The Joys of a Liquid Diet

As I mentioned in my last post, I had jaw surgery two and a half weeks ago. No, I don’t really want to talk about it, since thinking about what my surgeon was doing while I was out still makes me queasy (if you’re absolutely dying to know, you can look up orthognathic surgery on Wikipedia and learn all the gory details. There, I just taught you a new word). Nor did I take pictures of myself after the surgery, when I looked like a cross between a gigantic chipmunk and a basset hound. Because some things are just better left to the imagination.

The recovery period has been . . . as good as can be expected. Yes, I did end up almost fainting at my post-op check-up five days after the surgery. Turns out that staying properly hydrated when your mouth is banded shut, swallowing hurts your throat, and you’re vaguely nauseated and can barely wake up because of the narcotics is not as easy as it sounds. A couple of I.V. bags later (and an informal prescription for a milkshake on the way home), and I was feeling better.

Life has pretty much returned to normal by now. Except that I have a plastic bite plate wired into my mouth for the next month, which gives me a charming little temporary speech impediment. And I’m on a liquid diet. So in case you’re ever in a situation where you’re consigned to a six-week liquid diet, let me give you a few tips:

  1. Pretty much any food item can be blended up if you add enough liquid. This does not mean that every food item will remain palatable once it is sodden and diluted. For example, a hamburger and onion rings. Just don’t try it.
  2. Your food will taste better if you blend it up with an appropriate liquid. For example, ribs with braised carrots and cabbage blended up very nicely with beef broth. Similarly, I used chicken broth for chicken shish kebabs, and it was delicious. However, fruit is nice blended up with milk, and my normal smoothies with juice work nicely too. Some things, like melon or soups, don’t need any added liquid at all, so they are most likely to remain similar in taste to the original food.
  3. The magic bullet! (or cheap Walmart knock-off.) Trying to make single serving meals in a normal blender would be a pain. With a Magic Bullet-style blender, it all goes straight into the cup you’ll drink from, and you can easily blend up small amounts. And you don’t have to wash your big blender after every meal.
  4. A high-quality protein powder/meal substitute shake is a good idea. It’s hard to get enough calories in a day when you have to blend everything up, and you can’t just grab a normal snack out of the fridge. Several people recommended Ensure, but two of the main ingredients are sugar and soy oil, so I figured I could find something better. I settled on True Vitality Plant Protein Shake with DHA and 8 Billion Probiotic Cells, because I was happy with the ingredients and it wasn’t outrageously expensive (well, comparatively speaking, at least). I got the vanilla flavor, and it tastes . . . bearable, especially if I mix it with milk, banana and peach. I also put in my normal daily dose of pollen, but I skip the flax seeds because:
  5. Beware of seeds, at least if you’re dealing in fixed orthodontic appliances. I made the mistake of whipping myself up a blackberry milkshake during my first week home. Not only did the tiny seeds clog up my syringe-with-flexible-long-tip (sort of the adult version of a bottle), but they got stuck in my bite plate and braces. I’ve since graduated to drinking from a cup, thank goodness, but I still avoid berries for now.
  6. Your juicer is your friend, since raw vegetables don’t really turn out that satisfactorily in the blender. However, juicing all the ingredients on the back of the V8 bottle will not result in anything remotely resembling V8. Ask me how I know.
  7. If you have stitches somewhere in your mouth, do not add pepper to your food! Even if you normally like spicy food, now is not the time, since eating spicy stuff right now is basically like rubbing tabasco sauce in a wound. I also appear to have had a flare-up of my long dormant avocado allergy, due to eating avocado a few days after my surgery while everything was still a little raw in my mouth. Sad times.

Via the above, and some trial and error, I’ve managed to eat what I think is a fairly balanced diet in liquid form. Although sometimes I think I should just make it easy for myself and eat sugar glider food. I have lost a few pounds, I think, since my clothes are feeling mighty loose these days. I know some people consider that a great side effect of orthognathic surgery, but I’m with Frodo: “I hope the thinning process does not go on indefinitely, or I shall become a wraith.”

photo credit

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

These are our newest little friends. We recently met them through a passion we share: raw goat milk. We first got hooked on raw milk back when Tony was going to school at B.Y.U. Every week, I would drive with baby Axa out to a farm in Payson to see the gentle jersey cows and pick up a couple of gallons of what could most accurately be described as “liquid flowers.” When we spent a year in Washington State, raw cow milk was unavailable, so we were introduced to the glorious earthy decadence that is raw goat milk. The final piece of the puzzle fell into place when we moved to our little 1-acre “farm” in Fallbrook, and became the delighted owners of two lovely (albeit devious) la mancha goats.

