29 December, 2007

Out and about between Christmas and New Year

Yesterday we took the train out from Cambridge, two stops to the east to the delightful market town of Bury St. Edmunds. As you can see from the photo, we spent some time looking over the famous Abbey ruins. Before this, Lisa bought me a new overcoat, as a belated Christmas present, at a gentlemen's outfitters in the town. We also checked out a couple of cookware shops in the town centre. Before heading for home, we called in for a couple of beers at the Grapes, a pleasant and welcoming pub.

Two days earlier (that's Boxing Day, a.k.a. the "Feast of Stephen") we spent the afternoon walking along the river Cam. We headed north on the west bank from Water Lane and walked up as far as Baits Bite Lock where we crossed over and made our way back south as far as Fen Ditton. By then we were ready for a rest and so sought out a pub. We wound up in the Blue Lion which seemed like a nice place in spite of initially serving us two undrinkably sour pints. Suitably refreshed after an hour or so, we continued home.

23 December, 2007

On the Threshold

Phew! It's finally up and decorated. Allow me to introduce El Gordo: Steve & Lisa's Christmas Tree 2007. He's a big boy (hence the name) so we have to hope he won't encroach too severely on the kitchen door. Regardless, he's a big part of the Christmas atmosphere that I aim to (re)create each year. Along with "paper chains" (made of metal foil these days), lights in the window, the crib/creche and other decorations. This year (as last) glass tree ornaments have been held back for fear of the havoc Robbie might wreak but our annual special ornament has pride of place, as ever.

As anticipated last time out, on Wednesday evening we had a wonderful time at the Pharmacology Christmas Party in the great hall at Clare College. A champagne reception was followed by a sit-down dinner of smoked salmon terrine followed by honey glazed duck breast in a peach sauce and then another terrine, this time of chocolate and Cointreau. You'd better believe it tasted as good as it sounds! The evening was rounded off in the College cellars with music and dancing until the wee small hours. What better way to confirm that the season of celebration is well and truly under way!

17 December, 2007

Christmas starts here!

Friday marked the start of the Christmas season. Lisa was invited to join the rest of the lab where she worked until this summer as they marked the end of the year with a meal in the Riverside restaurant at the University Centre (or "Grad. Pad" as many of us persist in calling it). As often in such circumatsnces, I tagged along too. The relaxed atmosphere suited the occasion perfectly and the food was much better than I'd had there before. A good (but not stupid) time was had by all.

It says much about the current morale in my own place of work that we'll have no such meal this year, for the first time since I started working there. To compensate, we have a very special Christmas meal to look forward to next week: a party at Clare College organised by Lisa's current Department. More about that, I'm sure, in a future posting.

Saturday was Robbie's first trip back to the vet's in almost a year, to get his vaccination boosters and an anti-flea shot. Later the same day we brought home this year's Christmas tree from the local greengrocer's. For the time being it's parked out in the garden but yours truly has been nominated to get it set up in the house so digits will need to be extracted in the week ahead!

03 December, 2007

Stew and Stewarding

Lisa beat me to the punch in blogging yesterday's dinner: a Greek-style octopus stew inspired in no small measure by a dish we enjoyed immensely when we lunched at Taverna Eraina back in August. Read her entry on A Cook's Journal for the details but I have to say that, this time, we really did crack it and achieve the combination of deep, dark flavour and juicy tenderness that (for us) is the essence of this dish. Our friends from London, the ones we expected to be entertaining this weekend and who failed to show up, missed out on a treat and I capitalised by taking the left overs into work for lunch.

On Saturday, Lisa and I were once again stewarding at the Mill Road Winter Fair. This annual event, now in its third year, celebrates the incredible diversity of this corner of Cambridge with businesses and community groups taking the opportunity to present themselves to the ever-increasing numbers of attendees. Lisa and I love living in this area and feel we benefit tremendously from its multi-cultural and local community focussed character, so the least we can do is give up a few hours each December to stand on a freezing street corner in a Hi-Viz vest handing out leaflets and telling folks where the Star Wars Imperial Stormtroopers may be found (I kid you not!). This year, our stint on duty was relatively early in the day so we had time after knocking-off to wander the length of Mill Road and, in particular, enjoy the open studio at the Cemetery Lodge, the Salsa Drummers performing in front of the swimming pool and (most deeply affecting of all) the guided tour of the local Mosque. In the difficult, dark depths of Winter, a little determined effort netted us a sparkling catch of jewel-bright memories. At this time of year that's hugely helpful, like a hill-top cairn in the mist.