Chai Latte Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

chai-latte-cupcakes-graphic

 

Ingredients (12 cupcakes):

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 stick (or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

2/3 cup chai latte instant powder

2 eggs

3 tbsp half-and-half (or milk)

1 tbsp vanilla extract

chai-latte-cupcakes-ingredients

 

Ingredients White Chocolate Buttercream frosting:

1 stick (or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature

2 cup confectioner’s (icing) sugar

2-5 tbsp half-and-half (or whipping cream)

6 oz white chocolate, melted and cooled

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F degrees

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking soda and chai latte instant powder

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar and sour cream until light and fluffy

chai-latte-cupcakes-recipe

Add the eggs to the electric mixer one at a time until well combined

Add the half-and-half and vanilla extract and mix together using a spoon

Using the electric mixer, add the flour mixture from earlier and combine it well

Line a cupcake tin with cases and fill each 3/4 full

Place in oven on middle shelf and bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the centre of a cupcake

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove each cupcake to a wire rack and allow to cool completely

chai-latte-cupcakes-with-white-chocolate-buttercream-frosting

Make the white chocolate buttercream frosting by beating together, using an electric mixer, the butter and confectioner’s (icing) sugar on low speed until light and fluffy

Add the melted and cooled white chocolate and 2 tbsp of the half-and-half and beat on high for 5 mins (you can add another tbsp or two of half-and-half if the consistency is not right)

Frost the completely cooled cupcakes and then serve!

chai-latte-cupcakes-with-white-chocolate-buttercream-frosting-recipe

 

What do you think? If you have a go at this recipe, let me know how it turns out!

America and Its Political Movement: What’s Next?

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Trump is now President Elect of the United States of America … and this has revealed, maybe somewhat unexpectedly, that this country is more divided than people gave credence to.

As it always has, and always will be, people will rally together and focus on building something better than before because that is human nature and very much a part of the American psyche … but will it be built under the guidance and support of the most powerful man in modern day world politics? I ask this question, not to create more division, but as a listening ear to what Donald Trump himself ran his campaign on … which was not a unity of party, country or kin but a race tempered with barriers and fears and bigotry.

Trump sounded very presidential and unifying when giving his victory speech after Hillary Clinton had conceded, but that was because he had won. There was nothing more to attack or push back against  … so the Trump that was heard during rallies, media bus recordings, and on the debate stage did not need to be defending his position with his trademark vitriol. He had won. He spoke as a man who had succeeded.

It was comforting that he was gracious in victory, which is something I hope to see carried forward as leader of the free world – whether it happens, only time will show – but I for one will be more courageous in standing up for what I believe in. I will be more proactive in holding those people who work for this country to their word. If this election has taught us anything, it is that not holding government accountable and not challenging the big business, big money status quo no longer serves the people. Change has been called for, change has been heard, and change is what we got … but has the thirst for the self-serving political elite to be toppled paved the way for something worse? The very fact that Trump ran on anger, fear, racism, sexism and aggressive bullying – and still won – has made me wonder what this country really stands for.

I am not a U.S. citizen so you may not care for my opinion and you may wonder why I even express one … well, as an immigrant and a newcomer to this country I may offer fresh eyes to what is, what was, and what has been – hopefully all expressed with clarity, intelligence and respect.

As much as I cannot predict the future, this country is my home and will be for the rest of my life, so I am invested in its future – for everyone.

This result has been a shock and disappointment to many, it has also been, in equal measure, a victory and success to many. In the light of the call for political movement to shape this country anew, it is now up to you and me to make sure that Donald Trump works for the betterment of all who reside here. If he falls short on his promises to unite and be a president for everyone then we must hold him accountable, because it is not just about Donald J. Trump, it is about a political movement for change, but I fear all it has done is create justification for racism, anger and the forced following of one set of religious or moral views. I fear that there will be restrictions on freedoms, rights and personal choices and an inequality of how those rights, freedoms and persoanl choices will be protected (if, for example, things are left to state-by-state governance).

Change was needed but it remains to be seen what that change will look like  … and the world is watching.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear your perspective … so please leave a comment!

4 Things I Learned About America During the 2016 Election Campaign

4-things-i-learned-about-america-during-the-2016-election-campaign

This is my first experience of a U.S. presidential election campaign, and with just 10 days to go, I have learned a lot about America.

