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The Meal Planning Linky – Week 32

Welcome to Week 32 of The Meal Planning Linky. This is a linky hosted by Naomi at The Organised Life Project and Katy at KatykickerAnyone is welcome to join – just check out the rules below.

I know we all need a bit of inspiration and motivation when it comes to meal planning. That’s why we’ve launched The Meal Planning Linky. We’ll share our posts about meal planning, and you can link yours up too. Seeing others’ meal plans – and sharing our own – not only keeps us accountable but also will inspire us.

Our Meal Plans for the Week Ahead

We’re back at home this week after nearly two weeks away. So in some ways, it’s back to routines and rhythms, but in other ways, we’re settling into the ‘rhythms’ of the Summer holidays. We don’t have a huge amount booked in this week, and also, I know that I’ve let my stores really run down in the run up to our holiday. So our weekly shop this week includes lots of basics as well as things for meals.

I’m also on a bit of a health kick this week – it’s something about entering my late 30s! I’ve also put on a bit of weight over the last few months, and I’d like to shift a few pounds. I’ve been on and off various diets, but I also really struggle with snacking between meals and eating a sensible portion – I can easily polish off a whole packet of biscuits in one sitting. So I want to find a few really healthy snacks that I can prepare in advance and portion up. If they are nut-free and good for the kids, even better.

I’ve raided my cookbook shelf this week looking for inspiration. I bought the Leon ‘Naturally Fast Food’ cookbook a couple of weeks ago and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it.

Saturday: Beef stroganoff (which Ben loved during our World Cup meals). I’ll be using the Hairy Dieters recipe.

Sunday: Jerk Chicken (Hairy Dieters Recipe)

Monday:  Harissa Sardines with Cous Cous Salad

Tuesday: Leftovers and using up bits and pieces

Wednesday: Tuscan bean salad (Leon recipe) with bread

Thursday: Lamb and apricot meatballs (Leon recipe)

Friday: Homemade fish fingers, chips and peas

 

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Leah and Rachel Week 6

In our Mummy Meditations community, we’ve been looking in detail at the story of Leah and Rachel. I say in detail, as we’re now in the sixth week of studying these women. We take one verse at a time, and really pull apart what God is saying in that verse.

It’s been an up and down journey with Leah and Rachel. There’s so much about these women that is so relevant to what we deal with today: the obsession with appearances, the spirit of comparison, the desire for a husband, the jealousy, the struggle to conceive. In her blog post last week, Rachel looked at how the character Rachel dealt with disappointment and jealousy, and this week, we look at her actions as a result of her disappointment.

Very simply, as Rachel seems to be unable to have children, she gives her servant to her husband to act as a surrogate.

Motivation Matters

A few months ago, we looked at Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. On the face of it, the women’s actions look the same: the wife gives her slave to her husband in order to conceive a child. Leaving aside the questions of slavery, of abuse and of adultery for the moment, the two stories are actually quite different.

You see, Jacob already has an heir. Leah has borne him two sons. Rachel is the more beloved wife, yet she cannot have children. In fact, we are told that God allows Leah to conceive children almost as a comfort or a panacea for being unloved.

Rachel’s desire for children doesn’t come from a desire to give Jacob an heir, or even to see God’s promises fulfilled, like Sarah. Instead, her desire for children comes from seeing what other people have. It’s the spirit of comparison over and over again.

Sad consequences

As a result of this desire, several other people suffer. Poor Bilhah – ‘given’ to bear a child. It’s The Handmaid’s Tale happening in Genesis – in fact, in the dystopian novel, this story is the justification for the use of the handmaids, who bear the children for infertile couples.

When we looked at Hagar, we had such sympathy for her. Although we don’t hear Bilhah’s side of the story (she appears to become one of Jacob’s concubines), it’s all too easy to imagine the child taken from her. Having to watch the child that you grew and birthed, be claimed by another woman? That’s just all too hard.

Rachel’s selfishness comes across so strongly here. Yet, it’s a very human emotion. Millions of women struggle with infertility every day. Thankfully, we now have so many different options for infertile couples, and forced surrogacy is illegal. But taking action that harms others so that we can get our own desires? Perhaps that’s something to think about a bit more.

