Downton Abbey In Real Life: A Visit To Highclere Castle

Adventure and Travel
highclere castle downton abbey

Our two magical weeks of European travel are now at a close. All that’s left now are incredible memories and a lot of laundry. (SO much laundry…)

I already shared a bit about our adventures is Paris and have another post in the pipeline with plans for at least one or two posts on the second leg of our tour, our walking holiday in the glorious Cotswolds region of England.

But since the Downton Abbey movie premiers next week for United States audiences and many of us are counting the days until September 20th , I thought I’d write about the final, capstone event of our trip today. That’s right, I’m talking about our visit to Highclere Castle, aka the REAL Downton Abbey.

downtown abbey

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The Perfect Fall Salad: Roasted Cauliflower with Honey Tahini Dressing

Food for Grownups
cauliflower salad, fall salad

While I’m not jumping head first into a pumpkin spice latte (there’s a time and a place for that, Fierce friends, and, in my humble opinion, it happens on the first official day of fall), I’ve noticed that the flavors of summer are definitely phasing out. The offerings at the Farmer’s Market are already shifting. The merchandising displays at the grocery store have morphed into shameless autumnal extravaganzas.

With summer coming to a close, I’m thankful that I enjoyed a lion’s share of fresh tomato sauce, summer salads like this cherry tomato couscous number or my summer’s bounty quinoa salad or my farmer’s market carrot salad. I really got the most out of summer.

And I’m also looking forward to the impending butternut squash, cozy sweaters, crisp mornings, juicy apples, hot soups, and even the humble chicken stews.

But that’s a few weeks off yet. Right now, we are in that weird transitional season just before full-blown pumpkin everything. When I made this cauliflower salad the other day, I realized that it’s a great salad year round. You can easily substitute different herbs based on what’s at the store and cauliflower is a year long delight. The roasted and caramelized cauliflower brings a hint of autumn and spice while the lemon and herbs keeps it just a little bit summery.

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Fabric and Textile Shopping in Paris

Adventure and Travel
fabric shopping in Paris

My itinerary was too ambitious. I knew that even before we left. Three days simply wasn’t enough to see all the many, many must-see sights and attractions of Paris, or acquire all the many delightful and oh-so-French items on my shopping list.

But I made the list just the same. A little aspiration never hurt anybody, oui?

Those shopping aspirations included perfume, macarons, chocolate, lingerie, fabric and craft items and, if possible, six grandchild-sized berets in assorted colors. I hoped to visit at least three shops in each category so I could share my discoveries with you.

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Broccoli Salad, Made Healthy

Food for Grownups
broccoli salad
Broccoli salad seems like it should be healthy, right? After all the main ingredient is broccoli! The vegetable mothers have been trying to convince children to eat since the beginning of time!
I’m sure those moms were the ones who came up with the classic preparation of broccoli salad, the delicious concoction that is a staple of deli counters and picnic tables everywhere. And I’m clearly on a kick with summer salads lately. Have you see the watermelon feta or the vegetable quinoa salad or the tomato couscous? I think I might have a problem…but that’s a topic for a different post.

Back to Broccoli

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but our mother’s and grandmother’s broccoli salad is the farthest thing from healthy. In fact, with a cup of nuts, a cup of mayo, and dried cranberries loaded with sugar, the classic preparation clocks in at 17 Weight Watchers points!

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Quinoa Salad: A Summer’s Bounty Of Vegetables

Food for Grownups
summer quinoa salad vegetables eggplant cucumber tomatoes

There’s an old joke about August being the month when folks who live in the country lock their cars when they go to church to prevent people from leaving zucchini on seats.

Where I’m living, it’s actually not a joke. The vegetables are coming on hard and fast right now and the harvest is almost too bountiful.

When I went to pick up my farm share at the market a few days before I left for my trip to Europe, Sarahlee, the adorable organic farmer, ordered me to go back to my car for a second bag. She had bin after bin of additional vegetables that CSA members could have for free and urged me to take as much as I could possibly use. I didn’t want to see those beautiful eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes, or cucumbers go to waste so I filled my bag to the brim. My refrigerator was stuffed!

