Local adventures

Horned Frogs in London

As the end of May rolled around, we were busy preparing for a long trip away starting with an overnight in London to meet up with some of our TCU friends.  They were overseas visiting family and planned a few days in London.  We were able to plan our travels to meet up and spend a day together.  After checking in early at our serviced apartment in Kensington we hopped the tube to Notting Hill.  We had planned to meet up at Granger and Co for brunch but happened to run into each other on the street en route.  It was a bank holiday Monday so there was already a crowd outside the restaurant and a wait for a table.  Instead of standing around with two kiddos, the moms and tots headed off for a walk while the guys stuck around waiting.  We found a park where Hannah managed to get dirty in the short 10 minutes we were there.  Brunch was a bit hectic but so so tasty!  If you ever make it there, try the banana ricotta pancakes.

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After brunch the ladies left the husbands and kids to start our afternoon tea bus tour adventure with B’s Bakery.  A coworker had told me about the tea bus and I thought it was a great idea.  They did not allow children under the age of 5 so it was the perfect getaway for these mamas!  We sat on the upper deck of a renovated bus devouring sweet and savory treats in addition to the tea or coffee of our choice.  We also packed a bottle of bubbly to enjoy en route.  The staff was great, the food was good and it was a fun way to see the sights.  As we ate brunch shortly before the bus tour we had several bits of food left over.  The staff was kind enough to provide us a box to take the rest away.  Sadly, I dropped said box on the ground spilling the entire contents outside the grimy bus terminal.

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We left to relieve the men of the children so they could have some down time.  As they headed off for drinks and dinner we entertained the kids at our friends AirBnb.  Everyone was getting a little restless so we took a walk around Notting Hill.  On our way back to find the kids some dinner we happened across two rather familiar looking men sitting in a restaurant.  Sure enough, we had managed to find our husbands purely on accident.  We popped in to say hi and ended up sitting down together for dinner.

Notting hill

Notting Hill homes

Secret Garden

 

Hi fives

 

Sadly, all too soon night time came and the toddlers were threatening to turn into pumpkins.  So we took a group photo then went our separate ways with “see you laters” rather than “goodbyes.”  It was a busy full fun day with great friends.  We only wish we’d had more time.

Horned frog friends

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Lodging: Harrington Collection Kensington

Food: Granger and Co., Electric Diner

Activities: B’s Bakery Bus Tour

Transport: Train, tube and lots of walking

Party Time

C and I love hosting parties, especially since we bought our house.  We haven’t had one since we moved to England.  That year felt like forever!  So, we finally put a date on the books and hosted a summer BBQ on Saturday.  One perk of hosting the party?  It made us finally clean up some of the house that we had been ignoring and unpack a few more boxes.

When planning a party menu I try to do a mix of easy/known dishes and something new.  This time we planned to grill so had bratwurst and sliders for the main, veggies, potato chips, greek 7 layer dip, hummus, pita chips and mac and cheese.  For dessert I made frosted cookie cups and a simple fruit salad of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.  The sliders were an Ina Garten recipe and turned out great!  I think I’m going to start using the recipe for regular burgers too.  The Greek 7-layer Dip was a new recipe for me.  It wasn’t demolished by the guests so I’m not sure what everyone else thought.  However, I couldn’t get enough of it (I even had the leftovers today for lunch).  The mac and cheese was also a new recipe made in the crockpot which was easy and super yummy.

We had a great time!  It was nice to catch up with everyone, share our home and food and just kick back with friends.

These two bonded quite nicely

Lacey had tons of fun but was partied out by the time our last guest departed

 

 

Now, here are some recipes!

Greek 7-Layer Dip (Found on Our Best Bites)

1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened (I used Neufchatel)
1 tsp. dill weed
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (I used garlic powder)
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 c. hummus
1 c. seeded, diced cucumbers
1 c. seeded, diced tomatoes
1/2 c. chopped Kalamata olives
1/3 c. chopped green onions (about 3 green onions)
1/2 c. crumbled Feta cheese
1/8 c. minced fresh parsley

Combine the cream cheese, seasoning, garlic, and lemon juice until combined. Spread in the bottom of a pie plate or a small, shallow baking dish. Then spread a layer of hummus. In order, create layers by sprinkling the cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, onions, Feta cheese, and parsley. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours. Serve with pita chips, fresh vegetables, and/or flatbread.

So stinking good!

So stinking good!

Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese (found on Brown Eyed Baker) – I doubled the recipe for my 6 qt slow cooker

12 ounces (3 cups) uncooked elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1½ cups half & half
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 ounces Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Directions:

1. Spray 3½ to 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Cook the pasta to al dente then drain. Place the macaroni in the slow cooker, add the butter and stir until melted.

