Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ow Ow Ow

I had some surgery yesterday to repair an abdominal hernia at the incision site from my gastric bypass earlier this year. This is what I learned. 

When the doc says "uncomplicated" and "routine" he's talking from his perspective. There really isn't anything "routine" about having a scalpel inserted in your abdomen. 

"OUTpatient" really means out -- they sent me home less than 3 hours after surgery. Now, they did give me pain meds "to go", but it still seemed pretty quick to me.  Of course, I did feel pretty good at the time -- I didn't realize that I was already drugged!

And if you're going to spend the night in the ER (which I did!), make sure it's a hospital that believes in pain management (mine did!). 

And thank every healthcare professional you meet!!

Our little fur babies are offering kisses and snuggles and cuddles to me -- they sure know when something isn't right in their world!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Stroganoff ... It's What's for Dinner

I know, one little trip to Russia and I go nuts in the kitchen! One of our tours in St. Petersburg included a luncheon of traditional Russian food, and lo and behold it was stroganoff -- one of my favorite dishes!!

A dish often attributed to the chef of Count Stroganov in St. Petersburg, Russia,  is generally served over rice or noodles.  A dish similar in ingredients and cooking instruction also appears in A Gift to Young Housewives, a Russian cookbook written by Elena Ivanovna Molokhovets in 1861 and updated regularly until 1917 when the book went out of favor in the Soviet regime as it favored the bourgeoisie .  However, it got its name or origins, it's a relatively easy dish to make with just a few ingredients.

About a pound of meat -- round steak is a good choice.  Freeze it for a little while and it makes it a bit easier to cut into thin strips about 1 1/2" long.  
1/3 cup chopped onions
1/2 lb more or less of chopped/sliced mushrooms
2 cups Beef stock or consomme
Butter and olive oil for sauteeing
Dash of nutmeg
1 teaspoon dry tarragon
salt and pepper
1/2 - 1 cup sour cream

Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter and olive oil in a large skillet and saute the onions until soft and translucent.  Add the sliced mushrooms and maybe another 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter and saute for about 2-3 minutes.  Add nutmeg, tarragon, salt and pepper and cook another minute.  Remove onions and mushrooms to bowl and set aside.

Put your meat slices in a bag with some flour and shake to coat the meat.  Melt another 2 tablespoons of butter and olive oil over medium-high heat in the same skillet used for the onion/mushroom mix and drop in the meat in to brown.  Once all the red has disappeared, lower the heat and add your consomme (I use Campbell's canned -- 1 can -- and add enough water) to cover the meat.  Give the mix a good stir and be sure to stir up any bits on the bottom.  The flour from the meat should thicken your gravy while the meat cooks. Put the lid on the skillet and simmer for about a half hour to an hour until the meat is tender.

Add back the mushrooms and onions and heat them up.  Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the sour cream.  I tend to lean towards the higher amount of sour cream as I really like it ... you can also substitute plain yogurt for the sour cream.  Heat on low ... be careful not to boil with the cream in it!!

Serve immediately over noodles or rice.

Note:  Yesterday I made this dish with chicken.  Here are the substitutions I made:  a bit more nutmeg went into the mushrooms and a dash of sage instead of tarragon.  After browning the chicken, I added a few tablespoons of white wine to sort of deglaze the pan and then I used chicken stock instead of the beef stock.  Other than that it was the same.  We both cleaned our plates!

Second note:  I'm so excited that I've been able to locate a copy of the 1935 translated version of A Gift to Young Housewives!  Who knows what goodies you might see next!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Cousin Daryl!

And here we all are in Copenhagen, Denmark!  It's a cloudy and rainy day, but I don't think that will dampen our spirits or our visit to this magnificent city!  We are booked on a tour this afternoon for a visit to the highlights and then a few hours spent at Tivoli Gardens.  One funny thing is that the famous Little Mermaid statue is on tour in China until the end of the year, so the creative Danes have set up a live video feed of the statue precisely where the mermaid generally resides.  I must admit that this made me laugh -- and as our tour guide said, he can't make up these things!

Yesterday was spent at sea after a visit to Helsinki.  I spent part of last evening emptying off my camera which had gotten filled up in Saint Petersburg ... but that trip deserves its own page here.  Last evening was the final formal dress evening and Cousin Kim joined me and Howard in the Rembrandt dining room for a wonderful meal!  I must admit that the dessert finale left me with a tiny tear in my eye as it was soooo wonderful!!  Created by the cruise line's Executive Chef Rudi, dessert was a white chocolate toque filled with milk chocolate mousse residing on a dark chocolate flourless cake, nestled on a bed of delectable berries, and if that wasn't grand enough, a bit of whipped cream on the side.  There, now I've got you crying for it, too!!

Time to get ready ... hope you have a great day!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Do You Speak Muppet?

Who knew that some 20 or more years after we watched the beloved Swedish Chef on the Muppet Show do his bork bork bork while tossing utensils over his shoulder, that his "Swedish" gibberish would be useful on our visit to Stockholm?  Laughing ourselves silly this morning as we headed in to Stockholm while Cousin Kim refreshed us on the Muppet Swedish language!  In the end we thought we would be safe if anyone asked if we spoke "Muppet" because Kim could take over with her stunning mastery .. "bork bork bork jaaaaa"

Howard had never been exposed to the Muppets so I spent some time tonight on the computer searching out Swedish Chef videos for him and we had more giggles!

Today was a trip through the Swedish Archipelago (a collection of 24,000 +/- islands around Sweden) in the early pre-dawn hours, followed by a trip into the Old Town of Stockholm where we watched the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Palace, were entertained by the military marching band, and enjoyed a wonderful luncheon in the main plaza in Old Town!  We did a bit of shopping in the tiny streets and got our requisite postcards and a magnet for Howard and me to add to our collection.

