Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jet Lag, Heading East

We set out for London on September 6, which meant we didn’t arrive there until the morning of September 7. We were able to fly out of Baton Rouge to Houston, but then had to hang around Houston for four hours before catching a ten hour flight to Heathrow. Neal, my son, had very generously offered to arrange transportation for us. We had to be at the airport early, but I found it difficult to sleep the night before. I think it was around midnight when I finally fell asleep.

It was around 2 AM when my cell phone went off. I stumbled to my purse, where the phone lives, usually to be ignored by me, and noticed a UK phone prefix. Uh-oh. On the other end was a somewhat irate limo driver wondering where we were.

I explained that we weren’t leaving on our flight for another few hours and that while we were leaving on the sixth we were arriving on the seventh - in about 24 hours. I apologized profusely, explained that my son, who had made the arrangements, was on vacation and probably didn’t have my flight details in front of him, and found out who to contact to arrange for pickup the next day. As I was sitting at my computer sending an email to the limo company, the phone rang again. It was Neal wanting to know where I was. He was chagrined to find out about his mistake.

That was the end of sleep for the night. So with about two hours under my belt, I set off on an 18 hour trip. That’s okay, I thought, I’ll sleep on the plane.

No such luck.

We arrived at Heathrow on time to find a driver waiting for us. We asked, but he was not the same one who had been there the day before, so we couldn’t make it up to that poor soul with a lavish tip. It took about an hour to get to our hotel, a modest yet pricey spot with a room slightly larger than a ship’s stateroom and an international clientele. (We got to play Neal’s favorite game, guess the language.) It was clean, the bed was comfortable, and it was around the corner from a tube stop and a five block walk from Neal’s apartment. After cleanup and a change of clothes we called him and he was shortly at our door, full of plans for the day, plans that involved a lot of walking. Did I mention I had had two hours sleep?

For some reason, London was unseasonably hot the first few days we were there, and quite pleasant the rest of the time. I had packed fall clothes, but had included a few T-shirts just in case. I also have about five or so short sleeved cotton sweaters which I had planned to layer with a blazer or jeans jacket, but most days the sweaters themselves were okay until nightfall.

Neal lives near the Tower of London, so we walked across Tower Bridge to a pub for  lunch, then past London Bridge to see the Golden Hinde, the replica of the ship Sir Francis Drake used to sail around the world. We had actually all seen the Hinde a few decades ago in Baton Rouge when it had been taken on tour, but we enjoyed seeing it again. We were going to go look at the reconstructed Globe Theater but by then I was flagging fast, so we walked around Borough Market and wended our way back to Neal’s in time to order a take away curry dinner and watch a movie on TV. At least, we tried to watch a movie, but mama fell asleep about fifteen minutes into it so John took me back to the hotel while I could still walk.

Tower of London Bridge

Paralympics Logo, which had hung from the Tower Bridge during the Paralympics

The Golden Hinde

The upside of all this was that I promptly fell asleep and didn’t wake up until 8 the next morning, ready for breakfast and beginning to acclimate to a new time zone and to being on my feet six or so hours a day. Did I mention that we always refer to our family vacations as forced marches? People think I’m joking when I say that. But we hiked over to Neal’s apartment to eat breakfast and wait for Anett and J to arrive on the train from the airport, for more sightseeing adventures.

Friday, September 21, 2012

All My Children

So as I am sure I have mentioned, my son lives in London, at least until November 2013. As I also have mentioned, when he comes here to visit, every year at Christmas, he has many demands on his time and we don’t get to see him as much as we’d like. Fortunately, we have both the time and the money to go visit him in London. This year, unlike last year, I don’t have a broken foot and could walk around instead of traveling in a wheelchair, which meant we had access to more activities.

In addition to my son, we have a few foreign exchange children as well. One of them, a young woman from Thailand, is studying in England, and another lives in Hungary. Once we made plans to go to London, the next step was to see if we could get together with our two foreign daughters. We offered to pay their travel and lodging expenses if they could meet up with us during our trip.

Chan was easy. While she now lives in Leeds, not London, she was just a few hours away by bus and was able to spare a few days mid-week. Anett had just graduated and she and her fiance, Z, had to check to see if they could get time off from work, but eventually were able to arrange to meet us the first weekend we were there. Reserving rooms for them on our hotel’s website turned out to be easier than we thought.

I had hoped we could all be together at the same time so that I could get a group photo of all of us, John, me, Chan, Anett and Neal, but it was not to be. It worked out well not to have them all together, however. Chan had lived in London for a few years and the tourist attractions Anett and Z wanted to see were old hat for her. Chan was eager to take us to see Chinatown and her favorite Korean restaurant, while Anett wanted to see Harrod’s and Buckingham Palace. Neal had to work midweek, so having Chan to guide us around was helpful.

Although not to be counted in the category of “my children”, I learned that there is a young lady my son has been seeing for a few months. We got to meet her, as well, after being duly warned that the relationship is still new and not to read too much into a parental meeting. I’m proud to say I did not whip out a wedding planning guide and start asking questions about colors and cake flavors. However, if she ever does end up in the “all my children” category, I don’t think I will have anything to complain about.

Look for more details of our doings in upcoming posts.

Oh, Happy Day

I really will post some of my adventures from London if I ever get over my cold. The cold developed the day before we left and I am sure my fellow passengers on the ten hour flight to Houston were delighted to hear me coughing and sneezing my way through the trip. (On the one hour flight to Baton Rouge, I slept.) At least I could rest and recuperate once I got home, I told myself. After all, the only thing I needed to do the day after I got home was get my hair done. I had an appointment for a badly needed cut and color. My hair was so unruly throughout our trip, I am sure people who saw me wondered if I had ever heard of a comb, much less owned one. It wasn’t helped by the fact that much of the time we were outdoors by the Thames where there was always a breeze. I tried to reassure myself that my hair has a certain je ne sais coif.

That is, after I unpacked, put things away, and started out a load of laundry so I would have something clean to wear for my appointment the next day. I was safely in bed by 10:30.

I was also wide awake by 4 AM.

That was fine, because I decided to go with John to the vet to pick up the cats so I could give the staff the box of chocolates I had bought them on my trip. John never goes anywhere without either a cup of hot coffee or a glass of cold tea. As he attempted to start the microwave to heat up his just brewed coffee (don’t ask), he realized it wasn’t working. He checked the circuit breaker, tried plugging it into a different outlet - nothing. Our ten year old microwave, to use a mangled phrase of my husband’s, was dead as a doorknob.

“I have one in the attic,” he told me. “I can get it down when we get back.” 

“Why do we have one in the attic?” I never go in the attic. We could have Mr. Rochester’s wife up there for all I know. 

“It was my mother’s.”

After we got the cats, I realized that I did have one phone call to make. I had never received the refund from the hotel from my cancelled Denver trip. I called the AAA customer service people, who told me I had to call the hotel, who told me I had to call Travelocity, whom AAA had used to book the hotel, who told me I had to call AAA. By time I reached them again I was crabby and coughing, there was a bad connection, and an amazingly patient person who no doubt was thinking Friday can’t come soon enough got it sorted out for me. I think.

Meantime, John had decided to switch from hot coffee to iced tea. That’s when we realized the ice maker was not working. He told me he would call the repairman after he returned some books to the library. Fortunately, he had not left by time I tried to start my car to go for my hair appointment. It would not turn over. John tried to jump start it with his car. Again nothing. He took me to my appointment, which is at least on his way to the library, and I promised to call when I was done.

I was done just in time for John to pick me up and get home to greet the repairman, who found a busted valve. Fixing that at least was cheaper than replacing the whole ice maker.

