Monday, June 9, 2008


We just found out that our computer plug isn't working. So this is probably my last post until America, on the 20th. If so, adieu, and don't give up on me ever writing again; I will as soon as I can.

To Eat, or Not To Eat

I've always loved the smell of coffee. When I'm grocery shopping (and not with Avram, who hates the smell), I'll walk down the coffee isle and sniff a lot, just because I can. Especially if it's a high class grocery store, and has a "grind your own beans" section. Mmmm.

The summer before I started high school I worked (under the table) for a coffee house called Juliano's. Besides making myself a fancy cup of hot chocolate for free every day, I loved working there because they ground their own shmancy beans, and then the coffees would brew, and it smelt so...wholesome, and yummy, and full bodied. (Now I sound like I'm going to wax eloquent verbally the way that descriptions of wine do: this coffee has a full bodied smell, with overtones of a warm stove and a winter morning, a hint of cinnamon, and layers of aromatic wood shavings).

I'm a good Mormon, I am, and so I've never actually drunk coffee. Nor do I plan too, because of the Word of Wisdom. But that doesn't stop me from loving the smell and idea of coffee. (Although, I must jump in here and clarify that I only like the idea and smell of high-class coffee. The stuff in gas stations just doesn't cut it. Also, I know that the actuality of coffee is a much more complex love than the theory; there's the caffeine and addiction issues, there's the adding-so-much-sugar-and-cream-that-it-ought-to-count-as-a-dessert issue, not to mention that to a lot of people I've talked to, the actual taste of coffee is very different than the smell of coffee, but thankfully the idea of coffee is much less of a complex issue).

All this came to the fore yesterday, our last day at the ward here (we'll be here next week, but it's stake conference). As a going away present, the Primary gave me a picture frame to be filled with a picture of the primary (taken yesterday), and then a really fancy box of chocolate truffles by Thorntons. Avram doesn't like chocolate, so the onus of the burden of consuming these 15 delicacies, which weigh in at 309 calories each (!), rests on me. (That's over 4 and a half thousand calories! Good thing I'm up to the challenge.)

We didn't open them until last night, after Lydia was in bed, and then I finally took stock of my bounty. I then noticed that one of the flavors of the chocolates is cafe latte, or a coffee mousse chocolate cream inside of a white chocolate shell. Avram made an off-hand comment about oh well for those chocolates, but then when he wasn't looking, I secretly, in a Heidi Reed like fashion, poked a hole in the bottom and licked the coffee mousse. I really wanted to know what it would taste like.

I have to say, it tasted good.

Although rather stronger in the coffee flavor than I was expecting, mostly because up until now all the coffee I've had has come in through my nostrils. Which, upon reflecting, is a really ugly word. Nostrils, that is. Ahem, moving on....

Avram noticed me surreptitiously sampling the truffle, and commented that he didn't care if I ate it, that he thought that the coffee used as flavoring wouldn't count as breaking the word of Wisdom. Although he wouldn't eat it.

Avram pointed out that the Primary gave it to me, in fact the sister who did is married to one of the counselors in the Stake Presidency. And these chocolates not only have two cafe latte truffles, but also a champagne truffle and a brandy one. And she must have thought it was okay to give. That's almost like a Church stamp of approval, right?

Then I thought of our good friends, the Reeds. They both eat alcohol cooked in foods. I used to have moral qualms about this; did alcohol cooked foods count against the word of Wisdom? Since living here in England, I've realized that whatever else, none of the British saints think so. There are ton of British dishes that cook with ale. There are even some in our ward who maintain that the Christmas pudding must first be covered in Brandy and then burnt off. As well, I don't think the French saints think so either. I think everything I ate in France had come into some sort of contact with wine. I love fondue, and since traditionally fondue is made with white wine, I felt a real need to come to a conclusion on this. I finally decided that I didn't mind eating food that had been prepared with an alcoholic beverage, as long as it had been cooked (removes some of the alcohol). The Reeds mentioned once (I hope I'm remembering this right, and if I'm not, I'm sorry for misquoting you) that to them eating something made with wine isn't the same as drinking wine (or other alcohol), which is what the Word of Wisdom forbids.

