Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pasta, Pesto, and Peas

We had this for dinner last night and it's super good - and fairly healthy!  It made for a great lunch leftover too, although not as good with water as it was with wine.  It's one of Ina Garten's recipes - the first one of her's I've ever tried.

Blurry picture from

Pasta, Pesto and Peas

3/4 pound fusilli pasta

3/4 pound bow tie pasta

1/4 cup good olive oil

1 1/2 cups pesto, packaged or see recipe below (I used store bought pesto.  Also, the jar was smaller than what I needed, so I just cut back on the spinach, lemon juice and mayo and it was still great with enough sauce)

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/4 cups good mayonnaise (And by good, I used fat free, and only a cup - see note above)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted

1/3 cup pine nuts (I didn't use these because they're so expensive.  I do think it was missing them, maybe just cause I love pine nuts and knew they were supposed to be there?)

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Cook the fusilli and bow ties separately in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until each pasta is al dente. Drain and toss into a bowl with the olive oil. Cool to room temperature. (I was too impatient and hungry to do this and actually liked how it warm pasta both defrosted my peas, melted the cheese and warmed the sauce.)
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and puree. Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the Parmesan, peas, pignolis, salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and serve.

If you're feeling like you need some extra credit, below is Ina's recipe for pesto.

1/4 cup walnuts

1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts)

3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)

5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups good olive oil

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.
Yield: 4 cups

Monday, April 25, 2011

England, the final day!

I never expected 6 days in London to take this long and be this fun to recap!  This is the last one :)

Tuesday was going to be a shopping day!  We practically jumped out of bed, excited for our day.  We headed back down to Oxford Street in search of Liberty, one of my all time favorite places in London.  While I loved wandering through with Andrew earlier in my visit, shopping with Emily would be completely different.  Right as we were approaching the cross street to turn on, we both spotted it: Banana Republic.  I knew it was down there as we'd walked by it on Thursday.  Emily can't get Banana clothes over there, and they have recently opened the store.  So in we marched.  It was huge.  Enormous.  Two or three times bigger than the ones here, easily.  We both ended up getting a cute dress - the same one :)

Then we headed to Liberty.  Arthur Liberty opened the store in 1875, originally selling ornaments, fabric, and objets d'art from Japan and the East, in a little tiny storefront on Regent Street.  Next he added furnishings and carpet before costumes came in 1884.  In 1924, the famous iconic store where Liberty is today was constructed.  It was made from the wood and timber of 2 HMS ships.  The store was designed with 3 light wells as the focus, as Mr. Liberty wanted people to feel as they were walking around their own homes in his shop.    

We were meeting Andrew for coffee at noon, so had some time before he got there to poke around.  The store is just beautiful - the scarves, the furniture, china, home, and clothing sections are all equally interesting.  We got through about 2 floors before we headed out to meet Andrew.  It was great fun to for he and Emily to meet!  We spent an hour talking about his recent trip to DisneyLand Paris and his upcoming Boston trip, among other things.  They were able to explain where they lived to each other, something I had horribly messed up on both sides.  

After big hugs saying goodbye, we went right back into Liberty.  We spent another hour to so shopping, and each bought a few things.  I got this really neat platter - I have a thing for platters :)

My photograph doesn't really do this's really pretty and different :)  It's antique spoons.  

Anyway.  After leaving Liberty, we decided we hadn't looked at enough expensive stuff, so we went to Old Bond Street.  Harry Winston, Cartier, Chanel, Mikimoto, Tiffany's, stores I didn't even recognize because they were so fancy...

We wandered around here for a while...until we were intimidated enough by the big mean looking security guards inside the stores...we hopped on the tube and headed up to Knighsbridge to Harrods!  According to Wikipedia, "The store occupies a 5-acre (20,000 m2) site and has over one million square feet (90,000 m2) of selling space in over 330 departments." Isn't that crazy!  That's huge!  Charles Henry Harrod opened his first store in 1824 at the age of 24.  He opened a few other stores, including a grocery, before opening a single room store on the current site in 1851, employing 2 assistants and a messenger boy. The store burnt down in 1883 and after rebuilding, opened England's first 'moving staircase' (escalator) in 1893.  The present building was completed in 1905.  Today, more than 5,000 employees from 50 different countries work there.   

We went straight to the top floor and the home goods...see a theme?  We looked around the gifts, kitchen things, and all areas that were home.  Then, getting a little tired, we went back to the first floor and the food arcades.  They are just amazing - one after another of beautiful cheeses, chocolates, meats, and everything you could want.  We realized we hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, and were both feeling quite tired by 4pm.  We walked outside and went into the first pub we spotted on Sloane Street - see below.

