Thursday, 29 June 2006

mood matching

What DVD to rent when you are having a bad hair day? What to watch if you are broke? For a girls night in? A night with the guys? Check out the hilarious mood matching service provided by the Guardian film section. Be sure to see what they recommend for watching if you are pregnant.

The Micro-Compact home. Look at that silhouette. (Smart car not included.)

micro-compact home

A solution to the expense of city living! I was reading about the micro-compact home, built in Austria and shipped anywhere in Europe. It's a 2.6 m cube that contains everything you need for essential city living.
  • two compact double beds, each measuring 198cm x 107cm, with covered cushions
  • storage space for bedding and cleaning equipment
  • a sliding table measuring 105cm x 65cm, for dining for up to five people
  • flat screen television in the living/dining space
  • a shower and toilet cubicle
  • a kitchen area, which is fitted with electrical points and features a double hob, sink and extending tap, microwave, fridge and freezer units, three compartment waste unit, storage shelves, cutlery drawers with gentle return sprung slides and double level work surfaces
  • thermostat controlled ducted warm air heating, air conditioning, water heating
  • fire alarm and smoke detectors
It only costs £50,000! A bargain considering the costs in London these days. It's advertised as smart living for students or for short term stays. The architect says he's been living in one for three days a week for the last six months and it's quite comfortable. And as a bonus, two units can be joined together to make a living space for two to four people.

And the colour scheme! How calming.

Check out that TV. That raises the price, surely.

Tuesday, 27 June 2006

This picture shows: (a) Ant enjoying a World Cup game (Spain vs. France), (b) our new TV, (c) the largest plant we own, on the table beside the couch, (d) that it is still light out at 9pm.

Sunday, 25 June 2006

Grand Prix du Canada

The Canadian Grand Prix was this afternoon in Montreal. Here's Jacques Villeneuve, the only Canadian driver in Formula One at the moment. Sadly he hit the wall near the end of the race and didn't finish. He's having a great season. Michael Schumacher, Ant's and my favourite driver, managed to finish second after a series of incidents and accidents.

This is a very strange plant in our back garden. I've been spending more time out there recently. Our little, old fashioned BBQ is on the right.

The contents of the organic veg box this weekend:
1 onion
2 carrots
small potatoes
4 courgettes (zucchini)
cooked beetroot
curly lettuce
2 bananas
3 oranges
1 pear

It's delivered every Friday and it's different each week. My challenge is to figure out how to use it all each week.

Good weather this weekend means I'm drying our laundry outside. It's nice not to have it cluttering up our bedroom.

draw near to God

Today Pastor Hany was talking about prayer. We read Matthew 6:5-8.
5 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

I have found prayer to be a difficult topic for years. My dad gave me some good advice about prayer once: when you don't feel in the mood to pray, you need to pray until you are. Hard teaching! Hany said the same thing today. First he said that we are all called to pray. Jesus assumes this by saying, "When you pray...". And we should pray with the right motives. Our desire is not to be seen or to make ourselves feel less guilty or to fulfill a sense of duty. Instead prayer is for coming close to God. In Isaiah God says, "These people come near to me with their mouth, and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." (Isaiah 29:13) The point of prayer is not to bring a list to him since he already knows what you need. The point is not to heap up empty phrases (NRSV) because we think we will be heard because of our words. The purpose in the asking and the talking is that it brings us close to him.

Part of coming with the right motives is to speak honestly about the state of my heart. It's no good to come to God and say, blandly, "Dear Father, I thank you that... blah, blah." Instead we needs to say honestly how we are. "Dear God," we can say, "I'm having a hard time praying." Or we can say, "Dear Lord, I'm angry and I can't think straight." It's no use saying all the right things if we aren't saying the honest things. In this way, we bring our hearts close to him, avoiding the distance that Isaiah said was between empty prayer and God.

Jesus says that we are to go into a room and close the door. Only one room in most Jewish houses had a door that locked: the storeroom. It was also a room without a window. So Jesus is saying that we need to leave distractions as much as possible. God the Father sees what we do when we pray in secret like this. Notice that it doesn't say that he hears us, since he's really looking into our hearts to see our motives. He sees exactly what is in our heart and he knows the words on our lips. So the purpose of prayer is to open our hearts to him.

