London: Leake Street Arches

Leake Street Arches in the South Bank area of London

What if I told you that within The Square Mile there existed a tunnel where one could go and – legally – graffiti ups the walls?

Pondering my options for my second full day [to myself] in London, I came across info for the Leake Street Arches. It was about a 40 minute walk from my hotel, not too bad (I could also have taken the Tube had I not wanted to walk). I was intrigued, it was not the usual tourist site, and best of all: it was FREE. What did I have to lose besides a bit of time? I laced up and got walking!

Out hotel was near St. Paul’s Cathedral. From there to Leake Street I really only needed to follow the walking path next to the Thames until I neared Waterloo Bridge. After that, it was another 5-10 minute walk to the tunnels. It began to mist just as I grew near…perfect timing! Into the arches I went.

My photos do not do justice to the artwork I viewed. I added some of my favorite photos (see below), but it’s an ever-changing artscape. The rules allow that artwork already there can be painted over, so most likely this already looks very different than when I was there. Per the rules: “Art is by its nature live and evolving.”

Banksy – famous internationally for his street art – was one of those at the forefront pushing for this place to be transformed from a dark tunnel to a vibrant space filled with art. He organized the Cans Festival in May 2008. In three days he witnessed his plans come to fruition. I don’t believe any of his own artwork is still present, but he used to have some pieces there.

However, another world-famous street artist, Blek Le Rat, added a piece in August 2023. He was the precursor to Banksy in the street art scene, and it is claimed that he influenced Banksy. Is this true? Likely, but I do not know for sure. What I do know is that his artwork now has a piece of plexiglass over it to prevent it from being painted over. I guess not all art there evolves. Perhaps it is merely a temporary reprise from other eager artists looking for space.

Blek Le Rat
Artwork of Blek Le Rat, installed August 2023
Blek Le Rat
Calling Card of Blek Le Rat

More artwork that grabbed me:

Artist clearing a space so he can begin
This one brought to mind my grandson, who loves cookies
Artist contemplating…

Of note: there are classes offered that bring you to the tunnels, provide you with paints and coverings to protect your clothing, and let you get to it. I do not believe you need to be with a group to paint there, but it does sound fun! I may have to give this a go my next visit. I highly recommend this attraction should you find yourself in London.

I wandered about for a bit, admiring the artwork and watching some of the artists at work. I then headed a couple of streets over to an Italian restaurant to feed my hungry soul. Because one must eat.

Until next time, Buon Appetito!

Tagliatelle con ragu di agnello

London Called…I Answered

London Borough Market
London’s Borough Market

This past Sunday I returned from a brief visit to London. It had been nine years since my last visit…NINE YEARS! I wasn’t sure what to expect in the way of changes to one of my favorite cities.

Turns out, there were a lot of changes, but quite a bit was as I remembered. Certainly the city scape has grown. There is an increase in the number of skyscrapers. Crowds were higher than I’ve ever seen during previous visits; however, it was the week following Easter Sunday. Schools were on holiday, and families were traveling. I was in the Borough Market one morning and found myself caught up in a crowd where I literally could not move unless and until the crowd moved. I felt claustrophobic and briefly panicked when I realized that at that moment I had no control over where and when I would move. I’ve never felt that before. Thankfully, the crowd shifted enough that I was able to find a narrow opening and slip out. I immediately headed to lunch at one of my favorites: Wright Brothers Oyster and Porterhouse, where I managed to calm myself with a glass of bubbly and a sea bream carpaccio, paired with a side of one of the most delicious soda breads I’ve tasted. I made some tasting notes so I can try to replicate the soda bread one of these days.

Sea Bream Carpaccio, Soda Bread and Bubbly

Before the “sardine incident” occurred, I was able to make my way through most of the market and even managed to purchase some spices from Spice Mountain. I’ve brought back various spices and flavored salts from them in the past, and I was happy to see they were still in business.

The Borough Market itself has evolved with the times. It is even more touristy now than it was last time I visited. And there are a lot of new restaurants and shops that have popped up around that area. I worried it had changed too much, or that the changes would be so drastic they would alter the whole experience. For many that might be the case, but I felt the essence of the market remained, despite the changes. I do hope it isn’t normally so overrun with crowds. That would certainly be a game-changer for me.

