Saturday, August 30, 2014

Out & About


Friday came and went, and with it passed week 4 of my trans-Atlantic adventure, as well as August itself (!! Seriously, though, where has this past month gone?!)
A sunny drive, a morning in Windsor, little bits and pieces of a week that seemed to simply fly by yesterday. Good news, though! Steve found a [great] job, and the financial stresses can be placed on the backburner for a little while. I'm sitting here waiting for 1:30, so that I can use ESPN Player to watch my beloved Nittany Lions.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Diary of a Diet

Diets! Aaaah! Run! Is this another one of those juice cleanses?!

Nope. In fact, I hate diets that have a sole purpose of losing weight. Mind you, I've had a variety of types of diets over the years; I was gluten-free for almost 5 years, and I've been a vegetarian for a short 6-month stint, as well. But - and this is a big 'but' (no pun intended) - I've never been on one of those diets with the main priority to be weight loss. My dieting has usually stemmed from a desire to be healthier, or has been in response to a medical need to change my diet (as was the case when I abandoned gluten). 

This trans-oceanic move has taken a lot out of me, and I've found lately that my energy levels aren't quite what they used to be. I've also been bingeing on a lot of rich, fatty foods and consuming my fair share of this hemisphere's wine production since we've arrived, so it's high time to get myself back to a health-conscious state. Not to mention, cheese goes straight to the hips, so here goes: 

This time around, instead of "giving up" anything, per se, I am going to be giving a Food Pairing diet a test drive for two weeks. After that time, I'll evaluate how I'm feeling, how I've been eating, and see if I'd like to continue it, or try a different route. Let's break down the basics of food pairing, and feel free to follow along on the chart pictured above:

Concept: The body digests different foods in different ways, and by eating certain foods in combination, you can actually hinder the digestion process. This results in more waste contained instead of eliminated, lack of energy, and higher fat absorption from foods. By pairing (or not pairing) certain types of foods together, it is possible to optimize the processing of these foods for maximum nutritional value.

Basics of Pairing: This diet has a sort of bottom line - three points that pretty much sum up the details, and make it easy to choose what to eat. 

1. Most vegetables are neutral. They pair with anything, the only exception being fruit (see rule #3).
2. Meat and proteins, and starches/grains cannot be paired together. Meat/protein can be paired with vegetables, and starches/grains can be paired with vegetables, but not together. The body can only digest one at a time properly. 
3. Fruit needs to be eaten alone. In order to process the natural sugars properly, your stomach should be pretty much empty, and you should avoid eating anything for 1/2 an hour after consuming fruit.

So that's it, really! There are finer points, and nice little charts (like the I've pictured here) help to visualize it a little more. My husband is completely appalled by the concept of avoiding meat & potatoes together, but it's not really an issue for me. I love vegetation. I prefer to eat vegetables, and I always have. The truth is, when I had a short vegetarian stint, it was because I lived alone, didn't buy meat really, and was perfectly content eating vegetables and seafood, and soy proteins like tofu, and didn't think twice about it. So far, it's been easy and I haven't really noticed a difference in the way I eat, other than passing up the potatoes at the table for another helping of string beans. So far, so good this week, and I'm looking forward to seeing progress!

This might give you an idea of what I'd have for lunch: soba noodles with shredded cabbage, spring onion and cilantro (coriander) in a sesame soy vinaigrette. Super yum!

If you've tried this diet, or another one that you've got any advice about, feel free to comment below!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

August Showers

I love the smell of the woods after a rain. Especially an autumn rain, filled with the robust late summer foliage and hint of berries and living creatures. The beginning of the end, with the season of bare trees and fallen leaves just around the corner.

After a day and a half of steady rainfall, there was finally a chance to escape the indoors and take a hike. I fell in love with the birch lined paths, the tall ferns with their tips beginning to change to red and amber. The smell of wet wood and moss, that otherworldly mist that rises off of everything. After the rain... it just might be my favorite time of all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rainy Day Diaries

Rainy days: lazy days, naps, couch sitting, snacks. Right?
Today has been an extraordinarily productive rainy day for me, and it's not even noon yet! I woke up ten minutes before my alarm this morning, made a yummy breakfast of wholemeal toast with avocado and tomato and caught up on my blog reading. I was pretty busy this past weekend, and had oodles of bits to do online.
Then I did some cleaning, managed to get fully dressed (even though I have nowhere to go today), did some writing for some other blog-related jobs I'm trying to get accepted into, and picked up my long lost hobby of sketching and painting. I'm no Rembrandt, but hey, it makes me happy. 
I don't even have paintbrushes over here yet; I used my makeup brushes! I doodled from a photo I had taken on our roadtrip to the south coast last week. I was so fascinated by one particular moment, when a fishing boat was returning to the harbor and being mobbed by pursuing gulls, that I simply had to try to capture that moment in time.

Oh, and how about that little brick of a cell phone? Until I have "proof of residency" here, I can't get a contract, so this little pay-as-you-go jobby is my current lifeline. Since I only need about 4 numbers in it (my iPhone is still functional on WiFi), it'll do for now. Gratitude over greed, am I right? 

