Friday, 30 March 2012

How to Perfectly Cook a Hard Boiled Egg

With Easter around the corner, I figured I might as well share my method for perfectly cooked hard boiled eggs.  They are seriously perfect every time, even when I overcook them!!  Seriously!  I made a batch yesterday and was surprised again at what a perfect technique this is.  The yolk is a bright, nearly florescent orange (though entirely cooked through) and there is never a hint of that greyish green that is so common when hard boiled eggs are over cooked.  I like to eat mine cut in half with a little bit of salt and Charlotte likes to eat hers by the forkful:

Given that most households make and throw away loads of hard boiled eggs every Easter, this is my attempt to get you to eat them instead!  Mmm!

The method I use is from

  • Cook time: 12 minutes
If you want hard boiled eggs that are easy to peel, make sure they are several days old. If this is Easter time, and everyone is buying their eggs at the last minute, buy your eggs 5 days in advance of boiling. (See the reference tousing old eggs in Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking). Hard boiling farm fresh eggs will invariably lead to eggs that are difficult to peel. If you have boiled a batch that are difficult to peel, try putting them in the refrigerator for a few days; they should be easier to peel then. If you need to hard cook fresh eggs, and want them easy to peel, steaming the eggs works well. Even fresh eggs steamed for 20 minutes will be easy to peel.


1. Put the eggs in a single layer in a saucepan, covered by at least an inch or two of cold water. Starting with cold water and gently bringing the eggs to a boil will help keep them from cracking. Adding a tablespoon of vinegar to the water will help keep the egg whites from running out of any eggs that happen to crack while cooking, but some people find that the vinegar affects the taste. I don't have a problem with it and I usually add a little vinegar. Adding a half teaspoon of salt is thought to help both with the preventing of cracking and making the eggs easier to peel. Put the burner on high and bring the eggs to a boil. As soon as the water starts to boil, remove the pan from the heat for a few seconds.
2. Reduce the heat to low, return the pan to the burner. Let simmer for one minute. (Note I usually skip this step because I don't notice the eggs boiling until they've been boiling for at least a minute! Also, if you are using an electric stove with a coil element, you can just turn off the heat. There is enough residual heat in the coil to keep the eggs simmering for a minute.)
3. After a minute, remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let sit for 12 minutes. If you are doing a large batch of eggs, after 10 minutes you can check for doneness by sacrificing one egg, removing it with a slotted spoon, running it under cold water, and cutting it open. If it isn't done, cook the other eggs a minute or two longer. The eggs should be done perfectly at 10 minutes, but sometimes, depending on the shape of the pan, the size of the eggs, the number of eggs compared to the amount of water, and how cooked you like them, it can take a few minutes more. When you find the right time that works for you given your pan, the size of eggs you usually buy, the type of stove top you have, stick with it.
I also find that it is very hard to overcook eggs using this method. I can let the eggs sit, covered, for up to 15-20 minutes without the eggs getting overcooked.
4. Either remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and place them into a bowl of ice water (this is if you have a lot of eggs) OR strain out the water from the pan, fill the pan with cold water, strain again, fill again, until the eggs cool down a bit. Once cooled, strain the water from the eggs. Store the eggs in a covered container (eggs can release odors) in the refrigerator. They should be eaten within 5 days.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

What We've Learned So Far (Part 3)

One year on from our arrival, some additional observations on settling in to our new country:

Having a marvellous time, thank you.

You don't need to live near the Tube to get into and around London easily.  The overground trains are as reliable and fast as the Tube, for the most part, and no where near as crowded.

We're committed tea drinkers now.  We're coffee drinkers too, but there are few things more lovely than a nice cup of tea.

There are only very few things that we plan to buy on trips to the States.  Taco sauce, kosher salt...there's a brand of lotion Bethie likes...the point is that we're pretty well accustomed to the food, etc shopping here.

We're making great new friends. 

We miss our friends back in the States.  We love having visitors. 

We aren't big television watchers, but there are some programmes we can recommend for your Netflix/illegal downloading (though not necessarily for your kids): Outnumbered, If Walls Could Talk, Friday Night Dinner, The Inbetweeners, Gavin and Stacey, Peep Show.  No need to tell you about Downton Abbey, I suppose.

