Friday, 30 July 2010
Finding flats in Worcester is more difficult than I first anticipated. I keep finding properties to view on various websites but it seems whenever I arrange a viewing it is promptly cancelled because someone has taken it. Living in Warwickshire makes it difficult to dash up to view properties at all times of the day in Worcester. Lindsay did take me up on Wednesday to view several properties and get a feel for the place. However those several viewings turned into just one viewing and that one viewing turned out to be a nightmare.

The viewing was at 3 o'clock, sure enough we turn up at 3 and the estate agent is no where to be found. Lindsay calls them only to be told that they're sorry but they are unable to find the keys and we'll have to do the viewing another day. Basically Lindsay told them that was unacceptable and they better find the keys. Jump to an hour and a half later, Lindsay and I are entering a place that looks more like a cheap and dingy hotel room than the 'nice' apartment it is masquerading to be. To continue the hotel room facade on the back of the front door is a fire escape plan like you see on the back of so many hotel rooms and to my recollection no apartment I've ever been in has had this little "feature".

I had just woken up this morning, when I got a call from an estate agent telling me that yet another property I was interested in had been let out. That brings the number of viewings for tomorrow down yet again. This is something I'm beginning to get used to, more I expect viewings to be cancelled rather than actually see the property. I guess I'll have to practice the philosophy that everything happens for a reason, and the only reason these properties keep getting snatched up is because there is a better property waiting for us. Or perhaps it is just happening to make me suffer a nervous breakdown. You know... one or the other.

Erin x

Whistle While You Work

Tuesday, 27 July 2010
Sorry it has been so long between posts this time - to say I've been busy would be the understatement of the century. The past two weeks have been very eventful and at times a little stressful. I'll try to give a brief recap of it to the best of my abilities.

At my last post I was in Deanshanger, dogsitting for Neil and Nic's two basset hounds, Oli and Doogal. The first few days were lovely we went to Oxford, as previously discussed, and went for a 10 mile bike ride that Luke tricked me to taking by telling me it was only 5 miles, what a sadist! We also took the boys up to Burton Dasset, a group of hills with 360 views of Warwickshire. The day after Burton Dasset things went pear-shaped. Tuesday evening Luke and I went to the pub quiz as always but when we returned home it was to find Doogal trembling in the kitchen surrounded by his own sick. We called the emergency vets, they told us not to panic and if he was still ill in the morning to call our regular vet. To make a long story short, the rest of the week consisted of vet visits, leaving Doogal at the vets, Neil and Nic coming home early, thinking Doogal possibly had cancer, guilt that he was ill, and a LOT of tears. But I'm happy to report that Doogal is now happy, healthy, and at home! It turned out to not be cancer, but a severe form of pancreatitis. The vet working on Doogal has been a vet for a number of years and seen a large number of cases of pancreatitis, he told Neil that Doogal is only the second dog he has ever seen to survive it. Doogal is certainly a fighter!

Oliver and Doogal at Burton Dassett

It was not all stressful times, I have very good news to report as well, Luke has found a job, only two weeks and a day after graduating. The job is in Worcester, working as a Foreign Language Customer Service and Export Administrator for a company called Rigidal Systems (they make roofs and have made famous ones such as Wembley Stadium, the Hong Kong Conference and Exhibition Centre, and the Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid.) Luke is excited about the job because not only does he get to use his French every day but it also means he will have to make a few trips to France roughly every three to six months. Plus the job will also open a number of other possibilities for him down the line.

The job offer meant Luke could also finally get a car of his own, we spent all of last week looking at cars and on Friday Luke drove away in his first car, a 2002 Ford Mondeo (with only 36,000 miles) in Graphite. I'm very proud of him, it's a nice car with a massive boot and in immaculate condition! Which is good considering the drive from Warwickshire is about 50 minutes, and Luke will be doing nearly 400 miles a week. That is an awful lot, and after consideration and looking at finances Luke and I have decided to move to Worcester. Neither of us knows much about the place, but everyone we've told this too that knows anything about Worcester always responds with "Worcester is... [beautiful, amazing, great, etc. etc. etc.]" It has been my job to look at properties online. Tomorrow I'll be going to Worcester with Lindsay to do a few viewings, and on Saturday Luke and I will have some more viewings. Found a number of good prospects. Fingers crossed.