Every time we move somewhere new, one of the first things we look for is whence we can source raw milk. In fact, one of the first times I correctly deciphered a sign in Italy was when I saw the wonderful and almost unbelievable words “latte crudo” over a small shop. It actually was a store selling raw milk, icy cold out of a vending machine, as well as fresh mozzarella, scamorza, and creamy ricotta. Heaven.

Here in Florida, we have been even luckier than usual. Only fifteen minutes away, we can drive to an adorable little farm for our milk.

Westwood Farm specializes in Nigerian Dwarf Goats, which are perfect little miniature dairy-type goats. Fortunately, we have a strict HOA, or after our first visit to the farm, we might have come home with a pet goat.

Aren’t they just too cute for words? This one is only a couple of weeks old, and Axa and I were both utterly smitten.

Goats are naturally friendly and inquisitive, and these have been bottle-raised. So they love people, and think everyone is coming to bring them a snack.

They are agile and love to play. Here at the farm, every goat pen looks like a jungle gym.

Here are the wise old mamma goats, who give us our weekly milk. Can’t you just tell how much personality they have?

Someday we’ll have goats again!

Finally in Florence

So where was I? Oh, yes, sitting on the suitcases. Turns out, Tony’s car reservation was actually NOT a real reservation, and when we tried to run our debit card to rent the car, it was declined of course, since we’d withdrawn all the money from our American account so we could have cash in Italy. You can’t rent a car with any amount of cash, apparently, at least not any amount we were prepared to offer.

So after a few hours of tense deliberation, we rode the bus into Torino, spent the night there, worked out the car problem, and were driving down the autostrada just 24 hours later than we had planned. Our idea was to drive down the coast, hit the leaning tower of Pisa, and arrive in Firenze with plenty of time to check into our apartment by the 8:00 p.m. cutoff. Of course, everything takes longer when you are jetlagged in a foreign country. Especially when that country is Italy. We stopped for lunch in Genova, and to change money. Unfortunately, none of the five banks we asked wanted our dollars. This was another problem, since the apartment rental agency wanted cash on arrival, and banks are open for somewhere around five hours per day in Italy. We continued down the autostrada, stressed out about the problem and later than we’d hoped, due to not factoring in the time it would take to stand in line at all those banks.

By six o’clock we were in Pisa. We took our obligatory silly photos holding up the tower, had our first gelato in Italy, and headed back toward the car. Luckily, there was a money changer right next to the gelato shop, and she actually had a good rate. So Tony changed money and we hopped back in the car. Of course, we didn’t have sim cards for our phones yet, so he had to ask a perfect stranger to let him make a call on his cell phone (do pay phones exist here? we’re not sure) and tell the rental agency we were on the way. He said he would wait till nine o’clock, and if we didn’t make it, we’d just have to get a hotel.

We didn’t want a hotel. We wanted to be home. Being in a hurry never improves our navigational accuracy. At the turnoff to Firenze, we went the wrong way. Two wrong turns later, we found ourselves unaccountably on the road we were supposed to take (thus disproving the old adage that two wrongs don’t make a right. Several lefts actually DO make a right). After a few more missed turns (every time we entered the old city we lost all sense of direction), we managed to park a block from our new apartment. It was ten to nine.

Florence really is a lovely old town. We live in the Centro Storico (Historic Center), but on the opposite side of the river from the Duomo and all the famous museums. So the shops around our house actually sell vegetables, bread, meat, and other useful items, rather than just jewelry, expensive clothes, and antique furniture. We also have a nice park right around the corner, one of the few public parks in the old city. So we feel very pleased with our apartment. We pretty much remember all the Italian we ever learned, and hope we’ll soon improve upon it.

We’ve been puttering about a bit, but I can’t do justice to a description of Florence yet, since we’ve been mainly occupied with food, shelter, and things like that. We did, however, get our very first Italian easter egg for Family Home Evening treat last night. I hope you’re not picturing a little plastic one. In Italy, an easter egg is a gigantic chocolate affair wrapped in cellophane with a surprise inside its hollow center. The shop windows at this time of year are filled with fanciful displays of them, ranging from the small foil-wrapped variety to huge ones decorated all over with chocolate flowers and weighing in at a kilo or more. We even saw some real blown eggs re-filled with chocolate.

