Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Life just keeps getting better

Right. Sorry. I've been crazy busy lately. Here's what's been going on:

Spent the weekend with the Pirate. (I know you're all shocked.) Had a delightful time, as always: picked up his new car on Saturday, spent the afternoon Christmas shopping in Bath, got luch at Pizza Express (which is a lot better than it sounds; my pizza had caramelized onions, goat cheese, and spinach on it -- de-LISH!), and generally wandered around town glancing in shop windows and establishing that we both have impeccable taste in antiques and home furnishings. (I worry about these things. I shouldn't, but I do. At least now I know that we'll never argue about curtains or a dining room table.) The sun was setting in the clear, pale aqua sky (it was 3 pm, so naturally it was nearly dark; sheesh), the wispy clouds were aflame with color, and all was well with the world. We went back to his place where he cooked me dinner and did my laundry while I watched movies with his housemate. (Stop looking at me like that. I did offer to cook, and I certainly didn't ask him to do my laundry for me. He just did it.)

Sunday we slept in (cause, y'know, we were wicked exhausted from all that hard-core shopping and antique browsing and movie watching the day before). Not rowing (update on the back later), I've really missed getting out into the countryside every weekend for some fresh air and exercise. So what I really wanted to do over the weekend was go for a nice long ramble in the countryside.

We got dressed, and he looks at me and says, "It's a beautiful day. Why don't we go for a wander in the countryside?" Reason #467 WILTP:* telepathy.

He lives out in deepest, darkest Wiltshire, so we didn't have far to go to find countryside. Out the front door and across the A-road was all it took. We spend a good 3 hourse out in the crisp sunshine wandering through fields and pastures, dodging cowpats and border collies, bushwacking through the brush and startling pheasants as we went. We went down the valley, up the other side, skirted around the valley along the top of a ridge of hills, passed through a charming village, came back down into the valley, up the side again, and stopped for lunch in a fabulous pub and ate...

wait for it...

...pheasant. Eat yer hearts out. We got home (to his) where I collapsed on the sofa, my legs being tired and my belly pleasantly pheasantly phull. (Did you see what I did there?) The P saw me fading and went and pulled the duvet off his bed and tucked me in. He sat down beside me on the couch and revved up the XBox, and I curled up in his lap like a cat and spent the next 5 hours there, dozing and snuggling. I'm telling you, life does not get better than that.

Except until it does. Take today, for instance. In a couple hours he's going to pull up in front of my building, bung my (ginormous) suitcase in the trunk, and drive me up to his folks' house. We will spend one night there, and his parents will drive us to the airport tomorrow morning. At the airport we (yes, we, as in the both of us, me and the P) will get on a plane for the U S of A where we will spend Christmas with my family. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and one more, just for good measure: !

Now all I have to do is clean the kitchen and the hamster cage in the next 90 minutes before he arrives and type out instructions on the care and feeding of Bluto and my houseplants for my flatmate while I'm gone. And then I'M GONE. OUTTA HERE. VAMOS!

(I'll be posting from the States, though, so you don't have to miss me. I wouldn't want to deprive you of the joy my blog brings. I know it's the only thing some of you live for.)

See you on the other side of the Pond!

*WILTP: "Why I Love The Pirate" (Sounds like the call sign for a radio station. "You're listening to WILTP radio: all sea chanties, all the time!)

Monday, December 18, 2006

I'm it, or so it would seem

Just got tagged by Timorous Beastie. The idea is to reach for the nearest book, go to page 123, look for the 5th sentence on the page, and then post the next three sentences. Here you go:

Auter maner leche lumbarde. Take fayre Hony, and clarifi yt on the fyre tylle it wexe hard; then take hard yolkys of Eyroun, & kryme a gode quantyte ther-to tyl it be styf y-now; an thenne take it vppe, & ley it on a borde; then take fayre gratyd Brede, and pouder pepir, & molde it to-gederys with thine hondys, tyl it be so styf that it wole ben lechyd; than leche it; then take wyne & pouder Gyngere, Canelle, & a lytil claryfyid hony, & late renne thorw a straynour, & caste this Syrip there-on, when thou shalt serue it out insteade of Cleyre.

(From the Harley ms. 279, p. 35 vj.)

Sorry. I'm reading a book of medieval cooking. Bet you weren't expecting that, were you???! The above is a recipe for Lombard Slices (whatever those are). Here is the recipe (for the foodies among you) re-written by professional chef and historian and adapted for the modern kitchen:

"12 hard-boiled egg yolks
8 Tbs clear honey
175 g/6 oz fine white breadcrumbs or as needed
pinch of ground black pepper

225 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup red wine
generous pinch of ground cinnamon and ginger
5 tablespoons clear honey

There are at least three recipes for the sweetmeat called Leche Lumbard: one stiffened with dates, one with almonds, and this one with egg yolk. If you want to, you can use fewer egg yolks and more breadcrumbs, but the consistency will not be as smooth.

