Saturday, September 29, 2007


We picked up a movie last night: The Last Mimzy. We watched it with James (it's a kids' movie), and boy, was it weird. I've seen some trippy ones in my time but this one took the cake. The kids find a stuffed rabbit from the future who says the world's going to end unless they send it back to the future and save the universe. Yeah. It actually doesn't sound that bad when I describe it like that, but it was really strange.

We did our usual butcher/baker/farmer's market shopping today (when did we turn into such hippies?), and made the lamb/tomato/zucchini thing for dinner. It was funny - it was the first time I made it that it wasn't for guests.

We gave James a solar car kit for his birthday - he and I built it today and played with it out on the sidewalk. Once we found a big mirror and used the regular sunlight AND the reflected sunlight, it was really moving along. He was pretty impressed, and then a cloud went over the sun and the whole thing screeched to a halt.

Oh, and his mum announced this week that he was starting music lessons. More specifically: trumpet lessons. I mentioned that 'Uncle Ed' played the trumpet all through middle school and that I played the french horn and trumpet in high school and college (and taught the trumpet to kids his age at an after-school program for 2 years).

He was SO excited about bringing his trumpet to our house so he could play. I was mean, though - his idea of playing is 'taking a huge breath and blowing as hard as he can to make a honking noise and then giggling.' Granted, this is pretty much what anybody would do with a trumpet, but it's not the best way to learn to play.

I made him do some breathing and then he buzzed on the mouthpiece and THEN he played a few notes. He reminded me of myself at that age, trying to learn something. He wants to do it ALL and he wants to do it NOW and he doesn't want to bother with stupid stuff like breathing right or playing real notes. He gets frustrated pretty quickly (like I always did), and he's had asthma his whole life, so the breathing exercises generated some tears. I reminded him that if he learned to breath the brass-player's way, his asthma would get a lot better and he'd be able to breathe more easily anyway.

It was totally bringing back memories of my college horn teacher, who I have to say was one of the best teachers I've ever had. She was a kindergarten music teacher when she wasn't teaching horn, and she used the same techniques on her college students as she used on her little kids. We LOVED it and really learned a lot. I think James was a little bit mystified when I made him lie on his back on the floor with a cookbook on his stomach (it's to get him to breathe with his diaphragm), but it definitely helps.

I'm hopefully going to get to the Paxman store in London next weekend (it's a horn mecca), since my mouthpiece is somewhere in New Ro and my horn is in Stowmarket. I kind of need them both to play, so I'm going to suck it up and buy a new one. It feels a little bit sacrilegious - I've only ever had the one mouthpiece and I can't really imagine playing with a different one. But until I (or mom) figure out where it is, I'm going to have to get a spare. Like Edward's blankie when he was 6. I guess the good news is be that when I find it, I'll have two. And until then, I'll have my own brass instrument to make noises on so James won't get icked out by sharing his mouthpiece with me.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Nigella & James

Rachel Ray is kind of a polarizing figure in the world of American food TV. People either love her or hate her (I'm in the love camp). Having had our first taste of Nigella tonight, I can only assume that she's equally polarizing. She has the same bubbly Faux-talian as Rachel, with a lot of the same ideas about shortcuts. However, she is NOT Rachel. She's bloody annoying. At least in my opinion, anyway.

Good thing there's so much other good Brit food TV to watch.

Oh, and today the small boy whose title for me includes the word 'mother' turns 10. EEK. Happy birthday, kiddo.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Indian Summer

We're having gorgeous weather here - it's making up (a little) for the fact that we had such a cold, wet summer.

I'm such an overachiever - I cooked two new recipes today. Both from the October Good Food magazine. Sadly, it means that neither of them will be on the GF website until next week. First: apple streusel. Kind of like apple pie/crumble. It had a pastry base, apples with lemon (I used lime), cinnamon and nutmeg in the middle, and a brown-sugar crumble on top. YUM. I never bake, but we had friends coming over for coffee so I figured I'd give it a shot. Both John and Kosta had seconds - there's only one small piece left that John and I will have to fight over tomorrow.

We took them to the farm market (they were v. impressed), and we bought some eggplant and leeks and carrots and other fall-y things. So I made a Moroccan eggplant thing with tomato sauce for dinner - John and I were both really surprised at how it turned out. We were originally just planning to make pasta sauce but someone in the neighborhood was roasting a chicken during the afternoon and the smell drove me to do some serious cooking. The eggplant was really tender and not at all bitter. It's definitely a keeper.

