Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas is over


eaten the last of the mince pies

drunk copious amounts of Gl├╝hwein and Aquavit, along with several cans of Carlsberg and a few bottles of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon

eaten more turkey than the rest of the year put together: roast turkey, cold turkey, turkey sandwiches, turkey stew (enough said)

watched Love Actually - along with the Matrix trilogy (well, hubby watched the trilogy, I watched Keanu Reeves)

been to the Christmas market - twice

listened to and sung carols

met up with friends for Christmas drinks

pulled crackers, laughed at silly jokes, wore paper hats and played board games

spent time with the extended family

sent and received Christmas cards

exchanged presents

eaten more satsumas, nuts, chocolates, biscuits, cakes and puddings than it's possible without bursting

Things that we've not done (must make note for next year):

We've not...

put up a Christmas tree or any Christmas decorations at home

seen a Christmas pantomime

watched the Queen's speech (Ooops!)

Looking at this list, I'd say all in all Christmas has been successful. Roll on the new year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The holiday so far...

On Christmas Eve we attended the Midnight Eucharist service at the Cathedral Church of St Andrew in Wells, Somerset, along with 950 other people. It was a beautiful service and the ambience was amazing - despite the low temps both outside and inside the church.

Christmas morning - time for presents! Although we had a £5 upper spend limit, we all enjoyed our presents.

The two elves whose boots you can see on the left hand side of this photo produced an impressive selection of home-made mince pies and truffles.

Christmas lunch about to be served. Christmas crackers were pulled with much gusto - I won both times!

As you can see, we had all the trimmings: roast potatoes, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cranberry jelly, crackling and pigs in blankets. We forgot the stuffing balls, so we had them for tea instead.

Christmas pudding and Christmas cake were served for dessert.

When we run out of Christmasy desserts, we made a maple syrup fondue. Fruit pieces and stale bread were perfect for dipping.

Finally, a walk to see the Paul Toole Holiday Light Show - easily the most elaborately decorated Christmas house we've come across this year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

NATIVITY by Terry Gabbey

Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself.

(Written by Norman W. Brooks)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The food diaries: part 8 - Christmas party

Last week we went to our first Christmas party, organised by hubby's employers. Instead of a simple affair at one of the local hotels, this year we were invited to a fancy ball which included a sit-down 3-course dinner followed by live entertainment and a casino.

The food was OK, not exceptional, but certainly an improvement on last year (local hotel = mediocre food). Here's what we had:

Starter was a carpaccio of raw beef. I wished I'd pretended to be vegetarian and had the filo-pastry-with-something-or-other instead (not photographed, as we had no veggies at our table).

Main course was traditional turkey with veg and a generous helping of cranberry sauce. It took us a while to work out that the veg wasn't coming separately, but was hidding under a patty made of stuffing and two slabs of turkey. D'oh!

Dessert was a choice between a mini bread and butter pudding with Baileys (which sounds lovely, only you couldn't really taste the Baileys)...

...or a colourful fruit salad.

I had the pudding, but in retrospect the fruit salad would have been a better choice. Never mind. I'm sure I burned the extra calories on the dance floor.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Getting ready

I've had a manicure - got my nails painted a vampy dark purple.

I've had my hair cut short and dyed black.

I've lost enough weight to go down a dress size.

I'm ready for the Christmas party season!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

His and hers shopping

I walked past this quaint little shop earlier today and couldn't resist taking a few photos to share with you.

One side of the shop is dedicated to kitchen equipment and assorted cook's gadgets...

...whereas the other is assigned to DYI tools.

The shop was closed at the time, so I was only able to look through the windows. I might go back another day - I'd like to take a closer look at the Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix jars.

If any of you are in London, the shop is called Bert and Betty and is located in Greenwich, not far from the mainline station.

Friday, November 27, 2009

West Country carnival

The West Country Carnival is an annual celebration in SW England which features a parade of illuminated floats . The first celebration was held 404 years ago, to mark the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. It started as a procession with wax torches and over time evolved into a series of fabulous nighttime parades.

There are at least two different circuits that I'm aware of, one in Wessex and another in Somerset. The Somerset one (also known as the Bridgwater circuit) is by common admission the better one, with a larger number of illuminated floats, whereas the Wessex carnival has more walking entries.

There are more than 100 floats in the Somerset carnival. They move to a different location every day until they have appeared in 8 separate local carnivals, namely in Bridgwater, North Petherton, Highbridge & Burnham, Shepton Mallet, Midsommer Norton, Wells, Glastonbury and Weston-super-Mare. The photos are from this year's Weston-super-Mare finale.

There are two types of float, tableaus (motionless pose) and features (dancing and movement). I've already shown you pictures of the best tableau (To The Trees) so for this post I have used only pictures of features, namely Parade, Check Mate and Joust. Gremlins CC's Joust and To The Trees were voted joint overall champions by the judges. According to the local press, Joust took 12 months to construct and features 20,000 lights.

