Saturday, 26 February 2011


I've had the BEST birthday ever.

In early December my Dad was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. The doctors felt it was a serious enough case to request that we fly home to spend time with him, as he needed a heart transplant. While we were there, we received the outstanding news that he was at the top of the Heart Transplant List - NATIONALLY. I was in the room with him when the cardiologist shared the news, and I was certain that nothing but news of a donor heart being ready would ever match that level of joy and excitement. 

Dad's heart was not functioning properly, most days he had the blood pressure of a toddler... After much prayer and fantastic medical care, his blood pressure climbed to a fantastic  90/60 and some days up to 100 and the doctors allowed him to continue his medical care at home, while he waited for his heart. The damage done to his heart by the virus and illness he had suffered was irreparable, but his arteries and veins were in great condition and the cardiologist was very confident that he would have his transplant, and heal well.

One afternoon, before dad left to go home, I got into the lift at the same time as the doctor, and thanked him for the outstanding care he had given dad, including coming home early from holiday to iron out details with the transplant co-ordinator and coming by out of hours to make sure he was ok. The doctor said only this to me. 'Dont worry about your Dad. He's going to be fine'. He nodded a frim nod, lips pursed, and continued... 'We serve a big God'. The lift doors opened, he nodded as if to say goodbye and walked out. Thats a bold thing for a doctor to say - I thought? We do serve a big God, but thats still a pretty bold claim to make. He needs open heart surgery - a transplant - immunosurpressents - recovery... He needs a whole heart that matches and fits and is able to get to him and get into him and start beating again.  But he had such confidence. It made me feel safe. I couldnt have asked for a better doctor to be looking after my dad.

Two weeks ago I received a call to say that he was being rushed to ICU in Umhlanga as he was in a serious condition. It was a thursday, or friday so they stabilised him and waited for the new week to run his heart function tests. I texted a few people to ask them to pray - for certain reasons I wasnt able to broadcast on FB what was happening. Over the weekend we had friends around the world united in prayer for Dad. He was into the third month of the 'average 3-4 month waiting period' once at the top of the list. 

On tuesday, they hooked him back up to familiar machines to see if there had been any further deterioration in his heart function. Miraculously, his heart function was back into "normal" ranges. His heart had been healed. Miraculously! While he was now suffering from blood pressure issues, the functions that were previously failing, that meant that he was at the TOP of the heart transplant list because there was NO other way he would survive, were now back, working. His heart had healed. He wasnt moved down the transplant list, he was take OFF of it.

Yesterday he was discharged from hospital. Today he wished me happy birthday.

''To my darling gorgeous daughter - hope you have a wonderful day.missing you to mike and the (with all my newly healed heart) DAD ''

Ive never had so many birthday wishes, and having been to two kiddies parties today I dont think I've ever seen so many of my friends on my birthday either - but that message and the incedible truth that He Heals, that the name of Jesus can speak life to a dying heart, has brought life to my years left on earth. 

I have prayed psalm 121 over my dad for months. Be reminded.

I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over YOU - the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Family First - again.

You might have noticed I've been absent a lot again this week. Hubby has been home really unwell, and we've been working on sorting out our commercial kitchen admin at church which has taken up some time.

I FINALLY collected the desk for my study room - which I'm currently sitting at, and once this room is complete the whole house will be sorted. Every box unpacked. Every cupboard sorted. All before spring officially starts! By the time I'm done I think I'm going to start back at the beginning again and do a second round of ruthless culling. I'm paying the price for my linen obsession. It takes up quite a but of room and all needs sorting again - we no longer own a double bed so there will be sheets to rehome, mismatched and stained pillowcases will need to be turned into cleaning cloths or pooch beds and a shopping list of what's needed to keep our beds looking beautiful and our weary bodies feeling smothered under a cloud of loveliness even on washing days, will need to be drawn up

So I've been sorting, cleaning, catching up with precious friends and keeping on top of everything this week. I'm sorry that I haven't been around to post - I'm missing it so very much and think about it several times a day - but I can't tell you how good I'm feeling getting this all sorted, and how much TIME I'm going to have once running the household is a fully streamlined affair.