My favorite things today: Earl Grey tea & bright coral lipstick.


I was inspired/motivated to do this post by When At Home; it's basically a little blurb about what I'm up to today and lately. Feel free to do your own in the comments below, or by linking to your own post!

Thinking about: Jobs. Steve is at an interview as I write this, and I'm praying really, really hard. Not so much that we'll fall flat on our faces without it, but because he's seemed a little discouraged lately by not having started working yet. I'm trying to worry less, and that in itself is a job for the day.
Reading: Catching up on approximately 654 blog posts from the past couple of days. Usually I sit down first thing each morning with my coffee, and I read through my Bloglovin' feed - unfortunately, that hasn't been the case over this past 3-day weekend. I'm really enjoying a relaxing morning of catching up on what all of my fellow bloggers have been up to.
Listening to: The rain. For the most part, the weather has been great since we arrived, albeit a little chilly. Yesterday brought the rain, though, and it hasn't stopped since. It's not heavy, stormy rain; it's a slow, steady drizzle that's just a minor inconvenience. I need to get some things done indoors today, so I'm a little bit grateful for an excuse to stay in. 
Thankful for: Grandmothers. I have the most wonderful memories of all four of my grandmothers, but they are no longer living, and that's left a big void in my life. I'm thankful for my husband's grandmother, whom I spent yesterday talking, knitting, and cooking with. Grandmothers are just the best, aren't they? 
Photographing : Little bits and pieces of what I'm up to on this rainy morning. I'm going to be mainly taking them with my iPhone today, because the lighting indoors isn't so great for my camera. I think this afternoon, though, instead of photos I'll be doing some painting, and I'm really excited about that. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Diary: 1 Month

I'm a few days early, I know, but it's basically been a month since we landed here in England. A lot of changes have and are taking place, and not just physically. My mental outlook on this relocation, and "going without," have been altered dramatically during the past few weeks. Needless to say, there are still a few places and routines that my creature-of-habit mentality desperately misses, but for the most part I already feel... 'changed'. Let me elaborate.

Week 1: Vacation mode. At this point, I didn't really feel like I was on anything other than a vacation. The hubs had made plans for just about every single day to reconnect with family and friends, so we had plenty to do and plenty of places to visit. Still hadn't unpacked suitcases; too busy consuming food and wine. Overall outlook: relaxed, happy, bloated; constantly mildly intoxicated (with happiness, or otherwise).

Week 2: Settling in. Still seeing lots of friends and being introduced to the general area, but the social aspect has calmed down considerably. Cooking dinners nearly every night for the whole family. Introduced everyone to "Taco Tuesday" (and they're still not sick of it yet!). Cheese & wine obsession still going strong; diet failing miserably.

Week 3: Back to business. Lots of job interviews and meetings for Steve; I'm back on the daily blog grind. Trying to get more projects running and make this hobby truly profitable. A mini road trip to the south coast has left me dreaming of a bungalow by the sea: more motivation to make both of us reach for more success, career-wise.

Week 4: Chinatown withdrawal. I know I'm only going into week 4 now, but I'm starting to miss the little things. Like "real" Chinese food. I'm not even Asian, I just can't ever remember a stretch of time this long that I hadn't had my wok or some odd looking, delicious vegetables to stir up in a spicy, fermented sauce. le Sigh.
 In the other, normal, daily aspect of things: we're on a strict budget now, since Steve has had a job offer, but hasn't started his job yet since his to-be boss is away on holiday (because month long vacations are normal in August, or something). It's made me realize how many times a day we spend 'needlessly', and packing lunches or going without frivolous shopping and daily trips to the pub won't kill us. I hope.

Overall mood, on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being lounging beside a pool in Spain) I'd say I'd give this first month a 7. Obviously there's a minute amount of stress due to the we're-not-working-yet situation, but in the broader scheme of things, I think this relocation is converting me into a relaxed person. I still have my anxious binge-working and binge-cleaning days/moments, but I see a definitive difference between the lifestyle here and what I had been accustomed to. I'm sweating the little stuff less and less, and I'm happy about it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Baked Omelet

Sounds complicated and fancy, right? Looks it, too. But it's not, I promise! Baking an omelet means you don't have to flip it on the stove, so whatever ingredients you pile on top can stay sittin' pretty. The recipe starts on a stove, then moves to the oven: they key is having a saucepan that handle it (metal handled pans work best!) If you saw my recipe post from yesterday, you know that there's smoked trout in the fridge right now. It's a real treat/obsession for me, so I'm basically incorporating it into everything I eat, until it's all gone. [insert sad face]
This technique works for any kind of omelet though, so you can use your traditional favorites (ham and cheese), or branch out with some really lovely ideas (asparagus and bacon?). It's a blank canvas!
Here's how I made mine: 

