Gravey and Rice

Monday, May 29, 2006


Well, I can scarcely believe it- but I did it! I baked my first homemade loaves of bread- and they came out awesome!

I got a late start Sunday. I got very little sleep Saturday night and the kitchen was still a mess. The baby was in a mood as well... So, all in all I didn't get started until about 3:00. First things first I spooned some flour and yeast in a bowl and set it aside. I don't bother measuring out flour anymore, I know how many spoonfuls make a cup so I just go with that. In this case I wondered if not being exact would make a difference, but I went ahead and did it anyway. I put the flour and yeast aside and went to work on the rest of the ingredients. I whipped up some buttermilk, cut a tablespoon of butter off the stick and tossed some sugar and salt into a saucepan. After the milk was ready I added it to the saucepan and warmed it up over high heat. Olivia did the stirring. When the butter had started to melt and it was nice and warm I took it off the burner and added it to the flour and yeast and mixed it all together. After it had formed a dough I dumped it on the cutting board and started to knead in the rest of the flour (about 3 cups).

We kneaded it for about 8-10 minutes. A bit longer than it calls for, but I was having trouble getting the flour worked in so the dough wasnt sticky. I think maybe I used a bit to much flour or kneaded it to long, because it developed flaps that I couldnt smooth out or work back into the dough.

I rolled the dough into a relatively smooth ball (those darn dough flaps!) and put it in a large bowl, covered with a tea towel. Into the oven it went, with another bowl full of half boiling half cold water underneath it. After the specified 35 odd minutes it had doubled in size (Yey!). One hurdle crossed. I was so excited I was practically jumping up and down!

Next to divide it in a half and put it in the pans. I only have 1 loaf pan so I used a round pan for one loaf. It was getting to be dinner time, so I put them in the oven for a bit but then moved them to the airing cupboard to finish the second rising (about as close as we come to religion in this house...) and started dinner. I wasnt sure about this move, but the airing cupboard is always nice and warm so I figured it would be ok. And, yes, I checked them again when dinner was ready and they had doubled again! Yes! Now, to bake.

While we enjoyed our dinner outside for the first time this year, the bread baked. I checked it with about 5 minutes left. It was nice and brown and sounded hollow, but when we tried it, it was still a bit yeasty and wet. I put it back in for another 5 odd minutes and it came out perfect. I can't describe the taste other than to say it's delicious. I've never had homebaked bread before and I just couldn't believe the difference!

I don't like plain bread as a rule, mostly I toast all the bread I use. But, this was amazing! I just couldnt help cutting myself a thick piece and spreading it with butter.

Now, I have this vision of homebaking all of our bread and not wasting money on that mass produced stuff anymore. Not sure how practical that is though, considering one of the loaves I baked last night is gone already! And I don't think the other will last the day!!

A very special thank you to fellow expat and baking expert Michelle for her tips and answering my questions about baking bread and also bread baker, Elise owner Cherri for her tips!Next week I attempt whole wheat bread! Wish me luck! :P I won't post the bread recipes here as they are so long, but if you want one, just let me know!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Monthly Challenge- June

OK, with the new direction of the blog I'm also starting a monthly challenge. Something new for me to try my hand at each month.

For June my challenge is bread. As I don't own a bread machine, I will be attempting to make bread completley by hand (including mixing). I have never made bread before- the closest I've come is biscuits, which is quite different.

Each Sunday I will be baking a different type of bread. Starting with plain old white bread, today.

I'm using my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for all bread recipes this month. I'll be making White Bread, Whole Wheat Bread, Focaccia, French Bread, and Brioche.

Check back tomorrow for an update and pictures of my first bread baking experience!

Friday, May 26, 2006

New direction....

I've decided I want to really immerse myself in learning how to cook and bake. I can cook and bake, already. I'm looking really to expand my abilities and knowledge. So, I'm going to take this blog in a new direction, where it will be devoted comepletley to cooking/baking. It will include my monthly challenges, pictures, recipes, blow by blows, links to other great blogs, etc.

I've also decided to start a new blog called Orange Snail to chronicle, basically, my life as a 24 year old American, wife and mother to three learning to live in Southern England. This will talk about my job (receptionist at a vet. surgery referall practice), my kids and husband, and my experiences. This blog will also feature pictures, links, stories and hopefully some funny and compelling writing.

