This past weekend we took a drive to Mt. Dora to celebrate our Wedding Anniversary and enjoy some Antiquing in this lovely town. The little shops along Main street are so inviting and each carry so many unique items made by local artists. The town also boosts a wide variety of great Restaurants as well. I was truly excited when I learned that the Annual Garden Show was being held this past Sunday at Rennigers Antique and Flea Market! Aw yes a trifecta for me staying at the lovely Heron Cay Lakeview Bed and Breakfast, Antiquing at the Garden show and then enjoying the local restaurants celebrating our Anniversary for a few days! There's always room for another Martini!:)
We headed up Sunday morning and went straight to the Garden show and was amazed how large a show it was. Needless to say I had to take it all in and we spent 4 hours meandering both inside and outside at all there was to see. The top picture was the first booth as we walked in and I bought some lovely dried lavender there. My other great finds included an old sewing machine drawer pictured below that I put some potted plants in that I had at home. I also purchased some lace that day as well as a metal wall vase. I finished off the show with two ceramic boxes that have crowns (my favorite thing) on them. Another store in town called Piece of Mine brought a purchase of the lovely flower pot that I put the lavender in and I added moss! Little pretty things make me happy! ;) Next we enjoyed cocktails at the Lost Parrot in town and then headed over to the Bed and Breakfast to check in.
We were greeted by Margie the innkeeper and shown to our room. It was a lovely room overlooking the Lake with a four poster bed and we thought just perfect. Well to make a long story short on our way down to get our clothes she showed us the just Heavenly Suite and we decided to stay in that one as it was available. A grand room with a King Bed, Fireplace and sitting room and finished off with a huge Bath and dressing area. The bath was decorated with antiques as was the room and made it feel all that nicer. Chandeliers in the bathroom.......yes savvy style!
It was truly a beautiful three day get away with all the bells and whistles! As always we love to talk with everyone we meet and while having Dinner at Pisces Rising a Florida Steak and Seafood Restaurant we met Maggie and Kevin. Our tables were back to back and Kevin heard me asking about dessert and he said don't count calories just do it! Well five minutes later they joined us at our table and we shared lots of good conversation, laughs and the beautiful evening breeze sitting on the patio overlooking the Lake with music to boot!
Monday morning we met Laura and Dave that were staying at the Bed and Breakfast as well. We started talking and then set off in different directions. We stopped at the Olive Branch Restaurant to check out the menu for dinner and they were there having a drink. Once again lots of talk and then we decided to meet them there later for dinner and celebrate our Anniversary's together ! We had such a lovely evening and really got to know each other and plan on meeting up again soon.
Once again sharing special moments with two special couples made our get away all the more memorable. Thanks to our innkeepers Margie and Randy for a delightful stay at your gracious home and the delicious Breakfast served each morning!
March has been a busy month at my house both with projects and a visit from my girlfriend Carol. I look forward to her visits for all the fun we have visiting, shopping and of course our talks on solving the World's problems! ;) As she tells friends she is in "Finance" ..... moving money in all stores and creating a need for industry to supply pretty items at discounted prices! ;)
We have the best times collaborating ideas and then shopping from stores to antique malls, to thrift shops in pursuit of the perfect items to create a new idea we've envisioned!
She arrived with a big bag of presents for my Birthday and we began right away figuring out the best place to display them. Her presents were all crown related starting with a beautiful gold bird with a crown pictured above, Crown Measuring Spoons, Crown Napkin Rings, A Crown Bookmark from Ireland with an Irish Cookbook, a crown applique for Furniture and then a beautiful pair of Crown Crystal earnings from My Flat in London! Awe Yes I certainly felt like a Queen the day she arrived! Thanks Carol for all my presents and creating memories I get to look at and enjoy. ;)
Starting with the wreath above that I had in a closet and with the addition of some Ivy, a little ribbon and then of course my new bird Bella with her crown. She is now proudly hanging in the Pool bath also known as the Queens Throne!
March was certainly a busy month and Carols visit made it so memorable. From a Paul Anka concert at Sunrise Theater, my neighbors 50th Anniversary Party, Reiki one evening, as well as Meditation, endless shopping and visits with my neighbor Addie who had us over for a lovely breakfast and my good friend Paola who had us over for Tea and her special Cassata cake pictured below.