We were unfortunately unable to find raw milk. I guess it doesn’t exist in downtown Florence. But we got some pasteurized milk, which my kefir grains (smuggled through customs in a baby bottle, courtesy of Grammy) are happily culturing. More news later!

Let’s toast the new year with bubbly milk

Dawn points, and another day
Prepares for heat and silence. Out at sea the dawn wind
Wrinkles and slides. I am here
Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.
T.S. Eliot

I don’t remember ever being so glad to say goodbye to a year. Let 2009 be over, and let the bells ring in a brave new year. Last year at this time, we had just postponed our flight back home to Italy, our possessions had been in storage for nearly a year, we were moving into yet another furnished condo, and our business was weeks away from failure. I guess anyone but I could have seen disaster in the wings.

Now we are comfortably settled and moved in, we have a huge yard and chickens and goats, Tony has a real job, and I’m finally getting better.

To celebrate the new year, we finally got kefir again. Kefir. It’s origins are shrouded in the mystery of the far-distant past. When my brother Benjamin tasted it, he pronounced it identical to the fermented mare’s milk he’d had in Mongolia. The grains that produce it are small white gelatinous cauliflower-looking things. Some claim they were a gift from God to Muhammad. Others say that kefir grains are the manna of the Bible. Whatever they are, when left in milk (preferably fresh, raw milk) they produce a sour, slightly fizzy thickened drink. It goes nicely in smoothies, makes a fine substitute for buttermilk, and can even be used to make cheese and sourdough bread. Yummy.

There and Back Again

So here we are, still “in search of a dream to call home,” I suppose. The past several months, although completely and uncharacteristically uneventful on casteluzzo.blogspot.com, have been quite eventful in real life. Our business failed in February, we spent a glorious two and a half weeks in Italy in March, and we moved back to California in April.

The devastation of our business failing took awhile to fully sink in. Finally one day, we found ourselves on the living room floor, feeling as if we’d been rolled in on a stretcher. Business gone, massive debt hanging over our heads, and our idyllic Italian dream shattered. Among other things. But there were a few pieces lying around that we began slowly picking up.

Before we went back to Italy, we had spent some time looking for a new home. We were tired of little apartments in expensive San Diego neighborhoods (and no longer needed to live next to the office), so we began widening our search. Finally, a week or so after arriving back in the States, we found a cute little house on an acre, complete with a eucalyptus grove and (best of all) a utility shed. Really. Since we couldn’t have anything else on our dream Italian farm, we were determined to at least get our goats. And that shed looked like it would make a perfect little goat home.

As it turned out, it does. Hershey and Sweet Betsy, our two la mancha goats, who arrived at our home by miracle, now live happily in half of that shed and scampering about playing king of the mountain in their own little yard. The other half of the shed has been painstakingly prepared by Tony as a home for some long-awaited chickens, who should be arriving next week.

The bobbles spend their days playing king of the mountain with the goats, wandering the “jungle,” inhabiting their hut in the woods, searching for snails, having picnics on the grass, hunting dragons, unicorns, and monsters, playing in the mud pit, and generally making Charlotte Mason proud.

We floundered around from pest control to a new business selling organic fruits and vegetables door to door, but we were just not making it, and the stress of owning our own business had finally caught up with us. The predictable Monday-Friday work-week (and the predictable paycheck) we’d always rolled our eyes at began to look better and better.

I guess it’s no coincidence that on this, Tony’s first day of work, I finally feel put-together enough to blog. It seems like an eternity since we hiked up to Mirabello castle for the last time to look down on the beautiful Piemontese countryside.

And what should I say about the future? In the near future I see a lot of goat cheese, some days at the beach, and some nice visits from family. And after that? Well, I just finished filling out Tony’s AIRE registration so he and the children can get their Italian passports and I can apply for citizenship. And Tony’s new company has offices in all sorts of exotic cities around the globe. Only time will tell (and hopefully not too much time either).

Till then, I hope life will at least be reasonable enough for me to blog sometimes.

More Raw . . . . (no, not milk)

We found raw honey two nights ago. It was easy to find, just like everything else here (well, no, not everything. Not coconut oil or books in English). We just popped in at a house down the street with a sign that says “Miele.” They had three kinds on hand: castagno (chestnut. a very strong flavor, and one that we’ve been enduring since I bought a kilo of chestnut honey in Saluzzo months ago), dandelion, and melata.

