Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Knitting Knews

I've finished two sets of hat/mitten/booties for a friend who's having twins in a few months. Pardon the cuteness...

Here's a close-up of the green set:

If anyone needs a recommendation for a fun (and quick and easy) project, this is a great pattern. There seemed to be plenty others like it - it's just a question of how much embellishment you want on the various pieces. Basically, they promise to use less than a skein of yarn. Both sets together took me about 10 hours of knitting time. That's only 5 movies. Or 10 Doctor Who's, interspersed with some Top Gear. It's WAY less than a season of Lost.
I've also (finally) started on the sweater that I bought wool and a pattern for when we were in Rhode Island this summer. I bought it all at Bella Yarns in Warren. In August's 90 degree heat, what I did I want? A wool sweater, bitches. 
Ok, I'd been meaning to knit myself a sweater for ages, especially after finishing the two baby sweaters. Full disclosure: I made a sweater for myself in college, but I didn't follow a pattern. I sort of made it up as I went along and it ended up weirdly baggy with arms that were different lengths. HOT. I'm trying to avoid that with this one, although I can always take it to a tailor and have it taken in if it has funny bulges. The pattern calls for having a zipper sewn in, which I'm definitely going to pay someone to do. I am NOT going to spend months and months knitting a sweater (with fairly expensive and v. nice wool) to then mess up the zipper.
Something tells me it's going to take me more than 10 hours, since I've been knitting for 8 or 9 already and I only have about 8 inches of the back panel done. 
The leap from baby booties that take an hour (including sewing in all the ends and casting on) to a normal-person sized sweater has been somewhat harsh. I'm just hoping it fits when I'm done. I swatched a gauge and I was ok horizontally but a little long vertically. I guess the worst that will happen is that the whole thing will be a little longer than I was expecting. Actually, since the most of the sizing in the pattern is done in inches rather than rows, it shouldn't present all that much of a problem.
I finished reading the newest Alexander McCall Smith, La's Orchestra Saves The World. Santa brought me a signed copy. Woot! It was very McCall Smith-y and I liked it. It takes place in rural Suffolk during World War II. The village itself isn't mentioned but it's not far from Bury (which is mentioned) and there's an RAF base nearby. My favorite quote from the book takes place as La stops by the side of a country lane while riding her bicycle, and lies down on the grass to ponder.
The strange, unsettling feeling was still with her; curiously, it made her aware of just how much she loved the piece of earth upon which she lay, that particular grass, that particular tiny patch of Suffolk.
It's too cold for me to go lie down in the grass on our particular tiny patch of Suffolk, but I would if I could.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Boats in Bottles

We had a glorious stretch of not really doing anything from Christmas eve through Sunday. Some assorted bell ringing, yummy Christmas lunch with the inlaws (including an extended trains-round-the-living-room session), and some lazy lunches with various friends who we haven't seen in a while.

I was at work today, and am now off again until 2009 arrives with a jolt on January 2. The Brits miss out on all sort of fun American holidays (President's Day, people!), and the prospect of 13 weeks unbroken by bank holidays of any kind can be a little scary. Granted, we get quite a bit more vacation time than the average American, but vacation time comes with the added joy of knowing that everyone else will have been filling your email inbox with 'ToDos' while you were off sunning yourself by the pool. As opposed to national holidays, where EVERYONE is sunning themselves. Ok, maybe this doesn't apply to President's Day, but you get the idea.

John and James were home today, and spent the day making one of James' Christmas presents from John's parents: a Boat in a Bottle kit. I got intermittent email updates today from the hubby (mast is in, water is in place), and one slightly panicked phone call (where is your sewing kit with the needles and straight pins?!).

The result:

I LOVE it. So cool. Cool enough for a second picture. John says, "11/10".

We saw these when we were at the Herreshoff Museum in Bristol, but didn't pick it up at the time. SO COOL!!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holiday wishes

Most of you will probably have seen this, but here it is again. And yes, I'm aware that Christmas was two days ago.

In other news today, Happy Birthday Dad and John!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dr Who TrailerMaker

James found a gizmo where you can create your own Doctor Who trailers on the BBC Website:

Here's the trailer that James made - check it out!

I LOVE the BBC (almost as much as I love David Tennant). ::swoon::

Thursday, December 18, 2008

McCall-Smith Withdrawal

Every weekday, for the last...um...a long time, I've been getting the chapters from Alexander McCall Smith's Corduroy Mansions, as serialised in the Telegraph.

And then today, this message along with my chapter:

Alexander McCall Smith now takes a two-week break, but will post a Christmas message for his readers.
Corduroy Mansions will resume on Monday, January 5. Thanks for reading.

::breathing deeply into a paper bag::

Sunday, December 14, 2008

On the mend

Right, no posts lately because today is the first day in a week that going downstairs to have breakfast hasn't made me want to come back upstairs for a nap. My main contacts for the last week have been this lot (shown reading one of John's Linux mags):

I don't feel great, by any means, but I *think* (provided taking a shower and getting dressed doesn't wear me out) that I may actually leave the house today. I have a book to pick up at the library (and two to return). I imagine that's going to be it for my adventures, though.

Between my epic napping sessions, I've been doing some reading. I read Jasper Rees' chronicle of rediscovering his French horn, I Found My Horn, which was a little self-absorbed and very anorak-y but quite entertaining. I'm not sure how engaging it would be for a non-horn player, but I liked it. Definitely a library book, though, not one to buy and reread. I may even pick up my horn and give it a few toots.

