Advent Challenge N°5

“GIVE PEACE A CHANCE” – ‘Peace’ may appear on our Christmas cards but it often seems to be in short supply in our world. Today is all about restoring relationships that have become broken and breaking down the barriers between us and other people. It’s not always easy but the Bible calls us to be ‘peacemakers’: people who pursue peace decisively. Let’s give peace a chance at least!

The three challenges to choose from were:

  1. Reach out to someone who has hurt you
  2. Forgive someone
  3. Send a Christmas card to someone you have fallen out with

TBH I couldn’t think of anyone who has hurt me, or anyone who I have to forgive, or who I have fallen out with….But I’m sure that somewhere along the line, there will be someone! I “accepted” the first challenge, but maybe it will be one of the others that I’m called to do. So this is a challenge that I’m carrying over for another time: I’m sure that God will remind me!

25.2% of people accepted the first; 52.2% the second, and 22.6% the last.

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Advent Challenge 1 – 4

Hey-ho! I meant to blog every day about this but somehow I never quite managed it.

Kezzie pointed me towards the Bible Society’s Advent Challenge.

Spreading generosity and goodwill with our Advent calendar of good deeds You’re about to help your community rediscover the true meaning of Christmas. As you reach out to friends and neighbours, you’ll spread true love, hope, joy and peace. And you’ll reconnect with God and his word along the way…

It appealed to me as it seems similar to Stewardship’s 40 Acts, which I take part in, and blog about, each Lent. So here I am in Advent doing a similar thing….Each day there are three challenges to choose from. I suppose you could try to do all three, but I’m sticking with one.

DAY ONE: Be a Good Samaritan: We all like to think we’d help someone in trouble, but sometimes we feel too awkward or embarrassed to step in. We’d do anything for a friend, but what about a complete stranger? In the Bible story of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus urges us to ’love your neighbour’, he isn’t talking about our good friends next-door. Step out of your comfort zone and bless someone a bit different today

Together with 55.2% of the other Challenged people, I gave food to a homeless person. Well, I assume he was homeless, or, at least, short of money, as he sat outside the Casino supermarket with a paper cup…on one of the coldest days so far this year. I often buy him a Coca-Cola if I see him (as that’s what he asks for) but today I bought him a bag of shopping…Not that much: some bread, fruyit, meat and biscuits. And a litre of Coke!

but no cats were provided!

DAY 2: Shine A LightIn the Bible, Jesus calls his disciples to be ‘salt and light’, to reflect God’s light and his love in a hurting world. Let’s go out of our way today to brighten someone’s day, especially someone who is going through a difficult time.

27.5% of the participants took this challenge – buy someone flowers. Our friends Monique & Michel are very sad as their canine companion of 15 years died – not very peacefully. I bought them a plant for the garden, which flowers in December, so they can plant it in remembrance of Canelle their golden retriever.

DAY 3: Put Others First: We’re only human and so we naturally look after number one. Yet, the Bible calls us to put others first. In fact, it goes further and calls us to ‘consider others better than yourselves’. If we truly took that on board, how might we act differently? Think of ways today you can show humility and serve others. It doesn’t mean being a doormat: it means allowing more of God to shine through us.

78.4% of people took up the same challenge as me – Tidy up a shared living space. It was a bit of a cheat, as we had to do this anyway, but Mr FD & I spent most of Saturday cleaning the house. It was enormously dusty after the bathroom renovations (which are almost finished – huzzah!) so we did a fine job.

DAY 4: A Word of Encouragement: Today is a day to make other people feel great about themselves! Too often, in our world, gossip and point-scoring tear people down and make them feel small. Just pick up a newspaper and you’ll see. But the Bible urges us to use our words carefully, to build others up. And it promises that, when we choose to be encouragers, harmony and peace are the result. Give it a go and see how the mood changes.

19.7% of challengees chose with me to give someone a note of encouragement…Mine was to the Rector and his wife, thanking them for everything they do for our Church. It was anonymous though. They won’t know who it was…

I’m not blogging about doing these challenges so you all think Oh isn’t she wonderful… but just in the hope that you too might be inspired to make people’s lives a bit brioghter this Advent. It doesn’t matter if you’re of a religious bent or not, each action will bring some light into another person’s life. And if there’s one thing this world needs right now, it’s kindness and light and peace and all those good things.


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Who Dares Wins…

After my last post, written on Wednesday morning, feeling scaredy about facing A after sending an email…

Almost as I pressed “Publish” there was a ring on the doorbell. I (metaphorically) girded my loins and went downstairs. It wasn’t the builder, it was the plumber!

“I’m here to put in the toilet and things…” he said cheerfully.

