I’m starting to feel like we ignore the holidays around here. Spent the Fourth of July in England, Bob was in Atlanta for Labor Day and I did nothing, have never been a big fan of Halloween, did a very quiet Thanksgiving and New Year’s at home, left Valentine’s Day on the calendar and now Easter. Back at home with a quiet, low key day. I honestly have nothing against holidays, I just ends up feeling that way.

But today, I did cook a very nice Easter meal. It is probably not traditional, but I roasted a chicken. Yes, roast chicken is suppose to be a no brainer, but for one reason they always intimidate me. But when we were at the butcher last weekend, I decided to try the whole hen. So, I coated the skin with a little butter, salt and pepper and popped it in the oven at 450 for about an hour. I did cover it after 45 minutes because it looked like this:

Not bad for a first time roasted chicken. I paired with with a combination of zucchini from the veggie patch, carrots, and onion and a sweet pepper sauce. Add a salad – fresh lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers and we have a beautiful lunch.

It was finally feeling like spring so we ate outside this afternoon. The wine was ok – a 2010 pino noir that was not bad, but not great. Lunch was so much better. I made a panna cotta for dessert with blueberries, kiwi and peaches (odd, but it does work and they are all super fresh) but then decided I was in the mood for brownies.

20130331-214726.jpg So while Bob watched the last episode of Season 2 of Game of Thrones, I made brownies. I’m still working on the perfect recipe. These are ok – pretty good but not perfect. So the quest continues.

Hope everyone had a happy Easter. I’m going back to vacation planning – with the summer trip moving up it gives me something to obsess over and that makes the OCD side of me very, very happy.

Spring Finally Arrives

March has been unusually cold in Florida this year. We still have the heat on, I contemplated putting the flannel sheets on the bed and I broke out the “blueberry” winter jacket Val gave me when I first got Jessie. At least my winter clothes, often reserved for our trips north or across the pond, are getting some use.

But the weather has finally started to feel like spring. So much so that Jessie and I have extended our walks yesterday and today. And we ran across a strange sight the other day.

Bob tells me those are seagulls. Seagulls. In our little subdivision. Weird. The Gulf is a good 20 minutes away so I never think of seagulls around here. Sandhill Cranes, yes. Alligators? Sure. But seagulls? Not really. I did stay on the opposite side if the street on this trek – Jessie really wanted to play with them.

Jess has been a little spoiled recently. Mom brought her dinner yesterday.

20130330-182320.jpg in case you can’t read that, it says “Chicken/brown rice/carrots – gravy for Jessie.” Yes, my mother cooked for the dog. Well, she saved leftovers for her. Not for Bob and I, but specifically for Jessie. Can we say spoiled?

I didn’t do much interesting cooking this week. I did some, but nothing recipe worthy. But today, I made a trip out for eggs. … I probably should explain. I like listening to podcasts on my way to and from work and I recently found a new one – Slate’s Table to Farm. (No, I didn’t get that backwards, that is the correct name.) It is pretty interesting – they pick a food, talk to people who source the food – fishers, apple experts, butchers. etc., then pick obtain some of the food, cook and eat it. This sounds weird, and admittedly it is a little odd, but it works. There is a definite slant towards local, sustainable sources of foods from CSAs, farmer’s markets and local butchers, and I can’t say I disagree with that premise. Bob was a little worried about his dinners after the steak episode, but it turns out I had a harder time with the egg episode. Probably because I know where meat comes from and do whatever I can to get meat from smaller sources that treat animals as humanly as possible, but I had never really though about eggs. I’m not sure why, but I just didn’t. After listening to that episode, I told Bob we needed to find local eggs as I am pretty sure I am never buying eggs from the grocery store again.

It turns out, if we are willing to drive a little, there is a local option –Bob’s Veggie Patch I admit it’s a drive, but he does also set up in Bradenton on Wednesdays and the timing works perfectly with my work schedule. I was so excited. We picked up the veggies for the week today too. I was so happy!

After getting our eggs and veggies, we decided to head out to lunch today and we could not have picked a prettier spot.


I also did my nails in honor of spring today

20130330-183633.jpg nice light and festive.

Happy spring everyone!

