Loving October

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Did I mention I love October? I do. I love October. Here are five six reasons why.

  1. Watching the leaves change color. It reminds me of home. Something my family always appreciated.
  2. Beautiful people on twitter and the blogs making things like homemade apple pie & strawberry ginger pie.
  3. Sweaters, boots, and scarves. Need I say more?
  4. The perfect month to try out a new recipe. I want to try Eat Like a Girl’s stuffed munchkins.
  5. Baseball. David and I are big San Francisco Giants fans (…but I grew up watching the Cardinals and have love for them too!) Makes for an exciting season this year, especially given recent history (Part I and Part II).
  6. Halloween. I am a Halloween nut. Love the holiday. Costumes, candy, carving pumpkins, and trick-or-treating.

My parents came down to visit us in Durham, North Carolina around this time last year. We carved pumpkins together and watched the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series. What a great visit! The classic pumpkin on the left was my Dad’s creation, I did the black cat, and David’s masterpiece is featured on the right.

London has shown us an amazing October so far. The small parks are inviting and the trees are beautiful.

My plan for making the most of these last October days? Zip-up my boots, toss on a scarf, and take a detour on the walk to campus.

Free Marriott Silver Status

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The free hotel status continues, as Marriott is offering free Silver status. Gary scoops this one from FatWallet who explains how Marriott signs up people at the Silver status level from a variety of companies that they have corporate agreements with.

I already have Marriott status, but my husband doesn’t – so I signed him up using one of the employer links.  Of course, I checked first to see if his employers had corporate agreements using the simple link format, but no such luck. Using another link – Voila!

The benefits of Silver status are not amazing (but obviously better than no status) and include 20% bonus on Marriott Rewards points, free internet access, and priority late check out. In large conference hotels, I have been upgraded to a suite on Silver on two occasions even though it is not part of their stated rewards.

Free Langham Hotels 1865 Voyager Status

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As Gary points out, now through 31 December, Langham Hotels is offering complimentary 1865 Voyager elite status for Visa Infinite cardholders.

The way they verify that you are eligible for the offer is by asking you to input the first six digits of your Visa Infinite credit card. This list of issuer identification numbers from Wikipedia contains 7 different Visa Infinite starting card number options.

After clicking the Langham Hotels offer and pulling a code off of wiki – Voila!

The status lasts for 12 months, and normally requires 5 stays in a year to earn but will be renewed after just 2 stays during a year under this offer.

Benefits include 6pm (!) late checkout, a one-category room upgrade each stay, a suite upgrade certificate once per year, complimentary internet, welcome amenities, and a luggage tag.

Langham hotel has a hotel in London property (pictured below) and also in destinations such as Auckland, Boston, Melbourne, Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong.  I hope to get to use this status for a luxurious stay at the London location.


I had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy a long stay at their Pasadena property for an extended conference last summer. The cocktail lounge had amazing drinks and the outdoor seating made the most of the long, pink sunsets.

In fact, the banner image of MakingAMovableFeast includes a shot taken at that property. Can you guess which picture?

Shepard’s Pie

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Okay, so maybe I was in a bit of a hurry for the Autumn season to arrive. Or maybe I wanted to try my hand at making something British. Probably both. So I cooked a Shepards’ Pie for dinner the other night. Or so I thought…

This dish that was a winter staple in my family growing up. Easy, inexpensive, and a little of this stick-to-your-ribs goodness went a long way. My dad always made it with ground beef and we always called it Shepard’s Pie.

Well before I began to make the dish, I consulted my favorite cookbook: “the Joy”. Again, this is a little something I picked up from home. In looking up the book to link to however, I learned something new. The homemaker turned author was actually from St. Louis (my hometown).  Irma S. Rombauer had the book privately published in 1931 while struggling emotionally and financially after her husband’s suicide the previous year. It has since gone on to sell more than 18 million copies.

The wikipedia page features a picture of well-worn copies of the book from the library of Julia Child on display at the National Museum of American History (below).

Here is a picture of my copy:

What’s even more ironic, is the copy you see above that was given to me by my mother in 2003, is actually the British edition published for the UK.

Anyways.  As you can see from the first photo, I learned that what I was making would technically be referred to as Cottage Pie because I was substituting beef for lamb. I’m still calling it Shepard’s Pie.

I grilled the lean ground beef with white onion, draining off any extra fat and oils. I diced up some yukon gold potatoes and added large cloves of garlic to the mix in a boiling pot. Sauteed in some carrots, peas, corn, lima beans, with the beef and added some gravy I picked up at the market. When the potatoes were done, I mashed them using my potato ricer that hubby gave me for Christmas last year – and voila! Because air is incorporated into the potato as it’s pressed, the ricer gives you the lightest mashed potatoes possible. 

I assembled the pie my oven safe, blue ceramic dish with thick handle. My mom gave me this back in college and I think it was intended specifically to make Shepard’s Pie. I sprinkled the top of my potatoes with some smoked paprika and cracked black pepper.

I had to take an educated guess as to how hot to turn the oven and on what setting to place it because (a) my Celsius to Fahrenheit calculations are poor and (b) the oven in our new flat has lots of symbols on it but no words. Still looking online for a good instruction manual. Right now I am learning to gauge temperature and performance from the meager instructions on the back of food packaging. Sigh.

Nevertheless, after 30 minutes at 190 degrees Celsius on the setting with a fan symbol and heat waves – the pie was done.

We set the dish in the center of the table and carved out a slice. Each portion was paired with a large glass of a rustic red wine. Marvelous. Bring on Autumn!