Friday, December 31, 2010

Mini-post: new awesome boots

My quest for non-evil, non-clompy, not too tall, not uncomfortable, non-fugly brown boots has come to a satisfactory conclusion.

Of the Dr Martens variety. I know, right? (They're called the "New Authentic Wedge Mid Calf Boot", colour "Bark Grizzly"). Product naming team at DM's, please sort yourselves out. Design team at DM's, EPIC win.

For the record, they are comfortable, squooshy, and according to the stepson, make me look like I just got off a horse. Fine with me!

Happy new year, all...hope you have good shoes to walk in for 2011!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On the shortest day

Well, I put this little chap up on the shelf a few weeks ago. And the weather seems to have followed his instructions, to the letter. Let it snow, then.

I'm not a huge fan of winter. Christmas in general stresses me out (I'm a buyer, so Christmas starts in March), I REALLY don't like the super-short days, and no matter how much I try to convince myself that I like curling up in on the couch with a blanket, reading my book, with a hot chocolate, I'd much rather it were summer and I could sit outside. 

I do, however, like the following: knitting, flannel pjs, piles of heavy duvets and quilts on the bed, Christmas music (Britten's Ceremony of Carols, Kate Rusby's Sweet Bells, Tori Amos' Midwinter Graces, and traditional English carols). I also like slippers, my Owls sweater, and scarves.
Ok, so maybe I don't HATE winter. Today, however, is Solstice, so while it's cold and dark and snowy (the true Bleak Midwinter), spring is coming! Not just yet, though.

I'm in the middle of the latest Kate Morton, The Distant Hours, and I like it. It feels a little over-long in places, but the story is good and I'm looking forward to the unravelling of the mystery. It must be soon - I'm on page 507! My reserved copy of Wolf Hall (I think I might be the only Book Geek on the planet who hasn't read it yet) arrived at the library and is waiting for me on the nightstand, so I will have something to curl up with between Christmas and the New Year.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Winter warmers

I read another Eva Ibbotson novel last week, The Morning Gift. I love her writing - it is so witty and entertaining. I don't feel like I read her books, so much as I go and live inside them for a while. When I googled her to see if she's working on any other books, I was heartbroken to see that she died (peacefully, at 85) back in October. There were obituaries in the Guardian, Telegraph, and the New York Times. I've read about 12 of her books, which means there aren't many left. I'm going to have to ration myself.

In other book news, Jane Brocket of Yarnstorm mentioned that she is going to be at Persephone Books for an open day on Tuesday 14th December. Oh, that I had a spare vacation day. Persephone WILL be on my To Visit list for the next time I'm in London. I love that they have gift recipient suggestions for various books in their catalogue, and I think the "a book every month for 6 months" is a fantastic present. Definitely going to keep that one in mind.

I bought this (wool? fiber? stuff?) to knit some scarves with at Halfpenny Home last weekend (I also found some amazing buttons for the Owlet sweater I'm knitting. It knits up in ruffles and looks adorable but is MADDENING to knit with. I like to be able to just plough ahead and knit without watching, but with this stuff I have to Look At Every Stitch, Closely. BAH. Maybe once it's knitted into a scarf I'll love it? I hope? Since I bought two balls (that's two scarves to knit, if you're counting), both intended to be Christmas presents, one destined for New Jersey? Maybe our house elf will knit it for me while I'm sleeping tonight.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Will, Evan & BORIS!

Phew. What a week. I worked Mon-Thurs last week (yes, they make Americans living in England work on Thanksgiving, as punishment for escaping), then took Friday off to meet up with my cousin (on his way home from study-abroad in Cape Town) and my high school friend (in town for a college buddy's wedding). Then, Saturday, I rang 3 (out of an attempted 4) quarter peals with my bell peeps, and then Sunday we had Stowmarket Thanksgiving. I need a nap.

We visited the Horus in his museum, then went and had very tasty (and warm) dim sum in Chinatown.

I met up with Evan after lunch - we started out at platform 9 3/4 in Kings Cross station, sadly empty of all things Potterish.

We saw some Boris Bikes (I WANT one!)

We walked south through Covent Garden, then went to Trafalgar Square, and warmed up with tea in the crypt of St Martin in the Fields. The fourth plinth has a jumbo ship in a bottle - I thought it was really cool.

