A Slice of Americana: Root Beer

Welcome to my food review blog series A Slice of Americana, where I get to try different iconic American foods!

I will be tasting most things for the first time, and will give an honest opinion of all that I consume – it is important to note that I am not receiving any payment or endorsements of any kind.

With that said, on with my review of . . . Root Beer

root beer graphic

The Information

Root beer is a carbonated drink traditionally made from the root/bark of either the sarsaparilla or sassafras tree – most available products these days use an artificial substitute – which contributes to the distinctive flavour.

It can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic (the variety that I tried was non-alcoholic) and is made commercially in every  state in the U.S. – reflecting the fact that it is almost exclusively a North American beverage.

root beer collage
The Taste Test

This drink is where the difference between American and European tastes becomes very clear – to me it tasted overpoweringly of mouthwash and/or a muscle rub cream.

I have spoken to a few people about it to gauge a range of thoughts, and interestingly enough, all the Europeans spoken to agreed that it tasted of toothpaste/mouthwash whilst the Americans did not detect the dental care product overtones the rest of us picked up on.

root beer 5

The Verdict

Root beer is thirst quenching and sweet, and I can see how, on a hot day, it would be a nice refreshing treat, but  I feel like I should gargle with it instead of drink it. Not for me!

Have you tried root beer? Do you get the mouthwash/toothpaste taste?

What would you like to see me try next?

a slice of americana

FAQ About Becoming an Expat

expat faq graphic

I get many queries about what it is like to move to America, so I thought I would dedicate a post to some of the frequently asked questions I receive.

What exactly is an expat?

I get asked this quite a few times a month, and I will do my best to clarify – as I have seen some very angry responses to the term being defined incorrectly on other sites – I will do my best.

An expat, or expatriate, is someone who lives outside of their home/native country. This, in its strictest sense of the word, refers to someone living temporarily in their host country (usually for work reasons etc) BUT it has evolved over time, as words often do, to encompass a new meaning that also covers people who have permanently moved abroad – also referred to as immigrants.

How do I get to move to America?

This is a hard one to answer succinctly, as it depends on so many individual factors, but my quick answer would be by obtaining a visa to do so.

If you want to move to America, there are different options (work, study, permanent residency etc) so which one is right for you depends on your circumstances and what you are looking for.

If it is a permanent move you are looking for,  you will need an immigrant visa, which also has many variants – if you want further information, visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website. This is where the process of moving to America begins.

How long will it take for my visa to be approved?

I get asked this very often, and the answer also depends on your individual circumstances.

Generally, when referring to an immigrant visa, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services site (USCIS) will let you know the average processing time for your case (when I did mine it stated 5 months, but took 7 months for my initial approval). Once initial approval is given by the USCIS, it is referred on to the National Visa Centre (NVC) who have some further steps that can take another few months.

The timings I mentioned above refer to a process that does not encounter any delays – which almost always happen at some stage – I encountered many, many delays which stretched the whole process out interminably.

Got any other questions?

These are just some of the FAQ I get, so I will look into doing another post like this soon to answer some more of the queries I get in my inbox. If you have any other questions you want me to answer, feel free to contact me.

If you have been through the whole expatriate/immigration experience, what do you commonly get asked? Feel free to share it in a comment for anyone who is looking into making a move abroad.

My American Kitchen: Victoria Sponge Cake

victoria sponge graphic

Today I am sharing a family recipe that has been handed down to me by my mother – she has been making this cake for over 50 years and is an expert at it. I grew up eating this cake, and it has the type of memories attached to it that can transport you right back to a person, place or time in one single bite.

I can make this Victoria sponge cake quite well, but it does not really compare with my Mum’s … I bow down to her in all her cake making abilities, but thought I would share it so that you can give it a try and taste the happiness and love too!

Part of the inspiration for this generational/family post came from Patience Brewster (an artist and designer of handmade and handcrafted unique gifts and ornaments – they shared their family owned company and philosophy which got me thinking about those family traditions that get passed down, one of those often being food. So, while I share my Mum’s recipe, do take a look at the Patience Brewster unique gift page, I personally am so drawn to the beautiful stationery. Enjoy!

victoria sponge 1

All ingredients weighed out and ready to go – remember you need to weigh the eggs first!

