Sunday, 26 May 2013

Messy Church Craft Share: The story of Hannah

Image used with permission
We are in the middle of a little mini series at Messy Church, looking at women from the Old Testament. Last month we looked at Ruth, a story of loyalty and romance and redemption, but I forgot to take pictures of the craft so didn't have a post to share for that one! This month we focussed on Hannah, the mother of Samuel, the prophet who chose the young shepherd boy David to be one of Israel's most important kings.

Hannah's story is a beautiful one, but one that requires some sensitivity. Hannah was infertile, living a life of humiliation and misery while her husband's other wife bore many children and mocked her for her failures. Coming to God in anguished prayer she begged him for a son, and soon afterwards she had one who she named Samuel - "God hears" - and as soon as he was old enough she took him back to the Temple and gave him back to God. Samuel lived in the Temple and at a young age God spoke to him and he began a life of a prophet. It is important to tell this story without giving a message of "Just ask God for it and you will get it"... similarly there are many women who have prayed Hannah's prayers and still remain childless. So we wanted to tell Hannah's story without causing pain and grief, and so we focussed on the subject of prayer.

Hannah prayed openly and honestly, she came to God just as she was - heartbroken, bitter, angry, hurt, and desperate. Hannah's story teaches us to be real with God, to bring him our joys and sorrows, and to give him a good yelling-at if we need to because he can take it.

So these are the crafts we did - they could be used in other contexts where you are encouraging children to pray or reflect. Some are a little tenuous but great fun all the same ;)

Prayer Candles (from Messy Church 2)
Candles have long been used as a symbol of God's presence, a focus for prayer and reflection. I had one lit on my desk when I was writing my dissertation, to help me stay focussed and calm. We gave the children a clean jam jar, some glass pens and glitter glue to decorate them with, and then a tea light to put inside.

Prayer candles

Praying Hands (from Messy Church 2)
Sometimes it's difficult to know what to pray. Repetitive prayers learnt by rote may seem ritualistic and old fashioned but they are often good for when our hearts are so full we don't know what to say. These praying hands are good for ideas too - we assign a topic for each finger and when we want to pray we can just look at our hands!

Praying hands - my example!

Praying hands

Praying hands

Blessings Boxes (from Messy Church 2)
When I was little my mum gave me something from her childhood - a box of "promises", encouraging Bible verses to pick out each day. I loved it. I felt like it was a special treasure and even if I didn't understand the verse I loved picking it out and reading it. The blessings boxes were a similar idea - boxes to be decorated and filled with encouraging verses that could encourage you or to pass on to someone else who needed encouragement.

Blessings boxes

Tuck boxes (from Messy Church 2)
Ok ok, so this *was* a little tenuous...but the kids loved it! We read that every year Hannah visited Samuel in the Temple and brought him a new coat, and Messy Church founder Lucy Moore suggests she might have brought him some treats too :) We bought some wafer oyster shells and invited the children to decorate them with food colouring before filling them with tasty treats.

Tuck boxes

Tuck boxes

Samuel's Coat (my own idea!)
And speaking of Samuel's new coat...! We always do a big picture to display in the hall, usually a joint collage or something the can all add their own thing to. So we made Samuel a very nice bright new coat :)

Samuel's coat

Samuel's coat

Prayer Notebooks (from Messy Church 2)
People pray in different ways. Personally I prefer to write my prayers down in a journal - it helps me concentrate on my thoughts and also provides a great record of the ways in which God has answered my prayers and my life has changed. We provided notebooks for the children and invited them to decorate the front with a mosaic pattern. Although we called them prayer notebooks, we encouraged the children to use them generally to write down things that they were happy or sad or worried about, so that they could look back on them and be encouraged at the way the situation changed or made them feel.

Prayer notebooks

Let me know if you give any of these crafts a go!

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Thursday, 23 May 2013

Home made tortilla chips

I make no secret of the fact that I LOVE crisps. Give me a bag of crisps over a bar of chocolate or piece of cake any day. I love many types of crisps, anything from Worcester sauce wheat crunchies, to salt'n'vinegar Walkers, to Flamin Hot Monster Munch, and...tortilla chips.

Our favourite tortilla chips of choice are Marks and Spencers jalapeno flavoured chips - they are great for snacking, dipping, topping a fajita lasagne, or piling high with chilli and cheese to make nachos. I also love the humble Dorito, with chilli heatweave or lime being my favourite flavours.

The other night I watched Ina Garten (AKA The Barefoot Contessa) make her own tortilla chips and I thought I would give it a go, having some tortilla wraps left over from my lunches this week. She actually deep fries them but as I am a bit scared of deep frying things in a saucepan (too many chip-pan fire safety adverts on TV when I was growing up) I decided to oven bake them instead. The result was lovely and crunchy with a nice kick from the seasoning. I'll be honest, they don't come anywhere near a proper bag of crisps but they are a nice easy alternative to whip up in a hurry, and I've no doubt they are a bit healthier too!

Homemade spicy tortilla chips

Cut 1 or 2 tortilla chips in 8 wedges
Place on a baking tray and brush both sides with a little oil
In a small bowl mix up coarse salt, onion salt, chilli powder and smoked paprika - the quantities are up to you but I used about 1/4 tsp of everything except the salt which was just a pinch. You could also experiment with other flavours like cayenne, chipotle, or cumin.
Sprinkle the spice mix over the tortillas and bake in a 200deg preheated oven for 10 mins. 
Keep an eye on them - they burn very quickly!!!!!! (yes I did discover this the hard way)

I had these with lentil dhal and they went very well, but I reckon they'd be best scooping up some nice hot chilli :)

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Saturday, 11 May 2013

Speedy spaghetti and sausage meatballs

Oh Big Eejit readers have I got a treat for you tonight.

This is a recipe I have adapted from one I tore out of an Essentials magazine ages ago. I like meatballs a lot but feel it's a bit of a waste of money buying ready made ones when you can make them yourself out of mince...but then I could never be bothered with that either. This is the best of both worlds - easy and cheap. Bonus!

Speedy spaghetti and sausage meatballs

2 TBSP olive oil
450g pack of pork sausages
Small red onion, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Pinch fennel seeds
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
400g spaghetti, cooked to pack instructions

First of all, skin your sausages. It is a bit messy but strangely satisfying (or that might just be me...!) Heat the olive oil in a deep saute pan, tear your sausages into chunks and add them to the oil. 

Cook for about 5 minutes until starting to brown, draining off any excess oil. Add the onion, garlic and fennel seeds and cook for a few moments more. De-glaze the pan with a splash of white wine.

Add the chopped tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and tomato paste, along with a splash of water. Reduce the heat and simmer until your spaghetti has cooked. Take a ladle or 2 of the pasta cooking water and add it to the meatball sauce - it'll help it stick to the spaghetti better.

Serve on a warmed plate sprinkled with cheese, and some chopped basil if you have it.

I honestly cannot recommend this recipe enough - it is so delicious and tasty with lots of nice flavour from the fennel seeds and onion. Mr gave it a massive thumbs up too so it is definitely one to add to the regular list. I'm sure that meatball sauce could be easily frozen as well.

Why not give it a go!

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