A call from Pope Francis to make chutney

pope francis laughingLast week I made some pear and apple chutney. It turned out ok. I found some basic internet recipes and then just bunged whatever I had into the pot. Sultanas were a good addition but overall I think I used too much vinegar. It was Pope Francis who set me off on this chutney session. I didn’t get a personal phone call but I did feel he was nagging me none the less.

This Pope really seems to get into our lives. From encouraging parents to bring their children to Church, to reminding us not to waste our food, he really gets down to the basics of how to live a good life.

I do try to use all my food wisely by planning meals and using left overs. But I know there are always vegetables I never get around to eating, cheese that I don’t store properly so it goes to waste and left overs in the freezer that I toss out because I’ve forgotten what they were in the first place. So when I saw that bowl of saggy looking pears and apples, which no one was bothering to eat, I knew something had to be done.

Over summer I’ve been reading Down to Earth by Rhonda Hetzel (thanks to the kind friend who gave it to me.) It’s a beautiful and practical book that encourages everyone to live simply. It talks about the value of home and the value of the home skills.

Simple living is “living a life that’s not complicated by wanting or having too much. It’s being satisfied with enough, whatever that may be. It allows you to discover the significance of home life and how your home can nurture you. It’s a lifestyle that allows you live well on little money, thereby enabling you to build a family and a home that is based on authenticity and love.”

Now isn’t that exciting! But also daunting… the book has some high ideals like making your own soap and knitting your own winter jumpers! Still, as it’s the start of the year I’m inspired to make some small steps.

Living a life of poverty or simplicity isn’t a new idea in the Catholic Church. Saints, Popes and everyday Catholics have been trying to live simple lives for centuries. However Pope Francis’ message really seems to be hitting home at the moment. It’s as though we are hearing an old message again for the first time.

Why does living a simple life seem so inspiring? Why would we be crazy enough to welcome a little poverty into our lives?

I suppose it has to do with our heart. Living simply, not creating unnecessary needs for ourselves, de-clutters our hearts so we can love. Our hearts are free to love people rather than things.

So perhaps it’s part of some plan that for now I don’t have a working oven, our plumbing is a bit hap hazard, we are fighting a battle against an ant invasion and I’m sitting here pregnant during a heat wave. Can’t say I’ve always born it graciously.

It’s a crash course in living simply and de-cluttering my heart. I bet if I told Pope Francis about it all he’d have a good chuckle.

Definition of Marriage

The other day my English students were trying to define irony. It’s a tricky one.

We hear a lot about marriage these days and the right of everyone to get married.

Is this ironic?

Because on the other hand, so many couples say they don’t see any value in marriage. It’s just a piece of paper, an outdated institution or a big party where you wear a white dress.

Marriage can mean very different things to different people. Sometimes I’m talking about marriage to a friend and I realise that we are speaking of two dissimilar concepts. It’s like eating a dish of fried rice and comparing it to risotto. Similar but not the same.

I’m been trying to work out how I would define marriage.

For me it’s a commitment, made in public, to love my husband for the rest of his life. As a Christian I also believe this commitment is made before God who will help me live up to this mighty big promise.

I will choose to love my husband in bad and good times. A marriage is not just about romance although I’ll work on keeping that there. Marriage is about friendship. Hopefully the greatest friendship you will ever have in your life.

Since having a baby I’ve realised how important our marriage is for children.
A happy, stable marriage is probably one of the best things I can give my child.

So marriage is about creating a family. Marriage is about creating a home.

Lastly I think marriage is about service. Being married helps me to give myself to others.

Not that a single person doesn’t have the chance to be selfless. However I’d argue that marriage (and kids) throw you in the deep end.

So that’s my definition of marriage.

What’s yours?

To blog or not to blog…

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My poor blog has been neglected for far too long. I’ve blamed it on all sorts of things.

It could be my that my baby has morphed into a toddler.  Or perhaps it’s the onslaught of school work I need to get through at the moment. I’ve even blamed it on James Herriot. I’ve found that a comforting chapter of his novels sends me off very nicely to sleep every night. Not that they are boring. It’s just that they are warm, cosy, funny and there is no real overarching plot to keep me reading too long.

However, the most truthful answer is I’d reached blog overload. There are so many voices out there on the net. So much chatting, criticising, pondering, gossiping, boasting, sharing and commenting.

Some voices I love. You can stumble across some truly wise and witty writing.

Some make me despair of human intelligence. Some voices make me long for silence.

Despite my fleeting retreat, I’m going to launch my voice again into the great babble. I started this blog because every English teacher should – in theory – write. I want my students to write so I have to set an example.

I also started this blog to write about the things I love;  books, food, movies and family.

Am I a mummy blogger? I love being a mum but my interests, I hope, spread  beyond the realm of nappies.

I want to join the voices of mums who are forging a unique way into motherhood. Mums who are open to life, whether its convenient or not. I’m no “boutique” Mum. I’m joining the Mums who take on the joys and sufferings of having children with their  hearts ready to have their life turned upside down.

And for this reason I’m still going to blog.

We all need a Home

My most valuable work doesn’t earn me a cent.

We all need a home. And creating a home isn’t reserved for those who eat organic, photograph their dinner, bake from scratch or have left behind a job as a CEO.

Every Mum and Dad, in my opinion, needs to make a true home, for the sake of each other and their children.

