Kitchen 2, Kayla 1

I told you they kind of looked like poop…

When we first got here, baking was not high on my list; I was more worried about just making something edible. But once we settled in, and I started spending more time on Pinterest, I got the itch to make something sweet. For any of you who haven’t heard of this phenomenon sweeping America, Pinterest is a girl’s best friend (next to diamonds, of course) — it has everything — from recipes, to crafts, to fashion. You can even plan your dream wedding before you have a boyfriend. It’s kind of like the wedding board game I had when I was 8, but for grown-ups. Yes, there was such a thing as a wedding board game. Funny, right? I’m actually surprised my Mom let me play with it, being the strong feminist she is… “a girl doesn’t need a boy to make her happy”… which is true, but it’s nice to have one anyway. Must have been a gift… ūüôā

Anyway, as I’m drooling over my “food board” on Pinterest a couple Fridays ago I realize that not only do I not have the ingredients to make most of these items, I was¬†pretty much missing every basic baking utensil;¬†I had no measuring cups, no mixing bowl, no muffin tin, no cookie sheet, no 9 x 13 pan, no mixer, no whisk, no spatula… How did someone survive in this place?! Serioussssssly. So I narrowed my search. I needed to bake something. Anything. Luckily, I found some peanut butter oatmeal no-bake cookies that my friend Ellie had pinned. Now, I don’t usually go the no-bake route, they just never seem to be as good as the real thing. But as you can probably tell, I was desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures. These cookies called for six ingredients, a pot and a spoon; that, it seemed, would be all I could handle.

I made myself a short list, I already had half of the ingredients (love when that happens!), and walked to the grocery store. I found organic butter (don’t tell Jay), brown sugar, and few other items in under 15 minutes, possibly my best time yet (I suppose my sugar fix was good motivation). Even though Jay would have grumbled because it wasn’t on my list, I got really excited when I stumbled upon the Nutella. While I would have been happy with any kind of cookie, I really wanted something with chocolate, and Nutella was the answer to my prayers.

I got back to the flat and I realized I had forgotten the vanilla. Crap. There was no time to go back, so I went ahead and got a little creative. Here’s what I did (just in case any of you end up in a place with no¬†measuring cups, no mixing bowl, no muffin tin, no cookie sheet, no 9 x 13 pan, no mixer, no whisk, no spatula):

3 C Oatmeal

4 T Peanut Butter

1 T Nutella

Dash of Cinnamon

2 C Brown Sugar

1/2 C Milk

1/4 C Butter (also known as 57 grams here… it’s super helpful that it comes in 50 g chunks… not)

Put the first 4 ingredients in a bowl and set aside (or a pot, if that’s all you have). Cook brown sugar, milk and butter until it comes to a rapid boil — allow to boil for one minute. Pour mixture over oats and stir. Pour onto foil or wax paper.

Beware: it looks little bit like poop, but tastes delicious! They hit the spot. In fact, even Jay said they were good. I win. Kayla 1 Kitchen 0

I got a little cocky after my good luck with those cookies. The following week I thought it would be a good idea to make a half batch with the leftover ingredients and add some ripe bananas. Terrible idea. Three problems: 1) Halving the batch without measuring cups proved to be more difficult than I originally thought 2) I didn’t compensate enough with the dry ingredients to account for the bananas. 3) The bananas were too ripe — it was more like a mushy banana cookie with a little chocolate and peanut butter, rather than the other way around. We ate them with a fork for awhile, then I decided to just chalk it up as a loss. Rats. Kayla 1 Kitchen 1

Last weekend we were invited to play volleyball/picnic in the park with the Spikeopaths (a local volleyball club). The invite mentioned bringing a dish to share and I love a good potluck. Once again, I scanned pinterest for a recipe that would require very little utensils and ingredients. I finally decided on box brownies, marshmallows and chocolate frosting. I figured it would be hard to mess box brownies up. And they would be super tasty. But…

After 40 minutes of baking in a small glass dish I pulled out the brownies, checked them with a fork, and decided they had to be done. I worried I had overcooked them and fell asleep cursing myself for it. How was I going to dazzle my new mates with burnt brownies?

