Happy Holidays to You and Yours

I meant to send this greeting out before the holidays, but I slipped into a food coma earlier than expected. Seriously, how can anyone avoid over-eating at this time of year? I don’t know about all of you, but I was surrounded by cookies – we made cookies, people gave us cookies, we swapped cookies, I ate cookies. Ugh. If I don’t see another cookie for the next three months it will be just fine by me. That’s a lie. I will probably be over it by next week.

The thing that really irks me about the holidays is that I stuff my face even when I’m not hungry. I walk by a plate of goodies and put one in my mouth because a) they are practically begging to be eaten and b) I know that the likelihood of me seeing treats like this anytime in the next 350 days is slim to none. However, it’s a poor excuse in the sense that I eat plenty of sugar the rest of the year – it’s not like I only indulge in December. (WHO could do that?) Seriously, my sweet tooth is worse than that damn English oven.

Despite my lack of willpower, I refuse to step on the scale. If my jeans fit (and they do… mostly), than I figure I’m doing all right. Everyone is allowed to eat a little more at the holidays – it’s just the way it is – and that’s why you see so many freakin’ people at the gym come January 2. While I applaud any effort, my challenge to those weight loss resolutions is this: Stay strong. Don’t give up after one week (c’mon, you are better than that). Don’t give up after spring break (you still have to wear that two piece in June). And definitely don’t give up next fall when it starts to get cold outside (you have to work all those future Christmas cookies off). Plus, people aren’t lying when they say exercise makes you feel better. I know you know that. There are obvious health reason… and who doesn’t want to be a sexy beast?

That being said, I absolutely love the holidays. I am one of those awful people that started listening to Christmas music in October; I’d probably leave my Christmas tree up until the end of March if Jay would let me (and put it up in the beginning of November); and I really, really, really love cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies. How can you not be filled with holiday cheer after watching one of those? Sigh. Only 320 days until twinkling lights and glittery things appear in the stores again.

PS While I DO NOT miss that oven, there are few things I haven’t quite adjusted to…

I still don’t know where to look for the handle on the toilet. Most places in Europe had the button on top. Now I manage to touch all parts of the toilet before finding the handle, talk about needing to wash your hands…

I can’t remember what light switches do what in our own house. The other day someone asked me where the garbage disposal was at and I pointed her to the overhead light. How sad is that?

I am now the awkward person that doesn’t know which way to dodge when someone is walking towards you. The other day in the kitchen my Dad gave me a funny look when I chose to dodge left. I really need to work on my American-ness.

xo

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Things I have learned in England

1. Tea is also another word for dinner. How do I know this? One night Jay got home later than usual from soccer. I asked what the occasion was and he replied, “My ride made his wife tea tonight so he was able to stay out later.” I was seriously confused. If it only took a cup of tea for an Englishman to make his wife happy, they must think America is full of… Jay quickly explained that “making tea” is the same as “making dinner”.

2. It’s not “Mom”, it’s “Mum”. I’m not sure what they call the flower. I suppose they use the proper English term, Chrysanthemum.

3. I feel like a complete and utter slob when I eat around English people. They are masters with their forks and knives. I tried to imitate them once, but after a few dropped utensils and the pile of food in my lap I gave up; it’s quite clear that my left hand is worthless.

4. An example of how they use “whack” in a sentence: “We’ll just whack it in the oven.” No, they are not referring to hitting a baseball into the oven (they were actually talking about mozzarella sticks).

5. Last night we got wankered, not hammered, at the Christmas party.

6. English breakfast is literally a heart attack on a plate: eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, and a tomato (thrown in for good measure).

7. Everything is called pudding: All desserts are called puddings (yes, even cheesecakes and brownies and ice cream). Yet, they also have black pudding (so not a dessert), white pudding and Yorkshire pudding.

Black pudding = a hockey puck of dried animal blood

White pudding = a hockey puck of dried animal fat

Yorkshire pudding = they say it’s pancake batter in a muffin tin, but it don’t taste like my Momma’s pancake batter (it tastes more like a Pillsbury roll). Either way, this is the best of the three.

8. They expect you to walk on the left side, drive on the left side, but stand on the right side when you are on an escalator. WTF.

9. Boxing Day is the December 26 in England. It’s a bank holiday (as in everyone gets the day off), but nobody actually knows what the holiday is about…

10. A Christmas cracker is not a cracker at all. It’s actual a candy-shaped cardboard container that has a small bit of explosives in it (hence the “cracker”), as well as a tissue paper crown and a Cracker Jack toy.

