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Halloween

happy-halloween-house-wallpaper This morning, I got the chance to speak on BBC Radio Lincolnshire about Halloween as an American now living in the United Kingdom, and it made me think of the holiday growing up.

First of all, a little history about Halloween — Did you know it didn’t originate in the USA? According to Wikipedia, Halloween has Celtic roots in the British isles, specifically in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. In Wales, they still celebrate Calan Gaeaf on November 1. Halloween was then adopted by Christians as the day before All Hallow’s Day (Hallow in Scots Gaelic means Holy), like many other Christian holidays that have Celtic/Pagan roots.

It’s also interesting to learn that the idea behind trick or treating isn’t entirely American, either. This actually originated in Ireland, where it involved adults going door-to-door in costume, performing a song or play, and receiving food in exchange.

In the United States, the Puritans did not celebrate the holiday, and it was not celebrated at all (as far as historians can tell) until the Irish and Scottish began immigrating to America in the late 19th century and it did not spread beyond their culture until the early 20th century. Even the traditional Jack O’ Lantern carved out of a pumpkin is only a pumpkin because pumpkins were more widely available than turnips, the vegetable used in Scotland for carving lanterns.

Trick or Treating, called guising, continued in the United Kingdom until the 1930s, and first began in the USA in the 1920s. I can only assume it stopped in the UK due to WWII, though I can’t find any information to back this up. The use of the term ‘Trick or Treat’ did not come into use until the 1940s when it first appeared in children’s magazines in the United States. The term guising was still being used in the UK at that time and it wasn’t until the 1980s that the term ‘Trick or Treat’ began to be used here and it’s only become more and more popular in the UK as American mainstream media is imported more and more.

I find it fascinating to learn the holiday and practice has roots in the United Kingdom when so many people in the UK seem to hate Halloween and consider it to be “Americanising” children by celebrating it. Not so much, eh?

Halloween in the US and the UK are different, but also very similar. Like with the idea of Prom, it feels to me that the UK takes the American idea and makes it even bigger — possibly as a result of the public’s exposure to American television and films where most traditions are more over-the-top than they are in general.

While Halloween can have scary costumes, ghost hunts, and haunted mansions; Halloween also has home-made costumes, hayrides, and a lot of traditions associated with harvest and not scaring. In fact, I can’t actually remember my parents ever buying me a Halloween costume. Accessories to go with one perhaps, but most of my costumes were entirely home grown and either made specifically for Halloween or adapted from something I already owned. For example, if I wanted to dress as a black cat, my mom bought me a headband with cat ears and I wore a black leotard and tights for the body and my mom drew whiskers on my face with an eye pencil. I was fascinated with Little House on the Prairie when I was younger, so the year I dressed as Laura Ingalls I re-used my dress at Thanksgiving to be a pilgrim. One year when I was a teenager, my neighbour’s son asked me to take him Trick or Treating and as I had recently had knee surgery I wasn’t prepared and I managed to throw together “absent-minded professor” by wearing my Pajama bottoms with a white shirt and tie, one slipper on the leg that had surgery and a shoe on the other! But in the UK, I feel as though costumes are mostly bought and things are focused more on having scary/gory costumes.

Trick-or-Treating is also different. In the US, you would typically go out with your friends and maybe one parent when you were younger and you would only go to homes that had their porch light turned on. Here, the tradition seems to be a child going out with their parent, and only to the homes of friends/family. This year, I also heard about a UK tradition of putting out a pumpkin by your front door to indicate that you would allow trick-or-treaters, but more often I’ve seen online shares of signs to print that say things like “NO Trick-or-Treaters”, “Do not knock”, etc., and some of those have even been issued by local councils. I think the signs are unnecessary if you go by the rule of “look for a pumpkin”.

One thing I haven’t touched on at all is the idea of tricking or making mischief if you do not get a treat. I grew up in New Jersey, where we called it Mischief Night, but I personally was never involved in causing or receiving mischief, so I really don’t know how prevalent the practice is in the US or in the UK. I do remember being driven around the day after Halloween with my parents and you might see a few trees that had been littered with toilet paper, but not knowing who owned the house or who did the TPing, I don’t know if it was micheif or decoration!

