Sunday, May 19, 2013

Our Hotel in London ~ Doubletree at Marble Arch

As usual, I like to pop videos on while I am away. Here is my regular "Look here is our hotel room" video. London is like NYC. Small, small rooms. But it is actually quite nice. It is clean and comfortable and the bed is so cozy. So enjoy my mini video!! I am hoping to have more to put up.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Adios, Bon Voyage, Goodbye

We are off on our trip of a lifetime!

I am excited yet a little sad because we are leaving our baby Scout. She has not been well lately and I feel bad about leaving her with the cat/house sitter when she is not well. But I am a bad mother and am still doing it. Luckily, our house/cat sitter rocks and I know she will take care of our Scoutie.

I have always wanted to go to Europe and, honestly, I never through I would get there. Luckily, we did not take a trip in December so we saved that money and other money to be able to afford the trip. It is sort of my 50th birthday gift a year earlier but I will take. Because by the time I turn 50 next year, I will be so depressed that I might not want to travel.

One of the things on my bucket list has been to see the Eiffel Tower and I cannot believe I might fulfill that dream. The rest of the trip is icing on the cake. I have always wanted to see London. I am excited about seeing Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. We are also going to the theatre to see Warhorse. That was Tom;s idea because he is such a theatre geek. I just go along.

I would much rather see Abbey Road or the Sherlock Holmes Museum because I like cheesy and strange. I also want to have High Tea because if I go to London and not have High Tea, I should just shoot myself.

Spain was Tom's idea. But I always wanted to have tapas in Spain. Plus, my family on my dad's side was Spanish so I am heading back to the Motherland. The great thing about London and Spain is that I do not
have to learn a whole new language. France is dicier. I learned a little French but just enough to get me food, bathrooms and that's about it.

Make sure you are following me on Facebook or Twitter and keep coming back because I am probably going to be posting pictures throughout the trip. WOO!!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

In the Kitchen with Alex Guarnaschelli - Pork Chops and Chantilly Mashed Potatoes!

Okay, she wasn't cooking with me, unfortunately, but I did have her new cookbook to guide me. It is on my bucket list to cook with Alex but, like my dream of being an Iron Chef American judge, that bucket list item will probably not be fulfilled. BOO. But at least I have her cookbook.

Okay, if you have no idea who Alex Guarnaschelli is then you must live under a rock. Alex is the new Iron Chef and she has had several shows on the Food Network and the Cooking Channel. Every time I see here cook, I want to be like her!

She has a new cookbook: Old School Comfort Food - The Way I Learned to Cook. I bought it because I loved her recipes. The new cookbook is actually quite different that what I thought it would be. I thought it would be fancy cooking but it turned out to be home style recipes that even I can cook!

My first foray into the book was to make Alex's "Bacon Wrapped Pork Chops with Apple and Brussels Sprouts" and "Mashed Potatoes Chantilly". As you all know, I cannot follow a recipe to save my life but I tried and it actually came out pretty good.

I have no idea why I chose pork chops because I cannot cook a decent pork chop to save my life. I have tried a zillion times and they always come out dry or raw. I mean, it's surprising because I am a pretty good cook. Plus, I can make the best pork shoulder or pork butt. But pork chops are my downfall.

The pork chops were actually pretty easy. You need 4 center cut pork chops preferably bone in. Our grocery store only had no bone chops so I went with that. Remember we live in the boonies and you get what you can. Sigh. Then you need some bacon. I got the thick home style bacon. Yum!!

Okay, first you salt and pepper the chops on both sides and then wrap these babies in bacon. Can I just say that anything wrapped in bacon is always better?

Then you need to brown the chops. If you have a decent skillet that will also go into the oven, you can just transfer the skillet into the oven. I don't have a cast iron skillet. Yes, I know I should get one but I haven't. Anyhow, once I had browned the chops, I transferred them into an oven safe casserole dish and put them into a 350 degree oven for about 20 more minutes.

In the meantime, I started on the Chantilly Mashed Potatoes. I made regular mashed potatoes by boiling potatoes and then mashing them. The recipe calls you to drain the potatoes and then heat milk and add the potatoes to the pot. Then you add salt, pepper, and butter until they are all mixed.

Then I took a casserole dish and buttered the sides and coated it with bread crumbs. Then the recipe called for whipping 1 cup heavy cream until it is firm. You season the cream with salt and pepper and gently fold the cream into the mashed potatoes. You are also to add 1/2 of grated Parmesan cheese to the mix and then put everything into the casserole dish. Then you take 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and top the potatoes. Then you bake the potatoes for 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.

