They say CES means “cooking every second”

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One of the challenges here has been cooking Wednesday night dinner for the young single adults. In fact, at the MTC they teased that CES means “cooking every second” but it really stands for Church Educational System, which is the assignment we are filling for these two years. After learning to cook with a convection oven calibrated in Celsius, and finding the English version of familiar ingredients (no Crisco or chocolate chips for example), I think I am figuring it all out. We have served beef pie, chicken enchiladas, Hawaiian haystacks, a potato bar (known as “jackets” here), and brownies, cookies and Rice Krispie treats for dessert. This week we had some old bananas, so I thought banana bread would be good for dessert. The first batch wasn’t bad, but we ate some and took some to a barbecue at a friend’s house last Monday (a “bank holiday” here). So I made another batch… crumbly on top and gooey on bottom. I had bought some zucchini (called “courgettes” here) so I thought I would make zucchini bread. I had not done this before but thought it would be very similar to banana bread. Short loaves that just crumbled… so I thought we could serve banana and zucchini crumble with custard on top. We had eaten custard on a raspberry crumble at a member’s home, and there was a can of custard powder left from the previous tenant. So we did a test run… and it was runny like soup. It should be creamy like pudding but warm and smooth to pour. Tried another batch with less milk… still runny but it tasted good! Just not good enough to serve in public! So we just had crumbly zucchini bread for dessert and I told them that it must have happened because the lesson that night was on adversity and oh how I had had a trial cooking that day!

So here is a picture of tacos that Elder Young cooked the next night — his first full meal to cook by the way. Since we were both in dressy clothes he wore the apron. Notice his tongue since he is concentrating… It tasted wonderful and we have had leftovers from it also. Next week we are going to make a chicken rice meal in the slow cooker. We traded slow cookers (read “crock pot”) with the sister missionaries in Selsdon. They had a giant one (and didn’t even know what it was — it was just taking up counter space) and we had a little one. When making meals for 25 you need a big one! So we traded and I told them how to use it. We will have to check later to see if they have tried it. Now the only problem is when we make a roast for just us two on Sundays, it looks mighty lonely there in the bottom of the huge slow cooker! We may have to buy a little one for just our meals.

 

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Busy, busy, busy, busy…

Well, we finally have all the furniture and kitchen items stocked for the new set of Elders who arrived on Wednesday last week. Then on Wednesday we drove one of the sister missionaries to Staines to pick up her new companion. We dropped her off, helped with lunch, then drove a set of elders to Hastings, which is on the coast. During lunch we met Elder Franks, and during our conversation we learned that he is from Perry Utah! That is where some of Elder Young’s family is from.

With a new pair of missionaries near us in Bromley, we were split into our own mission district and met for the first time as a group yesterday. The six of us were joined by the zoneleaders (who used to be in our district before the split) and they played a little trick on Elder Kopischke, who is from Germany. The closing prayer was America the Beautiful — since the rest of us were all Americans! That actually is pretty unusual, the missionaries tell us that they are often the only American in their district.  Other than one fall each, and many bruises and scrapes from assembling furniture from IKEA, we are doing very well. The weather continues to be absolutely beautiful.

Although we missed the sealing of two of our young single adults (time change we were not notified of), we were able to attend the baptism of another who will be marrying in two weeks. The baptism was held in Tunbridge-Wells, so we got to go to another new place. While at the baptism, we were asked by a member to be the speakers at the LDS Business Forum in February. This is a very large group of UK business men and employees who meet monthly for a luncheon and speaker. We will have to choose our own topic that spans business and gospel topics. Should be interesting to see what we end up talking about! At least we have some time to decide.

We want to wish two family members happy birthday this week — daughter Wendy and granddaughter Piper. We love you all!

British Pageant

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The recent British Pageant focused on the history of the Church in the British Isles; it was written and performed by members from around the United Kingdom. It ran for 10 performances over two weeks, and was attended by three Apostles (http://www.lds.org/church/news/church-leaders-attend-stunningly-moving-british-pageant?cid=HP080813060&lang=eng). This was the first pageant outside the United States, and hopefully will continue to run yearly. We were not able to go as it is outside our mission and several hours away, but many of the members went to see it. It is an exciting as missionaries came to the British Isles in the 1830s to spread the gospel. There were 52,000 new members who left here and emigrated to Utah to bolster the young church.