Ironically, I find I prefer the taste of fondue not made with wine, but I now don't worry at all about eating food that has been prepared with alcohol. I would never prepare such a dish in my own home, but I think that's for twofold reasons; one, I'm cheap, and we all know that Avram would never let a bottle of only five dollar wine in our house, and I'm not willing to buy any liquid that costs more. Two, I would never want to have to go buy alcohol in those state stores. Yuck. And I wouldn't want someone to see me buying in, in case they thought I was going to drink it, not cook with it. Of course, the question would then be why they were in the same store.... A third reason is that I wouldn't want to keep a bottle of wine in my house. Just because.

But I don't mind eating the countless ale pies they have here.

So, how does all this transfer over to coffee? I mean, we all assume we don't drink alcohol because of the alcohol in it (duh). We assume that we don't drink coffee usually because of the addictive nature of the caffeine. So what about eating something that is flavoured with coffee. Does that fall under the buying rum extract to flavor things with rum clause, or is it still coffee, since you can't cook out caffeine like you can cook out alcohol? Is it the amount that counts? The fact I'm eating that does?

I normally avoid caffeinated drinks, since they fall under the "don't become addicted to anything" clause, but if I do drink something with caffeine in it, I don't feel bad. After all, even if all the pop I drank was caffeinated, I still wouldn't become addicted, because I almost never drink pop.

I've always avoided coffee ice creams and desserts because I've never had an answer to this question. I still don't. I don't even know if I'm going to finish the cafe latte truffle I've started. But on the other hand, I don't think I felt guilty while eating it. At least, not very guilty. Although I don't think I would have eaten it in front of my mother (who reads this blog faithfully, so I guess I am eating it in front of her. Don't hate me, Mom).

I'm one confused lady.

What do you all think? What's your take on the Word of Wisdom? Do you eat coffee flavored products?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

New Writer

You'll notice that there are two writers on my blog now; Veiltender and myself. Veiltender is Avram, my husband. He's decided to dedicate his blog to fantasy thoughts, and so he's on my blog now if he ever wants to write stories about our life from his perspective. When he does write a post, besides having the obvious Author Veiltender at the bottom, he'll identify himself at the beginning, so you all don't have to wonder why I write like a guy, because you'll know it's not me.

Check out his blog, Essays in Enchantment, if you've ever thought about fantasy (and who hasn't read at least some fantasy in their life?).

In Which I Display Photographs

And now, by popular (well, one) request, here are my daughters!

First off, we have more of my spectacular parenting. Except that for this time, unlike last time, it really wasn't my fault. I put Lydia down for her nap, but then she heard Avram come home, and was so excited to see him that I couldn't make her go back down. Instead later on, while having an afternoon snack of cereal in the kitchen, this happened:
By the way, that orange knitted sweater isn't my fault either. It was given to us along with a doll, as a doll sweater, but Lydia has recently decided that it is for her to wear, and puts it on almost every day. It's way too small, of course, and so every time she wears it she looks uncommonly large/chubby for a two year old.

Here's more Lydia:
You may notice that Lydia is wearing the same outfit in all three pictures. This is not because she only owns one outfit, or even that I'm too lazy to dress her in anything but this green shirt and blue jeans. No, instead it's just that I'm too lazy to take pictures all of the time, and so the only real pictures of Lydia I have in the last three weeks are all from yesterday.

I used to think it was funny how often back when film cameras were the norm, many parents would buy a roll of film for a birthday, or Christmas and take basically the whole roll for that one celebration, and then have months and months with no pictures in between. I know that they wanted to get the pictures developed close to when they took them, and also that many people weren't the kind of people the take a picture or two a day or week; it was all feast or famine.

Ironically, although I don't use film, and can immediately upload my pictures, whether I have one or a hundred, I still find myself going weeks and weeks with basically no pictures, and then suddenly taking 50 or so at one sitting.

Here are some of Elisheva:
Yes, shame of all shames, this is her guckie. Avram learned that term for a pacifier on his mission, and likes it because "guck-guck" is the sound a binkie makes whilst being used. Lydia never had one, but Elisheva liked to suck so much that our fingers were getting pruney from her sucking on them. So I caved in and bought a binkie (what I usually call them, heaven only knows why). It's worked great; she likes to use them when she wants to suck, but she doesn't have one in her mouth every breathing moment of her life.

