Peanut Butter Corn Flake Treats

What better way is there to celebrate being 39 Weeks along and my last day at work than making Peanut themed treats?! If I can do it, you can too.

You will need:
1 glass of wine or Diet Dr Pepper (remember, your beverage is really your choice)
6c Corn Flakes
1 c Lyle’s Golden Syrup (UK) or Karo Syrup (US)
1 c granulated sugar
1 c peanut butter (creamy, crunchy or a combination)
11 oz chocolate chips or broken chocolate bar
11 oz butterscotch chips (US) or Carnation caramel (UK)

greased or lined 9″x11″ or 9″x13″ cake pan/roasting pan

What you have to do:

Grease or line a cake pan.
line the pan

Measure the Corn Flakes into a large bowl (you need the extra room in the bowl.)
measure the corn flakes

Grab some Lyle’s or Karo Syrup.
lyles syrup

Get a double boiler ready for your chocolate and butterscotch/caramel.
pb chips and caramel

Heat the syrup and sugar on medium heat until smooth, stirring almost constantly (you know what sugar looks like, did you need a photo?!). DO NOT OVERHEAT.
sugar and lyles

Remove the syrup/sugar mixture from heat and immediately stir in the Peanut Butter.
lyles sugar pb

Stir the above mixture into the cereal until well coated and then press into your prepared cake pan.
press into pan

Melt together your chips and butterscotch/caramel; if you don’t have a double boiler just heat in a microwave safe container in the microwave for thirty second bursts. Pour this mixture on top of the pressed cereal.
top it with stuff

Cool in the fridge for as long as you can stand it (2-4 hours is a nice chilling time); cut; serve.
cool cut serve

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Mama’s Hungry

It seems clear to me that I will struggle to do much else besides feed, eat, change nappies, sleep, and repeat for about 6 weeks after Peanut arrives. It may take 12 weeks for some sort of normal to seep in. To this end, I’ve been cooking large quantities and freezing meals for the babymoon. Recently I made a chunky vegetable pasta sauce that was yummy. My sister would hate it, but she won’t judge me for eating it this way.

We had a starter salad with Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, pickled shallots (from my friend Chisa at work), feta cheese, yellow pepper, cucumber, olives, and vinaigrette dressing.
salad

The chunky vegetable pasta sauce started with roughly cut onion, yellow and orange pepper, chilies, minced garlic…
veg pasta sauce starter

I may have cheated a little.
veg pasta sauce cheats

I added a chunked courgette (zucchini squash) and diced carrots which somehow didn’t get photographed…

I added blended chopped tomatoes and some right out of the container. Then I plopped in some tomato paste and spices to taste.
veg pasta sauce ingredients

I feel really accomplished. If I were really gourmet, I would have added mushrooms.
vegetable pasta sauce

Who knew dinner could be this easy?!

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Fat and Happy

We three chefs of London, N1, have forged new Thanksgiving traditions…
thanksgiving chefs

Wine is a relatively new addition for me; and you can see that we really don’t need it. We are quite silly already.
elsa opens wine

First, we start with a big mess. Then we make it an organised mess with too much cream and/or butter while we pretend to look at recipes.
thankgiving prep

Eventually, it looks like this.
broccoli casserole

dressing

mash potato

green bean casserole

Jen with dinner

And we are happy.
helene approves thanksgiving

And then there is pie.
pecan pie

I am not eating ever again until next year.
pumpkin pie

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

A Song For You

‘You taught me precious secrets / of a true love withholding nothing…
If my words don’t come together, please listen to the melody /
[be]cause my love is in there somewhere hiding’

I have not said ‘thank you’ as many times or to as many people as I should. In the aftermath of 2009, I felt loved at the least – if not carried.

Angels walk among us; I know because one of them sent me spoons.
spoons

spoon up close

There was also a sweet personal story, a recipe box, recipes, vegan chocolate chips, beautiful cupcake cups, and an exquisite apron.
apron and stuff

The first thing these spoons made was Vegan Pistachio Rosewater cupcakes.
vegan pistachio rosewater

Maybe they weren’t as pretty as the photo in the cookbook, but making them was music to my soul. Who knew a girl could find so much joy in spoons and corn meal?