With the end of March comes a new month to enjoy the Spring and a visit from both Stephanie and Stephen for Easter. I'm looking forward to making a Pizza Rustica and Grain Pie and will keep you updated with pictures. Happy Spring!!!
It's hard to believe that my last post was from Feb.17th! The past five weeks have flown by and with so many great memories to share at Britalia Way. Starting back on Feb 16th we enjoyed an evening with Jay Leno at the Sunrise Theater. We were so happy to get a chance to meet him before the show and take a picture and then I snapped this selfie of us above.
He is such a nice guy and his show was fabulous. He hasn't lost touch with reality with all his success and it shows! An hour and a half of non stop laughter and you leave his show wishing we could still turn him on every night at 11:30 on the Tonight Show! His jokes are hilarious as he pokes fun at simple everyday subjects without the need to use curse words or put someone down in a negative way. Even his political jokes don't demean or disgrace, rather his delivery of some as questions make them even funnier! ;)
Truly a style all his own with facial gestures that can't be beat! I can't say enough of how entertaining Jay is other than..... If he comes to your town, don't miss his show!
I love hanging pots in my kitchen I love looking at them, but mainly I hang them as I don't like trying to fight with them when there stored in cabinets and get stuck in each other....Right!! :) Problem solved..... I have two pot racks in my Kitchen and love the convenience as well as the style it brings to the room. I still store the larger stock pots in the lower cabinets and make all sorts of sounds when trying to retrieve them and then put the others back where they belong. Actually I think I hear some of you laughing thinking the same thing! Really this is hilarious as most of the world is in chaos over so many issues and I choose to write about hanging pots. In the above picture, you can see I use my Asparagus pot as a vessel for utensils and the strainer for that pot also for assorted spoons etc. It is amazing how easy it is to reach and not fumble around in a drawer. If your about to click off as this post is too corny ....I'm about to share an exciting game I've been asked to participate in! ;)
My nephew Salvatore who is a chef sent me a letter last week asking me if I would share some ideas and be part of the game "My Last Supper" It's a game chefs have enjoyed for decades and seemed to keep it among themselves in the profession. Then along came author Melanie Dunea in 2007 who asked 50 of the World's famous chefs to participate with a picture of the Chef and create a great book for all to enjoy. The object of the game is to answer 6 simple questions:
What would be your last meal on Earth
What would be the setting for the meal
What would you Drink with your Meal ;) That's easy Martini!
Would there be Music
Who would be your Dining Companions!
Who would prepare the meal
Sal (my nephew) thought it would be fun to ask fifty of his friends and relatives to participate. Recipes are optional....are we surprised Chefs usually keep them to themselves or if your like me never formally measure unless baking and rely on our hands and eyes as our measuring tools. I'm excited and plan to think about it over the weekend, possibly pondering the ideas over a lovely Martini recalling meals shared with special people.
For me it's all about the experience and in the picture above you see a rolling pin.... not just a kitchen tool but a rolling pin that holds a very special memory. I purchased that in Montisi Italy at a little shop not far from the bed and breakfast where we were staying. This was a small village and the shops were mostly for the locals or the few tourists (very few) that were there. I still remember walking in and being greeted by the lovely Italian woman and the sincerity in her eyes. With her limited English we shared a memorable exchange as I looked at all her cooking and handmade items she displayed so nicely. There were kitchen tools, aprons, towels and china one nicer than the next. This particular rolling pin has ridges so when you roll it across the dough the Pasta strands are evenly cut..... Perfect for Tagliatelle! She took the pin in her hands to demonstrate and I was immediately taken by her genuine love for cooking and sharing of ideas.
Truly a heartfelt moment for me and one that I recall each time I roll this pin across fresh pasta dough.