The person who prays to be seen, Jesus says, earns their reward. They get seen and gain the glory from people that they sought. But they do not gain the favour of God. If we pray to fulfill our sense of duty, we get the reward we seek and no longer feel guilty. But if we want to honour God and please him, we must approach prayer with a desire to come closer to God and open our hearts honestly.

Thursday, 22 June 2006

Wal-Mart and unions

You may already know that I am anti-Wal-Mart. My brother Micah worked there for a while and I got an insider's view into the way they treat their staff. My boycott of Wal-Mart has extended to the budget supermarket Asda since I moved here. They proudly display that they are part of the Wal-Mart family on their signs. (Why would you advertise such a thing? Surely it does not bring in business.)

I was reading today in the Guardian that Asda employees are going on strike soon for five days. They are protesting about wages and the right to a union. They plan to strike over the American holiday as well--because employees "want independence from the anti-trade union tactics of Wal-Mart worldwide."

I have recently become a union member; it's required in my job. My mother has always spoken out about unions. They are essential in some ways. But she complains that although the goal of the union is to take power from bosses and give it to the employees, the union favours those with seniority to the detriment of employees with less experience. A power differential is still there.

Well, there is a power differential between Wal-Mart employees and their company. Wal-Mart is the twentieth largest economy in the world (the first nineteen are large countries). They get what they want with their strong arm tactics. What effect will the Asda strike have?

Monday, 19 June 2006

My new cookbook.
Yay, Bob! I can't help exclaiming this every time I think of him. After some discussion in these pages recently (see June 15), I went searching to see how he has been doing lately. He's the Surreal Gourmet who taught me how to become an A-list caesar salad maker, how to create the delicious pear and Camembert quesadillas, and how to poach salmon in the dishwasher. I ordered his third cookbook online after the previous posting. It arrived today!

And Ant already had a look at the book and when I got home, I saw that he had created Bob's better chopsticks for me. How great are they?

My new chopsticks.

Sunday, 18 June 2006

congratulations Sara and John!

My dear friend Sara is now engaged! Her boyfriend John proposed on Thursday on the Charles Bridge in Prague--which would have been very romantic if she hadn't been making fun of him for being sappy at the time. I am eagerly looking forward to the video, which Sara's sister Emily just happened to take of the event!

Many blessings on them as they plan for their wedding and marriage.

living room picnic

Ant and I found ourselves with a night to ourselves and a DVD to watch yesterday. So we went to Waitrose (a more posh grocery store than we usually shop at) and purchased really nice food for a picnic. We decided to spend up to the amount we would spend eating out at a fast food restaurant, for example. That meant we purchased a nice bottle of white wine, poppy rolls, honey roast ham, and double Gloucester cheese with chives. We also got baby spinach and rocket leaves, with marinated artichoke hearts to go into a salad with cherry tomatoes. We set it all out on the carpet in front of the TV and enjoyed it while watching Munich. A lovely date night in!

Thursday, 15 June 2006

Ah, Bob, wonderful Bob.


Chez Bob's Party Caesar

1/2 t salt
1 t coarsely ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 anchovies or 1 t anchovy paste
1 T Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk, coddled
1 1/2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1/3 c safflower oil (or other mild oil)
1 1/2 t red wine vinegar
1 1/2 medium-large heads of romaine lettuce, washed and dried
2 c croutons
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese

Coddle the egg by boiling a pan of water and then dunking the egg in it for about 45 seconds. Reserve the yolk and discard the white.
Add the first eight ingredients to a wooden salad bowl, one at a time. Beginning with the garlic, after adding each new ingredient, use the back of a soup spoon to grind it against the wall of the bowl and blend it with the previous ingredients into a smooth paste. It should take about fifteen seconds of muscle power to blend in each new ingredient. Yes, Caesar salad making will soon be an Olympic sport.
Add the oil and vinegar and blend well.
Just before serving, tear or slice the lettuce leaves into bite-sized pieces and add to salad bowl. Toss thoroughly with dressing.
Add the croutons and cheese, toss again, and serve.
Serves six.

