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:  http://mysavannahcottage.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/boyfriend-sweater-pdf.pdf

 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 http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/ 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 it...my greatest joy is being where my heart is.

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

2010 September 8--Cabbage and Carrots

A complete week has passed in September.  I've always considered September the unofficial start of autumn, as the new school years is underway, the temperatures grow cooler and it is the time of year to begin the harvest of things like, pumpkins, gourdes, beet root, cabbage and carrots.  

Now some of you have seen photos of the Garden on the Balcony experiment I did this year.  At one point I had several heads of deep green cabbages.   I've attached a photo here.  Since it was an experiment, I planted way too many cabbages.  This came to light when I realized that cabbages take up a LOT of space.  They crowded out the beet root I had planted.  (That's beets for the Americans)  

Then, August came.  I was thrilled to see bees suckling from the drawf sunflowers that were in bloom.  I was NOT thrilled when I realised that other flying pests had deposited eggs on my cabbages.  At first I thought it was snails.  No, it was those pesky cabbage mothes.  I began to notice holes in the cabbage leaves.  This put me into "huntress" mode, seeking out those tiny green munching machines who were making my beautiful cabbages into organic Battenburg lace.  I sought to annihilate the creeping, crawling, eating catapillars by pinching, squeezing and even cutting them up.  But there were too many for me to find.  I didn't have any incesticide.  I didn't know of any organic ways of getting rid of them.  And then, I realised that I didn't know what I was going to do with so many cabbages anyway.  Finally with reluctance and disappointment, I decided to let the bugs have them and simply let them die.  Deep sigh!

As you can see, this is not the result for which I had hoped.  But...on the other hand, experience now tells me that one does not plant cabbages in boxes.  

Carrots, on the other hand, were successful.  I purchased and planted kingston F1 carrot seeds.  I wish I had planted more of them, because they turned out so nicely.  I pulled three yesterday.  Though not long, that is due to the depth of the box.  So these will certainly be a crop repeated next year.  

What got me thinking about cabbage and carrots was the cole slaw we had with dinner last night.  Growing up we always put the dressing--mayonnaise, pickle vinegar, sugar, and mustard--on and let it set.  Leftover coleslaw is less than inviting, as the vegetables "sweat" and become rubbery.  The dressing is diluted and becomes sour.  So, last week instead of letting the slaw marinate with the dressing, the cole slaw was served like a lettuce salad and each person could add the dressing desired.  The vegetables stayed fresher for the next few days.  It also provided an opportunity for each person to try a different dressing--mayonnaise, honey-mustard, oil and balsamic vinegar...you get the idea.  

For those of you interested in history, I found this little bit of information:
"The term arose in 1794 as a partial translation from the Dutch term "koolsla" meaning "cabbage salad". It was commonly called cold slaw in England until the 1860's when "cole" meaning cabbage was revived. "Cole" originated from the Latin colis meaning "cabbage", and is the source of the Dutch word as well. The term coleslaw is a late 19th century term, which originated in the United States.  
The "Garden on the Balcony" was my experiment, from which I gleened experience on which to build.  Here in England (and the UK) allotments are becoming more popular.  I don't have the energy for such a big responsibility.  But having grown up with parents who went through the depression, and grandparents who were born at the beginning of the 20th century, the ethos to make much from little is deeply instilled.   

Zechariah 4:" 10Who [with reason] despises the day of small things? For these seven shall rejoice when they see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel. [These seven] are the eyes of the Lord which run to and fro throughout the whole earth.(D)
This years plantings:  head lettuce, carrots, beet root, cabbage, sun flowers, french drawf beans (bush beans), spinach and broccoli.  Sucess:  Lettuce (after a style), beans (three handfuls), carrots, sun flowers, spinach.  Unsuccessful:  cabbage, beet root, broccoli.  

Next year I hope to plant:  leaf lettuce, beet root, carrots, squash (both green and yellow), spinach and beans.  There will probably be tomatos as well.  And some sort of flowers.

