Moves Like Mary (Berry)

As a Stay-At-Home-Mum, I feel like I should be a able to bake lovely cakes and biscuits. My five year old, Moozles, loves baking. I say baking, but really she likes cracking eggs and mixing everything up. For years I have tried baking, and always fallen short. Earlier this year, a mummy friend gave me her recipe for a lemon drizzle cake. It came out perfectly the first time I made it. This was my first introduction to a Mary Berry recipe. I had watched Mary Berry on The Great British Bake-Off but never knew why she was such a legend. After making the lemon drizzle cake, I bought one of her baking cookbooks. I have made several of the recipes and am almost-always pleased by the results.

 

Being American, I had never eaten a Victoria Sponge cake until I moved to the UK. I’ve always been more of a chocolate cake type of gal. At the weekend I attempted my first Victoria Sponge. It was okay, but not as light and fluffy as I would like. I tried again today. Even though the recipe was in my cookbook, I used this recipe as it gave me the measurements for my six-inch cake pans (btw, success in looks and taste!): 
I am feeling quite proud of myself. So I thought I would share some of my tips for a better bake:
1. Use room temperature butter or margarine.
2. First put in all the dry ingredients, then add wet ingredient last before mixing.
3. Mixing by hand take a bit more time and effort but means you can avoid over-mixing (which leads to a denser cake).
4. Grease cake pans first so that once you’ve mixed the ingredients you can start baking right away.
5. Get used to your oven as your timing might differ from the recipe. I find that I normally have to add an extra five minutes to my bakes.
6. Never open the oven before the very end. Opening the oven cools the temperature which affects how much time the cake requires to be cooked.
 
Happy baking!

Gross Anatomy

Moozles is 5 1/2. From the times of potty training, we have always used the British terms of bum for bottom and wee for pee. And because my British husband didn’t know an alternative name for a vagina, we called it the front bum. But my daughter is now in Year One, so I want to let her know she has a vagina not a front bum. Husband is not a fan of that word and thinks it is too clinical. I think calling it a va-jay-jay is too American. Vag and coochy sound a bit gross.

What do other people call that area? Is there a British term? Or a term appropriate for children? This is not something I want to google in case ‘girl’s vagina’ results in the police coming to my door.

Social Media, aka Not So Lonely


I have really gotten into Twitter in the past year. I enjoy tweeting and reading tweets. And about six months ago, I really got into blogs. A few years ago, many parenting blogs were just mums gushing about how wonderful their babies were and the joy of motherhood. I get it, but who wants to read that day after day? I mostly read family-orientated blogs, but from moms and dads. Sure you get the joys of parenthood, but also the tribulations. There are the struggles of working, full-time or part-time, as well as staying at home and losing one’s career. I feel so connected to these people, though I have only been following their lives for a short time. 

I have also gotten into expat blogs. They didn’t have such things when I first moved here. What help that would have been. Sometimes it’s so lonely when you’re a foreigner and are thinking and acting differently to the others around you. Though the USA and the UK have less differences than most other countries, it still feels like a million miles away from what you know.

I remember feeling so isolated at my first job in the UK. It was a small office and everyone was British. People were nice and courteous. And we would sometimes pop to the local pub for a drink at lunchtime on a Friday. But there was a lack of warmth and silliness that was lacking. I missed my American colleagues. It took me about a year before I actually made a friend, and it got easier after that. But that first year was pretty lonely.

If you are an expat, how do you deal with living in another country? Do you use social media to keep in touch with family and friends back ‘home’? Or do you use it to make new friends in your adopted homeland?

One of ‘those’ Americans

When I first moved to London in 2002, I was quite self-conscious about being one of ‘those Americans’. You know the ones. They talk really loud in restaurants so everyone knows the status of their relationship or their day’s activities. They wear trainers (that’s sneakers or tennis shoes to my American brethren) to walk around London, as if they might join in a marathon at any moment. They are dressed very sensibly and never have an umbrella, but don’t need one as they are wearing a waterproof poncho.
 
