Sunday, February 24, 2013

Adventures in Cooking

Over Saturated Sunset from Home

It's been a decent week of cooking at the O2 household (the Oggel-O'Connor's). I bought so many groceries based on so many tasty recipes that I had to do a lot of cooking so it didn't all go to waste. Devin was home early a few nights this week so it was lovely to have him help me do some of the cooking. He's a really good chef and I love having him home around dinner time both for his company and for his help! I did a terrible job documenting almost all of it so there aren't many photos to share with you. Sorry.

But let's face it, when you're cooking, you're cooking . . . not being a photographer. Unless you're from Green Kitchen Stories (my favorite new food blog with ah-mazing photography) in which case you not only cook stunningly healthy foods, but also take fabulous photos of it as you go along. Oh, and you live in Sweden and when you have a baby you both get at least 6-months PAID paternity/maternity leave and take your newborn and travel all around the world. I'm not jealous at all. (Seriously, check out their blog.)

  • Quinoa Spinach Bake (by Martha Stewart) with a side of Kale & Braggs 
    • Would definitely make this again. I did not use rosemary (personal preference), and didn't have fresh thyme. I did add jalapeños which I think kicked up the flavors a bit. 
  • Stuffed Bell Peppers with Lentils, Bulgar, Quinoa, Squash, Garlic & Jalapeño 
    • I don't have a recipe for this, but basically: sautéed onions, garlic and jalapeño, roasted cubed squash with olive oil, salt/pepper and paprika, tossed everything together with the cooked lentils and bulgar, added cumin, red pepper flakes and thyme, stuffed it all into peppers and topped it with mature cheddar cheese. They were good, but not my favorite. I think I needed to cook the peppers longer to make it really work. 
  • Homemade Pizzas (okay, I bought the dough)
    • Whole wheat dough was from the grocery store, rolled out two cookie sheet size pizzas, topped with olive oil, garlic, basil, mozzarella, sweet corn and capers. Yum!
  • Fajita Style Burritos (no recipe needed)
    • You know, just sauté  a bunch of veggies on the stove, warm up some beans, season the lot with cumin and garlic,  and make some super garlicky guacamole to go on top. We add tomatoes, spinach and salsa to ours because that's how we roll. Oh and cheese because um . . . CHEESE!
  • Winter Minestrone by The Barefoot Contessa
    • Great recipe. I (obviously) omitted the pancetta, and substituted chicken stock with veggie stock since we're veggie. Since I'd used the squash earlier in the stuffed bell peppers I added sweet corn to the soup. Next time I'd stick to the squash though as I think the corn added too much of a chewy texture. Otherwise I followed the recipe and loved it. The dry white wine really adds a unique flavor and has me interested in trying more recipes with wine in them.
  • Double Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pecan Cookies by ME!
    • A remake of the cookies I made this past December. Even better this time though, and I swear it's due to the imported semi-sweet chocolate chips my loving mother-in-law brought to me! Truly. Makes a difference, I'm tellin ya!
  • Cinnamon Rolls from All Recipes
    • I made these on Friday night, and then let them sit overnight on the counter for their 2nd rise (most people refrigerate them, but they won't fit in our tiny fridge so the counter it was!). I halved the recipe since we need two trays of cinnamon rolls like we need another hole in the head. The dough is great. Lovely to work with, rises nicely, tastes a bit sweet, a bit savory. The filling I could have added a bit more too since it was good, but I think needed a bit more. I added chopped walnuts, and next time would use pecans, and more of them. I think maybe more cinnamon too. The recipe calls for cream cheese when you make the frosting, but since I didn't have any I just made a white sugar frosting with butter and milk. It was nothing but sweet, and so I think next time I'd either use the suggested cream cheese or make more of a glaze and have it soak into the rolls instead of having it sit just on top. They must be good enough to eat because we had 12 rolls yesterday morning, and there are only 3 left (it's Sunday morning). 

Cinnamon Rolls, 2nd Rise - Unbaked

Devin's Photo of his Breakfast - Pure Joy

We joined some friends on Thursday night for a few drinks at The Elm Tree (easily one of my favorite pubs for a drink), and last night we tried a new Indian restaurant named Cocum, on Castle Street. Thank goodness for Indian food in this town, they are really the one place we can get good vegetarian food.

