Barrel-racing in Granchester--Boxing Day 2007 from dceditors on Vimeo.
Monday, December 31, 2007
Barrel-racing in Granchester--Boxing Day 2007 from dceditors on Vimeo.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Christmas Eve 2007 in Cambridge: The River Cam
So, here we are on Boxing Day. Boxing Day, December 26th, is so named because (according to lore, or in this case, Wikipedia) it's the day you give presents -- a BOX, perhaps -- to employees, the poor, people who work in various service industries, etc. It's really treated as a follow-up holiday, often with a another big meal, party, etc. More recently, it's also a big sale day. I'll be checking out that scene later today.
More Christmas things:
Christmas Crackers: No Christmas party table setting is complete without a Christmas cracker, a party favor of sorts. Its name comes from the fact that it's got a little bit of explosive in it (a really little bit), so when you pull it apart (our observation is that you share the opening of a cracker with the person across the table from you, yanking from either end), it pops, or cracks.
Crackers vary in quality and excitement value, but they always seem to contain a paper crown. And what's hysterical is that EVERYONE wears the paper crown. As we looked around the restaurant yesterday, people of all ages, all manner of dress had on their brightly colored paper crowns. When we left, we walked past the more upscale Bistro at the Hotel du Vin, and everyone in there was wearing a gold or silver foil crown. (They must have had posh crackers.)
Then, there's usually a joke in the cracker (typically a dumb joke) and party favor of some sort -- on Christmas day, I got a keychain and JT got a pen, but JT's favorite was at the company party, where his Christmas cracker contained a protractor.
Then, after you've made it through the dinner wearing your silly paper crown, you eat Christmas pudding. First, "pudding" is a synonym for dessert, not a specific dessert item made by Jello or Cozy Shack. You hear people use "pudding" far more often than "dessert." Christmas pudding, though, is a very specific pudding. You start making it a couple of months in advance from various candied fruits (raisins, sultanas, currants, etc.), sugar, eggs, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.), breadcrumbs, and booze (rum or brandy). Then you steam it in the oven for 6 to 8 hours. Cool, and place in your cupboard until Christmas. Douse again with more booze, steam for another couple of hours and serve with some sort of heavy, rich cream perhaps also spiked with booze.
Or you can go buy a mini one at the store for the sake of the blog.
This one is steeped in Courvoisier. It's also disgusting. It could also be because it's 10 a.m. Not breakfast food, that.
Finally, you finish your Christmas meal with coffee and mince pies. Once upon a time, mince pies actually contained meat, but these days they're diced fruit mincemeat, spices, and some more booze in a pastry crust. They're typically individual-sized, and an American friend here in Cambridge explained described the taste perfectly: "They taste like Christmas," she says. Indeed they do.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
King's College Choir Singing For the Queue from dceditors on Vimeo.
The service itself was absolutely beautiful. There were a couple of carols commissioned just for this year's service that were really pretty. We were seated right against the wall and could hear the lead glass windows rattle when the organ played the low notes. It wasn't amplified, so you actually get better sound if you listen to the radio broadcast. But it was still absolutely amazing -- and a centerpiece of an English Christmas. and I'm very glad we went.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
How does one get tickets for this? You don't. You stand outside in line, or queue, as they say. Since we're here this year, we thought we'd try to go. The website says that if we're in line by 9 am we'll get in. The service is at 3 pm, so we should be good and frozen by then!
If you'd like to listen on Christmas eve, here's a selection of stations that say they'll be broadcasting it live on Monday, Dec. 24:
- San Antonio: Texas Public Radio 88.3 FM, 9 a.m.
- Austin: KMFA 89.5 FM, 9 a.m.
- Washington, D.C.: WETA 90.9 FM, 10 a.m.
- Louisville: Classical 90.5, 10 a.m.
- Wisconsin: Wisconsin Public Radio, 9 a.m.
- Detroit: ??? (Anyone?), 10 a.m.
- Seattle: ??? (live would be at 7 a.m.)
- In the UK, you can listen on BBC Radio 4 at 3 p.m. (Not sure if that link works from the US.)
- You can also listen to a previous broadcast here.
We've taken in some other music as well. Earlier this month we went to a performance of the Wren Choir and Orchestra at Pembroke College's Chapel. The college is one of the older ones -- founded in 1347. The chapel itself (right) was designed in 1665 by Christopher Wren, slightly more famous for designing St. Paul's Cathedral.
The music was Reinhard Keiser's Dialogus von der Gerburt Christi, sung in German. The choir did a beautiful job -- although I'm not sure the oratorio will ever be a hit. We enjoyed the evening out, though, and had the traditional Madeira and mince pies afterwards, followed by a stroll around campus. Its a pretty one, full of nooks and crannies and courtyard after courtyard.
