Sprinkles and buttercream frosting

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A few weeks a go I had a jolly evening, I trundled down to the City creek shopping centre – this is quite new and contains a little stream – well a creek that runs through with trout in, obviously. The roof is retractable so depending on the weather you can be indoors or outdoors. there are also multiple fountains and wood fires where you can sit and while away a few hours. regardless of the actual shops this place is a treat in itself.

I signed up to a cake decorating class. I’ve done a few classes in the past and always figure practising decorating skills, picking up new tips and spending a few hours of talking about cake is time well spent.

The class didn’t disappoint we talked about cake construction, and pesky crumbs, the perfect butter cream and how to frost a cake to make it look smooth and petty. we then set about putting this into practice.

Sadly I still need to practice lots on this, although I’m pretty handy now with a palette knife and can make a good consistency of butter cream – the secret, lots of butter and sugar!!! lots of beating!! My decoration still isn’t quite the neat finish I’m after, I’m also out of practice. On the plus side this means more baking and more cake eating!

A few things I learnt, if you really want  a great finish then do a crumb coat first. Make sure your crumb coat is quite thin. If your cake is super crumbly freeze or refrigerate it as chilled cake is easier to work with. Use complimentary colours. I use gel colours for icing – and almost anything else now, I find these give a better colour and finish. and if in doubt sprinkles fix everything!!

I’m still getting to grips with baking in this climate. The altitude does crazy things to cooking times, everything is dryer and raising agents do weird things. Any advise of adjusting recipes for altitude would be extremely helpful! Let me know in the comments.

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Dinosaur

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Given that we are only a few hours drive away from the town and national monument, Dinosaur, and I wanted to indulge my inner geologist/palaeontologist, we thought we’d pay it a visit. The weather predicted storms over SLC so we headed East where it stayed dry and sunny. The drive over was spectacular, driving over and around various mountain ranges, we kept our eye out for ski resorts, through Indian reserves, rural landscape and red dusty rocks.

Dinosaur is a national monument, different from a state park that is on the Utah/ Colorado border, which unsurprisingly is named because it is a massive dinosaur graveyard/quarry. Here sits thousands of dinosaur bones, and is where many complete skeletons have been found that are in several of today’s museums around the world.

We found one of the visitor centres, and excitedly found everyone outside gathered aorund a snake! I have no idea what kind but it wasn’t a rattle snake and was about two meters long. This was a good start! In order to reach the dinosaur ‘wall’ literally a massive wall of bones, which to be more accurate is a large hillside, which has been excavated. To get here you can walk up a small route, finding fossils along the way or jump on a little bus that takes you up to the wall. The wall was actually bigger than I expected, and bones everywhere. This is largely due to the type of rocks and was fairly impressive.

We had a walk aorund the park, enjoy the landscape, small abandoned homesteads, fossils, and small canyons. We were also excited to find some petroglyph’s dotted aorund the park. These are carved into the rock in various shapes and sizes. Some of the drawings are quite clear where as some are more abstract. These carvings are around a thousand years old, and nobody really knows what they mean. They could be the equivalent to modern day graffiti, a family history, warnings to other tribes, directions or just doodles. Whatever they were made for the look impressive and it was fascinating to see something with so much history. Very cool Utah, very cool!

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The good bits #12

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So far August is hurtling past, and amid the long hot and sunny days we have been exploring our new home.The kitties have settled well and are enjoying having more windows, and importantly large window sills to sprawl along. They seem to approve and already have several favourite spots.

First impressions of this city are that is is vibrant, so green, and has lots to do, especially outdoor activities. the weather has been glorious, for once I feel like I’ve had a proper summer, its consistently 30+ degrees, with a few instances nearer 40 – which has been a little too warm for my delicate rose skin. Aside from avoiding the mid afternoon, I have however been enjoying living in shorts and flip flops, and making the most of the local outdoor pool, ice cream and abundance of vitamin D. I created a summer wardrobe, although if I’m honest I’m really looking forward to ‘fall’ which is my favourite time of year. I cant wait to be cold enough to wrap up warm again!

Kiwi and I have begun exploring our new state, with a few trips south and west. Visiting one of the islands on the great salt lake, eating our body weight in ice cream shakes (almost) and hiking to some darling hot pools.

We also had a fantastic time in the UK, and reminisced about home (well for me anyway) complete with bbq’s, Pimms, camping and enjoying a few days around our old stomping ground. It’s hard to believe I landed in the US a whole year ago – it’s  a bit longer for Kiwi. In some ways it really doesn’t feel like I’ve been gone that long, but I guess we have crammed a lot into the last year.

As we approach Labour day – this is effectively like August bank holiday weekend, it’s officially the end of the summer but as Americans get less holidays its even bigger! we will be exploring more of the national parks whilst the weather is still good. We are looking into ski season passes for the approaching season and finding some local treasures.

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Maple syrup, maple trees and tree trapping

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Now one of the great American foods, or at least one of the foods I associate with America is maple syrup! Drizzled over pancakes or waffles with bacon and blueberries, all kinds of yum. On a recent visit to one of the country parks we had a chance to look at the maple syrup process. At the end of winter just as the temperature is starting to warm up the maple syrup season is in full force. for a handful of weekends there are a range of sugar camp days, and maple tapping events that demonstrate how this process works, and recruits volunteers to get the trees tapped up to collect the syrup in time.
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Take the plunge in 5 easy steps

Its been one of those days, well weeks actually, I keep going to find things and they just aren’t there. Sometimes they turn up right next to where I was looking, others, well they could be in my mums shed, or left on a plane somewhere, I just cant remember. But its only stuff right! You can always find more stuff, and then have a spring clean, be minimalistic again.

