Sunday, 31 January 2016

Strictly Family Time

How is your January going?

Last weekend Josh and I were "using" our Christmas present and went to watch Strictly Come Dancing Tour in Birmingham.  It was a great day out, with a meal before the show and drinks in the interval, all at our own table in the hospitality area.

Waiting for Strictly Come Dancing:The Tour to begin
Following the Home challenge on A bowl full of lemons I have cleaned and organised the kitchen, pantry cupboards and dining room and this week I'm starting on the "launch pad", the area that holds everything we need to get out the door in the morning.  We've had an area for this for a while but as the boys have grown and the bags they carry get heavier it needs to be transformed, so watch this space for next week's update.

At church we are running the Parentalk:The teenage years course from care for the family which is a fantastic time to meet with other parents of teenagers and share stories and for those who come before the teenage years have started to pass on our hints and tips.  It has been great to hear from everyone that we are going through similar experiences and that as parents, we are not alone.  It is not a church or Bible based course and can reach out to all parents of teenagers, whatever their faith (or none).
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This year I am trying to use my slow cooker more and to prepare meals for it ahead of time.  I found a great spreadsheet already set up on excel that enables you to enter your recipes and then it creates your shopping list for you.  It is designed to create the whole week's menu but I just use it for evening meals as I already have a list for everything else I buy weekly.  This means that instead of using the rows for each meal, I can use them for each week in the month and work out what I need to buy to create my slow cooker meals.  We still plan the whole month using post it notes, so we can see what we have planned and change our mind.

A month of menu plans
It's a work in progress as I make sure I have included all of the meals we might use each week, but it will enable me to spend one weekend a month preparing slow cooker meals to pop in the freezer and then I just have to take them out as I need them the day before.  This is food I had to prepare this month, which actually looked very similar when I worked out what could be frozen ahead of time and what I had forgotten to buy!!

Cook ahead slow cooker preparation
I have started on my Christmas cards for this year in my crafting sessions.  My aim is to make 7 per month plus a bigger session in the summer holidays.  Hopefully I will stay on track better this year and not need to make quite so many in November!

Our prayer as a family this week is for all families with teenagers, that as parents we will listen to our teenagers and respond to their needs and that as teenagers they will understand that parents just want the best for them and are struggling to adapt to their changing children.

The Bible verse selected for this week is a great reminder at the end of January, that even if we have not kept the resolutions we made for the New Year, our God is forgiving and gives us a fresh start in His love:
You, Lord, are forgiving and good, 
abounding in love to all who call to you.
Psalm 86:5 NIV

With God's blessing for me family to yours,

Jo x

Lizzie Somerset

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Getting organised for 2016

The first week back at work has finished and so our normal routines are beginning to kick back in, although to be honest it has been hard getting up each morning still this week.

January Word of the month
The UK is seeing a very mild winter at the moment and we have only had to wear winter gloves once this week on the cycle to work. However, my word for January in my display is snow! I live in hope 1) that we will see snow - I love how the garden looks under a blanket of snow and 2) that if it does it doesn't last long as I don't like cycling in the frozen snow!

This week's craft has revolved around getting my weekly planner ready for the new year.  I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again, I'm a list girl.  If it's not on a list it's unlikely to get done.

Home planner cover page
I have updated the weekly planner we use at our family diary meeting to reflect what we learned last year.  I have pre-filled in the boys' college times until Summer Half Term - when exams will start and schedules will change.  I have created one to-do list rather than a daily one as some days we have more to do than others!

Weekly planner - diary and to do
I am also taking part in the 2016 home organisation challenge which I did last year.  It's a great way to reset the house after Christmas, without trying to do everything at once.  I have previously followed organized home new year challenge so have I been working through the lists I made and making sure I have everything noted. I find it easier to follow if I have each item that needs cleaning and decluttering written down, or I may miss it if I just have "Clean the kitchen" as my goal for the week.

The Bible verse for this week picks up from the sermon we heard this morning that as we are called to be part of God's family at our baptism, we are called to take His light out with us in all we do:

But just as he who called you is holy, 
so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 
“Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV

Our prayer as a family this week is for those who find returning to a normal routine after Christmas difficult having been reminded of those they have lost.  May they know God's presence in their dark times and find solace in his Word.  We also pray for those affected by the floods in the North of England and Scotland. May we, God's family, reach out to those around us in his love and bring his light.

With God's blessings from my family to yours,

Jo x

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Looking back, planning forward

Happy New Year.

New Year's resolution - Take more photos, write more blog entries.  It's four years since I started my blog and although I have written as often as I thought I would, I do enjoy sharing our family updates with you.  Hopefully some of what we share is useful as well.

So to start off the new year, I thought I would write about all the things I didn't get round to writing during 2015.

