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September 30, 2007

Life Continues Apace

I have discovered Waitrose Apple & Mango Juice. It tastes exactly like they have crammed a mango and a few tart granny smith apples into the carton. Splendid.

We have also rediscovered the joys of our winter puff (our common word for a duvet). So cozy, comfy, light, toasty warm, easy to tidy in the morning, and with interchangeable covers of multiple colors. Just a delight to be under on these chilly autumn nights (and early mornings). Yum. I wake up thanking God for it many mornings. I'm glad we don't use it in the summer, so I can be thankful afresh for it every year until the novelty wears off again.

Yesterday Jason and I baked an apple pie while Emily made her own little quarter-sized apple tart, since she prefers that. Later in the day, after we'd played some family whiffleball, Emily decided to try a new cooking genre: a caramel custard. David ended up having to help out a lot, since caramelizing sugar is not all that easy, and a baking dish full of boiling water and five ramequins is quite heavy and dangerous. It was super-delicious, especially when David clued us in to the fact we were supposed to turn it upside down on a plate, so the caramel sauce poured out over the top (formerly bottom) - exactly like a flan caramel.

Big news: we are settled at Ascot Baptist Church. I am thrilled to have found our church home in England at last. We have already eaten meals with three families at their homes or out, and have a fourth invitation for lunch today. Such welcoming, kind people. Jason has enjoyed the youth fun nights on Sundays (ping-pong, X-box, Wii, dodgeball...) and a youth cell group (going over big words of the faith, like justification) on Tuesdays. The youth leader is the son of the main pastor, and he and his wife just had their first baby (the pastor's first grandchild), so the youth ministry is a bit on hold for a couple of weeks! David and I are getting to know some people in a small group, and really enjoying the worship.

It's been 8 days since I've posted because of:
- watching Facing the Giants outside at night under the stars (Cassiopeia in particular - Google helped me with the spelling) with some other families, wrapped up in coats and blankets against the nippy air
- Jason attended the opening meeting of a middle school Bible study run by Young Life
- meeting with Lower School principal and 30 other parents to get to know her (she's new, from Australia)
- chauffeuring for play practice and drum lessons and Emily's playdates
- Moms in Touch prayer at my house for our school & kids
- training for helping at school library for the first time this year
- CBS "Return to Jerusalem" and Beth Moore "Living Beyond Yourself" Bible studies and copious homework thereof
- Small Group church meeting
- preparing for a special overnight getaway I'm taking Emily on next weekend
- talking with my mom on the phone for over an hour (what a treat, she's a gem)
- running lines with Jason, who got a big part in his middle school play again this year
- helping with a mailing at church
- Room Parent duties (class parent meeting & admin, collecting staff appreciation gifts)
- neighbourhood community admin (invitations to an open house, inquiries about interest in a neighbourhood directory)
- school photo days admin (assigning 52 families to time slots and dates on two weekends)

I absolutely love doing administrative work. It tickles me. I love that God made different people to resonate while doing totally different kinds of work. What is frightening to some is exhilarating to others. What is drudgery to some is joy to others. Very cool. I am coming to rest in how God made me. It's been a long time of thinking other gifts were "better" or more "spiritual." Even as I write that, of course, I am stricken with the possibility afresh. All I know is that I'm having fun and people seem to appreciate it.

Off to another week...

September 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Isaiah wrote Some Cool Stuff

I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul. [...] Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.
Isaiah 38:15, 17

This could apply to various happenings in my life, and I'm sure in yours - there are reasons why we go through hard times; often we don't know what the reason is, but "surely it was for my benefit..."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. One will say, 'I belong to the LORD '; [...]

"This is what the LORD says— Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.
Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. [...] Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock; I know not one."

