Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Off On the Road to Morocco . . .

We're off on the Road to Morocco!
This camel is tough on the spine.
Where we're going, why we're going how can we be sure?
I'll lay you 8 to 9 that we'll meet Dorothy Lamour!
Off on the Road to Morocco!
Well hooray! Get in line! Everybody duck! Here comes the green line!
I hear this land is where they do the dance of the 7 veils.
We'd tell you more, but we would have the sensor on our tail!
Off on the Road to Morocco!
The men eat fire, sleep on nails and saw their wives in half.
It seems to me there should be easier ways to get a laugh!
Like Webster's Dictionary, we're Morocco Bound.
Or like the complete works of William Shakespeare that you get at the corner store for a dollar 99!
Or like a complete set of Omar Cayan that you get at the department store at Christmas time for your Cousin Julia!
We're Morocco Bound!

(More or less the words to the Title Song for Bob Hope/Bing Crosby's Road to Morocco, 1942)

This is the last post before I leave for Morocco. I may post during the journey, but don't count on it. In any case, I'll be sure to give a good accounting when I get back, complete with some awesome photos. I'm particularly looking forward to the camel trek out to a Bedouin Tribe in the Sahara, where we'll be spending the night.

Speak to you when I get back!

Secret Recipe

Ok, Coila has asked for the recipe for my much sought after, totally amazing, not-a-calorie-in-it spice cake. So, here you go!

Spice Cake

1 c. sour cream
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda

Sift dry ingredients together 3 times. Beat eggs well and add to sour cream. Mix together and beat well. Bake 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees.

Cream Cheese Icing

1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese (the small one)

1 stick of butter (1 cup or half a 250 g block)
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar (about 1 pound)

If you're going to pipe the icing, make sure you sift the sugar to get rid of all the lumps. Add the sugar slowly so you don't get huge puffs of sugar billowing up from the bowl. If you add the full amount of sugar, it will be quite thick. If you want it thinner either add less sugar, or add a little milk to thin it out.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Easter Snow?

Woke up Easter Sunday morning and started down the stairs. In my house, the stairs face the back garden, and there is a window looking out. Imagine my shock when I looked out the window and what did I see? I'll give you a hint -- it was white, but not 'Popcorn popping on the Apricot Tree'. More like someone got overly excited with the popcorn maker and sprayed it everywhere! We had SNOW!!! I've seen a grand total of maybe 3 inches of snow in the 4 years I've lived in England. None of it later than mid February. And by the time I got to Church (10.00 AM) it was more than an inch deep. My grandmother is visiting. She had Shingles last summer, and has some residual pain from that, which causes her not to be able to sit on a hard bench for 3 hours of Church without really suffering, so in the middle I darted off to collect her for Sacrament Meeting (which we have last). I had to be very careful driving out, because the snow had reached 4 inches by that time, and Colchester simply was not prepared for it. It continued to snow all through Sacrament, reaching the staggering depth of 6 inches! Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who's side you're on) it quit snowing and started to melt by the end of Sacrament meeting, so I didn't get a photo of it at its deepest. Never mind.

After Church I came home and got dinner started. The West family came to my house for Easter dinner. We had roast beef, roast potatoes, mashed sweet potato, green salad, carrots and parsnips for dinner, and Vanessa made a raspberry trifle and a chocolate birthday cake (for me!) for dessert. The kids played with the playmobil sets Mom gave me for Christmas, and had a great time slaying dragons and jousting knights. All in all there were 11 people (me included) in my house for dinner: Claire (housemate), Russ (her boyfriend), David, Vanessa, Elliot, Camilla, Jonny, Hannah and Jordan (West), Grandma and me! Loads of fun. Thanks for coming, everyone!

Unofficially Official Notice

Remember that post a while back about maybe going to BYU as a visiting instructor? Well, I decided to accept the post. Had to fill out a bit of paper work, and I've been waiting around for a while to get confirmation on being hired. There was always the outside chance that, once they'd seen my CV (or Resume for those of you who don't do Latin) they'd decide I wasn't really right for the job. I've been waiting for over a month. But Friday, 21st March, I got an email from Cynthia (she of the study leave) saying she'd been into the Head of Department's office that day to finish off the paperwork on getting me hired. So, I'm heading to Utah in January 2009! Right . . . where to live?

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

The House of the Lord

This Saturday was the Youth Temple Trip. I get asked frequently what the difference between a Church buildingand a Temple is. The church buildings are used for weekly Sunday meetings, midweek youth groups, weddings, socials, etc . . . The Temple is very different. We welcome any and all to come to our church meetings. The Temple, however, is more restricted. Only members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are permitted to enter the Temple. Occasionally we are criticized for this practice, some accusing us of secrecy. This is not the reason for restricted access. In fact, in a perfect world, everyone would come and go freely and frequently from the Temple. Or, that's my view of perfect, anyway. There are several commandments which must be fulfilled before a person can return to the presence of our Heavenly Father. One of these is the commandment to be baptized. Now, God is no respecter of person's right? That means that it doesn't matter who a person was, if he/she hasn't complied with the commandment, he/she can't enter the Kingdom of God. However, we're also taught that God is benevolent and kind, etc. There are many many places in the world, and times throughout History where the full knowledge of God has not extended. How could God require all people to be baptized, and then send some of them to places and times where they would never get the opportunity to do so? The answer is? The Temple. In the Temple, one of the things which we do is called "Baptisms for the Dead". Obviously we cannot baptize a spirit. So, a living person goes to the Temple and does the baptism as a proxy for the dead person. That person then has the option of accepting the baptism or not. It's not that we force baptism on people. The sacred nature of what we see as something which is a necessary step for everyone to take if they are to be in God's presence after this life is why access is restricted. It's restricted to those people who have already done the work for themselves (makes sense, doesn't it? You have to be baptized for yourself before you can be baptized for someone else?) and they have to be living in accordance with certain rules. That's the reason that we don't invite everyone into the Temple after it's dedicated. (Before it's dedicated, though, we hold open houses where the entire world is encouraged to come see what the Temple looks like on the inside.) Anyway, the point of this is that we took our Youth to the Temple to do baptisms for the dead. It was so great to see such dedication to the gospel in teenagers. These kids have made the decision to live by the rules which allow them to enter the Temple. That takes a lot of nerve. It's things like not smoking, drinking, or having sex, amongst other things. Pretty cool, I think! These kids have made the decision to Stand for Something!