As all this is going on, I started on the brussels sprouts. These were easy peasy, lemon squeesy. You separate the leaves. Then you saute them in the pan drippings. Then you salt them and add some sherry vinegar. I had no sherry vinegar so I used apple cider vinegar. Then you cut the apples into thin slices and add vinegar and salt and pepper to those.

I loved this recipe. My only problem is that I overcooked the pork chops. Pork chops are my nemesis. But one day, I will make a perfect pork chop if it kills me!

Luckily, the bacon made up for that because once you cut into the chops and ate them with that crispy bacon, life was good. The apples also cut through the richness of the chop with the bacon. Because of the vinegar, it worked super well together. The Brussels Sprouts were the best thing ever. I think it was because they were cooked in the pork and bacon drippings. I mean what isn't good cooked like that.

The best thing, however, were the Mashed Potatoes. They were so delicious. This recipe is better than my own mashed potatoes, which are pretty damn good if I do say so myself. I think folding the whipped cream into the potatoes just lightened them up and made them fluffy. The Parmesan cheese also added a nice flavor to potatoes. Tom LOVED these. So did I. This dish is amazing!! I will be adding it to my regular repertoire of recipes!!

The whole meal was delish. I love this cookbook! The recipes are easy enough for me not to mangle. The stories she writes are great and there are some handy dandy tips interspersed throughout as well. If you want a delicious and easy recipe cookbook, this is it. I have a few other recipes I want to try. I will be posting them when I get back from our vacation!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wordless Wednesday ~ Our Garden is in

Since we are leaving Friday, we needed to get our garden in this weekend and we did. It's smaller than usual but we didn't have time until now. Lots of tomatoes, potatoes, some squash, cucumbers, eggplant and herbs are on the menu this summer.

Here are a few photos of our house and garden.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Utah ~ Salt Lake City, The Great Salt Lake and Bryce Canyon National Park #traveltuesday

We visited Utah on a trip we took through Arizona, Nevada and Colorado. Tom had always wanted to go to Bryce Canyon National Park. Me, not so much. That would have involved hiking at 5 in the morning and I was not up to that.

While Tom went hiking, I stayed at the hotel and relaxed and went to the pool and read. It was heaven. I know I missed some beautiful nature blah blah blah but Tom took cool pictures and I lived vicariously through him. I am just not an outdoorsy type of gal.

From Bryce Canyon, we headed up to Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City was so much cooler than we thought it would be. It was a little strange because we had to join a club to get a drink at the hotel and not all the restaurants served liquor.

But overall, it was cute and it had some great restaurants and a good vibe. We also drove out to see the Great Salt Lake. The Great Salt Lake was sort of a bust. It was smelly and there were dead fish in the water. We stuck our toes in but that was it. But at least we can say we were in the Great Salt Lake.

We also visited the Salt Lake City Temple Square which includes the Mormon Tabernacle Choir building and the big old church. It was interesting. Now I don't want to offend anyone with my post but I have to be honest about my story. So I apologize if I offend but that's life.

We entered the complex and were met by some lovely Mormon girls who would be our tour guides. They were friendly and sweet. But there was a strange monotone quality about the way they talked. And they talked a lot about Mormonism. But I guess that was to be expected since we were in the Mormon Temple Square.

We started off in a building where were were shown giant murals detailing of beginning of the Mormon experience. It was interesting although I am not a believer.

At one point our guide told us that Jesus visited the Native Americans. I think she must have seen my reaction to that little nugget because she looked straight at me and said: "It's true". To prove this, she opened a book she had in her hand and showed us a painting of Jesus visiting with the Native Americans. She was serious. I was a little skeptical. I was just about to either burst out laughing or say something when I felt a pain in my shin where Tom kicked me.

Tom always kicks me when he knows I am about to open my mouth and say something I probably shouldn't or burst out laughing. I know he knew I was about to burst out laughing. And not only did  I get "don't even think of it" kick in the shin but I got the "keep your mouth shut" hairy eyeball. The hairy eyeball is serious so I stopped myself from laughing. But it was difficult.

After that, we went up some stairs and we were asked to sit because a show was going to start. Directly in front of us was a huge Jesus. I am not kidding. This was a giant 8 foot Jesus head. We were told to sit and listen because Jesus wanted to give us a message. So we sat and then the giant Jesus started talking to us and it freaked me out. His eyes lit up and there was a weird light show.