Sieve the egg yolks on to a sheet of paper. Bring the honey for the slices to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat. And the sieved yolks little by little tothe pan, beating or stirring rpaidlyto belend them in smoothly. Then blend in the breadcrumbs and pepper; use sufficient breadcrumbs to make the mixture stiff enough to mould. Shape it into a breick and chill until cold and firm. Cut it into small slices like halva.

Simmer the ingredients for the syrup until the wine is well reduced. Spoon alittle over each slice before serving.

Serve with small spoons as a sweet mouthful with coffee."

Taken from The Medieval Cookbook by Maggie Black, British Museum Press, c. 1992.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Great Row

Spin wrote a post about feigning interest in subjects to attract male attention. It reminded me of the one arguement my beloved Vi and I have ever had.

Back when we were undergrads together in the warm, wet womb of academia, Vi and I were attached at the hip. We became instant best friends the night we met, and were inseparable from tht point on. (How we met is a cute story -- one of my favs, actually -- I'll tell it you another time.) We were so close, and people were so accustomed to seeing us together that a significant portion of the campus thought we were a lesbian couple.

(I should note that I also spent a great deal of time with Vi's boyf at the time, now hubby, Wally, and that several people thought Wally and I were a couple. There was also a contingent that saw how close the three of us were and had us pegged for a committed threesome. We neither confirmed nor denied anything. It's fun to keep people guessing.)

It didn't help our image that I spent weeknights in her bed (between Wally's weekend visits), we went to the gym together, ate every single meal together, studied together in the evening, and Vi even used to come to my botany seminars after our workouts, where she would happily snuggle up to my shoulder and doze in the dim room. The Botany Dept., to their vast credit, was not bothered by this. (They thought we were cute.)

I remember the one time I didn't eat a meal with Vi: She was late getting back from rehearsal (music major -- plays every instrument in the orchestra), and I was hungry, so I left her a note saying i'd gone ahead and would see her in the caffeteria whenever she got there. When she showed up she was in tears and wouldn't speak to me. After an hour I finally got her to tell me what was upsetting her, and I was stunned that it was because I had left w/o her for dinner. I enjoyed our mealtimes tremdously, but I had no idea it meant so much to her. I never went to dinner without her after that.

In church I sang in the choir (hell, most weeks i was the choir) and she played her violin. We always sat together. We even went to confession together. Everyone treated us as a couple, even though our relationship was never sexual, and she had a serious boyfriend. Where one of us was, the other was surely near at hand, and the whole College knew it and smiled on it.

We lived in the substance-free dorm in college, which meant no alcohol, drugs, or even tobacco were allowed in the building at any time. It was its own little universe, and we loved it. The dorm held 60 people on three, coed floors. (Bathrooms were coed as well, which made for some interesting stories.) The corridor on each floor was dead straight, with doors up and down on both sides, stairwells at the ends. The hallways were wide and high-ceilinged, with terrazzo floors and hard plaster walls. (read: NO sound absorption.) Every little noise echoed and reverberated for hours. You could drop a quarter and come back after class to still hear the ringing noise gently vibrating the air.

It was in this context -- best friends living next door to one another in a building that concealed nothing -- that Vi and I had our Great Row.

It was the fall semester of my sophomore year. I had just broken up with my godawful first boyfriend. I was seriously depressed, both my grandparents had just died, and I was failing two classes: cell biology and organic chemistry. I had never failed anything before in my life, and this was far worse than breaking up with the idiot who later became known as The Official Dickhead of the New Millenium.

It was winter, which in southeastern Connecticut means it's perpetually dark, 40 degrees F, and raining. (A lot like Manchester, actually.) This wasn't helping my state of mind.

It was late afternoon, Vi and I had finished with classes, labs, and rehearsals for the day. I came back to my room, dumped my bag and coat, and went next door to bitch about my day and get a little sympathy. (This was a regular ritual with us. We vented to one another, purged our systems, and were thereby fit to face the rest of polite society.)

I walked in Vi's room (we were way past knocking), and started right in. I was whining about orgo (organic chemistry) again. This was a recurring theme. I remember saying something along the lines of "It's not that I resent the insane level of work necessary to understand this crap. What I resent is having to spend so much effort learning a subject I'm not even remotely interested in."

And that's what started it.

Sounds like a pretty normal, college student whine, doesn't it? I bet most of you have said something similar at one point or another. "I'm just not willing to spend so much effort on something that interests me so little." The Pirate feels this way about cooking. Everyone has things they're not interested in, right? Wrong.

Not Vi. She's interested in everything. Everything. Do you grasp the meaning of "everything?" There is nothing that someone could offer to teach her that she would decline. There is not one single piece of knowledge that she would just as soon not bother with, thank you very much. There nothing she is not interested in knowing, regardless of the effort involved. And that's what she tore into me about.

She went off on a tirade about "How can you possibly not want to learn something???" She yelled at me. I yelled back "because it's fucking boring and i don't give a fucking shit." The door was open. Every syllable was carried down the hall and up the stairwell for every resident of the dorm to hear. We screamed. we shouted. we went at each other like starving heyienas on a rotting carcass.

Now, I am not a small woman, and I've got the lungs of a rower and (even more impressively) a marching-band trombonist. (That takes some serious wind, y'all.) And Vi? Let's just say that when she's riled she makes me look like a chiwawa barking at a rampaging grizzly.

I don't know how long we were at it. In retrospect there was a lot more going on that the issue being (loosely) debated. It was clearly more about tension and stress relief on both sides, but we didn't know that at the time. I thought Vi was being a snotty, condescending bitch, and she thought I had become the personification of willing ignorance, the most heinous of all sins.

Eventually we exhausted our fuel and the fire burned itself out. We stood there, blinking dumbly at one another, and then reached forward and threw our arms around one another, crying "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to yell! Please forgive me, I love you so much!" We sank to the floor, still hugging each other and dripping tears and snot on each other's shoulders, simultaneously laughing at our own absurdity.

After a time I said, "I'm starved; let's get dinner."

"Definately. Dining Hall X or Y?"

"X. Gimme a sec to get my coat."

And that was it. We zipped up to face the bleak December and walked out the door. We never did resolve the debate.

Later on after dinner we were sitting on Vi's bed crocheting Christmas gifts, as was our habit, when there was a soft knock on the door (which propped open). SJ, who lived right across the hall, said (very timidly), "Are you guys ok?"

"Yeah," we replied, confused. "Why do you ask?"

"Um, well, because I, we, that is, everyone heard shouting earlier, and we've never heard either of you shout before, and we couldn't imagine what could make you shout at each other. Em said to me, 'If CB and Vi are fighting, it must mean the apocolypse. Only the end of the world could do that.' We're really worried about you."

That was when it dawned on us how public our row had been. Truly until that moment we had no idea. And we were stunned and touched to learn that the power of our friendship was viewed with such admiration that nothing short of the Day of Judgement could tear us asunder.

That arguement is one of my fondest memories of Vi. It took me years to appreciate that she taught me an invaluable lesson that night, one drastically changed the way I view the world and my place in it. In short, I came to see that she was right, that there is nothing in this world that is not worth knowing, not worth the effort of learning. Sadly, the sum total of human knowledge being as vast as it is, it is not physically possible to know all there is to know, so life is one big prioritizing game.

I genuinely wish I could learn everything. I wish I could learn all the songs by all the bands that ever struck a chord. I wish I could learn all the stars in the sky, what's unique about each one, about all the galaxies, comets, planets, moons, constellations, nebulae, black holes, dark matter, and cosmic strings. I wish I would play every instrument, know every plant in every forest, the words to every poem, the life cycle of every animal. I wish I knew how every war was fought and lost and why and by whom, who ruled what kingdoms when, how merchant trade routes worked, all the organs of the human body and their functions, when the last dodo died, who shot JR, JFK, and where Jimmy Hoffa is buried. I even wish I knew how organic chemistry works.

For me, the most valuable thing about my friends is what I've learned from them. I never knew about bee-keeping until I met Wally. I had no idea about cricket until I met the Pirate. I had never listened to Iron Maiden until I met the Hairy Man. I couldn't play the piano until my Gentleman friend from Manchester began teaching me. I didn't know how to recognize and examine my own assumptions until Rich challenged them. In that spirit, Vi is the most important and special friend I've ever had, because she's the friend who taught me how to learn.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Um, ok then

Definately the first time in my life I've ever been described as a "hipster."
I'm not even sure what that term means.
I think the bits about "You're unusual and emotional" and the stuff that comes after that is accurate enough, though.
Except maybe the bit about how easy it is to seduce me. That makes me sound, well, easy.
I'm not easy, am I?
Or do they mean it's easy for me to seduce others? Ha! If only they knew...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas quiz

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?

yes please. with cinamon and whipped cream. and mulled wine and hot apple cider.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?

