Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Just Giving page for Edith's Home

I'm afraid I'm going to be banging on about this until I've at least reached my target!

I've now set up a Just Giving page, so you can donate to my fundraising efforts quickly and securely. Here's the link: http://www.justgiving.com/justinchaloner

I'm in the process of filming some fundraising diary updates, so watch this space.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Further Additional Extra Adventures in Baking

I feel slightly guilty that Easter involved eating far too much (including copious amounts of chocolate). Aside from taking the focus away from the actual meaning behind the Christian festival it has dented my efforts to try and lose a bit of weight and eat healthily. Darn!

But – I'm not going to get too down about it. The Easter hols gave me an opportunity to get back into some good old-fashioned baking and was quite pleased with the results.

Here are some pics of my efforts:

Mini Cadbury Creme Egg Brownies (recipe from BBC Good Food website)
This was devilishly decadent. The brownie recipe on its own was enough to make a heart surgeon break out into a sweat, but then I went and added a little bit of Easter magic (ie mini Creme Eggs) and it went up to 11. Needless to say, these brownies are goooooonnnne!

Chocolate Orange Hot Cross Bun Bread and Butter Pudding (recipe from Tesco)
It's funny how the thought of chocolate orange anything makes people drool. Look on the internet and you'll find endless recipes for chocolate orange cheesecake, chocolate orange ice cream, chocolate orange cookies, chocolate orange cupcakes etc. etc. It's as if chocolate orange is the magic silver bullet that will transform your food from mediocre to levels of unicorn-riding-a-mechanical-shark awesome. Well, this chocolate orange hot cross bun bread and butter pudding sounds better than it tastes. Sure, it's still a nice pudding, but the chocolate orange aspect feels a little gimmicky (I mean, it's gimmicky to start with so add gimmicky on top of gimmicky and you're heading into ridiculous territory). I'm not rejecting it, but then again I'm not going to rush into making it again. Must try harder, Tesco!

Home made olive bread - made mainly from yeast packet instructions!
Ahh, bread. My old friend. I haven't made bread for ages (probably about a year), so I decided to play it safe and make my usual olive bread. Yes, I kneaded by hand and didn't cheat using a newfangled machine to make the dough. Funnily enough, following the instructions on the yeast packet yielded a far better loaf than when I previously followed a big old book on how to cook almost anything.

It's good to bake, it really is.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

I'm going to Uganda! ... and I need some money ;-)

I have some exciting news – I'm planning to visit Uganda this summer and need your help to get me there!

Edith's Home is a charity supporting HIV/AIDS orphans in the community of Ngora a small town in the Teso region of Uganda.

Because of very limited resources, these children are put to the "bottom of the pile" in an already strained family situation. Edith's Home provide sponsorship of school fees and vocational training for orphans to support them psychologically and spiritually. More recently the work has extended to supporting orphans with no family support (child headed families). Edith's Home is helping them to gain independence by setting up micro enterprise initiatives to help sustain the project: food storage, farming, business loan schemes and office services.

I will be part of a team going out to run a summer camp for the sponsored students as well as support the ongoing work of the charity. I am also planning to take a camera along to film some interviews and make a short promotional video for Edith's Home.

These trips, of course, have their costs and I need to raise a minimum of £1500 to pay for flights, accommodation etc. so if you can spare a donation (big or small) to help me it would be really appreciated.

I've set up a Just Giving page so it's easy, secure and convenient to donate online:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Alpha course - how went it?

A while back I mentioned that we were running an Alpha course. The course has now finished and I thought I'd reflect on how it went.

We only had three 'punters' attend the course run by a team of five, but in some ways that was perfect. We'd never run Alpha before and were a bit daunted by the prospect of being grilled by non-Christians about our faith. The small group size was easily manageable and helped to maintain an intimate and informal atmosphere. The course proved to be an excellent training ground for all of us and we came away feeling confident that we could run another later in the year (albeit with a few tweaks).

In case you didn't know, Alpha is designed to give people an opportunity to explore the Christian faith in an informal, relaxed setting where they can ask any question they like. Each session begins with a meal, then a short DVD presentation followed by a group discussion afterward.