Below are some of the images I captured during my wanderings:

Paella…So large it took 2 men to move it!!

The breads: Carb heaven!

Circling Back to Life (and Bread!)

Country Loaf with olives, walnuts, lemon zest

It’s been a hot minute since my last post. Do folks even read blogs these days? [her shoulders form an exaggerated shrug] I dunno…

Here I am either way.

Since my last post, a pandemic has come and gone (is it gone??). I am now a grandmother to a beautiful two-year-old. My mother-in-law has left this world. I had a teeny, tiny heart attack. (That in and of itself is a tale for another day; I am healed and stronger than ever!) Travel came to a standstill. Then travel came back full force, perhaps even more so than pre-pandemic.

In other words, the circle of life has continued.

It seems so many people channeled their inner chef during Covid times. Bread was baked, gourmet meals were whipped up, cocktails were imbibed. Oddly, I went the opposite direction. I still cooked, but I went basic. I baked no bread. Zero. My drinking decreased. A little. We ate super healthy and worked out more. Cooking became an aside for me for the first two years of the pandemic: more need based, less creative outlet. The third year of pandemic found us finally delving into the kitchen renovation project we had planned to begin summer of 2020. (Another tale for another post…btw, it turned out gorgeous!)

I was halfway through a writing program at SMU when the pandemic hit. The program was eventually dismantled, but some of the former instructors took it online during the pandemic. I kept up for a couple of classes, and I also formed an online writing group that met daily. I took a few other online classes. In many ways, those years were a time of connection for me, a time of rediscovering who I am and what I want and need in my life.

I haven’t written much since my heart attack, but I am beginning to get back to my novel (fiction; NOT food based). In May 2024 I will be attending a writing workshop in France (!) for one week. I was shocked that my submission was accepted and that I was invited to join.

And I’ve been re-engaging my own inner chef. In January I began bread-baking in earnest. I had forgotten how much I love the aroma of freshly baked breads, not to mention the taste. Nothing beats a freshly baked loaf slathered with a smear of salted butter. My increasing waistline has reminded me why I need to take it a bit slower with this renewed love. I’ve been using techniques from Chad Robertson’s “Tartine” books, which work beautifully and yield amazing breads. My favorite so far is the basic country loaf with lemon zest, olives and walnuts. I serve it next to European style butter topped with sea salt and herbs de Provence.

Here I am, full circle, back to Cleansed Palate. I hesitated in my return. I’ve steered away from social media in recent years to sustain my mental health and energy, and I fear this will throw me right back into all that mess. I’ll take this slow. One word at a time. One post at a time.

Buon Appetito, y’all!


My Favorite Easy-to-Make Mulled Cranberry Sauce

Mulled Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce. It’s one of those things I never really thought much about growing up. It was always present during our big holiday meals, but we always used canned cranberry sauce. You know, the kind where you open the can on both ends and then jiggle it until it slides onto the serving dish in one fell swoop. I neither loved nor hated it. Had it not been present we may have felt something was amiss. It was not one of the more eagerly anticipated dishes. It made the table look more colorful, but not much else beyond that.

Fast forward to my first Thanksgiving with my husband’s family. His mom makes homemade cranberry sauce. Homemade! I had never really considered this to be something I might make in my own kitchen. I certainly had no idea how easy it is to prepare. But. One taste told me that I could no longer in good conscience go back to canned cranberry sauce again. Ever.

And I have not.

Below is my recipe for Mulled Cranberry Sauce. It’s one that has evolved after years of experimenting. My mother-in-law modified the recipe on the bag of cranberries, adding cinnamon when she made it. Just a hint. So delicious! After a few times of making her recipe, I took full license to experiment with my own flavor combinations, and this is the result.

Feel free to use my recipe, but also experiment with your own touches. It’s forgiving. Take out anything you don’t like…throw in flavors you think might work. Have fun with it!! I’d love to hear any of your modifications and suggestions in the comments.

**Leftover Tip: if you have leftovers, add them to Lemon Bars for an update on an old favorite! I have a link to my favorite Lemon Bar recipe in this post: Tuesdays with Frank.

Buon Appetito, Y’all!!

Cindy’s Mulled Cranberry Sauce 

– 1 12 ounce bag of cranberries (can be fresh or frozen)
– 3/4 cup dry red wine (I use one of those little bottles that come in a 4-pack)
– 1/4 c fresh orange juice, make sure to zest it first!!
– 1 cup of dark brown sugar (can also use regular cane, but the molasses in the dark brown sugar adds a flavor dimension)
– dash of cinnamon (I learned this one from my mother-in-law 😀)
– 1/8 tsp chipotle powder (just a hint of spice…but not too much!)
– 1/4 cup tart, dried cherries 
– 2 T Cointreau or Grand Marnier (can be omitted)
**other options: raisins, apples, dried cranberries (gives a texture dimension), nuts. Apple cider can be used in place of the red wine…so many variations. 
Rinse the cranberries in a colander, picking through and discarding any bad ones.
Bring the sugar and wine and orange juice to a boil, then add in the cranberries, cinnamon, chipotle powder and dried cherries. Once this returns to a boil, turn down and simmer until the berries burst, about 7-10 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the orange zest and Cointreau (or Grand Marnier). Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
Once it comes to room temperature, cover it, and place it in the refrigerator. It should last 10-14 days. You can also freeze this in a freezer-safe container for up to 2 months.  While it will last longer from a safety perspective, the taste will begin to diminish beyond that point.

9 of My Best Tips for a Less Stressful Thanksgiving

Let them eat pie!

Ch-ch-ch-ch Changes…

Yesterday marked the two-week countdown to Thanksgiving. By this time any other November I would have in my freezer: pie crusts, pitted cherries, at least two types of rolls, and cubed bread for my stuffing. Also about this time, I would have made room in my freezer for the large turkey I would be picking up this coming weekend.

Things look a bit different this year.

I am used to cooking large and entertaining large and eating large this time of year. But not this year. Thanks to COVID, our table will only be set for two. There will be a laptop in lieu of the extra place settings. I find myself in a struggle between how to scale back to cooking for two, and at the same time, how to have ALL of our favorites on our biggest eating day of the year. Every single time I go to scratch a recipe from the list I decide there must be another less-sentimental dish to take it’s place. So far, there hasn’t been.

I will still add festive touches no matter how scaled back we go. There will be flowers on the table. I will use my favorite dishes. The glassware will be polished and ready to receive a fine wine. Perhaps Thanksgiving will be more romantic this year. Having said that, we are planning to Zoom with our kids for at least the beginning of the meal…and also with our entire family earlier in the day. Thank you, Modern Technology!!

My eldest is in charge of the alcoholic cocktail – his usual holiday task – while I am in charge of our new tradition: the mocktail. We will send our chosen recipes out to the group in advance, and during our Zoom call we will partake in one or both versions. It will kinda be like we are in the same room.  Kinda.

We are toying with the idea of eating together as well. This will obviously turn our romantic dinner for two into a more family-friendly dinner. I’ll take that!! Either way is a win-win in my book.

Fort Washington Flip – our Thanksgiving drink from 2015

I’m not a fan of Black Friday, so Pie Night is my invented holiday to take its place.


There will be no Pie Night this year. No. Pie. Night. This pesky pandemic is really mucking up our traditions!!  I typically bake 10-15 pies for Thanksgiving. Obviously, that is a LOT of pie for one night’s dessert. In the past we have invited neighbors to join us on the night after Thanksgiving to aid in the ‘disposal’ of the excess pie. I’m not a fan of Black Friday, so Pie Night is my invented holiday to take its place. It goes like this: we spend the Friday after Thanksgiving decorating for Christmas. We eat leftovers for dinner…this might be my favorite benefit to all that advance time in the kitchen! That night our guests join us for Pie Night. If all goes well, we are left with very little pie by the end of the evening. This is a tradition I eagerly anticipate every year…such a fun way to bring in the holiday season! I’ll be sad to miss it this year.

