Sightseeing in London

Last month, my spouse B, younger daughter T, and I made our first family trip to London to visit daughter E, her spouse L, our granddaughter ABC, and L’s family. After almost three years of waiting, E’s spousal visa finally came through and she and ABC relocated to London in October.

Yes, I am horribly late posting about the trip. I came home sick and had a hard time shaking it and there were holidays and technical issues – I am notoriously bad at dealing with photos – but I’m hoping to get out a few posts in the coming days.

We arrived in the UK on Saturday and did central London sightseeing on Sunday, after attending mass the church where Larry serves as organist and director of the adult choir. We had bought advance tickets to ride the London Eye, also known as the Millenium Wheel.
London Eye

It was nice to see some of the historic London landmarks from above. Here is the Palace of Westminster, where Parliament meets. You can see the clocktower which usually houses Big Ben shrouded in scaffolding as part of the ongoing restoration project.
Parliament

Two-and-a-half-year-old ABC was much more impressed with the boats on the Thames than the buildings!

After our ride on the Eye, we grabbed some lunch and went on a walking tour. On future trips, we may try to tour some of the buildings. We anticipate many trips to London in the future!

Because daylight hours are short in London in the winter, as we walked in the area of Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, we were able to see some of the holiday lights.
London holiday lights

In Trafalgar Square, we were drawn to the sculpture on the Fourth Plinth, part of “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist” by Michael Rakowitz, a US artist of Iraqi ancestry. It is a replica of Lamassu, a protective deity from the gates of Nineveh in 700 BCE which was destroyed by the Islamic State in 2015. This sculpture is made from 10,500 empty date cans; dates were once a major part of the economy in Iraq, but 90% of the 30 million date trees have been destroyed in the long years of war. Rakowitz is trying to recreate all the art that was stolen from the museum in Baghdad or destroyed at sites across Iraq.  The art on the Fourth Plinth changes every couple of years and this sculpture will be replaced in 2020, so we were fortunate to have seen it.
Lamassu sculpture in London

As we were walking in the Piccadilly shopping district, I was delighted to see this building with Advent calendar decorated windows. It is Fortnum & Mason, a fancy department store. We went in to browse a bit, but it was so crowded we could barely move. We are definitely not used to that!
Advent calendar F & S

It was fun to see some of London with holiday lights. While we expect to visit frequently in the coming years, I don’t know how often we will be able to go in December. Time will tell…

Photos courtesy of B
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Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/27/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-27th-2020/

 

 

SoCS: 2019/2020

Some years stand out in memory as more difficult than others.

For me, 2005 was one of those years. Within a few months that year, I lost a close friend and my father-in-law to cancer. At the same time, our long-time parish disintegrated, just at the time when we needed spiritual comfort the most.

2019 has also been one of those years.

We dealt with the final months of my mom’s struggle with congestive heart failure and her death in May. Then, there were the many facets of dealing with her death for me and our family, the practical things like funeral arrangements and mounds of paperwork and the personal things, learning to navigate in a world without her.

This year also saw the bittersweet re-location of daughter E and granddaughter ABC to the UK after E’s spousal visa finally came through. We love that they are finally able to live together full-time as a family, but miss having them here on this side of the pond. It was a privilege being here to watch ABC grow from a tiny newborn into a rambunctious, talkative two-year-old. We appreciate being able to visit London in person and to videochat, but it is still a big re-adjustment.

With the losses, celebrating the holidays has been difficult for me. We made lasagna for Christmas using a recipe from Nana and used one of her relish dishes for serving olives. There are ornaments that came from both sides of our family on the tree, as well as some baby’s first Christmas ornaments commemorating ABC’s birth in 2017. We appreciate our memories of Christmas celebrations with Nana and Paco (my parents) and Grandma and Grandpa (B’s parents). I smile thinking about the year that L proposed to E on Christmas morning while visiting here. I remember how, last year, the lower half of our tree was all unbreakable ornaments in deference to ABC who was then 18 months old. Now, there are fragile ornaments scattered throughout all the branches. Christmas this year was very quiet, with just Paco, B, T, and I here for the lasagna and Christmas cookies, which has been our tradition since the years when E and T were young and participating in Christmas morning liturgy for children and families at church. Lasagna was great because you could prep it the night before and bake after church to have dinner at midday.

Of course, all of the personal struggles come at a time of great upheaval, socially and politically, in both the US and the UK. We are all living in a world struggling to deal with present and future climate change and trying to marshall personal and political will to make the changes needed to addresses the causes and effects as best we can.

I know that some people feel a lot of positive energy when we enter a new year and a new decade. I admit that I am not generally one of those people, seeing January first as the day that follows December 31st and not as some shiny new beginning. I don’t know if this change of year will feel different or not. I certainly am feeling the need now to try to take stock and re-arrange the way I use my days, perhaps managing to be more deliberate, now that there are not quite so many factors in my life that require changes of plan and quick reactions to shifting circumstances and priorities.