Notice how using the oven is not on here?

See you all soon! xo

It’s Time

1. I had a minor meltdown a few days ago. It started with kale:

Kale chips have been on my list of to-try’s for awhile now. Even though I knew I would hear some moaning and groaning from Jay, I had decided that last night was the night. Mostly because of the “best by” date on the package, not because I couldn’t put off the excitement of trying salad chips and hearing Jay complain that “real” chips taste better.

I followed the simple instructions and stuck them in the oven, then busied myself with the BBQ chicken. After about 10 minutes something didn’t smell right, so I checked the “chips”. Yep, you guessed it, they were burnt. No, apparently I still haven’t figured out how to work the oven. Instead of getting upset about it, I just turned off the oven and shut the door on them. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Then I tried to improvise and create a kale salad, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the oven. I wasn’t mad (it’s not like I burnt chocolate chip cookies); I was annoyed.  I gave up on the salad and threw it in the trash. My heart wasn’t in it.

As I was hastily putting the ingredients away, the blueberries fell out of the fridge. The day before, the grated parmesan had fallen out of the fridge. Both spilled all over the floor. That was it. It’s one thing to spill cheese, but the blueberries put me over the edge. I LOVE blueberries.

I wasn’t a crying kind of meltdown, but I said some bad words…

“#$&**@ *#%%$ &@$#”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“%^$@”

“I need to go home.”

“I need an oven — 0ne I can work.” (You don’t really need subtext on this one…)

“I need a normal sized fridge. This fridge is stupid.” (Subtext: If you put the fridge temperature up too high it leaves a nice 3″ thick coating of frost on the back, but turn the fridge down and nothing stays cold. Leave it somewhere in the middle, and the stuff in the back freezes. AKA both the parmesan and the blueberries were near the front to avoid the freezing and too close to the edge).

“I need a dishwasher.” (Subtext: Not just a normal-sized dishwasher, but a working one. Our dishwasher hasn’t work for over three weeks.)

“I just need to go hooooooome.”

2. I’ve been wearing the same clothes for three days now. Sort of. I’m trying to avoid laundry. Now you are probably thinking to yourself, “who doesn’t avoid laundry?” But I feel like I’m starting to smell like the people at the gym…

3. On another high note, I’ve resorted to stealing body wash from the gym. I am soooo not buying another bottle of Dove.

4. I just ate noodles, frozen (it was too close to the back) shredded cheese, and tuna for dinner. Our food supply is quickly dwindling and I refuse to eat take-out every night.

Small Victories

With less than three weeks (yes, only three weeks!) left of our trip I finally made it back from the grocery store without pretending to check my phone or hoping for a red light at the crosswalk (just so I could set my over-stuffed bags down and rest). Which means I finally figured it out or I’ve gotten stronger, either way, it’s a victory for me. I can’t count the times that I broke a sweat and got finger cramps from carrying those damn grocery bags. You know, they really shouldn’t even make the bags that big, they are at least twice the size of the ones we use back home and are just asking to be stuffed full of healthy goodness. Of course, Jay doesn’t always appreciate my choices (today I came home with kale, eggplant, cous cous, mushrooms…); my favorite is when he comes home after I’ve brought back two big bags of groceries and can’t find anything “good” to snack on. 🙂

I’ll be posting pictures of our trips to Italy and Spain soon! xo

The short end

I have known this for a long time, but it was once again proved to me today; women definitely got the short end of the stick. It starts early with the disappointment of realizing we can’t pee standing up. How convenient it is that your brother can just go behind the tree but you need toilet paper to finish the job. Then you realize you have to buy twice as many undergarments and yours are WAY more expensive if you want anything sexier than Hanes white cotton bikinis (which at 10 isn’t a problem, but later in life it’s embarassing). After that you have to sit through talks about ovaries and periods and pads, which is almost just as bad as actually having a period. WE HAVE TO SHAVE OUR LEGS. People could say this is a choice, but really, we all know it’s not. People would shun you. Hairy she-legs are not OK. After that we get into the real doozies: growing a human, birthing a human*, dealing with the aftermath of birthing a human, being milked like a cow, Nair, hormones, menopause (and more hormones), anti-wrinkle eye cream… You get the picture. This is why we deserve a big, stinkin’ beautiful diamond. I don’t think I could say it’s a fair trade, but it’s a good start. Jay did well. 🙂

Today’s “short end” reminder: It may be Movemeber (Mustache-November), but it was time for this mustache to go, so I emailed (oh, how times have changed) the local department store and set up an appointment to make me look like a lady again. I was slightly ashamed walking into the upscale beauty room in my workout clothes, but I did it anyway. The phrase “nobody knows you here” really rings true when you’re in a different country. However, when I do this, I should probably start working on my British accent — I don’t want to give Americans a sloppy rap.