Many times when I'm cooking my thoughts take me back to when I've enjoyed the dish that I'm preparing. I'm conscious of what I'm doing but actually imagining the taste, presentation and memory of a simple meal. The above pasta was at a restaurant outside of Florence Italy where we were shopping at a local Antique market. This little Trattoria had set up a tented area in the Town Square for their patrons to enjoy the festivities while enjoying their meal. I can remember the day, the weather, the presentation.....OK you get it I'm obsessed over a bowl of Pasta!!! ;)
Back to my point..... many times as I cook I've realized I'm actually in a meditation of sorts. I came to this conclusion after enjoying a guided meditation class where the teacher was reading from a book called Hidden Treasures by Gangaji. She read a passage that called attention to Conscious awareness of Silence. It was interesting to me as I realized that in my interpretation of her words I applied it to dreaming or even lost in a trance or merely concentration itself. When I dream, I'm aware of animated visions but not sound . As I gave it more thought that day after the class I realized how many opportunities we have to meditate without the formal setting being seated and relaxed and closing your eyes. Sometimes Meditation is simply when our minds concentrate on the task at hand. For me ......that is cooking!
From gathering my ingredients, preparing them and then enjoying the aroma of their flavors is a practice of Meditation for me! ;) While enjoying a simple life activity I'm able to consciously relax and focus only on the present moment to create, present and enjoy a beautiful meal with my family!
There are so many forms of Meditation to achieve the same goal ...that being a time for you to enjoy the present moment. While cooking, gardening, painting or even walking through an art museum, take time to focus in these moments. Become aware of the natural sounds that may be as simple as the sizzle of food being dropped into a hot pan or a paintbrush back and forth on a canvas.....become aware of this simplicity and enjoy your interpretation of conscious awareness. Experience your own feeling of being in the moment.
Wishing you Delicious thoughts today!
Above is one of my favorite snap shots I took while visiting the Cotswolds region in England. We stayed at a lovely Bed and Breakfast in Bourton on the Water and took several trips to neighboring villages and this was snapped near Stow. This beautiful Countryside area would be my decision if thinking of a move to the UK. The charm and style of each village we visited was like stepping back in time to pages in a favorite picture book. This particular home captures both simple design and stately charm! From the stone of the home matching the colors of stone in the pebble walkways, to the single urn of colorful flowering geraniums and ivy, the manicured hedges around the urn to those of the two Topiary's at the sides of the front door.... a picture of simple elegance! For me my thoughts were imagining the interior and of course cooking in its lovely English kitchen.
What entices me about English style and its charm is they savor the tradition of years ago. Even when homes are not as large as the lovely one above their yards reflect the English garden theme. Maybe a single urn or two of greenery of perhaps just a patch of wild flowers. Crisp white curtains on clear glass(no screens) look so neat.
Their villages still have Mom and Pop stores that offer the distinct taste in both food and home goods their shoppers desire. From bakeries and sweet shops, to cheese and gourmet goodies, your palate will taste only the best! Then there are small interesting bookshops, toy stores, and fabulous home good stores with unique styles. My favorite was a kitchen store in Stow where I was amazed at how many toast racks there were to choose from. I loved having a toast rack on the breakfast table table each morning and silver rimmed individual butter dishes. The butter dishes are common here but seldom do I see a toast rack.
Aw yes that English flair! Simplicity with distinct preference as toast in a toast rack does not lay on each other and become soft and soggy but stays dry to be the perfect vessel for delicious butter. We did enjoy the full English breakfast of eggs, ham or sausages, grilled mushrooms, grilled tomato, baked beans and black pudding. Many shops offer fried bread with the breakfast as well. I was a little hesitant to taste the black pudding as it is made with not only pork fat or beef suet but also pork blood and added oatmeal and sometimes barley groats. I decided I would taste it and actually found it to be quite good. It will not make my top 5 recipes or even an attempt on my part to recreate but rather if in a good Pub in New York or England I'd have a taste with breakfast.
Below are some of the lovely shops I visited and tasted some fabulous cheese and sweets as well. I still enjoy envisioning being the shop keeper to one of these special stores! ;)
The English have a savvy way of creating tasteful, distinctive and simple style. Elegant is Elegant, Formal is Formal and Casual has a flair of its own! Traditions seem timeless and protocol still a very Royal Perspective. As they say in England "The Old Guard still reigns at Buckingham Palace." Perhaps I will follow suit here across the Pond in Florida and Oh yes.... I will be putting out my toast rack for breakfast tomorrow and serve myself with style and recall the beautiful Holiday spent in the Cotswolds.
