40Acts2015:Act N°10: Fix up, Look sharp!

Oh dear! This one looks like DIY – and if there’s anything I loathe and avoid more than DIY I don’t know what it is! We moved into this house almost 10 years ago and there are many, many jobs we haven’t done – painted bedrooms, redone the bathroom, mended things…Both Mr FD and I would prefer to do almost anything than DIY. So my heart sank when I started to read:

Part of the fun and joy of generosity is getting hands on. You might think you’re all thumbs, but everyone has something to offer. Pick someone to bless today, and enjoy the freedom to create or fix something that’ll make them smile.

Tack it: Fix something quick and simple for someone today. Change a light bulb, sew on a button, or teach someone a few shortcuts on the computer. 

Nail it: Are there any bigger jobs you can do for someone else today? Could you valet their car? Mow the lawn? Or fix that drawer handle? 

Hammer time: Whether you like to use your hands for DIY, baking, card-craft, cars, writing or painting – make an amazing gift for someone today. 

Ah! Creating too – that’s something I’m happy with. Suddenly my heart lightens. Thank goodness I’m not being asked to climb ladders and weild paintbrushes.

I love creating zentangle inspired art, and recently held a Giveaway on this blog for a Grow Your Blog event. The prize was a piece of ZIA on a subject of your choice. Alex won, and she had chosen  sheep. I did this for her:


(If you want to see it in more detail, just click on the picture)

Lots of other people left a comment with their choice, should they win. My take on today’s Act is not a one-day “fix” – it will take a lot longer than that, but for everyone who left me a comment about what ZIA they would like on my Giveaway post, I will create a piece for them. It may take a while – especially as someone wanted a moose (eep!) and someone else liked the idea of a hare – but I will slowly work through them and draw the designs.

Thank goodness I don’t have to put up wallpaper! That could have been a disaster!

I’m going to be putting the oven on to make my scouse for this evening’s Pot Luck Supper so I may well bake a cake for an acquaintance (the mother of a friend) who lives across the road. She cares for her husband, who has Alzheimers and other chronic problems, and is bed-bound, plus her great-uncle, who, while fairly sprightly, still is getting very old and forgetful. Mi-jo might like a Victoria sponge to go with her coffee.


40Acts 2015: Act N°9: Mix it Up (+ a recipe!)

Today’s prompt reads:

We tend to use the words ‘melting pot’ when we think of culturally diverse places, but what if it’s more of a salad bowl? Less of the ‘becoming the same’, more ‘complementing each other’s flavour’. Our flavours are there to be celebrated. Let’s mix it up.

I’ve got 5 minutes: What’s the mix where you live? Think about the ethnicity you mix with most, outside of your own. You might have a large Bangladeshi community in your neighbourhood, or a big Spanish group in your church. Could you use the internet to learn a few quick greeting words in that language today? Start with ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ – sure winners in any conversation! 

I’ve got 15 minutes: Seek out someone – a neighbour, a parent at the school gates, your local shop-keeper – whose ethnicity/culture/religion is different from yours. Make a point of building bridges with them today.

I’ve got a few hours: Plan a cultural celebration in your community. Team up with other 40acts challengers, your church or local community group, and host a party. Get everyone to cook a national dish, and share food and friendship together. 

St Just is not the most ethnically diverse place I’ve ever been to – in fact,  we British are the ethnic minority here! Roanne, the nearest big town, has a higher Muslim community, but I don’t know where the majority of the people are originally from…I think to seek out any of these people would be contrived and fairly pointless: I don’t live in Roanne, they are not part of “my” community.

I smile at the last “action” though – tomorrow I, and several members of the English speaking church I go to, will be attending a Pot Luck Supper organised by the AVF (Accueil des ville francais) in Clermont Ferrand. This group offers English classes but, living in a non-English speaking country, their students don’t get to  practice much. They have invited us along to speak English with them. This dinner gives the people from the church an opportunity to contribute to the larger Clermont Community and perhaps make some new friends. So I’ll be cooking my regional dish to take along – Scouse.


For those of you who have no idea what scouse is, here is a brief history:

Scouse was brought to Liverpool by Northern European sailors, and was originally called “Labskause” (the Norwegian word for “stew”). This was eventually shortened to Skause, and over time the spelling changed to the more anglicised version we have today: scouse.

The people who ate Scouse were all generally sailors and their families and eventually all sailors within Liverpool were referred to as Scousers. Time has now taken its turn and everyone from the region of Liverpool is known as a Scouser.
Scouse holds a place in the heart of most Liverpudlian’s as the taste of their hometown and is still regulary eaten today by a great number of families.