This past Saturday it was a fancy dress party for a family friend and the theme was "popstars". Originally I wanted to go as Lady Gaga, put a giant telephone on my head where some crazy spandex and I'm done. However, I thought everyone would think of this, so I decided against it. Regretfully no one at the party was dressed as Lady Gaga so I should have stuck to my first choice. Instead I went as Britney Spears from her ...Baby One More Time video. Luke and Ian went as Wham! And Lindsay went as Adam Ant, apparently he was an early 80s popstar who got a drug problem and fizzled into obscurity. I don't think he ever made the trip across the pond as I'd never heard of him before. But then again 80s and pop are two things I don't put together and associate with music.

Erin x

Through The Looking Glass

Monday, 12 July 2010
As of this past Thursday Luke is officially a graduate of the University of Manchester (with a 2.1 no less) and I'm so happy I was able to attend the ceremony. I have only ever attended a graduation ceremony that I took part in, so it was nice to sit in on one from a different perspective. The ceremony occurred in Whitworth Hall, a location Luke and I had visited on our trip around the uni. I took photos of it in a previous entry, it is the place that looks exactly like Hogwarts!

The ceremony was short and sweet, in fact much shorter than I was expecting - only an hour long in fact. It appears the English have managed to get all the pomp and circumstance into their ceremonies without making them long and drawn out. Something much appreciated as the room was stifling hot.

After the ceremony, I joined Luke's mum, step-dad, grandad, and dad at a pub across the street for a celebratory pint or two before the family sans Luke's dad went out for a lovely Italian dinner at Felicini's in Didsbury (basically a posh suburb of Manchester). Felicini's caters to the more Mediterranean side of Italian cooking, I had stuffed vine leaves for starters (by far the best I have ever had) and pan-fried gnocchi with goat's cheese, spinach, and sun dried tomatoes for my main. Before ending the evening with a selection of ice creams (fig and marscapone; cherry; double chocolate). The meal was the cherry on top to a lovely day!

I found out something new this weekend, July 10th is Alice's Day, a celebration of everything to do with Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll. This knowledge came to me quite by accident. Luke and I are currently at Neil and Nic's watching Oli and Doogal (their previously mentioned Basset Hounds) which is not to far from Oxford. Saturday morning Luke and I were talking about going to Oxford, and he asked me if I had anything in particular I would like to do there. Of course being an Alice fanatic I asked if by chance there were any Alice in Wonderland museums in Oxford, last time I was there I couldn't remember hearing of any. A Google search told us all we had to know.

Alice's Day is described as a frabjous day celebrated in Oxford (birthplace of the story), I'm still unclear if it's celebrated anywhere else. There are a number of activities to choose from. Luke and I went to The Botanic Garden to enjoy a picnic that Luke had packed and watch 'The Hunting of the Snark', a ceremony based on one of Lewis Carroll's nonsensical poems "that charts the impossible voyage of an improbable crew to find an inconceivable creature." The Botanic Garden was a personal favourite of the Liddell family for a day out. Alice Liddell served as inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, as it was written for her one summer's afternoon on a family outing along the river.

After our picnic, Luke and I had a wander around Oxford, down to Christ Church (which Carroll was the Dean of). We found the famed Alice's Shop which basically was like walking into a fantasy land for me, everything you could think of in an Alice theme. I had every intention of purchasing a souvenir but it was an incredibly small shop, on an incredibly hot day which meant it was stuffy and unbearable - I left the shop much earlier than I would have liked feeling faint. This was remedied by a stroll around Christ Church Memorial Gardens, where we had an interesting experience watching a demonstration on honey bees. We were able to post up and watch the bees coming in and out of their hives while listening with stethoscopes to their buzzing.

After our walk through the gardens, Luke and I fully intended to go to the Bodleian Library, which was having an exhibition of early edition Alice books, including one illustrated by Salvador Dali. To our dismay we arrived three minutes too late as the library had just shut. Oh well, there is always next year, for a feel an annual tradition coming on!

Alice's Shop with Christ Church in the background.

Erin x

Summer Wind

Monday, 5 July 2010
Yesterday was the Fourth of July, marking the second Independence Day I have missed out on cheap beer, hot dogs, and fireworks. This time last year I was living my last few weeks in France and enjoying every minute of it. I know it is silly, but I miss celebrating the Fourth and as I see my friends posting statuses of Facebook I can't help but giving a little sigh that I'm not there with them. Oh well, I suppose missing the Fourth of July is a small price to pay for living my dream out in England.