The next morning I got up and made the chocolate frosting. Yum. I usually try to hold off eating chocolate before 11 AM, but I couldn’t help myself. The buttery, chocolatey goodness was just too much to resist — I was covered in chocolate after licking both spoons and the pot clean. After that I patted myself on the back for the great self-control, then we packed up and left for the park. After a 20 minute walk and 20 minutes wandering in the park we finally found our group.¬†Sidenote: we were on time and they were late. The English haven’t proved to be all that prompt. Once I set the brownies down I realized the frosting had melted in the heat. It had been so crappy for so many days that it didn’t cross my mind that it would be hot enough for anything to melt. Considering it was almost lunch time, and I had already broken my no chocolate before 11 rule, I decided to cut into the brownies. It was really for everyone’s benefit; once one piece is gone it’s like giving permission for everyone else to dig in, right? Well… I dug in, but to my dismay the brownies were stuck to the foil (I had used foil to avoid cleaning the dish by hand. I know. Super lazy.). Hoping that maybe it was just the corner that I would have issues with I continued to dig.

Crap.

Pretty sure the sun didn’t melt my brownies back into brownie batter.

Pretty sure no one is going to eat these.

But geez, they still taste really, really good.

Damn.

How embarassing. How could I mess up box brownies? Ugh.

All this chocolate goodness will go to waste. What ashame.

Now I’m just angry.

Kitchen 2, Kayla 1

We will meet again.

*BTW for you chocolate lovers out there I did not let them all go to waste. I probably ate 2/3 of the pan before I made myself throw them away. Yes, it took a lot of willpower. Brownie batter is damn good.

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Vintage, you say?

The Apple Store called my computer vintage today. If my six-year old computer is vintage, what is my 25-year old body… ancient? Good thing doctors don’t say, “Sorry, since you are 18 years of age we consider you vintage. We can give you a physical, but we can’t actually fix anything, you’ll have to go somewhere else for that.” Because apparently, that’s what vintage means at Apple. I guess I’m a proud owner of an antique in their eyes.

At least Apple is being considerate in allowing me six years to save up for a new computer, I mean, calling a computer vintage after five years would be ludicrous. I know, I know, all you techies out there are laughing at me right now — you think I should have upgraded three years ago. But I really, really like my computer. Yes, she’s a bit heavy (it actually feels like I’m carrying a small child in my backpack), but she has served me well; I’ve even fallen down the stairs (a late night during finals week) with her and she survived with minor bumps and bruises. I was swearing/crying in heap at the bottom of the stairs mostly because I was worried all of my hard work would be gone; slightly concerned I would have to call my Dad and tell him my clumsiness broke my computer; and lastly because it kind of hurt (meanwhile, both my roommates were at the top of the stairs laughing at me, FYI). But she worked like a charm. That, my friend, is a high quality machine… and a high quality plastic cover.

That cover saved my life that night. Literally. I would have died if I lost all my finals work.

Ok, I’m being dramatic.

But to all my uncoordinated readers, I urge you to consider a hard plastic cover. Just in case you ever fall down the stairs.

Sigh…

I guess I’ll start emptying my piggy bank.

 

I should have just stayed in bed today.

Jay gave me his cold. I love waking up with a sore throat and a head full of snot. Not.

I thought maybe I could sweat it out. So after I picked up some cough drops I went the gym.

Bad idea.

I lasted 2 minutes and 47 seconds on the elliptical before I decided it might be a good idea to just walk it out.

I lasted 4 minutes and 23 seconds on the treadmill before I decided it was just silly that I was wasting so much energy focusing on staying upright. The shakiness and heavy breathing were also good indicators that it was time to be done.

I walked home in a daze.

But of course, despite how I felt, I was still hungry (what’s new?).

I preceded to ¬†spill yogurt everywhere. Twice. My socks, my backpack, my stomach, the floor…

I didn’t even want yogurt for lunch.

