• sisters on a mission.

  • Three sisters. One in Virginia. One in London. One in New York. None of whom wear shorts. Ever.

  • the mission?

    Taking delight.
    Learning Italian.
    Getting to Italy.
    Wearing shorts.
    In Italy.
    June 2011.

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she finally had a chair

Well I’m back from a glorious long weekend in Boulder!  Actually, I’m tardy – it was last weekend but never mind that.  The weather was beautiful, the food was fantastic and good times were had by all.  The only downside was that the lacing mechanism on my new hiking shoes broke and I resorted to hiking four hours in the Rockies in my slip-on Merrell Mary Janes.  Yeesh.

No bears were sighted but bear hair was in abundance on the trail.  In fact we saw no prairie dogs, no bobcats, no nothin’ except for a lone woodpecker.  But we did encounter plenty of hikers and runners, including one guy running in huarache sandals.  We turned around at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and took a little tour before heading back.   A little bit of trivia for you – Woody Allen climbed down the side of the building in the film “Sleeper”.  But enough of that.  It’s been a while since we’ve had a slide show so here you go:

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We also had some yum, yum, yummy ginger cake at the Boulder Tea House.

mmm...ginger cake

The building was a gift from Boulder’s sister city of Dushanbe in Tajikistan.  Beautiful.

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

So glad I was able to go and experience Boulder.  But, the best part was just hanging out, relaxing and having a good dose of girl talk.  Must do that more often.

The great thing about traveling, especially alone, is that it allows plenty of guilt-free time to catch up on reading.   So, I zipped through a few more chapters of No Ordinary Time.  I know this is a book about FDR and Eleanor but the more I read, the more I empathize and want to know about Eleanor.   Sure it’s interesting to learn about FDR and get insight into his character but, so far, I’m on the fence about what I think of him.

On the one hand, he’s the husband who lets his mother dominate him and doesn’t make the effort to secure a seat for his wife at the dinner table or near the fireplace – instead leaving her to find a chair wherever she could.  It was not until Val-Kill that she finally had a chair of her own.  I don’t know if I would have put up with that.  More likely, I’d have brought in my own damn chair and smacked a label with my name on it.

On the other hand, he respected Eleanor enough to speak for him at the Democratic National Convention, basically saving his nomination.  And I didn’t read anything about advisors reviewing her speeches prior to that or any other event.  That’s trust.

I’m interested to see how this all unfolds.


Dear Diary and new GOALS

I’ve just finished chapter six 6 in NOT and have two things I’ve been thinking a lot about.  1. How does the author know all that stuff? 2. How have women’s roles/place/acceptance (I could go on) really changed in the last 70 years?

So the first one.  In order for the author to have such detailed information – not only factual events, but feelings and perceptions – everyone must have kept daily, detailed diaries.  Not only does it seem they write in them all the time they must have held on to them and passed them on.  Did everyone do that?  Or is it just those that felt like they were in such positions of importance that they felt obligated to record history?  Do you think the President and the First Lady do that today?  And their kids and secretaries and aides and all the members of the House and Senate?  Or is everyone relying on the internet and blogs to not only record their lives but to also publish them to the world.  (do you know there is a national texting competition?) Hmm.  I wonder.  I never liked the idea of documenting my life and intimate thoughts on paper.  In fact found it kind of embarrassing.  But really, I wouldn’t have much to say that would need to find it’s way into history books.  Maybe that’s the difference.

Second thing plaguing me.  On the one hand Eleanor is out there making speeches at political events without FDR, lobbying for civil rights even though it may be against what her husband was supporting, writing columns – really following and communicating her own political agenda. Maybe because FDR couldn’t be out and about?  He seems to be totally supportive of her “work”.  It seems very ahead of the times.  But then there was the seemingly open and acceptable goings on FDR had with the other women.  What’s up with Missy?  and the Crown Princess of Norway?  Would that happen today?  I don’t think so.  Look at the Monica Lewinski thing (how embarrassing).

OK back to running.  We are moving on to a new GOAL!!  The 10K .  After realizing that we are floundering without a goal we decided to go from the couch (yes it’s back to the couch) to the 10K.  I’ve already downloaded my app.  My only concern is the weather and the darkness.  London from Oct to Mar is grim.  Really grim.  I can do it.  So watch this space.

Now for food.  I made the most delicious cheese soup the other day.

I know most cheese soups are grainy and too cheesy, but this is delicious.  Chop into nice little pieces some carrots, celery, onions (and I sometimes add little potato pieces) and sautee in butter.  Add a bay leaf.  After the veggies are getting soft add some flour.  Then a splash of wine.  Next some chicken stock and simmer until vegetables are done.  Then add some 1/2 and 1/2 and cheddar cheese.  S and P.  Delicious.

food, glorious food: London-style

Warning…if you have any interest in good food mixed with travel, the images you are about to see could cause you to dig out your credit card and buy an expensive plane ticket to London posthaste.

