Thursday, 30 December 2010

December Days in a Daze...

     Truly, I intended to write a lot during writing about the gifts I was making; experimental craft projects; the result of my appointment with the Rheumatologist and of course, Christmas.  Now, not only is December almost is 2010!  
     Around the first week of December, whilst cooking dinner, I heard Midnight Man's mobile cock-a-doodle-do.  This Rooster-Song is the quirky, yet highly identifiable ring tone Midnight Man has chosen for his portable mode of communication.  The caller was his oldest daughter, T-Girl.  She had a favour to ask--would me mind having her two oldest sons--Grandsons M & K--for a week during their school holidays?  Mmmmm...okay, why not?  This gave me a couple of weeks to consider what to do with two rambunctious boys (ages 13 and 11.5).  Well, given my tiredness, they might have to deal with Nana D taking a nap everyday!!! 
      In the meantime, I did a little knitting--trying to make good use of the time to make some Christmas presents.  I made a valiant effort...meaning I got three pairs of mini-mittens knitted but got overwhelmed with the idea of needing to knit another 14 pairs!  And they are tiny!  The photo shows the three pair I did get done laying next to a 12 inch/30 cm ruler!  So, I've decided that I have a start on next year's Christmas gifts.    
      The idea is that each year for all 14 of the grandchildrens' Christmas Presents I will make at least two or three ornaments--each marked  with the year and each child's name on it.  I haven't been as successful as I would like.  However, I have managed a few years to achieve my goal.  The teddy bears were the 2008 project.  Each teddy was hand-painted with the favorite colour of each grandchild.  The name and year was marked on the back.  This way they have a keepsake to take with them for their own Christmases in the future.
     Another thing I've had to learn this December is how to put a group of photos into a Microsoft Publisher file, save it  as a JPEG File Interchange Format in order to insert it into the blog.  If I want more than one image, then I must make a photo montage with several photos on a document that can be saved in a JPEG format, thereby creating a single and insert-able image. Trying to maneuver an inserted image in this blog -creating -mode is limited to the optional commands the website gives me.  So, this led me to experiment and find a new way to use publisher and also accomplish my objectives.
     The teddy bears are made out of a non-edible dough made with flour, salt and water.  You roll it out like roll-out cookies.  The link to the recipe is here:  I used acrylic paint to decorate them.  
     If I think about why I make the ornaments, there are at least a couple of reasons.  Perhaps the most obvious is that both Midnight Man and I are unemployed due to illness.  So we must be wise with our resources.  With four grown children, their spouses/spouses-to-be and 14 grandchildren, buying Christmas presents requires a create deal of creativity.  We could shop year-round when we find good deals...but then we don't have the space to store things.  
     Another reason I like to make gifts is that I am giving of my time to create something unique for each person or family. I am constantly praying for each person while I'm working on a project.  I am not just giving them from my hands, I am also giving something of who I am, reflecting back to them the love they give me.  
     Making things with family creates memories--which can be a real treasure.  By making a point of making things each year, I am also creating a tradition.  Traditions can be boring--but they can also become anchors that create stability for us in an ever changing world.  Imagine the first time you were away from home at Christmas.  Singing along with songs you sang with your parents, siblings and close friends hopefully made you feel less alone.

    It was a Christmas in the 1970's that started a tradition between Grandma Cox and me.  Grandma Cox was my mother's mom.  Grandma made a set of feather pillows for my older brother, my younger sister and me.  Along with each set of feather pillows, she handmade pillow shams from old flour bags, embroidering each case with special designs, and trimming them with hand-made lace she had crocheted.  I was so excited by those pillow cases, my grandmother made a set for me each year until she died.  I still have these pillow cases.  Each time I use them, I feel touched by her hands.  I am now trying to replicate that type of tradition--and hope my "Step-" family feel their lives touched by the love I invest in what I make for them. 
      So, that kind of covers the topic of making gifts.  I hope that I will complete some of my experiments and give you some interesting blogs in the future.  
      Regarding the result of my appointment with the Rheumatologist, I am happy to report that my body is clear of any rheumatic complaints or conditions.  All along I had believed this to be the case.  However, after the New Year, I'm going to pursue seeing and Endocrinologist.  I have a reasonable amount of energy each day--provided I get at least 10 hours of sleep a night.  The Rheumatologist recommended light exercises, such as Pilate's.  I have two videos to work hopefully I will get motivated with that soon.  
     My time with Grandson M and Grandson K deserve a blog of their own...and I will be writing more soon.