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A Breakup Letter…For My Phone

Cherish Relationships
cut screen time

Dear readers: Today, I’m sharing a letter I wrote last week that seemed especially relevant considering my impending international travel. I saved it to post on the blog this week, at the very beginning of my trip, in hopes of reminding even myself that yes, you can put the phone away. 

 

Dear LG V30,

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’m just going to say it; I’m breaking up with you. I just think we need to give each other some space, you know? It’s not that you haven’t been or done everything I asked. Because you have. Sometimes you’re actually too good, too compelling. In fact, you’re irresistible. And that’s the problem.

It’s not you, LG. It’s me.

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Triathlon Guide: What To Expect At A Triathlon

Marie's Triathlon Journey
what to expect at a triathlon

In the hours and days since completing my second sprint triathlon, I have been basking in my accomplishment and enjoying the rewards of all that hard work. (You can read about my first foray into triathlons here.)

Eating absolutely anything I wanted after the race was high on the list. Because, let’s face it, this is one of the primary benefits of running a tri. I’ve also spent time admiring my finisher’s medal. It’s big, and pink, and super-girly, exactly befitting of swag for the so-named “Girlfriends Triathlon”.

what to expect at a triathlonwhat to expect at a triathlon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at my pink swag! Thanks Girlfriends Triathlon & Fitness Festival!

 

I’ve spent quite a bit of time sharing dramatic stories and humorous anecdotes about the race with friends and family. The story of how I simply can NOT seem to swim in a straight line is a particular favorite. If the nice man in the yellow kayak wasn’t there to guide me back onto the course, I would have swum across the river instead of down it and ended up in a different state!

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Downton Abbey Recipe: Tea Cake with Blueberries and Lemon

Food for Grownups
Downton Abbey recipe

I have a bucket list trip coming up! I have convinced my husband that we absolutely need to do a walking tour of the Cotswolds and visit the Holy Grail. And by that I mean attend a picnic tea at Highclere Castle, otherwise known as Downton Abbey.

Something else on my bucket list is figuring out how to make afternoon tea parties part of my daily life. I am not sure my husband will be into it, but my fancy dog, Showgirl, most certainly would. She’s a very attractive, slightly spoiled, somewhat prissy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with a penchant for the finer things in life. Showgirl has very high standards. And why not?  She’s basically the Dowager Countess of dogs.

While I count down the days for the movie to be released, I’m going to try and re-read the book that inspired the show, practise my British spelling, and peruse through my favorite Dowager Countess quotes. Because really, is there anyone funnier than Maggie Smith?

And here’s why you’re desperately in need of Downton Abbey recipes

Just in case you have been living under a rock, I want to let you know that Downton Abbey THE MOVIE is coming out September 19th. And the King and Queen are coming to Downtown!

Lord, calm my fluttering, Anglophile heart!

Here’s a link to the trailer and all kinds of Downton details.

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Glamping Gear: Upgraded Camping Supplies For Your Next Adventure

Adventure and Travel
glamping gear

So you’ve already decided that glamping is your style. But now you need the glamping gear and you don’t know where to start. It should be no surprise that Marie is here with thoughts, opinions and suggestions.

I’ve long loved the idea of camping more than I’ve actually loved the camping. The great outdoors really is great. And a steaming cup of coffee on a chilly morning as you gaze at the canopy of trees – that is perfection. But a questionable night’s sleep on uneven ground? That’s something I could do without. And skipping a shower just makes me worry I’m easier for the bears to smell, which makes sleeping even more difficult.

Earlier this year, I marked a big item off my bucket list and took my mother on a girls-only glamping trip! Let me tell you, I couldn’t believe how much more I loved nature with just one or two creature comforts.

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Lemon Herb Sous Vide Chicken

Food for Grownups
chicken recipe

A couple of months ago I had some very exciting news.  The Oliso company offered to send me a Smart Hub Combo to see how I liked it!!

Hmm…the crickets I’m hearing after my announcement tell me that some of you may not know what a Smart Hub is.

Allow me to enlighten you.

The Oliso Smart Hub Combo (brought to you by the same people who make those marvelous irons) is a countertop cooking system that combines a single induction burner  topped with an enclosed, cordless sous vide water bath cooker.  It also includes an Oliso Vacuum Sealer with heavy duty, reusable bags. continue reading