I think mothering is going to be like Anne Shirley's experiences teaching school; when she began she had a whole rainbow of lovely theories about how to do it, and throughout her two year stint she broke every one of them.
And to finish things off, here's me!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Place New Title Here

After these more serious posts recently, I feel a need to let my hair down and yak about something completely unimportant; my blog name. As we remember, I picked My English Cottage long before coming to England, and was able to use it as a title after all, despite my doubts, because although it is a house divided into flats, it's not "purpose built," but rather dates from the mid 1600s (I love living in a house older than our nation). We live on the third floor. And although it's a large house to me, the people here really do call it a cottage!
However, our sojourn nears its end, as we leave here in two weeks from today, and so I've been racking mine and Avram's creativity for another title. Now, I want this title to be (semi) permanent, so that way people can really begin to relate to it, and count on it, and then others will see someone's link to my blog, done by title name and not by name, and be head-over-heels intrigued by the AMAZING TITLE THAT GOES RIGHT HERE and then they'll visit my blog itself, and be forever smitten by my run-on sentences and made up words, and add me to their Google reader and love me forever.

Or something like that.

Not only must this title stand up to the rigours of blogging on the Internet, I also want it to represent me, and who I am; Mormon, a Mother, sometimes Social Butterfly, capitalizes Nouns like she thinks she's writing in German, you know, Me.

Last time Sarah and Matt thought up the best list, and although I didn't use any of their titles, I was still alternately laughing/blown away by their creativity. This time, I hope you can all live up to their legacy.

So far as contenders I have:

The Poisson Puissant

The Mighty Fish

(I picked up these because Avram and Samuel his brother like to speak in French together, because Samuel went on his mission to Quebec. Avram didn't; so his French is decidedly on a lower {although still impressive considering how little formal training he's had in it} par. One day Avram was trying to tell Samuel how I was mighty (Puissant), but he accidentally called me a fish (Poisson) instead. Since then it's been a sort of nickname for me).

Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax

I like this title because it's a little of everything, which is kind of what my blog is about; a little bit of everything in my life and thoughts. And it's a quote, and I love quotes for titles. Although I like little known/little used quotes best. I wanted to do my title as "Kindred Spirits" from Anne of Green Gables, but it turns out there's already a blog by that name. And then I thought of "Cabbages and Kings" from the same poem the aforesaid potential title is from, "The Walrus and the Carpenter," by Lewis Carroll, but that was already taken as well. I am a little hesitant for this title, only because in the poem the Walrus and the Carpenter lure little oysters to their tragic death, which does put a pall on things.

As we explored last time, there are still some contenders I like:

Quintessential Thora

The Quintessence of Thora

My Quintessence

Quintessential Quirks

The Quintessence of Quirkiness

(I could go on...)

(Gotta love those Qs)

A Modern Subtlety

Get it? Get it? Yeah, that was what I was worried about. A Subtlety is a Medieval edible sculpture, usually made out of something like marzipan, that accompanied feasts. They're over the top, pretty large and detailed; old Quill and the Sword ones have been a dragon made out of sugar glass (thank you, Carol!), a goose named Penelope (once again, props to Carol), a Boar's Head (Heidi), etc. However, I never actually made any Subtleties, so I can't claim this as part of my creative medieval past, per se. And I think the meaning will be lost on most readers. Still, I like it.

Shakespeare and the Bible are good places for random quotes. First to come to my mind concerning Shakespeare are any speeches learned as a junior or senior in High School. I think this one has its moment describing my life:

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow,and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the Last Syllable of recorded time
And All our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28

Faulkner already took the final part of the soliloquy, but I was more attracted to the beginning, anyway. Like,

All our Yesterdays

(which sounds something like a soap opera)

or To the Last Syllable of Recorded Time

Although this second bit sounds like I'm either going to write until the end of the world, or that alternately I'm never going to shut up. This may be true in either case, but it's not exactly the image I want to project.

This Petty Pace could work too, but really my probems with all of these is that they are kind of downers. I want something in my title that shouts, Pretty and Light-filled humor and seriousness, with a dash of Lydia, Elisheva and Avram thrown in - don't forget forays into religion! That's a pretty lame title, though.