2. Add the evaporated milk, half & half, 2½ cups of the cheddar cheese, the Velveeta, salt and pepper; stir to blend well.

3. Cover and cook on low for 2 to 3 hours (if you have a larger slow cooker, decrease the cooking time). During the last 15 minutes of cooking, sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of cheddar cheese. Once done, turn the slow cooker setting to warm until ready to serve. 

Cookie cups in process

Cookie cups in process

Frosted Cookie Cups (cookie cups adapted from What Megan’s Making, frosting from Bitchin Camero)

Cookie Cups:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Generously spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray (be very generous – I had several stick and ended up as crumbs)

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer combine butter, sugars and vanilla until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time mixing well between each.  Add the flour mixture in gradually, beating until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Spoon the dough into muffin cups filling approximately 2/3 full.  Bake in preheated oven 6-8 minutes until tops start to turn golden brown.  Cool in pans for 5 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting:

1 sticks (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (8 oz.) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix the butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract in bowl of electric mixer with paddle attachment.  Once combined switch to whisk attachment and beat on high until fluffy, approximately 3-5 minutes.  Place in piping bag with tip attached.  Pipe onto cookie cups when cooled.  

The deliciously simple result

The deliciously simple result

 Now go cook up something delicious.  Happy Summer!

Catching up

It has been almost 2 months since I’ve last posted – yikes!  At first I thought it was because I didn’t have anything fun to post about.  But the more I thought about it, I’ve just been too busy doing fun things to sit down and write.  Since the first of the year we’ve travelled to Austin and Denver to visit family and friends.  We’ve moved back into the house (wahoo!) and had house guests shortly after.  Plus mixed in there we’ve both been working like crazy.  It all makes for a busy couple months.

So here’s a little recap of our lives:

For MLK Jr. holiday weekend we took a little trip down to Austin to visit with C’s family.  We had fun hanging out, catching up, eating yummy food and building fires.  And, as always with this crew, there were fun games to be played.  It was a great weekend!

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It was a beautiful sunny weekend

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A couple weeks later it was time for us to get our keys back to the house and go to Denver – yes all on the same weekend.  Friday afternoon we took possession of the house, I went to work, then early Saturday morning we flew out.  It was a bit of a whirlwind, to say the least.  We spent a few days in Denver visiting some of C’s work friends.  It was snowy and freezing but we didn’t mind.  Plus, it was Superbowl weekend so we watched the game in a local bar packed with Bronco’s fans.  Sadly, it was a terrible game (for a Bronco’s fan, that is) but we had fun anyway.  We ate some delicious food, had fun visiting and even squeezed in a visit to the Coors Brewery in Golden.

Our snow covered bungalow

Our snow covered bungalow

More snow!

More snow!

Playing games to pass the time pre-game

Playing games to pass the time pre-game

Coors

Coors

Coors brewery/factory

Coors brewery/factory

Coors

Coors

We flew home Monday evening and had to be out of the temporary apartment by Tuesday at 11am.  Oh, and C had to work Tuesday so it fell to me.  Oh joy!  Thankfully we did well pre-planning and come Tuesday morning I only had to load up the car with a few remaining items, clear out the fridge and freezer and do a little minor cleaning.  I even made it out with an hour to spare!  That Friday we had our great friends from NYC coming for a weekend visit so I got busy unpacking, cleaning and getting settled in the house.

From the moment they arrived we had a blast.  We ate, drank and listened to lots of country music.  Plus we talked and talked and talked and even cooked some.  Friday night we had dinner and went to a concert.  Sadly, I had to work Saturday so I missed out on the daytime festivities but I was able to make it out to dinner and our 2nd country concert of the weekend.  I was very sad to see them go at the end of the weekend.  It had been way too long since we’d been together, so we made a pact to see each other sooner this time.  And we failed on the picture taking front – not a single picture of all 4 of us from the weekend.

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Last weekend we were both off work so took full advantage.  We celebrated Valentine’s day with a takeout pizza, wine, a fire and movie at home.  It was fabulous after a busy work week.  Saturday we saw friends for brunch and caught up on life before going to our first TCU baseball game of the season.  Sunday, we joined some friends at their home for a Downton Abbey dinner & watching party.  The hostess made the most delicious spread including Bison tenderloin, split pea soup, stuffed quail, braised cabbage, roasted root vegetables and Yorkshire puddings.  I contributed my British themed desert – Sticky Toffee Puddings.  Not to brag, but they were delicious! And know I’m worried because they’re pretty easy to make.  The party was a wonderful way to cap a great weekend.