Thank you, Thomas family, for this and your many beautiful gifts.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

A Day to be Thankful

As hard as this week naturally is, for the obvious reasons, I have been met by patience, love, and growing friendships. While Drew was working away in Sweden on Tuesday night, my friend Sarah came ’round for dinner. Auntie Sarah, as I like to call her, never seems to tire of answering my questions about pudding, cream tea, boarding school, television, mortgages, and vests – among other things. She offered a shoulder more than once when I thought I was near falling off the edge of the Earth. And she let me torture her with videos of my Chimeras days. Those kids were in shape – excuse me while I do some crunches… (I still wish I had in my possession all the videos of my students’ performances!! Maybe while I am home, I will beg someone to make me a DVD…)

Auntie Sarah has not been alone in her quest to keep me smiling. And there has been love and support coming from across the ocean, too.

Today there will be too much food. There will be friends. There will be leftovers. And I am thankful for this distraction. It stings and feels strange, but there are still giggles bubbling to the surface. I think it’s all the wiped cream (I dare you to call it this all day) and powdered sugar.

 thanksgiving kitten

Happy Thanksgiving to you.

When you visit the website it boosts my self-esteem. [insert smiley face here]

Fancy a Curry?

Tonight I am making my first ever Vindaloo to celebrate.  (Brad, if you are out there, this Vindaloo is for you.)  I have a bank card for our new bank account, I have a confirmed interview on Wednesday with a great company, and (in case you haven’t heard) we have guests coming in June.  Perhaps by the time they get here, the vindaloo will be good enough to make for someone pickier than Drew!  

vindaloo veggies

vindaloo

We have plans to purchase costumes for a fancy dress party and attend a walk in west London this weekend.  We might also nail down some dates to visit the states again.  Get your diaries out.  Have a pen handy.

Lemon Lovely

Valentine’s Day was more about lemon than chocolate this year.  For our first V-day boycott in our new little city, we caught up on Battlestar Gallactica and dined on London Lemon Dessert with a side of Lemon Cupcakes.  Mmm.

lemon valentine

Of all the amazing things there may have been to do in London this weekend, staying at home for quality time with each other (and the new website reconstruction project) seemed just the thing to tickle our fancy.

Praise Song for the Day

It seems that we may have sold the motorcycle; that is, our amazing friend Matt may have sold our motorcycle.  We woke up to his email yesterday morning and I think that must be why the sun is shining so brightly in London two mornings in a row!  How nice for everyone here?!  So Matt, when are you bringing the lovely wife over for that beer (and free accommodation) we owe you?

Yesterday I had the most fun wandering to Leicester Square to have lunch with Drew and Janita after my morning job search.  I stopped at Piccadilly Circus to help some tourists get a few good shots of themselves and I wandered through the famous Foyles bookstore.  Wow.  It’s like a university bookstore on steroids.  (Credit belongs to Emily on that phrase!)

Last night I made a very tasty vegetarian Sheperd’s Pie and green beans on the side.  (Eric are you listening?  Yes, Donna, you could make it for your meat-eaters, too.)  This is a good one, but remember measuring is for wussies.  Unless you are baking.

This recipe goes out to all of those non-cookers in the world who just throw stuff in and figure it out as they go.

Basically you need:

  • 9×9 square baking dish
  • Quorn mince/Morningstar Farms Mince, or other ground beef sub (like lentils)
  • 4 good sized potatoes, Idaho or similar (brown)
  • peas and carrots (canned or frozen, but drained)
  • corn kernels, optional (drained)
  • Vegetable broth (use the cheat, I don’t care)
  • Gravy (cheatfor real.  it’s ok.)
  • Herbs de Provence (It contains rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, thyme, and sometimes lavender flowers and other herbs, and I will look the other way if you just make your own little assortment, but Donna, I think I left mine with you.)
  • garlic (powdered or minced)
  • salt and pepper
  • butter
  • chip dip, sour cream, or whatever kind of milk is normally in your fridge
  • shredded cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 350-375 degrees.  Whatever.  Line 9×9 baking dish with foil for easy clean-up if you are into that kind of thing.

Peel the potatoes and chop them up.  Cook them in gently boiling, salted water.  While the potatoes are cooking, “saute” the other veggies in a shallow puddle of veggie broth until broth is absorbed/evaporated.  (If veggies cook before broth disappears, drain). Set veggies aside for a moment.  I don’t know, use a bowl or a plate – whatever.