After tea, we walked across the river, catching this slightly blurry shot:

We ended up at the Tate Modern, where we saw Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds. SO gorgeous.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: HP7(1), A Separate Peace, Looking for Alaska

Apparently, all media over the last few weeks that I've consumed has been entirely focused on teenagers at boarding schools. Ok, so this is Southwold Church, not Hogwarts, but I thought it looked suitably atmospheric. It was FREEZING when we were there!

First, I read A Separate Peace, which was one of those books that all my friends in AP English were assigned (I was non-AP for mysterious reasons known only to the head of NRHS's English department at the time). Meh, I think. I wouldn't have minded reading it in high school, but I definitely didn't love it.

Second, I read Looking for Alaska, by John Green. Again with the moody teenagers at boarding school (this time in Alabama, though, not New Hampshire). I could see why parents might not want their kids reading it, but I also think it's the kind of book that could lead to engagingr discussions in a high school English classroom.

To finish, John and I saw the new Harry Potter movie (Deathly Hallows, part 1) with what seemed like half of Ipswich on Saturday night. I really enjoyed the movie, and thought that it captured the book perfectly. I'd forgotten quite a few of the plot points, since I've only read the book once, right when it first came out. I'm going to need to jump in to a reread, after I finish my new Kate Morton (the waiting list at the library was 100+ people so I caved and bought it).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

more magical green shoes...and beer

While in Southwold, Ed and I went on the Adnams brewery tour. The last time he came to visit, we went on the Greene King tour, which couldn't have been more different. The size of the breweries, along with the very-old-fashioned GK and super-modern and automated Adnams, meant that we didn't really feel like we were duplicating anything. Obviously, making beer is a fairly standard process, but the two companies do it in entirely different ways.

We soaked up a little of the beer with fish & chips at a pub down near the docks. We'd been sent in search of Mrs T's Fish & Chips, which was closed for the season. Bummer. The food at the pub (The Harbour Inn) was good, but the service was terrible. I wouldn't want to be there on a crowded Saturday in the summer!

After walking all the way back to town (and working off some of the chips and beer), we stopped at DaddyLongLegs because I saw some AWESOME slippers in the window. My felt Keen slippers have died a slow and painful death, but John's Haflingers (bought at the same time) are still going strong. So, the perfect slippers, then: the love child of my Magical Green Shoes and John's Haflinger boiled wool clogs. Swoon.

Spurred on by my new slippers, I finished Wedding Quilt No. 1, the wedding present for the stepson's mum and soon-to-be stepdad. The sm. boy picked out the fabrics and the flickr-inspired design, and helped with laying out the design and the ironing. Success! It is custom-sized to cover all members of the newly created family when they're sitting on the couch, watching TV. (And yes, John is wearing my Crocs in that picture.)

 And the back (v. soft & warm blue flannel):

Saturday, November 20, 2010

whirlwind tour

My brother came to visit - he spent about 48 hours in Suffolk, and we had a blast! We visited Lavenham, Bury, Southwold (and the Adnams brewery!), Dunwich, Woodbridge, and Ipswich. Phew. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Recipe: Baked Apple a la Stowmarkate

I love baked apples. My mom always makes them in the oven, like my grandma did. That seems to take forever, though, and use a lot of energy for one little apple. 

So, my ingredients:

An apple (This one was a Bramley, but any cooker/eater will do. Sharper is better.)
Your handy-dandy microwave

First, wash & core the apple. Don't worry about missing the middle a little bit, as long as you get most of the core out. Put the apple in a microwave-safe bowl (not on a plate...learned the hard way).

Then, fill the hole with raisins. I don't really measure, and it doesn't matter if they're stuck together - they'll be all nice and gooey when you're done.

On top of the raisins, sprinkle some cinnamon and a little bit of sugar. I only add sugar if the apple is a cooking apple - if it's an eater, you should be fine. Then add a small pat of butter on top, smooshing it down with the raisins as much as possible.

Microwave on high for about 2 1/2 minutes, but keep an eye on it. After about a minute and a half, the apple insides should start bubbling out through the top of the apple. I usually try and wait until quite a bit of apple has come out of the top - it stays in the bowl and makes a really yummy sauce mixed with the cinnamon and butter.

