Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

It was a great Christmas. While the whole country is under snow, we are still enjoying the sun, but it is still cold in the mornings. This was taken in the back yard a week ago, the succulents are doing well. Yesterday my sister and I went into the English store in Santa Monica looking for mince pies, they're sold out. We came home and I happened to have some old jars of mincemeat, I whipped up some pastry and made some mince pies. Everybody loved it, growing up in a former British colony, our tradition is very much English, it's fruit cake and mince pies at Christmas. I haven't made mince pies in some 10 years, the last time I ate some was 8 years ago in London, one of my aunts made some.
For the New year, I think we'll have roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and English Trifle, this will be a great way to end another wonderful year. I'm looking forward to new adventures in the New Year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Books


Have you read any good books lately? It is amazing, after all the great books written about almost every subject in life, we would have learned some lessons or even a lot of lessons. Change is always upon us in every turn in life, yet, we are still caught unaware. We can safely assume that for everything in life that has been hyped up to the maximum, sooner or later the bubble will burst, whether it is the over exuberance at the stock market or the housing market. If we charge too much on our credit card, sooner or later the piper needs to be paid or we will pay dearly. If anything is too good to be true, it probably is, yet we still get caught in ponzi schemes like the Madoff case. Will we ever learn? If not, why not?
A friend once told me that her sister, in good times, would pile the supermarket full with food with no regard to how it costs and now she's more careful. She wanted to know if I was the same way. I said, no. In good times and in bad times, I live very frugally. I like the supermarket near me because it is small and their turnover is lower and I find that they have to mark down a lot of their meat because of the lower turnover. These are perfectly good meat and I would buy up a whole bunch to keep in my freezer. I've been doing it forever, in good times and in bad. There's no shame in it. I'll find some ready to cook meatloaf for half price or some fillet Mignon for half price.
I, constantly mine the bible for prosperity tips. Proverbs is full of them and I read it to constantly remind myself. They say, the book of Deuteronomy is a blueprint for prosperity and that book has been my all time favorite forever. 'the plans of the diligent leads to abundance...' Proverbs 21:5.
In the book, 'Creating Excellence', published 1984, I read,
''No one can acquire versatility without regularly pursuing a variety of activities at both the personal and professional level. It is as much an attitude as a skill. If you don't weave varied activities into all levels of your life, you will never be able to anticipate and adapt to change." It goes on ," three rules for making varied activities part of your everyday life....
-Never allow more than thirty days to slip by without pursuing a major new personal or professional activity. These can range from hobbies not directly related to your work, and can be work related like a new marketing strategy.
- Drop at least one old, worn-out activity every thirty days.
- Avoid adding new activities that are similar or related to old ones.
I like to think that you are what you read. How does one prosper if we only read the sports page or People magazine? We read to get ideas, we read to empower ourselves with a new vocabulary that would set us alight with new empowerment.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Marylebone High

The sign said, 'bazaar, fun and frocks'. This is Marylebone High street, a really pretty and livable part of London. It is just across the street from Madame Tussuad's but even when we arrived at Madame's, we had trouble finding Marylebone High. We eventually did, if I were to live in London, I would choose here to live. It is that pleasant. It is full of restaurants and fun shops, no Gap or Old Navy, just the English icons, like Cath Kidston, Emma Bridgewater, Le Pain de Quotidien, Divermenti, Daunt Books and Cotton and Cologne. It is one of the prettiest neighborhoods in London. We had the greatest weather the few days we were in London and was really enjoying London. We took lots of pictures, then at lunchtime, we decided,'let's have lunch at Soho.' We jumped into the underground and had lunch at Soho as if we were locals. It was a great feeling.
A baby shop. I love specialty shops, I love Ateliers.

Cath Kidston, from across the street.










Le pain de quotidien.














Emma Bridgewater, I still don't anything from Emma Bridgewater. I can get her stuff from an English shop in Santa Monica. I do shop here but I get my English groceries only. There's an Italian deli in Santa Monica that sells Italian stuff, 'Bay cities Italian deli'. I love this place, I shop here around Christmas, to buy my Panettone, nougat from Florence and other Italian stuff. Of course, 'Baci' chocolates from Perugia, the best in the world. I'm scared of coming here more often, I'll be in debt.









































Daunt Books is the world's most incredible bookstore, not only is the interior sumptuous, the titles of books sold are not found in Barnes & Noble or Borders. It's a travel bookstore and they have titles I've never seen anywhere. The interior has an absolutely gorgeous skylight and the shelves are made of the most beautiful mahogany, beautiful. I regret that I was only in there for a fleeting moment.


























