February Daring Bakers Challenge!

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. They have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

This is the first challenge I’ve made that I can’t actually eat. Since I stopped having caffeine (which tends to give me migraines), I haven’t baked with chocolate  – because I’m selfish and don’t see the point of making things that I can’t have! 😉 But I owed my grandparents a dessert (and my carob powder is hidden in the depths of my kitchen disaster at the moment), so I thought I’d be generous and make it with real chocolate. And I chose Wendy’s recipe for ice cream because it had fewer ingredients and I was feeling lazy.

This recipe was very quick and easy to make – I think I’d definitely have another go with my trusty carob powder! The ice cream I CAN taste and it is super yummy. I don’t even really like ice cream that much, but I just have this overwhelming desire to curl up on the couch and eat it straight out of the ice cream maker!

Technically, because it’s not heart-shaped, it’s not a Valentino cake, but the rules said we didn’t have to and again…lazy! Plus why expend all that extra energy on something I can’t have! So I made one large one and gave it to my grandparents, whose response seemed positive – my grandmother called me up and grilled me about how exactly it was made because she couldn’t figure out how it got the consistency that it was. I also made two small ones (one of which is in my photos) to give to my parents. They both liked it, too. I ended up serving the ice cream in a small ramekin because I was too anxious to get it served, photographed, and tasted and didn’t want to wait for it to set any more in the freezer.

So, yes, even though I haven’t actually tried it myself, reports have been that it’s quite good. Once I’ve dug my carob powder/chips out of the remnants of my kitchen, I’ll probably give this another try just for myself!

Click on the Daring Bakers logo above to check out everyone else’s Valentino cakes.

A tour of things I miss in the UK

Nearly all of these are foods (Natalie has pointed out that most people don’t really come to the UK for the food…but I do!), but, in no particular order, here they are:

1. Wine Gums – No, I can’t tell you what’s so great about them, but I love them. In fact, as we speak, there are 20 rolls of them tucked safely into my wellies!

2. Crepes from Le Creperie de Hampstead – Seriously the best crepes outside of, or in, France.

3. Cider and black – Best drink ever. Cider with blackcurrant cordial. A bit studenty, but fantastic! And why there is a bottle of Ribena tucked into the Wine Gum-free boot.

4. Socks from Marks & Spencer – great socks. Full stop.

5. Scones with jam and clotted cream (but mostly the CLOTTED CREAM!) – I don’t know why we don’t get this in the States. We are totally missing out.

6. Chips with cheese – Proper chip-shop chips with salt and vinegar and cheese. Nothing better in the world.

7. Desserts with custard – It’s a different custard to what we call custard in the States. The nearest thing I can think of is that it’s like a slightly thinner vanilla pudding that’s served warm and poured over a dessert. Any kind really, but the best to have it with is sticky toffee pudding. Haven’t managed to have it yet, but I’ve also got a package of Bird’s custard powder tucked into my suitcase (hopefully all my food will make it through US customs with me) so I can make my own when I get home.

Back to being responsible adults!

This morning, after a brief stop at Sainsbury’s to stock up on provisions (e.g., wine gums, Ribena, and custard powder), we went to see Holyrood House. It was very pretty – the weather is also very nice today (we’d forgotten what the sun looked like!) – and the tour was very interesting.

But now…now is packing time. Which has actually gone worryingly well – I’m very concerned I’ve forgotten something important.

So tomorrow we’re up super-super-early to get the train down to Heathrow and then we’re off on our separate ways – me back to Illinois and back to work and Claire on to Capetown and shark diving.

It’s been great fun and I’m sad to be off home, but it’ll be very nice to see friends, family, cats, and my apartment that is in shambles!

The salt’s burning my hand, is that normal? Or, a guest post…

…by Claire!

Claire has been my travelling partner for the last few weeks (she’s the one in the pictures who isn’t me). We met in 2003 working at Pax and she was the evil genius behind the Rock to Reef tour that Debby, Louisa, and I did in
Australia in 2006. She recently declared that she wanted to do a blog post of her own, so I thought this evening would be a good opportunity to turn the reins over to her. Take it away, Claire!

Up until this point on the trip my contribution has been purely witty interjections as Anne types. I have been both lacking motivation to post to my own neglected blog and lacking the highly mobile technology that is Anne’s iPod, Edward. And it is pure coincidence that my guest post corresponds with our boozy night out in Edinburgh. CO-IN-CI-DENCE.

Several pints, several shots and several pubs later… “is that jello?”, Anne declares as she scrutinizes my drink choice. No Anne, it’s a squashed frog.