There are records showing that it was also served to the inmates of the Birkenhead workshouse way back in 1864. The recipe was much simpler then than today’s refined version but was predominatly the same staple ingredients – meat, vegatables and potatoes.


Here is the recipe:

Serves 4-6 people

Half a Pound of Stewing Steak
Half a Pound of Lambs Breast
A Large Onion
1lb of Carrots
5lb of Potatoes
2 Oxo Cubes
2 Teaspoons of Vegatable Oil
Worcester Sauce
Salt and Pepper

HOW TO COOK (Takes 4 hours of slow cooking)

Cut the meat into large cubes and fry in the vegatable oil until lightly browned all over. You may wish to add some Worcester Sauce at this point for added flavour.
Transfer the meat to a large saucepan and add the onion that should have been chopped into large chunks. Follow this by chopping the carrot into medallions and place this on the meat. Peel and then Finely dice 1lb of the potatoes and place on top of the carrots.
Fill the pan with cold water until it is half full. Break up the Oxo cubes and sprinkle into the water. Add salt and pepper for seasoning. Let the pan simmer gently, stirring occasionally. The large pieces of onion will start to break up and the potato will become soft and will make the final sauce thick.
Simmer for a total of two hours, then add the remaining potatoes that should have been peeled and roughly chopped, along with a few splashes of Worcester Sauce. Then simmer for another two hours.
Serve piping hot with red cabbage, beetroot, pickled onions and crusty bread. You may add Ketchup and HP for flavouring.

What the Clermontoise (or even the Americans!) will make of scouse remains to be seen, but it’s something that actually I have never cooked, despite being a proud Scouser (without the accent!)

Today’s actions don’t really resonate with me – but that’s okay. I will remain open to God’s promptings while I’m out and about today, and I will take some of my Ninja Notes with me to Lidl and Carrefour to spread a little positivity around! And I’ll enjoy introducing scouse to the inhabitants of Clermont Ferrand tomorrow!

40 Acts2015: Act N°7 & 8

 Act 7: Hold it Lightly

Being generous isn’t about what you have – it’s about what you do with what you’re given. Where’s your treasure? Because that’s where your heart is, too. Today, do an inventory analysis. What are you holding on to? Is there anything you need to hold a little lighter?

First Steps: Pray about the stuff you’ve got and think about why it’s important to you. Ask God to show you anything in your life that you’re clinging onto too tightly, and to help you use it for others.

Take it Further: Give away one of your favourite things. It could be anything: a scarf, book, DVD, your favourite penguin bobble hat… Give it to someone you know will really appreciate it or need it.

I’ve got an hour: Make an inventory in your journal of all the stuff/things you have in your life. Can you live with less? Would you maybe even find freedom in it? Filling up some bags for your local charity shop is a great way to start living more lightly.

The comment I wrote on the 40 Acts Facebook page rather sums up my feelings here: I think this is a real challenge – it’s easy to be generous when it doesn’t “hurt” but it’s more difficult when it’s something that is close to your heart. I do tend to “calculate” if I can afford (in monetary or emotional terms) to be generous. God will need to prod me VERY hard today, I think!!

This is it…In a way I think these 40 Acts are great, because they challenge me – but I only let them challenge me a little – as much as I calculate is “okay” for me. I will go thus far, but no further. So this challenge is quite a hard one, because every time I thought “Oh I could do this…or give this…” I was mentally adding “because that won’t hurt me too much” I am certainly not giving the widow’s mite: I am not prepared to give till it hurts.


What I think God has prodded me to do is to look very hard at my book collection. There are a lot of books in this house and I ought to get rid of some. But how? In France there is not necessarily a great call for English books, BUT I am thinking that there may be some collèges, or more probably lycées where an injection of English language books to the library might be welcomed. So over the next weekend I will cull our collection of books, looking particularly at those books which would be suitable for young adults, and then take them to some of the lycées in Roanne. It won’t be hurting me till I squeak, but I do find it quite hard to get rid of books, so it is some kind of sacrifice!


Act 8: TickTock

Lateness, without genuine reason, says ‘I’m more important than you’. If you’ve ever had to sit around waiting for someone who said they’d arrive half an hour ago, you’ll know how annoying it is. Set your alarm 15 minutes early, get organised the night before, and get there. On time.

I’m not going out today: That’s okay. This is a principle for living, not a one-time challenge. Make a point of being punctual the next time you’re heading out by going through your calendar for a few minutes. Set alarms on your phone if you have to, to make sure you’re on time!

