kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (what?)
OK. Now I've talked before about what's different when you compare living in the UK to living in the US, and sometimes I've learned things (like where to get decent hot dogs) and sometimes life just bes that way and you have to lump it (note my semiannual importing of American feminine products, for example).

Would you believe that they don't regularly sell apple cider vinegar in the grocery store in the UK? The only product listing on the Tesco website is for a pricey salad vinegar. Everything else is malt vinegar or white wine vinegar.

Here's where I can get apple cider vinegar in the UK.

I can get it from Higher Nature, which looks to be a pricey health food website. For £6.95. For 300ML. Dude. I'm used to paying like $1 for a gallon of the stuff....

I can get it from Ostler's Cider Mill, and I can get it in 5- or 10-litre boxes (like wine in a box. Remember wine in a box? We're playing all the hits here on WIAB....). It's £24.95 for 5 litres and £36.91 for 10 litres (tempting, but where would I put it?).


I can get it from Wells Poultry Housing and Accessories (at, no less!) where it's £3.99 a litre and £12.95 for five.

Right. Here I go, shopping at, unless anybody else has a better suggestion.

And, as an aside -- [ profile] stevieannnie, what the *ahem* do you use apple cider vinegar for wrt chickens? From the web site: Apple Cider Vinegar 5 Litres
A total Natural Organic, anti-bacterial, anti-coccidial anthelmintic and tonic beneficial effects for all livestock and poultry. Increases egg supply,improves feathering and improves flavour and tenderness of meat birds.
Seriously? you feed chickens vinegar to make them more tender?

ETA: OK, OK, I have been shown the error of my ways once again! It is possible to buy cider vinegar in the UK at a grocery store for a decent price -- just not the way I was looking for it, on the Tesco website apparently tailored to my postcode. But. I am leaving this post up. For the chickens.

kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (Default)
Seriously, I'm nearly out of Taste of Thai Spicy Peanut Bake and Peanut Sauce Mix, which is a favourite meal in our house (and in every house I've lived in since I discovered the stuff). If you are coming to the UK filk con and you happen to see some of this stuff in your local grocery store, please pick some up for me?


Taste of Thai Spicy Peanut bake, and
Taste of Thai Peanut Sauce mix.

As always, thank you very much. I know I've left it quite late to ask; as [ profile] filceolaire and I will not be at the UK con this year (except J will go on Sunday to do the nmc concert thingy), I just haven't been thinking about it. Both [ profile] mokatiki and [ profile] pola_bear will be able to receive the gooodies, or you can give them to [ profile] filceolaire on Sunday.

ETA: [ profile] trinsf has a stash of this stuff for me-- if anybody is coming from the SF area and would like to play mongol messenger, please let me know and I'll try to get you in touch.

Making Rice

Jan. 9th, 2008 12:00 am
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (cooking and baking)
I didn't tag this entry "Harper's Kitchen", because when we're done, you might not think this entry is really about making rice.

See, my mother hated making rice, and she wasn't very good at it. In fact, my mother, bless her heart, was not the world's greatest cook (although she was better than some). She didn't like to cook. It was a chore for her. I think she was really pleased when I got seriously into cooking in my late teens, as it meant I did most of the cooking, and she got to wash dishes, which she actually enjoyed quite a lot. Some people. ;)

Anyway, my mother wasn't very good at making rice. So I spent my youth eating Minute Rice, which actually took longer than a minute to make. Carefully, my mother would measure exactly the amount of water, an exact level tablespoon of margarine, and an exact level quarter-teaspoon of salt into a saucepan, then watch the pot until it boiled, "because if you leave it too long, you won't have enough water to make the rice." The whole process took about 10 minutes, give or take.

And so when I began cooking, I made Minute Rice. Somewhere along the line, we got a wok, and I learned how to make fried rice -- with Minute Rice. Later, I moved to Louisiana, where everybody has a rice cooker. You put X amount of rice in, then add 2X water, turn it on, and in 15 or 20 minutes, you have rice. Everybody in Louisiana (well, South Louisiana anyway: North Louisiana is another planet) does this. Everyone in Singapore does this, too.

And that was all well and good, but I was a poor college student and had no rice cooker. So I kept making Minute Rice. And housemates taunted me, visitors scorned me, and I kept the fact that I had no idea how to make rice-- to myself. It was a dark, shameful existence.

Eventually, I became a good enough cook that I began experimenting with real rice (Minute Rice really is pretty vile, actually, not to mention more expensive than regular rice), and I made it come out all right most of the time. When I bought a steamer, my results were a little better. Making rice on the hob (stovetop, Americans) continued to boggle me. Some people say measure twice as much water as rice. Other people say measure exactly as much water as rice. Some people say you absolutely must use margarine, others say only butter will do, some say rice has no flavour without salt, and others insist that rice will kill you if you put salt in it. Rice apparently fights back.

