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Prescription: Lots of R & R

This week was incredibly long--it was the last week of school, and trust me, that week is no easier as a teacher than it was as a student. Sweet freedom!

And it would just be my luck to get a summer cold just as school ended. Ugh. Let's hope it doesn't last long because I've got some fun plans that I need to be in tip-top shape for, things like:

  • my grandfather's birthday party. 
  • mine and Landon's staycation
  • a trip to Edisto Island later this summer
  • a trip to Kiawah Island, also later this summer
  • LOTS of beach time!! 
A couple of things that I'm loving this week since I got back from the other side o' the pond:

the gorgeous Lowcountry heat (hello, summer!!)

my new straw hat

our upcoming vacation spot, the Balsam Inn
Balsam Mountain Inn, Balsam, NC

my puppy

and my family!

Happy summer, everyone!

Back in America--Yay!!

And I'm back!

I must really be getting old/ turning into a homebody because those three weeks away from my parents, sister, husband and puppy seemed like three years. And to think that at one point, I wanted to live in London and maybe come home once a year. Ha. Glad I grew out of that phase.

Anyway, the trip was definitely a work trip, and not vacation. We saw a lot of cool things for sure, but it was a really hard transition from my quiet, two-person-plus-dog household to listening to seven other people constantly. I also shared a bathroom with three other people, two of whom were under ten years old. Seriously not recommended.

I've been back since Saturday night, but have been so jet lagged that I couldn't post. I'm fighting going to bed right now--my body says it is almost one in the morning, but the clock says it is just eight at night. Ughhhhh. At least I only have four more mornings of waking up early for school....then, hello, sweet summer vacation!

A few of the highlights from the trip:

Just a tiny bit of the 15 miles of shelving in the London Library.
At the London Library, we got to see (and TOUCH!!) a Fourth Folio of Shakepeare's plays. Seriously. 
From one of the top floors at Lloyd's of London
We had a dusk tour of Stonehenge. Spooky and weird but definitely memorable!
I touched the stones at Stonehenge!!!
Standing in two hemispheres at the Prime Meridian (Royal Observatory, Greenwich)
One of the Tower's ravens at the Tower of London with the Tower Bridge in the background.
Julius Caesar at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford
In addition to all of that, we also went to Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Guildhall, the National Portrait Gallery, the Science and Technology Museum, the British Museum (twice!), the National Maritime Museum, the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, Bath, London's Silver Vaults, Shakespeare's birthplace, Shakespeare's New Place, the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London, the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Cambridge, the Globe, the Duck Tour of the Thames, Parliament, the London Eye and Churchill War Rooms. We also saw the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, which was really fun to be a part of. (No wonder I'm exhausted.)

I'll post some more pics tomorrow. Let's hope the jet lag will be gone by then!!

Cheesy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

I'm still in London, and there's just SO much going on that I'll have to update later, but in the meantime, here's a recipe I've been meaning to share for some time now. Let me know if you like it!

This dish (another from my Pinterest recipe board) takes some prep work with cooking the chicken and two kinds of rice, but the end result is totally worth it. Plus, it makes a TON of food, so you could make it for a family gathering or you could make it and freeze what you couldn't eat in the first couple of days. Landon and I ate on this dish for DAYS (for lunch and dinner and a couple of snacks) and we were still just as happy with it on the last day than when we first tried it. 

Cheesy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole (originally from Picky Palate)

Picture source

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 Tablespoons fresh minced garlic
2 Cups shredded, cooked chicken breast
2 Cups steamed white rice
16 oz prepared wild rice (I get mine at Trader Joes, LOVE it)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
Cheese Sauce
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 Cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 Cups chicken broth
2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
Top with 1 1/2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Heat oil into a medium dutch oven or pot over medium heat.  Saute onion, celery and carrots until softened, about 10 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in chicken, both rices, salt, pepper and garlic salt.  Reduce heat to low.
2.  To prepare cheese sauce melt butter into a medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Whisk in flour, salt and pepper then slowly pour in chicken broth whisking continuously.  Whisk until thick and nearly boiling then stir in cheese until melted.  Pour cheese sauce into rice mixture then transfer to a 9×13 inch baking dish. Top with additional cheddar cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted through.  Serve.
8-10 servings

What I Think Book Review: Peter Ackroyd's London: A Biography

If you've ever wondered why London is so consistently influential, then you need to first understand its history. Though it is anything but a quick read, Peter Ackroyd's London: A Biography provides an incredible and sweeping look at London's long history that will keep you reading despite the seemingly overwhelming 900+ pages.

I've long been a fan of Ackroyd (his fiction is just as good as his non-fiction offerings), and I was delighted when I received this book for Christmas from my brother-in-law. (Thanks, Lyle!) At that time, I knew I was going to be in London (where I am now), so I figured it would be the perfect way for me to prepare for my upcoming field trip. 

Ackroyd doesn't just give the reader a dry review of London's past. Instead (and the title should be a clue here), he approaches the history as if London were a person, which makes for a much more interactive reading experience. He doesn't write in perfect chronological order, though the book does begin with the Stone Age inhabitants and ends with modern London. He may begin a chapter with a description of 17th century church bells, and then bring the sounds of London forward to more recent times. It is a unique approach--one that I've never encountered before--but it works. There were a few times when I was reading that I was so struck by the intricate weaving of past and present in the book that I wondered how in the world Ackroyd kept all of this information straight in his head while writing. 

All aspects of London's past are covered: the Roman Lundinium, the Anglo-Saxon Ludinwic, the origins of Cockney English, the sights and smells of Victorian London, and the terror and effects of World War II. He also includes sketches, paintings, photos and carvings to illustrate each period of time. 

I adore London, and I thought I was well-informed about its history, but after reading this book, I was surprised at how little I'd actually known. For any history-lovers or for an Angolophile, this book should be a must-read.