Tuesday, 27 April 2010

10 Things I’ve Found I Can’t Live Without Or, Be Thankful For the Little Things

Now, before I get to the list you have to know that these do not include the obvious things like my husband, family and friends (or chocolate or ice cream—too easy!). OF COURSE I couldn’t live without those, just as I couldn’t live without air or water! And when I say, “can’t live without” well, of course I could exist without most of these things but is that “living”? These are the things I enjoy; I use a lot, indulge myself in, miss terribly when I don’t have them or really have to have.

Some of these things I’ve discovered while I’ve lived here in Scotland and some I’ve always found necessary. Ben once told me he didn’t find a past post as interesting to him because it was mostly talking about food and had recipes in it (I think if was the "chicken pie" blog post). I told him that, first of all, knowing me, that shouldn’t come as a surprise, but mostly it’s because my “job” now includes doing a lot more cooking than I used to and I spend a good part of my day thinking what to have ready for Robbie for dinner when he comes home. So, sorry son, this might not be your “cup of tea” (ahh...another food reference!) but you can think up your own list!

Also, one more thing I do need to say, and repeat over to myself, is these are things I am grateful to God for giving me. I try, but I need to be more thankful for the little things that make my life good. This list was partly a product of trying to list all the things I’m grateful for and thank God for.

So...here goes, in no particular order:

1. My “Little Oatie Scrubbers”
This is what I call my granola bars (usually Nature Valley). At my time of life I can’t live without fiber! When I was working it used to be easier to eat a granola bar with my coffee rather than sitting down to a bowl of cereal—you can hold it in one hand and get ready with the other. That’s when I got hooked on them. I’m glad I can find them here too. In Scotland they are very serious about oatmeal—their “porritch” but eat it with salt which I can’t really get into. I like my oatmeal with brown sugar which I guess is a real “no-no” here. All I can say is that my life is a lot easier with my “little oatie scrubbers” working on cleaning out my insides!

2. Red, Green and Yellow Peppers
Why did I not know about these before? Well, I did know but I used to dislike green peppers so I never really opened myself to red and yellow ones. Now that I’m married to a man who will eat anything I’ve been more adventurous about my cooking. Since we don’t have Mexican restaurants readily available here (I never thought I’d LONG for Taco Bell!) I’ve been trying to replicate my favorites with very mixed results. The first time I tried fajitas from a kit, Robbie brought me home a pack with a red, yellow and green pepper each in it. I sautéed them with onion, garlic and chicken breast and it was wonderful! Now I try to find things to put them in and always try to keep some chopped in the freezer. I love the colors and the yellow pepper is essential for my chicken curry.

3. McDonald’s
When I was back in the US I was so sick of McDonalds’ I don’t think I would have crossed the street to eat there. Here it’s my restaurant of choice! I love being able to go there and everything tastes the same as it does back home. Now they do have some different menu items here (check out http://www.mcdonalds.co.uk/ for menu differences) that they don’t have in the States but as long as you stick to the basics you could close your eyes and not know you’re far, far from home.

4. Cheddar Cheese
I think I have talked about the wonderful cheese over here. I’ve always been a cheese lover in a big way and am happy with cheese in or on nearly anything. The cheddar cheese here is like nothing I’ve ever had before. It’s sort of a combination of sharp cheddar without the bite and with a creaminess to finish. The good stuff just crumbles and you don’t really have to shred it. It can be difficult to get some of it to melt when you cook with it (and sometimes I do miss American cheese and Velveeta!) but I’ve been learning to make a pretty decent cheese sauce. What we in the US would pay top dollar for as specialty, gourmet cheese is just the plain old, store-brand cheap stuff here. Lovin’ that!

