Monday, 27 February 2006

butty explained

We took the bus to Liverpool instead of the train. It's much cheaper, but not nearly as much fun. There were so many people going to Liverpool that they put two buses on the route. Then one went straight to Liverpool and the other did all the stops for people who wanted to go to places on the way. This got us there almost an hour early.

We’re staying with Ant’s Nan and Granddad. We were hungry when we arrived so Etta made us beef butties. I have finally figured out the difference between butties and sandwiches: a butty has only the named item with the bread and maybe some butter. A sandwich contains the filling as well as lettuce (or “salad”), tomatoes, and maybe some cheese. So my beef butty was two pieces of white bread, generously buttered, and a slice of roast beef. Now I know what to expect when offered a Northern butty! Later in the evening I also enjoyed a ham butty, and a ham and tomato butty, prepared by Ant's sister Rachele.

Ant, being a good Northern boy, eats every kind of butty. Some of his favourites are the chip butty, the rice and curry butty, and the sausage butty.

Friday, 24 February 2006

visit to the V&A

Yesterday I went to the Victoria and Albert Museum with my good friend Naomi. It's a huge place and we didn't see nearly everything. We did see lots of interesting furniture, wrought iron, musical instruments, and fashion.

In the main entrance of the V&A is a huge chandelier by Dale Chihuly. It is made up of blown glass segments suspended together.

In October I saw an exhibition by Chihuly at Kew Gardens, which was fantastic. He had created organic forms that nestled with the plants and trees in the gardens.

Thursday, 23 February 2006

Visit to St Paul's Cathedral

I visited the beautiful St Paul's Cathedral yesterday.

Here's a shot of the inside of the front of the church. You can see the pulpit on the middle right and the choir sits behind this.

Looking up into the dome there are beautiful mosaics on the walls and ceiling. I climbed up 259 stairs to get to the Whispering Gallery around the rim of the dome (just below the windows).

Continuing up the stairs takes you to the galleries on the outside of the dome. The Stone Gallery is 378 steps up and is just above the tall pillars. The Golden Gallery is at the beginning of the straight part of the dome, just above the curve of the building. It was cold and windy up there (530 steps up) but the view of London in every direction was spectacular.

After visiting the main church and the galleries, I headed down into the crypt. Lots of important people are buried here, most notably the Duke of Wellington (who secured the victory over Napoleon in the battle of Waterloo in 1815) and Admiral Nelson (who died in the battle at Trafalger in 1805). There are many plaques on the walls to commemorate others (much like St Paul's Church in Halifax).

Also in the crypt there is a bust of Sir John A Macdonald, the first prime minister of Canada. Underneath his unmistakable nose, the enscription has a quotation reads, "A British subject I was born, a British subject I will die." There is also a memorial to William Blake, the poet. After the vital statistics, there is a beautiful stanza from one of his poems.
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

This is the first stanza from Auguries of Innocence, a long poem which defends the beauty of nature and rebukes those who defile it. The poet mentions that those who abuse nature, poor people, or the very young will be judged. We need to show respect for the world and God's people in it. Later in the poem, Blake reminds us that God's purposes undergird all that happens to us.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
I was really touched by reading Blake's memorial plaque. I would like to see God's purpose in nature around me and to understand and accept the joy and woe in my life. Being in St Paul's was a reminder of the spiritual dimension that many people miss.

I stayed for a choral evensong service. I got to sit in the quire near the high altar. The service was lovely--the men and boys choir led the worship and there were two priests there who read the lessons. The service, although formal, was also inviting and friendly. Most of the congregation were tourists and there was a significant proportion of business people as well.

Tuesday, 21 February 2006

photo swapping

Sonya and I saw this funny sign in a village in Maine on our shopping trip there a couple of years ago.

Sonya and I managed to share pictures today with Hello. Anyone else want to try this? It was easy and similar to MSN. We chatted in one pane and swapped photos in the other--and it was very quick.

molecular gastronomy

Matt and April like to read NewScientist, so a copy of it pops up now and again in our flat. I was reading an interview today with a man named Harold McGee who is a food scientist and writer. He has answered such questions as does washing mushrooms make them soggy (it doesn't) and does searing steak seal in the juices (it doesn't). He and a famous chef (Heston Blumenthal) started molecular gastronomy, a process where you can add molecules of something else to your food to add a different smell or taste. Sounds bizarre--like the oyster served on a jelly. The jelly was clear but had some molecules from dirt added so that "when you put it in your mouth it had the aroma of earth." The aim is to make "the dining experience less predictable." Mr McGee says that "if you don't know what's going on, your brain works a lot harder. You're engaged in a way you wouldn't normally be.... I think that makes you a better eater, an eater capable of getting more pleasure."

