Jun 18, 2014

American biscuits

I have been craving so much American junk food. Doughnuts, biscuits and gravy, cinnamon rolls, eggos, and that's just the bready stuff. Don't get me started on my mexican food cravings. Anyway, I'm mostly craving things that I cannot get here, or are prohibitively expensive (though that didn't stop me from special ordering saltines and lemon-lime gatorade for like $50. first trimester probs.).

Most of these things, I've started trying my hand at just baking or cooking. I made a killer tortilla soup the other day. Carnitas tacos in May. I just bought a doughnut cookbook and things to make American-style doughnuts which are hard to find here, or again - really expensive (1.50 pounds for a krispy kreme glazed doughnut! come on.).

Last year, I purchased the Clinton Street Bakery cookbook and I've been wanting to make the buttermilk biscuits for a long time. I finally found some shortening (Crisco from Ocado) and made some big American fluffy buttermilk biscuits yesterday morning. It was LIFE CHANGING. Henry and I ate biscuits with butter and jam for breakfast. For dinner dessert, we made strawberry shortcakes with the biscuits. And this morning I made a mouth-watering bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit. Honestly, I want to die from happiness. Also, the biscuits were so easy to make, I see these happening a lot in my future.

So, here's the recipe if you are in need of the perfect buttermilk biscuits (you are).

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 TB baking powder
1 1/2 TB sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 TB unsalted butter, chilled
3 TB shortening, chilled
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat over to 350 F. Mix all dry ingredients together in a kitchenaid. If you don't have an electric mixer stand, use your hands (I don't have a kitchenaid here, and I used my hands - got a little sticky, but it was fast and easy). Add butter and shortening and use mixer (or hands) until crumbly texture. Add buttermilk and mix until dough comes together.

Turn dough onto floured surface, pat with hands into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. You're trying to get about 6-7 2-inch round biscuits. Use a biscuit cutter or a cup with a 2-inch circle. Place all the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the biscuits before placing into the oven. Bake for 15 - 17 minutes, or until golden brown and baked through. Rotate the pan halfway through for even baking.

Jun 16, 2014

Happy news!

I am pregnant. It feels so great to be sharing this news with you all, but it has also been very nice to have it as our own little secret for all this time. I had a really rough first trimester (much worse than I ever remember with Henry), and only started feeling like my old self again in the past couple of weeks. I'm grateful for that.

I'm almost halfway through the pregnancy, and we expect this little person in early November, right around Henry's 3rd birthday (we've got the Scorpio thing going on pretty strong. Help.), and I'm excited (I think) to have the baby in the UK. So far, my experiences with the healthcare system here have been very positive. I am loving that they provide so many resources for women, whether you want an epidural or not - it's up to you and all available. We are going to try for the natural route again, since they provide a doula (free!), private birthing tubs (free!), private and comfortable rooms in the birth center (free!), and lots of other little things that should make for a good place to have a baby. 

Henry likes to talk to the baby every night. He tries to show people the baby by pulling up my shirt, and when people ask about the baby, he points to his tummy and says "baby in my belly". The other day he tried to pull the baby out of my belly button, "baby needs to come out and kick the ball with Henry". 

We have been waiting for this baby for a long time, and it wasn't an easy road to get here, but I'm grateful for every little thing that happened that made me feel that much more lucky to be a mother.

Jun 12, 2014

Feeling a lot of the things

I woke up this morning with a lump in my throat. I was grumpy. I didn't want to see the sun, I wanted a good old fashioned gloomy London day, thank you very much. I made some toast for Henry and me, drank some ice cold water, and just thought about the state of things. Then Henry tugged on my pants and pulled me into his room to play ramp.

If there's one piece of advice I can give, it is that there is no use in arguing with a two-year old. So off to play ramp, we went. His ramp is this gargantuan plastic Fisher Price thing that he remains obsessed with after 7 months of play. Not bad. We send all the cars down, they get in a traffic jam, we fix it, then we start all over again. Today, it was just the thing I needed to let my mind wander.

My mind wandered to change. I've really been wanting to move in recent weeks - to a bigger place, more centrally located to the great (free) museums in West London so we can have an activity outside the house easily on rainy days. But that seems impossible at the moment, so instead I decided right then and there I would rearrange Henry's entire room. First I pushed the crib up against the window. The chi was all wrong, so I pulled out the rolled up rug that's been sitting under the sofa since we moved in and laid it out in Henry's room, put his crib on the rug, threw down a sheepskin, and put a box filled with his books for reading time. It felt so much better to establish a little place for us to read every day and night. Hen loves it, too. After we finished rearranging, he took a look around and told me - It looks great! Haha. Thanks Henry. I think the change helped to clear my mind a little bit.

