Sunday, 9 December 2012

Vizor Christmas - part one

After a weekend away to start the Christmas shopping last weekend, which included a trip to the Good Food Show, our year of sport has continued, almost to the very end of the year.  We have one more home game for our local team left before the New Year fixtures but this weekend we passed up the chance of home football to watch tennis.

We travelled to London to watch the Statoil Tennis Masters at the Royal Albert Hall.  It is great to see the tennis legends of years past (and some more recent) still playing the game they love and inspiring us all to play more sport.

Jacob at the Royal Albert Hall
We watched Moya against Santoro and then Bates against Forget.  The singles matches were very good, but the highlight of the afternoon was the doubles exhibition match with Mansour Bahrami & Andrew Castle against Peter McNamara and Wayne Ferraira.  The skill at making tennis look so easy has to be marvelled at.

We took time in London to do a bit of Christmas shopping and popped into Harrods for the all essential chocolate fix.  We have been inspired by their outdoor lighting and wondered if we can rival this next year....

Christmas lights at Harrods
We have celebrated Christmas dinner with part of the family this weekend as we will not all be in the same place at Christmas this year.  We had a lovely time all getting together and we even had present opening, even if they were late birthday presents for my nephew.

Vizor Christmas table
Josh made place cards which concealed a chocolate for each of us inside the pyramid and they can be seen at the very front of the picture above.

The Bible passage for this week is about prayer:

When you pray, 
don’t talk on and on
 as people do who don’t know God. 
They think God likes to hear long prayers. 
Matthew 6:7

Our prayer as a family this week is for those facing Christmas without the usual glee.  We pray that whatever the reason for dreading Christmas, they may find the true meaning of Christmas this year; that God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son to save us.

With God's blessings from my family to yours,

Jo x

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Preparing to prepare for Christmas

As I prepared to lead the service this afternoon, I spent time thinking over the Bible verses chosen; Daniel 7:9-10 & 13-14 and John 18:33-37.  I had lots of time to think these through last weekend as I went away to a ladies retreat weekend at Lee Abbey in North Devon.  The weekend was a time to craft and spend time with God and like minded women.

Beaded star and hanging heart
The North Devon countryside was at its most Autumnal best with hills ablaze in shades of red and orange.  The theme of the Sunday service was slowing down and spending time with God.  Which brought me back to this afternoon's service preparation.

Autumn in our garden
The Bible readings both look at the coming of God's Kingdom, which is in part what we are looking forward to at Christmas.  Christ needed to be born as a baby to die on the cross for our sins.  Not a link we make very often but Easter and Christmas are both about the same thing; God's unconditional love for us.

So this afternoon we looked at all the things we use to prepare for Christmas, during advent.  We took our advent calendar, countdown snowman, my Christmas planner and a host of Christmas magazines I have already collected this Christmas.  However, I pointed out the one thing missing from my pile was the Bible.  Don't get me wrong, we don't miss the point of Christmas, our chocolate advent calendar has the Christmas story on the back of each window and the advent bunting I made at Lee Abbey last year takes a longer look at the story, but we just open the window, turn over the bunting, read the words and get on with the day.

Countdown snowman
Our challenge as a family is to make more time for God this Christmas.  So we have found an advent Bible study on line, advent study guide, and shared the Bible readings and questions with our congregation and to help them share it with their friends, we have set up a group on Facebook, Advent Study 2012.

While I was away, the boys were busy as well.  They were at rugby in Wales on Friday and football at home on Saturday.  They even found time to start the decorating in the lounge.

saying goodbye to magnolia
We have also been working through the to do list in the Christmas planner and thinking about what little jobs we can get done before we open our home to family and friends over Christmas.  So Andy has repainted parts of the kitchen, cleaned the windows and the conservatory roof and fitted a new extractor over the oven.

Another job off the list complete!
The Bible passage for contemplation this week is Exodus 34:6

Then he passed in front of Moses and called out, 
“I am the Lord God. 
I am merciful and very patient with my people. 
I show great love, 
and I can be trusted.  

Our prayer as a family is for those affected by the flooding in the South West of England this week, for those who have been involved in their rescue and for those who will help them in the weeks ahead.  May they know God's presence in their troubles and may the true meaning of Christmas be seen; For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son.