Santa sub-contracts the work out to the elves known as 'mom' and 'dad.'

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?

Colored on tree, white on house. NOTHING BLIKNING. It's a holiday, not a f*&#ing carnival.

4.Do you hang mistletoe?

Usually, but no one ever seems to pay much attention to it.

5. When do you put your decorations up?

Usually around the 2nd sunday of Advent.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?

Hmm. That's a tie between the gallumbki (we're Polish. we eat cabbage rolls on Christmas. Deal with it), the kielbasa (again, we're Polish), the pierogi (are you noticing a pattern here?), the kapusta (ditto), the pumpkin bread (finally - something normal!), and all the other stuff.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child?

To be honest, Christmases are loads better now than they were when I was a kid. Mostly this is because my grandparents are dead and therefore not here to spend the entire holiday argueing with each other and informing the rest of us of our rampant inadequacy.

I do remember the year that my family got our first VCR. It was a gift from the family to the family because that single purchase blew my parents' entire Christmas budget. (Times were tight back then.) The only other thing under the tree was the complete Star Wars trilogy on VHS. We hooked up the VCR and spent Christmas Day glued to the TV watching all three Star Wars movies and eating candy from our stockings. Best Christmas ever. We had so much fun (for the first time ever) that we declared it a tradition and have done it every year since. Other families play games and spend "quality time" together. We eat junk food and argue over whether Han Solo or Luke Skywalker is cuter. I love my family so much.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

Honestly, I never really believed in Santa. I always thought it was a bit of a stretch, so I wasn't surprised when one year, I think I was about 7, I saw some toys in my parents' closet before Christmas, and they wound up under the tree on Christmas morning with 'From Santa' tags. One year my older brother told me there was no Santa, and my mom was furious, but I didn't care because I already knew.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

Actually, we open all of the ones from mere mortals on Christmas Eve. The only gifts we open on Christmas day are the ones from Santa. (And yes, my brother and I still get gifts from Santa. Until we have our own kids we are still the babies in the family, so we still get the Santa pressies.)

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?

With colored lights, strings of popcorn and cranberries, and all the rediculous, miscelaneous ornaments my brother and i made as kids. It's totally haphazard and it always looks great.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?

Love it love it love it love it love it. But that's because I'm the one in the family who still likes to play in it: skiing, sledding, anatomically correct snow-couples doing rude things, snow angels, forts, fights, driving like a maniac (in empty parking lots), etc. oh, yeah.

12. Can you ice skate?

Reasonably well. I'm out of practice, though. It's been a while since the ponds around my parents' house were solid enough for skating on the rare occasions I've been home.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?

My cat, Noelle, the Christmas kitty. May she rest in peace.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?

Relaxing. I work like a dog the rest of the year, and the Christmas holiday is the only real vacation I get.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?

Hmm. That would either be pumpkin pie, gingerbread, Christmas cookies, cheesecake thingys, buckeyes, or hummers.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?

That's a tie between question 7 and the Advent Concert at my old church. On the first Sunday of Advent my choir hosts a concert and carol sing-a-long for the whole city. It's the biggest church in town (giant romanesque thing that seats about 2000 people) with a huge organ and great acoustics. We invite about a dozen choirs, who each sing 2 non-traditional songs. Between each choirs performance the whole audience joins in singing the well-known carols, and at the end all the choirs come on stage and sing the 'Hallelujia Chorus' from Handel's Messiah together. With the organ and the brass accompaniement it's absolutely spectacular.

17. What tops your tree?

A star. Usually something glitzy and tacky that my dad has picked up from the local Rite Aid.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?

Giving. Definately giving. I don't remember half the stuff I've got over the years, but I usually make all my gifts and I can tell you everything I've given to each of my family members since I was about 12.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?

See this post from last year.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yummy?

Meh. They're ok if you stick them in a glass of hot chocolate and let them melt, but otherwise they don't do a whole lot for me.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Giggety giggety giggety, all riiiiiiiiight

So we're lying together *after,* enjoying a post-coital glow that makes Chernobyl look like a smashed lightning bug's ass on a windshield, and this is what I hear. Giggity yourself, sweety.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Up to my ass in aligators

Busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.
Nervous as a two-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
Dizzier (sp?) than a termite in a wooden yo-yo.
Loads of work to do before the hols, not nearly enough time to do it. Probably not much blogging for the next couple days. I'm coping like a chicken in a tornado.

