Saturday, June 5, 2021
Sunday, May 9, 2021
|Coupeville Wharf in springtime|
After six months of living in the U.K., we are back in Washington! This was a bittersweet journey for us to make. It was super hard to leave our sweet grandsons behind and say goodbye to our daughter in-law, knowing that they will have another 6 or 7 weeks before our son returns from his deployment. But, we had reached our 6 month limit and had to leave. We also had to leave our newly refurbished apartment and a way of life we had come to accept. The good news, we hope to be back in August.
This is the second blog about traveling during Covid. If you read our early blog post about traveling to England, we wrote about how surreal it felt. How it felt like traveling in a Sci-Fi novel, empty airports, closed shops and restaurants. There was a certain thrill of seeing a historical time of our lives up close and personal. It also seemed like people working at the airport were happy to see us. We were travelers and maybe we were a sign that things were going to get better soon. This time traveling, it was so much the same and so much different.
|Flight Cancelled! |
|Twitter for the save! |
After 2 hours, no one had called back and David was still on hold but he was having a conversation with someone from Delta, via Twitter. Long story, Twitter came through and whoever was on the other end got our flight reinstated. It was about another half an hour before I finally got a call back. Thanks but too late. What we think happened, but we are not sure, there was an equipment change, that caused a flight number change that somehow cancelled our reservation. It was now coming on midnight and we had an Uber picking us up early the next morning. We had scheduled an Uber since our normal train and bus method of getting to the airport was not running costing us an extra $100.
|Uber ride to the airport|
Next cause for concern, nobody gets on an international flight without a negative Covid test. I knew I wasn't sick, I knew that David wasn't sick but we still had to take tests at the airport. The reason I was concerned? I have heard that there are a fair amount of false positives. What if this happens? Do they retest? Do we have to head home again and wait 14 days to travel again? Luckily, our test were negative and that was another extra $95.00 each.
|Covid Testing Center at London Heathrow|
|Empty security scanning area|
Sadly, the airport was just about the same as 6 months ago. Most of the seats were blocked from using, stores and restaurants were still closed and everyone who was traveling seemed to be sad and exhausted. There is a sadness to traveling when there are no families on holiday, there is no laughter or excitement. Our airplane only had 47 passengers. During normal times you would be happy and excited if your airplane only had 15% capacity but now it just another reminder at how far we away we are from feeling or acting normal.
|Airport waiting area at London Heathrow|
I am sorry if this blog post has a certain sadness to it. I really want to document what we saw and how we felt because I am sure at some point in my life, this will all feel far away and hopefully hard to remember. I am sure that life will resume, families will travel and laughter and excitement will return. One thing this has taught me, never take those mundane, happy moments for granted!
|More empty corridors at London Heathrow|
|Waiting for boarding|
|Empty seats on Boeing 767|
|Constant mask reminders on flight entertainment screen|
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
It has been a long month of no new baking. In my defense, my kitchen looked like this for a good part of the time!. Notice no oven, cooktop and no sink so that meant no cooking. I hope you have taken time to read David's posts about the remodel and have seen my beautiful new kitchen. So on to cooking.
As a reminder, I am taking my recipes from, "Paul Hollywood's British Baking" cookbook. Todays recipe is Staffordshire Oatcakes. Staffordshire is from the Midlands, in the area of Birmingham. Again, one of those areas I would love to explore more when life returns to normal.
Also notice that I switched to salted butter but since the recipe called for salt I used a bit less that the amount of salt that was called for in the recipe. The other thing to notice is the fact there is no sugar in this recipe. If you are like me, you think pancake when I say it is a griddle cake but these are more like a crepe than a fluffy pancake, with the exception that this recipe has no eggs.
This was an easy recipe. It did require some planning ahead. After mixing all the ingredients, with the exception of the melted butter, it needs to sit for 1 1/2 hours for the yeast to do its thing. This wait period gave me time to think about what fillings to roll into my griddlecake. Paul recommends crispy bacon and cheese. I am not sure where Paul shops but I have yet to find anything that resembles "crispy" bacon. There is a bacon here called 'streaky bacon" which I suppose is the closest a person can find to American bacon but I would not really call it crispy. I also looked at the photograph in the cookbook and to me it looked like traditional English bacon, more like Canadian bacon, so that is what I used.