Perhaps, what I really need is time to rest and take stock, like a sabbatical or a year of Jubilee as it is described in the Hebrew Scriptures. Or maybe not a whole year, but a few months. I will have to ponder…

Sometimes, writing stream of consciousness stays in its own little stories. Today, though, it feels more like travelling.

As we draw close to the beginning of 2020, I wish that the year will take each of you where you most need to go.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “year.” Please join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/12/27/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-dec-28-19

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley! https://www.quaintrevival.com/

holiday greetings

Brent's Christmas Chelsea Buns

We’ve all been trying to recover from our colds and get ready for our increasingly simplified Christmas celebration. My talented-baker-spouse B felt well enough this Christmas Eve morning to be up early and baking. He made these awesome Chelsea buns based on a Paul Hollywood recipe. They are delicious! Bonus: There are so many buns and so few of us that we will have them for Christmas morning, too.

May the light and hope of Hanukkah and the peace and good will of Christmas settle on people of all nations, tongues, and beliefs.

SoCS: this time of year…

Stream of Consciousness Saturday works like this. Linda puts up the prompt on Friday for us to write without editing and post on Saturday. (Confession – sometimes I write on Friday and schedule the post for Saturday.) Linda’s prompt for this week was to write about a word that has “ingle” in it any way we like. As soon as I saw the prompt, I thought of this word that I am about to use and my (very stuffy) head hasn’t been able to think of anything else since – and, yea, verily, it is Saturday morning where I am right now.

When we were visiting in the UK, our granddaughter ABC sang long bouts of continuous choruses of “Jingle Bells”.  Often, she would also be dancing/running around, unless, of course, we were on the bus or train. Anyone who has been around a two-and-a-half-year-old knows that it is possible for a child that age to do, well, just about any activity repetitively, but it was revealed that Lolo, her paternal grandfather, had been encouraging this particular activity. Given that ABC, our daughter E, her spouse L, and L’s parents, whom I will call Lolo and Lola here as ABC does, all live together, there was a lot of time for encouragement. (Lolo and Lola are the common names for grandparents and those other family members of that generation among Filipinos, which is ABC’s heritage from her father’s side.)

We have been back in the US for almost a week, so I’m not sure if the “Jingle Bells” loop is still continuing with ABC or if she has tired of it, but I’m sure her little voice and legs and brain are busy with something!
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Join in the fun of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/12/20/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-dec-21-19/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley! https://www.quaintrevival.com/

all stuffed up

There is so much going on and so many posts I wish I were writing – if only there was a way for my thoughts to magically appear in writing.

I think that common cold viruses must be regional because, when we visited London, all the people in our family who have been living in the US got hit especially hard.

My spouse B and I have had to cancel much of what we had hoped to do this week and are nowhere near full operational capacity. We are planning a simple Christmas this year, which is good because there isn’t time or energy for more. I’ll try to get some catch-up posts in as I can.

JC

Taking down Christmas

Today, we observe Epiphany, which celebrates the arrival of the magi. It’s also a family tradition to take down our Christmas tree today. Often, B does most of that work, although I think T and I will help today. It’s always a bit sad to take down the tree, although this is longest time we have ever had a tree up as we got it early in order to have it to celebrate St. Nicholas Day in advance of E and ABC’s holiday trip to London. I was afraid the tree would not last all these weeks, but it has held up well, only shedding a few needles. LEDs help to keep the needles from drying out, as they sometimes did with the old incandescent light strings.

Our tree this year wound up being decorated with mostly non-breakable ornaments. There are a few fragile ones in the top third, safely out of ABC’s reach. She was very interested in the ornaments as they were put up, carrying them around and sometimes taking them back off the tree, but once it was all decorated, she (mostly) left them up.

It is probably just as well that she is still in the UK. When she comes back mid-month, the living room will be back to normal, except with a few new toys and books to strew across the braided rug.
*****
Join us for Just Jot It January. Today’s pingback link is here: https://lindaghill.com/2019/01/06/jusjojan-2019-daily-prompt-jan-6th/
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blue Christmas

Several years ago, I attended a Blue Christmas service, led by a pastor-friend. It is a service during Advent to help those who are experiencing loss or struggles, acknowledging that the Christmas season is difficult in their circumstances.

It would have been beneficial to attend such a service this year.

I have been preoccupied with caregiving responsibilities and concerns over these last months, which don’t pause just because it is December. I outsourced nearly all the Christmas preparations to my family, even sending holiday cards and letters, which has long been one of my highest priorities. I couldn’t make myself try to sum up what has been a complex year, so spouse B and daughter T wrote a letter instead.

One of the blessings of this year, though, has been that our Christmas celebration has been elongated, starting with St. Nicholas Day on December 6th, which we observed so that we could celebrate with daughter E and granddaughter ABC before they left to spend several weeks with son-in-law L and his family in London. My older sister and her husband came to visit weekend before last. T and I attended Christmas Eve mass at 6:00 last night, with the instrumental ensemble and choir and the handbell choir. T loves handbells and ringing, so it was wonderful to hear them, especially with the new addition of handchimes.

