Sunday, March 31, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

A final Pause in Lent, 2013

Well, even though it's been bitty and I've not had all that much blogging time, I've appreciated our Pause in Lent this year - thank you for your contributions and comments! My thought this week has been about how easy it is to define ourselves negatively ('well, at least I'm not...') rather than positively. I want to avoid the comparison definitions of myself, and go for the positive ones, the ones which say what I am, not what I'm NOT!

This led on, strangely but logically, to Jesus's story:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God."

The story is in the book of Luke, and you can find the full version here. The logical connection is that the Pharisee was all about what he was NOT, but the tax collector looked at what he WAS. The strange aspect is that what he sees about himself is negative, and not all the positive cheery stuff I was aiming for! So does that mean that either the tax collector or I have got it wrong?

I think not. The tax collector doesn't compare himself to the Pharisee, only to God, and to what he feels he should be in God's eyes. That's not wrong, and Jesus promises that it got him justified by God. I can look at myself and see what I have done wrong, and what I lack in terms of character. I can go to God about it and seek his mercy, without comparing myself to other people. I can also look at myself in the shining light of Jesus' love and forgiveness, and see some wonderful, wonderful things about myself, made in the image of God and redeemed by his grace. I think that this is where the positive definitions come in. As Mother Theresa said: 'For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway'.

Have a special Holy Week, if you're commemorating it. And see you for Easter Joy!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spot the tortoise!

Achilles the tortoise, adopted last autumn, has emerged from his self-made hibernation hole! I was quite anxious about him, as we had a fairly cold winter with a lot of standing water, and I imagined him drowning... but not to worry, here he is and he has been fed fresh dandylions by the boys, which seem to suit him just fine. Now he just has to gradually get rid of the 'mole hill' which he is currently carrying around on his shell!

Friday, March 22, 2013

A little red hen... or 20!

Spot the difference?
On the right, Rosie the French hen. On the left, the only cracked plate from a large service which I found in the charity shop for 40€ today!
40€ is an awful lot for me to spend, but see the hand-painting on the large cockerel serving bowl, and note how he's different to his red hen, above. Some of the other serving plates, platters, bowls and soup dishes have chicks on them too!
I'm going to pack away a lot of my other vintage plates and bowls, and go all-out for this vintage French chicken theme for a while... and my 40€ expenditure was quickly vindicated when I heard an antique dealer excitedly asking to buy the service, which was already half-wrapped! Yippee - I got there before the brocante dealer, for once!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Pause in Lent - on Sunday for once!

I like what Ang said about this carving of Jesus - it's as if he's holding up his hand and saying, 'Hang on, stop and think about what really matters'! Betty also had some interesting information about the carving, when I posted about it last week - you can scroll down and find the post and comments easily, if you're interested.

So, here I am to hang on and think about what really matters! It's been quite a week - the family are fine but outside the home things have been quite difficult for friends and for Ben too. A week when I realised that God had drawn me towards last week's Pause in Lent quote for a reason. A week when I found myself repeating the words of a Methodist communion service: 'We are not worthy... but it is your nature always to have mercy, and on that we depend'. It's easier not to judge when you realise what a second ...(third/fourth...) chance you have been given yourself.

I also re-read my Simple Abundance book, and found a challenge that I hadn't really taken up before on the previous reads. It was to list ten things you like about yourself. The first list of ten was for your physical appearance. I'm quite vain so that wasn't too hard! But I was staggered to realise how hard it was to list ten things I like about my personality. I'm not a deeply unpleasant person, so there must be at least ten likable things about me, but blow me down, they were hard for me to think of! I'm not fishing for compliments here - instead, I issue you the challenge - write down ten things you like about yourself! I concluded that I spend a good amount of time thinking of how I'd like to improve/confessing, so it's valuable to get a balance and to also remember that God created us in his own image and saw that we were good!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Vintage tiles - the photos and the reality!

Two beautiful kitchens in the March and April Homes and Antiques Magazines have featured vintage or antique tiles. I've always fancied tiles like this, and Ben is currently looking for some tiles, so when I saw vintage tiles for sale locally, I moved fast:
I bought this pretty flower tile, and two other blue and white ones, for 10€ the lot.
The vendor was on the 'For Sale, Swap, Wanted and Giveaway in Toulouse' Facebook page - she sells items to raise money for a local cat charity. I've bought and sold plenty of things (bunkbeds, books and bikes, for example) on this wonderful English-language page since it was set up a year ago, but this is the first time I have found vintage items.
Here are the magazine pages with some beautiful ideas...
I shall have to keep shopping!
PS The sunshine and blooms were yesterday. Today, everything has been covered in snow!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Pause in Lent

  • Fast from judging others; Feast on the Christ dwelling within them.
Well, the above quote isn't an attempt to stop you from complaining about my untimely Lent posts and lack of sidebar links for the rest of you - honest! (But sorry, all the same, as normal service has yet to be resumed...)