I'm creating a little happy place, I'll be back shortly.


Monday, 21 February 2011

Baker Baker

Levi is going to be a phenomenal baker. At two and a half, he works the Kitchen Aid without assistance. Without assistance, people,  NOT without supervision. Breathe. He cracks his own eggs perfectly. Sometimes while not supervised, sometimes into the nearest bowls, to make "scrangled egg". Yes, bowls. Plural. If I measure things out, the knows how to make a number of our firm favourites, and with his counting coming on leaps and bounds, its a matter of time before he is weighing out his own ingredients. 

I realise that I may never have daughters, so Im training up my boys in a way to ensure I get outstanding daughters in law. A girls got to think ahead. Right? I had two friends around with their boys' today. One has three, one has two. Altogether there were 7 under 5 boys in the kitchen at one point. I don't know how content I would feel having 7 sons. Maybe 4. Not 7. 

Levi made his first short-crust pastry recently. Given it didn't involve operating heavy machinery (the kitchen aid) or cracking of eggs, his attention was split between his character doll from a british kids series, some duplo and his task at hand. 

Did you know that lego does WELL in the dishwasher. Top shelf, in a "delicates" washer basket. You know those netting things you put your delicates into the washing machine in (if you can even find it)?

I thought it was very sweet that Igglepiggle (the blue doll) got to eat some pastry too. Levi ate most of his. No surprise. Its mostly butter. And you all know how he feels about butter. 

I have some really exciting news to share which Im not at liberty to release yet. But may I just prepare you. It's incredible. Hopefully tomorrow?

Until then - Mothers of sons unite in creating V.E.B. (Very Eligible Bachelors) so as to ensure P. O. D. I Ls. (Pretty Outstanding Daughters In Law)


Sunday, 20 February 2011

Slow Sunday

Recently I've had a bee in my bonnet. I want our chaos to become organised chaos. One of the areas that seems to be neglected until our annual tax return is our FILING. It all goes into one big pile, but it doesn't ever get sorted until it needs to be. I have blamed this partially on not having a designated office, but soon thats not going to be a reason. I get my desk on tuesday from a friend, so hopefully I'll have a little "ME" space to show you, soon. In that ME space will be a place to file - a small way to bless my husband at his most stressful time of year - financial year end. 

Pooka (Asher) chilling out on the "eat you up" sofa, with his apple. 

Pooks with a little company from his big brother. Even the kids moved slowly today.

There is a point to all this rambling - I finally filled all of paperwork from our car purchase. We bought our car in May. Last year. Yes. Im THAT bad. As I was punching and filling, I noted the MOT date (MOT is like a roadworthiness test you car has to have here annually, from its third birthday) and stopped dead in my tracks. In all our distraction with Dad in December, I completely forgot that my car was due its first MOT. In short, I've been driving around illegally, with invalid insurance, in snow and all, for nearly three MONTHS.  We immediately cancelled our Sunday plans, and Mike had to catch the bus with Levi into Church to teach kids ministry. They had SUCH fun. 

Spring Dafs!

I had a morning alone, with just Pooks. I am speechless about how much I got done. I got to sleep in an extra hour and a half. I cleaned the whole house and it STAYED clean. I did a little laundry. I straightened picture frames, and they stayed straight. I made beds, that remained made. Everything stayed how i'd put it. Asher followed me around, riding on the vacuum cleaner and "dusting". I had a glimpse into life when Levi grows out of his current chaos. Its going to be blissful

Mike and Levi got in around 2pm, we had lunch and then all my boys decided to nap. I was completely alone in a sparkling house. Never in living memory as a mother has this ever happened. I literally twiddled my thumbs as I paced the kitchen, not knowing what to do next. My gaze rolled over my cookbooks as I turned to continue pacing. Soaking up the order with each breath. I decided to bake (surprise, surprise) and skype mum for a catch up. 

