Thursday, July 22, 2010

All we do is eat!

So - meals at Mansfield College are serious business.

Every day, breakfast is as large as you want it to be. We begin with juice, fresh toast (in little toast carriers) with jam, honey, nutella, or Marmite (shudder) while you wait for your cooked breakfast. There are also cereals (USA favorites and UK home team players like Wheatabix).

Fruit? Yes. Cheese and smoked salmon? Yes.

Cooked breakfast includes - eggs fried or scrambled, beans, tomato, hash browns, pork, sausage, bacon, and mushrooms. Mix and match.

Coffee or tea - and you are ready to face the day.

Dinner has been three or four courses depending on how you count them.
Sunday night:
Caprese salad, rolls and butter
Roast chicken with a timbale of stuffing, bacon wrapped sausage, haricort vert, roasted potatoes, and carrots.
Chocolate coated caramel ice cream.
Coffee and chocolates

Melon and prosciutto, rolls and butter
Poached chicken breast with tarragon sauce, roasted potatoes, green vegetable, and carrots
Strawberry Shortcake (made with shortbread).
Coffee and chocolates

Avocado and baby shrimp in a lemon vinaigrette, rolls and butter
Lamb cutlet with a mint sauce, roasted diced potatoes, leek gratin, and sauteed courgettes (zucchini)
Creme brulee
Coffee and chocolates

Butternut squash soup, rolls and butter
Chicken Kiev, roasted potatoes, corn on the cob, carrots
Fresh fruit compote with honey cream and a madeleine
Coffee and chocolates

Hummus and pita
Poached salmon with hollandaise, boiled potatoes, Haricort vert, steamed broccoli
Pear tart
Coffee and chocolates

I will complete this report from the front lines of overeating as meals are served. - and so...

Creepy shirred egg with spinach and cheese - way too glisten-y uncooked for me. The first "Ew, what is that?" food
Beefsteak with a green peppercorn sauce, zucchini, boiled potatoes, and broccoli/cauliflower medley - our first overcooked vegetables
Peach fool
Coffee and chocolates

The only bad meal of the entire week
This was a formal meal with menus on the table. We began with a sparkling wine made delicious with a splash of elderflower cordial.
I've forgotten the first course (probably the fault of the delicious wine and elderflower mixture. Whatever - it was not memorable.)
Herb encrusted lamb loin (over cooked and unassailable given the cutlery at hand), Roasted root vegetables - potatoes, parsnip, turnip, and carrot, sauteed sugar snap peas
Chocolate tart (with a cement tart shell)
Coffee and Chocolates

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Is it farther to Boston or by bus?

It was good to not be in Manchester last night. Live American Idol tour concert 1 block from the hotel AND the Step Up 2 Dance Tour finals (Olympic Miss Dance finals) began today at the same hotel/conference center we were at. Abandon ship!

There are some trips that I am happy to not be anywhere near the driver or navi-guesser's seat. Yesterday's trip to Boston was one of those.

Traffic. Fog. Rain. Lots of course corrections. No thanks, I'm happy to let the driver drive.

In Boston we went to Fablevision studios. Fablevision is an animation software company founded by the children's book author and illustrator Peter Reynolds. We enjoyed their hospitality and I was intrigued by the layout of the room. Desks around the periphery, facing out, with an oval table in the middle of the space. I can see how this would allow for fluid collaboration but also the ability to work by oneself if that was what was needed. The room was full of toys, and it had lots of elements of theater (a curtain), stories and storytelling, and play. They had a fabulous pink sparkly beauty-parlor hood dryer that was just - did I mention - FABULOUS. Must get one for the room.

After Fablevision, four of us walked along the wharf to the North End. There was a powerboat there that was huge but the most impressive vessel in the channel was a schooner, tons of varnished teak, roller furlings, HUGE - my heart got all weirdly fluttery. We couldn't see her name, and she had a party on board that night, but my oh my, some serious boat there.