Rachel’s Reaction

The part of the verse that really stood out to me this week was Rachel’s speech: “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and has given me a son.” Honestly, I can understand this. She prayed for a son; through her own actions, she has been given a son. Yet, when we compare this to Hannah, who also prayed desperately for a son, without harming others, we see a significant difference.

She is mistaken. God has not vindicated her. God has not provided her with a son. Later on – sorry for the spoilers – Rachel does give birth herself to two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. These sons were from God, but Dan, and later Naphtali, were born through Rachel’s own intervention, rather than divine intervention.

I think this is a really hard thing to contemplate: when are our prayers answered by our own human actions, and when are our prayers answered by God? For surely, and certainly, God uses human actions to answer prayers?

I think the answer lies with Bilhah. If our human actions cause other people to suffer, or cause God’s laws to be broken (here, the commandment of ‘Do not commit adultery’ is broken), then it is not from God. There’s also a need to be in tune with the Holy Spirit, and to be spending time regularly in prayer and in studying God’s word. I imagine, in her jealousy and desire for a son, that Rachel was not particularly mindful of those things when she claimed that God had vindicated her.

Also, I think the word ‘vindicated’ is significant here. ‘To vindicate’ means to clear someone of blame or suspicion, and also to prove someone to be right, reasonable or justified. Perhaps Rachel felt some guilt about how she had treated Leah? Perhaps she felt some guilt about how she had treated Bilhah? And the birth of a healthy boy, to her, ‘proved’ that her actions were reasonable and justified? How often do we feel ‘justified’ when we commit some kind of sin?

In this story, it’s easy to dismiss Rachel as the ‘pretty and beloved one.’ Eventually, she gets her desires. But it’s such a long, slow struggle for her. She has so much to learn, about the nature of God, about grace and kindness, and about guilt.

Join us next week as we look at the next twist in this family saga, Genesis 30:15: But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?” “Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.” Do come over to our Mummy Meditations Community and join in the discussion.

The Meal Planning Linky – Week 31

Welcome to Week 31 of The Meal Planning Linky. This is a linky hosted by Naomi at The Organised Life Project and Katy at KatykickerAnyone is welcome to join – just check out the rules below.

I know we all need a bit of inspiration and motivation when it comes to meal planning. That’s why we’ve launched The Meal Planning Linky. We’ll share our posts about meal planning, and you can link yours up too. Seeing others’ meal plans – and sharing our own – not only keeps us accountable but also will inspire us.

I am SO late with this week’s meal plan! We’re still away, and you know when you’re on holiday and you lose track of the days of the week? Well, that happened. So I’m planning and posting on Sunday instead of Friday. If you’ve been looking for the meal plans, I’m so sorry!

Our Meal Plans for the Week Ahead

We’ve got another holiday week ahead. This weekend, Tim and I are off for a rare (literally, we haven’t done this since I was pregnant with Samuel, and he’s nearly 3) weekend without children. They are staying with my parents, and then I’m going to join them on Monday for a few days.

As my parents have been looking after them for a couple of days, I think I should at least offer to cook for one or two nights. By Thursday, we’ll all be back home together, and on Friday, it’s my birthday, so we’ll have my choice!

Sunday: Sunday lunch at a pub near where we’re staying

Monday: I’ll be having dinner with my parents

Tuesday: I’ll offer to cook – but my mum will have chosen the meal

Wednesday: I’ll offer to cook again

Thursday: Muttar paneer and rice – we’ve had hardly any spicy food over the last few weeks, and it’s all been fairly meat-heavy, so this will be a nice change. We ate Muttar paneer a lot when we travelled in India seven years ago.

Friday: Steak, chips and salad for my birthday, followed by strawberries and cream.

 

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31 things to declutter in August

August is a strange month in many ways. Half the world seems to be on holiday. Routines shift, we relax and perhaps spend more time at home. Sometimes, time away makes us see our own homes in a new light. As August progresses, we find our minds turning to the focus of September. Even if your life isn’t dominated by school terms, there’s a definite shift as we start thinking of getting back in to routine and that ‘back to school’ energy is worth harnessing.