And then I moved to England, with a husband who'd been all over the world and really liked his rice. And do you know what? He taught me how to cook rice. Now, laugh if you will, but all those years ago, amid all that reverent measuring, my mother had made it very clear to me that you must never put more water than the recipe calls for, because if you do, the rice will be ick. I believed that for a long time, and I still believed it four years ago when I moved to the UK.

It's not true.

Here's how you make rice.

  • Put a whole bunch of water into a pot.
  • Put some salt and butter in (more or less, to taste, margarine is of the devil, olive oil is acceptable).
  • Bring the pot to the boil, then throw in about a quarter cup of rice for every mouth you have to feed (more if the mouths are hungry).
  • The water should stay boiling! You can stir it if you feel nervous, but really it'll be fine.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes.
  • When the timer goes off, start tasting the rice. Taste it every minute or so until you like the way it tastes.
  • When you like the way the rice tastes, drain all the water out immediately. Otherwise it will go gooshy and you won't like that. Never leave rice in water after it's done. We have a big strainer that has extendable arms so it fits right over our sink. We use it for everything, including rice.

That's all there is to it.
Whole thing takes maybe 15 minutes, less if you boil the water in your electric kettle and then pour it into the pot.

And that's how you make rice. Any kind of rice. There is no cryptic formula, no secret scroll of rice enlightenment. You can experiment with all kinds of wonderful rice (my favourite is Thai jasmine). Of course, now that they have those microwaveable packets of rice, it really is quicker to just do that-- but I promise you those don't taste as good as the rice you concoct on your own hob. This rice is always perfect if you remove it from the pot the moment it tastes just right. No hesitation; just pour it all in the sieve.

I think just about everything in life is a lot like making rice. I was told dozens of ways to make rice before I discovered that there was no secret to it at all. Everything, rice, religion, batteries, soy sauce, socks, dishes, spice cookies, remote controls, mobile phones, the mysteries of the universe -- everything is as simple (or as complex) as making perfect rice.
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (bright side)
We picked up a copy of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels the other night for £3. None of us had ever seen it, but everyone says we should see it. Tonight after dinner, we finally sat down to watch it.

What a fun film. Well, as fun as it can really get with a body count that high. But hey, Sting is in it! ;-)

Seriously, if you haven't seen it, you should. I can't believe we waited this long. As London films go, this one and Football Factory are pretty much the cream of the crop. Unless you count Shaun of the Dead. Or, you know, Love, Actually. (And I kinda do.)

There are lots of good films based in London, aren't there?

What's your favourite London film?
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (cooking and baking)
Culture Shock? After All This Time? You Bet!
Or, Give me hot dogs, or give me death!

Partly due to being colossally fucked over by Tesco Online, your Harper has learned something new!

You see, I didn't just roll over and stop ordering groceries to be delivered. Nope, I tried out two competitors at the same time, Ocado/Waitrose and Sainsbury's Online Groceries. I'm less familiar with the Waitrose product lines, so that took a little while and was kind of expensive. Sainsbury's I've shopped at quite a lot, so it was easy to choose the things I usually buy there. I kept the grocery list to premium meats and specialty items from Waitrose/Ocado and regular everyday things from Sainsbury's, and that's where the trouble began.

I figured I might as well check what Sainsbury's had on offer (sale items, for you Americans out there), and it turned out they had hot dog buns going cheap, two packages for one! Wahoo! Well, I hadn't had hot dogs in awhile, in a long time-- and now I know I must not ever have had hot dogs in the UK. Because of course after I put the buns in my shopping basket, I realised I must then procure hot dogs.

All you Americans are thinking, Well, of course you needed hot dogs, Harper. You just navigate over to "meats," and look wherever they put the sausages, and you'll find them, little packages of frankfurters, beef or chicken or pork, various levels of goodness to horribleness reflected mostly in the price and ingredient level. These items will come in packages of six or eight hot dogs, and they will appear in plastic packets, shrink wrapped and vacuum sealed, with labels that beg you to cut them open for the hot-doggy goodness inside.

You English people have not got over the ridiculous idea that you would look in the "meat" section for hot dogs! No, no; you find hot dogs in canned goods, and they come with whatever meats the manufacturer decided to put in them, usually a combination of pork, beef, and chicken-- and they are tinned in brine. Various degrees of quality are available, but even the premium hot dogs come in a tin. The only variety of the item called "hot dogs" that does not come in a tin? Meatless. I am not making this up. Meatless hot dogs (an oxymoron equivalent to "gourmet hot dogs" are in the frozen food section, presumably because if you tinned them in brine they would dissolve!