With God's blessings from my family to yours,

Jo x

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Half term, fireworks and Christmas preparations

With the end of October we have had much to celebrate, we went away for half term down to North Devon with friends for some well earned rest.  This year's half term included Jacob's birthday and we went to church in a nearby town on his birthday and the whole congregation sang "Happy Birthday" with a second verse of "God's blessings" to him.  The break also gave me time to make a start on my Christmas card making.
A selection of home-made Christmas cards
I managed to make about a quarter of the cards I will need for this Christmas and even managed to get the boys helping me.
Cards made by Josh
We returned home to help with the annual North Swindon Scout Firework display evening, which is organised by the Purton and Lydiard scouts and assisted by troops from the district.  Andy, Jacob and I were helping in one of the food tents and Josh was assisting with the car parking.

The day stayed dry, despite the forecast saying otherwise and we even managed to see the fireworks this year, due to a new position for the tent and a change of wind direction from previous years.

Josh stayed overnight as part of the "security" for the marquees and then helped to dismantle the site the next morning.  The weather had turned and they woke to heavy rain, which later turned to snow! Well the weather man did warn the wind would be coming from the Arctic!!

We celebrated Jacob's birthday again on our return with his friends at a fun evening playing laserquest.

And so with the start of November and the return to school and work thoughts in the Vizor household have turned to Christmas.  Andy and the boys have been out a couple of times without me recently, football and rugby, which has meant that I have had time for some crafting.

Christmas Owl
Snowflake garland
For my birthday I had a book called "Christmas crafts in no time" and I am working my way through them making some delightful decorations for this year.

I have mentioned before that I am a list girl and Christmas really tests my listing making skills.  Last year I tracked down a Christmas planner I had seen previously in a crafting magazine.  This one was on a wonderful Australian blog Shabby Art Boutique and Kerryanne who writes this blog runs an event called Simply Christmas.  So this year I have updated my Christmas planner with a new calendar and room for new lists and I am ready to get ready!

Christmas planner
I have a section which has my to do lists for each week between the start of November and Christmas day.  This week amongst the tasks was sorting the menu plans for Christmas week and then checking the ingredients we already have.  To help with the checking I decided it would be good to sort the store cupboard out.  This meant that cupboard went from this:

                        To this:>>>

That just leaves the important part of Christmas to get right now, placing Christ at the centre of all we do.  Jesus is the reason for the season, as the saying goes and for us as a family he is the reason we exist and the reason we know we have life eternal.  Our celebrations will centre on Christ and that he came to save the world by giving his life.  Next week I am going away on a retreat weekend which will help me spend time focussing on God and have time to prepare some crafts.  My hope at the weekend is that I can find a way for us as a family to spend more time focussed on God each day.

The Bible verse today links well with keeping Christ at the centre of Christmas and fits well with the service we had at church today.  We are not called to follow Christ and be like those around us, but we are called to follow Christ and bring him to those around us in a way they understand.

The Lord says:

“My thoughts and my ways
    are not like yours.

Isaiah 58: 5

Our prayer as a family this week is centred on Remembrance Sunday and we pray for all those who have lost loved ones through service to their country, whether during the two World Wars or in more recent conflict.  May they know the love and comfort of God in their loss.

With God's blessings from my family to yours,

Jo x

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Garden update and Messy Church

With the onset of Autumn, I thought I would give a round up of all the work we have completed in the garden this summer.

Flowers growing up the fence
The fence is completed, the patio has seen barbecue action on several sunny days and has now been joined by a decking area, which makes a great sun trap for pre dinner drinks! It also has a storage bench, which doubles as a serving area down the middle.

Ready for the BBQ
space to catch the sun

We also decided that some shelves would be good for storing items while we are cooking and keeping temptation out of the way while waiting to serve the food.  So Andy has built a "cupboard" ready for shelves to be added next summer.

