Monthly Archives: May 2012

Castlecomer – Seeing Her Tonight

I know I’ve posted a video from these guys just a couple weeks ago, but I love them so much I’m posting another one. This song runs through my head constantly!


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May 29, 2012 · 9:23 am

Naples and Caserta

Mom and I arrived in Italy on Thursday after leaving very early from Nottingham for our flight and found our hotel without too much difficulty. After getting food recommendations from our lovely host we headed out and stumbled across one of the few sites I knew I wanted to see before we had arrived – the religious complex of Santa Chiara, particularly the incredible cloisters decorated with majolica tile work and with gardens full of lemon trees. We happened upon a wedding in the church and then stopped for pizza and had our first gelato before crashing early!

Santa Chiara

At the cloisters

Majolica tile work

Pizza time!

Friday was our first full day in Naples and the temperatures were supposed to hit thirty degrees Celsius. We bravely donned our lightest clothes plus plenty of sunscreen and headed down the via Toledo to explore. The via Toledo is one of the busiest streets in Naples and one of the oldest – in existed since in the ancient city as well. It’s a main shopping thoroughfare with the higher-end shops concentrating towards the bay. The street ends at the Piazza del Plebiscito – the main square of the city. Its bounded by the Galleria Umberto (a huge beautiful shopping centre), the Opera-teatro di San Carlo (the oldest continually running opera house in Europe), the Palazzo Reale (one of four seats of the Bourbon kings in the area) and the San Francesco di Paola Church. They’re all incredibly beautiful buildings, but the gallery has one of the most beautiful interiors I’ve ever seen.


San Francesco di Paola Church

By the harbour front

We arranged a tour of the opera house for later that afternoon and then we continued down to the harbour front and walked the promenade until we came to the Castel dell’Ovo. The castle was once on an island, but time and building projects have turned it into a peninsula. The name translates to Castle of the Egg because of a local legend about Virgil. During the Medieval Ages Virgil was thought to have been a great magician and it was thought that he placed a magical egg in a cage in the castle to keep it safe and stabilize the foundations. The legend was so persistent that during a storm when a rival prince escaped from the castle a rumour spread that the egg had been broken and panic spread throughout the city. This continued until the rulers issued a statement saying they had undertaken repairs to the egg and all was well!

Castel dell’Ovo

The harbour

Sunny day!

After a well-deserved stop for gelato we headed to a second major castle in Naples – Castel Nuovo – the architectural symbol of the city. It was built during the 13th and 14th century by Charles I of Anjou and his successors and has always been an important part of the city’s political life. It served as the seat of the city council until 2006! Then we headed to a café to wait for the start of the Opera tour. The building is incredible and very opulent. We were also able to witness last minute presentations for La Boheme which was opening the following week.

Opera house

The Royal Box

Later the evening – to top off our busy day – we headed to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale and the Secret Museum to see the impressive collection of marbles as well as many of the artifacts found during the excavation of Pompeii – the glassware was particularly incredible. Then, starved and tired we stumbled into a tiny restaurant and had one of the most memorable experiences of our trip!

The museum

We walked in and sat down. The owner came over and asked if we wanted appetisers and we said yes. First he brought us bread and a bottle of his homemade red wine. We chatted for a bit and watched as he fussed about in the kitchen and then suddenly brought us plates of food filled with different preparations of eggplant, salami and mozzarella, marinated peppers, bruschetta and two types of greens. It was incredible and then followed by pasta with eggplant, tomato and mozzarella. Finally be brought out a platter of seafood – fried squid and octopus, shrimps (heads and all) and deep-fried minnows , all served with green beans and potatoes. Despite being stuffed, our lovely host then brought out berries and melons marinated in sugar and basil. Once we finished our wine he poured us each a shot of limoncello – a lemon liqueur produced around the Gulf of Naples that’s bright yellow, tart and strong. One of the older men who worked there kept petting my hair as he went by and encouraging us to eat. We got hugs and kisses goodbye when we left and it very much made our day!

Saturday we slept in – not late really, but it wasn’t the early start to the day like we’d hoped and was partially due to the 32 Swiss youth staying down the hall from us who were particularly rowdy. I slept through it all as usual, but mom didn’t. After we got going we stopped for a croissant and headed for the train station in order to get to Caserta. It’s a lovely little town about thirty kilometres out of Naples and the home of the former Bourbon kings of Naples. In fact the palace that was constructed there was built to rival the grandeur of Versailles and although I’ve never been, Mom said it definitely kept up! The main complex is beautifully maintained and the royal apartments were spectacular – the king’s private chambers were renovated in the 19th century to include electricity! The entire palace is gilded to the hilt and they had maintained some very special artifacts from the monarch’s lives in the palace before the last king went into exile in 1861.

Entrance to the Royal Apartments


In the apartments

In the throne room

The rear gardens had a very different feel to them from Versaille – much cleaner, simpler lines as we exited the palace. However, as we progressed through the gardens they became much more ornate. It was quite the walk in another day of extremely hot weather and we stuck to the shade as much as possible, only coming out to see the increasingly intricate fountains. The gardens ended in a waterfall cascading off a mountain; and just off to the right was a spectacular twenty-one acre park and English garden with plants and trees from all over the former British empire. Overall the site was absolutely beautiful but certain elements (like the front gardens and two flanking buildings had been left to decay and were in a sorry state. I always find old buildings nostalgic and wistful – I wish I could have seen them how they were. After six odd hours wandering around the palace complex we caught the train back to Naples and hunted for a place to eat.

