Blog Archives

Classical music piece enhances Roald Dahl’s ‘Dirty Beasts’

Interesting story on NPR yesterday — although children’s author Roald Dahl died nearly 25 years ago, he continues to inspire musical adaptations of his work.

Read the full transcript or listen to the story!

One American’s English trifle

Strawberry Trifle. Photo credit: Susan Jones.

Strawberry Trifle. Photo credit: Susan Jones.

Did anyone else hear the summer trifle story that was featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered” this week?

As part of their Taste of Summer recipe contest, they asked readers to submit their favorite “found recipes” and Indiana resident Susan Jones submitted this recipe for strawberry trifle, which she found on a country walk one day. (Presumably someone had thrown out lots of recipes and this was among the stack). It turned out to be a winning recipe for Jones.

One look at the recipe would make any Brit shudder. It’s a completely Americanized version of trifle, made with – horror of horrors! – Cool Whip and cream cheese. And having said that, I should add that I haven’t made it, but I can also nearly guarantee that it is absolutely delicious. Cool Whip + strawberries + angel food cake = an instant winner, no matter how you cut it. Blasphemous but true!

Recipe: Strawberry Trifle

16 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
12 ounces whipped cream or Cool Whip
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 angel food cake
3 quarts fresh strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
Fresh mint

Mix cream cheese and powdered sugar until creamy. Add whipped cream and vanilla. Cut angel food cake into small squares. Slice all but 3 or 4 strawberries. Gently mix sliced berries in bowl with 1/4 cup sugar; let sit for 15 minutes. Cover the bottom of a large trifle dish (clear, stemmed bowl) with a layer of the cake squares. Follow with a layer of cream cheese mixture, then strawberries. Alternate, ending with the cream cheese mixture on top. Garnish with reserved whole strawberries and mint leaves. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.

A sad news day for milky tea

Tea without milk is like a day without sunshine. Photo credit: iFood

Tea without milk? Blasphemous, I say!

But there is some debate over whether milk diminishes the heart-healthy properties in a cuppa. Tea apparently won’t help regulate blood pressure or control diabetes when milk is present. To this I say, “Poppycock!” (Ooh, I feel like Maggie Smith in “Gosford Park” or … anything really … when saying that.)

Read it and weep.

Congrats, Team GB

Britain, you did it right!

I loved the closing ceremony Sunday night. I stayed up until almost midnight, refusing to take my eyes off of the amazing musical extravaganza (hello Spice Girls, Blur, Oasis, George Michael!), even though I had a bunch of things to do. Well, actually I did start up some laundry for a few minutes at the sight of Russell Brand doing Willy Wonka and “I am the Walrus.” Then I was back!

Read all about it, if you missed it.

All in all, I have loved these games. Moreover, I’ve loved to read and hear about the sheer surprise and delight of the British people in seeing the success that they’ve become. Philip Reeves’ NPR report “Olympics have temporarily transformed England” actually made me cry.

Third best overall?! Yes! Congrats, Team GB!

Earworms & how to get that song in your head unstuck

A couple of weeks ago, I was in my car listening to NPR’s Talk of the Nation. The subject? Earworms. No, not worms that live in one’s ears *shudder*. No, these were the official name of those songs that get stuck in your head.

"S Club (there ain't no party like an S Club party)
Gonna show you how (everybody get down tonight)"

They interviewed a British researcher Vicky Williamson, who’s currently studying the biological reasons for them and how they might apply to the greater study of human memory.

Listen to the story here.

I should add that since that story ran, I’ve had S Club 7’s “S Club Party” stuck in my head. No joke. (BTW, this might be the best music video ever – well, at least since Paula Abdul’s “Rush, Rush.”)

What’s the antidote? Well, Vicky Williamson suggested that singing “God Save the Queen” really slowly might be just the thing to rid one of earworms. Needless to say, I’m on it! (And apologies to everyone around me.)

Apples and pears = stairs

Mince pies = eyes. Who knew? Photo credit: BBC

Yesterday morning, NPR covered a story on the London Olympics this summer – but it wasn’t the sports or the games that was the focus. Instead, they centered on the London cockney slang that visitors will encounter while visiting East London.

Have a listen – I’ve never gotten the cockney thing but it is fascinating.

Here we come a-wassailing

Larry Crowe/AP

Have you ever had wassail?

On NPR’s “Morning Edition” this morning, reporter Kathleen Osborn discusses her search for this very traditional English drink in New England. Have a listen.

I’ve never tried it, but the following are three very different variations on this festive drink.

Randy Baril’s Wassail Recipe

1/2 gallon beer (Preferably a very malty English-style old ale. Mayflower’s Thanksgiving Ale works really well.)

5 sticks of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon whole cloves

5 slices fresh ginger

3 whole allspice

1/2 teaspoon sweet orange peel (optional)

On stovetop or in a slow cooker, add spices to beer. (Can use a tea bag for
the clove, allspice and orange so they can be removed easily. Allow
the cinnamon and ginger to go free-range.)

Warm to just under a simmer and hold for at least 30 minutes.

Adjust spice blend to your taste. For extra sweet wassail, add a bit of brown sugar.

Enjoy on a cold winter night in the company of friends and family while singing to keep the dark at bay.

Clarence Zimmerman Family Wassail Recipe

1 to 2 bottles of champagne

1 pint vodka

1 cup brandy

32 ounces fresh tart juice (cranberry or orange)

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a decorative vessel that the whole family can drink from.

The Prince and The Pauper Wassail Recipe

Fresh apple cider

Little bit of orange juice

A little less lemon juice

Cinnamon stick


Dash of nutmeg

Dash of ginger

Steep all ingredients for a half-hour on a low boil. Add brandy, rum or vodka as desired.