Sunday, April 30, 2006

Train Geeks

It's a three-day weekend because of May Day on Monday, hooray! John and James and I went to the Mid Suffolk Light Railway Museum today and took lost of pictures of the trains and train geeks. They have about half a mile of track, and they have a steam engine that goes back and forth on various afternoons throughout the year. It was a fun few hours, and we took lots of pictures.

John has also been making a lot of raisin bread (from scratch). It's SO good...I'll never go back to store-bought.

Lynn (my NT/Stowmarket mom) mentioned that she'd heard about a job at the Aldeburgh festival (kind of like Tanglewood, about 30 minutes from Stowmarket). I've checked out the website and will definitely be applying. Fingers crossed.

Went back to the Stowmarket Baptist Church this morning- another humdinger of a sermon. I'm definitely going to keep going (and look into joining).

John's going to be in London for 2 of the next three weeks for the big office move. Yuck. If anyone wants to come over for dinner (or invite me over), let me know. I'm stocking up on library books but it's going to get a little lonely around here.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Weekend of Nesting

Finally caught up with the Horringer Badminton Club on Friday night- we were invited to play by a couple of my choir friends. They play just around the corner from where the Bach Choir rehearses, and it's a pretty varied group. I think I was the youngest there, with the eldest being about 75. The 75-year-old has a killer drop shot, btw. John and I badmintoned ourselves for an hour an a half, then collapsed in a heap with pints at the Horringer Social Club. According to Tibor (my choir buddy), badminton is an excuse to go out drinking on Friday night. The Social Club has been deemed "cheaper than the pub," so it's the place to be after badminton.

John and I both woke up feeling like cripples on Saturday morning...we are both really out of shape and badminton is quite a workout. John had to go in to work for most of the day, so I slept in, ordered a whole slew of books from the Stowmarket library, then toodled in to town to do some errands. When John got home, we decided to try the Indian restaurant in Stowmarket- it's called Radhuni (yes, Ian and Caroline, we will be taking you there), and it was REALLY good. Yay for yummy curry! Then we went to the Stowmarket Regal (oldest movie theatre ever...definitely NOT the Loews 42nd St) and saw The World's Fastest Indian It was a great movie (a little cheesy, but not too bad), and we really enjoyed it. We walked (ok, limped) home, and I was distinctly reminded of NYC- walk to dinner, walk to a movie, walk home. I love it.

John went to work again today, so I decided to go to church at the Stowmarket Baptist Church (feeling v. wary after last week's debacle). I was immediately welcomed by the people sitting around me, and the music was great, the sermon was really good (and very Tim Keller-y). I'll definitely be back. At the end of the service, the woman I'd been sitting next to (reasonably elderly, but v. sweet) asked what I was doing for the rest of the day, since I'd mentioned that John was working. When I said, "Eeh, just some errands and stuff," she immediately invited me over for lunch. She lives in an assisted living facility (Grandma Minnie, you're missin' out), and had made a cold lunch platter for her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. They were all really nice and were happy to make room at the table for the random American that Grandma found at church. We all had a really nice time and I stayed behind to help her wash the dishes, then headed home.

I'm going to take John next week (barring any unforseen circumstances). It's not Redeemer, but it's pretty darn close.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Lady of Leisure for the Day

Decided that Ickworth does not pay me enough to work 5 days a week without taking any days off (except when I go to NY), so as both of my bosses were out today, I took the day off. Drove John in to Bury, ran some errands (got new and fun accessories for my new sewing machine), called Apple UK to no avail (Evan, I'm just not MEAN enough, I think), then cashed in my long-awaited pedicure that Andrea got me for my birthday last fall. She called a beauty salon in Ipswich, ordered a gift certificate for a pedicure, had it mailed to NY, and off I went. They hadn't heard of putting flip-flops on before putting the polish on, but other than that it was super-relaxing and otherwise awesome. Pedicures are an uber-luxury in the UK, so the thought that people would have them as often as the average NYC-er is completely scandalous.

Had a cuppa with Freda and Travis, then headed back to Bury to meet John for dinner and toodle off to Bury Bach Choir. Next week we're having an open rehearsal, in case anyone wants to come. Email me.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Yehudi Wyner Wins Pulitzer Prize in Music

Yehudi Wyner, an AMP (Schirmer) composer, has won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his piano concerto, Chiavi in Mano. I'm slightly more excited than the average bear since I used to work for Schirmer and still think of the composers as 'our' composers. Yay for Yehudi!

Leek & Salmon- yum!

