A Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple Cupcake

 

Yesterday I had a Shirley Temple cupcake in memories of one of my favorite little actress. She was so cute and talented who grew up to be a wonderful role model. May you rest in peace, Mrs. Black! xx

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine's Day 2014

 

Just a little love post from me to you. Hope you have a wonderful wonderful day today! We’re not one to celebrate Valentine’s day by going out for a romantic dinner etc but if there’s a special day to celebrate love, kindness, giving, and anything nice, we’re there!

I cannot wait for the girls to come home. Again, we’re not having anything super special but a little extra love, yummy cupcakes from my favorite cake lady, cards and decors will make their end of the week (and start of their school break) extra lovely.

Take care and I shall share how I created the 10, maybe 15, minutes bunting with you next post! Thanks to all the gorgeousness from WPlus9, all the above were able to be created. Do check out WPlus9’s blog for all sorts of fun challenges and giveaways to celebrate their birthday. Lots of inspirations and tips this week alone!!

Happy 10-years-old!!

Emma 10th birthday

Oh my, how did this ever happen? Our big girl, Emma, is TEN today!! First double digits, which she’s been so looking forward to!

This morning we woke her up super early. Super early because dad leaves for work quite early in the morning and we wanted to surprise her together. So after scrambling looking for candles (I know I have some somewhere), we brought cupcakes, 10 tea-light candles on a tray, and presents at around 6:30 a.m. <– yes, this is super early for us who wakes up at 8 a.m. on a weekday.

But despite being woken up, she perked up quickly and blew her candles at the end of the song. Aaaah, bitter sweet. I love how she looks forward to growing up but as a mom, I just wish she grows up a little bit slower.

So here’s our googly eyes girl who’s still sweet, caring, loves gymnastics and all her good friends. My little travel, craft and foodie buddy and the best big sister Jovie could ever have. She loves to rough it with her daddy and watch hours of documentaries on Netflix.

Emma

And oh, the girl who has this “whatever” look when she thinks I’m just full of it. Love her to bits!

Happy birthday, sweet angel!

Emma Emma 10th birthday Emma 10th birthday Card made by me as usual but I can’t claim the cupcakes. Cupcakes were made by a local cake artist: Cake, Love, Crossbones by Holland.

 

20 Things After Living 4 Years in England

If my husband’s job didn’t extend our stay, we’d be back in America by January 22nd. But he got extended and we have four more fabulous years to go!

After settling in and got used to living here, we took advantage of living in England. We made sure we make lots of British friends. We made sure we go to every village/town/city event that looked (vaguely) interesting. We made sure we live somewhat British while still loving our s’mores, ice tea, and eating birthday cakes at the birthday party. And we made sure we traveled. In and outside of England. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we’re for sure not going to waste it!

We’ve learned so much and created so many memories and want to highlight a few things:

1. Rain or shine, hot or cold, I drink hot tea. I honestly believe that ce tea only exist inside an American family’s home. It was blazing hot that day and there’s me with my cuppa tea.

Tea

2. Still weather related (and I’m almost sure it’s very British to talk about the weather often), 75 degrees (or 23-ish) is HOT! If at all possible, everybody would be outside and oven related cooking would be way too warm. While I am too Asian to swim in the ocean (too cold still for my blood), some people do!

Beach 3. You cannot easily find a home with air conditioning. Even in posh homes. The last four years I’ve only seen one home that we can afford to rent with AC in it. You just open up your windows and let nature blow (hot) 75 degree air inside your home.

4. The hot weather I’ve been talking about? It can go from lovely sunny weather to pouring rain within an hour. I got cold once. I wore a skirt and t-shirt once — because it was bloody sunny and warm outside — and regretted it an hour later because the weather changed just like that. So ever since then, I always layer and/or bring leggings. Only if it’s 80 (happened but not often) will I go out confident in a summery outfit.