Halloween, like any other holiday, is voluntary. If you don’t like it, don’t participate. Simple. Just please don’t ruin it for the people who do want to participate!

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Top image from http://interactive360.wordpress.com

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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[Recipe] Easter Traditions [Slimming World]

Once again, on my phone. Usual disclaimers apply….double check your syns and I’m not affiliated with Slimming World.

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For some reason, Easter makes me homesick more than Christmas.  This year, I decided to replicate some of my family’s favourite Easter staples, and managed to make it fit in with Slimming World!

First up, Heavenly Spuds.

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The original calls for lots of cheddar cheese, butter, a creamy based soup, and butter. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?  I don’t even want to think about the syns.

Here’s my version that comes in at 10.5 syns for the whole dish!

You will need:

3 large tins of potatoes(you could use raw potatoes, but you would want to boil them first)
1 tin of mushrooms (I used my chopper)
1 tub quark
1/2 tub fromage frais
50g mozzarella, shredded
35g Kellog’s corn flakes, crushed
Pepper
Fry light

1.  Preheat the oven to 180C. (200 if not fan assisted)
2. Drain and chop the potatoes  (I used my chopper attachment on the stick blender).
3. Drain and chop mushrooms  (ditto).
4. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, mushrooms, quark, fromage frais, and cheese.
5. Spray a casserole dish with frylight.
6. Spread potato mixture evenly in dish and top with crushed cornflakes.
7. Spray the top with butter flavoured fry light (if you have some, or use regular).
8. Bake 30-45 minutes or until bubbling.

The second food I missed was red beet eggs. This one is really easy.

You will need:
2 eggs per person
1 jar of sliced beets
Vinegar

1. Hard boil and peel eggs.
2. Place eggs in a large bowl.
3. Pour beets and juice over eggs.
4. Top with vinegar until eggs and beets are covered.
5. Cover bowl and refrigerate. The more time you have, the better tasting the eggs!

Happy Easter!

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[Recipe] Pumpkin Pie Tarts [Slimming World Friendly]

pies My Slimming World group had a taster evening right before Halloween and I decided to bring an American-style treat. I knew I wanted to make something with pumpkin, since it’s the season for pumpkin everything in the US, and so I came up with these tarts based on my mince pie tarts from Christmas. Because pumpkin is a vegetable, it’s free no matter what you do to it so you only need to syn the pastry, in this case two of these little tarts come in at 1.5 Syns. The filling and pastry are egg-free, and I’m sure you could substitute in gluten free flour (but please recalculate your syns!) to make a gluten free treat.

[DISCLAIMER: I do not work for Slimming World, I am not affiliated with Slimming World beyond being a paying customer/member, I get no personal benefit from writing this post other than the joy of sharing.]

This will make 38 tarts. If you follow this recipe exactly, your Syn value is .75 per tart, or two tarts for 1.5 Syns.

[Please note: Syn values are based on my exact ingredients using the online calculator. Your Syn value may vary based on your ingredients and the size of your baking containers and portions, so use this number as a guide only. Syn values also frequently change, but these values are correct at the time of publication.]

You will need:

For the pastry:
225g wholemeal flour (I used Alinson’s)
100g Flora light (blue container)
pinch of salt
water
(if you prefer a sweeter base, add some sugar substitute)

For the filling:
400-500g pureed pumpkin (you also can use tinned pumpkin)
1/4C sugar substitute (I used Truvia)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mixed spice

tart pans
biscuit cutter
fry light

1. Combine flour and salt and rub Flora until crumbs are formed.
2. Add a little water until dough sticks together and form into a ball.
3. Refrigerate pastry for 30 minutes.
4. While the pastry chills, combine all filling ingredients and set aside and pre-heat the oven to 180C.
5. Roll out your pastry as thinly as possible and use the middle-sided biscuit cutter to cut out 38 rounds.
6. Spray a tart pan and gently press the rounds of pastry into the cups, shaping it up the sides. Fill with approximately 1TBS pumpkin filling. (I eyeballed it)
7. Bake for 20 minutes or until tart bases are firm and slightly browning. Filling will not be solid.
8. Turn out onto a cooling rack for about 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

I can’t wait to make these for Ex-pat Thanksgiving!

