Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year Resolutions Of The Achievable Variety

Having learnt from past experience , I'm not aiming too high this year . I've settled on three , at least two of which seem do-able .

1. Always eat off a pretty plate .
Grabbing a sandwich at work is uncommonly dreary , no matter how many carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes one tries to gussy it up with . But on an Art Deco plate , even cottage cheese looks cheerier
2. Exercise more .

I thought maybe we'd draw a veil over the Hips firm bit

and concentrate on the Raising arms sideways and Arms bent bits . Eminently do-able surely , with a bit of practice .

But now we get to the challenge .

3. Buy a dress .
I can't spend the rest of my life in jeans or the standard black trousers for best .
Actually , thinking about it , the last dress I bought for me may well have been on the same shopping trip that netted this little number for Barbie ..... mid-'90s , then .

Oh yes , And WEAR it .

Meanwhile last year's resolutions met with a varying degree of success . I did , for instance learn how to make a link .... and at least half of the ones I now post work !

So may we wish you a very happy , healthy and prosperous New Year and , whether you've made resolutions or not , every success in whatever you attempt , big or small .

Monday, 27 December 2010

Post Mortem


We had a lovely time and ate lots so it did seem a little excessive to be fishing yet more mountains of food out of the 'fridge this morning . But Youngest Daughter has been laden with enough food for a couple of days and is carrying it off to Amsterdam , as we speak .Temptation in the form of Serrano ham , Manchego cheese and Salami Milanese have been neatly removed and , if the train gets snowed in along the way , she and her fellow passengers should survive till rescued .

The turkey ( yes , I found one .... dainty at 2.5 kilos but French , delicious and more than enough ) has been reduced to rubble . The bones are simmering for soup and the scraps will become a stir-fry of sorts later , with peppers , spring onions and mushrooms .

I've still got a week off and a pile of loot to keep me happy

(The Borgia cds are fabulous and The Book Thief can't be put down ) .

The Christmas flowers look pretty

and , if I get cabin fever , there's a new exhibition in Groningen Museum that looks excellent .

Or I could join the conga line on the river round the corner as everyone enjoys the ice

Sshhh . No one mention the E-word . This year they're insisting on a minimum of 30 cm. of ice along the whole route ..... . Fat chance !

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Happy Xmas to all

Smitonius and Sonata:

In both of our households there is a little uncertainty about Xmas lunch. We all have plenty of food, but perhaps not entirely festive (do olives count as festive?). My mother is not sure she will find a Turkey in town, given the snow, and we had our heart set on Quails (to a recipe in the Observer Food Monthly) but have decided that if they cannot be easily found we will happily eat something else. Mind you, I am teling a little white lie about not having festive food because we have treated ourselves to some local smoked salmon. And when I say local, I mean local inner London down the road local. Hansen & Lydersen smoke their salmon in Stoke Newington, where I live in North London, using a family recipe.

So, we won't be going hungry. We have put up seasonal decorations all around, and Sonata sent this photo to share:

Although we have failed to put up our tree yet, we have found time to hang up a fancy wreath:

I now have to do some mad dashing about to complete the Xmas shopping or I will be wrapping up fresh air for my other half to open, but in the meantime we wish you, wherever you are, a wonderful Xmas!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

So Far So Good .

The school holidays have begun . Early morning coffee and Kerstbrood has been shared with the childrens' parents
The works party has been survived . Parcels and cards have been posted . Father Christmas seems to have got his act together this year and stocking fillers have been found . A visit to a Christmas Market has been planned as long as it doesn't snow too much . The tree has just been rescued from the frozen ( minus 4) back yard .

Youngest Daughter will be getting together tonight with a group of friends in Amsterdam for their annual pre-Christmas Turkey-fest . This year the bird will be prepared by one of them , famed for his interest in the good things of life , to a family recipe as cooked by his mother in Budapest every year . YD is doing the roast potatoes and everyone will be bringing something delicious . Much will be eaten . I'm hoping she's not too jaded to cook our Christmas lunch on the 25th . Last year's was delicious !