This idea is true in other areas, too, I think. When you are faced with something different you work harder to understand it. Science is based on that curiosity. Also, students are bored by lessons they find easy; investigative approaches work better because the student is interested and becomes a better learner, a learner capable of getting more out of the experience.

Mr McGee advocates the Slow Food movement, which protects and promotes local and traditional food. The interviewer asked him what he would consider the healthiest diet. He responds by saying that we are continually refining our ideas, but the maxim still holds true that the more varied your diet the better off you are. The interviewer sums up by asking whether he means moderation in all things. Mr McGee makes an interesting come-back: he quotes another food writer (M.F.K. Fisher) who said, "Everything in moderation, including moderation." So he advocates some feasting and overindulgence because it is an experience that satisfies us in a different way. He says we need to consider both physical satisfaction and quality of life.

An extension of this, not made by Mr McGee, would be that fasting is an important aspect of our gastronomical life as well. I have not fasted in a very long time. Thinking along McGee's lines, you would conclude that fasting improves our enjoyment and appreciation of food. Thinking along spiritual lines, it reminds us that we have another dimension to our lives besides the physical. We need Jesus, our spiritual food, as we need physical food. And he is to be enjoyed as much as feasting is enjoyable.

Monday, 20 February 2006

marking, Liverpool, and London

I went into work today. I have put off my marking for so long that it is now an insurmountable task. I marked for about four hours today and didn't even get through one class of the five. It's going to be a long week, since I really should do them all. I also have some unit planning to do that my colleagues need to start teaching from when we get back next week. Sigh.

I really want to do some fun things this week as well. We're going to Liverpool on the weekend. We'll stay with Ant's grandparents and see the rest of his family and friends. I also want to do some sight-seeing in London. I haven't really been to see all that much of the city, so I think this is a chance for me to do that.

On that line of thought, I went with Bree to Portabello Road market on Saturday. It's a long street lined with stalls and shops that goes on for more than a kilometer. There's a lot of vintage and fashion jewellery, antiques, clothes by young designers, fruit and vegetables, and flea market stalls. I bought two pairs of pearl earrings and Bree got a brooch. We were hungry by the time we got to the food stands, and so we picked up some lunch to eat as we walked. It was such a fun time to mingle with the hundreds of people there and look at everything on sale.

Thursday, 16 February 2006

great Valentine's day

Ant and I celebrated Valentine's day on Wednesday (15 February). Ant gets home from uni earlier on Wednesday so we had more time to have dinner together. I booked us a table at a restaurant just up the road from us called Ditto. We have gone there for delicious drinks a couple of times and always wanted to try the restaurant. The meals we had were really good, the atmosphere quite nice, and the price not too bad as well. We had a great time.

I wore the top from my wedding dress. When I had the dress made for the wedding, I planned it in two pieces so that I could wear them again separately for special occasions. This was my first chance to do so.

I got a great present from Ant. He bought me the book How to Walk in High Heels by Camilla Morton. I had laughed once when we saw it in the book shop once and he remembered. It lives up to its claim of being "the girl's guide to everything." It's hilarious and quite comprehensive. The section about high heels includes advice on how to select a heel, how to know when to wear a heel, how to put a heel on, and how to aisle glide. "Fact: supermarket aisles are the perfect place to practice your glide. Not only do you get to stock up on all your groceries and wow the locals but you can get up to twenty-four aisles' worth of runway-smooth surface to practice on, while being supported by a trolley, the ultimate stabiliser for a novice stiletto wearer."

Ms Morton discusses how to walk in heels on all surfaces, such as carpet, pavements, marble, and cobblestones ("the HORROR of all HORRORS"). There's a mini article by Manolo Blahnik, "the patron saint of the stiletto", about how to choose a shoe. Other chapters have information about getting everything into your handbag, how to play poker, how to love art, how to house hunt, how to get a mortgage, and how to make curtains. This book is hours of fun and informative too!