I also finished The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton (who also wrote The House at Riverton). I really liked it - I thought the characters were very well-drawn and I loved the fairy tales that Morton weaves through the story. It was a little bit predictable, but I didn't find that it diminished the book at all.

To round out the fairy tales, I read my Tales of Beedle the Bard. Cute stories, witty commentary, glad that JKR is raising money for children, but overall: meh. Maybe in my brain I've come to terms with the fact that Harry Potter is 'finished', so this was sot of a miscellaneous extra that happened to be loosely affiliated with HP. Worth buying for the charitable aspect (and so I have the complete set), but probably not going to get reread.

I've now started on The Jewel In the Crown, which one of my friends loaned to me. My parents (and John) recognized it as a PBS/Granada miniseries from the 70s? 80s?, but I'm finding it really heavy going at the moment. It's gotten a little better, and I'm going to stick with it for a bit longer before I give up, mostly because ALL the reviews on the back (NYT, Telegraph, etc) praise its amazing wonderfulness.

To accompany all my reading, I've been listening to Kate Rusby's newest CD, Sweet Bells. We heard most of the tracks on the CD at the concert we went to in Norwich last December, and have been waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the CD to come out. I LOVE it. Someone on the interwebs commented that they could happily listen to KR sing the phone book, and I'd be right there listening with them, but this is the perfect Christmasy CD.

The 2 other CDs that I've ordered from Amazon for Christmas seem not to have shipped yet (the new John Tavener and a CD of the King's College Choir doing their Christmasy thing). I feel deep hatred for 'pop' Christmas stuff (I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, etc), but the Rusby is sufficiently religious (and well-sung) as to be acceptable.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ring, walk, tree, ring, ring, ring

I did an extreme amount of bell ringing this weekend. I went up to Cotton for some practice on Saturday morning at 9:30 (early!), since we were ringing for a wedding today and the bells are somewhat unusual. The ringing 'chamber' is actually a porch - it's enclosed on 3 sides but the 4th side is open to the elements. Apparently it can be fairly exciting if it's raining! We were lucky - the weather was sunny both days, but SUPER cold.

Then, this morning, I rang at Stowmarket for the regular Sunday morning ringing. I had lunch and did some Christmas present wrapping for all the stuff that's being sent tomorrow, and then it was back to Cotton for the wedding. The bells aren't used all that much (especially not in the winter!), and I thought they had a sort of steel-drum-y sound. They're also 'odd-struck', which I think means that if you try to ring just by ropesight you'll end up in the wrong place.  Anyway, tower #2 for the day.

After a reviving cup of tea in Old Newton, it was off to Great Finborough for an attempt at what would have been my third quarter peal. We missed it though - someone didn't hear a call in the middle and we got in a sufficient muddle and had to stop. We ended up starting again and ringing some other stuff, since we didn't have time to restart the quarter attempt. There will be others!

The boys and I went on a walk yesterday afternoon, after (mercifully) managing to do 95% of our Christmas shopping in one hit. WOOHOO!

Here's James, standing in...you guessed it...Water Lane!
I loved this picture of them, walking along. James is getting so big - he's grown out of his wellies and was wearing mine (with thick socks).

When we got back, we put up the Christmas tree (i.e. unmashed the branches from last year), decorated it, and put up the various other decorations, all to the rousing accompaniment of Sesame Street Christmas. C'mon, you didn't expect anything else, did you?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Radio 4: "Today" advent calendar

I was minding my own business, driving to work this morning, when the chaps on the Today program mentioned that as it was December 1, they were starting in on their annual Advent Calendar. I don't know how I missed it last year, but it's hilarious!  Each day they're giving us one more nugget of mirth. I almost went off the road with the one this morning.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tourist Time!

I went to the Design Museum, which I found really disappointing. It's nestled in a cool neighborhood, just east of Tower Bridge, but the museum itself just didn't do it for me. I'd checked out their website beforehand (link above), but missed this section:
As it is currently configured the Design Museum concentrates on temporary exhibitions that cover the range of its interests, from graphic design and furniture to fashion, industrial design and architecture. Its permanent collection is based in the museum's store, and includes over 1000 pieces of contemporary and 20th century design, as well as a handling collection and a number of archives.

Ahh. There's the rub. All the neat things that were on their website that I was hoping to see: in the basement, bitches. I therefore paid £8.50 and trudged a BLOODY long way across London to see three exhibits: Design Cities, Alan Aldridge, and Patricia Urquiola's porcelain. Lovely and interesting all, but not quite enough. It was also in a bizarrely plain building - I've just checked the website and apparently the building is "elegantly modernist". Hmm.

My recommendation: skip it and spend the time in the Tate Modern or the V&A, any day.

It was, however, glorious weather for a picture of the Tower of London. I loved that my camera was blinking "underexposure" warnings at me...silly camera, I meant to do that!

Next museum: The Cabinet War Rooms. It was highly recommended by my London Walks tour guide, and I found it really interesting. Everything is restored (or was left) exactly as it was at the end of the war in 1945, and it has a real sense that everyone living and working there had planned for and accepted the fact that London might be obliterated above them. My entry ticket came with an audio guide that was really good - the segments were just long enough to give me a good picture, but not so long that I lost interest.

I found the Churchill museum interesting but extremely overwhelming - there was audio, video, blinking lights, artifacts, and general overstimulation in every direction. I was having trouble reading any of the blurbs with all the a/v going on, and didn't seem to be able to stand in one place long enough to listen to an entire interview/audio thing. I don't think I came out with a whole lot more Churchill knowledge than when I went in. It might be an idea to give it another shot.