1. The election process is far too long …

The stand out announcement of running for president came from Donald Trump in Trump Tower, NYC, and that was on June 16th 2015.

In the UK, I think the whole process lasts 3 months, and even that eventually gets a bit too much to hear about for that length of time, but here we are … approaching 17 months later of campaigning, mudslinging and general political shenanigans and it is still going on.

The only thing that has made this whole process digestable has been the comedy from the likes of Saturday Night Live with their parodies of the key political figures and the two party nominee debates.

 

2. There is a genuine push and demand for political change …

The support Bernie Sanders got, even though he did not win the Democratic nomination, showed that there is a significant portion of the population who want real political reconstruction. His stance on justice reform, getting Wall Street out of Congress, women’s rights, indigenous rights, climate change, and wanting a fairer tax system that does not only benefit the super rich, to name a few reasons, pointed to a general desire for a shake up of how things have been traditionally done. This too is reflected in the popularity of Donald Trump, and the mistrust of Hilary Clinton because one reflects being outside of the control of the political elite and one is an example of it.

While differences in opinions about gun rights, healthcare, taxes, immigration and abortion, for example, may have revealed deep divides in what people believe in, it has also shown a strong unity in creating a change.

clinton-trump-voter-guide-card

 

3. Freedom, as a concept and actuality, is something many struggle with …

From freedom of speech, to the freedom to be who you are, freedom to practise a religion without fear of reprimand or reproach, freedom to choose what happens with your body etc … are all types of freedom that have encountered vocalisations and defamation against those who have exercised those rights. While expressing revulsion at something, or the moral belief that something is wrong are also protected, the basic understanding that you cannot impose your own personal beliefs on someone feels like it sometimes gets a bit lost.

Very strong personal beliefs that inform your own life should never get in the way of someone else’s freedom to do what you yourself have just done, which is to make a choice for yourself.

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4. Politics can get people engaged …

Despite the overly long time the presidential campaign runs, there does seem to be an encouraging attentiveness to policies and dialogue around where this country should progress.

I had assumed that the length of this race would turn people off and create voter apathy, but that does not seem to be the case at this point (voter turn out on November 8th will reveal whether or not it did). I think, this time around, it has a lot to do with who is running. Trump and Clinton both elicit strong reactions and seem to be liked and disliked in equal measure, making this an extremely interesting, exciting and close election process.

What are your thoughts about this presidential election campaign? Any predictions on who will win?

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

chocolate-fudge-cupcakes-with-salted-caramel-frosting-graphic

Ingredients (12 cupcakes):

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

1 stick or ½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

¾ cup baker’s sugar (caster sugar)

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup and 2 tbsp sour cream

½ cup hot fudge topping/sauce (I used Smucker’s Simple Delight Hot Fudge Topping)

2 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla extract

Ingredients (frosting):

1 stick or ½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

⅓ cup salted caramel topping/sauce (I used Smucker’s Simple Delight Slated Caramel Topping)

1½-2 cup confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar)

Directions:

Make the frosting first by beating together the butter and salted caramel topping/sauce using an electiric mixer, then adding the confectioner’s suger ½ cup at a time and mixing well (stop after 1½ cups to see if frosting is stiff enough to pipe – if not add the last ½ cup of confectioner’s sugar and mix a little at a time until you are happy with the consistency) – store in the fridge until you frost the cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350°F degrees

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt and baking soda

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, baker’s sugar (caster sugar), brown sugar, sour cream and chocolate fudge topping/sauce

Add the eggs to the electric mixer one at a time until well combined

Add the vanilla extract and mix together using a spoon

Using the electric mixer, add the flour mixture from earlier, until well combined

Line a cupcake tin with cases and fill each one no more than ¾ full

Place in oven on middle shelf and bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the centre of a cupcake

Frost the completely cooled cupcakes using a piping bag, or your own technique, and then serve!

chocolate-fudge-cupcakes-with-salted-caramel-frosting-2

What do you think? If you have a go at this recipe, let me know how it turns out!

Clinton vs. Trump: The First Presidential Debate

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The first presidential debate between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump is today (happening  9pm – 10:30pm ET) and I am really looking forward to it. Whatever your political leanings, you cannot deny that this has been a remarkable campaign thus far, with Trump uttering extraordinary comment after extraordinary comment and Clinton seemingly adding to the list of things she has been less than truthful about.

