Last Days in the United Kingdom

Just a moment ago it seemed I had 2 weeks left in the UK. Today I sit dumbfounded that I have a week and 2 days left. I already know I will miss England very much, but it is time to go home, as I am utterly broke and in desperate need of a job. It will be good to go back to New Mexico and bum off my parents for a month before I head back to the South and a full schedule again. It feels as if I have had 6 months of holiday, and I have, aside from the fact that I spent a quarter or a third of it in the library studying; but even that was an adventure, studying in a foreign country. If course, England doesn’t feel so different now, and I am well used to English accents now, as broad as they may be, except the deep Yorkshire one – can’t seem to get used to that. As for vacation, I have slept more these 6 months than I have in the last 2 years, I believe! It must be the English air. If I could store up on sleep and rest, I would be set for the next 2 years!

brand new exterior of Carnegie stadium

Well, these last few weeks have been pretty laid back and lazy, but I have managed to cross off several more very important things I must do before I leave. Here they are, along with my subsequent list of things I have to do ‘next time’, which keeps getting longer…

Leeds Headingly Carnegie Cricket Stadiumger and longer…

Check:

  • Had a true weekend at the lake and camping in the Lake District.
  • Saw a classic Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang car.
  • Went to a Cricket match in the famous Headingly Carnegie stadium.
  • Visited Golden Acre Park.
  • Biked up along the Yorkshire Dales (50 miles of hills!).
  • Drank Elderflower cordial with soda.
  • Drank plenty of Pimms.
  • Danced in Hyde Park (several times. I hope no one was watching)
  • Watched the new Robin Hood film before going to Nottingham.
  • Been to Wales and Scotland.
  • Had Scottish whisky.
  • Watched the World Cup in Millennium Square, Leeds.
  • Drove my bike on the other side of the road without killing myself or anyone else.
  • Played croquet.
  • Drank tea every day.
  • Started saying ‘bugger’, ‘well fit’, ‘massive’ and ‘hiya’
  • Ate pastries for breakfast, pasties for lunch.

Must Do Next Time:

  • Visit Ireland
  • Visit France
  • Spain again
  • And Germany
  • In England:
  • Stratford upon Avon – birthplace of Shapkespeare
  • Birmingham – see Sadler Well’s Ballet
  • Go back to Nottingham and wander in Sherwood Forest
  • Whitby – origin of the Count of Dracula story
  • Loch Ness in Scotland, and the Highlands
  • The Southern coast of England
  • See a Rugby match

Never Going to Do:

  • Try black pudding
  • Or haggis
  • Or goose liver paté
  • Get so drunk I fall asleep on a park bench.
  • Start calling dinner ‘tea’.
  • Talk noncessantly about the weather.
  • Drive a Mini.
  • Say ‘fanny’ aloud in public again.

Until Next Time I go the UK:

  • Keep in touch with all the good friends I made (so I have a place to stay).
  • Re-learn French.
  • Pick up playing the piano again.
  • Get back into dancing hardcore, but maybe more contemporary.
  • Get my Pilates teacher certification so I can teach again.
  • Practice my proper English accent.
  • Save money so I can go back again!

    Ilkley Moore, view from the top of one of the hills

    Calf and Cow Rock, Ilkley Moore

Becca’s Make-Again Student/Starving Artist Recipes, Round 2

This is my second round of tried-and-true (or good enough to make again) recipes for a lazy cook and the last month of my England term. All are veggie/vegan friendly.

Creamy Celery Soup, created June 2010

  • 12 large celery stalks
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 8 cloves of garlic (or 1tsp garlic powder)
  • 2 T flour
  • 2-3 medium potatoes
  • water
  • 2 tsp vegetable seasoning/herbs (parsley, dill), fresh is best if you have it
  • 1/4 c celery leaves, chopped
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups unsweetened soymilk
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste

Trim and chop celery stalks into ½ in chunks, chop onions and potatoes, mince garlic.Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a large soup pot and sauté the onion and garlic until golden.
Sprinkle in the flour, stirring.
Add celery and potatoes; add just enough water to cover.
Bring to a boil and add herbs and celery leaves.
Turn down heat and simmer for a good 20-30 minutes.(if you don’t like chunks, remove from heat and blend the solid ingredients in a food processor and stir back into liquid at this point)
Add enough soymilk to make it smooth and thick.
Salt and pepper to taste, and top with fresh parsley if you have some.

    

Traditional English breakfast food:

  • Beans and
  • Toast

I can’t believe I’m putting this down as a recipe, but I felt I needed to give it tribute since I actually broke down and ate it one rainy day after getting back from a 36 mile bike ride. I was hungry and desperate, so I reached for what was most convenient and praise worthy by many of my English friends: a can of beans and toast. That’s about it. If you know how to toast a slice of bread, open a can of baked beans, and use a fork, you’ve got this English breakfast staple down. Perfect for student-size budgets, and can be eaten for any meal of the day!