I also managed to fit in a quick ramble through the British Museum - the Horus was his usual charming self and the Rosetta Stone was THRONGED with tourists pressing their noses against the glass. They had an exhibit on British Sculpture that I was having trouble following - there seemed to be random pieces scattered throughout the museum. I did manage to catch this model of the Angel Of The North, though. The real one is HUGE, and even in small scale it was quite impressive. I was glad that they put it in the smaller entrance hall rather than in the rotunda - it would have been lost in the bigger room, but here it gave the same sense that the big Angel gives you, blasting up the A1.

I also managed to fit in 2 walking tours: one of Kensington (very interesting AND we got to hear the 10 bells ringing called changes in St Mary Abbot's church), and a rather damp edition of Subterranean London. It was a mark of how fascinating the tour was that despite POURING rain and no umbrella (and the resulting wet feet), I stuck it out. Did YOU know that the extension of the tube lines under Westminster tube station is one of the great engineering marvels of all time? Thought not.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I missed my blogiversary again...it was the 21st. I've been yammering away here for 3 years. Insanity!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you turkey-eating peeps out there - we had leek and potato soup for dinner, but we will be having our fill of turkey (and pumpkin pie from scratch!) on Sunday. Woohoo!

The last time I was in London, I found the world's most incongruous playground. It's nestled in between the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, and I imagine it's either for the children in the picnic area up on the bank of the Thames or it's for the children of the Beefeaters who live in the Tower. I spent a solid 5 minutes chuckling over it.  (Who is that crazy woman, standing on the side of the road, laughing to herself?)

I was driving home from rehearsal last night, listening to the repeat of Midweek, and caught her interview with Jasper Rees. Apparently he's a journalist who played horn as a child and then gave it up. He came across his horn 22 years later and decided that what he really wanted to do was play it again. So he did. And then wrote a book about it. And then the book was picked up by Radio 4 and serialized. And then he adapted it into a play. Which is now playing in the West End. Apparently even being a mediocre horn player is a road to success - there's hope for me yet!  I've reserved a copy from the library - I'm interested to read it.

I've just finished the second of the Three Cities of Bells books. This one is called "Towers in the Mist", and is a fictional account of Philip Sydney and Walter Raleigh and their time at Oxford. Sydney and Raleigh are somewhat peripheral characters, but everyone else was really well-drawn and engaging.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Last night's concert went really well. We had a bigger-than-expected audience, and the choir was in quite good voice. As expected, soloists and orchestra were both outstanding.

I had to take this picture this afternoon from F & T's living room window - the raindrops were so pretty clinging to the clothesline. I wish I'd had the SLR (and had been less lazy and had gone outside!), but you get the idea.

I've been thoroughly enjoying Elizabeth Goudge's Three Cities of Bells. The final book (The Dean's Watch), was recommended by C, and the library only had all three books together. What a chore - I shall have to read them all. I've just finished the first one (City of Bells), and it had a great story, lots of chuckle-worthy lines, and is the perfect book to curl up with on the couch. I took it one step better and curled up with some goat cheese, red wine, and the books, on the couch. ::sigh::

I was reading by the light of our new lamp (lamps?) from Ikea - John and I were totally disappointed with the lighting section at Ikea until we spotted these on our way out. LOVE them. And they're tall enough to light up the room but low enough to read by. It's called the Barometer, in case you want to be cool like us.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tonight in Bury: Faure Requiem

Right, you lot. There are still some seats left for tonight's performance of the Faure Requiem by the Bury Bach Choir. The concert's at 7:30 in the Cathedral, and tickets will be available on the door.

The choir is good (and bigger than it has been in a few years), the orchestra will be fab, and the soloists are always extremely good. Our conductor, Philip Reed, works at English National Opera, and seems to be able to convince ENO soloists that what they REALLY want to do on a cold weekend in November is troop up to Bury St Edmunds and sing in a concert. Fine with me!

We'll also be performing Handel's Messiah (which, believe it or not, I've never sung before) on the 20th of December in St Mary's Church. It will definitely sell out, so get your tickets now! The details of the concert are here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Baby Sweater II

One of my college roommates had a baby back in September. When I found out they were pregnant (while I was still knitting sweater no. 1), I bought more wool.  It feels like it's taken me ages to finish, and looking back, I started it in June, so it actually HAS taken ages. I did the button band differently this time (I knitted it separately and then sewed the live stitches straight to the edge of the sweater), since I stink at picking up stitches from anything other than exactly where stitches were cast off.

I'm fully aware that Lucy Aurelia will wear it once, throw up on it, and grow out of it. But she'll look SO CUTE for the 30 seconds before she throws up.

At the rate my friends are breeding, I'm going to have to knit faster. Or start knitting smaller things. I have a friend who's pregnant with twins (ack!) and the thought of two sweaters for them plus another friend who's due around the same time sent me to the wool store in a panic.

I found a GREAT pattern sheet with three hat/mitten/bootee sets, each of which can be made with one 100g skein. I've gone for non-gender-committal pale green and blankie yellow, and will make two sets in plenty of time. I may even put a green stripe in the yellow ones and a yellow stripe in the green. All together now: awwww.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Three Cups Of Tea

I finished reading Three Cups of Tea on Thursday night, and really enjoyed it. Written by David Oliver Relin (a journalist), it tells the story of Greg Mortenson, an American climber from Montana who gets lost after failing to summit K2. He wanders into a village high in the Pakistan mountains, and ends up promising to build them a school.

 The beginning of the book read very much like Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, but once the mountaineering drama was over, Relin's journalistic style and the compelling story made it impossible to put down.