75,000 missionaries!

We attended zone conference with special guest Elder David Evans of the Seventy. He shared with us that the day before, Monday 12 August 2013, there were officially 75,000 missionaries serving. They expect over 100,000 by next spring. He spoke to us in the morning and again after lunch. I think the best thing I heard him say was that “the answers to today’s problems will be in this morning’s [scripture] reading”.

We have been very busy with preparations for a new flat of elders who arrive this week. We had to inspect the flat, submit a list of things to be fixed, measure and shop for furniture that would fit [we ended up switching the living and bedrooms to fit it all], and then all the kitchen items, bedding, etc. Luckily we have an Ikea about 1/2 hour away where we can get the furniture, but then it needs to be transported and put together. We pick it up tonight and spend all tomorrow afternoon putting it all together. Hopefully some of our young single adults will be on hand to help Elder Young do that! We have come to love our YSAs so much! They are wonderful, and we have about 25 who attend Institute weekly. We hope that number goes up when August, the holiday [vacation] month ends. However, we realize that 10 of them got/are getting married this summer — two this weekend, one next week, and one the week after. We will be busy traveling to the temple for those sealings. In England you must be married civilly first, so most take out their endowments a few days before, then marry in an office and then go straight to the temple to be sealed. We have been able to attend the temple once already — it is about 45 minutes away — and will be back twice more this month before it closes for 10 weeks.

We have been able to register for the National Health System at the local “surgery” or doctor’s office. We have also met with the doctor for our initial 10-minute appointment to review medications and needs. Because Larry is over 60, his prescriptions are free. Elaine has to pay for her and then file for reimbursement from insurance. This October the rules for medical needs for senior missionaries are changing. We are not sure how this will affect us since we are not on church insurance, but they are trying to get the missionaries off the NHS so there will be no accusations of getting something for nothing. We will find out more shortly I presume.

Last night we went to the Temple Visitors Center for the monthly fireside; this month one of the senior missionary couples was speaking. There were two senior couples who had just arrived the day before, and one of them was Chaplain Boone and his wife who we knew from Virginia! We only had a few minutes to play catch-up, but exchanged contact information so we can talk some more. They are also serving with YSA in the Staines Stake. We quickly told them a few things that we have learned so far, where to shop for example. It has been fun reminiscing over all the things we have learned over the last month — yes, today is exactly one month since we arrived in England! We feel that the steep learning curve has smoothed out and we are very comfortable with our flat, car, getting around, people, shopping, everything. The weather continues to be perfect — mid 70’s in the day and 50s at night. We have been able to walk every morning without jackets unless it is raining, which has only been twice in a month!

We miss everyone but keep busy enough to not be lonely. There is so much to do — one of our YSA just Facebook messaged us this morning that he received his mission call to Norway. We are proud of the decisions and choices that our young single adults are making, and are working hard to get to know those who are not active in church and may not be choosing the best paths.

 

 

Is he the boss?

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Our chapel, across the street from the train station at Orpington

We are finally settling in and successfully cooked dinner for our 24 attending young single adults this week. We were able to make sweet and sour pork with rice, and Cowboy Cookies for dessert. We are testing new recipes on ourselves before baking the large batch for our students. We are also learning what “swede” and “bubble and squeak” are, among other things. Swede is a root vegetable like rutabaga, and they cube it up with carrots and bake it. Bubble and squeak is what you have on Monday nights because Mondays are laundry day and there isn’t time for cooking. So you take the leftovers from Sunday, the roast, potatoes and cabbage, and dice them up and mix them and fry it up. During the frying the potatoes tend to get a bubbly texture and the cabbage hisses as the juice cooks off, so it bubbles and squeaks!