I'm almost finished with Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about her year of local and seasonal eating with her family. It was a little dry at first but I love her novels and it's really made me think about what we eat. Her family has given up all commercially farmed (i.e. not free-range) meat products, which I think is a VERY good idea. John and I eat relatively little meat as it is - I'm quite happy to pay a premium for happy cows/chickens/lamb etc. We're also making a conscious effort to eat seasonally - NOT to eat leeks in July and strawberries in November. We've been pretty good about it, for the most part. It all just TASTES so much better when it's in season, and it's cheaper. My mom fed us a lot of seasonal stuff when I was a kid - tomatoes in the summer and squashes and stews in the winter. My dad loves a good steak, though. I've been CRAVING steak for a few days - I think John and I are going to splurge on some this week. I haven't had it in ages and I think I must be low on some vitamins or something - I can't get it out of my head.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My First Invented Recipe

I'd seen a recipe for zucchini & mushroom risotto somewhere, but I can't find it. I've searched the web and come up with nothing. So I tried to make my own recipe. We ate it last night - it was really good!

Zucchini & Mushroom Risotto. by StowmarKate

olive oil
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
1 tbs Herbes De Provence
1 tsp mild chili powder
5 small zucchini, cubed
2 handfulls sliced mushrooms (I used buttons and portobellinis)
1 1/2 cups Risotto
3 cups Vegetable stock

Sautee the onions and garlic in olive oil, adding the HDP and chili powder when they're starting to soften and brown. Stir until you can smell the HDP, then add the risotto, and stir to coat in the olive oil. Add 1 cup (ish) of the veggie stock, then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and zucchini and the rest of the stock, leaving the veg on top of the rice/onion mixture so that they steam. Cook for 15 more minutes, then stir everything together. As soon as the rice is done (should be around now - if it's not, add more stock), serve!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Found things

I'm currently obsessed with Kate Rusby. She's one of the premiere folk singers in the UK - I heard her on the weekly folk program that I listen to on Radio 2. John and I both heard the track "High On A Hill" and reached for our wallets to buy the album. Once we get our heads round this one we'll be buying some more. She has sort of a Joni Mitchell / Emily Saliers sound - I LOVE it.

My first week back at work was a little chaotic - I've never taken 2 weeks off from a job before and I had a v. large pile of email when I got back. My colleague and I also swapped offices with the marketing department this week - there are three of them and two of us and our office was quite a bit bigger. It works out for us - we get REAL (un-recycled, un-filtered) air. We have a an office with a big window and 2 doors. I've made it, I think. :)

My other new discovery (besides Ms. Rusby) is Boden. It's a UK clothing store that I saw an ad for in a magazine and ordered. Every page has something that I'd wear - when I get back down to a reasonable weight, I'm going to treat myself to an outfit from them.

Speaking of weight, it's going reasonably well - I've been making a conscious effort to end every meal a little bit hungry, and we went for an epic walk today and are planning another one tomorrow. I'm RAVENOUS right now, but I've also been drinking a lot more water to fill myself up and I'm feeling a lot better. John made a gorgeous paella for dinner tonight - it had chorizo, squid, shrimp, mushrooms, peas (I even ATE them!), and some other yummy stuff. I'll keep him.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Vacation Roundup: Back To (Escape From?!) New York

After the dentist debacle before I left, my dad made me an appointment with my childhood dentist. He cleaned my teeth (and pronounced them dirty but cavity-free), and sent me on my way. I zipped in to the city for lunch down by NYU with Liz and Kim, and visited them in their office. I hadn't been in the NYU neighborhood for a while - it was kind of a shock to see SO many college students everywhere.

Liz's mom is my favourite book-idea-giver - she reads constantly and has really great opinions. She's just started a book blog: La Bibliofille. I've added it to my RSS feed...and I just need a direct link between the website and my library account!

After puttering around the city and getting my hair cut at Astor Hair (my favourite), I went up to the garment district and got some fabric to make a belt. I also went to Purl Patchwork and got some adorable fabric that's linen-y with intermittent black sheep. SO cute - I'm going to make 6 placemats trimmed in orange with orange napkins. I love it.

Andrea and I crispy-shrimpied ourselves at Yama (mmm...spicy sauce) and then went to Forever 21 where Andrea got some really cute jeans and tops and I got a gorgeous brown sweater. I'm so used to English prices - everything was so cheap and looked so good!

I watched some of the US Open in Madison Sq Park after a cheap Chinese lunch near the office with my buddy Peter - the match was reviewed as 'amateur hour' by the New York Times - needless to say, I didn't stay long. I walked around the city for the rest of the afternoon (it was SO hot) and had Ethiopian food for dinner with Emily. I think I hit all of the major NY food groups - chinese, sushi, deli food and an uber-ethnic.

Speaking of all this food, I also weighed myself when I was home - I'm at an all-time high weight. I know it's the combo of eating too much and not getting enough exercise. So off I go - eating less and moving more. We'll see how it goes. It has to go, since none of my trousers fit.