I hadn't heard all that much about the book before reading it, other than the fact that it was 'brilliant', and I have to admit I was fairly worried that it was going to be another angst-ridden, torture-filled woe-is-us extravaganza. But it wasn't at all.

Yes, Mortenson is the driving force behind the schools, but it's extremely clear that none of what he's done would have happened without the dedication of many incredible locals.

Definitely recommend it!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Ok, I meant to post this yesterday and then ran out of time - Wednesdays can get a little hectic.  So, a day late and a dollar short:

I'm relieved that the rest of America has finally come to their senses, and looking forward to the end of Trickle-Down Economics, a pointless war, and abuse of power.

Oh, and my absentee ballot, which I registered for back in September?  Arrived on Tuesday, stating that it had to be postmarked by...wait for it...Monday.  Nice one, Westchester County.  Good thing I planned for your Epic Fail and sent in a provisional write-in absentee ballot three weeks ago.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Bizarre attachment to a logo

I needed to buy honey yesterday at Waitrose, and I fell absolutely head-over-heels for this logo. Not only did I buy it and bring it home with me, but I felt compelled to take a picture of it at breakfast this morning. The honey is quite tasty, to boot.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

We ran out of candy

Last year, we had about 20 trick-or-treaters and lots of leftover candy. This year, we had lots of trick-or-treaters and NO leftover candy. I felt like an evil witch - we ran out at around 6:30. John had bought 2 bags of 25 bars, and we had so many kids that they just wired through it.

Next year, we will be prepared for the onslaught.

[Oh, and HI! to all of the visitors from Ruby!] Regulars, check out York Daily Photo.

This was the first year that we let James carve his own pumpkin. He was VERY closely supervised - he's much cuter with all of his fingers attached. He opted not to go with teeth or anything too fancy. Wise decision, my boy. He was scheduled to go trick-or-treating with a friend in Ipswich, dressed in "all black clothes, ripped if mummy will let me". Remember being 11?

I was feeling supremely girly when I carved my pumpkin. I think it was the result of spending the weekend with the BOYS. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but James' pumpkin was quite large and mine was really tiny. I made him carry his all the way to the car. ::muahaha::

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chill weekend

We had an extremely chill weekend - the weather was sort of dreary so we did some gardening and lots of cooking and some movie watching. 

Yesterday James and I planted more of the daffodil bulbs in the front yard, and we dug in some of our very own compost from the bin. I shouldn't be surprised that the peelings and scrapings and general kitchen detritus turns itself into the 'soil improver' that I pay for at the garden centre, but I always am.  I need to NOT put whole potatoes in, though, however rotten and sprouty they are - they just grow into more potatoes in the compost bin.

For all the cooking we did, we took no pictures, which is extremely sad. We roasted a leg of lamb for dinner last night, which we were really greedy about and inhaled. I was going to eat the marrow, but John was worried that I'd get something dreadful like Scrapie, so I didn't. I've looked on the interwebs and it looks like I would have been safe. Next time!

Monday, October 20, 2008

If I had a Quarter for every time...

Well, that's it. My life is complete. I rang my first quarter peal on Saturday afternoon. We did some St. Simon's, some Grandsire, and finished with Plain Bob Doubles. I rang the treble (and should be able to give you more details about how many of each method we rang but I can't).

The 'band': (l-r, below) Morris, Leslie, me, Richard, Jo, and David. My overwhelming thought during the quarter was "Are we there yet?", replaced by "Phew, we DID it!" when we finished. The whole thing took about 45 minutes. I was surprisingly nervous, which made it more difficult, since I was pulling the bell too hard and making it really heavy going for myself.

I also made brownies for the band - I figured we could either celebrate with or drown our sorrows in the chocolate, depending on the final outcome.

 We rang at Finborough - the weather was glorious and it's a really pretty church. The bells are hung a little strangely, though - they're really creaky and the ropes fall in more of a caved-in hexagon than a circle.

After my bell-stravaganza, John and I went on a date!  Dinner and a movie!  I know!!  We went to Bury for Pizza Express (yum), where the service was a little slow but the food was tasty. We had plenty of time, so we didn't mind. Then we went to see Burn After Reading, which I had no expectations for. I'm not a huge fan of Coen brothers movies - they tend to be too dark and gory for me, and I find them distinctly unfunny. I woudn't have even suggested seeing the movie, except for the fact that they filmed part of it in Sutton Manor, where I grew up.  If you've seen the movie, the house where George Clooney's character lives is about 3 minutes walk from my parents' old house. They filmed it right after I visited last summer (I could have met George Clooney!!), and I really wanted to see the neighborhood on the big screen.

It turned out to be a REALLY funny movie - John and I chortled our way through it and I was psyched that there were lots of Sutton Manor shots.

Sunday, I did more bell ringing (normal Sunday morning stuff - my blisters were pretty intense from Saturday), planted some bulbs (thanks, Mom & Dad!), and read The Penderwicks On Gardam Street. I loved this Penderwick book as much as the first one - Jeanne Birdsall has to write them faster!

Thursday, October 16, 2008


We had some leftover bacon tonight and I knew I wanted to make soup, so I looked on the interwebs and in my cookbooks for some recipes. I ended up with a recipe-less mishmash of soups that was really tasty.

I borrowed heavily from two lentil soup recipes in the Covent Garden Soup cookbook, which is SO good, and a Delia Smith lentil soup recipe.  Basically, I fried the bacon with some onions in the bottom of my soup pan, and then added carrots, celery, green lentils, veggie stock, cumin seeds, ground coriander, some chili flakes, and a can of chopped tomatoes.  Simmer until the lentils are done, and poof! Dinner!