Become a follower?

     Hello!  Have you noticed the colours I use?  When I was in high school, I read about a study where researchers tested how people's eyes responded to typeset on different background colours.  What they found was that people found looking at black ink on a light-to-medium green was more restful for readers.  I acutally read several paperback books with the greenish tint and found it easier to read.  So that's why I've been posting most of my blogs on the green background.  
     Would you like to become a follower of my blog?  It's pretty easy really.  Near the top and on the left you will see a small google symbol with "Follow" on the tab.  Just click on that tab.  A window will open with the message:  Sign in using an account you've already created.  If you don't have an account, you will be asked to sign up for a google account.  You can use any e-mail address you want.  Just enter that and a password.  Once you've got an account, simply go back to my blog and click onto the follow tab.  Then you become a follower.  It's just that simple. 
     I will certainly share the posts via Facebook and send out e-mails.  I guess I just don't want you to miss anything!  
    Thank you to all of you that are reading my blog and following it.  
    Hope to see your "Follower" Icon on my blog page!    

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Psalm 92:1 It is a good thing to give thanks....

     September and October mark the annual harvest of crops in the United Kingdom and North America.  As a woman of dual citizenship, I can honestly say that I benefit from having more traditions and customs to celebrate and enjoy. 
     November brings All Saints' Day on the 1st and All Souls' Day on 2nd November.  As an official Church of England (Anglican) member, these church days give me a reminder to think about those who have gone before me in the walk of faith--Hebrews 11; my family members who have gone home and see the Lord face-to-face.  
     November 5th is a British National celebration--Guy Fawkes Night--a date remembered for its political and historical significance:  an annual public day of thanksgiving for the failure of a plot by English Catholics to blow up the House of Lords on the opening day of Parliament, 5th November 1605.  It is a good day to remember that I am blessed to be a citizen of Heaven, and also a citizen of two countries where worshipping Jesus Christ openly is freely allowed.  I may not agree with the politics of 1605, or even 2010, but I am still glad that I am blessed to live in a country where I can freely express my faith.
     My 52nd birthday was on 19th November.  Love was lavished on me by unexpected presents, phone calls, birthday cards and 42 well wishes on Facebook.  My Midnight Man (Husband) took me out to dinner and purchased an MP3 player for me.  I am still learning how to use it.  
     One of the high-lights of the day was the phone call to my sister, "Dija".  She answered the phone:  "Hello".  
     "Hellooo!"  I replied.

     "Ruff ruff ruff ruff, ruff ruff.  Ruff ruff ruff ruff, ruff ruff.  Meow, meow meow meow, meow Meowww Meowww, Ruff ruff ruff ruff ruff ruff."     "I've sung it in the other languages, do I have to sing it in human as well?"  Said "Dija".  
     I was laughing out loud by now.  "No, that was great."  
      There was nothing better than being serenaded by my sister's animal band:  Hannah and the Cats.   
     This brings us to American Thanksgiving--traditionally the 4th Thursday of November.  
     Some of you know me well enough to know that I enjoy history.  I can get lost for hours trawling through websites reading about things that intrigue, puzzle, pique my curiosity.  And why?  Because deeper appreciation comes when context frames the significance, reasoning and purpose of events that have come into our lives--from daily tasks to annual observances. 
     According to my research the first Thanksgiving was 1619 in the first colony of Virginia.  Later the Pilgrims had a three day feast of Thanksgiving in 1623.  This is the traditional event most recognised in schools and by the American public.  
     After the Revolutionary war ended in 1789, George Washington declared a national day of Thanksgiving and prayer as recognition of the Providence of God.  Washington declared a 2nd day of National Thanksgiving in 1795.  These proclamations to recognise and acknowledge the Providential care of God, were the first time a governmental proclamation of this type was issued to the United States--and significantly and not initiated by the church.
     Presidents John Adams and James Madison also made proclamations to observe national days of Thanksgiving.  But it was Abraham Lincoln who was responsible for creating an annual national day of Thanksgiving.  In 1863--while the Civil War still waged--President Lincoln signed a declaration of National Thanksgiving to God to be observed on the last Thursday in November.  And it has been observed annually since 1863--147 years.  It was President Franklin D. Roosevelt who made the 4th Thursday of November the official federal day of celebration.  And in 1941 the Senate and the House of Representatives officially signed a resolution to make the 4th Thursday in November permanently fixed as Thanksgiving.  
My Sister-In-Law & Husband
     Because of my struggle with fatigue and related symptoms, I hadn't originally planned to do a Thanksgiving dinner.  But my good friend Señora L. asked if I had any plans--that she and her husband (Mr. C.) would like to celebrate with us.  We invited Midnight Man's sister and her husband and the "Dpr" Family--with whom we attend church.  Thursday was a not viable day to have the feast because of schedules and Britain not observing a national day of giving thanks; the meal was scheduled for Saturday 27th November.  Señora L & Mr. C. contributed a turkey and some vegetables.  I contributed a broccoli and cauliflower salad, desserts and all the cooking.
     My guests were due about 7:30 p.m.  I had a moment of being completely overwhelmed-nearly burst into tears, which was complicated by exhaustion--even though I'd taken a nap.  I looked at John and said, "I feel like a pregnant woman giving birth to her first child---I'M NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN!"  Once all the guests had arrived, Midnight Man and S-In-L took over the serving, I settled down and was actually thinking of having guests for Christmas dinner.  
Mr. D, Me, Senora L. & Mr. C

