Monday, June 30, 2008


We spent most of the weekend with John's best friend I. and his wife, C.  They came over for dinner on Saturday night, and after catching up on the tennis (yay Wimbledon) we walked into town. After much debate, we went to Radhuni rather than the Italian place, since John & I both think that the Italian needs a few more weeks to work the kinks out.

We had a fab dinner, but there was quite a bit left over. To John's horror, I asked if they could box up the leftovers (they do takeout). They came out with a HUGE bag - it was the end of the evening and they said that they'd put in a few 'extras' for me. I'll say. Our original leftovers came to 2 small tubs, and there was extra saag with potatoes, chickpea curry, and veggies. Oh, and more rice. I had curry for lunch on Sunday and dinner on Monday, and probably would have had dinner on Tuesday but John pronounced the leftovers 'too old' and I threw them out. Granted, there wasn't much left by then, but still.

John's parents are SO paranoid about leftovers - and leftover rice is apparently something that guarantees an immediate and painful death. My family, on the other hand, will order Chinese takeout on a random Tuesday and then continue noshing on the leftovers (including the rice) until at least Friday. Maybe we all have v. strong immune systems. Or have been really lucky. Does anyone else share my inlaws' leftover paranoia? I just hate throwing away food (and love leftover curry!)

Oh, and I almost forgot - we'd asked the guys at Radhuni to call us a taxi to go home. It was about 11 and we didn't feel like schlepping up the hill. The head waiter came over to our table after about five minutes and said that the taxi company had said they would be an hour. An bloody Stowmarket!  Where did all the people come from? Anyway, we said that wasn't a problem - we'd just walk down to the station and pick one up from there, or failing that, suck it up and walk home. He said, "No, no, I have a car - I'll drive you!"  We protested but he insisted. And, hey, who are we to turn down a lift? Teehee. He got a nice tip, anyway.

As part of our I. and C. extravaganza weekend, we went over to their house to watch the Euro Cup final and have a Spanish-themed supper. V. tasty with some awesome sangria. They have a ping-pong table in their back yard, and I lost 6 games to C, a further 3 to I. and then one to John. It was the final one that I was most surprised about - I didn't even know he could play ping-pong and he's always telling me how bad his hand-eye coordination is. My grandma used to have a table in her basement and my brother and I would play for hours at a time, although I haven't spent much time playing outside. I blame my losses on the wind, the sun, and the fact that I think their table is about 6 inches too narrow. All my shots kept going off the back end of the table. Bah.

Since I obviously suck at ping-pong, it's good that I learned two new things at bells this week. We rang at Great Finborough again, and I raised the front 3 bells, then rang the treble through a touch of Plain Bob Doubles (first new thing) and then 'blew behind' (rang the tenor) for Plain Hunt on 5 (second new thing). I hadn't rung the tenor before - it's always the biggest bell and I hadn't thought I was ready for it. Well, apparently I am.

Chelsworth Open Gardens

Yesterday John and I took his mom to the Chelsworth Open Gardens day, as recommended by Country Living (and found in one of the back issues that I'd given my mom).  While lovely, the gardens were all much-of-a-muchness, and there are only so many hollyhocks and roses that one can admire.

They had fabulous luck with the weather, and we got some good ideas and good pictures!

Here's an artichoke plant.  I think they spread a little too much for our garden, but I'm not afraid to experiment.

All of the gardens had these little signs outside - it was very cute and English country garden-y without being tacky or twee.

This was by far the most impressive garden - the owners had built two brand-new walled gardens (for the microclimate properties) and this greenhouse had some escaping geraniums. This garden also had some, er, tasteful obelisks at one end, framing a landscape view. We were so startled by the obelisks that I forgot to take a picture.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Summer, tentatively

We've been so busy - I was out Tuesday (ringing at Great Finborough - another tower!) and Wednesday (dinner with a friend), and then on Thursday John and I finally managed to get to Salentina, the new Italian restaurant in Stowmarket. They've been open for about a month, I think, and they seem to have a loyal following already.

I was a little worried when we got there, since it was 7pm on a gloriously sunny Thursday night and it was completely empty. By the time we'd ordered, though, 2 more groups had arrived, and when we left it was nearly full. John started off with the best calamari I've had in ages - it was really sweet and just crispy enough. My antipasto was tasty, if uninspired. We both had pizza (in their brick oven). Mine was a little dry, and the anchovies were SUPER salty, and John's calzone was not quite what he'd hoped it would be.