Feta and Peppadew muffins.  Recipe to follow! 

Once the savoury muffins were in the oven, I started on supper. Simple Shepherds Pie won the grocery bill lottery (when I skim read the bill which I keep next to the fridge when I haven't made a meal plan..) and before I knew it everything was done. The week day snacks, a hearty supper. Even the dishes. My boys all woke from their nap, we had supper. Mike bathed them and put them to bed. 

Simple Shepherd Pie

We had a word from friends at our last life-group, that we were entering a season of being carried. That we were being cut back and pruned in order for there to be abundant fruitfulness in the season ahead. Im trusting that this is just the start of it! Oh what a spacious place I found myself in today. Long may it last. 

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Cakes - Teddy Bear Picnic

Today I thought I'd share another cake with you. Its been a rough day with tough news about my dad being transferred to ICU. You can read more about him here. He was being transferred when I spoke to Mum a number or hours ago, so I wont know more until tomorrow.

This was Asher's 1st birthday cake. I had a lot of fun doing it and they all really enjoyed eating it. Im not a fan of making kids cakes in general. I much prefer roses, lace, pearls and jewels. But I do enjoy, twice a year, making something special for my boys.

I was hoping to take pictures each step of the way, but time was short. Bear body on the go! 

I made the blanket by weaving strips of coloured fondant. Never again. 

I hope it will become one of those special memories that they can treasure as they grow and that maybe, one day, their wives will allow me to continue. Their own favourites as their birthday cakes. 

I'l be back soon with an update on dad, and my revised brownie recipe. The new one is even better than the old one. WHO knew that running out of ingredients could be the best thing that ever happened to a recipe?

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Parenting - for their benefit, not our convenience.

Spring is coming. We have the tell tale white daisy weeds to prove it. In a few months I'll post pictures of our "snow" white lawn, covered in hundreds of these mini daisies. For now I'm just going to ask that you don't the random plastic garden furniture and melamine planks we've used through winter to keep our pooch out of our neighbours garden. They're trying to sell their home, and something about a feral Jack Russell Terrier barking at prospective buyers in their future garden and then sneaking back through the hole in the fence just seemed, well, unhelpful?

Some of you might like me a little less after this post. You will probably disagree strongly with me, and not be too fond of the way we parent. But I'm not here to make friends. Wait, thats a lie. Making new friends and learning from you all is exactly why I'm here. But whats the point in you making friends with a fake me?

We believe in firm discipline and strong boundaries. Don't rush ahead and take this whole thing out of context. But this is what we've been working through and feeling recently.

Hebrews 4 vs 12 says "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

This scripture has informed and inspired they way we discipline. I've heard many messages on parenting. One thing that stood out from the rest was a simple "aside" in a message I heard when I was probably only 15. I remember consciously "bookmarking" it for when I was a mom. This is by NO means supposed to condense all parenting advice into one paragraph, this is mere something to consider alongside your convictions and the way you parent.

The advice went something like this. When parenting, it is important to be able to tell the difference between choices your child is making, and to be able to put them into one of two categories. Is the choice they are making, making a difference to their MORTALITY or to their ETERNITY? When our children hear us cautioning them, we want them to listen, not just hear.

The example given by the father of four (now fully grown and married off) men was his sons wanting to ride quad bikes on a friends farm. They had little experience on the bikes and teenage boys being teenage boys there were certainly risks to their mortality. They chose, as parents, to let them decide whether they would go or not. They laid out the risks, ensured that their boys where adequately trained in control and safety on the bikes, advised them again reckless behaviour and then gave them the choice.

He went on to explain that most of us, boys especially, have a taste for adventure. As parents our desire and instinct is often to protect them from every potential hurt that could arise. This can possess a danger in itself.

Many children, my eldest especially so, possess a very adventurous, independent streak. Most boys have a taste for "danger". Most Moms have a taste for overprotection. I never want my boys to feel smothered. While we do not tolerate disobedience, I've found myself reminded of this and questioning my motivation for some of the things I would naturally say "no!" to.