5. Stock Cubes
I know I’ve talked about these before and it’s another thing I don’t know how I didn’t know about. I know they have a Knorr brand of these in the US and might even have OXO by now. I don’t know if I’ll be able to cook without these ever again. I really can’t get cans of chicken broth here like you can over there so if I want chicken flavor I have to use the chicken OXO cubes crumbled and dissolved in water. I use them in the water I cook rice in rather than salt.I love to add the pork cubes to a can of green beans because bacon here doesn’t give as much taste. And anything I make with hamburger has to have additional beef flavor with the beef cubes. It really adds a deep flavor to spaghetti sauce or chili which I have to make by scratch now.

6. Onions and Garlic
I go through a lot of onions and garlic which surprises me because I don’t remember ever cooking with them as much as I have here. But who can go without using one of these in cooking? Like peppers I use these in a LOT of dishes—more than I ever used to. Just wish we could get Vidalia onions or the like here.

7. Electric Kettles
I know I’ve talked about the wonders of really fast hot water before. I never thought I’d want to waste money on something that did the same thing as a pan of water on the stove but I really don’t think, now that I’ve been spoiled with the quickness of the electric kettle, I’d have the patience any more to wait for that pot, watched or not, to boil!

8. The Internet, especially Facebook, Twitter & YouTube
You’re reading this on the internet and I can find out about what each one of you are doing on the internet. That’s just the beginning of the way I use it and really can’t imagine life anymore without it. I know I’m not alone in this! There have been times we’ve been without service and the difference is amazing. You feel so out of touch, so uninformed, so left out! It’s amazing how many times on the TV they tell you to go to a web site for further information. Many business, or making appointments can only be done on the internet—or at least it’s a LOT easier. Being able to tell people what I’m doing and hearing from others back home is essential and made my move possible. Sometimes I feel like it’s a one-way street, so keep on writing to me—please! I can’t imagine how lonely I’d be otherwise here, so far away.

9. Books, Books & More Books!
Again, any of you who have known me for any amount of time won’t be surprised by this one either. Ever since before I remember learning to read I’ve been a “bookworm”. I don’t really ever remember not being able to read; in fact one of my earliest memories is reading the label on the cleanser can in the bathtub while taking a bath and wondering what “Comet” meant. There are very few occasions that I’m without a book in my hand or in my purse or somewhere around me. Next to the kitchen, I think a library is essential to a home! My idea of heaven is lots of books and lots of good food! So this one, almost like friends, family, air and water is a given for me but I wanted to include it because for the first time in my life I’m living somewhere that the libraries are extremely inadequate! The tiny library here in Fauldhouse wouldn’t even pass muster in an elementary school back home. I’ve always been used to finding pretty much anything I wanted to read at the library and then, if I liked the book or the author or the series, I’d then spend the money on buying a book. I do love to buy books and own them but haven’t always been able to afford them so have always loved going to the library. Here, I don’t have that option and with our budget I haven’t been able to buy a book for nearly a year now. It’s a VERY good thing that I have been able to accumulate a large library of my own over the years so I’m ok—for now...

10. Good Coffee
Good coffee is the one luxury I’ve always allowed myself. I definitely can’t live without it. At first, when I moved here it was difficult to find and it took me a while to even find a filter-type coffeemaker. It seems that they were all either the expensive Italian espresso machines or the French press type. They mostly drink instant coffee here which I think is an abomination! Thankfully, Starbuck’s paved the way for coffee drinks and they’ve become more popular here but the good ground coffee is hard to find in the stores. It’s funny (or rather frustrating) to walk down the aisle and 80% of it is tea, 18% is instant coffees and the remaining 2% of the shelf is ground coffee—usually the Maxwell House or Folger’s variety. For a while I had to order my favorites online and that was fine because it was the same price and if you ordered enough you got free shipping. Now we’ve found that Asda has a really good line of coffees for a good price so we usually make a trip there after my hospital visits. I love my coffee in the morning and my lovely husband has spoiled me by bringing me up a cup every morning. How good is that?!

Well, that's the list of the first 10 things...I'll try to get the next 10 together soon.

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