It's great to know that I don't have to wait for once a year to give thanks to God.  Everyday can be Thanksgiving--as indeed it should be.  The world has a way of telling us that we should want more, more, more...

But the Apostle Paul wrote "Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always).  Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]: Thank God in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and mediator of that will}.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

09 November--Apples!

Autumn in the United Kingdom and in the American Midwest is Apple Season!  I've just been given my 3rd lot of apples today (9th November).  Living in different countries broadens the palate as well as the mind.  So, while there is the comfort of the familiar, there is sufficient difference to peak the curiosity.  For example, as a girl growing up in Indiana, I ate my share of Lodi, Jonathan, Jonagold, Winesap and Breaburn apples.  The best Red Delicious apples came from Washington state.  And my mom's favourite apple was a Yellow Delicious--grown in Indiana and Washington state.

     My first experience of Autumn in England was in 1983, when I came to Dagenham to visit a pen-pal.  Arriving on 18th September, I arrived in England as the apple harvest was just beginning.  It was the first time I'd ever heard of a Bramley apple, or a Pippin, a Maiden of Kent.   The first year of my marriage--2003--I discovered Pink Lady apples--as my sister-in-law had a Pink Lady tree in her back garden in Kent. 

      The terrain and landscape of southern Indiana looks like the rolling hills of England, and Northern Ireland.  The testament of the British settlers in Southern Indiana and Kentucky is witnessed by the existence of common apple varieties:  Cox apples, Granny Smith's, Braeburn, and Early Transparent.  
     Cider making is a common practice in the American Midwest as well as here in the United Kingdom.  However, in the Midwest, you could get unfermented, sweet cider.  Dad would buy a couple of bags of apples and a half-gallon jug of cider.  The sweet, cloudy apple juice was wonderful to drink ice cold accompanied by a bowl of salty popcorn.  

     With the apple season came ways of cooking and preserving.  In our home we cooked apples and had them in the morning with baking-soda biscuits, bacon and eggs.  We ate applesauce with pork chops for dinner.  Apples were cored and sliced, put into heavy-duty freezer bags and stored in the freezer.  It wasn't just Mom who took care of preserving;  it was a family project.  My dad didn't make biscuits, but he made great apple sauce, apple butter and helped with the peeling, coreing and canning. 

     Grandpa Hildebrand stood over six-foot tall, weighed near 300 pounds.  He was of German descent, a pronounced nose, and deep brown eyes that sparkled with both mischief and kindness.  His favourite way to eat a piece of apple pie was warm, with a piece of sharp cheddar cheese half-melted on top.  I liked that too.  However, depending on my mood I might prefer vanilla ice cream.  
    Another favourite thing to eat in the autumn is apple butter.  British people look at me askance when I say applebutter.  If it isn't dairy, how can it be butter?  So, I've had to resort to calling it jam, or perserve for lack of a better discription.  This is a great way to prepare for winter and make sure the bushel or two of apples you have don't rot before they get eaten.  Basically, apple butter is a way of slow cooking apples with lots of sugar that caramelizes.  You also need an acid to balance the sweetness--some sort of vinegar.  