 

Favorite Fruit Salad

  • fruits in season or on sale: fresh strawberries, grapes, blueberries, kiwis, peaches
  • 2 bananas or an apple
  • Yogurt (soy or dairy, plain or vanilla) 1cup for 4 cups fruit
  • Lemon juice

Slice all the fruit into bite-size chunks and place in a large bowl. Toss with a tsp of lemon juice and a little water. Add yogurt and mix to coat. MMM! Can add chopped walnuts or coconut of you’re being adventurous. Remember to refrigerate leftovers!

 

Roasted Root Vegetables

  • large sweet potato
  • parsnips
  • carrots
  • large onion
  • brussel sprouts
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground salt and pepper
  • cumin (optional)

Chop up the root veg into large chunks. Layer in a deep baking dish with the brussel sprouts and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, toss. Bake at 180 Celsius (400 F) for 40-50 minutes, turning at least twice. I like to add some salted cashew halves to the top towards the last 5 minutes of roasting.

 

Pimms English Summer Drink

  • traditional Pimms No. 1 (gin based)
  • lemonade (water, lemon juice and demura sugar)
  • slice of lemon, lime, orange, apple for each glass
  • sprig of mint for each glass

Mix one part Pimms, 2 parts lemonade and pour over ice and fruit or shake.

 

 

Vegan and Christian?

Yes, I am a vegetarian, and I soon want to be vegan. This may come as a shock to many of my Christian friends, especially you Americans who cannot live without meat, but it was actually easy for me to give up meat at the beginning of this year, because I don’t like to eat it anyway. My family knows this about me. I always tell them I don’t cook meat for myself; that I only previously ate it when I came home and they cooked it. Even then, I knew it was ethically treated because it was home-raised. I don’t claim to be as animal rights activist, an environmentalist, or anything of the sort, but I don’t think it was God’s initial plan for us to eat meat, or anything that was once breathing. I haven’t completely given up eating dairy and eggs yet, but I am on my way there, because I think it will be healthier. I am not quite sure where I stand on that yet.

I grew up in an agricultural area, and my family raised most of our own meat and bought fresh milk off friends’ dairy cows and ate eggs from our own chickens. I raised dairy heifers 4 months out of each year. I have seen animals grow up, I have played with them, and I have witnessed and helped butcher them. I know where my meat comes from. But I never liked it. I never liked plucking or gutting a chicken. I love seafood, but I can’t eat shrimp that have heads on them or anything that still has eyes staring up at me.

Farm-style butchering is just as wretched as factory farming slaughter houses for the animals, although we know they had a good life up to that point. Need I mention the chemicals and preservatives and who-knows-what the meat packing industry puts in your meat on the grocery store shelves… I used to cry when mom would take the rabbits to be butchered. To kill them they knock their neck with a mallet. I’ve watched as a knife is jammed up a chicken’s throat to scramble its brain. It may be the fastest way to kill them apart from cutting their head off, but it still makes me retch. Maybe I’m just not the farm and ranch kind of girl my parents thought they raised me to be. My brother and sister have raised market lambs, pigs, goats, and steers. I used to raise market rabbits in 4-H when I was young; however, I loved the rabbits for the white furry creatures they were, not for how good their white meat tasted.

I didn’t know I had a decision to not eat meat until after I had moved out when I was 17. While I still lived at home during high school, I rebelled against my family’s eating meat in my own way, by trying to control what I ate, mostly avoiding high-fat foods, which included a lot of meat. But I was not concerned with meat then, so much as maintaining a thin physique for ballet. I will not blame my obsession with food on my family’s carnivorousness. In fact, my mom provided us three kids with very healthful eating regime from the time we were young, filled with home-made bread and canned goods, lots of produce, and few processed foods. My mom taught me to cook. She also taught me to love vegetables and fruits, whole-grains, organic gardening, health food stores, red wine, organic beauty products and tooth paste. I cannot blame my eating disorder on my family, or meat, nor will I; I admit that was mostly a product of my determination for my ballet career. This post however, is not the place to discuss it, and I can assure you that through prayer and professional help I am free from it.

