Monday, 12 August 2013

Cricket...My new obsession

When Mr.  and Mrs. G got married we were in the midst of ashes cricket. My husband (then fiancĂ©) was pretty concerned about checking scores to see who won the ashes. At that time I could not understand the interest in a match that lasted days on end to finish in a draw (apparently different than a tie). 

Not long after hearing about the ashes, I remember watching on tv the 20/20 cricket world championships in Barbados. I was interested by location as much as the lack of anything else on tv that day. We snuggled in front of a fire thinking about warmer climates and I learned the basic rules of cricket. 20/20 cricket is much more appealing as the game lasts a few hours and you have a result at the end.  Someone wins and someone looses.  No ties, no draws, no waiting for the next game to hope for a result it finishes neat and tidy, apparently a very American desire to have a winner and looser in a game. 

Fast forward a few years, I had not thought much about cricket since watching the finals, and I was soon leaving England.  I decided I should go see a cricket match live. We could have gone to see a local match (similar to little league, or adult league baseball) just up the road from the house and that would have fulfilled the bucket list. After all, every Friday afternoon I hear the boys go up the street with the wheeled cricket bags for practice and back down afterwards. You can hear the Sunday afternoon cheers from the village when a 6 is scored, and the adults are usually within stones throw of the house when the stop at the local pub for a pint after a long day of cricket.   As we are not really friends with anyone who plays cricket in the village grounds, we felt a bit funny showing up at a match.  

Luckily enough, my husbands work had some box tickets to a nearby county 20/20 match. It was a very nice way to watch cricket with food and drinks provided. Although it was not our local county natch, it was a good refresher course in cricket for me. 

Soon after my first live 20/20 match, the ashes started again. I wasn't sure I would like it, but it was raining outside and there was absolutely nothing else on tv. Fortunately the other side of the country had dry weather, so I tuned into England vs Australia for the ashes. Bowl after bowl I became hooked. My husband was surprised to come home from work and not have to look up the results, but for me to give them to him as we'll as a rundown of the days highlights while we watched the last few overs. 

During the ashes we attended another county cricket match and met up with one of my husbands friends from work. He too was surprised in my sudden comprehension of the game and interest in ashes cricket. Here are a few pictures from that game :

My local county team lost, Oh well.  In the mean time England has retained the ashes in the first three tests and while I am visiting family in Eastbourne, I am following the fourth of five matches via the highlights. I just hope we can get the second round of the ashes from Australia while we are in Florida!

I have no discipline...

I know, it goes without saying, I have no discipline. I am sporadic at best when it comes to blogging. But I am making a pledge, I have 48 days left in the UK before I fly back to the states with 6 cats, in that time I plan to make 24 blog posts.  I will cover the preparation to move back to the states, what we are doing now, and some of my favorite (or least favorite) things about living in England. I hope you all enjoy my stories as much as I have enjoyed being the American Suburbanite in Rural England as we will soon become an English man in Florida. (Hope to come up with a better blog name as well). 

One of my neighbors I will be saying fair well to!

Monday, 11 March 2013

AmSub Grub: Oatmeal Bakes

Those of you who know me know I have a sweet tooth, I love to bake, and like to have fast food around the house to grab and eat as I go.  Just before we went to Portugal I was seriously craving chocolate chip dried cranberry scones based on this recipe by the American Cupcake in London. They are delicious, but I was trying to be healthy and looked for a different option. Though I had seen oatmeal bakes on pinterest in several different forms, but none of them seemed quite right.  I wanted something portable (to take to the airport in the morning with us).  I also wanted something low in fat and sugar, that I would not feel guilty about eating but also to hit my sweet tooth cravings.  After surfing numerous recipes, I came up with my own:

2 cups oats
2 bananas mashed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/2 cup whole wheate flour
2 Tablespoons ground almonds
1 cup milk (semi-skimmed/2%)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons applebutter
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnuts

This was a TOTAL experiment and they turned out really goood.  I started with bananas and eggs then added other ingredients in as I went.  I was so surprised the worked (mostly).  After mixing everything together, I placed in cupcake liners and baked them for about 25 minutes at 350 F (170 C), check them at approximately 18-22 minutes to see if they are done by placing a toothpick in and making sure it comes out clean, you don't want an under or over cooked muffin.  

They tasted great, they were not too dense, hit my sweet tooth with just enough chocolate and dried cranberries, there was only one problem.  There was so little fat in them that they stuck in the paper liners.  They tasted so good though, we peeled off as much as we could and figured a little extra ruffage wouldn't hurt us.  Next time I make them I will try them in a silicone baking tray with no liners.  

I can't believe I don't have any pictures of the finished product!  That is so not like me, between the iPad and my camera, I have pictures of everything in my life lol.

I hope you try them anyway, send in your pictures if you do!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

American Suburbanite in Portugal: The legend of Barcelos

A rooster in Obidos  
Go into any souvenir shop in Portugal and you will notice little brightly painted roosters.  Its like there is a "Beyonce, the giant metal chicken" for everyone!  After our third visit (if you count our port stop in Lisbon during our cruise) I finally decided to look into the meaning of these little cockerels.  We were in Lisbon on our next to the last day and we found the legend printed on a cork post card.  I didn't even read it at the time because I wasn't wearing my glasses. 

The next day was our last day and we kept ourselves very busy and tried to get to bed early for our 0415 check out to head to the airport for our 07~ flight.  So I don't think I actually read it until I was unpacking our luggage on the Monday.  