I hope you have the chance to enjoy one, or both, blogs regularly and I welcome you to comment on anything that draws your interest! Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 25, 2006


A woman and her daughter (about 13) brought their dog in last night. (I work in a vet referral practice) They brought in their sweet, lovely German Shepherd thinking he was being seen about a possible total hip replacement. It turns out that it's not Busters hip after all, it's his brain. Apparently his brain is no longer communicating with his rear. Meaning he is slowly losing all function in his lower end. Nothing can be done to stop or reverse the damage and while it can be slowed with medication, sometime soon Buster will need to be put to sleep.

As I sat at my desk, trying not to listen, the young girl came out into the lobby and sat down in a chair. When I looked over I could see she had been crying. I felt so bad for her.

A few minutes later, the office door opened and everyone came out. Buster was lead into the waiting room and he lay down in front of the desk. The girl sat on the floor with him and just stroked his head. I went over and sat with them, stroking Busters head while he licked my hands (" He's always been licky", she told me.) I asked how long she had had the dog. 11+ years, she said, longer than could remember. He had always been there.

I told her about the cat my mother got when I was only a few months old. Pepper, her name was. Pepper had always been around, and I loved her. "Were you sad when she...?" she trailed off and it took me a second to understand what she meant. "Yes, very." "Were you there when it happened?" she asked. "No." "Do you wish you had been?" "Yes, very much." I wanted to say more, but just didnt have the words for the this young girl who was going to lose her dog soon. My boss called me then, so I just stood up and gave her a smile.

I really hope, if given the option- she decides to be there at the end. How sad for our pets, friends to have to die alone. Without the people they loved so much around them. How sad for us, to know they died alone, when we are already feeling such grief.

And I hope she gets through this ok.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

One Year

Happy Anniversary, kids.

Today marks our first full year in England, with daddy. I want you to know how proud I am, how proud we are, of you. This has been a year full of many different things that we've had to adjust to.

Both of you have done so well coping with all these changes. Devon, you have made friends and your teachers are so happy with you and the progress you've made. You read so well. You have learned to control yourself better and not to run away or get violent when you get upset at school. You've learned to play English football, and Cricket and Rugby as well! You've learned about history and the environment. You went camping for the first time, and had so much fun! Do you remember building sand castles on the beach with Livvy and dad? And the jellyfish we saw? The first time you went in the sea? How about the time we all visted that beautiful castle and went into all the rooms, remember the walls covered in swords that you were so fascinated with? We've done some amazing things this past year. Devon I'm so proud of the boy you are. The way you've accepted daddy as part of our family, even if you do butt heads. The way you understand that you are different, and even though it's hard to be different sometimes, you are proud of it, while taking in so many parts of the English culture we live in now. Devon, you will always be American- but you will also be English, too. You don't have to choose. Be yourself and you will always be right. We love you and we'll always be here for you. Congratulations on growing so much and being such an amazing kid.

Olivia- I know you don't remember life in America, much. But, in the whole year we have been here we have watched you become this wonderful, sweet little girl. You are beautiful and strong and smart. Those are amazing qualities to have. This last year has been full of new things! Like Devon, you went camping for the first time. Do you remember when Mommy buried you in the sand? How about when we saw the seals in the sea? Do you remember your birthday party last year? When we went through the big maze and saw all the monkies? You and Devon loved the rope swing that daddy found, and playing french cricket in the park! You have started school and have learned how to read and do math! You have made so many lovely friends and learned so much! Congratulations, Olivia on being five, and learning so many new things.

Both of you have such a wonderful Daddy who loves you so much and would do anything for you. And a Mommy who is more and more proud of you each and every day. We know that there have been hard times and that occasionally we have all needed a good cry. But we have made it through the hardest part. We are a family. And we will laugh and cry together for a very very long time. And we will always be together. The FIVE of us!!!! And one day you will be able to take little Rafe back to America and teach him all about the place where you were born. And then you will come home, to England.

We love you both. So much. Happy Anniversary.

Love mommy and daddy

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Lemon Bars. Lovely and yellow, sweet and tangy. Perfect for spring. A disaster for the kitchen!

The crust was nice and easy, a change from the crusts I've been making latley- which require cutting in 6 oz. of butter. Nope, today all I had to do was cream the butter and sugar together- add the flour and a bit of salt, roll it into a ball then press into the pan! Easy and it was so beautiful to look at! LOL I put it in the fridge to chill for a few minutes and moved on to the tricky part- the filling.

*sigh* This was tricky because, I needed to start getting ready for work, and my 2 month old baby, Rafe, had just woken up. And when he wakes up, he eats. Thats just how it works. And instead of feeding him, mommy was cracking eggs and putting lemons in the microwave! So, well, there I was rocking the bouncy chair with one foot, Radio 4 all the way up (he likes radio 4), squeezing burning hot lemons into a bowl with one hand, and digging out the seeds with the other.

