Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Walk in the Park

Indulge me in a post this spring about my granddaughter, Jordan. This week, she came to spend the day with her Gigi, and after we read a few books to start the day....

I asked her if she wanted to walk to the park.

Her laugh said it all....

and her giggle confirmed it, so off we went.

We met a bunny along the way

and shared a few secrets before moving on.

Next it was time to fly a plane....

"Where are you going, Jordan?" I asked.

"To London," she told me.

All right--let's imagine it so.

Macaron Sighting in Houston

For all my Houston readers, I spotted some macarons last Saturday here in Houston at the Kuhl-Linscomb (pronounce that cool!) store located right off the intersection of Alabama and Kirby. Supplied by Maison Burdisso, there were several flavors to try. When you go to the Maison Burdisso website, you will see that they are also for sell at the Saturday Midtown Farmer's Market and the Tuesday afternoon Houston Farmer's Market on the Rice University Campus.  To my sons, one who lives in Midtown and one who works on the Rice University Campus, are you reading this??? Let me know if anyone tries them out!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Brompton Cemetery

One chilly day last month, I set off to find Brompton Cemetery, a Victorian cemetery located in southwest London near Earl's Court, and an ambitious walk away from our home in Chelsea. It is one of the Magnificent Seven, a group of seven cemeteries that were built in the 19th century to meet the needs of an ever growing London. Previously, burials had taken place in the smaller church yards around town, but they were all full and presented a health danger at the time.

Brompton Cemetery is full of beautiful and haunting chapels

of all shapes and sizes. Today it is used more as a public park than a burial place.

In its 39 acres, funerary symbols such as this broken column, representing life cut short, are everywhere. More about these symbols in my earlier blog about Highgate.

The statues throughout the cemetery are beautiful.

In the center is a domed chapel, built in 1839 and modeled after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

What emotions can be found on the faces of the statues watching over those at rest!

As if tears fell from their eyes....

in sorrow.

A series of colonnades flanks both sides of the cemetery, under which are located the catacombs. You might recognize this scene as a spot where Sherlock Holmes made a surprising discovery in the recently released movie of that name.

And oddly enough, one side of the cemetery is in the shadow of the Chelsea Football Stadium. Do you imagine that those at rest have any peace on football days? 

Although, cemeteries can be places of sadness, they are also places of hope, as seen in the first blooms of spring--little snowdrop flowers, and....

the birds watching over the unfolding of new life, singing songs of hope.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Texas Tea time

My son married into an incredible family. You just get lucky like that sometimes--I could have shopped around for years and not found anyone as loving, warm and welcoming. Here's the icing on the cake--they are all so talented, and smart, and funny and great hostesses who really know how to do "tea" right. Not the iced tea we are accustomed to enjoying in Houston, but a proper tea, English style. Their expertise comes from years of reading, research, and on-the-job tastings. When Cristen's mother and aunt came to London to visit last year--I think they tried out 5 different afternoon tea spots around town. Their top vote this trip went to The Connaught Hotel. You can read their menu here.  Cristen says they are "scone snobs" in the best way, because they have high standards and search London every time they visit for the very best. I don't think you can go wrong with one of their recommendations.

Last month, the "Committee," which is their pet name for themselves, had us over for tea. Beautiful silver, English china and crystal adorned the table.

Only the finest tea was served--my flavor of choice was apricot.

I was warned to come hungry. The tea was staged over four courses, starting with a salad,

followed by a course of sandwiches. Cucumber sandwich, chicken salad, and my favorite, crab cakes.

The next course was homemade scones. That is Cristen's aunt's specialty, and boy does she excel. Can't find any scones as tasty as hers here in London. I love loading mine up with fresh cream, and then topping it off with jam.

You know when you think you can't eat a bite more, and then a dessert course is placed right in front of you that you can't resist?  Chocolate cup, cookie and strawberry. Divine!

And of course, the tea flowed as well as the conversation. Lovely afternoon, lovely people and a wonderful memory. Thanks, ladies! It was truly royal treatment-Texas style!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Whoopie! Harrod's is selling Whoopie Pies. Move over cupcakes, there's a new pastry on the scene in London.

Having become fairly popular in the US recently, these mound shaped cakes filled with a creamy frosting and sandwiched together are quite tasty. Picture an Oreo on steroids. Originally from the New England area of the US, they seem to be the newest import to several British bakeries. Food historians say that Amish wives would pack these desserts in their farmers' lunch boxes, and when they opened their boxes, of course they would say, "Whoopie!"