A home means tradition, clean clothes, meals that bring you together and that feed your stomach and spirit. A home is a private shelter from the world. It’s a place to be calm, to cry, to laugh and to gather strength.

As a teacher I wish all my students came from a happy home.  Take the family dinner for example. With the TV off, a nutritious meal in front of you, kids can learn to share, communicate and feel cherished.

I want to teach children who have had a family meal.

In yesterdays article  in the Sun Herald, Alexandra Carlton asked why are “ smart women swapping boardrooms for bunting and bake-offs?”

One rather bitter quote came from feminist and author Anne Summers. She said that”If women want to quilt and craft and sort out their linen cupboards on a weekly basis that is their business. But don’t claim it is a superior way to live,” she says

I really don’t see why anyone should take offence at housework. Presumably even Ms Summers has to do it herself.

Honestly, I do think looking after your family has a special value, whether you  do paid work or not. When I show love to my family it’s better than any paid work I might have done.

C.S Lewis said ““Homemaking is surely in reality the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, mines, cars and government exist for except that people may be fed, warmed and safe in their own homes? The homemaker’s job is one for which all other exist.”

Currently I’m working part time and I’m always going to be professional and passionate about my work as a teacher. However, although it may sound old fashioned, my heart is in my home.

At the end of my life I’m never going to regret putting my family first.

In Sydney, so many Mums have to work, at least part time. Not to wear designer clothes or to travel to Europe: Mums work to put food on the table.

It’s about time we value all the work done after hours.

Housework needs to be done and meals cooked. Why shouldn’t a man and woman bring all their creativity and intelligence into the home as well as the workplace? It doesn’t make sense to be an awesome lawyer but not know how to cook a meal or even make your own bed.

Sometimes I think the feminist of past generations have let their daughters down. I remember going away with a group of friends. One morning a girl tried to cook scrambled eggs  It took her nearly 45 minutes and it was still the consistency of thin porridge. It was a pretty sad breakfast  Why had no one taught her to scramble an egg? Is this a win for feminism? Or just a generation of poorly skilled people.

I want to improve on all those old fashioned domestic skills and pass them on to my children.

Hopefully they will feel confident in creating a home for those they love.

7 ways to be a better cook

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We should all be professionals when it comes to cooking – or so I learnt last year.

When Eloise was about 6 weeks old, I somehow made it out of the front door to a cooking course. I had booked this pre-baby in all my naivety – didn’t really believe babies could make you tired…

The chef teaching us was passionate about food. She was soon waving around her sharp knife and trying to turn us eager amateurs, into half decent cooks.

Here are some of the basics we learnt:

1.       Keep your knives  sharp

With sharp knives you can work quickly. “A woman can do a lot of damage with a sharp knife!” the chef said. In a good way.

2.       Scrap bowl

When you start cooking, get out a bowl. Instead of making many messy trips back and forth to the bin, you keep everything neatly in one place and empty it at the end. Seems simple but it really helps!

3.       Keep your chopping board sturdy

Put a wipe or damp tea towel under your board. This keeps everything stable and safe.

4.       Perfect at least ten favourite recipes

Find ten favourite recipes and work on them until they are near perfect. This means you can cook without too much worry, no need for a recipe and the familiarity of the food is quite comforting for those who eat it.

5.       Try new recipes – don’t get stuck in a rut

Favourites are good but try and learn how to cook something new. Explore cook books and ask friends for recipes that you can try.

6.       Present the food well

Food seems to taste better when it looks good. This point is proved when you look at a platter of fruit. It’s far more appetizing when it’s cut up well.

7.       Stay positive

Even if your cake is a little flat, your lasagne not as cheesy you might like, and your steak overcooked –  never say a word. Smile, act as though it’s perfect and you’re sure to fool even the fussiest eater.

Of course, the real challenge now is to keep a very active 9 month old baby entertained while I whiz around pretending to be a master chef!

How should you drink coffee? The great, the glorious and the risks you should never take.

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Life is too short not to drink many glorious cups of coffee.
But how should you sip on a steaming, frothy cappuccino?

On the go
Nothing makes you feel quite as productive as striding along with a coffee. Even if you are running late for work a coffee sets the tone for a confident day.
Saturday morning
This needs to be timed perfectly with the sun still in that twinkly state without giving off any serious heat. The weekend stretches before you and life is sweet.
With a friend
There is nothing better than ordering coffee and sitting down with an old friend. You look forward to a good hour of easy, comforting conversation.
With a cake
In this age of sugar-free, dairy free, taste free diets, I sometimes like to be quite counter cultural. I order a full cream flat white and a big slice of cheesecake. I’m never fooled into sharing – I want every delicious piece.
While reading a book where people drink a lot of coffee
In Henning Mankells series, Wallander is always drinking coffee. I often have a sympathy coffee while reading his novels. You need something dark and strong to help you stay up late.

There are some very risky places to drink coffee.
On the go
Slip of the hand and confident strides turn to public humiliation. You find yourself mopping hot milk from down your front.
On a date
I never enjoyed coffee on a date. I was too distracted, too conscious of getting chocolate on my nose, too worried that by ordering a mocha I made myself look immature.
At the snow
Hot chocolate with marshmallows are always better at the snow. You need something warm, sweet and slightly childish to keep your spirits up.

Greatest coffee moment of all
Special mention must go to the Second Coffee. My Dad introduced me to this one. We had a coffee together and then – I couldn’t believe it – he ordered another. So indulgent! So wonderful!

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