27 April, 2008

a whirlwind of activity (and a great new recipe)

Before I tell you about all our adventures lately, I must report that my crush on Richard Armitage proceeds along quite a healthy path: aided and abetted by the lovely people at Richard Armitage Online, who provided this gorgeous photograph. I am well on my way to watching every single thing he's ever been recorded doing, and I'm not even close to tired of him yet. Nice Avery and John to put up with watching the entire series 1 and 2 of "Robin Hood" with me: good fun! What makes a great crush actor, you ask? Well, for me, it's outstanding smouldering good dark looks, an ability to pay a lot of different roles with convincing emotion, and most important, a dangerous edge. A sense that just around the corner, in this character's life, total lack of control could result. Richard fulfills all in spades, always a sort of "I know I'm bad, but with your love I could redeem myself." Having had a completely uneventful boyfriend life myself, beginning and ending with a practically perfect husband, it's natural I should go down these cumbersome emotional roads in fiction. "North and South" is simply beautiful, and I do think you'd thank me if you went out and rented the DVD. Save it for a rainy day!

However, real life does tend to make demands upon one's time, and I have found myself actually living, in addition to fantasising, so I suppose it's a good balance. On Wednesday we go to the final inventory of the house! They make a note of the state that every inch of the place is in before we get there, the better to charge us against our security deposit when we eventually move out, leaving holes in the wall, etc. We in turn get to make sure that the very nice landlady has done all the small things she promised: painting all the walls white, getting the place cleaned, checking on the viability of the various Victorian fireplaces: does the gas work, is the flue clear? She was also planning to wash down the garden paving stones thoroughly and I forget what all else. So as of Wednesday we'll have a really good sense of the future in this house. Which is good because we've been doing some desultory but exciting imaginary furniture shopping. Not imaginary furniture, you understand, but furniture that we've bought in only an imaginary way so far, not wanting to jinx the handover of the keys. But more on furniture shopping later.

After several days last week of absolutely nothing interesting happening, more interesting, that is, than cleaning closets, suddenly on Thursday everything hotted up. My new writing course began! I was a bit on pins and needles, because I had roped two of my good friends into taking it with me, and suddenly panicked: what if they hated it and blamed me? Or were (highly unlikely) unsupportive classmates and my old classmates and tutor blamed me? Plenty of blame to go around, as you see. Thankfully, none of these scenarios came to pass. The class was fabulous: readings by the two most talented (I think) members, lots of energy, the tutor seemed motivated and happy. Good all the way round!

Listen, the title of this post is very misleading: I really will tell you about all the stuff we've been doing, tomorrow, I hope (a festival, a play, a fair! and a great recipe to go with this one below). I just wanted to check in and let you know all is well. But for now, I simply must go help Avery finish packing for her week-long trip to Normandy tomorrow. We must have her at school at 4:30 a.m.! I am in a fever of anxiety that the coach not crash on the way, the ferry not sink, and that I not expire from missing her too much. Let me leave you with the perfect comfort dish, should you need one. You must have a cast-iron casserole with a heavy lid. And afterward, simply remove the rest of the meat, throw the whole lot, carcass, extra veg, juice, everything, into a saucepan, cover with water and simmer for a couple of hours, then strain, throw the chicken bits in, and you've got the BEST chicken soup you will ever, ever eat. It can cure anything. Even, MAYBE, missing your little girl.

Slow-Braised Whole Chicken With Root Vegetables
(serves four for dinner, then the rest for soup)

1 medium whole chicken
4 parsnips, sliced in 2-inch bits
4 carrots, sliced the same
2 onions, cut in eighths
6 stalks celery, cut in 2-inch bits
2 handsful button mushrooms, cut in half
6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsps butter
3 stems fresh thyme
sprinkle sea salt and fresh black pepper

Lay the chicken in the pot and arrange the vegetables all around, then sprinkle the garlic over them. Pour the wine and stock over the chicken, and smear the butter over the chicken, and lay the thyme on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover.

Cook in a medium oven (350 fahrenheit, 180-ish celsius) for at least 2 1/2 hours. Your entire HOUSE will fill with the scent and comfort of this dish. Enjoy, and say a quick prayer for Avery's safety tomorrow!


Caz said...

How lovely that you have discovered Richard Armitage. I found him via North & South too when it was originally shown on the BBC and have made many new friends (online and personally) via him. Btw, do you know he is to be in the next series of Spooks too?

I must confess I didnt actually watch much of the first series of Robin Hood, giving up after the first few episodes for just the reasons you mentioned and my son (the original target audience I assume) is a Dr Who man. However I caught up again with Series 2 and I know exactly what you mean about his "badness".

Oh and if you think the dvd of North & South is marvellous, then you'll love the book too - it is sublime. In fact anything by Elizabeth Gaskell is rather wonderful I find - I'm currently rediscovering Wives & Daughters .. bliss!

I'm a very busy Grandma this week so your chicken recipe sounds just the thing I can do with a minimum effort, yet convince the hungry hordes that Ive been slaving away all day simply for their delectation LOL!!

Take care

Kristen In London said...

Did I know Richard was coming to Spooks?? Have I been able to think of anything else, Caz? No! I've been sitting here at my desk writing up homework for my next class, but secretly looking at clips from RH on the Armitage Army site!

I loved the "North and South" book. I'll have a look for Wives and Daughters too. Is there a part I can picture Richard playing? I'm sorely tempted to get one of the RH novels that he's recorded on CD, just for the velvety voice.

Glad the chicken dish will work for you! Let me know how it turns out.