Mary, Martha – and Margot?

I think about Mary and Martha a lot. We live on a street named for one of them. And I spend a lot of days preparing for the dinner-plus-Bible-study combination, aware of the danger of spending more time and thought on feeding 13 people with a tasty dietary-requirement-fulfilling two-course meal than focusing on the spiritual food.

Now our 3-year-old says to me, “Don’t be like Martha, be like Mary” What does Martha do? “Cooking and tidying up” (her summary). What does Mary do? “Listen to Jesus”.

Mary is commended by Jesus for choosing “the better portion”, much as we Martha-sympathisers would argue that her busy serving was essential, Continue reading


A January To-Do List

A compilation of recommendations and resolutions and I would LOVE to know yours in return!

Film to watch: On iPlayer for a few more days, What We Did On Our Holiday is the story of a couple with three hilarious kids going to visit his terminally ill dad and aiming not to tell him that they are in the process of getting divorced. It feels reminiscent of Outnumbered, has an incredible laugh to line ratio, and is also very moving and deals with some big themes of life and death and truth. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Book to read: Love Bites by Christopher Hirst is like a food column in a weekend paper that goes on delightfully for 300 pages! Continue reading

This Advent: spare a thought for the Wise Men

imageI think I’ve taken them for granted all my life. Every Christmas we hear the story of the wise men arriving to worship Jesus with their special gifts. If we’re being correct we’ll know they are not called kings and there aren’t necessarily three of them giving one present each. If we’re being extra keen we might note that they didn’t rock up on the same night as the shepherds, with Mary just a few hours after giving birth, still in the delivery room and figuring out breastfeeding, having to welcome crowds of exotic visitors. Continue reading

I’m sorry: is this the hardest word to say?

We’re working on all the usual stuff with our toddler I guess: taking turns, asking to get down from the table, using the potty. It’s been really striking  – and it would be fascinating if it wasn’t such a mission to deal with – that saying “sorry” seems to be the most challenging thing of all.

I thought I had a really good opportunity a few weeks ago to make a teaching point of it for the first time. A fairly minor, perhaps even accidental, incident, such that you would think saying sorry would be straightforward. Just say sorry, she’ll say, “that’s ok” and then you can be friends again. But no. Cue various phases of explanation, cajoling, and being stern, which were met with silence, squirming and shamefaced avoidance of eye contact. And some whispered attempts at “sss…”

It was such a demonstration of how the lack of saying sorry breaks the relationship, both with the wronged party (baby sister) and with me, the parent. It was so Garden-of-Eden. Continue reading

How A A Milne is helping my parenting

It’s not what you might think. We’ve not been reading or watching an excessive amount of Winnie the Pooh. Nor are we busy applying a particularly salutary moral lesson from the Hundred Acre Wood. About being a good friend, perhaps, or celebrating diversity.

No, it’s that on the hundreds of occasions a day when the thing I’m about to say is, “Be
careful” or, “That’s great darling, but watch out that you don’t fall/squash your sister/hurt yourself” this poem from When We Were Very Young pops into my head: Continue reading

Masterchef-inspired banana souffle and peanut butter ice-cream

imageAfter last week’s Masterchef episode featuring banana soufflé and peanut butter ice cream, I couldn’t not make it. My mum probably think it sounds terrible, but I love peanut butter in just about anything. I used to blame it on a pregnancy craving, and I definitely got into the whole sweet-salty thing then, but with the babe now almost 7 months, that is not working as an excuse any more. It’s just delicious.

I’ve never made a soufflé before, but I found this recipe for a banana one, and here’s the secret: it’s easy. Continue reading

Crepes are not just for pancake day…


Yesterday we had a crazy pancake party, involving 17 children and associated grownups at peak chaos, which was a lot of fun. And did not at all do the job of using up all the rich indulgent food in the house before the abstinence of Lent as I have so much leftover Nutella, fruit, eggs, and so on. Fortunately I already believe that crêpes are not just for pancake day, but can be an entire supper or a welcome pudding any day of the year. Continue reading

What’s best about What’s Best Next

imageA combination of a friend’s book review and a super-busy time just after our second baby was born (and actually ever since) led to us reading What’s Best Next by Matt Perman (who blogs here) and now trying to implement lots of what we learned. It’s essentially about productivity – like the famous Getting Things Done – and has lots of practical suggestions, but it’s also grounded in a properly Christian worldview. Here’s why we’ve been recommending it to just about everyone: Continue reading

Go-to chocolate birthday cake


For ages, whenever I’ve wanted a chocolate cake recipe, I’ve trawled through loads of recipes, made something, and then never recorded or remembered what I’ve done, so each birthday results in the same search. But I’ve finally found one that I’m very happy with, and want to record it so I don’t have to go searching for a while! It’s been a gravity-defying smarties cake, a geeky spreadsheet cake, and a slightly boring (sorry) “you are old and 30” cake.

It’s extremely moist and chocolatey, the recipe could easily serve 20 or more, it keeps brilliantly, can serve as pudding, and you’ll be unsurprised to know it’s another Smitten Kitchen recipe. Yes, I love it. It does involve coffee, which I’ve only belatedly realised could have been decaf – sorry kids, though I’m not sure it would make much difference with all the chocolate. Continue reading