halloween martha style

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in the last few years i've explored martha stewarts website more. i think it comes with getting older and because i'm a girl i feel like i should at least attempt at doing the homemaker thing {even though i'm not a 'wife' still & i'm childless}. martha epitomizes this ideal plus i adore her creativity. i have to admit though i don't know sometimes how people can have the time or the patience to do some of her suggestions.

yes halloween is celebrated here but not on the scale it is in america {although its really growing every year}. for some in mainland europe halloween is merely an excuse to party before the religious holiday 'all saints day'. i remember one halloween i was in florence, italy by myself seeing little italian kids all dressed up trick or treating next to the pont d'vecchio bridge. everything was closed the next day much to my annoyance as it was my only day i was going to see the town of pisa. it was still gloriously fun. in england over the years, i've seen more and more children taking an interest in this holiday having parties and dressing up. treats like bat shaped nacho chips and costumes are turning up in stores too. its been great for me to see because it takes the edge off of my homesickness. believe it or not--i do miss little things like passing out treats to random strangers and gorging on sugar laden candies.

so-----this year we've decided to actually celebrate and throw a little party. sure it will just be a party of 'two', but we're planning on getting the old sia halloween decorations out, renting some classic spooky movies like 'the birds' or 'the creature from the blue lagoon' and enjoying some lovely food with a bit of help from martha. here's what's on the menu for tomorrow night:

chicken enchiladas
corn chips, salsa & guacamole
devilish eggs
hummus topped w/olive oil & cumin & toasted warm pitta bread
toffee popcorn for the movie
evil pumpkin swirl brownies {i'm on a chocolate & brownie craze if you can't tell}

i don't think i'll do the pumpkin carving thing this year as i don't have the patience and i'd much rather keep my pumpkins to 'eat' them. although i admire the artwork that goes into jack-o-lanterns {hello the above picture}, to me it just seems weird playing with your food.

have a very happy & warm day tomorrow.


less than a week

don't listen to the polls
don't get complacent or lazy

with less than a week
don't loose your voice

your opportunity for change

don't forget to vote!


october plenty

the english sure love their traditions. yesterday in the pouring rain we went to 'october plenty' . its an autumn harvest celebration held every year around shakespeare's globe & borough market. its a mixture of ancient seasonal customs & theatre with a contemporary twist and its free to the public. this year it was held in conjunction with borough markets, 'apple day'.

it started off with a processional, featuring peddlers {selling things from the 'harvest'--but they were mostly selling programs and cookies}, musicians, play horses and dancers and people in costumes representing the animals. Here are pictures of the berry man and the corn queen.

we then moved inside shakespeare's globe theatre {which is currently under construction, but still cool anyway}, where they entertained us with singing and a quick taster of one of chaucer's canterbury tales {i've seen his original hard copy at an exhibition}. it was wet and cold, but still a delight:

we then followed the processional to borough market through the streets, where they continued their performances next to the stalls. the stalls had their usual fayre, but most were selling things 'apple' related. there was even apple bobbing:

we managed to warm our spirits at the end with a cup of warm apple cider. To remember our day, we also bought some fresh english apples and a glorious apple pie to take home with us.

that said the apple pie is over half gone already. we bought some free range lamb pot pies from the market too and had them with mash for an early dinner. we had a glorious piece of warm pie for desert with a great big dollop of organic vanilla ice cream on top. a perfect meal for a wet and cold autumn day especially after such a glorious celebration of the harvest season.


my afternoon with annie leibovitz

boy, we've been feeling culturally deprived recently. its been since late august that we've done anything remotely to fill our 'creative' souls and we've been foaming at the mouth since then to do something, anything to fill this void. there just hasn't been much of interest on in london recently. we've seen most of what's great already and trying to save our pennies can dampen any efforts for we do want to do {the r.o.h's nutracker and their £50/$100 tickets come to mind}. so, we were pretty excited to go see an entire exhibition at the national portrait gallery, 'annie leibovitiz: a photographers life'. all i can say afterwards is my 'culture' cup now runneth over.

i love annie leibovitz and i am so drawn into her pictures. i saw some of her prints earlier this year at a vanity fair exhibition and am familiar with her work from various magazines, etc {including vanity fair}. what struck me about this exhibition was the professional and personal photos mixed together and how poignant they were---especially in respect to the photos of the loss of her partner, susan sontag. i felt a bit drained after the exhibition, which i think is a sign of 'true' art; something that captures the emotions and passions of the moment and shares these with others as a gift. i guess that's why i have grown to love art so much is that i feel like i'm making emotional connections on almost a primal level.