If you’ve been following my monthly decluttering posts, we’ve been working through our homes. We started in the kitchen in January, then moved through the other rooms. We’re moving to the bathrooms this month, but I’ve added several extra things which we haven’t covered yet.

31 things to declutter in August

  1. Bathroom towels
  2. Shampoo and conditioner
  3. Shower gel, soap and bubble bath
  4. Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  5. Children’s medicines
  6. Flannels and face cloths
  7. Bath mats
  8. Nail brushes/sponges/loofahs etc
  9. Nail scissors/files/clippers
  10. Handcreams
  11. Nail varnishes
  12. Wash bags
  13. Bathroom cleaning products
  14. Cleaning cloths
  15. Mops/dustpans and brushes
  16. Window cleaners
  17. Any other cleaning products
  18. ‘Spare’ bedsheets e.g for guest bedroom
  19. Candles and ornaments in hallway/landing or in bathroom
  20. Books stored in hallway/landing area
  21. Washing baskets (check out this post to see my own laundry system)
  22. Laundry products
  23. Shoe cleaning products
  24. Bin bags
  25. Carrier bags
  26. Notice boards
  27. Pictures and photos in your bathroom and hallway/landing area
  28. Welly boots
  29. Expired medicines
  30. Shoe boxes or storage boxes
  31. Clothes pegs and drying racks

Landings and hallways can become ‘transitional’ areas. You put things at the bottom of the stairs to take them upstairs, and leave things on the landing. If you know you do this, you need to incorporate putting these things away into your routine. Personally, I’m not too keen on ‘stair baskets,’ as I find things tend to get lost in them, but if it works for you, that’s fine.

Next month, we’ll be looking at clearing our digital clutter – I hope you can join in!

The Meal Planning Linky – Week 30

Welcome to Week 30 of The Meal Planning Linky. This is a linky hosted by Naomi at The Organised Life Project and Katy at KatykickerAnyone is welcome to join – just check out the rules below.

I know we all need a bit of inspiration and motivation when it comes to meal planning. That’s why we’ve launched The Meal Planning Linky. We’ll share our posts about meal planning, and you can link yours up too. Seeing others’ meal plans – and sharing our own – not only keeps us accountable but also will inspire us.

Our Meal Plans for the Week Ahead

We have a slightly different week this week. We’re heading off on our holidays, so our meal plans are a little more fluid than usual. We’re staying in a self-catering place, so we’ll still be cooking though.

My sister has taken charge of the meal planning, so I thought it would be helpful to make a list of meals that work really well on self catering holidays.

When I was about 12, my family went on holiday to France and stayed in self-catering apartments. My mum – perhaps as a protest about having to cook on holiday – made us Spam and noodles every day until my dad caved in and took us out for burgers and fries! So, to avoid having to eat Spam and noodles every day, it’s worth doing a bit of planning.

Firstly, I find it works really well to book an online shop to arrive an hour or so after you do. This way, all the bulky stuff gets delivered straight to you without you having to cart it halfway across the country.

Secondly, self-catering places can be a bit unpredictable in terms of equipment. It’s usually worth taking the following:

  • sponges/cloths
  • washing up liquid
  • antibac spray
  • tea towels
  • cheese grater
  • peeler
  • sharp knife
  • scissors
  • kitchen roll
  • hand soap
  • chopping board
  • oil

If you have time, you might like to cook a few things ahead of time and freeze them to take with you. Lasagne, cottage pie, steak and mushroom pie etc.