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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Adventures in Christmas Pudding

This year, to make things easier on my mother-in-law, the family is doing Christmas pot luck style. On Tuesday, my Sister-in-law asked if we knew what the plans were and when we said no, she explained and then asked me if I could be assigned the desserts/pudding. I agreed, and so the brain started to churn…

When we got home, I asked Tim what he thought I should make and after a few suggestions got thrown out, Christmas Pudding was brought up. Now, it’s not really a “family favourite”, but it is Tim’s favourite. Most years we’ll pick up a few minis for Tim to have throughout the season and his mum will indulge him and get a pre-made one to go alongside whatever other dessert she’s made. Since the only thing I am responsible for this year is dessert, I have decided to make Christmas pud from scratch….with a little help from my friends.

I posted to Facebook, and my friend Vicky responded with some suggestions and answered all my questions. Some people make their puddings up to a YEAR before Christmas, and some only do theirs a few days in advance. I have decided to make mine this weekend, giving it plenty of time to ferment.

First, I needed a recipe. I have one from Jamie Oliver but no one I know has made it and I wanted a tried-and-true recipe. My friend Nicky linked me to recipes from the BBC and Delia, but she hadn’t tested those, either. Vicky came through for me again, and suggested a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I’ve never heard of him, but Vicky’s used his recipes in the past, so I was off to Google.

The next day I had Tim drop me off at Waitrose, armed with my grocery list. The most puzzling thing to find? the Brandy and Ale. There are LOADS of options. Again, I heeded Vicky’s advice and grabbed a hobgoblin to use.

Once home, I began measuring out the fruit — all 900g of it. It wouldn’t fit in my bowl by itself, let alone once I mix in everythng else! A check of the recipe shows that it makes two puds, so I’m going to half the recipe (I will post it below) where appropriate. Oh, and I may have just dumped 200ml of Brandy on the fruit even though the 2 pud recipe calls for only HALF the brandy (100ml)….I hope it’s not swimming in extra brandy!

As it turns out, I didn’t have to worry about extra brandy. A family emergency meant that my fruit soaked for 36 hours and they soaked up nearly all the brandy in the bowl.

I dutifully halved the recipe (that leaves a LOT left in a pint bottle of ale!) and the resulting mix was hideous. I wrapped the top in clingfilm and am leaving it alone for overnight…

The next morning, I peeled back the cling film and the mixture looked decidedly dry, so I gave it a quick stir and topped it up with a glug from the ale bottle.

I packed it into my buttered basin and I was shocked to discover I have LOADS of pudding mix leftover. I might wind up with two after all, or maybe I can do a mini pud for a taste test.

I prepped the crock pot for steaming, and made a single size pupping to cook on the stovetop.

the mini pud was a FLOP. I only steamed it for about an hour/hour and a half because the instructions on one of the mini puddings from M&S say to steam for 1/2 hour, so I thought as those are pre-cooked and the instruction for re-heating a full-size pud are to steam it for half the time you originally steamed it for that I would do it for an hour. Probably more like an hour and a bit. Tim didn’t like it. He made faces when he tasted it….and I made a face when I tasted it as I could taste the raisins and suet. Ew. So my conclusion is that I didn’t steam it for long enough so as there is LOADS of mix leftover, I’m going to try another mini pudding tomorrow. But the big one is still in the crock pot (been cooking since 4PM, so now about 6 hours). The water level is fine and apparently you can’t oversteam, so I think I might leave it go overnight or at least until I wake up in the middle of the night to use the loo.

I set my alarm for 7, but I woke up around 5, and then again at 6, so I decided to get up and check it. The downstairs smells “like Christmas” as some of the other blogs suggest and peeking through the small gap of the foil I can see a dark colour – much darker than the mini pud I turned out yesterday. The water level has barely moved (though I did top it up last night a little higher than the original instructions say to), so I flipped the crock to high for the last hour, and got to work making another tester mini pud.

And after 15 hours of steaming….I declare it done. you know how you’re supposed to make a handle out of string? Yeah, my string got wet and HOT. Owwwww. The pudding is now cooling in it’s basin. I noticed some water has gotten in through the foil around the bottom, and the foil that was submerged in the water has gone black. Mini pudding is still steaming away.