Other Shakespeare ideas are from the play Love's Labour's Lost, although I really ought to say from the film Love's Labour's Lost done by Kenneth Branagh, whom I love, because the film is a very shortened (and better for modern audiences, I think) version of the play, and I first heard these lines spoken by Kenneth (whom I love. I really do. Well, I love his voice, at least. A lot of people have their "Hollywood" lists of people they like. Mine is Harrison Ford, thirty years ago, and Kenneth Branagh, but only if he were speaking Shakespeare to me. I love how he speaks Shakespeare; he take obscure jokes and love lines and turns them into living, breathing thoughts and poetry).

Love - It kills Sheep

The real problem with this is that although I love this line in the movie, it doesn't actually relate to anything. I've never had any sheep, even. Although, once I visited Travis' family down in Bicknell, Utah, and his cute 7 year old (at the time) niece named a sheep born the night I was there after me. Then seven months later Avram and I had a messy, messy break-up, and Travis took him and others down to Bicknell, Utah for a weekend away from it all. And then his niece found out how cruel I had been to poor Avram, and so they decided that the Thora Sheep must die. And it did (they do eat their sheep, so it wasn't just a random act of revenge. She would have died at some point, anyway, just not so soon) . So in a way, our love did kill a sheep. But this story would make an odd subtitle to my blog. And we did get back together, although the poor Thora sheep still lost her life because of me, so I don't want everyone to focus on how I stomped on Avram's poor, bleeding little heart back before I decided to marry him. Because the important thing is that we're happy now. Right? RIGHT?

Then there's

And when Love speaks, the voice of all the Gods
Make heaven drowsy with the harmony.

And the way Kenneth says that line! Even remembering it makes my heart melt. Especially because it's a speech about why women are essential to men, and why they can't (or shouldn't) cut themselves off from women to exclusively focus on their studies, because women are the muse of study (or something like that).

Really this quote illustrates the difficulty of using any quote; I may love them, but they don't usually encapsulate who I am very well, especially not all of me. And this one is too long, anyway.

Speaking of "all of me", Avram saw me writing this post, and wondered why I was subjecting my poor readers to an in-depth discussion on my potential blog titles. I told him that I wanted them to know everything about me, including the color of my underwear drawer. Then I thought to myself,

The Color of my Underwear Drawer

Mmm, it's a possibility, but then I realized that since the answer is "White," it's not really that revealing, since most of you knew that anyway.

So back to the drawing board.

I'm going to put up a poll, but feel free to leave comments on what you think as well, and/or any other titles that you think could work.

P.S. You can leave more than one answer on the poll, if you so desire.

P.P.S. Even if you're a lurker/don't know me/a stalker from old times/happened on this blog today, and you've only ever read this post, still feel free and welcome to leave a vote. Also feel free to leave comments. They make me happy.

P.P.P.S You hear that? Everyone please me comments always. I love them.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

It's the End of the World as We Know It

I've been thinking about the end of the world, lately. There have been a lot of world disasters, and food prices have gone up (well, in America at least. Here they haven't changed at all; small blessings), and gas has gone up - it's at about 4.64 a gallon - and that's in British Pounds. That's $9.28 a gallon!

In the blogs I read, in the conversations with my Mom about my siblings back at home, it seems like everywhere Food Storage comes up repeatedly.

We don't have any Food Storage. We have the opposite of food storage - we're using up any spare food in our cupboard or fridge/freezer, and after this week, should have almost no reserves of food at all. Of course, we are moving to America in two weeks, so this is understandable, but it still makes me a little nervous. I know that I don't need to fear for the end of the world, but that's because I don't need to fear because I'm prepared. And I'm definitely not prepared.

Back in Provo I used to be. I had a bucket of wheat; what's more, I even used it on regular basis to make homemade bread, along with my powdered milk and honey that I used in the same recipe. I was borrowing long term my mother's wheat grinder, while she was on a mission.

Well, her and Don are home from their mission, they have the wheat grinder again, and I moved, so I got rid of all my excess food storage anyway. I had a lot more than just the basic survival stuff, too. We may have lived in an apartment with less than 600 square feet of living space, but that didn't stop us from storing (and regularly using) cases of tuna fish, tomato paste and sauce (Avram always makes a homemade tomato sauce; it's great. We haven't bought store canned/bottled sauce since we've been married), and massive amounts of olive and canola oil, among other food items.

