Monday, December 27, 2010

Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

The weather looked like this outside today. (We definitely got over a foot here in Allston.)
Boston 2010 snowstorm

Due to the storm, work was canceled. So my day looked liked this.
Snow day activities

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"So bring us some figgy pudding, and bring it right here!!"*

Fortnum and Mason's Twelve Days of Christmas

Two Sundays ago, the tv program "CBS Sunday Morning" (a mainstay in my house on Sunday morning) ran a segment about the British tradition of Christmas pudding. It explained the history of the Christmas pudding and the traditions around it. Then they went and talked to some of the companies that make Christmas puddings for retail outfits (I am partial to Fortnum and Mason's Christmas pudding myself), and Nigella Lawson gave a demo of making one at home.

Definitely "Must See TV" for American anglophiles:

*Contrary to the song, Christmas pudding doesn't actually have dried figs in it. Things you learn from television.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Seven Things Making Me Smile

Foyle's WarIt has been ages since I lasted posted a "seven things" entry. This doesn't mean that there haven't been things out there that I am loving, so without further ado:

  • Because "TV is my other boyfriend", I have to first praise Foyle's War, which I am watching all the way from the beginning, thanks to Netflix. For some silly reason, I missed the first four series of this show when they were shown on "Mystery!", but I am now making up for that. The acting and writing are superb, and I am very much drawn to the overarching theme of how Britain policed itself while under constant threat of invasion. Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle manages to find himself in various situations which, in a time of war, have become morally ambiguous, but he manages to hold on to his values. Sometimes he gets his man, and sometimes he doesn't, but it isn't for lack of trying.

  • The new styles at Talbots, which has been a favorite of mine for clothes since... well, let's just put it this way, I am a Connecticut prep from a long line of Connecticut preps. They have really gotten a handle on combining classic style with a modern fit. I got a great new blazer for work on sale there last week, and I love it. It is conservative without being dowdy, and it fits well.

  • I am loving the fact that the Queen (Elizabeth II) is on Facebook. I really enjoy looking at her hats and jewels and such. (Yes, I friended her that very first week.)

  • A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols by King's College Choir, Cambridge. When I was in college, the choir, of which I was a member, always put on a "Lesson and Carols" concert of our own. Our choral director worked very hard to get our diction to be as crisp as the King's College Choir. Listening to this recording, you can tell that they certainly set the bar VERY high.

  • More TV happiness: the new schedule of Masterpiece Classic has been announced, and I haven't been this excited about Sunday night television since the year of Jane Austen!! The season starts with "Downton Abbey", starring the great Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Brendan Coyle, Penelope Wilton ("we know who you are!!"), Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan (Lady Jane from Lovejoy!!!) and so many other great actors; followed by "Any Human Heart", reuniting "Pillars of the Earth" co-stars Matthew Macfadyen and Hayley Atwell; and THEN the new "Upstairs, Downstairs" with Jean Marsh, Keeley Hawes, Art Malik (!!!) and Eileen Atkins!!!! I am seriously WAY too excited about this winter's PBS lineup. Be still my Brit TV loving heart!! (In the meantime, BBC America continues to have an identity crisis, thinking it is either ScyFy or the Food Network.) Thank goodness for WGBH and Masterpiece!

  • There is nothing like curling up on the sofa on a sleepy weekend afternoon with a Brookstone n*a*p blanket. Mine is a dark blue and is sooo soft and sooo cosy. I am thinking of getting a queen size one for my bed!

  • Speaking of my Brit loving heart, I am SOO excited about the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. I marked the day down on the office calendar as a day that I will NOT be in, and I told some friends that if they wanted to get up at 4am to watch the coverage at my house and drink champagne, they were welcome to. (I wonder if anyone is really going to take me up on the offer. I will be wearing my pajamas and a hat.) I remember watching Charles and Diana's wedding back in the day and being enchanted by the pomp of it all. It will be especially fun to watch this one since I have BEEN to London.

  • Which leads me to a random aside: I have had the experience recently that people are surprised that I know as much about London as I do. Occasionally I am asked if I lived there or spent my junior year abroad there (no and no). Someone asked me the question recently, and, being caught off guard, I answered: "I read a lot" (DOH!), which I then had to elaborate on, further embarrassing myself in the process. I would love to have a better answer to this question other than "I am an Anglophile", which, while being the truth, makes me feel like I am stalking a nation. Any ideas out there, fellow Anglo lovers?

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    Songs of the Season

    Sometimes I just love sitting quietly on the couch listening to soft Christmas music, preferably something by Loreena McKennitt, and looking at the Christmas tree. It is such a peaceful thing to do.

    Last Christmas, Loreena McKennitt put out a Christmas album called A Midwinter Night's Dream, which I just love. It incorporates music from two earlier Christmas albums (welllll, an album and an EP) along with a bunch of new material. I particularly like her version of "Emmanuel", which reminds me of the way we used to sing the at Mass during Advent when I was in college. (We would sit in the darkened church, and the choir would start up very quietly and solemnly. As the music became louder, the lights in the church would brighten. The effect was incredibly moving. There might have also been candles involved, but my memory is a little hazy on that.)

