Strolling The Lanes of Brighton, hand in hand with my favorite "Study Abroad" student is not a bad way to spend an afternoon. The Lanes are a series of winding, pedestrian-friendly roads that are dotted with quirky shops. An antique shop there, a bead store here, an artist's gallery... All manner of this and that may be found and drooled over. We got lost a bit in the narrow residential streets and admired the pink, cream, green and blue houses; each with impossibly brightly-colored front doors and checkered, marble porches.
Eventually, we made it out and away from the buildings and found our way to the interesting Pavilion Park and soon to the seashore. 'Let's get fish & chips and a pint.' Was Alyssa's mantra as we strolled. We found a "Catch of the Day" spot along the shore and sat with the sun on our cheeks, the breeze in our hair and the sound of strong waves and English accents in our ears. I tried an English favorite called Mushy Peas made of, well, mushy peas, butter and a hint of mint. Mushy Peas are warm and filling but hover about the edge of (even my large) capacity for peas. The fish was tender. The chips were crisp and our tummies were full.
It was an afternoon of getting lost, holding hands, wandering, browsing, munching and drinking in the vibrant and rich town of Brighton. Mother-daughter times like this are to be cherished and savored... Lovely, lovely, lovely.
"Cake... There will be CAKE..." What lovely words. Four little letters that combine to speak volumes...
Cake means comfort. Cake means tea. Cake means home. Cake means celebration. Cake means joy.
One of Seven
Last year, our daughter Alyssa and I went on her 20th birthday "Dream Trip" to Greece. We began our adventure in Flisvos and visited the islands of Hydra and Aegina. We rode public buses, glimpsed the Acropolis and drank in as much beer as we did sunshine and coastline. We rented an apartment with a balcony that over-looked the sea and ate and ate and ate. We tried a Greek cigarette together and quickly learned we prefer ouzo-mouth to ashtray-mouth. We boarded a plane to the island of our ancestry (called Samos) and drove the hour to Campos. The first thing we did, after connecting with family, was walk across the road to Votsalakia Beach. (Votsalakia Beach is the beach of our forefathers.) We dipped and splashed and dreamed. We walked and collected a handful of rocks and shells; the first rocks and shells of our visit to the family island...
We strolled the now inhabited Campos area, speaking to locals, learning about local specialties and popping in and out of shops. It was at one of these shops, that we had the first collected stones made into necklaces for our immediate family; me, Russell (my husband) and Mia (our other daughter) and both my parents, Ellen and Richard. There was one last rock that contained too much iron to be drilled and made into a necklace, so I carry it in my wallet. These rocks comprise the first seven rocks to be gathered from the Beach and connect us to our island and to our family. These rocks are a bond. These rocks represent family and love and connection. These rocks represent a clanship. In other words, all manner of Greek Sh!t...
Our dear friends in England, have been tasked with protecting a precious member of clan, Alyssa. Alyssa will be studying in England, at Sussex University, until summer. Without the love, guidance and protection of our English "clan," Andy and Lia, her time abroad would be far more difficult if not impossible for me. Not only have these two settled essentials needed for her apartment, braved the drive to Brighton and back in a day, they have willingly accepted honorary membership into our crazy Greek Clan and promised to watch over our girl!
Upon our arrival to Alyssa's new apartment, there was tea, pickle and cheese sandwiches, more tea and then biscuits, all lovingly prepared and packed by Lia. Then, there was a far too brief explore on the nearby pebbly beach. Our Votsalikia Beach was discussed as we collected first a first rock and then a first shell for Russell to keep at home. The seventh rock from Samos was presented to Andy. 'By accepting this, am I now part of some crazy clan?' Is the condensed version of what Andy said before I closed his palm about the rock. "Yes." 'You and Lia are now "One of Seven," Alyssa and I said with a chuckle. 'Baton down for some pretty crazy Greek Clan Sh!t!'
Alyssa's and my first days across the pond got off to a proper start. We each began with separate, but equal, arrivals in Heathrow Airport. Mine began with minding the gap on route to the Underground and then a train ride. Alyssa's began with hugs, kisses, more hugs and kisses and then a car ride as the sun rose over the M25. Through her jet lagged eyes, came sights of the countryside and friends that would be her home for the coming months. Our car journey ended with a warm welcome that involved more hugs and large amounts of coffee, tea and artisan pastries arranged for us and lovingly planned by people we love and would be lost without.
Our afternoon unfolded before us and involved walks and talks and laughs. We dashed in and out of charity shops and local market stalls. We learned about the town of Leighton Buzzard, walked through the church grounds and marveled about the large amount of history to be found in such a small town. Next, into more and more little shops and then a lovely lunch of local cheeses, bread and fruits. Back out in the perfect English drizzle to snap up specialty treats at the grocery stores before participating in the Big Garden Birdwatch that was going on all over England. The evening was rounded out by visiting the "best pub in the world," The Black Lion and then eating curry. Thoughts of "That's alright," filled our hearts and dreams.