All in all a great week of food!
Hope you're inspired to do some cooking in your kitchen!
As always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

This Week In Cambridge: February 4th

  • Monday: The Nordic Walking Group
    • This is a relatively new group that has come from the larger NVS (Newcomers and Visiting Scholars) group. Headed up by our fearless leader Barbara who hails from Germany (hence, the group's name). The purpose of the group is to gather and go for long treks through Cambridge and the surrounding area, and to move at a fast clip to get some exercise while we walk and gab. This week from start to finish the walk was about five miles, but since Amber and I walked from our homes to the starting point at Magdalene Bridge it was about 7.4 miles in total. The walk is a lovely one if you ever want to take a stroll when you visit Cambridge. Start at Magdalene college and keep along the river until you reach Stourbridge Commons, follow the trail through the greens until you reach the train bridge. After the walk we stopped in at Patisserie Valerie for tea and scones/cake. I had a cream filled doughnut. Yeah I did.

  • Tuesday: Coffee Talk & Hospice Volunteering
    • I finally made it to the NVS coffee morning at University Centre, my first of the new term. It was nice to see so many acquaintances and friends that I've made these past 5 months. The NVS group is a lovely way to make connections when you arrive in Cambridge, and as a continued support as you build your life in this transient town. This week's talk (there is a visiting lecturer each week) was about Isaac Newton. I have to admit, from where I sat in the room the speaker was really difficult to hear and I found myself daydreaming and making notes to myself about other things I needed to do during the week. Bad student, bad listener! 
    • After the talk I made my way down to the SE corner of town for my volunteer hours at Hospice. I really, really, really enjoy volunteering at the Day Therapy unit in this facility. We are currently hosting a group of elementary students (9-10 y/o) who visit the Day Therapy patients and work together while making individual pieces of art. The children and patients are encouraged to dialogue about anything at all, but topics that frequently come up are: illness, family, life in a hospice setting, and favorite things. It's very sweet to facilitate interactions between these young children and the patients. I look forward to going each week. I can't share any photos of the process at hospice, but I will share with you the lovely work of artist Mimi Matelot. Check out more of her clay work on her blog by clicking on the photo below.

Photo Credit:  Artwork By Mimi Matelot: Blog- Winter Sinking Strokes

  • Wednesday: Art Therapy Presentation to Therapeutic Play at Addenbrooke's Hospital
    • After many months I'm finally cleared to volunteer at Addenbrooke's hospital. On Wednesday the head of the Therapeutic Play Department invited me to present to her staff about what I did in my previous job at Oakland, and to lead the group in a simple Art Therapy directive. The presentation went well and the staff participated eagerly and with enthusiasm. In two weeks I'll begin a rotation through the pediatric wards offering group and individual art therapy to patients and their families. It's a little bit like starting over with what I did all those years ago in Oakland, but it's flattering and humbling to be trusted by this staff to pilot an Art Therapy program in their wards. 

  • Thursday: Craft Group & Complimentary Cancer Care Centre
    • Usually I attend a Knitting/Crochet group on Thursdays, but this week I joined the Alternative Craft Group at the Master's Lodge at Corpus Christi College. This week's project was bread making and we watched and learned how to make a sweet dough that you can then turn into a heart shaped loaf of bread (à la Valentines Day). The recipe was based on this recipe for heart shaped coffee cake. I don't know how long I'll leave these photos up on Dropbox, but if you want to see a few more pictures of the process you can see them here.

    Heart Shaped Coffee Cake

    • Later that afternoon I headed to my job at the complimentary cancer care centre. This is another place I just love going to. The staff and the clients are all so warm, welcoming and polite. I feel useful there in more ways than one, and I so enjoy speaking with the clientele. It's a place where I feel honored and privileged to share my skills and experience with a special population of people. I've started a new Art Therapy project at the centre and it's already starting to take off. Many visitors to the centre know how to knit or crochet so I designed a pattern for a community blanket that we will build by making one square at a time. If someone doesn't know how to knit/crochet I teach them, or they can learn in their own time using an instruction packet I put together. Given the opportunity to engage with their hands, people visibly relax into their chairs, and frequently begin to engage in conversation with other people. The art serves as a conversation piece between two strangers and stories begin to emerge from their past or present, bringing people together in what can sometimes be an isolating situation or circumstance. I'm hopeful that the final piece will be a beautiful visual representation of what the centre's mission is at it's core. A safe place that "empowers people to live with, through, and beyond cancer.

