Archive | April, 2015

Homemade tater tots expectation vs. reality

24 Apr

Lately I have been craving tater tots. Even when I lived in the U.S., tater tots were not something I ate — or even thought about — very often. They were a pleasant treat in the school cafeteria, or as an adult, at Bar Louie or similar establishment. It’s probably been over a year since I’ve eaten tater tots, and I haven’t felt like I’ve been missing out. But then a couple weeks ago tater tots worked their way into a conversation Stephen and I were having, and I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I searched mysupermarket.co.uk and was disappointed to find that tater tots are definitely an American thing, like proper dill pickles and Twizzlers. I temporarily forgot about tater tots, until this recipe came up in my food blog feed.

Homemade tater tots! And I just happened to have a bag of potatoes handy, which I seldom buy, but they were one of Aldi’s Super 6 deals of the week. It was fate!

The first step (after paraboiling) was to grate the potatoes. I do not have a box grater, so I thought I’d do it one better — I’d spiralize, then “rice” my potato “noodles” for a similar effect. I was even feeling cocky, thinking I could submit the idea to one of my favorite food blogs, Inspiralized.com.

spiralized tater tots
That step actually worked out well. I formed the mixture into little tots (with a little bit of a struggle), then waited for Stephen to come before frying them up.

homemade tater totsThis is probably where I went wrong. In an effort to be healthy, I didn’t want to full-on fry them, but baked tater tots are the worst, so I tried to fry them in a tiny bit of oil. They soaked up the oil and started to stick. Some parts burned, some parts wouldn’t cook, and some tots just plain turned into hashbrowns.

cook homemade tater totsA couple of them managed to stay fully formed, but most of them were mush.

homemade tater tots burnt
Expectation:

homade tater tots expectation
Reality:

homemade tater tots failAs far as the taste goes, they were just meh. They were actually really good hashbrowns, but I think factoring in the amount of time and effort that went into making said hashbrowns made me like them less. When I asked Stephen what he thought, he asked why I couldn’t just buy tater tots on Amazon. Amazon does sell almost everything, but I don’t think Amazon.co.uk has cornered the frozen tater tot market yet.

Making homemade tater tots was definitely a learning experience, and this is what I learned:

Non-Americans: Visit an American-themed restaurant in your country or wait until you visit the US of A and get some real tots.

Americans: Go buy some tots, Ore-Ida knows what it’s doing. (And a little disodium hihydrogen pyrophosphate will not kill you just because you struggle to pronounce it.)

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Preparation for the Great London Walk

21 Apr

One thing I love about London, or any big city, really, is that when traffic is really bad or the Tube is “properly buggered,” you can always say, “Screw it, I’m walking.” This happened to me a few months ago when I was going to apply for my Chinese visa. It had snowed — I kid you not — maybe one centimeter overnight, and it threw the entire Central Line into chaos. I had to get off at Oxford Circus and take a pricy taxi the rest of the way so I wouldn’t be late, but I was not about to do that on my way home. I figured in the amount of time I would spend waiting for a bus and transferring I could almost walk home, so I did. All 5 miles. I considered it practice for my Great London Walk.

What’s the Great London Walk, you ask?

At the beginning of the year one of my employers sent me a survey. The last question was “What are your personal goals for 2015?” or something like that. I could have put the generic “Eat better, run more, stop attacking jars of Nutella and biscuit spread with a spoon” (I’ve gotten better at that! And by that I mean I haven’t allowed myself to buy a jar of Nutella or biscuit spread in two months), but I decided I should put something specific. So I wrote “Earn the 30,000 steps Fitbit badge.”

30,000 steps is equal to about 13 or 14 miles. The closest I came was on April 22, 2014 when I hit 25,563 steps and 11.39 miles when I was in NYC. But this year I want to hit 30,000, which is where the Great London Walk comes in.

Some day this year I am going to walk 30,000 steps (maybe even more!) around London. I have not chosen a day yet, because the conditions have to be perfect. With my work schedule, I’ll have to do it on a weekend, and since Stephen is not as passionate about Fitbit steps and miles as I am, it’ll have to be a weekend when he’s traveling for work.

I’m still working on a route. I’m thinking I will plan it so I arrive at Borough Market for lunch, which is about 5 miles away, and then I’ll wander along the Thames, strategically stepping into museums for bathroom breaks. I had another training session last week when I decided to walk to Oxford Street and back. I ended that day with 21,215 steps, 9.25 miles, and legs and feet more sore than when I ran 10K. Clearly, the Great London Walk is going to require more training.

I recently upped my running weekly mileage, partly because I want to get faster and better, partly because I cannot stop eating Chinese bakery cake. I think it’s working, because I did my fastest 4 miles yet today (with a bit of cheating — I pause the app at stoplights, does that count as cheating?). Hyde Park and Regents Park are particularly beautiful this time of year, so I’m trying to soak it all in before next week, when I’ll trade royal parks for Kentucky suburbs and nature trails, at least for a month. Though it seems Christmas was just yesterday, I’m looking forward to some quality time with friends and family, and of course, American food (apparently my Easter basket is waiting for me). (See above about the need to run more).