Enough of this topic--before I turn into a cabbage myself.  ;)

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith 

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

2010 September 7--Living near a flight path

This morning the skies are full of multi-coloured clouds--from off white to water-laiden gray.  I love the four seasons and this late summer-moving-into-autumn is beautiful.  The clouds parcel out the rain as they are pushed by the wind from east to west.

It can be showering down fat, plopping water drops one minute and the sun shining the next.  It is Madam Weather at her most mysterious.   

We live about six miles from Heathrow airport.  Its great when our friends come to visit.  But one of the side affects is that every minute another areoplane crosses the path of our skyline--either leaving Heathrow or arriving into Heathrow.  

As a child of an Air Force sargent, I spent the first eleven years of my life hearing areoplane engines hum as the crafts flew overhead.  It took no adjustment to living in a flight-path for air travel.  It was nostalgic, comforting, familiar and even fun. 

This morning as I sat on our russet coloured sofa, watching the wind shove the rain and clouds over the park, I watched a BA flight climb up into the clouds.  The engine sounds echoing into the cloud banks reminded me a another time, another era.

Seventy years ago the Battle of Britian was raging in the air and on the ground.  The sound of a single areoplane for the people of London and southern England was only a warning that soon up to sixty British Spitfires would be criss-crossing the skies, their engines droning and machine gun fire spitting bullets.  Whereas I hear the planes go in succession, the citizens of England would have heard the rolling drone of simultaneous machines flying in formation like a flock of metal geese.  

I can't imagine how the civilians of England felt to see and hear those flying fighting machines; 
fear--knowing that the Germans were trying to decimate not only buildings and property but also the moral of the common folk;  
comfort--knowing that those men (whom Winston Churchill described as the "so few" ) were summoning their courage, determination, skill and experience to protect, defend and presevere their homes and the nation they loved;  
determination--believing that they played an important part in refusing to give up, attempting to rebuild and simply "getting on with it";
opportunity--seeing a chance to profit from the caous surrounding them.  I have to be realistic, as during the Battle of Britian, it was Britian at its best and Britian at it's worst. 

A friend of mine was just telling me that even in my local area we played an important role in the Battle of Britian.  Hawker Hurricanes were assembled in a factory here in Langley.  Uxbridge was also a major base for WWII; Uxbridge is about five miles from Langley.

All these thoughts roll across my mind, because of the catalyst of a single jet climbing into the clouds.  I wonder how many other quiet moments will lead me into remembering what others have invested to provide the opportunities I have today.   

Monday, 6 September 2010

2010 September 6

Yum...peanut butter on ryvita sunflower seed crackers witha cup of coffee.  It's a great snack for a Monday afternoon.  

After putzing around on other blog sites and finding myself confused or mystified, I wanted to find a place that was simple, straightforward and accessible.  So, knowing that several of my friends use www.blogspot.com, I've joined the crowd.  
Yesterday I made a post on the Myspace blog, which is the MSN website.  It took me forever to find out how to even get to the page, let along write something!  If I want to blog regularly, I don't want to fight mental gymnastices.  

I seem to have a lot of energy today.  I'm thankful.  Actually, more than thankful.  I have been fighting fatigue, tremours and the frustration that comes with not having the energy to chase my dreams.  Chase my dreams?  I didn't even have energy to do basic housework.  
The family GP has prescribed an increase of the beta blocker I've already been taking, as well as HRT.  So, here we are on day two and I'm experiencing increased energy.  But it's only day two...and I'm waiting to see if the HRT is going to provide uncomfortable sides affects.  

Over the weekend I started a small knitting project.  Knitting a sweater for a small dog is a small project.  It's a colour for which I have no personal appreciation...pink.  But pink will suit an all-white maltese nicely.   I hope it won't take me over two weeks...but I must make time. 

I will do my best to keep all of you up-dated.  

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith.