Texan in Norwich


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Norwich Cathedral

It’s been a while! Our flat has been plagued by sickness for the last few weeks. First me, then James, then me again, and James again, etc. We’re both mostly well now, but all this sickness has seriously cut down on our activities around Norwich and my ability to keep this blog up. Also the weather’s been terrible, so we’ve been keeping indoors. This Texas girl needs her sunshine!

I’ve been doing a lot of knitting, which I learned at Crafty Ewe on St Giles Street. I went to a couple of classes with Dorothy and now I love it! I’ll post some pictures of what I’ve made after Christmas (as most of them are family Christmas presents)!

I have also started volunteering at the Norwich Cathedral. I work one or two afternoons a week in the little shop, and it has been really nice! I started to volunteer just because I couldn’t get a job around here and I thought it might help to have some recent experience in the UK, but I really do enjoy it. The people I work with are nice and fun, and the atmosphere is so relaxed. The customers are friendly and patient, which has been great as I learn how everything works! It can be quite quiet, so I bring my knitting along and work away when there’s no one to help. The girl I work with on Tuesdays does Sudoku, and the man on Wednesdays does crosswords. It’s such a nice, peaceful place to spend an afternoon.

It is cold though! We sit very close to a little space heater and have to come prepared with sweaters and fleeces.

On sunny days (rare), the stained glass windows turn the walls of the cathedrals all different colors.

Come say hello!

(Disclaimer: these pictures were taken in July!)


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Norwich Markets

One of my favorite things about Norwich is the amount of creative people that live here. You can take classes for any type of art or activity (like knitting, which I am doing!), and the city center is full of art supplies stores and independent shops. There are also so many markets.

I love markets. At home we have a small farmers market and a couple of seasonal flea markets, but nothing like the ones that have come through Norwich. Nearly every Saturday there is some kind of market at the Forum, and there have been many coming through the church halls around where we live. I’ve been to a market for charity Christmas cards, vintage jewelry, hand made baskets, local produce, sausages (proof of this is below), and more.

My favorites so far have been the Clutter City Market at the Norwich Arts Centre (in an old church), and the monthly flea market at St Andrews’s and Blackfriars Halls (also an old church, a theme I will return to in a later post).

Clutter City Market

The Clutter City Market was full of handmade objects. Toys, jewelry, clothes, home decorations, art work, and so much more, all hand made by the people running the stalls. It was engrossing and inspiring. I didn’t take many pictures because it was quite crowded, but hopefully you can tell from the photo what a lovely experience it was.

For more information and photos, please check out the official Clutter City blog on the event. The market is coming back in December, and I can’t wait!

Another market we went to recently was the Norwich Original Flea Market at St Andrews’s and Blackfriars Hall.

St Andrews Hall

This market has been held once a month here for 37 years. It is 100 stalls of strange and interesting antique and vintage objects in a very impressive setting. It cost 1 pound to go in, but this month the flea market was raising money for Cancer Research charity. My guess is that every month the entrance fee goes to support a charity, but I can’t find anything that confirms this.

James and I are not big antique people, but I love looking at peoples’ old things. I love old post cards, old games, photos, newspapers, brochures, the weirder the better. Being someone who has a hard time throwing things away, I find it very interesting to see what other people find important enough to keep through the years. There was plenty of this at the market, in addition to the expected antique furniture, lamps, jewelry, and vintage clothes. One of my favorite stalls was simply thousands of postcards from all around Norfolk, lovingly organized into categories (like “churches” and “windmills”) as well as geographical locations.

James and I considered purchasing this game, but realized we didn’t actually have any money with us. We loved how dressed up the characters on the box are. Betting on imaginary football matches is a classy affair.

It was really a lot of fun, and we are looking forward to the one in November!


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The Best (Allergy Friendly) Chicken Curry

We love a curry. Warm, spicy, cozy, and rich, but off limits to me usually. Not anymore! James and I have created a curry recipe that is not just delicious, but is also friendly to my delicate, allergy-ridden system. We usually make too much curry for dinner then save some for lunch the next day because this is a meal that is even better leftover.

James and I have tried to make curries many different ways, but this is by far the best. The inspiration comes from a simplebites.net recipe, but naturally I have tweaked it quite a bit. The original recipe is for a slow cooker, which I have tried and it worked very nicely, but on a day to day basis I find it easier to make it on the hob.

So here’s what you do!

Ingredients (makes 2-3 servings)

1 red onion

1 clove garlic (we leave this out, but if you can have garlic, go for it!)

1 red chili pepper

1in piece of ginger

1tsp turmeric

1tsp cumin

1tsp black pepper

1tsp salt

1/2tsp dried chili flakes (more or less depending on how spicy you want it–you can add this in at the end if you want)

2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes

1 can full fat coconut milk

1 or 2 bell peppers (or veggie of your choice)

1 zucchini/corgette (or veggie of your choice)

Directions

Roughly chop the onion, ginger, garlic, and red chili. Put half of the onion, along with all of the ginger, garlic, and red chili in a food processor or blender.

Process until it’s almost like a paste. Put some oil in a pan, warm it up, and mix the paste in, as well as all of the spices. You can also sub in a ready made curry paste here, but I can’t have those and this recipe could save you a special trip to the store as all the ingredients in this paste could already be in your kitchen.

*Warning: your pan will be yellow after this meal

As the pan gets hot, cut up the chicken into the pan and coat with your onion/chili/ginger/garlic/spices mixture. Then cook on medium-high heat until the chicken is sealed.

While the chicken is sealing, roughly chop your veggies. I love zucchini/corgettes and bell peppers in curries because they soak up lots of flavor, but you could also use baby corn, snap peas, or really any kind of vegetable you want/have. Once the chicken is sealed, pour in a can of full fat coconut milk and add your chopped veggies, including the rest of the onion you chopped at the beginning.

Let this simmer away for a little while until the vegetables get as soft as you want them. When it’s done it will look like this:

Give it a taste and see if it needs any more spices. It it’s a bit bland, I like to add some more cumin and chili flakes. Serve with basmati or jasmine rice and you’re set! Cooking the chicken in the spices this way makes it really tasty and spicy compared with other curry recipes I’ve tried. Also, putting the veggies in after the coconut milk ensures that as they cook they soak up all the flavor in the pan.


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Sunny Sheringham

Early September, before the weather got too cold, James and I took a trip to Sheringham on the Norfolk coast. In my time at UEA, I didn’t make it to the coast and this was one of my many regrets. So we woke up early one sunny Friday morning and hopped on the train to wipe away this regret!

I had been to Bournemouth during a high school band exchange, but this was my only previous experience of British seaside. It’s quite a unique thing. It was so kitschy and so colorful. For a coastline that probably never has waters warm enough to enjoy swimming, Sheringham really manages to make the most out of the fact that it is on the sea. It was full of kitschy little shops filled with painted wooden lighthouses and “Gone fishing” signs. Unlike the Texas coastal towns, however, it all seemed so clean and quaint. It was a busy town, but relaxed. People seemed to come to Sheringham to look at the ocean, go on walks, and mostly eat ice cream rather than get drunk and wear tiny bikinis, as is usually the case on the Texas coastline. It’s also home to a heritage steam railway line and a museum that celebrates its lifeboating, fishing, and coastal history.

I was blown away by these little huts below. James informs me that people own/rent them and keep all their seaside equipment in them. From the ones we saw that were open, ‘seaside equipment’ can range from kayaks and surf boards to kettles and kitchenettes. They are adorable in any case.

James and I walked all through the tiny town and had an absolutely delicious lunch at a pub called The Windham Arms. As you can see, I cheated on my food allergies, but sometimes it’s just unavoidable. I mean, look at how delicious that looks!

We spent the rest of the day walking along the coast. Sheringham has a really lovely coastline that seems to go on forever. The summer was starting to end so there weren’t many people at the beach, and we had a nice long stretch all to ourselves. We also discovered that if you toss the small rocks on the beach against the other rocks, they’ll endlessly bounce around off each other, and make a very pleasing clinking sound. We did this (I should say I did this) for at least an hour.

Channeling his childhood vacations, James did not want to come out of the freezing water.

But in the end, he had to and we had to return to Norwich. It was a really nice little day trip. We don’t have a car, so we are limited in the places we can visit around Norfolk, but Sheringham did the job splendidly.


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Guacamole Tuesday

Tuesday night is taco night in the Owen household. Taco Tuesday. James works in London on Tuesdays, so when he returns we go all out. Homemade tacos (no seasoning from a bag due to all my allergies), grated cheese, beer for James, cider for me, and the pièce de résistance: guacamole. The tacos are really just an excuse to eat guacamole so Taco Tuesday is kind of a misnomer. My taco recipe would help no one, since there are a lot better recipes for tacos that I can’t eat, so this post is all about the guacamole.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

I have a deep and profound love for guacamole. Being from Texas, Tex-Mex is a way of life. There’s not a lot I can eat anymore, but I could live on homemade guacamole. I can’t eat any from restaurants, because of the lime they add, but I wouldn’t really want to here anyways. Because here in the UK they put corn in their guacamole. CORN. No, sir! They also overdo it on the lime to where it just tastes like limey-mash with corn in it. No. No no no.

My guacamole has six ingredients. Avocados, red onion, chili pepper (or jalapeño if you can find it), salt, cilantro/coriander, and a dash of apple juice.

To start out, I chop half of a small onion, or about a third of a big one, very finely. Do the same to a chili pepper. I use about 2/3 of a chili pepper and then throw in a few seeds in the end if it’s not spicy enough. If you don’t like much spice, start out with 1/2 of a chili pepper and taste it as you go along. (Note: I prefer jalapeño peppers here, but they seem to be difficult to find in Norwich, so a red chili works okay)

This is a slightly misleading picture because this chopping board is about half the size of a normal chopping board. I like the onions and peppers chopped very finely. Each piece of onion is about 1cm thick. (The onions on the other chopping board were for our tacos, so were chopped thicker, ignore those!)

Then cut 2 avocados in half and remove the skin. I like to break them up into pieces as I put the avocados in a bowl so its easier to mash up. Pour in a dash of apple juice so to add some moisture. The apple juice is my substitute for lime. You don’t taste the apple juice at all, but it keeps the guac from getting brown right away and helps the texture.

Once you put in the apple juice, stir the avocados around with a fork to soften them up a bit. Then put in your onions and chilies.

Now just stir it up! I use a regular fork and just stir it for a while until it starts to get soft. There’s no need to seriously mash it or go crazy, it will start to get soft on its own with some vigorous stirring. Once it’s soft, add a bit of salt to taste and some chopped coriander/cilantro. This makes enough for two very hungry guacamole lovers.

Another technique is just to throw all your ingredients in a food processor and let it go. Just start with roughly chopped onion and chili, then when that’s blitzed to oblivion add the apple juice, avocado and a pinch of salt. I don’t like this as much because it creates almost a guacamole paste. I like my guac with different textures and some lumps of avocado here and there. But if you’re in a hurry or don’t want to make as much of a mess, the food processor works fine.

And this is what you get! (Vegan readers, I’m sorry, look away now)

Look at that beauty! And it’s ridiculously easy to make, so there’s really no excuse not to go make some right now!


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Seize the David O’Doherty! (Carpe D.O’Diem)

Two years ago, in my tiny room at the University of East Anglia, on freeview software downloaded to my computer, I saw an episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks hosted by David O’Doherty. I’d never heard of him before, but he was doing the show like Shakira was supposed to be the host and he’d filled in for her at the last minute. The whole thing was very, very silly and I loved it. After it ended, I checked out his website (http://www.davidodoherty.com/) and loved that too. Here was an Irish man in a shark costume, writing books about panda facts, and a quick glance at youtube told me he is rarely found on stage without a tiny plastic children’s keyboard. What is there not to love?!