Looking around at the other tables, though, the pizzas were not the way to go. The smells of the pasta dishes appearing on the other tables were fantastic, and everyone seemed to really be enjoying themselves. Overall, the food was good, although it was relatively expensive and there were definitely still some kinks (no credit card machine yet, general disorganization). However, it's SO nice to have somewhere to be able to walk to for dinner (other than our beloved Radhuni).

On our way back from dinner, we stopped at the video store to pick up a movie. However, they had Lost - Season 3. So we got it. And then realized that it's the complete season 3. The previous DVDs we'd rented were only half-seasons. We're now 8 episodes in (out of 24), after 3 nights. A little behind schedule. And we both have to be at work tomorrow and can NOT stay here all day and have a Lost marathon.

Glorious weather today - the boys and I played croquet in the back yard. My parents gave James the set for his birthday last September and it's been the first real nice day (!) where we've been able to set it up in the back yard.

I've never actually played croquet on a flat lawn, so our hilly yard was no problem. The grass is nice and long, so it stopped the balls from rolling down the hill too fast.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Blickling and Blakeney

The Bury Bach Choir normally goes away for a weekend once every few years. About a year ago, we thought about a trip to somewhere in Europe for the weekend, which got downgraded to a trip to Durham/Newcastle for a weekend, which got downgraded to a day trip to Norfolk.

We hired a coach and 50 of us went to Blickling Hall, followed by a concert in Blakeney (on the Norfolk coast). Blickling was stunning - it's a Jacobean house with ornate, huge interiors and a formal garden, all surrounded by parkland. We toured the house and walked through the gardens and the park, and then had a picnic in the courtyard, before getting back on the bus to head to rehearsal. John got to tour Blakeney while we were all rehearsing, and then after our performance we stopped for dinner on the way back and got home around 1am. Man, were we tired.

It was a nice 'day out', and we definitely bonded with some choir peeps. The concert was not our best, but the audience seemed to enjoy it. The quote of the evening, however, goes to the vicar(ess?) of Blakeney Church, who said to the assembled at the end of the concert, "What a lovely concert. There were some pieces we knew well, along with some that we didn't know quite so well." Yeah, us too!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Book Reviews & Bells

I've been reading up a storm again - here's a quick recap.

First, The World According to Bertie, the latest of the 44 Scotland Street novels by the ever-witty Alexander McCall Smith. Because they're from a serialized novel printed in The Scotsman, they can be a little choppy. Other than that, it's entertaining and a quick read. I love the characters that he paints.

After that, I read Once Upon A Time In The North, a short but beautifully bound prequel by Philip Pullman. It centers on aeronaut Lee Scoresby, and an adventure he has about 30 years before he meets Lyra. It gave lots more depth to his character (which I felt was already there, just below the surface), and it gave me my Pullman fix. The thing that I liked most was the binding of the book - it was so gorgeously laid out and the cloth and board seemed really substantial. I don't usually buy books but as soon as I saw it I knew it wasn't one I could get from the library.

Last, I read The Little White Horse, as recommended to me by C. It's a children's book about a girl who arrives at her ancestral home and has to save something, and I loved it. It had really vivid descriptions (although some people might find them over-flowery), and the characters were all likeable. Magical animals, kids on a quest, and a cook who's a dwarf who sounds like he swallowed a dictionary. What's not to love?

I went to Old Newton to ring the bells tonight, and since a lot of people were away on vacation there were 7 of us and 5 bells. I got to do lots of ringing, including a new method (Easy Plain Bob, which doesn't really count). Usually I do a lot of standing and counting while we rotate through the ringers, but tonight was fab to just ring for an hour and a half.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Rain, rain, go away

Well, I've finished my first baby sweater. A friend in the US told me she was pregnant back in Feb/March, and I immediately got cracking on the sweater. The wool is SO soft - I loved working with it. It's in a box and will be winging its way across the ocean after I mail it on Monday. It's blue, but that's only because I really liked the blue wool and wanted to get started before I knew the gender of the baby. I've since found out that it's a girl..she'll just have to wear it with pink trousers or a bow in her hair or something. Or just happily wear the blue sweater.

I've now had a college buddy tell me that HIS wife is pregnant (and I already know it's a girl), so I have two rows of the front right section started, in light purple. It was a really fun sweater to knit, and everyone says the second time through is easier.