Madame T. I've never been in here. I have no interest. We only found our way here because Marylebone High street was just across the street from it. It's too American, the figures are dominated by American icons. Who wants to see dead figures, I don't even want to see the real person.















More of Cath Kidston, I took so many pictures before I was discovered doing it and had to stop, or risk being thrown out of the store.































After lunch, we went to the British museum....

Friday, December 26, 2008

The day after

Oh yes, shopping, the day after.... later, I've to work on this post first. I cooked for 2 days, didn't eat anything, just licked a lot of bowls. There's so much food but nothing for me to eat, everything was for Christmas dinner. Finally it came and we gorged. I must say it was an incredible success. Compliments to the cook, if I may say so. Everybody had a good time, the Lord has blessed us so richly in spiritual gifts, joy, goodwill, diligence, integrity and faith. With these gifts we go into the new year with great expectations of being further blessed more abundantly.
The day before saw me making the desserts, English Trifle, Panna Cotta and the Cranberry relish. I shopped at more markets than I can count, trying to gather all the ingredients I needed to make everything plus shopping for presents, finally I said, no more.

Here we are getting ready, everybody crowded into the smallish kitchen, it was where the action was and where it was warmer. The oven was working overtime, I had to time everything, when this comes out, that goes in, when the guests come, this will go in, when we sit down for dinner, the popovers goes into the oven so while we are eating, they come out, nice and piping hot.....







The desserts....



Is it time to open the presents?





A look around the house....














A few years ago I hung these baubles on the chandelier in the dining room, I've never taken them down, so they become relevant every Christmas.








I bought an incredible salad mix from the Santa Monica farmers' market. Here we are sampling it, it's got 12 different things in it and with each bite, you're tasting something different. It's an incredible experience.









Father and daughter, my brother and my niece.










Just before we ate...

























Mum and dad. They enjoyed the meal. They are so gung ho, so can do kind of people. I guess that's what we became, real can do kind of people, very gung ho about life.



























They went for seconds, my dad even ate seconds of the popovers.

































It's amazing, we can squeeze 10 people into this dining table, an old pine table I bought 13 years ago from Crate and Barrel.

















The niece and nephews, amusing themselves.

















Pulling at a Christmas cracker.








































Phew! Now for New year, how am I going to top that? I'm working ion the New Year's menu.
I hope your Christmas was good. Needless to say, mine was excellent.





















Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

Here's an old picture of some holly berries, taken 2007 in Lyon, France. It has been another amazing year, albeit, full of struggles. I hope your year has been as full as mine. We have next year to work with, which we can still make it an amazing year. I have next year's itinerary all taken care of and am looking forward to everyone.
To everyone, I say, have a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year. The Chinese always wish everyone a properous new year. When we are prosperous, we'll be happy. Prosperity doesn't only mean having money, it means a whole hosts of things, success in relationships, having prayers answered, being healthy, having a job or business..... you name it.
Again I wish you, a prosperous new year.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cath Kidston, London

If you find yourself in London, go visit a Cath Kidston store. It's so pretty. We found one near Madame Tussuad's on Marylebone High Street. We went wild, I kept my camera opened and started clicking away. The flash went off once in a while and at the last one the shop girl saw it and started making the biggest fuss. I was not supposed to take pictures inside the store. Of course I knew that, she said to me, 'erase it!' I said, yes but didn't do it. I took a lot of pictures before I was discovered, crazy American, moi! That is why I travel, we don't see such gorgeous stores in the US, everything is one big chain selling the same merchandise. It's no wonder the stores are closing. American retailers do lack imagination. I haven't shopped in a million years. I snore every time I go shopping. Who are the buyers for these US store chains, High school kids from US schools with a failing grade, lacking imagination and they staff our retailing stores and our businesses? We had a great time in there, we did purchase a few things, even at those prices. I bought a scarf for 34 pounds and Sophie bought a few other things. The shop girl calmed down after we made our purchases. We didn't go in and just took free pictures. I find they like it when you buy something, anything, don't just freeload. Money is the best grease.