Today I am the proud owner of not only his book of panda facts, but also the newer one of shark facts. I recently bought his two most recent cds (paid for them and everything), and last night as the last part of my birthday present, James took me to see him at the Norwich Playhouse.

By the way, this is my favorite panda fact:

The Norwich Playhouse is a lovely little theater on the charming St George’s Street. It’s a small, quirky place and the attached bar is my favorite beer garden I’ve been to in this city yet. It’s right on the river and decorated in a way that would make Austinites feel at home. This bar will be the subject of another post, so I’ll move along.

I’ve only been to one other comedy gig before. My sister took me to see Craig Ferguson last spring and that night is etched in my mind for a lot of reasons. For one, I love Craig Ferguson and he was hilarious. For another, it was in Bass Hall in Fort Worth, which is more suited to seeing symphonies while dressed in fancy clothes than a foul-mouthed Scotsman and a dancing leprechaun. The fanciness of the location and the height of our seats in the balcony added an extra layer of surreality to my memory of the evening that is entirely unnecessary. It was always going to be a surreal memory because the afternoon of the show I had returned from Norwich. I was very jet lagged and tired and suddenly was sitting in a seat where a steep drop to my death was just a wobbly step away. Another layer of intrigue was added when I got home late after the show, completely unaware of what time it was or even where I was. It was one of those times when I was too tired to even go to bed, so I dropped onto the sofa, turned the tv on, and was greeted by 45min of news stations going nuts about something the president was going to announce. In a daze I watched Obama announce that bin Laden was dead. When I did go to bed late that night, the whole day felt like an elaborate dream. The long obnoxious flight from England, jet lag, a fancy theater, the altitude sickness-inducing seats, Craig dancing, leprechauns, someone dressed as a pirate with a chest full of gold, and bin Laden’s dead. The show was a hilarious and fun time with my sister, but I was hoping David O’Doherty’s would be slightly less confusing.

As James and I were walking down sleepy Colegate to the theater, we again were struck by how lucky we are to be living here. A five minute walk through a lovely village street takes us from our flat to a wonderful theater to see one of our favorite comedians. It felt like David O’Doherty was doing a show in our backyard.

Norwich Playhouse

We took our seats and waited for the comedy onslaught.

Norwich PlayhouseNorwich Playhouse

He didn’t disappoint. David O’Doherty describes his comedy style as “very low energy musical whimsy” and that’s exactly what it was. The show was gentle, silly comedy performed in a charming, musical and whimsical way. Much of the night was about topics that are quite depressing, like a breakup, the recession, and mice infestations, but he managed to turn them into hilarious, sweet, and light-hearted comedy. He’s immensely likeable and seemed to be enjoying himself, never trying too hard or taking himself too seriously. Feeding off of that, the whole theater was filled with warm, lovely, positive feelings. One of the best moments came when he got out a tiny Cosmopolitan magazine insert about Women’s 1000 all time best sex tips and began to read/sing its contents. It contained tips like “Eat raw mushrooms because they smell like sex” and other similar ridiculous things that Cosmo is known for printing.

The show ended with the crowd-pleasing My Beefs 2012 and then David hung out in the lobby taking pictures with the audience for a while. He was a lot of fun and very friendly, proposing different amusing scenarios for each picture. I had him sign my panda book, then we took a couple of photos.

Being presented 100 Facts About Pandas

Yay! We are celebrating something!

I was impressed that he not only took pictures and talked with everyone, but that he seemed to be enjoying taking pictures and talking to everyone. The show was sold out so he’s coming back to the Playhouse on October 29th. If you’re in Norwich, you better go see it!