Oh, add contact lens solution to the list of things we buy in the States.  It's £7 or so for a 240ml bottle here.  I got two much larger bottles at Target for $5 when we were in Mount Vernon.  Really not sure why there's such a difference.

People here are generally very friendly, the same way people are everywhere in the world if you are friendly too.

It's been really nice not having a car, but I have a feeling those days are numbered.

I'm a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur and the local Crystal Palace FC.  The first is due to some lobbying by a friend and a sense that I shouldn't be a Chelsea fan (the closest Premier League team to home); the second is our neighbourhood team.

When people would say that Charlotte will have an English accent, I thought, "wow, that will be adorable".  Now when we can detect it in certain words she says, I think, "wow, she's growing up so fast!"

Speaking of which, if we have another child, she/he will almost certainly not be eligible to be President of the United States.  Queen of England is still, I believe, on the table.

Bethie's received paychecks from the estate of a Lord and Lady, and from the holdings of the Queen.  I think that's really cool.

Travelling to and from the United States with Charlotte was nightmarish.  Being with our family and friends over Christmas was bliss.

Getting used to where the @ is on the keyboards here took a while.

We really like it here.  It's home.

Alba Pizza is still some of the best pizza we've ever had.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

One Year in London

One year ago today Jason, Charlotte and I moved to London.  Things were so stressful in the days before the move:  I had a lot of concerts leading up to the big day, we had to sell our house, our car and many of our belongings, we said goodbye to our cats, said goodbye to our friends, oh, and we had a newborn baby to care for!  We had no furniture in our house for the last few weeks we lived there (our things wouldn't arrive in London for another two months . . . ) and we moved in with friends for the last week.  It was absolute craziness.  

Even in the midst of all the craziness, however, our decision to move felt like the right one.  We were never in love with DC and we wanted to do something fun and adventurous!  The following print (which I plan to order for the house) sums things up how we feel quite nicely:

And it has been a great adventure so far.  There are certainly people and things we miss, but we're making it work.  Between Skype and our fantastic international phone plan (thanks, O2!) we are in regular contact with our loved ones and all the things we left behind are slowly being replaced by other things.  We have just moved into an amazingly gorgeous new flat and are enjoying spending time with our new friends and exploring our lovely city.

I can't believe it has been an entire year.  I still catch myself telling people that we've "just moved here" but that really isn't true anymore!

Monday, 26 March 2012

15 Month Update

Given that Charlie turns 15-months-old today, I thought it would be appropriate to record what she's up to these days.

  • She loves giving kisses at unexpected times:  in the middle of lunch, mid-sentence while reading her a book, while drinking her evening milk
  • She is still super social and loves being in the midst of a large group of people (church, the train, etc.).  She smiles at everyone and says "hiya" and will often say "bye!" when people get off the train.
  • Every now and then when she is in the midst of playing, she'll say, "bye-bye", blow a kiss, pick up a toy and leave the room.
  • Her "lovies" are currently her giraffe "Lala" and a stuffed Winnie the Pooh.  She also has similar attachments to her jackets and likes to wear them around the house or have them near when she's playing.
  • Her favourite book is a book in Spanish about big and little things featuring Big Bird and Little Bird that I had as a kid.  
  • One morning while I was away, Jason was in the living room while Charlie was playing in the hall.  She managed to take off her diaper and her pajama bottoms and then ran into the living room laughing hysterically!  Luckily, Jason had his phone handy to capture a couple quick pictures:

  • She consistently recognises the colour yellow.
  • She can locate the following body parts on herself or me:  head, hair, nose, ears, mouth, tongue, teeth, foot, toes, hands, fingers, eyes, tummy, belly button, bottom, boobies . . .
  • She can follow simple instructions such as getting a particular toy from another room or a particular book and bringing it to me.  I can also say, "go to the kitchen" or "go into Charlie's room" and she does!
  • She is super chatty these days.  Sometimes she just babbles and sometimes she is so insistent with her chatting as if she were saying actual, complete sentences.  I wish I spoke Baby!
  • She's really picking up animal sounds and especially likes making elephant, cat, dog and monkey sounds.
  • She uses the following sign language signs on a daily basis:  again, more, eat, all done, book, milk and a signs we made up for her to indicate that she wants to colour with her crayons or brush her teeth.
  • She is in LOVE with books!  Having us read books to her or flipping through books on her own is, by far, her favourite pastime.  
    • We're making an effort to include a variety of flavours in her diet, especially interesting savoury flavours.  She's eaten and liked blue cheese, olives (big fan!) and other interesting flavours.
    • If I'm drinking a glass of wine at dinner she always wants a little taste (less than a drop) from my finger.  She'll sometimes make a face, but always wants more.  She also does this with Jason's tonic water.
    • She gets to choose her own cereal at daycare and always chooses Rice Krispies.  
    • Her current favourite food is mango.
    • Her favourite part of a full-English breakfast (which we generally have every Sunday) is the sautéed mushrooms.
    • She always insists on feeding herself and is getting pretty good at using her fork and spoon!  