there were a lot of photos in the exhibition and i have way too many favorites to try to choose, so here's just a few that caught my eye :

queen elizabeth © Annie Leibovitz

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© Annie Leibovitz

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© Annie Leibovitz

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Her mother © Annie Leibovitz

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keep calm and carry on

the first i heard of these posters was yesterday when in the mail i got a random mail order catalogue advertising stuff to buy that you can't find on the high street shops. it caught my eye because of its relevance to today and all of the uneasiness we're all feeling {me included} about the economy and everything.

the quick story about the posters is that they were created in england during world war II when it was expected that they'd be attacked quite heavily by the germans. the posters were intended as a message of reassurance from the king to his people for the dark days that lay ahead. to read more about the history click here.

original version

(image source)

i know that we're not on the verge of another world war but its understandable that people are still 'nervous' about everything. in these circumstances however all you really can do is exactly like the poster says,

'keep calm and carry on'

i just love, love, love this message--so simple but yet so poignant. maybe there should be a mass printing absolutely everywhere to remind people of this and to not panic? a positive message sure wouldn't go amiss for once right now!

current version

(image source)

apparently the posters have become quite popular due to a lovely blogger in san francisco. here's her blog post about the posters and you can order copies off her etsy link.


chocolate & beetroot brownies

image from here

ok, these brownies are to die for. you know chocolate helps lift the mood, but apparently so does beetroot (amongst doing many other things as a 'super food'). mixing these two compounds together produces twice the results and well i'll let you see what i'm talking about after you've tried it. usually i've stuck my nose up at these red little pungent things, but gave in when i discovered i could hide the taste into chocolate.

got the recipe from one of our favorite english chefs- hugh fearnley-whittingstall off his new show, river cottage autumn.

so here you go and i promise you they are pure *heaven*:

Chocolate and Beetroot Brownies

by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall


  • 250 g/10 oz good, dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
  • 250 g/10 oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus more for greasing
  • 250 g/10 oz caster sugar
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 150g self-raising wholemeal flour
  • 250 g beetroot, boiled until tender, peeled and grated

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C/ 350 F. Grease a baking tin and line the bottom with baking parchment.
  2. Break up the chocolate into pieces, cut the butter into cubes then mix them up in a heatproof bowl. As the oven begins to warm up, put the bowl onto one of the shelves for a few minutes until the chocolate and butter starts to melt. Stir, and put back into the oven for a few minutes to melt completely.
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until combined, then beat in the melted chocolate and butter until smooth. Gently fold in the flour then the beetroot-be careful not to over mix or it will make the brownies tough.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth over the top with a spatula. Bake for about 20-30 minutes. A knife pushed into the middle should come out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Don't be tempted to overcook them! Remove the tin from the oven and leave on wire rack to cool before cutting into squares.

* Cooking beetroot from scratch: Wash and cut off leave leaving about an inch on top, do not cut off bottom roots or all the leaves otherwise your beetroots will start leaking red and it will loose some of the flavor. Peeling is easy once they are boiled, skins will come right off!


everyday should be like 'annie'

my 2nd favorite film of all time next to breakfast at tiffany's is annie the musical. the 1982 version was the very first film i ever saw at the cinema. my grandmother took me, she snuck in cupcakes and it was one of the most enjoyable two hour memories of my youth. i loved the songs, the dancing and the fact i could escape to where days were filled with music and everything in the end turned out just fine. i've seen the film probably about 50 times {every time i watch it i still get goosebumps}, there's been several attempts at 'remakes' but nothing touches the original:

screenshots from here

why aren't movies like this anymore--so innocent but yet so wonderful? maybe that's why i'm drawn to the older flicks because they had to rely completely on 'story' and no special effects. there's just something so organic about movies like this and i love it. either this or i secretly want everyday filled with music and dancing.

vote no on proposition 8

i heard about this through the internet just recently reading online newspapers. its on the ballot this november in california and seeks to completely destroy the rights of gays and lesbians to marry just like everyone else. there's a huge push by family activists and church groups to overturn this and a lot of fear based propaganda is being spread that is just not true. divisiveness & discrimination have no place in america and i feel saddened that religious beliefs are getting in the way of 'civil rights'-something that the constitution ensures. sure you are entitled to your religious beliefs but pushing them onto others denies people their free agency, something that christ advocated. homosexuality is today as to what segregation was to blacks yesterday.