 

Ingredients:

large eggs (2 if using 6 inch tins or 3 for 8 inch tins)

soft margerine – same weight as the eggs

self-raising flour, sifted – same weight as the eggs

caster sugar – same weight as the eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp baking soda

jam for filling

icing/confectioner sugar for dusting

x2 round cake tins (either 6in or 8in)

the sugar, margarine & vanilla essence

The sugar, margarine & vanilla essence creamed together until fluffy

Directions:

Heat oven to 325 F

Weigh the eggs

Grease and flour, or grease and line the bottom of the tins with baking parchment

Weigh out the sugar, margarine and flour to the same weight as the eggs

Flour and baking powder sifted - egg & 1 tbsp of flour being added to creamed sugar misture

Adding 1 egg & 1 tbsp of flour at a time to the creamed sugar mixture

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside

In another bowl, using a electric whisk/mixer, cream together the sugar, margarine and vanilla essence until fluffy

Add one egg at a time with one tablespoon of the flour to the electirc mixer and combine – keep doing this for each egg

Add the rest of the flour but do not use the electirc mixer – instead fold it in very gently until it is all mixed in

Flour has been folded into the mixture and divided between two tins

Flour has been folded into the mixture and divided between two tins

Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and level the top

Place in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until firm to the touch

Remove from oven and let cool in the tins for a few minutes, then turn out on to a cooling rack (you may need to ease round the edges of the cake to get them out)

Leave to cool – you can cover with a tea towel to keep the cakes moist – then cover one cake with jam (do not be shy about how much you use) then sandwich the other cake on top

Dust with icing sugar and then devour!

Cooling from the oven - on the rack - being jammed!

Cooling from the oven – – on the rack – – being jammed!

A taste of home

A taste of home

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

Throwback Thursday: Family Resemblance

The first picture is of my grandfather as a child and his mother, which was taken in about 1924.

The second picture is of me at around the same age as my grandfather from his photo (so around 1981) and I think the family resemblance is striking – even down to the lip bite! I never met my grandfather, and he remained a bit of a mystery with regards to photographs of him as the family always assumed there were none. When I first saw this photograph, I was a little stunned!

What do you think? Is there a resemblance?

My great-grandmother Jessie and grandfather Jabez

My great-grandmother Jessie and grandfather Jabez

Me and my sister

Me and my sister

A strong family resemblance

A strong family resemblance

Business & Finance Opportunities in China via Gi2C

I have had the opportunity to look through Get Into China (or Gi2C for short) and its site which details how you can go about getting an internship in China through their numerous programs.

If you are interested, you can read my post about it here or visit the site to have a look through the available internships in China via Gi2C – there is a drop down menu with selections like accounting, graphic design, journalism and travel/tourism, and many more …

Gi2C internship and business and finance leadership program

Gi2C internship, business and finance leadership program

One of the things I think is a huge bonus about the Gi2C group is that there are Mandarin Chinese language lessons for both internships in Beijing and Shanghai that are delivered by local tutors, and the Gi2C Mandarin Chinese language program helps you with the whole process. The programs and study/courses available have several levels and can bring you up to speed, and help you within a business setting or just for your own personal needs.

If you are within the business/financial sector and are looking to China as a potential resource for making international links – and who would not want to as Gi2C mentions that China’s economic growth has made it a hot job market – then making those connections can be difficult. This is where Get Into China comes in, as it has established those connections and can provide study/internships and assistance when needed.

Studying in Beijing & Shanghai via Gi2C study programs

Studying in Beijing & Shanghai via Gi2C study programs

To hear it from people who have already been there, check out the Gi2C internship channel on YouTube (one video from it is included below). There is a wealth of information you need, but knowing there are people who have gone through it all, or who are just a click away to help, is invaluable if you are looking to make international links or find work experience in China.

All information is broken down really easily on the site and includes a clear list of what the Gi2C intern programs involve (and a list of what is not included – like visa fees, travel insurance etc). You get a clear idea of what you will get assistance with (I like that they list things like transportation, some visa assistance, orientation and networking events – and many other items) so you can make the most of your time in China. If you are looking to make international business links, you want to hit the ground running!

