Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

You are probably wondering what I am doing for Thanksgiving. You may remember last year I cooked an entire Thanskgiving feast for my in laws, all from scratch. I cooked for three days straight and by the time the meal came around I think I was too tired to really enjoy it.

Well, this year I am doing the exact opposite. I am just cooking a little meal for myself, but with all the basics. I didn't even really plan anything in advance and this morning I just kind of threw together what I had.

I bought a little turkey breast roasting joint at the supermarket and just checked this morning to see what I had to flavor it with. I made a rub of herbs de provence (leftover from last year's turkey roast) and then I just roughly chopped an onion and threw it all in the slow cooker. I needed a bit of cooking liquid so I just glugged in what was left of a bottle of white zinfandel I had in the fridge. I think for just throwing things together it will probably turn out to be pretty darn good! I have one of those divided slow cookers, so in the other side of the slow cooker I cut up some carrots and some sweet potatoes and I have those simmering in some chicken stock.

I bought some cranberry and chestnut stuffing, although it is the British kind not the American style. British stuffing isn't made with big chunks of stale bread, its made with breadcrumbs so its not quite the same but this will do. I also was able to find a jar of cranberry sauce! I think I will make some green beans and maybe some roastie potatoes as well if I feel like it when it gets closer to dinner time.


Just finished my delicious meal, here is a photo of my spread. Once I saw how much I had I decided to nix the roastie potatoes and green beans.

And just if you are wondering if it smells good, Max sure thought so (that pink blur is his tongue)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Taking a Moment to Pat Myself on the Back

I've been feeling very proud of myself lately. Although I certainly haven't done all of the things that I have wanted to accomplish after being here for a year (like finding a job) I have managed to do a lot of other things that I have every right to be proud of.

First of all, I have stripped this flat of all things granny and bachelor, and when I moved in there was a lot of both and its taken quite some effort to make this place really look nice without spending much money.

I think my greatest accomplishments are making friends and becoming involved in the community. I feel more tied to this community now than I ever did in Chicago. I supposed its easier in a smallish town to find ways to integrate yourself into the community, but I didn't dilly dally and I got involved right away and a year later I feel like I have become an important part of this community. Also, when I moved here I had zero friends, now I have two very close friends and about a dozen other friends and acquaintances which in a town where I have very little in common with anyone is quite an impressive number. After living in Chicago for a year I didn't have anywhere near that many new friends. Its not a popularity contest or anything, its just a matter of feeling like I belong and having a support system.

I am also really proud of myself for learning to drive here. It was really difficult and at the beginning it was one of those things I honestly never thought I was going to be able to do. It was probably the first time in my life I genuinely felt like I couldn't do something and I kept at it anyway. Its been a month since I passed my driver's test and those first few weeks were really rough and I wondered if I would ever get used to driving our car, but I forced myself to get in the car and go places I didn't necessarily want to go and put myself into situations that scared the living daylights out of me but now I am comfortable in pretty much any driving situation. I know a lot of people who after their driving test never quite built their confidence up to the point where they feel comfortable driving outside of town. It is very daunting, and I definitely couldn't do it without the aid of my satellite navigation system. I can see how easy it is to settle into the routine and never really feel comfortable driving on the big roads, it terrified me too, but I sucked it up and did it anyway because I felt I had to and its another thing I am proud of myself for.

Now on a less egotistical note, I have been considering putting my tree up a week early. First of all because I won't be here for a few days before Christmas so I will miss out on valuable tree time then, but also because it seems that all of the stores and shopping centers are already fully decked out for Christmas. Its one thing to be selling Christmas stuff, but our main shopping center has all of the Christmas lights up and Santa is arriving there next week! If Santa says its time for Christmas, well then I think its time. London had their official lighting ceremonies last week, and this week they are turning on the lights in nearby cities like Leeds. Why shouldn't I too be able to put up my Christmas decorations? So I think this settles it and I am going to put my Christmas stuff up a week from Saturday!

A final note, in case you don't read my blog column on Anglotopia, I am going to London for a day next week on Wednesday! I am really excited, mostly because I got such a great deal on my hotel and train tickets and there is nothing better than feeling like you are getting a good deal when you travel. I am just going down to London to see the sights and meeting up with some people from Anglotopia while I am down there.

I will give a full report when I return next week!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Remember, Remember the 5th of November

Happy Bonfire Night/ Guy Fawkes Night!

November 5th is known as Bonfire Night and it is the celebration of the foiling of the plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament on November 5th 1605. Guy Fawkes kind of gets the bad rap, his job in the plot was to prepare the explosives, all of the actual plotting was done by a group of Catholic gentry including Thomas Percy who was from around these parts. Thomas Percy was at the time of his involvement with the plot the constable for Alnwick Castle and was basically in charge of all the properties belonging to his cousin the Earl of Northumberland and the Percy family. When you visit Alnwick Castle there is an exhibit set up about his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot, including some letters related to the plot that have been put on display for visitors.

My mom, me and my dad on the grounds of Alnwick Castle

If you want to read about the Gunpowder Plot, check out this Wikipedia article.

I am a bit worried about Max and how he will react to fireworks going off tonight. I know the sound of motorcycles and helicopters stresses him out, so I am bracing myself for the fireworks tonight. I think the best I can do is to keep the TV on and shut the living room door as most of the fireworks go off behind our building, and most importantly stay calm for him. There have been fireworks going off since Halloween and the big fireworks will be on Saturday night, so I will have to keep an eye on him over the next several days and try not to be startled by the fireworks myself!