It's just that the quote from the optional Lent poem caught my eye - it's so easy to say, and so hard to actually do, don't you think? I remember taking little baby Son 1 on the Newcastle Metro with a new Christian friend, and making some ratty comment about an obvious fare-dodger. When this young woman asked me, very innocently: 'Didn't Jesus say that he we can leave the judging to him?', she really brought me up short. I wouldn't have thought that I judged people, but here was evidence that I was doing just that.

There are sayings all around the world about not judging someone you don't understand - "you have to walk a mile in someone else's shoes" comes to mind, but there are lots of other good ones. This poem takes it even further, if you follow Christ - not only do you need to attempt to understand, but you need to recognise that Jesus is in that person! If I truly understood this, I'm sure I would behave differently, when a driver behind me honks angrily, or when teenagers in my sons' schools smoke and drink... Jesus is there, with those people, loving them. What am I doing?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A long-promised explanation!

I've been using this interesting image for years for our Pause in Lent posts, and I kept promising and explanation of where I snapped the photo - finally, here's the information!

We were in Saint GĂ©nis des Fontaines, which is in the foothills of the Pyrenees near the Med, about four years ago, on an enjoyable camping trip, and Ben and I decided to do a tour of the abbey before taking the boys on to visit the Valley of Tortoises (which is a great place in itself). If you've been on holiday in France, you've probably guessed the rest - we turned up at lunchtime, the place was shut, we looked round the outside while taking some photos and eating sandwiches, and it re-opened at just about the point we were ready to head off and see the tortoises! I'm not complaining - it's good that people respect lunch and break times, it just took us years to learn this habit!

So this photo is of the outside of the abbey. It's the lintel, and is very old and quite well known. You can see some good pictures and read about it in French here. And in more detail, but in Catalan here. What do you mean, you don't read Catalan? ;)

Other than the Catalan question, my question for you is: Do you think this is a good representation of God? Does it work for you? Why or why not? I spent some time wondering if it was the right 'logo' for a Pause in Lent the first time I used it, and now I've got used to it, but I wonder what it 'says' to other people?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Violets of Toulouse

Toulouse is famous for its violets - you can find them chrystalised as gifts in every tourist shop of the area (they're delicious). The Toulouse violet is a special type, with a double flower. I bought some and planted them a few years ago, but the area where I put them turned out to be on top of our water pipe, and when it sprang a leak the famous violets were sacrificed to the neighbours' mini-digger!
No matter, as I prefer the single, wild flowers, which are bursting into bloom on the trackway down to our town's clay-pit lake. I have a few in the garden, but nothing beats finding them blooming by the side of the path, unless it's finding some more unusual white ones further along:
I snapped some photos with my phone (still trying to get used to the concept of a thing I can carry in my pocket which does more than make calls). Raja and I were the only people there to appreciate them on a very windy day - but I imagine they are much appreciated by everyone who walks along there.
I found a very informative blog article, in English, on the Toulouse violet industry here - I shall be back to visit Vanessa at her La Lune blog again, now I've found her on my search for articles about violets!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Roses, enamel, lace, and a lesson in French living

I had a wonderful Sunday morning. I went to church alone (which I have to admit it, is sometimes easier than taking teenaged boys along...) and then visited the all-year Vide Grenier at Frouzins on the way home. It was as though the stall-holders had planned it all specially for my first Vide Grenier of the year!
I bought three stencilled bowls/plates for our eclectic collection - the theme of our 'set' is red, white and/or blue 1950s stencil-ware, with a bit of an emphasis on roses. I have to admit it's more to my taste than to the boys'! Ben seems to put up with it very generously... but don't you think these additions are wonderful?
Then there was yet another of the fantastic little lunch tins - this one is tiny, and I'd like to know what the working French man of the 1930s expected to fit into it! Perhaps it was for a child to take a gouter (snack) rather than for a grown man's lunch? The fabric box (to join my alarmingly large collection) has a beautiful paper lining, unfortunately rather torn, and will need a bit of a clean-up on the lid - I found some good dry-cleaning powder for doing this a while back, and will give it a go some time this week. Then I think I may re-arrange my collection - hurray for less work during the second week of the holidays!
The lace is handmade bobin lace, rather like English Honiton - I shall have to look it up in my lace bible, because it's clearly a French lace which influenced the Devon lace industry. And the beautiful picture of the fruit stand is one of many, many cards which I bought for a total of 7€ (a big spend for me).
The beautiful pictures are children's flash cards! And if you don't know what a fruit stand is in French, here's your answer:
For your next vocabulary test, what is a cooker in French?