After a delicious meal and a couple of pints, we were plotting the remainder of our afternoon before grabbing the train back to Colchester.  We realized we hadn't done anything too touristy, besides walking by the Palace.  So, we gathered our things and headed towards the Westminster tube station...

After snapping a few photos of the beautiful Big Ben and Parliament, we walked up the famous Whitehall street to Trafalgar Square.  

The name Trafalgar comes from a battle in 1805, a British naval victory in the Napoleonic wars.  Charing Cross, where Strand meets Whitehall, is considered the very center of the city.  

This is the countdown clock for the 2012 Olympics! 

I have always loved Trafalgar Square and the lions, plus the beautiful view back towards Big Ben.  It was such a great spot to finish our time downtown!  Now, off to Colchester we go...

Once back at home, we had a delicious and healthy tasty dinner of fish and chips from their local fish and chips place.  It was like a well rehearsed production to watch them unwrap everything, get it onto plates, get the sauces out, pour the drinks, and get settled into eat.  Apparently, fish and chips is a Friday evening 'tradition' at their house, and quite a treat for a Tuesday!  Once we were all stuffed, we Facetime'd with husband one more time, got packed up, and hit the sack.  A long ride to Heathrow in the morning was in store.

I had the best time visiting my dear college friend and her husband.  It was so nice to see her house, where they lived, the beautiful English countryside and spend some time in one of my favorite cities.  I hope it's not as long before I get to travel back across the pond!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter Sunday!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Girls days in London, Monday

 Note: After I was finished with this post, I looked at the preview and realized how crazy long it is.  I think it's quite entertaining, so an early 'thank you' for reading it!  It's really just a lot of pictures anyway!

On Monday morning, with great excitement, Em and I packed our little overnight bags, got on the train, and headed downtown to London.  We had gotten a nice hotel on up near Paddington Station, just north of Hyde Park, The Park Grand Hotel.  We went there first and were able to check in and drop off all of our stuff.  Our reservations for tea weren't until 2:30, so we had some time to walk around.  The hotel was in a great location, and the streets around it were just beautiful - lined with white row houses, one after another.  

We walked down to the park and decided to walk along Bayswater in the park rather than on the noisy road.  It was just around lunch time, so there were tons of people out running and walking.

We made our way over to Marble Arch, at the corner of Bayswater, Oxford Street and Park Lane.  This arch was built in Rome in 1828 and originally placed on The Mall at the entrance of Buckingham Palace.  In 1855, it was moved to it's current location during the building of the east front of the palace.  

Since we hadn't really had lunch, we were both a bit hungry...but didn't want to eat too much before tea. Standing at the arch, we looked across the street and saw a Pret!  They are everywhere.  Perfect.  We went over and had a little snack and coffee.  The we headed down Park Lane towards the Dorchester, where our tea was going to be.  We found the beautiful hotel (after mistaking the service entrance and being completely underwhelmed), snapped a few photos, and realized we still had about an hour to walk around.  

We walked all around the Mayfair neighborhood, oooohing and aaaahing at the beautiful buildings.  They were just so pretty, and one after another.  Lots of offices, homes, and embassies are in this area...including the ugliest building of all, the American Embassy...see below...

I love the 2 pictures below, they show so much more of what the neighborhood looked like.  I love that you can see in this window a little, look at those bust sculptures!  Don't you know the rest of the house was just amazing...

Ok, enough walking - time for tea!  

As soon as you enter The Dorchester, you are greeted by the beautiful Promenade.  The flower arrangements were amazing.  They were enormous...

The Promenade stretches the same length as the Nelson's Column, which is the monument in the center of Trafalager Square.  

 We sat about 2/3 of the way down on the left wall.  We were greeted by a nice young waiter, dressed in tuxedo tails.  We decided on the Champagne Afternoon Tea (why not?!), and made our tea selections - we both chose the Dorchester Tea.  Everything was on china, and it had a beautiful light blue pattern.  First they brought us finger sandwiches.  They were so pretty!  With no crusts, the bread was perfectly cut into long rectangles.  There were 4 choices, and of course we each had one of each!  They were  smoked salmon on granary bread, egg salad on white bread, chicken on basil bread, cream cheese and cucumber on caraway seed bread.  Ooooh they were so good!  We took our time eating them, talking about each one!  I think my favorite was the chicken one.  We enjoyed our glass of champagne with the sandwiches.  There was a pianist playing most of the time, which was just a beautiful addition.  Then they brought our tea and warm scones.  The scones are made from the same recipe at The Dorchester than has been unchanged for over half a century.  They served them with 2 different jams, a strawberry and a mixed berry, along with clotted cream.  Some of the scones had raisins, and the others didn't.  My favorite was the plain ones with a little of the cream and the mixed berry jam.  Finally, as if we weren't full enough, they brought 5 or six little French pastries and tartlets.  They were each different and very rich, some fruit and some chocolate.  