As always, life is full of activity on this side of the pond. Last Tuesday I took part in a pub quiz down at the Radford (a town about 10 minutes away) pub called The White Lion. You'll notice that most of the pubs in England are almost all named after animals with a colour in front (usually red or white but I have also seen black (as in The Black Dog in Southam) and I think maybe even green once). I suppose it's because most of the pubs are hundreds of years old and therefore have had the titles for that long, but they are seriously unoriginal. Now enough of that, the pub quiz is a weekly tradition in a lot of pubs take part in around the country. Locals of young and old come down to the pub and answer series of questions read out by the pub master. It is very enjoyable, I've been taking part in The White Lion pub quiz since last summer. Usually my team doesn't do too bad, we placed second one time and I believe even first another (both of which mean cash prizes which are usually used to purchase the team's pints). However, this time we placed a humiliating 6 out of 10 teams. Simply disgraceful, but still a good laugh.

On Thursday Luke was in work for a 'trial day' - which means the company paid him to come in and work like he normally would while they see if he fits for their team and Luke can see if he enjoys the work. It is a practice I have not heard of in the States, and Luke tells me it is rare to see here. Since Lindsay and Ian were also both at work I decided to make dinner for everyone that night, including Luke's grandad whom I also invited. I made Asian Rainbow Trout, a really simple dish that tastes amazing. I've made it for my mum and Dan before and they both loved it. It was a hit again, although I personally don't think it turned out as well as it has before. I served it with Japanese Snow Peas and Udon noodles. (For those interested in trying the recipe I will place it at the bottom of this post)

Luke and I have been trying to find the time to do some fishing the past few days, we even purchased some maggots (ick!) for bait - which Luke then to my horror put in the fridge. They were covered and could not escape he assured me, but still! It was amusing when Lindsay returned home to find them, I was in the other room when I heard "Oh my God, that better not be what I think that is in my fridge!" and forced Luke to put them in the garage, which he complained heavily about. There has been no time to fish since we received them, and since Luke is also doing another trial day today and tomorrow I doubt there will be anytime until Wednesday. I just hope the bait survives until then.

On Saturday Luke's Auntie Julie (or AJ as he sometimes calls her) was down to visit for the day so much of the day was spent in Luke's grandad's back garden relaxing and basking in the afternoon sun. On this day I came to realize how much the English love the act of gardening. Lindsay, AJ, and Grandad would walk around the garden commenting on the different flowers "That's coming in nicely" or else making suggestions on the plants "Perhaps you should move the lavender away from there and closer to the front". And it is not just them, it is pretty much everyone middle age and above. There is an older gentleman a few roads down who without fail, should you pass him he will be out there trimming and pruning his garden. I imagine him out there with a leveler trimming the grass strand by strand with pruning shears making sure the grass is completely level. Maybe it is because I come from an arid climate but I have never seen such behaviour as this and while I follow the family around trying to understand the attraction of it I am still so far befuddled. Perhaps it is gene that lies dormant for years and I will one day wake up and suddenly have a compulsive interest in gardening.

As per my summer tradition, I am once again reading the Harry Potter series. Luke has named himself a Harry Potter Widower, he states that every 5 minutes I pick up the book. A slight exaggeration on his part considering I can easily finish any of the books in one day and have currently been reading the 5th book for the past two weeks. I am on the last three chapters of it and plan on finishing it today while he is out of the house. It is Lindsay's tradition to read every night before bed. While Luke and I were in Manchester, Lindsay finished her book and did not have anything left to read so decided to pick up my first Harry Potter and give it a try. She has never had any in Harry Potter, not even watching any of the films but now she is obsessed. She's half way through the second book now and now Harry Potter has creeped into her dreams. She told me this morning that last night she had a dream she went shopping in Diagon Alley. I love having a converted Harry Potter freak in the house. Since Luke has seen his mother enjoy them so much he has expressed an interest in reading them as well, something only a few months ago he told me would never happen. Great success!

Erin x

Asian Rainbow Trout


I don't use measurements but have given some as rough guidelines,
my recommendation is to play around with it to suit your personal tastes.
  • 2 fillets of Rainbow Trout (I recommend getting ones with the skin still on as it adds to the flavour and can always be easily taken off before serving)
  • 2 tsp/10 ml Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp/4 g Brown Sugar
  • Spring (Green) Onions (I usually use an entire little bushel that they come packed in)
  • 1/2 tsp/1 g Minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp/1 g Mined ginger
  • 1/2 tsp/3 ml Sesame oil (Olive oil will work fine if you don't have any Sesame, but I find Sesame just adds a little something extra)
  • Salt and Pepper



  1. In a small bowl mix the soy sauce, sugar, salt and pepper.
  2. Rub the trout with the mixture.
  3. On medium-high, heat the sesame oil and then add spring onions, garlic, and ginger; cook until golden brown.
  4. Add trout and cook until browned and crispy (roughly 3 mins.) then turn over and cook until fish flakes easily with work, about 3 minutes more.