One of the things I tried to tone down was my usage of American phrases. Nowadays, my sentences aren’t littered with ‘like’ or ‘awesome’ like they once were. But every once in a while, I bust out with ‘dude’ or pronounce ‘whatever’ in a valley girl accent. I’m not fussed anymore. I think it’s what happens when you have kids. You lose a lot of self-consciousness and are more happy with who you are. At least I am. Are you happy with who you are?

Not a Housewife

In the last week, there have been two things that have made me think of this old-fashioned and unwelcomed term of ‘housewife’. Last week, when the police officer was getting my details after the burglary, she asked my occupation. I am not sure what this has to do with being burgled, but I digress. Anyway, I said I didn’t have a job, that I was a ‘Stay At Home Mum’. She wrote ‘housewife’ on her form. I shuddered but didn’t say anything.

Yesterday I read this very articulate and entertaining blog (http://thewhimwhamlife.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/why-i-choose-to-be-stay-at-home-mom.htmlby Bonnie Ilyn, who has a similar dilemma. I wish I knew or could invent an amazing term that would encapsulate what a stay at home parent does but that doesn’t disparage those parents who work part-time or full-time. I used to work part-time when we only had our daughter. And it was hectic. And it doesn’t feel anymore relaxed now that we have two kids and I am at home every day.

I do work. Not in a paid job with colleagues and a boss who respect me. I work for little people who shriek and don’t believe in 9 to 5. I work solely for cuddles and kisses, which are abundant in my house. I won’t list everything I do, because many people do the same if not more. I keep the kids and the house ticking along. And to assuage the guilt of not working, I help out with the PTA. I am not a ‘housewife’. I am the Family Manager. I am the Director of Household. I am the Chief Executive of Domestic Bliss.

Time to update my CV. What is your occupation?

Goodbye Hallo Ween

Halloween went well. Mg daughter, Moozles, went to a schoolfriend’s house then trick-or-treating (six five-year old girls losing their minds with anticipation–talk about scary). Then we got home in time to trick-or-treat on our neighbouring streets with Moozles and her brother. We didn’t let Dubz have any candy since he is only 17-months old–he just loved getting to walk around at night. He is quite independent, so we didn’t take the stroller/buggy and he had a fab time wandering around.

This made me think how kids love going out after dark. We are normally quite strict about a 7pm/7.30pm bedtime at our house. What do other people do? Do you let your kids stay up at weekends, vacations or school holidays? Maybe I should be more relaxed? Apart from an occasional wedding or family party, my daughter hasn’t stayed up past 8pm very often.

Halloween Survival Tips

Halloween Survival Tips
My first 10 Halloweens in London were quite uneventful. In fact, we only had one trick-or-treater. And as we were not expecting him, we did not have any candy. But last year we moved to a very Halloween-friendly area of South West London. My then-four-year old went trick-or-treating for the first time. My father-in-law stayed home to pass out candy. Unfortunately, we did not get many trick-or-treaters. I did not know the rules then. But I do now.
 
1. If you want trick-or-treaters, you must have some kind of Halloween decoration in front of your house, on your window or window ledge. If you do not, trick-or-treaters will not knock or ring. Any little decoration or pumpkin will do. In America, you just need to keep your front porch/door light on.
 
2. No matter how warm it is the week before Halloween, the temperature drops by 5C on Halloween. So make sure you can layer clothes underneath your child’s outfit because most children do not want to wear a coat over their costume.
 
3. As an avid on-line shopper, I sometimes forget that there are some shops which you have to go to in person. Pound shops and grocery stores usually sell decent decorations and costumes for a low price.
 
4. Many children in the UK like to dress up a bit scary for Halloween. From what I have seen, kids here prefer to be witches, ghosts, devils and monsters. In America, people dress up as everything under the sun.
 