5. Bless. It’s not only for sneezes or used by religious people. If a child falls down: Oh, bless. If a puppy poo on the carpet: Bless. If a sweet little girl hugs her mommy so tenderly: Aww, bless. When Jovie’s sleeping and people say: Oh, bless her. I think it’s used in lieu of “poor thing” or “oooh, how sweet” but I haven’t really confirmed with anybody.

6. I learned not to ask for pants when I wanted were trousers. HUGE difference walking around in just pants or trousers in public!

7. Tea. A few weeks after we arrived, I was invited to tea. Great I thought! And when I got there, there was what I would call dinner. Tea can mean three things. First, is a cup of tea. Second, a light meal which I believe is also referred to afternoon tea. Third it’s the main meal of the evening, and I think this is what they refer to as high tea.

Thai Fried Rice

8. There are really good food in England! Before moving here, I heard many comments about bland food and how nothing’s tasty in England besides fish and chips but while there may be some out there, and some people do prefer bland dishes, we’ve not encountered many! Maybe because I always go to places with good reviews but really, there are LOTS of great food in England! From simple sandwiches to really fancy dishes.

Fish and Chips

9. Driving four hours is a loooooooooong drive! We used to drive from Missouri to Mississippi for holidays. Ten hours of driving and a couple hours of stops — toilet and lunch. It was always exhausting but never stressful. But here, unless you’re on the A1 going up to Scotland (with normal traffic), driving four hours can be so tiring and sometimes stressful. You’re not always guaranteed a highway kind of road – the two roads on each side kind of roads. And even when you are on a highway, you may have to slow down every few miles for a roundabout. Or merge into a two lane road because it has to go through a town or forested area. I am not complaining about the preservation of old fabulous towns or trees, btw. I think that bit’s great. But it’s still an obstacle when driving long distance. So, when you see a town that is five miles away from you, don’t think it’s your GPS that’s broken when it says it’s 20 minutes away. It may just be!

10. I am now a kick ass reverse car parker. Oh yeah! Parking bays are small here. Often times you’re better off going reverse so that you won’t have to do a three point turn coming in and out.

11. Being middle class is more complicated here than the US. And this blog post describes it perfectly. Here’s a snippet:

…in Britain, one can be working class or upper class or, indeed, upper-middle or lower-middle class, or even middle-middle. I suppose that’s what I am. In Britain, in sum, we have a fully functioning class system and we’re not afraid to use the stereotypes it throws up. But in America, to be middle class seems to me to be… any American at all.

In America, I am middle class. In England, I think I have always been middle-middle class but my husband may just have moved from working class to middle-middle class. Complicated!

downton-abbey-animated-gif-defeatist

12. Online grocery delivers to us village people! In the US, big cities only. And not every grocery store delivers. Here, every grocery store delivers!!

13. School drop-off and pick-up. There is no school bus for the girls. I am the school bus driver! Hubby and I still wonder how some families manage with both of them working because not every school has a before and after school program.

14. It gets really dark at around 4 p.m. in December!

15. $100 and a short drive can bring the whole family to another country. I LOVE this part of living in Europe! There are so many things to see in England and leaving the island is not too expensive or difficult. You can find deals if you really want to, like £9 bus ticket to Paris from London. We’ve done many trips the last four years and we look forward to more our next four years!

16. Cath Kidston, PaperChaseJoules and John Lewis. Adore these UK shops!

17. Brits, or maybe it’s just my friend Tash — hmmm, but Brits love bunting. Bunting at parties, tents, rooms, ornaments, carboot sales, etc and pretty much year round.

Sophie's Christmas Fair

18. Car boot sales! Garage/yard sales are rare. Mostly the Americans do it around here but car boot (the boot being the trunk), is a very common thing. You basically fill up your car and drive it to a field where the sale will be happening and hundreds of people will come to try and find a bargain. I actually haven’t been to one but hubby and the girls have been to a couple. They’re too early for me {::WINK}.

