February 22, 2014

Palm trees swaying in Marrakech

Palm trees swaying in Marrakech

Desperate to escape the epic flooding and rains that have berated England for the past three months we escaped to Marrakech.  Sunny, relaxing and dry.  We returned to such gale force winds that planes couldn’t land and were sending out MAYDAY signals to Heathrow as they circled and fuel meters emptied. After that harrowing evening  re-entry the daylight view of our garden was littered with massive tree branches.

I don’t know what’s going on with the world but it is wearing everybody out.

So fast forward to the view out the window today.

Tree surgeon at work

Tree surgeon at work

Tree surgeons extraordinaire sadly taking down a heaved pine tree that was so old it only had pines at the top.

Majestic swaying pines , one about to come down

Majestic swaying pines , one about to come down

 

The tree surgeons are working non-stop trying to clear up the mess mother nature has left us in England. Two times the normal recorded rainfall, ever,  in January and February.

So we think about the blue skies, sun drenched roses and lovely people of Marrakech.

roses everywhere

roses everywhere

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Yves St Laurent Gardens, donated by the designer to the city of Marrakech which he called home

Yves St Laurent Gardens, donated by the designer to the city of Marrakech which he called home

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 Our guide said the oranges are very bitter, but beautiful to look at.The trees line the streets.

Our guide said the oranges are very bitter, but beautiful to look at.The trees line the streets.

Inside the doorway of one of the many Riads available to stay in. Lovely old homes that have been turned into small hotels.

Inside the doorway of one of the many Riads available to stay in. Lovely old homes that have been turned into small hotels.

Shopping anyone?

Shopping anyone?

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The TV cracks me up. Gotta have the old with the new.

Amazing hand carved doors everywhere. They are often sold to be remade as tables.

Amazing hand carved doors everywhere. They are often sold to be remade as tables.

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Many women's initiatives and co ops.  Here they are making argan butter out of argan nuts. Delicious taste of combination almonds and peanuts. Argan oil is an important commodity for the country.

Many women’s initiatives and co ops. Here they are making argan butter out of argan nuts. Delicious taste of combination almonds and peanuts. Argan oil is an important commodity for the country.

Richard Branson magical mountain retreat, Kasbah Tamadot, in the foothills of the Atlas mountains

Richard Branson’s magical mountain retreat, Kasbah Tamadot, in the foothills of the Atlas mountains

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ommmm

ommmm

 

 

 

February 3, 2014

The Family Dinner Cookbook

The Family Dinner

This morning started out with workout clothes on, the school run and absolutely no drive to get out of the car and workout WHATSOEVER. Call it fatigue, too much rain, February blahs, it’s all so pedestrian but the raging truth. Tossed in the backseat of the car were two cookbooks I had brought along to scan in the grocery store parking lot for tonight’s dinner.

First off, The Family Dinner by Laurie David. 

For some reason I was motivated to pull into the school lot and start paging through The Family Dinner, hoping that during my reading interlude somehow, somewhere the energy/desire/motivation to go and workout would bubble from the inside out and take me where I needed to go. Two hours later, happily tucked into Costa with a massive cappuccino at my side I discovered newfound motivation for my family’s dinner and for myself.

Laurie David writes with warmth, sincerity, humor and refreshing honesty. Feeding our children is one of the all time top responsibilities and guilt inducer  that is bestowed by genetic pre-conditioning mostly on us mothers. I have three children to feed. The oldest has been the poster child for picky eaters since he was three. Before that he would eat anything. Then one night at a  dinner party I sat next to a man who commented that his 5-year-old would only eat  fast food from McDonald’s. I assumed he was being facetious .

“What do your children eat?” he questioned.

“We  have one so far, and he will eat pretty much everything.”

“Just wait, that will go away.”

I swear that ogre put a hex on me because one month later food refusal began and has never changed to this day. The other two kiddies are average eaters, i.e., feeding everyone is WORK.

I love Laurie David’s book and what it represents. Thank you Laurie!

 

January 28, 2014

 

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Knitting has taken over my mind. It began this past summer while in the States where a dear friend was hosting a beautiful dinner party by her new pool. After we were all tucked in sipping cocktails and catching up, another friend arrived, sat down, and pulled out her knitting. She might as well have pulled out her toothbrush. “You brought your knitting?”  the battle cry sounded round the pool. Somehow it seemed an offense, a predetermination that the guests were not going to be interesting enough and alternative forms of entertainment were required.

As I watched her knit and chat and chat and knit I remembered how I taught  myself to knit and crochet in 7th grade out of Women’s Day Magazine.  I recalled knitting and crocheting my way through my teens then completely dropping it in college never to be thought of again – till now.