It is important that our children, especially those who are adventurous, are ALLOWED a sense of freedom, and a taste of danger. We let them climb. We let them ride bikes. We let them walk along the high wall most of the way to school. We let them jump around in their water filled sand pit in the FREEZING cold. NOT because its convenient. Because its ANYTHING but. We let them have their desire for adventure filled, even when it may mean and extra trip to the emergency room. Im not advocating for reckless behaviour, obviously, just a bit more freedom where **I** would naturally have said NO! We need to remember who our children belong to, and not to extinguish the adventurous fearless spirits He has given them. He loves them and He will protect them.

I pray this over my boys regularly - Psalm 121 
I lift my eyes up to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you - the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more. 

We let our boys be fearless because we desire for our children to work out their "adventure seeking" in areas effecting only their mortality, so that one day, when we need to rebuke or offer a caution in an area that will effect their eternity, their forever relationship with God, that they heed our warnings. That they understand that we are not here to spoil their fun. That they know we desire them to have a full life.

We want our NO's to be serious. To have weight. And to be for their benefit, not our convenience.  We discipline attitudes way more than we discipline actions. Its why I took all of these gorgeous pictures of Levi jumping around in dirty water rather that hauling him in and sticking him on a time out. He was outside playing on his slide with me watching from the kitchen window, when he realised that the rain had filled up his upturned sand pit. I saw the thought flash across his mind and by the time I got across the garden he was already standing, shoes on, in knee deep water. GRINNING. I couldn't kill his joy. So I enjoyed him, enjoying life. And then bribed him in with the promise of a warm bath. 

In the end it turned out he really just wanted to be back outside. He made a run for it while I was loading his clothes into the washing machine. 

And essentially, I was reminded, to be loving. Full of patience, kindness, gentleness and selflessness when it comes down to the crunch. When my washing pile grows just so that he can have fun. 

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Our Kitchen - What happens AFTER you let go.

Yesterday  I filled you in on some changes I've been making. The biggest changes haven't been over things, but rather changes of heart. There are many things I love and hold dear, that are just THINGS. One of them is my beautiful 6ft dining table, which I've had since we were newly weds. I love to feed people, host people, throw parties and squeeze as many people as I can around my table. Having a place for it is one of the most important things when I look at a potential house. You can read about why using it is no longer an option here

My reason

Its too easy to not realise when we need to change. Its too easy to hold on to things we're hoping for, when there may be a really practical and helpful solution right in front or you. I'm no good at compromise. I'm not particularly good at letting go. 

Im not really wild about this kitchen. I'd love an oak raw wood kitchen, or a white kitchen, or something. But we're renting, and this isnt bad as fast as kitchens go! Im feeling a WHOLE LOT better about it now that I have a bit more of what I love in it!

I've managed to find a place for my heart, and my notice board in our new nook.

These tablecloth weights have been sitting in a drawer for three years. Im glad that they are finally getting to see light of day. 

I own an excessive a lot of cutlery. All of the colonial bone handled silver in the first drawer was from my wedding shower. I had to get gifts I could transport back to the UK from South Africa. They are for our relaxed outside dining mainly, but they look perfect with any vintage table settings. The second drawer holds some of my really good silver. I have 18 of everything, and when I had my big table, I used it all often.

Deciding what to put ON the dresser was really tough. I own a LOT of porcelain. Enough to feed 40 people a 4 course meal without washing a dish. Really. Some of my favourites are the Château plates, which I eventually settled on. They are from the mid 1800's and show the Châteaux of the Loire Valley in France. I picked them up for next to nothing in a french furniture warehouse when visiting our friend's château.

Protea's imported from South Africa where I grew up - a gift from a friend.

What Im reading (and drinking!) this week

The silver table in all the baking shots! 

One of my favourite things about this room now is that its so true to me. It has things I've picked up over years. It feels layered. It has things from where I grew up, where I've been on holiday, gifts and furniture I love. Its not something I've copied out of a magazine, or gone out shopping to do. I had it ALL. 