See? The raisins get cooked by the applesauce and the cinnamon and sugar get all mixed in as well. Careful, though - it's hot when it comes out of the microwave, and the apple innards stay hot for quite a while. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

dark and light

It's starting to feel properly wintry. I've been wearing my new LLBean down jacket to work, with a hat and gloves (especially on the days when I have to walk to the train station), and today was the Owl Sweater's first outing. Of course, because it's insanely warm, I didn't wear a real jacket with it. Mmmm owl sweater.

It's also now starting to get dark around 3:30. Twilight hits around then, and it's seriously dark a few minutes after 4. This was a picture I took on a bike ride over the summer. All the fields are ploughed and muddy now - the golden wheat has long been harvested.

Here is the sm. boy, with my current quilt-in-progress. It has now been sandwiched and quilted (with blue polka-dotted flannel backing), and the binding has been sewn to the front. I think I need about another 2 1/2 hours of hand-sewing the binding to the back and I'll be all done! Oh, and in case you were wondering, the binding is ORANGE. Like, really, really orange. It all looks rather awesome. You can't see from this picture, but the squares reading as black are actually brown with orange and blue swirls on them. A few Amy Butlers, an Ikea (the green critters), the last scrap of the sheep print from PurlSoho, a tiny piece of leftover Liberty, and some really fun Michael Miller Groovy Guitars.

I also have a small announcement to make: I think I might be a yarn snob. I stumbled upon a new yarn store today, which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty. I eagerly hopped into the store, to discover that it was ALL acrylic. No, wait, there was one very small rack of exceedingly scratchy 100% wool. Who knits with this stuff? And why? When there's so much amazing yarn out there? Shudder.

One more appeal to the interwebs - in last month's Martha Stewart Living they featured several entryway coat racks. I LOVE this one, but it's there and I'm here.

I can't find anything even vaguely similar over here - they're all either really twee or really industrial. Suggestions, Brits?

Monday, November 8, 2010

looking up?

So this is where we've been lately. I'm not sure what exactly Husband is looking at in this picture (neighbor's mast, perhaps), but I like it. I like the flat, cold, English autumn light, too. Kanga is now all tucked in for the winter. There are a few more miscellaneous things that need attending to, but wind, rain, frost, and general weather are now no longer a worry. Phew.

I've had a rather disappointing fit of Being Slow With Books lately - it took me almost a month (a month!) to plough through the second Inkheart book, Inkspell. I enjoyed it, but it just seemed to put me to sleep when I tried to read it in the evenings, and not hold my interest during the day. I'll give it a bit before I read the next one.

I'm in the middle of the second of the Hunger Games books, and really enjoying it. It's zipping along, just like the first one. It's a perfect tucked-under-the-blankets book. I'm having a small bout of wishing I could read and sew/knit at the same time, as I have a quilt to bind (by hand) and I don't really feel like watching TV - I'd rather be reading. Any tips, let me know!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Vacation roundup, part 2

I had visited Newport several times, and been past the mansions, but I'd never been inside. My parents won two mansion tickets in a raffle, which I put to very good use. I loved The Breakers - I thought the audio guide was extremely interesting and well-narrated, and the visit flowed really well. It was fascinating, if a little overwhelming. I also visited Chateau Sur Mer, which featured the World's Crankiest Tour Guide (who was also a little bit repetitive). It was interesting, but not quite as OTT as The Breakers. I was there on a glorious autumn day, as you can see from the picture.

This was me, on the first day (jet-lagged) with my birthday buddy Snoopy (the dog), and our new tote bags. The Roo bag currently has 2 Leathermans (Leathermen?), a pair of pliers, and a boat towel in it. We'll be sailors yet!

This was my foodie-porn shot from the night before A & P's wedding. That would be seafood chowder. A spoon-supporting seafood chowdah from Maine. Ayuh. (And, my goodness, was it good!)

Second foodie pic: Me (obv) and Mario Batali at the NYBG. He's there, really. Right in the middle of the picture, on the stage, wearing orange shorts. You might have to click on it to make it bigger...

This is one of my faves from the whole trip - g. and me at the Bronx Zoo. That would be g, the owner of the blue dress. She's SO cute and smart and generally awesome. Also, hanging out with her and her mom (my bf from high school) meant that we got to go to the children's zoo. ACE! I'm applying for President of the g Fan Club. I might have to settle for President of the European Division - she's pretty popular!