Coincidentally, I was just reading about melata honey the other day when I was researching apitherapy (healing with honey and other bee products). We’ve done a few rounds of royal jelly, but I wanted some unprocessed stuff straight from the farm. That’s the way I like everything. Straight from the farm. Melata is acquired by the bees from secretions of some other type of insect, and not as nectar from flowers. It has a sweet, wild, mysterious flavor, like flowers opening secretly in the dark. I love it, although I feel a little ambivalent about something that’s been through two sets of insects. Best not to think too much about it.

Manuela, the beekeeper, speaks perfect English. Tony was very impressed when she correctly used the word “centrifugate” in a sentence. The honey is raw and unprocessed. They do run it through a centrifuge to get rid of all the sediment, but it’s unpasteurized. That’s important because pasteurization destroys all the good stuff, just like in milk. The bits of pollen in it are great for allergies. After honey is pasteurized, it’s basically just sugar.

In a few weeks, Manuela said they would have millefiori (wildflower, or literally, “a thousand flowers”) honey, which is very good for people with allergies. We are looking forward to that. She was very sweet when she was talking about the bees. She said all the beekeepers were having problems because the farmers spray the corn, and it kills the bees. Some of the beekeepers have lost many “families” of bees. She looked very sad as she described how the pesticides were bad for the “little ones.” It was a tender image until you pictured who those little ones actually were. (I confess I still battle a childhood insect phobia)

Meanwhile, we went into town and asked what types of cheese go well with honey. We came home with caprino (goat cheese), castelmagro, toma piemontese, and a soft, crumbly, tart tomino. They were all delicious. We ate them with dandelion honey. When we go back to the apiary for wildflower honey, we’ll ask the beekeepers which honeys go best with which cheeses.

I am also using melata honey in conjunction with the butter I made this morning and a gift of fresh figs from Beatrice to make cookies. We’re taking them to her tomorrow because she is so kind to us. Every day when we go to pick up our milk she has something extra to give us. The other day when I went in the middle of an argument with Tony (we had a lot of extra feelings floating around after being apart for so long) she said, with uncanny perception of my unspoken feelings, “I will give you a thornless rose. I call these the my husband’s roses, because I planted them after he died. They last 15 days after cutting.”

She has a new little calf that Axa has been dying to see. Now that she’s over her chicken pox, we’ll all go tomorrow, take some pictures with the calf (and Beatrice), and give her the cookies. La vita e bella!

Oh, P.S., that wasn’t the Tour de France. The real thing came by the next day, with two hours of fanfare, consisting in dozens of cars outfitted like permanent floats in a parade. It’s the advertising opportunity of the year in Europe, evidently. Tony got more pictures than even he wanted. We sat up in our window and watched the parade go by. The only catch was that we were too high up to catch the candy thrown from the cars.

Donkey Milk

I originally conceived this blog as a clear, straight-forward guide to claiming Italian citizenship jure sanginis. I was inspired by Michael Santulli, from whom I first learned of the possibility of jure sanginis. His blog is a calm, detailed description of a logical process–claiming jure sanguinis through his Italian grandmother at his U.S. consulate. So I started the blog, and it ran away with me. Now here I am in Italy, but I find that my account is neither calm nor especially logical. At least I believe I can claim to be detailed.

And if sometimes I stray from my stated topic, it’s only to remind us why, after all, we wanted to move to Italy in the first place. I am continually amazed by Bella Italia, and by the people who live here. For instance, yesterday evening, Angela, the reporter who wrote the article about us in the local newspaper, drove us up a little ways into the mountains to meet her horse. He’s a tall, black, beautiful 2-year-old Friesian. She chose black because she has fewer allergies to black-haired animals. I should remember that. Axa and I have had some nasty allergies out here in the country this summer.

She boards her horse at an agriturismo whose focus is donkeys. The owner, Danielle, informed me that they had difficulty making a living when they started out, because they focused on donkey milk. Donkey milk. I can only imagine milking a donkey. I thought goat’s milk was exotic. What will we find next? Cat’s milk? Supposedly, donkey milk is more like human milk than even goat’s milk. It has no casein, which is the main allergen in cow’s milk. Danielle says donkey milk tastes like almonds. We’ll have to go back to taste it in a few months.

Buttermilk and Bees

Carla is in Rome for the week with Rebecca, so we invited Giorgio over for dinner on Wednesday. I made him peach crisp for dessert, since he couldn’t make it on the 4th of July when we had Carla and the missionaries. Just before dinner, Tony went out on bicycle to buy gelato to go with the crisp. As he left the house, he noticed that Giorgio was just behind him on motorcycle. In fact, he seemed to be trailing him. They drove all the way through town, with Giorgio just behind. As Tony reached the gelateria, Giorgio veered off in the other direction.