Our first sunshine in weeks.

My French chairs.

What's inside. Those are saucers for my million vintage tea cups.

This week I've learned that being opened handed and putting our families first can reward US in ways we never expected! I've never loved my kitchen more. It's wonderful eating meals together, having somewhere to have people over again. 

I now lead our hospitality and catering team at Church - God has opened the door to feeding the masses in a way that I never imagined possible. In doing so, He has made this transition to a dining table for four a sweet thing for me. We are entering a season of intimacy. Drawing close to our Father. Drawing close to our family. Laying DEEP foundations into friendships. It wont be forever, just like the end of winter is looming and spring draw close this season will end and I will need to change, all over again. Im just hoping that Im not so blind, for so long, next time around! 

Thank you for sharing and motivation this transition for me. You're and inspiring lot! 

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Our Rearrange - Before shots!

Im keeping this short today not because I don't love you all. Because I do, dearly. But I'm working on having a "family first (FF)" year - I'll post more on that another day, and that means I need to be up and at em with the birds (and babies) early tomorrow, which means I need sleep. The start of FF meant that things around our home had to change, practically. We moved in a year ago with a baby and a toddler. A year has passed and we now have two toddlers - what we NEED from our living space has changed drastically. What my FAMILY need is very, very different from what we needed this time last year.

So after much deliberation, I jumped off the fence and right into making our home what we need it to be NOW.

Here's what it looked like on Sunday morning when we left for church. I cant seem to find a picture of the play room, but it was a small office like room, a little too narrow for the kids to play comfortably in.

Above is the kitchen nook - this is just on our kitchen and was arranged so that I had a good floor space for the boys to have a place to play downstairs (we are in a town house our lounge is upstairs), for Asher who was four months to have a good place for tummy time, crawling etc when I worked downstairs.

Its no longer needed for this - the boys spend most of their time in the playroom as I no longer have to watch them both every second, and Levi is more trustworthy to be left alone with Asher.

Our focus has become a place to have family meals. Read about the dining room below.

When we moved in here the major compromise was this room. Its a converted garage with no window, and this house has no dining room. Its also got no heating, so its COLD in winter, and dark in summer.

I knew that with some good lighting (to be purchased) a large mirror on the painting wall (to be purchased) a shelving unit for the right hand wall (to be purchased) that this could work well, even without the window, as the door opens onto a full length glass window. It required a LOT of time, and a LOT of money, and as we are renting and we have landed up traveling abroad twice this year for reasons beyond our control, we didn't have the money and couldn't see a good reason to invest it each month. So it was put off, and used for storing all the "to do's" Everything on the table was baby stuff to be passed on, and maternity clothes to give away. The dresser was a porcelain dumping ground as I wasn't anywhere near decorating this room.

CONCLUSION - wasted space, wasted furniture, no where to have family meals. The kids ate early, and we ate at the tiny kids table (see kitchen pics - Asher is sitting on it!) as thats just what we did. Looking back I cant believe it!

Looking the other way down the table you can see the door to the right and just how boring this room was. TO BE FAIR it was normally way neater than this - I took these pics right after sorting toys, clothes etc and all this was waiting to get moved on.

I think that sometimes we are just too tired and too caught up in life to realise that we've changed, and what we need has changed. Im fortunate that now that I'm "free" from a number of things that were distracting me (pregnancy, nursing, moving house, visitors, sleep deprivation etc) that all your get go spirits have inspired me to do what I would normally do - SORT IT!

I need to head to bed but tomorrow I'll show you how we've sorted out our kitchen nook, and maybe a glimpse of the old dining room. Oh - and there was NO Sweet Sunday because I starting sorting this lot when I should have been baking. But you know, family first!


Monday, 7 February 2011

The big swap

The dust is settling, but it's been epic. I've been sitting on the fence about the arrangement of our ground floor for months, and not knowing whether we'd stay in this house another year or not, left me feeling so sapped I had no energy to even think about making a choice . Well we've decided that this is home for another year (big decision number on out the way). And we decided that it was time to make the move.