The two very different candidates should make for an interesting initial presidential debate, not just because it is my first as a resident here, but because of the wildly different people pitching for your votes.

 

I am most definitely not a Trump fan, but there is no doubt in my mind that his brand of bullish, narcissistic political standings have made this campaign one to watch. From an expat perspective, I have learned the most about the political workings of this country and garnered a better understanding of what its people think and feel about issues from the reactions, retaliations and punditry that often followed a Trump musing. This too goes for Clinton, whom I am also not a fan of, with the reactions, retaliations and punditry around her campaign. What has become apparent to me is the level, and scope to which people feel marginalised with how the politics of this country has been carried out up until now. There seems to be a definite call for things not to be done the way they have always been done – political change is a shout that has got ever louder.

Marginalisation, or a thirst for political change, seems to be a big driver for voters, and it leaves me wondering what this could mean for the country. Will it mean Trump is a shoe in as he represents the opposite of what the American people have had so far? Will it mean Clinton is going to have to convince people that she is for that change too? The first presidential debate of Clinton vs. Trump may be the stone by which the political climate will be set …

What are your pre-debate predictions for how things will go? If you are reading this article post-debate, how do you think it went and what do you think this means for America?

Protect the Sacred: Standing Rock Tribe

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The people of  the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota have had something to say for a while now against Dakota Access, the major oil company that is trying to run a pipeline near their home that could potentially contaminate their communities major water supply, and destroy culturally significant areas or artefacts. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are trying to protect their land, water, sovereign rights, history and ancestors. They have something they want you to hear, they have something they want you to see.

The #NoDAPL movement (No Dakota Access Pipeline) goes beyond whether you think something like this should be constructed or not, and here is why …

Selective Media Attention

There has been a disturbing and distinct lack of major tv news coverage here – although it has somewhat picked up momentum online with sites like Vox and Democracy Now covering it.

I have discussed this with a few people, and theories range from oil companies owning segments of the media and therefore controlling the narrative (or lack of it) to favour their needs, to the theory that the story does not threaten the everyday social law and order of enough Americans to warrant attention. A clear message to the indigenous populations of this country, if that theory is true, that their issues and way of life just do not matter.

Whatever the reason, and whatever you believe to be the reason, the very fact it is not being widely reported on can only hinder the movement and its success in its goals – which of course may well be the point … and if that were true, it frankly really pisses me off. ‘The largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years …” as reported by the BBC on September 2nd as part of their look into life in the protector camps is enough of a story to be a story. If it is a major event, it is a major event – so U.S. news should be reporting on it!  Any gathering that is the biggest in 100 years sounds like something this country should know about.

Why I Stand With Standing Rock

The Dakota Access pipeline is set to be constructed though/near a major water supply to the Standing Rock Reservation. If it leaked it would essentially poison an entire population.

It may never leak and all be good – but when did even risking that become an option? Oil companies may say it is safer than x, y and z … but even a possibility of it happening is enough to stand up and say no.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have stated that the government-to-government consultation that is supposed to happened from start to finish with any kind of proposals like this did not happen. Tribal sovereignty is meant to ensure that the Native populations are at the decision making process on something that effects their land at every stage – especially if there are areas or artefacts of great cultural, historical or spiritual significance – which have been found (and some destroyed by the construction company already). To not honour that is not following federal law.

Not Just An Environmental Issue

The indigenous peoples of this country are having their lands destroyed, taken away or compromised, treaties and sovereign rights are not being honoured or respected, their way of life and connection to water, land and their ancestors is being challenged in the most grotesque manner possible – even the use of attack dogs. This is going on now, yet sounds like something that happened hundreds of years ago – and the very fact I am writing about it shows that not enough has changed since those times.

Maybe with the social media #NoDAPL movement it can create enough of a challenge to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline from happening and create a wider conversation / actual push forward to serious change that is led / narrated by the nations and peoples who are involved.

So listen up, spread the word and support in any way that you can.

Follow Rezpect Our Water on Facebook and sign their petition or click on the various links thoroughout this aticle to find out more.

Expat Life Lately | Unusual Taste

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Expat Life Lately has been about keeping as cool as possible again (while wearing my new glasses) because we have had more days where the heat index temerpatures have reached over 100° … so thought it ideal to try the throwback drink from the 1990’s, Crystal Pepsi. There has also been a new flavour of Oreo come out, Swedish Fish Oreo, which I have yet to get around to trying. I like Swedish Fish (jelly sweet/candy), I like Oreo, but I am not sure about the mixture of the two. Thoughts?

