Friday, August 14, 2015

One Whole Year

So our (specifically my) first year anniversary of living in the USA is here.  I can't believe it was a whole year ago that me and the cats boarded the plane at Heathrow and flew into Philly (hubby had already been here 4 weeks by then).  It seems to have gone by so quickly.  And yet, when I look back, we've seen and done so much in that time.

On the adventurous side (for us, at least) we've travelled near and far, exploring some of local Lancaster and also going further afield to see the sights of Boston, Baltimore, Washington DC and Florida.  We've made like tourists and visited local places of interest, and enjoyed glimpses into the lives of the local Amish people.

On the practical side, we've navigated the challenges of paperwork and processes and queues in order to get IDs, social security numbers and work visas.  We've re-taken our driving tests after twenty years.  We've found doctors and vets and dentists, learnt new insurance language, missed having a credit history, and appreciated even more the benefits and simplicity of the NHS compared to insurance providers.

We have got used to driving on the right (wrong) side of the road.  We collect our post from the mailbox down the street.  We order appetisers and entrĂ©es and think nothing of tipping 20%.  Walking the cats every evening has become part of our regular routine.  We listen to the noisy ciccadas and watch the magical fireflies on balmy summer evenings.

We notice (and sometimes look forward to) the not-so-subtle changes of the seasons (compared to the regular grey rain, mist and occasional drizzle we're used to).  From the ice and snow and sub-zero temperatures of winter, to the green lushness and fertile landscapes of the local farms in spring, to the humidity and sunshine and fierce heat and freezing air-conditioning of summer, to the cooler climes and autumn colours and endless (endless!) leaves of "fall".

Do we miss our family and friends back home?  Of course we do, but email and skype and visits and good 'ol snail mail help to make the transition easier.  Do I still want to return home at some stage?  Yes, I do, eventually, but for the time-being we're enjoying the benefits of a different lifestyle here in the US, and life is pretty good...

Friday, August 7, 2015

Corn Cobs

Corn seems to be the prevalent crop in the area where we live, and corn fields are *everywhere*; almost all the farms have swathes of them, and patches are even seemingly squeezed into (albeit relatively large) gaps between urban houses and in fields next to the numerous churches around here.  They almost change the landscape from season to season.  

Apparently one of our neighbours grew his own little corn plantation in a corner of his back yard last year.  Unsurprising, then, that sweetcorn is confirmed as Pennsylvania's largest vegetable crop.  

Sweetcorn season is from early July to the end of September, and you'll often see "corn countdown" signs by the roadside market stands in early summer, counting down the days until the fresh corn is available.  I guess the warm, wet springs and humid summers make perfect growing weather, and it seems the corn grows from tiny stubs to tall (over 6 feet) crackling fields of green in a matter of weeks.  And it's grown really closely together - not like in the movies where you see people tramping (or frequently running) between the rows - you'd be hard-pushed to get more than a foot in between these stalks!

The fresh produce stands are great - we have several within a few miles drive of the house, but have only recently properly discovered them.  Corn is relatively inexpensive, and often sold in bulk (ie ears sold still in their husks, by the dozen), although we haven't yet found a good place to store it when the temperatures are so warm, so we try to stick to small amounts. You can still get pre-packaged corn in the supermarkets like we're used to at home, but they also sell it loose in husks too - providing big black bins next to the shelves where you can strip the green leaves off yourself and pay less weight-wise!

Fresh corn is a treat, boiled or steamed on the cob and served simply with butter, but it's also lovely on the barbeque, slightly char-grilled.  There are also plenty of authentic Pennsylvanian Dutch recipes for chicken and corn soup dishes.  According to The Project Gutenberg EBook of Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking, by Unknown:
"One of the favorite summer soups in the Pennsylvania Dutch country is Chicken Corn Soup. Few Sunday School picnic suppers would be considered complete without gallons of this hearty soup."
Their traditional recipe:

Not yet tried it, but maybe a nice warming dish to cook up in the autumn!