We had a relaxing family party on Saturday, where my brother subjected his new girlfriend to some quality family time - he must really like her!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Vacation Roundup: Rhode Island

My parents' house in RI is really funny - it has a checkered past. The original owner - long gone - was a felon, so there are some locks in bizarre places (the closet in the loft, for example). It's also a bit of an '80s time capsule - the wallpaper is unbelievable. It has good bones, though, and it's in a great area with a pool and easy access to a long and v. flat bike path. Sign me up.

After the carousel on Monday night, we rode our bikes back down the path to Del's, for their lemonadey-icey stuff. "A Rhode Island Institution," according to them, anyway. Beware - the site has lots of fun sounds... My dad filmed my mom and me eating the Del's - it's hysterical.

After we'd recovered from the lemonade, we went out for seafood. From what we can tell, Rhode Islanders LOVE to eat, and they especially love seafood. I had a big ol' lobster, the likes of which I hadn't seen since Colby. And yes, I will forever be spoiled for lobster having gone to college in Maine. With $9.99 lobster nights at the restaurant down the street...

Here I am...winning.

On Tuesday, my roomie C came to visit - it was GREAT to see her again after her visit to Stowmarket. She recaps the day pretty completely on her blog. I LOVED seeing her and being tourists for the day.

When we were walking through one of the little towns that we visited, we saw these carvings on the porch from across the street. They looked so pretty - but on closer inspection they appeared to ALL be Freemasons' symbols... Who knows.

On Wednesday (our last day in RI), we lounged around, went to the pool, and ate. Lots. Fabulous diner food for breakfast, a stuffie (some strange RI twist on the stuffed clam) for lunch, and the most incredible seafood jambalaya for dinner.

Wow - I really did photograph everything I ate over the vacation...

More tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Quiet Day

I was trying to decide what to do today, regarding the post. I'm going to hold off on the vacation recap until tomorrow- I still have trouble with things with a date stamp of September 11.

So, today, instead, parts of two songs that the Indigo Girls wrote.

They're sending soldiers to distant places
X's and O's on someone's drawing board
Like green and plastic but with human faces
And they want to tell you it's a merciful sword
But with all the blood newly dried in the desert
Can we not fertilize the land with something else
There is no nation by god exempted
Lay down your weapons and love your neighbor as yourself
-Our Deliverance, 2002

When you march stand up straight.
When you fill the world with hate
Step in time with your kind and
Let it ring

When you speak against me
Would you bring your family
Say it loud pass it down and
Let it ring

Let it ring to Jesus 'cause he sure'd be proud of you
You made fear an institution and it got the best of you
Let it ring in the name of the one that set you free
Let it ring

As I wander through this valley
In the shadow of my doubting
I will not be discounted
So let it ring

You can cite the need for wars
Call us infidels or whores
Either way we'll be your neighbor
So let it ring

Let it ring
in the name of the man that set you free
Let it ring

And the strife will make me stronger
As my maker leads me onward
I'll be marching in that number
So let it ring

I'm gonna let it ring to Jesus
Cause I know he loves me too
And I get down on my knees and I pray the same as you
Let it ring, let it ring
'Cause one day we'll all be free
-Let It Ring (Amy Ray), 2005

Monday, September 10, 2007

Vacation Roundup: Wedding, NYC

I'm back in the UK...I didn't intend to take such a long blogging break but it was tricky to find time and sort out pictures without my Mac.

Anywho, still on my camera from before the trip to NY, a picture of the stepson and my niece rowing a boat. They managed to coordinate enough so that we didn't go in circles, although we were definitely wobbling...

Then, Friday night, our 'drinking club with a reading problem' got together in Andrea's fab new apartment. We hadn't all gotten together in ages, and it was very entertaining. My mom has a tshirt: "What happens with the girlfriends, stays with the girlfriends." Haha.

Then on Sunday I went to the wedding - it was the first one I'd been to for 2 years that I wasn't in (including ours), and I have to say it was SO relaxing. The wedding was great, with lots of fun people and fabulous music and I didn't have to wear anything specific or talk to anyone or be in any pictures or ANYTHING. Not to say that I haven't loved being in weddings, but they're a lot of work! So here was the setting (gorgeous):

And the bride & groom (gorgeous, again!):

Then, on Labor Day, I zipped up to RI to my parents' house, where I had the most relaxing 3 days I can remember. We went to a carousel on the first afternoon, via the bike path behind my parents' house. It's one of the last in the country where you can try and catch the rings as you ride around and then throw them into a target - I had the best time! My dad made a video - I'm not sure if it'll make it on to youtube but if it does, I'll post it.

To be continued...