Photograph from 
Once we felt that we were sufficiently full of delicious food and tea, we decided that it was time to head on our way.  We needed to walk a bit!  So we headed down Park Lane, up Picadilly, and through Green Park towards the palace.

It was a beautiful day, lots of people were out in the park.  The chairs below were around a large area, and were available for rent.  You could rent them for an hour, afternoon, or even for the month. 

They were really starting to set up things for the upcoming wedding.  This is the area for the press...I took this picture for Erika and Lola :)

 I loved this sign - they were posted all around the Palace for all of the tourists who visit...

Then we found our way to Fortnum and Mason and the 'very posh street' that we had discovered on Saturday.  

We walked all around the area, and stopped in a beautiful cheese shop, Paxton & Whitfield.  The store has been in the same area for over 200 years.  I bought a few jars of different confits to bring home.  The shop was beautiful and the cheeses all smelled wonderful.

After walking through Picadilly Circus and back up Picadilly, we decided it was time for a drink.  We jumped on the tube and headed up to Warren Street station and the Bloomsbury area.  We were on the hunt for Charlotte Street, the area the Andrew and I had walked around on Thursday.  We happened on the Charlotte Street Inn, which I had fawned over when we passed it on Thursday.  The outside is so quaint and charming with the blue striped awnings and lovely little bistro tables.  We decided since it was a girls night, we were stop there rather than a pub...we were in the mood for a more lady like evening than traditional pub atmospheres.  

Photograph from Charlotte Street Hotel website

The inside had a completely different look that we expected based on the outer appearance.  

Photograph from Charlotte Street Hotel website
We found a spot at the bar, and made our selves at home.  The place was packed, and probably 80% were women!  Everyone had the same idea.  We each had some wine, and started chatting with the bartenders.  We were both intrigued by their cocktails!  They were so creative, and included things like coffee beans, chilies, and even one was served with a spoon of the inside of a passion fruit.  We made friends with one bartender in particular, who should have been an actor with his incredibly outgoing personality.  

After a few glasses of wine and a bowl of each of their amazing popcorn and sugar almonds, we decided it was time to move on.  Since we were staying very close to where I stayed when I was in London for a month during college, I convinced Em to head over to the Bayswater/Queensway area in search of our 'local pub' from when we were there before.  I was quite proud that it was still there, and the outside was exactly as I remembered.  The inside looked completely different!  But, once inside, we found a table right next to the bar, put our things down, and decided to have a pint.  I walk up to the bar...and immediately am greeted by an older British gentleman, offering to buy me a beer!  Well!  What luck...and I insisted that he buy Em's, too.  The bartender is getting quite the laugh out of this whole situation...apparently it's very uncommon for a guy to buy a girl a beer at a bar, especially right as she walks in.  


The least I could do was invite him to join us for a minute.  Which turned into 45.  At least.  About 5 minutes into the conversation, the typical "are you married" question came up...and to his GREAT disappointment, we both of course answered yes.  He had to see proof, and asked to see our rings.  It was really humorous to us, but he was not as amused.  But...since we had just ordered pints, he stayed and chatted.  We learned so much from him, seeing that he's a fire marshal.  Did you know that you have 30 minutes for each fire door in a hotel to get to the exit before the fire gets to you? he finished his pint (we were nursing ours so to ensure that he left before us), he bid us farewell.  We certainly got a good laugh at his expense once he was gone, as did the bartender, who was eavesdropping for a good part of the conversation.  Who...funny enough...asked us to go clubbing with him as we were leaving.  For several reasons, we decided it was in our best interest to decline, so we headed back to our hotel.  

All tucked in around midnight, we went to sleep after plotting our shopping adventures for the following day!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How it happened

It all began with dinner on a Tuesday night in DC, followed by an innocent walk around the monuments in the dark, since 'they're so pretty at night.'  Camera in hand (who would want to miss the chance to take these pictures, he insisted), off we went...around the Washington, through WWII, and along the reflecting pool.  Holding hands, smiling, and just being in love.  About 2/3 of the way to the Lincoln Memorial...a big hug, something along the lines of "I love you more than anything in the world..." and the he disappeared.  Honey?  Little did I know, he was just on one knee, muttering the words "Will You Marry Me?"  It was dark!  How was I to see him?!  


April 18, 2006.

Remember that camera I just had to bring with me?  Yeah, this is why.

Lots of joyful tears and jumping, screaming "WE'RE GETTING MARRIED?!!??!" and some quick calls to our parents followed.  My parents knew...first thing dad said was "Finally!" They had been keeping the secret since the previous Friday when husband had visited to ask my dad's permission.  

So that's our story.  What's yours?