In that light, many would worry that my extremism, wanting to be restrictive in what I can eat as a vegetarian, is a dangerous line to tread for someone with a past eating disorder. Although I do want to lose weight now, after gaining weight from so long a leave from the dance world, it could only aid my health now, even my doctor said. Not only do I feel better on a vegan diet, but I don’t have to worry about watching my cholesterol as my Dad does, and worry about heart disease that is so prevalent in my family. I would like to focus on cutting down or out sugar, which is my weakness, to lower my risk of getting diabetes, which also runs in my family and I have been warned to watch out for. Dairy doesn’t always do good for my digestive system, apart from yogurt, which I love, but the soy kind tastes just as good. There have been studies lately that link milk consumption to cancer as well, and vegetarians are advised not to drink milk because it inhibits your body’s iron absorption. Mind you, this is coming from the same little girl who won best dairy heifer showmanship at the County Fair back in the day. I like milk. But fortunately for me, I like the taste of soy milk even more. I used to drink mom’s soy milk that she bought because she was lactose-intolerant. If you think about it, it doesn’t make sense for us humans to be drinking milk that was created for calves. How many of us still drink our mother’s milk? I won’t even go into the horrors of the way dairy cows are treated and forced to lactate 4 times the amount of milk they would normally produce in a year just so we can have it by the gallon in the grocery store aisle. (Yes, there are dangers to eating too much soy products as well, and I plan to look into that.)With each sentence I jot down, I am becoming increasingly more convinced I am ready to go vegan. I haven’t even started laying out my biblical grounds for doing so yet.

God created us to be vegetarians in his perfect world, before the fall. In Genesis 1:29-30 God gives Adam and Eve ‘every plant yielding seed that is on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit.’ He also intended the animals to be herbivores, in verse 30, ‘to every beast of the field and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ Romans 14:17-21 talks about the kingdom of God not being a kingdom of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy. Paul tells the Romans to avoid dissension in their arguments over what foods to eat:

‘Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.’

There are Daniel and his friends, who asked the Babylonians only to give them vegetables and fruit and water (also known as the Daniel fast) and after ten days they were found to be healthier and better in appearance than the Babylonians who ate rich food.

I don’t think it is wrong for Christians to eat meat. I think that since it bothers me I should look into it myself and not try to impose my convictions on others.

I suppose I am writing this to lay out my reasons for myself, but also so that you my friends will know why I decided to do this. I am prepared for everyone to think I am crazy, even my own family, but after all, it is just food. With my student and young working person budget, this may prove difficult and inconvenient at times, but I am prepared to give it a go. I’ll keep you updated with tried-and-true veggie recipes! Don’t worry; my blog will never be taken over by an environmental foodie, but I think we were given a charge to take care of God’s earth and his creatures placed under our care from the beginning, and that has not changed.

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Another wordpress blog article on being Vegan Christians: http://joyfulvegan.wordpress.com/2008/02/13/christian-vegan-%E2%80%93-not-an-oxymoron/

Another blog article about a recent book about the horrors of factory farming: http://laboriousliving.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/eating-animals/

Michael Pollan’s books give adequately researched evidence for vegetarianism and simple rules for avoiding processed foods that have made our country fat and given over to “Western diseases”. I have read In Defense of Food and would like to read Food Rules. I have heard high recommendations for the Omnivore’s Dilemma.

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Cheers and God bless you all!

Wales, Castles and Manor Houses

My latest bit of traveling I managed while my belt is getting tight (metaphorically speaking, unfortunately) I spent three days staying with my flat mate Cat at her parents’ house in Cheshire from June 6-8. It is some of the most beautiful country side I have ever seen; the northwest near the Welsh border is quintessentially England with lush green rolling hills, gray stone walls, horses and sheep dotting the fields.

Wales: June 7

  • Conway Castle in Conwy, Wales
  • I enjoyed trying to pronounce all the Welsh signs on the drive there.
  • I don’t think Cat appreciated my butchering the archaic Celtic language.
  • Conwy is the closest to a fairy tale story castle I have seen so far.
  • One of Edward I’s many castles, completed in the 13th century.

Knutsford, England: June 8

  • Cat’s house is one of two of four remaining Victorian guard houses, to a demolished manor house.
  • Visited her mom’s and sister Josie’s half Arabians horses Sunny and Heidi.
  • Watched English saddle riding
  • Tried to kick neighbor chickens out of the corral, but they kept coming back to eat the horses’ grain.
  • Lots of old fashioned boutiques and inns in the ‘city center’
  • Many big league football players live in outside Knutsford in grand neighborhoods.
  • Home to the beautiful Tatten Park

Disley, England: June 8

  • Lyme Park Manor House:
  • Site of Pemberly, Mr Darcey’s house, in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.
  • I had to watch the entire 5 hour-long film once we got back home.
  • My first time inside an old manor house.
  • Exquisite Elizabethan interior, portraiture and furniture

Manchester: June 9

  • Before catching my coach back to Leeds, I took a few hours to look around the city.
  • Home to arguably England’s greatest football teams, Manchester United
  • I spent my time inside the Manchester City Art Gallery, my usual stop in a new city.
  • Found China Town on accident and bought some oriental goods there.

