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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Weekend in London: Part II

One of the great things about being in London are the pubs.  They sport fantastic names like The Carpenters Arms, Monkeys Forehead, The Hunter's Lodge and The Fox and Hounds.  They are cozy, beautiful, charming places pouring good drink and serving tasty food.  So for my first lunch in London we ventured out to The Carpenters Arms, just a short walk from The American Church.  I ordered half a roasted chicken and fries.  Fries, as opposed to chips, are skinny french fries like we are used to other side of the Atlantic.  Chips are the thicker variety.  It was seriously the best chicken I've ever eaten in my entire life.  I'm really not sure what they did to it, but it fell off the bone, was deliciously moist throughout and served with a sauce that was heavenly.  I was fully satisfied with my meal but have to admit that I happened to see a dessert item on the menu that I could not pass up.  A salted caramel, chocolate and clotted cream tart.  I love all three of those items and really, you shouldn't leave Britain without having clotted cream at least once!  So I ordered it and ate it.  Luckily my colleagues helped me (very little but that is why there are 3 forks on the plate).  It was so out of this world crazy delicious that I can barely give description to how wonderfully tasty this dessert was.  I kind of went into a little food coma after I finished the whole thing, practically licking the platter clean since I wanted to get every last drip of caramel on the plate.  It was decadent and delicious.  A fine start to my weekend.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, two more pub visits were in my future before I ventured back to Stockholm (where we have some nice pubs but the cost of beer is ridiculous and they often don't pour the dry English apple cider like they do in England and the food is not as good).  Sunday night I landed at the Hunter's Lodge with my buddy Judy.  I ordered a chicken, leek and mushroom pie and was not disappointed. I forgot my camera so you'll just to trust that this chicken pot pie was every bit as good as you could only imagine.  A little malt vinegar on the chips, a plateful of peas and a Strongbow Cider made it just right.
Finally, before heading back to Heathrow for my flight home, we pulled into the Fox and Hounds, a beautiful place near Egham.  I was decidedly indecisive about what to order and one item definitely caught my attention: Bubble and Squeak.  Now many of us are familiar with the crazy names that British folks love to name their food: Bangers and Mash, Toad in the Hole and the ever famous Spotted Dick, but Bubble and Squeak was new to me.  Intrigued, I asked the waiter what it was and he told me that it came from Ireland (but I've since learned it is the entire UK as well) where they took all of the left over root vegetables from the Sunday dinner, fried them all together with potatoes and cabbage, threw an egg on top and called it lunch on Monday.  It gets its name from the sound it makes in the frying pan when everything is coming together.  It was all together too tempting to pass up, so I ordered it and I'm telling ya it was GREAT!  He assured me that they made their Bubble and Squeak from fresh vegetables, nothing leftover and it was super.  The poached egg on top was cooked to perfection.  I was impressed.  Yes, that's another brand of Cider lurking in the background and my friend Judy with her big 'ol hamburger and chips on the other plate.
I suppose we Americans have our own take on eggs and potatoes but I'm pretty sure we'd never be imaginative or brave enough to put an item such as Bubble and Squeak on the menu in a public house!
The other things that one must eat when in England are an egg salad sandwich (the best in the world) and I recommend finding a sticky toffee muffin somewhere.  Yes, I indulged in both.
But for sure, enjoy eating in a Pub a time or two...it's the way to go when in England. 

Weekend in London: Part 1

I just spent a wonderful long weekend in London.  I was asked by the American Church in London to come and speak at a women's conference they were hosting.  I know the pastor and his wife well and have been to this church on numerous occasions so I was happy to accept the invitation.  I built my talks around the theme of Strangers and Aliens and my basic premise was that we all have places of great alienation in our lives, perhaps geographically for those of us living in foreign countries, but also spiritually and emotionally, for example, my infertility being a place of great emotional alienation for me.  But, and here was my main point, the better we get at identifying these places of loss and "outsideness", the more God can use them in our lives to pull us closer to Him, which as Christians, should be our ultimate goal.  It was fun to put my thoughts together and a real joy to share them with a wonderful group of women.
Speaking of feeling displaced, I had a funny thing happen to me whilst there.  I walked into a coffee shop and ordered a coffee.  Whilst waiting in line to pay, I heard the clerk ask the woman in front of me to pay.  She did this in English.  And I thought to myself, wow, I wonder how she knew to ask her for money in English.  I wonder if she'll know that I speak English.  Then I remembered that we were in ENGLAND.  Duh.  Of course they were speaking English!  I am just so used to be surrounded by Swedish so even hearing the English was different for me.  I must admit, I loved being in an English speaking country, even though, in London, there are definitely words and accents that I sometimes do not recognize!
The entire weekend was a cozy time together and I enjoyed sharing my heart with a lovely group of women who gave their time to this gathering over the weekend.
My time with John and Julie, the pastor and his wife, was also very rich.  They have become very good friends over the years that we have been pastors of International churches and it was a pleasure to spend time in their home, get to know their delightful 12 year old son better, eat amazing and wonderful food, share great conversations and good laughs together.  It was great fun to be back in London again even though this time around I didn't really have time to do a lot of Londony things.  I did ride both the Tube and the red double decker busses.  As I was leaving the city to venture out to the English countryside, I was in a taxi heading to the Waterloo train station, and we drove across the Thames and to my left was St. Paul and to my right was Big Ben, the London Eye, and Parliament.  Quintessentially British and it made my heart sing a little!  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Celebrating A Championship: Part II

