Forward Looking Back

I’m now six months into this year of challenges and nearly half way through the list, and the merry month of May has been a busy and slightly ‘foodie’ one on the 40 for 40 front, as I’ve successfully and happily managed to tick off five more items.  After finishing April in a state of Zen following the at home massage, the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend was just as peaceful and relaxing, in readiness for a busy month ahead.

The first weekend of the month being spent on Item 27 – Learn to make my own Pasta.  I headed off to join 24 other eager students under the excellent tutorship of  MaryJo and her amazing team at Gastro School where we were to learn how to make our own pasta dough, and from that, some delicious ravioli.   Grouped in small teams of three or four, we were clearly shown step by step how to mix and kneed the dough to perfection before leaving it to ‘rest’ while we created our stuffing of Butternut Squash and Amaretto.  Every step was very clearly demonstrated to us all before we returned to our tables to try to replicate what we had just been shown.  Despite most not knowing anyone else in the class, before long we were all chatting and laughing together – a great compliment that we all felt so relaxed under MaryJo’s helpful gaze.  And when the instruction was done, and the ravioli made, we got to eat our work – and it was delicious!  Of course I ran home to look for pasta machines on Ebay – this is a dish I will absolutely be making again.

On 12th, it was off to Liz’s for a ‘surprise’ birthday dinner.  I say surprise, she knew something was happening but didn’t know who was turning up.  From 7.30pm friends arrived loaded with dishes of food and bottles of booze, helping the Birthday Girl celebrate in style.  Balloons were blown, cake eaten and lots of laughter had.  Happy Birthday Liz!

On 14th I met up with Debs to ‘assist’ her in her training to climb Mount Kenya later in the year.  Really, we just went for a lovely long walk through the wonderful Parkland Walk, from Highgate down to Finsbury Park, following a disused Railway Track.  Now, I’ve lived in London for over twenty years, five of those in Highgate, and fifteen near the Finsbury Park area and I never knew this wonderful walk existed.  If you’re not sure where you’re looking it’s a little hard to find at first, as we found out having wandered around for about 15 mins before we found the entrance, but once you’re in, it’s an absolute treat.  We did plod through the 8km trail we took quite quickly as it was supposed to be a training mission, but I’d highly recommend this little gem for a lazy Sunday afternoon stroll if you’re a local.  Of course we undid all of our good work and calorie burning by the time we got to mine by heading out for dinner and drinks at my local.  Oh well, I’m not the one walking up a mountain!

A quick Mani Pedi was had on 16th (Item 8 – Have a professional beauty treatment once a month), in readiness for another big one from the 40 for 40 list.  Item 22 – Have a weekend in Milan.  As some of you may remember, lovely Liz surprised me on my birthday with flights to Milan, and after a bit of diary jiggling, we headed off a week after her birthday so that we could both be celebrating throughout the trip.  Flying out on Thursday afternoon we arrived in Milan just in time for an Aperitivo, a traditional drink before dinner with a few delicious munchies provide by the bar.  A tradition of which I was very happy to partake!  Then off in search of a proper pasta dinner, we stumbled across a great restaurant not far from the hotel where we stayed and enjoyed our meal with a bottle of local wine.

An early rise on Friday as we took the 9am train and headed up to Lake Como and Bellagio for the day – Clunting as I decided to call it – or Clooney Hunting for the more polite.  Sadly we didn’t find him, but we did have an amazing day.  The sun shone as we took the lazy two-hour boat trip to Bellagio where we wandered the cobbled streets, ate the freshest of salads (then had a Gelato to stop it from being too healthy!), then back to Como for more exploring, another aperitivo and a simply outstanding dinner – so good we had to have seconds.  All washed down with Prosecco of course!  The train was delayed by 50 mins on the way home, but sitting outside the station at 10.30pm at night in just our shirt sleeves listening to the cicadas chirp, just made it feel so relaxing and very much a holiday.

