Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Wife in Hong Kong tagged me for this meme:

1. What are your current obsessions?
Obsessions? I never obsess about anything ;-)

2. Which item from your wardrobe do you wear most often?
Probably my comfy stretchy travel skirt from Coldwater Creek or its ripoff copies from Target.

3. What’s for dinner?
Dinner tonight was not typical. I finished off the pasta salad DS took to school for lunch because he only ate half of it, then I had half a PB&J. The kids had sandwiches. It was DDs night for Girl Scouts so dinner had to be quick.

4. Last thing you bought?
I went to the supermarket while DD was at Girl Scouts for more cold cuts, milk and Tetley's British Blend. Then I gassed the car up - so petrol was the last thing I bought. (Anyone else notice my schizophrenic code-switching there - American to English?)

5.What are you listening to?
The quiet hum of the computer.

6. Favourite kid’s film?
There are so many good ones! Ratatouille. Wallace & Gromit movies. Flushed Away. Chicken Run.

7. Favourite holiday spots?
The Dordogne, the Loire, and Acadia National Park in Maine. (Except for all the tourists!)

8. What are you reading now?
A mindless beach book that is so unmemorable I can't even remember the title.

9. Four words to describe yourself?
Talkative. Smart. Overweight. Unfocused.

10. Guilty pleasure?

11. Favourite author?
Again, so many to choose from.

12. First spring thing?

13. Planning to travel to next?
Possibly Montréal. Can't afford a trip to the UK right now, but we might as well get some use out of our passports!

14. a) Best thing you ate and b) drank recently?
a) Anything my husband cooked. b) Starbucks dark chocolate frappuccino

15. When did you last get tipsy?
Probably my husband's company Christmas party.

16. Favourite ever film?
Picnic at Hanging Rock (I finally found the book, but had to order it from Australia.)

17. Favourite band?
Not as big a deal in my life as in some people's as I find it hard to do other things while listening to music. Changes on a regular basis, but always 'oldies'. The Police, Les Négresses Vertes, The Housemartins, Pink Floyd . . .

18. What new blogs are you reading?
Haven't really added any new ones to my list recently - it's hard enough keeping up with the ones I already have on my RSS feed. The newest ones on my list are probably Brits'n'Bobs and Another ReDesign of the Wheel.

19. Biggest regret?
Not raising the kids bilingual.

Rules of the meme. Respond and rework. Answer questions on your own blog. Replace one question. Add one question. Tag 8 people. Now I tag

Limey at Brits'n'Bobs
Tasha the Coding Mamma

And anyone else who'd like to do this because I see that at least one of the people I put on this list has already been tagged, so I give up . . .

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bizarre little video

Wow - someone actually got paid $10,000 for this! It was created for a competition, but I didn't even see the name of the sponsoring company the first time I watched it. (It is there, and this is an ad for them!)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cooking by heart

How many recipes do you know by heart? The UKTV Food channel recently surveyed 3,000 British people about their cooking habits and discovered that on average they knew 6 recipes by heart. (A recipe being a dish that includes 4 or more ingredients.)

The top ten dishes British people feel most comfortable cooking (and the percentage of people who can cook them without a recipe) are apparently:
Spaghetti bolognese (65%)
Roast dinner (54%)
Chilli con carne (42%)
Lasagne (41%)
Cottage or shepherd's pie (38%)
Meat or fish stir fry (38%)
Beef casserole (34%)
Macaroni cheese (32%)
Toad in the hole (30%)
Meat, fish or vegetable curry (26%)
Source: UKTV Food survey
I could manage 7 of those without a recipe, 8 if I'm allowed to use a jar of Patak's or Trader Joe's curry sauce! (Interestingly, Patak's has recipes on their websites - but only five TOTAL on their US site as opposed to the dozens and dozens of recipes on their UK site!)

This household beats the average because those surveyed admitted they made an average of just four home-cooked meals per week, and they own just five cook books. Hmm - I probably have five cookbooks that I use on a regular basis, but there are at least thirty cookbooks in my living room alone. If home-cooked means eating at home, and not eating take-away or frozen/prepared meals, we eat home-cooked meals ALL the time! Very occasionally (once every couple of months) we have pizza. Equally rarely, a box of Trader Joe's samosas will sometimes serve as dinner - though less often since they annoyingly stopped selling the India Relish that went so well with them!