1 tbsp butter or olive oil (or 1/2 butter & 1/2 olive oil, if you're feeling fancy and French)
2 medium eggs
1 tbsp milk
1/4 cup finely diced onion
3-4 basil leaves, sliced into 1/8" strips (chiffonade, for those of you in the culinary know)
1/2 fillet of smoked trout
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Add milk to the eggs and beat with a fork - **Do not add salt or pepper yet! Salt will dry out the eggs at this stage; save that for the last step**
Heat pan on the stove on medium heat, with butter or oil
When the butter/oil is fully melted and heated, tilt the pan to cover the entire bottom. This will ensure that your omelet slides out nicely at the end
Add the eggs, reducing heat to low, and add toppings of your choice
When the edges of the omelet are just beginning to firm up, add salt & pepper, and transfer the pan to the oven at 250 degrees (Farenheit. I don't know the conversion to Celsius yet, and I'm sorry.)
Keep an eye on it, and your omelet will be finished when the center is solid
Remove pan from the oven (remember that the handle will be hot!) and use a spatula to slide your omelet onto the plate
Garnish with fresh herbs or leftover ingredients. Voila! A fancy omelet made simple. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Warm and Seasonal

In an effort to eat healthier (and cut back on my daily French cheese binges) I'm trying to make sure that my meals stay fresh and seasonal. August is one of my favorite months for fresh produce; the start of the "harvest season."

One cannot live on salads alone, so I tried to dress this one up with a toasty twist: on a bed of fresh cool spinach, I've piled some roasted vegetables. I love the interplay of warm and cool, and the contrast in crunchy and soft textures. The spinach underneath wilts ever so slightly, as the tomatoes burst and the juices create their own dressing for this salad. As an extra treat today, I've put some cold smoked trout flaked on top. It's salty and creamy, and reminds me of the fish I loved to eat growing up. You could substitute some good tuna, or even some sardines or anchovies if that's more to your taste. Or, if you're not much of a fish person, this flavorful veggie feast doesn't need any additional adornment. Enjoy!

1/2 of a medium sized (8-9 inch long) courgette (zucchini), in 1/4" slices
1/4 of one large yellow or red onion, sliced thinly
1 clove of garlic, sliced thin OR 1/2 tsp garlic powder
Fresh cherry tomatoes, whole, one handful
1 handful fresh baby spinach, rinsed and dried
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped (dried is ok, too!)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste

In a saucepan over medium high heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil and coat the base of the pan
Add tomato, onion, garlic, and courgette, salt and pepper, and toss to coat
Saute for 6-8 minutes or until the ingredients are cooked to your liking (some like it crunchier, some like it softer)
Place spinach in a large bowl, and top with the cooked veggies
Flake smoked fish (or your fish of choice) over the top

I want to live by the sea.

Perfect road trip weather took us to the southern coast, just outside of the hustle and bustle of the city of Brighton. Shoreham-by-Sea, to be exact. How dreamy is that, to have the name of a town literally tell you that it's on a pebbly shore. A sleepy fisherman's village, a lonely beach walk, ancient streets with fairytale perfect houses...

The clear sea breeze as we approached the coast was different, this time. Unlike my childhood vacations at the Jersey Shore, there was no putrid salty air that  hit you as you rolled down the car windows. It was the cleanest, freshest, most beautifully slightly salty gusts that just seemed to say "welcome home." I heard the distant familiar jingle of an ice cream truck, saw the neat little rows of white bungalows; derelict fishing boats sat in the mud while their colorful paint peeled in the late summer sun, its rays echoing off of the white limestone cliffs. Every local restaurant boasted 4 or 5 menu items: the catch of the day, in glorious simplicity. In the distance, the shrill cry of seagulls chasing a fisherman's boat back into the harbor, and the smell of fresh seafood cooking seemed to emanate from every house and pub. 

The deserted beach was littered with the most curious variegated color pebbles and empty salmon pink shells. I was overwhelmed with the constant desire to stop and paint... everything. A few hours flew by, and we were on our way again... but I know I will someday call it home.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Ireland Revisited

I decided to delve back into a few photos from one of the most pivotal trips of my life. That 9-day vacation on the Emerald Isle sparked some major life changes for me, and is the entire reason I am back across the pond today.

Besides the romance side of things, it also engaged me to a new hobby. The day before leaving for Dublin, I took my paycheck to B&H in New York and bought my first "real" (sort of) camera. I had no idea what I was doing, and mostly used it on 'auto mode' for the entire trip. Looking back, it's so interesting to see what I chose to photograph those first few times I used it; what angles I chose, what subjects, and my miserably failed first attempts at adjusting exposure. It also surprises me that some of the photos I'm drawn to are the ones I originally didn't like. My tastes have changed, I've tried to learn more, and I'm going to continue to do so.

What a difference a year can make.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Up Close

That old phrase, "count your blessings"...
I'm embracing it more and more these days. 
Not because I'm left wanting, or have things to worry about,
or complain about; I don't.
That's the beauty of it. Life slows down, you find a little contentment...
Hang on for dear life. 

PS- going on a little road trip today! Follow along on Instagram 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Red Bull Air Races

This past weekend, we had the wonderful experience of attending the Red Bull Air Race World Championships, just down the road at Ascot racecourse. Although I'm not really an aircraft aficionado, it was so much fun to watch and some of the demonstrations were extraordinary. The Breitling wing walkers performed - it was, quite literally, people walking and dancing on TOP of flying planes. All in all, a wonderful day (with sunny weather, to boot!) and family and friends.