Basically, before you make the apple butter, you need to peel, core and cook the apples down to applesauce.  If you don't want to peel and core, just cut up the apples, cook down and then run them through a collander to get rid of peel, cores and seeds  

Here's my recipe:

Apple Butter 
4 cups (32 ounces) applesauce
2.5 cups packed brown sugar
.25 (1/4) cup cider vinegar
.25 (1/4) cup red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1) Preheat overn to 350 F/175 C/Gas mark 4.
2) Line a 2 quart casserole dish or large roasting pan with aluminium foil.  This makes for easier clean-up.
3) In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.  Pour into baking dish.
4) Bake uncovered for 2.5 to 3 hours or until mixture is very thick.  Stir about every half-an-hour to 45 minutes.  
5) If storing in glass jars, place jars and lids in boiling hot water for at least five minutes before pouring in the applebutter.  Fill jars to rim, place re-sealable lids on jar and then set aside.  As the applebutter and jar cool, this creates a vacuum that seals the lid.
--If storing in the freezer, allow the apple butter to cool before placing in freezable storage containers.

This is what I did the end of October with a big bag of apples that was given to me.  A good friend of mine saved honey jars for me.  The batch resulted in six and a half jars.  The open  half-filled jar is in the fridge.  
     My dad used to add red hot cinnamon candy to the apple-butter.  It was great!  The applebutter came out all red instead of almost brown.  Once again I can read a quizzical expression on the faces of my British friends.  What are Red Hots?  Little round cinnamon candies that are sweet and hot at the same time.  And here is a website that you might find helpful:

Another great apple season favourite is applesauce cake.  Here is one of my personal perferences.
Applesauce Cake 
Wet Ingredients:  4 Eggs
3 cups applesauce
1.5 (1 1/2) cups cooking oil

Dry Ingredients:  3 cups sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powders
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Optional Ingredients:  1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped nuts

1) Preheat oven to 350*F/175*C/Gas Mark 4.
2) Grease and flour two 9" cake tins/ 9"x 13" cake dish.  This is a large recipe--so you may need a small pan for extra batter.  You can also use parchment paper to line the bottom if you are going to do a layer cake.
3)  In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg,  and ground clove.
4)  In another large bowl, place the applesauce.  
4) Add one egg and stir well.  Repeat until all four eggs are thoroughly mixed in.
5) Now add in the sugar at one go, and mix well.  
6)  Into the wet ingredients, add the flour a little at a time, mixing well.  Once this mixture is complete combined, add the raisins and/or nuts as desired.
7) Pour batter into the cake tins/baking dish.  Place in oven and bake for about 50 minutes.  Check it for doneness by inserting a tin bladed knife or toothpick into the center.  If it comes out clean, it is done.  If not done at 50 minutes, leave in the oven until  done--checking every five minutes.  

Remove from oven.  You can serve this with a cream cheese icing, ice cream, toffee sauce, custard or eat by itself!  I hope you enjoy it.

If you are stuck for other things to do with apples, check out this website--I personally have it bookmarked.

Now all I have to do is decide what to do with this lot of apples---hmmmm, apple pie?  Apple strudel?  Dutch apple pie?  Apple muffins?  Apple crumble?  Cooked in porridge oats?  So many options.... 

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith

2nd November--but only posted on the 9th

I love the view from my office/studio window.  The tree outside is full of little red berries the birds love to come and feed on.  They fly onto the branches and then off so quickly that I never have time to grab my camera and take a few photos.  A pair of black-and-white magpies are two of the regulars "fly-ins." 

     Thanksgiving is coming quickly--just days away.  I have much to be thankful for this year.  Most especially I deeply appreciate God's love gift to me in the form of my patient, kind, generous and caring husband--My Midnight Man.  