The latest addition to the menu tonight is a “flat liner”. Tequila, sambuca and tabasco. Yes, go back and read that again.

We’re now home, with just enough buzz, a belly full of hot fat chip shop chips with salt and vinegar, and relieved of all our cash.

See photos.

Rats that sound like ducks!

This morning Gillian led us to drop off the car and then into the Royal Mile (their flat is very conveniently located – only about a 15 minute walk!). We headed to Mary King’s Close to do the tour of the underground Edinburgh – they choppped off the tops of the houses on four closes (very steep and narrow side streets) and built the Royal Market over it, leaving the closes’ residents to live in complete darkness. Apparently, it’s a very popular attraction and we had to book onto a tour for late afternoon.

In the meantime we went to the Camera Obscura where we harnessed the power of electricity (see picture – that’s one of three crackle balls in the world) and then saw the panorama of Edinburgh from the camera obscura.

We passed the time before our Mary King’s Close by stopping into the National Library and then the National Museum of Scotland for a bit. And then it was time for our underground tour!

Our guide was very funny (a dry sense of humor is always appreciated) and the tour was very interesting. And now we’re back at Nat and Gillian’s finishing our healthy, well-balanced meal of chips and cheese before we head out for a few drinks.

Cardboard with soft mush…but enjoyable!

After a quick night’s stay with some of Claire’s relatives (in a very lovely cottage), we were off to Scotland to see some of my friends when I was in Aberdeen! It was a very foggy morning, but very picturesque leaving England – we just skirted the edges of the Lake District (which I realized I’ve never been to).

We had quite an easy drive into Glasgow where we met up with Alison for lunch and a bit of a shop round the city centre. She took us up the Lighthouse (not a real lighthouse) so we could have a bit of an aerial view of things.

We’ve managed to make it to Edinburgh and Nat and Gillian’s flat and are planning what we want to see and how to pack all the things we’ve bought…


Okay, WordPress seems to be cooperating again – scroll down a bit (past ‘It’s okay! We’re on the right train!’) to see them as they’ve been posted on the day I wrote them.

It’s okay! We’re on the right train!

Claire and I are fine and I’ve got about three days of posts saved up on Edeard, but the WordPress app refused to cooperate and hasn’t been letting me post (I’ll be amazed if this one goes through, but I thought I’d give it a try).

Off to Scotland tomorrow and then on Wednesday it’s home for me and off to Africa for Claire!

Turns out…

…twenty-some-odd bookshops in one day is actually starting to near my limit! Claire and I have managed to do a fair bit of damage to our bank accounts in the last two days, but overall, I think we’ve been fairly restrained. (There also seems to be a surprising number of shoe shops with very cute shoes which isn’t really helping, either.)

We’ve also been stocking up on some traditional British food while we’ve been here – sticky toffy pudding and scones with jam and clotted cream – yum!

Rawr! WordPress!

The WordPress app on Edward is being extraordinarily uncooperative, so I’ve no idea when I’ll actually get this posted (right now it’s Thursday, February 12), but I thought I’d go ahead and tell you about today now, just in case…

Today was mostly a travel day. Claire, Stephen the Hire Car, and I left Portsmouth this morning to meet some family friends of hers on our way to Hay-on-Wye (in Tetbury for lunch at the awesomely named Snooty Fox). My navigation skills were in fine form and we managed to arrive without getting lost. Huzzah!

Let me just say now that navigating in the UK is an entirely different game to navigating in the States. Things are on such a smaller scale here and road signs and exits and turns come at you much more quickly. In the States, navigating basically goes like this:

Navigator: Okay, we’re on this road for three days and then we make a right.

Driver: *drives*

In the UK, it’s more like:

Navigator: Okay, the next road we’re looking for is the–

Driver: That was junction 12, did we want junction 12?

Navigator: Let me just find that on the–

Driver: Were we supposed to turn there? The sign said we were supposed to turn there.

Navigator: What town was it? Was it–?

Driver: Do we want to go left? I think that goes back to where we were, but I thought I saw a sign…

Navigator: Wait, can we just turn around so we can get our bearings?

Russian customs official: Passports, please.

Thankfully, Claire and I did not end up in Russia, but we’re not done with all our driving yet… We did, however, end up in Hay-on-Wye and, after some slight wandering through perhaps the worst sign-posted town in Wales, at our B&B. All the shops were closed so we had a nice dinner to gather our strength for tomorrow!

Please mind your head!

Today (actually the day before the day before yesterday now because WordPress has not been cooperating) we took the ferry into Portsmouth from Gosport to see all the historical ships docked there.