Thanksgiving Tips

But we all gotta eat, right?

Just because things will be scaled back doesn’t mean you can’t do advance preparation. There’s no reason to stress yourself out on the big day, whether you are hosting dinner for 20 or dinner for 2…or dinner for 1. Below are my best tips on how I get through cooking such a huge meal while still enjoying my family and friends.

A Month Ahead:

  • As I mentioned above, many things can be made in advance and frozen. Breads and rolls for dinner freeze very well. If you are making stuffing/dressing, you can cube your bread and freeze it. It’s not a huge timesaver; however, on the day every minute counts!
    Pie crusts can be made in advance and frozen, too. This is especially helpful if you make pies that use different types of crusts. The crust I use depends on the pie I am making. Apple and Cherry Pies get a cream cheese crust; Pumpkin gets a basic flaky butter crust; Pecan pies get a hazelnut crust. My Chocolate Ganache Pie gets a brownie crust. Advance prep here goes a long way to saving time later.
    Stock can be made and frozen as well.
  • Cranberry Sauce can me made early (up to 2 weeks) and is super easy to make. It will hold for 10-14 days in the fridge, or up to 2 months in the freezer. I usually make a double batch. Leftover cranberry sauce is amazing added to lemon bars!

The Day (or so) Before Thanksgiving:

  • I bake my pies the day before. It helps to have them out of the way so you can clean up the kitchen and begin fresh on Thanksgiving Day.
    **Take the frozen crusts the night before you plan to bake.
  • Set your table the day or two before. It always takes me longer to set the table then I remember. I also make up my flower arrangements/centerpieces the night before. It looks so pretty when I wake up the morning of and motivates me to start in!

The Day Of:

  • MAKE BREAKFAST THE MORNING OF THANKSGIVING EASY! I typically buy bagels and put together a platter with all of the fixings the night before. Maybe I’ll have a bowl of mixed fruit to set out with it. I have OJ (and Prosecco for those partaking) and coffee/tea. I set up a “breakfast station” with plates, toaster, napkins, flatware and glassware. My platter of fixings goes on the table when the first guest pops downstairs. As the rest roll into the kitchen, they are able to fix their own bagels and stay out of my way.
    **my bagel fixings usually include cream cheese, hummus, sliced red onion, capers, sliced tomatoes and lox.
  • ON THE BIG DAY (and day before depending on how much you do in advance): I ALWAYS BEGIN WITH A CLEAN KITCHEN AND A SINK OF HOT, SUDSY WATER. The sink part – for me – is critical. Whenever I have an extra minute or so, I will wash a few dishes or wipe down counters. It may not seem like much, but this makes a huge impact. Huge. HUGE! 
  • To go with the above tip, invest in a comfy pair of gloves for washing dishes to keep your hands from getting to water logged and eventually chapped and red. Despite all of my years prepping for Thanksgiving, I have only recently embraced this tip. Before that I suffered for years with chapped hands from all of the dish-washing.
  • TAKE BREAKS! Set a timer if you find you go for hours on your feet without a break. Maybe schedule in time for a walk outside. Or just sit every so often. Your back will thank you!!


  • The biggest lesson that took me YEARS to finally ‘get’ is that in the end, as pretty as the table setting may be, as tasty as the food may be, as clean as your house may be…the most important part of this day (and every day) is taking time to appreciate and spend time with your family and friends. Accept help when offered, even if it means the potatoes are not mashed the way you like them or the flowers aren’t arranged how you imagined. Sometimes you learn new ways to do things.One year we had family from Italy…2 women who wanted to learn about our holiday traditions, and who wanted to help prepare the meal. I had never accepted help in the past (other than anyone willing to wash dishes LOL). I was a bit panicked at the idea of help. But…they INSISTED. And in the end: IT. WAS. FUN. And helpful. I learned to let go a bit that year and a bit more in each year since.

The holiday season looks different for many of us this year, but hopefully next year the pandemic will be long gone and we can get back to old traditions. Or, just maybe, we will invent some new traditions to add to our old ones.

Whatever your holiday season looks like, I wish you health and peace. Stay safe out there…

Buon appetito, y’all!