As the New Year unfolds I'm excited like everyone else to try and trim away a few pounds.......alright a lot of pounds!!! ;)
Having returned from our New York Holidays and the lovely cold weather I'm excited to try out some new great soup recipes. My favorite soup this trip was Potato Leek soup that we had at Connolly's 121 West 45th Street between 6th and 7th if your in the NYC area. The Pub features both an upstairs and downstairs....we sat downstairs in a booth not far from the Bar. It was an overcast day Dec 30 and we had just finished a carriage ride through Central Park where we were so excited as when we were pulling back to get off we actually had some snow flurries. I thought at first it was rain but the Driver of the Carriage a spirited Irish man said no it was actually snow flurries. Seeing the white flakes flying through the air made me feel completely blissful! I know it sounds corny but I'm sincere when I say its not only checking a moment off a list as completed but rather getting truly caught up in the moment with that special feeling in your heart. The ride was so nice as our driver was so talkative. I loved his Irish accent and thought about it again later sitting in Connolly's. Yes this was going to be a truly Irish day as we were meeting my Daughter later downtown at Jim Brady's Irish Pub for Dinner.
Lunch would be light so we just ordered a bowl of soup and I a Bloody Mary and my Husband Rocco a Bourbon Manhattan.
The drinks came and we cheered to a wonderful visit we were having in New York. My Potato Leek soup arrived and it was absolutely delicious! Creamy with the taste of the leeks being perfect. I added a little hot sauce and swirled it around and loved the tangy flavor it created. To be so excited over a bowl of soup to some might seem odd, but for me it was so much more. From the quaint room where we were sitting with its rich dark furniture and cozy atmosphere to the Christmas lights twinkling, and people engaged in conversations and poof I was imagining being in a Pub in Ireland where I could ask the Bartender to pull me a pint! A moment becomes a memory when you feel it in your heart and I will always remember the taste of my Soup at Connolly's that cold December Day!
My favorite Irish Cookbook is pictured below.....Here is their recipe for Potato Leek Soup..........My special tweek to their recipe is to add a shake or two of Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute. It's a little jar of magic that combines onion, black pepper, celery seed, cayenne pepper, parsley,basil, marjoram, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, savory, rosemary,cumin, mustard, coriander, garlic, carrot, orange peel,tomato granules, lemon juice powder and oil of lemon. I use this flavorful blend in so many soups, salads and always that special boost in a Bloody Mary!
4 tablespoons lightly salted butter
1 onion chopped
2 Leeks sliced
2 potatoes cut into 1/4 inch cubes
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper
1/2 cup light cream optional
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives for garnish
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the prepared vegetables and saute gently for 2-3 minutes, until soft but not brown. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and blend the soup in the saucepan using a handheld immersion blender if you have one. Alternatively pour into a blender or food processor, process until smooth, and return to the rinsed out saucepan.
Reheat the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper .Ladle into warm bowls and serve swirled with sour cream, if using and garnished with the chives. * I would omit the salt if using the 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe's.
Enjoy and maybe find some Irish music on Pandora and create that Irish Pub atmosphere right at home.
Happy Happy New Year To All!!
Sending wishes from our Family to yours for health, happiness and a year of experiences that light up your heart! My husband Rocco and I spent the Christmas and New Years holidays in New York this year with my daughter Stephanie and son Stephen. We are so lucky to have Stephanie living in New York City (my favorite place) and hosting our Christmas festivities this year! Stephen flew in from Orlando and we truly had an amazing time visiting many relatives, friends both old and some new and the amazing backdrop of one of the most interesting cities in the World. From sharing old traditions on Christmas Eve and Christmas day to new and exciting experiences ringing in the New Year in Central Park came a heartfelt feeling of being Blessed !