Bathing Just Like the Romans

Just as you all are getting your hopes up for another Grunderpants blog post of the UK excursions from the female perspective, here comes an added bonus. You have a surprise author in this week’s blog as I (Jay, in case you hadn’t figured it out) have managed to watch Kayla type in her password last week, and am now storming into the 21st century and taking over the Grunderpants blog posting.

It has now been about 3 and a half weeks with this being our fourth weekend here. Although Kayla has done a rather impressive job covering our time so far, here goes a quick summary of the weeks that have been and some thoughts of my own:

Week 1 – Arrival, Jet Lag, Henley-on-Thames

If this trip has taught me anything about international flights, it has been to look into the marvels of modern medicine. I’m not sure what it is about flights, but I can’t get any sleep at all on them. Period. From here on out I will be looking to put myself into a state slightly above comatose before entering a flight over 5 hours. I’ll just have to wear a shirt that won’t show the drool. Doc Garvin, do you have any horse tranquilizers that would work???

I won’t go too much in-depth about the Regatta as Kayla hit that one up pretty well. Just one interesting observation from me is that the range of people there was fascinating. From society’s elite (Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton past and present alum) where elitism just oozes with each goofy looky suit, to the train wrecks that required a cozy spot right on the curb at 5 PM as it had been a full 8 hour day of drinking already. Having Henley be our first weekend there was a great way to see some of the British culture and not have to travel far at only a 20 minute train ride.

Authors note: I may have been one of the train wrecks if it wasn’t for the better half making sure I behave.

Week 2 – Work, London, Footy, Ale

With the start of week 2 came the start of my assignment in Reading. There isn’t a ton of material there to keep you all at the edge of your seats. It has been an uneventful few weeks at work and I’m rather happy about that. The more it can stay that way, the more we will be able to sneak out of the office and do some traveling, which (keep this a secret to my boss) is really why we wanted to come. One noticeable office activity is making sure that when you are going to the break room to make sure to ask EVERYONE in the office if they would want a drink of any kind from there. I actually have a hard time with this one because it isn’t like asking a co-worker¬†or two because you have a free hand. It is customary to ask all 15 or 20 people in the office whether or not they want something. This scared me for the first couple of weeks for a few reasons. First is that we have a tray to help carry everything out, but we also have security doors that require a badge and a code to be typed in. I’m not sure that I have the grace to hold a tray, scan my badge, type in my code, and open the door without spilling all over myself. I’d almost for certain end up with everyone’s piping hot beverages on the front of my shirt if I had to do that on my own. The other thing I worry about is making sure to ask the tea drinkers how they take their tea. This is all assumptions (so far anyway), but if Kayla is a food snob and pilates snob, than the English may be tea snobs and I wouldn’t want to ruin their afternoon tea by not preparing it a certain way. I can make my own and Kayla’s pretty well, but we are still at amateur tea drinking status compared to our hosts over here.

Lucky for me, I’ve only had one tea order and at most, only 4 people accepting my proposal for drinks. They must already be able to tell my clumsiness and know that I won’t be able to make them a proper cup of tea.

Also with my first week of work, came the first week of footy (Soccer to you dumb Americans). I play pick up games on Tuesdays with people at work. It’s great to be playing again and I’m not used to being in an area of the world where soccer is the biggest sport. It makes for pretty good competition. My first week I was told that I must not have learned how to play in America. I took it as a compliment.

It was also this week where I got my first real taste of a British pub. On Friday night prior going to London, we met a co-worker of mine for a few pints. We started at a pub called the Alehouse. My co-worker did the ordering and I ended up with a beer called Hextor and one called Mr. Chubb. Both served room temp. Strange thing is, they taste like they are supposed to be served room temp. I actually am enjoying the beers here so I am going to go for gaining a few “soft” pounds around my mid-section like I did when I came home from Australia. Kayla will be one lucky bride.