We got rid of those all, too.

The only food that we saved, apart from spices, is some honey that I helped can at Welfare Square, because according to Avram honey never goes bad. Apparently they've found honey from ancient Egypt that is still technically edible. Count me out.

So now food prices have risen a bunch, and everyone is either grateful for their food storage, or starting to build theirs like mad, before it's too late. And we have nothing.

I know we can start at square one just fine again, and that no one, least of all the Lord, expects a technically homeless, itinerant family who'll be living with their in-laws this summer to have a working food storage system. Until we move to Ohio, I'm not even going to get to reconstituting our seventy-two hour kits, because I'm not even sure where everything got put from them over a year ago, when I last saw them.

I'm not sure why I'm writing this, except as to say; pray for us. Pray that tomorrow Oxfordshire doesn't flood horribly from all of the rain we've been having, and we have to live for weeks off of the food in our pantry because the road washed out, because then this'll be our last goodbye. Or pray that we'll have enough extra in Ohio money-wise, so that we can start food storage up again, so that way my children can also know the joy of drinking powdered milk (actually I only use powdered milk for cooking with; I can't stand to drink the stuff straight, so I certainly couldn't make my kids do it. Except for a couple times this year, when we had run out of milk before we could get to a store to buy some more, and Lydia was throwing a fit for milk, or for milk and cereal, and so one of us would distract Lydia, while the other one surreptitiously mixed up a glass of milk on the counter, and then opened the fridge and pretended to "pour" the glass behind the cover of the door, and then served it to Lydia, who drank it down heartily, never seeming to notice it wasn't cold, and tasted like yuck. The things you do as a parent.)

Another thing I've been thinking about is being poor, but also about the Lord providing for you. When we planned for England, we had to prove to the University that we had planned for and had already provided the money needed for a year of school in England. Let me tell you, that's a lot of money you're supposed to already have in the bag. We had plans for money; student loans, Avram working, dissolving a mutual fund Avram had from before his mission, Tax refund, etc. So I presented this all out to Avram's paternal grandfather, all the while assuring him that he wouldn't have to help fund Avram's master's degree at all, and he then graciously had his people tell Oxford's people and the British government's people that we were covered for funds (Avram's Grandpa is wise in investments, and so is quite comfortable in his retirement).

All well and good. Until they gave us less student loans than we applied for. And what we were given was disbursed in four disbursements, the last not being until June, when we needed to make rent and tuition payments all earlier in the year. And Avram didn't find a job here for the first four months. And the Mutual Fund lost money for a year straight. And the money we had saved up over the summer didn't go as far as it was going to, because the rate of exchange between pounds and dollars had worsened a lot since we had made our budget. And.... And.... And before we knew it, we ended up borrowing enough money from Grandpa Shannon to pay the rent every month, totaling to $6,000 by the end of the year. Thankfully, he's a grandpa, and not a loan shark, so we're paying him back interest free for the next three years, starting this fall, once we have enough income.

Even with this extra help we still started running out of money. By the end of November, we could count about three weeks into the future before our money all ran out, and we had nothing to eat. We would talk to our respective parents, who all worried a lot for us. Then everyone we knew seemed to send us money as Christmas presents this year. So we ate off that (and had some fun and bought things too). Then by the end of December, once again we were down to enough money for 2-3 weeks of food. Then my brother Soren and my sister Amy and her husband Todd both gave generous and unexpected gifts, which kept us eating through mid March. By this point Avram had a job, but his first paycheck wasn't until March 20. And we had filed our taxes, but didn't have anything back, yet. But my parents came to visit at this time, and they fronted our visit to France until our taxes came back. And since then, Avram's paycheck has supplied all of our needs except for rent. So we've been thoroughly covered, to the point where we canceled our last loan disbursement completely.

Although I grew up without much money, some would even say poor, I have never been in a position where I didn't know how we were going to eat until this year. And without the promptings of the Spirit and help from family we wouldn't have survived this year.