Last Friday night a huge crowd gathered at our high school stadium to remember the championship that my high school won in football 35 years prior.  It ended up being a wonderful affair, filled with great emotion and joy.  Over 55 players from that team were present and it was a real treat for me to see them interact with one another and with my father.  At half time, all alumni were welcomed onto the field while a special presentation was made on behalf of the championship team.
The whole gang at half time, with the team picture and trophy.
As part of the ceremony, my father's record was recited.  Even I was impressed!  I knew he was good, but seriously, he was really good!  Here are some stats:
Coach Ted "Moon" Mullen
Overall Winning Percentage: 73%
2 CIF Championships
6 CIF Championship Game Appearances
14 Playoff Appearances in 17 Seasons (.823 Playoff Appearance win average over 17 seasons.)
Never eliminated in the first round.  (14-0)

The year his team, Villa Park (VP) won the C.I.F. championship in 1977, this was the team record:
1977 Won 12, Lost 1
(6-1) 2nd Place Century League
CIF Southern Conference Champions
VP: 22 Katella 7 W
VP:36 Canyon 7 W
VP:19 Santa Ana* 8 W
VP:21 Tustin* 0 W
VP:7 Santa Ana Valley* 9 L
VP:31 El Modena* 29 W
VP:21 Estancia* 0 W
VP:25 Foothill* 8 W
VP:17 Orange* 0 W
PLAY-OFF GAMES:
VP:31 ARLINGTON 6 W
VP:28 SAVANNA 14 W
VP:14 RIVERSIDE POLY 6 W
VP:21 LOS ALAMITOS 6 W C.I.F. SS Championship Game
The wonderful moment after they read the stats from my dad's career and the entire stadium cheered and cheered!
That's him in the brown shirt.
So you can see, there was much to celebrate and much joy to share!  Many of us had not seen one another since high school or if we had seen one another, it had been at a reunion or two.  It was neat to see the team spirit that the players from this team still shared. There really is something magical about sharing something significant like a sport's championship. 
One of the neat things was that my dad's entire coaching staff was there, except for one man who has passed on.  
The coaching staff from a program in 1977.  Gotta love the short shorts!  All of them were present at this reunion, except for the man to the left of my father's right! Sadly, he passed away a few years ago.

One of the players confessed to my dad that he stole his helmet after the championship game!  He had it with him!
The local paper even found it suitable to cover this event!  Click this link for the story.  
I find that simply remarkably, that after 35 years, these guys still want to share in this special time.  For me, it was a great time in my life, both as a high school student, but of course, as my father's daughter.  I saw old friends, neighbors who journeyed through the games with us, and of course my former classmates.  While reuniting with friends from long ago certainly has its odd points, the one thing that is very cool is that all the boundaries that get set up in high school get torn down.  Everyone is so gracious now.  Status, popularity, and coolness have all gone by the wayside.  Some people are bigger.  Some are smaller.  Some are bald.  Some are gorgeous.  Some are wildly successful others struggle.  Some of the crazy ones have found God and settled into a different way of life. Others are still looking for a good party.  In the end it didn't matter.  It was just great to see everyone again and marvel at how 35 years had gone by.  All of us who go to be a part of that magical season will always savor that moment for our class will always be the CIF Champions of 1977 and nothing on earth will ever change that reality.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

We Bought A House

Last winter, on our annual trek to see my parents in Palm Springs, quite unexpectedly, we bought a house out here.  When my parents first moved out to the desert from Orange Country (1.5 hours from where I grew up) they moved to a golfing community called Mission Lakes in the town of Desert Hot Springs.
The view looking down our street.
The town itself is nothing special and has actually had some safety issues but the golfing community is a beautiful area that we have always loved.  The golf course is one of the best in the area and the best part for us is that it is totally affordable.
Hole No. 1
We loved coming out and staying with my folks and playing golf out here.  My parents moved off the course and down into Palm Springs about 13 years ago.  We would still venture up to DHS to enjoy the views and the golf.  Doug liked to look around the internet for properties just to see what was available and how the prices looked.  While browsing he came across this steal of a home and we decided that perhaps it would be a good time to look into making a retirement purchase!  One thing led to another and a couple days later we were homeowners!
The front of 8611 Warwick Dr.
This has been a big deal for us because we've never owned a home before.
We have always lived in church provided housing and this has been a bit of a concern for us.  One of the reasons that we were able to make this purchase at this time was because of a generous gift that Doug's sister Debbie left us after she died last summer.  Debbie was an incredibly generous person, always giving more to others than she ever wanted in return and it feels like it honors her legacy to have a home where we hope we can welcome others to enjoy our desert paradise.  We plan to make it available to friends and family at a reasonable rate so let us know if your travels take you to Southern California.  It's not fancy but it's fun.
The clubhouse at Mission Lakes
The house itself is a two bedroom, two bathroom place with an open plan layout for the living area.
You walk in the front door and the living room, dining area and kitchen area are all right there.
The open plan living area.
The living room
 The back bedroom used to be two rooms and the previous owners knocked out a wall and made a really nice master.
The master bedroom
Now there's this wonderful little nook off the bedroom.
The view into the bedroom from the backyard