Again, Kayla discussed our activities pretty well in London. However, I’ve got to say that I am proud of her. She tried Indian food. Unfortunately, I’m probably never going to get Indian food again as long as she is with me. I’m happy with her for trying. Good thing I don’t love Indian food that much.

Week 3 – Bath

Last week Kayla and I decided to venture west to a town in England called Bath. This town was originally founded by the Romans sometime around the first century B.C. when they found the only natural hot springs in the UK. The Romans believed the waters in Bath contained healing powers and therefore Roman soldiers would vacation to Bath or injured ones would come to bathe in the healing waters. I’m not sure when Walcott or Wilton were founded, but I’m guessing it was only a couple of years after Bath.

Again, we traveled by train out of Reading early on Saturday and got into Bath around 9 or 10 in the morning. We weren’t exactly sure what we wanted to accomplish during the day, so I stopped in a tourist center and found out that there was a free walking tour of the city starting shortly. Being here only a few weeks, I was surprised to hear the word “free,” so we took advantage of it to decide what we wanted to do the with the rest of our time. The walking tour took us to to the city attractions including but not limited to, the original Roman Baths, the Crescent house, The Circus, the Bath Abbey, Queen’s Square, today’s version of the Roman Baths (Thermae Spa), among other stops. Without entering each, of course. You have to pay for these luxuries. In all it was 2 hours and although quite good and informative, could have been an hour and half because I think for the last half hour both of us were looking for potential restaurants and not paying too much mind to the tour guide. All in all, it was a good way for us to start out touring the city as neither of us knew where to go/what to expect.

The rest of the afternoon was spent going back to the places we noted that we wanted a more in-depth view of from the tour. I won’t be able to do the history of any of the places justice, so I will allow any of you who are interested in the sights to google them and bone up on your history on the internet. Specifically, we went back to the Crescent House, which is an 18th century large estate built for the UK’s elite which comprised of several Georgian style homes connected, and the Bath Abbey, which was the church that was re-built in the 15th century in the town center. ¬†Pictures will be posted, but the interesting thing to note is that the Abbey was re-built and according to our guide the tower of the rebuilt version would have fit completely in the original Abbey. Hard to picture that because the re-built Abbey is pretty large.

Saturday night we got tickets to a comedy club called Komedia. The humor here is very witty and quite crude, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I did, however, feel slightly out-of-place because there were about 7 hen parties (bachelorette) going on there to only 1 stag party (bachelor). My assumption here is that most of the stag parties must occur at much higher class establishments such as the symphony, where I will most likely be having mine in the near future.

Sunday can be summed up by Roman bathing. Both past and present. We went back into the Roman Baths Museum and walked through the bath house. They had artifacts there dating all the back to at least 1 AD. In one of the wishing wells, they had coins that spanned through 400 years of Roman Emperors (1 AD to 400)! Walking through the baths, you can’t help but feel a little awestruck thinking about how long ago when they were in use and how they have pieced the history together using the artifacts left behind. I’m going to have to watch Gladiator again. After the museum, we decided that since we will likely never be in Bath again to indulge in the Thermae Spa, or today’s version of bathing in the natural hot springs. The spa was a swanky place where for the small fee of 30 pounds each (45 dollars), we could go in and use the rooftop pool, indoor pool, and steam rooms. For a small fortune, you could get extras typical of any spa. Good thing the walking tour was free. The water was pretty warm (all from the hot springs, although maybe not as warm as Brenda has the pool at the Grunder house) and I would sum it up as an adults only pool. A lot of people go to Bath from the UK and I think the spa is a big draw. Especially for the women. I think it had to be about 3 women to each guy. Good thing I’m happily taken or else I would have noticed all the women in their tiny bikinis running around. The steam room was actually pretty neat. It was in a large room and in each corner there were round chambers you could go in and out, with a “waterfall” style shower in the middle. Each chamber had a different scent or flavor. They were eucalyptus mint, lemongrass and ginger, lotus flower, and sandalwood. I’ve only been in eucalyptus steam rooms before so the other ones were really different and pretty nice. The steam rooms made the spa trip worth it. We spent most of our time in the steam rooms and the rooftop pool which actually had a fairly nice view of the city and county side. Problem was, we didn’t need to full 2 hours. We stayed for only about an hour and half because yours truly was already pretty pruny and we were hungry. All in all, probably worth doing just to say we did it.