Heat or make your gravy in the frying pan.  You did already have that out, right?  Well, anyway, add garlic, salt, pepper, and lots of Herbs de Provence to your gravy until it tastes right.  Add in your mince.  Heat through and add drained veggies – mixture should be less firm than meatloaf but not as runny as sloppy joes.  Just eyeball your proportions; only you know how tolerant you and your picky/non-picky family are.  (Keep an eye on those potatoes…)  Spread this mixture in the bottom of your pan.

Drain potatoes once cooked.  Mash with butter and dip/milk/spices+milk, use your imagination.  A little garlic never hurt anyone.  I said a little, Gina.  Spread potatoes on top of first layer in your baking dish.

sheperds pie one

Place in the oven until mashed potato peaks turn a golden color or until you are so hungry that you can’t stand it.  If you want, you can sprinkle some cheese on top.

sheperds pie two

A Lazy London Sunday

I would like to say that we went to the Chinese New Year Parade at Trafalgar Square this afternoon or to the fireworks display in Leicester Square this evening.  There was another cool event on my calendar that looked like an inexplicable mix of dance and art exhibit.  Unfortunately, I have finally admitted that I am fighting a cold.  So instead of those awesome things we could have done I went for some cough syrup.  

Veno’s Honey & Lemon Tickly Coughs seems to provide at least a moderate and immediate relief of porcupine-in-throat type symptoms.  It tastes pretty wicked, but a few hours of relief is worth it.  Hit me again.  Every 2-3 hours.

That’s it folks.  That is our amazing day so far.  Ok well, it hasn’t been quite that uneventful.  We watched Back to the Future II, I made an awesome lunch out of leftovers, and we saw some snow flurries.

Later, I might do the dishes and take a shower.  There will probably not be photos of that.

Even though I am in danger of telling you something you already know, I feel compelled to tell you that black bean enchilada filling tastes great as quesadilla filling as well, whether you use real or faux cheese.  Top with things like salsa, sour cream (again, real or soy, whatever), jalapenos, or black olives.  MMMmmmm.

afternoon flurries


Snow Comes to London Town from Drew Huddleston on Vimeo.

night snow
night snow 2

 

Freaky Friday

I have no idea how to get off the phone with a Londoner.  There is a long string of “brilliant, excellent, absolutely fine, cheers, of course, lovely, just brilliant, tomorrow then, cheers, brilliant, wonderful…”  What can I say to let them know I understand that we are done talking and that we both intend to hang up?  It might be another of the world’s greatest mysteries.

This week I have felt quite like I live here.  We’ve have been to the theatre twice.  I took a train journey out of town and back without any anxiety; I even confidently marched myself to the information desk to confirm the station where I would make the change.  Tomorrow I have planned a day of sightseeing with friends and an evening of live music recommended by the famous Cookeville based music critic, Kassi Thomas.  I am guessing that Sunday might be a nice, lazy day.

My friend Virginia made brussels sprouts for us at Thanksgiving–and made a brussels sprouts lover out of me.  Before that meal I had never made them myself.  Since then, however, I have made them at least four times.  Tonight I made a new version that sounded good to my scratchy throat.  We are going to call them Agave Lemon Brussels Sprouts.  MMmmmm.

 

Agave Lemon Brussels Sprouts

1 pound brussels sprouts, washed

vegetable broth

agave nectar/honey

lemon juice

salt

pepper

olive oil or soy butter (optional)

 

First, mix a couple tablespoons each agave nectar or honey and lemon juice.  Set aside.  Cut fresh, washed brussels sprouts in half (top to bottom) and saute them in a frying pan with your choice of oil, sprinkling with salt and pepper.  Sprouts will turn a golden color on the cut side when they are ready for the next step.  If you prefer to leave out the oil, skip ahead a little…  Add enough vegetable broth to cover the bottom of the pan and continue to cook until the brussels sprouts are the texture you like.  Then, turn off the heat and add sweet lemon sauce.  Stir to coat.  Serve.

Just so you know, they are super tasty without the agave lemon sauce….

What was most amazing about my day was that Drew came back home about five minutes after he had left for work.  He decided to work from home as part of an agreement he and his boss had made.  It was nice to have a workmate.  He did actually have to work, but we had lunch together and he kept me company while I coughed and sneezed on my computer.  Isn’t that romantic?

Is Your Mouth on Fire, Too?