I'm trying to think of actual recipes I know though. A lot of the meals I cook don't really seem to qualify as needing recipes! Baked boneless, skinless chicken breast with some kind of spice mix like Montreal Chicken, served with rice (cooked in chicken stock with onions and garlic), and microwaved peas. Ground (minced) turkey with garlic, onion, mushrooms, zucchini (courgettes) and pasta sauce from a jar, served over pasta. Does it count if the pasta sauce comes out of a jar? Can you tell my main goal is simply to get people fed? Sometimes I do chop a lot of veggies and do a chicken stir fry. That takes more effort, but it still doesn't really need a recipe! Hmm ... chicken casserole! That one counts, I'm sure! Bite-sized pieces of boneless, skinless, chicken, with onions, garlic, mushrooms, canned corn, tomato paste, cubed potatoes, a couple of bay leaves, thyme and chicken stock. Throw it all in a casserole dish and bung it in the oven till done! Quantities? Times? No. Can't give you those. Fill the casserole dish. Check it occasionally while it's cooking till it seems done. This one is perfectly edible (indeed, better) when reheated the next day, so a little over-cooking won't harm it.

DH is the one who knows most of the recipes in this house though. Occasionally, very occasionally, he deigns to write them down so that I can attempt them. Tonight's super yummy turkey burger recipe is one that he knows by heart, but I could never replicate it unless he wrote it down. (And he hasn't.) It involved ground (minced) turkey (of course!) and garam (chickpea) flour, egg substitute, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and a bunch of other spices. There were no measuring tools involved as far as I could see, yet the recipe turns out well every time. Here's one of my favorites he did share with me (but I certainly don't have it memorized yet!)

1 can black beans (rinsed & drained)
1 can corn (drained)
1 vidalia onion
1/2 each red, orange and yellow pepper
1/2 cucumber (English)
4 medium tomatoes (remove seeds)
1 can sliced black olives

3-4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
abt 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lime juice
1 crushed and minced clove of garlic
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 pinch dried oregano

Put vegetables in bowl.

Mix liquids, herbs & spices in a jar. Shake hard for a minute. Pour over vegetables and stir to coat all.

Best if it sits overnight.
Enjoy! And if you do, please let me know in the comments, and leave one of your favorite recipes there too!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Of mice and bunnies

I don't remember the song about Little Bunny Foo Foo from my childhood. I remember a friend's 6 year-old daughter singing it to me with great glee some years ago though:
Little bunny, Foo Foo
Hopping through the forest
Scooping up the field mice
And bopping them on the head
No worse than many fairy tales of course, but some of the videos of it that I found online were pretty gruesome. Of course, there are sanitized versions around with no mention of the bopping on the head:

Little Bunny Foo Foo

On Saturday DS asked me a question I couldn't make sense of to start with.
- D'you think the bunny in the attic will keep me awake tonight?
- Huh?
- The bunny bopping the field mice on the head.
I explained that Little Bunny Foo Foo and the Easter Bunny are different rabbits, and that the Easter Bunny was unlikely to be hunting mice in our attic. He didn't seem entirely convinced. I guess he thinks rabbits are carnivores, despite seeing them regularly in the backyard eating the vegetation.

We do have mice in the attic, and would like them to be gone, but imaginary bunnies are not likely to be the answer to our problem. Nor indeed are the real bunnies we have in the yard, especially as they have problems of their own. Instead, DH has installed some (humane) traps in the basement. He complains about mice in the attic, but puts the traps in the basement. Where's the logic in that, I hear you asking. The logic in that is that the piece of attic where we hear the mice most often is inaccessible (to humans at least!), so we can't put any traps up there. The logic in that is that the traps in the basement have been being licked clean by the mice on a regular basis - so we know they're down there too - we just don't hear them as much as the ones above us. And we have caught mice in the basement before. In fact, we caught one this morning, and here he is having been transferred to a glass jar so the children could see him before he was taken back outside.

