Jars of change for Lent

A few weeks ago in church, we heard about WaterAid jars of change for Lent. The idea is that you give something up for Lent, and every time you would have/do whatever it is you’ve given up, you put some change in the jar roughly equal to what you would have spent on it. You can decorate the jar for fun too. At the end of Lent, the money you’ve raised goes to WaterAid, who will use the money to help provide safe drinking water in countries that desperately need it.

We thought that this sounded like a good idea. I’d been thinking about what to give up for Lent anyway, and it was a good excuse to have some fun decorating a jar with Andrew – we used an empty marmalade jar. Andrew had been given a ‘paint your own mug’ gift for his birthday, so first of all we did that, and then used the paint to start our decoration on the jar.

Mug Collage jpg

I found some stencils in our craft box, and (surprise, surprise) Andrew chose the rocket stencil! Of course he insisted that we use red paint (the colour of Thunderbird 3), and I suggested we add some yellow detail at the bottom for the fire from when it blasts off. He also likes the colour pink, so we painted a pink band around the top. That was enough painting for one span of Andrew’s attention, so another day we finished off the jar by sticking on some small squares of paper with PVA glue in a kind of mosaic style – lots of fun and messy! Again, just about enough for his attention span, and finished off my me. Some red tape around the rim of the lid and ta da – it was finished.

Jar Collage 1 jpg

Jar Collage 2 jpg

Then we had to actually decide what to give up. When I say ‘we’, I mean Tom and I – I don’t think trying to explain to Andrew about giving something up would go down too well, and besides, he’s a bit young yet. But he can start to understand by watching us, as with so many things in a toddler’s life. My abstinence had to be chocolate, as that is something I will really miss and eat quite a lot of as treats to keep me sane on our busy days (which is most days with my boys). Tom decided on bananas, as he eats at least one a day and loves them. I know, bananas are much more healthy than chocolate anyway, but he’s not so fussed about that – if you can believe it.

Tom may be unusual in giving up bananas, but both of us are not unusual in the act of giving something up for Lent. This tradition has been going on for centuries. The 40 days before Easter, which starts on Ash Wednesday, the day after Shrove Tuesday or Pancake day, is a time of reflection for Christians. It’s a time to think about what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross and rising again – to make up for all the bad things we do that keep us distant from God – in the lead up to Easter when we celebrate this. Traditionally Christians used to fast, so give up all kinds of food, in this period, because this was a way to focus their minds on contemplating Jesus. Some do still fast, and others give up just one or two things, whether a food like we’re doing or something else, and spend the time that would otherwise be spent on this activity praying or reading the Bible – in other words, spending time with God.

So that’s what I intend to do this Lent. Whenever I think about eating some chocolate, whether as a bar or in something, instead I will pop some money in our jar of change, and spend some time in quiet reflection of what Jesus means to me. It’s handy that most of the time that I eat chocolate is when the boys are in bed or quietly amusing themselves, so I should have no excuse to not spend that time quietly. It may mean spending less time doing the things I like, like sewing, blogging, social media-ing (don’t think that’s really a word but it sounded good to me), but I know that I will benefit from it, I always do when I spend time with God.

Are you giving up something for Lent? What are your reasons behind it? Maybe you too could think about doing a jar of change? I’d love to hear if you do 🙂

Pancakes: cheesy-leek and choccy-cherry

Wow, it’s Shrove Tuesday again already! Where did that year go?! I know it’s not quite a whole year since last year’s Pancake Day, but still I can’t quite believe what’s happened since. I distinctly remember last year’s Shrove Tuesday because I had just done a couple of pregnancy tests which had come out positive and I was about to embark on months of feeling and being sick. So this year I intended to enjoy my pancakes, and enjoy them a lot!