'Mary! We have tea and cakes.' Called my friend in his charming Bedfordshire accent. 'I'll be there in three minutes.' Was my reply. I came down the tight, winding staircase that leads to the sitting room as carefully as I dared, opened the door and was greeted with three artisan-made sweets of cinnamon rolls, apple turnover and a type of tart with raspberry jam and a hint of coconut. Our daughter Alyssa, who had just arrived to begin her Spring semester abroad, sat munching and sipping. Our friends sat munching and sipping. My proper cup of good, strong, Taylor's "Yorkshire" tea sat waiting for me with a wisp of welcoming steam billowing from the top as if to say, 'Yes please. Sit. Stay a while...' And I did...
Cream-Topped Night Caps
There was coffee. There was schnapps. There was whipped cream. There was a view of the Alps. There were friends.
Take any one of the above sentences and the outlook is pretty darn good. Combine them? Fo-get about it!
Too often, we lose a connection. Too often, we are too busy (and tired) to stop and notice a special moment. Too often, we pass on a cream-topped night cap for a quick shot…
Take the time to whip the cream. Put a dollop into your schnapps-spiked coffee and savor the conversation, the friends and the moment. Be part of the party…
Embracing the "Now"
Crunching and sloshing our way up Mt. Rigi in Switzerland to "just breathe" in the view. No plan, no need to rush, nothing to do but breathe...
Have you ever done something with "no plan?" In my humble opinion, Dear Readers, it's the best way to travel, cook and at times, live life. It's quite difficult. Just go somewhere or enter your kitchen or allow life to just unfold before you. No plan, no rushing and a lot of breathing. Try it sometime.
Try traveling without an itinerary. Try cooking without a recipe. Try finding a path in life with a "no agenda required" attitude. Relax into the activity you are experiencing.
If it's travel, just wander a place. Go find out what's behind the door. Go investigate that alley. Enter the church. Sit on a bench and observe. Speak with locals. Smile a lot! If you're cooking, open your pantry or your refrigerator and just allow yourself to become inspired and create. If your life is at a crossroad, have faith and know your path will rise up and you will find your "way."
Don't fight life, Dear Readers, embrace the "now."
Flowers and teas seem to go together like fruit and treats. How about combining all these wonderful elements into one, perfect cup of flowery, refreshing and slightly sweet concoction of goodness? A sweet concoction of goodness is precisely what good, home made tea can be. Now, warm, homemade tea on a train in the Swiss Alps with the sun glinting off the mountainside? Color me one happy blogger! I would like to share with you, Dear Readers, that making homemade tea is very simple and rewarding. Maybe you will not drink it in the Alps but your spirit will soar just as high!
Before we know it, Spring, in all her glory, will be upon us, so begin planning your garden now. Plant herbs and flowers and berries that may be combined and cooked down to sweeten and warm a day in the winter or cool one down in the summer. Plant strawberries and use the leaves to make a tea or strawberry top water. Plant lavender and chamomile to soothe a scratchy throat and flavor baked goods. Allow mint to thrive and brew it to help with digestion or add it to a salad for a spicy punch. Ignore a few rose blooms and harvest the rose hips to boost your vitamin C and then dry some of the petals to flavor both sugar and salt. See? Sweet and good concoctions can come right from your own backyard.
We boarded a train in paradise and rode for three hours to paradise... We began where Swiss German is spoken and ended where Italian is spoken. We went from the land of cow bells to the land of platform heels, fur coats, black eyeliner and toy dogs with sparkly leashes. We purchased pizzas to eat by a lake where swans swam and gulls flew. We ate German sausage sandwiches made from homemade bread and sharp mustard and sipped Rivell, while sitting atop a wall overlooking the beautiful glacier-carved valley of Switzerland. We smiled at a child playing European football with his father and reminisced about doing the same with our daughters long ago in a California park. All in all, not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
Rainy Day Kisses
There we sat, in a traditional (and romantic) Swiss hotel, watching the snow fluff down while we sipped coffee with schnapps and greedily ate cream-topped meringues. Good company and conversation matched the good eats. We had just taken a snowy stroll to have a look at streams and mountains and trees. On the way back, a fire roared outside as we explored the igloo restaurant and admired ice sculptures and brandies. Carvings of cows graced the walls of ice and snow and we marveled at the details of lighting and clever detailing. After a nice, relaxing time, we purchased meringues for the journey home to share later. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon...
Church bells chime while birds soar above a clock tower. Mist clings to a mountainside and the wind gives our cheeks rainy day kisses. Photographs are taken, shops are explored, streets are wandered and memories are made...
Avid home cook and passionate instructor