19. Living in a village is like living in a subdivision but with your own school, shop and pub (although some village don’t always have a school or pub etc). It may also be like living in a small town in America but small towns in America are usually in the middle of nowhere where a UK village can be small and feel isolated but still 10 minutes drive from a city or bigger town.

20. Great friends. Oddly, despite living in a small village, we have met some really fabulous people. And while the experiences we’ve had have been great, the travels have been wonderful and the food not at all shabby, it’s the friendship that we’ve made here that we will cherish most. Great friends don’t come by everyday and we’re lucky to have been surrounded by many the last four years!

 

Meal Planning Week One

Meal Planning I attempted to plan our meals for the week today at the grocery store’s cafe while sipping my (free) coffee. It all started out well, or so I thought, until I got to Tuesday. Then by Thursday everything had to be rearranged again and by Saturday, I felt like I needed a new sheet of paper. One thing that made my list a bit jumbled up was my vege deliver from Abel and Cole. I almost forgot that one is coming this Tuesday and after looking at it, a few things needed swapping.

Abel and Cole

See, not sensible to buy squash today for the lobster bisque when one will come tomorrow morning!

Up to today, I would just go to the grocery store and plan our meals as I walk through the aisle. Doing this has caused a few issues. One, we would have two bags of something (because I didn’t check to see what we had at home first), two, we then ended up not cooking what I thought we’d cook and three, by Wednesday (garbage day), we say a lot of money thrown into the trash in the form of half used cream, rotten veggies, food nobody wanted to eat, etc etc etc.

Besides trying to save money, use raw material we already have and eat everything I make, I want to try a few new recipes each week. I tend to cook things I know we all at least like and I know there are more out there than the two handfuls of stuff I am really good at cooking.

So here’s this week’s menu. The only old dish I have in there is Cincinnati chili. If you’ve never had Skyline chili, or any Cincinnati style ones, you NEED to try this. SO yummy!

Monday: A dish inspired by this Couscous recipe. I don’t have any cauliflower and I didn’t want to buy a whole head of it. There’s nothing I want to do with cauliflower this week. Instead of cauliflower, I shall bake some bell peppers and toss it in the dish.

Tuesday: Lobster bisque! Tuesday is a busy day. It’s gym day. The girls get out of school at 3:15p and we need to leave for gym at 5p. Jovie and hubby (he rolls in right at 5p or a few minutes before) stays home and so I need to prepare a dish that will be good fresh AND warmed up a bit. I happen to have frozen baguette in the freezer and so I only had to splurge on the (very frozen — all I could find) lobster for this.

Wednesday: Hubby will cook — another gym night — BUT, if he can’t (for whatever reason), I will cook the Korean Jap Chae noodles. Amazingly, I already have everything I need for it.

Thursday: The Jap Chae dish will be cooked this day if not cooked Wednesday. If already cooked, plan B is Cincinnati Chili. I’ve cooked this many times and I’ve tried many recipes. I’ve improvised since but the closest to what I do is this one. I don’t though cook the onions first. I put the water in first, then meat and then everything else. When the water is still cold, I put the ground beef in the water and break the meat up. I’d then stir frequently. Once the water starts to boil, I’d add the onions etc.

Friday: Bacon and Parmesan Pasta — and we all know, anything with bacon will be delicious!! M has a birthday party to go to, not sure if there’s a full meal or not but I want to be able to cook early and feed her before she goes to her party. This dish seems like something fast and easy.

Saturday: I almost forgot that it’s our friend’s birthday, so we’ll be fed there {::SMILES}

I’ve included my receipt with this post. £50! This is pretty good I think. Don’t try to convert pounds to dollars when you live overseas (and getting paid in dollars) or you’ll never eat. I could have spent less, there are cheaper shops, but we like Waitrose’s food philosophy (they also seem to care about their employees) and so we shop there. It’s similar to why we shop at Whole Foods, farmer’s markets, co-ops and case lots/CSA in the US.

I am looking forward to week two! I am already searching Allrecipes, Food Network, Martha Stewart and my Julia Child recipe book!