Monday, January 29, 2007

I have 2 PINK driving licenses!!

My second pink driving license has arrived - yee haw! Not only is my NY one pink, but my new and shiny Brit one is, too. I may or may not look like a drug dealer in my photo, but that's ok. I'll only have the license until I'm...75.

Oh, and it's Radio 1 week at work again. For you non-brits, it's a Top 10-ish playlist with REALLY annoying DJs. Not sure where they find the knuckle-trailers who call in, either. They play the same 5 songs OVER and OVER and's completely soul-shredding. And the sound comes in through the walls of our office (we don't have speakers in there, thankfully), so all we get is the bass and some of the louder lyrics. I've asked for it to be turned off but I think that there will be a snowy pig flying through hell the day it happens...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

I'm pretty sure it's not butter...

This is Rrufus (note the 2 R's at the beginning...he can say his own name).

He's my parents' dog, and he is quite convinced that he's a person. He's the smartest dog we've ever seen (I know everyone says that about their dogs, but he really is). He understands more than some of the people I've worked with, and can identify the sound of my parents' car as they turn in to our street (at least 200 yards from the house and out of sight).

He also has a bit of a butter fetish. He can hear the butter dish being opened from anywhere in the house, and he'll sit and drool on your shoes until you give him a pat, at which point he'll inhale it and look at you for a second one. "Surely, you're not going to use that whole stick! It's a waste to put it back in the fridge- I'll just polish it off for you!"

My parents can leave a steaming roast, turkey, ham, dog biscuits, or anything else on the kitchen table. Except butter. He's stolen at least 3 whole sticks that we know of, and broken one butter dish - there's probably been more.

My mom was told by a doc that she should switch to some kind of buttery substitute thing, and so as she was spreading it on her toast the other morning, Rrufus was standing by. She gave him a blob, which he promptly spat on the floor.

He can't believe it's not butter...

Friday, January 26, 2007

Brownie Points

I have the best husband in the world. I'd mentioned to him that I was feeling a little homesick last week - I think the darkness was really getting to me. So what did he do?

BROWNIES!! 2 boxes of American Betty Crocker brownie mix, to be exact. It turns out that the wife of one of the guys he works with goes to the US Airforce Base a lot, and can buy 'merican' food there. And so John asked him to buy 2 boxes for me. And they arrived today. Whattaguy!

I'm going to make one box this weekend and ration the other for when I'm feeling homesick again.

Oh, and I took the photo in the 'photo studio' (two pieces of black card, one taped to the wall) in our office at lunch break. I'm so high-tech.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Fred & George with Broccoli

I'm still on track with my recipe resolution - John and I had broccoli in garlic sauce for dinner tonight. YUM! The recipe's at the end of the post.

John and I have unilaterally decided (with some help from the BURPS boys) that the slippers should be known as Fred and George. YAY to C for suggesting it!! We'll plant a tree in your honor in our back yard. :) And call it Ron.

Speaking of unilateral decisions, I don't really get involved in politics on here but I'm fairly interested to see what comes of the State of the Union speech tonight. Being in the UK (and dedicated to Radio 4) gives an interesting perspective on things. It seems like the brits view Bush as a complete lunatic, but they also think most Americans are nuts for voting for him. Twice. Blair has definitely fallen from grace here, with his demise accelerated by the terrier-like obedience to Bush with Iraq. Nice job.

BTW, the Blogger photo uploads were annoying me so I put them on Flickr - you can see them in the window over at the right (and click on it to go directly to my Flickr page)

Here's the recipe we had tonight, from I added bok choi (2 stalks) with the broc, and then corn starch at the end to thicken it a bit. Oh, and I used about 8 cloves of garlic...I lost count. And the feeds 6 business is nuts...John and I had it with noodles and are still kinda hungry.

1 1/2 lb broccoli (about 1 head)
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
3 tablespoons Asian oyster sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
Peel off tough outer skin of broccoli stem, then halve broccoli crosswise (top half with florets should equal length of bottom half). Cut bottom half (stem) lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide wedges, then cut top half (stem with florets) into long spears with 1/2-inch-wide wedges.

