Monday, 29 December 2008

Happy Christmas

I meant to get this posed ages ago, but I've been fighting for computer time!

Santa was good to me this year. He brought me the most awesome adventure! Steve (my brother-in-law) and I each had an envelope. Apparently Dad'd had to tell Lois about it, so she didn't get to open the present. Inside the envelopes were 2 pieces of paper that had been cut up into puzzles, then mixed together. So Steve and I spent 5 or so minutes figuring out what the photo in the puzzle was. It was someone snowmobiling in front of Old Faithful. So I guessed, 'We're going snowmobiling through Yellowstone?' And my folks said, 'Yes!' Oooooh boy! I was excited!! My folks live about 2 hours from the Montana side of Yellowstone. Unfortunately, the snowmobiling only leaves from West Yellowstone, which is the other side. A 5 hour drvie away. So as soon as we could get cleaned up and ready, we jumped in Jeeves (the Jeep) and headed out.

The drive over was kind of fun. We saw hundreds of dear and antelope grazing on the field stubble. We saw a few buffalo, too. And loads of hawks, and even one bald eagle. But when it got dark, we realised we were driving into a storm. It took us quite a bit longer to drive what ought to have been the last hour. It was snowing pretty hard. But that was ok, because it meant we'd have fresh snow for the morning's adventure. And they definitely had plenty of snow in West Yellowstone when we arrived. (Our 'parking space' at the hotel. When I jumped out of Jeeves, I was thigh deep in snow.)

Turns out, they'd not had any snow, all winter, then all the sudden last week, wham -- 26 inches in one night. But it'd been so cold (20 F was the high when we were there, and it hit 0 F just as we were leaving to go back to Billings, with a low of -13 F. That's -7 C to -13 C and the low was -25 C. Cold.) that the snow was too dry to compact. So when the park services would come through with the grooming machines on the trails, the snow wouldn't compact down. That meant that when the big 'Snowcoaches' (vans with snowmobile treads for wheels) came through, they tore up the trails, leaving big gullies and hashed snow behind. Made for hard work keeping things on the straight and narrow. But it was seriously good fun. We started out around 9.00 am (we arrived to the shop at 8.00, but it takes a while to get suited up) and got back just a bit before 5.00 pm. So, it's quite a long day. You go out to Old Faithful (30 miles from West Yellowstone), watch the eruption, video have lunch, and come back to West Yellowstone. I know that doesn't sound like much, but along the way you stop and see hot springs, geysers, mud pots and hopefully a few animals. We didn't see as many animals as we'd hoped to, but it was still fun! And exhausting. By the time we got back to West Yellowstone, we were shattered. The cold is so draining. Poor Lois said she'd never really been warm enough the whole day. The rest of us had been fine, up until the last hour, or so. Dad was warm the whole time. Lois was really suffering on the last hour. We popped her in the front seat of Jeeves and turned on the seat heater and the regular heat full blast. Even still, it wasn't 'til we were most of the way home that she (well, all of us, really) finally actually warmed up. But it was worth the cold. At one point as we were zooming along the snow I remember thinking, 'Thank Goodness Mom and Dad moved away from Mississippi.' It isn't that there's nothing to do in Mississippi, because there's loads. But the problem is, it's either too hot, or not warm enough to enjoy most of it! And, of course, I like snow. I know. The rest of the world thinks I'm absolutely insane. But I do. I like shoveling it. I like driving in it. I like playing in it. I like looking at it. I like snow. And I'd really missed it since moving to England and my folks moving to Mississippi. But now that they're back North, I'll get to play in it again! Yeay!!

We got home around 10.00 pm, which was really pretty quick. We'd had to go kind of carefully the first half, because all that snow had turned to ice on the roads. But we still made it in a little under 5 hours. We were really glad to get home and out of the Jeep, though! And especially glad to get into bed. It was a really long, tiring day. But so much fun. This is one of the highlights of my life!

Monday, 22 December 2008

*sniff*

Baby, it's cold outside . . . And boy is it! -18 F (-25 C) I'm freezing! And I've caught a cold. *sniff* *sniff* I helped put up and take down the Nativity Display last week. That was kind of fun, but putting it up, I was jetlagging, then taking it down, I was plague ridden. *sigh* If I'd been awake and healthy, it would have been much easier! Never mind. I'm trying to keep warm, drinking lots of hot tea and orange juice, and get a good amount of sleep every night, hoping I'll be healthy for Christmas!!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

It's Not Called A Red-Eye For Nothing

I've arrived! Wooh hoo! After quite a long flight half-way across the world (ok, not quite an accurate judgment, but close enough for government work!) I've finally arrived in the USA. Actually, all of the flights were remarkably smooth for being the middle of winter. Especially the middle of winter over the North Atlantic. There have been times I've flown to the States where I wasn't able to get up for the whole 8 or 10 hours because of bad turbulence. Not this time, though. It was only mildly bumpy once or twice. And, miracle of miracles, I was able to sleep on the plane!

. . . Of course, that might have had something to do with the insane hours that I was keeping up till I flew out.

My friend kindly offered his flat in London as a jump-off point for the airport Monday morning. He said we (I was traveling with Sara, the American student at Essex) could come in and stay the night on his sofa, and he'd help us get on the train/coach to our respective airports. So we said yes. Of course, the real reason he wanted us (well, me) to come in was because there's a monthly Blues night in London that happened to be the night before we flew off. So we said yes, and had an absolute ball dancing the Blues. Blues is a type of Swing Dance, really slow. It's all about smooth, careful movements, punctuated by quick, sharp steps. Really fun. Got 5 months worth of dancing with my friends done in one night! But it meant we didn't get to bed til sometime after 3 in the morning. And that was after 20 minutes of sleep the night before. I must seriously be insane. Fortunately, I didn't have to be up til 8.30. Yeay. "Sleeping in". But it was such a fabulous night of dancing. I'm really glad I didn't miss it.

