Sunday, 18 December 2011

UK Carvery -- a Proper Sunday Lunch

Not too much to report this week.  No exotic trips or historical findings.  I did survive as a single parent while Kuk was goofing off in Toulouse, France (okay, probably not goofing off).  The kids stepped up and we managed fine.  I did strive to push the limits of early drop off though much to Nicole's chagrin.  It's amazing how coming into work an hour later changes the whole day.

So, in lieu of any earth shattering reports, we'll have a food themed week (and a generally shortened update).  Today we ventured out to the [very hidden] trails of the Peak District to the village of Alderwasley.  The destination was a proper Sunday lunch at The Bear Inn and Restaurant which was pretty much in the middle of absolutely nowhere (I'm counting on the 12 or so Alderwasley residents to not be blog followers--not difficult since there are only a handful of you as well).

Even with a GPS/Sat Nav is was not easy to find, but we made it.  Not much to look at on the outside (picture above) but it had a nice ambiance inside.  Notice the very long shadows (and some snow) -- this picture was taken at 3 pm!  Days are very short now.

We were once again joined by our friends the Seppanens.  It was nice to be able to share the food and experience with friends.  As you can tell, Jay is enjoying "retirement" here in the UK (Lori is working here) with his facial hair of the month plan.  For December he's sporting the Ebenezer sideburns.  Impressive in so many ways.  Let's just say I don't have that capability.

Even better, the kids had their own table!  There were 4 tables in this one side room so we had some space but didn't disrupt too many.

I didn't snap any food shots, but most of us had the carvery which was one reason I chose the place.  Carveries are traditional Sunday lunches in the UK (or at least around here).  For this one they had roast beef, lamb, turkey and pork loin.  I, of course, had all of them and it is one reason I am sitting here typing this with no thought whatsoever about cooking dinner tonight (too full).  The two red meats were better because I could get them rare-ish.  The white meats were a little over cooked.  At any rate, we had a great time and will try to find some others in which to compare.

Now on to the Nicole meal(s) of the week.  Nicole was going to cook this one except she didn't.  I unwittingly scheduled it for the day she stayed late for her school Christmas party so I cooked it while her friend's mom brought her home.  This was my first curry and it did come out of one of her kids' cookbooks.  It's pork and pineapple (I try to fit in a pork dish when Kuk is away because she won't eat it anyway).  The peppers were nice for color and packed a punch as well (the kids omitted that option on theirs).  Tasty.

Finally, Nicole's meal of the week:  shrimp scampi with sauteed zucchini (called courgettes in the UK) with pesto.   Another nice job.

Well, that's all for now.  We hop on a plane to Baltimore-Washington International on Thursday.  We have a lot to do before then but we are all excited about seeing our family and friends on the east coast.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The BFG with friends

After a particularly crazy week at work, we had a relaxing weekend in Derby. No grand "foreign" adventures -- just normal folks leading a normal life.

The highlight of the weekend was seeing our first play in town [by Derby Live].  As you can tell from the JPEG above it was The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) by Roald Dahl (James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, etc.).  Alex had the challenge of reading the book before we went.  It took awhile, but he did it with 2 days to spare!

I nonchalantly took this quick (illegal?) photo during the play.  I was curious how they were going to portray the giants.  Most of the time, they had the giants as life size and the regular people (human beans) as puppets though at times they had a giant size puppet when the regular people were life size.  It worked out well.  It was no West End London production, but it was well done and we enjoyed it.

It was all the better since we shared the outing with our neighbors.  They have 2 boys; 1 Alex's age and 1 younger (Max & Leo).

After the matinee we went to Pizza Express for a nice meal.  Here we are with Jo and Tom (sorry Jo, you blinked in both pictures!).  Trust me -- she wasn't sleepy.  Jo and Tom were nice enough to invite us over for further conversation afterwards too.  Great day all around.

Here are the boys at the other end of the table.  They entertained themselves well.  The food is good, but as with most UK restaurants, there's nothing "Express" about it.  Nicole did join us though she's not in the picture.

Speaking of Nicole, here's her meal-o-the-week.  You'll have to excuse the presentation (my bad).  The meal was spaghetti and meatball "stoup" (not quite stew, not quite soup).  I have to admit that I was a little concerned when it was coming together, but like the others it turned out great.

Since Kuk is off to France for most of this upcoming week, I will be enlisting Nicole for some additional cooking help.  We might just have 2-3 pictures next week.

Quick note on the weather.  I've not been keeping up with the weather back home (there's no point, really).  It's been fairly consistent here for the last few weeks.  Temperatures hover around 40-45F for highs.  It hasn't dipped below freezing for the most part though there has been frost on the windshield a few times (it sucks parking outside).  Seems like we get some light drizzle/rain most days -- no snow yet.  Interestingly enough, the Peak District just to the north (and at a higher elevation) has gotten some snow to the point that some roads have been closed.

