Monday, April 27, 2009


As I learn to distinguish a Yorkshire accent from a Liverpudlian accent, I fear I’m losing my skills when it comes to American accents. I was on a call last month with my friend M from Birmingham and I was amazed at how un-Southern she sounded. I had to email her afterwards. Is it me or have her travels mellowed her speech?

A’s accent hasn’t changed but her speech patterns are changing. The other day in the car she asked H and I why our accents aren’t changing at all. I joked with her and said, “How do you know that when I get to work that I don’t talk with an English accent?” Her response, “Because I’ve been to your work and besides, when the two of you try and do an English accent it’s horrible”.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Errands in London

I almost fell off the couch this morning when I asked A. if she would be interested in going to London today and she didn’t ask any details, but simply agreed she would go. We had to take advantage of it. The weather was absolutely beautiful today and everyone was out and about. We ate lunch at Borough Market. I was surprised to see that many of the mulled wine stands were in transition serving the usual, but they also had pitchers of sangria ready to greet the beautiful spring day. Decisions, decisions… I went with mulled wine, but you have to admit, the sangria looks beautiful.

Post to Post

Going to a barber school and paying for a service may get you some mixed results but going to a culinary school for a student dinner seems like more of a sure thing, especially when these students are at the end of their nine month program. It will be H’s turn in a few weeks to be part of the team putting on the event, but on Thursday, the three of us got to be guests at one of the other group’s dinner. A. was very excited about going. She said, “We get to get dressed up and eat a fancy meal. We don’t eat this way.” I looked at her and she corrected herself, yes thanks to H’s practice meals, we do eat this way, but usually we’re in our comfy clothes aka pajamas when we are doing it. I was looking forward to it because it had been a particular nasty day at work (wish I could elaborate) and I was looking forward to participating in what felt like an episode of Top Chef.

The students get a budget and with that budget they must transform the lecture room at culinary school into a restaurant by renting dishes, linens, glasses, decorating the room, coming up with table d├ęcor, and then of course, all of the food and beverage. The three of us sat at a table with some of H’s classmates and really enjoyed ourselves. This particular group of students were lucky to have some pastry students in their group so there was a variety of homemade bread and a spectacular dessert course as part of their 7 course tasting menu. The theme was Mediterranean port cities, with each dish originating from a different port. They even had a belly dancer come out and perform in between some of the courses.

A side note, as we arrived at school one of the pastry classes was just ending and the students were walking out of class with the most beautiful lemon tarts beautifully decorated with meringue and some of the students were giving these away to school staff and some of the cuisine students. I thought to myself, if I worked here I wouldn’t be able to fit through the door with so many opportunities for delicious desserts.

Each course was served with a different wine and the dessert course was served with a shot of Kahlua. By the time that course came around I had stopped drinking since at the end of the night I was the one driving us from the train station to our house, but all of the beverages really complimented the food. A. stuck to water that was decorated with mint leaves, so no detail was missed.

There were a few misses regarding preparation. My favorite courses were the gazpacho and the beautiful tiramisu. A. tried everything and was also crazy about the tiramisu. It was nice to be the two people at the table just enjoying the food and not critiquing everything as the other students were. They were all busy thinking about what they plan to do differently when it’s their turn.

The National Museum of Computing

Bletchley Park is also home to The National Museum of Computing where a rebuild of the Colossus has taken place. Amazing where we have come to with technology when you look at where it started. Here's a link to the website that tells more about the rebuild project.

Two Visitors

I couldn't resist taking this picture of some of guests visiting Bletchley Park for a private function.

Suddenly Edward Scissorhands Didn't Seem So Original

There was a great exhibit at Bletchley Park of toys, clothes, and household goods from the war. I saw this book in a display case and at first couldn't think of what it reminded me of.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park started out its life in the 19th century as a farm but it is better known for its secret life during World War II as the home of the code breakers trying to crack the German enigma machine. Visiting the house and touring the grounds is worth the price of admission in itself, but there are also some very interesting exhibits and I was just in time to join a guided tour. Since the history of Bletchley Park became public in the 70’s they have been doing their best to collect stories from people who once worked there. There were a few people on the walking tour that remember life in England during World War II, so their comments added to the experience.