At this point, I got another hairy eyeball because I actually snickered. The hairy eyeball and the punch in my arm brought me back to reality. Yes, he punched me in the arm. WTH?

Well, Jesus was quoting scripture and god knows what other nonsense. I didn't catch it because I tuned out. Luckily, when that ended we were taken a few more places in the building then we ended up outside, which was a good thing.

From there we went to the building where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings. It was beautiful but smaller than I thought. Then we walked past the Temple, which is huge!! No one is allowed in there except the elders and bishops or whatever. I am not clear on all the rules. The grounds were beautiful though.

At the end of the tour, they tried to get our names and addresses and we put fake stuff because we really didn't want missionaries coming to our house to preach to us. We just don't roll that way. But overall, it was a pleasant experience until the end because it got a little dicey when they were a little pushy about the religion. They kept trying to give us info and wanted to "talk" to us privately about stuff. We politely said no and high tailed it out of there.

I have to say that Salt Lake City was so much different than we thought. We would actually live there. We found it to be a very livable place. I would totally visit again.


Monday, May 13, 2013

What we are Watching - Lots of History, some nonsense and a dud

Wow, this week we had some depressing movies to watch. We also had some funny stuff as well. It evened out.

This is such a great movie but it's sad. It's fascinating, nonetheless. If you have not see not seen The Last Emperor, rent it. It's a great historical movie following the life of the last Chinese emperor from childhood to adulthood. The acting is top rate. And Peter O'Toole, who I love, is in it. You cannot go wrong with Peter O'Toole in a movie. We rented it because Tom wanted to see it since he just got back from China. It's so cool that he was there in the Forbidden City. I am still jealous. If you have not seen this movie, you should watch it.

Les Miserables. Holy Cow, the title fits this movie. What a bummer movie. It made me want to slit my wrists. Overall, it was good but not great. People raved about it but I thought it was so so. I was also shocked that Anne Hathaway received the Oscar for her performance  She is in the movie for about 15 minutes. WTF? Sally Field was robbed because she was so much better in Lincoln. Plus, Russell Crowe is a terrible singer but I still like him as an actor. The bright spot in this movie is Hugh Jackman. I love Hugh Jackman and can watch him all day. If he had not been in the movie, I would have tuned out. Overall, it was okay but I would say skip it.

The Impossible. OMG this was painful to watch but not in a bad way. This movie was incredible but it was just hard to watch. The reenactment of the tsunami was horrifying. It was so scary and realistic, it pained me. It was sad but in the end, it turned out okay. I have to say that the acting was the best I have seen in a long time. Naomi Watts is fantastic!! Ewan McGregor was great and the kids who played their kids were so good.  I totally recommend this movie but be prepared for some really horrifying scenes. BUT WATCH IT ANYWAY!

Killing Them Softly made me want to kill myself, period. I can honestly say that I have no idea what happened in this movie or what it was about because about 20 minutes in I stopped caring. I literally started playing Candy Crush Saga on Facebook and tuned out. It was that bad. Every so often I would look up and Tom was still hanging in. I am not sure why I rented this but maybe it was because Brad Pitt was in it. I have to stop renting Brad Pitt movies because, lately, they suck. This was so cliche. So confusing and ridiculous.

Somewhere in the middle Tony Soprano makes a cameo. Literally James Gandolfini comes in and plays Tony Soprano. It also had every single actor who has been in a mafia movie ever. You know it's bad when Ray Liotta is in a movie. No offense to Ray Liotta because I actually like him. But usually any movie he does lately is a dud as well.  It was terrible. I am not sure why we watched the whole thing but we did. UGH. DO NOT WATCH.

Luckily, we had two bright spots this week.

This is 40. This is a light comedy, thank god, because the other movies were either sad, painful to watch or just miserable. This was hilarious  I thought it captured real life relationships pretty well. We haven't laughed so much in a long while. Sometimes it's childish and immature but it is also touching and sweet. And funny as hell. Tom kept saying the smallest child in the movie reminded him of me, which I am not sure if I should take as a compliment or insult. Hmmm. Watch this if you want to laugh!

We also started watching the TV series: Portlandia. We saw a commercial for it and it made us laugh so we decided to give this a go. It was strange and weird but hilarious. Basically every episode is the same actors playing different characters you would find in Portland. Apparently Portland is a hippie, hipster, vegetarian, woo woo spiritual crazy place. This show captures all sorts of strangeness and really works. It is actually quite funny. I loved it and now I want to go live in Portland although I am probably not hip enough to live there. I totally recommend it, if you like strange stuff.