The vegetable patch has provided us with some food this year and a very good learning experience for next year.  We might even give more room for the vegetables next year, but we are waiting to install the summer house first to get a feel for how the bottom of the garden will work.  The strawberry patch has self-propagated and from the initial four plants we were given, we now have a full patch ready for next summer.

vegetable patch ready for winter
strawberry patch

Andy has cleared the patio ready to put his newly learnt deck building skills in action in the spring, so here is the before shot now.  Come the spring we shouldn't have such a big step out into the garden and down onto the new patch, which can just be seen taking shape below.

deck in waiting
We have been enjoying a new feature of the fence now that the hanging baskets have come down.  We have replaced them with lanterns, for an evening glow.

Candles in the fence
This week I have helped to lead my first messy church service.  We have been looking at the book of Joshua this month, and we had chapter 7 for this week.  We asked the children to act out the Bible reading, while we showed images from the lego bible.  We then made Achan's tent out of cream crackers and icing and hid our sweetie treasure inside.  I also found a wonderful story cube to make as a reminder of the story on the Calvary Kids website.

We also found time to have friends over for dinner on Friday evening and I made a Nigella Spanish Chicken recipe for the main course, followed a family favourite, Chocolate Mint Torte from a pampered chef recipe.  It is quick and easy to prepare but looks impressive.  Using a chocolate fudge brownie mix for the cake base, a tub of cream cheese, a tub of double cream and 300g of mint chocolate.  We always find it best the second day, which for a Friday evening meal meant making it Thursday to give it time to set.

Mint Chocolate Torte
This week's bible verse is about how our faith grows:

You know that you learn to endure
by having your faith tested.
James 1:3 (CEV)

Our prayer as a family is for all those who find themselves is testing circumstances, that they will remember God is with them and that through God "all things are possible" even when it appears impossible.  We pray that we will remember to achieve tasks through God's strength and not to try to "go it alone".

With God's blessings from my family to yours,

Jo x

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Amazing Paralympics

Over the summer we have also enjoyed the Paralympic Games.  Having attend the Summer Games at the Olympic Park, we knew our way around and couldn't wait to get back up to London to experience the Paralympics.

Andy and Josh had tickets for the Excel Centre, which enabled them to see whichever event they chose, provided there was space.  Jacob and I stayed at home as Jacob had a tennis tournament.  Andy & Josh saw table tennis, Judo and sitting volleyball.

On the Friday, Jacob and I joined them for an evening of paralympic athletics.  The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and we saw so much action, including heats, finals and medal ceremonies.  There was so much going on, we were glad of the in stadium commentary drawing our attention to events as they took place.

We had wheelchair basketball tickets for Saturday morning and afternoon and we were glad we had a more lesiurely start than when we had basketball ticket at the Olympics.  We saw four games  at the O2 before we headed over to the stadium again for a trip up the Orbit to its viewing platform, before watching more athletics.

The one thing that struck me as we watched the athletes, was not that we were watching athletes with a disability but that we were watching the ability of these athletes in extraordinary circumstances.  I was in awe of their achievements.

This week's Bible verse comes from Titus, a small book in the new Testament:
Teach the older men to be temperate,
worthy of respect, self-controlled,
and sound in faith, in love
and in endurance
Titus 2:2
Which is interesting timing as we have been discussing setting up some men's group work at church, meaning that the older men will learn from the younger ones, while the younger ones learn from the experiences of their elders.
Our prayer this week as a family is that life gets back to normal, with the ending of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and returning to school and work, that we will not forget that we are each called by God to use the gifts and abilities we have to the best we can and not to try and be other people.
With God's blessings from my family to yours,
Jo x

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Summer update - Holiday Club

This year we have taken on the organisation for the holiday club which the four churches in Highworth put on each year.  This gave us new challenges as we have only every worked with one church and been able to see the people volunteering each week at church.  We had to learn to work through church contacts and briefing meetings and also to gather up the resources from previous years which is stored at various buildings/homes.

Our theme, not surprisingly, was sport, tying into the Olympic Games.  We used John Hardwick's Sporting Academy resources, but as this sounded too much like a local school we used the "More Than Gold" title, which is the Christian response to the Olympic Games and is handed from one organising country to the next as the summer and winter Olympics move around the world.

Highworth Inter Churches Holiday Club 2012

The biblical teaching looked at David, from shepherd boy to king and we tied this into living a Christian life today through the sporting theme.  We were really pleased to see 88 children over the week (also another first for us as we have only ever held a three day holiday club).

