Thursday, 12 November 2009

Toad in a Hole.

It's fall in Worcester.
The days have a chill to them now and with the leaves falling I thought it was time to try a British classic, Toad in the Hole, for dinner.
It's a simple batter you pour over hot oil and sausages and bake in the oven. I liked Jamie Oliver's suggestion to add rosemary-- gives a nice flavor.
(The typical English recipe doesn't add spice.)

I'm attempting to capture the rising pie. The recipe stressed NOT to open the oven door whilst the pie is baking, otherwise it doesn't rise properly. I did not have that problem, quite the opposite actually.

The finished Toad in the Hole!
A very nice meal for a stormy night.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Trip of a Lifetime.

Italy & Greece.
Three cities. One Greek Island.
Add some great friends from Seattle.
One brilliant trip.

It was the trip of a lifetime as we toured Florence, Rome, Athens, and finally relaxed in Santorini. We met the Proper's in London and flew to Florence to start off the trip.
In Florence we saw the offices of the Medici family, the godfathers of the Renaissance and patrons of Leonardo DaVinci, Gallileo Galilei, Botticelli, and Michaelangelo.
The artwork was spectacular. One of the trip highlights was getting into the Tuscan countryside.
We saw Pisa, San Gimignano, and Siena. We all said if we did it again we would spend more time in the countryside at a farmhouse.
Rome. It is one of the busiest and 'touristy' places I have ever been to.
We constantly heard Americans speaking, a novelty for us living in Worcester.
Amid the throngs of tourists, we managed to find Rick Steve's recommendation for best gelato in Rome. One of my favorites, although it was mad hectic whenever we went there, was Trevi fountain. We braved the masses to see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
I've forgotten to mention food. I am a pasta girl, and eating real Italian pasta was sublime. I ordered it for nearly every dinner, except when I ordered pizza. I also like that you can order, "Red wine," and the waiter brings the house wine.
Athens is busy like Rome, though not as many tourists. We saw the Parthenon and Mars Hill. One of our best moments in Athens was relaxing on Mars Hill as the sun set on the city.
Nothing could have prepared us for the delight of Santorini. It's something from a picture or story book. We stayed in an amazing cliff side hotel (great find Sonya!), in caves that had been turned into studios connected with a labyrinth of stairs. Also, it was the best place on the island to watch the sunset. After chasing from museum to museum and gawking at historically significant sights it was bliss to relax and soak up some sunshine
before returning to rain and 45 F/12 C.

We had picnic lunches on the beach, Greek salads every night for dinner, Tzaziki, and my favorite, baklava. I walked every stair thinking-- b, step, a, step, k, step, l, step....
One woman (an American) stopped me and asked how many steps it was from the beach to the top of the cliff? She wanted to know if it was more or less than the 500 steps the tourists from the cruise ships had to walk up at the port in Fira. I told her I didn't know, but I did know that it was enough to feel guilt-free about eating baklava.

Thanks to the Proper's for all the hard work they put into the trip!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Blenheim Palace. Part 2.

It was another beautiful Saturday in September. I packed us a picnic lunch and we drove out to Blenheim Palace to explore the grounds some more.

We found a nice little patch of grass overlaking the lake and soaked in the sun. We had thought to look in the Palace itself, but the day was so fair that we opted to stay outdoors. The rains will come soon enough! The grounds are quite extensive.... we walked and walked and still did not make it around the whole place.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Fire and Ice.

It's September, the kids are back in school, and the sun has finally come out in the Midlands. We celebrated with one last BBQ, or as Jerremy likes to call it, "Fire & Ice". We pull our Ikea folding chairs out onto our deck and soak in the waning evening rays of sun while sipping on strawberry smoothies.