Of course, nothing ever goes completely according to plan. I had to dash through the Detroit, Michigan airport. Customs took absolute ages. And the baggage didn't come for yonks. I was exhausted and had a headache, and was literally running through the airport in my socks! And then, when I got to the Minneapolis, Minnesota airport, I had time to get food, but I didn't have any money! I had absolutely 0 USDolars! So, that meant by the time I got to Billings, Montana (10.30 pm) I was starving. And still had a headache. And it was freezing. And as far as my body knew, it was 6.30 in the morning! Yeah, the 3rd all nighter in one week! Glutton for punishment, I guess. Oh, and Mom and Dad got confused. They thought my flight didn't come in till 11.30. So I got to the airport, collected my bags... and still no one there. I waited around a while, and no one showed. Now, I don't have any money (remember?), and my UK mobile phone was not able to get a signal, so I didn't have any way of calling. I tried calling collect, but the phone was doing something weird. Mom'd answer and then it would disconnect. So I finally went around to the car rental desks and talked to the staff at Hertz, and begged to be allowed to use their phone. Since it was local, they said fine. So I called, and Mom's like . . . What are you doing here? I'm like, umm... Waiting? So they came and collected me, and I finally got to go home. But it was COLD waiting for them! -18 F! Yep. That's cold. I walked outside and nearly coughed up a lung. The poor lungs said, 'Aaaah! What is this?!? Get it out!' It's cold.

Anyway, I'm at my folks. My suitcase arrived with me, for a change. And I'm doing a bit of recovery from the term. It's nice. Really nice.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

I'd Like Another Week in My Day, Please!

I've been SO BUSY this last couple of . . . months. I just can't believe it. And this week has been no exception. In fact, it's been pretty much insanity. I had an all nighter, teaching (after not having slept!), Young Women's (more on that in a future post . . . I hope), YSA parties, Teaching, Cleaning, Teaching, Pampered Chef Party at my house, Teaching!!, collecting Essays from London, cleaning, packing, putting out small kitchen fires, cleaning up after small kitchen fires, another all nighter, PhDing, TEACHING!!, getting my house ready for the house sitters, Supervisory Meeting and a talk to prepare. No, I haven't done ANYTHING this week. Ha ha. I'm so tired, and there's really no point in going to bed now. It's just gone 7.00 am, and I have to be up for Church in 2 hours. That'd be worse than just toughing it out and sleeping tonight (that's another story, I'm staying at a friend's tonight, in London. Probably won't get much sleep. *sigh*) I honestly can't say when I've been this tired before. I'm sure I have been, but just at the moment, I can't think when. But on the up side, the house looks pretty darn good. I've finally got the office sorted. It's been begging for help since I moved in, pretty much. But I just never had the time/energy to devote to it. But with people coming to stay in the house, really kind of needed to get it finished up. The mural looks fabulous. Mum's brilliant! :D

I'd love to say, 'Off to bed, now'. . . but I'm not. Going to do some more cleaning/tidying. *sigh*

Monday, 8 December 2008

P.S.

That marathon marking essay? Yeah. An all nighter. AND I stayed up and taught a 2 hour class. It's now midnight. I still haven't slept. Think I'll go do that now. I really thought all nighters were the domain of the student! Not the lecturer!!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

DONE!!! . . . 'Til Friday. *sigh*

I just finished marking the last essay for QMUL. It's taken me 2 weeks. Same amount of time I took for Essex. Not bad. Means I'm all done marking essays. At least . . . 'til Friday when I have to collect the final essays for QMUL. But I don't have to have them back 'til January! Yeay!! :)

Friday, 5 December 2008

Let The Christmas Season Begin!

A couple weeks ago Sara had this brilliant idea to go into London to watch the lighting of the Norwegian Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square. Every year the Norwegian people give the Birtish people a Christmas Tree as a thank you for the help given during the Second World War. This tradition got started in 1947, I think they said. Anyway, it's been 62 years since they started (we all know how my maths skills are. Someone else figure out if I remembered the date right or not!) We had a great time listening to the brass band and two church chiors. Really good fun. We'd got a little rain in the middle of things, but it quit pretty fast, so it wasn't miserably wet. Just slightly damp.

Here's the video of the lighting. The man speaking is the Mayor of Oslo. (Sorry the video is sideways. I forgot that if you turn the camera, it takes the video sideways. Ooops.) video

Sunday, 30 November 2008

. . . Need . . . Sleep . . .