We had dinner a Piccola Venezia in the North End (I could finish about half of the portion they served) and had enough time before 11:00 to walk through Haymarket, show Stephanie the Union Oyster House and the Bell in Hand and take our time through the Boston Holocast Memorial - one of the most effective and affecting pieces of public art and memorial I have every seen. Grand but intimate, personal without ignoring the enormity of the loss of life, it honored each camp separately but also was a cohesive whole. Moving. Timeless. Horrifying. Perfect.

We wandered past Kings Chapel and Burying Ground, Park Street Church and the Old Granary Burial Ground, and the Old State House. I am always reminded of The Scarlet Letter when I am in Boston - contrary to the misdirection of attention of the opening "Custom House" chapter, TSL is set in Boston. I can imagine the scaffold on the corner of Tremont and Park and unctuous Dimmesdale standing on that little iron balcony over the heads of the people.

The bus arrived just as we did, so there was no awkward hanging out at the T station, and the drive home commenced. Traffic was dreadful and we didn't get out of the city for 30 minutes. Some members of the group still managed to talk all the way back to Manchester, even given the advanced hour (11:30 pm). Fog to drive through. Glad it wasn't me. Tired and happy, we crawled into our beds.

Boston Riverscape by jmcclurken (thanks!!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Kate Lost Factor

So I drove around NH today. It's really lovely, and I must have detoured through Sherwood Forest because I saw a sign for Nottingham.

I went to the seaside. That is what the highway signs called the beach, the ocean, la playa - the seaside. So I went. Getting there was a snap. Rt 3 to 101 going East. Stop before you get wet. Hampton looks like any town on the Cape and it reminded me of a cross between Marblehead, MA - at least the side streets - and whatever the town is at the causeway to Long Beach Island in NJ. Hampton State Park is probably quite nice, but by the time I got there the gate was locked and a police car was sitting there. Now to the boardwalk.

Hampton's boardwalk makes Beach Haven look like a sleepy seaside hamlet. Like the busiest, craziest block on LBI to the power of 6. Not the place I would want to stay for a vacation, and none of the local eateries looked like a place that a single woman at the shore would frequent unless she had designs on finding some company for the evening. Pass.

So I headed back to Manchester, and here is where the Kate Lost Factor comes into play. I'm okay with the reverse course thing until I get to Manchester and get off at what I was sure was the exit where I entered the highway.

Maybe not.

Google Maps cannot work if there is no service.

So I did some driving around. Got really turned around. Got straightened out. Had an "Aha, that where I am!" moment and returned to the Radission. And because I wasn't already enough of a salmon swimming upstream, I leave the parking garage as a wave of "conference boys" and "conference girls" all are heading out for the not so clandestine Ice Cream Outing. I need no convincing to join then when I hear that the place they are headed serves real food. This is what I need.

Two hours later I am back in my room having observed but not consumed HUGE creations of ice cream. "Pudding Ice Cream." No one would tell us what flavor of pudding. Yum? (It's pinkish, so we are told.)

Image of Hampton Beach by crschmidt

New Hampshire

I am in Manchester for a conference of progressive educators all spending a few days learning something new. My flight here was on time, with no airline or security issues, and I followed the signs to the car rental place and only got a little lost on my way to the hotel.

The flight itself was not that painless; I had a family behind me. I know that I used to be that family, so I'm trying not to whine about it, but the child in the seat behind me kept kicking the seat, and he half moaned, half chanted for Elmo for 30 minutes. It devolved from "My Elmo" to something that sounded vaguely Spanish (Me llamo) until he wound down like a watchworks, only to rev UP again as the plane descended through the clouds. This child had a sibling of indeterminate sex who cried most of the flight.

The hotel is a hotel, but they are lovely and helpful. There is not a ton going on here. I could get a tattoo. The police here are really tough on street folks and panhandlers. I have seen a number of folks asking for money, and the minute it seems aggressive in any way, three police cars appear out of nowhere.

I do want to get out tonight after we are done and drive to the ocean, maybe check out the Merrimack River (made famous to us English teachers by Thoreau), and find some fish chowder and a lobster roll (or something equally delicious) at the shore. It could happen. Until then, I am going to program a Shakespearean Insult Generator with two characters that insult each other over and over again. We will see if I can make it work.