You can find the original recipe I followed here and the original crock pot instructions here, but here’s my modified recipe (remember: I cut the original in half and still have enough filling for 2 puddings and 2 mini puddings. It’s possible I have a small basin, but it looks like a normal one….)

Hugh calls his recipe Grandma Jane’s, so here is Rebecca Jane’s

You will need:

450g dried vine fruits (Waitrose sells a bag labeled vine fruits, otherwise a combination of raisins and sultanas will do. I also tossed in a handful of mixed peel and some craisins)
200ml brandy
55g flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
85g suet (I used 30% less fat veggie suet)
85g dark muscovado sugar (aka brown sugar)
20g flaked almonds
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp marmalade
110g fresh white breadcrumbs (This equaled about 4 white finger rolls. I blitzed them with my stick blender to get a fine crumb)
2 eggs, whisked
150ml ale or stout (I used Hobgoblins). (You mght need extra, so don’t go drinking the rest yet)
Butter

Other things you need:
Pudding basin
Parchment Paper
Aluminum to me, Aluminium to some foil
string
2 mixing bowls
crock pot
boiled water
heat-resistant cereal bowl or saucer

Step One: Put the fruit in a bowl and cover with 200ml of brandy. Cover with clingfilm and leave overnight. Mine wound up soaking for 36 hours due to a family emergency.

The Next Day

Step Two: Sift together the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. It’s a good idea to tick off the ingredients as you add them so you don’t get confused as the list is long. Mix in the rest of the items in this order: suet, fruit (add any dregs of brandy not absorbed), almonds, lemon zest & juice, marmalade, breadcrumbs, beaten eggs, ale. cover with clingfilm and let the mixture rest overnight.

Day Three

Check your mix. Give it a stir. If it looks too dry, add a splash more of ale.

Step Three: Butter your pudding basin. Cut a round out of parchment paper that fits the bottom of the basin, put that on top of the butter and then butter the paper, too. Fill basin with mix (I filled mine as high as a half inch from the top).

Step Four: Now, here’s where it gets tricky. You have to prepare the pudding for it’s steam bath. Take some parchment paper and make a pleat in it (fold it like a Z). Put the pleated paper on top of your pudding basin, and use string to tie the paper down. Trim off the excess paper. Next, you will need to use your Aluminum foil and if you are cooking this in the crock pot, you will want to completely wrap your pudding basin (save for a very small gap at the top) in foil. To make it easier to lift, you can make a handle by tying string package-style around the basin and leaving a loop on the top to lift with.

Step Five: Boil the kettle. Place your cereal bowl or saucer upside down in the crock pot and put the pudding on top of it. Check to make sure the lid will fit securely and that the pudding is not touching the walls of the crock pot. Add boiling water to the crock pot until it reaches 3/4 of the way up the pudding basin. Cover and cook on HIGH heat for 4 hours, LOW heat for 10, and switch it back to HIGH for the last hour. you should check the water levels about halfway through, but as I steamed mine on low overnight I topped up the water before I went to bed and it was fine.

Step Six: Carefully lift the pudding out of the crock pot by the string and set to one side. Be careful as water may have accumulated between the foil and basin. Allow to cool, then carefully unwrap the pudding. Poke holes in the top with a fork and pour on a few more tablespoons of brandy or ale. Tightly wrap in clingfilm and store in a cool, dry place (NOT the fridge) until Christmas day. I wrapped mine in two layers of clingfilm, a layer of foil, and put the whole thing in a Zipper-topped bag.

If you want to follow tradition, you can place foil-wrapped coins into the pudding before re-heating.

To re-heat on Christmas day you can re-wrap your pudding in an additional layer of clingfilm and then foil and steam in the crockpot for two and a half hours on high or you can microwave it to warm it up.

To serve: heat a ladle of brandy over a gas stove top (or heat in a pan). Carefully light the brandy on fire and tip over the pudding once at the dinner table.

Christmas Pudding is best served with brandy butter or creame. I bought mine pre-made at Waitrose, so I don’t have a recipe to share.

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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Happy Holidays!