Looking back towards the palace

Walking in the gardens

At the largest fountain!

Full stretch of gardens

The english gardens

Mom in the rose gardens

We were thrown off track by our first and only pickpocket who unsuccessfully grabbed at the necklace I was wearing and got an elbow for his trouble. I was slightly shaky after that but settled once we found a pizzeria and had enormous pizzas (breakfast the next day too!) which were delicious with fresh tomato sauce and thin crispy crusts. We spent most of our time there watching the organized team churn out pizzas every five minutes! After we’d boxed up our leftovers we wandered around the cute streets and shopping district and then made our way over to our hostel owner’s favourite gelateria where we had our last gelato in Naples. Next we’re off to Salerno!


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Somebody That I Used to Know – Choreography by Anthony Lee

I have watched this video way too many times… the song kind of drives me nuts but I love the choreography! Also I promise I’ll get straight on posting about Edinburgh and Italy!

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May 23, 2012 · 4:24 pm

Weekend in London

Kelsey and I also spend some time in London while she was visiting at the end of her trip. I’ve always stayed at St Christopher’s hostels in London, but this time instead of staying at the one near Tower Bridge, we stayed at the one located in Greenwich. I’d never been out to Greenwich before, and although it’s a little ways out of the city centre (and the tourist stuff), it’s a very cool, vibrant neighbourhood. We found plenty of good cheap places to eat and lots of bars around to drink in! The first night we were late going out to find dinner, but we found this fabulous cheap 24 hour noodle bar that was full of long bench tables and drunken club goers! We went out that night, but because we had an early morning we didn’t stay out long, especially after we found an unfortunate ‘friend’ who, when offered a mint, licked my hand. Gross…

During our major ‘tourist’ day in London we decided to go on a Sandeman’s walking tour. The guide was funny and informative and he took us past many of the classic monuments that I will show you on a photo tour of London!

Buckingham Palace

Kelsey and the Canada Gate

Easter Egg Hunt that was going on in London…

The classic…

Hampton Court Palace – Home of Henry VIII

Westminster Abbey

Kelsey grumpy at photo-taking


At the end of our tour!

That afternoon we had lunch at a lovely Thai restaurant in South Kensington before heading to the Natural History Museum to explore. We both loved the dinosaurs, stuffed animals and informative diagrams on human anatomy (including one on human reproduction…) Kelsey especially enjoyed the games for the kids! We finished the day with a banana split at a cute café before heading back to Nottingham.

The exterior of the Natural History Museum decorated with animals!

Kelsey and her new dinosaur pet!

The reason the dinosaurs went extinct!

Kelsey and her games!

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Castlecomer – Danny’s Den

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May 10, 2012 · 9:18 am

Lamb Pomegranate Salad

Lamb here is far cheaper than it is back home – and its delicious! I find when I come home from work I often don’t want a heavy meal, but I also want something warm! A warm salad is the perfect option. I love this pairing of lamb and pomegranate and mint! The flavours really burst and the crunch of the pomegranate seeds really add to the appeal.

To make this salad I really just marinate the lamb steaks, grill them to medium rare, slice and then throw together with greens and veggies.

To make the lamb:

  • 2-3 lamb steaks
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salad greens (arugula, lamb’s lettuce, radicchio, etc)
  • Handful cherry tomatoes
  • Handful of asparagus, blanched and chopped
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded
  • handful of mint, chopped
  1. Marinate lamb for several hours. Remove from marinade and grill to medium rare.
  2. Blanch asparagus in boiling water for 3 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.
  3. Let sit for 10 minutes while you toss the salad ingredients
  4. Slice lamb and set over salad, pour juice over salad as dressing.

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Carrot Cupcakes

Today is my fabulous Mommy’s birthday! And Cinqo de Mayo! So Happy Birthday Mom! When we were younger, mom often had carrot cake for her birthday. Its seems a favourite with most people (for the mild sweetness, the creamy cheese icing and the delusion that it counts as a ‘vegetable’). Any way you bake it, carrot cake is delicious. For me, cupcakes are my go to form of cake because they’re transportable, easily shared and less messy than cutting into a cake. So here are Carrot Cupcakes for my sweet mommy’s birthday. Remember the key is not to over mix or they’ll be tough!

Carrot Cupcakes

Carrot Cupcake Recipe:

  • 1 1/3 cups grated raw carrot (about 3 medium carrots)
  • 1 small apple, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

 Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Carrot Muffins:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Place paper liners in 12 muffin cups.
  2. Toast the pecans or walnuts for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool and then chop coarsely.
  3. Peel and finely grate the carrots and apple. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon. Stir in the nuts and coconut.
  5. In another bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, and vanilla extract. Fold the wet ingredients, along with the grated carrot and apple, into the flour mixture, stirring just until moistened. Evenly divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. After about 10 minutes remove the muffins from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Makes 12 standard-sized muffins.

For Icing:

  1.  In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low-speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract

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