We began our Holiday on Dec 21st arriving in NYC Kennedy Airport at about midnight. The hustle and bustle of the City traffic was in full swing even at Midnight! You could actually feel like it was midday with the energy in the air....of course crisp and cold like I enjoy so I was thrilled! ;)
Our first day was spent Christmas shopping and then picking up some groceries as we had our first get together with some of my Daughters co-workers. Simple Rigatoni and meat Sauce, Salad and Garlic Bread with Mozerella Cheese and Roasted Peppers. Wine, Pasta, good conversations .... a great way to start the Holidays. Our son Stephen flew in the next day about 8pm and when he arrived we walked over to Grays Papaya and had a NY hotdog. A New York tradition and always open we laughed and munched thinking of all the gourmet and ethnic foods in New York and we're eating a hot dog at 9:30 but not just any hot dog rather enjoying a New York institution! Theres a sign outside the building that reads. "Let's be Frank...we want you to buy our Furters! " Ya gotta (LOL) love New York humor!!!
On Christmas Eve we headed for Penn station and took the New Jersey Transit to our niece and nephews house Peggy and Dominick and celebrated the Feast of the 7 Fishes. It was extra special this Year as my Husbands older Brother and his wife MaryLee were there as well. A wonderful evening sharing with our great Nephews Nicky and Dom Jr and his girlfriend Olga. Once again when you pair Delicious Food, Great Family with memories of Christmas Past and toast with a glass of wine your heart feels full! OK a beautiful Hallmark moment and now I have to share the casualty of the evening.......my Big toe! As my Daughter was sitting down on a bench by the table(to accommodate more people) it collapsed and the leg went through my shoe and smashed my toe so hard.....now picture this everyone is saying poor Stephanie who fell as well but they didnt realize the leg of the bench went through my foot. It was actually comical as I was screaming silently and then gave a big OMG get her off me soI was able to get some relief! I was so lucky as it didnt break the skin but bruised badly.....well anyway there was no time for theatrics as Peggy had just put a steaming bowl of Spaghetti and Clam sauce on the table and the pain was eased by an extra glass of wine that evening! ;) Along with the Spaghetti and Clam Sauce we enjoyed Stuffed Clams, Tuna Meatballs, Whiting, Smelts, Shrimp, Baccala Salad and Flounder.
At midnight we went to Mass at their Parish and that too was so nice. They had a tremendous choir and we sang all the traditional Christmas Carols. It felt so good with the cold weather outside and the organ playing O Holy Night and the Choir singing .... a very special evening indeed!
Christmas Day we exchanged presents and then sat down to a delicious Breakfast of Eggs Benedict. After breakfast, I made two breads for dinner. A Lemon onion Focaccia and a zuccini bread. I had practiced both recipes and they came out delish! Peggy made traditional Ham with Mashed Potatoes and Baked Beans and applesauce ,and I made fresh stringbeans with garlic and fresh tomato. It all went together well and we had such fun visiting. Peggy's brother Gerrard was there with his wife Dee and son Keith and daughter Kaitlin and boyfriend Eric. It was such a relaxing Day and it seemed like we were laughing most of the day. Once again sharing a table with Family, Friends, and good Food and you can count your Blessings. Thanks again Peggy and Dom for a very Merry Christmas!
Our two week holiday in New York left us with so many memories to hold in our hearts. New Years Eve was magical watching the fireworks in Central Park. Where we were standing by the croquet court near 69th street you could see Times Square through a space between two buildings. We could make out the 2016 lights but at 12:00 our eyes were on the fabulous fireworks and I was blowing my horn like crazy. Its funny at Times Square you're in corrals while in Central Park everyone is just walking in masses and it was so much fun and all the people so happy and courteous to each other. We met the same type of crowds at the Rockefeller Tree but again a very nice woman offered to take our family picture and in true NY form took about 6 till we all agreed. I love when the person taking the picture likes to make sure they did a good job. So funny...........but truly memorable New York moments!
Christmas is my favorite Holiday of the year! A time to Celebrate with Family and Friends and enjoy the magic in the eyes of children. A time to remember and reflect upon traditions we share even if some are now Low fat! ;) From sharing a kitchen years ago with my Grandmothers, Mother and now my Daughter and Son our culinary delights keep growing each year!