And now some pretty Hyde Park flowers from this afternoon’s run:

hyde park flowers

What can you get for $50 at Neiman Marcus?

8 Apr

The short answer: not much.

My very first pair of Tory Burch flats are starting to wear out and constantly slip off, so I decided to treat myself to a new pair (especially now that they’ve been redesigned to no longer include elastic on the back — you’d think it would help the shoe stay on, but in reality it just makes it slip off).

treat yourself

Reva flats are not cheap, so I signed up for Neiman Marcus’ emails to get 10% off, plus they’re having a deal where if you spend a certain amount, you get a $50 gift card. While I’d much rather they just deduct $50 from the price of the shoes, I will happily accept free money.

I have not received the gift card yet, but I eagerly started surfing the site to see what I could buy. A quick click on the clothing links quickly ruled that out. I could buy another pair of Revas or other shoes, but I don’t really need any, and the $50 isn’t really free money if I have to pony up a lot more on something I wasn’t planning on buying in the first place.

So I went over to kitchen accessories — maybe they’d have something cool there! I found this water bottle:

neiman marcus citrus bottle

It infuses your water with fruit — cool! But so does dropping a slice of lemon in your glass, and that doesn’t cost $18.

Some of my favorite health and fitness bloggers rave about the bkr water bottles.

neiman marcus bkr

Apparently they’re super durable and “clean.” Except I don’t mind having to walk into my kitchen to get a drink because I need the Fitbit steps. Also I am rarely “on the go,” and when I am, I don’t want to carry a heavy glass water bottle. One more thing: IT’S A $42 WATER BOTTLE! Yes, technically it would be “free” for me, but still. It’s not $42 pretty.

I thought maybe I’d have better luck in the gourmet food department. The $50 is free money, so why not spend it on something completely frivolous that I would never buy with real money — like a giant box of Godiva chocolate. This is what I envisioned:

neiman marcus godiva ultimate truffle

I did not envision the $165 price tag for 80 truffles. Time to lower my expectations.

neiman marcus godiva dessert

I could get 12 dessert truffles for $30 (inexplicably on sale for $30 from $25?). No wonder Godiva doesn’t give samples if their truffles are “worth” $2.50!

Or I could blow the whole gift card on 12 pieces of chocolate:

neiman marcus chocolate 12

Although knowing me, I would be too afraid to eat them since they cost me so much free money and would save them until they were past their prime. Not that I’ve done that with Christmas or Easter candy in the past…

But if I’m gonna blow the whole thing in one shot, I could at least get 36 pieces of Godiva.

neiman marcus godiva spring

That’s $1.38 a truffle, an even better value than 80 for $165!

Or maybe I could get tea.

neiman marcus tea

But for $45 I would expect 20 packs of 20, not just 20 bags. That’s $2.25 a mug, wouldn’t it be cheaper to just go to a cafe?

Look, creme brulee almonds! Those sound amazing!

neiman marcus almonds

But not $35 for 18 oz. amazing. (WHO IS BUYING THIS STUFF?!!)

I was now deep in the gourmet food pages and finding some interesting things. Like asparagus. Who in their right mind buys 2 lbs of asparagus from Neiman Marcus for $44 (plus $12.50 shipping!)? So it’s essentially $56.50. I’m not sure I would even spend $6.50 on 2 lbs of asparagus, I think Aldi sells it cheaper.

neiman marcus asparagus

Look, 3 lbs of mashed potatoes for $61.50 (gotta include shipping). I think they are loaded with flakes of gold.

neiman marcus mashed potato

This dachshund cookie jar is maybe the least crazy $50 food item — it comes with 17.6 oz of cookies, which is approximately 50. So it’s $1 a cookie with a free dachshund jar! My dad and his side of the family are big dachshund fans — do you want a cookie jar and 50 cookies for Father’s Day, Dad? 😉

neiman marcus dachshund

That was all the gourmet food section had to offer for $50 or less, so I hopped over to beauty. I obviously don’t need any more makeup (does anyone?), but it never hurts to look. And now I know that Christian Louboutin makes nail polish. And it costs $50.

christian louboutin nail polish

I’m not sure what’s going on here either — is the insanely high shoe some kind of decorative case? And is the nail polish red or black, or some magical mixture of both? For $50 it better be both.

All Neiman Marcus’ makeup was designer (and not like Lorac Pro or Urban Decay, which are expensive for Ulta, but still under $50, but real designer, like Louboutin, Armani and Dior). In other words, $50 wouldn’t get me a makeup brush.

By chance I wandered over to jackets, just for kicks. And that’s when I found this mythical unicorn:

neiman marcus pleather jacket

I’m not sure I’m a leather (or pleather) jacket girl, but this one would be free. I just hope my gift card comes before they realize they left a zero off the price, because nothing at Neiman Marcus costs $34, not even a water bottle. And if I got the jacket, I’d have enough money for this too:

neiman marcus peppermint brittle

Though with a sale price like that, it’ll probably be long gone, so I’ll have to settle for 6 truffles or a $16 tin of butterfly gummies. But hey, it’s all “free,” right?