So, in general, I'd say it's a tick or two warmer than what we would usually have back in Indy.  Can't say I miss the cold or the snow, but that's just me.

You may recall me commenting back in the summer on how much daylight there was.  Well, we get the opposite now.  Sunrise is just after 8 and sunset is around 4.  Dark coming and going though I do have a window at work to at least see the sun.  It really messes with your internal clock -- always seems much later than it is at night.

Christmas and the trip home are coming.  We are getting excited but Kuk and I are no where ready!

All for now -- thanks for reading.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Christmas Market in Lincoln

December!  It's actually starting to feel a little like Christmas.  We'd better start thinking about shopping . . . hard to believe we will be back in the States in less than 3 weeks.  The kids are starting to get excited.

We had a very busy weekend on the back of a busy week at work.  No rest for the weary this time.  On Saturday, we got to feel like productive members of society again by helping our friends the Seppanens.  After 6 weeks here they finally got there shipment of furniture from IKEA.  Having put together quite a few pieces myself I thought they could use a hand.  We didn't finish it all, but we made great progress.  I'm sure their place will feel more like home now.  Capped off the night the pizza delivered from Pizza Hut (a first for us here).  Really hit the spot.

I guess it was an all Seppanen weekend as our 2 families took a day trip to Lincoln, about 75-80 minutes to the northeast from Derby.  Lincoln has a huge Christmas Market every year and we thought we would try it out -- glad we did.  Lincoln also has an impressive cathedral and castle too.  You can eventually get Jay's take on the weekend at his blog if you want another view.

Here's a nice photo of the Cathedral (it's so nice, I clearly didn't take it --credit to Herb West on the internet for this one).  The Cathedral dates back to 1185 though most of the big bits were done a little later (building was completed in 1310).  Quite an impressive building.

Here's one of my attempts at it.  As you can see, I didn't quite have the vantage point that Herb did.

Here's a shot of the Lincoln Castle.   The castle itself was closed due to the market.  You can kinda get a feel for the crowds in the shot as well.  Many stalls; many people.  This is another good example of something I wouldn't do at home -- too crowded, etc.  Hopefully we'll take some of that adventuresome spirit back home with us.

Another picture inside the castle grounds.  It was a cold (low 40s) and sometimes wet day.  The stalls/booths were set up on the castle grounds and there were other stalls throughout the city (we would call it a town, but it's a city since it has a cathedral).  We enjoyed looking through the various booths and came home with a few items as well.

After a few hours of shopping and fighting the crowds, we headed to the Cathedral (around 1 pm when open hours started -- it was Sunday after all).  

There was certainly a "wow" factor when walking in.  The kids appreciated the chairs after all that standing too.  (Have to admit, we did too after a self tour of the building).

Lots of stained glass.  Here's a sample.

Looking back at the entrance

You'll have to take my word for it, but this is a copy (facsimile) of the Magna Carta.  One of 4 surviving originals resides in Lincoln Castle which unfortunately we didn't get to see so this had to suffice.  One of the witnesses of the Magna Carta was Hugh Wells, Bishop of Lincoln.  We'll see one (or more) of the originals during our time here.  I'll make sure of that.  (The other 3 are at the British Library (2) in London and Salisbury).

stained glass at the far end

In addition to the craft stalls, there were plenty of food stalls.   How could I pass up a picture of a half-eaten roast pig?  I had to help the cause and have a pulled pork sandwich too.  Yum.  I didn't eat it while looking at Wilbur here though.

We had a nice day at the Christmas Market and we were glad to be able to share the day with the Seppanens.  

We didn't ship any of our Christmas decorations to the UK.  I was going to let it pass but the rumors of Ebenezer Steve McScrooge were starting to sink in.  So, I bought this little guy.  I must say, it's nice to have a little Christmas in the house.

Of course, Homebase made it easy for me:  Christmas in Bag!  Perfect for the college student or frugal ex-pat family abroad!  Complete with small tree, lights and decorations!  Can't beat that.

Finally, here's Nicole's meal-o-the-week.  Homemade baked mac-n-cheese.  Another nice job!  It was nice and creamy.  We all agreed that it could have been cheesier though -- we'll have to tweak the recipe next time.

Have a good week and thanks for reading.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Thanksgiving Week Hodgepodge

Well, it's been another fine week here.  Just so happens that it was Thanksgiving week.   First time I've ever worked on Thanksgiving or the day after for that matter.  It was a little odd, but with the kids in school it was pretty much business as usual.

We had a really nice Thanksgiving meal on Saturday with some other ex-pat families.  The Lheureaus were nice enough to host and we were joined by our friends the Seppanens and Holloways along with another couple that we met for the first time.  It was nice to get together and swap adventure stories about life in the UK.

