Travel Tale: Egypt (Deir al-Medina – Karnak Temple – Mountain Trek)

One of my travel dreams was to go to Egypt – and as a very excited 25 year old, I got to experience it with two amazing friends from university. Here is part two of what we got up to – to read part one, click here!

Travel Tales Egypt Part 2 Graphic

Deir al-Medina is located near the Valley of the Queens and is on the Theban west bank. It is an ancient workman’s village which is where the people who worked on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings lived.

You get to see the settlement and all the outlines of the houses and streets that once was – it really gives you a sense of what life may have been like. It really felt like archeology in action and there is much work being done to reconstruct and learn about the everyday lives of the people and their families that lived here. It really was a fascinating stop on our Egyptian adventure.

deir al medina

Then on to Karnak Temple which is a huge temple complex making it the second largest religious site in the world (after Angkor Wat in Cambodia).

Hypostyle Hall columns

Hypostyle Hall columns

Statue of Ramses II - Karnak Temple

Statue of Ramses II – Karnak Temple

One particularly impressive part of the complex is the Hypostyle Hall – an impressive 134 columns in rows that once supported a now fallen ceiling. It was built by/for Seti I (father of Ramses II who is my favourite Egyptian pharaoh because he was a natural red head – what can I tell you, we stick together) who inscribed the northern wing of the hall.

More of the columns fo the Hypostyle Hall

More of the columns that make up the Hypostyle Hall

The next adventure was going on a donkey trek near the Valley of the Kings – we were up very early and made friends with our chosen steed (I named mine Bob). The poor donkey did a great job trekking us up the mountains and we got to experience the early morning sun which made everything look even more beautiful than it already was.

The mountain near the Valley of the Kings

The mountain near the Valley of the Kings

I developed a strong bond with Bob, I think we actually fell in love because I found a note from him that was decorated with carrots and expressed his new found affection for me. I do hope Bob is doing well, but it all came to an end when the next step of our journey was getting on our riverboat and heading to Edfu Temple … which will be in the next edition of my Egyptian travel tales!

A mountain, Bob and me!

A mountain, Bob and me!

Have you ever been to Egypt? Where did you go and what did you think? Is Egypt on your travel list for the future?

5 Uncomfortable Things About Being a Brit in America

I do not go around feeling uncomfortable all the time, but there are those moments where I feel that knot of awkward discombobulation that makes me ‘umm’ and ‘ahh’ like a stuttering idiot.

Here are the latest, in no particular order …

You’re Looking for What?

I forget the right words or the correct pronunciation for things, and often have to resort to extremely gawky hand gestures to try and explain what I am asking / looking for. I usually just fluff my way through it … and then pretend I have remembered what / where it is myself.

Cracks in Doors

Public toilet doors here have a big gap down the side and you can see the person on the loo or waiting outside to use it after you. Occasionally you make eye contact with this person just as you have your underpants around your ankles … then comes this awfully awkward moment of deciding if the correct etiquette is to say hello, have a chat about the weather or just carry on like it never happened.

What Do You Call It?

Whilst deciding if I go with the French vanilla or caramel gas station coffee, I got asked, rather loudly, what ‘you Brits call lady parts’ … ummm … ahhhh …! I just about fell into my latte.

I Am Not French

No – really, I am not! I have written about this several times, but I am still being asked if I am French. This does not happen regularly as most people I encounter are well aware of the difference, but I am still getting the very odd few who say they love my French accent. I could not be more English if I tried. No, really!

British Bacon All the Way!

I get asked a few times about whether American or British bacon is best … now this can be a serious issue as bacon lovers, well we are passionate people and the debate could ramble on and get very heated … and in case you were wondering … British is best!

What about you? Ever encountered anything uncomfortable as an expat, traveller or visitor abroad? I would love to hear about it!

Travel Tale: Egypt (Giza – Medinet Habu – Luxor)

One of my travel dreams was to go to Egypt – and as a very excited 25 year old, I got to experience it with two amazing friends from university. Here is part one of what we got up to!