Isaiah 44:1-8

The first part is significant especially because Jason is planning to be baptized soon. The second part just made me think "Look, I didn't make this up - this is God talking, here...and if HE doesn't know of any other gods, well...that's pretty authoritative...Either He is God and there's only one, or He isn't at all, there isn't room in the middle - and again, I did not make this up!"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Listen to me, [...] you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Isaiah 46:3-4

Now that's comprehensive coverage.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are far from righteousness. I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed.
Isaiah 46:12-13

We're far, so He brings what we need right to us. Without delay, at exactly the right moment, when we need it. And not because we're nice people. No...au contraire. Thank You, Thank You.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This is what the LORD says — your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.
Isaiah 48:17

Wow, do I need this as an individual. Wow, do we need this as a family. As a church body. Will You do this for me, God?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many.
Isaiah 51:2

This made me think of many groups I've been involved in in the past year. Our dance evenings, which began with our beloved caller moving to England: I invited everyone I knew to come dance with us. First we had 18 people, then 40, and I am hoping for more in two weeks at our next dance evening, but only God knows how many He will bring. Then there are our neighbourhood ladies' coffees: my neighbour Caterina said how nice it would be to meet together. At our last coffee we had 11 households represented. Our Moms in Touch prayer group: last year they started with two people, and this week we had seven ladies show up, with 13 wanting to be kept on the reminder list. God, I love the way You "make us many." Thank You for your kindness.

September 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 22, 2007

Wisley Gardens, Surrey, UK

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My camera jumped out of my purse and starting snapping photos at a rate averaging out to one a minute for 2.5 hours hours straight. It was Wisley Gardens which had this effect.SalmonflowerswisleyOrchidswisley
It took us two and three quarter hours to take our maiden tour, including lunch. Wisley is maintained by the Royal Horticultural Society, and man are they good gardeners.

Asters became my new favorite flower...well, okay, after those blue ones in the Swiss Alps, whose name I still don't know.

I am experimenting with Picasa Web Albums, so you can view the rest of the photos here: Katherine's Wisley Garden Photos at Picasaweb.

September 22, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 18, 2007

The Swan Restaurant on the Thames, Staines

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We were so happy when the No Smoking Laws arrived in the UK on July 1st, 2007. This made eating inside restaurants a much more appealing option. At the same time, it made eating outside LESS appealing to those in our family hosting more serious aversions to smoke. ALL the smokers would now be outside. So we were very pleased indeed to find this restaurant with a non-smoking outdoor terrace. The Swan is across the Thames River from the Ha Ha Bar and Outback Steakhouse I mentioned in the previous post, and it is because we were sitting on the outdoor terrace that I was able to take all those other photos I just posted. It was a beautiful place to be, right on the water.EtonmessmenuEtonmess
The dessert menu was written on a big blackboard, and the first one intrigued us all. What is an Eton Mess? Never heard of it. Well, after the waiter described it as a mess of meringue, cream, and forest fruits, both the boys went for it. Forest fruits end up being berries: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries. StrawberrytartletChocolatefondantplate
The girls went for strawberry tartlet (Emily) and Chocolate Fondant (me). I thought the plates were striking.

September 18, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The River Thames in Focus

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Thamesbegonias

September 18, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Crew of Many, Crew of Few

On the Thames this weekend, a crew of eight and a crew of one. Interesting to think of the psychology that is involved in who sits in which craft:
CrewofeightCrewofone

September 18, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ha Ha Bar on the Thames

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Two restaurants next-door to reach other on the Thames River in Staines: The Ha Ha Bar and the Outback Steakhouse. One you may have heard of, and the other not. I wrote about our first visit to a UK Outback a year ago (without a photo).

Since then I discovered a few other interesting facts about this branch in Staines:

- they have purple toilet paper in the ladies' restroom
- said toilet paper comes out of a purple toilet paper dispenser
- there is a sign in the hallway saying "Next Toilets 125 km"

The Ha Ha Bar has not yet been tested by us, but it is sure a memorable name.

September 18, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Marble Pound Cake Again

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I posted a photo of my marble pound cake back in March 2005, but it was a bundt pan version.

Then I posted the marble pound cake recipe five days later at my mother's request (did you ever make it, Mom?).