On this Christmas morning, we opened stockings and a few presents, given that we already did stockings and gift exchange for St. Nicholas Day. We will have dinner at noon with Nana and Paco, bringing Nana over from her room in skilled nursing to the main dining room for the holiday buffet, as we did at Thanksgiving. Tomorrow, my younger sister and her family will arrive for a couple of days.

Still, it is difficult for me to feel festive. It’s hard to marvel at the wonder of the Incarnation while thinking about logistics and everyday details.

Perhaps, that is the message, though. The wonder of the Incarnation is that it arrived by everyday means, the birth of a child in complicated circumstances, something that happens around the world every day.

Perhaps, I can take that message into my own heart today, reminding myself that the spirit of Love is within and around us in our everyday experiences, if we only reflect and notice.

Wishing that spirit of Love to each of you,
Joanne

SoCS: cookie time!

There are several tins of delicious cookies sitting on my kitchen counter.

Although I can bake, my spouse B long ago took over making the bulk of the Christmas cookies. Right now, we have cinnamon pizzelles, gingerbread decorated with icing, shortbreads, and cherry pistachio biscotti.

Yum!

Our cookie season is extended more than usual this year because we started with St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6, celebrating with E and ABC before they left for London. We continued our celebration last weekend with my older sister and her husband and we are expecting my younger sister and her family the day after Christmas.

B has made multiple batches of some of the cookies this year, but is making fewer kinds than he has in some years. We often have pfeffernuesse, pecan puffs, and different flavors of pizzelles in our assortment. Also, we sometimes make sugar cookies, including some that look like Reddy Kilowatt in honor of Paco’s many years of service at the New England Power Company.

This year, though, I am happy with fewer types of cookies. Fewer choices to make! It’s hard to have one of each when there are eight or nine types. 😉
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “tin.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2018/12/21/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-dec-22-18/

SoCS: a musical controversy

There are radio stations here in the US that play Christmas or holiday music 24/7 for weeks before Christmas.

At least, that is what they say they do.

A lot of the music they play is secular but related to Christmas, being about gifts and Santa Claus and such. Some is more winter-themed than Christmas or New Year related.

There is a musical controversy this year about one piece that is often on the playlist, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

This is definitely one of those pieces that is not related to Christmas at all. It is a winter song though, so some people have conflated it with the holidays.

It is a decades-old song in the pattern of a man/woman duet and is familiar and typical and pleasant enough – if you don’t pay attention to the words.

If you do, as I did last year, you quickly realize that the sub-text – scratch that, text – is pretty creepy. The man, who is trying to get the woman not to leave for home, is trying to get her drunk, with the possible implication that something else has been put in her drink. He is also trying to make her think that she owes it to him to stay and do whatever. (This is a generally family-safe blog, so I won’t speculate on his expectations.)

In recognition of the loaded nature of the song’s text, some radio stations have pulled it from their playlists. Others and some people are adamant that it is just flirting and should be left in the mix.

I adamantly agree with those who want it kept off the air. In these days when consent is part of the conversation for intimacy, a song that flies in the face of that is not a good example for behavior. It is especially hurtful to pretend this is an example of Christmas music. Christmas is about true joy, love, and peace, not coercion and trickery.

I’d rather hear “Silent Night” or “Joy to the World” or any of the dozens of other carols that truly evoke the Christmas season.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “musical.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2018/12/07/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-dec-8-18/

a new ornament for the tree

We decorated our Christmas tree today. While many people put their trees up right after Thanksgiving here in the United States, we usually wait until closer to Christmas and keep it up until Epiphany. This year, knowing that daughter E and granddaughter ABC will be heading to the UK mid-month for the holidays, we decided to decorate early in order to observe St. Nicholas Day on December sixth for exchanging gifts and opening stockings.

At almost eighteen months, we weren’t sure how ABC would react to tree trimming. We went through our considerable cache of ornaments and chose all the indestructible and child-safe ones for the bottom half of the tree. ABC was delighted with all the rocking horses, bells, animals, musical instruments, angels, etc. and ran back and forth with them. She wanted them on the tree and then wanted them back off to play with them, but, eventually, we got the whole tree decorated. We are sure there will be lots of opportunities to re-hang ornaments after she decides to play with them again!

I love our Christmas ornament collection, which includes ones that came to us from our families, handmade ones, and many that we have collected while travelling. One special one that we added this year is a handmade downy woodpecker, which we bought to commemorate the one that our daughters tried to rescue.
downy

The woodpecker’s new bear friend is one that we have had for decades.

And two of ABC’s words are “bear” and “bird”, even if they do sound a lot alike when she says them.

I admit that, with so much going on this past year, I am having trouble feeling in the Christmas spirit, but ABC’s delighted squeals with each new ornament certainly helped.