And you're now at the end of the vacation roundup - back to the baking/knitting/sailing/bell ringing madness!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Recursive StowmarKate

I don't think I'm going to tear a hole in the space-time continuum, but one never knows. This picture was taken at Starlite Diner in New Rochelle (also known as "Mike's," if you're my dad). It's me! And my blog! And the diner! So now, to hopefully not shred the space-time's a picture on the blog of a picture of the blog (which has a picture of Mike) at Mike's. Phew. Still there? Great!

Unsurprisingly, I didn't spend my full 10 days on the eastern seaboard at Mike's. I hit up (in order): New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachussetts, New Hampshire (didn't stop in NH), Maine, back to NH, MA and RI, back through CT, more NY, some New Jersey, back to NY, and home. I think I need a vacation from my vacation.

Between all the driving, my mom and I had a few really fun days in RI, mostly biking around and doing what my dad always refers to as "girl stuff." Mostly eating and riding bikes, with a few small shopping excursions. Clothes are so much cheaper on the other side of the Atlantic. And since it was so nice out, I put my toe in the water in Bristol Harbor. I have officially been in the water on both sides of the Atlantic this year. Lucky me!

And no trip to New England would be complete without the Lobstah. YUM.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Happy Birthday to ME!

Well, I hit the ripe old age of 29 today. Ack. After a brief interlude last spring where I had completely convinced myself that I was 27, going on 28, I've been happily 28 for a while. But 29 is nestling rather close to 30. Alarmingly so.

In any case, James did a beach cleanup with the Sea Scouts two weeks ago, and they had a few prize draws for participants. He won two tickets in the cleanup-sponsors' box (that would be BT, then), for today's match against Leeds. As you can see, the BT box is not too shabby - we were field level, right on the halfway line.

The players were thisclose and it was a great game. The TractorBoys managed 2 (!) goals against their bitter rivals, there was lots of good singing, we had a good group in the box, and the away fans were entertainingly rowdy, but not alarmingly so. We may have to go to more games....although something tells me it won't be in a box next time!

Thanks to BT, to the Sea Sprouts, and to our host today. And especially to James (and to his "other" family, who were generous enough to offer me the extra ticket)!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A small break from the sick bay

My second "Little Sister's Dress" is finished, as of this past weekend! This picture isn't exactly true to colour - the dress is more of a raspberry colour. It's the 3-6 month size, knitted for a work friend's daughter. When I made Gabi's dress, my work buddy loved it so much that I promised her that if she had a girl, I'd make her one. And here it is! I started it in August, not too long after Ellie was born. I can't wait to see her in it! The buttons were crowd-sourced at Halfpenny Home - I had the beginnings of the dress and I think we had every single button in the store out on the table at some point. I think they're perfect - thanks guys!

I came down with some kind of tummy bug this week, and have spent the last 2 days mostly napping, with a little bit of reading. I finished Inkheart last week - I found it was slow to get going but the last 50 pages really whizzed along. I've reserved the second one at the library, so I guess I did enjoy it!

I've had the Hunger Games on my booklist since I read about all the excitement that the final book in the trilogy received when it came out. It reminded me a little bit of The Host, and was definitely an enjoyable romp. When I finished it, I had my first moment of wishing I had a Kindle, simply so I could download the second book and get started right away. I did the next best (and much cheaper) thing, instead, which was to join the queue at the library. It should arrive in a week or two, anyway.

And now, my unhappy tummy and I are going (back) to bed.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wandrings in Woodbridge

We headed to Woodbridge yesterday to check out the Farmer's Market. We had a few logistical issues (mostly parking-related), and ended up missing the market. However, we found this sign, and were very happily sidetracked!

They had a really good group of vendors - the vintage stalls had very well-curated displays (rather than the frequently spotted heap of "crap from my attic"), and the handmade textiles were awesome. Here is the bunting, looking rather jolly.

And more bunting, over on the right. Yes, bunting necklaces. I may or may not have been able to'll have to ask the Birthday Fairy next week.

Then we wandered over to the Tide Mill, where the sky was looking rather autumnal, I thought.