Having some time off over Thanksgiving has been really nice, and we experienced our first thanksgiving! One of the advantages to uprooting and moving is that you get to try out all these fun traditions that you’ve either never heard of or only seen in movie world! Having spent some time streamlining I thought it was time to reflect on what I wish I could have told myself a few months ago. So if there is anyone else out there thinking of re-locating, or just making a change, be that a new job, a new life phase, doing that thing that’s been on your to do list for ages, Just do it!

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Do your homework

Research research research, knowledge is power right. So look into things, if you are moving, before you go, look up what sports teams and activities there are. Look at what amenities there are, what places do you want to go visit, are there job and volunteering opportunities. What are the transport options. Picking up a local guide book can be good to get a feel for the place, also there are so many blogs out there now and local communities to help you find your way around.

Paperwork and lists

The boring stuff. ah yes, this bit. There’s always official dullness that needs to be done, it might be a job app, a tax return, changing your address, there’s always something. If you are moving to the US, a few pointers. Your visa should be sorted before you arrive, once you’re in check if you need any forms signed before you need to leave the country again so you can re-enter, Then you will need a social security number for everything. Find your local social security administration, and pick up your social security card – or letter explaining that you don’t need one – they have a deli counter system for queuing! Find your local BMV and book in a theory test. You can do your practical on the same day if you pass and hold an out of state license. Each state differs but you will most likely need to retake your test at some point, especially if you want affordable insurance! It also serves as good ID – I’ve had some really strange looks over my UK license – its pink and looks weird. Get a copy of your I94 – its online, change all of your addresses – you cant redirect your mail forever! find your local post office, and get your forms in if you need a work permit – these can take at least 3 months. Open a bank account, take out a credit card – so you can get a credit rating! You also need this for everything.

Make a budget

Short term most changes are going to have some kind of financial impact, especially when you are somewhere new, finding where to eat out, what good grocery shops are, buying pans to cook with. Moving is expensive, getting things to a different place soon adds up, even if you decide all you need in life is one rucksack and off you go. The further you go the more expensive it gets. But this really gives you some perspective on what is valuable in life and what things you actually need. Eventually you need to re-buy half the stuff you didn’t want to bring with you, because lets face it you need a cheese grater and a hoover, and these things are boring and expensive to buy. But mostly don’t stress over it, ultimately its only money.

Take the plunge

Just go for it, what are you waiting for, it will never be as bad as you think its going to be, and generally Its so much fun, you get to do something new, and really test yourself. See who you are when you strip everything else back, and push yourself to try a little harder. Its all so easy to get into a nice routine, because change is tiring, scary and emotionally challenging. But change is really good for you. In the last few moths I’ve learnt so much about myself, I’ve really had time to think and test out some new skills. Its all worth it

Just get out there

I’ve signed myself up to different activities as that’s how I roll, I figure good friends are usually ones you can either sit drinking gin and eating chocolate with or ones you can run around and look a mess with. If you can do both great! You never know who you might bump into, sure I will always consider snuggling up on the sofa vs anything else, but its rare that I think, actually I wish I hadn’t done that. Networking, meeting new people, new places and exploring, being present in your life even if you haven’t moved anywhere. It could lead to all sort of things, give it a try!

American football – Fighting Irish

A few weeks back Kiwi and I went to our first American football match over here. Our local team, the fighting Irish, play in Notre Dame stadium – a similar capacity to Wembley! Its huge, the seats are like wooden benches that you squish along on. Our first match was one of the coldest days we’d had so far! Having had weeks of pleasantly warm, and hot days, that remind you off lazy summer days, paddle boarding and going to the beach, a scheduled 4 degrees was a bit of a shock to the system! We wrapped up warm and walked down to the stadium. We were keen to check out ‘tail gating’ and what this entailed.

Tailgating occurs before a match but must end by kick off. It appears to involve drinking lots of beer and having a bbq, often in the back of you car/trailer. Lots of people were bbqing and drinking beers, some people had driven down for the tailgating and would then watch the match in their trailer. I guess people need a beer coat, as there wasn’t any drinking once you were in the stadium. To say American football is a spectacle would be an understatement. The game is loud with music happening whenever there isn’t play. Cheerleaders line up along the side cheering and whipping up the crowd, most people dress up and wear home colours and visit ‘touchdown Jesus’. There is a full marching band – that fills up the whole pitch, and the crown generate a party spirit.

The game itself was really stop start. We don’t really know the rules but worked out the basics as the games progress. Essentially each team gets 4 go’s to move the ball – mostly by throwing and catching – more than 10 yards. They keep doing this until they get a touchdown a penalty or lose the ball. Each ‘play’ seems pretty planned with little chance or spontaneity in the game. There are loads of players in each team, and for me the highlight was the Fighting Irishs’ impressive gold helmets and shoes.

I’ve read about the experience of fandom and being in a stadium, but it really was something different. The fan culture was almost as exciting as the game, which was rather slow. Unfortunately it rained throughout most of the game, making it pretty miserable.  I think the game lasted for maybe 5 hours, I kinda switched off once I couldn’t feel my feet. We did enjoy some fresh pretzels – lovely! and some ‘dipping cheese’ this was not cheese, it was cold orange gloop, and it tasted like gloop. We have another match coming up in a  few weeks and might even try out some tailgating.

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