We were actually using the Student Alpha resources because we felt the DVD presentations on the standard course were too long to fit into our evening schedule (because of putting kids to bed etc. we couldn't start until at least 7.30pm).

So how did it go?

Each of the three individuals who came on the course were coming from a very different place in relation to their understanding and perception of God and the Christian faith. This was good because it gave us an insight into the different perspectives people have about Christianity. Interestingly, it also led to energetic debates among the three of them.

The DVD presentations proved to be a useful springboard for discussion, and we had some great chats. There were times when we had to challenge common misconceptions about Christianity and there were times where we shared personal stories of struggle, pain and hope which helped to bring us together as a little community.

One thing that proved useful was the book 'God's Not Dead' by Rice Broocks, a well-written apologetics book that tackles the common arguments used today by atheists to attack Christianity. It makes a compelling case for the logic and reason behind faith in God and gave us helpful insights and information about science, nature and philosophy. Our pastor, David, was unsurprisingly adept at answering the trickier questions and we were grateful for his input.

Some of the video sessions felt a little bit out of place and weren't quite what we'd expected. It actually felt as if, as the course progressed, it become more aimed at people who already believed in a God or had a faith of some kind, and were embarking on a 'how to be a Christian' course. A lot of assumptions seemed to be made, and overall the resources didn't quite match a course that we'd promoted as 'find out more about Christianity - no expectations, no pressure'. The good thing is that we were able to adapt the course according to the participants.

The attendees enjoyed the sessions, with really positive feedback at the end – plus we all got along really well. We even had a couple of opportunities to pray for them, and it was a real privilege. One always secretly hopes for a 'zapping' from God on those occasions but we didn't really get that. God had other ideas, (which is fine, of course!).

One key part of the course is a day retreat and we went to an amazing place near Chepstow, nestled in a small valley (actually a 'Cwm'), run by a former pastor and his wife. They open up their home for Christian meetings, retreats and other gatherings and have an amazing gift of hospitality. The food was incredible and the surroundings were idyllic. It was the perfect place to reflect on God's character.

Now that the course has ended, we have left things open for the attendees to explore things further – they have been invited to join our homegroup which meets every Thursday and seem quite keen to remain part of something. Whilst their journeys with God are only just beginning we are hopeful that one day they will take a full step forward into faith.

I'm looking forward to running our second course in the autumn. It will be a bit different as we implement the learning from the first time, but will still be very much an Alpha course. Unfortunately, our pastor will be retiring soon so we won't have his support next time round, but that's the way it is with these things – you'll never be fully prepared, you've just got to get on and do it.

If you live in Cardiff and would like to attend the next course, why not drop me a line in the comments below and I can let you know the details when I have them.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Oreo Ice Cream Sandwich

When I saw these for sale in Tesco, there was no question that they should be hurriedly purchased and consumed with wild abandon. Two of my favourite items joined together in an unholy alliance of snack food and dessert? YES PLEASE!

As a funny yet interesting aside, when Wifey saw these after they arrived from Tesco Delivery she assumed they were normal Oreos, so just put them in the cupboard. Eek! It was only when I was looking for these beauties to consume a few hours later that I'd discovered their fate. Desperately, I quickly shoved them into the innermost depths of our freezer and whacked on the 'fast freeze' function in the hope that these circular delicacies were not ruined.

Needless to say, the copious amounts of sugar, fats, preservatives and I'd-really-not-rather-know-ingredients were sufficient to sustain these particular Oreos whilst out of their natural environment. Sure, they were a little droopy - but when did any food product ever look like the picture on the box??

So, what did they taste like? Had Oreo overstepped the mark? Was I ever able to buy Oreos again with confidence?


Sometimes, when I try something new I am either disappointed or surprised. The item in question either tastes horribly bland or totally different to what I expect (but in a nice way).

The Oreo Ice Cream Sandwich TASTES EXACTLY HOW I EXPECTED. There were no surprises here. Just yummy Oreo ice cream goodness that did the job.

My only complaint is that they should really be a bit bigger in size, but that's just greedy (and one can always eat two, of course.)

VERDICT:10/10 (wars will one day be fought over these delicious food snacks, I promise you)