Dear family and friends,

Thanks so much for commiserating with me so touchingly and beautifully about the loss of my mother's ring. I have to tell you, it was not an easy loss to take. People have written in with stories of their loss of well-loved rings, including one from a friend and chef who said she lost a valuable and personally meaningful yellow sapphire ring while baking. While fairly devastating, something shifted in her. I choose to look at any of these mere losses of the physical, while rather sad, as lessons in preparing us for the big loss or the big change. We can choose to go on and live (or not) with it, looking forward to all life or the universe has to offer. I value the love, support and values that my parents passed on  to me and my siblings (or attempted to pass on; the ones which we decided to accept) far more than the ring.

Saturday, the day that we fly out to London, we showed up in the morning at Chuck's studio to assist or encourage him to sign his tapestry labels; not his favorite activity.
(Don: this is the same pen Obama used to sign tapestry labels a few days earlier.) 

The label fabric is rough, with a strong tooth, so not the easiest to write on. Okay, now we're convinced we have to find a smoother fabric. Note: Era's ringless finger. I took the other ring off for safekeeping until I can get it refitted.

This is Chuck right after finishing this (signing) ordeal. He had just been told that we weren't going to take the labels with us (he had thought he had to sign them right that minute) that they were being sent to Magnolia. He's giving us a look of exasperation, but not without affection. (Don: A quick quip from Chuck (which shall go un-penned), I answer  "I love you, too" and raise my camera and take this photo, whereupon we leave for the airport)

Working on Cindy in marble.

Other cool NY stuff. MakerBot, around the corner from Chuck's studio. They make 3D printers or fabricators.

A printed object.

Freezing cold in NY. Got to the airport early - Newark to catch an Open Skies flight. Most comfortable, fabulous flight. Seats recline and leg support lifts so you're almost lying flat. No one in front, behind or to the side of us. What? Nobody wants to go to Europe in February? Slept like a baby after watching Anna Karenina, which I loved. Although I have to agree with some of the critics, it's too long. Beautifully filmed and crafted, however.

We were flying sort of a limbo class on Open Skies, not business and not coach. The food on the plane pretty much sucked. We flew Open Skies once before and the food was pretty decent. In Newark we were not invited into the lounge, but on our Paris stopover, we were ushered in. Crisp, flakey, buttery, freshly-baked croissants and all the cappuccini one could drink. A dapper young French man in a well-cut suit appeared to escort us onto the British Air flight. Apparently, they think if you are in the lounge, you may have stopped using any brains you might have had and need an escort to get you on the right flight. The very smooth escort did usher us into place ahead of some long lines of people, which was embarrassing. I tried not to look at them, although I did apologize to a few. But by this time, some of our group were such slow walkers that we really did need to cut the line. 

Landed in Heathrow and were greeted by a pleasant customs agent who chatted with us for a while; a rather rare occurrence. It may have helped that he appeared to be of Indian or Pakistani descent, and therefore has probably been at the other end of some pretty rude treatment by customs agents. Got the sim card for our iPhone, got the British pounds, got the big black London taxi, and we were whisked to our hotel in Kensington, which thankfully, God Bless them, let us check in early for a shower and a nap.

The wonderfully ornate stairway from the main lobby of our hotel Bailey's in Kensington. 

Dinner at Racine, nearby our hotel and the Victoria and Albert. 

It was good, but not great, (Don: it was semi-expensive) and not very photo-worthy (except for photo below). And not as good as BayWolf in Oakland, which can be counted on to serve something with a little unexpected twist.

Soupe de poisson (not as rich as it should be, but still pretty delish)
Roast lamb with roast garlic on some Italian beans (also good, but pretty standard - no surprises for our jaded palates)
Don had bunny rabbit with mustard sauce and green beans (big ass bunny - looked more like a Jack rabbit)

Soupe de Poisson, which will be ever linked in our mind with Annie Salt, whom we met when she taught us a cooking class in the South of France. On that trip we were joined by Guy Diehl. The Soupe de Poisson took almost all day and involved grinding small Mediterranean fish into a paste; fish scales and little fish parts all over us and the kitchen, but that soup was divine. This was a poor substitute, really. Mildred Howard's gumbo has the same sort of incredibly rich essence of the sea flavor. We assisted Mildred to make her gumbo recently; we prepared it over 2 days. 

Era, looking contemplative ("Why did I eat so much?", after a huge English breakfast at Bailey's.

Much love,

Era and Don