Traveling at home

Sometimes we forget how nice it is to be where we live. Sarasota has a huge “season” where people come from the cold to visit and relax. We get our share of “spring breakers” although, admittedly, they are a slightly different type than Panama City. But even living here, I sometimes forget that it is a tourist place with lots to see and do and eat.

Friday, after and long a tiring week, Bob and I decided to check out a new restaurant downtown. Made is in the same space as the old Belgium restaurant. It opened relatively recently and after seeing “bacon wrapped corn dogs” Bob had to try it. I am not sure what I was expecting – probably descent food – but whatever it was, the actual restaurant exceeded those expectations.

The decor was modern, a little on the loud side (style-wise) and casual. The waiter was super friendly, very good with explanations on dishes and even warned me about they corn on the cob (marinated in mayo, which I hate!) So, nice atmosphere, friendly service … but what about the food and drinks.

The wine menu isn’t extensive, but it has some solid wines on it. I can’t report on the beer since I didn’t even look. Bob and I picked out a Zinfandel (Rebellion – I had to to do it) that was simply fantastic. Smooth, lots of layers of flavor, and great finish. It was a 2009, so I was thrilled since that is, in my humble and non expert opinion, of of the best years for zins.

While Bob had his bacon wrapped corndogs. I went with the duck empanadas. Wow. That’s it, just Wow! There was so much flavor in these, I could not believe it. I could have made a meal out of them with the corn and apple relish and the dipping sauce. The pastry was light enough to fade but heavy enough to be a real part of the dish. That makes no sense, but it does. Really. Point here being, very hard to pull off the perfect savory pastry and Made did it.

Somehow we have had several discussions involving chicken and waffles lately. I’m not sure why, or who started them, but they have been there all the same recently. So Bob went with the chicken and waffles and I went with the puffy tacos.

Yet another explosion of flavor in those. The slaw on top paired perfectly with the pork and made just about the perfect mouthful. I didn’t really need the salsa, but it did make a nice addition to a few bites.

Today, when heading out to the pet store and butches we stopped by a local BBQ joint, Smackdaddy’s. They specialize in pork BBQ and Bob and I decided to split a Flying Pig sandwich. Pork loin, wrapped in pork belly, smoked, sliced, fried with bacon and piled with pulled pork and bacon on a bun. Yep – the waitress described it as everything except the ribs and a heart attack on a bun. She was right on both counts, but what a way to go. Splitting the sandwich was perfect for lunch.


Just taking a little time to travel in our own home city.

Thai Beef Salad


A few weeks ago, before heading to England again, we found that our favorite cheese place was holding a beer and cheese class. Bob was almost excited by this prospect as I was about visiting the Bodleian Library. Almost. Library with books from the 1600s still trumps beer. It just does. But we decide to book seats for the beer and cheese class. But after thinking about it, I don’t like beer. Bob does and John, who just moved to Florida, does so I called John to see if h might like to go with Bob. To make the drive from Orlando worth it, I offered to make a light dinner before sending them off.

I wanted to make something light, with flavor but not anything that would linger and mask the taste of the cheese or beer for the boys. So after thinking about it, I decided to attempt a Thai Beef Salad. I had to experiment a little since most recipes have fish sauce in the marinade or dressing and I can’t do that. So … I took soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, chili peppers, ginger and pepper mixed it together and marinaded the steak. For the dressing, I stuck to the same flavors, using sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, soy sauce, ginger, chili pepper, brown sugar and pepper. The salad was very basic – lettuce, tomato and carrots. I quick stir fried the beef and added it to the salad. Top with the dressing and viola. Dinner.


It came out well. I think I need a little salt and maybe a little more pepper or chili pepper. The flavors were very subtle. Good, but it could be better. But for an experiment, it worked. And the boys still have room for beer and cheese tonight.

Pork with Shallot Sage Sauce and Roasted Butternut Squash

This week I tried to figure out a few things to make for dinner and so far, I’ve done a pretty good job. Monday was pulled pork with roasted green beans. Tuesday was empanadas of a sort and today was roasted pork with a shallot sage sauce and roasted butternut squash. The pork was really good and the empanadas were not bad. But the pork … oh it was a hit!