Here are a few resources:

Here’s what’s fiction and what’s fact (taken from here):

Fiction: Teaching children about same-sex marriage will happen here unless we pass Prop 8.

Fact: Not one word in Prop 8 mentions education, and no child can be forced, against the will of their parents, to be taught anything about health and family issues at school. California law prohibits it, and the Yes on 8 campaign knows they are lying. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley has already ruled that this claim by Prop 8 proponents is “false and misleading.”

Fiction: Churches could lose their tax-exemption status.

Fact: Nothing in Prop 8 would force churches to do anything. In fact, the court decision regarding marriage specifically says “no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs.”

Fiction: A Massachusetts case about a parent’s objection to the school curriculum will happen here.

Fact: Unlike Massachusetts, California gives parents an absolute right to remove their kids and opt-out of teaching on health and family instruction they don’t agree with. The opponents know that California law already covers this and Prop 8 won’t affect it, so they bring up an irrelevant case in Massachusetts.

Fiction: Four Activist Judges in San Francisco…

Fact: Prop 8 is not about courts and judges, it’s about eliminating a fundamental right. Judges didn’t grant the right, the constitution guarantees the right. Proponents of Prop 8 use an outdated and stale argument that judges aren’t supposed to protect rights and freedoms. This campaign is about whether Californians, right now, in 2008 (not 1968!!!) are willing to amend the constitution for the sole purpose of eliminating a fundamental right for one group of citizens.

Fiction: People can be sued over personal beliefs.

Fact: California’s laws already prohibit discrimination against anyone based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. This has nothing to do with marriage.

Fiction: Unless Prop 8 passes, CA parents won’t have the right to object to what their children are taught in school.

Fact: California law clearly gives parents and guardians broad authority to remove their children from any health instruction if it conflicts with their religious beliefs or moral convictions.

additional links:

no side
yes side
ca voters guide proposition 8


17 days and counting

17 days until we can vote for the next president of the united states.

our actions and voice have the power to change the world.

don't loose your power; register to vote.

vote for change. vote hope. vote obama.


mix-tape monday

Mixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes

you know i'm old enough to remember tapes or even what a mix tape is?

anyway, how fun is this huh? hope you enjoy some tunes today on this glorious monday.


a walk in the park

i'll never understand the weather in this country. we've had more clear/warm days this autumn than all of summer. so we went for a walk, a 4 hour walk through all of blackheath & greenwich including parts of the park we haven't been to in a while. here are a few pics i took from our day, please check flickr photos in my sidebar for more 'lovelies':

in greenwich park there is a huge herd of deer in a reserve. aren't they beautiful?

holly grows like weeds in this country. I love how this pic caught the water, beautiful eh?

funny place as it doesn't sell tea. it basically has sandwiches & snacks right in the middle of the park. its still glorious though to sit just outside looking out over the city muching on homemade icecream.


random things

i've been quite busy recently with random 'life' things. it's good for the 'ole' spirits and helps pass the time i guess. i can't believe its october though--christmas stuff is already in the shops and we've had to turn on the heaters. sheesh, i'm not ready for winter! anyway here are a few things we've been up to recently:
  • i'm taking an online music business class through berklee {in the us} in hopes it will improve my job prospects.
  • lots and lots of interviews for both james & i. james is applying to work up the career ladder in a higher paid job, me i'm just trying to get a career first. *sigh*
  • constantly applying for work &/or internship opportunities.
  • campaigning a lot for the obama campaign here in london. our team {that i'm a part of} in borough market last week was filmed for the cbc {canada}, other teams have been featured by cbs & nbc.
here's the link for our news feature, the piece is about 5 minutes long and at the end you'll notice me in the blue {eek, the camera can really bring out the insecurities about your personal appearance}. i wasn't expecting to be on there as much as i was, but oh well all in good fun!!!!

  • lots of doctors appointments for health issues for us both. james is the only one that seems to be getting answers though. i'm not giving up hope!
  • speaking of health, still going strong with acupuncture. may be finishing soon with this as i'm making progress!
  • trying to eat well & exercise. every week seems to be filled with pilates, yoga or running. eating well seems to be getting more and more difficult with all of the economic stuff going on.
  • endless cleaning---we have no dishwasher due to space so it seems like i spend all my time washing dishes or picking up something!
  • trying to keep our stress down through daily meditation, keeping gratitude journals, etc.
  • trying to get care packages for christmas sorted for our friends at gan sabra in india.
  • trying to work in fun things for the weekends--in a few weeks we have an annie liebovitz exhibition at the end of october, this weekend {the movies}
so nothing exciting as you can see, just the daily grind!

