Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Oh Christmas Lights

"The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone... For to us a child is born."

"For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

Monday, December 03, 2012

A little inspiration when feeling sick

I've been in bed since yesterday morning with the dreaded sick bug, throwing up everything I eat that isn't cream crackers or Shreddies. These are three things which have brought me a LOT of joy, excitement and inspiration in that time which I want to share with you on this, the third day of advent.

A short inspiring article about people, lonely and desperate finding home in another's family. I can't put into words the passion I have for this.

A cracking documentary "Solar Mamas", part of the Why Poverty series currently being run by the BBC, which again covers a subject I am passionate about, and reminded me of a handful of my fabulous ESOL students (inspiring women with little or no edcuation, illiterate, little or no family or community support, but determined to learn, to better their lives and for the good of their children.) A must-watch!

A beautifully written Christmas song. Lyrics here. Love came down. Nuff said.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

God never left

I've been thinking about how Jesus coming to earth isn't "God with us" in an ethereal, squint your eyes funny and you might see him kind of sense. He was tangible, breathing, fully God, fully human, real. And his coming changed everything - after Jesus died, rose again, ascended to heaven, God never left. God with us is now God in us. Mind-blowing!

But what does that look like...?

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Anticipation and advent calendars

I love advent calendars. I love the counting the days and the excitement it builds. I’ve been trying to hold back the excitement at least until December began but it’s rather difficult what with Glasgow deciding to put up all their Christmas lights and Christmas market up in mid November! For me it’s the anticipation of a beautiful time: lights, family, getting to listen to Sufjan’s new Christmas albums(!!!) and other much loved Christmas music, all the lovely Christmas food, putting up decorations, all those silly little traditions we associate with Christmas but are just lovely and fun. But can you just imagine... the whole of heaven must have been waiting with bated breath on that day all that while ago that we celebrate, Jesus’ arrival on earth. It was and is a BIG deal. God coming to earth in human form, God on a rescue mission, coming to free humanity from the clutches of sin and death… hold on, I just need to catch my breath!
Sooo the plan is (NB I'm not so good at sticking to such plans, but hold me to it!) a blogpost every day this advent to remind myself as much as anything else that Christmas celebrates Jesus coming and everything it achieved...

Written hundreds of years before he came along, in the words of the Message paraphrase of the Bible.

“For a child has been born—for us!
the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
the running of the world. 
His names will be: Amazing Counselor, 
Strong God, 
Eternal Father, 
Prince of Wholeness. 
His ruling authority will grow, 
and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.” 
Isaiah 9:6-7

Monday, September 17, 2012


The first of some very belated posts which I wrote while I was in Sri Lanka with the intention of posting as soon as I came back (we got back over 2 months ago!)

"I hadn't realised how much I love this city! For a start, this place is literally 
brimming with childhood memories for me. Worked out that over a total of 5 trips in my life-time (not including this one), I had spent almost as many months in Sri Lanka (most of which in Colombo) as in Grenoble when I lived there. It's not everyone's cup of tea methinks, but there's something about the chaos and the grime and the life in this city that I like.  I'm loving experiencing it again through adult eyes and my first-timer white husband's reactions to everything. Trishaws (also known as tuktuks or three-wheelers depending on your preference) are definitely a hot favourite: epitomising everything I love about Colombo; hilarious, lively chaos. Lovely to see various relatives I hadn't seen for a while and whom Mark had never met, though a fairly detailed diagram was required to explain complex (though in my mind not that complex!) family connections to him. And awesome to hang out with my Gran, who is 100% in her element when entertaining us, whether it's providing every possible option of Sri Lankan pudding under the sun in the time when we stayed there i.e. "Would you like a or b or c or d or e or f...?!" or making one of her loyal local trishaw drivers materialise in front of her flat entrance with the clap of a hand! And within a few days and we're already sampling some of my favourite foods/drinks which are near enough impossible to get at home: hoppers, portello, string hoppers, various curries, mangosteen, rambutan, sugartastic iced coffee = sweeeeet!