A little ramekin of deliciousness (Sticky Toffee Pudding)

A little ramekin of deliciousness (Sticky Toffee Pudding)

For the most part we’ve been back to the daily grind of working, trying to make up for all the time we’ve been taking off.  Really, we’re just been enjoying being back home.  Especially me.  I’ve been going crazy in my kitchen baking and cooking up all sorts of deliciousness like red velvet brownies for Valentine’s Day, chocolate cupcakes for a coworker’s birthday, Sticky Toffee pudding, and pound cake, just to name a few.  It seems like I’m doing dishes daily but it’s totally worth it.  Surprisingly I’ve been losing some weight despite all the baking – I think I’m on to something 😉

Family time in the UK

C’s cousin, Amy, is studying abroad in England for the fall semester. She came out with her brother about a month ago to travel a little and get settled before classes began. Unfortunately their trip out coincided with our trip to Amsterdam, Berlin & Prague so we missed out on an opportunity to get together. Thankfully we were able to see Amy before we moved away. After returning from Barcelona before we really started to face the reality of packing, we traveled down to London to meet her. We pushed back the meeting time by an hour and still managed to be late to the meetup – oops!

Because of our late arrival we had little time in London because we had dinner reservations. Amy and C indulged my desire to go to Notting Hill, one area in London I’ve always wanted to visit but just have never made it. It is just as cute as everyone says. The antique and vintage shops were closed for the day but I still enjoyed peeking through the windows, admiring the cute store fronts and ogling the houses. We then hopped on the tube for the ride back to our car – at the very last metro stop of the line. Over an hour later we reached car, dropped things off and headed off to dinner. We ate delicious Indian food, probably the best we’d eaten our entire time in England. After filling ourselves with curries, rice and naan bread, we piled into the car for the late night drive back.

The famous Portobello Road

The famous Portobello Road

What I wouldn't give to live in one of these townhouses

What I wouldn’t give to live in one of these townhouses

Tube photo op

Tube photo op

The next morning we made a home cooked breakfast of french toast, eggs and bacon. Then we took our time getting ready while Amy raided our kitchen. She didn’t have much in the kitchen where she’s staying so we let her take what she wanted. It was a win-win: we didn’t have to worry about disposing of pans, utensils, cups, spices, etc and she got to stock her kitchen for free! Then we went to Cambridge to visit the Botanic Gardens.

Some of the trees had started to change colors which made it very beautiful. Some things had already died but it was still very green and vibrant. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the gardens, snapping photos and chatting away. It was finally time to drop her back at the train station for her trip back to Oxford. We parted ways with plans to visit with each other in Texas in the spring. It was so nice to see a familiar face and we had a great time with her!

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Traveling the UK and Europe with a dog

*Warning: this is a pup picture heavy post.  Hope you enjoy!*

When we first made the decision to move across the pond, we knew we would be taking Lacey with us.  She is like a child to us so there was no way we were leaving her behind.  Besides, it wouldn’t be fair for her to miss out on all our travels!  A very expensive plane ride later and she was living on this great big island with us.  Since then she’s been to over 10 cities across 5 countries.  We’ve taken her on short road trips to the beach and long ferry rides to continental Europe.  She even snagged her very own passport!

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She has seen the beaches of England, streets of Aberdeen, gardens of Glasgow, canals in Amsterdam, rivers in Prague and so much more.  While traveling with her isn’t always a piece of cake, it has actually been fairly easy.  It definitely takes more planning and research to bring her along, but we think it’s worth it.  So what goes into a trip with our favorite travel companion?

First, method of transport has to be determined.  Well, actually the destination needs to be determined which is partly chosen by how we get there.  She is too big to travel under the seat on a plane and the UK is pretty strict about dogs flying into the country, so plane trips were out.  Dogs travel free on all trains throughout England and Scotland, making that a great choice for us.  Sadly, Eurostar is the only rail company we’ve found so far that doesn’t accept pets making it a non-viable option for getting over to France or Belgium with her in tow. To get to Europe we could have driven on the Chunnel or taken the ferry across to France or Holland.  However, we were only renting a car and didn’t know the rules on taking it out of the country so driving wasn’t an option.  The ferry was a nice travel option but Lacey had to be kenneled for the full boat ride (over 6 hours) which was a little tough on me.  From there she was welcome on all trains across Europe, some with a small fee.

First trip on a train - it was a little dicey at first with her whining and pacing, but after 15 minutes or so she settled down and loved it

First trip on a train – it was a little dicey at first with her whining and pacing, but after 15 minutes or so she settled down and loved it

On the train to Scotland

On the train to Scotland

Train tray tables make good shiba rests

Train tray tables make good shiba head rests

Sometimes she even got her own seat

Sometimes she even got her own seat

Sometimes we made her sit on the floor of the train, you know, like a normal dog

Sometimes we made her sit on the floor of the train, you know, like a normal dog

Other times she got her very own seat, arm rest and blanket

Other times she got her very own seat, arm rest and blanket

Then there was the one time she got a bed, pillow and large window...