Yesterday I got a new broom, cloth handkerchiefs, and a silicone device used in a frying pan to prepare foods like eggs or pancakes.  (I didn’t have to wait long to test out my new cooking tool.)  You would think Londoners never saw someone carrying a broom down the street before…  How did they get their broom home?!

This morning I made Drew a proper weekend breakfast, though he may have had an accident with the pepper shaker…
breakfast
The biscuits turned out different than the first attempt, but still not quite perfect.  I am tempted to think that the measuring bit is the problem.  I usually experience more success when I wing it–I’ll keep trying.

biscuits

Though we ended up having a rather lazy day that included housework and a grand nap, we did manage to have the most delicious dinner at Thai Thai on Old Street.  The service was better than any we have had so far in London.  The atmosphere was welcoming and posh at the same time; we felt pampered.  I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted so I explained to our waitress that I wanted something spicy with vegetables, tofu, and red curry.  She was happy to select a dish that fit those requirements.  I still can’t believe how friendly and warm the staff was.  Everyone that came by our table acknowledged us and was extremely attentive.  The food was excellent.  It was exactly what I described.  It was like dining at home.

So, tomorrow we’ll be visiting some retailers in search of a nice coat for Drew and fun household items.  I don’t think we’ll be investing in anything really amazing or awe inspiring, but these days I am an easy girl to please.

Maybe this Christmas you should consider starting a savings account for your London trip.  We have identified at least one really nice local Thai restaurant that you will want to try.  Any other requests?

Love, hugs, and gingerbread to you~

You’ll Need to Bring This Back With You.

Term of the Day: Bits and Bobs

  • Odds and ends

A good portion of normal, everyday Londoners order groceries online and have them delivered; they pop in to local stores for the random bits and bobs.  Within my frame of reference, that would have seemed very posh two months ago.  After discovering the challenges simple grocery shopping poses in a big city like London, I now fully appreciate the concept.  Space is at a premium so not all stores can stock a full range of items, it’s hard to carry your groceries if you can’t manage to do a little shopping everyday, moms+kids+groceries+public transport= : ( , and you might have to visit several stores to get everything on your list–or do without Maple Syrup this week.

I met one of our neighbors two days ago.  She is lovely and has lively Terrier who rather liked me.  Maybe she could sense how desperate I’ve become for some animal attention.  Dang Gina, I miss my cat.  So, the neighbor filled me in on some very interesting news–news that might put you at ease.  If you must come to visit in a large group, or you need a little more privacy than we can offer you, there are six guest flats on campus that we can rent.  We actually live next door to a double (£45/night) and a single (£27/night) guest room.  I am not encouraging you to stay next door, but if you all come at the same time it may be an option we have to explore.  Large groups could be fun actually…

For those of you reading who may be looking for a solution to your quest for shortening in the UK, I would like to recommend Stork and White Flora.  If these products are stocked in your local grocery they will most likely be refrigerated and you will find it near the margarine.  They don’t advertise themselves as shortening, they are “cooking products”, so search for the “great for baking” and “great for cakes and pastries” wording on tubs.

The Sainsbury’s in Islington has now trumped my local Waitrose to become my favorite grocery store.  As my idea of the size of my local neighborhood expands, so does my level of expectation grow.  Such good things are hidden in the nooks and crannies I haven’t yet explored.

I know that you are all curious about medical care here within the NHS.  Of course, being the responsible investigative reporter than I am, I have taken it upon myself to discover how it all works–which translates to “I am running out of birth control soon.”  

Some of the straightforward information I have gathered regarding seeking medical care within the NHS, so far, is as follows.

  • You must register with a General Practioner (GP) in your local area.  If no GP in your area is able to add another patient, you may appeal to see one outside your area.  GPs are paid based on the number of patients registered with their practice.
  • To register you must show ID and turn in your paperwork to the clinic.  Within 48 hours your address and National Insurance (NI) number are verified so that you may call to make your first appointment and any records may be transferred from your previous physician, if necessary.
  • Physicians make house calls in special cases, for home bound patients, and to mothers with newborn babies.
  • To see a specialist, your GP must refer you.
  • Not all GPs prescribe medicine; it depends on their specific training and degree level.
  • Pharmacists can prescribe certain medications and are especially knowledgeable in the area of topical medications for irritations and rashes.  These professionals have special training in the area of medicine and prescribing; sometimes more than certain types of GPs.