Someone on the tour said that a few years ago Bletchley Park was in threat of having to close. It would be such a shame. All of the volunteers really do love keeping it going.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Would it Be Easter Without Bunnies?

It was hard not to take one home, especially when there was a sign that said “take one home for £20”.

Lambing on Easter Weekend

We stopped at our favorite local farm on Saturday and A got to hold a 4 day old lamb and then Easter Sunday as H was home preparing a delicious dinner, she and I visited another farm in a neighboring village. Visiting the “lambwalk” is a very popular destination for Easter Weekend. As soon as we walked up the stairs we saw people all gathered staring at a certain group of ewes so we headed in that direction and sure enough, twins had just been born. A lot of the ewes were panting a bit. A. made a comment about this and I said that’s what happens when you’re heavy with child. Her response back was, “Did you breathe like that?”

The Ocean

My best friend’s father passed away when I was living in Alabama. The funeral was a ten hours’ drive away but I packed up the toddler and drove to be there. He had been declining for a period of time. When I arrived for the visitation, I remember C and I standing outside talking as she took a break from greeting and comforting others. She said to me that she always wondered with me always seeming to be living far away if I would be there for this event in her life. This has been on my mind quite a bit this week for two reasons. First, a dear friend of mine is suffering a great loss in her life and if I didn’t have an ocean to cross I would be there to pay my respects and offer her a shoulder to cry on as she has offered to me so many times. Second, I see A. struggling with missing out as her friends in the U.S. move along. She is always happy to hear their voices when she talks to them but it’s a constant reminder that life moves on, they move on without her, and I have to keep encouraging her to do the same. On the positive side, you learn who and what is important. People can surprise you, and sometimes those who reach out aren’t necessarily the ones you expect.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

I would guess that Halloween is the holiday with the most candy in the U.S. It's Easter here. Here's a pic of a toy that was in the middle of A's chocolate egg.

More Spring Flowers

Back from Camp

H and I headed to Surrey Saturday morning to pick up A and her buddy J from camp. They had a great time. H and I had to laugh at the greeting (or lack of greeting) we received when we got there. I remember the last time we picked her up from camp which was 2003 or 2004 that she came running to us to give us a hug. This time, she must have seen us coming through the window and began hugging all of her friends goodbye. We stood there as she had her back to us for a good five minutes before she casually walked over to us and gave us a hug. Another funny, was that when we arrived to pick up the girls, we were directed to the “bar” where all the kids were gathered. I was surprised to walk into a building and see an actual bar. It was behind lock and key but the Jack Daniels was lined up next to the Jim Beam. When we got in the car I said to A, what’s up with the bar and she said something like “it’s probably for the counselors when they have had enough of the kids”. The pick-up time was the only time they were ever allowed in that building. This made me laugh. She said a few people on her arrival thought she was faking an American accent.

One of the places they went through on their hike was called The Devil's Punch Bowl. That name really makes me laugh. Here's the wikipedia link.

The Menu

Since I had a few requests, I thought I’d post the menu from our meal at La Becasse. We picked the “surprise” menu which meant we were asked if we had any dislikes or allergies and then the chef added some special courses to the tasting menu. I’ve never tried foie gras before but H has been cooking with it at school. I didn’t think I would like it myself but the foie gras on the Wood Pigeon dish was really delicious. Usually when I read a menu and I see goat’s cheese listed as an ingredient I usually stop reading and order whatever it is. I wasn’t disappointed in that course, in fact, I’ve been wondering how I could try and get close to recreating it, although even if I got close to the taste, I would never get to the presentation. The carrot sorbet in the last course was unbelievably good!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Health and Safety

The rules around health and safety practices in the UK are quite different than they are in the U.S. I’m sure there are rules in the U.S. but normally the average employee in a commercial office setting doesn’t come in contact with them. Buried in my inbox was a requirement from our Health and Safety Officer at work to attend one of the many Health and Safety required sessions. I accidentally ignored it. One day as people were filing into a conference room, I made the mistake of asking the Officer what it was all about. I thought she was going to kill me. The response was that ALL employees had to attend so I better mark my diary!