Oh. My. God.
What. The Fuck.
Apparently, hot dogs are never barbecued. Go figure.

It's bad enough that "relish" means "canned stuff without pickles," almost all of which are called "gherkins." And don't even think of trying to find kosher dill hamburger slices here. Coney Island-style chili? Forget it. Oh, and chilli has two Ls, just for good measure.

Still, in the spirit of free-spirited exploration that is my trademark, I bought two tins of "Sainsbury's Hot Dogs, Premium x8 400g," at a price of £1.18. Of course, nobody in the UK will really understand how I like to eat hot dogs. Most people in the US barely understand it. Don't worry: I will reveal my secret below, but don't forget to watch this space for the exciting results of the English Hot Dog Experiment.

Read how I like to eat hot dogs below. If you're squeamish, just remember the banana sandwiches.

OK, how does the harper eat hot dogs? )
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (Default)
Busy, but good, which is sort of how we like them, I guess.

Friday, Sushi in Soho Square, Brushes with Celebrity, and Avenue Q! )

Saturday, visitors and parties )

Sunday-- did I mention it was hot? )

And now it's bedtime. Past bedtime, actually. Goodnight, LJ.
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (stupid blinking)
I suppose I should really call this, "weekend culture," because I got most of it on Sunday, watching television with [ profile] filceolaire.

You see, the World Cup is going on, and this is Big Stuff here in London. In fact, the CSH has a football sweepstakes going, and I was persuaded by our librarian, MT, to put in my two quid. The seeded team I drew was, you guessed it, England. Now, I don't know the first thing about football, so MT has been trying to give me an education, and [ profile] filceolaire contrived to help me out over the weekend. So I have not only watched football highlights on the BBC, I have also, with the help and encouragement of [ profile] filceolaire, watched a football anthems programme, including the best and worst football anthems ever. There's always a song, apparently for World Cup time, and sometimes the songs made in a particular year aren't as good as the ones before. Now, I'm not sure when any of the songs were made, except that one with all the football players singing about how there's nothing they can't do-- except apparently improve their haircuts-- must have been made sometime in the 70s.

Now, of course some of these were more enjoyable than others. I think the catchiest one is Vindaloo, but maybe that's because I love to watch people--and there are many people to watch in the Vindaloo video, trust me.

England are now in the quarterfinals and will play Portugal on Sunday. They made it into the quarterfinals due to a kick by team captain David Beckham, who is most famous in the US for having actually married one of the Spice Girls. It was a nice kick-- I have seen it several dozen times in replay now, and I haven't even been trying. There are also numerous gratuitous shots of Posh jumping up and down and yelling for her soon-to-be hurling hubby (he was apparently physically ill after scoring the goal). Of course, her bosoms aren't as impressive as those of the woman I'm going to discuss below, but that's neither here nor there.

Anyway, there are three things going on in England right now. First, there is the national obsession with football. Secondly, there is Wimbledon, which started today. And third, there is Big Brother, a reality TV show which apparently has whole segments of the population utterly transfixed. Sunday night, we watched a little bit of some of the programming surrounding Big Brother on television. It's astounding how much programming the television stations have managed to eke out of Big Brother.

Last night, there was a trivia quiz with one of the contestants. She was asked three questions. Lea's personal news page is here, but they haven't put this interview up there....

Q: Who was the first English monarch to divorce?
A: What's a monarch?
(whispers in background)
A: Oh! Um, Charles?

Q: Which bird swims the fastest?
A: Birds don't swim, they fly.
(whispers in background)
A: A swan?

Q: Who was the youngest Beatle?
A: Bono?

I am not making this up. At least now I have identified why English people want to watch Big Brother. They have a deep desire to be smarter than someone. Luckily, Lea provides just about everybody on earth with the ability to string together an understandable, if not properly parsed, sentence, an opportunity to feel superior. Well, at least I understand that now. Luckily, when I want to feel superior, I have other places to look.

