Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Winter Neglect

Last year, Will and I planted rhubarb, a starting plant, and brussel sprouts, from seed. We put in the in the lower garden, now named the Victory Garden.

They didn't produce much. By the end of the season, the brussel sprouts were barely 4 inches tall and no sprouts; the rhubarb, crowded out by the borage I planted to protect, didn't get to be much more than a few leaves--not the stalks of homegrown rhubarb for rhubarb crumble we imagined being able to have over the summer.

Once we did our final harvest, we sorta forgot about the rhubarb (as we were told to do, apparently you can neglect it and it will prosper) and the brussel sprouts. In the early spring, we discovered that our brussel sprouts not only made it through a very cold winter, but were growing!

After a few more weeks, we saw that the rhubarb, once a nub in the ground, was also now growing and producing magnificent leaves!

And then we went away to England for wedding stuffs and we discovered these upon our return. Both the rhubarb and the sprouts are flowering! The sprouts are also like 6 feet tall and we need to re-stake them. I am not sure what that means in terms of getting any produce from either plant, but we are pretty impressed with ourselves that we can harvest seeds from seeds we started.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yup, They're Brothers

How can you tell if two little boys are related? Look at their father and their uncle.

Exhibit A: Will and his brother:

Exhibit B: Lucas and Oscar, Will's nephews

Yup, we got a family, here, genetically prone to Star War Legos. They are even sitting in the proper order of younger to older, left to right. Interesting...

Um, What? Really?

Um, what are those Hoosiers thinking? We don't think so....

Monday, April 27, 2009

Here, Figgy Figgy!

This is for you... You know who you are.... The tree is loaded with the first buds. You are so excited.

Drooly Kitty

Now, I don't have a good photo, but you see that long shiny stringy bit coming from the cat's mouth? Yeah, drool. Brushing Nina (Will's sister-in-law's kitty) caused massive amounts of drool. Every time we brushed her. I wish *my* kitty was that excited to be brushed, but you touch Jackie with a comb, you are lucky if you come back with all your fingers.

We're Baaaaaaaaaack!

Of course, we brought back all of this as gifts for other people....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mr. Proudfoot's Dinner

Sylvia has a butcher in Edinburgh, Mr. Ian Proudfoot of Learmonth Avenue. He has been her butcher since she returned to the UK in 1976. Since then, Sylvia has been buying haggis from him for dinner. She brought one to us to have for dinner. It is my second Proudfoot haggis. Edward, coming down to London tomorrow, is bringing yet a third. I doubt we can get it into the States, so we might have another dinner of haggis with neeps and tatties (otherwise know as turnips and potatoes).

It being a true Scottish butcher, that is a true Scottish haggis. So, yes, that *is* a sheep's stomach that the haggis is cooked in. Haggis is traditionally sheep offal mixed with oats, grains, and spices....

...Served with some broad beans, mashed neeps & tatties, and you have yourself one delicious dinner.


Will's mother is, among other things, a fantastic silversmith. We asked her to make our wedding bands and she has made two of the most beautiful rings! She had to hammer Will's ring out to make it bigger; mine fit perfectly. She will then file and polish them right up to a high shine. She even hallmarked them on the inside before making the silver bit into a ring:
A hallmark is basically a stamp on the silver to mark who, where, and when the silver piece was made. You have to go to the assay office and have them hallmark it. The assay office authenticates it that is "proper silver", i.e. 92.5% pure silver for sterling silver.

The Maker's Mark is who made it. For Sylvia, that mark is "SJT" --her initials, made before she was married. The "925" means that it is sterling silver. The Lion Rampant (third stamp) means Scotland. The castle-like building is for Edinburgh Assay Office. The K means 2009. This bit of silver has a blue background for the hallmarks, but usually there is no color. It does make it easier to see for the photo, though.

Applying a hallmark began in Scotland, in Edinburgh in 1485 by the goldsmiths, who formed their own corporation to protect their trade and the public. They stamped gold and silver with particular stamps to ensure the purity and quality of the piece. In 1681, they started adding a letter to denote the year in which the item was made. The Edinburgh Assay Office's history is fascinating, to say the least.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tonbridge School

We went to visit Will's school, Tonbridge School, in the town of Tonbridge. It was very pretty.