I'm surprised I don't meet myself coming. I'm normally insanely busy . . . but this term, even I've felt I'm trying to do too much. Now, for just one term, it hasn't been too bad. But I wouldn't want to go on like this ad infinitum. I'm really looking forward to the Christmas Holiday Sleep Time. And then, of course, I get to start over at BYU. There will be three big differences next term, though:
  1. I'm not teaching at multiple Universities. Only one. Only one. (Forgive me for that Cosby misquote.) Not having to deal with several Unies, and only having to travel to one is much easier. Even if I have to re-learn all the protocols and red tape.
  2. No PhD requirements! I'm not responsible for getting anything done on my PhD whilst I'm in the States. Yeay! Trying to teach a full term and do a full time PhD has been killer.
  3. No Church Calling. Well, I don't think, any way. I'm only going to be there for a couple of months. I guess they could give me a calling, but I don't really think they will. And if they do, it won't be 1st Counselor in the Young Women's. Don't get me wrong. I love my girls. And I've never been so happy as I have been working with them. But all 3 of those at the same time is pretty overwhelming. When I get back to the UK I expect to get a calling again. Maybe even quite a labour intensive one, but I won't be teaching at two Unis! I refuse!!!
Those three things will keep next term from getting quite so out of hand.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

A Day for the History Books

It snowed today. Actually, we had quite a lot of snow. Enough that the ground looked solidly white, not just a little flurry that never did anything. It was even still reasonably snowy after church. That's how much snow we got! Meant driving to the chapel was more interesting than normal. One of the other families in the ward followed me for maybe the last mile to the chapel, and when we arrived, they asked, 'Where are you from?' I laughed and said, 'Michigan, more or less. Why?' 'Well, we followed you from the traffic lights, and we were very impressed with your snow driving. We thought you might be snow trained.' I laughed again and said, 'Oh, yes. Definitely!'

But that, as impressive as it is, isn't the reason it's a day for the History Books. The BBC actually got the weather prediction right! They predicted lots of snow for Sunday way back on Friday! I'm in shock. Generally speaking, if the weathermen say 'sun', I bring an umbrella.

Another kind of funny side note. In Sunday School we were talking about the signs of the times, including an increase in disasters, weather out of season and severe weather. Someone in the class said, 'Yeah, just look at today's snow.' Ummm..... It's November. Late November. Snow accumulation of 2 inches does not count as a disaster. It isn't even severe weather, and a bit of snow in November certainly isn't out of season.... England is clearly not at all used to snow. Which is silly, considering they're roughly on the same latitude (London: 51.32 N) as Germany (Berlin: 52.30 N) and Russia (Moscow: 55.45 N)!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The name's Potter... Harry Potter.

Did I get your attention? Well, I hope so. Friday I had a fabulous evening involving Dinner and a Movie. How, you might ask, does that involve Harry Potter? Well . . . the dinner was held at Pembroke College, Cambridge. It was found in 1347 by Marie de St Pol, Countess of Pembroke. The dinner was held in the main hall, and seriously . . . it felt like we'd been transported into the Hall at Hogwarts. It was beautiful! And even more fun for me not knowing we'd be going!

Ok . . . let me start at the beginning. Sometime last week (Sunday? Monday? Something like that) I got a message from the Stake YSA Rep, Naomi, asking if I'd be interested in having a posh dinner in Cambridge, then going to see the new 007 movie, Quantum of Solace. Ummm . . . what's not to like?!? Of course I said yes. So I invited Sara (the American girl from my previous posts) to come along. All I knew was we were supposed to dress up like Bond Girls (insofar as our LDS Dress Standards Permit) and the dinner would be at 7.15. So, I dug out my posh formals, and dressed up! It was great fun. When we arrived, we discovered that Pembroke College was hosting a formal dinner, and Dan (one of the Cambridge YSAs) is a student there, so had managed to get us all invited. How cool is that? So we ended up having a fabulous dinner. The dessert was so good, but we'd had so much fabulous food, none of us finished it. Tragic, eh? Anyway, we learned all the traditional student games played at dinners: coining a drink (if a coin gets tossed into your drink, you have to guzzle it straight down), coining a dessert (same sort of thing, coin gets tossed into someone's dessert, and they have to eat it without hands) ridiculous toast making . . . Obviously the drunker you are, the more fun it is. Well, theoretically. We sober few managed to have a marvelous time, though!

A few photos from the evening:

After our delightful dinner, we headed over to the cinema for the movie. I liked it. It wasn't my favourite 007. I really prefer the old ones. Especially as you never get to see him getting his new gadgets since Q died. But . . . it was certainly action packed. There's even some Spanish in it, and it was fun to listen to it and compare it to the translations. Bits of it take place in Bolivia, and it reminded me of Chile. Chile's a lot nicer (not nearly so scruffy), but there were elements of Chile in there. Anyway, if you like an action movie, then you'll like Quantum of Solace. So, the combination of the location of the dinner, plus being dressed up as a Bond Girl . . . I felt like it was a cross between Harry Potter and James Bond. Quite a mix of genres!




Sunday, 9 November 2008

Bonfire Night Cum Christmas Decorating Party

The 5th of November (Remember, remember the 5th of November....) is Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night) in England. Guy Fawkes tried to blow up parliament in the 1600's. He was hung, drawn and quartered for his efforts. And every year they remember it on Bonfire Night. And burn him in effigy! Yep. Really do. It fell on a Wednesday this year, though. And most of us just couldn't take the time off to enjoy it properly mid week. So the Ipswich YSA (plus a couple of Uni Friends) decided to have one on the following Saturday, at my house. And then today??? It RAINED!! So we switched to a Christmas Tree Decorating and Gingerbread Men Making party. Here're some photos:

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The Most Horrific Sound: "Crunch"

Seriously . . . there are few sounds in the world that are more terrible than the crunch of two cars 'kissing'. And unfortunately, I was the recipient of said noise this evening. I was taking Sara home this evening after Young Womens, and the car in front of me decided to break. Apparently his turn had arrived. Only, he had left it a bit late, so had to step hard on his breaks. I initially started off by breaking pretty hard myself. Then realised that wasn't going to cut it, so stomped on it, and was kind of worried that I wasn't going to make it. I did. Then looked in the rear view mirror. And to my horror, I realised that the car behind me wasn't going to make it.