If you have ever had any questions about moving abroad – how to do it, what is the best way to ship your belongings, or any other thoughts about the process, please use the question form at the end of this post to submit your query, as I will be doing a Q&A post about this soon. Thanks!

expat life lately swedish fish oreos and crystal pepsi

What have you been up to lately?

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American Life, British Accent: An Expat Perspective on the 2016 National Conventions

a british perspective on the usa national conventions 2016 graphic

It probably came as no surprise that Donald Trump was named the official Republican Party nominee for president of the United States in the 2016 national election, and that Hilary Clinton was the Democratic Party nominee … What was a surprise (to me), or I should say, a completely new first experience, was the build up to the nominations. I have not been in America long enough to have seen this process happen, so watching the RNC and DNC live on television was an eye opener.

I did not catch all of the speeches and events, but I did watch the main speakers / speeches with the political punditry that followed, on each of the 4 days of both conventions – and both conventions had a distinctly different feel. I will not pretend I do not lean somewhat more towards the Democratic party, but as a Brit, this was something I aimed to watch with an open mind.

donal trump and hilary clinton via bbc

 

There was a distinct difference between the RNC and the DNC – one rather obvious one was the lack of ethnic and age diversity at the Republican National Convention, however, as I was only watching from my armchair and could only judge it based on the periodic shots of the audience as shown via my television, that perception could well be skewed. What I saw at the Democratic National Convention was a real mix of people in every audience shot, and it also felt less angry, derisive and divisive than the RNC.

As a fresh pair of eyes and ears to life in America and these national conventions, I was left feeling, after watching Trump’s RNC speech, like this country is a place filled with fear and anger and that it should look to separate itself from the rest of the world. After Michelle Obama’s speech at the DNC (rather than Hilary’s) I was left feeling like this country is a place of hard won progress and hope, shattering ceilings and creating a bit of a revolution (mainly at the hands of Bernie Sanders’ campaign and the youth that got on board with his political ideals).

As a person making a new life here in the U.S., I was left feeling that the America I want to be a part of is an America that looks to the future. An America that aims for progress, hope, fair treatment, opportunities, and betterment of all its people. The Republican Party, at this point in time, simply does not reflect that (for me personally). All the talk about making America great again, or going back to the good old days comes across as regressive and nostalgic, in the worst possible kind of way, because nostalgia can sometimes lead one to gloss over, or conveniently forget the realities of a place or time … and I suspect that that is what is happening within the Trump campaign.

trump vs. clinton aug 1st poll results

What was encouraging is that people from both sides seem to be very invested and involved, and it felt like the population had been politically mobilised – which was really great to see / feel. People have been able to share their views and concerns for the future, and there seems to have been a increasingly genuine discussion around where America should be heading. It was also encouraging to see the rather murky and questionable voting restrictions stuck down by federal judges in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Kansas and Texas.

The race seems, at the time of writing this, to be very close between Trump and Clinton – and whatever your political leanings are, it is good to have a platform to raise your concerns and hopes for the future of this country, so I look forward to seeing what actually happens over the coming months, and I very much look forward to watching the debates between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.

What did you think of the RNC and DNC? What are your predictions for the outcome of the 2016 national election?

Life Lately | Summer in Ohio

life through a lensLife Lately has been hot – very hot. My area of Ohio has cooled off at the moment, but we had a stretch of 90s+ temperatures, which gave us quite a few days where the heat index hit over 100° (because of the humidity).

For this British redhead, that was weather to order the largest pizza I have ever seen (no oven required) try some vegetarian sushi, sample a new chocolate bar, and marvel at the strange food things I find in the supermarket (pigs feet, yo – not mine, although I did compare my trotter to the American’s enormous work boot). Everything really does go large in the U.S. … weather, food and feet!

What have you been up to lately?

everyday life in america instagram 1

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British vs. American Life

I often get asked many questions about Britain, Britishisms or my thoughts on America (the latest is that I will lose my accent, what I / the British think of the U.S. election process, and what is Brexit) I thought I would share a little collection of my favourite videos about British / American life – a little something for the weekend to tickle your English fondant fancies or excite your American Twinkies …

Do you have some quirky things that you noticed when staying or living in Britain or America? What would you find difficult to explain to a first time visitor?