"Top table"

I was at a wedding at the weekend. When it came to the meal, it took me a while to find the table that I was at, so I ended up walking around all of them and trying to figure out what seemed like a bunch of cryptic names that didn't seem that obviously related to each other. Turns out the tables were all named after elements of the Bride and Groom's lives: a few of the names and words I didn't recognise, although Mark informed me that I should have recognised the name of the table we were sitting on - "F=ma", though in my defence it's been a long time now since standard grade physics! But I certainly instantly recognised the table name of the "top table". The table that the bride, groom and their families were sitting on, slap bang in the middle of the room, had been named after the couple's number 1 "Jesus". I thought that was pretty cool! The whole wedding was awesome and fun and one joyously joyous occasion as 99% of weddings are!
On a related (though not obviously related) note I keep having the privilege of getting to know wonderful people who are going through all manner of horrendous circumstances far beyond their control and yet are more than coping with it. I'm not talking about minor bumps here, I'm talking about the kinds of circumstances that I couldn't even imagine going through let alone coping with. Not even these tallest of tsunami-esque waves are knocking them over. They are of varying personalities, ages, backgrounds, and yet they all have one thing in common. They've all been fixing their eyes on Jesus, and although they don't have a reason for why it's happening, they don't don't need to have a reason. For they are all, in amongst their sadness and difficulty, are continually finding hope and truth and comfort and love and barely being shaken because they know Him, have some idea of the love God has for them and what it is to live a full life in spite of your circumstances. Inspiring!
All these people, in their good times and their bad have discovered this secret. Jesus is their secret. And I see so many people living out this secret day by day. When I look at him, he fills my head with truth, reality, hope and helps me to see the world with clarity. In him I am witness to pure goodness and love and grace in all it's raw burning reality; I know and am completely known and still completely loved ...and that's barely scratching the surface of all the whys and the wonders! Words just don't cut it. I can find more than a strand of sense in this confused and crazy world when I look at Jesus.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cup of Chai anyone?

 Recently I found this little recipe again, on a rolled up piece of scrap paper in a tea tin. It was acquired for me as a rather cheeky birthday present from a friend several years ago who pestered the wonderful tea makers at one of my favourite haunts in Glasgow for the recipe. It took me over 5 years to get round to making it and I've no idea why I hadn't before! It's yummmm and I had all the ingredients living on my spice shelf as a matter of course!

Anyway the one issue with this recipe is that there are no quantities (most likely a well kept secret!) Just funny little caution symbols and asterisks to indicate "a lot".

I did photograph how much I used the last time I made this,  but it wasn't as good as my first attempt. So, from two attempts with varying results, here are my top tips on making it.

1. My suggested quantities for 2 servings: 5 cardamom pods (take the cardamom out of the pod), 2 cinnamon sticks, about 3cm cubed chunk of ginger or 1 teaspoon of ground, 2 cloves, chilli to taste (chilli flakes is an easy way to do it), 4 black peppercorns (less if you prefer) or the equivalent. I used Darjeeling when making this and it tasted pretty good, so I don't think you need to be too pernickity on the tea front. Sugar and milk to taste.
2. Boil for a good 10 minutes and make sure you do a taste check before you add the milk
3. Allow to simmer after you've added the milk to bring out the flavour more.
4. Put in slightly more hot water than you think you need, boiling water evaporates a little.
5. Tea strainer is essential.
6. Experiment!

Enjoy :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

On the trials of buying a house

So over the Christmas holidays Mark and I decided; right Glasgow - we love this city, we're not going anywhere in medium-term future, let's buy somewhere to live. To be honest, the thought wouldn't have crossed my mind, but my husband is an accountant - nuff said.

So we decided that since we had a long holiday that extended a bit into January, on our return to Glasgow, we would blitz this buying a flat and nail it in a couple of weeks max.  We did manage to wade through a sea of mortgage providers and all that melarkey pretty successfully in that time period - Mark made a ton of spreadsheets, as he does, so that did the job quite nicely. We manage to view a good few flats in that time. But as for finding the flat, well it's mid Feb and considering the fact we still haven't found one we're happy with yet, we may have just been a little optimistic... See it turns out a nice flat in our budget is more than likely to have any of a whole range of problems.

Let me present to you three flats that we have seriously considered to illustrate:

Numero Un: Let's call it Knotweed flat - Great flat, convenient area for everything, good amount of space, has a converted attic (!!), very cheap!

Read the home report and... Japanese Knotweed in the back garden, asbestos in the roof, falling apart chimney (bear in mind this is a top floor flat) to name but a few "3" (the worst rating it could possibly get) level serious issues.

Do we take the risk or do we not?! A dilemma that we have yet to make up our minds conclusively about...

Numero Deux: aka Flat of Bling. This flat was in pretty much the same location as the first, had almost as much space minus the converted attic. Neighbours were nice (we even knew one of them!) Home report looked pretty good, the deco was in their words "better than average". Not sure if "better than average" meant tasteful; think silver sparkly toilet seat and multi-coloured lights embedded into the dining room floor.

