Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Photo Shoot

That's right. By a professional. At Bake with Maria. I was a model. Complete with hair and make-up.

The consensus was Americans have more practice than other nationalities in smiling. This was voted on by the crew - a Dane, German, Palestinian, Mexican, Indian and Brit. I tried to explain that I also have more practice than most being a sorority girl. ADPi represent!  

Until the professional images, here's are a few of my snapshots. 
Professional equipment

Hair and makeup for the star.
Ishay shoots Maria with her breads.

Next time the blueberries will glisten (apricot glaze).

Mieke, the professional model.
That's a wrap! Chow down time for the crew.


We now have a home phone and internet! A laborious affair.

It went like this. 02 sent an email providing a date on which they would then set an appointment for installation. On that date, 02 texted the installation appointment time for the following week. It's a 5 hour window! Fortunately my schedule was open to greet the service man. Once the phone was connected, broadband then took several more hours to be activated. Why wasn't it immediate? It's a process of course.

And I have a UK bank account!     

Sadly Lloyds TSB missed out on my business. They had no options for a former customer. Even with old statements in hand, the teller's reply was, "You shouldn't have closed your account."

HSBC was happy to have me for a nominal monthly fee. It's hard to do things in this country without a UK bank account. Now I have a debit card with a chip which makes purchases smoother. Clerks and servers try to withhold their eye rolls when you say you're paying with a credit card requiring swiping. 

Since banking is all PIN based here, they've got security covered! Internet banking with HSBC came with my very own mini key pad. 

Internet banking security as a key chain

I log on to the website. On the key pad I push the green button and enter my PIN. It generates a security code which I type in online to gain access to my account. It's a different security code each time. And my key pad is specific to me and my account. I don't understand all the technology (3G, WiFi, RFID?). It's impressive though! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Yummy Mummy class

On Monday Maria and Lone hosted a baby weaning class. Lone, a baby nurse, gave the new mothers tips on introducing solid foods to their 5 - 7 month olds. I was thrilled to play and photograph the adorable babies. And I even learned a thing or two about nutrition, cooking and motherhood!

Delicious all natural fruit and vegetable purees

Zach tasting his first food!
The Mummies savor their handywork.
Freddy is ready for more but Zach's unsure.

Mummy likes that Freddy's a fan of solids!
Happy Heath!

Playtime for Emily after her butternut squash snack.

How cute is Heath?

Afternoon tea with scones, tart and pavlova

Freddy - knackered from eating his first solids.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Flowers, tea and sunshine!

On Saturday Maria's mum, Lone (pronounced "Luna"), and I had a lovely afternoon at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond. Lone was visiting from Denmark for the weekend. Maria was teaching an all day sourdough course which meant Lone and I had a mother-daughter day.

Richmond, at just over 8 miles from central London, is a 30 minute train ride away. Then a short bus ride through Richmond to Petersham Street. The Nursery is down the adjacent unmarked alley. Good thing Lone knew the way!

We wandered the shop, peered in on the diners at the Michelin star restaurant, then ate our Teahouse lunch outdoors before purchasing some plants.

Entrance to the Restaurant complete with dirt floor.
The Teahouse

Sunshine, flowers, tea and lunch!
Beautiful arrangement in the shop

Scented Geraniums' leaves really do smell like orange fizz!

Outdoor till

Wellies for sale

Even the loos have lovely flowers!

Berries & Cream
Inspired by the day, I'm starting my own English garden on my bedroom windowsill. Plant #1.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Architect's daughter

That's right, my lineage has paid off. I successfully built my own bed all by myself yesterday. The jolly John Lewis (UK department store) delivery men told me it would take two of us an hour. This IKEA graduate did it in 45 minutes, solo.  
Bedroom before
Bed built by Wynne
Cozy, isn't it? That's a "small double" size bed which is 120 cm or 47.2 inches wide.

All made up
From my bedroom window I have a lovely view overlooking the gardens (backyards).

Out my bedroom window 
As you can see our garden is a bit unkept at the moment. Maria and Hraquel (our upstairs neighbor) are on a mission to improve it with our downstairs neighbor's approval. See the garden is actually his. I will keep you updated on their mission.
Garden to the right
Garden to the left.
What's with the trampolines? Must investigate the British fascination with trampolines. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ice cream, you scream...

We all scream for ICE CREAM!

