Thursday, 26 January 2017


Good Afternoon to you,

Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin' town,
Chicago, Chicago, I will show you around.

~ Fred Fisher

Yes, that is where I have been for our Christmas holidays.... Chicago. We spent the most wonderful 3 weeks with Natasha and her lovely husband.

.... and what an amazing time we had.

We arrived at O'Hare International Airport, a little tired, but ever so excited.  When we saw Natasha, we hugged and cried and hugged, it was so lovely seeing her again. 

We made our way to the exit and when the doors opened the cold air hit us.  Natasha had warned us that Chicago was very cold, during winter time, but nothing prepared me for how cold it actually was.  George however, felt more confident about dealing with the cold temperature, because years ago, he had been winter climbing in Norway, but even the cold of Norway did not prepare him for the windy city. Having said that, we soon adjusted, as we had very warm coats, scarves, gloves and hats.  George took to wearing ear muffs, as he noticed many men wore them, to keep their ears warm. They have been transported back to Newcastle where he wears them on a daily basis.   

We waited only a few minutes, before our taxi arrived. The suitcases were  loaded into the back of the car then George walked around the car to get into, what he thought, was the passenger side, only to discover,  he had sat himself in the drivers seat by mistake.  The driver laughed and asked why he had sat in the drivers seat. George explained that we lived in England and told the driver our steering wheels were on the opposite side of the car and without thinking, he automatically went to, what he thought, was the passenger's seat. Once we stopped laughing and George had removed himself from the drivers seat, we headed home to Natasha's warm apartment.

I have so much to tell you, but I think the first thing I will say, is,

if you get the opportunity to see the musical Hamilton, then do take it. When Kim, Natasha's lovely friend, who has since become our friend as well, heard that George and I were visiting Natasha, she decided to book a flight  to Chicago to see us. We spent a lovely few days with her.... and you'll never guess what she did, she only bought Natasha and I tickets to see the musical Hamilton. I had heard that this was the 'must see' musical of the moment, but never imagined I would see it in Chicago, so you can imagine my surprise when Natasha told me about our wonderful Christmas treat.  I was overwhelmed by Kim's kindness. The three of us spent a wonderful evening together, catching up with each others news.

To be honest, I was not sure what to expect from the musical, because I could not see how the 738 page book,

would translate into a musical, but with the talent  of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the book has been transformed into a must see musical.  I had started to read the book Alexander Hamilton, here at home, but had only managed the first 60 pages, so I decided to take it with me to Chicago, thinking I could read more pages before I went to see the musical Hamilton, but with the excitement of being in Chicago and seeing Natasha and her husband, I never read a page. So as I mentioned, I really, had no idea what to expect from the musical. 

.... but the reviews are right, it was amazing. All the actors were so talented.  Alexander Hamilton was played by Miguel Cervantes and he was brilliant. Whilst all the cast were wonderful, I have to say King George played by Alexander Gemignani was superb. 

On the Friday before Christmas Day, we went to the Chicago Christingle Market. I was so looking forward to the market and I was not disappointed.  

.... we had a wonderful time,

we drank mulled wine, from these small 2016 commemorative steins. These are now safely packed away, ready to be brought out and enjoyed next Christmas.

We saw some exquisite hand carved German Christmas decorations, and I drew a gasp of breath when I saw,

this stunning Christmas windmill.  You see years ago, I had discovered the exact Christmas windmill at a car boot sale, for the princely sum of £5.  I used it Christmas after Christmas and I loved it, but you know how it is, when you move, some things just have to go and this is one of the items I gave away. Can you see the price tag, $416.95.... I couldn't believe it. Both Natasha and I were bowled over by the price, not that the intricate Christmas windmill wasn't worth the money, because it certainly was, but by the fact that I had given away such an expensive item. I just have to comfort myself with the fact that each Christmas, the person who now owns my beautiful windmill, is having as much pleasure from it, as I did.

.... oh yes, and I had my very first pretzel at the Christingle Market. Being the sweet tooth I am, I opted for a cheesecake filling, where as George, chose a pretzel filled with feta cheese and spinach.  We halved our pretzels and shared with each other.  Feta and cheese as the main course, which was as delicious, and the cheesecake pretzel for dessert, followed by a warming drink of mulled wine.