Friends and Family,

We hope this post finds you all well and enjoying the holiday season with your families. Our holiday season was disrupted this year by a family tragedy. Rebecca’s Aunt (in America) had a stroke two weeks before Christmas and passed away a few days later. Rebecca flew out to the US to be with her family.

This year, in lieu of sending cards, we have decided to make a donation to the Stroke Association in memory of Barbara A. Ohlinger, to aid others who suffer from a stroke.

We wish you all a happy holidays!

Love,

Tim & Rebecca Lockley

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this via the email subscription, please click on the link to go directly to the entry on my site to comment as the email address used to send the posts does not accept replies.]

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US Traditions in the UK: Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to my US friends! I’m currently watching the Annual Thanksgiving Parade on WGAL courtesy of USTVnow after being stuffed with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies, and cranberry sauce topped off with a slice of pumpkin pie. UK friends when finding out what we were having commented with “kind of like Christmas”, and so the idea for this post was born.

Just about the only thing Thanksgiving has in common with Christmas is perhaps, the turkey and it’s fixings. I always have looked at Christmas as more of a nuclear family kind of thing, as in parents and their children (whether single parents, step-parents, half siblings, etc.) and Thanksgiving was always more of an extended family kind of holiday where you saw aunts, uncles, and cousins you rarely saw.

For many Americans, Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season as well with Christmas only a few weeks away. Many people use Thanksgiving as the marker for starting their Christmas shopping or for putting up their Christmas trees. Growing up, Thanksgiving always meant a road trip from our home in NJ to my aunt’s house in PA. My aunt and uncle would drive to our house for Thursday dinner, and usually I’d get to go back with them when they left and my parents would follow on Saturday because my family did our big dinner on Sunday.

What is Thanksgiving? There are many stories about the first Thanksgiving, but the one that we are taught in primary school is that the Pilgrims were so grateful for surviving their first year they invited the Indians to a feast. I’m afraid the real story is probably not nearly as romantic or nice. Holding Thanksgiving in November didn’t start until 1863 with a proclamation made by Abraham Lincoln. Thanksgiving continued to be held sometime around the end of November with no set annual date until 1941, when it was decided Thanksgiving will be held on the last Thursday of the month in November. Thanksgiving has been both a religious celebration and a harvest celebration, but in recent years it has become more of a family oriented holiday and a time where you “give thanks” for what you have, and many people give to the less fortunate on Thanksgiving by donating food to local food pantries, or providing meals at a local soup kitchen. I spent several years helping out at my aunt’s church for their annual community dinner.

Even though I now live in the UK, I want to keep some of the American traditions alive. This year, due to Tim’s work schedule and Sunday being my MIL’s birthday, today it was just Tim and I for a noon-time dinner. I’ve been not feeling well lately, so it almost didn’t happen, but I’m glad I pulled it off. It was nice. And now I’m watching the parade and talking to my mom. Who knows? Maybe some day I will get to be in the US for Thanksgiving.

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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Christmas Gift Idea – Personalized Calendars

It’s that time of year again. Fortunately, I did a lot of our Christmas shopping in October and Tim and I are just buying each other Kindles, but we were totally stumped on something to give his mum this year.

I ordered our Christmas cards (super early) from VistaPrint and inside the box with the order was an offer for a FREE wall calendar…our problems were solved, as his mum has been really concentrating on decorating her house with family photos.

If you’d like your free calendar, just go to http://www.vistaprint.biz/special2011. VistaPrint has tons of other inexpensive and free deals, such as 10 free Christmas cards, 250 free business cards, and even free photo mugs and mousemats.

Order early though. If you want to opt for the inexpensive shipping, it can take up to 21 working days for your items to get to you, but when I ordered my stuff, it only took about 2 weeks.

[I am not being compensated by VistaPrint for this post.]

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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Tips for having a good Halloween in the UK

I was on BBC Lincolnshire last week talking about Halloween with William Wright. He asked me to come on as an American to talk about Halloween, since it’s not celebrated all that much in the UK.