Finding a nearby clinic was easy with a tiny bit of research.  I was able to visit their website, print out the necessary registration forms, and drop those off yesterday.  Dropping off my paperwork took me less than one minute and the receptionist gave me a specimen cup to bring back my urine sample on my first visit.  Ok, that may have been strange.  Some of me is still wondering if this is a joke they play on brand new patients.  I will definitely inquire about it when I call to make my appointment.

I know you are wondering what in the world I have done this week.  I wonder myself.  HHmmm.

Monday

Identified new vacancies for which I will apply, Grocery, Borders (to get the recent issue of Design Week for Drew), Christmas trip planning, normal housework

Tuesday

Sent CV in reference to 16 vacancies, normal housework, scheduled a preliminary interview for Wednesday morning, scheduled a preliminary phone interview for Wednesday afternoon, met Drew at his office, had dinner with Drew and Janita when they were finally ready to leave at 10p (A “fire” started while I was in transit to the office; I owe Nashville echoneer, Anton, Maynards Wine Gums for his awesomeness in firefighting.)  Fun times.

Wednesday

Attended interview, emailed my Dad (Happy Wednesday!!) registered at local clinic, topped up cell phone service, grocery, normal housework, called my sister to check in for the big day (my Mom is having her supersonic hearing installed–next Christmas we might buy her X-ray vision.  A little over the top?), attended(?) phone interview, called home again, made cupcakes, had a frosty beverage at the local pub (The Shakespeare) waiting for news from my sister, received an update, made dinner (dishes), and crashed
in the oven

fuzzy cupcake

iced

the shakespeare

Today I am still a little tired and waiting for it to be late enough in the day that I can call home again.  I am so thankful the dark morning has given way to a good bit of clear sky and sunshine.  I be will carrying cupcakes to Drew’s office at tea time–doing it in the dark and the rain doesn’t sound appealing.  The cloudy, dark sky also tends to make the bed seem like a very, very wonderful (magical, even) place to be.  It’s good that we don’t have more days like that.

We Came, We Saw, We Chugged Hot Apple Cider

So how about this new look, eh?! Props to a gorgeous webmaster and designer extraordinaire… More changes and updates to come, we hope you enjoy!

If you don’t have something to drink and more than just a few free minutes on hand, go make yourself some refreshments and come back with a comfy chair. The update you are about to peruse is lengthy. We apologize for the lovely inconvenience.

We awoke Saturday morning to a grey London sky. It was cold and spitting rain when we ventured out of the flat with a plan to head to the IKEA store in Wembley. After a stop for hot chocolate in the cafe downstairs, we bravely headed for the tube station.
barbican tube
Unfortunately, at the tube station we realized that all travel via tube in the direction we needed to go was suspended. Since our trip was more for fun than out of necessity, and because we had already made it outside the flat, we decided to head southeast toward the Borough Market.

Dang Gina.

People were crammed in the aisles between the market stands. The farmers’ market tradition looked to be thriving in this riverside town.
borough market

fuzzy vegetable stand

jellies
Despite the chill and the threat of rain, people weaved their way through pick-pocket central for things like artisan breads, fresh produce, direct from fisherman fish, sweets, savouries, free-range meats and eggs, hand squeezed juice, wine, beer, ready to eat foods, and fresh sausage cooked any of a hundred different ways. (Although the smell is still appetizing, I can barely look at a sausage.) We had lunch from an organic stand and then got in line for hot cider. The sign said something about mulled apples and fall spices. It should have said something more like “hot apple flavored piss, nasty–but hey, it’s warm!”. Hold your nose. Raise glass to lips. Swallow. Repeat.

I managed to bring home this cute little guy from a lovely bakery stand; Drew opted for a big, fat brownie. I can’t blame him, but look just look at this face…
robin cookie

Cold? Check.
Full? Check.
Damp? Check.
Photos? Check.

