Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's Been a While...

Well, it's been a while since I updated this space. Not sure why really. Though, I suppose it's to do with the fact that I journal pretty much every day on RvB, so it seems a bit pointless blogging the same crapola.

What's been happening? Well, we all travelled back to the UK in August to get the UK house sorted out, having bought and moved into one here. It's funny, but it hurt taking the last things out of the house and letting my brother at it with a paintbrush. Especially the nursery. I cried. Silly sod that I am. It was the border we had in the nursery. I originally saw it when I was living in London, way before I got pregnant, way before we even got married. I saw this glorious sofa covered in a fabric with under the sea scenes on it. The sofa was wildly out of our price range and not a sensible buy, but I loved the design so much that when I finally fell pregnant, I had to have that material and the border that went with it. And now it is no more... And, sadly, the Designers Guild don't make that design any more.

The house is still untenanted as my brother still hasn't fixed everything in the house. This is because my grandad died at the end of September. 93 was a good innings, though it was pretty unexpected. Everyone was shocked and I travelled back to the UK for the funeral on my own, the first time I have ever been on a plane on my own. It was pretty scary, but not too bad considering.

The other thing that's happened is that I'm pregnant with number three. It was planned but still a shock! Especially as I fell immediately...again! Since falling pregnant, I've been reading a lot about infertility, especially on 'A little pregnant'. It's odd but, although I cannot imagine what it's like to be infertile, I can empathise. Having fallen immediately each time, four times, I can't imagine 'trying', not being able to and finally resorting to IVF and then adoption. But I feel awful for those who can't. It's almost as if I wish I could give a bit of my fertility to those who have none. OK, that was probably too much information, but there you go.

So, I'm happily tootling along in this pregnancy, a little concerned that they don't use nitrous oxide during birth over here, where 'gas and air' is a pretty ubiquitous in labour pain killer in the UK, but other than that, I'm pretty OK. Then I get to having that lovely test they call the 1 hour glucose tolerance test. We don't screen for gestational diabetes through blood test in the UK. We urine test every antenatal visit but, unless you've a blood glucose of over 180 (about 10 in the UK), the urine test won't show you as diabetic. I fail the 1 hour so am sent for the three hour...which I also fail. So, now I'm on a diabetic diet, eating 6 small meals a day and no chocolate...

They want me to go on insulin as they don't think my blood sugar is very well controlled. But my baby is still small for gestational age i.e. it doesn't show any signs of being a diabetic baby. Also, it's really only my fasting blood sugar and occasionally my breakfast blood sugar that's a concern. My blood pressure is pretty low so I don't show any signs of pre-eclampsia, something that usually goes hand in hand with gestational diabetes. I don't know. I'm going to see the endocrinologist on Thursday to ask all the questions and, hopefully, get told the right answers.

So that's my life at the moment.

I think we can safely say this goes under 'Witterings'...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


OK. So what's the big deal about lasagne? It's a perfectly ordinary Italian dish made with pasta, tomato sauce and cheese. Nothing odd there, you might think. But you'd be wrong. Very wrong.

When we first came to the US, I wasn't much into cooking lots but when my parents came to stay 3 months after we got here, I thought it would be nice and easy if I made lasagne for one of the meals. So we trotted off to the supermarket and lo, we found the pasta aisle. In the pasta aisle was something labelled 'lasagna'. Now, knowing the American penchant for spelling things differently from the rest of the world (even though it's our language, dagnammit!) I shrugged and purchased the said item.

On arrival at my abode I discovered you have to boil the stuff before you can layer it! I looked at my mum. She shrugged and told me that 25 years ago in the UK you had to boil your lasagne, but soon after that everyone realised that was disgusting and the Italians let us have proper lasagne sheets that you don't have to cook before you layer. So, we did what it said on the packet. And it was disgusting.

Soon after, I discovered that Bariila do no-cook lasagne sheets (and it's spelt correctly that way too) so I was a pretty happy bunny.

However, my experience with American lasagna didn't end there. No, siree.

My seven year old likes my lasagne. A lot. So the first italian restaurant we go to that's serving child portions of lasagna, she orders it. When it arrives I suspect that she's not going to eat it. It looks significantly different from any lasagne I've ever seen. Firstly, it's made of the 'boil it before' lasagna. Secondly, it seems to have a layer of ricotta cheese on the top of it almost two inches thick. And I was right.