So finally, I got my butt into one of the courses. It was comprised of two presentations, the latter was a fire prevention movie which actually was very interesting and something that anyone should watch, but the first one was hilarious. It was called “Stay Alive from 9 to 5” and it was all about workplace accidents. Now all I can think about is people getting hit in the head with a tape dispenser that gets knocked off from somewhere on high or someone accidentally falling out of a three-story window. According to the video, danger is around every corner at work. While workplace accidents might be minimal, the near misses are extremely high! I found myself having to think of a really sad event in my life and biting the inside of my mouth to avoid smiling and laughing during the meeting. I do have a habit of laughing at inappropriate things and I was afraid once I started, I wouldn’t be able to stop.

More Pics of Ludlow

Ludlow Castle

We spent Sunday touring the ruins of Ludlow Castle and walking along the river before driving home. The weather was perfect. Ludlow Castle has quite a history, so I'm including the link here.

Parent's Weekend

"I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." --The Color Purple by Alice Walker

That quote was on my mind last Saturday as H and I drove to Ludlow in Shropshire for a weekend away with A at camp. The drive was really beautiful with flowers and baby lambs along the way. Natural beauty overwhelms me every spring, and not having a sighing teenager in the backseat during the drive made all the difference!

Saturday meals ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime. We stopped for lunch in Woodstock at a beautiful looking restaurant. It had an Italian menu so I picked pizza. H went for pasta carbonara, which actually surprised me. I’m usually the pasta eater. Our friend B likes to laugh at H’s string of restaurant disasters. It does seem to be that if someone is going to get a bad meal, it will be him. My food was fine, but he took one bite and hit something crunchy. I tasted as well and thought the first bite was okay, but strong because there were raw shallots chopped throughout. No one could have eaten many bites of this. As H said himself, we were destined to have a bad meal on Saturday and he was glad it was that one since we had a reservation at La Becasse in Ludlow Saturday night. I wish I could have taken pictures of that meal. It was absolutely beautiful, with a level of detail I did not expect.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Off to Camp

It’s half-term here in the UK which means that A has two weeks off of school. Saturday she went off to camp for a week with her best friend, J. I had been emailing J’s mother discussing the arrangements and her mother said that J was taking her own “tuck” instead of buying it there. Google to the rescue, I was thinking she might have been talking about snacks but wasn’t sure.

Since she arrived I sent a text message on Saturday asking if she was settled in and having fun and I got the one-word response "Totally".

Yesterday I sent another message to see how she was doing and got "Good :D".

I'm going to quit asking because in no time she'll run out of one-word answers.

The Best Part of the Play was the Ice Cream…

Impulse shopping got the best of me. Seeing a buy one ticket get one free advertisement in the newspaper for a musical based on A’s favorite film Singin in the Rain, made me leap. Last Tuesday the two of us took the train to what felt like was a world away, Wimbledon. The performers were fine but my attention span was short and I found myself, having sat through the original film at least six times, longing for Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds.

When we moved to St. Louis in January of 2003, a new print of the film was released to celebrate its 50th anniversary and A and I went with our friend RB to the Tivoli Theatre to watch it. It was a Friday night and snow began to fall before the movie began. A, who had spent the first eight years of her life in a Southern climate, was so excited, and when we left the theatre that night, The Loop was covered in a beautiful blanket of snow. That night felt more magical than most and I found myself thinking of it quite a bit as A finished her French homework on the train journey home.