Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Let's be serious for a moment

I've been a bad blogger, I know. Failing my driving test kind of caused a lack of focus in me, or really I have been so busy distracting myself I have lost the ability to un-distract myself. So, I am forcing myself to focus for just a bit.

I am feeling okay about the whole failing thing, its a good thing in a few ways. First of all, I know that I can pass because really I already did once. Second, I know that I can drive well in the test situation. If this makes sense, before the test I was nervous about being nervous. I was afraid that my nerves would get the best of me on the test and it would cause me to drive badly. Now I know that I can drive exceptionally under the pressure of the test so I no longer need to be nervous about being nervous. And third and finally, I feel more prepared to drive on my own. To be perfectly honest before my test I was terrified of getting in the car and driving on my own. Even though my driving itself wasn't lacking, I think my confidence in being able to drive on my own without my driving instructor as a security blanket has really gone up since the test. The examiner obviously doesn't give any help during the test and I managed to get through the test fine without needing any reminders from someone and that is a big confidence boost and now I feel like in two weeks when I do pass I can hop right into my car and not be afraid of driving on my own.

As my blog has become more popular, especially with some of the Anglotopia readers coming over to read my blog, I feel the subject matter has gotten a lot less personal. I think I blogged a lot more about how I felt in the beginning, I was more keen to go into detail about how I was handling things emotionally and I haven't really gone into great detail about that recently since I know there are strangers reading this.

Whatever, here goes. I think I am handling things exceptionally well. One thing I resolved to do when Jason left was to really cut back on alcohol consumption. Not that I by any means had a drinking problem, but last year bars and free flowing beer were just so accessible. Going out every weekend was fun, but it really took a toll on my mental state and the depressive effects of alcohol really started to manifest themselves. I am certainly not going to stop drinking altogether, but I have resolved not to have alcohol in the house and only drink if I am going out with friends. Its made a huge difference. At the same time I have also cut out all snack foods, because if I can't reach for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, the next best thing is a cookie or ten.

That Friday that I failed my test I seriously felt like a patient detoxing in rehab. I was a bit disgusted with myself that I have come to rely on wine and snacks to get me through difficult emotions. I felt the emotions so much more sharply when I couldn't reach for a glass or a sweet thing in shiny foil paper and I found it a bit alarming that I had dependence on these things. Don't worry, I didn't get the shakes or start sweating, just had a bit of a rough "Eureka!" moment.

Max has been such a big help, I never feel alone and he knows when I am sad and knows just what to do to make me feel better. He has really settled into our home well, and I think he feels like he belongs here now.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I failed.

I won't go into too much detail because my current vocabulary isn't family friendly. I failed not because I made a bad judgement call but because the examiner did, and my instructor was in the back seat and agreed the examiner was premature in his action.

As I was pulling over on a fairly narrow and busy road the examiner suddenly grabbed the wheel. I knew immediately it was a fail, anytime the examiner has to take the controls it is an automatic fail. But I knew I hadn't actually done anything to make him grab the wheel. He apparently thought I was going to clip a lamppost with my mirror, but I was nowhere close. In order to be close enough to do that my wheel would have at least had to be running along the curb, if not over it and I was far enough away from the curb that there is no way I could have clipped the lamppost unless I had some special go-go-gadget mirror that extended and hurled itself into the post.

The rest of my test was great, at least I have the experience of taking the test. I am obviously really upset, but I am confident the next time I won't give the examiner the chance to make a call like that. Possibly he misjudged my ability and steering accuracy and thought I might veer in closer to the curb but next time I will make sure there are no gray areas.

It could be up to 5 weeks before I take my next test, I have to wait at least 10 days and then I will start checking the website every day waiting for an opening.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Beans on Toast

Beans and toast is a staple of English cuisine. It might sound disgusting to you, but consider that English baked beans aren't like American ones. Heinz is the preferred brand of baked beans and its a simple recipe of white beans and tomato sauce and not much else. There isn't any molasses or brown sugar like in American baked beans so its a much more savory dish.

The other night I got home from choir and wanted a quick but filling meal. I looked in the cupboard and saw we had quite a stockpile of Heinz Baked Beans so I decided that after a year of avoidance I would throw in the towel and try out beans on toast.

My first step of course was to Google it. Surely it couldn't be as simple as making some toast and pouring beans on it. Was I to toast both sides of the bread or just one side? Well its a good thing I did Google it because had I just toasted the bread and poured beans over it, I wouldn't have been making it properly. The key ingredient left out of the name is butter. After I Googled it I found out I needed to butter the toast before putting the beans on.