So what's so different about a European Lasagne and an American Lasagna?

You have to see the difference to realise the difference.

As you can see, the American one ison the left and the European one is on the right.

So, in a bid to allow my American friends to be able to eat like a European (and remember, before you lay into me, this is what lasagne looks like in Italy...where it comes from), I am going to publish my first Blog recipe.

Jo's Lasagne Recipe (serves 6)

Red Sauce
1 pack of soy mince like Lightlife Smart Ground Original or 1lb of lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
8 medium fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 lb 12oz tin of crushed or chopped plum tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried basil
black pepper
garllic salt (ordinary salt will do)
olive oil

White sauce
2 ozs butter, salted
6-8 ozs extra sharp cheddar, grated
30 fl ozs milk
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp dried English mustard powder or 1 tsp of Dijon mustard (optional)

1 pkt of no-cook lasagne sheets

In a large saucepan, heat a little olive oil and gently fry the onion, carrot, mushrooms and garlic together until the onions go transluscent (see though). Add the meat or soy and season with basil, pepper and garlic salt. Gently fry until the meat is brown or the soy has crumbled. Add the tin of tomatoes and refill the tin with water and add that too. Simmer the sauce until the liquid has reduced by about half.

While it is simmering prepare the white sauce. Melt the butter and remove from the heat. Add the mustard and cornstarch to make a paste. Slowly add the milk, stirring continously and return to the heat. Stir continuously and bring to the boil on a medium heat, so it doesn't burn. Once it's thickened add the cheese and taste for cheesiness. Add more if it needs it.

Preheat the oven to 375F (180C). Into a glass dish place a layer of no-cook lasagne sheets, taking care not to overlap them. Add a layer of red sauce (about 1/2). Place another layer of lasagne sheets, again no over laps, then another of red sauce. Finally, add the last layer of lasagne and then pour the white cheese sauce over the top. Bake in the oven with a foil cover for about 45 minutes, then cook for the last 15 minutes without the cover.

Enjoy with a nice salad and a glass of Barolo!

Apologies to those who have read this rant before: it disappeared in the great Gus disaster of 2005...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Cultural Differences...

There are many cultural differences between the UK and the US. For two countries that share a language some of them can be glaring and awkward, especially for this idiot Brit.

It's funny, but it isn't just me who is wrong in assuming that we should be able to communicate effectively. I frequently make my neighbours laugh or look at me quizzically when I use a word they aren't familiar with or use it in a way that they have never used it before. I suppose the typical example is the word "Brilliant". We, the Brits, use this word to mean a variety of things, ranging from something bright to "That particular thing is most excellent". We can also use it ironically, ie "That particular thing is actually most heinous, but I'll make the best of it by saying 'Brilliant'". The average American (whom I've never met, I'm just using them as an example) uses brilliant for a bright thing, be that a light or a person. And that's it.

Pushchair is another blank looker. Or pram... Americans have one word for it: stroller. For a Brit, a stroller is one of those umbrella folding pushchairs you have for going round in town. Pushchair encompasses all the types of rolling kid carrier. A pram is a baby carrier, for babies between 0 and 6 months; it's short for perambulator. Very Nanny like...

I think that's what it comes down to, we just have more words for everything. Especially swear words. There's a reason that the average Brit (again, never met them, not sure I'd like to) doesn't use the F word as an adjective, verb and noun. We have so many others that it would be a waste just to use one. It can be rather jarring to hear one on prime time TV over here unbleeped because an American audience has no idea what it means. For example, the word wanker. Sorry for the uncouthness, but if they can use this word on the Simpsons at 6:30pm on a school night, I think I can get away with it here.

I had explain to my neighbour the word 'knackered' yesterday. It's a strange word. To my grandparents' generation, this word was the height of uncouthness. It refers to the act of knackering a horse, ie taking it to the slaughterhouse for turning into glue. However, its original connotation is for the male genitalia ie the testicles, hence the uncouthness. I suppose the horse was deemed 'screwed' if it went to the slaughterhouse, hence being knackered. My generation use it as a verb to describe being very tired, usually due to some physical exertion, or if something is particularly broken or run down. Go figure.

I never meant to let my first post get to be a general rant about verbiage, but I suppose it's on my mind, so I might as well splurge it all on the page.