This all comes up in my mind now because in some ways we're the poster child family for how not to live; no food storage, no savings, living hand-to-mouth, etc. For that matter, adding another member to our family in all of this (babies, aside from medical costs, which don't apply here, are practically free, really) could seem odd, too. Yet, I know that when we have, and when we will trust in the Lord that all will work out. It had worked out here in England this past year, when as we have prayed over our food every meal, and thanked Heavenly Father for the food, it wasn't a generic comment, but rather a heartfelt gratitude for the specific food on our table that we hadn't known how to pay for until He provided it. Because He has provided for us.

I know that as the world sees more and more natural, food and economic disasters that He will provide as well. Even if all I have to offer on my side is some honey and fervent prayers.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief, London part three

This is the third in a three-part series about our trip to London on Monday, June second. Scroll down to start at the beginning; A Little Flagwaving.

The trip ended with a somewhat sober note for me. As we were waiting for our bus to return us to Oxford, I saw an obviously homeless me walking near us. He was the first obviously homeless man that I saw in London. There are a lot of homeless people in Oxford, but for the vast majority they are young, and look like their homelessness is a personal choice. They all also seem to have dogs, who manage to lie there and look as sad as their owners; I don't know how they train them so well. They all also ask for money and/or sell copies of the Big Issue, a magazine solely invented for homeless people to sell to make money.

This man had a very different vibe, though. He was hunch backed, and slowly, ever so slowly walking - almost like walking pained him. He crept to the rubbish bin, and sorted through it for a bit, and then came our way. He didn't stop and ask anyone for money; he didn't even make eye contact with anyone. He just slowly crept along, his uneven (but not drunk at all, just slow) gait marking time to his dirtied clothing. It seemed like one whole side of him dragged, and that was the side that was covered in dirt so ingrained that it seemed like a natural part of the clothing. He had a beard, and his fast also sagged, like the rest of him - perhaps he had had a stroke - and I watched him first walk past us to the bin, and then make his way past us again away from it.

I felt awkward watching him; I hate it when my image of a bright and cheery world is threatened by ugly things, by dirt, or disease, or crime, or tragedy. And yet, I hated myself for wishing he weren't there, for wishing that I was doing something to help him, while on the other hand desperately wishing he were somewhere else, somewhere where I wouldn't have to think about others in this world not as blessed as I am, about those who make me wonder why I have so many blessings, and they so seemingly few. Times like this pull me out of the construct of life that I've so carefully built up, and that for the most part seems real, until moments when suddenly I'm confronted by something like this old, beaten down man, and all of my pithy sayings and beliefs crumble to ash under my own searing gaze at my conscience.

The only knowledge I have that withstands that test is my knowledge of the scriptures and of what Jesus said about helping others, "When saw we thee a stranger."

And yet, as I write this there are tears in my eyes. I'm sharing this experience not because I'm proud that I reacted well, or because I learned a great lesson, but because I'm ashamed, deeply ashamed. Because although I know the Saviour's teachings, I did nothing.

I turned my eyes, and just ignored him, just did my best to think nice thoughts, and not think about the remnant of humanity making his way past me. He went on his way, and I never once thought of the good Samaritan, I never once said to myself like what King Benjamin advises in Mosiah 4:29, " And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give," I felt like I should give him money, and if not that, at least a nod and a smile. But instead I gave him nothing, not even the sympathy of my heart.

As I lay in bed thinking about our trip that night, that's what stood out to me the most about our busy day; the unforgettable image of that man, and the shame that I had failed in my stewardship, the knowledge that unlike the man in the hymn, "A poor wayfaring man of grief, hath often stopped me on his way, who sued so humbly for relief that I could never answer nay," I had answered nay.

I wish that I could go down to London again, that I could bring food and money and love with me, and give it all to him. But if I thought I couldn't give him something then - which I could have, I definitely can't afford to make a separate trip now. Yet all the tears running down my face don't make me feel any better, and all of the wishful thoughts don't make the past any different.

All I can do now is go forward, and then next time I'm confronted with the breaking of my own idealized world to pick the better way, to be Christ-like. So next time that you are in a position like mine, don't be like me. Please. Because regret is far more awkward that confronting your own prejudices and choosing to be like Jesus.