While you’re there, you will probably want to make easy dinners, without lots of ‘ingredients.’ So my list for this includes:

  • Stir-fry with pack of stir fry veg and ready made noodles
  • Chicken with curry sauce and rice pouches
  • Sausages, chips and beans
  • Picnic-type meals – quiche, salad, cold meat, cheese and nice bread
  • Omelettes
  • Pizza
  • Chicken traybake
  • Chicken with sauce (like Chicken Tonight)
  • Pasta carbonara
  • Spaghetti bolognese
  • Filled tortellini with ready made pasta sauce
  • Jacket potatoes – especially if you pop them in the oven before you go out
  • Sausage cassolet – Thinly slice 2 onions, fry slowly in butter in a big pan that can go in the oven, add 2 cans of whatever kind of beans you like (haricot, butter, etc), a can of chopped tomatoes, tomato puree to taste, a sprig of thyme, chopped garlic to taste (we like lots), a chilli if you like. Chuck it all in a pot and put the lid on. Cook sausages separately if you like crispy skins, or in the pot with the rest if you don’t mind soft skins. Roughly 30-40 minutes and it will be dandy. This suggestion and recipe is from Helena at Babyfoote.
  • Burgers and koftas – check out this Turkey Koftas recipe from Mimi Rose and Me.
  • Toasted tortillas with tuna, sweetcorn, onion and mayo
  • Pasta pesto with chicken, bacon and tomato or cherry tomatoes, like this recipe from Daddilife.
  • Steak
  • Hotdogs
  • I really like Falcondale Life‘s suggestion: baguette, meat, apple – repeat! To be honest, this is all you need most of the time!

And of course, don’t forget to see if your cottage has a barbecue, and make the most of the take away options around and local restaurants.

Whatever happens, don’t resort to the Spam and noodles.

Thank you to Toby Goes Bananas, Boo Roo and Tigger Too, My Everything Beautiful, Sophie’s Nursery, Navigating Baby, My Parenting Journey and The Money Saving Mum for all your suggestions too.

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Rachel and Leah: Week 4

The story of Rachel and Leah develops after the Jeremy-Kyle-style wedding that we looked at last week. Now Jacob is married to both sisters, but only loves Rachel. You can read Rachel’s summary post from last week in this post. 

In this week’s verse, Leah becomes pregnant.

Leah: Unloved, but seen by God

Let’s look at Leah first. Poor Leah. Trapped in a loveless marriage. Manipulated by her father so that she married the man who actually loved her sister. And always living in the shadows of Rachel’s beauty. We are told that she is miserable – and I can well believe it.

Yet God saw her and had pity on her. He gave her a child. If we read on in the story, we see that she bore Jacob six sons and a daughter. So God really did pour his blessings onto her.

I can imagine this really gave Leah hope, and purpose. We see her thoughts in the second part of the verse – she thinks her husband will love her.

How many times have we seen this story echoed? We think that a child will draw a couple closer together. “Surely he will love me now,” must have been a phrase uttered by almost every female soap character over the past 25 years. Yes, in some ways, a child does draw a couple together, but in other ways, a child can really test and put strain on your relationship. Leah thought she could earn Jacob’s love by bearing him a child, but it was not to be.

Despite being blessed with children, surely Leah’s home was not a happy one. The baby added yet more tension to her relationship with her sister, and as we know, Jacob did not love her any more.

Rachel: Beloved but Childless

Poor Leah, but also poor, poor Rachel. Having had her father and sister conspire against her, she now finds herself unable to conceive. Not only that, but Leah seems to have no trouble falling pregnant, and quickly has four sons.

Rachel’s shoes are an uncomfortable pair to step into today. The years of pain, the years of waiting. The sorrow, month after month, as she is unable to conceive. The knowledge that, despite being the one Jacob really loves, their union is not blessed by God.

Once again, this strikes me as a story which is so relatable today. Couples who are unable to conceive watch friends, sisters, relatives fall pregnant so easily. While they wait, even unloved women have several children.

From the perspective of the women

Rachel and Leah’s stories have so much resonance with us today. I’ve only ever looked at them from the perspective of Jacob. “How terrible that he was deceived when he really loved Rachel,” I would think. But now that I look at Rachel and Leah, I see that God knows every situation, every relationship, every longed-for child and every hope of our hearts. Not only that, but He can use a broken family full of broken and damaged characters to build his people – for from Rachel and Leah come the 12 tribes of Israel.

Next week, we look at Genesis 30:1 – When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” Rachel will be leading the discussion over in our Facebook group.