The lovely sitting nook off the bedroom.  The french doors lead to the patio.
We installed french doors that lead right to the patio and sitting there in morning with the cool air coming in is just lovely.
The area is beautiful and the complex includes lit tennis courts, a swimming pool and jacuzzis, and of course the lovely golf course.
Gorgeous swimming complex

 When we were here in June we furnished the house, landscaped the front and put a covered patio on the back.  
The front yard.
The back patio
This time I installed an internet connection.  It's pretty much ready to be used so let us know if you'd like to give it a go!  It is located 15 miles north of downtown Palm Springs so you need a car when you are here.
The glorious view from the front of our house.
Just to be clear...we have no plans to move back to California right now!  Of course, we are trying to figure out how to spend as much time here as possible but we still have to work and still have a life and dog in Sweden that we need to tend to.
I love this little house!
But this has given us a bit of an anchor back in our native homeland and it has helped me to know that at least the hope and promise of returning to a warmer climate one day has come a bit closer to reality!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Celebrating A Championship

One of the reasons that I am here in California at this time is because tonight is a celebration of something big that happened in our lives 35 years ago.  After reaching the finals of the California Interscholastic Federation (C.I.F.) Southern Section (California's equivalent of a state championship since it is such a huge state), the previous two seasons and coming away with losses, in the autumn of 1977 the team once again made it to the finals and this time came away with a winning outcome! The game was played at Anaheim Stadium, home to the California Angels professional baseball team and it was a big deal to be there in that huge stadium!Why is this game so celebrated in our family?  My father, Ted Mullen, was the head coach of the team and I was a senior in high school at the same school, Villa Park High School.  
The school has never again won the title and this win was the sole time it achieved this great outcome.  Winning the southern section of the C.I.F. represented the pinnacle achievement for my father in his career and after losses in the previous two attempts, this win was perhaps even sweeter.
My dad's football coaching career was a family affair.  We were all involved, never missing games, riding the waves of victory, suffering the blues of defeat.  Fortunately, Ted did not lose many games so we didn't have to suffer through that depression very often!  But the autumn of 1977 was a special time for us.  The team was ripe for victory and was full of incredibly talented athletes.  Many of them were my close friends and peers from school so the sense of togetherness that pervaded the campus environment was quite special.  As Friday approached, the buzz grew louder and louder and the school along with the entire community began to turn their sights on the stadium lights.  Ever watch or read Friday Night Lights?  This was my life.
I was privileged to be a part of the pep squad that year as school mascot.  We were the Villa Park Spartans and our colors were blue, black and silver.  I'll never forget putting together my outfit.  I didn't exactly want to look like Spartacus but wanted it to be fun and memorable so I went with a silver lamé dress and a black cape with a bright blue lining.  The kicker came when I found some silver shoes that worked perfectly!  What a thrill it was to call cheers for that magical season, close to sidelines where I could at least sense the electricity on the field.
The amazing thing for me 35 years down the road is this simple fact: So many of the guys who played on that team still keep in touch with my parents.  The players speak so highly of this time in their life, giving praise to my father for the genius coach that he was, for the ways in which he led them to this great victory.  Their affection for my mother is a tribute to her involvement as well.  She was indeed my father's greatest fan, missing only 1 game in his entire career because she was too sick to get of bed.  My mom stood behind my father with great support only occasionally questioning why he didn't blitz more on defense!  The fact that she knew what a blitz was spoke to her deep knowledge of the game as well.
So tonight, 50-60 players from that team and countless others who were my peers in high school, cheerleaders, members of the band and drill team, coaches and neighbors who traveled through these Friday nights with us will gather at Fred Kelly Stadium, our home field, to enjoy a high school football game, between my high school, Villa Park and Foothill High School, incidentally, the only other school where my father won the same championship, to be recognized at half time for this great achievement now a long time ago.  Then we'll gather at a restaurant to share stories and reminisce about a special autumn and a football season that gave us much more than just a win.  The guys speak of the life lessons they take away from having been a part of Coach Moon's team and alway speak with such joy and admiration for the man I've always known as dad.  My one great regret in this life is that I never played for a coach as talented as my father and I never was part of a winning tradition like the one our football teams had.  But even so, I am grateful for the excitement and joy that we all shared by being part of my father's career as a high school football coach and easily celebrate the success he so clearly deserved.
Yes, tonight we celebrate a championship but I suppose for me, it's mainly about celebrating the champions I truly feel my parents are.  Their footprint on people's lives is so clear and it's humbling for me to see how these guys still love them, even after all these years.