Thursday, December 30, 2010


The London Snow of 2010 started out so beautifully one Saturday morning. Looking out the window

both directions from our house, we saw the beginnings of a winter wonderland. Some 6-10 inches fell over several hours, not a staggering amount, but enough to bring London to a halt.

After the snow stopped, we braved the freezing temperatures to look around the neighborhood.

St. Luke's Church was never adorned more beautifully.

Snowmen began to pop up

as others were exercising.

The playground was converted to a snow village

And the florist cart was decorated in a dusting of white.

The rental bikes stayed in place for the time being.

A street cleaner seemed at a loss as to what quite to do,

And as the afternoon wore on, the Saturday Duke of York's market opened up for business.

The city was never more beautiful.  All was calm, all was bright. Then the sun went down, everything froze 

and the chaos began. Our Sunday flight home was cancelled, as well as virtually all others leaving Heathrow that day as the airport couldn't cope with all the snow and ice. They found it impossible to clear the airplanes from the ice and snow that had accumulated. We, like thousands of others, scrambled to find more tickets. We were lucky to find some back up tickets a couple of days later, but never knew until the last moment whether we would be one of the flights able to leave. Many were told there was no way they could get home before Christmas, because there were not enough available tickets.  Only a third of scheduled flights were getting out, but after much prayer, and yes, much stress, we managed to get off. It's at times like these and when Icelandic volcanoes erupt that you realize the difficulty of getting off an island. Even the Eurostar train was completely booked until after Christmas. We were thankful that we were not some of the unfortunate ones stuck in transit who had to sleep for days at the airport. That was not so uncommon, unfortunately.
As the plane took off into the skies, the passengers started cheering, unlike I've ever heard before. We were so grateful to be on our way home to the States to family for Christmas. While reading The Daily Mail newspaper on the plane, I got a great chuckle out of the "updated" Christmas classic song "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" that they offered. I'm sharing it with you. It's easy to laugh now! Sing along with me!

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

 The phones ring
No one's listening
All the staff
Have gone missing
Check the website
You won't get a flight
Stranded in the Heathrow International.

Locked away
Are the gritters
Read about it
On Twitter
It's nobody's fault 
We ran out of salt
Stranded in a Winter Blunderland.

Snowfall came
Without warning
You could blame
Global warming
But nobody cares
About the polar bears
When they're stranded in a Winter Blunderland.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fortnum and Mason Christmas

Probably my favorite store in London would be the infamous Fortnum and Mason on Piccadilly Road. There's no better time than at Christmas to visit, because it is known around the world for its fascinating window displays.

This year the designer Paul Symes and his team started in April planning the holiday windows, and chose as their focus to feature 6 paintings from the National Gallery in which they would make a 3 D display of the painting, using solid objects, and adding a little Christmas twist in each one.

For example, Pissaro's Foxhill Upper Norwood painting was painstakingly recreated and included an addition to the original of fairy lights on a Christmas tree along the right.

A Winter's Scene with Skaters Near a Castle by Avercamp

Without a 3D camera, you will have to use your imagination in these pictures to have an idea of the intricate perspective of each vignette as you peered into the windows.

Still Life With a Drinking Vessel by Claesz was fascinating, with the linen cloth spilling out the window and the small strawberries almost tumbling out of the frame.

One of Canaletto's Grand Canal paintings featured a small Christmas tree in one of the gondolas.

Once inside, the decorations continued to be jaw-dropping as greenery cascaded down through the middle of 5 floors, all the way down to the food hall underground.

The store had its beginnings in the early 1700's and it wasn't long after that, that they became known for their gift "hampers" filled with food goods. 

Here's a hamper they were featuring in the store this year that was priced at £750 or the equivalent of $1,150. However, if you really wanted to treat someone special this holiday, you could give them the Imperial hamper valued at £5000.

The closest I ever got to receiving a hamper was this surprise box that was delivered to our door one day earlier this year, sent to us by a delightful house guest.

It featured chocolates, cookies (or biscuits,) jam, tea and a pudding. We were ecstatic to be on the receiving end of that gift, and the box itself with its famous azure and gold color is now a special keepsake.

But back to Christmas, we are now in Texas once again after several delays getting out of London's Heathrow, and the preparations are all ready for  family gatherings Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.  Joy abundant!

I leave you with a photo of my favorite ornament of the year that I found in Liberty's this season. A little glass suitcase featuring London on the side, representing our life at this season, as we have the best of both worlds traveling back and forth between Houston and London.

May you and your loved ones experience the joy of the season, the laughter of times shared together in love, and the blessings of our Father who sent us the best gift of all, his Son.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Crackin' Christmas

A "pop-up" shop opened up on King's Road this Christmas season--The Christmas Cracker Shop, and  they had so many cute Christmas things. 

They specialized in Christmas crackers,

one of the most popular Christmas traditions in Britain.

The cracker is placed at the Christmas table, and when guests assemble, two people pull on each end of the cracker, causing it to split and make a popping sound.

Inside is typically found a surprise, a paper crown and a joke.

The cracker was first introduced by Thomas J. Smith in 1847 in London in an effort to promote the sweets his company was selling. He was inspired to add the crackle sound after hearing the crackle of a fire. Eventually, the candy was replaced in time with small trinkets, and made more elaborate by his own sons.

Most crackers have small toys or trinkets inside, but if you want to pay the price, there are luxury crackers with lovely surprises inside, setting you back as much as hundreds or even a thousand dollars.

Last Christmas, family members crossed arms, grabbing both ends of their crackers imported from Britain, 

and pulled with a pop!


and popped!

The custom is that everyone wears their paper crowns

for the rest of the meal.  
Here's wishing you a crackin' Christmas to you and yours!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

So this is Christmas....

So this is Christmas.... London, that is. Little snapshots of the days leading up to the jolliest of holidays. Shoppers finishing up on King's Road,

decorations on Oxford Street,

lights on Sloane Square,

garlands adorning Piccadilly Arcade,

and ice skaters at Somerset House.

You can't miss Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park,

nor Rudolph in Covent Garden

where the decorations are very festive.

You always find the unique at Covent Garden--mistletoe for sale

and a Merry Kissmas tree where for a small donation to charity, you kiss holding the mistletoe and
the electricity of your touch lights up 50,000 red and white lights.

Always a good idea to read the medical warnings first to avoid any sensations you might not otherwise expect!

Tasty foods abound, such as you might find in this Hot Spicy Somerset Cider trailer,

Christmas cupcakes,

mince pies,

and roasted chestnuts on a open fire.

The Royal Chelsea Hospital pensioners were on their way to a party, and one even gave me a kiss. Gotta love those guys!

Stumbled on an enchanting and cozy room all decked out at the Clos Maggiore restaurant--book me a table soon!

And not to be left out, Father Christmas is on the look out for good little girls and boys.

Often you find Santa or Father Christmas in a grotto, such as this one at Westfield Mall, or others at Harrod's and Selfridge's. The tradition of visiting Santa in a grotto or cavern at a shopping venue first started in Britain in 1879 and then extended to Australia and America.

I spotted this Father Christmas in Peter Jones the other day. This is what I overheard. Mother says, "On Christmas Eve, would you like us to leave you sherry or brandy?" to which I was thankful that Santa said that just milk would do. He also asked for a mince pie and a carrot for his reindeer. Don't you just love his Barbour "wellies?"

So, I leave you with a very amateurish short video clip of the last verse of Hark the Herald Angels Sing, that we sang at the Christmas Carol Service at the St. Luke's church. I was trying to be discreet about the camera, but I did want to share a moment of the music with all of you. So from Paddington and our household, Merry Christmas! More Christmas moments to come....

Watch for updates about the Big Freeze in London in days to come. We finally made it back to Texas today, but only after several tries, a lot of prayers, and some anxious moments.