Taint No Place More Magical!

For awhile, I just walked around and took in all the shops (btw, if you’re just now joining me–welcome!  I’m discussing my visit to Diagon Alley in London Universal Studios in Orlando, FL as part my first Fabulous Not Forty Birthday Trip).

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I really wanted to get a wand, but at some point practicality took over and by that I mean, whose wand would I buy?  Of course, I’d want Dumbledore’s and Snape’s and Hermoine’s and maybe McGonagall’s…all I knew that I shouldn’t spend over $100 on wands that in NYC would probably be considered a weapon–so I left Ollivander’s empty handed.  Although just FYI, the wands are interactive with various things throughout Diagon Alley so if you could actually pick just one–it would make a great addition to your collection and a great enhancement to your time at Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.

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Aside from Ollivander’s, the next coolest place was Borgin & Bourke’s (don’t look at me, my parents are muggles and wouldn’t have known to tell me to ask to be in Griffindor, so I’m quite sure I would have been sorted into Slytherin!) in Knockturn Alley.  Lots of fun and cool interesting stuff to buy.

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Of course, NO trip to Diagon Alley would have been complete without stopping at Weasleys Wizard Weezes, complete with a tightrope riding Professor Umbridge screaming about having order!  Skiving snack boxes, extendable ears, darkening powders, and a lot more of George & Fred’s wonderful creations right at your finger tips!


There was one ride in Diagon Alley, which was inside Gringott’s bank.  Basically, you walk through the bank and then ride down into the vault area–just don’t mess with the goblins…or the dragon!

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There are tons to do, see, eat, and drink in Diagon Alley–but if you get bored, then you can go find the Dursleys and hang out with them 😉

The Leaky Cauldron

One cannot go to Diagon Alley and NOT eat at The Leaky Cauldron. It would be like visiting New York City and NOT eating cheesecake.  I mean, really–who does that?  No one.

So thus…when you’re in Diagon Alley at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, you have to eat at The Leaky Cauldron.

My biggest complaint:  TOOO MANY CHOICES.  Actually, there weren’t that many choices but they all looked delicious.  I decided on the cottage (aka shepherd’s) pie.  Thankfully Sissy & TK each ordered something different (bangers & mash and fish & chips respectively), so I got to try a few things.  It was good.  I mean, it is park food–so it’s not the best shepherd’s pie or bangers I’ve ever had, but it was quite decent and felt a little less like I was being gouged at the registers.  Plus my pie came with a salad, so I could feign being healthier (despite the pumpkin juice and fishy green ale and butter beer and…well, you get the point).


Calling Wizards & Muggles Alike

Remember a few weeks back when I mentioned getting sidetracked by my Harry Potter pictures, which was making it hard to focus on Key West (and by weeks, I mean months)?  Yeah, well, when planning my posts for this week, I momentarily forgot about them.  Now before you yell at me, let me e’splain:  since I left you in the midst of my Fabulous Not Forty birthday trips at the southern most tip of the continental United States, I thought it would be fun to jump up to the most northern part of the United States in my Birthday Trip #2 to Minnesota.  But of course, my OCD kicked in and I realized I could not, would not, should not leave the state of Florida for Birthday Trip #1 without talking about my time in Orlando.  For the record, I have full faith in your ability to follow me from Florida to Minnesota back to Florida and then back to Minnesota.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I promise.

Since Orlando is on the way back to Sissy & TK’s house (okay, a slightly round-about-way home), we decided to stop at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Orlando Studios.  And by decided, I’m sure a lot of begging, pleading, and pouting were involved.


I have to tell you the last time I was at Orlando Studios it was a long, long, long, long, long, long time ago.  The summer it opened to be exact.  Needless to say, it had changed a lot.  Okay, I can’t even really remember what was actually there, so it might as well have been a new park.

We made a beeline ambled through the park in the direction of London (hopefully you know I actually meant made a beeline), where we could enter Diagon Alley and then take the Underground Entrance to board The Hogwarts Express where the world of Harry Potter awaited.

Although we did pause briefly to pay homage to that iconic fish that has haunted me for years.  Since we were on dry land, he didn’t seem so scary as I remember…


And then I saw it: London. I was like a kid at Christmas!  I tried my best not to knock down any small children (adults and teenagers were fair game!), as the wonderful world of Harry Potter was laid out before me.


Thirsty Thursday #11

In trying to find pictures for Throwback Thursday, I realized I have a lot of pictures of adult beverages (that is said with pride, by the way). As such, I’ve decided that rather than share pictures of me with bad 80s hair and glasses that legitimately covered half my face, I could easily share glasses of a much tastier kind. And while I’m normally posting pictures of tasty adult beverages, this week’s picture is kid-friendly…and oh so delicious!  So without further ado, I present to you another Virgin Thirsty Thursday!

Fishy Green Ale

A creamy minty cinnamon drink with blueberry “fish eggs” at the bottom.  It sounds like an odd combination, but was interestingly delicious.


The Mother Sauces

No, these aren’t your mother’s sauces–these are THE Mother Sauces.  I mean, your mother may in fact make them, but maybe not.  Anyway lately they’ve been everywhere in my life.  Except in my kitchen–ain’t nobody got time for that!

For those of you who don’t study French cuisine, they are the five sauces upon which all other sauces are made.

  • Béchamel
  • Velouté
  • Espagnole
  • Sauce Tomat
  • Hollandaise

And if you want a bit of THE Mother Sauces trivia, Hollandaise wasn’t added to THE Mother Sauce line-up until the turn of the 20th century.

So why am I bringing up THE Mother Sauces? They’ve just been on my brain a lot lately.  Mainly because of April, who is in culinary school and recently learned how to make and spice up THE Mother Sauces (although she says that the Sauce Tomat is so flavorful, you can just eat it as is), so I’ve been drooling with every descriptive email that she’s sent.

And then last week, I watched The Hundred-Foot Journey.  Have you seen it?  If so, you know why I’m mentioning it in a post about THE Mother Sauces.  If not, then add it to your Netflix queue.

Anyway, I finally gave in and made some béchamel sauce last night….with a twist.  That twist would be cilantro.  And parmesan, although I think that parm is probably a frequent additive to béchamel–so we’ll just stick with the cilantro twist (April and Becca, stop making those nasty faces: cilantro is delicious!!).

First, start with a simple béchamel sauce.  I like to use Giada’s because it’s uber-easy!

Cilantro-Parmesan Béchamel

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup  flour
  • 4 cups whole milk, warm
  • ½ teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • 1 pinch fresh ground white pepper (to taste)–honestly, I usually just use black pepper
  • 1 pinch nutmeg, freshly grated (to taste)

In a 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. Do not allow the bechamel sauce to boil. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch each of white pepper and nutmeg. Season the sauce with more salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Okay, that’s Giada’s part.  Then to that I add 1 cup of Parmesan and ½ cup of finely chopped cilantro–okay, I use more like a cup of cilantro–but it’s your béchamel, use however much you want.  Same goes for the parmesan.  Stir until cheese is melted and cilantro is thoroughly mixed in.  Add to your favorite pasta and make your taste buds happy, happy, happy!


Margarita Monday, Part Seis

I recently went to DC & VA for our annual Girls’ Weekend.  This year it was held in honor of James’s big birthday.  I won’t say how old she is **cough 40 cough** I will only comment that a few margaritas were consumed.

This one is a blood orange margarita from Chuy’s Restaurant in Richmond.

Happy Birthday James!!  Actually, Happy Birthday to all my February babies–oh, and also OOOOOPS–to my January babies too since you didn’t get a shout out last month!