Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Don't leave gym balls with adults

That was the lesson of the weekend. I went away with some friends who I'll be spending the summer with as part of a beach mission where we'll hang out with the young folk around Lakes Entrance, sharing our life and faith under the sun.

There was a plentiful supply of gym balls in the hall we were staying in. Let's just say I came away a bit bruised and battered. But look how much fun we had...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Strawberry Fields Forever

So I spent a dreamy weekend in Tasmania meeting my tiny, loveable, spewy, smiley Godson. Isn't he just the cutest?

His lovely mama (and regular blog visitor), Emma, took us out into the sunny fields to get a bit of fresh air and caterpillars, which was just what I needed. Between holding babies, taking photos and snaffling down strawberries, we managed to collect 2 kilos of the red gems.

When we got home, Emma's husband said he'd just happened to have seen a recipe for a giant strawberry flan the day before on the Tasmanian blog Island Menu,, and the bloggers had even been to the same fruit farm in Sorrell as us. What are the chances? Making the flan soon became an irresistible challenge and a few hours later (feeds and nappy changes not withstanding), we had magicked up this delicious piece of goodness:

The three of us (baby not included) managed to finish it off in just 24 hours. The pastry is especially short-bready and delicious. I highly recommend it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Go and Learn THIS

The Lights

A funny thing happened this afternoon. I was doing a bit of a life-analysis, as one is want to do when they are forced to sit still on a plane. I was thinking on Jesus' words that he came to call sinners, not the righteous, like a doctor who is there for the sick, not the healthy.

Do I just want to be healthy, and be around ostensibly "healthy" people? Do I want to simply stay in my comfortable, middle-class Christian life that appears to tick all the boxes and allows me to be well off in my hip inner-city suburb? Or do I want to be like Jesus and be among the marginalised, potentially burdensome, lonely people that are all over this city, but hidden from view?

As I thought about my priorities, another verse came to mind. It was God's words to ancient Israel in Hosea: "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings".

Do I really want to love God with my whole heart, or just do what looks like obedience - throw God the scraps, like some kind of domestic pet? God wanted Israel's hearts, not their lame offerings. I can't imagine he wants mine.

When I got home, I couldn't remember the exact reference of the Matthew quote, so looked it up and discovered something beautiful. Jesus himself actually tied the Hosea verse into his comment about the healthy and the sick, as is told in Matthew 9:12 - 14. These two thoughts ARE related.

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus, I want to learn what this means. Help me.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A word in season

Is it just me or does it sometimes feel like each day is a different season? Some days, joy blows in like a longed-for sea breeze, salty and lithe, caressing the earth. Other times I'm faced with a squall of despair, wind and rain pounding incessantly on a fragile roof, branches struck down and whimpering in their wake.

Whatever the season, God always sends me a word, through his word. Today it was Isaiah 35:1 - 10. Specifically I was thinking about verses 3 and 4:

 Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way; 
say to those with fearful hearts, 
   “Be strong, do not fear; 
your God will come...

Much of my energy goes into this task, of taking quivering hearts, and turning them towards the Lord, reminding them of his strong arm. I need to remember this is a task that God himself ordains, in order that we would stand firm.

Perhaps if you too are in this position, of watching knees and hands, and speaking into fear, you might take heart from reading this, the beginning of a sermon by Charles Spurgeon on these exact verses.