I was scheduled for an eyebrow and upper lip “threading”. What is this you ask? It’s alternative form of hair removal in which they literally use thread to do their dirty work. I know guys, it’s hard to keep track with lasers and creams and sugars and waxes galore — be thankful the hair on your body is considered normal, mostly. Mustaches only work on Tom Selleck and Dan Stelken. Sorry Dad, I prefer you mustache-less, but I didn’t mind the goatee. And definitely not you Jay, don’t get any ideas. Anyway, I decided to try the new trend because I had read that threading is actually more efficient at removing the hair than waxing. Plus, there is the oil that goes on before and the lotion that goes on after waxing that inevitably clogs enough pores that I end up with at least a zit or two right between eyes. Waxing is a truly lovely experience (sarcasm). However, I was wrong to think that threading would be any more pleasant. Turns out the the lady plucking hair out of my face was controlling a thread of torture: my eyes watered and stung; I had small hairs find their way into my eyes and tickle my nose; and I had to take two time-outs to get my bearings. It was a truly awful experience, but the lady did a bang up job. I’ll probably go back in December.

Pain is beauty, right? Please God, someone tell me threading gets better, because today I wished I could have a mustache and a unibrow.

*I understand that some day (maybe) I will think all things to do with child carrying/bearing are beautiful. However, right now, I prefer the stork method.

 

Our vacuum smells like barf.

I have never liked vacuuming. It’s probably my least favorite household chore. Which is silly, I know, there seem to be so many worse things:

• pulling slimy hair out of the shower drain (this actually might put vacuuming at my second least favorite)

• sticking a hand down the garbage disposal (only then do you realize you should have thrown that oatmeal* in the trash instead)

• cleaning behind the toilet (because you have to get your body so close to the actual toilet — always a good idea to sanitize from front to back)

• tearing down spider webs (because you know the spider it belongs to is still out there crawling around your house and will probably be seeking vengeance in the middle of the night)

• cleaning the stove top (this one is mainly just infuriating, who can ever get that thing completely clean?)

I bet you all can name 12 more, but I’ll stop there. I think my distaste for the vacuum stems from childhood. While my Mom will tell you that she vacuumed often (ahem, every day) because of our allergies and it was good for the carpet, I will argue that she just really enjoyed it; that, or it was her dirty way of trying to get us to turn off the TV and play outside (which usually didn’t work). Either way, that vacuum was so loud and it was always conveniently in use during one of my favorite TV shows (Full House, Saved by the Bell, Boy Meets World*). This inevitably led to words being exchanged about the TV volume. I couldn’t miss a word that Zack Morris was saying, so I had to turn it up when she turned on the vacuum. But you know how vacuuming goes, you have to turn it on and off, switch outlets, move furniture… which meant that Zack Morris often went from volume 20 to 50 every 45 seconds. This usually didn’t make either one of us happy. Needless to say, I wasn’t quick to get out the vacuum when we moved into the flat, but after two weeks of ignoring the blue Goblin in the closet I knew it was time. While it looked a little questionable (most things here did at first), I was not prepared for what happened next. After about 15 seconds of use I couldn’t take it anymore. It literally smelled like someone had vacuumed up their barf. Of course Jay didn’t believe me — I have very sensitive olfactory system — and he thought I was overreacting. So I let him do it. He didn’t last much longer than I did before he decided to empty it out. It helped for a while, but then we vacuumed again yesterday (don’t worry, it has been used more than twice since we have been here… but not much more than that… sorry, Mom), and it made the whole apartment smell. I had to light a candle and only use it for small amounts of time.

It didn’t really matter anyway. It’s not like it actually works. Worst vacuum ever.

Sorry Mike and Andy, we tried.

*Seriously, don’t put oatmeal down the drain. Even though it unclogs your pipes, It will clog your sink’s. True story.