Although the Christingle Market was very crowded, everyone was patient and so friendly.

I have to tell you, there was a lot of food eaten during our stay in  Chicago. We visited so many wonderful restaurants, that I decided to look up the number of restaurants in Chicago.... I guessed maybe a thousand, and I thought I was over estimating, but no, there are over 8,000 restaurants in Chicago.... amazing.

Christmas Eve, was very special, as we went to 

The Goodman Theatre to see 'A Christmas Carol'.

Do you have favourite Christmas films, which you love to watch. I certainly do, and one such film, which I never tire of, is the 1951 film, 'A Christmas Carol' with Alistair Sim playing the part of Ebeneezer Scrooge.  It seems that people in Chicago also love 'A Christmas Carol', because the Goodman Theatre have been producing the classic Charles Dickens story for over 40 years.

After the theatre, we were peckish, so Natasha suggested we went for a meal at Eataly.  You may know of Mario Batali, but he has not reached my radar, until that is, Christmas Eve.

The place was bustling, there were so many people down stairs, shopping, whilst we went up stairs to eat. There are so many different areas to eat, but tables cannot be booked at Eataly, it is a first come, first served basis, which can make finding a table quite difficult.... yes the restaurant is that popular. We walked around and around, in the hope that someone was ready to leave their table. We were just about to give up and look for another restaurant, when George noticed 4 ladies, who looked like they were ready to move.  Now I wouldn't have asked, but George did, and we were so pleased to discover they had enjoyed their meal and were ready to leave. We sat ourselves at the table, which unfortunately for me, was a high table and I had to  negotiate myself onto a high stool.  This was fine for everyone, but me, because I am only 5ft 2inches, so with George's help, I managed to, somewhat inelegantly, seat myself on the stool. I then discovered there was no where to rest my feet, so my legs were left dangling, but I have to say, that did not stop me enjoying the food, because the food was exquisite. We had antipasti to start and the bread which accompanied the very special olive oil was wonderful.  We followed the antipasti with the most delicious pizza.... and yes there was a knife and fork available.... which was perfect for me, because you know how I love to use a knife and fork rather than my fingers.

Whilst at Eataly, I discovered a new drink.... a Mimosa.  Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a lover of champagne, I do not drink a lot of alcohol, but champagne, I will never pass up.  When I looked up the recipe, it seems that a Mimosa is made with champagne and orange juice, which I know as a Bucks Fizz.  The Mimosa I was offered, was made with champagne and peach snaps.... maybe it is not authentic, I really don't know, but I loved the subtle peach flavour.

I have to tell you there is so much more I have to share with you, but I think I had better stop for now and tell you more next week.  Can you feel the excitement in my words.... I do hope so, because I had such a wonderful time.  

I have more friends and places to share with you, but for now, I think I will close and write those immortal words, from those old Saturday morning movies,

.... to be continued next week.

So take care and I will see you next week.

This week I will be joining,

As always,

Thursday, 19 January 2017


Happy New Year to you,

I am sorry, I'm a little late, in wishing you a Happy New Year, but I do have a very good reason. We have been away on holiday and only returned home last Wednesday. I have to tell you, it has taken us all week to recover from jet lag. For days we were waking in the early hours of the morning feeling really hungry,  we didn't know whether it was breakfast, lunch or supper time. 

Now as  you know, I love every aspect of Christmas, but this year, December felt a little off kilter, because I had nothing to organise.  Yes I had bought our Christmas gifts, but  there was no Christmas food to prepare, no Christmas decorations to put up and no Christmas tree to decorate.

.... but I have to tell you, although the run up to Christmas felt strange, Christmas itself was amazing and I had the most wonderful 3 week holiday.  

Christmas Day was such a treat, as we went to a restaurant for our Christmas meal. I wore my favourite dress, I put on my favourite pair of shoes and I felt like a million dollars. You see, these days, I rarely have a reason to dress up, so when the opportunity does presents itself, I make sure I savour every moment. 

At the restaurant, there was an amazing range of food to choose from, with each dish being truly exceptional, but the one thing which surprised me, was seeing sprouts on the menu.... this made George very happy as he loves sprouts.