We've been busy, really busy, and we've had sick kids and non-sleeping kids, and visitors and excuses like there's no tomorrow. That, and I couldn't decide what I WANTED. We had not a cent to spare towards what ever we chose, and swapping three rooms around can leave HOLES where you need storage, empty corners that need tables and floors which need rugs.

We knew it would take a LOT of time and even more effort - when you're moving things from A to C, and B to A you have a lot of things which have no "waiting area" - more specifically a LOT of porcelain that has no waiting area, things get tricky.

Thanks to Alicia over at La Famille and her "get go" redo, I felt the necessary bump off of the shelf of indecision that I've been needing, and decided that I was going to do what I'd been thinking of doing for months. And if it didn't work I'd just move everything back. How could that do harm? And if there where holes, that was still better than living miserably and discontented. I'd probably waste more time pondering the possibilities than it would take to move it all, and then move it all back.

Its mostly done. We only started at midday yesterday, but the sorting and rearranging and heavy lifting is done. Its not pretty, yet, but I didn't make the move to make things look pretty. In fact, I made the move because I decided that pretty was LESS IMPORTANT than practical, and that what I loved and needed might be fulfilled if I just let go of some things I'd set my heart on. Lay some things down.

Hopefully tomorrow I can start the big reveal - today I've been arms full with two sweet boys with terrible nappy rash. So bad that there has been screaming. Bleeding. Refusing to eat. So today Im tending to my brood.

See you all tomorrow!

Friday, 4 February 2011

A walk in the park...

A couple of weeks ago Dandy over at Spontaneous Clapping (click to link over to her lovely blog) posted about her wonderful stroll through the park. I was reminded instantly of how gorgeous the parks are in the US: paved paths, trimmed grass, landscaped gardens really! Now I'm not saying we dont have those here, as we do, but they are mainly in central London. Out in the suburbs our parks are more wild. Very different. So I promised we'd walk. Take pictures. Post about.

The park at the end of our walk

A mixture of sleet, snow, rain, cold, wind and winter blues have meant that we haven't done it. We've avoided. We've stayed in hibernation. If we HAD groundhogs, they wouldn't even have shown face.

Dog with ADD - hadn't been walked in weeks. 
Yesterday, however, the sun came out to play. I thought of going for a walk, then thought better of it, until a friend messaged me and said "lets walk!". How could I say no? How could I deprive my kids (and my near senile dog) from a dose of vitamin D and some fresh country air. So we set off - I capitulated.

My friends little boy

I hauled out my camera, complete with its broken LCD, dug out the kids walking pram, packed cinnamon buns and headed out. 

Running FREE! 
 Once we were there I realised I had nearly NO pictures of my boys over the past couple of months.

Asher, 14 months

My beautiful baby - cant believe he is running!

Another friend joined us with her gorgeous little girl. She and Levi were due on the same day! It was wonderful to be pregnant with someone I knew, although it seemed grossly unfair that I got to have my baby for a full three weeks before Judy got to have K. Judy was late, I was early!

Girls make me broody. 

The thing that I love most about these picture is that all of them were spontaneous. The kids went where they wanted, and played as they wanted. This did mean that they were always backlit, as they never wanted to face the sun!

 They all seemed to have a really good time, even though it was FREEZING.

My boys decided to play a little game of hide and seek on the bench, which completely melted me. They have only just started to play together - this is the first photographic evidence I have to prove it happens.

I would never have forgiven myself for missing this had I not had my camera!

It was cold but they were so joyful! It makes me long for another sunny afternoon to savour. It also makes me long for decent photo editing software. And for my LCD display to be fixed.

Levi found a body shaped hole, and proceeded to sit in it for half an hour.

He even pretended to sleep in it. Complete with fake snoring and everything. "Video!" you jeer. Yes, actually, I have one. I just have to get it off my phone - eventually.

I hope this inspires you to get out in cold, like Dandy inspired me! Its so worth it - they slept like logs last night! And we got some sweet pictures :-)
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