The next day I went to the local yarn shop to have a sniff around. In need of a creative project I was completely done in by the gorgeous colors and textures. The last yarn purchased had been at either Marshall Field’s or the 5 and Dime, but it was all the same. Acrylic and kind of plasticy in uninspiring colors. This knitting explosion of the past decade had mined amazing artisans who handcraft the most yummy textures and changing the dynamic. Todays knitting is colorful, creative, immediate and cool baby.

We knitted the summer away, as I inspired my 12 year old daughter to take up the cause as well as my mother, and anyone else who didn’t run. Upon returning to England my mission (well, one of them) was to source every great yarn shop in London. Favorites so far are:

At one of the shops I came across a card for the London Knitting and Stitching Show. Be still my heart. Stockists from all over the world under one roof to peruse at my leisure. Are you kidding?

Outside The Knitting & Stitching Show London

Outside The Knitting & Stitching Show London

 

Queue of yarn enthusiasts to enter show at Alexandra Palace London

Queue of yarn enthusiasts to enter show at Alexandra Palace London

Color and texture

Color and texture

So the knitting continues. When I am tired and want to relax but still be productive nothing suits the bill better. Out comes the yarn down goes the stress. I understand why our friend was so mystified by the reaction of all the non knitters at the party. What better way to make the evening perfect?

May 19, 2013

pink flower
We had a glorious summer here last week. I can’t remember if it was for three or four days, but whatever it was it was divine. Sunny days, warm breezes, smiles galore, it was fantastic.

When we first moved here I found the endless chatter about the weather quite odd. My first instinct when the conversation veered down that road was “Who cares?”. I’ll tell you who cares. I care. We all care. We are obsessed with the weather because it is truly bizarre. A typical day starts with, oh let’s just say for arguments sake, clouds and overcast. We have our cloudy clothes and mindset firmly in place and go about our day. Wait, hang on, oh yayyyy, it’s sunny. Not just a little sunny, superb, blue blue skies, puffy pink and white clouds sunny. Fantastic, walking will be so lovely and, wait, is that HAIL???? It’s HAILING , are you kidding me? Icckkkkkk, it’s hailing and it’s wet and cold and oh my God it is suddenly hot. Hot like we just finished samba dance class hot, humid, sweating and …… oh my, here comes the wind.

I may sound ludicrous, only because I am, but that’s a typical day here. So we carry on with our blumbershoots and talk about the summer that was.

Dr. Seuss trees sprouting

Dr. Seuss trees sprouting

Baby ducks

Baby ducks

Baby ducks discoverer

Baby ducks discoverer

flower wall

Flower wall

What a beautiful summer!

What a beautiful summer!

May 12, 2013

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Happy Mother’s Day to my beautiful, glorious children who bring me joy, surprise, love and wonder every single day ~

Happy Mother’s Day to my Mother who showed me the way with such love ~

Happy Mother’s Day to my gorgeous friends who sustain and support me as we all work on this together ~

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who mother’s ~

xxoo

April 6, 2013

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I adore paper, handmade, colored, watercolor, you name it, before you is a bona fide paperholic. My navigational radar seeking the endless quest is always engaged. SatNav went off at Elizabeth Street in front of the divine and yummy Grosvenor Stationery Company. With sorbet colors and hand painted edging it was enough to make a paperholic do a happy dance through Belgravia. Though letters are becoming a quaint relic of the past is there anyone who doesn’t love opening the post box to find a gorgeous hand-lettered envelope inside? What better way is there to set the tone of a party than by the arrival of a beautiful invitation?

March 10, 2013

Flaneur – Unexpected discoveries on a wandering idle.

As is often the case, my best discoveries occur in the most unexpected places. The day began at Daylesford Organic with two of the freshest eggs ever poached, served with crispy, toasty “soldiers”. “Soldiers” being the narrow , sliced strips of fresh bread that are dipped into the eggs. It is a breakfast that I was unfamiliar with until my daughter’s dear friend Shirley introduced it to us after a sleepover a couple of years ago. It immediately became a favorite in our household so why not try it at gorgeous breakfast makers? It did not disappoint.

Daylesford Organic has the soothing color scheme and pulse of thoughtful calm that makes me want to move in. Some call it posh country. I call it divine. After wandering through the vegetable and bread section, scouring every cookbook on their shelves and examining the tabletop selection, it was time to continue my journey. This is where I undoubtedly and without fail get lost. In typical American style I asked the nearest passer-byer where Elizabeth Street was. “Oh yes, go straight up *&%^$, then turn left at gobblede gook, make a sharp turn just as you see the corner, then left then right then left , and your right there.” As I flaneured down gobblede gook here is what appeared on my left.