I started with a nice pork loin. I coated it in a mixture of mustard, brown sugar and pepper. Onto the grill while the squash I just coated in some oil, salt and pepper and added a little onion and popped into the oven. For the sauce I chopped shallot and into the frying pan with some butter. I added some cider vinegar and then some veggie broth. After it reduced by about half, I added some fresh chopped sage, pepper and cream. Let that all mix together and we have sauce.


The end result was a nicely flavored dish with perfectly cooked pork. Add a little cucumber salad and we have dinner. Bob was suitably impressed with dinner and said I “outdid” myself. I’ll take it.

Hopefully the Thai Beef Salad for dinner with John tomorrow will be just as good.

Our Last Day

We spent our last day in England in Henley today. The farmer’s market was in full swing and Emmie and I hit the vintage shops, the rare bookstore and a few other shops. We wandered the market stalls and I learned that if you see pastries you liked get them; they sell

Henley is a very cute little town but more than the architecture of the town is the river.

We did wander around the riverside for a bit …


But the highlight of the day was dinner at Angel on the Bridge. We had dinner there our last trip over, so this is a littl

The food is good, the atmosphere is wonderful and the view of the river is amazing. But we just like to o and enjoy ourselves.

So as much as I would happily move, there is the small issues of jobs, a place to live, relatives who would be terribly unhappy and two of the four furry creatures that would be difficult or impossible to get across the pond. So we will settle for trips to visit and enjoy ourselves while here.

A Library, A Church and good food

Today was Oxford. Yes, we were here last time we traveled across the pond, and we will probably head there again on the next visit. But it has everything we need – history, architecture, books and good food. Add a botanical garden and it might be perfect.


We started out the trip with a tour of the Bodleian Library. Emmie and I were just giddy little school girls from the time we got there.

20130313-185214.jpg Yes, we went inside the gate that said, “no visitors” but it was worth it. We took the short tour which went through the Divinity School and some of the actual library. We saw (and smelled, although they didn’t let us really close to them) books from the 1600s. We also noticed that the librarian kept an eye on Emmie and I. Apparently we look suspicious around all those books; must be all those old books. But even without the books, the building itself was simply amazing.



Emmie and I also, apparently, took the same picture of the top of the door – the door that had a cobweb on it. Have I mentioned we seem to share a brain at times? Karen, it looks like it split again. Are we on thirds or a quarter of a brain between us now?

After the library we headed (after wandering a bit) to St. Mary’s church and up into the newly renovated and reopened bell tower. I admit I was a little skeptical about the tower. The church I knew I would like – and they had real candles to light so I was thrilled. (I’d say I was in heaven, but that seems wrong given that we were in a church. I am still a little Catholic.). But, I digress. The inside of the church was incredible. Reverent yet accessible.

I had a picture of the ceiling near the middle of the church, but it didn’t come out for some reason. It was so different from what we are use to seeing in medieval churches, but I thought it was simply breathtaking. It looked like the night sky. I did get my usual slightly creeped out feeling as I realized that I was walking over graves … some from the 1600s. But I got over it pretty quick when I started reading the inscriptions.

Now the bell tower.

I like views and I like old buildings, but I do get a little claustrophobic in tiny spaces. We started out not bad, and very excited, with the first staircase.

But when we got to the other, clearly older staircase, I had a slight issue. Thankfully Bob was ahead of me and strangers were behind me or I may have really panicked and taken a tumble. But I made it.


20130313-192733.jpg No small feat. This was clearly a medieval staircase with tiny, winding stairs, almost no windows and very short doorways. I had no problem with the doorways, but the rest of it was … interesting. The views, however, more than make up for the climb.



And yes, Mom, I did make sure there were a few pictures with people



After this adventure we had lunch at our favorite Oxford pub.




It was cold today. So cold that this (now) Florida girl was reluctant to go outside. It wasn’t so much the temperatures or the snow, but the wind. I did remember how to dress for old, windy days, but I still really don’t like cold.


But after picking Logan up from school, we headed to Dorchester to see the Abby. We knew it was closed as are a lot of places in England this time of year, but we figured we could walk around and check out the area. I have to admit, I fell just a little bit in love with the place.