Mark came home from work early and I took the tube to Oxford Circus to do some wandering and Fathers Day shopping (and candy shopping, thank you very much Sugar Sin), and I came home exhausted. Physically, mentally, emotionally. There are many reasons for this, I think, maybe the feeling of unanswerable questions is too much for me.

Even now I sit here, wondering why I'm writing this blog post other than to help me remember that today was a day I struggled with too many thoughts about things I don't understand. These are strange times for many.

Jun 10, 2014

Life lately.

I look around my house, and I see scattered strawberries and watermelon bits on the table where a certain two-year old got sticky fingers...cookies that need to be baked...laundry to be done...toys scattered everywhere...sand bucket and shovel on the ground waiting to be taken to the sandbox...a new doughnut cookbook begging to be used...windows open letting the fresh warm air into this little flat.

It is summer. Everything in my life just lazes along right now, like summer does. I'll get to the messes later. I'll clean sticky fingers tonight. We'll take that bucket and shovel and strawberries straight to the park and enjoy these warm, sunny days that have finally graced us.

And I've got some serious doughnut-making to do. I'm trying to find my soul-doughnut. It's important to have that kind of stuff figured out.

Today I was laying down next to Henry before his nap and I said Henry is the best. He looked at me and said Mama is the best. And we laughed and my heart fluttered with happiness.

Jun 6, 2014


London, it's not you, it's me. Our doughnut vibes are just not on the same wavelength.

The Brits just LOVE their filled doughnuts. Shove some delicious cream or jam in there, and sugar the outside and you've done it.

But my doughnut love language is definitely a cake doughnut or a really good yeasted doughnut. I have yet to come across cake doughnuts here (business idea...or Doughnut Plant needs to open a London office), but at least they have the old standbys Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts if I'm just looking for a plain old glazed.

I've been waiting for about 8 months to try the legendary doughnuts from St. Johns Bakery, and finally made it over there this morning in honor of the beautiful and necessary US holiday, National Doughnut Day. We got 2 chocolate filled and 2 vanilla cream filled (they didn't have any jam). The chocolate doughnut was just not it for me. The chocolate filling itself was too heavy and the doughnut was slightly dried out, and the combo had me dying for some ice cold milk. The cream doughnut was better, because the vanilla custard was much lighter than the heavy chocolate. But the doughnut was still dried out! How could this be, legendary doughnuts!

I did a little research and it turns out the head pastry chef recently left St Johns (GASP) to start his own venture. So guess who will be headed to Borough Market (hopefully tomorrow) to try the doughnuts from new Bread Ahead from chef Justin Gallatly. I know they will still be filled, but I'm hoping they can make me believe in the Brit doughnut.

Jun 2, 2014

June, is that you?

Hello from Camp Will-it-ever-get-warm-here AKA Camp Whines-about-the-weather-too-much.

I knew what I was signing up for when we moved to London, I did. But my body won't get on board with it. I'm waiting for the clouds to part, the sun to shine, the heat to tell us "get thee to the pool", but instead it gently nudges. Hey, girl, slip on that cardigan and mosy on over to the wading pool where it will be icy cold, but hey - your toddler doesn't really care. So that's how we found ourselves in the Hampstead wading pool this morning, Henry stripped down to just a diaper, running gleefully around in 65 degree weather wading his little piggies in cold water.

Was he happy about it? Yes, he was. Since Henry is Mark's child, and I merely carried him for 9 months, birthed him, and raised him to the current stage of his toddlerhood, Henry prefers to be in cooler weather with clouds. I'm sure of it. Mostly because every time we step out into the sun, I get this grimacy face. (see it?)

So, we are just carrying on. Keeping the sweaters out, donning our trousers instead of shorts and summer dresses, and telling myself - hey, maybe I'll never sweat again. I'll live a life of comfortable weather with no need to go to the pool or eat a drippy popsicle or any of those dull summer tricks. I'll never feel that blast of cool AC walking into a building from the humid 100 degree DC streets.

In the meantime every day of sun we have, we spend it all outside. Last Saturday we went to the Princess Diana memorial playground - Henry asked to go again today ("playground with sand? big ship?"). It was a beautiful day and when we came home, I tried to wipe the specks dirt off Henry's nose, and realized it wasn't dirt, it was a few brand new freckles! I died!