I think, maybe it is time I stop waxing lyrical, because I feel I might give the game away.  I am going to keep you in suspense until next week, because I need just a little more time to organise my photographs, but what I will tell you, is, we did not visit warmer climes, oh no, the place we visited was even colder than the North East of England. In fact the temperatures have been known to be as low as -20C... now that is cold. It makes our North East winters seem almost tropical.

So instead of writing about the last 3 weeks, I thought it would be nice to look back a little further and revisit 2016. I know we are supposed to look forward, but I also like to look back, because it reminds me of how much I have achieved in the past year.

So come along with me and let's remind ourselves of what we did in 2016..

After all the rich food we ate during the Christmas festivities,  our palates craved fresher flavours.  

So we made these prawns with a touch of spice. It was fun reading the words I had written, because this was the first post of 2016.  I was deciding whether or not to battle the elements and drive to my sewing group.  In the end I decided to drive, and I was so pleased I did, because we all managed to make it through the bad weather. Some friends arrived later than others, but when everyone arrived, it was so lovely catching up with each others news.

In February George was unwell, so I needed to be around to keep an eye on him.  It was a lovely sunny day, but as you know, when the sun shines, it can highlight those places in our homes where dust has gathered a little more than we thought. So one thing lead to another, I started dusting and washing plates and kept myself very busy.  I ended the day with a cup of coffee and I put my feet up, to watch the film 'African Queen'.  All in all a good day.

During March, we made  Rice with Green Lentils.  I have to say, I really enjoy this rice dish. This is where I introduced you to a 90 year old friend of ours, who has long since past. Rose was a wonderfully, eccentric lady, who loved to smoke cigars. There are people we meet in our lives, who have such an impact on us, and for me Rose was, one such person. Today, we know that cigarettes and cigars are unhealthy and we have the information to enable us to make our own choices, but remember, Rose came from a time when it was popular to smoke. It's incredible to think that people even thought that smoking was healthy.  I remember Sadie, George's mother, telling me that she started to smoke as a young woman, because the film stars of the day, looked so exotic when they smoked.  If you watch 1940's films, you can't fail to notice that most people were smoking. What I admired about Rose, was that all her life, she was a fiercely independent woman.

April arrived and we visited the Isle of Wight, just off the south coast of England.  We had a wonderful few days away and the weather was so very kind to us. It was a treat to see these beautiful thatched cottages.

We also made this appetising lemon cheesecake. It looks very impressive, but it was so easy to make.
April was the month I decided I needed to sort out my messy kitchen drawer.  I discovered recipes from 2011 which I had cut out of newspapers and magazines. At the time I had fully intended to recreate these recipes, but I just never got around to it. Do I still have those recipes.... well yes, some I kept, I just could not bring myself to throw them all away.

During May it snowed, yes you read that correctly, snow in May.  Consequently, I had to rush around the garden re-covering the lemon tree and the olive trees. We certainly did not expect snow in May, but once the snow had disappeared it was nice to see which plants were beginning to flower in the garden. It is a nice reminder of what is waiting for us, just around the corner.

During June, July and August, I had a break, because I was helping George decorate the house.

I wrote again in September. If you have been reading Ivy, Phyllis and Me! for a while, you will certainly know about my love of potatoes.  I really don't mind how they are cooked, as I love them, any which way.... but I have to tell you, these spicy potatoes are rather good. 

Oh my word, do you remember in October, we made this Brioche Pudding, which was so decadent, but oh so delicious. I think this was one of my favourite puddings of the year. I admit not very good for the waistline, but every now and again, it is alright to indulge just a little.

November brought something a little different.  I had been practising my crochet skills and was thrilled with how this frilled throw turned out.  I use it often, as it is perfect for snuggling up whilst  reading a book.

Then before we knew it, December had arrived and whilst I had no Christmas preparations to complete, I could not let Christmas pass by without making something a little festive.  So I shared this Christmas mulled cider.... which received a perfect score of 10 from George.

So that is a reminder of what we did in the year 2016 and whilst it has been fun looking back, I am very excited for the year ahead.  Who knows what will happen, who knows what exciting things lay ahead for us all.... I for one cannot wait to find out.

So, as always, take good care of yourself and I will catch up with you next Thursday.

This week I will be joining,

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