14 April, 2008

finally: a new crush!

Just what every girl needs to get her mojo back: yes, I'm back in crush world. I've survived Matthew Macfadyen, James MacAvoy and Edward Petherbridge, and they will all remain dear to my heart, but... it's time for Richard Armitage. Do you get the smouldering thing? OK, he's dressed in a leather suit for "Robin Hood," but I couldn't download the photograph of him as John Thornton in the BBC drama "North and South" which has led to my succumbing to his charms. This lovely photograph is from a great website called "The Stage News," a great gossipy site perfect for anyone who wants to keep up to date on what's coming onscreen and stage. We have been watching "North and South" lately and just finished it last night: at times a bit too girly for John and at times a bit too grisly for me, so I suppose it's the perfect date-mini-series. He positively towers over the storyline, and like all my favourite actors, can do more by lifting his eyes than most can do with an entire set of body language tips. He's about to join "Spooks" next autumn, which will offer a tremendous lift to that programme and help them survive the inevitable departure of Rupert Penry-Jones, also a leading man not to be sneezed at, but blonde? Doesn't do it for me. Give me the brooding dark leading man every time. Poor John, having to put up with all this. At least he's dark, if not the least brooding, smouldering person on earth. Jolly and indomitable, yes. Heathcliff, no.

Let's see, what have I been up to? Easter break is finally over, having spanned three weeks and far too much time on our hands. Although I argue that Avery is still recovering from exam and school acceptance angst, and so probably some down time accomplishing absolutely nothing is no bad thing. The horses from the stable are still down in Surrey for their spring break, so at least that part of our routine has not got back to normal, but there's been ice skating, time to see friends, and...cooking. I have a new fabulous salmon recipe to tell you about, plus I cannot burble on too enthusiastically about the easy-peasy cheesy spinach I raved about recently. And they're nice together.

Salmon with White Wine and Mushrooms
(serves three)

3 salmon fillets, skinless and boneless
2 tbsps butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
two handfuls button mushrooms, sliced (you could go more exotic)
good splash white wine
drizzle of cream
sprinkle of dried thyme leaves
salt and fresh black pepper to taste

So all you do it: melt the butter in a large skillet and sizzle the garlic gently till soft, then add the mushrooms and toss around till coated in butter. Move them to the sides of the skillet and place the salmon fillets in the skillet. Pour the splash of white wine around them and drizzle the cream on top of them, sprinkle with thyme. Cook over medium heat until the salmon is no longer bright pink but rather an opaque pink: perhaps 3 minutes? All this while, spoon the mushroom sauce of the fillets. Now turn them over and turn off the heat. Prepare the rest of your dinner and at the last minute, heat the fillets through again. Season as you like. Done.


The beauty of this dish are many-fold. Salmon is good for you. This method cooks it just through, but it's super moist and tender from simply lying in the hot skillet. Dry salmon is terrible, and this is not dry. Second, it's flexible about time, so you can mash your potatoes and steam your Chantenay carrots. And just the drizzle of cream makes it luxurious, but it's not over the top. The salmon actually seems to absorb the sauce, and becomes infused with it. Lovely.

Well, John and I have decided to go legal and get our driving licenses. Yep, you can all report us, we've been driving with US licenses. So we actually became motivated to study the Highway Code, then go online for practice tests, which are a huge source of amusement for us. "You have had an upsetting argument with a friend, and now you must drive home. Which of the following should you do before getting behind the wheel: 1) have a cigarette, 2) have a quick alcoholic drink to calm your nerves, 3) take a deep breath, or 4) wait until you have calmed down before driving." I love it! And how about, "You have come upon the scene of an accident involving a motorcyclist. You should not remove the helmet because 1) his head could get cold, 2) you could scratch the helmet, 3) the helmet could roll away, or 4) you could exacerbate head injuries."

So far we're doing really well, so now we can schedule an official theory exam, and then an official practical exam. I really can't say that I'm enthusiastic about driving in London, always feeling much more defensive than I used to in New York, as if anything dreadful were just about to happen to me. But it's not intelligent to live in a town where you cannot drive, so drive I shall.

Oh! I can't believe I got this far without telling you: we have a house! Just a rental, with this crazy market, but it's a lovely, simple Victorian abode in a nice street, with a fairly wonderful kitchen, at least two working gas fireplaces, and two little rooms for Avery and her library (not sure which takes up more room) at the top of the house. The views from the top are just like watching Mary Poppins: all uneven roofs and chimneys and slate. And it has a paved garden with nice climbing things on the walls (you can tell I'm a real horticulturist: "climbing things.") and get this: a cat hole cut in the wall to let the cat out into the garden. But I'm sorry: none of my cats will fit through it! Wimsey couldn't even get his HEAD in that hole.

