Saturday, September 19, 2015

Apples to Apples

I'm only kind of severely obsessed with fall. Autumn. Whatever you call it, wherever you are. I love it to bits, although nothing will ever compare to the one-of-a-kind vibrant harvest months that I grew up with back in Pennsylvania. 

I've had a hankering for all kinds of autumnal foods (freshly picked apples and sweet corn, to name a few), so this morning Steve took me to this country farm store near where we live. How we've never been before, is a mystery to me. It's reminiscent of so many country and Amish markets from my home; fresh produce, preserves, baked goods, leather goods, local dairy... Basically a country chef's wet dream, and here it was just down the road from our home the whole time! 

I hear the argument all the time, "it's too expensive to shop like that on a regular basis." Well, you're wrong. Sorry. But a major part of changing the way we eat is changing the way we shop, and markets are the way forward. Please, please leave the negativity at the door and give your local one a try. 

The biggest reason is quality. Food that has been grown with care on a smaller scale and picked at the peak of its ripeness tastes leagues above anything you will buy in a supermarket. Try a store-bought apple versus a freshly picked ripe apple any day and you will see the difference instantly. 

Variety is number two. You can get things you'd never see in the supermarket, like heirloom tomatoes (which most stores don't sell because they're not as "visually pleasing" and therefore "less likely to sell"). Heirloom varieties and obscure and unusual fruits and vegetables may only be grown by a hobbyist or small scale farmer, so your local market is the place to find them when your supermarket has the same-old-same-old year round. No one wants a mealy tomato in January. Learn what's in season (or look at prices and what's available at your market; that's usually how you can find out what's fresh right now). Buy local, shop local, and you can ensure that the freshness and variety will continue to be available. 

If you don't go to a supermarket, you don't wander down aisles of prepackaged, processed junk and even non-food items that you don't NEED. We stayed within budget, bought a wider variety of [nicer, locally grown, organic] produce than we could ever get at a supermarket (and nothing was wrapped in plastic! Imagine that). Then a trip to the local butcher on our high street for sausages, a beef joint for roasting, a rack of ribs, and some pork pies, and we STILL came in under our usual grocery budget for the week. Yes, I will probably have to go to a supermarket to pick up laundry detergent later in the week. But everything in the house is fresh and gorgeous, and that quick pit stop in the supermarket will be for the one or two items I need and nothing more. That is how you shop. Buck the trend. Give it a try yourself. You won't be sorry, I promise. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Aside from the initial announcement, I haven't done a real pregnancy-themed post yet. Well, here it is! 20 weeks. We have our anatomy scan tomorrow, and I can't contain my excitement. It's been 6 long weeks since I've last seen our little one, and it seems like an eternity! I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight.

Oh, and this baby is ACTIVE. I was told that maybe I'd feel flutters by 18 weeks. Ish. Maybe.

15 weeks and I felt like popcorn was popping in my stomach. Regularly. Came out of nowhere, and hasn't stopped since. My midwife struggled to get a good count on his/her heartbeat because the little munchkin would not sit still during my last appointment (Let's hope that baby cooperates for the ultrasound tomorrow).

Now this little dude/dudette is definitely doing all kinds of acrobatics and throwing 1-2 punches. All day every day. No lie. This kid does not sleep, I swear.  What did I expect when both my husband and myself are super energetic people? A sleeper? No. There is a very hyper baby in my belly, and there is no denying it.

I must look like a completely deranged moron, the way I will just be going about any activity at work, on the train, at home, and just stop and smile from ear to ear. Come on, what am I supposed to do when this little one starts bouncing around? Joy has no measure for what I'm feeling. I can't wait to meet this baby fo' real, but I'm beginning to get concerned that my heart might literally explode from loving too much. Is that a thing?

Hunger: it's finally here. I had a really horrendous time towards the beginning, and my body pretty much refused any and all food intake. Coupled with starting a new job which involves at 3/4 mile uphill hike of a commute each day, and I ended up LOSING weight up for quite a while! But I've been eating like a horse for about 6 weeks now and all is good. I definitely, as you can see, have the bump going for me.

Clothing has only just begun to be a struggle. For a while I was really discouraged and insecure, because before the bump was really visible, I just felt fat and frumpy. I had a lot of bloat at the beginning too, so I really felt as horrible as I looked. I wore baggy dresses and tops to hide whatever hint of a belly I had, since I didn't tell my boss/colleagues the news until after we had our 12 week scan (which happened at 14 weeks for me, so they had to wait a while, and it was beginning to become obvious).