Another super early start on the Saturday to see the main attraction.  DaVinci’s “The Last Supper”.


Booked three months ahead, we made our way to the Santa Maria Delle Grazie the small unassuming church where this stunning artwork lives.  Allowing just 25 people at a time, through two air locked temperature controlled rooms to bring our temperatures and humidity down, we were allowed inside the chapel.  I’m not sure why but I had a vision in my head that it was a large painting on a wall around 3m x 2m.  I had no idea it was so big (it is actually 8.7m x 4.5m), and in person, so impressive.  Despite hundreds of years of abuse, including a door being knocked through the bottom of the painting where Jesus’ feet would once have been, it still gave us both shivers as we stepped in front of it.  A guide gave us the story of how it came to be, what it symbolised, as well as why it’s not actually Mary sitting next to Jesus (as any DaVinci Code reader would think – and I still believe it looks like a woman!) for an all too short 15 mins before an announcement is made that your time us up, and the next group must enter.  Back through another air locked room, and it’s all over – but it won’t be forgotten.  Of course we made a quick trip to the gift shop to buy a postcard or two so that we will remember this sight for years to come.  Incredible.

Back in the daylight, we explored the centre of Milan.  Castello Sforzesco (the Castle), Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II (a church like shopping mall for all the REALLY expensive shops), Teatro alla Scala,  lunch (pizza and prosecco), the rooftop of the Duomo, inside the Duomo, Quadrilatero D’oro (more designer shops), Cafe Covo (for the most expensive cup of tea ever), another Gelato from Grom (if you’re ever in Milan be sure to find it – best ice cream EVER!) and a slow walk back to the hotel for a quick rest, then out for our final dinner of yet another plate of fantastic homemade pasta and of course more prosecco.  A couple of hours shopping on Sunday morning finished off our trip before we wandered with our suitcases back to Stazione Centrale to get the bus to Linate Airport heading home.  An amazing trip with a fabulous friend.

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View a few more of my photos here.

Back in Blightly and there was just time to squeeze in two more items from the 40 for 40 list before month’s end.  Item 29 – Go in a Floatation Tank.  I actually bought a voucher through KGB Deals for this back in December to have a full hour at Floatworks near London Bridge, but have only just got around to doing it.  Oh my!  Friday night found me heading south for my experience. One hour in total silence and darkness, floating in the small bubble type tank with not a care in the world, every muscle relaxed and calm, I will certainly be doing that again.

And Finally, Item 38 – Slice and dice like a chef.  Liz, Jude and I set off to Jamie Oliver’s Recipease in Clapham on Sunday to learn some basic Knife Skills.  Blue Plasters are provided, but luckily none of us needed any.  Arriving at midday, we washed our hands ready to get a chopping, and a dicing and a slicing like professionals.  Leigh, our chef for the day, gathered us all around to show us what to do, and how to do it safely, before we headed to our own stations to chop and slice up various ingredients to make ourselves a meal.  Step by step we started, slowly at first, before the movement you need suddenly clicks and we were all sweeping the knife backwards and forwards, gliding through the food creating little piles of chopped up bits and pieces as if we’d been doing it for years.  A quick glug of olive oil, and a good slurp of wine served, we sat around the ‘chefs table’ to eat our seasonal Thai style salad with King Prawns.  Better still, after the session we were entitled to 10% off all products in the shop.  Bargain!

With all the fantastic food eaten this month, it’s just as well the plodding has been coming along.  Three mornings a week you may have seen me huffing and puffing around the local park… There’s still a way to go to fulfil Item 2 – Run for 30 mins without stopping, but I’m getting there. Honest!

‘Till the next time…


~ by BlobbyJogger on 31 May, 2011.

3 Responses to “Forward Looking Back”

  1. I want to go to Milan! I want to make pasta! (I already bought my 00 flour…) x

  2. I love , bookmarked for future reference

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