John pronounced it 7/10 (the lentils were a little undercooked and the whole thing could have simmered for longer but we were HUNGRY). V. tasty.

I have an Amazon gift certificate that was a birthday present (thanks, M!), that I've been sort of hoarding. I NEVER buy books - it's such a special treat. I think I might have to get the new Seasonal Soup book from the Covent Garden peeps.

I shall ponder.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sarah Palin the Post-Turtle

One of my fellow bell-ringers cut this out for me - it was in Saturday's London Times.
Word of the week: post-turtle
A 75-year-old Texas rancher recently explained this term to a country doctor. The conversation turned to the US election, and Sarah Palin's vice-presidential candidacy, and the old rancher observed: “Well, ya know, Palin is a post-turtle.” The bemused doctor asked what a post-turtle was, and the old man replied: “When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post-turtle.” The rancher continued: “You know she didn't get up there by herself, she doesn't belong up there, she doesn't know what to do while she is up there, and you just wonder what kind of dumb ass put her up there to begin with.”
Sufficiently true to be scary.

Monday, October 13, 2008

We rode on the highway (with no cars)

We took James on a bike ride yesterday - we went out of Stowmarket to the southwest (on the world-famous Cycle Route 51), all the way through Onehouse and into Harleston. We went down the hill towards Haughley, and under the new A14. And then found ourselves on the OLD A14 (with no cars). Rumor has it that they're going to turn it into a cycle path - I'll believe it when I see it!

Here are the boys, on the eastbound carriageway.

And here's the view from the top of the hill, again looking west:

After all that riding, we were hungry. John made a very tasty paella. Yum!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Two creations

First, for all of the Americans in the audience, please consider my latest creation:
And then, this week, I had this recipe for German apple cake pop up via Smitten Kitchen in my Google Reader. We're having F&T over tomorrow afternoon for tea, so I made it this afternoon (apparently it improves and is best eaten 24 hours later). John pronounced it 10/10 - it was REALLY tasty. I was a little worried because the consistency of the batter was not as liquid as I'd expected to be, but it turned out ok.

Birthday recap

Last weekend, we went on another bike ride - here's a picture looking from the Stowmarket/Needham Road to the north.

There was much excitement when we went to Tesco - this bird had flown in through an open door and was looking around for a place to perch. Sorry the picture quality isn't great - we only had the point-and-shoot and not the SLR.

Two weeks ago, I got an e-newsletter from the Kate Rusby folks, announcing her upcoming tour. I was super-psyched to see that not only was she coming to Ipswich (SO much closer than Norwich and Peterborough, where we've seen her play), but that she would be there on my birthday (this past Thursday). Obv, we had to go.

In my infinite geekyness, I emailed her record company asking to have a song dedicated to me for my birthday. And she DID! Hooray!! She played 'Where Does The Time Go', which is a single that I don't have (yet), and said that it was for "Kate, or Katie, whose birthday is today, I think. Or tomorrow, or yesterday. Anyway." I felt special. Her she is, in all her blurry awesomeness.

And here we are at the intermission - John bought me a Kate Rusby mug (since I already have a KR t-shirt)

To add to the overwhelming birthday goodness, I am also the proud owner of a new and exceedingly shiny iPhone. My contract was up and I had been coveting one for yonks, so that was that. I LOVE it, with the only drawback being that the battery life is completely crap. My old Motorola Krzr would merrily go 6 or 7 days between charges, but the iPhone barely eeks out 24 hours. I've been turning off some of the push-synching when I'm not using the phone (I don't need it to tell me I have an email at 3am), and that seems to help a bit. I'm having issues with the Apple store, too - as an American, my AppleID is registered to a US address, and so Apple can't comprehend that I might have LEFT the country. Bah. The interwebs have yielded a few suggestions - we'll see what happens. Other than that, though, it's great. Being able to sync my google calendar to wherever I am is awesome, and texting on the 'keyboard' is so much easier than on my old phone.

One final birthday thing - on Wednesday night when John's buddies came round, they brought me some gorgeous birthday flowers. Thanks, guys!! They brought a bottle of really tasty wine, too (no picture, it's all gone).

Monday, September 29, 2008

I will not Crumble in the face of adversity

The blackberries are in all the hedgerows - James and I went foraging a few weeks ago and I put a big tub of them in the freezer. We added some apples from our friends with a Bramley tree, a little cinnamon, lemon juice, and crumble topping, and voila. YUMMY.  I couldn't even take the picture before half had been eaten!

Speaking of food, I ordered my Thanksgiving turkey today. Last year I called our butcher in mid-October and was told that I could have a turkey but could I please call earlier next year.

So I called them today, and said, "Hi, I'd like to order a turkey to be picked up at the end of November."

"Um, a turkey? In November? I don't think we can do that."

In the background, I heard, "Wait, I know who that is - she ordered one last year. Tell her to hang on!"  A long pause.  Then, "Hello, I remember you. A turkey in November? What size?"

After last year's lbs-kg debacle, we will be getting a 5 kilo (11lb) turkey, picked up on the Saturday after American Thanksgiving, to be served on Stowmarket Thanksgiving (the Sunday after A.T.).

Mission, accomplished.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

End of an era

When my parents were first married, they lived in on Central Park West. Then the call of the suburbs became too strong and in the 70s they bought a house in New Rochelle.