Tonbridge School was founded in 1553 by Sir Andrew Judde, under Letters Patent of King Edward VI. The Charter ordained that the Governors of the school after the death of the Founder were to be the Worshipful Company of Skinners, one of the oldest City Livery Companies. Sir Andrew, himself a distinguished member of this Company, left property in the City of London and in the parish of St Pancras as an endowment for the school.

It has to be said, that Will attending a school *older* than the U.S. is astonishing to me. I took him to my high school, Ballard, on his first visit home with me. He was not too impressed with the 1968 founding of the school. I think it was the "um, yeah, 1968? Is that all?" comment was my first clue of his lack of respect for my Bruins...
one of the main school buildings

The chapel

Ferox Hall, where Will (and his brother) lived while attending

Practicing cricket (what else!) on the Head

My Birthday Morning View

Not sure it gets any better than waking up on your birthday to this....

Lulu can't wait to meet you

No, really. She can't.
Get to KLJ now.
Bring Bread. She likes bread.

KJL in April

Will and I did a site visit to where we are having the wedding reception. We wanted to make sure it was suitable. You just never know with these country estates.... ;)

Oh my, it is just gorgeous! King John's Lodge looks amazing and it was so pretty, we had a hard time leaving. Having a reception there will just be a dream. I have now seem KJL in December, April, June, and September. I have to tell you, it is always beautiful. Always. Jill's gardens are just amazing. For those coming, you are in for a treat.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quick American History Lesson

In 1757, Benjamin Franklin went to England to represent Pennsylvania to protest against the political influence of the Penn family, the proprietors of the Pennsylvania colony. He remained in England for five years, striving to end the proprietors' prerogative to overturn legislation from the elected Assembly, and the Penn family descendants' exemption from paying taxes on their land. He remained in England to 1775, as a Colonial representative for Pennsylvania as well as Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

At this time, Franklin considered himself a loyal Englishman. England was the cool, hip place to be. But, in 1765, Franklin supported the colonies' overwhelming opposition to the Stamp Act, which required all print materials to carry a tax stamp, which was to pay for the British troops stationed in the colonies from the Seven Years' War. Franklin's testimony before the British Parliament helped persuade the members to repeal the law. But, growing sick of the corruption he saw all around him in politics and royal circles, he started wondering if America should break free of England. Franklin, who had proposed a plan for united colonies in 1754, now would earnestly start working toward that goal.

Franklin's big break with England occurred in the "Hutchinson Affair." Thomas Hutchinson was an English-appointed governor of Massachusetts. Franklin got hold of Huntinson's private letters, leaked them to the colonies, and proved Governor Hutchinson and the Lieutenant Governor Andrew Olivier were encouraging London to crack down on the rights of the Bostonians. After that, Franklin was called to Whitehall, the English Foreign Ministry, where he was condemned in public by the Privy Council. Ben Franklin left London in March 1775 in disgrace.

And yet, there is a museum in his only surviving house, 36 Craven Street, near Trafalgar Square. Interesting that this man was laughed out of this country to create my country but still has a museum here.

A Day Out

Will and I spent the day in London. We got off the Tube at
where we walked to see


and were introduced to

Then we went for a walk across Westminister Bridge and saw

not to mention the crazy cursing

who apparently was upset at something but still
managed to play the bagpipes. Next,

started chiming the hour as we looked at

and ended the day shopping at

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cadbury Creme Egg McFlurry

England has combined two of Will's favorite things:
Cadbury Creme Eggs and McDonald's.

For a limited time, McDonald's is offering a Cadbury Creme Egg McFlurry. It was tasty and rich. A cold creme egg, if you will. They take the vanilla ice cream, mix in a sauce that looks like the yellow yolk, and add in chocolate bits. Delicious.

Will was hesitant at first, but after the first bite, was in heaven. It is very rich. Did I mention that already? Proof is that we could only eat half of it. The rest of it is the freezer. It will be our dessert tonight.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

We Have Arrived

We haven't even been in the country 12 hours (fyi: we are in England, doing wedding stuff), and we have already purchased and consumed some of the finest of British culinary delights. And by we, I mean... we. 