Each day we started with a craft activity as the children arrived and then called them upfront to introduce the day's theme.  Josh had taken some great photos and videos at the Olympics which we were able to incorporate into our daily presentation.  The Bible story was told using the wonderful Lego work of the Brick Testament website.  We had a crayon puppet who helped us to understand the activities we were going to do each morning and Tim who helped us to see the theme linked to our lives.

Tim T Tim Tim
Crayon - advising on the day's activities

The children then spent time making the daily craft, exploring the Bible story in more depth, playing games and taking refreshments (which included a daily episode of Cars 2).  The children were split into age related group colours and then into sport named teams, so they could build up relationships with their other group members and the leaders.

Spectator binoculars - to remind us to keep our eyes on Jesus
Each morning finished with a round up session, led by our bin monster, who helped us work out what needed tidying up in the bin and what we needed to remember and Billy Bible who gave us a memory verse to learn.  The children loved coming up with actions to help them remember the words of the Bible verse.

We had a great group of adult and teenage helpers from each of the churches and we had live music thanks to the worship band.

The week finished with a closing ceremony on the Friday morning which parents attended to see the work the children had been doing and to witness the gunging of the team leader for the winning team colour.  We then had a closing party BBQ in the evening and a celebration service in church on Sunday morning.

Sunday's service looked at how Jesus is not just for holiday club and Christmas, but is our living saviour.  We looked at a way to pray using the acronym tsp (using a teaspoon as a reminder) learning that we should include Thank-yous, sorrys and pleases in our prayers.  We also gave everyone a tea-light to help them remember that Jesus is the light of the world, it also finished our final craft, which was a tea-light holder crown.

Crown tea light holders - reminder that God keeps his promises
This week's Bible verse is from Romans:

But God showed how much he loved us
 by having Christ die for us, 
even though we were sinful.
Romans 5:8

Our prayer is that the children who attend holiday club will have leaned something new about God's love for them and that they will want to know more.  We pray that we will welcome new families to our church families over the coming weeks.

This week we have been to the Paralympics and I'll tell you more about that next week.

With God's blessings from my family to yours,

Jo x

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Living the Olympic dream

I hadn't realised how long it was since I last blogged, but the truth is we have been so busy doing "Stuff" there hasn't been time to write about it!

As we have done so much and my last blog was a long one, I will break down all that we have done over the next few weeks.

So the first thing to share is our trip to the Olympic Games.  With all the media fuss about tickets, we consider ourselves very fortunate to have obtained 5 event tickets in the first two rounds of the "draw" and then were able to pick up a few more tickets as well.

We started our Olympic dream with a trip to Millenium Stadium, Cardiff to watch Team GB ladies football.

View from behind Even Swindon Primary school's seats
 At the same game were some teachers and children from the primary school where I am chair of governors, so we managed to meet up with them between games.

We returned home to finish packing then headed up to London to take up residence in Putney for the week.  We had an ealry start on the Monday (5am!!!) to ensure we had breakfast and to get across London in time for Hockey at 8.30am.  The tube and DLR presented no problems and having chatted to some Games Makers at the station we also managed to work out how best to get to the Olympic Park without having to walk to far.

We saw Australia play South Africa and New Zealand play South Korea.  The speed of the game was amazing and nothing like the game I used to play at school!! I thought goal keeping was safe then, but I wouldn't want to keep goal at this level.

We spent the afternoon in the park watching events on the big screen.
Tuesday was a later start as we had Archery in the afternoon followed by more ladies football with Team GB ladies taking on Brazil at Wembley.  Josh has recetly started Archery, so we had a great afternoon watching the arrows fly and even had a go in a demonstration area.  Josh has been inspired to try harder as he would like to go Rio for the next Olympics!!

The atmosphere at Wembley was amazing, with a nearly full ground all cheering for Team GB, with a few exceptions.

Wednesday we were up early again for Basketball, with more seats at the back of the arena, which appeared to be the theme for our tickets.  The crowd would get behind the underdog team and for half of the morning, we were Angola!  The half time entertainment was great, with Twist and Pulse from X Factor during the first game and a local cheer leading team in the second game.