Time froze.

CRUNCH

My back bumper did an amazing job. No injuries. No paint chipped, nor even a crack. No damage at all. But it still was not a happy sound! Not a fun way to end my eveing.

Photos from the Weekend

Sara (the lovely American girl I went around with this weekend) has this GREAT feature on her camera. It's essentially a filter that lets you choose what colour you want to allow to show through. We had fun :) I love taking photos, the goofier, the better. So here's a selection of photos:

Monday, 3 November 2008

Wistlestop Tours

I've had a crazy insane weekend. It's been great fun, but absolute insanity.

There's a lovely American uni student who's in my Ward (church congregation) attending Essex. She's only here for one term, which is just not long enough! So, after several chats about places she wanted to visit, or types of places she wanted to visit, I said I'd take her to Leeds Castle (which is near Maidstone, Kent... not Leeds, Yorkshire!), Dover Castle and Stonehenge this weekend.

So, Friday, after I finished teaching my class, I picked her up and we ran down to Leeds Castle. It has the most amazing Maze, ever. We played in the grounds, then got lost in the maze, and only left when they kicked us out at closing. Then we drove a bit further South, to Dover.

We stayed overnight in a town near Dover, called Margate. We had a lovely little hostess who took great care of us. She sent us to this amazing Indian food place, the Indian Princess. It was truly fantastic. They took our coats, then gave us glasses of Chardonnay (which we passed along to the gentlemen at the next table) and a couple of bites of an appetizer. Then we ordered an appetizer and our main meals. They were all marvelous. After the main dish, they brought over these interesting little slushy/sorbet things to clean our palates. They were ever so slightly peachy . . . and had pop-rocks on the top! Sounds bazaar, but was actually fantastic. We finished off with these amazing sweets. I had an ever so slightly rose flavoured vanilla creme brulee. Truly great stuff.

Saturday morning we headed up to Dover Castle, which is one of my favourite paces in the whole of the UK. It has so much fun history. There are the Medieval Tunnels, the Castle built by Henry II (1180's), Napoleonic War Era Tunnels, and Secret WWII Tunnels. Loads of great stuff. Only thing was.... it POURED the whole day. We looked like drowned rats. We were so wet, we kept the windows fogged the whole way home!

Sunday morning we went to church as usual. I have too many responsibilities to skive off very many weeks in a row. And I had to teach the Young Women lesson. So we drove home Saturday night, stayed at mine, went to church Sunday, and then went off to the SouthWest. We stayed over night at this wonderful little B&B. The couple was very sweet and attentive. They took great care of us, and brought our breakfast to our room (there was a lovely breakfast nook in the corner) this morning.

After our wonderful 'Full English Breakfast', we scooted over to Stonehenge. Now, Stonehenge is cool, but it's not something you really need to spend hours looking at. So we took a photo, and headed North. We ended up at Stratford-upon-Avon (you have to specify which one you are talking about. There are several.) So, we stopped off at Shakespeare's Birthplace (which was 'restored' in the 19th Century.... so it's not necessarily particularly accurate!) Then we went over to Anne Hathaway's house (his wife). But neither of those things took too long, so we zipped over to Warwick Castle, only 10 miles away. It's owned by the Madam Tussauds Company, so the displays are truly amazing.

When they finally kicked us out, we jumped back in the car and came home. It's been a long, fun weekend, but it's time to pay the piper. It's going to be a long week!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Blisters and the London Balboa Festival

Since I've been lecturing on Mondays at Queen Mary's, I've been sticking around to dance at the 100 Club, in London. This Monday I danced harder than usual, apparently. First, I was absolutely soaked clear through. It was much worse than usual. And it wasn't the only indicator of unusually vigorous dancing. I actually put blisters on both feet. At that point, I quit dancing for the night. I had several really great dances, which is clearly why I ended up dancing myself into blisters. And it wouldn't be a problem in a normal week. This, however, is not a normal week. Tonight I'm off to London for the London Balboa Festival. It's my favourite dance weekend of the whole year. It sort of started yesterday, with a 'pre' dance. But officially, it starts this evening, with a social dance. Then, tomorrow bright and 'early' (no earlier than 10 am. We are Swing Dancers, after all. And a Swing Dancer is naturally a dirunal creature) we start in with classes. Then, we take a break around half five in the evening, and start back in for another evening of social dancing. At the end of the social dance, there's an 'after' party. That probably won't end till some rediculous time, like 4 in the morning! Then, Sunday bright and even (relatively) earlier (read, same time.... but 4 am is a rough time to get home!) it's back to the school room for more classes. And another break for everyone to get all gussied up, for the formal dance to end the weekend. It's a wonderful weekend. Just not maybe what my blistered feet need! Never mind. I'll survive.

Therefore, anyone looking to hear from me is going to be disapointed until at least Monday. But, as I'm not coming home til after dancing Monday night, there's probably not going to much of a chance for me to do anything until Tuesday. And even then, I'm probably not going to be too coherent until sometime Tuesday afternoon . . . or maybe even Wednesday! Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

No Idea What to Blog!