Seriously.  As I was going through the photos from my trip I noticed a preponderance of food-related snapshots.   Which, to be honest, is not that unusual.  I started documenting meals on a trip to Rome a couple of years ago and looking back at those photos takes me back to the scene as nothing  else can.   And despite what you might have heard, London grub is equally noteworthy.

I heart macaroons

Let’s start on Saturday at Notting Hill.  After wandering through the crowded market we took a detour to Books for Cooks, where we were waylaid by a table loaded with macaroons set up just outside the store.   Bite-sized yummy confections.   Macaroons are the new cupcake, or will be soon.  If I had any interest in baking or initiative whatsoever I would open up a macaroon shop in Richmond to compete with the multitude of cupcake offerers.    I wish I could give the baker a shout out but her business card is back in London on Cathlin’s refrigerator.

waga mama

Next up, wagamama at Spitalfields on Sunday.  Great location up above the market craziness.  I had the yasai katsu curry: sweet potato deep fried in panko breadcrumbs with curry, sticky rice, mixed greens and red pickles.  It was delicious and even though it was fried I didn’t feel like an unhealthy slug afterward.

Cathlin had some sort of noodle, vegetable dish that she loves (the dish in the foreground) and orders frequently.  Can’t remember the name of it.  I was too absorbed with anticipating and then inhaling my own meal.

Monday was a gorgeous sunny day so we popped into the OXO tower restaurant to take advantage of the views.  We sat on the outside patio overlooking the Thames, feeling ever so cosmopolitan as we munched on grilled asparagus, goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, some sort of tomato deliciousness, pea gazpacho and chips.  A bit expensive, thus the appetizers only.  But totally worth it for the atmosphere.

appetizers at OXO Tower

chocolate heaven

Tuesday was a big day for indulgence.   After fighting the crowds at the Grace Kelly exhibit at the V&A (highly recommended btw – the exhibit, not the crowds), I needed an escape.  Thankfully, Cathlin had already mapped out the way to Kensington Creperie which I found without too much difficulty once I got pointed in the right direction outside of the museum.

There were almost too many options.  I was tempted by a strawberry / cream number but finally decided on Hazelnut Chocolate Cream: Hazelnuts, butter, cream, with dark Belgian Chocolate.  And Orangina.  Because orange and chocolate belong together.  I have to admit that I couldn’t finish my crepe.  Do you see the size of that monster?  I hit my sugar threshold.


Later, Neapolitan style pizza for dinner at Franco Manca in Chiswick.  Ricotta, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes,  spinach and perfectly prepared crust.

A little backstory: I lived in Naples Italy for several years back in the 1990s and am always on the lookout for la vera pizza.  This was pretty authentic.  I would definitely go again if someone would please buy me another ticket to London.  Coach class is fine.

And yes we each had our own pizza.  Did I mention that I was on vacation?

Wow, this post is getting long and I’m not even half way through the week yet.  In the interest of space I will just say that Wednesday I had a yummy egg salad and watercress sandwich from Marks and Spencer.  I could not take a picture of it because I was balanced on a 5″ wide “bench” at a bus shelter on a busy shopping street and trying to eat my sandwich and not drop my chips.

On Thursday I took time out to sit down for lunch at the World Food Cafe in Covent Garden.  I love this place in Neal’s Yard (check out this  cool 360 video).   Another vegetarian dish with potatoes, beets, bananas, rice and greens.  Very interesting combo of flavors.

the west african

I was going to leave it at that but then I spied the chocolate cake cooling on the counter.  Couldn’t pass it up.  Best thing I ate on the entire trip.  No lie.  Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  Divine.

french chocolate cake

Almost to the end of the week and I still hadn’t had a full english breakfast.  Can you believe it?  We remedied that on Friday at Cote Brasserie in Chiswick.  I know, I know, I should have done so at a pub rather than at a French cafe but I have to say they did it right.  Left out the beans though – maybe not French enough?  That also explains the egg in crepe dish that my nephew ordered.

full English

I took a side trip to the Cotswolds to visit friends on Saturday and tried my first soft-boiled duck egg for breakfast – fresh from one of their ducks.  Tasty but definitely richer and bigger than the chicken eggs I’m used to.  Worth a try if you ever have the opportunity.

Finally on Sunday, my last day in London, we made it to The Brook, the local pub,  for lunch.  We had just run a 5k so we rewarded ourselves with steak, fries and dessert.  Just looking at these photos puts me in a bit of a food coma.

eton mess

berry pudding

brownie extravaganza

I did not eat all of these by myself, mind you.  Although I did have a taste of each.  The brownie was the clear winner.  And I’m not just saying that because I’m an American.

So there you have it.  One week in London (plus an extra weekend), loads of good food.  I am now officially starting my healthy diet again.