Freda gives me her back issues of Good Housekeeping and Sainsbury's magazines- they'e full of great recipes that I tear out and put in my recipe folder. Tried a new one today: baked salmon and leeks with capers and olive oil. YUM!! It was surprisingly good and really easy to make. We'll be having it again, soon. If you're local and want to try it, email me and we'll invite you over for dinner. If you're not local, email me and I'll send you the recipe.

I'm a bit of a Google Blog addict...I have it on my Google Reader and read it with great enthusiasm. The latest new and exciting things are the Da Vinci Code challenge (I know, I'm a huge geek) and Google Calendar. I think they need to tone it's too much excitement. I think I have a Google problem.

John and Freda and I (mostly John and I) hit a bucket of balls at the driving range this afternoon...boy am I rusty. Not that I was any great shakes to begin with, but still. I'm feeling v. creaky this evening.

In other news, I made it all the way through Lent without a drop of alcohol (except some wine in food that I cooked out...doesn't count). Yay me!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Clappy Easter Praise Party

Happy Easter to everyone!

John and I went to church this morning in a small village that will remain nameless to protect the innocent. The church is an evangelical one that was recommended by my work colleagues. So far, so good. We arrived in plenty of time, parked in the v. small parking lot, and headed in to the service, after being greeted in the parking lot with shouts of "Happy Easter! Christ is Risen!!" Still going well.

Thought something was slightly amiss when we couldn't find any order-of-worship programs, but figured we'd be enlightened later, and made our way to some seats. By about 10:30, the place was packed with people. The minister (I think) came out and welcomed us, and said that this would be a service for everyone, with things for children and adults. We sang a few praise songs (rock band, anyone?), watched a clip from a claymation version of "The Passion" and then they launched in to a skit about getting in to heaven. Then it was time for the children's songs- the one with a chorus about how "God's love is fab" sent me into a spiral of homesickness and missing Redeemer. The sermon involved several card tricks and a discussion of the Pagan festival of Oestar, but no real mention of Easter itself. The minister announced that the service would conclude with a Praise Party, which involved lots of balloons and jumping up and down.

John and I were so worn out by this that we retreated at the first coffee hour for us. Unfortunately, the throngs that had arrived after us had parked us in, so we decided to go for a walk around the village. Half an hour later, we were STILL parked in, so we braved our way back inside to find out if the car could be moved, where John ran into one of his work colleagues. Apparently this was a 'family' service and slightly more wild than usual. "They don't always have balloons."

We're going to keep looking for a church, I think.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Sewing Machines and Air Guns

Today was a glorious spring day- about 60 and sunny all day. It's a 4 day weekend in the UK because of Easter, so we picked up James in Ipswich and then headed back to Freda and Travis' for lunch. I'd mentioned to Freda that I needed to borrow her sewing machine for a little bit of mending (a tea towel bit the dust), and she said that she'd brought her extra one from the boat back for me. It turned out to be a 1950's Singer Featherweight (I dated it with the serial number). It's in perfect condition and is gorgeous. It doesn't do zigzags or anything crazy, but it's a beautiful little machine and it works perfectly. John should watch out...we're going to have new curtains, tablecloths, bedspreads, and custom slipcovers for all the furniture before he knows it.

After our decidedly girly sewing machine session, we went outside with Travis, John, and James, who were taking turns firing the air rifle at some empty plastic containers. I'd kind of prided myself on being a cosmopolitan liberal who'd never fired a gun, but that all went out the window with the air rifle. I'm now to be known as Calamity Kate, according to John. It was really cool...I shot and killed my very own yogurt pot. I'm glad I'm not a rabbit in Travis' garden,'s somewhat infested with them, despite Travis' very accurate shooting abilities. I'm going to be a little skeptical if Freda serves us rabbit stew for lunch...

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Spring Lambs

John and James and I went to Felixstowe again yesterday- we wanted to play more minigolf. John and I had a v. intense match last week- I choked at the last minute and we tied. We asked at the Tourist Info office and were pointed in the direction of the two other courses, which were...interesting. The first one was right on the water and hadn't seen any maintenance in yonks...the golf balls got blown all over the place, and as you stepped on the turf to square up to the ball, the turf sagged and the ball rolled towards you. Hmmm... The second one was at the back of a v. seedy arcade hall, and involved a lot of blacklight and techno music. It was the best-designed of the three, but the music and sheer randomness of it made it v. weird. I remember playing a lot of minigolf in Norfolk when I was a kid- we'll have to take a day trip up and see how things go.

Freda and Travis came over for dinner tonight- I made the world famous Hughes family Mushroom Logs, which went over very well. We've served them at every holiday since the dawn of time. Last Christmas, my mom decided that it was time for something new and made other hors d'oeuvres. Needless to say, anarchy ensued. Then I made Claire MacDonald's Lamb with Tomatoes and Pesto, which was really good. Got the lamb from the butcher in Needham Market, who hasn't failed us yet. Brownies for dessert...everyone was happy. We got to use our new placemats and serving dishes and mixing bowls and teatowels- we're positively drowning in kitchen stuff!