For tea we had some savoury and sweet pancakes. This week in our veg box we got a couple of leeks (amongst other items), so they formed the basis of our savoury pancakes, sautéed until crispy and mixed with some cheese – a good flavour combination I think. As our protein for the meal, I added a tin of tuna. And to complement these flavours I added some mixed green herbs to the pancake batter. There was some chocolate ganache left over from some cupcakes that we baked recently (blog post to follow), so that became an indulgent filling along with some dried cherries for our sweet treat pancakes. I convinced Andrew that you (or rather ‘he’) only needs a small amount of the chocolate to taste it – any more chocolate an hour before bed could have led to disaster! i love red fruits with chocolate, I think they work really well, but this time of year they’re not in season and I find the ones you can get in the shops now, which are grown abroad, don’t have the same flavour as local ones in the summer, plus they are expensive. So the dried ones that we buy as snacks for Andrew gave us the intense cherry flavour to go with the chocolate.

Here’s how I made each filling, along with the pancake batters that I whipped up…..


Pancake batters

  • 120g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 75ml water
  • 2 tbsp mixed herbs added to savoury batter
  • 2 tbsp chocolate sprinkles added to sweet batter
  • butter or margarine to fry

Cheesy-leek filling

  • knob of butter or margarine
  • 2 small leeks, chopped
  • 75g cheese, grated – I used cheddar because that’s what we had in, but you can use any cheese you like really as long as it melts in nicely.
  • 1 standard tin of tuna (optional)
  • black pepper

Choccy-cherry filling

  • 90g dried cherries (this was the size of the pack we had and we ate it all between us)
  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 50ml double cream
I used the ganache that was left over from cupcake icing – there was about one third left of what was originally 150g chocolate and 150ml cream.



  1. Use a blender – either a jug one on its own base or a stick one in a jug that’s at least a pint in size – to blend all the batter ingredients together. I just shove them all in together in no particular order and then start blending once they’re all in the jug.
  2. Transfer half the batter to another jug and add the chocolate sprinkles; add the herbs to the original jug.
Cheesy-leek filling
  1. Heat the butter/margarine for the leek filling in a large frying pan and fry the leeks until they are nicely browned and soft.
  2. Take off the heat and stir through the tin of tuna and grated cheese until the cheese is just melting.
  3. Season with black pepper to taste.
Choccy-cherry filling
  1. Heat the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan on a low heat whilst stirring, until the chocolate has melted and mixed with the cream completely.
  2. Take off the heat and whisk for a couple of minutes until it becomes thicker and glossier.
  3. Leave to cool and thicken in the fridge.
  4. Put the chocolate filling into a piping bag.

Assembling all together – I did the previous three sections of prep earlier in the day or week so we were ready to roll (or rather flip!) in the evening for tea (I just heated the cheesy leeks in the microwave to serve).

  1. Heat the butter/margarine in a frying pan until it’s sizzling – I use quite a small one as I find smaller pancakes easier to handle, but you can use whatever size pan you want your finished pancakes to be.
  2. Pour some batter into the pan, enough to give a fairly thin pancake, and swirl the pan around so that the batter goes right to the edges.
  3. Cook for a few minutes, checking the underside every now and then, using a fish slice to lift the pancake edge up slightly, until it looks nicely brown underneath.
  4. Then for the flip! If you’re brave, flip it into the air directly from the pan and catch it so the uncooked side is now facing down. If like me you’re a pancake wuss, use the fish slice to flip it over in the pan.
  5. Cook for a few more minutes until the new underside is nicely browned.
  6. Take out of the pan and fill immediately with your filling – spoon some cheesy-leek filling into the centre, or pipe some chocolate filling and add a handful of dried cherries into the centre, and roll up the pancake.
  7. Eat immediately whilst still hot – Tom and I take it in turns to fry a pancake and eat one, rather than cooking them all and then eating them. We find this adds to the fun of our Shroce Tuesday tea-time.
  8. Yummy yummy (as Andrew said)!

40 breadless days, here I come…. but first some pancakes

When I announced to Tom this evening that I’m giving up bread for Lent, his reaction was ‘What??!! Are you mad??!!’…. to which my reply was ‘No, not mad Dear (well no more mad than usual), just wanted to do something really challenging this Lent.’ You see he knows how much I love bread and any bread products; I can’t usually go a day without something along those lines. Since we got a bread-maker, which I still maintain was one of my all-time best Christmas presents, I’ve been slightly obsessed with having fresh bread as often as possible. A few years ago my GP thought I might be gluten/wheat intolerant with the symptoms I was presenting. After 2 weeks of going gluten-free I’m sure I was more happy about the fact that I felt no better than having to carry on life without bread. (In the end it cleared up on its own and was put down to bouts of IBS.) It was a HARD 2 weeks; pasta I could cope without, and wheat cereals like Shreddies and bran flakes just about, but not bread, that was the hard part.

