24 August, 2016

Irish Cranberry Oat Scones

Having just returned for my fabulous trip to Ireland, I thought I'd share a special scone recipe.

2 cups unbleached, white flour
1/2 cup oatmeal (not the instant stuff, the real stuff)
6 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder3/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
10 Tbsp cold unsalted butter (I like Irish butter!)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup buttermilk (well shaken)

 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients until the dough is crumbly. Fold in the cranberries. Add the buttermilk and stir lightly with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together to form a ball. The dough will be very sticky, but resist the temptation to overwork it.

On a lightly floured surface, pat the dough into a large circle about 2 inches thick. Cut the dough into wedges. With a spatula, transfer the wedges to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 22 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Best served warm.

Yield: 8 scones

Note: You can also brush the tops of the scones with cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar if you like a sweet crunch.


13 August, 2016

Bucket List Cruise - Cobh

It's 8 am and we just docked at Cobh, the port for the city of Cork. Pulling into port the panorama was exactly what you would expect Ireland to look like: Green hillsides dotted with small houses. Absolutely lovely.

On Wednesday we were in Belfast where we decided to tour on our own visiting Queen's College and just admiring the Victorian buildings. Donegall Square at the center of town had wonderful shopping, and we "trekked" the Golden Mile to see the older city.

Dublin followed Belfast, and although we started on a tour beginning at Trinity College, we quickly ditched it (tour guide thought he was auditioning for a night at the Improv - really bad) and ventured out to see the Book of Kells. So impressive and the library above the exhibit was breathtaking. On to Parliament House, the National Gallery, and Christchurch Cathedral. Good shopping, too!

Yesterday was Liverpool, home of the Beatles and some creature called the Lambanana which symbolizes the city's history as both an import and an export centre. Large Beatles museum (which we passed on) and Beatles memorabilia all over. I was surprised at how beautiful parts of the city were, although the tour map also took us through the "red light" district which was interesting.  Dockside offered shops and eateries, as well as amusement areas for kids. I particularly liked the "house boats", kind of like barges. Owners decorate them with flowers and colourful paint jobs.

I can't begin to remember everything I've eaten.  The ship has four specialty restaurants: Polo (steak), Red Ginger (Japanese), Toscana (Italian) and Jacques (as in Pepin). There is also the Grand Dining Room and the Terrace Grill.  We've eaten at Polo, Red Ginger and Toscana. Only one word: fabulous! We will be at Jacques on  our last night. We did hit the Grand Dining room once, but prefer the grill which is set up as the largest buffet ever and you can "graze" your way around the room.  Last night I started with a king crab leg, mushroom tart, eggplant rollup and caramelized Asian shrimp. Followed that up with Linguine with a veal and porcini ragu and Cesar salad. Every night is a different carving station, pasta, and specialties but you can always get grilled shrimp or lobster, mahi mahi, swordfish, chicken and steak. The sides change as well as the desserts. I will not eat for at least 2 weeks after getting home!!

Time to visit Cobh and Cork!

10 August, 2016

Bucket List Cruise - Derry

Having passed the Orkney and Hebrides islands, we moored at Londonderry.  Please note the use of the word moored.  The harbor itself is too shallow for large boats so we had to stay out a ways and take a tender into shore.  thankfully the water was came because those tenders are pretty small. and I had eggs benedict for breakfast.
Derry is a walled city and you can walk all the way around it up on the ancient walls which provides incredible views.  The town itself has several cathedrals and overall gorgeous architecture. We visited a craft village (and bought souvenirs) St. Augustine's cathedral and the Peace Bridge.  We walked far enough that I racked up 13,116 steps on my Fitbit - a little over 5 miles.
A little out of the city is the Giants' Causeway, a natural formation of rocks which looks like huge stepping stones that would allow you to cross the water.
And of course, this being Ireland, it drizzled and then rained.  But the downpour was perfectly timed and we ducked into a pub for a late lunch of chicken and mushroom pie washed down with a pint of  Raspberry and lime hard cider.
After a very long day, we had a quick dinner, we borrowed a DVD from the library and settled with with a kir royale to watch the movie.  Getting too old for the crazy nightlife on board ship. :-)
Tuesday night we at the the Red Ginger specialty restaurant on board: Thai vegetarian summer rolls, lobster pad thai, and green tea ice cream with ginger sauce.  They served about a dozen different types of tea.  I chose white pear and ginger tea which was just slightly sweet and delicious.  If you can find it, give it a try.
Last night we were too tired to dress for dinner so went to the buffet for lobster crepes with langoustine sauce, artichoke timbales with truffle sauce, eggplant rollups and a sinful croquet-en-bouche the size of a baseball filled with salted caramel custard and wrapped in hard caramel. Amazingly my jeans still close!!
Now it's time to visit Belfast! And there is a gangplank, no tender, so I'm a happy camper. There is a bookstore here that specializes in mysteries which is going to be a must see.