to close--here's a completely random picture for you:

i happened to have my camera with me in blackheath the other day and a little pond had like a random flock of swans just taking it easy. you see swans a lot this time of year in england but i haven't seen this many in one place. i definitely don't mind though!

around the house

our place is small but we have managed to fill it with treasures we've collected over time from here in england & across the world. our things have a real eclectic feel to them and i think they really represent what we love. here are a few of my favorite things around the house:

necessary with english weather--this is my favorite afghan from 'zara'

a wall hanging from thailand

i have about 10 bears from across the world--any guess where this one's from?

photo albums are every where. even with our digital camera we still print them out. we love the organic feel of pictures.

our walls are filled with a lot of art. the top is an original watercolor from Paris, the bottom--a vintage ad poster from Paris

love plants & nature. we have a lot of house plants & try to have fresh flowers when we can afford it.

love beautiful & unique frames and our place is filled with pictures reminding us of places & those special times.

love of vintage things--thus antiques. the vase is 19th century from paris, the delft tile is from belgium and is 18th century.

james got me into reading. we get rid of a lot of books after reading, but keep our favorites. these are just a few that have made the cut.


faraway friends

lucy & her adopted daughter

back in 2007 i first did a post on my work with the gan sabra society--since then i've managed to grow even closer to the owner lucy {see above} and i am continually amazed with her strength & inspiration. she is my age--in her early 30's and what she does for these kids infected with hiv/aids through no fault of their own is just amazing. i don't know how she does it, but she continues to be a mum to these orphans who have had such horrific tragedy & difficulties to deal with at such an early age.

the youngest members of gansabra

its hard for me to not feel guilty sometimes about doing more for them--i wish i had the money to buy them all new clothes, to completely pay off their mortgage so that lucy doesn't stay up at night worrying. i do what & when i can though which is ok for now and even though they always say how much encouragement & hope i give, what they have given to me back is twice as much if not more.

posing for the camera

building forts

to them its not about the possessions- the new t.v. {although they are loving watching 'heroes' re-runs at the moment}, the clothes or a fancy house--its about being happy and just being kids.

studying hard

even still they never stop working very hard for a better life {unfortunately in this area of india many with hiv/aids are lucky to reach their teens}.

lucy knows what education will give to these children---nearly all are always studying and many are even the top of their class! they are really trying to follow the example lucy is setting--she just earned a masters degree in social work from mizoram university.

i think everyone who comes into your life are there to be our greatest teachers for that specific moment in time. i'm so thankful for lucy & the children at gan sabra for coming into my life & what they teach me on a regular basis. although i forget my blessings sometimes, my friends in india teach me to never underestimate the power of positive thinking, hope & the real meaning of gratitude. i pray that one day soon {hopefully next year} i will get to visit and shower each & everyone of them with millions of hugs & kisses.

anyway, i'd like to end with a moving letter the children wrote to lucy on christmas. this was previously posted on gansabra's blog and is in lucy's own words:

I want to share with you what the children at Gan Sabra did-their gift to me for Christmas. On 24th December the children gathered around me and gave me envelops-the used envelops- inside there was letter written for me (separately from boy and girls). I was wondering why they gave me that and i started reading, it was writte by them and here it goes:

''Loving Mother

Christmas Blessing to you. this is christmas we want to give you many gifts. but we dont have things. But Mum, we love you and this christmas you know that we love you and we are telling you again.

You too love us and our family is happy. Our real parents died before now you are our parents. you teach us good things we will always keep them. you provide tasty food, medicines and toys too thank you. we will be good.

God bless you.

(sign by each child themselves and sign for by elder ones for those who cannot write)''

the best christmas gift i ever received and i believe the best ever always.



if you want to help gansabra in any way this holiday season they are in dire need of blankets & bedding. they have recently had more children admissions and their supplies have remained the same. the winter for this year is being predicted as going to be colder than usual and lucy recently wrote to me saying how worried she is about staying warm. for address of the orphanage & further details on assistance this christmas please contact me {see side-bar}. if you can't afford to send something, adding them to your christmas card list would brighten their day.


homer simpson votes

sorry i couldn't resist--this is both funny & slightly scary.
{even funnier it was posted by deeboldO8}

p.s. deadlines for each states voter registration are coming up very quickly. no matter who you want to vote for, make sure you and your friends are registered!

click here to find out what the deadline is for your state & here to find out what the procedures are to sign up & vote.