Not a wonderful photo I'm afraid, because my camera kept wanting to focus on the glass instead of the rodent. He appeared fairly traumatised by the whole experience of being caught, but I'm sure he'll be back. With friends. After all, he's found a nice supply of food in our basement. The peanut butter-laden traps have been down there for weeks and the mice have been cleaning them out on a regular basis and managing not to get caught until today. Why wouldn't he try to come back?

Britain's not what it used to be

The show All Things Considered on National Public Radio started a 5 part series today, 'Revisiting the Road to Canterbury', on Britain's struggles with its identity. From what I heard today I think the series is going to be well worth listening to.
The whole concept of what it means to be British has come into question in recent years, as immigration has increased and as the pillars of the old identity that united the kingdom — empire, monarchy, the Church of England — have been eroded.
I found it fascinating to hear a former Islamist extremist say that he thinks Britain has tried too hard to accommodate immigrants and Britain needs to become more like the United States if it wants to avoid immigrant groups becoming alienated and radicalized. He says,
In America, there is more of an understanding that citizenship is based on allegiance and not on ethnicity … and it's allegiance to a set of principles, a set of values, what it means to be American.
I am not sure that I entirely agree with his opinion - but of course I didn't grow up feeling that the society I was living in did not reflect my culture or values. (Nor have I lived for any extensive period of time in the UK in the last 20 years, so what do I know about Britain any more anyway?!) I suspect many Arab Americans who have had their identity and allegiance questioned in the years since 9/11 would disagree with him too.

The United States has certainly been dealing with the issue of immigrants for far longer than Britain has. But for all its experience with the issue, it is still one that the country struggles with.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

More wildlife

Although we don't live far from the center of town, there is a lot of wildlife to be seen around here. We've seen bear, a bobcat, wild turkeys and deer in the back yard on occasion and have found raccoon footprints in the snow on our deck. I've also seen skunks, foxes, and possums, though not in our yard. I've not seen any coyotes, though we can often hear them howling in the early evening.

This morning on our way home from the dump an animal ran across the road in front of the car. My first thought was that it was the same color as the black squirrel that lives in our yard. My next was that it was a lot larger - longer, with a much thicker tail. I figured it was probably some kind of weasel. On looking it up when we got home, I found that it was what New Englanders call a 'fisher cat'. It's a North American marten - so, indeed, it is a member of the weasel family. Apparently fisher cats tend to be shy and secretive, more often heard than seen, as well as tending to be nocturnal so I consider myself lucky to have seen one.

(Image from http://www.catcustomer.com/fisher-cat/)

Friday, April 03, 2009

On our own with DS

Only one of the children is home this evening. DS asked when he got home from school if he can sleep in DD's bed instead of his own tonight. I know he misses her, and she's only been gone a couple of hours! I doubt she's missing us. I hope not anyway!

We decided to take DS out to dinner as a treat. I asked him where he'd like to go, and delightfully he answered, "Somewhere close and cheap so we don't have to spend too much of your money." Ahh - so cute! So we went somewhere close, but not as cheap as he would have liked. (He was thinking Friendly's or McDonalds I think. He's still never been to "that Scottish restaurant" as my sister used to call it, so for him it would be a treat.)

For years now our choice of restaurant has usually been guided by one rule - it must be child-friendly. However, the restaurant we chose tonight is a small place that seems to discourage children in the evening by not having a printed children's menu. Our waitress handed all of us a regular menu, watched DS reading it, and finally said "Do you know what we have on our kids' menu?" Duh, no! She then recited the kids' offerings to us. After all, the littlest ones can't read, so why print a menu for them?! Well, the kids' menu usually has a picture on it to color to keep the kids entertained while they're waiting for their food! Kid-friendly restaurants also have paper cups with lids and straws. Not this one. DS was brought a heavy pint glass of water, and then an equally large glass of milk. He did a good fantastic job with both, not spilling either of them.

Being pint glasses, both the glasses he had were etched with beer company logos. One was from the Berkshire Brewing Company. He read the logo aloud, looked very puzzled and said "But why doesn't it say America?"

It took us a minute to realize that the only BBC he knows is:

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Organic air

I didn't see any April Fool's Day stories today that were as good as last year's flying penguins story from the BBC, but I quite liked this ad on the WholeFoods supermarket website.

According to their site today, they've just opened their first supermarket in Antartica!
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