      During this past year I have been struggling with my health.  I am awaiting notification of an appointment with a Rheumatologist to explore the condition of ME (Myalgic encephalomyelitis) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  Some days I have sufficient energy to do dishes or a couple of loads of laundry.  Other days I simply sleep.  It is frustrating when I want to make Christmas gifts, write more blogs, work on some other writing projects and get my paint box out.  I have days when I have lots of energy for three, maybe four hours, and then I'm exhausted.  I have to plan what days to rest and what days to take advantage of my energy.
     However, I'd really like to report on the things that have happend on my okay/good days.  

      As you can see by the date on the photo, I finished the sweater for my friend's "furbaby".  I was well pleased that I finished it with over a week to spare before my friend went home.  However, I was a bit anxious to know whether all my mathematical calculations had been accurate and if it would fit.  It was a matter of waiting until my Friend got home and dressed Shotzi in it.  

Another thing I learned was that this yarn handles better using a stockingette stitch instead of the garter stitch.  I thought I'd never want to work with this crazy stuff again.  But, I still have a enough to make another jumper for Shotzi.  And once I saw the result, I'm thinking of giving it another go.  As you can see, I did get "the maths" right!--much to my delight.
      On Tuesday, 5th October the weather was delightful and my guest and I went to Windsor Castle to see the changing of the guard.  We learned that you can recognise which regiment is on duty by looking at how the buttons are sewn in groupings on their red tunics (jackets):  
Grenadier regiment has a single button;  
Coldstream (both English) have sets of two buttons; 
Scots have sets of three buttons, 
Irish have sets of four buttons and 
the Welsh Guard have sets of five buttons.  
The day we went the Scots Regiment were on duty.  To get a better idea, check out the website:   
     After wearing ourselves out standing, we made our way to Esquires Coffee House on the High Street.  We had a lot of time to just sit and talk about life and love.  We laughed, drank lots of coffee (four cups between us).  Esquires offers a loyalty card.  Buy nine cups and get the 10th free.  We were about half way there! 

We also enjoyed watching the folk walk by, as there had been an official awards ceremony at the Castle.  People who have made a significant contribution to the United Kingdom were recognised by being awarded either an OBE--Officer of the British Empire--MBE--Member of the British Empire--or a CBE--Commander of the British Empire.  So it was high-hats, high-heels, and haberdashery.  

      The other interesting folk to watch were the folk on holiday.  They were easy to spot, as they had knap-sacks, back-packs, and cameras.  From our perch by the coffee shop, we could see the double-decker tourist bus stop about two blocks away from us.    

One of the money saving measures I take is to simply let my hair grow until I have been blessed with an unexpected financial gift.  So my hair was getting quite long--longer than John likes.   As a "Thank You" for the hospitality we provided, I was blessed with a trip to the beauty shop for a haircut.  Notice the curly bangs/fringe?  That is all natural.  It seems like the older I get, the more curly my hair gets!  What a kick!  Natasha, the hair stylist, used a round brush and blow dryer after she cut it.  If I leave my hair, it just curls!  I love it!

      On 22nd October the phone rang.  I would have preferred to ignore it, as I didn't feel good.  But My Midnight Man was out, and I thought he might be calling me.  Instead, it was John's best friend, Mark.  Mark wanted to know if we had plans for the evening, as it was John's birthday.  The result was being invited out to dinner with Mark and his wife, Sherie.  I do recommend it for a hot, roast dinner.   

      We've had the heating on a few times now, on those windy, rainy, grey days.  The sun is setting by 4:45 in the evenings now and I shall soon want to start lighting candles.  The autumn here in England has been beautiful, full of golden light in the evenings, and those reds, oranges yellows that are revealed when the chlorophyll in the trees shuts down and seeps away.  It is nature's way of preparing the trees for winter.  I suppose it is the time of the year that I am most inspired.  
     I hope that all of you are inspired by the changing seasons.  For those in the southern hemisphere, here comes summer!  My prayer is that each of you find strength, wisdom and joy for each day!  

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith.


Tuesday, 21 September 2010

2010 Sept 21--Updates

To the left is a photo of Kidderminster Park, Langley;  My Midnight Man and I live across the street from it.  Because we are on the first floor and have a balcony, we have a wonderful view of this park.  It can actually hold up to 6 football pitches. This photo was taken in 2007, whilst the football crazy British played in the rain.  Today was absolutely glorious.