I'm sitting here thinking back over the week, and I honestly can't think of anything to say about the week. I did my usual thing.... QM, no dancing because I'd hurt my ankle on Sunday, Young Women's, Essex teaching, Data Session, PhD supervision, Oooh.... I did go to the Reading YSA Dance (nothing particularly exciting there, though.... just a really late night!!), and Stake Conference yesterday/today. So... good night. Let's hope next week is more exciting!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

8 And A Half Weeks....

....'Til Steve can make my computer all better! Oh, I'm so excited. I've been having trouble with it again this week. It keeps over heating, which is really annoying. And I'm not talking about rediculous things like, you've left it on for 14 days straight (or even 14 hours!) I'm talking about, it's been on for 45 minutes, and is already suffering. And several different programs are no longer functioning, either not correctly or not at all.... And I'm generally fed up. GRRRRR!!!!!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

How DARE They?!?

This week I had an unpleasant experience this week. I went into London on Wednesday (that was fun) for a dance workshop (though, no dancing... it was all talking about how to improve the musicality of our dancing. Sometimes to get better at dancing, you have to step off the dance floor.) When I got home -- roughly 1.00 in the morning -- I discovered a parking ticket on my car. Oh, I was livid. How dare they accuse me of stealing from their company? Because, that is what they have done. By ticketing my car for not paying the daily charge, they have done the equivalent of accusing me of walking out of a shop without paying for the merchandise! I have never in my life stolen anything, including time in a carpark. And what really made me angry was, when I arrived at the carpark, I parked in a bay that was 2 down from where the attendant was checking payments. In other words, he saw me arrive, and knew I had been there less than 5 minutes. The second thing I did was stop at the payment station. And that was directly in front of the attendant. So again, he knew I was not dodging the fee. Now, on his side, I did not have a payment slip displayed in the windscreen of my car. Why? Because I payed electronically over my phone. This is not a new thing they've just started. It's been around for a couple years now. You can phone in your details and pay the fee off your credit card. Your car reg then gets sent to the database, and the attendant scans your reg, and sees that the fee has been paid. Now, this process takes a couple minutes to complete. However, the ticket the attendant issued was dated 3 minutes after the text was sent to my phone saying that the payment had been completed. That ought to have been sufficent for the transaction to appear in the database. And in anycase, the attendant saw me phone it in! Idiot.

I sent a letter of complaint (allong with the proof that they had unjustly inflicted a £50 penalty fee) requesting that they improve their staff training, appologise to me, and pay me the £50 that they tried to extract from me. (I don't really expect to receive the £50, but it gives me room to bargon with to get the postage I had to pay to send the proof of having been wrongly accused via registard post. £10.50! For the cheap rate!!)

Sunday, 28 September 2008

A Decade On

I did a Scrapbook Challenge this week. We were challenged to use a grid, of some sort, in our Layout (LO). I knew immediately what I wanted to do. What I didn't know, though, was what photo I wanted to use. I have most of the photos taken over the past 3 or 4 years stored on my external hard drive. But none of them seemed quite right. I don't have many photos from earlier than 4 years ago here, because that's when I moved over. But, I do have some. They used to be on my wall in my bedroom. Now they're just sitting in a stack in my desk. So I started flipping through them. And this one caught my eye.

It's a photo taken in the Spring of 1999, right at the end of Winter Term at BYU. It was the end of my Sophomore Year there. I'd made some of the best friends I've ever had in my entire life that year. Cynthia and I had known each other since the previous Winter in the Dorms, and we'd become Roommates for our Sophomore Year. Amber and I still haven't figured out when, exactly we met . . . but it must have been during High School in Michigan. But we re-connected at BYU right at the end of my Freshman Year at BYU, and again at the beginning of my Sophomore Year. David and Hyrum were flatmates in Cynthia's and my Student Ward. Jared was David's best friend from High School, and came home from his mission in time for the start of the Winter Term, and moved in with Hyrum and David. The 6 of us became very close friends. We even organised ourselves into a 'Family'. Amber had been an exchange student to Denmark and proposed the name of our family be 'Hugue Family'. 'Hugue' means that warm fuzzy feeling you get from a hug. Sort of. It's that familial connection, and it personified our friendship perfectly. We did everything together. It was, in many ways, the best year of my BYU experience. It was certainly the best year of my pre-mission years. (It's tough to compare pre and post. They were very different experiences.) In this photo, we're up at a location we referred to as 'The Living Room'. It was a bonfire pit in Glenn Canyon, up the Provo Canyon. Thinking about those bonfire nights (there were many) still makes me smile. This photo was taken on one of our last days together before we all split for the summer, never to reconvene in quite the same way again. Hyrum married Cynthia (yeay!), Amber went on her mission (Denmark) and David switched Universities. Jared and I continued on at BYU without major changes for another year, before I went off on my mission (Chile). By the time I got back, David, Jared and Amber were all married. But we had that one special year together. 10 years later (well, start of the 10th year!) I look back and realise how much of who I am today is a direct result of their friendship.

I know several of you pass by the blog on occasion. Just letting you know, you've still got a special piece of my heart.

