Sunday, December 30, 2007


I must have said 'OOh, that's blogworthy!' fifty times over the last 10 days, with absolutely no actual blogging taking place. Last Saturday, we took a spin around the park that's near F&T's - here's James walking with grandad.

And here's our tree with its new and improved decorations from Mom & Dad:

Sunday, we went on a walk in East Bergholt and Flatford (also known as Constable country), and took lots of pictures. It was a perfect winter walk - the sun was really low in the sky and set just as we were getting back to the car.

This is where The Haywain was painted.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Photo Catchup

I'm lazy and have only just uploaded a few weeks' worth of pictures from my camera to the computer. Here is Kate Rusby, singing up a storm:

This one was taken from a rooftop parking lot in Cambridge - the light was so wintry and cold - I HAD to take a picture. Brrr.

And this is the Stowmarket Santa. I think it was the Rotary club or something similar- they were blasting carols and collecting money. It was really funny and oddly surreal, though. Sorry he's a little blurry - I still haven't quite figured out all the camera's settings.

Mom & Dad sent us a care package, which arrived yesterday. It had great stuff: some English Christmas lights from the 1980s that had somehow made their way back to New Ro (and still work!), some personalized ornaments, an ornament from my Grandma's tree, matzo ball soup mix, two of my Harry Potters, and all of my French Horn sheet music. YAHOOO! Since I didn't have the matzo ball soup mix when I was sick last weekend, I had chinese noodles with chicken stock and lettuce - it's definitely in the same genre.

It's been really frosty lately - this is our honeysuckle bush, looking like a Christmas tree (according to James).

Monday, December 17, 2007

Read Lolita, napped.

It's time for a media round-up. I've been sick since Saturday afternoon - queasy, achy, intermittent sore throat, and general ickyness. I was all geared up to go to work today and it didn't happen. I also missed the choir's Christmas concert in Lavenham - I was SO bummed. Hopefully I'll be better tomorrow. However, my extended time resting in bed and on the couch has given me some more review fodder...

1. I finished Reading Lolita In Tehran. And I have to confess, I hated it. It was another of those books that everyone had recommended. I just couldn't get into it - I didn't care about the characters or what they thought of the books they were reading. I finished it, finally (it took me almost a month and I had to renew it twice).

2. I rented and watched High School Musical 2. And thoroughly enjoyed it. It's an oversaturated teenybopper movie with canned n'sync dance moves and stupid lines. The music was v. catchy and for some reason I found the whole thing very compelling. John refused to watch it (smart man).

3. We've also rented the first season of Heroes (the NBC drama). We sat down last night to check out the first episode, and ended up watching 4. The only reason we stopped was that it was 10pm and I'd been watching TV for 4 hours and my tummy was starting to hurt again. We have a date for some more episodes tonight. It's funny - I haven't watched scripted television in AGES, and I was really enjoying it. It really romps along and it's great not having to watch the commercials. Maybe by the time we get up to the current season, the writers will have ended their strike...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rusby Roundup

We went to Norwich last night for a Kate Rusby concert. She's an incredible performer - the concert was REALLY good. Having both been to our fair share of 'concerts,' John and I both assumed that since the tickets said '7:30pm' it fell into the rock/pop 'doors at 7:30 - opening act at 7:45 - Rusby on at 9'. So we got there at about 7:30 after getting a little lost on the way and having trouble finding a parking spot. Not worried about missing anything, though.

We were a little surprised, since there was nobody in the foyer. And there was an act on the stage. And when we got to the box office our tickets were in a little pile by themselves. They whisked us to our seats and we sat down right as KR started strumming the first chords at 7:32. Oops!

The concert itself couldn't have been better: it was about half Yorkshire Christmas songs, which Kate obviously LOVED singing. They were all really beautiful - different tunes with the traditional. It made all of the well-known carols seem really vibrant, and the arrangements were flawless. I really hope she records them and releases a CD. The rest of the concert was a mix of old stuff and things from her new album, which we loved. It reminded me of the folk concerts that Mom & Dad took us to when we were kids - it was very sedate but the singing was enthusiastic.

John & I both had an extra day of holiday to use up before they expire at the end of the year, so we took today off. We've both been feeling pretty run-down and I definitely thought I was coming down with something. We had a lazy morning and then headed to Cambridge for some Christmas shopping. It was pretty hectic in town, considering that it was a Tuesday - why weren't all the people who were there at work? We're both feeling much more rested and generally better.

John made a really tasty moroccan lamb risotto from the leftovers - he used lots of spices and some dried apricots and raisins. It had a really well-rounded flavor, but we both agreed that it was missing didn't quite have the 'sparkle'. We'll just have to have another leg of lamb to experiment!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I guess I've always been a foodie...

Here I am, nearly 2, being fed by BOTH of my parents. Grown-up food, too, by the looks of it. Yum!

We roasted the leg of lamb for F & T - most of the recipes I read included garlic and rosemary, so I jammed some into the cuts I made and dumped olive oil on the top. It was pretty tasty.