So we'll move in the middle of next month sometime. A very nice removal man came last week to look over all our possessions, make enigmatic notes, ask us if there's anything we feel "especially strongly" about. That question always makes me nervous: why aren't they going to pay attention to EVERYTHING? Why must I triage my belongings? I'm casting an eye over the two enormous piles of photograph albums, and thinking, "Please don't lose those." Everything else could be replaced, but not those. Not to mention all the tubes of glue stick I've invested.

Listen, I must go start dinner. Avery and John have planted themselves in my kitchen every dinner prep time lately, with a chess board between them and an air of massive competition in the air. They have 50 pounds going that Avery will never beat John, so this is serious business. I thought John summed up his entire approach to life when he told her, after one spectacularly bad move, "Avery, you can't move your pieces for their own sake. You've got to move your pieces in order to smash the competition before he gets YOU. Always be looking for what he has planned for you, not what you have planned for your pieces." Wise advice!

Thank you all for your patience waiting for me to get my blogging mojo back: it feels so nice to type! And I have appreciated all your kind words so very much. Back to normal!


Anonymous said...

Whew. I feel better. But please post photos of the new house (and especially the CAT HOLE!) ASAP!


Kristen In London said...

I know, I must get a photo. Didn't take one of the cat hole yet, however.

Is there any way, now that we are such an intimate group, of making comments not "anonymous"? Or is that logistically impossible or undesirable?

Shelley said...

A Cat Hole!! Oh, I can't wait for the post on that one!!

A new house in the spirit of Mary Poppins...how delightful. Congratulations!!


She's back, she's back!!!!!!

Was that over the top?? ;o)

Bonnie said...

Welcome Back... I've been waiting for you, I was so glad to see an update today. Bonnie

Patti said...

Welcome back Kristen! We have missed you.

Mazel tov on your new house! It sounds just lovely.
Good luck with the move. Packing? feh! Though, a new place to live makes it worth the trouble.
But I think I might take the photo albums over personally, instead of trusting them to the movers.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the house. The house and garden sound lovely. Photos yes, please.

Welcome back.

Rosemary said...

The photo albums--hand carry them!


Kristen In London said...

Oh, I know, packing is just going to be awful! I think there will be over 70 boxes of books. And I do think there's something to be said for loading up the Mini Cooper with the photo albums, thanks everyone!

The cat hole, the cat hole. We've got to sign the house contract before I can get back in and take photos, but rest assured that's first on my list. My poor, fat cats.

Burniston said...

Congratulations! On both the new home and the new crush!

OlimpiaR said...

Congratulations on your new home. Can't wait to see pictures.

min said...

I am so happy to see you blogging again! Question for you--we love salmon but I find there is such a strong fish smell when I cook it that sticks around, even when I am sure the salmon is very fresh. I avoid cooking it very often because of this. Anyway to avoid this?

jane said...

I am so happy to see you back, Kristen!

The salmon sounds divine. I know what min means about the smell though, especially if I forget to put my extractor fan on full blast! I think the trick is to put it on *before* you start to smell the house out!

Speaking of houses - it sounds divine! Which area will you be moving to? We must have photos before too long! What adventures, what adventures.

Kristen In London said...

That's interesting, Min and Jane, about the salmon smell. I just had lunch with a friend who cooked salmon last night and smelled it all night long from her bedroom! I haven't noticed a problem, but I do have a mighty extractor fan. I also think that other aromas like the garlic and thyme in this dish, I smell other things just as much. I do notice a problem when I fry crabcakes.

Update on the Cat Hole: the landlady has offered that we can enlarge it!! Nothing like the British on cats!

Jack said...

Greta to see you back again Kristen. I'm definately trying the salmon dish, yum yum. How about some pictures of your dishes. Mind you, I guess you won't want to be doing that just before you eat.

Jack said...

Doh! Greta? ..Great (of course)

Caz said...

Oh it is SO lovely to have you back Kristen, and so lovely to be able to join in too.

Many congratulations on finding a house. It looks divine. I know exactly what you mean about the horrors of a move though. We only moved here three and a half years ago but I couldnt face it again. Luckily we are able to extend so the builders move in later this year!!!

On cooking smells - I also have a great extractor fan but as our house is open plan I find last night's curry very often hits me the next morning when I open the door. Whilst cooking I routinely burn something called a Chef's Candle by Price's - you can get them from John Lewis in small tins, larger glass votives and a smaller tea light size too. They contain amongst other things basil, patchouli (takes me right back to my youth!) and geranium. All together you get a faintly, not unpleasant, herbal odour in the air that really does take care of most of those nasty stale odours. Oh and IKEA lavender candles are rather pleasant too - especially effective when you've been decorating. :)