Getting to Hogwarts: Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station

Every Harry Potter fan longs to attend Hogwarts, the most magical school in the world. But before you can board the Hogwarts Express, you have to get on to Platform 9 3/4. Do you have what it takes to cross the magical barrier and enter the wizarding world? We visited Platform 9 3/4 to find out! Platform 9 3/4 is located at King's Cross Station in London. King's Cross is both a railway station and a London Underground (Tube) stop, so if you are taking the Tube to King's Cross, you will have to exit the Tube to get to the railway station portion.

Boot Sale Bargains

Whether you live in Marlborough, UK or Menlo Park, CA, summer is the season for garage sales. The only difference between the garage sales in the US and the ones in England is that the sun doesn't shine on the ones in England, and they're called car boot sales. Instead of holding the sales on their front yards, people pack their stuff up in a car and gather at a common ground.

Pupusas with lettuce and beef (aka Pupusalad)

I very rarely buy frozen foods, and when I do, it's usually only one of five dishes: quiche, chicken curry, teriyaki meatballs, Filipino lumpia, or chicken tamales. All but the lumpia come from Costco (the lumpia comes Goldilocks!). The chicken tamales were the result of a blogger partnership with Del Real Foods; they sent us some of their prepared Mexican dishes, and we've loved them ever since. Whenever I see Del Real's chicken tamales at Costco, I can't help stocking up on a pack or two to stash in the freezer!

Easy veggie lasagna

Pasta dishes are a dinner staple at our house, but one item that hardly ever makes it onto our menu is lasagna. I think it's because I always associate making lasagna with a lot of WORK. I have to make the meat sauce, make the white sauce, cook the noodles, then layer everything, then bake. That's a lot of pans and a lot of time, especially for someone who usually starts thinking about what to make for dinner 30 minutes before dinnertime!

A few weeks ago I decided to bite the bullet and make a lasagna. When planning the ingredients, I decided to use Trader Joe's canned marinara sauce, and that turned out to be the shortcut that turned lasagna into a dreaded time-suck into a dish that I can make as easily as a stir-fry. What I've come to realize is that lasagna is as labor-intensive as you want it to be. You can easily substitute prepared foods for some or all of the ingredients like the white sauce and the red sauce, so all you really have to do is layer the dish.

Celebrating Philippine Independence Day

Today marks the 118th anniversary of Philippine Independence Day. On June 12, 1898, the revolutionary armies of the Philippines, led by Emilio Aguinaldo, leader of the armies and first president of the Philippines, declared the Philippine's independence from Spain.

Northern California has such a large Filipino community, so it's a given that there would be Independence Day celebrations in the area. It has been a while since I've been to one of them, so I decided to take the family up to San Francisco to participate. Other than occasional trips to Goldilocks and Asian groceries for Filipino meals and snacks, I don't live the Filipino lifestyle that much. The kids are always eager for a chance to chow down on lumpia and pork barbecue, so they happily came along.

Free form apple tart

apple tart

My favorite summertime dessert is fresh fruit, and my second-favorite summertime dessert is baked fruit with some kind of dough. We love fruit pies, fruit tarts, and fruit crumbles - especially when topped with vanilla ice cream! While we do buy them occasionally, I prefer making and baking them, especially when all the fresh, sweet summertime fruit arrives at our local farmer's market. I'm not very good at making pie crusts, but crumb toppings are easy-peasy, and I have a go-to sweet pastry dough from food blogger Jennie Perillo, so I can whip up a fruit crumble or tart whenever the whim strikes me.