My parents have all kinds of stories about the house when they first bought it - the seller left them with the advice that they "might have heard a mouse last night," which turned out to be several mice, a squirrel or six and a number of raccoons. Mmmm. Also, all of the windows had been painted, although they were all either painted open or shut and were destined to stay as painted until one of my parents un-painted them. They all work now!

Here I am, with my mom, in my nursery. I loved those yellow pjs - they had scritchy-scratchy feet that were warm on the inside and non-slip on the outside.

Over the last 30+ years, we've all moved out a number of times - first to come to England in 1989 (rented to tenants), then I moved out to go to college in 1999, then they moved to Florida (rented to tenants again) in 2003, then I moved to England in 2005, then they moved SOME stuff out in 2007 when they bought the house in Rhode Island.

I've lived all over the place - New Ro, Waterville ME, England (currently in UK location #5), Paris, New York City, but the big yellow house has always felt like 'home'.

Now that my brother and I are settled elsewhere, my parents have sold the house. I totally understand the reasoning behind it: it's way too big for the two of them and Rrufus, it's a ton more maintenance than they want, it costs a fortune to heat in the winter, they love the house in RI, they don't want my brother and me to have to clean it all out in 30 years (they've both cleaned out their parents' houses).

But the Little Kate in me wants to be able to go HOME. Not to go right now, but to know that the big yellow house is there, waiting for me. With my bedroom with the green carpet that doesn't go all the way to the walls (and has long been the TV room), the slippery wood floors, and the saggy but never going to fall down front porch.

They've found awesome buyers - a young-ish couple with a little boy who looks exactly like my brother did at 2 and who already has all the neighbors lining up to babysit.

Oh, and Mom and Dad said that they "might have heard a mouse last night..."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Eve Ensler on Sarah Palin

From my favourite Vagina Monologuer, via the Huffington Post, entitled Drill Drill Drill
"I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S., but of the planet."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Further Suffolk bike explorations

After our epic bike ride a few weeks ago, we knew we wanted to go on another one, but this time with enough food, water, and a distinct route planned out.

On our last trip, we'd seen signs for Debenham, where we'd been on a (rainy) walk last winter. I checked the map and it's just under 10 miles each way, which seemed about right.

We packed some ham sandwiches and lots of water bottles, and set off around noon. We got there just after 1, after riding through 2 HUGE clouds of bugs (eew), and plopped down on a bench to eat our lunch. I think it was probably a combination of the tastyness of the sandwiches (ham and lettuce on a baguette) and the fact that we were super-hungry from the ride, but they were indecently yummy.

My camera was out of juice so here's a picture from my phone to prove that we did, in fact, ride our bikes all the way there. And no, we couldn't have cheated - our bikes don't fit in the car.

We poked around Debenham for a little while and then hopped back on the bikes and came home, arriving about 3.

The last 2 or 3 miles were a bit of a struggle - I had cramps in my feet and my work-aggravated shoulder pain which has been really bad this week was somehow excacerbated by the biking. It hasn't been a problem until now - I think it's time to go back to the physio. I've been having physiotherapy on and off for almost 2 years - essentially since I started working full-time again after working at the National Trust. I've had my 'workstation' evaluated, I do special exercises every night, I have a special chair, I drag my stupid lumbar-support roll everywhere, and it just doesn't seem to get any better. I have total sympathy for people with chronic pain - it just completely wears you out.

And before yesterday it generally disappeared soon after leaving work every day - the fact that it's now migrated to something I love doing in my non-work time is a problem. I had a tarot reading about 6 months ago where the reader (who knew nothing about my back problem) said of a card: "hmm...this one says that your job is 'breaking your back' - that's a really unusual one." Um, yeah, it is.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Late to the party: Alaskan anti-Palin rally

A friend forwarded me details of this - I hadn't heard about it but thought it was pretty impressive. If you haven't seen it, check out the Alaska Women Reject Palin rally on the Daily KOs blog.

While you're at it, read this article from the NYTimes, too.

Published: September 14, 2008
Gov. Sarah Palin’s visceral style and tendency to attack critics contrast with her public image, her record shows.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mussels a la Rhode Island

We had mussels for dinner tonight, inspired by a dinner that John had while we were at Stella Blues in Warren, RI. It was mussels in a [too] spicy tomato sauce over linguine and it looked SO good. Granted, my jambalaya was amazing, but that just seems too complicated.

After trawling the web for recipes, we basically made a marinara sauce using sauteed onions and garlic, a can of chopped tomatoes and 6 shakes of the Tabasco bottle (John was in charge), and then boiled the pasta and dumped the mussels in. SO YUMMY. But a little on the watery side - I think next time we'll let the tomatoes cook down some more (or use fresh ones and tomato paste). I realized after we'd done the dishes that I should have taken a picture. You'll just have to imagine it.

I rang at Stowmarket again last night - I practiced the usual trebling to Plain Bob Doubles (we only rang the front 6) and then we rang some called changes with me on the 6th. I love the big, heavy bells so much - I have no idea why I find them so compelling. I think it's the really solid feel of the ropes and the big ::BONG:: noise that they make.

I've also finished The Book Thief. It really grew on me - it went from being 'another holocaust book' to a really compelling story. It's narrated by 'Death', and he certainly had a unique perspective on things. It's nowhere near as heavy as I thought it would be, either. Definitely recommend it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Post-book meh

As expected, I raced through The Pillars of the Earth. And I loved all 976 pages of it. And I was gutted when it ended. It was entirely what I was hoping it would be - an epic saga (similar to Edward Rutherford's London). I sometimes have trouble keeping characters straight in books like this (see: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell), but Follett introduced them slowly enough and with plenty of description so I managed to keep them all separate.