Landscaping Outside The Centre

  • Friday: Job Interview & Peer Supervision(-ish)
    • There are many great organisations in Cambridge which advocate for children and their families to get the psycho-social support they need to help cope with the struggles of every day life. Schools here (like in the US) have limited budgets for mental health services so too often teachers have to handle issues for which a child should be receiving counseling or therapy. One such organisation (which I'll leave un-named until I know a bit more) places clinical teams in schools day a week to offer free counseling and therapy to children who are in need of support. On Friday I was invited to interview for a clinical placement with the organisation and on Monday I will find out whether or not I'm hired (fingers crossed!) The interview was only a half-hour long but it was easily the most intense interview I've had in a long time as a therapist. Luckily, while walking to the interview I went over everything I thought they might ask me about (my theoretical orientation, my experience with mandatory reporting, practice of self-care, importance of confidentiality, etc., etc.). I hope I get the placement, but if I don't, thank goodness that organisation is out there doing the good work they're doing.
    • That afternoon I met with a friend who is getting her degree in Integrative Arts Psychotherapies at Stickybeaks Cafe. We discussed the field of Art Therapy and the changing picture of the service within the NHS. While Art Therapy is more recognized here as a professional field the jobs are just as hard to come by as they are in the US. Registration as an Art Therapist is also easier to achieve, but supervision still costs quite a lot so if you don't have work, it's hard to pay for the supervision you're required to have. Often I feel like a dog chasing her tail . . . looking for work, to get paid, to pay for supervision, to get the hours, to get registered (in the US), to get a job, to get paid, to get the supervision, to get the job . . .  Ugh. Make me dizzy.
    • That link to a gif in the above paragraph is particularly intended for Sarah L. and Maddox. I think you can see why . . .

The British Museum*

Inside The British Museum: Great Court*

Euphorium Bakery, Islington*
  • All photos with * were taken from the organisations website.

  • Saturday: London  & Sunday: Dinner and a Movie
    • A friend of mine from San Francisco was visiting London this week so I went into the city yesterday and we spent the day together. We met at the British Library where we saw a few beautiful pieces on display (The Magna Carta, Jane Austin's Diary, Music by Mozart). Afterwards we walked to the British Museum, which was more like what I imagine Walmart is like on Black Friday than I would have liked. We had a nice lunch in the museum cafe, but once we got up into the galleries we lasted about a half-hour before we both had had enough of the ridiculous crowds and hightailed it out of there. We spent the rest of the afternoon at a lovely little cafe called Euphorium Bakery in Islington and talked over tea, bake-well and lemon tarts. It was really lovely to see a familiar face and to spend a day just walking, and talking. Thanks SF for taking the time out of your vacation to spend the day with me! 

      Civil War Mac & Cheese. Don't ask. I don't know. It's just the title.

    • Today (Sunday) Devin and I are going to dinner at the Red Bull Pub and then to see the Movie Lincoln at Cineworld (doesn't the name of the theatre just sound magical? Heh heh.) The weather today is perfect for staying inside, eating leftover homemade Civil War Macaroni & Cheese casserole with kale and staying in your pyjamas until the last possible second.
    • Devin has been incredibly busy with work, going to the lab every single day since we got back from vacation except for one. He's also been spending time with friends/coworkers after work and has visited a few pubs: The St.Radegund, The Panton Arms (which we've been to many times but just mentioning again), and one that he didn't actually go inside cause it was too crowded due to recently opening, The Cambridge Brew House. We hope to go here soon to check it out.
All in all, a totally great week. While we're starting to really feel like this is our home, we still miss our friends and family and the life we had back in the East Bay. Thanks to everyone for your emails, your Skype time and for cheering us on from afar. We miss you and hope to see you all soon!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

And . . . It's February (+Tenerife)

I'm definitely having a moment here.

Where exactly did January go? I know a week of it was spent in Spain, and when I look my calendar I see many colorful blocks telling me I was somewhat busy with lots of this-and-that. Mostly what I see is that it's now February, which means in 9 days, we'll have been living in England for 5 months. Almost half a year! Suddenly, the two-and-a-half-years we're living in England is down to two years and one month! Well crap.

Luckily, we continue to do super fun stuff and are having many adventures in-between working hard and living a normal day-to-day existence.

Instead of going away for Christmas and New Years we decided to save our pence and take a trip to Spain for some sunshine and a change of scenery. We chose the island of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands just off the coast of southern Morocco. While parts of Tenerife are over-run with tourists, it's not difficult to escape into a more rural and authentic Canary Island environment. We stayed in a little town named Callao Salvaje which is on the south-west coast of the island, an easy jumping-off point for lots of exploring up and down the coast as well as a short 1 hour drive up into El Tiede National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage site).

