Birthdays and Pie

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Birthdays have always been a week-long celebration for me. My father’s birthday is July 27, and mine is the 29th. By the time we celebrated his, mine, and had a big party with friends, we had gone through about five cakes.

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My birthday party in England in 2015 

Even as a “grown up,” my birthday still somehow occupies a week. This year, we had my parent’s over to our home for dinner on the 27th. My mom cooked her homemade chicken recipe that I grew up with. We ate cake. On the 28th, I ate a birthday cupcake with friends. And on the 29th, the Englishman turned out a British feast suitable for the poshest of Sloane-y princesses (me, of course).

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Birthday girl, the woman who made me, and the dog who got too excited

In Jamie We Trust, as we say. Brandon asked me to pick any recipe from any Jamie book – I looked to Jamie at Home, a classic and must-have in your kitchen. Although it is the end of July and the temperatures tip at about 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I wanted a pie. A steak and guinness pie. With peas. And potatoes.

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Oh, boy, did Brandon deliver! The most delicious, flaky, gooey, warm savory pie you’ve ever had. If he could have wrapped his love for me in pastry dough, it would have been this pie. In exchange for this beautiful token of affection in the form of beef, beer, and cheese, I settled for a store bought cake – although it was gorgeous and delicious, made with love at Whole Foods. Sponge cake with strawberry jam and buttercream, for those interested.

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I wore a floor length silk-chiffon pink dress and carried balloons around with me all evening, as one should do on their birthday. Sometimes, I think we feel a little too humble on our birthdays. We are only surrounded by those who loves us and know us best. Why shouldn’t we bask in the glow of that love? Why shouldn’t we wear a fancy gown? Why shouldn’t we splash out on pink champagne and toast to another year of being wonderful?

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We spent the rest of the weekend having lunch, playing croquet, riding my new bike – but mostly eating, eating, eating. Especially cake. There were plenty of yummy treats, but that pie was the real showstopper of the evening. Here’s the recipe:

Birthday Steak and Guiness Pie
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium red onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 4 medium mushrooms
  • 2 pounds of quality stewing beef or steak, cut into cubes
  • a few sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 can of Guinness
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • About 8oz of sharp cheddar cheese – sharp, sharp, sharp! – shredded
  • 2 square sheets of ready-made all-butter puff pastry
  • 1 egg

Method:

 

  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF. In a large ovenproof pan, heat a good splash of oliver oil, fry the onions until translucent, and then add the garlic, carrots, celery, and mushrooms. Stir for about 1-2 minutes, then add the beef, rosemary, and some salt and pepper.
  • Fry for 3 or 4 minutes, then add the Guinness, flour, and enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer then pop into the over for about 90 minutes. Stir, then return to the oven for another hour. Lengthy, but worth it. The liquid should thicken and the beef should fall to pieces. Stir in half the cheese.
  • Line a pie dish or baking dish (we used an oval Le Creuset dish) with the first sheet of pastry dough. Leave some dough hanging over the edges. Pour the stew into the dish and top with the remaining cheese.
  • Place the second piece of dough over the stew. Pinch and roll the two pieces together to seal them up. Using a sharp knife, store a little criss-cross pattern into the top and then brush with a beaten egg. Bake on the bottom rack for 45 minutes until golden and glowing.

Read more at http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/beef-recipes/steak-guinness-and-cheese-pie-with-a-puff-pastry-lid/#ILQqw2ODHwGyXx0d.99

 

 

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About Life, About Time

When I first began dreaming about this blog, I was so giddy with the excitement of possibility. I imagined the logo, the photos, the posts I would share. I imagined all the stories I would tell and the recipes I would write.

What I didn’t think about was time, and life. It is amazing how much time in a day life takes up. Walks with Duke, an hour. Dishes, 7 minutes. Blow-drying my hair, 16 minutes. Three episodes of Chef’s Table on Netflix, let’s not get into that.

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Life simply pushed its sweet face ahead of A Wellington Life. It was a whimper from Duke, asking to be walked, or the last tea spoon sitting dirty in the sink when I really want a cup of tea. Life is not always ready for you to sit down and type for an hour. (Although, miraculously, life is ALWAYS up for another episode on Netflix. Always.)

But a blog about life – even when it is a life spent in wellington boots – can’t be a life about a blog. I refuse to cook a delicious dinner just to Instagram it. I can’t take a sunset walk just to photograph it. That isn’t how you enjoy life, or how anyone should really live life.