The sequel (World Without End) is waiting for me on my nightstand, when I finish The Book Thief. Poor Book Thief - it has the misfortune to follow a book that is now in my top 10, which means that I'm spending most of the time reading it wishing it were something else. Oh well, some book has to do that, and I don't think I would have liked it much in any case.

We went to a BBQ at our across-the-street neighbors last night - they managed to get themselves organised and invite a bunch of neighbors over all together. We've been meaning to do it for ages but the inertia is just too strong! We met some new people from down the street and got to catch up with other neighbors who we really should talk to more than we do.

We took the small boy on a bike ride today, up to Mendlesham Green. 5 miles each way, and on country lanes the whole way out. We decided to do a loop rather than backtracking, and were on roads with a few more cars on the way back. James is so much better at riding than he was a year ago - the wobbles are few and far between and even the whining from last weekend (It's too FAR, Daddy!) has diminished.

We watched Stardust again this afternoon after the bike ride - I'd forgotten how much I loved it the first time around. Definitely a keeper.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Don't sing flat

We had the first rehearsal of the season for the Bach Choir on Wednesday night. It was really good to see everyone again and get singing. We had almost 100 people at the rehearsal, which is quite a bit bigger than the same time last year. Sweet!

I was talking to someone on the committee and apparently there's a woman who's been singing flat for years. She was standing behind me during a dress rehearsal and was driving me crazy. So I turned around and asked her (nicely) to either sing in tune or sing more quietly. And apparently I offended her so much that she's quit the choir. Aww shucks. One less flat singer. Obv, I can't make a habit of it, but still, I feel like it was kind of a public service.

Or, see previous post about how I'm a bitch. :)

Weather here is cold and rainy and revolting - I'm SO glad we got our two weeks of summer in NY, otherwise I would have moved to the south of France by now.

In other singing news, I went to a singing masterclass through Complete Vocal Institute (to do with work) yesterday. We were taught by the author of the books, who apologised to us at the beginning for the fact that our scheduled teacher was sick and she was replacing him. Um, you're the guru - we don't mind!

We had 2 hours of vocal theory (using her methods), which was quite illuminating, and then 2 hours of masterclass teaching. I was signed up as a 'singer' and got to perform and then be coached. Unreal. My voice changed so much (for the better) during my half hour that one of the audience members stopped me to compliment me afterwards. He said that I'd made the whole room ring. Now we'll see if I can replicate it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Way more reviews than anyone really needs

Ok, I need to not save these up for too long. It's torture for everyone involved!

John and I have been going on lots of bike rides and not a whole lot else. The weather here on Saturday was glorious and sunny - I sat in my crazy creek on the picnic blanket out in the back yard while the laundry dried on the line and read for HOURS in the afternoon. A little sunburnt but TOTALLY worth it.

My dad has sent a bunch of slides and pictures that he's scanned, some that I've never seen before. So far I've only been through the ones of me and my brother - there are lots more of my mom as a child that I'm saving up as a special treat.

I guess I got started on reading early (I think I'm about 3 months old here):

 Right..here goes.

Listening to: Jay Brennan
I stumbled across him on Facebook (of all things) in an ad that said, "Like the Indigo Girls? You'll love this!" And hey, presto, they were right. He's from NYC and touring the UK but not anywhere near us. Sad.

Watched recently (in order of preference from favorite to least):
The Diving Bell And the Butterfly - about the book that the former editor of French "Elle" wrote (with his left eye) after he had a stroke and suffered from locked-in syndrome. Fascinating and not mushy at all. I want to read the book now.
The Kite Runner - not as good as the book but still REALLY well done. The boys were superb.
Happy-Go-Lucky - this had some really funny laugh-out-loud moments but we both found the main character EXTREMELY annoying. It was also pitched as a feel-good movie. I found it more like Billy Elliot and The Fully Monty - maybe feel-good if you're super-depressed and have nowhere to go but up, but otherwise a bit of a downer. A very London-y movie, though (Liz, I think you'll at least like the scenery).
Waitress - meh. I love Keri Russell and this movie has gotten rave reviews and the director was tragically murdered (?) in NYC and everyone loved it. Except me. And John. He couldn't even sit through the whole thing. Too slow and really forced in places, we thought.
Oh, and John watched Be Kind Rewind . I couldn't bear to watch it but he said it was pretty funny and quite clever.

Can you tell that our movie vouchers from Blockbuster expired on the 31st of August and we didn't realize until last weekend?

While I wasn't watching, I was reading (in chronological order this time):

The Septembers of Shiraz - I'm sorry if I'm an insensitive bitch, but I'm done with the books about Iran, Afghanistan, and the Taliban. There are only so many beatings and arrests and escapes that I want to read about. I know the stories need to be told, but I'm not the one to tell them to. Wow, I really am an insensitive bitch. Oh well.

The Penderwicks - I saw a display for this in the Barrington book shop, and knew I had to read it. A little Famous Five, a little Little White Horse, a big dollop of family adventure. And there are more!

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas - a 'teenager' book that my college roomie told me to read (and to avoid all Amazon entries and not read the back of the book). I caved and read the back and really liked it. Short, and made me think. I could imagine being assigned it as a middle-school summer reading assignment and hating it, but as a grown-up it was really thought-provoking.

A friend from work loaned me the latest Jodi Picoult: Change of Heart. It was a little more fence-sit-y than I wanted it to be, but it was definitely a good read. I'm always worried that I'm going to hate her books and then I like them more than I think I should. Fair warning, don't start with this one. It references Keeping Faith a few times - if you haven't read that, read it first.