Tuesday, 14 February 2006

you are what you eat

There's a TV show I like to watch called You Are What You Eat. Dr Gillian McKeith is a tough love nutritionist who exposes bad eating habits that make people sick and unhealthy. She shocks the participant by lining up all their week's food to see; then she puts them on a strict diet to get their bodies functioning again.

Her recipes are mostly vegetarian. On the Channel Four website you can find the recipe for tofu and bean burgers. Sweet potato shepherd's pie sounds lovely. Often she makes her participants go vegetarian at first. Ant would never go for this. He always jokes that he is a meatetarian. He says he doesn't feel full without meat. I hope that I will find some good vegetarian meals that he likes. At the moment I am trying to incorporate more fish into our weekly menus. We've discovered that we really like eating tuna steaks, and they are delicious marinated for about 20 minutes in soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and a bit of hot sauce. I'm going to try Dr McKeith's marinated salmon on spinach and leeks, I think.

Monday, 13 February 2006

God's mystery

The Trinity is always a hard thing to understand, and especially understanding that Jesus was both God and man. Yesterday at church, Pastor Hany preached about Christ being God's mystery. We were looking at Colossians 1:15-2:10. Hany said that the foremost miracle of Christ was not the resurrection, but the incarnation. It's a miracle and a mystery that Jesus, the Son, became human. In chapter 1, verse 19, Paul says that "in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell," and in 2:9 it says that "in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily." God came to dwell bodily among us, and the goal of this was to reveal himself--this is possible since Christ is the exact image of the invisible God (1:15).

What does this mean for me? I can hear my dad's voice ringing in my ears: "If you want to know God, look at Jesus!" My dad makes it sound so easy; sometimes I find Jesus cryptic. He lives in a strange time and he does strange things. It does seem like a mystery to me sometimes. But I have the confidence that Jesus has paved my way to God and I have been reconciled. I can study Jesus and get to know him because I am not estranged from God. I can discover the riches of the glory of the mystery, which is Christ in me, the hope of glory (1:27). Praise to God for his grace!

Saturday, 11 February 2006

new and old

Ant and I are going to have supper with our new friends, Matt and Bree. The first day we met them (about a month ago) we invited them over for lunch. They stayed most of the day--a good sign for a new friendship!

I'm making a batch of cookies to take with us. I used a recipe from the Voth family cookbook. It was published at the Voth family reunion in 2000. My mum's mum was Katie (Katharina) Voth. Katharina is also my mum's name and my middle name. The cookbook has a portrait of my great-grandparents, Hermann and Maria Voth, who were married in 1906. They moved to Manitoba in 1924 with their seven children, one of whom was Katie. The cookies I'm baking right now are from a recipe contributed by another of the Voth children, my mum's aunt Margaret. They are cited as being Uncle Corny's favourites. How could I turn down cookies with a heritage like that?

And I'm listening to Ashley MacIsaac in the background. He's a fantastic rocky celtic fiddler. A taste of Nova Scotia to go with my Mennonite cookies and new American friends.

Uncle Corney's Favourite Cookies

1 cup margerine or butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar (next time try 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups white sugar (try 1 cup)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups of oatmeal
1 cup of coconut
1/2 cup of raisins (today I'm using pecan pieces instead)
1 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teapsoon baking soda

Mix together first five ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together other ingredients and then add to large bowl. Mix well. Drop by teaspoon and press down with a fork dipped in milk or flour. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden. Makes 6 dozen cookies.

Friday, 10 February 2006


At home sick again. :( I have been sick most of this week, now, and I've noticed how the house has degenerated. April and Matt were both sick as well at the start of the week and Ant was busy as usual so everything just got worse and worse. The stacks of dirty dishes were so discouraging. I forced and Ant and me to get through them all last night. Ant washed until his skin was hurting and we swapped jobs. We used three tea towels til they were sopping. But at least we left the kitchen clean.

Which means that today I have started dirtying it again. Ant brought me breakfast in bed and I still have not gotten out of bed. This week my body was experiencing entropy as well as the house. But let's hope that I am soon on the way back up.