Heat a wok (or v. large pan) over high heat until beginning to smoke, then add canola oil and swirl to coat sides. Stir-fry garlic until golden, about 30 seconds, then add broccoli and stir-fry 5 minutes. Stir in oyster sauce and stock and cook, covered, until broccoli is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and toss with sesame oil.

February 2004

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ally Pally

Yesterday John and I drove down to London to go to the Model Engineering show at Alexandra Palace. The show was pretty neat, even if it was, as John said, a shadow of its former self. Apparently he went with his dad when he was a kid and it was HUGE. Or maybe he was just smaller...

Either way, on their website they make a big production of how EASY it is to get there. If by easy to get there they mean that you must have a London A-Z street map and be a reasonably skilled navigator, then yes, it was fab. Part of our problem was that there was a road closure on the M25 that they didn't tell you about until you were on top of it, but it could have been worse. We saw 2 signs for the palace on the whole trip - one was a sign pointing off into nowhere and the other was a sign pointing towards the palace, about half a mile away. Problem with that one? We could SEE the palace at the end of that road. Good job, guys.

Here I am at the show (we did actually get there), driving a model tank. They were really 5 minutes to drive around and shoot other tanks. :)

Here's the outside of the building:

I have more pictures but Blogger has decided to stop cooperating...will post them soon.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Thanks to John's lucky moose boxer shorts, much finger-crossing on Sandy's part, a series of lessons with my kick-ass instructor Glen, and lots and lots of mirror-checking.

I've really done it - I've passed my UK driving test. I didn't pass with flying colo(u)rs, but I made it.


It was raining cats and dogs for the entire time I was out on the test (and then cleared up for the rest of the day), and I made random mistakes and discovered a whole bunch of Bury neighborhoods I'd never seen before.

SO relieved.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cooking and Ducking

OK, in no particular order:

1. Fred & George

2. Peking & L'Orange

3. Ginko & Biloba

I've also made further strides in the 'cook something new every week' resolution. I made a butternut squash/spinach/bacon pasta thing tonight - it was pretty good but I think it put both John and me over the butternut squash threshold. We've had a it a lot and I think it's time for a new winter veg. Suggestions gladly taken. :)

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Our apartment smells like hyacinths. It's glorious. I bought a mysterious pot plant with some pansies primroses (thanks, Lizzie!) and 3 unidentified green leafy stalky things when we were at the market in Felixstowe last weekend, and after some major TLC at work, they've turned out the be the most wonderful smelling and enthusiastic hyacinths.

Here they are, in all their glory:

This morning we made pancakes for James - I tried to make him a mickey mouse one and it ended up looking more like Moose than anything else. He totally enjoyed the Mooseness of it. Didn't get a chance to take a picture before he devoured it, though.

Oh, and the contest is still open for the slipper naming - Mom & Dad have made a request to have more time. :)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Slipper Contest!

When Edward and I were kids, we always had really fun slippers. The ones that stick out were my Bert & Ernie slippers (one of each, obviously), and Edward's monster feet (big furry black feet with brown claws) and his frog ones. I think the frog ones were so spectacular because of their sheer impracticality. They were large and green, with googly eyes. And legs. It was the legs that caused the problem, because when you walked, they got tangled up with each other and then you fell down. Minor design flaw...

So I opened my Christmas present from Edward this year, and what did I see?

So, you say, where do we come in?

They need names. Good ones.

As some background - they have personalities. As you can see from the photo, the one on my right foot (left side of the pic) is much more assertive and generally happier. Not that the one of the left foot isn't happy, he just doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve so much.

Names in the comments! Winner gets...hmm...worldwide fame. :)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Crazy week

John and I have had a busy few days - Monday night I had a committee meeting for Choir, so I left work, went to the supermarket, picked up dinner, heated up my dinner, ate it, picked up John from the station, dropped him at home, and then blasted back to Bury for the meeting. It was like when I used to run around all day at Colby - I'd leave the room at 7am and not come back until 11pm. Phew.

Then last night Sandy came round and we had a great evening chatting and hanging out. John originally intended to mess around with some servers and stuff, but got totally sucked in to our conversation and ended up hanging out with us, too, which was fun.