*Did anyone else read that Disney is talking about a new Boy Meets World based on Corey’s son? Heck yes.

On a side note, my recent posts have made it very clear I can’t bake (in England), but I can cook (sort of). I wanted to share some recent success stories. Don’t laugh at how easy these are…

BBQ Chicken Quesadilla (it’s kind of like a lower calorie version of BBQ chicken pizza, and who can resist that?)

Whole Wheat Tortillas – you pick how many

Shredded BBQ Chicken

Mozzarella Cheese

Onion (mine was already in my BBQ chicken)

Minced Garlic (already in BBQ chicken)

Corn

Black Beans

Your Favorite BBQ Sauce

Greek Yogurt

Avocado

I made BBQ chicken in the crockpot and had a significant amount of leftovers. I also had a crap ton of tortillas to use in the fridge — everything goes bad much more quickly here — it reminds me that we must have way too many preservatives in our food back home. Anyway, because I only have one pan to use that isn’t rusted out, I could only make half a quesadilla. So I tossed one tortilla into the pan with a little butter (real butter, not fake stuff) and then mixed up my sauce. I used (roughly) a 1:3 ratio with my BBQ and Greek yogurt (the more greek yogurt, the tangier it is) and then spread a small amount (too much and the toppings will slide out) on my tortilla. Then I layered my cheese, chicken, black beans, corn, a little more cheese and then folded my tortilla over to cook. Once it was browned on both sides and the cheese was melted I took it off the stove and topped it with avocado and more yogurt sauce. Delicious!

Cheeseburger Quesadilla

Lean Ground Beef

Onion

Minced Garlic

Cherry Tomatoes

Avocado

Mozzarella (or any other cheese)

I told you I had a lot of tortillas. This one is even easier. Ground your beef with onion and garlic and slice your tomatoes (smaller the better). Put your tortilla in the pan and let it heat up with some of your mozzarella. Add your beef and tomatoes then top with more cheese. Once the shell is browned (crispy) and your cheese is melted top with avocado and dip in ketchup — or anything else you like to eat on your burger!

I can’t really take full credit for either of these, I was inspired by a local restaurant and Pinterest, but I’m positive my version is better. 🙂

We are still at war.

I hate this oven. I really want to just give it a nice kick in the you know what.

I tried to play nice, making only no-bake treats, avoiding anything with baking soda, treating my chocolate cravings with Nutella and bananas; but today, I decided to go to the front lines. It was time to face my enemy. I whipped up an easy batch of peanut butter brownies, guessing here and there because I only have one measuring cup. I was hopeful that if I looked up the exact conversion between Celsius and Fahrenheit I might have a shot at eating these brownies without a spoon. Do you know that 325 F equals 162.778 C? This was super helpful, considering 162.778 isn’t on my European oven dial. In fact, it’s kind of difficult to use anything besides increments of 50 on this oven. The thing is, deep down, I knew my enemy wasn’t really the temperature dial. It was the other one. The one that shall not be named. The stupid one with all the stupid icons.

Despite my anxiety over ruining another batch brownies, I put them in the oven and hoped for the best. I checked them 30 minutes later (as per the recipe) and found them slightly cooked, but mostly still batter. I sat back down and waited another ten minutes.

Ten minutes later, not much had changed.

Ten minutes after that, not much had changed (again).

I was really starting to want a bite of those brownies, so ten minutes later I stuck a knife in and found the middle still completely gooey.

Ten minutes after that I was running out of patience. I decided to turn up the temperature.

Five minutes after that I smelled burnt chocolate (terrible smell), insert [swear word] of your choice.

I was not about to let the oven win that easily, so I pulled them out and scraped off the burnt layer, then shoved them back in the oven. I decided to make a bold move; I changed the other dial. To avoid that awful smell again I checked them frequently over the next ten minutes, but after 80 minutes in that stupid oven I finally called it. Game over.

After all that work I wasn’t about to let them go to waste. I ate 1/4 of the pan with my fork — it was a small victory that I didn’t have to use a spoon, but a victory none the less*. Take that, oven!

I know I get some fat kid points, but before you get too impressed, it was just an 8×8 pan.

*They still weren’t set up enough to send leftovers to Jay’s office. I refuse to embarrass him with anything less than my best… which basically means no one in England will ever taste anything I bake.

The end.