I also had to Google cheese on toast several months ago. Its similar to grilled cheese but its an open-faced sandwich made under a broiler so the cheese gets nice and golden on top. However, had I not Googled "cheese on toast" I wouldn't have known I was supposed to sprinkle the bread with Worcestershire sauce before putting the cheese on. It might seem silly to Google these simple things, but it pays off because something like a dash of Worcestershire makes all the difference.

I wasn't too afraid of beans on toast as most Americans are because it reminds me a bit of an after-Thanksgiving meal we had in my house growing up. I am not sure what the real name of it is, but I have always known it as "sh*t on a shingle". Sh*t on a shingle uses the leftover gravy and turkey meat from Thanksgiving and is poured over bread. It was a delicious meal, and quite similar except we never toasted the bread but the concept of pouring something saucy and chunky on some form of bread is pretty much the same. Just like beans on toast, sh*t on a shingle is not the most visually appealing meal but still delicious.

I can't believe it took me so long to try beans on toast, and now I am being told the next step is beans on toast with a fried egg on top. One step at a time though...

Here is a video my dear friend Nikki shared with me with step by step instructions for making beans on toast:

This Week's British TV Review:

Jamie's American Road Trip

This series follows Britsh celebrity chef Jamie Oliver on his journey through American food. Each episode he explores different American cities, not focusing on the trendy foodie scenes but on the cultural food of these places. When visiting LA instead of stopping at low-carb bistros in Beverly Hills he visits the hood and samples Latin cuisine of the Mexican community.

In this week's episode Jamie visited Wyoming where he cooked "on the range" with real cowboys. He learned how to rope and ride, branded calves and even slept on the ground in the mountains rounding up some stray cattle. He cooked chili and baked beans in a dutch oven over an open fire and cooked for the chuck wagon at a rodeo preparing a simple beef roast flavored with coffee. I have to hand it to Jamie he really took this project seriously and delved deep into the fabric of American food.

Jamie's American Road Trip airs on Channel 4 at 9:00 PM on Tuesdays. Episodes available on 4oD.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just call me Martha

People keep asking me how I am filling up my days now that Jason is gone. Well, somehow I manage to keep pretty busy. My house is always clean, and lately I have always had baked goods on hand. Both of these things are brand new to me, not to say that I never cleaned but my home has never stayed this clean. I used to enjoy cleaning, then letting it get nice and messy, and then cleaning it again. Now I don't give it the chance to get nice and messy, it pretty much stays tidy and dust-free all the time.

When I was registering for my wedding at Bed Bath and Beyond with my maid of honor Christine I was going crazy in baking area when she chimed in with "Why are you registering for all of this stuff. I have never seen you bake Lisa." Well, she was right then, but its a new hobby I have picked up. There is something really satisfying about baking, the actual process is theraputic. Most batters require a good amount of elbow grease (I stick with the old wooden spoon method, no power tools for this girl) and its a good way to relieve stress and pass time. Next comes the part where your home is full of beautiful smells of baking. Finally, you get to enjoy something delicious.

One thing I have learned about this new baking hobby is that its not the best for a person living alone, and I need to stick to things that can be frozen and/or shared. For example, my peach cobbler was a bad idea since I quickly consumed the whole thing on my own but the apple-pecan muffins I made were perfect because I could freeze them and I have defrosted them as I need.

Well, I can smell the hazelnut blondies I am baking are almost done so I must go. Let me leave you with some photos and recipes!

Apple Pecan Muffins (reduced fat and sugar) from Ellie Krieger

Hazelnut Blondies from Martha Stewart

This Week's British TV Review:


I recently got ahold of the first three seasons of this show and I have been addicted. This show stars the quintessential Englishman, Stephen Fry, as market town solicitor Peter Kingdom (for Americans that means a lawyer in a small town). This show has a great mix of drama and comedy, with each episode finding Peter Kingdom trying to get to the bottom of his clients' wacky legal troubles. To the town of Market Shipborough, Peter Kingdom is more of a therapist than a lawyer and his talent seems to be helping his clients resolve their problems outside the court.

Stephen Fry is perfect as Peter Kingdom but this show would be nothing without the ensemble of cooky village personilities. First is his hormonal associate Lyle, fresh out of law school and learning the ropes under the tutelage of Kingdom. Peter's family is what makes the plot twist and turn with his sister Beatrice who is in and out of mental clinics and his brother Simon who is believed to be dead when his gambling debts drove him to walk into the North Sea.

The two other characters that drive the comedy of this show are Sidney Snell, a pungent villager whose mission in life is to be the thorn in the side of the Market Shipborough council. His partner in crime Ted along with being the town's pub owner also seems to show up everywhere in places you would never expect and is always spewing wisdom that would seem beyond his intelligence.

I absolutely love this show, and I hope they renew it for a fourth season!

The first three seasons of Kingdom aired on ITV.