TIS THE DUTY of all men to be careful of the sons of sorrow. There be some who from their very birth are marked by melancholy as her own. The silent shades of sorrow are their congenial haunts; the glades of the forest of grief are the only places where their leaf can flourish. 
Others there are who through some crushing misfortune are brought so low that they never hold up their heads again, but go from that time forth mourning to their graves. Some there be, again, who disappointed in their early youth, either in some fond object of their affections, or else in some project of their young ambition, never can dare to face the world, but shrink from contact with their fellows, even as the sensitive plant curls up its tendrils at the touch. 
In all flocks there must be lambs, and weak and wounded sheep; and among the flock of men, it seems that there must necessarily be some who should more than others prove the truth of Job's declaration, "man is born to trouble even as the sparks fly upwards."
It is the duty then of those of us who are more free than others from despondency of spirit, to be very tender to these weak ones. Far be it from the man of courageous disposition, of stern resolve, and of unbending purpose, to be hard towards those who are timid and despairing. 
If we have a lion-like spirit, let us not imitate the king of beasts in his cruelty to those timid fallow deer that fly before him, but let us place out strength at their service for their help and protection. Let us with downy fingers bind up the wounded heart; with oil and wine let us nourish their fainting spirits. In this battle of life, let the unwounded warriors bear their injured comrades to the rear, bathe their wounds, and cover them from the storm of war. Be gentle with those that are desponding. Alas, it is not every man that has learned this lesson. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Butterflies and Eames chairs

Some recent card creations. A friend from Brown Owls donated some old library cards (!!), which I used as backgrounds for the butterfly and chair cards.

Meanwhile, the HELLO card is made out of an old envelope, and the little cars are stuck on a vintage encyclopaedia.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Oh hai, 2001.

I learned the other day that it's 10 years since the film Donnie Darko was released. Um, sorry... but where did that little sandwich of time disappear to?

I can totally picture myself lying on my bed listening to Gary Jules' depressing cover of Mad World from the movie over and over again, pondering the meaning of life. Wasn't that just last year? Seriously.

Seeing it for the first time at 15, Donnie Darko became the film of my adolescence (closely followed by Waking Life, interestingly, also released in 2001). But I shouldn't assume that everyone has seen it, given not everyone is into psycho-philosophical sci fi thrillers...

So for the uninitiated, a brief synopsis: Donnie Darko follows the story of a teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal) living in America in the 80s who has hallucinations, makes friends with an apocalyptic rabbit and learns the secret to time travel after a jet engine falls on his house. Oh and Drew Barrymore and Patrick Swayze are in it. What more could you want?

There was something about the way it combined a number of my interests at the time, namely space and philosophy, into a cool 80s aesthetic that totally won me over. I watch it now and notice how convoluted the plot is and how basically unwatchable it would be for most people, but I still love it.

I take it everyone has a bunch of films that are forever linked to their teenage years. Probably most aren't as dark and twisted as mine, but I'm curious, what is it for you? And when you watch it now, does it still appeal?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Get your Shanghai Noodles on

Some of you will know I work with international students, which means I get to eat delicious food from all over the place as part of my "work". I know, pretty great, right? I'm inspired to cook more Asian style food at home, but laziness often prevents me from getting the required ingredients.

Well not last night. Soph R over at the Fountainside inspired me to cook up some Northern Chinese style noodles [Zha jiang mien for the Chinese among us] and they were just as I remember eating at Shanghai Night in Ashfield - so salty, so good.

I had to do a little bit of creative substitution, as our local Asian grocer only had Japanese soy bean paste, and I used Japanese rice wine instead of Chinese rice wine. But it all turned out fine.

Here's the original recipe, from Em's blog.

The cucumber is a must as it cuts through the incredible saltiness of the pork mince.

Also, recently I cooked Pip's uber famous teriyaki chicken. Guess what? The top secret ingredient is potato starch. I know, who'd have thought!

Anyone got a secret recipe I should know? I like cheap, easy and cheerful.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What to do with a 1970s map of Sydney

Make bunting, of course! I don't know if I should tell you all how easy it is, or leave you thinking I slaved over it... ok, I'll tell you how easy it is.

You literally just sew circles of paper together. Yup, that easy. The hardest part, actually, is finding a cool old map to cut up. Thankfully there are a few hoarders in our house, and there were a few vintage melways and Sydney and Canberra UBDs to choose from. I love love love the beautiful old inks and matt paper.

It was the perfect not-watching-the-Melbourne-Cup public holiday activity. I reckon you should give it a go. Or if you want me to make you one, I'm thinking of selling them, so give me a holler.