You guessed it!
I personally always forget the word for bib. I don't have much call for it these days...
But here it is:
And here's a skimmer... I do love vintage kitchenalia.
In French it's an...
And I bet you know what this is:
And, if you've got the vintage French vibe going now, I bet you realised it was going to look like this:
The whole set is a beautiful illustration of French living in the mid, or even slightly earlier, 20th century. I really am enamoured of these cards, and I think I'm going to use them as a kind of bunting on our balcony. Watch this space...

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Pause in Lent

Life is slowing down a little - we still don't know the cause of Son 1's Friday rash, but it doesn't seem to have been anything scary related to his operation. He's feeling pretty good now, and is currently cooking tortillas (from scratch - slowly...) ready for a Hairy Biker's Mexican feast that's planned for Son 2's return from the Pyrenees this evening.
Like Ang, I've been thinking of certain key verses from the Fast/Feast Lent poem:
  • Fast from thoughts of illness; Feast on the healing power of God.
  • Fast from negatives; Feast on affirmatives.
  • Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
  • Fast from discouragements; Feast on hope.
And like Elizabethd, I've found the order of the seasons really encouraging:
  • Fast from worry; Feast on divine order.
Ben bought me these beautiful hanging vases for Christmas. He suspended them from our little chandelier on Saturday and put the first two daffodils from our garden into them - a wonderful sign of the changing season!
And another really positive thing that happened to me this week reminds me of the power of random acts of kindness:
I was hurrying home to give the boys lunch (it's the holidays!), and really didn't have time between lessons to manage this and also eat myself. I popped into Intermarché to pick up some simple lunch supplies and rushed to the checkout. The woman in the queue ahead of me (in her early 60s) looked at my smart clothes and said: 'Are you working? If you need to get back to work, please go ahead of me. I don't work now but I remember what it was like...' Phew! One little act of kindness and thoughtfulness saved my day and has been on my mind ever since.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

An update and a dotty bowl!

Thanks for your kind thoughts and prayers - Son 1's rash and fever are still a bit of a mystery, but both have reduced under the onslaught of medication that our doctor prescribed last night.
The very good news is that the blood test passed this morning with only mimimal panic and teenaged-grumbling, which given his state last night is a real relief! And the even better news is that the results indicate that his operation wounds, which a just a little infected, are not causing any trouble to his general health, so that there is no fear that the rash indicates something serious related to the operation. Therefore the mystery remains, but we have antibiotics now to add the the medical attack if his temperature goes up again, and there's no real fear for his health.

In fact, Son 1 was cynical about the whole 'being ill' thing, and spent some time in the hen run observing the spring-crazy hens. We decided to take Raja the cocker spaniel to our local safari park, where she is allowed to watch the animals from the enclosed car - Son 1 talks to her as though she is a small child, and she whines and barks. It's an odd way to spend an afternoon, but it seems to satisfy the invalid! We had a quick drive-past the troc shop on the way home, eyed up some interesting possiblilties, discussed Son 1's tastes (he likes glass and dark wood, so I told him to start buying while it's still unfashionable!) and I just happened to buy this cute dotty chocolate bowl for my collection...

Have a great weekend, friends!

Friday, March 1, 2013


Hmm, it's been a nice week, and the magnolia is coming into furry little bud!
The boys have been on holiday - now Son 2 is off skiing with friends thanks to the town youth club. He tells me that one of the organisers is rather fed up with his questioning everything... hmm, English children are just different, and I've warned him to behave 'French' for the duration! Son 1 has had a rather horrid afternoon. Possibly related to his operation wounds, possibly not, he has a fever and a huge rash over parts of his body. Four hours' wait at the doctor's got us very good medical attention, and we have medication and are awaiting a blood test and swabs to be taken tomorrow morning. Son 1 dreads needles, and with the fever to make things worse, got rather anxious about the whole business. Two paracetamol later he's calmer, but your prayers for a quiet night and a quick resolution to the problem would most appreciated.