Despite the wacky weather we've been having in London, Monday night was an ice cream party. Here at Bake with Maria, that means making it yourself. Mary made rhubarb and tarragon while Maria made vanilla with chocolate chips. After 30 minutes churning in the ice cream maker, heaven! Both were scrumptious! Good thing this "lactard" brought plenty of her Lactaid pills!

I assisted with the sugar cookie cones. See the very professional white cone form in the background? Yes, that's a piece of paper. The secret is forming the cones immediately after taking them out of the oven. The cone on the left cooled prior to shaping. They were delicious none-the-less!

Mary scoops for Maria.
Mary enjoys her hard work.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Holla for Challah bread! Friday was Jewish-style bread day at Bake With Maria.

Chantelle, the Jewish baking consultant, demonstrates the challah plait for Maria. 

And another holla for Chantelle's challah rolls.

It's absolutely no fun making bagels!

Shaping the pretzels.

My pretzels.

Can't forget the egg wash.

Boiling the bagels then dipping in sesame and poppy seeds.

Holla for Challah bread, bagels and pretzels!

Getting sorted

I've been busy the last few days getting settled or "sorted" as the English say.

Although I'm closer to the homeland, Ikea is still the same. It sucks you into the maze, where you wonder for hours, loading up on cheap items, only to be surprised at check-out with the expense of it all! Instructions with cheerful stick people are the same too.

Rec Center
Excellent idea... live in the borough and pay dues for the local recreation center with a swimming pool, fitness classes, gym equipment, "soft play" for kids, squash courts, climbing wall, sauna, etc. Unfortunately, residency in the borough is not enough. You must also have a UK bank account along with 2 utility bills in your name proving your address. Yours truly does not possess any of those.... still I am a proud member of the Rec Center!

Since this is a different country with their own way of doing things, it wasn't so easy. Thanks to a lovely Membership Coordinator for offering to do something "dodgy". He loved looking at my American passport and was easily distracted by the loud infuriated American woman (not me) yelling at his colleague. When I conspiratorially explained that her obnoxious behavior was embarrassing me, he decided to do me a favor and set up my illegal membership. Thanks cranky American lady!

Clarification - That American woman was not me! I've been here before. I know that American-style customer service does not exist here. Brits "can't be bothered". The more someone yells and fusses, the calmer they remain. They'll never offer a refund and don't care about the scene being created.  To the British, you're a crazy American who will be laughed at later. 

Ah, the feeling of connection after activating my smartphone! (Actually the device is on loan from Maria.) After a confusingly simple £10 SIM card purchase, I have unlimited internet, 500 MB data limit and 300 text messages for the month courtesy of my pay-as-you-go plan! Again, no UK bank account, no monthly account option. The bizarre thing is that after almost a week of use, I still have the same £10 balance. Apparently I only get charged when I go over my data limits or make calls. Receiving calls is free. That counts towards the other person's minutes. Point for London.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bake with Maria

Welcome to Bake with Maria! Come on into the baking lab....
That's Maria sitting at the table. Upstairs is the office.

Cookbooks, supplies and merchandise.

 Maria with her fresh rye breads. She uses KitchenAid ovens and mixers.

The sink (AKA dishwashing central).

Join Maria for a class the next time you're in London!

The Norwegians are coming!

That was my first thought when I awoke this morning. I must admit I was a tad bit nervous... not to meet 9 Norwegians but to act as Maria's assistant. It had been 2 years since I'd baked with her and never for profit. No worries though, it went just fine and she'll let me help her again.  I'm an excellent dishwasher which is the main skill required when assisting in her Intro class. I even improvised when the hot water ran out by boiling water in the kettle. Come to find out the hot water switch was accidentally turned off. I blame it on a Norwegian. Lovely people though.

Only 7 Norwegians made it. 2 were sick thanks to the brilliant London weather which is cold and rainy. People are wearing winter coats. This Georgia Peach is missing the hot Spring she left!

Since Danish (Maria's native language) is very similar to Norwegian, she taught the class in that. That's right, I was the smiling American mute dishwasher who took pictures. I know you all are chuckling at the thought of me being silent for a solid 3 hours!  

The Norwegians couldn't stop laughing. I think that means they had a great time. Today's class was a team-building exercise. The group is in London on a strategy retreat for their bank. They'll each return to Norway with rolls and loafs of foccacia and soda bread, assuming they didn't eat them already.  

Who knew Norwegians bankers had such a sense of humor! A few photos of the happy baking bankers.