08 August, 2016

Bucket Cruise Day 5

We're getting bounced around pretty well at the moment.  Guess that storm we tried to avoid had a cousin lying in wait for us.  White caps as far as you can see, and the hangers in the closet sound like a poorly tuned wind chime.
We were delayed in sailing last night as 3 passengers were unaccounted for at departure time.  I know they found 2; not sure if the remaining woman was found or left behind.  Plot for a mystery?
We are headed for Londonderry, having bypassed Edinburgh due to the storm. Today is an "at sea" day, so there are lots of on board activities ranging from scarf tying to painting, gambling, lectures, etc.
Yesterday I played bridge with a lovely lady from Geneva, Switzerland and an English couple from outside London. Also went to a seminar on how to eliminate puffy eyes and dark circles.  Either it worked or I'm very suggestible but really could see a difference after only one treatment.  The
Canyon Spa therapist said it takes about 4 days for the circles to disappear (if you remember to go through the routine twice a day) and about 2 weeks for puffiness. 
Two of my traveling mates played Bingo and won over $230!
And now for the food portion of my day. :-) Lunch was a surf and turf (Waygu beef and lobster tail) sandwich with sides of artichoke salad and couscous salad.  Our evening in-cabin canapes were vegetarian samosa and a mini baguette with Camembert, radish and tomato slices.  Dinner was in the main dining room : quinoa and vegetable tartare terrine with a gravlax and sour quenelles, monkfish medallions with lobster coulis, and a scrumptious tarte tatin.  Then it was on to one of the lounges for after dinner drinks..
As you wonder around the ship, you can hear Italian, Chinese, French, German, and many more languages. The people at the table next to us last night were from Poland. You meet so many people just wandering around the game rooms, lounging on deck, etc.  Most people are really outgoing and just strike up a conversation.!
Time for breakfast - hopefully the waiters are surefooted in bad weather and it won't land in my lap! I don't think this will be an "outside" day - too windy, but the daily paper has 2 full pages of activities so I'm not worried.
Have a great day, everyone!

07 August, 2016

Bucket List Cruise Day 3

As noted in previous entry, we spent today in Newcastle, UK. We docked at 6 am. Love watching the tug boats pushing and pulling this huge vessel.
Last night dinner was at the Polo restaurant. For anyone wishing a few vicarious extra pounds, I can tell you that I had lobster bisque with sautéed chunks of lobster.  This was followed by a piece of prime rib that could have fed 4.  It was at least 3 inches thick (16 ounces!) and I chose sautéed mushrooms and steak frites to go with it.  Incredible meal, but such a shame to waste all that meat I couldn't eat. And no way to get a doggie bag to Murphy. :-(
We had room/cabin service for breakfast today since we had an early departure time for our tour.  Lovely. They even lay a white tablecloth!
After breakfast we boarded a bus for the 90 minute ride to Landisfarm which is an island accessible only at low tide.  Apparently the tide can come in very quickly, submerging your car and leaving you stranded in something that looks like a lifeguard station until the rescue boat arrives.
The island contains a castle, a beautiful old church, and the ruins of a priory that looks like it might have been the model for the cathedral built in Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett book). And, if you're into it, they had a store dedicated to nothing but mead (the tasting was very good).Unfortunately a storm is brewing and because we would have to use tenders to get to shore at the next stop--we Edinburg--we are spending another night here and by passing Scotland entirely.  Bummer, but a 45 minute trip in a tiny boat in rough seas does not sound like fun! So our next stop will be Belfast.
That means another day to tour Newcastle or just sit out around the pool sipping Margaritas.  Tough choice, right?
Time to get an Amaretto on ice and relax!