This morning as I was reading my e-mail I could hear the whining hum of the mowing machines across the road in the park; the scent of newly mown grass wafted into the lounge through the open balcony door.  Upon looking out onto the field, the large mower was making large swaths across the field, spewing out green mulch behind itself.  Had the grass been very tall, the council could make hay! 

I missed writing the blog over the last 10 days.  It wasn't that I had nothing to say, it was more that I wasn't feeling well.  So Monday (20th Sept.)  I went to the Dr. again.  He told me to stop taking the HRT--I'd already stopped it the previous day--Sunday.  Then he proceeded to order a battery of blood tests to try to determine why I can't recover from fatigue and tremors.  I'll keep you all posted.

On the first day of my blog I wrote about knitting a jumper for my friend's dog.  I am using this "fancy" yarn that it a real nuisance to work with.  If you are a knitter and love challenges-- well give it a go.  But, if you like things to be straight-forward--avoid the stuff.    Just so you know specifically the yarn is Fancy Yarn by Yarncraft, made by PMS International.  Once I finish this project, any remaining is going to the charity shop!!! 

The other challenge with this project is that I am converting the pattern--required as I am using a larger-sized set of needles to knit with than is specified by the pattern.  The yarn is easier to handle with the bigger needles. This is the first time I have ever done a pattern/size conversion--stretching myself to learn more.  Being more right brained (artistic), math is not my first love.  Thankfully, I do have a "life-style" acumen for simple mathematics and can think along the lines of: "If the pattern says that five stitches across equals one inch, but my test patch has 3.6 stitches per inch, how many stitches are now required to make the garment the right size?"  All those story problems in math class so long ago are cropping up now to haunt me!  So far, I'm finding that my calculations are pretty close.  Once I'm done, and my friend puts the jumper/sweater on on her "Fur-Baby", we will know just how successful I have been--IF I have been.

You will also notice that there are three balls of yarn being used.  That's because I'm following a design that requires a different colour! This technique is also the first time I've done this!  The end result is a heart in blue.  In the photo you can see the heart taking shape.  The pattern I found and am using is:

 But I must go on record and say, that even with these challenges, I am enjoying the project--and will be glad to get it finished!

Today I pulled the last of my carrots.  Now the only thing still growing is the yellow squash plant.  The size of one of the carrots was a surprise to me--large actually.  And they went from the ridiculous to the sublime!  It just confirms that carrots will be planted again next year.   The ruler shows the biggest carrot being about 4.5 inches/11.5 cm.  And so the tiny one is barely 1 inch/2.54 cm.  They also taste great!  

Another project in my kitchen last week had to do with tomatoes.  A couple we know who has an allotment gave us a large punnet of ripe tomatoes.  The very next day my husband's best friend brought us a bag of tomatoes from his garden.  I knew that if I didn't do something with this great haul of produce, most of them would be binned--which would have been shameful.  So I chopped up the two lots, put them in a large cooking pot and let them simmer for about an hour.  Then I sieved them, to get rid of the peel and the seeds. 

The next step was preservation.  I collect small to middle-sized jars with re-seal-able lids.  The trick to making them work is to place the clean jars into boiling water, along with the lids.  This serves two purposes:  1) to sterilise the jar and kill bad bacteria; 2) to get the jar the same temperature as the substance being preserved.  In this way the jar is kept from breaking when the hot food is poured into the jar.  Making the jar hot, creates sufficient expansion of the jar to create a vacuum as the filled, lidded jar cools.  As the suction happens, it causes the rubber seal to contract and seal permanently.  So I set the jars to soaking while the juice was reheating to boiling point on the hob.  

 The pulpy juice can be cooked down to make passta or used in soup and sauces.  In order to preserve the juice, it required pouring back into the sauce pan (after I washed it).  Once again boiling, I ladled the juice into four jars, placed on the lids and awaited the happy sound of lids popping as they sealed.  ;-)   

That's what has been keeping me busy.  I've also been reading some good books lately--but I will save that for another day. 

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith

Saturday, 11 September 2010

2010 Sept. 11--Remembering

If today's weather had been food, I would have described it as my favourite kind of dish--sweet and savoury, and can't get enough of it.  I just love September and October.  The trees haven't started changing colours yet...plenty of time for that.  

