Sunday, 22 November 2015

Discovering new comfort foods

November is upon us and we have had more grey, damp days, making it the season of comfort foods.  Admittedly the days here have a better daylight/darkness balance (to the tune of 1 & 3/4 hours more daylight on Dec 21st!) and though so far it is mostly mild, the heart still yearns for tasty warm snacks and filling meals.  I fear that the chilly weather is not far away now. (I actually started writing this entry mid-week and by the weekend the nights had indeed turned frosty.)

My younger son's desire for UK style Heinz tomato soup has been fulfilled (just) by a similar tasting offering from Trader Joe's, which is also where our breakfast cereal is now sourced as they have a good choice of products which are neither sugar-laden nor garishly coloured.

Bread is almost exclusively homemade, thanks to our bread machine and the following recipe from Steve's grandmother:

Lily's Bread Rolls

1.5 lb / 680g / 5 cups strong bread flour
15 fl oz / 425ml / 1 3/4 cups mixed milk & water  
2 oz / 56g / 1/4 cup vegetable shortening or lard
1 dessertspoon / 10ml / 2  tsp of salt
2 teaspoons / 7g / 2 tsp of dried yeast
(or one packet of bread machine yeast)
 [UK/metric/US measures]

Put all the ingedients in the machine and set it going on the dough cycle or knead by hand in the traditional manner, cover and allow to rise in a warm place.
Just before the dough cycle is complete set oven to 425F/220C/Gas Mark 7
Once the dough cycle is complete shape the dough into 12 rolls, 
place on 2 baking sheets and cover with oiled cling film or a clean tea towel. 
Leave to rise in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, turning the trays half way through if necessary.
Place on a cooling tray and try not to eat them while they are still too hot.
Best eaten within 2 days of baking - if they last that long! 

Here is a batch made by my elder son: 

One of the few things I do buy bread for is grilled cheese sandwiches, a newly discovered snack, which are neither grilled under a grill/broiler nor on a BBQ/grill (more vocab with opportunity for confusion), but are actually fried in a heavy based frying pan or skillet. This week was the first time since April that I felt the urge to make them.

Method: Sandwich one slice of "cheese food" (like a slice of plastic "cheese" for putting on a burger) and one slice of American Munster (a very melty cheese  - could maybe substitute Port Salut?) between 2 slices of bread. Butter the outside of the sandwich on both sides or brush with melted butter. Fry on each side in non-stick pan or skillet until the outsides are golden brown and the filling is all gooey.  A slice of ham can be included in the filling, if desired.

On the quilting side of things I have continued mining my scrap tub (yes I packed it up and brought it with me!) and have made some more 6.5" crumb blocks to add to the hundred that made it safely across the Atlantic Ocean.


I also made two crazy pot holders in autumnal colours as a little gift for the friend who has invited us over for Thanksgiving.

This week I am linking up with Quilting is more fun than housework

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Small things that make life easier

Visiting Philadelphia last month we checked in at the hotel using my American issued debit card and the receptionist asked for photo ID. I duly handed over my UK passport and I saw the panic enter into her eyes. After I assured her it did have photos of yours truly within its battered maroon covers, and she conferred with her more experienced colleague, she accepted it as valid proof of my existence. Only as we collected the receipt as we left did I see that my address had been entered as Northern Ireland, United States - no street address, no town/city, just two completely geographically separated countries! Such events should now be in the past as I now have my Pennsylvania Driver's License in its full Technicolor glory. I swear I was more nervous for this relatively straightforward test than I was over 20 years ago on a foggy day in the UK. This time the test route was flat, short and simple as opposed to the one taking in the steepest street in the town specially to do the dreaded hill start, as many junction types as possible and a quiet housing estate (subdivision) for the 3 point turn and reversing around a corner. Back then I was disappointed to fail the first attempt (I passed second time around), this time I would have been terminally embarrassed.

Learning to use the correct vocabulary helps make life smoother too - there are the well known examples pavement/sidewalk, tap/faucet, boot/trunk, holiday/vacation, petrol/gas(oline) but less familiar terms crop up too, sometimes to the gentle amusement of one or both sides, this week I discovered that my shake-proof washer is an American's toothed washer and a grub screw is a set screw. Cooking ingredients need care too - all purpose flour is plain flour, self-rising is self raising, golden raisins are sultanas, American granulated sugar is nearer in crystal size to UK caster sugar than UK granulated sugar. For some recipes only the exact ingredient will do, calling for a trip to the international aisle in the supermarket to find a run of the mill UK item, usually at extra cost, for example golden syrup or, for a special occasion, a can of Heinz baked beans, which are not the same the world over as we have discovered. Some surprising things such as Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire Sauce are easily available as standard products. Also I heard "copacetic" (satisfactory, tickety-boo) used in speech for the first time ever - it just doesn't seem to exist in UK English.

My quilting achievement for this week was completing a pair of cushions started in the spring of 2014 - as you can see I had help!

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Truly a Quilter in a Strange Land

Firstly, my apologies that there has been a ten month hiatus in this very intermittent blog.

Secondly, I have finally moved properly to the USA together with my sewing machines, fabrics, notions, patterns, magazines, books etc.!!!  I arrived on 6th August 2015 and the (second) container with all the (rest of the) stuff arrived exactly one week later and was unloaded (note, not unpacked) in 2 hours.  Since then we have been doing a lot of that unpacking and I have been hunting out the essentials so that I can use my sewing machines for the first time in well over a year!  During that year and a bit I have not been idle on the crafting front as I have been knitting for myself, my children, my grandchildren and friends.

The last fifteen months have been a long hard slog and the final 3 month stint in the UK was especially difficult as I frequently felt I was in the wrong place when family occasions and other events happened in Pennsylvania and elsewhere without me.  However, that is now over and I can move forward with our new life across the pond.  Being back together again as a family is a wonderful feeling.

During my stay in the US between mid-February and the end of April I was welcomed by the local quilters and spent some very pleasant Tuesday mornings knitting and chatting with them, I also found an evening drop-in knitting group at the local library and I am looking forward to rejoining both these groups as time permits.

Since my most recent arrival the weather was initially warm and sunny and a real treat for an Englishwoman I can assure you.  The fresh vegetables from the local farmers' markets were an eye-opener too, especially the sweetcorn, which was the best I have ever tasted. The last few weeks have been cooler with a few frosty nights, the leaves have largely fallen from our trees and autumn is well under way.

A sad note is that Rocky, our black cat, started to suffer from pancreatitis and despite the most valiant efforts of our new veterinarian we had to say farewell to him at the end of September.  Smokey continues to enjoy his new world, though he was not so confident when we stayed in a friend's place for a couple of days and decided that the highest place in the kitchen was the best vantage point!

Now I have got my sewing machine plugged in and running I can share the first quilted thing I have completed since I arrived here in the USA.

The pattern is available at