From the Christmas Eve feast of the seven fishes, to the Ham or Turkey and yes one Christmas Day Roast Duck (thanks to my son Stephen).. then a week long sharing of cookies and visits with neighbors to culminating with a New Years Eve toast of Champagne and Herring! Yes before you all stop reading the Herring is for good luck and judging by my beautiful family it was worth it! As I child my Parents had it each New Years either in Wine sauce or in Cream sauce. I tasted it when I was young and liked it. If you taste things early in life you will be more apt to have a larger palate as you get older.
Actually there are very few things I don't like although my #1 dislike is Caviar!!! I will never forget one Christmas party I was at and had a lovely drink in one hand and picked up a puff pastry with the other and to my surprise it was stuffed with Caviar. OMG horror on my face followed by swallowing quickly and gulping my Bloody Mary to block out that horrible flavor. Of course it was very good Russian Beluga caviar but the only thing Russian I like is Stolichnaya Vodka. Either a Bloody Mary or Dirty Martini or my diet drink of Stoli and Seltzer with Lemon or Lime. I am not as strict as the Queen who prefers her Lemon under the ice... Ha Ha...mine can float on top!
I have tried a few new ideas for this years Christmas festivities and will share them with you. I have also added Christmas pictures at the top under Christmas 2016 on the right of the home page. I will keep updating with food shots and visitors there. Below is a Focaccia with Lemon, Onion and Rosemary and a Clam Pie I made last week. They were both very tasty and will make them again for Christmas Eve. You can tell my pictures aren't photo shopped by the sauce smudge on the clam pie....truly authentic!! ;)
2 1/2 to 3 Cups Flour
1 cup warm water and 1 pkg yeast
After yeast proofs add to flour mixing with 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil and 1 teaspoon Salt. Mix in a mixer or knead dough and then form a ball and put in a bowl with a little oil on the sides of the bowl so the dough doesn't stick. Let Dough rise till doubled in size. (about an hour) Roll out and then dimple with your finger tips with a little olive oil and then let sit for 15 minuites and then top and cook. For the Onion and Lemon above saute onions adding salt, pepper and a little fresh garlic or garlic powder. Let cool before putting on Focaccia. Then when ready to cook spread out onions on top and slice lemons thin and cut fresh rosemary and Parsley and sprinkle on top! Bake at 450 for about 35 minutes and check that the bottom is light brown. Brush the border of the Focaccia with oil and stick with a fork all around so it cooks evenly.
For the Clam pie....the dough is the same as above and the filling is Canned clams, Parsley Garlic, Sweet Onion, Red Pepper and Salt. I used one can of tomato paste and the juice from the clams to thin it out. I find the tomato paste supports the clams on the top of the Focaccia and has great flavor. Again Saute garlic and sweet onion (I like Vidalia) in a little olive oil, add tomato paste, clams and their juice, red pepper, salt and cook 5 to 10 minutes to blend flavors together. If its too thick use more clam juice or add a little water. Cool before putting on dough. When cooled spread out on dough and add Parsley. Cook at 450 for about 35 minutes or cooked through and bottom of Pie is light brown. You could also put Anchovies on the top for the last 10 minutes of cooking. I like anchovies but serve them on the side as well as long hot finger peppers that have been sauteed in olive oil. Yum!!
By now you all know that I absolutely love NYC and the wonderful people that make up the masses and specifically the adoration they have for their Dogs. It is certainly apparent with the number of stores that sell Precious Pet items as well as groomers and yes caterers and event planners for pawfect birthday parties as well. Added to the list are therapists and Dog Whisperers all over the City! I had an idea I shared with Stephanie before writing this post, that I would become a Paw reader for the many pooches that wish to know their past or look into their future! :) In an earlier post I shared the time I was visiting Stephanie and heard someone talking outside with the sweetest voice saying the great day they were having and they were on their way to get a treat and have a play date..... and when I looked out the window to see the little child realized they were talking to an adorable puppy. They were happy, the dog was happy..... and for that matter I was grinning from ear to ear! A simple loving exchange, that I overheard and we were all thrilled! A great start to a wonderful day in NYC! Check out the styles and some of my favorite city dog moments.
Welcome to Britalia Way! Thanks for stopping by. Please join me as I share with you a series about food, people and experiences that are special to me. English and Italian traditions are so enticing and were the inspiration for creating Britalia Way!
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