Most Americans can remember exactly where they were 9 years ago today.  Everything about that day was surreal.  I had gone to a local women's clinic for an appointment.  As I sat in the waiting room, a couple of the volunteers were talking about a report they'd heard on the radio.  A few minutes later a television was turned on and we all witnessed the sight of the 2nd airplane crashing into the North Tower. 

Had the attack been on 1st April it would have been easy to imagine that the media was creating a very black and ugly hoax--showing some sort of horror film.  But it wasn't an April Fool's joke.  The events were lethally serious, genuinely horrifying.  No one could get his/her head around the crashes and the drama;  in truth no one wanted to believe it was true. 
My thoughts in those first few moments were a bit a-typical to many of my peers.  "Finally, American is experiencing what has been happening in Northern Ireland and other parts of the world for years."  Perhaps that sounds hard-hearted.  It isn't meant to be.  It is simply that this was only the 2nd time in America's history that our country had been the object of a premeditated but unexpected attack.  Other countries, especially in the Middle East, have endured the unsettling and traumatic loss of property , life and livelihood for generations.  Many Americans behaved as though the United States of America should be immune to bullying aggression and terrorism.  And yet, why should the USA be exempt from attack?   

In 1998 I participated in the Reconciliation Walk around the borders of Northern Ireland.  The Irish/British conflict goes back to the 1600's--to the time of William of Orange of Holland and King James II.  Because William was Protestant and James II was Catholic, the problems were both political and religious.  The "troubles" in Northern Ireland had erupted again in the 1970's with car bombs, petrol bombs, knee-capping, shootings and riots.  But in 1998 a prayer initiative began with the vision of one man who shared it with other Christians.  The Reconciliation Walk lasted for several weeks and people from around the world came to walk and pray.  

I was part of a team from YWAM Scotland who joined this group of intercessors. Our small team of seven spent a week in Strabane, Northern Ireland learning about Irish history and praying for peace.  Our small team was joined by a large group with whom we walked from Strabane, County Tyrone to Belcoo, County Fermanagh.  That trek took us through Omagh.  We spent two days there, and I knew I wanted to see it again.  

A friend and I took a week to visit Dublin and the surrounding area the week following the prayer walk.  I can still remember standing in a tiny local museum when the report came over the radio that a car bomb has exploded in Omagh.  My knees went weak as my mind raced through the new friends I had made there.  Did I know anyone who had been hurt, killed?  Immediately grief filled my heart.  My mind questioned--"What about all of our prayers?"  Upon my return to Scotland, I took the time to write to all the families who had hosted us.  I have a good friend, with whom I still keep in touch, who lives in Omagh today.  

So on 11 September 2001, three years after the Omagh bomb, I felt that America was joining the rest of the world in experiencing events that are impossible to comprehend, the shock and numbness that goes with what happens when the unthinkable happens.  

The only way I could connect emotionally with the events in New York was to relate it in some way to Northern Ireland--where my heart was--and Omagh.  Using the internet, I went to to look up the report.  There I read the story of an Irish Architect who had escaped from the North Tower prior to it being hit.  He subsequently learned that his sister and niece had been in the plane that had crashed into the building where he had worked.  My heart broke for him and his family, for the senselessness of it.  And that is how NY Twin Towers became personal to me.

The other thought I had was that of my parents generation.  This must be how it felt when Americans on the mainland turned on their radios for the news at noon and heard that Pearl Harbour had been attacked on 7 December 1941.  My mother remembers hearing about it when her father turned on the wireless while they ate Sunday dinner.  The difference was that we had visual images to go with the news reports.  

Two generations who were suddenly asking:  "Why?  What now?  What is the government going to do?"  On both occasions the result was " to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve "; the statement supposedly made by Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.  As we all know, in both cases, America went to war.  

Still, September is a happy month for me;  three of my best friends were born in September; my anniversary for my first trip to England (1983) is in September and I became a British Citizen in September.  I guess one day for sadness isn't too much.  Remembering the bad helps me to truly appreciate the good.       

Friday, 10 September 2010

2010 September 10--Preferences

I am often asked, "Do you miss the USA?"  Quickly and unequivocally I reply:  "No."  Then I usually qualify that I do miss Mom, Sister DSJ, and all my friends back there.  The Brits I talk to find it curious that I would prefer England, and/or Great Britian to the the USA.  My only response is--its a God thing.