We also had time to visit the Vasa Museum here,  home to the 17th century (@1630) sailing ship which, during the 30 years war, King Gustaf had commissioned this largest, most powerful ship in the world.  However, due to its heavy cannon contingent on the top decks the ship became top heavy and 20 minutes after being launched the ship actually rolled over and sank!  Quickly settling in the silt at the bottom of the harbor.  I sure wouldn't have wanted to answer to the king on this one!!  Now over 300 years go by and through some miracle of nature the ship was preserved with layers of silt, so in essence had become petrified and preserved rather than deteriorating.  Thus we were viewing the oldest 17th century vessel in the world.  And it was truly magnificent.  They even had paint samples for some of the carvings and have been able to recreate the colors on the many brilliant carvings decorating the hull of the ship.

Tomorrow is a walking tour if Tallinn, Estonia ... but tonight is for resting :)  Pleasant dreams!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

At Sea

Our wonderful ship sailed out Sunday afternoon, a bit later than scheduled, but beautiful to see, nonetheless!!  As first time cruisers, Howard and I are fascinated by so much!!  One of the highlights of getting out to sea was actually having to pass through a lock ... waiting for it to raise and lower so that we could enter and leave ... very cool!!  We had a late lunch/early dinner and did some exploring on the ship.  It's very fun to run into my cousins here and there!!  Early evening Cousin Daryl and New Friend Jean and I went to the spa for a free drawing ... and I won!!  My prize is a 75 minute lime and ginger massage -- WOW!  I've scheduled it for Saturday morning, so I should be feeling fantastic for our second day in St. Petersburg!

Today has been a full day at sea -- it's really amazing to feel so small in the middle of the North Sea!  My day began with a visit to the spa to have my face washed ... this facial was a version of microdermabrasion so you know my skin feels like a baby's little butt this evening!

Unfortunately luncheon didn't sit well with my stomach, so we've spent much of the afternoon in the cabin.  We did head out for afternoon tea, however, and made a visit to the ship's library.  Just waiting for the day's schedule to make plans for tomorrow!  YES, we are having fun!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

This must be Brussels!

We started the day with an English breakfast in London and ended it with Mussels in white wine -- one of Belgium's national dishes -- in Brussels!!  I love travel these days!!  We were able to take the Eurostar through the "chunnel" -- under the English Channel -- and thus we were in Brussels in time for lunch today!!

Arrived at our lovely little hotel -- The Welcome Hotel -- with its 16 lovely rooms each with the theme of a different country.  So for tonight we're staying in "Morocco" in the heart of Brussels.

A quick wash and a cup of coffee and we were ready to head out for some sights and tastes!  Our hostess, Anna, at the hotel was kind enough to draw some directions on the map for us and off we went.  First stop Cathedral of St. Catherine with it's 17th century towers ... then on to the Grand Place, the town center.  Along the way I found shop after shop of chocolates and vowed to return within the hour!!  After a tour around the Square, and a fascinating visit to a lacemaker, a tour of the Chocolate Museum really got me in the mood for some chocolate.

You know why Belgium is famous for it's chocolate?  Because it doesn't compromise on the cocoa butter.  Although international chocolate standards allow percentages of vegetable fats to be used in the making of chocolates, the Belgiques stick to the 100% cocoa butter rule.  That is why these pieces of heaven are sought throughout the world!  I have so much more to tell you about chocolate, but not today!

Following the Museum we stopped off at a stand for a Belgian Waffle -- another treat very specific to Belgium! -- and Howard happily munched on that as I began sampling my way through the chocolate shops!  One store brought me in because they had this magnificent display of tins, and I thought they were going to be full of candy ,... but I quickly realized that I was in a cookie store, not a candy store -- UNTIL ... the lovely young sales clerk asked if I would like a taste and pulled out a tin with these pink cookies -- OMG, they were filled with raspberry!!  No ordinary cookies these!!  So I had to fill a tin with a variety of fillings -- chocolate (of course), orange, fig, more chocolate, almond and I forget all the other flavors!

After popping in and out of another half dozen shops, I finally hit the "mother lode" of chocolate heaven in Leonides Chocolates!!  I now have a kilo of these magnificent pralines (as the bite-sized filled chocolates are called -- and not to be confused with my favorite southern confection!) and I'll probably share, but maybe with a bit of a grudge! lol!!

Tomorrow Amsterdam!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Travel Day

Had a great breakfast in the hotel this morning ... now just to shower and dress and off to the airport!  Howard got up and decided to practice his Irish brogue -- we're going to ENGLAND lol!!  So he switched to his "southern" accent, as if the Boston accent wasn't already difficult on the ear sometimes!! hehehe

I think I'll try slipping him the sleeping pills early :)

We miss our furry-faced babies!!

See you tomorrow on the other side of the ocean!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's the Shoes ...

Today I packed and weighed and unpacked my suitcase three times ... How the airlines expects me to travel for over 3 weeks, with three formal occasions, not to mention the shoes required for that length of time, and keep it under 50 pounds is beyond me.  Size specifications were no problem -- both the bags easily met the measurements.  And Howard's suitcase comes in under 50 pounds (of course, some of his things are in my bigger bag), but no matter what I tried the bag was overweight.  What to remove?  Not that outfit, or those pants, or the three pink tops ... I finally gave up trying.  I'll pay the overweight charges.  But I think the airlines should take into consideration that I am almost 100 pounds lighter this year, so I'm really saving them money on fuel!  Maybe they will do a trade-off with me!!

But probably not :)
we are driving to Baltimore now where we catch our flight to London. Just wanted to see if I could blog! wooohooo