And then....
.... Jerr fires up the grill!
And we serve American-sized burgers that would make a vegetarian drool they're so delicious-- delicately flavored to perfection with the namesake sauce of our city. A great way to usher in the fall with one last BBQ before we move on to spiced cider and pumpkin pies!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Fun Day

What better way to kick off the start of school than to have a Fun Day? The church we've started going to had one and we volunteered to work at it. Below, I'm cheerfully serving hot dogs with a real American accent. I don't think it improved the flavor of the hot dogs, which came from a can, but who can complain when it's free and comes with onions?
I don't think the kids or young guys cared, they came back for fifths.
I signed Jerr up to help run the bouncy castle. The kids made a massive queue, would bounce for a few minutes, and then run back to the end of the line. Given the hot dog/bouncy castle combination I'm surprised there were no incidents! Everyone had a good time.
The adults were given a turn at the end of the day. Even the dog bounced a turn.

The event was completely free. There was face painting, games for prizes, hot dogs, a singing puppet show, and bouncy castles. But I was surprised when a man came by for a hot dog and insisted on paying his way, even when I declined his money and emphasized the "free" bit. It reminded me of God's grace, how it is completely free. There is nothing we can do to earn it. All we do is accept.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

London. Part 2.

Once again we packed up the estate and went to Town for the weekend.

On this trip we stayed in Wimbledon and caught the tube in. It was a great area to stay in for this trip. The tube station was a short 10 minute walk from the hotel, and fancy there being a Starbucks and GBK along the way! We breakfasted at the 'Bucks and had an American style cheeseburger at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen for dinner. We watched the Brits use forks and knives on their burgers and, of course, ate ours with our hands.

Saturday, we stopped to picnic for lunch in St. James Park, and then went on to pay our respects to the Queen at Buckingham Palace. We crowded in with the other tourists and took pictures. Fun to hear an American accent again- we don't normally hear many Americans in Worcester. But in London you hear every accent and language imaginable.

We took in The Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. Humbling to see how the second world war affected Britain; the air raids and bombings, the brave leadership of Churchill, and the indomitable spirit of the British people.

We found out that we are a one-museum-a-day family. Best to stop for an icecream after that and have a bit of a rest.

On Sunday we caught the tube to Temple Station on the District line and walked across the Millenium Bridge, stopping at the Tate Modern Museum to look around before we caught a play at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. We sat in the second balcony in the front row and could rest our elbows on the railing. I kept thinking how many people in history had taken in a play whilst sitting on the hard wooden bench I now occupied.

Brief history lesson: the original Globe burned down in 1613, but they rebuilt a second Globe in 1614. This closed in 1642. The present "Shakespeare's Globe" is 750 ft from the original theatre site and opened in 1997. So maybe it wasn't as historically correct as I believed.

(Thanks Wikipedia!)

We saw Troillus & Cressida. It's a tragedy.

Overall, I would say it was a good trip. Every time we go we see a little more, and there is much to see. But we were happy to come back to our quiet house in Worcester. It's nice to be home.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Blenheim Palace

This massive and beautiful home belongs to the 11th duke of Marlborough and was the birthplace of Winston Churchill.
It's close to Oxford, in a small Cotswold town called Woodstock.
It makes for a nice day trip.
The day after Jerr's 30th, we picked up our friends, James and Elnaz, and went to check it out.

We were all surprised by how elaborate and beautiful the grounds and the palace were.

We spent the better part of an afternoon there and we didn't even see inside the Palace. It was such a nice day we stayed out in the grounds.
(We try to save Museums and other fine houses for rainy days.)
They had a jousting event on the south lawn we were able to take in. And the show "Restoration Roadshow"- which was filming on the grounds- asked the four of us to stand in the crowd and mill about while they restored antiques for the BBC 2 series.

Just Another Soggy Weekend... Birmingham.
For our first weekend adventure in August we went to the
Bull Ring in downtown Birmingham.

It's a massive mall, next to a High Street, next to Chinatown, next to a really
fantastic Market. So many fun shops to explore!

Here's us huddled under an umbrella as the rain started up again. We
were having toasted baguettes at a little sandwich place we found, and decided to sit outside and enjoy the liquid summer.

ah... Starbucks is everywhere.