Now that I've got this cute little bumpy thing that I am so proud of, I'm trying to wear closer-fitting tops, dresses, and skirts to show it off! Jersey maxi skirts and my maternity leggings from Target are my bff's right now. Seriously, if you're pregnant, buy these leggings. I wish I was still in the States so I could order more. I have already gotten so much wear out of them, as elastic waistbands on everything else were first awkward and uncomfortable, and now are just downright impossible. I've really struggled to find cute maternity-friendly clothes here, since there are 0 high street maternity clothing stores in the UK, and most stores only carry their limited maternity range online. The few stores I've been to (Debenhams, H&M), had really disappointing jeans-and-tshirt options in very poor quality. What's with the horizontal stripes? Why are you making us look wider? Cut it out! And where are the work-appropriate clothes? Mommas-to-be need to go to work, too!

 There's a serious need for maternity clothing in the market here, but I digress.

I'm starting to get sick of hiking skirts up to my bra line and wearing giant sack dresses with a belt, but I'm starting to get the hang of dressing this bump. It's an uphill battle, since my size and shape is constantly changing every week (or every day!). Some days I panic about how much my body is morphing, and I worry that I'll always look like a funhouse mirror. But I'm sure that the motivation to get back into shape will come in spades, and that I'll always have to remember to be patient with myself. After all, it's going to take 9 months to change, so it will probably take a decent chunk of time to go back to "normal". Positivity and patience. It's all worth it for the end result.

Another total lifesaver is my Nutribullet. On those days when I can't be bothered to cook due to exhaustion or a picky palate, I blend up something fruity and green to make sure I'm getting all of the nutrition that baby and I need. We finally bought a transformer (this transformer) to convert several of my American appliances for use here in the UK. It's worked like a charm so far for both my Nutribullet and my Cuisinart ice cream maker, and I'll be using it for my sewing machine too. If you're moving abroad and don't want to have to replace expensive appliances, then I highly recommend it.

Enough rambling for now! I'll talk about this baby and everything associated with it until the cows come home if I don't stop myself.

Monday, August 24, 2015

On my plate: week of August 17-23

I'm hungry. Like, really hungry. An inhuman level of hunger has possessed me. Our meals last week were what I would normally classify as "man food"; the cold rainy weather didn't help either. Here's what I concocted in our kitchen: 

Breakfasts: Homemade oatmeal (porridge) using 1/2cup uncooked oats, a handful of mixed dried fruits, and 1 tsp brown sugar

Lunches: Soup! This is a carrot and coriander soup I whipped up when I picked up a massive bag of carrots on sale. It's not vegetarian because I used chicken stock as the base, then just cooked down carrots, onion, garlic, and the spices (mostly coriander), and hit it with an immersion blender and a splash of cream at the end. Oh, and homemade bread, because it's 1) so super simple that I can just pop a loaf in the oven after work twice a week, and 2) it's cheaper than store bought bread: about 33p (50 cents?) a per loaf. Plus, its delicious and amazing and packaged bread can't hold a candle to it. Here's my recipe


Dinners! I usually cook enough that we both eat leftovers for lunch the next day. First up to the plate (well, bowl) is my chock-full chili. It has all of the southwest chili flavor, but with the added magic of lots of veg and sweet potato to kick it up a notch, a la Emeril.  The sweet potato was one of my genius additions that has proven to be a real crowd pleaser. 


Then I had one of those really naughty down-home comfort food cravings, and resorted to linguine with broccoli and chicken in a pesto cream sauce. (A little note: When I poach chicken for recipes like this, I use the "stock" leftover as a base for soups!) We effectively committed carbicide that day. Don't judge the preggo. 


These sausages were picked up at our local farmer's market. They're venison and red currant sausauges, which I browned and braised in a fresh tomato sauce with some peppers and onions and served over creamy parmesan polenta. Rainy day food at its finest. This was actually a small side plate, not even a large dinner plate. It was that filling.     


Veggie night (we try to do this at least twice a week): Spinach and ricotta canneloni! With fresh spinach and tomatoes in a really light, fresh sauce. Ok, I was craving Italian this week. At least I mixed it up a little bit. This photo was before baking, because they lasted all of 3 minutes once they came out of the oven. This was the hub's favorite meal last week, if I'm not mistaken. 


And that's all the photos I've got! I was inspired to do another post in this series today as I caught up on some much loved blog reading this weekend. Comment below if you'd like me to post any of the recipes (on the blog or by email!)