Well, I think I’ve covered at least a few things from the first few weeks that I wanted to comment on. I’ll let Kayla cover what we did this weekend and I’ll add in thoughts on a more regular basis. I think I have to be a little bit more proactive about posting or my mom is going to keep nagging me on it. Love you Mom.

We miss you all and hope these posts find you well.

j

Might as well add pilates snob to the list…

I knew better. I really did. But I thought I should keep an open mind about our new gym (minus the whole cleanliness thing). I was excited to have the opportunity to do cardio, yoga, pilates, and kettlebell classes all at the same place. But after attending both a yoga and a pilates class I was seriously disappointed. Neither class was challenging, and if I’m going to spend my time working out, it better be worth it. So I moved on to my next option, Studio 42. Guess what the 42 stands for? 42 degrees, Celsius, that is. Add 60 to that and you will have a rough estimate of the temperature in Farenheit. Yeah, you’re right, that’s hot. It would be about the same as doing yoga outside in Iowa right now, which probably isn’t a pleasant thought for most of you. Interestingly enough, Studio 42 is a hot yoga AND pilates studio. While I have done hot yoga, I have never done hot pilates, but I was willing to give it a try. Here’s how it went…

I walked into the studio to find a blond Norwegian woman in tight purple workout gear (she would be my instructor). I signed in, put my stuff in locker, took a deep breath of (semi) fresh air, and then prepared myself for the hot, and most likely, smelly room (turns out it wasn’t that bad). From the look of our instructor, I thought I might have gotten lucky; she looked like she knew what she was doing, if you know what I mean. However, I got a little nervous during our warm-up, I started to get a scary notion that we were going to do a rain dance with 2 lb weights in our hands. She was all about flow and rhythm, two things I don’t do well with. And I don’t dance (unless I have had a few drinks). And I definitely wasn’t going to dance to bring more rain; I’ve had my fill. For the last two weeks this weather had made me want to do nothing but curl up with a blanket, some hot chocolate and a chick flick.

All in all, the class was interesting… it did get smelly (the guy behind me had nothing on but his tight undies – note to self: keep mat away from his), but I didn’t pass out from that or the heat, which was a plus. It was a pretty good work out — but nothing like classical pilates — which was a bummer. I choose to do pilates at home because I like the way it makes me feel. Strong. Lean. Balanced. I like the structure of pilates; Joseph Pilates was all about structure (thumbs up for that dude). And I really like that there is a right and wrong way to do it. While I know there will probably never be a day that I will be able to do everything correctly, there’s comfort in knowing the practice is worth it. The challenge is high and the competition is with myself.

Oh well… hot yoga, it is. I’ll practice Joseph on my own.

 

BTW…¬†Living here is like doing everything with my left hand. It’s going to take some time to become efficient (which is annoying).

Every time I get in the shower the shower head falls to about chest high; every time I move it back up I pray that it stays put. Squatting while showering doesn’t seem that appealing.

I still haven’t figured out the oven. I’m pretty sure I broke it today.

Even the tupperware makes me feel stupid. I swear like sailor every time I try to get the lid on the container. I just don’t understand why it hates me so much.

I will never take a dryer for granted again. I don’t have the patience for line drying.

Grocery shopping can be exhausting. Mostly because I spend an hour roaming the store trying to find the three things on my list. I’ve been too stubborn to ask where things are because I don’t want anyone thinking I’m a stupid American. I should just give in. I have a feeling they already know…

For the first two weeks, every time I turned on the sink I got wet. The water pressure is ridiculous and the sinks are too shallow to handle it. Someone, somewhere is laughing at me… It actually reminds of Ashten rubber-banding the sprayer on the sink. Gets me every damn time.