The mystery was solved when after dinner, Giorgio brought out a tray of those lovely (and delicious) little Italian pastries: cannoli, bacchie di dama, tiny cream puffs, and some others whose names I don’t know. He had actually been on his way to get gelato, but guessed Tony’s design and executed his own Plan B.

We had pasta with tomato-buttermilk sauce. I’m sure that’s very strange to serve, but I made it with my own buttermilk (my cream cultured up quite beautifully all by itself as it was waiting in the refrigerator to collect enough for butter). I am mortified to serve pasta to Italians, since I am sure I don’t cook it for the exact time to make it perfect, and I know my pasta sauces aren’t exactly right, and I imagine there are a lot of other things I haven’t even dreamed of. The fewer the ingredients, the more important the technique.

But Giorgio was very cordial, and complimented the pasta, as well as the tomatoes, which we had gotten that very morning from Beatrice across the street. She also threw in some free basil, so of course I had to make caprese salad. I think the salad was good. I feel pretty comfortable with salads. She also gave us rosemary, which I put in a cream sauce yesterday to go over quinoa. I just put green onions and rosemary in at the end, and then some sliced boiled eggs. The colors were quite lovely.

I think I should try making some cream soups. We have plenty of delicious raw milk these days. We get two liters a day (except on Sundays), which is enough for muesli every morning, Tony’s yoghurt experimentation, my forays into butter, and all the crepes and creamy sauces we want (I use milk, actually, since the cream is for my butter). I’ve not felt the need to buy any meat at all for weeks. It is summer, after all.

Gloriously summer, although a bit hot. Axa is also getting periodic asthma from something in the air. I need to do some research on natural remedies for asthma. I’m looking for a local source of organic bee products (honey, royal jelly, propolis, etc.), since I’ve read that helps with allergies, and I’m fairly sure the asthma is allergy related.

Dreams

I dreamed last night that my friend Peter sent me a little kit to fill out for French citizenship. It was very easy, and I just sent it off. Then I found myself wandering with my family through the streets of an old city like Saluzzo. We were trying to make our way back down into the modern world, but we kept running into dead ends. Whenever we asked people for directions, they would tell us it was very far and we were going in the wrong direction. We ended up in front of a tiny house as Giorgio explained to us how he was going to make it into our house by adding three more floors.

We woke up in the morning and went across the street to a neighbor whom Carla said keeps cows. She said we could come by every morning for fresh raw milk. We love Italy. Her cows are beautiful. They are pure white with short, tidy, feminine horns, and huge brown eyes that look even larger by the contrast with their coats.

Yesterday when Tony went in to pick up a few documents we had left with Gianfranco by mistake, there was a large pile of papers on top of our binder, so it looks like Gianfranco is working hard. Tony was able to get his Permesso di Soggiorno application filled out and sent off too. It looks like other people are also starting to believe that it is possible for us to stay in Italy.

We almost feel that we can sit back and take a breath. Of course there is the confusion about my Permesso di Soggiorno, but there’s always something. We’ve gotten used to that by now. At least we’ve convinced a few people that we shouldn’t just go home and do it all at our consulate in the United States.

Anyway, there is one thing we’ve already attained. We don’t have to go “home” to our country of origin. We moved to Italy with nothing set up, and we didn’t speak a lick of Italian. Now we have a bank account, a codice fiscale (social security number), two rental contracts (well, that’s not such a good thing), and a decent command of Italian. We could do it anywhere. As we sat in Luigi’s office and he helped us write a letter to our landlord saying we were moving, I leafed through a book about interior design in Morocco. I idly considering moving there if for some reason we had to leave Italy and try again in three months. Why not? We could do it. I’ve even studied Arabic. I spent a week in Morocco once, and it is beautiful. We could learn a little French too.

We quite competently manage our business from here. We’ve figured out how to live here. We could do this anywhere in the world. And there are many places we could fly to and live cheaper, with less jet-lag, and enjoy more, than the United States. Nothing against my home country. The world is just full of wonderful places.

London Town #3

We woke up on Saturday morning with the Temple still closed, packed our bags, and got a ride from another kind person down to the train station. Our hotel turned out to be very nice, within walking distance of everything and right next to a private cricket field called Vincent Square. The coffee-maker was hidden away in a little cherry-wood cupboard on the wall, with drawers underneath for coffee, tea, sugar, and cream. Raj had a great time disassembling it.