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Some of our young single adults at Institute on Wednesday night

Each time we go out in public to a store, we get stopped by someone wanting directions or to find a product. Maybe that is because even the janitors in the mall wear a white shirt and tie. Yesterday we were at Costco’s and we passed a family with a young boy who asked his mother, “Is he the boss?” Of course it does give us an opportunity to introduce ourselves and why we are here. Most people are embarrassed or mumble that they are saved already and quickly leave.

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The mail truck, the postmen walk or run quickly early every morning to deliver the post

We are helping to set up the flat for a new set of elders arriving in two weeks. The mission office found a flat on High Street in Bromley (High Street is always the shopping district in each town). That has been a very fruitful area for the current sister missionaries, as people are less likely to brush you off than if they are walking to catch a train to work or to go home. Shopping seems to generally be a more leisurely activity. They have given out a lot of Books of Mormon and pass-along cards. We hope to be able to set up a table/booth with the weekend market in that area and work from there, the Bromley elders will be in charge of that. The sisters have to ride a bus for an hour to get to the shopping district there (unless we go with them and drive them).

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Silver dotted snail trails in the sunlight

We have been successful in our walks each morning, generally going two miles in a half hour. There are some lovely gardens (read front and back yards) on the way, and some nice parks. We also run into the garden snails that are out each morning. They leave a slime trail that is dotted and shines like silver in the morning sun. It is quite beautiful if you don’t think about what it is! The weather has been gorgeous this last week, high fifties at night and low seventies during the day. Most days have been sunny so we are really enjoying it before winter comes. Each month there is a senior missionary outing; we were going to London Tower this week but it had to be cancelled. So in September we are all going to Buckingham Palace. We ride the train/bus into London from all over the region, eat lunch together and then go sight-seeing. Next month will be our first opportunity and we look forward to it.

 

Hever Castle

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We went to visit Hever Castle on our first outing with the sister missionaries in our area. Sister Paulsen (in red) is from Copenhagen and goes home in a few weeks. She is a spitfire who is very organized and on the ball. Sister Ernenwein is from Boston and has been here about 2 months. She is a bit nervous about training a new companion in a few weeks. She will do fantastic!

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Hever Castle was built in 1270 and in 1462 became the home the Boleyn family (think Anne Boleyn of Richard VIII fame).  It passed through several other owners over the years, including the Astor family in 1903. The castle was purchased in 1983 to be a conference center and activity site. It is open to the public for a fee and has gorgeous gardens, 2 mazes (hedge and water), a large lake, a jousting show, and archery. We enjoyed touring the grounds and the castle, and it only rained a few times in between sunny patches. In fact there has been more sun in the 13 days we have been here than we expected in the full 2 years!

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So there are many things we are loving about England. One surprise was lemon curd, which seemed odd at first until I tasted it — it takes like lemon meringue pie filling! It is scrumptious and I have made little lemon tarts with it. We have also discovered that boxed off-the-shelf milk is still great (think Guam milk), and much cheaper and easier to store. I have surprisingly enjoyed hand-washing dishes — when there is only 2 plates and 2 cups — otherwise it is difficult to clean large pots, pans and bowls in our little tiny sink. And laundry — because the machines are ultra-efficient, it takes 1.5 to 2.5 hours to wash one very small load (like 4 towels) and then they have to be hung up and line-dried. That has taken a lot more time than I ever imagined.

We have received a list of 317 young single adults in our region. We know about 50 of those, so we only have 260 more to get to know! Last night at Institute (a religion class every Wed night) we fed them with a pasta bar and Wendy’s famous brownies. It was a real chore to get two types of pasta baked and 2 batches of brownies done and frosted, but we were triumphant! They liked it, especially the brownies. They are always surprising me, though, several asked if there was milk for the brownies! The lesson included a story about hot coals, and featured North Padre Island beach bonfires. They really liked the pictures of our sandy beach, as most of the beaches here (such as Brighton) are rocky.

We are staying busy and happy. We have managed to go for a walk almost every morning, and are kept busy cooking meals every day. We are finally getting a bit of leftovers which should help with lunches and quick dinners. We pray for you all every day, and love and miss you. Please keep us in your prayers, that we may be up to the work that needs to be accomplished here.