We thought we might as well follow the river west until we hit the Tate Modern Museum. Before we could make it inside, we were tempted in to the new Globe Theatre, whose roof is currently being re-thatched.  Wow.
the globe stage
It was really an indescribable experience to walk through the museum and take the guided tour of this attraction that has been so lovingly built– and restored as near as possible to the specifications of Shakespeare’s time. Those two semesters I chased theatre in college came in really handy, but I was amazed that there were people on the tour who did not know that all actors in Shakespeare’s day were men. I thought we all learned that in English class when we read Romeo and Juliet. Whatever. Moving on. Drew and I will definitely return for a play when theatre season starts. For now, everyone is talking about Panto. This is an art in which I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to participate. If you are one of those dear friends that dresses up and carries a big bag of toilet paper, rice, and newspapers to a showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show to shout at the screen–you will appreciate this form of theatre that has survived on an undercurrent to its present day fame. The plays performed are usually kids’ fare like Peter Pan, but the adult humor whizzing over little heads is key. The audience knows their lines and the performers are over the top. Before we leave town, we’ll have to experience this!

Tate Modern has too many floors. I mean that in the nicest way possible. Of the seven levels, four have exhibits. Drew and I only made it through two before it was late, dark, and my eyes had started to look at each other for help.  I don’t think I could have made it through another collection, even if we had arrived at opening.  The huge exhibit on the first floor didn’t take long to see because we opted not to stand and watch the film portion. We did spend some quality time with a UBS Collection of the following:

MATERIAL GESTURES
Anish Kapoor and Barnett Newman
Material Gestures
Viennese Actionism
Expressionism
Distinguished Voices
Contemporary Painting
Claude Monet and Abstract Expressionism
Marlene Dumas
Paul McCarthy

POETRY AND DREAM
Giorgio de Chirico and Jannis Kounellis
Surrealism and Beyond
Elements of Chance
Natural History
Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso
Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer
Balka and Espaliu
Eileen Agar, Claude Cahun, Zoe Leonard
Realisms
Cornelia Parker

We’ll have to go back for the Rothko and Cildo Meirles exhibits as well the other collection put on by the UBS. And next time, I am going to get one of those kits they give the kids. It has crayons and paper so that the kids can attempt to recreate a piece of art they like. I think I heard someone saying that a member of staff tries to guess which piece it is at the end of the tour. I thought crayons would be an extremely bad idea in a gallery, but these British children seemed to keep the crayon in the right place. Maybe Super Nanny was standing behind them.

We had a long walk home, which started with the crossing of the River Thames via the Millennium Bridge. Even in the rain, and as dark as it was, the view in all directions from the middle of the bridge was beyond expectations.

Sunday started slowly, but I eventually made my way into the kitchen for glorious biscuit making. That is, until I opened the box of Atora Light Shredded Vegetable Suet, I was excited. What is this stuff? It cannot be what I should have purchased. It looks more like Gerbil food (or the after product) than shortening.
atora droppings
Anyway, I’ll test it out in a recipe soon, but I didn’t want to take any chances with it this morning. I opted to use butter instead. They weren’t the biscuits I had dreamed of making, but they didn’t kill us and they were all consumed by the end of the day.
biscuit
Most of of the rest of my day was spent tweaking and posting blog entries with bits of housework sprinkled in. Drew spent quite a while updating the look of our website, but he worked in a little housework as well.

For the grand finale to our big, lazy day I made a dash to the store for a few fresh baps, a green pepper, and a red onion to make Spicy Veg Sloppy Joes. There is something about that weird family tradition of eating Sloppy Joes on Christmas Eve that makes them irresistible in the days preceding the holiday… This may be the 10th wonder of the world.

I was very impressed with the color of the onion and green pepper as well as the bright red color of the final product from the special blend of simple ingredients and spices. Drew seemed really impressed with my skilled used of the hillbilly casserole dish.
veg
red

sloppy veg
I was quite pleased with myself as well. You would think we had real pub food. MMmmmm. Peasant-ish and uncultured. My stomach stills hurt a little when I think about how spicy they were; I look forward to the leftovers! (I brought a bottle of mixed berry Tums, Donna, don’t worry!)

Please be aware the English mustard is a lot like Wasabi; licking the mustard spoon may cause death or flaming nose drippings.

It was a lovely weekend.

Things for Which I Am Thankful

I am one of those people who operates best with a plan and a deadline.  I also happen to be an extremely emotional person who attaches meaning to everything.  The flaw isn’t in my sentimentality or my best laid plans–it’s in the crying and pouting that ensues when Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t go as planned.  The short story is that canned pumpkin is not widely available, if at all, in the UK.  I do not even know how to begin to cook a real one and I have not yet seen a pumpkin in a grocery store…  It is also hard to locate canned, whole black beans or cilantro, but I shouldn’t be surprised by that.