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Upon closer inspection
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and one door down
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There’s real gold in flaneuring.

February 20, 2013

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Keeping in mind that England invented train travel, it is a country that knows how to take a train. My children’s favorite character for years was Thomas the Tank Engine, heralding from England. We loved Thomas so much that he played a key role in three different birthday parties. Thomas the Tank come to our house and drove countless cheering children around the neighborhood. We also have in storage possibly every Thomas the Tank Engine toy ever made. So it is with amusement and curiosity that we revel in the amazing English train system. The Rev. Wilbert Awdry, creator of the original four Thomas the Tank Engine books opened each book with a letter to his son Christopher:

“Dear Christopher,
Here is your friend, Thomas The Tank Engine.
He wanted to come out of his station yard and see the world.
These stories tell you how he did it.
I hope you will like them because you helped me to make them.
YOUR LOVING DADDY

Some days people watching on the train is better than others. Recently my mother and I were traveling on an unusually crowded morning. Sitting in a “sixer” with three seats facing three seats is a cozy situation in which to be confronted by strangers, but if it’s a seat you take what you can. Sitting across from us was a lovely lady and gentleman who did not appear to know each other. Next to me was a girl deeply immersed in her Filofax and ipod. Together we happily sat ,like chickens in a coop, quietly awaiting our destinations.

Halfway into our journey a passenger pushed through to the one remaining seat in our “sixer”. She was of an indeterminate age, jet black hair (the term jet black coming from the black stone in Yorkshire – just sayin) save a few grays sprouting up front. She carried several new plastic bags filled with goods, clobbering us all with them while getting to her seat. The lady was very petite, wearing a vintage white Chanel jacket, and fatigued with her journey. She opened one of her bags and took out the tiniest diary I have ever seen in use, and checked her details with a teeny, tiny pencil. As my mother and I chatted I noticed the diary was gone , but had been replaced with face toner and a cotton pad. While swabbing her face I sensed a toilette about to begin. “Oh my God” my mother stated as our neighbor pulled out tinted moisturizer , pumping it into her hands and spreading it (quite evenly) all over her face. Now we are both watching as the blush and mascara come out, along with an enormous club sandwich the size of her head which is heartily and loudly eaten. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she pulled out a shower” states my mother in a stage whisper. Not so quietly that our neighbor across the way doesn’t hear her. She looks up, we all lock eyes and it’s over. Non-stop, uncontrollable giggling. Oh sure, we looked out the windows, at the ceiling , on the floor to divert our attention but nothing helped.

Then out came the popcorn.

Never has popcorn been eaten with such gusto, every kernel sucked through and macerated into oblivion.

Cue commencement of the teeth picking.

My mother, myself and our neighbor convulsed in laughter, tears pouring down our faces, not able to catch a breath. Half the train started giggling. Now, my mother and I have been known to giggle uncontrollably at inappropriate times. I’m not sure this was one of them. As for our source of amusement, she was completely oblivious – to any of it.

Ah, train travel.

February 4, 2013

Some lounge while others toil

Some lounge while others toil

oh ya , we have snow

oh ya , we have snow

Succeessssss!!!!!

Succeessssss!!!!!

February 4, 2013

We Christmas shopped in sweaters, endlessly remarking on the balmy English weather. How easy winter is in London, no trudging through frozen tundra to get where you are going. Those cold, snowy Dickensonian scenes from movies were clearly thematic fantasies, conjured up in some film maker’s head. Walking from the beautiful Royal Albert Hall after the Christmas sing-along we were awash in history and talent. And no snow. Skating in front of Hampton Court Palace and Somerset House was lovely, almost tropical. We oohhed and aahhed over the sparkly lights and missed the snow, just a bit.

Hold on. Fast Forward to vacation time over, everyone settling back in school and scheduled routines and Hello Blizzard.

England shuts down. Schools, trains, cars and anything else that moves outdoors slowly comes to a snow covered halt. We were blanketed in 5-10 inches of snow (depending who you ask) and that was that. Grocery store shelves were emptied, with lines out the door. England had not seen this kind of snow for twenty years. My children could not have been happier. Snowmen were created, sleds pulled out and homesickness evaporated. We could not have asked for a better gift.

Then just as quickly, all was gone. Within a week our enchanted Narnia had completely disappeared. Without the photos it would have been a very quick memory. All to be replaced by what appears to be spring. Birds are chirping and the air smells of buds and grass. I’ve been told not to get to attached to this idea as a normal day here presents all four seasons. But you never know. There are buds on the trees…

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