Thursday, 9 February 2006

reading list

I have been doing more reading lately. Not terribly intellectual, mind. But at least my brain is a little engaged. And I joined the library today! It's a tiny little place with two rooms and large windows, located down the road in the bottom of a council house tower.

April's friend with the large book collection has been keeping me going til now and April and I have been swapping books. I just finished Sophie's Bakery for the Broken Hearted by Lolly Winston. In the US, this book is called Good Grief. It's one step above chick lit (which is sometimes all I can handle during the work week) with its apt descriptions and beautiful details.

The last five books before that were:
  • The Guy Next Door by Meg Cabot (author of The Princess Diaries)--pure chick lit and very entertaining. It's written solely as a collection of emails.
  • Mrs Kimble by Jennifer Haigh--about three women who marry Ken Kimble through his life.
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden--beautiful. I'm still planning to go see the film.
  • Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers--based on the Bible story of Hosea. This is a well-written and very engrossing book.
  • Unless by Carol Shields--a Canadian author. About a woman whose teenage daughter chooses to live on the streets of Toronto in pursuit of beauty.

modern conveniences

My newest cooking ingredient: lemongrass. Last night I made Thai chicken and lemongrass soup--yummy with coconut milk, a bit of hot sauce, lemongrass, lime juice, baby corn, and shards of spinach. The recipe calls for stalks of lemongrass, but my local/online supermarket sells lemongrass in a sqeezy tube. I squirted in about two teaspoons, hoping this was roughly equivalent. It turned out great.

This was my first forray into online grocery shopping. Since I was sick on the weekend and early this week when it was already my turn to cook, I had the mounds of food delivered. They were scheduled to arrive between 6 and 7 pm, so I rushed here to be home by a few minutes before 6. Good thing, too, since I heard loud knocking ("Please knock loudly, doorbell broken") at six o'clock on the dot. My shopping was unpacked from four storage crates into my front hall. Ant and I could never have lugged it all home. Well, maybe. We'd have got a workout.

We've also started having our milk delivered. At 50p a pint, this seems like a fantastic plan. We figure we go through 12 pints in a week! So each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 4 pints will be delivered to our door in the wee hours.

Tuesday, 7 February 2006


What kind of weird urge makes you want to look up old friends online? And then not contact them. Just try to get a little glimpse of their lives and then hide again. I get the urge about once a year. I usually search for ex-boyfriends and friends of exes, people that seem lost to me forever. I see that one is posting help for sysadmins. Another is the treasurer of a salmon association. I notice that an ex's sister graduated recently in photography. For others, there's not much info available. When I searched for one long-lost friend, I found documents with my name as well.

Perhaps some of these are not lost? I wonder which would welcome an advance on my part? If they were searching for me, probably they would reach a dead end after a while. My name has changed and I have moved. I conclude that most exes and friends of exes don't really want to hear from me and dredge up the past. Do we still have anything in common?

I have always been terrible with communication. One reason I hold back from making contact is that I know my urges to connect are usually short-lived. Does that mean I am inherently self-centred and there is no hope for me?

day eleven and other surprises

It's been a while. Matt and April's blog has inspired me to at least write a bit more reguarly. But I find it hard to understand how they can be consistently so funny. I guess some people are just more funny deep down, like Ant. I like to think that I am a more reflective type.

I have been off sick from school for two days. I actually wanted to go in today. Now that's a change of heart for me. It was day eleven today, the day of completely off-timetable activities. Sounds like fun, but it can be horrible. It's not too well organised. But Owen and I are running a maths fun day each time and it's not too bad. We've been teaching our group card tricks and doing little investigations; lots of colouring, not too much brain power, hopefully. We're looking to hire a magician who can teach the children some card tricks.

Valentine's is approaching and I am on the lookout for a good present for Ant. I was thinking about buying tickets to go see an Everton game in London. But his friend Benoit has eclipsed me and is taking Ant to a game tomorrow. I am too poor to afford the TV Ant really wants. I managed to find a wine-tasting tour that might do the trick, though. If I don't see anything more inspiring in the next few days, I'll go for that.

I have been growing my hair. Even before Ant and I got engaged he demanded that I grow my hair for the wedding. I liked my pixie cut, but I agreed that I would grow it at least until the wedding. Well, now it's been growing for more than a year and a half and it is quite long!

Sunday, 5 February 2006

My long hair.