Well, Emily and I made it again last night, this time in a springform tube pan as the recipe suggests. Only I ran out of time and had to go pick up Jason from play practice before it was ready to go in the oven. I sit before you incredulous that this was no problem. I merely gave Emily a few instructions and left her with the job of finishing things up, putting the cake pan in the oven, and starting the timer. She did this with the greatest of ease (other than playing piano for a few minutes before remembering to set the timer!). She was the one who immediately brought up the fact that she should wear hot mitts for safety even though the pan was not hot yet.

I have a child responsible enough, coordinated enough, and interested enough to leave at home to work with a hot oven. And she's my youngest. I guess I've been a parent for a while now. The cake turned out delicious. What a joy to have such an enthusiastic and close friend to bake with.

September 18, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Duck Eggs and Quail Eggs

DuckeggsquaileggsThere are so many interesting differences between England and the United States, just regarding grocery shopping and food, that I will have to split up a post about this into about 8 separate posts. I've been meaning to get to this for a year, but instead have just been collecting material. Here is the beginning: eggs and dairy.

I don't recall easily finding duck eggs and quail eggs in my average grocery store in the U.S.

Or these yummy yogurts: hazelnut, Brazil nut, and gooseberry (which is green), to name a few

There are so many international butters available here: at least Dutch, Danish, Italian, Irish, French specifically from Brittany, plain old French, English from Jersey & Guernsey, and plain old English butter. We just did the easiest thing and continued using the butter we'd gone with in France, since they have it here too: Président. This avoided having to choose again.

Do you remember how sad Wallace (Gromit's owner) was when he learned his lady friend didn't like cheese? "Not even...Wensleydale?" We discovered Wensleydale with cranberries in it when we moved here, but now I realize it is available in the U.S. too. Maybe just not as prominently displayed. It's hard not to quote that line from the movie while eating it.

To go with our wensleydale, we love our discovery of Fox's wholemeal crackers. Yes, here they say "wholemeal" instead of "wholegrain" or "whole wheat." Or sometimes they just say "brown" for whole wheat bread.

There are a zillion interesting cheeses here that are new to us. A few of the most intriguing names:
- Cropwell (cow's milk)
- Duddleswell (ewe's milk)
- Ossau Iraty (sheep's milk)

Heavy cream is called "double cream" and lighter cream is called "single cream" (which doesn't whip, I learned the hard way, although it should have been obvious). There doesn't seem to be anything I can identify as the equivalent of "half n half."

We'll wrap up this post with something that is the same in the UK and the US: They DO have Ben & Jerry's ice cream here in the U.K. This is a good thing.


September 18, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 16, 2007

Stereotypical Woman?

Ways I am not the stereotypical female:

- I dislike shopping and only go when I have to
- I have no interest in home decoration
- I do nothing to my hair beyond wash, condition, towel dry, brush
- I don't own or know how to use a curling iron or hairspray
- I wear only lipstick, no other make-up
- I do nothing to my eyebrows or eyelashes
- I prefer very practical clothes: jeans with good pockets for my cell phone and keys
- I wear sneakers all the time in case I should want to run or climb a tree (plus they're comfy)
- I love hiking, skiing, and the outdoors
- I love logic, word and number problems, and algebra
- I am arts-and-crafts-challenged
- I don't know how to sew, crochet, or quilt
- My photo albums are devoid of frilly decorations: just photos and captions
- I hate romance novels, soap operas and gossipy magazines
- I despise male-bashing
- I like action movies
- I like Laser Quest
- I'm good with maps, instructions, and sense of direction
- I like being alone (or just with my husband) and working independently

However:

- I'm happy to ask for directions
- I love pink and purple
- I love flowers
- I love chocolate
- I love sparkly things
- I like wearing earrings and necklaces
- I have had serious issues with food, eating, and weight perception
- I can get excited and talk a lot
- I love my husband leading me around the dance floor while my dress twirls
- I really enjoyed nursing my babies
- I love borrowing people's babies to rock them to sleep
- I keep asking my kids if they're warm enough, if they brought a sweater, etc.
- I have a deep need to be loved, cherished, protected and provided for


So I must be a woman after all.


And since my husband deeply loves, cherishes, protects and provides for me, as well as appreciating my practicality, I'm a very happy one.

September 16, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack