Thursday, November 09, 2017

Chicken Marsala

This is a big favorite at our house. I adapted it from a recipe someone gave me ages ago and I've continued to tweak it over the years. It is fairly quick to prepare, low in fat, high in protein and flavor. The original recipe called for marsala wine but given that we don't usually have that on hand, I found that basalmic vinegar works beautifully and gives it a very nice flavor. I love it with mushrooms but the kids aren't big mushroom fans and I often don't have mushrooms on hand so I usually leave them out.

1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp minced bottled garlic (or about 5 crushed cloves of garlic)
4-5 large chicken breasts chopped into chunks
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
(or substitute the basil and oregano with 1tsp italian seasoning)
1/3 cup basalmic vinegar (or marsala wine)
2 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms - white ones work fine, portobello is really tasty, pretty much any type of mushroom works (or two small cans of mushrooms)
1 package penne, fettuccini or farfalle pasta, cooked al-dente in well-salted water
about a cup of grated parmesean or mozzerella cheese (to be added as a topping as desired)

On medium-high heat, saute chicken, onions, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, basil and oregano together in a large skillet until chicken is no longer pink. Then stir in basalmic vinegar. Simmer for 3-4 minutes while you prepare the chicken broth. Add the chicken broth and allow that to simmer for a few minutes while you mix the corn starch with 1/4 cup cold water until it forms a paste. Mix the cornstarch paste into the chicken mixture in the pan and bring to a boil. After boiling one minute, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until thickened to a sauce.

Serve over pasta and top with cheese and some fresh ground pepper.

Serves 6-8.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Europe Part 4 - Paris



Here are some of my highlights from our short but very sweet time in Paris:

- Actually getting on the plane to Paris and actually arriving in Paris - after wondering if it would ever actually be able to happen!

- Riding from the airport to our Airbnb apartment in a super nice Mercedes van that just happened to be available when we walked out of customs at midnight - the driver had just dropped off a client and wanted a group to take back into the city. He was so typically French with his longish neatly coifed hair, his jeans and blazer, his small wiry frame, his fancy slightly pointy shoes, his accent.

- Seeing the kids' excitement when we walked into the apartment I'd so carefully picked out on Airbnb - wonderfully French in an over-the-top way with crystal chandeliers, fancy Louis XIV style dressers and desks, skylight windows with a slight view of Sacre Coure, a funky staircase down to a lovely kitchen, so many interesting decorations, all tucked into the rafters of this great old Parisian building. It was one of my "treasure hunt" finds on this trip - I looked long and hard for something cool that would fit in our budget and was so pleased to find this!

- Choosing and eating pastries at a wonderful little bakery right near our Airbnb first thing the next morning, finding the perfect pain au chocolate a couple days later at a bakery the other way down the street

- Walking through Paris and noticing the fashions and the restaurants and the creperies and the bakeries and the buildings - everyone remarking on how totally French everything was, having such perfect weather for walking.

- Showing the kids Notre Dame and the wonder of engineering that it is plus talking about the devotion and faith required to build such a thing - feeling good that I got it right - just a few of the most interesting facts and a pretty quick walk-around (as opposed to some earlier times this trip when I'd tried to show the kids too much and to tell them too much and it just didn't work so well).

- Seeing that the stained glass in the Sainte Chappelle is every bit as beautiful as I remembered it to be (and trying to tune out complaints from my kids while trying to help them see how amazing it was)

- Finally seeing that Eiffel Tower that we'd so wanted to see when we were stuck at the Paris airport for 12 hours last time we were in Europe!

- Eating bread and cheese and laying on the grass beside the Eiffel Tower, random people from all walks of life picnicking around us, while Ashton went on a little treasure hunt to search for something a certain young lady had hidden for him when she was in Paris two days before (as part of a choir trip she was on).

- Sitting on the steps of Sacre Coeur with a huge harvest moon appearing and great music going on, then going inside the church and seeing a sign - "Someone is praying here 24/7 year round." It warmed my heart to think about prayers going up from that lovely place always.

Here's Ashton's video about our time in Paris - it shows pretty much all that I talked about above!

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Europe Trip Part 3 - England

at Tower Bridge

National Gallery/Trafalgar Square

Here are some favorite moments from our time in England:

Seeing so many places that feel like dear old friends to me - walking around a corner and seeing these iconic places feels to me like walking around a corner and seeing a friend I've missed and I'm so excited to see again. Sharing these dear friends with my family was such a long-awaited pleasure!

Walking into London for the first time and seeing the Houses of Parliament then Big Ben - seeing the kids so excited to see that familiar icon with their very own eyes.

Meeting up with Charity and Moses at Trafalgar Square and seeing the kids so delighted to be with their adorable, happy, sweet little cousin and their wonderful aunt (their favorite aunt as they've been instructed to say by Charity)

Entering Trafalgar Square and seeing Nelson's column and seeing the twins climb on the lions that I used to climb on when I was little, seeing the twins SO excited about the column and the lions since they had built them out of paper with their "Paper London" set before our trip.

Walking down the Mall and seeing Buckingham Palace.

Coming around another corner and seeing St Paul's cathedral and setting on the steps to eat dinner while the bells were pealing like crazy for like half an hour.

Riding around on the tube and the double decker buses - navigating together and getting pretty good at the system. The kids said that by the end, they felt like they could find their way around London on their own via walking or the tube or buses pretty darn well if they needed to.

Introducing the kids to digestive biscuits and Pret a Manger and Marks and Spencers treats (the fruit jelly candies are so good and the kids love the tubs of yogurt and rocky road treats)

Seeing my dear friend Irene (went to Wellesley with her) after so many years and sharing Jared and the kids with her and catching up on our lives. She is such a fine person and so fun to talk with.

Watching storm clouds roll in as we stood on the ramparts at the Tower of London and looked out at Tower Bridge - such beautiful light and so few visitors at the Tower.

The Tower of London

Visiting some of my old favorite paintings at the National Gallery and the Tate Britain - paintings I studied, sharing a few tidbits of information with my kids to share my love of art without making them hate it with too much information...

a replica of this painting hangs in my parents' great room so this was fun for the kids to see

Eliza has a print of this painting hanging in her bedroom

Showing these guys the lovely old row-house where I went to school for 6 months when I was on study abroad in London - the housekeeper even let us inside and it was so cool be inside, the memories rushing back, and maybe plant some seeds for great learning experiences the kids may want to work towards in their futures.

Seeing our great cousin Aubrey who's studying at Oxford right now, hanging out on the grass on a perfect evening outside Wesminister Abbey then taking this photo together right around the corner.

Going to Evensong at Westminster Abbey, the choir music seeming to come from the vaulted ceiling, the names of famous poets all around us where we sat, feeling such a sense of history imagining all the royal weddings and coronations there plus all the regular people who have offered up their prayers there for over 800 years.

Loved Evensong at Kings College Chapel as well - nothing like sacred music echoing through a gorgeous building with it's architecture pointing to Heaven and speaking of sacrifice and ingenuity so many centuries old.

Wandering through Cambridge with the wonderful Schwartz family and a couple friends on the most perfect sunny but cool day, going on a boat down the River Cam with so many happy teenagers and such great views and SO many other boats.

Hanging out with and having great talks with the Schwartz family who are some of our very favorite people in the world, seeing our kids get to be such good friends. (sad that I don't have more pictures with the parents, mostly kid photos...)

Church with the Schwartz family, seeing British saints all dressed up, good families, great testimonies starting with Rob's (as the bishop he got to start out), so grateful for all the goodness in the world in sharp contrast with the news of terrorist attacks in London the day before.

Visiting Hampton Court, some complaints and surliness from one of our children ("I'm just not into old stuff" to which I just had to reply "what did  you think England would be about?"...) that made my heart sink for a while but then it was OK and I relaxed a bit about trying to make sure everyone saw and learned about everything. Loved wandering the gardens and having the place almost to ourselves as Ashton got some great drone footage then finding we had it too much to ourselves and were locked in along with about 5 other people - finally we found a gate we could get out of.

Hampton Court gardens and palace

Tudor section of Hampton Court

Georgian section of Hampton Court

Visiting Epsom - so many memories rushed back. As we sat in front of 12 the Ridings in the rain, I told the kids about the Christmas when it snowed and we made tiny snowmen to keep in the freezer, about Claire who lived next door and I thought her mom was getting orange drink right out of the tap the first time she made me a drink of orange squash, how Josh used to climb out on the roof and climb the tree at the house next door, about how Shawni and I would sneak food into our room so we could have a little post-bedtime party many nights (gross warm milk...crumbs everywhere....). Then we went to St Martins school and amazingly the caretaker happened to be there and let us in - so so so many memories flooded back as I walked through those halls and saw my old classrooms and remembered mean Ms Sharman and kind Ms Christy, doing gymnastics in our underwear for PE, saying the Lord's Prayer and learning cute Bible songs at assembly every morning where we all sat on the floor in the gym/cafeteria which seemed to have seriously shrunk, taking Shawni to the bathroom when she was in her first year of school because she thought there were monsters in the bathroom and wouldn't go without me, wetting my pants a time or two in my first year of school there and needing fresh underwear from the huge stash the head mistress kept in a closet in her room, making daisy chains and playing in the trees and on the huge stumps in the grass by the asphalt playground whenever it was dry enough to go on the grass which seemed like it wasn't nearly often enough, doing serious sports for field day on the big field and being so pleasantly surprised when I won third place at something (can't remember what). Finished our time with a cold rainy walk through downtown Epsom to see Little Ben and get fish and chips for dinner.

The house where we lived in Epsom
St Martin's School
The gym at St Martin's Infant School where we ate lunch (or dinner as they called it) and did gymnastics in our underwear for PE

Dover castle - seeing the kids so enjoy exploring such a great castle where they've set things up like they were in the 13th century and the walls are so thick and the ramparts and staircases are so cool and you can go down into the medieval tunnels as well as the tunnels where they managed the front line in World War II - imagination can run wild there. It was so blustery and a bit rainy but felt sort of right for a medieval castle on the coast.


Sweeping beauty walking along the white cliffs in hold-you-up wind and looking out towards France across the steel gray sea. Freak 3-minute pelting rainstorm then sun.

Visiting Little Baddow where my great great great grandmother Elizabeth Gower was born and raised. She and her husband joined the Mormon church and emigrated to America. Her son Arthur had a son named Arthur who had a little girl named Hazel who was my beloved grandmother (my mom's mom). An older gentleman and lady showed up to water the flowers inside the church right when we were there and let us in - such a cool old 12th century church where surely my grandmother spent quite a bit of time.

Seeing the twins climb on everything - they NEVER get tired and ALWAYS find something to climb on - even this skinny little fence thing at Regent's Park:

Finally getting out of that hospital with Eliza all fixed up and finding dear Amy waiting for us in her car with hugs and a wonderful dinner at her house, seeing how much our kids have bonded with her kids and feeling so grateful for such good, kind friends.

Meeting up with Charity, Ian, Moses and my brother Josh at Regent's Park - so fun to be with two of my siblings in a place we all hold dear. Gorgeous roses, wonderful company, mellow and sweet evening after a crazy time with half our family missing the Eurostar back to London. Glad to all be safely back in London and to be with people we love, perfect weather, perfectly lovely restful place.

Seeing the Trooping the Colors procession in celebration of the Queen's birthday. We were so lucky to happen to be in London that day! We saw all the queens horses and all the queen's men, bands, bagpipes, brilliant pageantry followed by the whole royal family in carriages. It was just such a perfect send-off (our plane left London to bring us home that afternoon).

Here's the queen and Prince Phillip in their carriage
Here's a great video Ashton made about our time in London - sums things off nicely and shows off his excellent videography and editing skills.
And here's Ashton's video about our non-London time in England (including Eliza's accident)


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