 

Farewell, friends. Jay is suppose to be writing his blog about our trip to Bath this past weekend, I’ll keep pestering him about it (practicing for my wifely duties) — What an amazing place!

everything is so… old… awesomely old

Day 1

After our visit to Henley, we figured we were pretty much experts at the train station and could go anywhere we wanted, but we thought it would be a good idea to familiarize ourselves with London before the Olympics. Thank goodness we did, we would have been in way over our heads. There were so many people! And have you seen a map of the Tube? Good luck with that. Lucky for us, Jay’s cousin Julia and her boyfriend Patrick live IN LONDON and volunteered to be our own personal tour guides. They were pros — they pretty much showed us the whole city in a little over 6 hours and a little under 6 miles. Of course, it felt more like a marathon. You think you’re in shape until you do some serious walking, then you wonder what’s wrong with you. Maybe those ladies with the mini hand weights and power walking actually have the right idea…

Our day started on the Tube. I gotta say, it lost some of its luster for me this weekend. I had no idea how hot it would be down there — it just didn’t even cross my mind — I mean, heat rises, right? No, apparently not in underground London. It just all gets trapped in there to make public transportation even more gross. I’m sorry, I know, save mother earth, take the train. And that we did. I was sweating and it was 65 degrees and raining outside. No big deal. Bigger question: How do 2 million people in dress clothes make that commute every day?

We stopped at Leicester Square first to look for discounted theatre tickets. We had mentioned seeing a show and Julia, being the insider she is, told us that was the best place to get them. We decided a show could wait, there was already a ton to see… and we were really hungry (broadening our cultural experiences 0, feeding the beast 1). So we hopped back on the Tube to go to Borough Market. WOW. Woooooow. I have never seen such a thing in my life. It was a farmer’s market on crack. There were so many food vendors (and people, this will be a reoccurring theme) — fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, jams, seafood, chorizo sandwiches, sangria, chocolate, yogurt, breads, beers… Just thinking about it makes me happy. I could have spent hours there (and probably gained 10 lbs).

Once our bellies were full and happy we marched on… and on… and on. We saw the London Bridge (with the Olympic rings), Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, a few parks, a lot of statues, and JFK’s residence (that one was for you, Mom). By 6 o’clock we all agreed it was time to rest; you’d think we were getting old or something. After giving our feet a much needed break, the next challenge was deciding where we would eat for dinner. I would have been happy with a fruit salad. I got out-voted. Instead, we ended up going to an Indian restaurant. And after that meal, I can easily say that I never need to eat Indian food again.

The night ended with an interesting film called Shame. I wouldn’t recommend it. Unless you want to see a slightly disturbing film.

Day 2

Jay and I were on own on Sunday.

The plan was to catch a bus to Kensington to make the 2 pm walking tour.

The plan didn’t work out that well.

Julia told us we needed to catch the 152 bus to get to Downing Street. When we reached the bus stop we checked the schedule and expected our bus to be coming every 12 minutes. We waited for about 20 before the 152 stopped. As we were getting on the bus the men in front of us asked if this bus stopped at Downing Street. The bus driver replied that it did not, and after Jay confirmed what he said, we got back off the bus thinking we had been mistaken. However, once we checked the map again, we realized that the 152 absolutely did make the stop we needed. We had been duped (stupid tourists). Thinking that another bus would be coming any minute, we waited. We thought about a taxi; we walked down to the Tube (but knew that would be a disaster); went pee at McDonald’s; and then we waited some more. We were at that bus stop for over an hour. Apparently the 152 was a little behind schedule.

By the time we made it we were too late for the tour. Go figure. But we made the best of it. We walked around the National Gallery and saw some pretty incredible works, including a couple famous Van Gogh paintings. We had lunch at a little place off the beaten path and then stumbled upon a gelato shop called “Scoop”. Bummer. I hate when that happens. Not. It was fabulous. They had a sign that said they deliver — I wonder if that’s international…

Oh, and one of the best things about Sunday. We also stumbled upon a Whole Foods. I just about died and went to Heaven. I love that freakin’ store.

xo