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): 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.