If this sounds like a site or international internship/study/business opportunity you could use, be sure to head on over to gi2c.org to check it out!

Throwback Thursday: 1995

This is a picture of me and the man I had a huge crush on, Tony Underwood! He was in the English rugby union team and I loved him. I spent many moments daydreaming about meeting him with my friends (one of whom had a super crush on his brother, Rory) and never in million years would I have thought I would get to meet him – and in the unexpected way I did!

I was 16, the year was 1995 and I was going to the local shopping centre in North London with my friend Angela. We were walking to the bus stop when Angela said she had to go back for her camera – something we both thought odd as we had never taken a camera with us before (this was before we all had mobile phones) but she just said she felt like she needed it. She went home, picked it up and off we went … it was a perfectly normal shopping trip until we went in to a grocery store to get a sandwich and there, in the line right in front of me was Tony Underwood. I felt weak and all giddy but plucked up the courage to go and talk to him. I asked if I could have my picture taken with him and he obliged. I even remember him putting his arm around me and the embarrassing noise I made (slight snort/squeal). He was delightful and super sweet. It. Made. My. Teenage. Day.

To this day, Angela and I cannot figure out how she had a feeling she needed to bring her camera with her, she had no idea he would be there, but I am so glad she did!

What were you doing in 1995? Any super fond memories from that year?

Tony Underwood - my teenage dream!

Tony Underwood – my teenage dream!

Redhead Make-Up: Red Lips & Brows

I have recently been enjoying posting some selfies on Instagram as I have discovered a new found confidence since my healthy eating lifestyle kicked off at the beginning of the year. In short, I am feeling good, and to celebrate, I bought some red lipstick. I had never really worn this colour, as I feared it was all too much with my ginger locks – but, if you find the right shade, it is awesome.

I will not tell you that a red lipstick will give you instant confidence (I think mine came from my better eating habits, slow and steady weight loss and improving fitness levels) but as soon as I put on that bit ‘o rouge, it felt fabulous.

Rocking it like a redhead ...

Red lipstick …

Now, I have never done a post about make-up before, so forgive me if this seems a little off topic, but I have received quite a few queries about it via the wonderful connectivity that is social media – so I thought I would share that I have been wearing Revlon’s Ultra HD Lipstick in Gladiolus … what do you think?

My red lipstick & my No.7 Pressed Powder in Translucent (I was asked what foundation I use - I generally just use this powder)

My red lipstick & my No.7 Pressed Powder in Translucent (I was asked what foundation I use – I generally just use this powder)

While I am at it, I think I will tell you about How To Be a Redhead, whom I follow on Instagram and Facebook, as they have been mentioning a new eyebrow gel that is being launched tomorrow that is specifically designed for redheads (Hint of Tint Gel in ‘Red’ from Billion Dollar Brows) as I currently gave up trying to find something appropriate (never have until now – hopefully) and just brushed through a brown Avon eyeshadow … I may give this new one a go!

What is your favourite red lipstick? Are you a redhead who wears red, or have you never given it a try? What do you use on your brows?

Life Lately | Summer is Coming

For a closer look, click on the photographs below.

life through a lens

Life Lately has involved enjoying the better weather which has arrived and going for some walks in my local area to blow off the winter cobwebs.

I have also had the chance to sit on my porch again and enjoy watching the wildlife scurry about – it was during one particularly nice, sunny morning, when I was having breakfast watching the world go by, that I spotted this little critter having something to eat too …

What have you been up to lately?

my sunday squirrel

 

 

OneDad3Girls

Internship in China via Gi2C

The site Get Into China, or Gi2C for short, is a site that offers a wealth of information about how you can go about getting an internship in China via their Gi2C internship programs.

The Gi2C internship program

The Gi2C internship program

The site itself is really easy to navigate, so helped with my wanderlust (no plans to be heading off to China in the near future, but a girl can daydream, right?). It all aims to create a community feel where people share their own experiences and can give advice to any potential newbie Gi2C intern … which I really like. I am all for creating a place online where people can gather and support one another, much like the ideals behind this blog, because going to live or work abroad can be a huge, daunting step so it is good to have a resource you can turn to.