The above is copied exactly from Bob's book, The Surreal Gourmet Entertains. This is the recipe that started Sonya eating salad. I used to make it when we house sat at Grammie and Grandad's.

We also made a great meal for her soon-to-be husband and in-laws, which included a cold strawberry soup.

Strawberry Soup

3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 c water
4 c fresh strawberries, halved (about 700g)
1 1/2 t grated lemon peel
2 t grated orange peel
1/4 c sherry (or orange juice)
4 T whipping cream

Combine sugar and water in saucepan.
Bring to boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for ten minutes. Cool.
Combine next four ingredients in large bowl. Add sugar mixture and stir.
Process in a blender until smooth.
Strain juice into a large bowl. Discard seeds. Chill.
Garnish individual servings with cream and mint sprigs.
Makes 3 1/2 c and serves four.

The soup was delicious. The recipe came from one of Sonya's books; a Company's Coming book about cooking through the seasons. We also served a spinach salad with strawberries and salmon with a cilantro sauce. As we were sitting down we learned that Kevin's mum is allergic to salmon. We hastily changed the plan by dragging something out of the fridge. And her in-laws brought a bottle of lovely wine, but we had no corkscrew! Ah well. Good thing their marriage didn't depend on our dinner.

Monday, 12 June 2006

global warming

While reading online today I saw a Christianity Today poll about global warming. Here is the question.

Should evangelicals lobby on global warming?
1.• No, there is no such thing.
2.• No, our priority should be evangelism.
3.• No, the science is still unclear.
4.• Yes, it is our job to care for creation.
5.• Yes, concern for the climate is neighbor love.
6.• Yes, we need to address all social issues.
7.• I don't know.

Which of these options would you choose? I think the best fit for me is number 6. But really I think that if there was an "other" line I would choose that. It seems to me that evangelical groups that lobby are not seen in a very good light and they are ineffective because they alienate people. Campaigning for environmental (and other) issues is something that lots of normal people do, and I think we should join them. In general, thinking about global warming has nothing to if you are a Christian or not, but whether you have a caretaking outlook. Most of my colleagues and I, for example, would agree on this issue. What do you think?

Sunday, 11 June 2006

new gizmo

I am happy to say that since Mother has been here we have bought a memory card reader. That means that not only can Mum access her photos while she's here, I can access my photos on my own laptop, without having to have Ant here and his computer plugged in. The good news for you, dear blog readers, is that I will be able to put up more photos, hopefully. Yay! I have decided I will start carrying my camera around in my handbag and that will allow me to shot when the mood strikes.

travelling by train

Mum and Dad on the train. We want down to Colin and Ruth's church for Dad to preach. (Colin was the officiating pastor at our wedding.)

pick-up line

I was walking home from the railway station today. It's been so hot lately and it was blazing sun on the pavement. I was sweating profusely.... I almost didn't make it home. Something very strange happened that has never happened to me before.* Two young men were walking towards me and as I approached one said, "Excuse me, babe. I find you very attractive. Can I have your number?" I was so shocked I didn't know what to do and so I mumbled, "Sorry," put my head down and turned the nearest corner. In retrospect, a possible better reaction would have been to say, "Thanks, but I'm married!"

*The only other similar event in my life was when a guy kept lining up to get help at the maths and stats help desk at Dal. He wasn't even really trying the questions and I kept sending him away to try them first before coming to ask me about them. I was a bit annoyed, but after a while he said that he actually wanted to ask me for coffee and wasn't interesting in the questions. I was so surprised that I don't think I really said anything... but asked him to at least wait until my shift was over so that I could help the other students with their work. :P

Saturday, 10 June 2006

My cookbook collection.

food blogs and cookbooks

I've been having quite a fascinating time today following links in a Guardian article listing interesting food blogs. Chocolate and Zucchini is one I will be going back to again. On the 101 Cookbooks site, the author has a list of all the (many) cookbooks she owns. My own collection looks modest by comparison! We only have one cookbook in common: the Joy.