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What is the compromise then? How do you live life and share it with the world? That’s the tricky bit. I want to share our funny, muddy, yummy life with the world. My ultimate inspiration for this site was Manger, by Mimi Thorisson. Her pictures are better than mine will ever be, but her message is the same: a delicious, dirty life in wellies and designer dresses. Dogs all around. Good food all around. Happy days all around.

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Her posts aren’t regular, but they fit in with life. When there is a fun story to tell, she posts. When there is a good recipe, she shares. I hope to share stories and recipes more frequently, but it will fit in with life (and Duke’s walkies).

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Engagement Excitement

In the last few weeks, we have actually, finally started making real wedding plans. I am drinking in every drop of bridal bliss (read: champagne. Lots of champagne), from dress shopping to venue tours. The other day, I stumbled across this picture from my Instagram:

We had only been engaged a month, and I would re-read the cards from our friends and loved ones every day. We hadn’t made any plans yet, but I was still enjoying the early excitement. Now that we are making plans, part of me longs for lazy days with endless dreams, before budgets and guest counts became a “thing”!

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Royal Tour Curry

On their first day of their Royal Tour of India, William and Kate were treated to a lunch of grilled vegetable kabobs and a lentil curry. As soon as I read that, I was instantly, mercilessly craving something curry-ish. After a long day of tweets, blog posts, e-mails, comments, and research, I wanted to throw together a quick curry dish that would hit the spot.

Unsurprisingly, I made a vegetable and lentil curry tonight. It's amazing.

A photo posted by christine (@christine_effie) on

I love how healthy and nourishing this ended up being, although it was really a thrown-together-without-a-lot-of-thought kind of thing. My lovely Twitter friend, Dawn, asked for the recipe and I am happy to oblige!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 tomato, roughly chopped
  • Handful of shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup lentils, cooked
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Cardamom
  • Cumin
  • Cayenne pepper

Method:

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the tomato paste, garlic, a good glug of olive oil, and the spices to your taste. Let this sit for a bit while you cook the vegetables.
  2. With a little olive oil in a large pot, add the red pepper and soften for 2-3 minutes, then add the tomato. Cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is soft and juicy.
  3. Stir in the carrots and let soften for about a minute. Add the lentils and chickpeas. Stir until everything is evenly distributed.
  4. Pour the sauce from the mixing bowl over the vegetables in the pot. Stir until everything is coated. If it isn’t “saucy” enough, you can add a bit more tomato paste or even a little yogurt/cream cheese.
  5. Let the sauce come to a gentle simmer for few minutes. Serve over your favorite grain, such as brown rice, quinoa, or on its own in a big, comforting bowl!

Notes:

  • I keep a bag of shredded carrots in the fridge and add them to dishes by the handful throughout the week. Pastas, salads, stir fries, and even smoothies. A great way to add a little extra healthiness to your meals.
  • If you have a curry blend in your pantry, you can use that instead of all the spices. Easy!
  • This dish, as are all my favorite recipes, is extremely versatile. Next time, I might add spinach, a dollop of yogurt, potatoes, or maybe I’ll pick up some paneer to add to it!
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The Honest Company | Products I Love

The Honest Company is the latest in trendy-trends. This past week, I silently passed judgement on a new acquaintance. You use Lysol wipes? Oh. I see.

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The Honest Company was started by Jessica Alba and Christopher Gavigan, inspired by their young children. They wanted safe, effective, smart products for their home and family. Every product is of the highest current standard, with products ranging from organic, pH balanced, biodegradable, all-natural, eco-friendly, etc. etc.

I cannot rave about the company enough. Recently, a product I ordered leaked during shipment. No questions asked, they shipped me a replacement. Every single interaction has been nothing but easy, happy, and successful.

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We don’t have children, so I can’t say I’ve tested out the diapers. However, we have tried a few products that I absolutely love. I feel completely safe having them in the house…especially with Duke. Our puppy licks, eats, tastes, chews, and did I mention eats everything. If he licks the dish soap or drinks the laundry detergent, I have no worries.

Here are a few products worth trying:

Laundry detergent + 4-in-1 Packs: I love the laundry cleaners. Both the detergent and the packs do a fantastic job of cleaning. Clothes feel clean, fresh, and super soft. I use the detergent on delicates and the packs on pretty much everything else.

Dish soap: I love this stuff! My job in the kitchen is to wash the dishes that can’t go in the dishwasher. The dish soap smells amazing and does a brilliant job cleaning. I think I mostly just love the scent of these!