Try this: The bare minimum is to arrive when you say you will. Could you be there a few minutes earlier, though? 

The Extra Mile:If you’re super-organised, arrive early, and bring the person/people you’re meeting a treat or their favourite coffee. Doesn’t have to be fancy, but it might just make their day.


The reflection, which you can read here, has caused quite a lot of controversy, with some people feeling it is criticising rather than building up. I can see that – I appreciate that for some people being late is something that – for many reasons – they just can’t help. There is also a discussion about this very subject going on on Ship of Fools at the moment. But I do feel that sometimes people are late through (often unintentional) discourtesy, because they have watched the end of a TV programme, checked their emails or whatever.

I’m not generally late – as I am a teacher, it is not only rude but is also unprofessional to arrive late for lessons. I do occasionally find myself leaving too little time to get to an appointment, but I have learned that while I know it takes 30 minutes to get to Roanne, I need to leave at least anther 20 minutes to get to one’s destination once there, and find parking etc. I also carry a crossword book in my bag, so if I’m early it’s certainly not a problem. Like my mother, I would raher be an hour early for a train/plane etc than 5 minutes late.

My take on this challenge is not to concentrate on my punctuality, but rather not to get worked up about others’ unpunctuality. We have a friend who is almost always late. We joke about “real time” and “His time” but it does sometimes rankle that he is always late. But he’s busy and sometimes does get held up; he has a physical job, and so needs to take a shower; he has stuff that needs sorting. It’s not All About Me. So for my challenge I will take on the words from the “green” challenge: That’s okay. This is a principle for living, not a one-time challenge. In future, I won’t get tied up in knots if people are late; I won’t take it as a personal snub; I won’t think that they are being discourteous. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and imagine that they have been unavoidably held up, rather than they are just having another cup of tea…and if dinner is a little crisp round the edges, so be it. Their presence and their friendship is more important than a perfectly cooked soufflé!

40Acts2015: Act N°5 & 6

Monday is always a busy day for me – I leave the house at 7.00 (6.00 UK time) and don’t get back till gone 6.00. I’m techno idiot too, so my “smart phone” (they’re only as smart as their owners!) isn’t very smart and doesn’t have whizzy connections to the internet outside of home. So I didn’t know what yesterday’s challenge was until I got home – no time to write a blog post.

ACT #5 FAIR & SQUARE: Fairtrade Fortnight starts today here in the UK. Today’s act is a simple one to start the week: support the Fairtrade movement. Because everyone has the right to earn a fair wage for an honest day’s work. 

I’ve got 5 minutes: If you can’t support Fairtrade with your wallet, use your voice instead. Read up about the movement, and tell someone why it’s a cause worth supporting. 

I’ve got 10 minutes: Buy Fairtrade today when you stop at the shops for that drink or bar of chocolate. Even better, buy two and give one to a friend. 

I’ve got an hour: Ever thought about a Fairtrade wardrobe? It might be more costly, but ask yourself: if that high street store can make a profit on those £5 shoes, how much really reaches the factory worker paid to make them?

I used to buy more FT stuff in the UK – it’s not that easy to find in France. The Commerce Equitable section in Carrefour has diminished a lot over the past few years, but I don’t know if that is because the items have been disseminated throughout the store. I buy FT coffee, and if I see FT chocolate when I’m buying chocolate I might get that (but only if I like the flavour!) Otherwise…not so much. But I will pledge to buy FT alternatives when I see them. Not a great Act, but a little one.

SOURCE: in-terre-actif.com

And I do also need to think about the last Act there too: I like my cheap clothing. I do admit to enoying a good rummage in Primark when I’m in the UK, and I do draw a veil over my slight misgivings if I find a top I really like…I often try to justify it by saying to myself “Well, you know any brand, cheap or expensive, could be using sweat shops and slave labour to make their clothes, so I might as well buy this…” Which is true. So maybe I need to try to do some more research into which brands do or don’t use sweatshops, instead of using it as an excuse.

Sometimes I look at clothes I like, but regretfully turn away saying “It’s too expensive for me to justify buying it…”Maybe my slogan needs to be “It’s too cheap for me to justify buying it…”


ACT #6: Thank You, Thank You, Thank You: Gratitude – one of the best catalysts for generosity. When we’re thankful, we generally want to share the blessing around. Take some time today to express your gratitude and let someone know they’re fully appreciated.

I’ve got 5 minutes: Got Twitter? Send someone a quick tweet to let them know why you’re thankful for them in 140 characters. You could do this by text or phone too if you like. 