3 extra minutes, garbage, bad smells, and……cakes

Week 8.  28 minutes.  No problem.  I’ve done 25.  What’s an extra 3?  Well, it’s an extra 3 at the end when you want to be doing the cool down, that’s what.

I did my first 28 minute run the other morning just a wee bit before 6:00 am.   Running in the city offers lots of interesting sights and smells.  Trash day is particularly interesting as everyone puts their stuff on the curb the night before.  Which the urban foxes LOVE.  They have a party that night.  So in the morning when I’m out for some fresh air, before the “dust bin collectors” come (what a funny name – I don’t think they are collecting dust), there are ripped open trash bags and half eaten food and other gross things all along my route.  Lovely.

For some reason on this morning I also seemed to be following the route of the 94 bus.  Didn’t seem to be any people on the buses, but I got the nice exhaust blast every time one went by.  Which was a lot.  I envy my sister’s field.

But, I often do get to see the milkman in his little van that says “Milk and More”.  I don’t know what the more is, but there he is picking up empty glass bottles and leaving full ones on people’s doorsteps.  And once I did see a man in a pretty dress.   I do love the mornings.

And finally, cakes.  In my house I have a bad, but true, reputation as a not-so-great cake baker.  But, I keep trying.  For my sons’ birthday last year, I excitedly asked them what kind of cake they would like me to make them.  And one replied, “Mom, can you just buy a cake because you haven’t had much luck in the past with cakes”.  Sad, but true. I ignored their protests and made this, and it was quite good.

Not bad.

And then just the other day for my husband’s birthday.  I made this! And it was not only edible, but delicious.

I believe I have redeemed myself.

The NOW Body

I read an article in The Times this weekend called, The Body for Now that made me think of our quest.  It got my interest with the first line….”it all started with a lot of talk about bottoms.  My friends had become obsessed by bums…”.   The article goes on to talk about how super-skinny is just not in anymore.  Instead the dream physique is a healthy, sporty one obtained by “getting your kicks for fun instead of punishing yourself in the gym”.  A few celebs like Anniston, Paltrow, and Christensen are mentioned (as are some new shoes by Reebok) as examples.   They all cross-train and watch what they eat.  I guess it’s a bit easier when you can take your yoga instructor with you on location (Jen’s says that if you want to change your body you have to change your diet – which accounts for 80% of how you look).  I’m sure she has a cook too.  When she has a Mexican meal she doesn’t deny herself…oh, no! She will just have 3 tortilla chips.  Hilarious.  What fun is that?

I just finished week 7 – all 25 minute runs.  I have to say I’m finally starting to enjoy running.  AND I’m getting the good addiction to exercising again.  AND I do have much more energy.  At the end of this illuminating article it says….”you want to wear shorts?  Go for it.  Get down to the gym, the park, or get on a bike.”.  I’m still waiting for the magic bum and legs transformation.

I’m going to make a cake and have some nachos.

on running, pubs and brownies

Today I started week five.  Loved the eight minute runs (especially the five minute break).  I’m starting to feel like a runner again.  I still have no Internet at home but have finally located my headphones…listened to Spring Awakening soundtrack.  On my run this morning, I noticed this sign above the door to a pub that I ran by.

Only in England – where I’m sure they invented boarding school.

On a more pleasing note, I made this beautiful raspberry cheesecake brownie last night.  Picture courtesy of Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.  They have a shop here in London where they sell nice cupcakes (at outrageous prices). Cupcakes…definitely not invented in England.

beer pairings for the soul


Once a month my friends and I gather at a local pub for Beer Dinner. The dinners are three courses – appetizers, main and dessert – with two beer tastings for each course.  There are pop quizzes and prizes and someone from our table usually brings home the gold (tap handle, beer glass or t-shirt).

I’m not a huge beer drinker but I do love Beer Dinner if for no other reason than to marvel at how good beer can taste with cake if paired appropriately.   Last night we tried oak-aged tommyknocker.  It was strong and heavy and I thought no way am I going to be able to drink this.  But after a big bite of chocolate chai cake I was surprised by how satisfying the beer was after all.

The other great thing about beer dinner is that it’s an opportunity to trot out one or both of my two party tricks.  The first is folding a dollar bill into the shape of a collared shirt.   It’s really easy once you get the hang of it.   I never tell people my objective so it  builds the suspense as they watch to see what I’m doing.   And then voila!  I included one in the tip one night.  I wonder if our server unfolded it or kept it?  The only problem with this trick is that it gets old after you’ve seen it once or maybe twice.

The second, and more showy, trick is writing forward with one hand and backward with the other simultaneously to produce a mirror image of whatever anybody wants me to say.  If it’s early in the dinner I can do it in French or Italian. Later on there can and probably will be misspellings.   One of these days I need to do a video.  I taught myself how in high school but didn’t have much use for it after that.  So my friends and husband were shocked, SHOCKED, at my ambidextrous scrawl of “how now brown cow”.  Anyway, it’s my claim to fame.  Such as it is.