Flavors currently available at Harrod's are cherry, red velvet, classic chocolate and butterscotch toffee. Which one has your name on it?

Just as sweet is the blog award that I received a few days ago from my blogging friend, Natasha, in Australia. Treat yourself to a visit to her blog, 5 Minutes Just for Me.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Macarons in London

Are you in love with macarons, like I am? Please note, they are not what we call "macaroons" in the US, but instead a delicate cookie pastry with a cream filling which is known for its intense and sometimes interesting flavors. Paris is known for the best macarons in the world, and that is where I first grew to love them.

The most famous seller of macarons can be found at the world renowned Ladurée in Paris, (love their website) and now located in a few other cities around the world, as well. They sell 15,000 macarons a day in Paris alone. A trip to Paris for me is not complete without some lemon and chocolate macarons--some I eat on the spot and others I bring back home. The range of flavors and colors tease you on each visit, but I stick to my tried and true flavors of choice.

Luckily for me, living in London part time, there are now two locations here--one on Piccadilly Street and one in Harrod's ("No pictures, madam!") Here you see a photo of the Ladurée window in Paris.

Running a close second behind Ladurée is Pierre Hermé in Paris, whose Left Bank shop often has customers lined up outside the door. Big news for London is the recent opening of Pierre Hermé in the Selfridges department store in London as seen here.

When I was in London this past visit, it was one of the first places I had to check out to see how it compared to the original patisserie in Paris. I was not disappointed--the selection of flavors was so tempting. Choices included passion fruit with chocolate, quince with rose, salted caramel, pistachio, dark chocolate with black currant, and my selection for the day- strawberry with balsamic vinegar. Delicious! Pierre Hermé is known to be very creative with flavors and features several new flavors each season--just as the designers change their collections for the season.

Today, March 20 is the Jour du Macaron day in Paris--Macaron Day! At Pierre Hermé and a few other patisseries in Paris and around the world, customers will line up for a selection of 3 free macarons. In return, it is customary to give a donation at the door to a selected charity. Pierre Hermé created the idea 5 years ago, and it has been a huge success each year. Let's see, 3 free for me, get back in line for 3 more, and then get back in line for....
Houston, are you listening? Macarons are all the rage--who's going to step up and fill the orders here?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sequel to Phantom of the Opera

After many months of anticipation, last Monday night we finally saw the sequel to Phantom of the Opera, which is titled Love Never Dies. The reviews have been mixed--some of the press were pretty harsh in its comparison with the original Phantom, but my friends who had seen it loved it. I tried to go in with reasonable expectations, knowing that the original Phantom was a classic and could never be duplicated in the same way. I have to tell you that I loved it. The two lead roles, Ramin Karimloo playing the Phantom, and Sierra Boggess, playing Christine, were excellent. Their voices were powerful and could easily handle the big songs that Andrew Lloyd Webber had written for them. The special effects and costumes were fabulous, although obviously missing this time was the chandelier! 
The musical takes place ten years after the Phantom disappears from the Opera House in Paris. Christine is lured to come sing in New York at the popular Coney Island, and when she, her husband and son arrive, she discovers who has beckoned her, none other than her former teacher, the Phantom.
No more hints than that, because I don't want to spoil it for the rest of you, but I do encourage you to go to the Love Never Dies  website to see the video of the Phantom singing Till I Hear You Sing with footage of the play. You can also look under Video Clips to find Sierra sing her amazing song, Love Never Dies. The last minute of that song is the best.
Clips from all the music can also be found at the website along with pictures and more details. Enjoy a little taste of Coney Island!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Back Across the Pond

Flew back to Houston yesterday after a couple of weeks in London.

It was pretty chilly this trip, even though the calendar said it was March. Coats, gloves and scarves for most of my stay. Warmed up the day I was leaving, of course!

Try as I may to find signs of spring, I had to resort to finding color in the local florists' shops.

There, everything was abloom.

I did find a couple of signs of spring making an early appearance in London, here

and here. A couple of tulips showing off as first blooms, alongside a few crocus flowers.

I must admit it did feel really good coming back to temperatures of 70 degrees in my own backyard here in Houston. A few things changed while I was gone. The time sprung forward, the price of gasoline is now 10 cents higher, Liberty of London is now at my Target store, and the US Census was in my mailbox. Time to switch gears again for a few weeks. Good to finally greet you spring!