There was the very old church that has conducted services for 1300 years. Not since 1300, which would be impressive in and of itself, but for 1300 years. That puts Christian services in that spot since about 700 ad. The frustrated historian in me wanted to go in (the door was locked, I did try) and examine the pews and paintings and floor, etc. But I settled for some outside pictures.



Emmie and I noticed a tea place, so we know where we will do high tea in the summer and a pub for the boys. We could have wandered longer just looking at the architecture and looking at the town (village? hamlet? ???) but we headed home for warmth.

Oxford tomorrow! Emmie and I get to sniff books then Bob and I will go find good cheese. We are just a touch excited.

The Adventure to High Wycombe

With the temperature hovering around freezing and Logan in school today we made the short trip to Asda (British Walmart) as they had the cat treats Val wanted for Lucy. So, we bundled up and headed through the very pretty, but very chilly British countryside to High Wycombe.

We were successful in stocking up in the treats. If they do end up being the same ones that use to be sold in the US, apparently the only treats Lucy will eat, we will acquire more in July. But for now 20 bags should do. Once again, this is going to be an interesting trip through customs at the US border.

On the way back we stopped near Marlowe for lunch. No one in our little group had ever been to the Dog and Badger, so we stopped there.

We were incredibly pleased. The visit started with Emmie asking if we “could just grab a table” and the reply was “only if it doesn’t scream.” The inn/pub was built in 1390 but the church it is attached to was originally built in 650 and rebuilt in the 1200s (I think). The atmosphere, complete with wood beams and two fire places (with lit fires) was great, but the food was even better. Bob was the adventurous one and went for the blood sausage while I stuck with a bacon hamburger. Oh so very, very good. I hate to admit it, but British bacon kicks American bacon’s butt. It just does. But we had a great lunch and now Brad and Emmie have another good pub option.


On the return we took the scenic route and came across some wildlife. I was very proud of myself as I correctly identified deer in the distance. We then saw …

20130311-163501.jpg an elk. Just standing there and totally not bothered by Brad calling to it so we could get a good picture.

We are hanging out with the dogs tonight. Brad is doing pulled pork and I’m making BBQ sauce. Nice, low key evening.

20130311-163703.jpg. We are just hanging out with the dogs as the have taken a liking to us.

Spring Break

Say “Spring Break” to most people and warm weather, beaches, maybe palm trees come to mind. As Bob and I headed out for spring break and did we pick a Caribbean beach? A little place in Mexico? The wine country? Nope – we headed to England where snow is forecast for tomorrow.

And despite the very chilly wind as we headed into Henley today, I am so incredibly glad we came. We, of course, had an adventure getting here. The two mile back up at the bridge started things off right, then we moved to the delay in Tampa. Apparently the plane was late first thing in the morning which just backed it up for every other flight. We did make it to Kennedy, and we high tailed it to the next gate, getting to the Heathrow flight just as they called our zone. I will say, Kennedy is one of those airports where “sprawl” just happened and it makes no sense what so ever. I have to think they just built and connected without planning because if I think someone sat down and thought that was a good design, I’d cry. But any way … we get on board and take bets as to whether or not the care package bag makes it. The plane pushed off from the gate on time, and then went back to the gate due to, what turned out to be, a clogged hydraulic filter. Hour and a half (enough time to pretty much complete the work I brought with me) later and we are off. I will give Delta a lot of credit, with the exception of the food which was just awful (Bob disagrees and said it “wasn’t that bad” – yes, it was) and some very hard seats, the flight over the pond is always wonderful. Great crew. Very friendly and they always try I be helpful, friendly and professional. … Oh, and the bag made it!

We kept today pretty low key. But I am embarrassed to say I used my camera, totally forgetting that I have a new iPad so the connector is different and the fancy dancy card reader doesn’t work on this devise. Nor does it connect tot the phone. So all the pictures I took of the amazing nursery/garden center where we had lunch are stuck on the camera for now. I got a great shot of the boys for Mom L. And both mom’s – you would love the garden center, had it been a bit warmer, we could have wandered all day.

We may have a few adventures planned this trip and I will endeavor to post as I go, using my phone as my camera so I can actually put some pictures with the words. For now, I will just leave with the view from our room at Brad and Emmie’s … A view that despite the cold, I am so very, very glad to have this spring break.