Then, last night we went to a charity carol concert at Great St. Mary's church, which is the official church of Cambridge University. Great St. Mary's has been in the city center since the 1200s, albeit in a different form, as a meeting place for the university. The carol concert was lovely! The main choir was from two of the local hospitals, and a choir of schoolkids joined them for a few songs as well. It ended with a rousing rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas and We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
Our favorites, though, came from a 5-piece brass band. They did a gorgeous version of O Holy Night, and then Vivaldi's Winter. They wrapped up with a piece called "The Saints' Hallelujah." The director explained that it was an arrangement done by a Canadian group that had the chance to play for HM The Queen. Her favorite piece was the Hallelujah Chorus, and theirs was When The Saints Go Marching In. So, the band came up with an arrangement to accommodate both:
Prime Brass at Christmas Carol Concert from dceditors on Vimeo.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Birmingham itself has a long history of being an industrial center. It was an important manufacturing center during WWII, producing cars, ammunition, helmets, etc. As such, it was also a major target during the war, and some 12,000 buildings were bombed. A couple of the city's buildings were spared, though, and there was a massive effort to rebuild after the war. Now it's a major cultural center and has a great music/club scene. One of the most striking buildings is the space-agey Selfridge's building (left), which opened in 2003.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Fresh from the Cambridge Evening news:
ANGER OVER PANTO SWEET BAN
This story concerned a panto production of Cinderella. We don't really know what pantos are but they seem to be a British holiday tradition involving classic tales tarted up with men in drag, bad jokes, and, apparently, projectile pieces of candy. Much to the dismay of many, safety officials have ordered the actors not to throw candy into the audience, which is part of the tradition.
This might be my favorite part of the story:
Biggins, who played the dame in the city's panto for five years in a row, joked: "I know I've hit a few people with sweets in my time in panto. Once I got a letter from the doctor of this chap about his mother. I threw a fudge bar from the stage and it flew up the old lady's skirt. It certainly gave her a lot of pleasure.
There was a followup story, which I can't find online, that warned about the dangers of flying fondant. That's one reason we have been afraid to go see the panto!
My next favorite story of the week comes courtesy of the Independent. One day this week, I saw this teaser headline in a box on the front page.
THE SECRET TO MARRIAGE-POTATOES!
Now, I knew the Brits were wild about their spuds but c'mon., this is a family newspaper. To continue the theme from above, the column was actually prompted by a projectile potato--a story about a wife throwing a tater at her husband.
My favorite excerpt:
My husband also goes slightly boss-eyed with happiness any time I tell him that potatoes are on the menu. Boiled, roasted, mashed, deep fried, baked, turned, buttered, browned. Any which way: he'll be happy. I can be mean to him, I can tell him that I think he's not very good at dancing, and I can refuse to watch another Top Gear. I can throw out his old denim jackets and I can make him lie in the bath with me talking about our daughter's hand-to-eye co-ordination and our son's love of guinea pigs. I can do all of this and get away with it – as long as every now and then, I cook him a potato.
Have a great weekend. We'll be seeing our first Premier League game on Saturday.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
I'm not going to whinge about the food, because sausage and mash, the occasional pie, bacon rolls, Scotch eggs, fish and chips -- can't argue with that. Just don't eat it all at once, don't expect fine dining at anything other than a fine dining restaurant, learn to love Indian food, and, oh yeah, don't suddenly forget how to cook.
I'm not going to whinge about the fashion, because no one is going to hold me down, iron my hair, and make me wear leggings and ballet flats, or black tights and short cut-offs, or, god forbid, legwarmers.
I am going to whinge about the day length these days. Today I caught an amazing sunset (pictured above). I didn't get the camera out and in a good place for a photo during the truly amazing colors, but you get the idea. It's not the fact that I missed a good picture that bothers me.
It set at 3:47 p.m., to be exact, and rose at 7:50 this morning. I think this might be where seasonal affective disorder was invented. Don't get me wrong, on a beautiful day, it's still beautiful. Briefly. But it's also rainy a lot these days, which makes for dark, gloomy days.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Thanksgiving has always been a big holiday in my family, in large part because we lived in Detroit. My dad and friends always had tickets to the annual Lions football game that started at 12:30pm and those who went to the game would rush home to find the house smelling of roast turkey and all the trimmings. This year, for the first time in memory, none of my family was together for turkey day--KT and are here of course and my oldest brother stayed in New York. But my other brother and his family, my sister, and my mom, who had all planned to gather with my sister-in-law's family, were for various reasons unable to pull it off much to their and my dismay.
When I learned that would happen on Thursday, I was even happier we had decided to host a mini-Thanksgiving dinner. After inviting over 3 American friends, including my intern--all twentysomethings and away from home--we bought a small turkey and then hoped it would fit in the oven. It did--barely. KT brined it for many hours like she did last year and then blasted it with high heat briefly (setting off the smoke alarm briefly!) before letting it roast normally. The pumpkin pie above was part of the adventure. Earlier in the week we had gone hunting for Libby's pumpkin in can--only one grocery store chain in the UK carries it we learned on the internet, but that store was near us fortunately. No frozen pie crusts anywhere but KT made do beautifully, as you can see. Thanks to the magic of cable TV, I was even able to watch the first half of the Lions game before dinner (I taped the rest)--with KT heckling me as she is a Packers fan and Favre was killing the Lions. Oh well, I still had an appetite and we all enjoyed a great meal--turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, carrots, and 3 desserts! And leftovers!!
And if we don't say it enough by email or phone, we both dearly miss our friends and family and we are very thankful for all of you.
The Chef in action