Here are a few guidelines for having an authentic Halloween:

-Wear a costume. If your child is going to go trick or treating, they need a costume. You don’t have to go out and spend a lot of money on this, either. One of my favourite costumes was made on Halloween out of things we had in the house. I became an Absent-minded professor with a button down shirt open over a t-shirt, an untied tie looped around my neck, a pair of boxers (I wore tights under for warmth), and one slipper and one shoe.

-Trick or Treating is for kids. The general cut off IMHO should be the lower teens, unless you have a younger sibling or babysitting charge to take around. Groups of 19-20-yr-olds begging for sweets just isn’t cool.

-If you are escorting a younger child, don’t expect candy for yourself. Some people will only give candy to the little ones, but it helps your case for candy if you put on a costume.

-If someone doesn’t have candy, that isn’t an excuse to throw eggs or do other vandalism. Some people just don’t like Halloween or forgot to plan for it. Be gracious and thank them for their time before leaving their property.

-If the light is out, don’t knock. A common undocumented rule in the US is to leave your front light on if you want trick or treaters and to turn it off if you don’t.

-Trick or Treat only on Halloween or your town’s designated night. Trick or Treating is one night. Some towns designate a different day for Trick or Treating other than Halloween, but it is always just one night. If your town is doing Trick or Treating on the 30th, don’t go out on the 31st, too!

-Be polite and say thank you. Loads of kids would come to my door in the US and some wouldn’t even say “Trick or Treat” let alone thank me for the candy. A little manners goes a long way!

-If you’re giving out candy, remember to only give out wrapped candy. Unwrapped candy isn’t safe, and neither are home baked goods. Save the home baked goods for the people you know directly and not the strangers. Small coins are also sometimes given out in the US by people who either don’t want to give candy, or have run out. When I was younger we also occasionally would receive a small bag of pretzels, crisps, or even a pencil.

-Likewise, parents please go through your children’s candy before they start eating it. Check to make sure things are still in date and that wrappers are secure. Throw away unwrapped candies or home baked goods, unless you know the person who gave it to your child.

-Halloween does not have to be scary, and in fact, can be fun and even silly! The producer at BBC Lincolnshire told me her child was terrified of the skulls and spiders decorating the nursery he goes to. You don’t need scary skulls and spiders to decorate for Halloween. Witches, black cats, mummies unravelling, even just plain pumpkins and coloured leaves can be a nice Halloween decoration.

-Please remember that just because you see something OTT on an American TV programme, that doesn’t mean it’s something done by middle-class America. This note applies to Proms as well! When in doubt, do some internet research or find an American friend to ask.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!!

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users can comment directly on Facebook.]

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Christmas in the UK

Due to work and family illnesses, Tim’s mum invited us over for breakfast on Christmas Day, and dinner on Boxing Day, leaving us on our own for most of Christmas.

We purchased Christmas Crackers (poppers) and I made us a turkey with all the trimmings. A few days before we found fresh cranberries at ASDA, so I made up a batch of cranberry sauce for us to share with his family.

At home, I usually woke up around the time that Mom would get up to put the turkey in the oven – sometimes as early as 6. Surprisingly, even though we weren’t having our turkey until the evening, I was awake bright and early on Christmas and had to wait for Tim to get up!

A few weeks before Christmas, I decorated a stocking for Tim (with a train on the front!) and filled it with candy, (US) railroad pins, and a pair of novelty boxer shorts. Tim took his cue from me, and I had a stocking filled with candy (he filled anything “hollow” like a coffee mug and a make-up bag with chocolate!) and other small items. Tim also gave me a few books, but the best present of all came in a little tiny box from H Samuel. Tim gave me a beautiful ring with a butterfly on it! Apparently he almost didn’t have the ring to give me. He had to have it sized and was told to pick it up on Christmas Eve. He went into town before work to pick it up, and the store was all locked up with the gates down! Fortunately, they took pity on Tim and let him in since he had already picked it up, or he would have been pretty upset on Christmas!

After we exchanged gifts, we headed over to his parent’s house for breakfast and to bring over the gifts we had for them. To my surprise, I had a small pile of gifts to open! Tim’s parents gave me bedroom slippers, a pair of pajamas, and some bath products. His grandparents gave me a purple handbag (that I LOVE!), and I also received chocolate, some Doctor Who related items, and a Pashmina from his other family members. I really appreciated everything they did to make me feel a part of things.