Monday, April 12, 2021
This is the rest of the story on the kitchen. This is the area that was so in need a of an upgrade. There were so many problems with the space originally, we struggled with how to start over. Let's review the status of this kitchen when we moved in.
First the obvious code violation; directly above the cooktop or "hob" as they call it here there is a full size upper cabinet - no vent, no hood. So anytime you cook a pot of spaghetti (or anything moist) the bottom surface of the cabinet collects all the steam until it literally rains back down on the stove. If you ever have a chance to design a kitchen don't do this! Apparently they are quite lax about inspections over here. Yes before you ask, we did get full approval from our town council to renovate the kitchen.
Next, the wasted space and total lack of any usable work surfaces. Notice how the corner space is wasted and blocked by the cabinet with the double-oven. Even the upper corner on that side had no cabinet, just a make-shift shelf and the narrow gap in the dead corner. You can't really tell from this angle, but the cooker is off-center and probably too-close to the left side. Also notice that the sink is a single bowl with no drain-pan and the dishes are simply drying on a towel directly on the counter-top. Of course when we dismantled the cabinets, we noticed that this corner had an obvious moisture problem that we had to fix. See the details in the "Before Picture" below.
|Missing floor tile|
|Trucks backed-up waiting for permission to cross the border at Dover after Brexit|
Sunday, April 11, 2021
When we moved in, we understood the kitchen in our little flat was in serious trouble. Always eager for a project, we wanted to make it our own and redesign the kitchen. We started using the 3D design tools from Ikea from the first week we arrived in UK as a way to make use of our time in quarantine. This redesign began before we ever saw the flat! We were working only with photos and measurements taken by our son and daughter-in-law.
First, let's look at the back-side of the kitchen. This is where you can see three full-size pantry (larder) cabinets. It's a little hard to see, but in the before photo below, the pantry cabinets each have a teal lower door and a beige upper cabinet door. There is one on the far left of the image, partially blocking the back door and blocking the boiler and plumbing in the corner. Number 2 is on the far right side of this before image. It was blocking the entrance to lounge. Finally pantry number 3 is directly to the right of the washing machine in this photo.
Now these three pantries were shoe-horned into this tiny kitchen so that anytime you opened the cabinet doors, they would bang into another door or cabinet. They blocked the light and reduced the amount of counter space - they had to go. We took all three of them out and actually sold them on Facebook marketplace.
There were a few other problems with this side of the kitchen. For example, there was only 2 square feet of usable workspace. To the left of the original microwave, behind pantry #1, there was also a drop-off that would swallow anything that slipped off the edge of the counter into the pipe and plumbing zone below the boiler. The only way to recover such items was to remove the dishwasher!
We reshaped this space by removing all three pantries. Removing pantry #1 exposed the boiler and the pipes. We fitted an extra tall wall cabinet here that worked out to be just tall enough to hide all the pipes and allowed us to recover some of this previously unusable space. We added a shelf on top of this cabinet to hold the microwave, just below the boiler, completely hiding all the pipes. We also added a barrier to keep anything from falling back there. Moving the microwave off the counter also doubled the usable worktop space on this side of the kitchen.
We intended to put a blank panel to the left of the tall cabinet holding the microwave, but we found it was a perfect place to store our step-stool, so we decided to leave it open. We also expanded the upper cabinets by using extra tall cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling and adding an over-fridge cabinet. In the photo below, the new breakfast bar can be seen where pantry #2 was previously and we placed a new more compact fridge-freezer where pantry #3 was previously located. This shift also moved the fridge out of the lounge, expanding the usable space in that room. Finally, we placed a 4-drawer cabinet in the space where the old dishwasher was located. The original kitchen actually had no drawers anywhere!
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
Time again for British baking with Becky. Today I will show you my attempt to make Goosnargh Cakes. This recipe originates from the village of Goosnargh, in Lancashire, which happens to be the first area I visited over 30 years ago. It is a particularly beautiful area in England and hopefully after the world opens again, I can return for a visit and see several friends still living up North.