Oh, yeah. Wimbledon was mostly rained out. Nobody here cared much: Big Brother was live all day on Channel Four, and more than a hundred England fans have already been banned from Germany! Go team!
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (Default)
I know, I know-- just when you thought my life couldnt' get any more exciting, here I come with yet another fabulous adventure! And we're talking quality content here, too-- where else can you hear a story that combines long journeys, high tech, missed dates, mislaid addresses, crowds of screaming girls from Catford, lost items recovered, Lush-- and a six-pound can of Crisco? (If I tell you that I'm relating all this from a Portuguese restaurant across from a pub, and that I'm having breakfast at 6pm, will that help?) No? What if I told you I suspect I'm stealing the wi-fi from the pub across the street? ;-)

But-- you're intrigued now, aren't you? )
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (Default)
I don't know how I could have forgotten to mention in this post that there are now lovely fairy lights strung beneath our loft bed. They give the whole little sitting area a delightful, soft, glowing light. [ profile] filceolaire found them last time we were at Tesco, and he and the girls helped me put them up on Saturday night. Yes, I'll take photographs at some point, once we get the furniture situation in the front room sorted.
kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (Default)
Yesterday, we had a visit from the postman at something like 8:00 in the morning. Yes, on a Saturday. [ profile] filceolaire was more dressed than I was, so he ran down to retrieve-- a package from [ profile] folkmew, which managed to get here from the US in only five days!

It contained:
  • Q-tips (I have plenty of these now-- I think I can safely say I'm stocked up through and probably beyond Christmas!);
  • Maple Flavour! We are already looking for more fun recipes to use that in;
  • Peanut Sauce Mix! We had Thai chicken tonight;
  • Yummy-looking ice cream recipes, which we have stashed in the ice cream recipe book that [ profile] filceolaire picked up last week.

    I also had a package slip last week that might mean [ profile] bunrab's package has arrived, as well. Tomorrow's the day to check that out, I think.

    Today, I upgraded my Mac to OS10.3, which was easy even if it did take a long time.

    [ profile] mokatiki and [ profile] pola_bear took [ profile] filceolaire out for Father's Day, and they came back with presents for everybody, including a beautiful skirt for me. I only wish I hadn't been so grumpy about the heat and the iPod and everything else, because I did not gush over it appropriately. Please consider yourselves duly gushed.

    Alas, the new Coke Zero is not made with Splenda, as I'd hoped. It appears to be attempting (successfully) to simulate the taste of flat off-brand "Cola," and it lists "caffeine" as a flavour. I am not making this up.

    And, while we were all having dinner (Thai chicken!), I got a call from Glen Cronkhite in California, who says my harp case will be ready by the end of June! Hooray!
  • kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (true love)
    (For those of you on my regular friends list, this is a public post, which is why some information you already know will be repeated or consolidated. I'm going to try to do something like this every week.)

    Ninth October, 2005, London

    From the window beside my desk, I can still see mostly leaves. The fact is autumn hasn't arrived yet, though we are expecting it any day now. We've had chilly weather, we've had a little bit of rain, but the cherry trees at the edge of the park haven't lost their leave yet. What that means is there's just this straight bank of trees outside my window, and the sturdy, bendy boughs reach up into clear, blue sky.

    I continue to attest, despite the fact that we saw some really nice skies in New York City a couple of weeks ago, that England has the loveliest, most changeable and dramatic, most perfectly blue-when-they-are-blue skies I've ever seen anywhere. Atlanta and other places in the US were often hazy, although very little beats looking at stars in rural Georgia in the middle of the night. So close to the City, it never gets that dark here, even at night. As the leaves fall into the park, I will tell you about the little park our house borders. Just now, it's impossible to see through the leaves, all except the edge of the one path that leads in from our corner of it, the path we take to the train station. There are rooks in the morning and nightingales at night. And foxes, sometimes. The train station, since you're curious, is just on the other side of the park, perhaps five minutes' walk if you're not in a hurry and less than that if you're me on a Tuesday. From there, Central London is perhaps ten minutes away by train or Tube. And I get to live here. The amazing and fortunate turns my life has taken in the past three years fill me with wonder and happiness.

    I recently changed my userinfo to reflect the changes in my life over the past 18 months or so, and since I promised some public entries that weren't just about what I'm knitting (though you can always count on some knit-geeking here), I figured it might be good to treat this as a beginning. So we begin.

    Relevant History )

    Now, it's true that people in London speak English, so it doesn't feel quite as foreign as it might have felt to move to, say, Italy, but there are still significant difference between life in the US and life in the UK. Some of them are welcomed and delightful, and others have taken some getting used to, but having made the commitment to live here, I am interested in embracing as much as I can and not whimpering too much about the rest.

    So what-all's different, Harper? )

    Stuff you can't get in the UK-- )

    Gosh, there are whole bunches of other things I wanted to write about, but I'm not going to have time to write about them tonight, because there are still a bazillion things to do before I go to bed. Luckly, my work week is Tuesday through Thursday, so I still have some time tomorrow to flesh things out a little bit.

    Are there things you would like to know about life in the UK? Ask about them in comments, and I'll either reply in comments or make a whole post about them-- maybe even both.

    Footnotes )


    kniteracy: You can get this design on a card or a picture to hang! (Default)

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