Travel Tales Egypt Part 1 Graphic
One of the first places we got to visit was the Giza Plateau and the ancient monuments that make up this awe-inspiring necropolis. The pyramids and sphinx are truly spectacular and produced within me a visceral reaction as this was a connection to a time in history that I have loved to learn about and been fascinated by since I was a child. I am an unashamed ancient Egyptian history nerd.

giza pyramids

The pyramids at Giza

There are three main pyramids which were built over 4,500 years ago as tombs for the kings and queens of the time – the largest is the Great Pyramid of Khufu (and the most intact).

the great pyramid

The Great Pyramid & ticket stub

The Great Sphinx is not only the largest monolith statue in the world but also the oldest known monument as it is believed to be dedicated to the Pharaoh Khafra (son of Khufu – the Great Pyramid dude).

the sphinx giza

The Great Sphinx

The next morning we caught a train to Luxor, a long journey, and settled on our riverboat. We got to explore a bit of the area the following day and met a fantastic jeweller by the name of Hamdy who spent much time chatting to us and telling us interesting stories about the area and everyday Egyptian life.

cairo train station

Train to Luxor from Cairo and train ticket

luxor jeweller hamdy

Hamdy the jeweller in Luxor – he introduced me to his teenage son as his new mother … think that may mean we are married, but I cannot be sure!

Next up in Luxor for us was a trip to Ramses III’s Mortuary Temple at Medinet Habu – a temple of great historical and architectural importance. It is of a truly impressive size and I was amazed to find some areas of the temple complex had faded paint colours still visible.

ramses iii mortuary temple

Ramses III’s Mortuary Temple

ramses iii mortuary temple

Ramses III’s Mortuary Temple – ancient colours surviving

There are impressive, and historically important carved reliefs on some walls that depict the arrival and consequent defeat of the seafaring raiders from the Aegean Sea, all during the reign of Ramses III.

carved reliefs ramses iii mortuary temple

Ramses III’s Mortuary Temple – carved reliefs

Our next stop was the Valley of the Queens and Deir al-Medina, a settlement village that housed the artisan workers and craftspeople who worked on the tombs within the Valley of the Kings … keep an eye out for that in Part Two of my Egyptian Travel Tale!

Have you ever been to Egypt? Where did you go and what did you think? Is Egypt on your travel list for the future?

Life Lately | A Little Bit of Expat Life in Toledo, Ohio

life through a lens

Life Lately has involved a lot of storms, rain, baking, home decor and mosquito bites … I tried out the most delicious recipe for some gourmet cupcakes and have been eating far too many of them as I have been indoors a lot dodging the thunder and lightning, the humidity the storms bring, and nursing the 81 mosquito bites I have. Yes. 81 bites. I got them whilst at the drive-in watching Jurassic World (which was amazing – hello Chris Pratt)!

What have you been up to lately?

Instagram round-up || just me  || adding a bit of flower decor  || drive-in funnel cake at || the rain outside || me in 1981 playing very happily in a basket || my supply of marmite ran out

OneDad3Girls

My American Kitchen: Biscoff Cupcakes

biscoff cupcake recipe graphic

I decided to find a recipe that uses Biscoff spread, as I had two jars of it in my pantry (crunchy and creamy/smooth) and wanted to find a way to use them. I stumbled across a great recipe that I decided to try out on Life Made Simple.

I made a few small adaptions to the recipe, including not using Biscoff cookie crumbs (I used the crunchy spread instead) and more ground cinnamon.

biscoff cupcake recipe 1

Ingredients (12-14 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

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup and 2 tbsp sour cream

½ cup crunchy Biscoff spread

2 eggs

3 tbsp milk

1 tbsp vanilla extract

½ tsp cinnamon

Cupcake mixture

Cupcake mixture

Ingredients (frosting):

1 stick or ½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

⅓ cup creamy Biscoff spread

1½ tsp vanilla extract

1½ cup confectioner’s sugar

1½ tbsp heavy cream

Buttercream frosting mixture

Buttercream frosting mixture

Directions:

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, brown sugar, sour cream and crunchy Biscoff spread

biscoff cupcake recipe 4

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

Add the milk, vanilla extract and cinnamon 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 (I found I had enough for 13 cupcakes) 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

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

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and creamy Biscoff spread until light and fluffy

Add, and mix together, the vanilla extract and heavy cream

Add the confectioner’s sugar a little at a time to the electric mixer and combine well
 (the frosting should be stiff enough to form soft peaks)

Frost the completely cooled cupcakes and then serve!

biscoff cupcake recipe 6

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

A Slice of Americana: Salt Water Taffy

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 . . . Salt Water Taffy

salt water taffy review graphic

The Information

This is fascinating … in 1883 there was a flood in Atlantic City in New Jersey and a candy store owner, a sharp-witted man by the name of David Bradley, who sold normal non-salty taffy (a toffee-like candy made from stretching boiled sugar, butter and flavourings) found his stock had got soaked during the flooding by the salty sea water of the Atlantic ocean.

Being the astute man he was, he did not let this contamination stop him from selling his now renamed ’Salt Water Taffy’, which proved to be a great hit and is now commonly sold in seaside towns around America.

Flavours (back, middle, front): sour apple, cherry, orange, watermelon

Flavours (back, middle, front): sour apple, cherry, orange cream, watermelon

The Taste Test

There is a distinct salty tang to this super chewy and flavourful candy. It is not overpowering or off-putting, as I was expecting, and probably intensifies the range of flavours that salt water taffy comes in (I had a selection of lemon, cherry, orange, orange cream, watermelon and sour apple).

It is very sweet and the fruit flavouring really packs a punch and makes your mouth water.

salt water taffy review 2

The Verdict

Salt water taffy looked like little lumps of slightly melted plastic (which made me unsure if I wanted to try them), but the toffee-like, chewy texture and very strong fruity flavours were really nice. I liked the slight salty tang you get that seems to intensify the taste as you chew. They are really nice and I would be interested in trying some different flavours.

Have you tried Salt Water Taffy? What do you think of it?

What would you like to see me try next?

a slice of americana

The Journey So Far – The Beginning of Expat Life

the expat life journey so far graphic

It is always a good idea to take the time to look back on the past and remind yourself of the challenges you have overcome, the progress you have made, and the journey your life has taken.

I think it serves as a reminder that there has been progress, be it forwards, sideways or backwards – you may think going backwards can not be called progress, but I believe life is not a straight line. Sometimes it doubles back on itself, sometimes it moves quickly, sometimes slowly, there are ups and downs, and sometimes we have to revisit a point in our life that we thought we had moved beyond – but there is always something to learn from those experiences.

life quote

One thing being a blogger affords you is the ability to look back very clearly and see what you were getting up to or going through at a particular point in time. I decided it would be interesting to look at some of my first few posts and take stock of what has changed.

I focused on my sixth blog post from the beginning of 2013, Long Distance ~ Communication and created this little list to remind myself that I have come a long way, both figuratively and literally.

Then … … … and Now

I was yet to find out about my U.S. Embassy visa interview and medical and believe that I was still waiting for the last bit of paperwork to get approved … … … looking back I realise how organised I was and how stoic both my husband and I were in the face of endless delays and let downs.

My husband and I were still in the midst of a long distance relationship (LDR) and we were trying to keep the communication ongoing, fresh and interesting … … … we managed to do it and found that we developed a really inventive way of having a close relationship in unusual circumstances. We continue to this day to communicate really well – something I think that was developed because of our LDR.

It felt like the wait to find out if I could move to the U.S. and finally be with my husband was never going to end. It was heartbreaking at times and a point of intense stress … … … but we got through it. We survived the 4 years apart and were reunited in October 2013 to begin our life together in America.

What about you? How far have you come from a certain point in your life? What has changed for you and what do you hope to move towards?

If you are a fellow blogger, take a look at your sixth post – what has changed for you since you wrote it?