So, on a side note, I should take this time to explain that any baking attempted right now is difficult. We are currently in the middle of a kitchen remodel, that I am sure will be its own blog. When we made this recipe, I knew that in just days I would be having the oven pulled out and not replaced for several weeks. The kitchen is also in a state of flux with dishes, pans and utensils being constantly moved around as a cabinet is removed and another installed. I am not saying this to complain because I am excited about the remodel, but as a reminder that my love of baking will overcome a few inconveniences.
As a reminder, this recipe is from "Paul Hollywood's British Baking", cookbook. I will once again be relying on him as my mentor. I would classify the Goosnargh Cakes as a biscuit or cookie in the fact that they are round and flat.
As you can see from the picture, the ingredients are relatively simple with the addition of caraway seeds to add a unique flavor to the cakes. It is also worth noting that there are no eggs or salt in the recipe. This is still mind boggling to me since I consider salt to be the one ingredient that must be in every recipe. Because of this, I have spent time reconsidering my butter choice. In the U.S. I have always used unsalted butter. I have been taught that the best cream is used in unsalted butter since impurities cannot be hidden behind salt but here I have greater faith in their butter. So after this butter is used up, I plan to switch to salted butter.
The only struggle we had was the caraway. Paul suggests, "Add a little at first, grinding the seeds with a pestle and mortar to give it a more subtle flavour". (See the last word, "flavour", my computer just tried to auto-correct it to "flavor," but that is how it is printed in the book). Anyway, we don't own a mortar and pestle. I guess that is not true, I own two but they are in Washington so we tried various methods to try and get the right consistency. I first tried my rolling pin in a measuring cup. David noticed me struggling and grabbed the hammer, which he had laying nearby for the kitchen remodel, and gave it an attempt. Both had the same effect so I went with the the rolling pin method. It felt more appropriate for baking.
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
We have been in England now for over 4 months and being self proclaimed "Foodies", we are feeling a bit sad that we are on the downward side of our trip and we have had little chance to explore and eat the local cuisine. It has also been particularly tough on me since my passion is baking and making people happy through food so we decided to do something about this, Bake!
Step one, find a good mentor through a British cookbook. I decided on, "Paul Hollywood's British Baking." Paul Hollywood seemed like a good choice because he doesn't use fancy equipment for his recipes. This is really important because I have limited resources. Now I know those of you who know me well, know that I have almost every baking tool one could hope for. I have a couple of Kitchenaid Mixers, (going to give them a big hug when I get home to Washington), several sets of measuring cups, knives, cutters, scrapers, baking pans, well you get the idea. Anyway, here I have 400 square feet of living space and the biggest kitchen appliance I own is a hand mixer. This is an excellent opportunity to get back to my baking roots and bake like I was taught as a child.....be creative!
Step two, assemble ingredients. This sounds easy enough but they use different terms here than back home in the U.S.A. Is cornflour cornstarch or cornmeal? Which sugar is caster sugar? Is Fan 180 C. a real temperature? After several questions posed to our Echo, "Alexa" we set off to the store to get the final ingredients needed. One thing I have to say about Britain, the dairy products are amazing and fresh. I have been known to sample the butter before spreading on toast. If I could bring one thing, or several small things, back to Washington with me it would be a suitcase of butter.
Step three, choose a recipe and bake. I am starting with three recipes that resemble a cookie. By cookie I mean that they are round and somewhat flat.
The first one we baked is called Chocolate Heavies. This recipe is from the area we are currently living in, Southeast England. It was from the Victorian times and originally had currents instead of chocolate chips. (sounds like a good change by Paul). Notice by the picture, chocolate chips are sold in these small packets that to me look like a snack size and sorry Paul, I added the whole packet, which was 100 g instead of the 75 g in the recipe. This recipe also has lard as ingredient which I have not used in cookies.
The last instruction in the book said, "These biscuits are best eaten fresh". I took this quite literally and ate two while they were still warm. All in all, I think they were great tasting. Pretty dry compared to what I am used to but they would be great with tea, or another hot drink.
Coupeville Wharf in springtime After six months of living in the U.K., we are back in Washington! This was a bittersweet journey for us to m...
We have been in England now for over 4 months and being self proclaimed "Foodies", we are feeling a bit sad that we are on the dow...
Time again for British baking with Becky. Today I will show you my attempt to make Goosnargh Cakes. This recipe originates from the village...