The first deliciousness was a doughnut "finger" of some sort.  Sweet bread and icing: what is there not to love as it tides us over while looking for a mobile phone for here and a forever long line in the post line. 

Then, a trip to Sainsbury's for sustenance for our dinner and snack time.  While I am off looking at the fresh produce-- which almost everything is wrapped in individual packages of plastic containers and bags so I am now even more impressed with the woman from the BBC who went without plastic for a month--Will picked up some snacks. 

I was prepared for the usual: Battenburg and Pickle.  But he was intrigued by the Lyle's golden syrup cake.  Considering how much he pours it on when we have a steamed pudding, this little cake might be the blending of two equally loved sugary treats. In which case, Will is never going to be "wedding ready" as he will buy the entire market out of the cake and eat it all up in one sitting. 

But then there are his childhood delights: the Scotch Egg, a hard boiled egg, wrapped in ham, breaded and deep fried  (In the 2nd photo, it is one thing that looks like a hush puppy).  And the Pork Gala Cake, with is a loaf of bread surrounding something like pork pate, surrounding a hard boiled egg.  (I sense a theme here...). 

Now, I know better than to eat a Scotch Egg, but I admit I was tempted by the Pork Gala Cake (that slice in the bottom of the 2nd photo).  It did have the word "cake" in the name, so it can't be bad, right?  And I do love pate. But let's just say, I am really glad that Will only got a slice and I will continue to buy pate when it is labeled pate and not gala cake.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lemon Blossom!

Will's birthday present of a mini Meyer lemon tree has burst into its first blossom! It is pretty delicate and delicious smelling! The mini lime and orange "trees" are doing quite well, too. I use the quotes as the plants at this stage are about 9 inches tall. Granted, when we got them, there were about 5 inches. So, that is some good growing in the intervening 4 months.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tied Up With String

My lovely sister Rebecca sent back our beautifully hand-addressed wedding invitation envelopes today. We had to have them before we left for England so we can mail the English ones from there--saving a bit of international postage. Aren't we clever?

Rebecca is so good, she calligraphed the outer and inner envelops and then wrapped them in tissue paper, tied them with string before sending them back. It was so lovely to open the box and see the care and love that she put into them. A bit of paper made very special. Thank you, Rebecca.

Butterflies and Birthdays

I got a lovely present in the mail for my week. I opened it early....I couldn't resist. Because, I wanted it to go to London with me...yeah, that's it. Thank you, Hurst Street!
It's lovely.

Monday, April 13, 2009

How Suet It Is!

A major problem within city infrastructures is the sewer system and contributing to that problem is all the fat and grease that is poured down kitchen (both in houses and commercial kitchens). We became aware of the issue when watching an episode of The F Word where food critic and investigator did an expose on fat in the British sewer system. It was gross but it got Will and I thinking: we can do this!

So, after the breakfast on Saturday, we took the grease left over from the sausage and bacon, added bread crumbs, and lots of bird seed to the pan. We (and by "we", I mean Will) mixed it all together and then poured (more like scraped) it into this dish. We refrigerated it over night, to harden the fat, and then we put it on on Sunday for the birds in our yard.

We have a suet feeders already, and it is very popular with the squirrels and the nuthatches. We are hoping that they enjoy some home-made suet for a change. And for once, some grease didn't go down the drain!

Cunningham Pancakes

On Saturday, we had over friends for a pre-Easter brunch of Will's pancakes, scones, sausage, bacon, lattes, and juice. You know how serious Will takes his breakfast, so you can image how serious Will takes making and eating his very own crepe-like pancakes. Two plates with large stacks of pancakes, some with tentacles.
Once we were already to consume the deliciousness, Will demonstrated the proper way of eating a Cunningham Pancake.

Step 1. After grabbing a stack of pancakes, take the syrup,
spiral it around the pancake.
Take you fork, and insert one tyne into the pancake,
and start to roll up the pancake.

Step 2: Once the pancake is rolled up, take out the tyne and
insert the entire fork into the opening of the rolled up pancake.

Step 3: Stuff entire pancake into your mouth at once. Yes, all at once.

Step 4: Chew, without choking. (This is the hard part).
Repeat entire process.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hoppy Easter!

Happy Easter!No Easter is complete without a GI-normous chocolate egg...

consumed in one sitting.....