Speaking of lamb, the spring lambs have arrived at Ickworth and they're so funny to watch. They're just so darn excited to be alive- they waggle their little tails and spring around on their spindly legs and generally frolic. I'd forgotten how entertaining they are...they weren't really a feature of my commute in NY.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Peeved at Apple

For the last 2 years, I've been one of those people who tells everyone how wonderful Apple is and how much I love my mac. If you were one of those people, I apologize. I'm going to try not to make this too whiny, but I'm pretty annoyed.

I saved my pennies and bought a Powerbook about 18 months ago, justifying the extra expenditure of about $800 for a Powerbook over an iBook (about $1200 at the time) with the idea that it would last longer since it had more memory and computing power. I didn't buy Apple Care- $350 seemed like a LOT of money to shell out, on top of what I'd just spent.

My mac was fine and happy until about 6 months ago, when it started slowing down and making strange noises. John thought it was the fan...which I could live with. Then, 6 weeks ago, it died completely. Various computer geeks pronounced it unsaveable, which was frustrating since I had been foolish enough not to back it up. We ordered a new hard disk before I left for NY, which arrived this week. When John tried to take the old one out and put the new one in, he realized that it was going to be more difficult than he'd originally thought. If you google "powerbook hard disk replace", you come up with various 15-step procedures, with the potential to irreparably damage your computer at each step. Oh, and there seems to be a consistent problem of Apple putting the screws in too tight, so that people can't get them out if they need to. None of this would have been covered by that $350 extended warranty, by the way.

If I want Apple to replace the hard disk, it's going to be about £150 here or $200 in the US. I called Apple to ask if there was anything I could do about it, and they were unappologetic and not terribly interested. I'm not really sure where to go from here...I guess I've joined the expanding ranks of those who like Macs but who are incredulous that the company doesn't give a shit when they go wrong. Any suggestions as to contacting anyone who DOES care would be appreciated.

Will return to the regularly scheduled Blogging soon.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

[working in] Retail [makes me need] Therapy

Have now had 4 days working in the Ickworth's definitely not something I can see myself doing full-time. It's alternately deadly boring and completely chaotic, and there doesn't seem to be a way to even it out. Oh well. At least I've tried it (and I can help out when they need it).

Had several groups of kids today (it's school vacation). About half of them were sweet, charming, well-behaved kids who looked around and picked out their candy or toys or whatever. The other half were TERRORS. Their parents dumped them in the shop while they were eating lunch in the restaurant, and they were running around, pulling things off the shelves, and generally being bratty and horrible. Yuck.

Went out with the Ickworth girls last night in Bury after choir practice- we were having a rip-roaring time in Cafe Rouge and didn't get home until midnight. Eek! John had already conked out by the time I got home...I'm definitely feeling a little sleepy today.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Shop 'til I Drop

Ickworth is in the middle of some staffing transitions at the gift shop on the property, and so I'm filling in. I've had 2 days of training in the shop and will be managing it tomorrow. It's completely exhausting standing and being cheerful all's like being a camp counselor, but with more grownups and money.

I feel a little thrown into it, but I've taken copious notes so I should be able to figure stuff out. Under no circumstances is anyone to come in and try and pay with a gift certificate, though...I'm not sure what to do with them.

We've had some real prizewinners over the last two days, though. Someone yesterday was buying a £1.50 bag of candy, and after we put the whole transaction through, said, "Oh, wait, I'm a volunteer at another property and I get a discount." So we had to figure out how to void the first transaction, look up all the codes for the discounts, and then put the transaction through again. All to save her 15p. Stupid cow.

I'm not sure I have the patience for retail...we'll see how it goes. At least there will be lots of good stories to blog about. :)

We went to Felixstowe and Woodbridge on Sunday and took some they are!

The beach houses at Felixstowe.

The Woodbridge Marina

Sunday, April 2, 2006

English Stuff is OLD

The weather here is springy and gorgeous, so John and I went to Bury to the Abbey Gardens yesterday. The gardens consist of the ruins of an medieval abbey, along with gardens that have won "Britain in Bloom" awards. Apparently, Bury won the "Best Little Town in The World" award in Japan in 1999. Who knew?

The building in the background is the current Bury Cathedral, with the tower that was completed in 2004.

It's known for the gardens and flowers, although it was still kind of early. There were daffodils everywhere, and some gorgeous pansies. We'll have to go back in a month or so- it'll be even better then.

Oh yeah, and we had ice cream. :)