give support and when to receive it; in learning that marriage is a lot of hard work – but the best hard work in the world!

The six months since L and I got married have contained sorrow over family dying and lack of sleep from work stress, hard times for both of us and moments when we both wanted to hibernate for a while, but without a doubt, these last six months have been the happiest of my life so far!! πŸ™‚

I’m still amazed at how God arranged things to make sure we got together and I’m so thankful that we get to walk this journey of marriage with Him!

I really wanted to post a few (there are many!) of my favourite photos from our wedding … hope you don’t get bored! πŸ˜›

Me having fun with one of my best friends and one of my bridesmaids!

I love this shot!

I'm so glad someone caught this moment with my lil' sis!

One of our friends made the most amazing cup-cakes for after the service - thanks S! And yes, those are dotty napkins on the table ...

The ring goes on!!

So happy and oh yeah - the kiss was about to come! πŸ˜‰

I love the way all these colours and things have been included in this picture

Isn't the black-and-white with the one bit of colour wonderful?!

So happy!!! πŸ˜€

Announcing the new Mr and Mrs M!!

We were both so glad that so many of our family, friends and church-family were there to celebrate our marriage with us!

My sisters and I - love you!!

Silly faces with the groomsmen! πŸ˜›

πŸ™‚

Confetti!!! I love the way the confetti has been caught floating down!

I love how happy we are! πŸ™‚

Love this photo!

... and this one ...

... this one ...

... and this one! I put the socks and converses on after we got to the park and saw a long-cherished dream realised!! πŸ˜€

Awww!! πŸ˜‰

It was so much fun taking these photos on the swings!!!

One of my hubby's favourites!!! πŸ˜€

That is where I’m going to leave it for now! I’ve run out of time and I’m sure you have run our of interest now!! πŸ˜›

I want to post a few photos of the AMAZING cake, decorated by my older sister and of the way our wonderful friends from church transformed a boring school hall into a celebration hall better than I could have imagined!! So look out of Part 2!

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these photos as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing them with you!!

Happy Friday!! πŸ˜€

I think God is smiling!

Nana's favourite photo of my older sister and I when we were little - I'm on the left with the giant blue sunglasses and my mouth wide open! πŸ˜€

I got the phone call at 4:30am on Christmas day. My Nana had passed away just minutes before. I was expecting the call, as she had been in hospital for over a week, but it still came as a shock. I lay there in bed feeling numb and cold, and then my husband pulled me into a comforting hug. I didn’t have to tell him what the news was, he could tell, so the first thing I said was, “I’m so glad she got to see me get married”.

I know that may seem like a selfish thing to say when someone has just died, but I know that being there for my special day made her very happy.

Nana had lived a 90-year-long life, which although it had been filled with many achievements, a growing relationship with Jesus and seeing children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, it had not been an easy life. She witnessed massive change during her 90 years and fought hard to keep going despite the trials which came her way. She has left a legacy of determination, perseverance, dedication and hope.

Times without number my sisters and I were told stories about her life – I loved sitting on the end of her bed on the mornings when she was visiting, watching her drink her cup of tea and listening to her tell us about the hat shop her aunt worked in; the day she watched the coronation procession of Queen Elizabeth II pass below her father’s office window; the ear-trumpet her grandma used to try to hear with; the fancy dinner and play her dad took her to for her 18th; her handsome solider husband; her treasured home in the country; the two children so long hoped for; her little poodle called Sherry.

Marriage had its hardships for Nana, but never once did I sense that she regretted it. In her own way, she was unfailingly proud of her husband (who I sadly never met, as he died 6 years before I was born) and saw one of her most important dreams fulfilled in being married, having her own home to run and raising two children.

Marriage was such an important part of Nana’s life and she hoped that my sisters and I, her granddaughters, would one day be married too. She spoke so many times of her wedding in a little church in her hometown, of her dress and her honeymoon and she wanted to see us have the same joys.

I loved her very much and she meant a lot ot me, not just because she was my Grandmother, but because I greatly respected her as a person and appreciated all the time she gave me over the years. I don’t regret the time I spent listening to her stories, talking to her on the phone and writing her letters.

I’ll never forget the look on her face when I told her I had a boyfriend and how she immediately checked the rings on my fingers to see if L was more than just a boyfriend! πŸ˜‰ She was so keen to meet him and always asked after him. Nana was one of the people I made sure I called myself to tell her the news – I was engaged, so now I DID have a ring on my finger! I could hear the quiver of pleasure in her voice as she told me how lucky I was (amen! πŸ˜‰ ) and the deep content when I told her of our plans to get married and have a home. Nana was so happy to see a granddaughter preparing to get married!

Originally, L and I were planning on getting married this April (April ’11), but because L’s grandmother has lung disease and we weren’t sure if she would be here to see our wedding in April (and this had nothing to do with me wanting to get married *right now* and not wait 11 months …), we decided to move the wedding forward to September ’10. Luke’s grandmother is doing very well and staying active and happy, and it was my Grandmother who died.

In the months and weeks coming up to our wedding, Nana talked to the nursing home staff about L, myself and the wedding so much, that I think the staff must have been secretly very relieved to have the four months between our engagement and wedding finally come to an end!! πŸ˜€

As the sadness that Nana had passed away and the great thankfulness that she had seen me get married came over me, I was grateful for all the memories I have of her and the knowledge that without a doubt, she is now enjoying a new life in Heaven. As my Mum cleared out her room and sorted through her stuff, I got to see many photos I’d half forgotten about, of my sisters and I with Nana when we were growing up and of Nana and I when I was older.

I remembered that, when I took L to meet Nana, she gave me a copy of her favourite photo of my older sister and I in matching dresses when we were little. It was at this point that I realised that in all the planning and stress before the wedding, I had missed some important photos of my wedding list – photos of L and I with our grandparents! I was devastated – I didn’t have a photo of Nana and myself, on what she viewed as the most important day of my life. I was really quite upset at this realisation, but pushed it to the back of my mind as life went on.

Last week the lady which helped the main photographer at our wedding, gave us a disk of photos that she had been editing for us. There are so many beautiful photos of our wedding – not to mention the 100’s of gorgeous photos our main photographer gave us at Christmas!! – and she has done a wonderful job on the editing!

There was one photo, however, which made me gasp and is the one that filled me with the most joy as I was looking at them for the first time last night: a photo of me talking to Nana – on my wedding day!

 

Nana and I on my wedding day!

It is one of those moments which can only have been put into action by a loving, gracious God! He knew, back then in September, what it would mean to me to have this photo, right here and now in March. Only God knew on that day, that Nana wasn’t going to live to see 2011, and I believe He was the One who prompted LF to capture this moment!

As I was sitting on my sofa last night, smiling and so happy because after all, I had a photo of Nana and I together on my wedding, I think God was smiling too!