Tonight was our second St Matthew Passion rehearsal, and then tomorrow I have my first physio appointment - I've had real back/shoulder problems since starting my job in August and it's time to get it sorted out. And then Friday we're picking up James for the weekend. No rest for the weary.

At least I'm not running a marathon this weekend....GO ANDREA GO!!!

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Carbo Loading

John and I have had quite a day. After watching The Prince And Me last night (SO BAD...stay away from it), John made pancakes this morning. We used the Food Network Kitchens recipe - I thought they were so good that they didn't need syrup and John thought they were a bit too sweet. Here's the recipe

Here's one in the pan:

And on my plate (look how fluffy it is!!)

And about to be devoured by John:

After our pancakestravaganza, we went to Felixstowe to meet up with Leanne and her partner. We went out to the seafront, where we admired chavs in their native habitat and ate greasy, salty, glorious chips.

Me and Leanne, looking, as John says, 'windswept and interesting.'

Apparently Leanne has interesting taste in seaside snacks. Standard fare? Fish & chips, ice cream, cotton candy, etc. Leanne? Krab Sticks. You know, those fake crab sticks that are pink and white and sometimes go in sushi. Yeah, those. She bought a bag of 10 (in the sort of translucent bags that fish come in) from a fish vendor who was also selling NORMAL snacks like cooked shrimp with cocktail sauce and cockles in a thousand island-y dressing. And then she ate them all. And then she had a hamburger. With onions. How she eats it all and where she puts it, we'll never know...

Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Constant Curryhouse

John and I both had completely crappy days at work yesterday, for totally different reasons. As much as I'd love to go in to great and gory detail, I don't want to get fired (or get anyone else fired, for that matter...)

In any case, we both just needed to wind down and enjoy the first evening in what seems like months when neither of us HAD to do something either that night or the following morning.

We also didn't particularly feel like cooking, so we walked over to Radhuni, our favourite Indian restaurant. We got there at about 6:30 and it was hoppin'! We're really glad they're busy, since we used to go there on a Friday evening and be the only people in the restaurant for 2 hours. We said hi to all the usual guys and ordered our normal 'variations on a theme' dinner. We're somewhat adventurous in our ordering but we also don't eat out as much as we used to, since we're saving money for carpets and furniture and other such luxuries. Anyway, the food was absolutely amazing and the service was really good. John loves Tarka Dal, which is kind of a lentil & garlic stew thing, and every time we have it at Radhuni, it's slightly different. This time, it was really garlicky and just smoky enough. YUM. The food there has always been really good, but if it continues like this we're going to have to move in.

We stopped at Blockbuster on the way home and rented 3 movies (one Kate movie, one John movie and one compromise. We watched The Constant Gardener (the compromise) when we got home - it was completely gripping and really well-filmed. It's was really draining, though, so we both conked out right after it finished. If you haven't seen it, definitely check it out.

John has nipped in to the office to run some random updates, so I'm curled up on the couch, trying to decide between watching the Kate movie (The Prince and Me - I LOVE Julia Stiles) and do some knitting or make a cup of tea and read some more of the latest Isabel Dalhousie saga that I just picked up from the library. Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Rachel Ray's Chicken Piccata A La Rebeka

My friend Rebeka sent me this recipe last week - I tried it out on John tonight and it was a hit. I used strong bread flour instead of normal, which made it a little goey, but other than that it was v. yummy.

I'm trying to get Rebeka to start a recipe blog - she cooks all the time and is more inventive than I generally am.

Oh, and New Year's Resolution #2 is off to a flying start!!

Rachel Ray's Chicken Piccata A La Rebeka

1 lb linguine or fettucine
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 medium shallots, chopped (or half a yellow onion, chopped)
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup chicken broth or stock
3 tablespoons capers, drained

Heat a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Cook according to package directions.

Place the chicken breasts in a large, deep-ish non-stick skillet and cover with water. Bring to a boil and poach for about 10-12 minutes, until the chicken is pretty much cooked through (if it's not all the way done, don't will finish cooking in the sauce). Set them on a plate to cool and rinse out the skillet to use for the sauce. (You can always just use a 3rd skillet/pot...but why give yourself more to wash?)

Over medium heat, put the olive oil and butter/margarine in the pan and let it heat up. Add the chopped shallots and garlic and saute until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook for another 2 minutes.

