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The Londoners Have Left

All good things must come to an end and Matt and Tom's Christmas visit is naturally no exception. It was not without sadness that we saw them off at the airport yesterday afternoon, however, as I told them, I couldn't be more thrilled with the life they have made together in London. I was trying to think the other day about how old Matt was when I was his age....13 years old already. Plus, it wasn't too many more years and he flew the coop, never to return for any length of time. So, you see, I'm accustomed to it, but don't confuse that with not wanting him to live here! That said, if he'd never moved to London, he would have never met Tom, and that my friends, would have been a tragedy. They are like ying and yang together--fantastic.

The time flew by, filled with baking-- more bread by Matt: (I convinced him to try cutting the top of one of the loaves with kitchen shears, which as you can plainly see, was not the best idea I've ever had)
and beautiful cut out gingerbread cookies by Tom; regretfully, I have no photographic evidence, but believe me they were perfect.  In fact, the first batch came to the market to share with my customers, followed by a second batch, which is no longer with us as you can well imagine. Fantastic.

Mostly I cooked food, but I did get into the sweet act a wee bit, making an apple pie with way too many apples!
The crust was made in my brand new Kitchen Aid stand mixer, an unexpected gift from Tom and Matt.
Perhaps, unbeknownst to me, they had planned on buying a mixer while here, but I don't think so.  While they were out shopping with Bruce (yes, plenty of shopping was squeezed in), they came across, what I'm hoping, a deal they thought too good to pass up at TJ MAXX. In the foreground is a cute-as-a-button camera lens timer from Tom.

Shopping, baking, giving and receiving.
We forgot to do the Crackers! Matt, however, kept things spirited. He was not the only one wearing a bit of holiday fun on his head; somehow he managed to get Baxter to keep his Santa hat on--well, actually only about a minute or so. Unlike dogs I see at the market, Baxter has no interest in dressing up. Come to think of it, perhaps those dogs don't either?
Matt had a bird theme going on with several of my gifts, including this cool calendar from Matt Sewell, whom, those with exceedingly good memories, may recall is the illustrator/author of "Our Garden Birds", as detailed in my previous entry!
I'm not sure which is cuter, the above calendar or this charming mobile:
Cute, cute, cute! There were even more gifts, in fact this post would be crazy long if I showed them all. Plus, Tom's parents sent beautiful gifts from England. During the afternoon Matt finally got Facetime to work so we were able to wish them a Happy Christmas face-to-face, so to speak.

No holiday is complete without a family gathering. Lisa and Danny are kind enough to host the Christmas dinner, always providing a lovely space and delicious food. Matt and Tom are visiting with Aunt Maureen, with Dave closest to Tom, and Bill on his right.
After leaving Lisa's house in Longwood, we took in a few lights, beginning in her neighborhood. My gosh, I could hardly believe this yard which seems to have left no square foot without some decoration or lights. Tom was keen on being photographed in front of this house, which if nothing else is a bit of a testament to American excess, or optimism, whatever you want to call it!
I will say, they did a remarkable job of keeping their stories straight--Lord Jesus on one side, with Santa, all eight reindeer, and toys on the left! The light bill must be incredible!

Closer to home, a stop to see Santa was in order:
Sadly, Bruce was under the weather during much of their visit, going so far as to skip the gathering at Lisa's house. Nothing serious, a stubborn cold and the neck pain that refuses to completely disappear. He made the most of the quiet house to sleep and relax. Happily, he is now nearly as good as new!

Unlike Matt's Mom, his Dad is more than willing to brave the day after Christmas crowds at Milennia, taking Tom and Matt for their final shopping trip. According to them, it wasn't nearly as bad as one would think. Sadly, the weather was not nearly as sunny as I would have liked during their visit, however, once the cold front passed through after lunch, the sun finally came out, allowing us to take a little walk in the neighborhood. Baxter came along for good measure, however, once we were down by the lake, he developed a limp. :-(

Carrying him, we continued our walk over to Eric's house. Knocking on the door, I told him I'd brought my family to see his gardens; characteristically, he dropped what he was doing to give us a guided tour. Were we ever glad he did because there is so much to see and learn. His array of culinary shrubs and trees is remarkable, along with many varieties of citrus. Picking a perfectly yellow fruit ,he claimed it was a lime, which, after carrying it home, I confirmed after cutting it. Who knew a lime could look like a large lemon? Bay leaves, several types of sage, anise, curry leaves, all spice and loads more. What is so remarkable is he had no idea how interesting this would be to us, particularly Tom who loves the science behind cooking. Furthermore, he has a bergamot citrus tree. So what? The oil from the skin is used to flavor Earl Grey tea! Who knew you could grow it in Orlando?

And so it was our time together was nearly done. Following our walk, the Pilot was packed, and off we went to the airport but not without first showing them the pine tree where I see the eagles. There I go, as if I'll be doing it daily! I wanted them to see it for themselves so if in fact I do have the opportunity to photograph them again, they'll have a reference. Bruce was riding along so naturally I had him guesstimate the tree height--80 feet in the air. No wonder my shots are slightly challenged!

Finally, the sun is out, so much so Tom has to shield his eyes to see us...And no, despite appearances, his bag is not leaking! Leaving at 6:30PM EST, they arrived at 7:30 AM GMT. Lord knows, I hope they were able to sleep. After a day of rest, they will make the train journey to visit with Tom's Mum and Dad for the weekend. I'm pretty confident those short sleeved shirts will not make another appearance until their trip to India in a month. Pray for sunshine!

The Londoners have gone, the Austinites are here until my birthday, and the Orlandoans have stayed put.  More on the latter two groups when next we meet...hope your Christmas was as wonderful as ours.

p.s. This just in--Bruce has returned from taking Baxie to the vet who thinks he has a torn ACL.... Boo hoo!
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