Food and Drink

5 MORE Things I Miss About England

I miss my commute. It wasn't always this route, maybe about 50/50. This route would often be a good 5-10 minutes faster than the main roads. This route would also mean a 5-10 beats per second increase to your heart rate. Some days there would be HUGE farm trucks coming at you. Some days a ton of other cars (with far more experience on these roads). Some days no oncoming traffic at all. 

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I miss Pret-A-Manger. Pret became known to me in 2006 when I went to London to work for about three weeks. It was the cheapest, best quality quick lunch or coffee place in Soho. I still love it to this day. Fantastic variety, lots of veggie options, hot food, cold food, kid sized food. I wish we had one here. 

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Speaking of good eats: Wagamama is also a big favorite. Lovingly referred to as "Snobby Noodle" by friends here who have spent time in London and love Wagamama as well, we were so pleased there was one in St. Albans. We must have eaten there at least every other week. Sometimes we'd order it in for lunch when I was working. (In my brief window of working.) My favorite was the Shiitake Donburi. Or the Vegatsu. Or any of the ramens. 

Dammit. Now I want some. 

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Moving on to dessert -- Bakewell Tarts. I'd never heard of them before this trip. (Astonishing) A tart made with raspberry jam and almond? DONE. I haven't looked for any here. I haven't learned how to bake it. YET. I asked someone at a cafe what a Bakewell Tart was. And they were so confused.

"It's a bakewell tart." 

"Okay but what's in it?"

"It's a Bakewell." 

Okay sold. 

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(picture by Brynn from Wikimedia Commons)

These horses who lived on our route to Harper's school. 

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I asked Harper if she wanted to live in another country again and she said yes. And I said, England? And she said, Yes! So. Watch this space. I'm going to figure out how to make that happen.

 

 

 

 

 


5 Things I Miss About England (An Incomplete List)

We lived in England for only four months and I miss it just about every day. Today I wanted a nice cup of strong black tea but didn't have any in the house. Plenty of Earl Grey and Jasmine green and chamomile and etc etc. But not any bog-standard* black tea. I had to order some from Amazon. Made me think of what else I've been missing! Here's a short list:

I miss the green! This was in the park behind out house and we walked there often. Soothing to the soul.

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I miss Waitrose! This was my last visit to our local Waitrose and I was so sad. Not sure why I loved it so much. A bit nicer than your standard Sainsbury's or Tesco, but not crazy fancy by any means. But they had this brand of prepared foods that we fell in love with. So YUM.

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I miss the tea. Good strong black tea. The Tea aisle in any grocery store in the UK is much more fascinating than our "coffee and tea" aisles in the states.

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I miss the pubs - Especially ones with excellent food and lovely gardens. Like this one - The Holly Bush. (Even better - it's in Potter's Crouch!) Pubs are family friendly, dog friendly, friendly friendly. It's a different type of place that we don't have an equal to here in the US.

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I miss school uniforms. I never went to a school that required uniforms, so this was a total novelty for me. They are so sweet! I know, I know, anyone who went to school in England is rolling their eyes at me. I loved shopping for these. 

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Gawd I can't wait to go back. Until then I have to get my fill with The Crown, British Baking Show and Doctor Who.

 

 *Bog standard is a phrase I learned there and love. I use it still, and always will. 

 

Note: Affiliate links included in this post.

 

 

 


New Favorite Breakfast-Overnight Oats

Preamble: I'm not really a food blogger. But I do like food very much!

My breakfast routine is pretty routine. Usually nonfat greek yogurt with fruit or berries and sliced almonds on top. Occasionally I'll have cereal, but that's kinda more like dessert in a way. (Even if it is made up of high fiber twigs and flakes.) I love oatmeal, but it's not cold enough for a big bowl of hot breakfast yet (I live in Los Angeles - go Dodgers!)

Overnight Oats have been on my radar for a while, but I didn't pay attention, thinking they were too prep heavy. Turns out I have idiotic thoughts and in fact they are SUPER EASY!

  • 1/2 cup rolled/old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup milk (of whatever kind of milk you like)
  • 1Tbs chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried fruit
  • Put all that in a mason jar, stir well and refrigerate 5 hours or up to 5 days. When you go to eat it, stir well and add honey or syrup or fresh fruit or nuts. 

That's it! Here's my before/after shots. I like using frozen cherries in oatmeal or the yogurt/fruit combo. And almonds. Lots of almonds! PS - also kinda healthy for you.

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Note: Many of my links (and/or images below) connect you with Amazon Affiliates products. I write about things I love and use. I don't get compensated to write about them. (I'll tell you if I do.) However, if you do decide to click through and end up buy something, I'll get a little bit from that sale.

Mason Jars: 

 

Quaker Old Fashioned Oats:


Improv Cooking - New To Me

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Building an Improv Lasagna

I love to cook. I try new recipes, I buy cookbooks, I subscribe to emails for recipes. The food comes out well, I think, at least 9 times out of 10.

One thing I'm not great at is improv cooking - looking into the cupboards or fridge to see what's there and then whip something up. Following rules is something I'm better at. And one of my current goals is to be better at improv cooking!

Last night I took the leftover squash (butternut and zucchini) in the fridge and decided I could make a veggie lasagna. In my cupboard were boxes of whole wheat lasagna sheets (no boil style) I'd bought a while back but hadn't used. (I just looked at my amazon history and see that I bought the lasagna noodles in, ahem, 2015! Luckily the expiration is Dec. 2018. Guess who is going to be eating LOTS of lasagna before the end of the year??!)

Glancing at a few basic veggie lasagna recipes, I made a bechamel sauce (I did look at a recipe for that!) and built a decent lasagna. There was also mozzarella and parmesan in my fridge.

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Finished product

These days, with a shift in life and work priorities, I'm working harder than ever to save money and not just buy whatever I need the moment I think of something. Therefore, the improv cooking. Or better to call it the "USE WHAT YOU HAVE!!" method of cooking. In our pasta/rice drawer, there is a lot of both that need to be used. (Hint: Rice casseroles coming soon!)

The pasta sheets I bought were whole wheat and organic. (See images below to click on the affiliate link and try some for yourself.) Nobody really seems to notice the difference between regular and whole wheat these days, so I usually opt for whole wheat. 

As for the finished product? Not bad! I had sauteed the butternut and zucchini but the butternut squash went weirdly dark brown after the baking. Tasted fine, just looked, um, odd. Also, I think there needed to be more filling. It all went very flat. I'm still pleased with myself and I'll do it again. 

I used my trusty pyrex baking dish. I swear I used to have two of these, but can only find one....hmmmm. Maybe in a frenzy of "clean out all the crap!" I did away with one. Or maybe it lives at someone else's house now because I made something and took it for a potluck. Maybe I need to put this on my Christmas wish list. I like the glass better than a metal pan. I like seeing the layers cooking. 

I will continue to practice my Improv Cooking skills. Stay tuned for my next adventure, probably rice related!

P.S. Many of my links (and/or images below) connect you with Amazon Affiliates products. I write about things I love and use. I don't get compensated to write about them. (I'll tell you if I do.) However, if you do decide to click through and end up buy something, I'll get a little bit from that sale.

Click the image for Pryex dishes: 

 Click the image for Whole Wheat Lasagna (set of 6):


Homemade Kefir and Smoothies and Blenders

IMG_5455Whilst we were in England, I had three lovely visits with a friend I've known since high school. She taught me about making your own kefir for all that probiotic goodness and I've tried it now that I'm home. I had heard interesting stories on the BBC about how our microbiome may affect our physical and mental health. Fascinating stuff. Why not add it to a healthy diet? (Which I'm working on to make better habits!)

I decided to keep it simple, cheap, and cheerful to start in case I hated it. So I bought dry kefir starter and put it into milk. (The options are coconut water, juice or milk. I am not a fan of coconut water, thank you very much. With amount of coconuts I've peeled, cracked, drank and eaten as a kid in the tropics, I'm pretty much DONE with that.)(#islandgirl)

The flavor it creates is like a tart yogurt flavor in a creamy milky texture. I like it a lot. It's super easy: You put 1 quart of milk into a pitcher and one packet of dry kefir starter. Place a paper towel or coffee filter over the top, keep it in place with a rubber band and let it sit on your counter for 12-18 hours until the seeds bloom. Basically you know it's ready when the milk turns to cream and it has a lovely yogurt smell. Then you refrigerate and drink or make into smoothies or whatever you like, keeping 1/4 cup to start a new batch.

One very important step: once it's ready, blend or whisk it to smooth out the chunky bits. Because there will be chunky bits and that was an almost instant turn off when I poured out my first glass to drink. I quickly poured it back and texted my friend: What do I do with the chunks!?!?! 

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And the smoothie was good. But once I learned you can't kill the kefir with blending, I just give it a quick whisk in a glass before drinking it if I have no time for smoothies.

And putting it in smoothies is super yummy just like adding milk or yogurt. I tend to toss in whatever fruit is getting a bit too squishy plus some frozen fruit to make it cold. I also like to add shredded carrot and sometimes spinach if it's about to be past its prime. (The other morning I forgot the frozen stuff and have to say a lukewarm smoothie is not super great...lesson learned!)

IMG_5452Here is a ridiculous picture of my blender with peach, kefir, carrots, apple and banana. Crystal clear! LOL. Currently I have a GIANT Ninja blender. I was purchased in haste last year, but does come in handy for larger batches of smoothies and such. 

Oooh, random thought: I have about 1/4 cup of passion fruit juice that I squeezed myself when I made passion fruit curd a few weeks ago. (Post on that later!) I will put that in a smoothie soon! MMmmmmm. 

I'm giving it a shot, maybe it improves my mood? (Not that I need much help in that arena.) Maybe it improves my colon health? (Won't really know that until I get my next colonoscopy.) Maybe it improves my smoothy flavor? (Never a bad thing.)

No matter the result, I'll report back.

 

 

 

P.S. Many of my links connect you with Amazon Affiliates products. I write about things I love and use. I don't get compensated to write about them. (I'll tell you if I do.) However, if you do decide to click through and end up buy something, I'll get a little bit from that. 


February Goals Recap

Last month I reviewed my 2018 goals and what I had accomplished so far. Now it's the end of February and I'm here to do it again. 

My February goals were:

-Lose 8 pounds

-Meditate 5-10 minutes every day

-8 Push ups a day

-Work on my script 2x a week

-Add strength work to my routine

-Flossing 5 days a week

 

So how did I do? 

I lost 3 pounds. Not as much as I planned, but I lost 3 pounds, that's in the right direction. That makes 11 total for 2018. And with all the new habits I'm building, I'm feeling good moving into March and beyond. I'm still only drinking one day per week. (A trip to Las Vegas not withstanding in February...there was a bit more drinking there!) And not snacking after dinner. This one is huge for me. And I've done REALLY WELL on that new habit. Snacking and drinking wine after dinner are about comfort and imagined "I've earned this" baloney. I've had two months to build these habits and they will be put to the test in March and beyond as I started a new job this week. Stress for me leads to comfort eating and now I'll find new ways to relieve stress. Like....

Meditation. I started with 6 minutes a day (more than 5, less than 10!) and have upped it to 7 minutes a week or so ago. I missed 2 days this month, so I'm proud of myself for that commitment. I enjoy it and feel like it might already be helping me to just be calmer in my mind when things are busy and nutty and stressful. There is definitely a pause in certain situations where I do a "huh, that's a thought" and observe it, then decide what to say or do next. All that instead of just reacting quickly. I'm not saying it happens every time, but it seems to be making an impression. I'm doing Mindfulness mediation and it's challenging to my little rabbit brain. And again, with this new job and new stress, I need to commit even more to being still for 7 minutes a day. I have a plan to do 1 minute of meditation instead of snacking at work. We'll see how that goes!

I exchanged push ups for planks. I do 1:15 worth of planks 6 days a week. I find if I rest a day, I'm better at it the next day. The push ups were not getting better as I wasn't doing much of other exercises to increase my upper body strength and I was frustrated with my lame push ups. Perhaps I'll return to them in April.

Have not worked on my script. Fear.

Have not added a regular strength set to my daily/weekly routine. I need to put it in my daily journal as a thing to check off. (Checking things off on a page is R E A L L Y satisfying for me!)

Flossing has been continuing apace. Well done me.

 

Goals for March:

-Lose 8 pounds

-Meditate 5-10 minutes per day

-Plank 1:15 or more per day (Along with the regular walking/stair steps)

-Work on creative writing 2x per week

-Schedule the stretchy bands work outs into my weekly routine

-Keep flossing 5x per week!

 

I'll be back with updates around Easter....! 


Field Trips

Harper had her first school field trip last week. They walked to Louise's Restaurant and learned about making pizza. It sounded pretty fun for them all and she drew great pics in a little book they all made:

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Interesting to see how 6-year-old, learning-how-to-read/write-brains work. This is how she spells all on her own. Super fascinating to me is how their young brains are still connecting left to right and often they will reverse the direction of letters and numbers.

Anyway - her field trip reminded me about the first field trip I remember - going to McDonald's in Kahala*. I was either in first or second grade and we walked the block or so to the restaurant and got to see inside the kitchen and how it worked. Then we all got a small bag of fries. What a treat! (We rarely ate at McDonalds when I was growing up.)

I love this tiny little similarity in our lives.

 

 

 

*And now I have the damn Kahala Mall jingle stuck in my head. The one from way back in the 80s....


Fall Fun in SoCal 2015

Harper and I spent the last two weekends doing some traditional Fall activities. (Poor Kurt had to work.) First it was apple picking then a Fall Festival at the U-pick farm that we frequent throughout the year.

The apple farm we chose was Riley's Farm in Oak Glen. That's about a two hour drive without traffic. We got there right when they opened and thank goodness we did. It turned out to be the last day of apples (Granny Smiths) for the season and also pumpkin patch time for them.

We went first for apples.

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Then wandered around the pumpkin patch before heading back to the Hawks Head Tavern for an early lunch of Ye Olde Grilled Cheese.
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The food took a while so we made ourselves busy with selfies.

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Finally, lunch was eaten and then it was time to make a speech.

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We then left and I was so glad we'd gotten there early as the two lane road leading the farm was JAMMED on both sides for about 1/4 mile.

The next day we made apple pie. It was delicious! Before and After:

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I look forward to going back to that farm next year earlier in the season to get some red apples. 

I'm not the most crafty person in the world, don't know how to sew nor do I own a glue gun. But I actually made a Halloween Craft this year! Sewing and glue gun not required! It's small, only 10" around, but I love it. Harper helped me paint the snakes.

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Today was all about the Pumpkin Situation at our regular farm Underwood Family Farm. They have a full on Fall Festival every October with rides and games and and food and music along with all their regular farm fun stuff.

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The most fun for both of us was the Bean Box - an enclosed, shaded "Playpen" full of beans and various scoopers and cups. Harper could have stayed for hours. We were there for about 40 minutes. It was heaven.

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August Fun Miscellany

This week has been SO hot. And only a month ago it actually rained for a day. I can't wait for this much ballyhooed El NiƱo to kick in. Harper is going to need new rainboots

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Willoughby likes to play outside in the rain, but not always.

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Mostly, it's just hot and a little pool time is needed.

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Movies are a good place to cool off. Harper and I went to a couple this summer. Minions was first (or "Funny guys" as she likes to call them). Mostly she found it loud and covered her ears 2/3 of the way through.

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Next we went to see Shaun The Sheep. But first - movie snacks!

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Again, a bit loud to start, but she put her hands down about 1/2 way through Shaun.

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Afterward - cool treat!

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When it's hot - cooking is really a pain! Always nice to go out somewhere else and eat. Especially when there is pasta.

Much concentration.

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