Much Love,
Adele (The Middle Child)

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Going Green

I moved into my house almost exactly one year ago today. One of my goals for my life upon moving in was to be greener. I've been trying to buy locally grown produce, rather than foreign ones. This actually has multiple benefits. First, it uses less fuel to ship something from one part of England to another than it does to ship it from Spain or Chile to England. Second, a lot of the countries where fresh fruits are being grown have water shortages. And by growing fruits and vegetables, essentially what they're doing is exporting their water! Third, the food's fresher, and it stayed on the vine (or stem or whatever) longer, so it tastes better, and has more vitamins and minerals. Fourth, it supports local farmers, and helps to encourage an autonomous food supply. There are lots of other reasons, too.... these are just a few. Anyway, I've been doing a bunch of things to be a better custodian of our planet:
  1. Buying local
  2. Recycling paper, glass, aluminum and food/garden scraps
  3. Sending things to charity shops, not the tip
  4. Walking to town instead of driving
  5. Keeping my thermostat a little lower and using a jumper to keep warm
  6. Using eco-friendly detergents
  7. Not using my dryer (as much)
  8. Compact florescent light bulbs everywhere

There are definitely other areas I can improve, and that's something I'm going to continue to work on. However, I'm pleased with the steps I've taken so far. And yesterday, I took another step: I bought a bike! I'm going to be commuting into London every Monday. The train station is only a mile away, and I hate to drive down. It seems silly to pay to park all day, when it's only a mile. And on top of that, I feel guilty driving less than 2 miles. But, I simply have too much to get done to spend loads of time walking places. So - the bike is to help me gain back some of the commute time, whilst not giving up the ecologically minded transport. And on top of that? I'll get a few minutes of exercise in, every time I use it! And boy do I need that. I went out today on my maiden voyage (I was trying to remember the last time I used a bike. I think it was when I broke my hand. That was some 10 years ago!) and discovered that the hill I live on is not nearly as gentle as I always thought it was! I nearly died getting back up it. Good thing I have a couple days to recover before I have to attempt it again.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Love Your Blog!

Hey! I was nominated by Leah over at The Traveling Gardner Family as on of her favourite blogs! Oh I feel the love! Thanks Leah!

The rules are: pick 7 blogs you stock that you'd like to send a bit of love to. So my 7 picks (oh this is hard) are:

  1. Coila's It's My Life
  2. Heather's Litter of Leaves (these two -- Coi's and Heather's -- are what started me blogging)
  3. Miss Meg's Cupcake Chowder (LOVE LOVE LOVE the quirky nature of her topics!)
  4. Mithi's Creative Journey (This woman has talent streaming out of her fingertips, toes, ears . . . everything!)
  5. Mark's Roaming Cavetroll (not exactly a blog, but might as well be!)
  6. Melissa's Snyder Family (Oh by the way, I'm having log in issues. Can you resend me an invite, to my google account? Thanks!)
  7. Hyrum's Hyacynth Mills
There are loads of other's I'd totally loved to have included (Mel, if you had anything IN your blog, it would be on this list!), but I had to narrow it down to 7. Ok, tag, you're it!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Images From My Memory

A friend chalenged me to create a photo mosaic. This is 'Images From My Memory'.

Fixed

Yeay! I'm not freezing to death any more :D Turns out the problem wasn't the pilot light. It was a valve in another part of the system. *sigh* 200 gbp to get fixed. But at least I'm not freezing!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Brrrrrrrrroke!

My boiler's pilot light went out. And I can't get it to relight. And it's rapidly cooling down in England. It hasn't been too bad recently, because the sun's been out. But it's raining today. So I'm feeling the cold today. *shiver* *shiver*

Monday, 22 September 2008

First Day Jitters

Today was my first day of teaching at Queen Mary's. It was terrifying. And exciting. And I it. I got on the train well before 10.00 this morning . . . which puts me into London around 10.30. And at Queen Mary at 11.00. And I had loads of time to get ready. So, I figured out how to attach my computer to the AV equipment. Made sure I had all my hiring paperwork signed. Submitted my paperwork for my id card. Got my syllabus copied. Found my classroom (nothing more embarrassing than walking around, lost, trying to find your own classroom!) Generally prepared for the day. Managed to get everything done and everything set up 10 minutes before class started.

The class arrived. Some 18 of them. Filled the (very small) room. I've been told there will be some 10 more by next Monday. That means? I'm going to need a bigger classroom!

I have a 2 hour block. The problem is? The first day of class, there isn't much to say. However, I managed to spend an hour telling them my name, what my area of research is, where I'm from, what the class will cover, that they'll have a midterm, a final, and a group project. Oh . . . and that they have to memorize all 50 states. No, really. Yes, that's what I said. Because I said so. Yes, it counts towards your grade. No, it's not a joke. It's only 50 names! Shut up now, or I'll make you memorize all the capitals -- and match them up with their State!

I'm really looking forward to next week when we can start talking about the meat of the subject! :D

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Contract Signed!

Got all the paperwork done today, for my new job. All sorts of fun. I am totally in love with their campus. It's right on a canal, very beautiful. And the buildings, though 'new builds' are actually appealing! Just drove home how terrible Essex is, aesthetically (and facilities wise -- they have a million nice bars/cafes/restaurants/shops, right there. Guess it's a perc of being in the middle of London. More competition = better services.) Crazy thing? I was weirded out by being treated like staff. Crazy, huh? Because . . . I am staff. But the thing is, this is the first time I've ever been a regular at a University where I'm not a student. I'm really excited!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

First Day Of New Job

Tomorrow afternoon I head into London to find out what, exactly, I've got myself into. I'm very excited, but also a bit nervous. I won't actually be doing any teaching tomorrow. Just filling in paperwork and getting set up on the computer system. That sort of thing. But one of the crazy things I realised was: I'll be getting a University ID from a Uni that I wasn't, in fact, a student at! Oh how exciting :D And not only that, I'll have 3 University IDs that all work at the same time! How wild is that? How many people in the world can say that???? Feeling pretty cool right now.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Random Laughs

Ok, I have no idea if this is a true story or not. I don't really care. It's funny! Funny stories don't have to be true to be funny. So, consider the disclaimer of validity checked off.