Here's a list of my cookbooks (or at least the ones here in the UK; left to right in the above photo).
  1. The Vegetable Bible (Teubner)
  2. Company's Coming Appetizers (Pare)
  3. The Joy of Cooking (Rombauer; two copies: 1931 facsimile edition and 1964)
  4. Flip Cook Chicken (Wilson)
  5. Family Favourites: Voth 2000 Cookbook (a family compilation)
  6. The Essential Wok Cookbook
  7. Pass Out: 80 Cocktails to Paint the Town Red
  8. The Surreal Gourmet Entertains (Blumer)
  9. Company's Coming The Beef Book (Pare)
  10. By My Side (Eustace/Weinstein)
  11. 'Tis the Season: A Vegetarian Christmas Cookbook (Blanchard)
  12. The New Canadian Basics Cookbook (Ferguson)
  13. More With Less: Suggestions from the World's Mennonites on How to Eat Better and Consume Less of the World's Limited Food Resources (Janzen Longacre)
  14. Purity Cookbook
  15. Chocolate and Baking


I have been thinking about addiction. I am addicted to eating. I'm addicted to my computer and to shopping. But for the most part they're not true addictions; I can go without if necessary. I don't quite need rehab when I'm away from my laptop. But I was reading a Guardian report that there's now a clinic for those addicted to video games. I can think of two people in my flat who may need that!

Friday, 9 June 2006

This shelf is destined for the space behind behind our kitchen door. First we have to build it.

One of six new additions to my kitchen, courtesy of Ikea.

trip to Liverpool

I've just got back from a three day trip to Liverpool with Ant, Mum, and Dad. We rented a car which my dad drove. He has a British license, but he was still a bit scary on the roads, driving on the unfamiliar left. We passed through Milton Keynes, of geek week fame, for Ant to go to a job interview. This one was for Gillette, as an imaging scientist. The only problem is that even after the interview he didn't know what the job really was. Maybe if they call him back for an assessment day he can ask more questions!

While Ant was at his interview, Mum and Dad and I went to Ikea! Yay. We got a shelf for our kitchen (sorely needed) and new bowls. Mum got a few things, like a new mouse mat.

We arrived at Ant's Nan and Grandad's on Wednesday evening. It was lovely to see them and to relax with a plate of salad and a comfy couch. :) On Thursday we had a "lie-in" and then took Jack and Etta to a beautiful garden in Southport. Mum took lots of pictures that I will hopefully poach tomorrow. Yesterday evening we went out to supper with Jack and Etta, Tony, and Stephanie at an Italian place in the city.

Driving home today was a chore... London traffic is unpredictable. Or maybe it is predictable--it's always busy. The last section (inside the M25) took almost two hours! Blech.

Sunday, 4 June 2006

welcome parents!

Mum and Dad arrived on Friday! Mum has been busy taking pictures, unsurprisingly. Here is a shot of the front of our flat, which is on the ground floor of the house you see in the main part of the picture. Dad is about to go into our little door. The green door goes up to our two upstairs neighbours. The large window on the right is our bedroom window.

Mum has been spending a lot of time in our back garden since it has been lovely weather this weekend. You can see the bathroom window on the right and Matt and April's patio doors and windows on the left.

The back half of the garden is a jungle. Dad said he saw some raspberry bushes back there.

We went to the British Museum. Now incorporated into it is the old British Library reading room. This is a shot of the dome, now completely inside the great court of the museum.

My dad and I in the reading room. When we lived in Scotland he came here to research for about a week every year.

A beautiful floor mosaic. The tiles are only about half a centimeter on each side.

A set of 7m high cedar and bronze doors from Balawat.

A gold laurel from Crete. The gold was so delicate that I could see it moving inside the case when people walked past.

A priestess's necklace from Crete.

Micah's news

My baby brother, Micah, is newly graduated. He won the math medal! Here he is with a group of profs from the math department. I think he looks like the Young Pretender here.

Micah and Anna, taken by Paul.

Micah and Anna on the day of their "small wedding" with four tulips privileged to be picked for the occasion.