    A Christmas song that I have rediscovered this year is "Riu, Riu, Chiu", which is a Spanish carol from the Renaissance. Weirdly enough, I first heard it at the end of an episode of "The Monkees", back when I was religiously watching the show in reruns on MTV in the 1980s. I was reminded of the song recently (not because of the Monkees), and now I can't stop listening to it. I particularly like the version by The Boston Camerata, which can be found on their Renaissance Christmas album. I bought it on iTunes, but I am sure can be found other places on line too.

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    "We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know. "*

    No matter what anyone tells you, you are never too old for "A Charlie Brown Christmas".

    I have watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas" every holiday season for as long as I can remember, and it has never lost its ability to entertain and move me. And also, one time, it totally saved my skin.

    The Latin 3 final at the end of fall semester my junior year of college had a HUGE translation section in it. At first glance, I thought I was screwed, but upon closer observation, I realized that this was not just a random Latin passage from some archaic text, but it was actually something I knew. And not just a passing familiarity; it was the beginning of the Gospel of St. Luke, which included the section that Linus quotes when Charlie Brown asks if anyone knows what Christmas is all about!!!!!!!!!

    So I took what I knew from Linus van Pelt (Charles Schultz and Bill Melendez notwithstanding) and used it as a basis to come up with my own translation of the Gospel. (My own version might have borne a similarity to the King James translation, but I worked hard to make sure that I showed I understood the tenses and such and wasn't just writing down something I had memorized.) Thanks to the Peanuts, I did really well on the Latin final.

    And people think you can't learn anything from cartoons...

    *Lucy has the best lines, don't you think?

    Everybody has a baby

    I was having a conversation recently with fellow Singleton who had been approached by a Married friend. The friend, who I will call "Married Mary", wondered if they would still be friends and hang out and do fun stuff if she had a baby (as she and her hubby were thinking about starting a family.) "Sally Singleton" was both surprised and hurt by the question, but reassured Married Mary that of course they would still be friends and still do fun things together; she just hoped that Mary wasn't going to talk about her baby 100% of the time. Sally asked me if I thought this question was strange and if perhaps there was something about her that said "KIDS NOT WANTED" (because she does like kids actually quite a lot.)

    I thought about it for a moment and told her that I thought it was more about Mary's concerns about motherhood than Sally's actual behavior because "everybody has a baby." By that, I mean that everybody has something in their lives that takes up a lot of time and mental energy, and therefore a lot of their conversation becomes focused around that particular subject. For some people, it is their children; for others, it is their pet; for some, it is their job; while another person could love a club they are in or a craft they do (looking at you, knitters!) And for some of us, it could be a whole country/culture...

    I speculated that maybe Mary wasn't really asking about Sally's reaction to the hypothetical baby, but was voicing some of her own fears about how she was going to handle parenthood. Maybe what Mary was really feeling was, "Oh dear god, I don't want to become one of those mothers who talks about her baby all the time. No one will ever invite me out to dinner again or want to come over to watch movies. I will lose all of my friends and will forget how to talk to people over the age of 3!!!" and she was looking to Sally to say, "Of course, we will still hang out and talk about fun things and drink wine and say hilariously inappropriate things (after your child has gone to bed.) You will be a great friend and a great mom!"

    Fortunately for both Mary and Sally, I have plenty of friends who are examples that you can still be the fun and lovely person that you were before you became a mom: look at PunkRockMom and RECK. Not only are they mothers who have lots of interests outside of their children, they have interesting children.

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Mmm, delicious, turkey, thank you!

    Turkey... Kate's cooking show: promo shot
    Eat your heart out, Ina. Mashed potatoes, beans, stuffing
    Ta Da!!  Turkey! Best.turkey. EVER!

    I really couldn't let Thanksgiving go by without a shout out to Sister K, who hosted our family for the second year in a row. After the first year, with probably as much drama as a family holiday could handle, I couldn't believe that Sister K was up to hosting again. (I would have been running for the hills.) But she agreed, on the proviso that she would be doing Thanksgiving her way, rather than trying to do everything the way we had traditionally had it. Although it took a little bit of time to embrace the idea that things like the onions in chili sauce and mashed turnips would not be on the menu this year, in the end, it was probably one of the most delicious Thanksgivings on record.

    Sister K started the meal with a roasted butternut squash salad with warm cider vinaigrette from the Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook. It was amazingly delicious. (I made it at home this weekend for myself and a couple friends.) Then she served the turkey, which she covered in turkey rub from Williams Sonoma, seared in the oven and then slow cooked. I don't think that we have ever had such a moist turkey. The sides included Martha Stewart's cornbread, bacon, leek, and pecan stuffing (amazing!), Ina Garten's sour cream mashed potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts (I could have eaten the whole dish), and fresh cranberry sauce.

    I got to Sister K's house early to help her out. She made everything look so easy that I kept teasing her that she should have her own cooking show. Maybe she won't have her own show just yet, but she has inspired me to set a goal for myself for next year: more cooking of my own. Last night I purchased two of Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. One of them is called Barefoot Contessa: How Easy is That?; I felt like it was meant just for me.


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