The British Musum; London part two

After we finished at the Embassy, it was only 10:30 in the morning, and so we continued with our plan of seeing the British Museum while we were down in London anyway (Lydia was being watched by some friends in the ward, so we didn't have to worry about her). We checked the subway to it, but it looked like it would cost 16 pounds for the both of us round trip, so we decided to walk, although we didn't actually know how far it was (I looked it up later; we walked about 3.5 miles round trip, so not too bad at all).

Avram and I both liked the British Museum better than the Louvre. Is this even allowed? I don't know; we're wild and crazy, though. For one thing, there wasn't seemingly miles of security. I know I should be grateful that no one can carry a bomb and blow up Mona Lisa, but honestly it was a little over the top. In the British Museum you can just walk right on in, and get to the main task of seeing what you came to see. Another mark for the British Museum is that the Louvre is so chock full of everything that it's sometimes just too much, while the British Museum is more focused on antiquities and the middle ages, and not an art museum. We saw the Rosetta stone, the Elgin marbles, and other lots of famous things. Both of our favorite set of rooms though were the Romano-Celt British rooms.

I love torcs. I don't know why, but they really appeal to me. Avram even bought me a torc two valentine days past, when we were at Estrella, a medieval SCA event in Arizona. I had been haunting the merchant's tent, but could never convince myself to buy it, so then he did for me (I'm very indecisive). These weren't my favourite set of torcs there, but they are the largest.
The torque on the far back side, that looks silvery is made of Electrum (gold and silver mixed), and weighs eight pounds! Most torcs that have been found weren't actually for wearing regularly; they are too heavy for that. I just love the shiny goldness of them (they are made of other materials too, but my favorite by far is gold). So I wandered around in love with all of the torcs, while Avram pursued his obsession; coins.

Avram loves coins; the study of coins, the history of them, the physical feel of them. He even likes to smell them. He likes collecting medallions because of this love, I think, since there aren't very many cool coins nowadays. So while I slobbered over the beautiful torcs, Avram went picture crazy over the Roman coins.
Isn't it amazing that this is a treasure trove? It doesn't look like much, but then our money nowadays isn't actually worth anything (ie, it's not made of precious metals), while theirs was.

We also did manage to tear our eyes away from our respective loves long enough to look at the only horned helmet that has ever been found
And the Sutten-Hoo burial finds. I thought that I didn't know about Sutten-Hoo at all, but as we were looking at the stuff I realized that I'd seen images of the Sutten-Hoo helmet before, if nothing else.

The only thing that would have been cooler about the museum is if the rest of the middle ages had been open. They only had the middle ages up to 700 Ad, and then skipped to the 1500s because the rest was being worked on, or something. Really quite depressing, because the high medieval parts of the Louvre were closed too, and so Avram and I never did get to see any of the coolest medieval museum bits in Europe. I guess that's why we'll have to come back someday.

I like having an interest in the Middle Ages; it gives me a tie to what I see in museums (if it's medieval of course.) It's interesting, because I didn't join the Quill and the Sword at BYU because of a huge love of the Middle Ages. In fact, I didn't really know much about them at all, except I thought they were excessively dirty and diseased. But I do like joining clubs just in general, and I liked the idea of wearing dresses, and cooking and such. And so I joined, and fell in love with medieval cooking, and medieval clothing styles, and from this has spread an appreciation of much else that is medieval.

We also saw this
the death mask of Oliver Cromwell. It made me think of our good friend Matt. They had Napoleon's death mask as well. Although I know that historically these served a good purpose, I presume to make accurate paintings and statues of them after their deaths, I think death masks are really quite gruesome. You can buy copies of Joseph and Hyrum Smith's death masks, and I just don't know why someone would want to hang them up in their home.

We only planned to go to the British Museum, so it was a very nice and laid back day, with nowhere else to rush and go see.

A Little Flag Waving, London part one

On Monday we had an "emergency appointment" to register Elisheva with the American government and also to get her a passport. It was emergency, although we made it a month ahead of time, because you're supposed to book them at least three months ahead of time on-line. Although Avram and I had visited the US Embassy site several times, somehow we had managed to miss this important note, and were originally not planning to make an appointment at all, but rather to just show up to do it. Luckily another American family in our ward who is expecting a boy in July were tipped off by yet another American family in our ward that you need these appointments, so they told us, and we panicked. Then we called and emailed the embassy, and they gave us this emergency appointment. At the time I wondered why in the world you even needed an appointment, let alone one so far in advance.