About an hour later there was another ring on the doorbell. It wasn’t the builder, it was the electrician!

“I’m here to put up the radiator and lights!” he said cheerfully.

Mr FD contacted me a bit later – he’d had a message from the builder, who was coming to see us on Saturday morning. It was fine, said Mr FD, no rancour at all…

When I got home (I skipped dancing) we had a bathroom!!! That worked!!! There are still the issues for A to sort out, but he came round today and was very cheerful, and there was no rancour whatsoever. Just “Yes, I see…That’s fine…I’ll sort that out…”

What was I worried about?!

There is some stuff which we’re going to sort out – maybe, one could argue that the builder ought to do it, but he’ll only charge extra (“It’s not on the devis“) so it’s easier if we get on and do it. By which I mean Mr FD as I’d be as much use as a chocolate teapot!

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Oh we have been having such fun (said through gritted teeth) with our bathroom renovations. You can read about them over at Fat Dormouse, so I won’t reiterate them here (so much for keeping that blog for food related posts and this one for “life” – the two have mixed and crossed over again. Perhaps I really ought to just have one blog. It would make life easier!)


We put all our woes in an email to the workman and sent it off on Sunday, thinking he would read it & maybe phone us to discuss it. It was “pinged back” as undeliverable yesterday afternoon – so I imagine it was too big a document, as I’d included photos etc. Last night Mr FD converted it to a PDF folder & sent it again. But it’s not very likely he’ll have had tiome to read it and “digest” it.


Here’s the rub.

A, the workman, usually comes on a Wednesday (about the only day he does come. No wonder it’s taken 6 bloody weeks!) and I’m usually here when he arrives. Today I really don’t want to face him, because of our compaints – he is a kind of friend, as I see him socially, and I’m very nervous about criticising him and making him cross – even though I know we’re in the right and we’re payng what seems like vast amounts of money for him to do the job!!!

So I was planning on leaving home earlier to go to Roanne, where I work today…even though it would mean hanging round in a café for an hour. How daft is that?

Then last night, I was watching Gareth Malone’s “Best Choir in Britain” (for non UK readers this is a TV programme where a very sweet choir bloke

(who I think is rather cute!)

puts amateur choirs through their paces to win a competition. Lots of emotion, and weeping, hard work, challenges and “journeys” – you know the stuff.) Last night he gave each choir a song to sing that was outside their comfort zone and challenged their weaknesses. “You need to face your fears head-on”, he advised “That way they won’t frighten you any longer” (or words to that effect.)

On my wall there is a plaque that I designed about three years ago when I went on a wonderful weekend workshop back in Oct 2013 (You can read about it here but will need to scroll down to find it) which also challenges me a little:

dareIt’s not because things are difficult that we don’t dare to do them:

it’s because we don’t dare that things are difficult.

I need to dare more. I often say “I don’t do challenges”. Well, this may only be a small challenge but I’m going to do it. I’m going to stay here until my usual leaving time. I’m going to speak to A and explain – calmly, politely and reasonably – why we’re not happy, & talk about what might be done to put things right. I am going to dare to do what I don’t want to do!

And because he is, I believe, a reasonable bloke, he won’t wreak havoc in the house in revenge, and he won’t do the things I have imagined in the dark of the night when I can’t sleep, such as let the cats out so they run away, or steal our belongings, or hack into our computers (Yes, I am getting too worked up and irrational over this) In fact, he may have read the email and be worried himself about facing me, thinking “well, she is a person I see socially, and I don’t want to have her upset…”

I’m not very brave.

But today, I am going to dare…(and the weasels can go hang!)

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Advent Challenge

Kezzie mentioned the Bible Society’s Advent Challenge – which, bizarrely starts on 1st December, rather than on the first Sunday of Advent (but, hey, who cares about tiny things like the Church calendar?!) (actually, I’m not as bothered as I probably should be!) – and I thought I would join in too.

I have alwys found 40 Acts a great way to work through Lent, so I hope that this will be a similarly challenging way to experience Advent. Here is a link if you’d like to join in too.

We all get swept up in the preparations for Christmas, and, even if we are fully committed to being frugal and non-consumeristic (which I’m not!) I guess it’s easy to sometimes lose focus on what the celebrations are, in essence, about: God’s amazing generosity in reaching down to bridge the gap between heaven and earth, and showing us the way we should be living, a life full of love, joy, generosity and kindness towards our neighbours.

As the angels sang: Peace on earth, and goodwill towards all. That is what it’s about. That is why I’m taking the Advent Challenge.

Are you up for it too? You don’t need to be “religious” to do it. Just to care about other people (It being the Bible Society, there is a Biblical slant on it, but you can ignore that if it doesn’t float your boat)



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A shout out for the Butcher in Carrefour!

