Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

No, not that thing. It's only bloody November, and there has been far too much Christmas music - in cabs, in the doctor's office. God, it's awful. Although as an interesting sidenote, there really is surprisingly little overlap between US Christmas tunes and UK Christmas tunes. None of the Chris Rea "Driving Home for Christmas" for this country. Anyway, I digress.

This time of year is when all the albums of the year lists start coming out. I am a complete sucker for these things - I get angry at inclusions of rubbish, at low ranking or omissions of my favourites, and absolutely vindicated by the high rating of my highly rated ones. It's pathetic but I am the perfect target for these things. Sadly, this year won't be as good as last year because we won't have the added bonus of albums of the decade. Still, I can concentrate on what I have loved this year, and I think I overlooked that a little last year. So maybe I should revisit 2009... Hmm. The lists are coming; I can feel them.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Your Author's Diets

This week, I have mostly been eating... well, it's not the eating so much as the cooking. Although the eating has been GOOD - thanksgiving always provides that - but we've been trying out a few things and as it's always a resolution to cook new things, I'm going to start being disciplined and actually posting the yummy food that we've cooked.


Thursday: For Thanksgiving, we took along our traditional (tradition of one year, ahem) shredded brussels sprouts that we cook with bacon and butter. This year, most of the sprouts enjoyed the addition of blue cheese, which added a whole other dimension of creaminess and yumminess to the already tasty food. We also made this roast beet & orange salad, which was pretty good, I have to say.

Friday: Friday was spent prepping for today's Thanksgiving feast (part deux). But, of course, there had to be brunch to make sure the cooking troops did not eat the food as we went along. So, for the first time, I made hollandaise to form eggs benedict (thanks to Nigel Slater's Appetite for guidance - still my hands down favourite book for cooking). I am extremely peeved that I didn't take photos of it, but I did take a pic of the lovely cranberry, ginger ale and prosecco cocktail that this lovely lady brought with her. Then we made this blueberry tart by Clothilde, doubling the quantities of the custardy filling because we made it as a pie, not a tart, Joanna made a gorgeous pumpkin pie (that at time of starting this post was baking away and set beautifully, thank goodness) and I made this pecan pie. TOH and Joanna's TOH made a gorgeous acorn squash veloute that smells absolutely amazing.

Saturday: Well, we were mostly going to be spending today eating. We made fresh bread baking to either accompany the soup, and then bought staleish bread to make croutons fried with garlic, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. And then we ate ourselves into oblivion. I only managed a sliver of the pumpkin pie, a hefty wedge of the pecan (because it was as dense as a neutron star) and none of the blueberry. The pastry was lovely, though, and a definite keeper. I also made the booziest bourbon cream ever - note to readers, add bourbon slowly and delicately.

Sunday: we got up surprisingly early and went for a stroll around the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens (more about that later this week). Then home to put on some pulled pork in the slow cooker - we're quite excited about it, and will report back later as to its success.

But first: evidence of this week's successes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Though You May Not Drive a Great Big Cadillac

The concept of being "thankful" makes the agnostics/atheists among us occasionally feel nervous, it seems to me. Because, of course, to whom are you thankful? So we ought not to feel grateful or thankful, because that seems to give up something in the argument.

But I do feel grateful, thankful. To be honest, it's more of an appreciation of how fortunate one is, and understanding that, in the grand scheme of things, I am one of the luckiest people going. I have good health, I have comfort, shelter, and people whom I love and who love me. That's not bad going, really. There are other things for which to feel thankful, and here are just a few:
  • Hot water. No, really, hot showers are the best.
  • The way my cat Clem sneaks under the covers and warms me up like a furry hot water bottle if TOH isn't here.
  • The genius that allows my computer to wirelessly plug into our stereo so that we can play everything through that - seriously, even if it makes me sound like this guy, isn't technology brilliant?
  • Dishwashers.
  • The joy of crosswords.
  • Cricket - and the amazing technology that allows us to keep up with the Ashes from halfway around the world. And Test Match Special - always, always, TMS.
  • Stevie Wonder. Talking Book has fit my mood perfectly this morning, but it could just as easily have been Innervisions or Songs in the Key of Life. The man is magic.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Spreading the Joy