The Gi2C group site has a great section on the internships offered in Beijing and Shanghai and has useful information like Shanghai being the home of China’s largest expat community and that it is a great place for couples to work as it is considered one of China’s most romantic cities – who knew? Well, now you do!

Shanghai is a potential Gi2C intern experience

Shanghai is a potential Gi2C intern experience

If you have any questions or concerns about any kind of Gi2C internship, the connectivity throughout the site is spot on – for example, just as I was perusing the amazing photographs of Shanghai (I have included some of them in this post because they are so enticing) a pop-up chat box floated on the page and asked me if I needed any help (I get really impressed by those because, frankly, I like the ease of finding the information I need instead of having to trawl for it). The site is also connected to their Facebook page so you can leave any comments or questions and someone from the Gi2C Internship Experts team will get back to you.

There is also a good breakdown of the costs involved for the Gi2C premium and standard internship programs, which incidentally, do not include airplane tickets, insurance, visa fees etc, so you get a heads up on the extra bits you have to cover alongside the program fee.
Having all the information available regarding finances is something I am really big on, as during my move to America, I got caught out more than once with unexpected fees for my visa, so I would always advocate knowing the real cost of everything before starting this kind of process.

The famous Shanghai XiaoLongBao dumplings and other food the Gi2C group entices you with

The famous Shanghai XiaoLongBao dumplings, and other food the Gi2C group entices you with

Generally I think the Gi2C group intern program site has the knowledge you need easily at your fingertips for this kind of endeavour – what else would you have to know before you did a move abroad or an internship somewhere?

Let me know your thoughts and do not forget to head on over to gi2c.org to check it out!

My American Kitchen: Spicy Turkey Lasagne

I love lasagne, but my current attempts at healthy eating and losing weight (21 lbs so far) do not always appreciate it. In order to keep enjoying the foods I like, I try to substitute certain ingredients for a healthier alternative – the main alternative in this recipe was a very low fat ground turkey instead of beef.

I loved eating this as it resembled the taste of an Italian sausage, and the spinach in the cheese mix added a lovely bit of flavour.

 

lasagne graphic

Ingredients (serves 6-8):

3 lbs low fat, ground turkey

3 tsp dried oregano

3/4 tsp dried red chilli flakes

1 tsp garlic salt

x2 24oz jars of tomato pasta sauce

45 oz ricotta cheese

x1 10oz frozen spinach, defrosted

3 cups shredded cheese of your choice – and some to sprinkle on the top at the end

10-12 no cook lasagne sheets

ground pepper

The finished turkey sauce (I forgot to take photos of the process - sorry)!

The finished turkey sauce (I forgot to take photos of the process – sorry)!

Ricotta, shredded cheese, spinach with salt and pepper

Ricotta, shredded cheese, spinach with salt and pepper

Directions:

In a large non-stick saucepan/skillet, brown the turkey until cooked all the way through (you may need to drain any fat/water)

Mix together the oregano, chilli flakes and garlic salt and add to the turkey

Add and mix in well the pasta sauces to the turkey (I used a tomato, garlic and basil blend) and simmer on low for 20 minutes (if you can, let it sit in the fridge overnight to let the flavours intensify)

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, spinach, shredded cheese and a good helping of ground pepper and a bit of salt (optional)

Once all the layers were assembled it looked like this

Once all the layers were assembled it looked like this

Sprinkled with a little cheese on top

Sprinkled with a little cheese on top

To assemble, create layers in the following order:

1/2 turkey sauce

lasagne sheets

1/2 cheese sauce

rest of the turkey sauce

lasagne sheets

rest of the cheese sauce

sprinkle with cheese

Cook on 400F for 45 mins or until golden and bubbling – I used a 3qt dish, but it was packed to the top so I placed it on a foil lined baking tray to catch the drips

Leave for 5-10 mins before eating – if you can!

Fresh out of the oven and cooling down

Fresh out of the oven and cooling down

spicy turkey lasagne 6

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