(which may seem like a bizarre title for a post, but read on…)

As you may know, as I’ve mentioned it a bit recently, I feed the poor cats who live near the HLM housing in our village. They came to my notice when we were looking for George (still no sign. Sad face) because there is one who looks very like George, but also because it was obvious that there was someone else feeding them, who perhaps didn’t have much money, as the cats would often have plain pasta or mashed potato in the big plates that were put out by the kennel/ rabbit hutch affair. Now we’re not rolling in readies, but I can certainly afford a couple of tins of cat food and a bag of croquettes each week, so I started feeding the cats a couple of times a week, with cat food, and rejected cat food (from our fussy beasts) and any scraps we had.

Yesterday evening I went out to see the cats at about 6.30 when we got back from work and they were SO happy to see me! They were flocking to see me – usually they won’t come near until the food is down & I have retreated some distance away, but last night I was tripping over them. They were very hungry. Sadly I only had one can of food, mixed with biscuits, which didn’t go very far. I was able to fill up the croquette tray as well, but I felt a bit guilty that I hadn’t brought more food.

So this morning I went to Carrefour to buy some more food to give them tonight, and I had a thought about buying a cheap cut of meat for them. So I went to the boucherie counter, and thought maybe he has some scraps…So I explained that I fed the stray cats and asked if he had any scraps of meat or fat I could have. He gave me what must have been about 3 kg of scraps – mostly solid fat, but also with bits of meat hanging off as well – completely free! I bought some liver too – relatively cheap, at 1.45€ for 2 big slices – which I’ve cooked up for their dinner tonight. The scraps were all cut up, and put in the slow cooker with some water and some rice – once the meat is cooked, I will put it in the freezer, so there’s a good supply of meaty goodness to mix with the possibly not-so-meaty- goodness of the cat food! I cooked the liver, and then put water in the pan, and cooked up some pasta to soak up the juices that were left. With a tin of food this should make a banquet fit for a Poor Cat! (or 10) Pomme was very interested as I was cutting up the liver, and may have received quite a few snippets!

So a big fat dormouse shout out to the generous butcher !

I am very sure that the Poor Cats will be very, VERY grateful!

img_0044I’ve named this cat Nikki, after the cat that my nan used to have. I’m slowly naming them all – there’s Red (the George look-alike), Nikki, Sophie (looks like a Sophie-cat we used to have), Barney, Smudge, Gobbolino, Binkie and Patch. There are still more, but they’re not named yet.

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Pretty envelopes…and 45 down, 155 to go!

If you’re a calligrapher, or enjoy papercreft and drawing, you really ought to know about this blog: The Postman’s Knock

I love it for the inspiration, and the easy to follow tutorials. Today I wrote a couple of Thank You notes to people who had sent me birthday presents. They were really appreciated, as my birthday was rather low-key this year. Mr FD “gave” me a couple of boxes of tiles for the bathroom (every spare euro is being spent on this renovation. I do hope it’s worth it!!) and the cats gave me some chocolates….but that was it, apart from these two lovely presents, & some money. Also going towards tiles!!

Anyway I wrote the letters, and then decided to decorate the envelopes, so I knew where to turn for a tutorial on envelope art. Lindsay has many different ideas, but I went with the lace pattern…I was reasonably happy with how these turned out (click on the photo for more detail):


to my sister, who sent some beautiful tiger-eye earrings


and my friend who sent two lovely pairs of cosy bedsocks.

I think I prefer the first, which is my “riff” on Lindsay’s tutorial, but I think they have both worked quite well.

I told you about my commission to make the Bishop’s Christmas cards this year…all 200 of them! I’m getting on quite well, having completed 45 of them. Only another 155 left to do:


I hope he approves – I couldn’t find any backing paper of the type his assistant approved, so went instead for quite a lot of the red starry paper, which isn’t quite so “elegant”. I also have noted that I really need to be more careful when cutting the backing paper – a lot of them were just a bit wobbley, which meant I had to use more “bling strips” to hide the wobbley edges!

I have used up all the cream ready-folded cards that I bought, but managed to find some more cream card which I had in my stash; I’ve folded this over and so can get on with making another 25 cards today. I personally preferred the red card that I used to make these cards:

img_0036as I felt it was more Christmas-sy, but the Bishop veto-ed it, as being too dark to write on. The other paler colours available weren’t (in my opinion) at all Christmas-sy, so I went for cream. Which meant the parchment paper with “Joy…” on didn’t stand out so much.

Anyway, time to find a Kermode &Mayo film review podcast that I haven’t heard, and get paper-cutting and glueing!!


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