Through these and other complications, I am so thankful that my husband (who had to work on this holiday) is easy going and has a great sense of humor.  He didn’t mind our make shift dinner of home made guacamole, yummy black bean dip, and random leftovers.  He politely ate the little chocolate (plan b) cakes that I overcooked while talking on the phone to family overseas.  That’s my man.  And he’s a good after dinner snuggler, too.

The truth is that am blessed to be sharing my life with my very best friend.  I am reminded by current events that today is just another day in the grand scheme of things–terrorists attack on Thanksgiving, too.  People all over the world are far from their families for reasons beyond their own choosing; I have made a choice to be an ocean away from my family, but at least I had the freedom and opportunity to make that choice.  I promise that I don’t miss you any less just because I am resolved to enjoy my life in London.  I may, however, be on my way to gaining a truer and deeper respect for this global society as I consider my comfy traditions and full-bellied celebrations.  I wasn’t sure when the day started what I would have on my list besides the standard fare, but in the end, I am thankful for this awesome chance we have to be broken and sent through the fire.  We must surely be amazed at the transformation we see on the other side.

When You Put it That Way…

Word of the Day: Biscuit

  • (UK) Cookie–and sometimes cracker
  • (US) Small, savory, bread-based food item eaten most commonly at breakfast

A girl (and hopefully a boy) can be happy anywhere by creating little bits of familiarity around them.  What else is a house wife to do, then, besides make familiar foods?  I’ve tried something like vegetables and dumplings.  We’ve had veggie patties with steamed broccoli and baked carrot/sweet potato/butternut squash medley.  There have been those nights that we enjoyed Thai dishes, but we have worn out pasta with marinara sauce.  I have even managed to find black beans for burrito night!  What I really wanted to do was surprise Drew some Sunday with flaky, steamy, yummy biscuits like his mom and Granny make.  

Vegetable shortening has been on my list for three weeks now.

Today I was determined to have my hands on the last ingredient to evade me, for the sake of Sunday’s brunch menu.  I bravely stood in the baking aisle, holding my ground while daddies ran me over with their recklessly driven strollers and little old ladies wobbled into me with their big bags and trolleys.  Busy Londoners stepped right in front of me to contemplate which varieties of Pot Noodles were part of the 2 for £3 special, but I stayed.  The thing I eventually picked up was Atoralight Shredded Vegetable Suet.  

                            Atora

The first thing I did back at the flat was research the word (please don’t click this link if you have a weak stomach) suet and attempt to discover if I had completed the mission.  Ick.  EEeeww.  Yes, I had, but I was suddenly less interested in flaky, steamy biscuits.  I wanted more information about how vegetable “suet” is made so I researched shortening, quickly navigating away from the photos of suet.  I found out some interesting things about how shortening works.  Did you know that you get better results from using cold or frozen Crisco?  If your recipe calls for water, use ice water.  Still, what is hydrogenation and how does it create trans fats?  (Man, I miss chemistry…)

Basically, what I’ve decided is that biscuits should be enjoyed rarely and I should attempt to find healthier fats to use when cooking.  I guess any time we “process” food we alter the nutrition in it, but our bodies haven’t been altered to deal with this, only our tastebuds.  Wow, a simple trip to the grocery stored turned into a science research paper.  Sorry folks.

We’ll enjoy our Sunday brunch with biscuits this week.  Then we’ll take a walk!

For the Win

I know so many women that handle their work as housewives and moms with such grace–and I managed to do well for a solid month (with no kids or pets to care for, mind you)–but I don’t know how these ladies stay motivated to battle the neverending cycle of laundry, dishes, cleaning, grocery shopping, errands, phone calls to sort out problems, and meals.  For the moment I am trying to remember that my paycheck, or rather my right to buy clothes and goodies, is based (in theory) to me fulfilling the job requirements.  I have imposed these rules on myself to balance out the weirdness of depending totally on Drew for the first time ever in our whole relationship.  This is a new concept for him as well.  He felt bad the first few times I made him breakfast, but I think he’s gotten used to it and rather likes it now.  I would like to imagine that he looks forward to discovering what yummy dinner I’ve whipped up as he’s making his two mile walk home.  You may not know this totally awesome tidbit about Drew, but he is pretty easy to please.  Yeah, he’s a picky eater, but he’ll eat the things he likes in lots of combinations and repeatedly. FTW, Pinky, for the win.