We had an exceedingly tasty lunch at The Waterfront Cafe. We've walked past it a hundred times but never been in. We'll definitely be going back! John had a really delicious venison hot pot, while I had a dressed crab from their deli. It would be fab to head over there on a really wintry afternoon and tuck into a hearty stew while watching the weather roll in. Brr!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: Aeropress coffee maker

John and I used to work in the same building. No longer. While I miss seeing him randomly throughout the day, my coffee situation has improved dramatically. We had a coffee machine in my office that we shared, making a pot in the morning and drinking it over the course of a few hours. After he left, though, I quickly realised that it was time for a new solution. The minimum quantity was 5 cups, which is WAY too much coffee for me to drink without serious ill-effects.

After much thought, I sent the coffee machine with John to his new office (where it is has been welcomed with open arms). No coffee in my office, however, was not a sustainable option. Yes, we have a coffee machine, but it spits out evil little plastic cups of evil coffee, and there's no non-milk option. And it's all powdered. Shudder.

I asked Teh Interwebs, and came to the conclusion that I needed to buy myself an Aeropress. Bizarrely, it was invented by the same dude who invented the Aerobie (you know, that orange frisbee thingy). The website trumpets the awesomeness of the Aeropress, and I was worried about the hype. Shouldn't have been - it's awesome. Super-easy to clean, and makes great coffee.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gone, with the wind.

My dad sent me a scan of an old picture (circa 1983, New Rochelle, NY). Grandpa, me (in matching red hats, obv.), Mom and Dad. I don't really remember learning to sail - I just always knew. Probably because most of my early memories are of sailing - tethered to the boat by a short line tied to my lifejacket. If my brother and I were to have ever fallen overboard (we didn't), we would have just bobbed along beside the boat until my parents hauled us back in.

So after many years of sailing with my parents, sailing lasers, bluejays and sunfish at various camps, teaching sailing at Lochearn for two years, and missing sailing when not on the water, John and I finally found "our" boat. She's a 19 foot Squib, built in the late 1960s, and is in need of some minor TLC but is otherwise awesome. We're a little biased, but we think she's beautiful. Her name is Kanga (after the Winnie the Pooh character), and her tender (the little dinghy behind) is known as Roo. Can't rename a boat - it's unlucky - so it's a good thing we think the name is really funny.

We are, indeed, gone with the wind.

I finally finished Margaret Mitchell's novel - it took me nearly a month. Phew. I'm really glad I stuck with it - the last 200 pages were really good, and needed the first 800 (I know, right?) to set them up. On to shorter books for a little while, I think.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A suggestion for my hydrangea

Dear hydrangea plant,

I love you very much. You are very sweet and green in the back yard. However, despite my best efforts, you refuse to flower. At all. I've added a picture below, from Helmingham Hall (not far away, so it's not the climate), of the general direction you should be aiming in.



P.S. I think Grandma has been making jam and not telling us. Mmmmmm best jam in the world....

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Frankly, my dear...

I'm still plodding through Gone With The Wind. I'm a little over half way through, and I'm not finding either Rhett or Scarlett to be particularly compelling. Maybe it's my biased Yankee upbringing? Who knows. I'm definitely going to attempt to finish it, but at this point, I can't really see why it has become such a classic.

In other literary news, my Google Reader told me today that the newest instalment of Alexander McCall Smith's Corduroy Mansions will be along shortly. Sweet!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Late August Bank Holiday Weekend

Funny English people. Americans have Memorial Day and Labor Day. The English: June Bank Holiday and Late August Bank Holiday. Descriptive, I guess.

In the true tradition of the August Bank Holiday, it was chilly and breezy, with intermittent showers. John caught me splashing in a puddle. Some things never change!

He also caught some rather intrepid sailors, outside of Levington. Brrr.

 I caught a few silhouetted masts.

And a big, blowsy dahlia. I love the colours. Pink and yellow? Why, yes, I think I will!

I really like this one, too. Especially the little purple & yellow flower photobombing at the bottom left.

I think I'm on a Big Book kick - I went from The Magician's Apprentice (700+pp) to Gone With The Wind (clocks in at 1000-ish). Zoinks. So far, I like GWTW. Scarlett has just met Rhett for the first time (I don't think that's a spoiler, do you?) and I'm interested to see where the next 850 pages go.