I finished the table runner and the six placemats - now I just need to make the orange napkins and appliqué the sheep on to them.

Here's the general shot of the Christmas tree, with a better one (taken by John with the tripod and the dSLR) below.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I still want a daemon

James and I had some stepmother-stepson bonding time today - John had to make a last-minute trip to London. We mostly had chores to do in the morning: pick up the leg of lamb for tomorrow from the butcher's, go to the farm shop, and have Freda try on her potential Christmas present.

F & T weren't sure where the store was (and I was having trouble explaining it), so they came over to our house and we all went to Needham Market together. Freda gets cold easily, so she generally wears an old quilted waistcoat around the house. She's had it since the dawn of time and it's completely threadbare. New waistcoat, you say? Well, that was the plan. But she doesn't like things high on her neck, so it had to be a v-neck waistcoat. We looked EVERYWHERE. The only ones that come in v-neck are generally men's ones, which tend to be too big for her since she's quite petite. But we managed to find one, at the v. horsey High Flyers (where we got my wellies and some other stuff). It's a mens' one, but it was a 'small' so it fit. And since it was so small, it didn't fit any of the men, so it was on clearance. Which was awesome - if it had been full-price (quite expensive), she wouldn't have let me buy it. I would have had to ask the saleslady to put it on hold and then I would have had to make a second trip to buy it (and we'd have had to tell the M-i-L that it was on sale...) Phew. And I have randomly had brainwaves (and suggestions) for what to buy the rest of my NY family for Christmas. They can be a tricky group. Not sharing here, obviously, since they read it. Sorry, guys!

T decided that he wanted a coffee after the shopping ordeal (the whole thing took about 10 mins, start to finish, but it wore him out emotionally). We went to the farm shop cafe, where the coffee was pretty good, the hot chocolate was fab, and the cakes were v. yummy. We had cups of tea there when mom & dad were here - but it seemed a world away.

We coordinated with John on his return - he got off the train in Ipswich and we all went to see The Golden Compass. I LOVED the books (read them twice and made John read them), and the movie was pretty good. Most of the characters were as I'd pictured them, but it was one of those bizarre book-movies where a character will randomly reel off about 30 pages of plot in one breath. And then they'll have some drama. And then another chunk of plot. It was a little bizarre, but definitely worth seeing. And I hope they make the next two - apparently it's still up in the air. I thought the witches were perfectly drawn - Serafina Pekkala is one of my favorite characters in the books and she was exactly as I'd pictured her. Lee Scoresby was awesome, too - just the right kind of gritty.

We HAVE to break James of his most recent annoying habit: he's a movie talker. The WHOLE time, he kept asking me questions, from "Who is that?" to "Why didn't they put [something from the book that he describes in great detail] in?". Then we had the totally random comments that were unrelated to the movie. I'm pretty patient, I think, but finally I'd had enough (and I imagine the people around us had). "Kiddo, that's enough. No more questions." I'm a mean stepmother.

He tends to talk through TV programs, and he's always interrupting me when I'm reading to ask questions, and he talks through dinner. And he monologues in the car. Ok, so he talks all the time so I shouldn't really expect that movies should be any different. It's funny - he's obsessed with daemons and keeps asking us what form we think his daemon would be taking now. And now. And how about now?

Thursday, December 6, 2007


We had some Gu soufflés after dinner tonight - we impulse-bought them at the supermarket after being v. restrained and following our list and menu plan all week. Here they are, in all their chocolatey goodness. The picture is fabulous because hubby used the uber-camera with the portrait lens. None of the point-and-shoot for him!

Included in our menu plan was a spinach and lentil curry for dinner tonight, which I was CONVINCED had way too much water (900ml of water for 150g of lentils). It actually turned out pretty well, despite the fact that I was a little cavalier with the recipe. If I follow it properly, I think it'll be a keeper.

We've also bitten the bullet and bought tickets for Kate Rusby in Norwich next week. I'm SO excited. I felt so silly a few weeks ago - I was talking to two of my college roomies and apparently they were listening to KR when we were all living together - I'd thought that a few of the songs sounded familiar. The fact that I didn't discover her properly until 5 years later and on a different continent is a little bizarre, though.

Another random thing I did today (and completely cracked myself up about): I was texting my friend who was not at work today, and got tangled up in predictive text on my phone. I meant to type 'email' and ended up with 'dohaj'. I got a completely mystified text back from my friend asking what on earth I was on about. Ok, now it's not funny. It was at the time, though, trust me.

Oh, and my friend E. has started a blog, called 'All Abode' - go check it out (link in the 'blogs' section).

Monday, December 3, 2007

There's mud in my saddle shoes!

I caved. We bought a plastic tree yesterday. At ::shudder:: B & Q (an orange Home-Depot-type place, for the Yanks). It actually looks pretty reasonable and is a good size for the room.