The Meal Planning Linky – Week 29 – 20th July

Welcome to Week 29 of The Meal Planning Linky. This is a linky hosted by Naomi at The Organised Life Project and Katy at KatykickerAnyone is welcome to join – just check out the rules below.

I know we all need a bit of inspiration and motivation when it comes to meal planning. That’s why we’ve launched The Meal Planning Linky. We’ll share our posts about meal planning, and you can link yours up too. Seeing others’ meal plans – and sharing our own – not only keeps us accountable but also will inspire us.

You can tell I’ve been crazily busy this past week as I’ve published two meal planning posts in a row and nothing in between! Normal service (of a sort) should resume next week as I’m on school holidays from today – but so are both of my children, so it could all go crazy!

Our Meal Plans for the Week Ahead

We’re going to have one of those ‘eat up the cupboards’ weeks this week, as we go away next week for a few days. That said, I feel that we need a good few days of sensible home cooking after a few too many days of fast food and party food last week.

Saturday: We’ve got Ben’s 6th birthday party, so it’ll be a fast and easy dinner tonight – ham, salad and good bread. Simple.

Sunday: Salmon, rice and stir fry vegetables

Monday: Tomato and feta tart – I planned this ages ago but something happened and I didn’t make it! I still have the feta in the fridge and the puff pastry in the freezer though.

Tuesday: Jacket potatoes – Although I did manage to set fire to our microwave last week while cooking a sweet potato, so these will be cooked in the oven!

Wednesday: Paella – we’ll use up all the random veg from the fridge drawer

Thursday: Macaroni cheese

Friday: Eating out!

 

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The Meal Planning Linky – Week 28 -13th July

Welcome to Week 28 of The Meal Planning Linky. This is a linky hosted by Naomi at The Organised Life Project and Katy at KatykickerAnyone is welcome to join – just check out the rules below.

I know we all need a bit of inspiration and motivation when it comes to meal planning. That’s why we’ve launched The Meal Planning Linky. We’ll share our posts about meal planning, and you can link yours up too. Seeing others’ meal plans – and sharing our own – not only keeps us accountable but also will inspire us.

It’s the last week of term this week, which means we are extremely busy. As a teacher, it feels like we have to fit at least six weeks worth of work into the last week, tying things up from last year and setting things in place for next year. As a parent, it’s also very busy, and we’ve made things more complicated by having Ben’s 6th Birthday party on the following Saturday. It’s always a tricky one, as his birthday is in early August, when a lot of people are away. Every year, I worry that no-one will come!

So I’m trying to make it easier for myself this week – lots of very quick, easy meals, with minimal shopping. In fact, I don’t plan to go shopping until next weekend!

Our Meal Plans for the Week Ahead

Saturday: Lamb steaks, feta cheese and roasted vegetables with pitta breads

Sunday: Lasagne and salad

Monday: Leftover lasagne

Tuesday: Prawn stir fry and noodles

Wednesday: Chicken caesar salad

Thursday: Quesedillas

Friday: Fish fingers, chips and peas – It’ll be the end of term for me, and with Ben’s 6th birthday party the following day, I will be frantically making his cake so I’ll need an easy dinner.

 

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Summer Capsule Wardrobe Update – Summer 2018

Since I’ve got myself organised, I’ve been sticking pretty closely to a capsule wardrobe. I have a pretty limited colour palette – navy, white, pink, grey – and I’ve come to know the styles that I feel most comfortable in at the moment.

Last Summer, I invested in my Summer wardrobe – it was the first Summer in a few years that I wasn’t either pregnant, breastfeeding or broke, so I felt that I deserved it. I loved my maxi skirt, my loose cotton tops – but then, Summer never really happened. Muggy and overcast was about as good as it got.

This Summer, we’ve had a real heatwave. We’re a month into some really warm weather and I’ve actually needed some more Summer clothes. I’ve invested in shorts, vest tops and yet more maxi skirts (well, just one to be honest). This dress from Next  has been invaluable – on the beach, in the garden and out and about.