A very modern Selfridges department store next to a very old church.
(I'm in this shot, with my hands in my pockets.)

The 30th Party.

August 7, 2009

Jerremy has turned 30.

We celebrated with a game of tennis, a nice dinner, apple crisp, and presents from family.
The birthday wishes from friends was one of the highlights of Jerr's birthday.
Before the big day, I emailed friends and family and compiled a classic 'cut & paste' Word document with all the notes they sent back.
Right before crisp, I opened it and Jerr was able to read all the messages.
It really meant a lot to him.
To top it all off, the weather was really great the whole weekend.
A perfect way to bring in his 30's!

Upton-Upon-Severn Blues Festival

Upton-Upon-Severn Blues Festival

We decided to use one of our free weekends in July to check out one of Upton-Upon-Severn's Festivals. This one happened to be free, but is the only festival without a parade.

But there were plenty of beer gardens featuring local brews. And the weather was fairly nice so we were able to sit out and enjoy the music.

We also walked around town and enjoyed the shops.

True to our Seattle nature, we found two coffee travel mugs for a pound each at a knick-knack sale going on in the community center.

We also engaged in some good British chats. (An older gentleman complimented my nice white teeth.) He was quite surprised we had moved over and were not merely vacationing.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Reflections on British Life...

We've been here for three months. I can't believe how quickly it's gone by. So after being here a couple months I've learned a few things about being British.
  1. Always carry an umbrella. Even if it's a fine day.
  2. Learning that when someone asks, 'Are you alright?' It's not because they think something is amiss-- which is how I took it at first-- but they're asking, essentially, 'How are you?'
  3. Any time is a good time for a cup of tea.
  4. Oh, and I'm always corrected when I call Worcester a 'town'-- it is a 'city' because it has a cathedral.

Sure, we miss home. But instead of making us homesick, it makes us more determined to enjoy and explore what's around us.

We talked about all of this as we were walking along our new "Greenlake"-- which is Kleve Walk & Diglis Parade along the River Severn.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


I had thought of posting on the blog weekly... But we didn't go anywhere or do anything exciting this weekend, so I have nothing to post.
But Linnea tagged me for 'Eight' and so I will play the game.
Eight things I look forward to...
1. that first cup of coffee in the morning.
2. breakfast.
3. the feeling at the end of a really good run. Feels healthy, AND, like you could eat a whole chocolate cake and not gain any weight.
4. a garden with a berry patch.
5. that first bite of pasta in Italy.
6. when Jerremy gets home from work.
7. the next Harry Potter movie.
8. the first crisp morning of autumn.
Eight things I did yesterday...
1. walked into town.
2. had my first haircut in England.
3. got caught in a good English rain.
4. wished I hadn't looked at my umbrella and decided to leave it at home before walking into town.
5. planned a delicious menu for the week. Complete with four out five of Jerremy's top five dinners.
6. rode my bike to Tesco's to do a bit of grocery shopping for the week.
7. was excited to ride in the car and run errands with Jerr. We went to Staples and Homebase.
8. cooked chicken fajitas with homemade tortillas for dinner.
Eight things I wish I could do...
1. make pasta from scratch.
2. decorate.
3. run faster.
4. I wish I was more creative, had a better sense of style, an artistic eye.
5. work more effectively, like Jerremy does.
6. be more brave.
7. find a good Peppercorn Sauce recipe.
8. move back to Seattle someday.
Eight shows I watch... (a bit difficult since we don't have TV.... but perhaps shows I've enjoyed?)
1. the Office
2. Lost
3. How Clean is Your House?
4. Come Dine with Me
5. Top Gear
6. ..... I like movies?
7. Grey's Anatomy
8. Project Runway or America's Next Top Model

Monday, 29 June 2009

Caerphilly Castle

It's the largest castle in Wales and we went there. Absolutely brilliant.
A rather last minute plan on Saturday, we weren't sure if the weather would hold out, but it did and ended up being a resplendent afternoon.
The castle comes complete with a moat, drawbridge, tower, corn mill, trebuchet, and some nasty looking moat fish (to guard the castle no doubt). We had the best time exploring all around it. Jerremy said it was the best castle he's ever seen. I would put it in my top 5, easily. It's a pretty nice castle. They've been restoring it since the 1930's. Apparently, there used to be a Roman fort beside it. Romans came in AD 75 and stayed till about the 400's. They have yet to excavate it.
Our time is so short in the span of history.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009


We had our first trip into London.