Sunday morning. TOH's off at his veterans game (should be finished in about 15 minutes); I've scoffed the last of the bread from yesterday's batch and put on some more. That bread will be used tonight to mop up the juices and gravy from last night's absolutely gorgeous supper of lamb shanks braised for hours in tomatoes, red wine, spiked with rosemary and thyme. The debris from that has been cleared, and the bins of vegetable peelings are waiting by the door for composting. I'm about to sling on some slobby clothes and do the rest of the garden chores that I couldn't get to last weekend, as well as grab some cuttings from the lavender and cedar to give to my award-winning jam suppliers in return for all the glorious preserves that they've given me over the last couple of years - indeed, my fridge is full of homemade bitter, thick marmalade; a lighter meyer lemon and vanilla one; and fig and peach jam. Those hopefully will go toward dessert with the homemade bread, if there's any left.

Time to get to it. Domestic bliss and all that. Of course, this is all the sweeter and calmer and more joyous because Spurs beat the Arse yesterday in their own manor. It's all about context.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


In order to test out the initial great reaction to bikram, I went back yesterday. Which meant leaving the house at 6 - ulp. Thems that know me know that being awake, let alone functional, before 8 is really not a natural state of being for me. But I did it, and by 7.15 I was sweating away again and wondering what I was doing to myself. This time round I did most of the poses, albeit some of the kneeling ones I had to modify for my poor old tendons and ligaments. In fact, I think I only missed out one standing pose and half of the triangle stuff which, for me, is quite an achievement. And lying there in savasana (dead body pose) at the end I felt, once more, invigorated and great.

Today, I'm sitting fully upright once more, but I'm also feeling the after effects of a much more vigorous workout - my sides are soooooore, and my hamstrings are protesting their use. But it feels good - again. I didn't drink the night before so that I'd enjoy it more, and last night I managed a mere basil lime daiquiri (which was lovely, by the way) for a friend's birthday drinks, and that only half-heartedly as I realised I couldn't take her out for cocktails and then choose wine.

Argh - I don't want to become one of those people. The ones who swear by it, you have to do it, you'll feel all energised and detoxed and without toxins. A lot of the people in the classes go every day, if not twice a day - that's mental. Once or twice a week is most certainly sufficient. Just remind me of that people, please, a lot.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hot & Sweaty

That was me at about 7pm last night. Hot beyond words, sweat dripping everywhere. Last night, ladies & gents, I tried Bikram Yoga for the first time. And, based on last night, it won't be the last. Which surprises me. Because I have to say, I don't buy it - the whole you're compressing your organs and improving your digestion, you're sweating out toxins, you're losing weight (I was definitely sweating out all the water I'd drunk, not fat). There were points last night where I couldn't believe the pounding of my heart, just from stretching in a hot room, and I certainly felt a bit sick at a couple of points.

But I can't deny it: this morning I feel really good - very upright, my spine straighter, legs loose. I have some sore and achey bits, and tomorrow will certainly be worse (I've reached the age where it's two days later that the pain really kicks in). I resent the fact that my desk is most certainly not ergonomically good for me, with my chair too high (I can't fix it, for some reason) and my keyboard too low. Because, for once, I am actually sitting properly, not slumped or curled into my chair.

Believe me, I don't want to buy into it. But I'm certainly not averse to feeling like this.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

I'm Back!

Not that you noticed I was away, I'm sure. I've just spent seven glorious days on the idyllic island of Lamu, in the Indian Ocean just off Kenya. Well, I spent most of those lazing around the pool in our ridiculously rock & roll house. But you get the drift. Then home for my first Bonfire Night in, I reckon, eight years. It's the time of the year I'm most homesick, other than Notting Hill Carnival (the last weekend in August), and while thrusting sparklers into the air, tracing messages (THFC and, nauseatingly enough, Grace Loves Mark), I was reminded of those evenings growing up, with mittens and mum making potatoes in the bonfire and it was magic.

But the start of the evening was inauspicious - lots and lots of rain, and we'd not protected the fire that my bro had beautifully built. Then, suddenly, the rain stopped, and the night took on that hazy misty look that clouds and fireworks everywhere bring about; it was wonderful. My bro's fire blazed away, and I appear to have inherited my mother's somewhat... cavalier approach to health & safety & fireworks. Which is probably not good.

But now I'm knackered, and have to somehow recover from my holiday and throw myself back into work. But only two weeks until Thanksgiving. I can manage that.