5. In America, the clocks go back the Sunday after Halloween. In Europe it is the Sunday before. This means it is dark by 5pm. Trick-or-treaters begin at around 5.30pm. By 7pm, most people have run out of candy so don’t bother.
 
6. Bring an umbrella. Enough said.
 
7. You don’t get the candy hoard in the UK that you do in America. I remember using pillow cases when I went trick-or-treating as a child. Here you can get away with a small holder, as in the pumpkin basket in the bottom photo. You can get one for £1 at Poundland.
 
Happy All Hallows’ Eve!
Halloween Survival Tips Halloween Survival Tips Halloween Survival Tips

How do you like them chocolates?

Okay, okay, I might be going overboard with my constant usage of ‘how do you like them…’ in my post titles. I just can’t stop myself. I will try to make this the last one, but I cannot make any guarantees.
 
Anyway, this half-term Husband has taken the week off and we’re spending a few days with my in-laws in Leamington Spa. Today we went to Cadbury World. Oh, the smell of chocolate being made. Heavenly. I never knew I could feel intoxicated by just a smell. They gave us lots of free chocolate plus my mother-in-law bought enough from the gift shop to feed a small village. I say a small village, but the six of us won’t have much trouble taking down four carrier bags of chocolate.
Growing up in America, I ate plenty of Hershey’s chocolate. I enjoyed it, but didn’t realise how lovely Cadburys is. It is so creamy. I still enjoy Hershey’s miniatures or kisses, on the odd occasion. But dairy milk, whole nut, flake, crunchie and creme eggs. Oh my. Today I tried a wispa for the first time. Yum. I could eat chocolate every day. Oh wait, I do. Maybe that’s why I’m still carrying two stone of baby weight. I am too ashamed to say how many chocolate bars I’ve eaten today (okay, five).
Off to have have another dairy milk.

How Do You Like Them Pumpkins?

How Do You Like Them Pumpkins

A few days ago, I posted about my want of getting a pumpkin from an actual pumpkin patch. After extensive internet research, I found the closest thing to a pumpkin patch within a 30-45 minute drive of Southwest London. Yesterday afternoon we went to Crockford Bridge Farm near Weybridge in Surrey.

How Do You Like Them Pumpkins

Not surprisingly, I heard several American accents at Crockford. I obviously wasn’t the only American looking for a piece of home. I couldn’t even find a pumpkin in central London 11 years ago and now there’s a pumpkin patch not too far away. Amazing. Crockford even had a few shelves in their farm shop dedicated to American groceries.

Dubz enjoyed running around crazily, Moozles enjoyed the playground. I searched for the ‘right’ pumpkin. To my husband’s annoyance, I can never just buy something. I have to make sure it is the ‘best one’. But in the end, I did manage to find the best pumpkin. I think this may be an American thing as my British girlfriends seem a lot more relaxed about their purchases. Can anyone confirm or deny? 

Anyway, we had a fab day. And we will be turning our visit to Crockford Bridge Farm into an annual Halloween tradition. Do you have any Halloween traditions?

How Do You Like Them Pumpkins How Do You Like Them Pumpkins

Happy Bug Day

Earlier this week, my five-year old asked what we were doing for Bug Day. After some confused exchanges, she clarified that it was Insect Day. Aha! What she meant was Inset Day. Schools in the UK have five teacher training days per school year, taken on different days per different schools. At my daughter’s school, the inset day is normally the Friday before half-term. So, today we went to Chessington World of Adventures to take advantage of some half-term fun but with term-time lines. A grand time was had by all, I think it might become our Autumn Bug Day tradition.
 
Selfies are the only way I make it in pics
Chessington looking Halloweeny
Cotton candy (that’s candy floss to Brits) seemed like a good idea until I had to wash and brush the sticky tangles from Moozles’ hair 
Dubz’s first taste of ketchup. He LOVED it!
My husband, the bird whisperer