The first of many, hopefully. We didn't get much time in the city, mostly Sunday morning and the afternoon, before we drove the 2 1/2 hours home to Worcester. The real reason for this trip was not to see the city, but for me to take an English test. Oh, yes.... Listening, reading, writing, and speaking.... There's nothing more humbling than having to review the basics of your own language, but it's a necessary hoop to jump through for transfering my RN license. So the Sunday excursion to London was more of a conveniently located reward since the testing site was just north of the city.

Here I am, right before the test, pouting. Jerremy bought me a cup of coffee to cheer me up.

The test took the whole of Saturday... But Sunday we took the train to St. Pancras station and set off to find the British Museum.

I'm reading about the Rosetta Stone on the other side of the glass exhibit. The museum is massive. We saw less than half of it before we lost steam. But it's free, so we'll head back on another day to explore some more!

After the museum we caught the London Underground to Westminster and walked around. We crossed a few bridges over the River Thames and walked under the London Eye. We ate some lunch in a park where we listened to Big Ben chime one o'clock. And then we made our way home, feeling content that we can just pop into "town" for the weekend.

Friday, 19 June 2009

10 Reasons We Like Worcester.

(In no particular order.)

1. Worcestershire Sauce.
2. It has a cathedral.
3. It also has a river. With swans.
3.b. 'Stinky the Lone Swan' that begs for bread out front of our deck.
4. The 'Cardinals Hat' pub, built in the 15th century. Someone thought maybe 1490?
5. Walking to High Street. (which is the town centre.)
6. The cathedral bells.
(We kept hearing the bells ring sporadically through the day for up to half an hour. Apparently, people can tour around the country and ring the bells in different cities.)
7. Getting kicked off the tennis courts at a 'public' school....
(What they call 'public' over here really means 'private'. Which explains why the courts were so nice. What we know as 'public' they call 'state' schools. )
8. The feeling of being in the 'middle of the middle'.
(Sort of the same feeling as Iowa, but British. Perhaps that's why they call it the Midlands?)
9. Watching long boats navigate the locks on the canal.
10. Realizing that mainland Europe is less than a two hour flight away....

Thursday, 11 June 2009


This is the story of how our small family, Jess and Jerremy, packed up our bite-sized condo in downtown Seattle and moved to England. In January 2009 we started talking about what an adventure it would be to move abroad and travel about for a few years before we settled down to have a family. On April 22, 2009 we flew out SeaTac International Airport bound for Heathrow on a redeye, with four checked bags, our computer, and two carry-ons each. This was the extent of our move. (Plus four small boxes we sent over ahead of us.)

We lived in Brighton for a month in various hotels; most notably, the Grand (with the most amazing breakfasts!) and MyHotel (a trendy boutique hotel in the NorthLaines). I've never been more bored in my life. Jerr was busy acclimating to a new challenging job, I was trying to find something to occupy my time. The weeks before we left were mayhem. Each day was full of work, packing up what we wanted to take and what we would store, getting visas, renewing my passport, and making time for family and friends. Plus, I had the worst cold I've had in years for the two weeks before we left-- absolutely miserable. Suddenly, I find myself with hours upon hours of time, while I sort out transfering my RN license with the NMC. I will admit that I made the bed at the hotel just for something to do!

We live in Worcester now, located in the heart of the Midlands, well known for its namesake sauce, Elgar (a composer), and pottery. More will come on Worcester.... but for now we are getting settled into our little home on the canal where we've lived for three weeks.