    Words (she could use some work on her diction, but she has consistent ways of saying each of these words):
    1. mama
    2. papa
    3. dada
    4. book
    5. yellow
    6. hiya
    7. bye
    8. hello
    9. shoe
    10. sock
    11. milk
    12. mango
    13. apple
    14. banana
    15. water
    16. bath
    17. Pooh 
    18. dog
    19. box
    20. flower (she is constantly pointed out flowers and images of flowers everywhere these days!)
    21. toast
    22. rainbow (she likes to talk about the rainbows on the bunting in her room)
    23. bottle
    24. ball
    25. bee
    26. bird
    27. jacket
    28. Jacob (her cousin whom she loves pointing out in pictures)
    29. eye
    30. ear
    31. hair
    32. nose
    33. belly button
    34. more
    35. no (we're trying SO hard to not say this, but to say "no thank you" instead, but I think she must hear it at daycare . . .)
    36. please
    37. help, please
    38. all done
    39. thank you
    40. teeth
    41. uh-oh
    42. bib
    43. circle
    44. triangle
    She can recognise far more and often repeats words that we say, but these are ones she says on a regular basis.

    Friday, 23 March 2012

    Back home and off to the park!

    I texted Jason when I was getting close to our house yesterday and he and Charlotte came out to greet me.  It was a wonderful homecoming! 

    After a bit of playing and book reading, we decided to head back to Westow Park.  It was a gorgeous day here in London and we all had a great time! 

    This kid loves to swing!

    On the way to the park, we ran into the sister of a friend of mine.  Charlie held onto her finger and didn't want to let go!

    I love the huge cloth diaper butt!


    Mama and Charlie together again.

    "Hey guys, can I play?  I may look young, but I'm very mature for my age."

    Wednesday, 21 March 2012

    Here I Come!

    It pains to me to have to wait around for an entire day before I can head home.  However, my incredible hosts helped break up my day and took me out to lunch with some of their art collector friends.  We then sat and watched some clips of Vivaldi's Bajazet including one of my favourite singer, Vivica Genaux (just ignore the lip thing . . .  she still sounds great . . . ).  It has me excited to go back to London where I'm looking forward to starting up some regular singing lessons!  But mostly, I'm looking forward to getting home with my sweet little family.  Jason is taking the day off work tomorrow so he and Charlie will be there to greet me when I arrive.  I.  CAN'T.  WAIT!

    Monday, 19 March 2012

    Skyping with Charlie

    Yesterday morning I tore myself away from the pool to have a Skype date with my Two Favourites.  Charlie had recently gotten up from a nap and was in a happy, fun mood.  I was able to read her a few books (which she loved!) and then I just generally watched her play while I chatted with Jason.  

    Perhaps it's because her godmoms are the most literary people we know or perhaps it is because her Papi was an English major, but this kid is into books.  Seriously folks, she's obsessed.  And as if to prove what a hardcore bookworm she is, she'll even read books upside-down as seen in the following screenshots from our recent Skype convo:

    She kept pointing to the bees in this book and Jason and I would make buzzing sounds for her.  The closest she got to imitating it was blowing sloppy, wet raspberries.

    It was pretty dang cute!

    And it was so great to chat with them.  They're doing really well without me, but we're all looking forward to being back together again.  We have finished our concerts (read a review here!) and we have a day off today before our recording tomorrow.  On Wednesday I take the redeye back to London and will be reunited with my handsome husby and sweet babe that afternoon.  I CAN'T WAIT!!  