Thursday we had tickets for volleyball at Earl's Court.  We also managed to meet up with the lady we made friends with at Wimbledon, who was in charge of the venues in the west of London.

Andy spent the afternoon chasing around London taking photos of  Wenlock and Mandeville statues that have been put all over the city (he is going back to take some more).  Jacob and I went shopping at Harrods and Josh watched the Archery finals on tele.

We came back home and Andy & Josh managed to get some canoeing tickets so they went up to Eton Dorney for the morning, while I did some preparations for holiday club (more about that next week!).

The Bible reading generated for this week is :

For just as each of us has one body with many members,
and these members do not all have the same function,
 so in Christ we, though many, form one body,
 and each member belongs to all the others.
Romans 12:4-5
Our prayer for this week is for all those who have taken part in the Olympics and all those taking part in the Paralympics, that they use their gifts to the best of their abilities and that we might all be inspired to use the gifts we have to our best.
With God's blessings from my family to yours,
Jo x

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Anniversary celebrations

Well the sun has finally put in an appearance this summer and just in time for our wedding anniversary.  It was beginning to feel strange that we might be celebrating a summer wedding with this almost wintry weather we have been having, but not quite as warm as it was all those years ago, the summer has arrived.

Anniversary flowers from Andy
So this year we were able to celebrate with a meal on the new patio, under the new parasol and then a lunch which was not cooked on the new BBQ, as the bits didn't go together as easily as we thought.  Oh well another day for the BBQ then.  We also had friends round and enjoyed a lazy Sunday lunch in the garden before heading off to church as I was singing and Josh was on the sound desk.

Anniversary meal in the garden
For dessert today I made a huge meringue using a Nigella Christmas recipe, which makes a soft marshmallowy middle and a crunchy outside.  I must remember next time to measure the circle for laying out the mixture using the plate I serve it on rather than any other circular object.  However this meant that when my friends' boys wanted meringue without the cream and raspberries, they could have all the bits that had fallen off the edge of the serving plate.

Nigella Christmas meringue
This week we held our holiday club briefing meeting and went through all the material we will be using this year.  It was great to meet with nearly everyone who will be helping, as we come together from four different churches to present holiday club.  We are using the material from The Sports Academy by John Hardwick, but as this sounds like a nearby senior school, we have called our club "more than gold" as this is the Christian response organisation for the Olympics.  It promises to be a great event and is linking in with the very relevant sporting theme.  So our craft time as a family this week has been geared towards holiday club demonstrations; we have made a shield, a harp, a trophy, some binoculars, a crown tealight holder, an edible medal and some other items we'll share with you in the coming weeks.

Holiday club craft
Both the boys have been on school trips this week to mark the end of term and both chose theme parks to visit.  Josh had the longer trip to Alton Towers and had to be at school for 5.50am!! (Andy did that school run!) Jacob didn't eave until normal time for Thorpe Park.  I did make up for the early morning start by doing the tennis coaching run at 6.45am on Friday morning, shocking Josh when I returned and was already dressed before he even thought about getting up!

That brings us to this week's bible verse which is from Psalms and is really fitting as several people I know have this week felt pulled to be led astray by evil influences:

God blesses those people
    who refuse evil advice
    and won’t follow sinners
    or join in sneering at God

Psalms 1 verse 1

And so our prayer as a family this week is for strength to fight against the evil around us.  As we stand up for God we find that evil tries to tempt us and we must hang on to promises of God and take courage from other Christians around us.  We pray for all who are struggling that God will guide and protect them this coming week.

With God's blessings from my family to yours,

Jo x

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Summer of sport

I know its been a while since I blogged, but those of you who know me well will not be surprised when I say the reason has been that we have been really busy!

As chair of Governors at our local primary school I have been busy recruiting and have conducted three different sets of interviews in the past few weeks.  However we do now have a new clerk to the governors and Head teacher (our current one is retiring at Christmas)  and we have reviewed our senior management team.  I also attended a wonderful Infant music festival featuring songs from around the world to celebrate this Olympic year.

We have harvested our first crop of potatoes and mange tout and have really started to enjoy the fact we can wander down the garden and choose vegetables for tea.  The broad beans are coming on and should be ready to eat very soon.