I’ve got 10 minutes: Write a good old-fashioned thank you note. It’s a worthy way to spend time, and everyone loves getting ‘real mail’ in the post!

Make a commitment:Write a thank you note to a different person everyday throughout Lent. Watch our video to find out what happened when one 40acts challenger did this last year… 

Aha! This is more my cup of tea – words!! I liked the reflection which you can read here

One suggestion, which I liked very much, was “If you want more of a challenge, why not also write to someone in authority in your local area and thank them for their hard work? You could write to your MP, local councillors, church leader. Even if you don’t like everything they do, let’s be generous with our thankfulness.”


Of course, for me, part of the problem is the language barrier – my French isn’t great, and I sometimes struggle to make myself understood, but I do like the idea of writing to say Thank You to the Council and the Mayor. They do a lot of work for the Commune and I would imagine they don’t always get much thanks for it. So today, I will drop a card off at the Mairie with a brief note, and I will also write a card to our Rector to thank him (and his wife) for all that they do for Church.

The year before last, before I knew about 40Acts, I tried to write 40 letters/notes during Lent. I didn’t maage the full forty, but I did have several responses, saying how appreciated the notes were. Maybe I’ll try to add a few more Thank Yous to today’s Act…


And Thank You too to my readers and commenters of my blogs. It’s good to know when something resonates with you.

Not 40 Acts: Just for a smile!

Contrôle d’alcoolémie :
-GENDARME: Vous avez bu ?
– CONDUCTEUR: Oui, … ce matin … j’ai marié ma fille … et comme je n’aime pas les messes, … je suis allé au café et j’ai bu … quelques bières. Puis ….. pendant le banquet ….. j’ai essoré 3 bonnes bouteilles …. une de Corbières … une de Minervois ….. et …. une de Faugères.
Pour finir …. pendant la fête … dans la soirée … deux bouteilles de whisky ….. Johnny Walker …. étiquette noire.

Finalement le policier, irrité, lui dit :
– Avez-vous compris que je suis policier et que je vous ai arrêté pour un contrôle de l’alcoolémie ?
Le “british” lui répond alors :
– Et vous …. savez-vous que …. cette voiture est … anglaise et ….. que c’est ..ma femme … qui conduit !


At a random police check with a breathelyser the police officer asked “Sir, have you had a drink today?”

“Yes…this morning my daughter got married, and as I don’t like church services I went to the café and I had a few beers. Then, during the meal I drank three bottles of wine – a Corbières, a Minervois and a Faugères. Then, to finish, during the evening celebrations I had two bottles of Johnny Walker Black Label…”

Irritated, the policeman  finally said to him

“Sir, you do realise that you have been stopped to take a breath test, don’t you?”

And the British driver replied

“Yes…and do you realise that this car is British and it’s my wife who is driving?”



40Acts 2015: Act N°4: Devise A Surprise

I think I’m ahead of the game on this one!

Most people love surprises (of the nice variety!) so plan a generosity ambush for someone today.

Quick response: Make ’em smile: It doesn’t take much to make someone feel special. A treat through their letterbox or on their desk, or an unexpected compliment, can go a long way. 

Mid-range: Do the unexpected: If you don’t normally cook, surprise your friends or family with a meal.  Don’t forget acquaintances or strangers.  Give out flowers on the bus or pay for someone else’s parking. 

Push yourself: Go crazy: Your imagination is the limit. You might write someone a note of encouragement every day for a week, send them on a treasure hunt, take them out for an unexpected treat or even throw them a party ‘just because’. This is the day to go all out, no reasons required

Last year, one of the Acts that really resonated with me was the one about (as I called it) Ninja Notes Leaving notes (and occasionally 5€ notes) for people to find…usually tucked in shopping trolleys which are chained up waiting for the next customer. I have, from time to time, done this during the year – I usually get to Lidl and think “Rats, I could have brought some cards!” but sometimes I’m organised enough to remember them before I leave the house. Of course, with 40 Acts being on my mind, I remembered and took about 10 out with me. With messages on the envelope saying “Si tu l’as trouvé c’est pour toi” (If you found this then it is for you) ou “Pour toi, car tu es magnifique” (For you because you are wonderful) I left them in public toilets, on top of litter bins, and on benches, as well as in shopping trolleys. I don’t hang around to see if anyone finds them, trusting God will get the right person to it, but yesterday I saw someone notice one of the envelopes, and look around – with a smile – to see if anyone was looking as they picked it up. So I have already given someone a nice (I hope!) surprise.