Dishwasher packs: These are PHENOMENAL. When our bundle was late one month, we tried another brand and couldn’t believe how poor it cleaned compared to Honest. We thought our dishwasher was broken! No, the Honest dishwasher packs are just that good.

Honest wipes: We don’t have a baby, but we do have muddy paws, sticky hands, and the occasional makeup disaster on-the-go. The wipes can cure all! I buy the small packs and keep them in the car. They don’t leave behind that sticky feeling that some wipes have. Yay!

If you love an Honest product that I haven’t mentioned, let me know! Sharing is caring! If you haven’t tried Honest yet, check them out here.

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Capsule Kitchen | Avocado Toast

Statistically speaking, the more avocado toast you eat, the closer to Gwyneth Paltrow you become. I am all for things that turn me into a blonde leggy goddess.

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However, I couldn’t get behind avocado toast. Try as I might, it was flavorless mush. UNTIL NOW! I have had this for breakfast three days in a row, and once for dinner last week with a fried egg. If you are not yet an av0-convert, I recommend you try this recipe. If you already love the ‘cado, then this will be a nice variation! Double, triple, or quadruple the recipe as you like.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 piece of hearty bread
  • 1/2 a ripe avocado
  • 1-2 tsp. chia seeds
  • 1-2 tsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1-2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Sprinkle of Himalayan sea salt
  • Sprinkle of cayenne pepper

Method:

  • Pan-toast the bread (we don’t use a toaster, and instead dry-toast it on a grill or frying pan for 1-2 minutes on each side).
  • Meanwhile, mash the avocado, spices, and other bits in a bowl. You can do this the night before for an easy morning!
  • Spread the avocado on the toast. It should be a nice, thick, even layer. Enjoy!

Notes:

  • We eat white bread. There, I said it. Revoke my Goop subscription. I believe that a hearty, quality slice of bread a few times a week is not the antithesis of a balanced diet. This week we have a sesame seed loaf from Whole Foods, next week it might be a whole grain from the local bakery.
  • Some of the ingredients (like pink Himalayan sea salt) might seem a little too fancy-pants, but we buy all our fancy-pants items at Whole Foods’ bulk section at fantastic prices. We bought a jam-jar worth of the salt for $3.50, plus the chia seeds, nutritional yeast, and cayenne pepper for a steal.
  • Dijon mustard is definitely the secret ingredient here. It adds an unbeatable brightness to the avocado. Mine is from Organic 365 and was really inexpensive.

Yes, we shop at Whole Foods a lot. Its part of the Full Gwynnie Transformation.

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A Bridal Scent

A wedding day perfume is a wonderful, frivolous, and fun wedding memento. Every time you catch a whiff of that fragrance, you’ll instantly be transported back to the most special day of your life.

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I knew I wanted a scent from Jo Malone – my favorite perfumery, the brand that makes my signature scent. How could I go wrong with the quintessentially British brand for my quintessentially British wedding?

A very important shopping trip happened today! Thank you @jomalonelondon for my beautiful bridal scent ❤️

A photo posted by christine (@christine_effie) on

Although I love so many of the scents – my favorites being English Pear and Freesia, Orange Blossom, and Amber and Patchouli – I wanted something very special for my big day. I was very hopeful that one of the limited edition fragrances that are released every year would fit the bill. And oh, did it ever!

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Jo Malone’s Spring 2016 scent collection is inspired by an English herb garden. The collection is inspired by the gardens that the British are known for, “polished but still a little bit unruly; refined yet relaxed.” I felt such a connection to this collection, and was instantly in love with the scents.

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My favorite scents from the collection were Carrot Blossom and Fennel, Wild Strawberry and Parsley, and Lavender and Coriander. Ultimately, the Englishman and I chose one of those for our very special day next year.

In case you missed it, our proposal story was featured on Brides! for National Proposal Day! Check it out!

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Chop, Chop! A New Haircut!

Breaking news! I cut off all of my hair! Yes, really!

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About a week ago, I looked at my blow dryer and my soaking wet hair, and I just… Could. Not. Do. It. Anymore. So I decided to make a change – a big change! – and chop it all off.

