December 24, 2006

Genesee AFTER the Storm

The storm cleared but our flight could not be rescheduled until Christmas. So Rae Ann and Rich had us five more days! They took us to Red Rock (famous natural amphitheater), Downtown Denver for the Art Museum (Rae Ann and I had bought the framed Madonna Christmas stamp at the Post Office), Georgetown (former mining town and home of the Georgetown Loop Railroad), to the Colorado Mills mall and the cinema (Casino Royale). Kris and Rae Ann also went snowshoeing several times while I finally finished the cross-stitch I was making for my cousin (Rae Ann framed it and sent me a photo before mailing it). We had a great time and enjoyed a wonderful Christmas dinner on Christmas Day before successfully flying out that night to NJ to visit Raj, Bonnie, and Priya.

December 20, 2006

The Storm aka Sleeping in DIA

Almost 5000 people were stranded at the Denver airport by a blizzard - and we were four of them! We were scheduled to fly to NJ and Bob & Lali were flying to Las Vegas. Of course, when we called to check that morning before we left Greeley, all was fine. But when we got to the airport, all flights were cancelled. Eventually, we flew out on Christmas Day but Bob & Lali had to cancel their vacation completely. All of the roads were closed and we were stranded!

After collecting our red cross blankets, putting our luggage in storage, and passing through security - it was time to pick our concourse for the night. We made our way to Concourse B, ate dinner at McDonalds and settled into the only bar. Everything was going OK until the manager turned off the TV and closed the bar - at 9pm! It was time to pick our sleeping spot and try to settle in.

As the night wore on, it got colder and colder and colder. We finally gathered up our belongings and moved to higher ground back near the food court, many of the other residents, and the X"#&!! terminal train announcement made every three minutes throughout the entire night.

The next morning, we called for help. As soon as the roads cleared, Rae Ann and Rich picked us up and took us back to Genesee. Later that afternoon, Jason and Cassie picked up Bob and Lali since their car was completely snowed in.

December 19, 2006

Greeley BEFORE the Storm

We had a relaxing visit with my parents and family in Greeley. Jason and Cassie hosted the delicious Christmas dinner. We celebrated Christmas early because almost everyone was flying out of town that week. Little did we know!

December 14, 2006

Genesee & Winter Park BEFORE the Storm

Kris and I visited my college roommate (Rae Ann) and her husband (Rich) at their home in Genesee. They took us to their home in Winter Park for our first experience on snow shoes! I also included a picture of a moose they had taken earlier in the season.

December 06, 2006

Chocolate Tasting at Luento Santoro

Until this tasting, I never realised how complicated chocolate can be. The very enthusiastic owner (Deborah O’Neill) and her assistant compared chocolate complexity with wine and coffee. The cocoa bean quality depends on country of origin, soil, weather conditions, and expertise of the grower. Luento Santoro sources from 21 growers and we were given samples of cacao nibs / beans from three different countries to help us discern the differences. The harvested and dried cacao is shipped to their atelier in France for cleaning, roasting, conching and tempering to produce the "couverture" (chocolate in its pure form). We learned about dark vs milk vs white (only cocoa butter, no cocoa paste) chocolates; French vs Belgian vs Swiss styles; optimal storage and handling; and the critical "finish". We also ate a LOT of chocolate during the two hour tasting. This was a GREAT event!

December 05, 2006

Royal Academy Holiday Reception and Christmas Carol Service at St James Picadilly

My neighbor Dace and I attended the Royal Academy Christmas event. We got to the RA right on time and were ushered into the John Madejski Fine Rooms. We walked quickly and purposefully towards the food and each got one drink and 3 delicious morsels (brownie, stollen, cookie) - others who came minutes later may have gone hungry - but not because of us! We admired the paintings and then set out for the St James Church across the street.

We were a little early for the concert so we did a bit of browsing in the market in front of the church. Eventually our tickets were taken (alas, no souvenier for my scrapbook) and we went upstairs - we nabbed front center balcony seats. The Reverend opened the service and then there was a rotation between special songs sung by the Mary Ward Singers, all of us singing carols, and Royal Academy dignitaries reading selections of their choice. It was not until the end that we started recognising the carols. The church was beautiful but the seats felt very hard after an hour. We stayed for the entire service (~ 90 minutes) and agreed that it was a great experience.

December 04, 2006

Medieval Christmas at Banqueting House

The Banqueting House, one of the Historic Royal Palaces, is all that remains of Whitehall Palace which was the principal royal residence from 1530 until 1698. Below (courtesy of the HRP website) is one section of the ceilings painted by Sir Peter Paul Rubens.

The AWC arranged for us to enjoy a buffet lunch followed by a medieval Christmas concert performed by the "Dufay Collective". These five musical performers played the vielle, rebec, bagpipes, recorder, flute, simfony, harp and percussion - instruments and music from the medieval times. The soprano had an especially clear voice.

December 02, 2006

Wakehurst for Christmas

Kris and I visited Wakehurst (sister garden to Kew Royal Botanical Gardens) on a coach trip sponsored by Kew. After a quick drive to Wakehurst (no traffic and no essential engineering works), we were ushered into the "Tack Room" for tea and biscuits. We then were guided around the gardens by Paul Taylor (who bikes to Wakehurst - does not have a car and does not intend to get one). We then had two hours of free time for lunch, visiting the Millenium Seed Bank and shop, and walking around the grounds. At 3:30 we returned to the Tack Room for mulled wine and mincemeat pies. At 4 pm, the "largest Christmas Tree in England" was illuminated and I was happy to have my phone camera. Another quick drive back to Kew. This was a wonderful day.