London, Bath, Jane Austin and French lessons

What a perfectly adequate first trip to London I had! I did not dare leave England without visiting that great city. I have to say, it is one of my favorites, minus the rain. If London came with sun and pleasant weather more often, I would undoubtedly move there. As it is, I think I may opt for France or Spain for a post graduate job, or somewhere with a pleasant clime… not to say that I wouldn’t jump at the chance to live in London any day!

Since my travels this spring I have gained many things: a different perspective on the world, greater understanding of different people and governments, and appreciation for European culture and British intelligence, just to begin… I know I will travel more, but now I have no doubts about moving somewhere where English is not the first language. I would really like to go live somewhere for a year where I have to learn the language. That is what many young foreigners I have met do. They move to England for a year or so just to practice their English and they work in the meantime and engage in a culture not their own. I am through with being part of the narrow-minded American society of bigots and experience absorbing another culture, no matter how similar or different from mine, rather than expecting everyone conform to us.

I have been questioning the uses of becoming a homogenous society like America claims to be. How much would be lost from each of the distinct cultures! How much has been lost already because of British and American influence and technology. But that is not a question to wear out on this blog… I think I will relate some of my favorite things about my 3 day stay in London, and my subsequent trip to Bath, from where I am writing this. Tomorrow’s plans are to go to see Stonehenge, the famed ancient stone monument.

Because of my decommissioned camera, again I will be relying on Google images or friends’ photographs.

London: May 29-June 1

  • Uneventful bus ride from Leeds to London. As expected, I slept most of it.
  • Proper London welcome: pouring rain when I arrived
  • Had to call Rachel in Leeds to give me tube directions to my hostel.
  • Finding a location in London is a mission, especially when streets get split up and half of the street with the same name is a block away, surrounding another square of grassy park.
  • No one in my hostel room snored – always a relief.
  • Met two other Americans I toured the city center with.
  • Walked across all the important bridges including Millennium Bridge and London Tower Bridge on the River Thames.
  • Met a lady from NY at the Globe theatre. Didn’t get tickets for a play that night, but gained a friend to spend a lively night with.
  • Danced to a street musician’s music, singing and snogging until the tube had closed. Whoops.
  • Next day, I met two French students also in my hostel I practiced my French with and went to the theatre.
  • Saw Les Miserables at Queens Theatre in Piccadilly, with my two French friends.
  • Had a really neat conversation with the African hostel cleaner who I thought hated me because he yelled at me the day before for not washing my mug. Discovered he is actually a very brilliant man with a Masters in Business Management, and we have something in common: we both have lived in Boston.
  • Tasted the sweetest cider ever in a Piccadilly pub.

Bath: June 1-3

  • Met my old time NM neighbor Catherine and her daughter and two daughters for high tea at the Royal Pump Room.
  • The fountain was filled with bubbles when I arrived.
  • Bazaar Bath tour: no history, just comedy. Real British comedy: dry, cruel humour.
  • Stayed in an amazing flat which Regan had rented in a posh Bath lane and imagined all the people who lived here during its popularity during the 18th century.
  • Jane Austen!!! Visted the Jane Austen Museum and the town houses and flats in which she and her father, mother and sister had lived after her brothers had all gone away.

  • I ought to mention some of the other 18th Century lit in which Bath the setting: Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Burney’s Evelina, Austen’s
    Northanger Abbey and Persuasion
  • Visited the Roman Baths: relics from a Roman city there over 1,000 years ago, where the hot springs were seen as a miracle from one of their gods.
  • Therma Spa: modern-day version of the Roman baths – Catherine generously treated me to go with her.

Stonehenge, June 2:

  • It’s a mystery who built it and why. These prehistoric Britains have been dubbed ‘the Beaker’ people, probably of Celtic or Saxon origin.
  • What is most impressive to me is how they managed to transport those massive stones from Whales, chisel them to fit together, and hoist them up into position. After more than 4,000 years, half of them are still standing.

Laycock, June 2:

  • We visited the little village of Laycock on the way up to Stonehenge, where many films were shot, including Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter.
  • We saw Harry Potter’s parents house, Professor Sloghorn’s house, and the street from the first scene in the first film.

On the way back:

  • I did manage to miss my bus from Bath, so I was forced to buy a train ticket which was much more expensive, but got me to London to catch my next bus faster!
  • I can’t wait to spend time with Regan’s little girls again when I return to London; and I will have to, in the next month, to see a ballet and more theatre.