Friday, May 5, 2017

Poulet a la Moutarde and Julia Child

It has been a month since I was in Paris.  And I have this strong desire to be there again, like I was meant to be there even belong there.  I have always been a bit obsessed with the French and apparently my visit to Paris has reignited that obsession.  

When talking about France, one can hardly dismiss the food.  Unfortunately the food isn't low carb and that has definitely hindered my weight loss over the last month.  That isn't to say that I haven't been back on keto for days at a time but then I come across a nice cheese and baguette at the store and I cave.  I so wish bread wasn't a carb...  

I have managed to make one fairly low carb french meal that I thought I would share with you. Poulet a la moutarde otherwise known as chicken in mustard sauce.  I am a big fan of chicken dishes with mustard so when I came across this recipe from Mon Petit Four I decided to give it a shot.  To be honest, I don't cook with wine often and was a bit concerned that my family would even like it.  The dish did not disappoint.  In fact, I didn't even have leftovers!  The flavors are rich yet mild and the the dish was simple to make.  A good dijon mustard like Maille is key to getting a good sauce flavor.  My local grocery store Dillons sells Maille so I was in luck.  Unfortuntately, there aren't many options for shopping for European groceries in Wichita or at least that I am aware of.  I am kicking myself for stocking up on some French essentials while I was there.  I am on the hunt for my next french recipe that I wish to try.  I've been thinking about getting the mother of all French cookbooks, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, just to give it a whirl.  There are actually plenty of meat and vegetable dishes which are low-carb, they just require me to step outside my obsession with pastries, crepes, and croque monsieurs (which I have also learned to make, yum!).  I am currently reading the autobiography of Julia Child, My Life in France.  I am loving it but then again I love France and I love Julia Child.  I've also seen/own the movie Julie and Julia which is a true celebration of French cuisine and Julia Child. 

This weekend I will be celebrating my 40th birthday.  My family and I will be heading to one of the only French restaurants we have in Wichita, Georges French Bistro.  I have been a fan of Georges since they opened and I can't wait to go back.  

I apologize for lack of photos this post, I did take some great photos of the chicken dish but lost them in transitioning to my new phone.  I'll try to grab some next time... and believe me, there will be a next time.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Boston - London - Paris Vacation Recap



Last weekend we returned from our family vacation (+ my mom: grandma) that started in Boston and included stops in London and Paris and I wanted share our adventure with you.

Boston:

We started our trip with a day and a half stop off in Boston.  My cousin, Kari, and her wife and son joined us for a day at The Museum of Science.  We had a great day at the museum, which was really a pretty impressive place. There were many interactive exhibits that the kids enjoyed.  I thought the health area was the neatest.  I did manage to grab a lobster roll before leaving...



London:
We left Boston at 10 PM and flew overnight to London.  This was a first for all of us to plan to sleep on a plane.  We flew in a 787 Dreamliner which I thought was pretty comfortable overall.  Since we traveled via carry-on backpacks, everything was easily accessible.  I managed to sleep off and on for a couple hours but it was definitely a long trip.  We arrived in London at 830 AM and quickly had to make our way to the London St. Pancras train station to catch the Eurostar to Paris at noon.  We took the Thameslink train to St. Pancras train station (about an hour ride) and made with with a hour or so to spare.  At this point, we were pretty exhausted.  We grabbed lunch/snacks at the Marks & Spencer gourmet food store and oh my goodness was this a cool place.  I *wish* we had M&S in the states.  We had pork pies, scones, pasta salad, crisps, pastries, and chocolates that we brought on to the Eurostar train for our two and a half hour ride to Paris.  At this point, we were all ready to eat and sleep.  In fact, I missed going through the tunnel under the English Channel because I was asleep.



Paris:
We arrived in Paris around 4 PM and made our way to pick up the keys to our apartment.  It was about a mile walk to pick up the keys and then another short distance to get to the apartment.  Immediately, I felt immersed into the culture and way of life.  I would highly recommend staying in an apartment over a hotel in Paris as it gave us the opportunity to really experience life in Paris.  Our apartment was pretty small for the five of us though but we were so exhausted and ready for a nap, we hardly noticed.  Around 8 PM we ventured out to grab dinner.  We just walked until we found a place that sounded good.  We found a little restaurant/bar and immediately I had to turn on my french.  I was in an advanced french program in high-school and then I also took some french in college but I am still not fluent by any means.  I did find that a lot came back to me though and I was able to at least order for us and communicate and read the basics to get us around.  Our dinner was excellent - I had Croque Monsieur with a salad, the girls had burgers and fries (with mayo!), my mom had Risotto that she still is talking about and my husband had fish and chips... he's not all about french food....