    But for today, I'll sit by the pool, hit the gym and perhaps hit the mall.  I'd rather be reading books to Charlie, but it certainly isn't a bad trade off.  ;)

    Sunday, 18 March 2012

    To my mum...

    I've come so far since our first Mother's Day together:

    I've have had so many good laughs with you,

    been so many places with you and 

    learned so much from you.

    Thank you for having fun with me,

    protecting me

    and loving me so much.

    Dad and I miss you very much, and we are looking forward to having you home with us again.  

    Happy Mother's Day, dearest mum!

    Saturday, 17 March 2012

    Commuter Baby

    Jason and Charlotte are on a tight schedule during the week.  Jason wakes up early, gets himself ready and then pulls a sleepy Charlie out of bed for their morning commute.  She is treated to a bottle and snacks as they get on their way and by the time they are on the train she is ready to read books and chat with the other commuters.  Jason sent me a few pictures a couple of days ago and I just can't get enough of them.  Especially that last one!  I could just eat her up!

    Friday, 16 March 2012


    This post is about one of the two things Bethie says that Charlie and I do while she's away (the other one is eat oatmeal, which requires no blog post).

    We have several nice parks in our new neighbourhood:  the large Crystal Palace Park, a smaller park that has a lake, and Westow Park, which is pleasant if small.  It's also just behind the Sainsbury's, so it's a convenient place to stop as part of a trip to the grocery.

    The most important part of Westow Park is the disproportionately large playground (and there seem to be plans to make it bigger and better).  As we approach, Charlie starts to happily fuss around in her pushchair, chatting and smiling with excitement.  When she gets out of the pram, she stands still, taking in the scene.  When she decides to start playing, she usually walks toward the toys and other kids with a loud, "AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!" in a consistent tone.  She'll do it for ten seconds or so.  Just letting everyone know she's there.

    Last Saturday, she was bold enough to climb up the steps of one of the toys.  She would either crawl through the tunnel or slide down the slide, with my help.  Yesterday, though, she figured the whole thing out for herself:

    Wednesday, 14 March 2012

    Pics From Home

    Jason has been emailing me pictures of my sweet baby girl since I left for Miami.  I LOVE getting pictures of what they're up to and often find myself staring at these pictures on my downtime.

    Although, now that I've uploaded the pictures, it seems that they only do two things while I'm away:  play at the park and eat oatmeal . . .

    Playing at the park:

    Eating oatmeal:

    They got to spend the weekend together and now C is in nursery school while Jason is at work.  They will have a day together later in the week and Jason is also taking off work on the day I arrive home!  Maybe if we're lucky we'll get to play at the park with Charlotte and eat some oatmeal together!

    Monday, 12 March 2012

    Hard at work or hardly working?

    I am back at this amazing penthouse apartment/private museum for the next week-and-a-half.  Since our rehearsals don't begin until the afternoon, my roomie, Rebecca, and I have decided to spend every morning by the pool!  Here was my view this morning:

    Working on my tan.  

    There is also a hot tub.  Life is good.

    We're staying on the very top floor!

    Friday, 9 March 2012


    Mum leaves again tomorrow morning!  

    I leave bright and early tomorrow for Miami where I'm fortunate to again be singing with the Grammy nominated Seraphic Fire.  I'm heartbroken to leave my best friend and sweet baby, but I'm looking forward to singing and perhaps getting a bit of sun and relaxation!  As per usual, I'll put up a post every now and then from my end and Jason and Charlotte will put up a post when they can.

    ¡Hasta pronto!


    Our wonderful neighbour, Jayne, took Charlotte and me to explore a nearby park yesterday afternoon.  She had mentioned it before, but I just hadn't managed to find it yet.  To my surprise it was not only super close, but super awesome!  It has a huge play area, a lake and a zip-line!  I want to go back with the nice camera so I didn't take many pictures, but I did get a video of Charlie watching the birds at the lake.  She kept saying, "bird" over and over again.  It was pretty cute.  

    Tuesday, 6 March 2012

    The Cutest Way to Eat a Pear - By Charlotte Hungerford

    1.  Have your mum peel it for you.

    2.  Be super cute.

    3.  Eat the pear.

    I've included a video just in case the pictures were unclear.

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