The London Temple

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Happy Birthday Jenny

The 9th of March was Jenny's 25th Birthday. So clearly we had to have a party. Her kitchen is in disarray, due to ongoing building works, so I offered to host the party here. We decided that if it was good weather, we'd do barbecue, and if it was horrible, we'd do pizzas. That way I didn't have to do much work or spend too much money to host a party. The day before I baked the cake. Spice cake with cream cheese icing. Somehow spice cake has never taken off over here, so everyone is always terribly impressed by it. I always hear, 'Oh, I don't like cake, it's too sweet' and aways say, 'Try this one.' And when they do, they say, 'Wow! This is like carrot cake!' which is the most similar type of cake to spice cake. It's way less sweet than the typical chocolate or vanilla sponge. But to be fair, the real reason for the success of my cakes is the icing. Cream Cheese Icing has got to be the most perfect food on earth.

During most of the week leading up to Jenny's birthday, the weather was bright and sunny. And of course, the day before, it starts to rain. And rain is obviously projected for the day of the party, as well. It wouldn't be England, otherwise! The day of the party, though, was reasonably bright. It was overcast, but not thickly so. We'd been hearing predictions for heavy showers, but nothing was materialising in our area. However, just as people started to arrive, with barbecuables in tow, it started to pour. Clearly someone, probably Achelous, has a warped sense of humour! Fortunately, though, the shower only lasted 5 minutes. It dried up and the sun came out. So we ended up having a lovely time.

Monday, 3 March 2008

123 Book Tag

Leah, you rock! This is fun :)

I've been tagged by Leah in 123 Book Tag.
The rules are:

Find the book closest to you with at least 123 pages.
Turn to page 123
Find the fifth sentence
Post the next three sentences
Tag 5 people

So, from The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde:

Mycroft was feeding his bookworms in the workshop when Polly entered; she had just completed some mathematical calculations of almost incomprehensible complexity for him.

'I have the answer you wanted, Crofty, my love,' she said, sucking the end of a well-worn pencil.

'And that is?' asked Mycroft, busily pouring prepositions on to the bookworms, who devoured the abstract food greedily.

To find out what the heck is going on, and what Polly's answer was . . . you'll have to read the book! It's one of my favourites, I've read it several times. But be warned: Suspension of Belief is critical to the enjoyment of this author. It's satirical, facetious, and sarcastic. The Daily Telegraph (a UK Paper) says, 'Forget the rules of time, space and reality; just sit back and enjoy the adventure.' I absolutely concur! The back of this extraordinary piece of literature says:

Meet Thursday Nest, Literary Detective without equal, fear or boyfriend.

There is another 1985, where London's criminal gangs have moved into the lucrative literary market, and Thursday Next is on the trail of the new crime wave's Mr Big.

Acheron Hades has been kidnapping characters from the works of fiction and holding them to ransom. Jane Eyre is gone. Missing.

Thursday sets out to find a way into the book to repair the damage. But solving crimes against literature isn't easy when you also have to find time to halt the Crimean War, persuade the man you love to marry you, and figure out who really wrote Shakespeare's plays.

Perhaps today just isn't going to be Thursday's day.

My nominations for the Tag: Coila, Mithi, Heather C, Lauren B, Mark J.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Happy Leap Year!

Leap Day seems kind of magical to me. It's like an entire free 24 hours. Sadly, it doesn't get treated like that. I think it should be an International Holiday :) And mandatory naps for all!

So, reporting on my gym usage. I've been twice this week. Hoping for three times this next week. I've been doing about 40 minutes per session, just keeping my heart rate up. As I said before, I'm not really fussed about losing weight or training for a marathon. I just want to be a bit healthier. So, I'm achieving that goal. At least for this week . . .

Getting the Habit Back (Note: This should have been posted 24 February)

I live with a TriAthlete who's also part of the reigning World 2nd Place QuadAthlon Team, and training for the Edinburgh Marathon. A year and a half ago, I was at the gym every day. I felt great. I should be in fabulous shape. I've got a resident expert, and a fair amount of experience and training. And yet . . . somehow I've let all my previous hard work slip and go to waist (yes, I really did mean waist, not waste). However, I've made a decision. It's back to the gym for me! I actually like exercise! I really do! I'm terribly out of shape, but that's overcomeable. So . . . Claire (who has decided that training in the rain's not all it's cracked up to be) and I have joined the GYM! We joined on Friday night. Unfortunately, due to various prior commitments, we did not get to use the facilities this weekend. But I'm bound and determined to get back into it. Leah? I'm following your exercise blog. You're a real inspiration. I'm not trying to 'do' anything. Just get real exercise back in my schedule.

Those prior commitments? Spring Cleaning. Well . . . Spring Organising! We attacked our bedrooms and the office. Claire, in a herculean effort even managed to put a 3 drawer filing cabinet together. I got the 2 office chairs, but they were really no trouble. You should have heard the swearing (just kidding. Claire's language is always G Rated!) coming from the other room. It was not easy. But she did it! We've got a few missing screws (not loose, though), but the drawers are usable! Now all we have to do is USE them!