I will admit that it is nice to have clean clothes when we need them; we no longer have to dig things out of the hamper at the eleventh hour and throw them in the dryer with a Downy sheet, bachelor style…  It also makes me quite proud that we have not once opted for peanut butter and jelly after trying one of my off the cuff dinner creations.  The fact that I have not been lost and/or crying on any of my treks through this big city, is also something I consider to be an accomplishment.  I am certainly more brave than I was upon landing in the UK on the 5th of October.  Wait a minute–I think I kind of enjoy this house wife thing now that I’ve pondered it.  Maybe it’s not the work itself getting me down, maybe it’s the lack of conversation. 

So, what makes any cloudy day a more enjoyable one?  Baking.  Yeah, some of you got that one wrong.  (Although baking is the most correct answer, if you said hot chocolate, napping, loving on your pets, or snuggling–you are also for the awesome.)  I used to make amazing cupcakes and cakes when we were back in the states.

Vegan Cupcake

For now, I am still testing the new appliances, using fewer tools, creating hillbilly solutions for tools I don’t have (also known as “rigging”), and trying out the measurement conversions.  The end results aren’t yet glamorous enough for photos.  But seriously, check out this icing tool I made out of a crappy, flimsy sandwich bag.

Basic Fairy Cake Icing
Hillbilly Icing Contraption

I didn’t have an icing tip to stick in it and because of the way the bag was shaped the icing job looked worse than amateurish.  It was still easier than icing them all with a spoon!  Fortunately, Drew’s coworkers don’t seem to mind that the treats I send in are slightly decrepit because (I’ve heard) they are super yummy.  Maybe I should be looking for work in a bakery.  Have I said that already?!

More quick updates:

  • We only have four channels on the telly (all BBC) and they cost us £139.00 per year (I’ve ordered some additional stuff and should have it by the weekend)
  • I have applied for my NI number; Drew has received his already
  • The nob on the oven that I thought was a timer is actually the control used to delay the start of cooking  (I kept wondering why the cupcakes weren’t baking and the over never got more than warm, even though the fan was running!)
  • Showering without getting water everywhere is a challenge; I think I will look for a video about how I am supposed to do be doing it and I will send you the link to watch it as part of your coming-to-visit instructions
  • I think I might tattoo on my arm the list of things to make sure I have on my person as I am leaving the flat so that I never again end up without my Oyster Card

Well, I am off to prepare for the big day tomorrow.  I have to practice going over where I will see myself in 5 years and decide what my three strengths and weaknesses are.  There is probably a good chance I will need to know what flavor of ice cream I would be, what animal I feel akin to, what kind of car I might be, and why.

All my love~

Fabulous Friday the 14th

A beautiful sunny morning gave way to a cloudy afternoon; it was blustery all day, but the temperature was so yummy that I opened the windows and turned off the heat.  I may have been a bit lazy today, but I still managed to get out and enjoy the gorgeous weather.  I also spent a good bit of time discussing with a recruiter a clinical trial position for which I would have been a great fit.  However, the office is located more than 30 miles away and transport links are poor, meaning that it would take me a little over two hours to get there.  I had to tell him I was not interested in pursuing that position.  Of course, after getting off the phone with him, I was contacted by a company inviting me for an interview on Thursday.  This company is located approximately 1.3 miles from our flat and I have applied for a Project Coordinator/Manager post; they are an agency specializing in facilitating communication related to pharmaceuticals.  I am prepared to knocks their socks off.

After all of that excitement I enjoyed an evening walk to the grocery store and came home to prepare a meal inspired by a friend’s recipe post.  I have to admit that I am discovering that I am pretty crafty.  I had to adapt the recipe for a smaller yield, make it vegetarian, and incorporate weird British ingredients.  I also had to construct a hillbilly casserole dish…
casserole

Here are the Spicy Black Bean Enchiladas before going into the oven:
before oven

Unfortunately, Drew beat me to the kitchen when they were done. Fortunately, he cleaned his plate. You get the idea.
after voen

While we were eating we watched quite a bit of the Children in Need telethon. It’s a big deal here in Britain. I guess it’s as well known as St. Jude’s but provides a range of services that is mind boggling.

Our evening will most likely involve and episode of Ugly Betty and a good amount of snoring.  I am worn out for no good reason at all!  See you tomorrow.