If you're interested, you can see (lots) more photos of the carnival on my Flickr account. I took 600 in total, and of those 436 made the Flickr mark.

Monday, November 23, 2009

To The Trees

Last Monday the weather was much more amenable that it's been today, so I was able to attend the finale of the Somerset Illuminated Carnival that took place in Weston-Super-Mare, a pretty seaside town in SW England.

There are mainly two types of float taking place in the Carnival, tableaus (motionless pose) and features (dancing and movement). All floats are illuminated, as the Carnival takes place at night.

By far the most impressive tableau was Gemini CC's To The Trees, with a Robin Hood theme. The detail in presentation was amazing, and the poses were challenging and very well executed. I mean, how long can anyone stay with their mouths open, staring into space?

Apparently, some people can keep going for more than two hours!

Unsurprisingly, To The Trees won first place in the best tableau category and were also joint overall winners.

I generally prefer features, but couldn't fail to be impressed by this particular tableau. I stood really close to it at the end of the procession and I swear it was like looking at waxworks.

It was only when you looked into their eyes that you could tell they were definitely humans.

I bet they were really happy when they heard the STOP command and could finally relax their poses and give their poor muscles a rest!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wet and windy Britain

When I saw this car last week during a sunny day I wasn't too bothered about a holiday apartment in Spain. But after a wet and windy day like we had today, with more of the same to follow according to the weather forecast, I'm very seriously tempted.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Le Beaujolais Nouveau and other stories

Today we were invited to a charity event to celebrate Beaujolais Day and raise money for the local branch of the MS Society. The event was hosted by our friend Greg, who drove to France to pick up the wine himself.

Beaujolais Nouveau is a lightweight red wine made from Gamay grapes in the Beaujolais region of France. It is the most popular vin de primeur, fermented for just a few weeks then officially released for sale on the third Thursday of November, known as Beaujolais Day. It is intended for immediate drinking, and should be consumed by the following May after its release.

Our event took place at The Taste of India restaurant in Greenwich, with an Indian buffet and plenty of Beaujolais wine for tasting. Well, they said tasting, but I had two glasses and I don't even like wine that much. So I'm guessing others tasted rather more of it.

It was a great event, but as soon as I got home all I could think of was sleep. I slept for 1.5 hours and woke up feeling very disoriented. What's worse, we have a birthday party to go to tonight which promises to be another major drinking session. So I've made a cup of tea and checked that we have every remedy known to drunken men for tomorrow morning: tea bags, milk, coffee and coffee filters, toast, bacon and Alka-Seltzer. Let's hope they're enough.

I'm off now to get ready for the party. Cheers my lovies! Hope you all have a great Friday evening xx

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The food diaries: part 7 - Sunday lunch

This weekend's culinary highlight was Sunday lunch at one of my favourite haunts, Inside Restaurant in Greenwich. This time I went prepared, camera in pocket, so I was able to take photos of everything we had.

We had a three-course meal, starter, main and dessert. I started with haddock fishcakes and mustard sauce.

Hubby had the warm artichoke salad.

For our mains we chose chicken leg and beef fillet respectively.

Both beautifully presented and very tasty!

We washed them down with Diet Coke and a local lager, the appropriately named Meantime Pilsner. The Greenwich Brewery, where this beer is brewed, is located 0° 2' 12" east of the Greenwich Meridian.

For dessert, we had white chocolate brownie and New York-style cheesecake.

Both were very good, but the brownie was something else! I think I showed great restraint in only having one.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

How many calories?

During a recent trip to Belgium, we had lunch at Quick, the Belgian/French equivalent of McDonalds. I don't often eat in fast food restaurants, so I'm not sure if this is common practice in other countries, but all the food and drinks we ordered came with "nutritional information" labels, showing calories, protein, fat, sugar and salt content.

Quite sobering reading, considering a Supreme Cheese burger has a whopping 678 calories and 3.1 grams of salt.

Add some fries and you've got an extra 335 calories!

Luckily I had a King Fish sandwich ("only" 422 calories), no fries and just a diet coke to drink. A normal Coke would have added another 147 calories.

Interestingly enough, all information was given in % of the guideline daily amount for men, women (and in some cases) older and younger children, so you could see exactly how much damage you were doing by biting into your sandwich. A woman eating a Supreme Cheese burger and a portion of fries, will have consumed more than half the recommended 2000 calories per day needed to maintain a healthy weight. That's before she's even touched her fizzy drink.

Thank God for the latest research by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, which claims that the recommended daily intake of calories could be increased by up to 16% (or an extra 400 calories - bag of fries or average size cheeseburger - a day). This good news, however, only applies to people who "exercise more". Heh. Knew there had to be a catch.

Back to the usual low-cal diet for us mere mortals then.