While they were dealing with that, I looked up the paperwork on my battery to discover the warrantee had expired three months ago. Of course. John disconnected the battery from my car and we drove to Auto Zone, where it was pronounced DOA and in need of replacement. $130 dollars later I had a new one and my indefatigable husband replaced it and decided we were going for pizza. What I really wanted was hot soup and a bath, but since John had been on the move since 6AM cutting grass, doing laundry, chauffeuring me around, moving the refrigerator out from the wall for the repairman, and dealing with my battery, pizza was the least he deserved. Assuming we can still afford it.

It’s a funny thing - we always seem to go out for dinner when I get my hair done. We don’t plan it that way, it just seems to happen. Fortunately, broken appliances, dead batteries, and colds don’t usually seem to happen when I get my hair done as well. Otherwise, I’d have to stop and spend all my time running around looking like I’d never heard of a comb.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Home At Last

As my six and a half faithful readers may have noticed, I have not been posting over the past two weeks. My husband and I have been visiting our son Neal in London, and I don’t like to post about my travels while I’m away from home, because I don’t want my house to end up on rob this house dot com or whatever it is called. I’m home now, so expect posts about our travels.

I probably should say “my seven and a half” faithful readers, because when I told my son I was not posting to my blog while I was away, he responded, “I noticed”. “You read my blog?” I asked. The first time I ever asked him to read one of my blog posts, he reported having fallen asleep halfway through it. It was a 37 line poem. So I had been pretty confident he hadn’t been reading anything else.

Uh oh.

So expect posts about our two week visit to Neal in which any mention of Neal is conspicuously absent.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


We've been trying to use up all the leftovers in the refrigerator this week. John made a cake over the weekend, so among the leftovers were three egg yolks, the whites having been used in the cake. We also had half a can of mushrooms, leftover from my making a mushroom gravy for the flank steak over the weekend, some crumbled bits of cheddar cheese, and some salsa saved from a trip to a Mexican restaurant last week.

The mushroom gravy was my variation on a recipe that my old microwave cookbook calls Bordelaise sauce. I finally looked up a recipe for Bordelaise sauce online and discovered that my microwave cookbook has been lying to me. Real Bordelaise sauce is made with bone marrow and shallots and sauce demi-glace. My microwave version is made with beef broth, butter , flour, red wine and a drop or two of Worcestershire. When I want to, I throw in mushrooms. I could make real Bordelaise sauce, if I ever found a marrow bone somewhere, but then I’d be too busy to cook the beef to go with it.

Although we did just get the rotisserie kit that goes with our big barbecue grill. I could probably get my husband to roast a haunch of beef on a spit while I make the sauce.

The big grill, which now has a rotisserie kit

Today, however, I’m trying to use up leftovers, not make more. So what do you do with egg yolks, mushrooms, cheese crumbles and salsa? Add three more whole eggs and make a frittata. 

My mom used to make potato and egg frittata when there was too much month left at the end of our money. She was a genius at being able to flip the frittata in the pan to cook the top. I have to use the broiler. Mom had several low cost recipes for the end of the month. Some of them I loved, like the potatoes and eggs and her homemade macaroni. Some of them were so-so, like spaghetti with broccoli. And some I dreaded, like pasta e fagioli, or as you may have heard it pronounced, pasta fazzool. 

I once tried making  pasta e fagioli as an adult. I had learned to like eggplant parmesan by making my own, so I thought maybe I’d like pasta e fagioli better if I made it myself. I spent hours cooking the beans, but when it came to making the pasta, I thought the better of it. I cooked up some rice and we had white beans and rice instead. They were delicious.

The frittata was easy. I whipped up the egg yolks, the whole eggs, some salt and pepper, and put them into a sizzling cast iron skillet in which I had melted some butter. Then I spread the mushrooms in and lifted the edges of the eggs as they cooked to let the liquid from the top run down to the pan. When it was almost cooked I sprinkled the cheese crumbles on top and slipped it into the broiler. I added the salsa when the top was almost set and put the pan back into the broiler to heat the salsa. John ate two helpings, so I guess it came out okay.