X-mas vaca begins: Tuesday 19 December. Excited as a puppy with two peters.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Stuff I've learned from men

(Now new and imporved!)

This is a great little idea from Patroclus. Thus, I'm stealing it.

What I can't decide is should I include all the things I've learned from men in general (not counting teachers and profs, obv.), or just boyfriends? The latter would be a significantly shorter list. So I guess I'll start with that and we'll see where I get to. I can always add stuff from superfluous men* later.

from the first bf, my freshman year of college, i learned:
  • the naming protocol of organic molecules
  • the easiest way to put pillow cases on really turgid pillows
  • how not to eat at the dinner table
  • how not to practice good personal hygeine
  • how not to treat a girlfriend
  • how to screw up a clarinet solo in front of 1000 people
  • the most effective and publicly humiliating way to break up with an asshole
moving on to bf #2, Hairy Man, we have:
  • how to make really good curry
  • how to shag
  • how to cook while camping out
  • an appreciation of ACDC
  • how to treat a girlfriend well
  • a deeper level of guilt
is it to soon to do the Pirate? I don't think so. That gives us:
  • general stuff about cricket
  • stuff about archery (did I mention he's Robin Hood? yep. eat yer heart out.)
  • how not to throw like a girl and bowl a cricket ball properly
  • all kinds of stuff about boats that i'll never be able to remember
  • several really crass (and really funny) swear words and euphamisms
  • how to dance
  • how to accept gifts
  • how to be free
  • what it feels like to be loved
  • UPDATE: how to operate my eyeballs independently. (There's a skill every gal needs.)

What have you learned from your boy/girlfriends? Tagging: everyone! Hop to it.

*I'm giving myself 5 bonus XP for using the phrase "superfluous men."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Yet another perfect weekend

Friday night. Another black tie ball. This was a Christmas thing with the Pirate's work people. As is every evening with him, it was lovely. Not because the food was great, or because the bar was free, or because my date is better looking than 007 himself, but because I got to spend it with the most wonderful man on Earth. When we danced he held me just like he did on our first date, way back when, and I'm as sure now as I was that night that his are the only arms I ever want around me. But for all that, the best part wasn't the dancing or the wine or the things he whispered to me under the mirror ball. It was his boss.

I was sat across from his boss during dinner. He rememberd me from the only other time we'd met, at the Summer Ball. (Damnit, I knew I should have worn a different dress). He said all the usual small-talk stuff (nice to see you again, you look lovely, etc.), and then he said something that really stunned me. He said, "I'm sorry I had to send your man away. I know you two had only just met, and then I took him away for 3 months. It's a hard thing to love a pirate. I'm sorry. I wish I didn't have to do it." I got rather choked up. It was nice to know that his boss is so humane and sensitive to the needs of his employees and their families, but it was also a chilling reminder that this fall will not be the last time he's sent out. It is indeed a hard thing to fall in love with a pirate.

Saturday, after a long and lazy lie-in, we decided to drive down to Salisbury. I'd never seen the cathedral there, and I'd always wanted to. We got in the car, put on Classic FM, and hit the road, winding our way through country lanes and taking ever long and scenic detour we could find. The cathdral is stunning, the most beautiful I've yet seen. (Probably because it's one of the few that was built in a relatively short period of time and all to one master plan, unlike most other cathedrals which took 600+ years to complete and are a patchwork hodgepodge of architectural fads.)

We wandered the isles and transepts, reading enscriptions on various tombstones, staring in awe at the medieval stained glass windows. We stood under the pillars supporting the spire (tallest in England) and saw how they've bowed with the years. We went to the chapter house and spent 20 minutes staring at one of the only 4 (and most perfectly preserved) surviving original copies of the Magna Carta. Magnificent!

We wanted to stay for the candlelight Advent procession, but it didn't begin until 7 pm, so we left and had an early dinner in a fantastic Italian restaurant (my red pesto Angus beef burger was scrumptious), and then wandered around the old city of Salisbury, poking around the shops and markets until they began to close up for the evening. And I caught him looking in a few jewelers' windows.

Then time to go home, stop in Tesco's on the way to pick up some groceries, and toddle back. After all the glitz and glamor of the past couple weekends it was so nice to do plain, normal things. To go grocery shopping, come home and fold the laundry, cook together. I enjoy the fancy parties, the posh restaurants, but what I love most is to do all the normal things in life, only do them with him.

I'm so stupidly in love. If he doesn't propose soon I swear my head will explode.

Today I spent the afternoon marking my students' essays. Red Pen of DEATH. Oh yeah.

And if you want to see a photo of Prince Harry with a boner, click here. Courtesy of Frobisher.