Serving Recommendations:

I recommend serving with either one or a combination of Japanese snow peas, sugar snap peas, Udon noodles, or steamed brown rice and placing the fish on top so the flavour seeps into the side. Also, if you use just a touch more soy sauce you can create more of a sauce which you can then put on the side of your choice.

Here Comes the Weekend

Thursday, 1 July 2010
As stated in my previous post, Luke and I spent the weekend at Neil and Nic's house near Milton Keynes (about forty minutes outside of London). It was a lovely weekend with a few disappoints: USA was knocked out of the World Cup on Saturday in their match with Ghana and England on Sunday in a crushing defeat against Germany, 4-1. Alas, there goes England's hopes for a victory for another four years. Football has been turned off in most households now, except for the die hard fans. No matter, like I said it was a lovely weekend and one should not focus on the negative.

On Friday, Luke received his results for his degree - he received a 2.1! I know this must not mean much of anything to the Yanks out there, but it's a very good result. It is similar to scoring a high GPA. Luke was convinced he wasn't going to receive a 2.1, but I always believed he had it in him. Very proud of him, and we will head back to Manchester next Wednesday to celebrate his achievement and watch him graduate. (Don't worry Grandma, I promise to get pictures of him in his cap and gown and send them to you!)

After we arrived at Neil's and said hello to the boys (Oliver and Doogal, their two Basset Hounds) we walked down to this Pan Asian restaurant (it serves both Thai and Indian cuisine). Neil and Nic were disappointed, apparently it was not as good as it usually is. I don't mind, Luke and I both enjoyed our meals very much. I personally think mine was the best, an Indian duck curry with caramelized onions and apricots -gorgeous!

The following day we went shopping at T.K. Maxx, the exact same store as America's T.J. Maxx but the name has been changed for the English market. Apparently there is already a store called T.J.'s, therefore the company changed it so no one would confuse the two. Luke found a number of nice shirts to get. Nicola and I ransacked the women's department, but I found nothing, alas it was just one of those days.

We went to Stony Stratford for lunch, a little market town which is where the phrase "a cock and bull story" was created. The Cock and The Bull are the two pubs in town, and during the coaching era people would travel from one pub to the other telling stories. Often, these stories would change between the pubs and thus the saying was invented. (See for more information)

The pubs are still there and working, which isn't surprising considering this is England where they like to keep cultural treasures and not Las Vegas which tears down anything that is over 50 years old. We had lunch at Neil and Nicola's favourite shop in Stony Stratford - the Stony Wine Emporium. We had a bottle of rose and two anti pasti platters, an English one with local English cheese and meats and a French one with some pates and two of my favourite cheeses: Roquefort and Port Salut.

At the wine store, Neil and Nicola were also able to order a case Jurancon Sec, a local white wine from the area around Pau. It is Luke's and my absolute favourite white wine, I don't like many whites, and next to impossible to get outside the region. Luke and I are dogsitting for Neil and Nic the end of next week, so hopefully the wine will come in by then and we can have some!

Got all dressed up on Saturday night, because Neil and Nic were taking us out to celebrate both of our degrees. We went to Brasserie Blanc, a nice French restaurant owned by the famous chef Raymond Blanc. Started the night off with a bottle of Champagne, followed by two bottles of Rioja (a lovely Spanish red) and ending the dinner with a nice Port. I had escargots for starters and moules marineres (mussels) for my main, then Nic and I split Baked Alaska for dessert. It was an excellent meal with even better company. After dinner we sat in the back garden listening to music and drinking a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape (an incredibly nice red) until the wee small hours of the morning.

Sunday morning was a little rough for some people, not to point fingers but LUKE. It was the hottest day of the year so far in England. We took Oli and Doogal for a walk around the park and then chased them around the back garden trying to give them bathes, which they did not want in the slightest.

The England match was to begin at 3 o'clock, so we had a late lunch comprising of a barbecue before watching the match, which I will speak no more of, the memory of the loss is still too painful. After the match, Neil drove Luke and I back to Southam.

Luke and I had another lovely barbecue waiting for us back in Southam courtesy of Lindsay and Ian, this one was with a Greek twist and I stuffed myself on Lindsay's homemade Greek salads (one with grilled vegetables and the other more traditional) and Tzatziki sauce.

Ended the weekend with a bottle of pink Champagne, a very satisfactory end indeed!

Erin x
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