Life Lately | Cooking Up A Storm

For a closer look, click on the photographs below.

life through a lens

Life Lately has involved much work in the kitchen where I have been trying out new recipes, creating dishes of my own, and generally dodging the loud summer storms that have plagued the week. We have had days of thunder, lightning and rain – all because the temperatures have soared and the humidity is insane. Spring seemed to come and go in a matter of days and summer has definitely made an appearance!

What have you been up to lately?

 

OneDad3Girls

My American Kitchen: Easy Brioche Loaf

brioche recipe graphic

This is a recipe I thought I would try which I found on the BBC Good Food website. I wanted an easy brioche recipe (I have never made one before) and the one I found really is simple to follow. I enjoyed making it, and eating it with a nice hot cup of coffee and smothered in some delicious jam.

If you want to look at the recipe on the BBC Good Food site, click here (it can be easily downloaded and gives you all the nutrition information too).

easy brioche recipe ingredients

Ingredients:

250g (2 cups) of plain flour

100g butter (I used unsalted)

2 tbsp caster sugar (baker’s sugar)

7g sachet of dried fast acting yeast

a good pinch of salt

3 eggs

1 egg yolk for glazing

4-5 sugar cubes, crushed (optional)

The butter rubbed into the flour until well combined & looking like breadcrumbs

The butter rubbed into the flour until well combined & looking like breadcrumbs

Directions:

I did not use a food processor, but rubbed the flour and butter together by hand until it was well combined and resembled breadcrumbs.

Stir in the sugar, salt and yeast

Sugar, salt & yeast being added - and mixed together toform a soft, wet dough

Sugar, salt & yeast being added – and mixed together to form a soft, wet dough with the eggs

Add the 3 eggs and stir together to make a very soft, wet dough

Cover and chill for 20 mins (I admit, I skipped this stage and went straight to the kneading)

Dough kneaded into a ball - after being left for 2 hours to double in size

Dough kneaded into a ball – and after being left for 2 hours to double in size

Knead dough on a floured surface for 3-5 minutes and into the shape of a ball (do not over knead here – as I think I did which made the loaf a little dense)

Place dough in a greased loaf tin (I used a 7 inch which seemed ok – although I think the conversion for a 2pt loaf tin may be a 5 inch)

Brushed with egg yolk and sprinkled with crushed sugar - and after baking

Brushed with egg yolk and sprinkled with crushed sugar – and after baking

Cover with cling film / plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for about 2 hours when it should have doubled in size

Heat oven to 350°F

Brush the top of the loaf with the beaten egg yolk

easy brioche recipe 5

Sprinkle with the crushed sugar, if using (I will make it again without) and place in oven on the middle shelf for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and sounding hollow when tapped

Tip out of loaf tin and leave to cool on a wire rack

Enjoy with some jam!

easy brioche recipe 6

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

Road Trip Diary: Tawawa Park in Sidney, Ohio

Click here for Road Trip Diary: Sidney, Ohio & the 100+ Year Old Diner

road trip sidney graphic
Tawawa Park can be found in Sidney, Ohio and was named after Tawawa Creek which runs through the park.

tawawa park 3
tawawa park 8
It was established in 1948 and is part of the many parks and recreation areas that the residents have close by. It has many little areas for children to play in (some that are the very same ones that my husband played on as a child – he grew up in Sidney).

tawawa park 11
tawawa park 15
You can have picnics, long walks and enjoy the sunshine and nature trails. Dip your toes in the creek and find quiet areas to just sit and watch the wildlife go by.

tawawa park 21

The hubby next to ‘Big Rock’ which he would climb on as a child

tawawa park 20
It really is an oasis of nature and beauty – if you get a chance to go, you will really enjoy it and get a chance to unwind – you can find it at 12 Tawawa Dr, Sidney, OH 45365

Have you been to Tawawa Park or visited Sidney, Ohio – where did you go? Where would your dream destination for a road trip be?

Expat Life with a Double Buggy