05 August, 2016

My Bucket List Cruise Journal

Day 1
Happy to announce that I'm on a lounge chair by the pool, enjoying sun, ocean breezes and a mango smoothie.
The trip from CT to Southampton, though long, was much better than anticipated.  Car picked us (3 traveling up on Wednesday at friends and me) on Wednesday at noon and got us to JFK in just under 90 minutes.  In fact, too early to check in. After a 30 minute wait, we checked our bags and headed for the treaded TSA security check - having been advised to allow 4 hours for this ordeal.  We were though and at our gate in 20 minutes!  Even though the lines seemed endless, the agents really had their act together--we actually felt like we were trotting to keep up at some points. 
Now, with time on our hands, we had a nice leisurely lunch at a cafe, checked out the stores and finally boarded our Virgin Airlines flight,
This being my "bucket list" trip, I'd sprung for extra leg-room seats and VA delivered: we had over-the-wing exit row seats and almost 5 feet of space in front of our seats.  Heaven.
Each seat was pre-loaded with a pillow, a wrapped blanket, and a little pouch with ear plugs, eye mask, sox, pen and toothbrush. I'll be bringing that loot home for someone's  grandkids.
The third person in our row of seats was a 30-ish English guy with a great sense of humour who'd managed to forget his 3 bags of duty free liquor and chocolates until he was strapped in. At least he provided one of the flight attendants the opportunity to up her FitBit steps for the day as she ran back to the terminal to collect the loot.
Shortly after takeoff we were served the ubiquitous pretzels and drinks, followed by a meal that I would have needed two days to finish: green salad, crackers and Alouette cheese, dinner roll and butter, and a choice of entrees: chicken curry, beef burgundy, or stuffed shells.  we had one of each in our row and declared them all very good. And the wine was pretty good, too. :-)
Watched a movie on the personal screen, then dozed for a couple of hours before a quick breakfast of yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, juice and coffee was served. 
We arrived 40 minutes ahead of schedule and cleared immigration quickly. The private car we'd hired was waiting and whisked us off to Southampton -- a 90 minute ride along highways that could have been in New York, Texas, or Indiana. No scenery, but the driver was cheery and full of good advice of what to see and do.
Finally we were able to board the ship and promptly sat down to a fabulous buffet lunch (yes, this is going to be a food , folks). Hot and cold entrees, salads, desserts, and everything in between.
We sailed at 6, aided by a couple of tugboats.Tom
Since we'd been up for over 30 hours by that time, we opted for the buffet dinner rather than dressing up for one of the formal dining rooms or restaurants.  Not to worry, I still managed to have chicken veloute with cauliflower, Alaskan crab claw, grilled lobster, grilled shrimp, a fabulous porcini and wild mushroom timbale with Gran Pandano cream sauce, and a cheese plate (goat, camembert, Tomme)for dessert. That alone will require 30 laps around the deck to work off.
Our suite is roomy and nice. Actually, our closet is the size of a small room! And the bathroom had both a soaking tub and a separate shower with a rainhead. Also a private veranda.
Today we're "at sea" just lounging and relaxing although there are activities scheduled at all hours: Texas hold'em, bingo, dance lessons, art lessons, cooking lessons, violin recital, shuffleboard, and even napkin folding demo. Me, I'm just lounging although I may exert myself for the bridge game.
Tonight is the Captain's reception followed by dinner at one of the "specialty" restaurants -- Polo, a steak house.  Stay tuned for the calorie count.
Tomorrow is Newcastle and I'll be taking an excursion to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, an old monastery accessible only at low tide.
Check in tomorrow vicarious calories and a travelogue. And maybe by then i'll figure out how to load the pictures!