So this week, I’ve put together a selection of similar items to those currently in my wardrobe, using the navy, pink and white colour palette. I’ve been wearing brown leather sandals day in day out, and it’s worked really well for me. Once I finally get my youngest potty trained, I’ll be investing in a cute leather and straw bag for the Summer months.

Top Row, Left to Right:

Navy and White Striped vest

Pink striped t shirt from Fat Face

Floral diamond vest from Fat Face

White camisole top from Fat Face

Second Row, Left to Right:

Navy vest

Striped Bardot Top from Fat Face

White vest

Blue and white patterned top from SeaSalt

Third Row:

Coral Shorts from Fat Face

Pink and white striped jumper from Seasalt

Cream jumper from Fat Face

Fourth Row:

Chambray dress – find similar from Next

Maxi dress from H and M

Floral dress from Seasalt

Fifth Row:

White linen trousers from Crew Clothing

Patterned Trousers from H and M

Navy maxi skirt with paperbag waist from Mango

There’s a lot in there from Seasalt and Fat Face as I really like that surfy, beachy style, and I find they are a bit more forgiving on the tummy than other brands! So many of these pieces transition really well from Summer to Autumn, and as they are a fairly ‘classic’ style, they will last well.

The more ‘fashiony’ pieces – the maxi skirt with the paper bag waist and the maxi dress in particular are lovely, and will definitely stand the test of time.

You can find loads more ideas, including a whole capsule wardrobe board if you follow me on Pinterest.

Rachel and Leah: Would you wait 7 years?

This week, we’ve had a really romantic verse to look at in Mummy Meditations. Jacob met Rachel (the beautiful one), kissed her, and then started to work for her father. In place of his wages, Jacob suggested that he work seven years to ‘earn’ Rachel – because he had fallen in love with her.

 

I have to say, I kind of disapproved of last week’s verse. You can read Rachel’s write up of our discussion in her post,  but I do approve of this week’s verse. It’s romantic, and perhaps it’s a little exaggerated, but it certainly tells us that Jacob was devoted to Rachel.

We had a discussion in our Facebook group about how long we were with our husbands and partners before we got married. Some people got married within a few months; others waited years. But once the proposal had been made and the engagement made official, wedding plans were go!

Not so for Rachel and Jacob. We presume she was happy with the agreement; the Bible tells us that they had met and kissed before Jacob made the suggestion of waiting for 7 years. Jacob’s father had told him to marry one of Laban’s daughters, but Jacob himself made the suggestion of the 7 years work. But 7 years does tell you a lot about a person. It would have allowed her to really see his true character – and we know that Jacob was not always the nicest person around. But, by anyone’s standards, 7 years is a very long wait.

Jacob’s suggestion of seven years must have made her feel pretty special. If I’m honest, I don’t know if my husband would have waited seven years for me! We don’t know how old she was – perhaps she was still very young when they first met. She would have certainly been assured of his devotion to her and his love for her.

Perhaps this gave her a feeling of superiority over Leah. Rachel was the younger sister, but the beautiful one. Leah ‘should’ have been married first (this is starting to sound like Pride and Prejudice now), but yet Rachel is the one with the  devoted fiance, declaring that seven years feels like days because of his love for her. I can certainly imagine that Rachel was more than a little proud of her situation.

So, once again, poor Leah. Second best again – in looks, and now, waiting for seven years while her younger sister is betrothed to a good man. Gosh, I can imagine her bitterness and her jealousy. Can’t you hear her crying out to God, “When will there be a husband for me, Lord?” For her, seven years would be an extremely long time. Was she there, watching Jacob and wishing it was her that he loved? We can only assume so, knowing what comes later in the story.

Perhaps it’s not so romantic, after all, this part of the story. Perhaps, looking at it from Leah and Rachel’s perspective, it’s the cause of another layer of disharmony, of discontent. They had been sisters, but now a man has come between them. It’s probably a story we can all relate, at one time or another. But for Rachel and Leah, this discontent has some pretty severe consequences.

Next week, our discussion will be around the peak of this drama: The moment Jacob realises that he has married Leah, not Rachel. Our key verse will be  “So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” Genesis 29:25.