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.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

"Christmas" at Chatsworth

Without having a Thanksgiving this year to jump start the Christmas spirit, I thought we would try by visiting a manor home that was all decked out.  For this, we chose Chatsworth.  You may recall that this was our first outing way back in April.  Hard to believe we are starting to repeat some things!

Chatsworth is a stately home and estate in north Derbyshire and the Peak District.  It's just under an hour away.  One can tour the home, gardens and farmyard (for a not so insignificant fee).  At this time of year, they also had some Christmas market stalls set up as well.  Given the free Saturday and favorable forecast, we decided a return trip was in order.

Chatsworth is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, and has been home to his family, the Cavendish family, since Bess of Hardwick settled at Chatsworth in 1549.  Nicole asked a very good question:  Why is the Duke of Devonshire (SW England) in Derbyshire (central England)?  Short answer:  I have no idea!   I assume some Cavendish worked his way up the royal food chain and was given the title way, way back.

There are some interesting facts from the wikipedia page linked above.  Bess built the "new" Chatsworth home in 1553.  She outlived her hubby and passed it to her 2nd son, the 1st Earl of Devonshire.  By the time the 4th Earl came along, he'd "earned" the title Duke (i.e. 1st Duke of Devonshire).  The current Duke is the 12th for those keeping score at home.  So that's the original family + 3 Earls + 1 Earl-to-Duke + 11 more Dukes.

The movie Duchess with Keira Knightley was based on Duchess Georgiana Cavendish who was married to the 5th Duke in the 18th century.  I believe some scenes were filmed here but more were filmed at nearby Kedleston Hall (practically in our back yard . . . sort of).

As with many of these huge estates, the estate/inheritance/death tax caused all sorts of problems and is how many homes end up with the National Trust (this one is not NT but there is an overriding private trust managing now).

Another tidbit:  Most of the UK's country houses were put to institutional use during World War II. Some of those used as barracks were badly damaged, but the 10th Duke, anticipating that schoolgirls would make better tenants than soldiers, arranged for Chatsworth to be occupied by Penrhos College, a girls' public school in Colwyn Bay, Wales. The contents of the house were packed away in eleven days and 300 girls and their teachers moved in for a six-year stay. The whole of the house was used, including the state rooms, which were turned into dormitories. Condensation from the breath of the sleeping girls caused fungus to grow behind some of the pictures!

Now, more about our day . . . 

Following the masses in the house, which we decided to visit straight away.  It was a bright, sunny day though cool and crisp.  The west side of the house wasn't get much sun at this point.

I think everyone should have an angry boar waking up from a nap sculpture in their entryway.

The first 2 floors were nicely decorated and generally not overdone.

They did have a set of absolutely massive Wise Men though.  I had to take 2 pictures because Alex didn't want to stand next to the "pink guy".

his turn

sleigh ride -- Alex looks thrilled.  The reindeer were doing a little shimmy too.

Nicely laid out dining room.  Alex:  "I'd hate to be their son and have to set that table!"

After the house, it was up to the farmyard.  Had to get a few shots of farm animals (for Jay and all those who expect nothing less).  Here's Billy.

. . . and the chicken with hairy legs & feet . . .

. . . hmm, bacon and bacon-to-be 

The farmyard has a nice playground for a range of ages (including ours!).  This zipline was probably Alex's favorite part of the whole day.  Nicole, waiting her turn, also had a go.

I had to get this blue sky shot while watching the kids play.  Beautiful day.

Great shot of my girls "enjoying" a hot drink.  Unfortunately, it was more of a scalding drink (US lawyers would have a field day).  Nicole (and Alex out of view) went for the usual hot chocolate.  Kuk and I tried the holiday tradition of mulled (heated/spiced) wine.  They can keep that tradition . . . we'll leave it here thanks.

After frying our taste buds we headed to the market set up between the old stables (far end) and the house.  Stalls and people as far as the eye can see.  We enjoyed looking in the booths and bought a few things (cheese, jewelry, but not cheese jewelry fortunately) but it didn't meet my expectation for a traditional  "Christmas Market"  even though I don't know what that is (we will try one it a couple of weeks I hope).

After the market is was back to the garden (helps to say gaaahrden to get set the high-society mood).  Jokes aside, it is a nice back yard with sculptures, fountains, trees, etc.).  We enjoyed our walk.
there were a few climbing opportunities . . .

. . . and clowning opportunities . . . 

"weeping" willow with rainbow (sprinklers were set up in the tree)

more climbing

We had fun in the hedge maze as well.

All in all, another fine day.  We set off for home around 3.  It was still light out but the sun had set behind the hills.  It really messes with your body clock.  We were tired from the standing/walking but the setting sun made us feel really tired!

And here is a view out our study window the next morning (today).  A wee bit foggy today.  It lifted a little but not much.  Weather here can change quickly and it's always good to take advantage of the nice days when they happen.

Hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving.  It will be odd to be working Thursday & Friday.  We'll manage just fine though.

Thanks for reading.