My stylist, Sarah, was completely supportive and excited. I brought her pictures and explained the look I was going for, and she explained exactly how we were going to get there. Essentially, I have a long bob that lands between my collarbone and my shoulder. I have long layers throughout – just enough to give it shape. And here’s the magic secret – the back is slightly shorter than the front. I know! Its madness! I feel so modern…

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There’s a secret to finding the perfect pictures of a haircut to share with your stylist. I searched Pinterest for days for the cut I was going for, and found UK-based blogger Anna Saccone. A few years ago, she had a very chic, long bob – exactly the style I wanted!

Images via Anna Saccone
Images via Anna Saccone

Because she was a regular blogger, I was able to save pictures from different blog posts over a short period of time. This allowed Sarah to see the hairstyle in different angles and styles to get it exactly right. That’s how she figured out the style is slightly shorter in the back, which gets it to fall in just the right way.

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The last time my hair was this short was in college about five years ago, so it is a bit of an adjustment. Every time I shampoo my hair I keep reaching for longer locks! However, I am completely loving the quick blowouts, and even taking the time to curl and style it in a fun way.

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Menu Monday

Another Monday, another Menu Monday! I really enjoy these little glimpses into our kitchen. Today’s menu is a little more special than “everyday” since its from Sunday, where we usually splurge a little more on yummy things.

We spent the day doing very domestic things – grocery shopping, laundry, and a bit of Spring Cleaning. It was so warm out, so all the windows were open and you could feel a Spring breeze in the air.

Breakfast

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I am a very lucky girl. While I snoozed with Duke on the sofa, Brandon popped out to the market and brought home fresh almond croissants and orange juice. He also brought back a flavored coffee for me. Since we drink tea 99% of the time, specialty coffees have become an extra nice treat for me.

Lunch

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We had a late, lazy breakfast and a later, lazier lunch! Tortilla chips, a jar of salsa (Salsa al Pastor from Whole Foods), and homemade hummus. I whipped up this hummus in about 30 seconds, and it was so delicious and filling. I think in the future, I could thin it our a little bit and use it as a “nacho sauce”… recipe is at the bottom of the post!

Dinner

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We always try to make Sunday dinners special – either a Sunday roast or simply a fancy meal. We went grocery shopping today and the Englishman picked up a nest of fresh pasta – absolutely divine! We also picked up some prepared, uncooked pesto chicken. I roasted the chicken with a halved tomato, and made the pasta Midnight Spaghetti-style. Brandon took this artsy shot of his plate, with mine in the background, and I quite liked it!

Dessert

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At Whole Foods, I splurged on these fancy, French baby yogurts. They cost a small fortune for these little pots of yogurt, but the cows live in Normandy and I really couldn’t pass them up. It also settled a score with B, who recently spent a bomb on all natural, organic, fancy, happy cow yogurt that he didn’t eat… so really, I earned this. The strawberry was delicious and well worth it! I also enjoyed a cup of tea – my favorite, peppermint and licorice tea from Teapigs!

Homemade Hummus

For me, hummus should be creamy and savory. I don’t enjoy very tart or very lemon-y hummus. This isn’t exactly a classic hummus recipe, but it does the trick – at a fraction of the cost! I love this recipe warm, straight from the saucepan, but you could also chill it for an hour or so.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 3-4 glugs of quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a medium saucepan, add the olive oil and slice garlic on low heat. Allow to warm and infuse with garlic flavor for about 15 minutes.
  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and pour them into the pot. Stir to coat with the garlicky oil.
  3. Squeeze the lemon and add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Using a hand blender, puree to your desired consistency. I prefer perfectly smooth hummus, but chunky hummus has its time and place too! You can also transfer this to a blender or use a hand masher.
  5. Serve with vegetables or chips. Enjoy!
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Stripes and Hearts

I was so excited to do another Fashion Friday post! As I was getting dressed for a date with Brandon, I asked him to snap a few pictures so I could share them with you. Unfortunately, midway through this impromptu shoot, Brandon put the bins out front and Duke made a mad dash outside… we safely returned him a few minutes later, but that was the end of the photography. C’est la vie!

Fashion Friday Valentine's Day

This outfit is a go-to for me for winter date nights. This year has been pretty mild, so I have been trying to wear a skirt or dress with thick, opaque tights once a week. It allows me to mix up my winter wardrobe and break out of the boots-and-jeans rut I fall into. Plus, I love the look of a dress, tights, and ballet flats a lå Mimi Thorisson.

My dress is from Ann Taylor and it was a steal at $15. It is thick enough for winter, but I think it will also work in spring without the tights. The flats are by French Sole, and one of my favorite pairs of shoes. For our date, I wore a black trench coat and bright pink scarf – and left the balloon at home!

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