Later in the evening, Tim and I opened a box of wine and popped our crackers. We sat in front of the fireplace and watched the Christmas Doctor Who special, the Wallace and Gromit special, and a few movies before heading to bed.



My new ring!

For more Christmas photos: http://photos.beccajanestclair.com/uk-trip-2008/christmas-2008

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An American Thanksgiving in the UK

I decided to make Thanksgiving dinner today. Originally, Tim’s mum was supposed to come over, as today is her birthday, but Tim’s dad has been in and out of the hospital and needed to go in again today, so I was just cooking for Tim. And boy, did I cook A LOT. He’ll be eating this stuff for weeks!

This wasn’t the first time I was away from home for Thanksgiving Thursday, but it was the first time I’d be away from home for Family Thanksgiving. My family celebrates the holiday on the Sunday after and we try to get as many people of the family together as possible, so on the Thursday I’ve sometimes gone to a boyfriend’s family dinner instead of spending the day with my mom and aunt. This was, however, the first time I’ve ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner on my own…or really, ANY of the dinner other than the vegetable!

I used an assortment of sites/people for help – some of my friends gave me great advice, my mom gave me her stuffing recipe, and I used google to find recipes (that I wound up adjusting/tweaking!) for today. Obviously, the centerpiece of today’s meal was turkey. At first, I wasn’t sure we’d find one in Tesco…we were in the “fresh” meat section and hadn’t seen any turkey and I had finally let Tim pick up a whole chicken when we found Turkey crowns (breasts) in the frozen section.

I did most of the cooking yesterday. Tim doesn’t have the type of oven/stove you expect to see in a US kitchen. He has a counter-top oven that has two burners on top..and, you can only use one burner while the oven is on! I knew it would be a challenge, but I was prepared and with making notes and a schedule I had it all figured out. Good thing we now have things like microwaves so I was able to make a lot of things last night and reheated them today!

The oven was, obviously, being taken up by the turkey, and while the turkey was cooling I cooked the pan(s) of stuffing – that I had put together the night before.

I wanted mashed potatoes (though Tim says mine are what he’d call “creamed potatoes”), and since I knew that would take up a burner for a long time, I decided to hunt out a way to do them in the crock pot. Surprisingly, I found a very simple recipe and started the potatoes before we went to bed, so in the morning I was able to mash them and leave the crock pot set to warm.

I started to combine a few Thanksgiving traditions from my family and I made sweet potatoes (usually made by my Aunt Beatie for Sunday dinner) and glazed carrots (usually made by my Aunt Janie for Saturday night dinner). The carrots were made on Wednesday, and put into the microwave for heating.

The other vegetable I chose to make was brussel sprouts, because I found a recipe online for Golden Encrusted Brussel Sprouts, and Tim and I both thought that sounded good.

Rounding out the plate we had gravy, which I wimped out on and made from granulates, jarred (not canned!) cranberry sauce, and cranberry orange muffins.

For dessert, I wanted to make pumpkin pie…but I couldn’t find a pumpkin, so we bought a butternut squash instead and I followed just the filling recipe from this website. The recipe said the pecan/graham layer was optional, but I think it would have been better with it because the pie needed to be a lot sweeter. If I follow that recipe again, I’ll either add more cinnamon and sugar, or I’ll add the optional layer. For a crust, Tim found me pre-made puff pastry sheets and for a pie plate, he bought a shallow cake tin, so I dubbed it “Deep Dish Pumpkin Pie”. We also had a pre-made apple pie made by a company called (mom, you’ll love this) Aunt Bessie’s. The apple pie turned out to be crap though, as despite it being in the oven for the full 50 minutes and the top browned on it….the bottom never cooked and when we dished it out it was stringy dough! Sadly, the apple pie was to be the back-up if the pumpkin pie didn’t turn out well, so we wound up not having dessert.

Tim’s gone off to work (2-10 shift today), and at some point I need to put away our leftovers!



for a vegetarian who has never cooked a turkey before on her own, looks pretty good!


The Deep Dish failure


Ready to eat!


[note to LJ feed readers: please click on the link at the top of this entry on LJ to leave comments, as I do not see comments left on LJ!]

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