The next morning we ventured out for breakfast and hit up a pastry shop.  Us girls on the trip basically lived for all the little pastry shops we encountered along the way.  Chocolate croissants and eclairs were a big hit with everyone.  We next made our way to the Eiffel Tower where we had already purchased tickets so we were able to walk right in opposed to waiting in the long line.  Good thing because there were long lines to get to the top of the tower.  It was slow moving but we eventually made it on a windy, chilly day.  It was an amazing view but we were pretty chilly so it was a brisk visit at the top.  After that we headed to grab some lunch and hit up a street vendor who was cooking fresh crepes.  We had ham and cheese crepes while sitting on the edge of the Seine River.  It felt like a movie moment.... After lunch we took a little cruise along the Seine River to see all the sites of Paris along the river.  There was so much to see and after standing at the Eiffel Tower for so long it was nice to take a break.  After we left the boat we hit up another street vendor selling waffles topped with nutella and strawberry... so so good.  On our way back to our hotel, we did some shopping.  We picked up little trinkets to remind ourselves of Paris.  We also stopped and grabbed a few groceries -- fresh baguette, brie, butter, grapes, apricots, and pear.  That evening we walked down the street from our hotel to another street vendor where we had sandwiches and savory crepes for dinner.



The following morning, we had breakfast at our apartment and then headed out for a day of exploring.  We started out at the Louvre which was amazing.  I could have spent a week there.  Knowing that we were limited on time, we prioritized the areas we wanted to see focusing on favorite artists and famous art pieces.  Seeing the Monet in person was a highlight for the girls, especially my little artist Penny.  She had decided she wants to be an Impressionist Painter and loves Claude Monet now.  We grabbed lunch at the Louvre and then headed out to explore more of Paris.  Shakespeare and Company has been a bucket list item for me forever and I wasn't about to leave Paris without making a visit.  Shakespeare and Company is a bookstore that is famous for housing many famous writers as they traveled through Paris -- Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Richard Wright, and so forth.  Today it is one the biggest stops for book tours with many best selling authors stopping by for book signings.  Notre Dame is just across the street from Shakespeare and Company so we ventured over to check it out.  It is a beautiful building, far more intricate than in pictures.  Next we started heading back to our apartment but not before grabbing dinner at a little corner cafe called Sarah Bernhardt named after a famous french actress.



London:
The next morning we had to get packed up to head to London back on the train.  We took the Eurostar back to London and this time I was awake going through the Chunnel.  Once we arrived back at the train station we did some shopping and grabbed another little gourmet lunch from Marks & Spencer.  If you do nothing else on a trip to London, you have got to check out a Mark & Spencer Food Store....  We went into Kings Cross train station and was able to visit Platform 93/4 from Harry Potter.  The girls were super excited and they have a pretty neat little store in the train station.  Next we headed to the flat that we had rented in South Kensington.  It was a big step up from our little Paris apartment with two big bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a large living room and modern kitchen.  The clean lines and style was perfect, I loved it.  We did have a pretty stressful trip on the tube getting to our hotel as people were packed on like sardines and I worried we wouldn't all be able to get off the train in time but we somehow managed.  After settling in we went to dinner and hit up an Italian restaurant just down the road.  Afterward we stopped by a little grocery store and grabbed some groceries for the next day.