And , perfectly timed , a parcel from Catey has just arrived as part of a swap , organised by A Little Pink Room , full of lovely fat quarters , buttons

and a beautiful buttony star for the tree , which is thawing out nicely in the kitchen .

Mind you , the big snows started on the 19th of December last year . It's still only the 18th ........
P.S. YD reported this morning that she ended up having to make roast potatoes for 18 ! This does not bode well for the 25th , I feel . Perhaps she can peel the sprouts ?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Although working on birthday...


nevertheless, I went out for a meal afterwards. There has been a buzz about a restaurant called Trullo in north London, so getting a table meant booking weeks in advance. But my other half was very organised, and so a table was waiting for as 9.30. I was attracted by the idea that it was inspired by the River Cafe. That is a must-visit restaurant (fill up your little piggy-bank first), and the last time we were there a couple of years ago Rose Gray herself was in the kitchen.

So, what was on the menu at this place? Some seriously hearty dishes (apologies for the pun) like 'grilled ox heart, confit garlic and borlotti beans'. Whilst I avoided that one, I simply couldn't resist 'Ox cheek braised in Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia '07 with pureed potato and Capezzana's new season olive oil'. But I am racing ahead of myself!

Wine ordered: a chilled Rose, which tasted of Summer in a glass and brightened up the dark evening.

Antipasto shared: Coppa di Parma. So tasty, I forgot to do the Iphone thing which is to hold said phone over dish pausing whilst it focuses and then taking a pic of what is on the plate before eating it.

Primmi: Other half chose Taglierini with Spinach and clams. There was a lot of spinach, and some convincing clam shells, but barely any of their previous residents in evidence. To be fair, when they asked what was wrong, they immediately offered to remove dish from final bill.
I ordered the 'rabbit ravioli in sage butter':

That was supperb.

Main: I was, as you have seen, a total carnivore. And the Other Half had Poussin with chick peas. All very tasty and so filling we did take left overs home! Before the recession, this seemed to be a slightly shocking thing to ask, but now restaurants appear positively delighted... do you do the 'doggy bag' thing?

Pudding: Chocolatte and quince tart.

All in all a lovely evening! Thank you for birthday wishes, and here's to hoping I get some spare time to blog regularly again in 2010....

Sunday, 12 December 2010

In House Memo

The Leeuwarden branch of Smitonius and Sonata would like to wish our London correspondent

Many Happy Returns for tomorrow . We've had a whip round and , given that the local postal service is on strike , a bag of salty licorice will be sent to her by carrier pigeon .

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Sinterwho ?


As I said in my last post , Dutch children get their presents , not from Santa Claus on the 25th , but from Sinterklaas on the evening of the 5th and one of you wanted to know more .
St Nicolaas , bishop of Myra in the 3rd century , had a reputation for the secret giving of gifts , maybe most notably to the daughters of a very poor man who couldn't give them doweries without which their futures were bleak . He is the patron saint of children and also of New Amsterdam , or New York .

Sometime in the 19th century , when Christmas was acquiring new traditions such as Christmas trees , Sinterklaas and his black page boy became the stars of the winter celebration in Holland and Belgium . They arrive in Holland from Spain every year in a steamboat and spend a week or two , before the feast , dropping chocolate coins in childrens' shoes , which are carefully left by the fire overnight , often with a carrot for the Saint's horse .

The page boy became Zwarte Piet , a mischevious helper in the bringing of presents to every child . He wears brightly coloured knickerbockers , a ruff , gold earings and a cap with a feather . Traditionally children who dressed up as him blacked their faces too , but that's becoming less common .

This year at work , we have a rather fetching wooden steamboat with the whole cast . Today , as we sat round the table eating a snack , the children took it in turns to pick out a figure and say something about it .
When we got to the Saint's horse , the little girl knew all about him . His name ( Americo ) , his preference for carrots and his colour but was stumped when it came to the markings on his coat .
And then it came to her .
So what were the darker marks ?

"Chickenpox !! "