I between the multimedia extravanganza, I saw these today. They're cards that riff on the "Keep Calm And Carry On" poster that we have that's now totally overplayed - apparently it was even in Oprah magazine. Gah, the masses! Anyway, I loved her idea and will definitely be making our own using the color printer and Scribus.

The final book is more of a work-in-progress: The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follet. It was "thrown" at me on Facebook by Lizzie, and I never would have picked it up on my own. I LOVE it so far - I'm about 100 pages in and am worried because there are only 850 more.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Epic Bike Ride

After all of our riding in RI, we both remembered how much we love to ride bikes. We added 'bikes' to our budget, and figured we could get some later in the fall when we'd saved up for them. We looked around quite a bit, and settled on a pair of Raleighs. We're so dorky with our matching bikes.
And then my parents decided to give me my bike as my (somewhat early) birthday present (THANKS!), which meant that we could buy them both now and get riding! Which we did. We picked them up on Saturday morning from the bike shop in Stowmarket, along with a helmet for John, some high-vis gear, and a set of panniers for John's bike. We rode home, had a few issues with John's bike, rode back to the shop, had everything sorted, and rode home again.

Saturday's total: about 5 miles. Yay us.

Then on Sunday, we rode (in the drizzle) to the Alder Carr farm in Needham Market. Here we are, on the way back. Well, here's John, anyway - I was taking the picture. Sunday's total: 8 miles.

And then today, we knew we wanted to go for ANOTHER bike ride. So we went along back roads, to Mendelsham and the A140. And then we crossed the A140 (carefully). And then we rode to Wetheringsett. And then we went in search of a pub. Further on. And then we got hungry and tired and thirsty and looked at our map and realized that home was VERY far away. Thankfully our getting lost involved doubling back on a parallel road to the one we'd taken, so when we looked at the map we were much closer to home than we thought. The wind was in our faces the entire way home and we were SHATTERED when we got back. I really like riding in Suffolk, though - there are so many 'B' roads and single-track lanes, where you get the odd car but it's mostly just other cyclists and walkers. Crossing the A140 was kind of scary, but there's a nice little crossing spot with really good views in both directions, so we just stood and waited until there was no traffic.

According to Google maps, we rode 27.2 miles. That's more than a marathon, people. Granted, we were on our bikes, and it was relatively flat and not too hot and not raining and the company was lovely. And our bikes have awesome gears and are really light. But still, 27.2 miles is FAR. And we only had my one little nalgene of water. And we kept getting lost and not finding any pubs. Next time, we'll bring more water and some snacks. And sort out the pub(s) before hand.

In other news, I went up to Redenhall (over the Norfolk border) to ring bells with them on Thursday night. I really liked the people and the bells but at 40mins each way it's a bit too much of a schlepp for a Thursday night. It was really fun, though - I got to ring the treble through Grandsire triples (7 bells, the 8th blowing behind), and then I rang some plain hunt on the other bells. It was a treat to ring methods on 8 bells - Old Newton has 5 and Buxhall and Finborough both have 6. Stowmarket has 8 but I've never rung methods on all 8. Supposedly there's going to be a Thursday evening method practice at Stow starting up again - and I can ride my bike to it!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

NYC Recap 2 - SMILE!

After our adventures in Rhode Island, we went back to New Ro for the rest of the vacation.

We also spent the first afternoon back in the city - we took the train in, and were completely flabbergasted by the 75 cents Family Fare kid's ticket (one way, off peak only). John and I were on a ten-trip and so the whole thing cost $11.75 each way. Do you HEAR me, National Express East Anglia? OFF PEAK family travel can be reasonably priced! Sorry, rant over.

We subwayed ourselves up to the Met, where James extended his run of blue-tongued ice creams.

Exhibit A: blueberry Del's in Rhode Island

 Exhibit B: Inspecting his pre-Met ice cream with a taxi in the background.
Exhibit C: At the end of the pre-Met ice cream. Man, was he sticky.

James had never been to the Met, so we paid our $5 each (it was 3:30 and they were closing soon - the $20 suggested donation is just that - suggested), and zipped through the museum. Ancient romans, the temple, and a search for the Frank Lloyd Wright house (being renovated - sad!). We found a really funny Egyptian statue of a hawk, who was wearing what looked like a cross between a fez and a birthday hat, and had the most hilarious expression on its face. It was sort of a "you're REALLY not going to sculpt me for all eternity with this stupid hat on my head, are you?"  I couldn't get a decent picture without the flash, otherwise it would definitely have been LOLcat worthy.

On our way out, James spotted a sign for their SuperHeroes exhibit - he got to see the "real" Iron Man costume and various other Super costumes. It was a small exhibit but quite cool.

After the museum, we met up with Andrea and Liz in the city for some Yama crispy-shrimpy love. Mmmm. James decided at the last minute that he wasn't going to eat sushi, so he wolfed down some edamame and had teriyaki chicken while the rest of us ate the sushi.

On Thursday afternoon, Mom, Dad, James and I headed to Playland. Here we are, trying to decide what else to do (besides the Dragon Coaster, which James and I rode three times):

 That's me, waving to Dad!

Here we are, after the log flume. Man, were we WET!

And here we are at the end - James was a little overwhelmed by the whole thing but we *think* he had a good time. He was frowning in all of the non-candid pictures, though!

On our last day, Mom and Dad threw a porch party. It was an eclectic mix (as ever) of family, neighbors and friends. It was great to see everyone and round off our vacation!