The next morning we got up early and headed out on a chilly, rainy day for our tour taking us outside of London.  We started with a visit to Warwick Castle which was really neat.  We had about an hour to walk around and the girls really loved it.  It was a bit difficult at times due to the rain but we had our compact umbrellas with us so were able to get around ok.  Next we headed to Stratford upon Avon to visit the birth home of William Shakespeare.  It was amazing to me how well it and so much memorabilia had been maintained.  After our tour of the home we explored the town and fell in love with it.  I could absolutely move there.  We grabbed lunch from a sandwich shop (where I tried a Cornwall pastie - so good) and headed back to bus.  Next we went for a ride through the Cotswolds which was beautiful.  The grass was so green and lush and all the sheep and cottages made it feel like it was a out of a fairy tale.  We arrived in Oxford later in the afternoon and did a tour of Oxford University which was very interesting.  If had my way now, I would just move to the UK and go to Oxford instead of work... we also made a stop past The Eagle and Child Pub where JRR Tolkein and CS Lewis writer's group used to meet.  Upon leaving Oxford, we got news that there was a terrorist attack in London so we were a bit nervous as to what this meant for our trip.  The tube station was shut down in some places. Luckily we were able to get to a stop not far from South Kensington.  By that time though, we had been getting phone calls and text messages of people asking if we were ok.  It was our luck to have decided to do the tour outside of London that day instead of the tour of London that was planned the following day or we could have been at Parliament when it happened.  That evening we went to a local hamburger joint and then called it a day.



The next day we set out to explore London.  We purchased a pass that gave us access via bus all around the city.  Of course, due to the terrorist attack the prior day, many things were closed off but we made the best of the day that we could.  We started out at 221B Baker Street famous by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.  We did some shopping and I thought it was a really cool place.  Next door was a Beatles store and we spent most of our souvenir money here... what can I say, even my kids are Beatles nuts... Grandma is too.  We had lunch at the Sherlock Holmes cafe where I got some fish and chips as customary to do in the UK.  Next we took a tour around the city for awhile seeing the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, etc.  We stopped at the London Bridge and Tower of London for a bit.  It was still very windy and cold so it was hard to stay outside very long.  Traffic was especially bad due to part of the city being shut down and all the reporters who were there to cover the attack.  I never thought in a million years we would be so close to a terrorist attack.  I intentionally held back telling the girls until we were ending our time there because I didn't want them to be afraid.  The city was still very positive though.  In Trafalgar Square, there were artist doing drawings about peace and no fear.  There was a guitar player singing John Lennon's "Imagine" and "Let It Be."  If anything, this is an experience I will never forget and I was really moved to see how the city came out and came together.  On our way back to our flat, we grabbed dinner at an Indian restaurant.  All of my IT friends always rave to me that London has the best curry so I had to find out for myself as a curry-lover.  Indeed, it was all wonderful.  My girls, who can be a bit finicky, also liked it.



The last day, we made our way back to the airport.  Other than a brief panic over a cancelled train, we were able to get back to the airport with plenty of time.  Going through Security was a bit overwhelming with the attack but security there was very kind compared to the US TSA.  All of our bags were searched and swabbed.  It took us about half an hour to get everyone together and ready to get go to our terminal.  We left London at 4 PM and made it back to Boston at 7 PM on the same plane we came in on.



Overall, this was an amazing trip with a lot of activity but such a positive experience.  I would love to go again and hope to do so in the not so distant future. We loved backpacking and it is now our preferred method of travel, I plan to do a separate post soon on how we pulled it off.

Now I return to back to seeking and plotting out my next European adventure...

"Why, then the world's mine oyster" -- Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Winsor

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Spring is coming

I'm ready for a season change.  Not that we've had terrible winter weather in the Midwest but it has been overcast for months now and I am ready for spring to arrive. I've definitely been short on motivation although my creativity has been flowing freely.  I thought I would just share what I've been into lately...



Cross stitch - I have a new addiction.  In fact, I spent most evenings working on different projects.  I started with a Last Unicorn pattern that I love and then quickly moved on to other projects including learning to make my own patterns.  Etsy has been my favorite spot to shop for new patterns but making patterns is fun for personalizing items.  I recently made this portrait of my cousins and I for my Grandmother for her birthday. I both designed and stitched it.

Paper flowers - I have also been working on making a large bouquet of paper flowers.  I am a bit of a paper collector and it has been fun to learn how to cut, fold, and mold different shapes from paper.

Books - I have started too many books to name but have struggled to get into anything lately.  The last book I finished was in December, it was Everything That Rises Must Converge: Stories by Flannery O'Connor.  I loved it as I love all things by Flannery O'Connor but since Dec, I've just been stuck. My attention span hasn't been there.  I did recently buy My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix so am hopeful that it will grab my attention and throw me back into reading again.

