Sunday, January 6, 2013

Christmas Eve in London

Ugh. Brittany concluded that British colds are far worse than American colds. At the moment, I agree. Rick and Emma have a milder version of this unwelcome guest. Brittany, Brennan, and I keep feeling worse by the day. Even so, it seems a small price to pay for having enjoyed a wonderful Christmas in London, so I'll stop whining and get on with blogging.

After decorating our Whoville Christmas Tree, we ventured out for Christmas Eve. Our hotel was located several blocks from London's Marble Arch. This arch originally served as the entrance to Buckingham Palace (for about 25 years), until somebody decided that it was too narrow to accommodate the royal carriages. (I think I read somewhere that only royalty was allowed to enter through the arch.) It was relocated to this spot and now serves as an entrance to Hyde Park. The arch is quite beautiful and lovely to look at (I love how the Brits say "lovely" about everything), despite the fact that it's next to the spot where public hangings took place until the late 1700s. 
The Marble Arch stands proudly on Oxford Street, which is a main drag along the northern side of central London. We strolled along Oxford Street on our way to dinner. Emma was so excited to see a double-decker bus!
We stopped to listen as a Jamaican steel drum band played Christmas music. They were quite good.
As we neared the restaurant, we spotted these British icons. England and Bermuda (owned by Great Britain) are the only places we've ever seen these red phone booths. Cell phones have pretty much made phone booths obsolete. But I thought this shot was cool with the decorated trees. A new take on tree branch photos for me.
In keeping with our tradition, we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner, a very well-rated one called Maxi Mini. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what that name means. (You've got to admit that the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear "maxi" or "mini" is the name Kotex. Just sayin'. ) We were there quite early by British standards (5:30) mostly because we were all exhausted. In fact, we were the only people in the restaurant until we were leaving. I'm quite sure that our kids felt like they were with their geezer parents at the Early Bird Specials hour, ha! It was a pretty restaurant and the food was quite good. Well, most of the food was quite good. Keaton got some kind of seafood dish that came with a squid. EEEEWWWWWWWW! Anyway, we accepted the chop stick challenge. We were surprised how quickly Emma mastered them. (Yes, I know, I cut off Brittany's head. Keep looking through my photos and you'll see more near-decapitations of my kids, ha ha.)
Of course, she also mastered the task of looking like a walrus.
Here are a few of the sights we saw as walked back to our hotel.
Okay, I know this photo is blurry but it really made us chuckle! Why in the world was KFC packed on Christmas Eve? I mean PACKED as in the queue (another British word I love, it sounds so much more polite than line) extended out the door onto the sidewalk. As we were told, eating some kind of "bird meat" for Christmas Eve dinner is a British tradition. When we think KFC, we think of it as a place where we would never ever eat because a) our intestinal tracts would rebel in big BIG ways and b) we are afraid of what we'd find at the bottoms of the buckets. But who am I to inform an entire country that a tofurkey (tofu turkey) probably contains more "bird meat" than does anything at KFC? So I decided to keep my mouth shut and kept on walking.
Back at the hotel, it was time to open the few gifts we brought with us. Every year, we give the kids ornaments that reflect something special from that year. Even though we told the kids we weren't giving them presents, the mama in me couldn't break the ornament tradition. Emma got an Eiffel Tower with Tinkerbell since she went to Disneyland and to Paris this year.
Brittany loved Paris so she got an Eiffel Tower as well but minus Tinkerbell.
Throughout Italy and Paris, Brennan and I enjoyed many cappuccinos together. So naturally he needed a cappuccino ornament.
Since Keaton is living in England this year, he got a very British snowman.
And then there's Rick's ornament. We have been married for 29 years, together for 33. During that time, I have seen him enjoy Snickers bars and peanut M&Ms. Never EVER had I seen him eat an Almond Joy. Yet at Halloween he declared that Almond Joy has always been his favorite candy bar. How did I not know this??? So when I stumbled upon an Almond Joy ornament, I knew that I had to get it for him. 
Horrible photo of me, but whatever. I did not bring myself an ornament mostly because I didn't really think about it. When Keaton was in Ireland with Tina a few weeks earlier, he bought this for me. It's a celtic harp ornament made from petrified peat. How cool is that?
We assigned the task of hanging the ornaments to Miss Emma. Now, who can possibly think that this decked out, purple Christmas tree isn't absolutely lovely?
Keaton asked Brennan to bring him a set of cheap measuring cups and spoons since all he could find in England were metric ones, but most of his recipes don't use metric measurements. So Brennan picked a set up at Target. Since we had a Whoville tree, Keaton decided that the measuring set would look perfect on it. He was right!
Miss Emma gave me a Shih Tzu puppies calendar. Now I want another puppy (I already have three Shih Tzus) and that thought is freaking out my sweetheart! I say, "Thank you, Emma!" Rick says, "Thanks a lot, Emma." Hee hee.
She also gave me two bracelets, one with an "E" and one with a ladybug. Love them!
Aww...Emma with her Uncles and a UFO above their heads.
Emma has been dying for a real camera, not a kiddy camera. Uncle Brennan happily obliged, with a pink one no less.
For the last three years, Keaton has given Emma an animal calendar for Christmas. She was hoping he would continue the tradition. She wasn't disappointed: this year, it was a calendar of silly pig photos. She loves it! (He also gave her a large book of the Grimm brothers' fairy tales.) And yes, I cut off another head from one of my kids. Brennan's is the only one left intact, at least for now. Oh, and the UFO was still hovering outside our window.
Uncle Keaton surprised us with "holiday crackers," a British Christmas tradition. They look like firecrackers. Two people tug on the ends of one until it splits open much like a pinata. One of the ends contains little prizes, including a crepe paper crown. These were so fun to open!
If you look closely, you can see that papa's cracker contained a purple butterfly hair clip which he proudly wore clipped to his crown!
When Tina visited Keaton in London a few weeks ago, they stumbled onto a Venetian (as in Venice, Italy) restaurant called Polpo. They loved the food and spotted the cookbook put out by the restaurant's owner. Keaton gave me this cookbook for Christmas. I sat up reading it for hours. The background stories in it are so interesting and the recipes are incredible! In fact, we made it our mission to eat at Polpo while we were there. Yes, that's an octopus on the cover. Polpo is Italian for octopus. Yes, there are octopus recipes in the cookbook. No, I will never ever EVER cook octopus, but everything else in the cookbook sounds delish. And yes, that is my sweet husband in the background acting like he's 10. I wouldn't have it any other way. :)
Rick has a collection of shirts and sweatshirts from the universities attended by our kids. Naturally, he needed to add a Cambridge University sweatshirt to his collection.
Miss Emma has had her heart set on Rebecca, an American Girl Doll. Brittany told her she could get one on her 6th birthday in February, but Emma was really hoping that Santa would bring one for her. Santa didn't, but her mommy did! 
Emma insisted that we bring our stockings to London, both in keeping with our tradition and so Santa would know where to find us. 
She even left out some milk, cookies, and reindeer food.
Then we collapsed into bed and waited for Santa to come.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Such an extraordinary Burns family surrounding the lovely Whoville Tree! Your London Christmas adventure finds me laughing out loud! So enjoy your C of P & P Blog! Happy Healthy New Year! xxxooo Jan & Jack