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Huzzah!! Today my mom Lesa and I set off on our great cycling tour of the Lake District in England. We are thrilled and excited, anticipating a few big hills, hearty pub meals, cozy B&Bs, and bucolic views. Mom’s looking forward to trying an English breakfast, and I’m looking forward to buying Mom a Guinness!

We’ll be taking off soon from Logan airport for a quick hop across the pond to London, then it’s a three-or-so hour train ride up to Penrith where we’ll bus it over to Keswick. Our flight leaves here at 18:40 but we won’t arrive in Keswick until about 17:00 GMT (12:00 EST) tomorrow. We’re in for a long day but we’re chuffed. That’s “stoked” or “thrilled” to all you Yankees — I’ve been trying to teach Mummy some British words, like “cheers” for “thank you” and “quid” for “dollars”. She doesn’t much like when I say “bollocks” or “wanker” but I’m hoping by the end of our trip she’ll bust out with loud “buggar”.

Check back in with us as we cycle our way around the north west Lake District’s fells, dales and becks.

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But until then, Tally Ho! See you in the Lakes!!

xx

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Today, I think, was the true start of summer. For starters it was the most glorious day. Full sun and a slight breeze, blue skies. It was warm and not too humid. We Bostonians and Cantabrigians have made it through the annual epic commencement season (Harvard exercises were Wednesday and Thursday) and so the city and Harvard Square, abuzz for the past few weeks with pomp and circumstance, are now saying “¡adios!” to the student crowds and welcoming, well, sort of, the throngs of tourists.

Walking through The Square today were crowds of people—mostly tourists but some lingering students and families—girls in sun dresses, boys in shorts, a snaking line outside the froyo spot, every Starbucks order “iced”, and generally a sense of freedom and excitement. Freedom from books and classes and excitement for what lay ahead. I couldn’t help but hum “Schoooooool’s. Out. For. The summer!” Too bad we’ll work through summer. But even at the office today we didn’t get mail, which, for a finance office, means a small moment of peace and quiet.

Tonight we spent some time tending the garden, pulling a few weeds, aerating the strawberries and planting a few more peppers. Then Mark lit up the grill and made us our first summer feast: burgers, brats, potatoes, and salad. Sooooo yummy.

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And since it was such a nice evening, we brought our food and cold drinks out front to the stoop. With plates on our knees we dined al fresco

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Our entertainment was, as on every night, a little league baseball game. Tonight we cheered on the Rockies v. Red Sox. Mark provided color commentary and I root-root-rooted for the big hits. There was some impressive pitching and fielding, and nice hits sent batters around the bases.

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At one point the game was interrupted by a baby running through the outfield, but security (his mom) intervened and the game went on. The cricketers waited in the outfield with their bats and wickets for the game to end and, and when it had finished and the baseballers cleared the field, they set up the pitch for a late match before the sun dipped below the hills and the twilight turned too dark. There are no lights on this field (and that is probably a good thing).

We love our little community here in Coolidge Square, Watertown. So much going on—people out and about, families of all shapes and sizes and nationalities. Dogs of every kind. Guys of every age and background playing pickup games of B-Ball. A little park with swings, Armenian markets, a diner, and a local pizzeria/fishfry/soft serve joint, all visible or a stone’s throw from our stoop. The view from where we sit—our cheap seats—is pretty great. Can’t wait for more nights like this. I’ll never want summer to end.

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Rainin… Rainin.

Ok, maybe not NEVER… but can you give us just a few days of sun? Please, pretty please?

Is it annoying to complain about the weather? I know, last year I complained about the heat…

Perhaps it isn’t annoying but rather pointless? I mean, what can we actually do about it? Absolutely nothing. Which is why it’s so annoying!

Oh well, today I don’t care. It started raining Friday night, and hasn’t really stopped precipitating some sort of liquid. We’ve seen everything from torrential downpours to thick mist. I really. Am. Tired. Of the rain. The gloom. The cold, enveloping watery veil that seeps into every pore. Yuck.

It’s May, for f.’s sake! Where are my May flowers? Soaked in a puddle, that’s where—all my newly planted daisies and snapdragons are droopy and saturated saying “Enough! Show us some sun!”

I feel squidgy and sowish from not walking to work as I usually do. It’s weird to not walk my 4 miles round trip nearly every day. Walk in the rain!? No way. I’d get to work looking, and probably smelling, like a wet dog. The buses are full and soppy. All the people in there together, we look sad and smushed like marinating sardines. Lots of frowny-faces and frizzy hair.

And speaking of wet dogs, even Gordon doesn’t want to go outside. I tried to take him out last night before bed. It was pouring but he HAD to go out! He got to the top of the stoop and looked at me like “Are you f.ing kidding me?” and walked back to the door. I had to drag him by his collar down the stairs where he promptly peed and hurried back inside. Poor guy. Hasn’t had a decent walk in three days which means he’s extra ornery. I’m not joking, he actually gnawed open a carton of chicken stock, spilled it all over the floor, and lapped up whatever came out. We found the empty carton on the floor with tooth marks in it. Darn dog. He needs a good 10-mile run as much as we do.

Oooh poor us. Pity pity pity party. Boo hoo hoo. I know I sound like a whiny baby. I’m TRYING to find the good in this, I am.

For instance, everything now is so green. And so many shades of green I can’t even count them. It is beautiful. Also, the hot water bottle is perfect for rainy nights, and I do love using my hot water bottle. Hmm… what else. I do like the sound the rain makes when it hits the windows. It’s calming and nice. I haven’t had to water the plants outside, and I know when it DOES get sunny, they’ll do so well. AND, the lettuce I planted outside loves the cool and rain. We’ll have a nice harvest of greens this weekend. OHKAY… there are a few good things about the rain. I’m not so sad or jaded, just looking forward to some sun.

And, hey. I did make quite a fine soup yesterday for dinner—a hot cuppa soup IS the best remedy for a chilly day.

Here’s the recipe—I made it up as I went, but it was so easy. I call it:

Easy Veggie Soup with Pasta (deep. really creative.)

2 T olive oil
2 cups of grape tomatoes, halved
1 t minced garlic
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn (you could use fresh veggies – I just didn’t have anything but carrots)
1 cup diced carrots (really any veggies you like, up to 3 cups)
1 carton or large can of veggie, chicken, or beef stock
1 small can of tomato sauce (not pasta sauce, plain tomato sauce – Hunts makes a good one)
1.5 to 2 cups water
salt, pepper, spices to taste (I used rosemary)
any pasta you like, boiled to al dente **tip! keep .5 cup of the pasta water after it has boiled and stir it into the soup – gives a rich taste to it!

Pour the olive oil into a large pot. Heat the oil and add the tomatoes and the garlic. Let them get mushy in there, about 5 minutes. Turn down the heat if the garlic gets too brown. Add the veggies and saute them until warm. Add the tomato sauce, the stock, and the water. Let simmer until the veggies are well cooked. Salt, pepper, and spice to taste. Cook your pasta, strain. Add .5 cup of the pasta water to the soup and let simmer a few more minutes. Put a few pastas in a dish and pour the soup over. Eat and be warm.

That’s it. Easy as soup.

If it’s raining where you are, I hope you stay very dry and that the sun comes out soon. If it doesn’t look like it’s going to clear up, I suppose you can hunker down, make some soup, and listen to the rain with a good book and a warm blanket.

If it’s sunny where you are, please send some our way!

I haven’t written in ages! I’m terrible. I’m the worst ever. I say this every time, too. But really I think this must be the longest time without a post. Three months? Bennett! Bad! BAD!

Last time I wrote it was almost Christmas. Now it’s almost Easter… well, almost. We’ve seen a whole season come and go and not a post on anything. Not a one about being tired of snow (And lots of snow did we have – holy cow! Something like 39 inches?) or exploring new places (the Art & Architecture Tour at the Boston Public Library is a hidden gem). No news on our Year of Bread baking challenge (Did you know we haven’t bought bread in THREE MONTHS!? We’ve baked every bit of bread we’ve eaten this winter!) All this including the sad fact that we’ve had zero giveaways, and NO pictures of Gordon. Sad face.

And I wish I could write more today but I have to-dos and projects I’ve been putting off and MUST get to them. I know, I know. You may say, “Isn’t this a project you’ve been putting off?” and yes, it most certainly is and I feel terribly about it. Not just because I’ve been neglecting the blog and my readers, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve been putting it (and my other to-dos and projects) off because I’ve been a lazy bear. Very lazy. Winter got me bad and I’ve just been a bum. Watched too much TV, and really, it’s all been filth. I am no better for it. Shame on me. Shame on me and the time I’ve wasted.

But don’t you worry. It’s spring! The sun is out longer and fills me with all kinds of happiness and spirit and inspiration. I’ll be back and better than ever very soon, with lots of newsy posts chock full of happy happiness, food making, artsy fartsy goodness, and all other things LPE.

So until then, I leave you with two things:

1. A picture of Gordon – because that’s why you drop by LPE, right? To see Gordon’s sweet cheeks, and NOT because every time I write a new post and hit PUBLISH a little link pops up on Facebook and Twitter and that urge to click on a link comes over you and you click without thinking.

NO, you come here of your own volition, I know it.

And 2:

A giveaway!!! I will send a snail mail grab bag—colorful pens, lovely papers, envelopes, blank note cards, stickers, etc.—to the fifth new person to subscribe to LPE. Just hit “L.P.E. to Y.O.U.” on the left hand side ← over there and enter your email address. When we post, which is hopefully, and fingers CROSSED, oftener than not, you’ll get a little PING! Note: You can unsubscribe at any time (but I hope you don’t!) by clicking “manage” under L.P.E. to Y.O.U. Believe me, knowing I have subscribers who are expecting things of me will keep me motivated, so this is a win-win in many ways.

Wahey! We’re (nearly) back!

You know when Anthony Bourdain talks about food porn?  Well today, this did it for me:

Check out the recipe on the Bon Appetit Hon Blog.

CHOCOLATE! Screaming at me.  OMG. I must make these and soon!  I bet they’d look cute with a few holiday nonpareils sprinkled on them too!

As soon as I’m feeling right as rain, these lovely confections will be baking in my oven.  Came down with a bit of the flu on Tuesday afternoon, but am starting to feel better today having had a couple days of rest, some warm soup, and a few Tylenol cocktails.

On the creativity front, hmm… well… let’s see.  I knitted six more mini mittens, created a banner for my Auntie Jamie’s new Etsy shop (still under construction but coming soon!!) and had a couple visions of new projects (OH NO! NOT NEW PROJECTS!) that I hope – fingers crossed – to get started before Christmas.  We’ll just see about that.  AAAAAND I started planning out my digital portfolio for applying to grad school, which, I must say, is not a fun task.  Whittling down your life’s work into 12-18 pieces of what YOU think is your best work… eghh.  But it must be done, and done by January 15! YEEEEEEEEEEPS!

Ok, I’m off!  Hopefully next time you hear from me, I’ll have my own pictures of yummy chocolate cookies to share.

Anna has been on fire with the blog posts lately. Time for me to catch up and add to the conversation. I’ve been meaning to blog about a new favorite place near our house, and our trip this morning reminded me to get on it!

As something of an amateur chef, I have enjoyed the variety of places to shop around Boston. Within 15 minutes of our house are probably 10-12 grocery stores, including several of the “usual suspects” for the Northeast suburbs (Trader Joe’s, Whole Paycheck). These places have their spot in a grocery rotation, but we are lucky to live where we do in Belmont because my favorite grocery find, Russo’s, is just 10 minutes away in Watertown.

Over the past month, an early morning Saturday or Sunday trip to Russo’s has become one of the highlights of our week. And we’re not the only ones who love it. Russo’s is nearly always packed by 9 a.m. on Saturday AND Sunday. Why, you ask? How about this?

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And this?

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The place has an incredible variety of produce for just about every sort of cuisine you can think of. The Asian and Italian sections are especially strong:

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They buy local stuff in season (today I picked out a basket of apples, maybe 7 lbs. worth, for $.79 cents a pound):

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They also have a fantastic bakery and deli counter. The only problem with those is the crowds. As I mentioned earlier, it’s almost incredible how full the place is by 9 a.m. on the weekends. Getting a cart around the small store requires real concentration. But the mix of shoppers is great and the deals even better.

I’m hoping to post more “Best of Boston” places in the near future. But in the meantime, anyone have any spots like this to share?

Mmmm Balls

Here is the recipe for MMMM… Balls!

It’s super easy.

AAAAND… you shouldn’t tell people this fact because they taste WAY more complex and WAY more than really what they are.

THREE ingredients:

(1)  2 packages oreo cookies
(2) 2 packages cream cheese (you can use both regular or one reg and one low fat)
(3) 2 packages chocolate chips (whatever kind you like–dark, semi, milk, white)

Step 1: Use cuisinart or blender to chop oreos into something that resembles dirt.

Step 2: Put cream cheese into a bowl and mix until soft and creamy (I used a stand mixer, but a regular hand mixer would work if you let the cream cheese get soft at room temp. first).

Step 3: Add the oreo dirt mixture to the cream cheese and mix until you get a mixture that resembles mud.

Steps 4 & 5: Turn out mixture in 1″ balls onto a lined cookie sheet.  Refrigerate for 30 mins to an hour.  While they’re in the fridge, melt your chocolate in a double boiler (pan with 1-2 inches of water to boil with a metal or glass bowl on top).

Step 6: Dip your cold balls into the hot chocolate and put back on the lined cookie sheet.

Step 7: Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve.

Keep extras (there won’t be many!) in a tupperware container for up to a week (they won’t last long)

So yesterday, amidst pouring, hurricane-induced rain, our friends Mark & Laurie hosted their 5th annual Meatball Cookoff (affectionately known as the Balls Party). We are still full. Entries are accepted into three categories: best meatball, best non-meatball, and best dessert ball. Laurie had told me about what had won in the past, so knew we had to go… balls to the wall (And yes, half of the fun of the Meatball cookoff is making jokes like that over and over and over again).

We hadn’t made meatballs in years, so first of all, we had to remember how to cook them. We had lots of ideas for what might make a unique and tasty ball, but eventually I decided on a pretty basic duo of pesto-infused beef and chicken balls. One had basil pesto, the other sundried tomato pesto. I ended up baking them for about a half an hour and they were nice and brown. Problem is, keeping meatballs fresh for an hour without being coated in sauce is tough. I named them Red Light/Green Light Balls, and once they got to the table they looked like this:

pesto balls

Anna decided to reprise one of her favorite recipes from Williamstown, a tasty double chocolate ball introduced to us by our friend Katie Kamieniecki. They are simple and easy to make but will blow your mind. The basic recipe is cream cheese, crushed Oreos, and melted chocolate. Noboday can resist! She called them…

Mmmm Balls

Competition was fierce this year, as there were 13 entrants for the “Best Meatball” category!

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One of our favorites was Anne Marie’s traditional, Italian meatball. Are you kidding me!? She told us she let them simmer for four hours. Everyone needs to know an Italian chef as talented as AMC. We could’ve eaten these all night:

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As we were all judges, we sampled everything. I took my judging very seriously… and sampled them all twice. We then rested for a bit and played Atari! After awhile, we all voted and the results were announced. And guess who won the best Dessert Meatball category? Anna! She was very proud. And she won an awesome chef’s hat!

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It was an absolute blast. Any else doing anything like this?

… and we’re grilling pizza.  So much has happened since we’ve last written, but I’ll give you the short of it:

1. we got hitched!

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2. we moved!  to a cute little house on a quiet road further in to Belmont, where Gordon can hunt rabbits and we can listen to nothing but the chirping birds and the kids playing in the street.

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Dining Room

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Sun Room

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Living Room

—-

Anyhoo… it’s too damn hot outside today and turning on the oven seems unthinkable.  But darnit, I want pizza! So we’re grilling.  Here’s a nifty little video about how to do it yourself, thanks to Allrecipes.com: http://allrecipes.com/HowTo/Grilling-Pizza-Video.  I’ll post pictures when we’re finished… unless it doesn’t turn out and we’re walking down the street to get a pizza pie at Thiago’s… [Edit: grilling pizza is simple and well worth the effort… sorry Thiago’s,  we’ll have to see you when grilling season is over!]

So yeah.  We highly recommend grilling your pizza.

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First, you put the pizza dough (we got ours at the grocery store pre-made at the deli! or if you’re really brave you can make your own) right on the super hot grill.  It’s easiest if they’re kinda small so you can flip them.  You’ll notice one is slightly smaller than the other and oddly shaped… this is because someone dropped the dough on to the grill.  I’m not naming names but it wasn’t me and Gordon was staying cool inside.  Luckily we were able to whisk it off and re-shaped it and laid it on there just in time.

Then we let them sit for a couple of minutes.  And it really only took a couple of minutes.  They rise up and get nice and bubbly.  But you can take a fork and poke them so they’re nice and flat.  Then we flipped them over with tongs (or you could use a spatula, or both if you need the extra help to get it over) and quickly started putting on the ingredients!  We did homemade basil pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella.  Feel free to get creative here.

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Here Mark puts on the ingredients (he made the pesto–it was AWESOME!)

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I wanted my turn too.  Hurry Anna!  Hurry!  They’re cooking fast!

Then we shut the door and let them cook for a couple more minutes.  It was really hot outside… and the grill was hot too.  At least it wasn’t so hot in the house. We couldn’t wait for these to cook up fast so we could eat them. Woo Pizza!

Here’s the finished product:

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With a nice salad of red leaf lettuce, apples, and balsamic vinaigrette, this meal was really one of the best of the summer.  MmmmmmmM!

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Hopefully you’ll see more of us here now that we’re settled in and nesting in our new digs.  Until then, welcome back to Le Petit Éléphant, now on Winslow Road.  We’ll get to changing the banner soon, don’t you worry.

Hello All,

Wishing everyone this morning a Happy Easter, and hoping spring comes soon with new life and fresh moments of happiness and hope and love for the coming months.

Today I feel mixed feelings of happiness and sadness–happy because it -IS- almost feeling like spring, and we have new sprouts popping up that will bring good produce to us this summer; happy for the buds on the trees and the flowers popping up all around; excited for the coming of summer and all the warm days will bring.  But sad because I’m missing my family today… I know it’s hard for us to be away from our families on holidays, but for some reason Easter gets me every year.  And picturing my mum and dad at home dying eggs by themselves just breaks my heart.  So to all of our families far and wide:

WE LOVE YOU!  We miss you!

We will be having a nice Easter brunch soon and be celebrating the newness of the Spring with Annie–we’ve cooked up some yummy treats for her–Sunrise Enchiladas and Blue Ribbon Cinnamon Rolls, from a special Wyoming Cookbook given to me by my mother.  I’ll put photos up soon.  We’ll also be trying to plant some of our sprouts that have grown WAY outside of their little peat packs (roots everywhere! It’s incredible!) in hopes that they’ll be able to grow much bigger and faster outside…

Enjoy the day!  It’s a day of new life!

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