25 December 2009

Christmas 2009

Only served at Christmas, we look forward to these homemade cinnamon rolls for weeks! After opening a couple of presents, we pause to feast on these hot gooey and totally low calorie treats.

Celia has not stopped playing her new guitar since she opened it. She now claims six notes and her new role as family balladeer. Nathan loves his Mario Kart. He and Mike have been playing it all morning. It is just easy enough for us in the older and less technologically advanced generation to pick up.

After taking Jazzy on his Christmas run in the vineyards and meeting a French couple with a beautiful Border Collie who liked to roll in the natural fertilizers readily available in the fields behind our house, we are ready to fill the house with the fragrances of Christmas supper. Roasted lamb, smashed potatoes, creamed spinach and good ole American apple pie. We will save the typical French buche de Noel for New Year's Eve dinner!

Well Jazzy is now sleeping on my foot and Celia is strumming her guitar and Mom is feeling so blessed with the Christmas season and her incredibly beautiful family! Joyeux Noel, mes amis!!

24 December 2009

Merry Christmas!!

Mike, Celia Nathan and Mary wish you all a very merry Christmas and a bright and joyous 2010!!

09 December 2009

December in Paris!!

There is not much that can beat visiting Paris in December! The city is all lit up with beautiful Christmas decorations and the grand magasins have their windows full of incredible displays. My favorite windows this year were at Le Bon Marche, but Galeries Lafayette never fails to astonish me. I stopped for lunch in one of the many restaurants in GL and watched as the midafternoon sun dimmed to allow the brilliant Christmas lights come alive. Glass of wine, potage and a salad while watching the hustle and bustle of Christmas shoppers illuminated by the ever changing display of lights.

Nathan's 16th Surprise Birthday Party

We had a Laser tag and pizza party for Nathan and his friends for his 16th birthday. We had a bit of a hard time convincing Nathan to come up to the Laser tag place because he saw all of his friends nearby and wanted to go talk to them. I asked him why they would be there all together and he said he had no idea!! We were so good at keeping it a surprise! Celia and I had almost two weeks of back and forth texting with all of his friends to arrange the party and to keep it a surprise. His friends did not say a word to him. He was so happy and surprised. For one who can't stand to be the center of things, he had a fabulous night. They are a really great group of guys. We seriously had an intense battle in the laser tag room!

02 November 2009

This That and The Other in London

Our extremely entertaining Yeoman! Did you know (or care??) that today there are 35 Yeomen Warders and one Chief Warder. All warders are retired from the Armed Forces of Commonwealth realms and must be former senior non-commissioned officers with at least 22 years of service. They must also hold the Long Service and Good Conduct medal. NCOs from the Army, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force are eligible to apply, but members of the Royal Navy are not, because while members of the other services take oaths to the Crown, members of the Navy take an oath to the Admiralty.
The tomb of Isaac Newton. As a regular breaker of rules, I took this picture after we attended the beautiful Evensong service at Westminster Abbey. I told the kids that we were just saving the 18 pounds per person charge to tour the Abbey, but actually the choir sung service was a calm break in our non-stop forced march through the streets of London. You are not supposed to do any touristic activities while you are in the Abbey for the service...thus the non-flash surreptitious photo taking.

We never quite succeeded in remembering which way to look. We just ended up looking both ways all the time in order to not be flattened by the oh-so-patient London drivers.
This was so close to my heart...a shout out to Dad! I will always connect St Martin in the Fields to the classical music that Dad played all the time. The calm dulcet voice announcing that they were playing this or that piece featuring Sir Neville Marriner and the St Martin in the Fields Chamber Orchestra.

Long live that Queen!
Ole Vic
Covent Gardens...now just a bit too touristy for me. Felt like Pier 49 in San Francisco...in fact, I think the street performers were a franchise for how similar they were to what we have seen in SF. I even saw our old Peruvian buddies playing those Pan flutes!!
The Borough Market...WAY crowded, but good lunch and fabulous farm fresh meat and produce.
Celia prayed at the altar of Harrod's and loved every minute of this bizarre and incredible place. We had to admit that the clerks at Harrod's were the nicest people in London.
Piccadilly Circus...what a madhouse! But we did find a really good take-out Sushi restaurant near there!

The view out of our Youth Hostel room window. On Halloween night they even shot fireworks off the top. There was a banner announcing the countdown to the 2012 Olympics...1000 days to go!! I just cannot even imagine what a total and complete madhouse London will be if it was to the gills crowded the week we were there!
Nathan's favorite toy at Harrod's.
We lucked out and came out of Harrod's shortly before they turned on the Christmas Lights for the first time. Dannii Minogue was the celebrity on hand to push the button. She led the crowd in a countdown, hit the lights, and then fled for the food store behind her with a huge mob in full pursuit. Out come the riot police and sirens. What a first hand lesson in the British obsession with celebrity...it was quite an experience!

Southbank Bike Tour

I have to say the highlight of this tour was riding our bikes across Tower Bridge! It was shorter but similar to if you rode your bike across the Golden Gate Bridge in traffic! The tour bus from Belgium that was behind us was none too happy with our choice, but we had a blast! The more conservative members of our group were frightened by the fact that I was snapping pictures as we rode, but as I was riding in the center of the group and I wasn't actually looking at the camera as I pushed the button...no Marys were harmed in the taking of these photos...although after that they banned photo taking during the actual riding. But at least I have cool photos of the experience!!

Liam - our South African guide on this tour was a real Shakespeare aficionado. I think my favorite narrative of his was at the Globe Theater. He really brought home how much Shakespeare influenced our language and what a cool guy he was. He also read a piece from a book that expressed his reasons for loving the City of London. Not your ordinary well rehearsed and monotonous tour guides of London! Suffice it to say, we truly enjoyed the bike tours! I can't wait to host visitors in Paris so we can do the bike tours there...Watch out Cousin Claire! I think you will be the first victim!!