Church Life
We have continued to contribute to the family life of St Michael's church and as Andy leads the creche once a month, I have taken on leading (rather than helping) a Sunday School session for 5-9 year olds. I also lead occasionally and have started to relax into leading a more formal style of service.  Andy has been involved in encouraging some of our younger men through a men's group and took them away camping in the early summer at the CVM event "The Gathering" which saw 2000 men worshiping God in a field just outside Swindon.

CVM - The Gathering 2015
We had some great church family events this year as well, with a weekend "away", using another Swindon church's premises for a day of Bible study.  We also had a murder mystery dinner to start the weekend and while I cooked for the 60 people who attended, with some help from Josh, Andy and the boys joined in the entertainment as part of the cast for the murder mystery (write that down, write that down - as quoted by Andy several times during the evening!).  We also hosted a comedy evening, transforming the church into an entertainment venue (it's amazing what you can do with a few standard lamps, rope and dust sheets!) and great evening was had by all who attended.

Murder Mystery dinner preparations
Music is still a great part of our family life and Jacob and I regularly helped lead worship through the year, Jacob on guitar and me singing.  However for our Christingle service the music was led by a whole band of young people.  Josh, on keyboard, was the oldest at 19 (that day as it was also his birthday) down to some of singers who were 6.  Another element that has become a Christmas tradition is a choir drawn from across our congregations, drawing together all our singing styles, to present carols and led the singing at the carol service.

St Michael's Music Group - Practicing hard!
We have ended the year tracking where our Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes have been sent this year.  It is a lovely way to bless those less fortunate than ourselves at Christmas in God's love.
Shoe boxes ready to send
Those of you who regular read my updates will know that sport, participating and watching,  is a huge part of our family life and 2015 was no exception.

We followed Swindon Town up to Wembley again during the year for the league 1 play off finals. One day we hope to share the joy of winning at Wembley with the boys, but for another year we came home feeling down.
Wembley - League 1 play off finals 2015
Having older children means that they can take advantage of mid week sporting events and took themselves off to Wimbledon this year for the first week's Friday action.

Day out at Wimbledon
Josh also arranged a day out in Cardiff with friends for a day of rugby watching "judgement day".  It is lovely that they are growing into independent young men.

Andy and Josh went to watch Wales in their warm up for the Rugby World Cup, when they played Italy.

Wales v Italy - World cup warm up
We have also watched the tour de France, Rugby World cup and Wimbledon as arm chair supporters.

Family life
As part of Josh's Christmas present last year, he and I went to Birmingham to see the Strictly come dancing tour (we enjoyed it so much we are off back there again this year).

I sat and passed the next module in my Business Analyst Dipolma and have just one left to go plus an oral examination to fit in during 2016.

Jacob had a regular problem in the Vizor household during November - invitations to be in two places at once.  Both offers were for presentation evenings - one for his GCSE certificates and awards evening and the other was a surprise presentation from the LTA.  We contacted the school to explain where he would be and arranged a separate occasion to collect his school awards while we took him to collect the Wiltshire LTA Young Volunteer of the year award.  The mantelpiece is now very full and he carries on like this we will need a trophy cabinet rather than just a shelf.

Josh's application for a university place is progressing well and the offers have started to come back through to him.  We have two visits planned for February to help decide which university will become his first choice and to look seriously at the accommodation choices.

Josh and I squeezed in a second Good Food show this year and I treated him to a cocktail making workshop, which will go down well as an ice breaker (no pun intended) at university.  He has collected quite a drinks cupboard over his birthday and Christmas and we bought a cocktail shaker set.

We have had several trips to the cinema as a family - the male contingent decided the local cinema wasn't up to standard for the Bond release so they headed off to the nearest 4K cinema to view Spectre.  However, we did all go together to watch Star Wars as a Christmas treat.

Jacob has started to learn to drive and is currently on his way back from Scotland where he has spent the past 5 days walking in the Cairngorms, staying just outside Aviemore with the Wiltshire Scouts Midwinter Expedition.

This blog entry doesn't include the boys summer trips or our Silver Wedding celebrations, which I have already written about.

It is always surprising to look back and review all that we have done and how we squeeze it all in.  However we know that all we accomplish is part of God's plan for our lives and it managed in His timing.

That said as part of planning for the New Year, I am taking part in a 40 day devotional for Mums called - Spending time each day with God to hear his voice into my parenting is a refreshing time.  I have read their book and been part of the launch team for the devotional and these two ladies write from the heart and from God.

Our prayer as a family this week is that God will bless those around us in all their plans for the coming year and may His love shine out from all we do.

The Bible verse that has come up for this week is very timely for a New Year, that reminds us as we start to fill up the calendar that we need to learn from the things we do.  To me it also says that we should make the most of the days God has given us and make them count.

Teach us to number our days, 
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

With God's blessing for 2016 from my family to yours,

Jo x