The weather has been horrible here - rain every day for what seems like months. Our basil plant on the windowsill had been getting a little out-of-control, so I made some pesto-cubes this morning. They're in the ice-cube tray in the freezer and will be put into a ziploc bag for future speedy dinners. It was so easy - the most taxing part was washing the blender. I used: a large pile of basil, 2 big handfuls of pine nuts, 4 cloves of garlic, and enough olive oil to make it all stick together. V. scientific recipe. Despite the bourbon bottle in the background of the picture below, there's none in the pesto.

Here's the post-pesto basil plant. Much improved.

Freda and Travis have come back from their holiday in France because of the rain - they were cooped up in the caravan for 3 weeks and couldn't face another 2. We went over to catch up with them this afternoon, and returned with some home-grown rhubarb. Apparently Travis' secret is lots of manure...the rhubarb loves it and grows like crazy. It was super-sweet rhubarb - with all the sugar and the crumble on top it was like candy. YUM. For dinner we had local sausages, local new spuds, and some 'bent and open' asparagus from the farm shop. Give me 'bent and open' over 'flown in and tasteless' any day. AND it was 1/2 price. It was eaten too fast for pictures - sorry!

Somehow I'm now the official webmaster of the newly created (I made it last night) Stowmarket Ringers website. It's in super-beta at the moment, but any comments would be appreciated. Web design is NOT my forte...oh well.

We watched the second of a two-part Dr. Who tonight - it was one of my favourites so far. The plot echoed The Time Traveller's Wife, and I felt like we saw a side of the Doctor that we don't normally see. He's usually so 'above it all', with constant reminders that he's not a human, but this episode fleshed him out a bit. It also left the door wide open for at least 10 more seasons, as far as I can see. Not a problem for me, especially if David Tennant stays on as the Doctor. ::sigh::

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Murder most foul

We have a huge quantity of slugs in our garden. Apparently, the UK is the 'slug capitol of the world,' since the mild climate and high rainfall are great for them. Fabulous.

Last year, they ate about 2/3 of my tomatoes - I had to go out every night to harvest the few tomatoes that they hadn't eaten. This year, I got started early and have used some slug repellent powders that sit on top of the soil. They don't seem to be particularly effective - I found two slugs this morning sitting in the powder, happily munching on my zucchini plant. The little buggers have completely obliterated the eggplant plant - the poor thing looks more like a doily on a stem. This picture was taken yesterday. The eggplant (far left) was worse today. Sad. The rings around the plants are the (entirely useless) slug powder.

We are now in take-no-prisoners mode: J & I had a slug-murdering fest after dinner, and we've just ordered some 'Nemaslug.' It's apparently some kind of small wormy thing that kills the slugs and is completely non-toxic to humans/pets/birds/etc. I just hope we can stave them off until it arrives. I normally feel horrible killing 'critters,' but they are horrible nasty slimy things that can eat twice their body weight in one day. And that's my dinner they're eating. In case they do eat it all, here's what it looks like now:

I had my first lesson in raising the bell at practice on Friday night - it had been in the works for a while. I don't know if it's that I'm further along or what, but it seems like it's easier than lowering the bell - there's less rope flapping about everywhere if you don't do it exactly right. I'm getting better at lowering, too - the rope-flapping is being kept to a dull roar.

Then, yesterday, I spent the morning in Bury. I got there pretty early, so I stopped at Starbucks and got an iced coffee. I took it down to the Abbey Gardens to walk around and read my book, and stopped at the aviary to watch all the birds. Because it was still only about 8:30 (on a Saturday morning!), it was pretty much just me and the gardeners, but the birds had been up for hours and were v. busy. There were lots of nests with teeny beaks peeking over the top, and there was much chirping.

After the gardens, I went to Marks & Spencers and Next and bought some new trousers, a skirt, and some tops. All in neutral colors and all things that I think I'm going to get a lot of wear out of. I was surprised - the other times I've gone to both stores I haven't found anything but I was fairly laden down yesterday. I had intended to get some clothes from Boden (with my 20% off coupon), but not only were most of the things I wanted sold out, my total for 2 pairs of pants, a skirt, and a shirt (with the 20% off) was £178. WAY too much.

After all my hard work relaxing and shopping (and because it was a warm afternoon and we needed to return a movie), we stopped at the Stowmarket wine shop on the way back from walking into town and had a glass of wine.

Very civilized. And while we were there, we picked up a flyer for Stowmarket's newest restaurant, an Italian/pizza restaurant tucked down by the river. We're going to try it out this week and I'll post a full review. We're psyched - except for Radhuni, there isn't really much to eat in Stowmarket that's not pub food or lunch/cafe/takeout places. Corrections to the previous statement gladly accepted in the comments!