Television & Movies - what can I say.  It is easy to stitch and watch tv so I have been doing a lot of that.  It doesn't hurt that there is a lot on right now that I am into.  The Walking Dead picked back up last month and I am still crazy for the show.  A new show called Riverdale started last month as well and I am really enjoying it.  I always loved the Archie comics growing up and this show is based on the newer, darker Archie comics.  Jughead was and still is my favorite. Girls on HBO has been a favorite for awhile - love Lena Dunham and her character.  This Is Us was a show I knew I would love from the previews that came out months in advance.  It has some of the best writing for a television show ever.  I admit, I get a good weekly cry from this show - and Randall is my favorite. And then there are plenty of what I consider cotton candy shows - The Voice, a slew of MTV shows, and all the Investigation Discovery I can fit in.  As far as movies go, we did go see Hidden Figures as a family.  I loved Hidden Figures and highly recommend it to everyone.  I also rented Edge of Seventeen one evening and thought it was cute.  I realize that I will always love all things aimed at teen girls.... oh well.



Unicorns, Lisa Frank, and other colorful things - Speaking of teen girls, my love for all things Lisa Frank is strong going back to the early 80's.  I have really rekindle my love for these things through sharing it with my daughters.  Lisa Frank and Glamour Dolls recently launched a Kickstarter collab for cruelty-free Lisa Frank makeup!  I was the 24th backer so I am not only getting the Lisa Frank makeup collection but also am getting something from the Lisa Frank vault!  I'm most excited about that. We also went to a store party here called Happy Puppy, Sparkly Kitty, Rainbow Unicorn Party.  It was all about the colorful animal stuff.  And my youngest has gotten into baking and loves making colorful treats.  I have started a Pinterest board just for this as we discover things she could make.  She's also already planning her 10th Birthday party and going with the Unicorn theme and I'm not complaining. I actually love that all this stuff I loved as a kid is back "in."






Tuesday, January 31, 2017

It's Tough

It's tough to find the desire to blog lately.  I seem to waiver back and forth between feeling depressed and anxious all the time.  I'm completely distracted with worry about what is coming next for myself, my friends, and my family under the dictator that is acting as president.

Hopefully I'll figure out how to get back to enjoying things again and find something to share soon.

In the meantime, I'm contacting my senators and emailing Grab Your Wallet companies I will no longer purchase from to remove myself from mailing lists and deleting my online accounts with them.

Fun times.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Backpacker Travel

**This is getting ready to head to Mexico in 2013

Awhile back I mentioned that my family would be traveling to London and Paris in 2017.  We are starting to get our travel plans pulled together and logistics booked to get from place to place. Something that we have spent quite a bit of time on is deciding on what we needed to travel.  Over the years I have become a big fan of minimalist travel.  I hate lugging big bags from place to place when I truly only use 25 - 30% of what I have packed.  So as time has gone by, I have pared down my "must haves" and gotten to a place where I believe I can travel to Europe for a week in a carry-on backpack.  My husband and children are going to attempt to do the same.  We may end up come back with an extra bag to account for souvenirs but the experience will be less stressful if we travel light. This has led me to start evaluating what my needs are not only for this trip but the lifestyle that my husband and I have dreamed about over the years.  We travel at least a couple of times a year and hope to increase that as time goes on, eventually making travel our highest priority.  Living out of backpacks for months at a time is where we hope to end up in early retirement.  We'll have to wait and see how that pans out.

This weekend we had two objectives - jackets/coats and the backpacks themselves.  It's a good thing because I have had a nasty flu/cold for a week and really was just capable of online shopping.

Jackets. To be honest, we both needed heavier jackets because we have both lost weight and needed not only something that would fit better but also would keep us warm but allow us to move about freely, especially while wearing a backpack.  I love my wool pea coat but I do not want to worry about feeling hot and itchy while traveling. We both settled on softshell jackets by Columbia.  He chose the Hooded Ascender SoftShell  in black and I chose the Kruser Ridge Softshell in black.  Both are on sale on the Columbia website right now so we grabbed them before they sold out.  I would have loved to get one with a hood but alas they were sold out.  We tried these on at Cabellas to be sure and weight seemed nice, not to hot or cold.  Since we will be in 40-45 degree weather we felt it was a good choice and I'm sure I'll be wearing mine throughout our milder winter days in Kansas.