First up was the Mary Rose which was a Tudor warship that was sunk in…well, I don’t remember exactly, but, at any rate, it sat at the bottom of the bay around here for four hundred years or so until it was discovered and raised in the 1980s. Apparently the half that sank into the silt was very well preserved and and that’s what they painstakingly dug out in the 80s. A lot of artifacts from the sailors were also preserved – including English long bows and a long-lost musical instrument (some kind of shawn) – so it’s provided lots of information about Tudor life in general as well as onboard a ship.

Then we had a tour of the HMS Victory which was Admiral Nelson’s ship until he was killed at Trafalgar. I was definitely not made for a sailor’s life, being far too tall to fit belowdecks. Claire, however, has decided to run away and join the navy (see picture).

Then we went to dinner and guess what we stumbled across! See picture!

An introduction!

I forgot to introduce you to the newest member of our intrepid travelling team -Stephen! (It’s named Stephen because Stephen Fry needs lots of legroom and Stephen the hire car HAS lots of legroom.) We thought we were getting a compact car – it says so on Claire’s paper – but Stephen is absolutely massive! Tons of legroom (even in the backseat) and a huge trunk, too! Very comfortable. We are all very pleased with one another.

WordPress ate my post…

…so I’ll have to recreate yesterday AND today!


I’m afraid I don’t have any pictures from today – it’s been exceedingly rainy and cold and just generally depressing and I couldn’t be bothered digging out Edward to get any photos.

We went to the Imperial War Museum today to see their exhibit on the Blitz which was very interesting, but we were besieged by schoolchildren and made our exit after a quick detour through their bookshop.

Then we headed off across town to the abomination that is the British Library. It’s really nice on the inside, but it really is quite the eyesore! Never judge a book by its cover, I suppose… We saw the treasures of the British Library which included Beowulf, loads of manuscripts by Jane Austen and a miscellany of Brontes, Handel scores, the Lindisfarne Gospels, a handful of Shakespeare paraphernalia, and one of the copies of the Magna Carta. Then we went and learned a bit about book conservation (book conservator for the British Library = best job evar!).

We had planned to walk around Camden on our way back to Pax, but the rain was fairly oppressive, so we cut that short and went back instead. We also made the perhaps foolhardy decision to walk up the hill for savoury crepes for dinner which were tasty, but we got fairly soaked.

This morning we picked up our hire car and waved goodbye to Heather and Pax Lodge (see picture) and headed off for Portsmouth. We made it after only getting lost twice and spent the rest of the evening eating chips (proper chip shop chips – yum!) and catching up with Claire’s friend, Becky. Off to explore Portsmouth tomorrow!

And never the twain shall meet…

…except they totally did. Today two parts of my life that are very special to me were introduced to one another: Edward the iPhone and the Rosetta stone.

After a bit of a lie-in this morning (Claire and I had been awake for 33 hours by the time we went to sleep last night), we headed off to Covent Garden (after getting a bit lost on the way from Leicester Square – I have never been able to do that; it always takes me a couple of loops around Charing Cross Road before I figure it out) to the transport museum so I could stop off in the book shop for some research (though I would recommend it – it’s a very cool museum covering a lot of the art and design aspects of London transport as well as it’s evolution).

After a quick stop at Marks & Sparks to buy socks and the best red belt ever (to hold up my skinny jeans – why did no one tell me how awesome belts are?! Because they are awesome!), we walked to the British museum because I had to say hello to the Rosetta stone and then to wander through a few of the galleries that we hasn’t seen before. British museums will seriously spoil you for any other museums. I mean, for one thing, museums in the States are hardly ever free, so I’m always like ‘Really? You want me to pay you how much to see that? Because I can just go see the ROSETTA STONE for free.’ And besides, they have all the history, anyway. Can you name a museum where you can get lost and end up spending three hours looking at porcelein figures? Because I can (V&A).

But I hate that they moved the King’s Library. Parts of it are still there, as you’ll see below, but it’s just not the same, especially since they moved it into the atrocity that is the British Library in the horribleness that is St. Pancras (you’ll see that tomorrow, I hope).

We did a bit more window shopping along Oxford Street on the way to meet a friend of Claire’s for dinner (the HMV employee I asked for recommendations of local bands couldn’t think of any [?!] – which is fine, I know it’s hard to be put on the spot like that – it’s mostly the incredulous looks that I get [when there are actually staff to ask] that annoy me – hoping to find an independent shop in Camden tomorrow [though the guy at the Virgin by the Strand did a great job]). We had super-yummy Indian food which I had actually never had before (apart from the odd curry, of course).