So when a friend at work today mentioned another friend had given up bread for Lent last year, that gave me a great idea. I was thinking of giving up chocolate, as that too would be challenging, but then I thought I’d just eat other things like cake, biscuits and sweets in its place. Having a blanket ban on sweet snacks wouldn’t do me much good either, as I find I need lots of energy during the day, with all the walking, cycling, swimming and of course breastfeeding that I’m doing. So bread was the answer to my search for a Lenten challenge: I would certainly miss it, and it’s not really replaceable with anything similar.

But why bother to give up anything at all for Lent? The tradition, as far as I was taught as a child, comes from the fact that the 40 days before Easter, or the period we call Lent, is a time when Christians take time to reflect on and contemplate quietly what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross. Traditionally they used to fast completely; this helped focus their mind on this reflection and contemplation, and it would certainly make them appreciate God’s provision in all the things they missed whilst fasting. More recently the tradtion became giving up just one thing, maybe a food or maybe something else like buying magazines, watching TV or biting finger nails. The point is that it’s something you find hard. However, some people might not find it particularly helpful to give something up to focus more on God. When I was a student, one of the leaders of our church student group once said that actually doing something new/different every day instead might help some people focus on God, for example making an effort to pray for longer or serve others by helping out with a charity. For me this year, as I give up something I know I love to eat, I will try to spend more time focused on God, and every time that I crave some bread, I know it will remind me to do so.

And finally the pancake bit. Along with the tradition of fasting in Lent was the tradition of using up all the fatty food that was in the larder beforehand, so the temptation wasn’t there to eat it. What better way to use up eggs, milk and flour than to make pancakes! This day, always a Tuesday (because Easter is always a Sunday and it’s 40 days before that), became known as Shrove Tuesday (to shrove means to ‘make merry’). In more recent years this has become Pancake Day thanks to the yummy things we eat in this 24-hour period.

This year I decided to make some pancakes for dinner, some with a savoury bean filling, and some with a sweet filling for afters. My pancake recipe was following the legendary Delia (I usually look up basic classic things like this on her website), and the fillings were my own. The bean filling was what has affectionately become known in our home as ‘Beanie thing’. Basically it’s what we have when we want a meal that’s more than just a snack but isn’t too heavy either. It turns out differntly every time because I vary the ingrediens slightly depending on what we have in the cupboard and what we fancy in particular. So I can’t really write an ingredients list, but here’s an idea about how to make it.

  • Chop and onion and a garlic clove. In a saucepan, fry in a little olive oil until golden and softened.
  • Add a tin of beans (drained first) such as cannellini, borlotti, black-eye, kidney, haricot etc. or even chick peas or lentils.
  • Add some other veg like sweetcorn/peas/grated carrots/diced pepper/mushrooms.
  • Add a tin of chopped tomatoes. Stir well to mix up all the ingredients.
  • Add some herbs like dried mixed herbs or indiviual things like oregano/cumin/parsley (anything you like really). Even add a dash of Tobasco if you’re feeling like a bit of a kick to it.
  • Mix up a couple of tablespoons of cornflour with a little cold water, to form a thin paste. Add this to the bean mixture and stir well. Keep on the heat until it’s thickened up as much as you’d like.
  • Serve with fresh bread (or, if you’re giving it up for Lent, some alternative….need to think about that….), or pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

After we’d finished our savoury pancakes with beans, there were sweet ones filled with white chocolate buttons, which melted and oozed out as the pancake was still hot 🙂 Andrew only had a small taster of mine as I didn’t want to risk a sugar high that close to bedtime (as it turns out he’s shattered after a busy day with Granny and Grandad and went straight off to sleep!) What did you fill your pancakes with? Any unusual toppings that you’ve come up with or heard of? Happy Shrove Tuesday everyone, have a flipping good time 🙂