On to the backpacks.  This is where it gets a little crazy.  There is so much information about deciding on a perfect backpack out there we had a hard time choosing.  And because we are buying backpacks that we will use for years of travel, we wanted to be selective and get something that is not only durable but good to travel for weeks if not months at a time. We quickly leaned towards the brand Osprey which seems to offer a large variety of backpacks in various cubic sizes as well as people build sizes. I like the idea that I am wearing a backpack made for a tall woman and not a short woman because hopefully the waist band will hit in the right place. Osprey also offers a lifetime warranty, awesome!  I ordered the Osprey Farpoint 40L in black.  It holds 40 liters.  That sounds like a lot but is relatively small in the world of backpacks.  It is, however, small enough to pass as a carry-on which I like.  I have a cross-body Fossil Morgan Top Zip Purse that I can wear with it (crossbody) which will pass as my small item so I feel the combination of both will be sufficient.  I debated going larger but then I thought if I did, I'd only fill it up with more things I don't need.  And the weight would become more than I want to deal with. I know we will be doing a lot of walking and even traveling by train and the last thing I want to do is feel like I am lugging bricks around.  I also purchased a set of travel cubes which I think will make my life easier.  Depending on what we think of the Farpoint 40, my husband may go with it.  If not, he may end up with a larger bag, we'll have to wait and see.  




Saturday, January 7, 2017

Online Savings

Last year I posted about several sites I use save online and figured it was time to do an update.

I recently discovered a new tool called Honey that I have started using and wanted to pass it on to the few of you who read my blog.

Honey is a free browser add-in that you use when you shop online.  It does a few things for you.  First, it automatically looks for all the coupon/promo codes available and applies the best one for your purchase (and even stacks codes if allowed).  Second, it will provide you the best price when shopping on Amazon.  If the listed price is higher than other offers online, it will link you to the cheaper price. As someone who shops on Amazon almost weekly (Love Amazon Prime) it is definitely a nice perk. And lastly, it offers cashback.  I am a big Ebates fan so I'm not sure I'll use it for this purpose but thought it worth mentioning.  And if you aren't signed up with Ebates... you are throwing away money each time you purchase online.  It is by far one of the best ways to earn some extra dough with very little effort.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

What I got for Xmas 2016





Disclaimer - this is not a post to brag about what I got for Christmas.  Some of my favorite blogs and vlogs are the "what I got for Xmas" type and thought it would be fun to share because I am always interested in learning about what kinds of things others are into... and even find some new interests for myself.

PJs - A gift from my mom they are super comfortable and have an Indian-inspired design.  Definitely will be nice to wear on our trip to London & Paris in the Spring.

In The Charcuterie - A cookbook about making your own meats.

Felt Succulent Kit by Craft Crush

Paint by Sticker book - looks like a nice way to relax

Dirty Dancing CDs - because I have tix to see the Broadway show in a few months and need to brush up on the soundtrack!

Owl Paint by Number - again, nice and relaxing project

Breakfast Club Funko Pop - Allison Reynolds

Etsy Gift Cards - So much to decide on I am having trouble selecting anything.  I may just wait till I need a new pattern.

Billie Jean mug - Probably the most desired item on my list, Fair is Fair!

Fleetwood Mac on vinyl

Books!  - Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, Peter Beagle's Summerlong,  Make the Most of Your Time on Earth, Flannery O'Connor's The Complete Stories, and the Judy Blume Boxed Set (all my own so I don't have to share!)

Tarte SwampQueen palette

Marshall Headphones

Echo Dot - Alexa sits on my nightstand now and mostly streams Florence + the Machine since I am so obsessed lately

Movies! - Alice through the Looking Glass, Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children, and Super Girl

Yankee Candle Wax Warmer - Love me some white owls!

White Owl Mug

Scarves

Hopefully I haven't forgotten anything.  I am incredibly thankful for all my gifts but mostly just thankful for the time with family to celebrate the season.