The other day I was thinking about my mission, and how it's actually quite a brave thing we do, in this day and age. We go around, knocking on random strangers doors. They don't know us. We don't know them. Then . . . we actually walk into their homes!! We have no idea what kind of person this is. It could be some crazy needlepoint hording cat killer. And yet, it happens every day! And nearly 100% of the time, there's no problem. (Of course, those people are doing a brave thing by inviting two random strangers in off the street, too. But as I'm on the invitee not inviter list, obviously the dangers of going into a random stranger's house were those which jumped out at me first.) Well . . . here's a story of when a visit didn't go quite as planned. It's not a missionary visit, it's an Elders Quarum visit. (For those of you who don't know, the Elder's Quarum is the men's association for our church. This story is about two men from my church going to visit a family who'd stopped coming to church. Finding out if they needed anything, and inviting them to come back to church.)

Why To Keep Your Temple Recommend
The Mormons Meet the Metro Narcotics Unit
By Daryl Zadok Budd, Clearfield , Utah

The Elders Quorum President and I were visiting some lost souls, when they were found by the long arm of the law. As we were preparing to say the closing prayer at the conclusion of our visit we heard someone pounding on the door and yelling, 'It's the police! Open the door!' I thought, 'Oh, that old joke.' Then there was more pounding, 'It's the police! We have a search warrant!' Before this lady's boyfriend made it to the door to open it the police opened the door for him. Into the house stormed ten police officers dressed from head to toe in black body armor.

Each gentleman had a submachine gun. When I saw the door burst open, read the word POLICE across the first officers Kevlar vest and saw the large gun that he had I thought, 'This is going to make a great story.' The Officer only got to 'Get on the...' and I was face down on the carpet with my hands above my head in full view. 'Get down on the ground!' The friendly officer again shouted at the President. The only trouble the President had was that the room was very small and had a coffee table in the center of it. There was no available space remaining on the floor, as the rest of us had already 'hit the deck.' There was no room left in the Inn , if you know what I mean.

The Elders Quorum President, therefore, made the mistake of standing up from where he was sitting on the couch and trying to explain who we were. The kind officers did not seem to like this action and one very large officer stepped toward the President who then found himself looking directly into the muzzle of the gun with a bright light shining in his eyes. As the officer placed his finger over the trigger and shouted, 'I said get on the ground!!' the president decided to do so. As there was nowhere else to go, he laid on top of me, his first councilor. I never thought I would need to 'support the President' like that I assure you. I really felt the 'weight of my calling.' We were instructed not to move or speak which was difficult to say the least as I had eaten a little too much for supper and the President is not exactly a small man. After a time the President whispered, 'Are you O.K. down there?' I didn't dare answer. But a few seconds later the humor of the whole situation hit me full force and I started laughing, silently mind you, which made my body shake and the President being on top of me was well aware that I was laughing and thought, 'What in the world could he possibly be laughing at?'

After they got done handcuffing the two closest to us they were ready for us. 'Stand up and keep your hands above your head!' We arose and the officers searched us for weapons. The heroic officers did a much more extensive search of the President's person due to his earlier, 'Non-compliance' 'Who are you?!' asked the large officer who had gently persuaded the President to get down on the floor. 'We are the Elders Quorum Presidency from a local Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,' replied* the President in one breath.

The officers looked at each other and their weapons lowered a little bit. 'Do you have any church I.D.?' One officer asked. They gave us back our wallets and we showed them our Temple Recommends and Drivers licenses. Big smiles came onto their faces and they soon escorted us out to our car, wished us a good night and allowed us to drive away with a great story to tell.

I knew that my Temple Recommend could help me get into the Lord's house but I never dreamed it could help me avoid going to the 'Big house.' This time the lost sheep that we were hoping to bring back to the fold sadly ended up going to a different pen.

Sincerely,
Daryl Zadok Budd

*Can I just note in passing -- It's a really good thing that this (supposedly) took place in Utah where the statement 'We're the Elders Quorum Presidency from the local Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' actually makes sense? Try that in most other places in the world and you would first have to explain that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the same group as the Mormons, that we're not actually a devil worshiping cult and that we are Christian (Hello??? Anyone note the name????). Then you'd have to explain what the 'Elders Quorum' is, and how that gives you a reason for being in this person's home!

Monday, 8 September 2008

Insanity Relaps

I must be insane. There is no other explanation for it. Friday I got a very surprising email. It was from Queen Mary of the University of London. Asking if I'd be willing to come teach a class. Starting 22nd September. As in, 2 weeks. I was left feeling more than a bit stunned.

Fortunately the email contained a clue as to where this was all coming from. The head of the Sociolinguistics Scheme here at Essex, Dave Britain, had put my name forward as being a good person to ask. Now, you have to understand. This is the second time I've had a nearly unbelievable job offer arrive, fully formed, into my inbox. How is it possible? Most people don't get to teach at more than one University during their PhD. And here I've been offered 3?!? So, I emailed back saying I was very flattered that I was being asked, but I needed to find out what my teaching schedule at Essex was, and speak with my advisor, as well. So this morning, I rang Rebecca (my advisor). Filled her in on my offer. She was thrilled about the opportunity. Then I went and spoke to my boss (for my teaching position at the Uni) who told me that I'll be teaching Wednesday/Thursday this term, thus leaving me free to my own devices on Monday. So I went back to Rebecca's office to discuss it a bit further. End result: I decided to accept the offer. I reiterate: I must be insane.