We enjoyed a weekend away camping with some of the families from church.  We visited the Forest of Dean and although it rained Friday night, we were tucked up in bed by then and it then stayed dry until we had almost packed all the tents away on Sunday.  We had a wander round the aptly named Puzzle Wood, home to Merlin and Dr Who on some days (but not while we were there!).  Then while we sat in their picnic garden the sun came out and we all came home slightly pinker than when we left.

We have even managed to enjoy the newly finished patio, although we have yet to find the sun out at a meal time, but we just keep thinking that the summer must be just round the corner!!

We have added some extra vegetable garden space, down the side of the patio and have planted some purple sprouting broccoli together with some pinks and lavender.

Then after what seemed like a whole week at the primary school for various meetings, we had our next event in the Vizor summer of sport and went to Wimbledon, for men's finals day.  Josh had secured us the chance to buy centre court tickets this year, but we still needed ground passes for the rest of the family and Josh's friend, who joined us for the day out.

As we watched Andy Murray getting closer to the finals the chances that the queue for tickets on finals day would be "quite short" seemed less likely and so we were really happy for Andy Murray that he got to the finals, but it meant we had to adjust our plans  for joining the queue.   So at 6am we got up and made our way to SE19 through the rain.

Apparently, this flag is too big!!!
Josh, Esina and I joined the queue while Andy and Jacob parked the car on the golf course (no its not a typo, the car was just in front of the bunker!!).  The queuing system is just amazing and they hand you a numbered ticket to prevent queue jumping, or so you can find your place again if you need to nip to the loo!  We were 1605, 1606 & 1607, so we asked expectantly what the chances of getting in were and were pleased to hear that normally they let 2500 in, but they were just making a decision for health & safety reasons due to the wet weather making Henman Hill slippery.

However, the queuing was not as long as the last time we went, when Josh and Andy had to wait for 8 hours to get in just in time to see the third game start at 5pm.  This time they were in before Andy Murray and Roger Federer made their appearance.  We made friends with the ladies behind us in the queue and they joined on the hill for the remainder of the day.  We are staying in touch with them and in fact will meet up with one of them, Linda, at the Olympics, as she is in charge of the central London venues!

We took it in turns to watch the the match in centre court and while not in our seats we had a great position on the hill.  However it was mine and Josh's turns on the hill when the heavens opened and we made the best tent we could out of two umbrellas and a ground sheet, but we still got wet.

Linda & Lesley join the Vizor family plus Esina at Center Court, Wimbledon
Our good friend, Chris Coombs, was ordained as a Ordained Local Minister, for the church of England and celebrated by hosting a Jonathan Viera concert (the opera singer).  Josh was in his element as he operated the visuals and became a camera man for the evening. It was a great evening, with great songs and funny stories, if you get the chance to see Jonathan perform I would highly recommend it.

JV and his new camera man, JV
So with all this activity it should come as no surprise we haven't really had time for an crafting.  One thing I have managed to do is to prepare a holiday planner, to record all the things we are doing during the summer holidays.  It is not quite the summer of the theme tune to a programme to boys watch, where they have "104 days of summer vacation" but we do have 48 days to fill and if you look closely, you might be able to see, we have already filled most of them!!  Definitely want to have some time crafting and baking.

Vizor Summer holiday planner
We are in the final preparations for holiday club and have a team briefing this week, so have lots of craft to share with you next week.

This week's Bible verse is from Isaiah, and over the summer I must make a conscious effort to spend more time with God.  I have been comforted by another blog that I follow, The girl creative, who having taken time off from blogging when she realised her husband had no pants for the week (a story worth reading has come back with renewed vision from God and a realisation you don't have to blog to a timetable and that family time and God time are actually more important.

“Cheer up! Don’t be afraid.
Your God is coming
    to punish your enemies.
God will take revenge on them
    and rescue you.”

Isaiah 35:4

Our prayer this week is for all those around the country and world who are preparing for holiday club events during the summer.  We pray for the children who will attend and that they may encounter God in a way that makes sense for them.  We pray for the teams who will deliver God's word to these children and their families. And we pray for the churches who host the events that may be beacons of God's love to their communities.

With God's blessings from my family to yours,

Jo x