I'd had my heart set on a real tree, but John was resisting on two counts: that it (1) would stain our v. pale carpet and (2) would be bad for the planet. We averted WWIII on Sunday morning but it was a near miss. I wanted the 'real' tree for three reasons: (1) they smell SO good, (2) I'm morally opposed to plastic trees and (3) I JUST DID.

Ever the diplomat, John came up with a compromise: I could have a tree, but it had to be plastic. In return, I could pick out whichever one I wanted. In addition, I could have whatever decorations I wanted for the front of the house. thought I was Kate Monster before. Well, the tree is here and up (pics to follow - it's so damn DARK in England in the winter), and there's a wreath on the front door. I see some lawn ornaments in my future... You know, those Santa & snowman snowglobey things with the blowing-around 'snow'. And music. And blinky lights. And reindeer on the roof. And lights outlining the house.

Putting up the tree yesterday (i.e. clipping it together and un-mashing the 'branches') meant that I could have Sesame Street Christmas! It's so convenient having it on mp3, especially since the record version is in New Ro and I am not. And we don't have a record player. I LOVE the 'Christmas On Sesame Street' (Gift of the Magi) story - I think I drive everyone crazy by talking along to it. And James' new favorite Christmas carol is The 12 Days Of Christmas On Sesame Street, with the climax being Cookie Monster's rendition of 'ONE DELICIOUS COOOOKIE!!' (in place of that tired old partridge...)

My parents have joined us in the 21st century with Skype and a webcam on my mom's new laptop. After much internet research and gnashing of teeth I found a Logitech Quick Chat 'Skype Edition' that works with both my Mac AND Skype. Skype isn't thrilled with it - it crashes randomly, but it's great to be able to 'see' mom and dad when I talk to them. Oh, and I'm not using up all my skype credits and my mom's cellphone minutes by calling them on SkypeOut. Not that I mind, but still. Oh, and apparently the crazy people in Rhode Island pick out their Christmas tree some time over the summer, while it's still growing at the farm, and decorate it. So it doesn't get lonely, I guess. And then they come and collect it at Christmas like normal people.

John and I were very industrious yesterday morning and planned out all of our meals for the week. We've been reading that 1/3 of all food bought in the UK is thrown out, and we'd run into the 'what's for dinner - go to the supermarket - get home and realize that we had something that needed eating' problem. So we've planned out all the meals for this week and did a big-ish shop yesterday and have planned a mini-one for Thursday evening to get some more green stuff. I feel so organized and Rachael Ray-y. And frugal - we didn't buy anything that wasn't on the list.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

BBC Good Mediocre Food Show

After much excitement and build-up, I went to the BBC Good Food Show today. John was smart and went to the annual Worley Model Railway show (that we went to last year and the year before). We were talking about it yesterday with a friend at work, and she said that she had gone to the Good Food show for the last two years but wasn't going this year. She was also impressed that we were going to 'brave it on a Saturday.'

We got up pretty early and made it to Birmingham by about 10, and John trundled off to look at trains while I made my way to the other side of the NEC on a shuttle bus. I subscribe to the magazine (which has been plugging the show for months), and I had my e-ticket, which included a 'show program' (supposedly worth £2.50). I asked the people at the entrance who were selling what looked like the show programs if I could have one, pointing to my ticket. "No, you just get the free one - it's over there if you want to go get it." Lovely.

I went in and it was heaving with people - so I thought I'd walk around the perimeter and get my bearings. Basically, all the booths were either giving away free samples of whatever it was they were selling, or they didn't really have anything to sell. Bunched around any possible free sample were hordes of people, shoving each other out of the way and grabbing fistfuls of whatever the vendor happened to be handing out.

The whole thing was like Price Club the weekend before Thanksgiving. I did manage to fight my way through the crowds to get a new kitchen knife (for which there was no line because they weren't giving anything away for free).

All of the tickets came with a 'supertheatre' ticket - and I'd signed up for a mock-taping of 'Ready, Steady, Cook!' It's kind of like Iron Chef, in that there are ingredients presented and the chefs have 20 minutes to make whatever it is that they're given into a 3-course meal. It actually ended up being pretty funny and entertaining, but I was so harried by that point that I didn't really care.

Here's Ainsley, the host:

And here's everybody, cooking up a storm:

The guy on the left was really funny - they'd told him to whisk some cream and somehow he managed to get cream EVERYWHERE. On the cameraman, on Ainsley, on the table, on the floor, and all over himself. It was very entertaining.

Here we are, queueing to get in (since they were trying to get all 3000 of us through one door:

And here is the mass of humanity, stampeding from one free sample to the next:

I feel like such a crotchety old bag complaining about it - but the behavior of 'the general public' today was truly appalling. I think it had the potential to be a good event, they just completely sold too many tickets. That, and I was pretty darn excited about it. There's a slim possibility that I'll try again next year, but there's no way I'm going anywhere near it on a weekend.

Glad to be home, anyway.