When I finally read the legend I was quite pleased it had nothing to do with cock fighting and machismo.  It dates back to the 13th century and comes from the village of Barcelos in northern Portugal.  A man was accused of stealing, in a time and place when theft was prosecuted and death by hanging was the penalty.  The man proclaimed his innocence, time and time again.  He requested a final meeting with the judge before his hanging.  As the judge was just getting served his supper, the man told the he was innocent and if he was killed, the cockerel on his plate would crow.  The judge was not convinced but the cockerel crowed and the man was immediately set free.  Talk about salmonella threat!  For a slightly more elegant telling of the legend, check out the Wikepedia or Cascais travel websites. 

Our Postcard made of Cork

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Sri Lankan Love Cake

For Christmas our sister-in-law got us spice packets from The SpiceryMy husband received 2 savory spice kits and I received 2 sweet spice kits.  We had the Ethiopian dora wat kit for supper a couple of weeks ago and it was delicious (took a while, but worth it!)  

So for Valentines Day I decided to try the Sri Lankan Love Cake for a desert that was a little unexpected and different than traditional chocolate and strawberries or red velvet cakes. It was quite appropriate as well considering it was a traditional gift from Portuguese women to their sweethearts when coastal Portugal was the gateway to the spice route and we just returned from Portugal. 

The recipe says 30 minutes prep time plus 40 for cooking.  It took me about 2 hours prep time.  It was not for my incompetance, quite the contrary.  It was so cold in our house I could not get the butter to cream.  I had to microwave it to get it soft enough to cream.  This alone took about 10 minutes as I was doing it in 10-20 second bursts on the defrost setting so as not to melt the butter.  As soon as I got it going, my phone rang.  After a 40 minute phone conversation with my mom, I went back to the ketchen and the butter (and flour mixture) was hard as a rock again.  I eventually had to put it in front of our space heater and leave it for about 20 minutes before it was workable.  At least at this point I was able to finish the cake and it was ready in time for my husbands return from work.  
I was concerned the rose would overwhelm the cake but the balance was lovely.  The cinnamon and cardomom worked very well together with the rose.

I did not have cashew nuts, but had almonds.  Also, I didn't cut them very small.  I put them in the food processor and got a mix of ground almonds and chunky whole bits of almonds.  This gave the cake a lovely crunchy texture. 

Because of my concerns about the rose, i did not steep the rose petals in the syrup for the glaze very long.  there was just a hint of floral notes with the spices and we absolutely loved the cake.  

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Cats of Portugal

Cats are as important to the Portuguese as to the Egyptians or the Internet! While in Portugal cats can be found around every corner, in castles, on beaches, in towns or country villages, everywhere! I am hesitant to call them feral because some have homes to go to, most are friendly, and they all appear to be fed very well. Over the last year with three visits, I think we saw cats nearly every day.

I am sure in the country amongst the vineyards, orange groves, and olive trees they serve a very good purpose keeping rodents and birds away from precious crops. This does not account for the vast numbers of cats and cat paraphernalia found throughout the country. There are cat statues, crazy cat lady tiles, cat mugs...

Needless to say, I enjoyed interacting with these kitties while away from my own and took photos of most of them. I nearly tried to sneak one into my bag one day! The pride at home is large enough though and I was glad to come home to them!

But while I am in Portugal, I will continue to love their cats! Here's a few pictures!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Back in Portugal

Well, this has been one of my most adventurous trips yet! If I were planning surfing or mounting climbing I could not have planned a bigger rush! Weather has played havoc with our trip from the start. Our plane was an hour late in departing, not due to the snow in England, but I believe the "high disruption due to wind" on the Portuguese coast.

In air, our flight was fairly uneventful. We managed to get a few winks in here and there. When it came to landing however, we had quite the ride. The winds were blowing so forcefully the plane was bobbing and weaving like Mohammad Ali! Most passengers were not so sure we were going to continue to fly like a butterfly and were bracing for a sting. I was between my mother in law and husband, neither of whom took the bumpy ride very well. I was trying to get each of them to breathe a bit slower and relax. After one and a half attempts to land, the pilot let us know we were heading to Faro and we would reassess the situation from there.

After two hours on the tarmac we were told the weather in Lisbon "dramatically" improved and we would be taking off shortly. Most of the passengers would have rather been told they were bussing us back or we would spend the night in Faro, but we were in the air soon enough. The anxiety of the many passengers was laid to rest within an hour. We witnessed a lovely sunset and landed with gusto, but safely. The runway in Lisbon seemed quite short as he hit the brakes and we all slid forward in our seats, but the round of applause from the passengers showed that no one minded.

I had only one thing on my mind...chicken nuggets! I was brewing a migraine and it had been at least 6 hours since I had eaten anything. I was hoping like most airports a Burger King or McDonald's would be around. I was wrong. As we went about the typical airport activities we had no problems, luggage arrived promptly, SIM card for iPad very simple, and rental car, though a few in line ahead of us, easy peasy. However, no chicken nuggets.

We got in the car and saw a Burger King but we were in the far lane and it would have been a challenge to get into. So we decided to pass it thinking we would see another one along the way. Again, we were wrong. 58 miles later we pulled off the motorway and turned towards the grocery store. As my husband and I were trying to remember where things were, I realized this was one of THOSE migraines. I told my husband I would wait near the car while they went into the shop, but we didn't make it that far. I had to make my husband pull over at a bus stop and i wasn't catching the bus. At least I felt better after my stop, but I couldn't get near the fish counter.

After getting a few necessities we headed to the villa only to find the windy winter storm had knocked the power out in the village. We had a bite to eat and got settled in by the light of iPhones and iPad and headed to bed hoping for improvements with the light of day.