I bought some blank postcards yesterday and this morning spent a happy hour with my craft supplies, sticking things onto them and writing more encouraging messages:


I now have 20 more cards to drop off during my next visit to Roanne – or maybe I can drop some off around St Just too.

I have cooked a kind of cottage pie for our friends who get back from holiday today. I know A isn’t a keen cook, and so it might be nice for her to find that she doesn’t need to cook tonight. Mind you, it went against the grain not to use onions, mushrooms or garlic in the meat mixture (the kids don’t like these things!!) – I never cook without at least two of those ingredients! (Unless, I hasten to add, I’m making a cake!)

I also have to go across to Monique and Michel with a bunch of flowers and an invitation to dinner – a carry over from Act N°2. That will probably count as a nice surprise too.

And how 40 Acts alters one’s outlook:

I was driving to Roanne yesterday – in a bit of a rush, because, while I wasn’t late I wasn’t exactly on time for my appointment – when I saw, on a well used side road, that has a steep up gradient on it on a nearly blind bend, that part of someone’s wood supply had obviously dropped off the back of a trailer as they were going up the hill.

“That could be a bit nasty if you met that coming round the blind bend..” I mused, and carried on driving. By the time I’d got 500 metres up the road, my mind was nagging me so much that I had to go back to pick up the logs and put them at the side of the road. Sigh… I didn’t know God could be such a nag! (that is said with a wry smile, by the way – not to be taken too seriously!)



40Acts 2015: Act 3: Clean

Today’s prompt reads: Litter might not be a problem where you live. But you might never have gotten round to recycling properly. Or you might have spent the last year walking past obscene graffiti. We could all do more to help keep the world a beautiful place to live. 

The three suggested actions are:

Quick Work: Pick up any litter you spot today and drop it into a bin. (You might want to wear latex gloves or use a litter-picker!) Not going out? Sort out your kitchen so that you can get into the habit of recycling easily.

More time: Pick a patch of land around where you live and commit to keep it litter free. You might also plant a few bulbs or flowers that will attract bees and butterflies. 

Go the whole hog: Organise a community clean-up or find out about conservation groups in your neighbourhood. Connect with other 40acters in your area and arrange a date/time to scrub off some graffiti or do a group litter-pick.

I took my friends’ dogs out this morning for a walk, and looking round there isn’t (thank goodness) much of a litter problem here. Although I never see litter pickers, and there aren’t that many public bins, the streets and public areas were reasonably clean. The problem is dog poo – the cleaning up after your dog isn’t well engrained in the French psyche – and I’m sorry, 40 Acters but I AM NOT PICKING UP OTHER PEOPLE’S DOG POO!

We recycle reasonably well – there are big Council maintained bins in the nearby car park, and we dutifully take our carrier bags of recyclables every other week. There are also vast numbers of Clothes Bank hoppers too, for Emmaus, which I use from time to time.

So, what do I do for this Act?

Well, one thing that isn’t recyclable are those peskily thin plastic bags that you use in the supermarket for fruit and veg. I try to avoid using them if I can, buying courgettes, bananas etc loose and not bagging them up, but sometimes one has to use them. So, I have decided that I will use some sturdier plastic bags that I have at home for my supermarket shop, taking them with me and reusing them as much as I can. I feel that although this isn’t quite linked to the idea of litter picking, it will reduce unrecyclable plastic use which can’t be bad. I tried this last 40 Acts but it didn’t last more than a couple of weeks, so maybe I can manage to do this for longer – perhaps it will even become an ingrained habit!


The second Gratitude Prompting Question is: How am I fortunate?

Lordy, how long have you got?!

I am housed (no mortgage!)… well -fed (so much so I can choose to fast on the 5:2 way of eating. Fasting is a choice, not a necessity) … well clothed (with plenty of choice) …warm …loved by many … have many to love … surrounded by beauty … surrounded by cats … have a job (that I love doing!) … my husband has a job … I am (reasonably) healthy, with health care (that I can afford) for the things that don’t work as well as they might … we have money in the bank … we are debt free … I am not addicted to anything (although I do like my glass of wine!) … I have a loving family … I have things to look forward to … But most of all, I have a relationship with a loving God who (although it doesn’t always feel like it!) has a plan for this world of ours.

I really should pause and think of these things more often…and be thankful for things that, at first do not necessarily feel like blessings:

I am thankful for…

…the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.

…the taxes I pay because it means that I am employed.

…the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.

…my shadow who watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine.

…a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means that I have a home.

…the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.

…all the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.

…my huge heating bill because it means that I am warm.

…the lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means I can hear.

…the piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.

…the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I’m alive.

…weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day because it means I have been productive.