They werent finished by the time I needed to leave for work, which was a bit dissapointing as i wanted to bring some in for the vets and nurses there. But I left David in charge and he pulled them out of the stove a few minutes after I left. I'm not sure I'm happy with them. They look nice, especially with the smattering of powdered sugar on top. But the bars themselves are a bit to much like a lemon curd for me. I think I'd prefer them to be like a cake, nice and soft or chewy. But, then I suppose they wouldnt be lemon bars anymore would they?

Well, everyone else seemed happy with them, I sent the kids off to school with a surprise lemon bar in their lunch boxes and I'll bring in a bunch to the office today, and see how they fare.

I've always been kind of weird about lemon bars, I think maybe they taste better in my mind than they ever do in real life. I'll probably give them a miss from here on out.

Later- Well, took them into the office and everyone loved them. Perhaps I sold myself a bit short. Maybe I'll make some for Dh's nephews birthday party next week and see what the family thinks.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Remembering what's important...

Sometimes we get so overwhelmed by everything that comes with everyday life, don't we? And perhaps we forget the things are that are so important. That's happened to me alot lately. In a week it'll be my one year anniversary of moving to the UK to be with my husband. And I can honestly say that this has been the single most hardest year of my life, and I think it always will be. The ups and downs have been constant, with the ups being over the moon and the downs being hell and back. Our relationship has been put under the worst of strain, with a stubborn and pigheaded 8 year old that we love so much, a new baby, and dire money problems. Not to mention the cultural differences and age gap (I am 17 years younger than my husband). These things have weighed so heavily on me and I tend to blame myself for the troubles and for "ruining" DH's life. The other day, after a difficult conversation with my husband, I told him, while choking back sobs, that I would save some money and take the kids and leave.

This wasn't meant as a threat, it wasn't said in anger, and DH had done nothing wrong. It was simply me feeling that there wasn't an end in sight, that we couldnt continue like this and maybe by leaving I would be giving him his life back. It was then that he took me into his arms and told me that he wouldn't let me go back to the states. He would contest custody of all 3 kids and demand constant visitation if he had too.

This reminded me of the day a year and a half ago when my husband took my hands, looked me straight in the eye with tears in his and promised to have and to hold, for better and for worse until death do us part.

How could I have forgotten that? How could I have forgotten my own vows to him? Isnt that the most important thing? How could I have doubted his commitment to our relationship? And how could I be so quick to jump ship? I love him. For better or for worse.

I love you, David. And I'm sorry. I won't forget those important things again.

Monday, May 08, 2006


Well, I know it's been awhile since I've updated- but I'm here now. It's been such a busy month!

My mother was here for two weeks in April! It was nice to see her again, and not have the same issues that we had when I still lived at home. It was much easier to enjoy her. David and I tried to take her to lots of places, but it turned out to be difficult as, after a 700 quid bill from the car mechanic- we were broke. But, I think she enjoyed herself.

For Easter the kids had an egg hunt at my inlaws! They had such a great time, and I think my inlaws really enjoyed it, too. (I don't think they've done anything like it before) I made my bunny cake, like usual, and it came out good. Dee (my MIL) made her famous cherry cake, which is delicious, and sent us home with the rest of it, which we enjoyed one sunday morning over a game of Monopoly. (Which Devon won, despite a plethora of cheating on mine and daddy's part...)

After mom left, I began the job hunt in earnest and found something really quick! I came across an advert for a receptionist position at a vet referral clinic. I applied for it, and got it, and started last Monday. I picked it up really quick, and so far am really enjoying it, and the interaction with all the different dogs! I'm still telling people about the huge St. Bernard we had in Friday. At 20 hours a week, it's firmly part time, but still not enough to pull us out of our money pit- so I'm looking for something else as well. A librarian position for 10 hours a week (making quite a lot for what it is) has opened up and I'm going to apply for it as well. I don't want to be away from Rafe for 6 hours a day, but... *sigh* there isn't much choice really...

Baby Rafe is doing so well, and has started smiling at us! He is so sweet.

I've taken up baking in earnest and my new specialty is coconut lemon bars, which I make pretty often, in an effort to perfect them. I'm also still making banana bread, though I'm getting a bit sick of it. Over on this blog
is a lovely recipe for orange scones which I think I'll try my hand at. My inlaws would like them I'm sure, so they'll make the perfect guniea pigs!