No grand trips this week, but Nicole did have a special field trip to London and we got in our share of domesticated livestock/animals at Matlock Farm Park.  We also had a couple of firsts on the cooking front.

Nicole's school took a busload of kids to London to participate in the 200th anniversary of Nathaniel Woodard's birth at Westminster Abbey.  I guess that Derby High is a Woodard school.  Only a select few got to go.  Most were selected based on essays they had written last year.  Nicole was an at-large selection but we weren't told why (she does well at school though).  They also got to take a trip on the Thames, shop in Covent Garden and see a musical.  We dropped her off at 7 am and picked her up at 1:30 in the morning!  What a day.  I'll turn it over to Nicole to give you the play by play.

After the service, we had pack lunches on the bus, then stopped by Hyde Park to change into our normal clothes [on the bus].  A very interesting experience, don't need to repeat it. :)

After getting changed we were dropped off near the Thames for a boat trip.  The boat was waiting right by the London Eye.  As you can see, luckily enough, the sun was out today.

On the tour, we saw a lot of sites and had pretty good commentary that came along with it.  This is the reconstructed Globe Theater, which was where many of Shakespeare's plays were performed.  Now that it has been reconstructed, they are now being performed again.

Before turning around on the boat, we saw the Tower of London.  This is was used as many things over time.  It is most known for its executions and being a prison.  It also holds the Crown Jewels.  [We went there back in 2009 and hope to go again some day.  --Dad]

The Tower Bridge.  Once powered by hydraulic action, the two sections of the bridge that the cars drive on can be lifted for boats.  It is now powered by electricity. 

After the tour on the Thames, we walked over to Covent Garden, which is actually a shopping market.  My group went to a couple of stores, this being one of them.  This one was called Cybercandy and it had a bunch of American candy that I miss so much like Hershey's, Butterfingers, Laffy Taffy, and Jolly Ranchers.  They also had Pop Tarts!  I didn't buy any though.

The covered section of Covent Garden.  It was very well decorated for Christmas.

After shopping, we had a nice dinner at Pizza Express.  After we walked to the Savoy Theater where we saw Legally Blonde The Musical.  All the actors put on surprisingly good American accents.  They even had the dogs as well! When the show was over we got back on the coach and took a long ride home.  I attempted to try and get some sleep, but in the end I didn't sleep at all.  We got back to Derby High at about 1:30am.  Once back home, I went straight to bed.  Not surprising.  Overall I had a really good time and was glad I was chosen to go.

Okay, I'm back.  Thanks, Nicole.

I decided that Nicole was ready to start helping me in the kitchen.  In fact, we decided that she would take 1 night a week to pick a menu and cook it with me supervising.  She was actually enthusiastic about it.

She selected sticky chicken.  She's made the sauce and is applying it to the drumsticks that she cleaned and skinned.
Here's the final result along with corn and snap peas with pomegranate seeds.  It was very tasty.  Well done Nicole!  I'm looking forward to this week's choice already!

As mentioned above, we had a nice Thanksgiving Saturday at the Lheureaus.  On Sunday, we cashed in a Groupon voucher to Matlock Park Farm (about 35 minutes away).  The day started sunny but started to cloud up.  The lack of sun and a brisk breeze made for a chilly day.  Shivering with a pig here.

They had your standard and not so standard animals.  Here are rheas which I assume are in the ostrich/emu family.

For 1 quid (pound stirling) we got some feed and carrots.  Needless to say, the animals knew what to expect when we walked up.  They certainly weren't shy about it.
nice beard, Billy

huge rack on this deer

nice afro on this Alpaca

is that a donkey evil eye?

 Alex feeding a small sheep.  All the animals would carefully eat out of your hand.

Bracing for the cold.  We were all sporting our new "wellies" (Wellingtons--rubber boots).  Trying to fit in with the British way . . .

these fellas were quite agressive but still friendly

llama -- much bigger than you think

Nicole liked the goats the best

Nicole usually made some sort of face when feeding them directly.

red-tailed hawk (no feeding here)

Well there's no easy way to transition from the nice cuddly barn yard animals to a nice leg of lamb.  I felt like trying a Sunday roast and tried a leg of lamb for the first time.  The recipe called for cooking the lamb directly on the rack with a veggie dish underneath to catch the juices.  Mmmm.

Final result with green beans and the roasted vegetables (potatoes, carrots, parsnips, swede (rutabaga) and garlic).  The vegetables were outstanding.  The lamb was good but not as spectacular as I had hoped.  It probably cooked about 5 minutes longer than necessary.  It didn't have as strong a flavor has other cuts which we found odd.  I also realized that I don't know how to carve a leg of lamb  -- need more practice.

Not something we'll have every week.  I'll try it again some other time.  It was fun trying something new.

"See you" next week.  Thanks for reading.