Now you may think, what's the problem here, decoration is easy enough to change. But it's hard to consider changing it, when the less than likeable rather irritating owner gives a running commentary as she takes you round a tour of the flat on how much everything cost (a lot!), how she put her heart and soul into making it hers. As horrible as I found some of it, I didn't really feel I had the heart to buy it off her and then tear out all of her heart-felt blingy work.

Matter has been taken out of our hands at any case, because our solicitor thinks it's too expensive for what it is, and is currently trying to barter down the price. Secretly felt rather relieved about that.

Numero 3: "The house in a tower block" ticked all the boxes and it wasn't too far from where we lived now. The owners were really nice; that always sways me more than I think it should! But it seemed I was more attached to the area we had been aiming for because we thought we could afford it more than I thought, and the thought of moving further away from the beloved area where I work just now or some of my fantastic esol students who have recently also moved into that general direction was surprisingly less than appealing. We've had to change one of those tick boxes.

That's just a small number of the flats we've seen, and there have been some other possibilities on the horizon so it's not like this is all there is! But it most definitely has become more confusing and complicated than we thought it would become.

Here's some advice, if you ever fancy buying a place yourself and have never done it before.

- Have an idea of what you're looking for before you go looking for it - it saves time.
- Read the home report before you go view it. You get better at that the more you do it. I have become a master in home report skimming, I just keep my eyes out for those buzz words for example having a pitched roof is apparently pretty important, my dad convinced me on that one!
- An important question to consider, especially if it has any structural issues: is there a factor, and if there's no factor, are the neighbours nice and approachable?
- Turns out finding and buying a house/flat in 2 weeks is a little unrealistic, allow for a bit more time than that if you're gonna do it.
- Get a good solicitor you can trust, that helps a LOT!

Have to say, I'm enjoying the adventure of not knowing and having to let God lead us inch by inch.

Just watch this space.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

A foray into food blogging

 I have really been enjoying reading food blogs of late. Mainly because I love food and love cooking. Notable recipes that I have tried and tested on blogs include: mint yoghurt pasta - unusual but really yum if you like tzatziki and really easy! And also Swizz Chard Tart, sounds good but tastes pretty good (though reduce the sugar if you ever want to try it). See the picture below for mine and my Canadian cousin's attempt -->

So I decided to do a little food blogging of my own. The recipes that people ask me for more than anything else are either curries (what with a Sri Lankan family and all!) or soup (since I make soup every day at work).

So today at the behest of Mr Parmaham I am blogging a lentil curry recipe which I knew as I grew up as parrapou (a tamil word with no fixed english spelling) and which you readers are most likely to know as dahl. NB this recipe is loosely based on how my mum showed me how to make it just before I left home, but there are 101 ways to make this. I've tried to give at least a couple of the variations hence why the overused parenthesis. This is how I made it tonight.

Lentil Curry (serves 2)


1 green chilli finely chopped
1/2 white onion diced
2 garlic gloves diced
2 tomatoes diced (optional)
150g red lentils (approx)
4 cardamom pods (nearly essential)
1/2 tsp coriander seeds/mustard seeds (optional)
1 tsp cumin powder (essential)
1/2 tsp ground ginger (I would say essential!)
a dash of lemon/lime juice (approx 1 tablespoon)
a good amount of seasoning to taste

Dice the onion, finely chop the garlic and green chilli. If you want it spicy keep the seeds in. As you can see, I did (unsurprisingly!)

Stir-fry these in a little oil with the seeds and pods (on this occasion I used coriander seeds and cardamom pods) until onions are soft (but not brown).

Add red lentils and hot water to just covering the lentils. Add to that the ground spices. On this occasion I used cumin, ginger and a pinch of ground coriander. Season at this point. Bring to the boil, then cover with the lid and simmer at the lowest possible heat. At this stage, add the lemon/lime juice. I used lime juice today.

After another 5 mins or so add the diced tomatoes.

Keep stirring and adding water until the curry turns into a dollopy slop as below (takes around 15 minutes to get to that stage). You need to keep checking it and stirring on regular occasions otherwise it sticks to the bottom. Don't worry if you add a little too much water, just take the lid off and turn the heat up a little until it looks like it should. Now it's ready to eat!

Tastes particularly good accompanied with rice, yoghurt and a boiled egg - hooooo yeah! :)