After unloading our baggage at the hotel, we had lunch in front of a funky monument to Henry Purcell and the “flowering” of the English Baroque (he had a towering cubist flower headdress and a slightly inane smile).

We decided we just had to go somewhere really royal, and settled on Apsley House, the mansion of the Duke of Wellington. It was suitably grand, with a beautiful collection of art and lots of impressive dishes. The basement also had an amusing collection of cartoons about the Duke. As I visited the house, I understood the full story behind the quote I had read as a teenager when I used to spend hours curled up with Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations: “Waterloo was a battle of the first degree won by a general of the second.” He seems to have been obsessed with Napoleon. There is even a huge nude statue of Napoleon by the grand staircase (which Napoleon reputedly considered to be “too athletic”). The Duke also owned a large set of Egyptian dessert dishes, which had been a rejected divorce present from Napoleon to Josephine.

After the mansion, we climbed the arch, from which Wellington’s statue was removed sometime after his death (during his lifetime they tried to remove it, but he threatened to resign as Prime Minister unless it stayed up) and replaced with a sculpture of winged Peace alighting on the chariot of War.

Next we decided to walk down to the Thames and see Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliment on the way. All three of those venerable edifices surpass their reputations in life. I wanted to see the Palace from across the river, just like in Monet’s famous series of paintings. It was every bit as beautiful. The sun was just setting, painting the clouds in the sky and in the river, and turning all the gothic spires golden.

Elated by the sight, we pressed on, in search of London Bridge. Unfortunately, we got lost over and over again. By the time we finally made it to the bridge, it would have needed to be made of carbuncle and diamonds to make it worth the walk. It wasn’t, but oh well. We’ve been to London Bridge.

The next day was Sunday. The people at the Temple had given us the address for the Church, and it didn’t look too far, so we ate our muesli and set off walking a half hour early. It turned out to be a little bit farther than it looked like on the map. By the time we thought of taking a taxi, we were already late and almost there. Luckily, Church is three hours long, so we hadn’t missed too much of it.

The ward was huge compared to our little branch in Cuneo. It was fun to understand everything that was being said. We noticed that over half the people commenting in class had American accents. There’s nothing quite like meeting another expat when you’ve been living in a foreign country for a while. We realized we have really missed that dimension of overseas living. Our little town here in Italy doesn’t have many other expats. In fact, I’ve only met one. I bump into her every once in a while buying fruit. Her name is Annie, and she’s also from San Diego. She’s married to an Italian from here.

While at the ward in London, Tony talked to a man with a young family living there. He commented that once while they were traveling in Italy, they took their children to a park, and he felt very under-dressed. Unless you’ve been an American in Italy, it’s hard to appreciate what it feels like to hear someone say that. We love our Italian friends, but we’d really like to end up living somewhere we could have some expat friends too.

After Church we walked a block to Hyde Park and sat down with our picnic of tandoori pitas, fruit, blue stilton, and Wensleydale. Mmmmmm, Wensleydale. Britain may be lacking somewhat in the food department, but they’re right up there with their cheese.

They also seem to be gaining momentum in the Slow Food Movement. We were almost beside ourselves with delight after peeling the label off the yoghurt we used to make our morning muesli to read about the company. Yeo Valley Organic is a little organic dairy farm doing its best to change the world. It reminded me of a magazine I picked up in the laundry at the Temple. It had a story about a couple in England who won the lottery. They bought a farm and a herd of heirloom sheep, and now they spend their time making and selling artisan cheese. Another woman moved to a little town in Wales to get away from her fast-paced life as a CPA. Now she runs a business baking gourmet bread out of her home.

That’s what we want to do and be. We want a little farm where we can make a living making cheese, yoghurt, soap, and whatever else you can create out of milk from a herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats. This trip to London helped us to step back a little and see what we really want.

We walked all the way back through Hyde Park and packed at our hotel. Then it was time for our cultural event for the trip — a free Sunday evening organ recital in Westminster Abbey. We arrived a half hour early and were among the first to enter after they opened the gate, so we ended up in the first row, right in front of Isaac Newton’s casket. The concert was beautiful, and our children both stayed blissfully asleep almost through the entire thing.

After the concert we walked out of the Abbey and into a war protest in the square across from Parliment. We briefly considered joining it, but decided against it, and instead walked back over the bridge for another look at the beautiful view. We walked home along the Thames, imagining what it would be like to fall in love with London and stay forever.