So, my schedule this term: Mondays -- Two hour lecture at QM, probably an office hour there. Tuesdays -- LOTS OF RESEARCH ON MY PhD!! and then Young Women's in the evenings. Wednesday -- more research on my PhD and attend the lecture for my Essex class. Thursday -- 2 classes of Essex classes, Data Session (Research Group) with Rebecca, Essex Office Hour. Friday -- back to research for my PhD. Oh -- and in there somewhere I'll have to prepare 3 classes of teaching. Plus my church responsibilities. Ha ha ha. I'm reminded of a song: Who Needs Sleep? That's so my theme song for this next 3 months.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Laugh Out Loud Reading

Ok, these books are TOTAL eye-candy. Of course, I'm not referring to the delectable artistry of the covers (because they're definately not -- in fact, the covers seem to have little or nohing to do with the plot), but rather the 'empty calorie' content. They're nothing that will be remembered 100 years from now. In fact, they probably won't even be remembered 10 minutes from now. However, I kept sniggering the whole way through! I've read the first, I'm most of the way through the second, and the third is sitting on my night stand saying, 'Read me!!'


Hero Seriese by Moira J. Moore

Friday, 5 September 2008

Shiver

Growing up in Michigan, I remember September as a warm, but cooling off, month. However, this year, in England, I felt like Autumn had arrived at the flip of a switch. The calendar flipped over, and so did the weather. I've had to get out my jackets and long sleeved shirts. I don't really mind that, though. I actually quite like the cool weather. But just at the moment, in the in between stage where you really can't justify turning on the heater, it's a bit painful. *sigh* Never mind. I'll just add another jumper to those I've already go on. *shiver* *shiver*

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Dusting Off The Dance Shoes

I've always loved to dance. My grandma used to tell me stories about when I was little, before I could even walk, pulling myself up in front of the TV and 'dancing' to the Muppet Show theme music. As a child I did all the normal little girl things: ballet, tap, jazz . . . etc, and continued doing that sort of dance on and off through high school.

Then I hit university. And just in time for the Swing Revival! I took ballroom classes, and loved them, but my heart belonged to the Lindy Hop! It's the child of the Charleston and Swing Music, originating in the Savoy Ballroom, in Harlem, NYC in 1929. By the 1940's it was hugely popular, and the American Service Men brought it over to Europe during the Second World War. It's this style Swing Dance that I do.

Only, I haven't been doing it! When I was at BYU it was easy. They have a swing club where I learned and danced multiple times/week by my last year. When I lived in London, I still danced at least once/week. And in Sheffield, it was a little less frequent, but still every couple weeks. Since moving to Colchester, though, I've been hard pressed to do much of anything. There's no club out here, so I have to travel, which is expensive. It also means I get home late, and most of the good dance nights are week nights! So I don't go very often. In fact, I got a new pair of dance shoes for Christmas (I was bruising my toe nails in the old pair!) and by the last week in August, I hadn't used them once!

No more!!!! I refuse to live like this. I went dancing on Friday. It was fabulous. Really great venue. Small group, but very friendly. I was dancing the whole night. So much, in fact, that half way through my 6th back-to-back dance I had to beg to stop. I couldn't breathe. And I'm going again next Friday. I'm also going to start attending the Cambridge dances on Monday nights. It's about the same distance, but I can drive there, so I'm in no danger of missing my last train home and don't have to stress.

So, the upshot: My life 'don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!' See you on the dance floor!

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Single Photo LO Help!

Ok, this is a post for my Scrapbooking friends:

I have these two random and unconnected photos. I'm working on a 12x12 album. I'm terrible at doing single photo layouts. So, does anyone have any ideas for what to do?

The first: The Cathedral at St. David's in Wales


The second: A beck, or shallow, wide spot in a river, very like a ford. My surname is Beck.
Suggestions? Resource? Slaps upside the head? Anything welcome at this point!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Falling In Love

I love to read. Actually, that's not quite true. I love to read. That might not even be sufficiently strong to express my delight in the written word. One of my friends (Hi Miss M!) requested that I share some of my favourite books on my blog. So . . . this one's for you, doll!

I enjoy all sorts of different genres. This particular series is what started me down the path of adventure. In fact, in view of my above description of my affection for books, it may surprise you to know that in my early years, I loathed reading. Turns out, I'm dyslexic. And one of the symptoms of my particular dyslexia (because there are loads of different types) is difficulty reading out loud. Now, think back. When you were learning to read, did you get to do it silently? NO! You had to do it out loud. It was miserably difficult for me. It wasn't that I couldn't read (because I could. Just fine, thank you) it's that something got lost between my eyes reading the words and my tongue repeating them back. (This is still the case, by the way. I really dislike reading out loud. It's occasionally reduced me to tears, though not for about 10 years, now.) However, my parents stuck with it. One of their tactics was Dad reading to me in the evenings. The theory was, I'd get hooked on the story and want to continue on my own. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately given the absurd number of books I've read in my life, not to mention the number of times I've reread many of them) the ploy worked. I was captivated. And thus started my love affair with books. This is the series that lit the flame: The Pridain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. It consists of 5 books:

The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, The High King
(In that order)
It follows a young man named Taran in his coming of age quest. I loved it. Besides, he's got a red-headed princess for a side kick who's got more fight than anyone Hollywood's ever devised. What's not to like! It vaguely follows Welsh legend (with a name like Lloyd, Welsh should not surprise anyone) same as the Lord of the Rings series. Disney did an animated version of the Black Cauldron. Don't bother finding it. It was rubbish. Which is really tragic, given how fabulous the book was! They're light reads, rather along the same reading level as the Chronicles of Narnia. But just as worthy of a read. I hope I've brought a little bit of joy into your lives.