Then we arrived on Monday morning, and because I had planned enough extra time in to allow for traffic, and there was absolutely no traffic at all, we were two hours early (we arrived in London at 6:30, after leaving our home at 4:30). We ate a liesurly breakfast at KFC (as much as I dislike fat food, I seem to find myself eating it while abroad more than I ever would at home) and then strolled down to the embassy (which is in Grosvenor Square, only the fanciest square in all of 1800s London), and got in line. It's a good thing we did arrive so early, for this was the line at 7:15. You can see Avram in it, holding Elisheva in a red sling.
A close up of Avram
Isn't he manly to be willing to carry Elisheva in a sling? I love slings, especially for newborns because they stay warm and asleep in them, they're easy to carry, and both of your hand are free, not to mention that newborn strollers are usually the size of Cadillacs, and slings are so small.

While walking to the Embassy we had an "only in Britain" experience - we saw these soldiers out practicing their riding skills.
Our appointment wasn't until 8:30. At 7:30 they let the line into another set of lines inside of the outer Embassy gates. There were two lines for Visas, and one line for American Citizen Services. In the picture of the line I took, Avram and I were the only American Citizens in it; we were first in line on the American side, and the only ones in line at all for quite a while. We waited in the American Line, and for the next hour, only about ten people total gathered in our line, while the other two lines filled to the bursting, even with continuous streams of people going into the embassy. The guard who checked passports and let people in felt bad for us, I think because it was cold and threatening rain, and we had a new baby and I was only in shirtsleeves. He kept on trying to let them let us in to the Embassy to wait, but the powers that be higher up stood firm; we couldn't come in until 8:30, the time of the first American appointments. Avram and I laughed about our government; America has equal rights for all, which usually manifests in equally lame service for all, but at least it's equal.

The guard (who was British), did manage to finagle an umbrella for us, so we had that privilege at least. Avram and I passed the time by playing a rousing game of "Guess the State Flag" - all fifty state flags were outside the embassy, in the order they became states. We also talked to other Americans in line, including one woman with a southern accent. I hadn't heard a southern accent since America, so it was a fun nostalgic moment.

Finally 8:3o came, and we went through the trial-by-bureaucracy until Elisheva and her forms were approved. Then Avram and I had to stand and swear most legally that everything was correct, and the consul signed her birth report, and voila, another American Citizen. Elisheva slept through it all, thoroughly unimpressed.

As much as Avram and I joked about our government not caring if its own citizens all equally froze outside, I was truly grateful that we were able to secure citizenship for our daughter. Being an American citizen isn't something that I've thought about very much in my life; it's just something that I am, like I have brown hair and my eyes are blue. The first time I really thought about it at all was when I got my passport for the first time, and in it I read, "This passport is the property of the United States Government. Upon demand by an authorized representative of the United States Government, it must be surrendered," and in another section, "Under certain circumstances, you may lose your U.S. citizenship by performing voluntarily and with the intentions to relinquish U.S. Citizenship any of the following acts..."

After reading those two parts, I couldn't comprehend giving up my citizenship, or relinquishing my passport voluntarily. I know that people emigrate all the time, but for me and my family, I'm a die in the wool American citizen until I die. I know that our country isn't perfect, and I also know that there are plenty of nice places in the world to live. I could imagine living in Britain permanently, and could even be quite happy about it. But I can't imagine choosing to become a citizen of another country, even if I did end up living in it, because I'm thoroughly American.

What does it mean to be thoroughly American? Maybe to have my ancestry be mixed enough that I don't resonate with any other country. Perhaps to grow up in America, reciting the pledge of allegiance and learning, "We the people of the United States, in order to establish a more perfect union," and to place my hand over my heart whenever I hear the National Anthem played while watching our flag waving.

To me government means three branches; executive, judicial and legislative. America means its purple mountain majesties in Utah, amber waves of grain on the plains, and that this land was made for you and me. America is the 50 states, the revolutionary war, the Missouri compromise and Abraham Lincoln.

Most of all, America to me means home. My home. And as of June 2, 2008, my daughter Elisheva's home as well.

And I would gladly stand in all the lines in the world, even through the rain and guess-that-state-flag game for that privilege.