We rented an apartment and cooked many of our meals at home. We do this to save money, and because for us, part of being on vacation is eating what we want, when we want to, without having to navigate foreign menus for vegetarian fare. Within a 5-minute walk of the flat was a beautiful sandy beach, numerous supermercados, restaurants, bodegas, and even English pubs. 

Our Flat in Callao Salvaje

View from our flat's balcony.

Walking out the door from our apartment, either to the north or south there were plenty of walking and hiking trails that meandered above the rocky coast line, through the local vegetation of cacti and succulents. The colors were varied and beautiful, the temperature, absolutely perfect (read 72°F/ 22°C)

On an even stroll to the north of town.

Callao Salvaje in the distance.

One of the first major hikes we did was from the city of Masca which is in the northwest corner of Tenerife. A town of ~80 people, sitting about 600 meters (1,968 ft) above sea level on a rocky peninsula. The Masca Gorge hike is 10k round trip and it took us about 5 hours in hiking time. Once we reached the beach at the bottom of the gorge we sat for a spell and had our traditional travel sandwich of cheese, hummus, cucumber and greens. (Mmmmm. Travel sandwich!) Devin ran immediately to the ocean and went for a swim as I munched on snacks and rested my weary legs (what can I say, it's been a few months since we've done a hike of that drop and distance!)


Heading down the gorge to the beach.

Post-lunch photo before heading back up to Masca.

The second hike we did wasn't exactly planned, but we aimed for something beautiful via a random dotted line on a screen-captured map on the iPad and totally lucked out. This hike was taken from just east of the city of Adeje, way up to the tippy top of the road (San Francisco's got nothing on these mountain roads in Tenerife. We are talking s-t-e-e-p! Yikes!) We found our way to Sendero de Barranco del Infierno and followed the trail up and down through an alternately beautiful rocky and lushy (that's for you Leyser lab) terrain. If you're ever in Tenerife and want an easy hike, this is the one for you. The trail is the most beautifully kept trail of all time. Unfortunately, it's a rather busy trail and when you get to the waterfall at the end you have to squeeze on the rocks with the rest of the tourists to eat your snacks. It's still beautiful though, and totally worth it.

Adeje in the distance.

Can you see Devin?

Devin strikes a mountaineering pose.

On our last day we decided to tackle El Tiede National Park (ETNP) and do some exploring and you know . . . maybe summit a volcano or something. We took our time on the lovely drive up into the park and were shocked to find coniferous trees in abundance. For stretches of time we pretended we were back in Colorado or Yosemite. But then the horizon would come into view and seeing the frothy edge of the island where it met the Atlantic ocean brought us back to reality. We're on a Spanish island in the middle of the Atlantic! Sweet! The landscape in ETNP is totally surreal and unlike anything either of us had ever seen before. 

Pico Viejo

After exploring some of the park by car, we decided to head over to the less crowded section of the park and try a hike up the smaller volcano named Pico Viejo (3,135 meters / 10,258 feet). This was the first hike in a long time where we decided to wear "real" hiking shoes instead of our minimalist New Balance (which have very thin rubber soles). The lava rock was crunch, sharp and a bit awkward to walk on, but luckily after a short while the trail gave way to a lovely path of tiny pebbles with the lava rocks off to the side amongst the greenery and bushes.

See the coastline in the distance?

In the picture above you can see a tiny little person on the right-hand side of the photo. That's me! I made it about 200 more feet before I decided to take a break while Devin went full-speed ahead for the summit. After climbing from sea level that morning at 9:00am, to about 10,000ft at 4:00pm I thought I'd done pretty well. But those of you who know Devin know that he had to go for it. And he made it! Below is our most favorite picture of him. The sun was really intense on the island, and even more so on top of a volcano so he's wearing my scarf as a sun shield for his head and neck. Hilariously, it looks like he's been photoshopped into a picture of El Tiede (in the background). 

Devin unknowingly captured his shadow. Pico Viejo caldera.

We made it back down Pico Viejo in no time at all. The path was so smooth and the tiny rocks so loose we ran down it in parts, skating over the rocks like surfing on water. We saw our last sunset of our vacation from the road on the drive back down to our little abode in Callao Salvaje. The next morning had us up at 3:45am to catch our 6:30am flight back to London. By 1:00 that afternoon we were both at our jobs, working away as if nothing had ever happened. Completely surreal.

Bye Bye Spain! Thanks for the sunshine!

P.S. Devin took many of the above photos. Yay for his iPhone camera. So much better than mine.
Well done babe.