To be honest, at times it is really difficult to get homesick in the UK.  Especially when I stroll down grocery store shelves and find Kelloggs' corn flakes, Kellogg's rice krispies, Pop Tarts, Hellmann's maynonnaise, and especially Ole' El Paso Mexican food!  Equally, I might as well be walking down the local Main Street of an American town when I walk down the local High Street;  what do I see--tee shirts and jerseys with New York, San Fransisco, Boston, blazened on the front.  And baseball caps rooting for the Dodgers, or the Nicks, or other America teams.  I overhear people talking about CSI; Friends and Law and Order.  

Even British television programmes are "under the influence."  I was watching "Midsomer Murders" on Wednesday night.  The main plot revolved around "Old West" aficionados involved in a land dispute  There was even a local "Wild Bill Hickcock Wild West show."  Granted for the British viewers who have never been to the US, I can see the appeal of the departure from Norman Knights and Vikings.  But for an American Ex-pat who grew up watching John Wayne, Ben Johnson, Kirk Douglas and other cowboy movies, seeing stages coaches,  and gun fights at the OK Corral in the middle of Midsomer Worthy it was just ironic.  I must say, thought, the programme's author had done his homework.  

However, I only have to look at the lounge window to be reminded that yes, I do live in England.  We look over Kidderminster Park, next to a grammer school.  On weekends the park hosts football (that's soccer for the Americans) practices and games.  I can also see the traffic travelling along London Road--the red 81 bus (a double-decker) from London Transport, as well as the First Travel buses going to and from the airport, or London.  During the winter, Windsor Castle is in clear view.  It looks about 2 inches tall...but it is easily seen whilst standing on our balcony. 

Wanting to actually live here, and make a life here, I set some goals for myself when I arrived here in 2003.  I wanted to work here.  Whilst I wanted to pay off school loans, I also wanted to be around British people to learn terminology.  I wanted to become British--and I couldn't do that staying at home.  So I started out temping and eventually found a permanent job--where I worked until 2007. 

I drove in America, so I HAD to drive in England.  It wasn't as easy as I expected.  Finding myself situated on the opposite side of the car, on the opposite side of the road required finding new techniques for determining the actual position of the car on the road.  And round-abouts were a major mystery to be solved.  I took some lessons from a very good instructor, and on my FOURTH attempt, I passed the test.  Obtaining my drivers license was another official documentation toward my British citizenship journey.

As a person who had married a British Citizen, I could apply for British Naturalization after three years of living in the UK--which would have been 2006.  That is, of course, if my visa had obtained the status of Indefinate Leave To Remain; this I had done. However, for various reasons, it wasn't until 2007 that I focused on getting my citizenship.

I found the information on the appropriate UK Home Office website and discovered I had to take a test entitled, "Life in the UK."  I learned basic things about British history, British government, the different cultural populations in the UK and even about what regional accents are called.  For example, a "Scouse" is from Liverpool.  I studied hard and passed the test easily.  

Because English is my first language, I did not have to take the English proficiency test.

The application for citizenship was sent in--with countless thousands of others--on 31st March.  The fees were set to go up beyond double on 1st April.  My Midnight Man and I stamped and registered it for signature to make sure it was before the deadline.  Finally, in September, I pledged my allegiance to the Queen and country of Great Britian. 

The idea of returning to the USA to live holds no appeal to me.  
  • I worked hard to get my citizenshp.
  • Since I have an underactive thyroid, I qualify to have all my medication costs covered by the government. Yes, I pay nothing for my medicine.
  • My step-daughters and their families are here.
  • British history fascinates me.
  • Travelling to Europe is easy and inexpensive.
  • The idea of pulling up roots and starting all over again has no appeal to me.
  • I even like the weather here.
Now, having stated Great Britian is my home of choice, I must also go on record and acknowledge that I do love America.  At times I am aware of just how American my mind-set is.  But I am now more than American--and I am also British.  
In 1999, during a plane ride from Northern Ireland to the USA, the ache of leaving swelled inside my heart.  I heard the Holy Spirit say; "Some people fall in love with another person and must be with that person regardless of where it is.  Other people fall in love with a place and simply have to live there--even if it means they are alone.  Just to be where they love is enough.  Dalletta, you have fallen in love with a place.  You have fallen in love with Great Britian."  

So there you have greatest joy is being where my heart is.

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith