Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A New Bakery In Town

There's a new bakery in our little town in the middle of England.... It's my kitchen!
I am not sure how it happened so quickly, but I have been getting calls with "orders" for my American baked goods for all kinds of birthday parties, social engagements, school functions, etc. I am working on another order tonight and tomorrow - cupcakes to celebrate a quilting's club first birthday.

I am glad the recipients are enjoying the treats and I have enjoyed the distraction to give me something to do with my free time these days. I am not sure this baking gig will turn into anything more than just a word-of-mouth hobby for me, but it is fun to do it while I have the time, for people who are enjoying the end products. The "American" style cupcakes (called fairy cakes here) seem to be the biggest draw for other Americans and also the Brits who are ordering from me right now. Of course it helps that I am often sending in baked goods with Scott so his co-worker's can "taste" the goods and send referrals my way....
Cupcakes for a High School Musical birthday party. 
Gingerbread men and snowladies for a birthday party. 
Vanilla cupcakes for a 3-year-old's birthday party.
Star cookies to match the Pirate theme for the birthday party. 
A double-layer chocolate cake for a 60th birthday. 
The side view of the chocolate buttercream frosting. Yum!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Life of an Expat Wife

Part of the expat culture in most foreign countries includes these "groups" for expat wives to join. The purpose of such groups is to provide a networking opportunity for spouses (who are often time alone for long periods of time in foreign countries because their husbands work so much.....ahem....actually sounds familiar to me!) to meet other expats in the area, and also to provide some type of support group for American families/spouses in a certain area.
There is a fairly decent sized American/Canadian group in our area of England to which I belong and have participated in a number of activities. There is also a much smaller and more informal group of women from all over the world who have formed an expat group as well. I have gotten to know them and have truly enjoyed both groups for different reasons.  

It has been nice to do things with these groups. I do feel a bit like a "lady who lunches". Scott & I are really on the younger end of the spectrum for this expat stint....at least in our area. If we were in London, we would probably be much more in the middle of the spectrum since it is a much younger city. However, since we are in the countryside, we are one of the few couples at our age and one of the few American families here without children. 

Today is Australian Day, and since the smaller expat group has a few Australian members in it, and they decided to host an Australian Day gathering here in England to celebrate this day in which 1788 eleven convict ships from Great Britain arrived on the shores of Australia. 
The Aussie Banner flying across the dining room mantel for Australian Day! 
The traditional Australian Lamingtons for dessert. They are squares of cake (butter/pound type cake) covered in chocolate and dusted coconut.
The group gathered in Stephanie's dining room for the Australian lunch. We feasted on barbecued burgers (with beets, onions, cucumbers and more - a bit different than the American burgers!), shrimp, potato salad and then a number of delicious Australian desserts. 
This beautiful Pavlova was served for dessert. Pavlova is a meringue crust topped with fresh whipped cream and fresh fruit. It is unknown as to who created the first pavlova but the recipes first started appearing after the Russian ballerina (Anna Pavlova) toured Australia and New Zealand and was said that "she does not dance but she soars as though on wings." From this phrase, it is sensed that the dessert is light and airy, etc. AND DELICIOUS! :)  
With this group of expat ladies, I have also been to the "brine bath" in the little town of Droitwhich, England, and then on another occasion, we made lovely advent wreaths at an early Christmas luncheon. 
"Brine Bathing" in the salt water...Cassie, Christina, Ingrid, & Cristine floating for an hour. 
The fresh advent wreath I made at the Expat Christmas luncheon, proudly displayed on our table at our house. It was a nice addition to our dinner table during the advent season. 
I feel a bit like I am going on "field trips" or having craft days for these events, but they have also been great learning experiences for me to learn about the area around me now in England and the other people from all over the world who are here exploring as well. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Taco Night

Tonight was another taco dinner night in our house....it tends to be a favorite and easy weeknight meal. I have been craving queso dip recently and unfortunately the grocery store does not sell any type of Velveeta cheese here, nor is mexican cuisine on any menus in the area. Thank goodness for the internet and expat forums! Through my searches, I found some recipes from other expats who have had to come up with their own velveeta-type substitutes.  I took a few recipes and tweaked them, and came up with the following recipe that I am pleased to share for a tasty con queso dip:

- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium-high heat, then stir in 1 tablespoon of butter and mix with a whisk until a roux forms and the mixture becomes a bit thick and stiff. 
- Add, one and a half cups of milk and quickly whisk over the heat.
- Add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, or more to taste. 
- Stir in about 100 grams of cream cheese (I just eye-balled about a half of a "normal" size cream cheese container here) and then also about 2 handfuls of mild grated cheese. 
- Stir the mixture until all the cheese is melted. 
- Add about 1/2 - 1 cup of salsa and stir until completely mixed in.

Serve warm with tortilla chips and enjoy a little bit of mexican while living away from the mexican restaurants and velveeta cheese! 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The last photos of 2008....Welcome 2009!

A few days late, here are our last photos of 2008....
We celebrated New Year's Eve with our friends Jason & Lauri who moved to this area of England the same day we did. Their adorable daughter (also our little friend!) Emma celebrated with us until her bedtime after eight that evening. She was quite the performer before her bedtime and even sang us a few songs on her new toddler piano with microphone. 
Emma playing with Mr.Scott before dinner.
We enjoyed yummy appetizers, cheese fondue, and Scott's enchiladas, with champagne, (a bit of a strange combination of foods indeed but yummy all the same) for our NYE's meal. We were glad to ring in the new year in England with our new friends and cannot wait to meet Jason & Lauri's new little one who will arrive in 2009! 
Lauri, Emma, and Jason at their house on NYE. 
We stole Emma for a photo too because she is just so cute! 

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Camel Riding

While in Cairo visiting the Pyramids of Giza, we decided to ride camels through the Sahara Desert. It was quite an experience, so I thought it deserved its own post!
Getting on and off of the camel was one of the most ungraceful experiences to witness....as you will see from the photos! I got up on my camel first as Scott watched. 
I am on the camel and ready to go.
And then it was Scott's turn to get on....
We are both holding on to the saddle horns in hopes we don't fall off! 
The view of the camel while sitting on top...
Scott is riding his camel in front of me, so I was able to capture a shot from up on top of the camel. 
We rode to an area where we could see all three pyramids in the background. 
Holding the reigns!
This video below shows Scott riding his camel (I was filming while riding too). It was VERY windy in the desert that day, so the background noise is a little annoying if your volume is turned up high. The video looks unsteady because it was that bumpy of a ride! 
video
As we rode back to the area where we started, we saw all of the other camels waiting for tourists to arrive to ride them.
Below is one other video of this camel riding experience. Advance warning - Scott films this bit and about 20 seconds into it, he loses control of the camel reigns, and as a result the camera falls out of his hands. I don't think he realized the camera was still filming so the video is sideways and quite goofy.....and of course very windy like the other one. 
video
We inched towards the end of the ride and then it was time to dismount. I almost did not include this set of photos because I think they quite a few unbecoming photos....but I figured my expression shows the shear horror I experienced of being at such an angle while the camel dropped to his knees as I dismounted from the seven foot high perch!
It was quite a ride!