Whisk in the wine and reduce for about 1 minute. Whisk lemon juice and broth into the sauce. Stir in capers. (At this point I shred the chicken breasts with my fingers or a fork) Lower the heat on the sauce so it doesn't burn.

When the chicken is shredded, increase the heat slightly on the sauce and let it come to a bubble, then add the shredded chicken in. Stir to combine and heat through.

Drain pasta and add to the sauce and chicken. Enjoy!

Bach Therapy

Had our first Bury Bach Choir rehearsal of the term last night - we basically sang ALL the way through all the choral parts of the St Matthew Passion, which we'll be performing on March 31st. It was a completely exhausting rehearsal, not least because the score is a somewhat epic 248 pages and is rather heavy to hold on to for 2 hours. But this was just a warm up - we're not making any cuts in the performance which should being it to a resounding 3 hours and 15 minutes. Phew.

Having not sung much Bach since Colby, I'd forgotten how completely relaxing I find it. Not necessarily the chorales (4 part hymn-things, for the non music geeks)...they're nice but not anything special. It's the fugues that I love (nmg's: a Bach fugue is kind of like a REALLY complicated round). The fact that each part is not only complex, with lots of notes, but it has to trundle along on its own without any help from the other parts, means that the only way to sing one is to have your mind completely empty of other things. This is not the kind of music you can sing (and especially not sight read) while you're worrying about the house/the job/the hubby/the car or anything else.

We sang Bach's Magnificat in Collegium when I was at Colby - I think it was one of my all-time favourite concerts. In any event, last night's rehearsal was very tiring but really rewarding and generally brain-clearing.

I got home to find the boys gaming by candlelight - there was a power outage in our corner of Stowmarket and so the two flashlights I picked up at Tesco's on the way home were MUCH appreciated. John and I very industriously turned everything off so that when the power came back on, it wouldn't all kick in to high gear, but apparently we were the only ones. I'd left my bedside light on so I'd be able to wake up and check on things, and so at 2:35 this morning I was peering out of the kitchen window (as the washing machine was finishing its interrupted cycle) to see our little neighborhood all aglow. Since the power had gone off at 7:15, most of the people had ALL of their lights on and hadn't thought to turn them off. When I drove John to the 6:40 train (still dark out), most of the lights had been switched off, but a surprising number were still on.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Nowhere to go but up!

We had a great time with Ian & Caroline last night - we all chatted and laughed and ate fantastic food. And got carried away with the drinking. Caroline's friend introduced her to a cocktail which is 2 parts Baileys and 1 part Cointreau. There were two problems with this: 1. The drink tastes like a chocolate orange and goes down VERY fast and 2. It's BLOODY strong.

Yeah...I was having some issues this morning. I spent the whole day on the couch, reading, after a somewhat exciting car trip back from Ipswich. John was a model hubby, making sure I was drinking water and feeding me crackers when I decided at 4pm that I might want to eat something. And then he made my favorite dinner, the famous leek & potato surprise. Whattaguy!

On the bright side, I have nowhere to go but up for the year in terms of waking up and feeling like shit.

My parents have a similar 'that was really yummy but now we want to die and we're never going to drink anything ever again' of our neighbors had a Mardi Gras party in the early 80s (I was about a year old, Edward was still a glimmer), where some delicious but completely toxic punch was served. Apparently mom and dad spent the day taking turns to make sure I was being changed and fed at semi-regular intervals, while the other one slept. The rest of the neighborhood was in a similar state, except that mom and dad were the only ones with an infant - everyone else's kids were either teenagers or not born yet. Lucky them.

I'm also making a few new year's resolutions:

1. To run a 5K this summer with the Tesco Race for Life (Andrea's inspired me with all her marathoning)

1 1/2: To lose enough weight so that I can wear my favorite grey trousers again. Not a lot, just enough for that.

2. To be more adventurous in my cooking - we can get a little bogged down on weeknights and as much as I love veggie chili and leeks they can get a little old. I have a stack of cookbooks and John got me a subscription to BBC Good Food magazine...I think I'm going to try and make one new thing every week.

3. To not be such a procrastinator. It's one of the things about myself that I dislike the most.

4. To bring my horn over and find some people to play with.