• 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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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.


racing for life

Cathlin and Heather, medalists

Yes, I can now officially say that I have raced internationally.  Woot!

Cathlin and I ran a 5K women-only Race for Life at Finsbury Park in London on Sunday, my last day in the UK.   The course meandered through the beautiful park – some on-road, some off-road (i.e. grass), and several long upward inclines including a so-not-fair  hill at the finish  (rude).

I developed a wicked stitch in my side about 5 minutes into the race that lasted until the very end.  I blame it on the milk I had with my cereal for breakfast.  Still trying to work out what I can and cannot eat before a run.   It was distracting and definitely took a toll on my energy.  I confess that I walked a bit on a couple of the hills – less than a minute total though so not too bad.    Cathlin was a rock star and kept jogging but stayed beside me.

We finished together in 34 minutes and 40-something seconds – about 8 minutes faster than my first race in the spring!  Feeling good.

barking dogs in London

Hey hey hey!  I’m in London, visiting Cathlin and her family. Having a fantastic time as expected and so far the weather has been lovely.  Since I arrived on Saturday, we have been running around NON-STOP.  Not that I’m complaining.  But we’ve been so busy, this is the first quiet moment I’ve had to sit down, give my feet a break and blog.

I won’t bore you with a blow by blow of the last four days but will pass along some highlights.

Portobello Rd. Market, Notting Hill –  so crowded with tourists we could barely make our way down the street.   We persevered though and I came away with two brilliant scarves (just practicing my brit-speak) and some trinkets to add to my jewelry making supplies.

BrickLane and Spitalfields Markets – it was too nice a day so we blew off our planned 4 hour round-trip train ride to Stratford upon Avon and did some power walking in London instead.  Went out of our way to get a much hyped but underwhelming bagel with cream cheese (we ate only half).  Made up for it with a delicious cinnamon and sugar churro from a street vendor (we shared – should have bought two).  Bought matching Mad Men-esque dresses (black for Cathlin, gray for me).   Vintage heaven if you’re into that kind of thing.  Lunch at Waga Mama’s – yum.

London Walking tour – another beautiful day so we headed out by Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, across the river and then along the banks of the Thames.  Lunch on the terrace at the OXO building overlooking the city.  Found a fantastic shop (henrietta park) in a tiny pink kiosk filled with silk dresses and wool coats in beautiful saturated colors.  Um, yes, we spent a fair bit of time (and money) in there.  But that was the only shopping we did yesterday, I swear.   Except for some matching leggings to go with our previously mentioned matching dresses.

Museums and Swanky neighborhoods – Cathlin had to work today so I was on my own to check out the Grace Kelly exhibit at the V&A (worth the price).  Wandered around Kings Road and Sloane Square, admiring the posh houses and avoiding out-of-my-league designer shops.  Did have a moment of weakness at the Radley store whilst considering an orange handbag that was not on the sales shelf.  Took a picture and decided to think it over.  Met Cathlin and the boys at their school and headed home for Neapolitan pizza in their neighborhood.  And then gelato.  Hey, I’m on vacation.

Running – to counteract all the food excess, Cathlin and I got up at 5:30 this morning to run for 27 minutes and 22 seconds.  We saw a fox, the milkman, and smelly trash – just as Cathlin described in one of her posts (I’d link to it but I’m in a bit of a food coma right now)!  We’re going to try to get in one more run before our Race for Life 5K at Finsbury Park on Sunday.

And now, I will attempt to add a slide show of a few less than stellar pics I took with my blackberry because after the first day I got tired of carrying a separate camera.

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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.


Just a little picture from my lovely neighborhood run early this morning – cold, windy, and rainy.  Just like you expect London to be. But nice pink flowers everywhere.  Got home and did a little yoga.  Was very much enjoying the relaxation pose while listening to some tunes on my iphone.  Then, a pressure on my chest.  I opened my eyes to find my son sitting on me with his nose pressed up next to mine.  “What are you doing, Mom?” he whispered in my face.  “I’m relaxing”, I said.  Eyes closed again. “With a song in your head?” he whispered again.  Sweet.  Namaste.

Pub Crawl.

Saturday morning run. From my house in east Chiswick down to the Thames.  Along the river to Hammersmith Bridge and back.  The common theme on my route was pubs…too bad it was 9:00 am and the only thing available was the old beer smell from the night before.

First stop, The Raven.  This is right by my house.  I’ve been there once…I was easily 15 (more like 20) years older than everyone else.  But not a bad place.

Then by the Carpenter’s Arms which is supposed to have great food.  Now right on the river.. the Black Lion Pub, The Old Ship W6, and finally The Dove – which looks very cool.  I must go there.

I figured out how to get my music playing along with miss lady who tells me what to do on the Couch 2 5K plan.  I was having a great time listening to the 90’s grunge rock collection.  A little Pearl Jam to get you going.  It was a love day for my love/hate relationship with London.  Until the drunk guys who were busy rummaging through the trash cans and then dumping all of the contents out also started yelling at everyone running by.

Couch Running.

Well, I have just realized that I have already started my running..although rather informally and sometimes holding a cup of coffee.  Everyday I take the subway from my house in west London to central London to take my kids to school.  Then I dash back on the tube straight back to west London to go to work.  And I always try to run (ok, more like that strange speed walking thing) from the tube station to my office.  Then I run back again to to get on the tube to pick the kids up.  And one more time back on the tube to get home.  It makes my “beginning” not feel so beginningish.  My life already is a marathon.

Hmmm.  Prosecco.

I recently had some yummy pink prosecco at this little restaurant called ffionas.  51 Kensington Church Street, if you are ever in the ‘hood.  Prosecco Rabosa Rose NV. Delicious. And the chicken kiev was to die for.

So, back to running.  Here is a good plan I found called “The Couch to 5K running plan”.  Like the title.