Then there was the one time she got a bed, pillow and large window…

After location and method of transport we had to find pet-friendly lodging.  This was much easier in some places than others.  Many B&Bs in England gladly accept pets, but often larger hotel chains are less happy to.  Some places will charge an additional pet fee, others won’t.  We stayed at one hotel where the pet fee included a bed, towel and treats for her – she liked that hotel!  We also found good luck with apartment rentals accepting pets for little or no fee.  Plus she had more space to explore and we didn’t have to worry about keeping the cleaning staff out.

Checking out her bed, towel and treats in one hotel

Checking out her bed, towel and treats in one hotel

Then she realized our bed was more comfortable (and had a view out the window)

Then she realized our bed was more comfortable (and had a view out the window)

A pull out couch makes a great dog bed in some hotels

A pull out couch makes a great dog bed in some hotels

Then sometimes she gets to sleep on the great big hotel bed with us

Then sometimes she gets to sleep on the great big hotel bed with us

And sometimes she gets to nap on the great big bed with pillows and comforter all to herself

And sometimes she gets to nap on the great big bed with pillows and comforter all to herself

Checking out our apartment in Berlin - she liked looking out that door to the patio

Checking out our apartment in Berlin – she liked looking out that door to the patio

With lodging booked, the basics of the trip were ready.  From there we often researched parks close to where we were staying, metro rules and the general pet friendliness of the area.  Many cities allowed pets on public transport, especially in Europe.  She rode trams and underground trains in Berlin, Amsterdam and Prague like a local.  However, in Glasgow, pets were not allowed on the metro system so we had to take a cab to the hotel.  Many of the places we stayed had large parks nearby good for taking walks and bathroom breaks, but a few didn’t – most notably Aberdeen.  While there was a great large park about 1/2 a mile from the hotel, there was nothing within a few blocks save a few gardening beds with shrubbery which made those early morning and late night bathroom trips a pain.

She loved our trips to the beach (just like her momma)

She loved our trips to the beach (just like her momma)

She especially loved being off leash and chasing her tennis ball

She especially loved being off leash and chasing her tennis ball

Enjoying a belly rub at a park in Aberdeen

Enjoying a belly rub at a park in Aberdeen

Glamming it up in Glasgow's botanic gardens

Glamming it up in Glasgow’s botanic gardens

2nd beach trip - this time napping in the sun was a big thing

2nd beach trip – this time napping in the sun was a big thing

Walking along Amsterdam's canals

Walking along Amsterdam’s canals

Enjoying some off leash time in Prague

Enjoying some off leash time in Prague

Looking along the Vltava River in Prague

Looking along the Vltava River in Prague

We had so much fun exploring with our pup in tow.  Its so great to see how pet friendly the UK and Europe is as a whole.  People would stop us to ask about her, pet her or just ooh and ahh as she walked past.  Many people had never heard of a Shiba Inu but a surprising number had.  I’d like to think we were spreading the word of how awesome (though sometimes obnoxious) they are.  In a few short days we’ll be putting her back in her dreaded travel kennel and dropping her off at Heathrow for the move back to the states.  It’s not the end of her travel days, though.  Rest assured, she’ll get to make many a road trip with us back home.

All work and no play?

*Warning, its a long and picture heavy post, but I hope you enjoy!*

Not around here (as you already know)!  Thankfully I’ve been able to get long-ish stretches of work off each of the last couple months which have allowed for some great trips.  That being said, long stretches off without actually taking days off means long stretches of work.  My setup is fifteen 12-hour shifts each month and I have not taken any PTO (paid time off).  Usually I work stretches of 3-4 shifts in a row with a day or two off in between, then every 3 weeks or so I end up with 5-7 days off consecutively.  A few weeks ago I worked 7 of 9 days (remember these are 12 hour shifts, friends)….it was brutal.  By the end of it I was sooo ready for a couple days off.  Over the last month I have had a few sets of 2 or 3 days off in a row.  When looking at our travel plans, schedules and budget, we decided not to travel far during these periods.  Rather, we stuck fairly close to home and did some fun stuff within a close drive.

First, before we took off for Paris & Brussels, we spent a day and evening in London.  We had tickets for a show with plans for it ending late at night so we booked a B&B at the edge of the city so we could sleep before driving home.  By the time we arrived and checked in we were ready for lunch!  On the advice of co-workers, I dragged C along to Camden Town for excellent people watching, window shopping and ethnic foods.  Seriously, this place was amazing: packed with people, funky shops galore, excellent people watching and any food you could imagine.  With full bellies and minds blown we went to the National Gallery and spent the rest of the afternoon admiring various paintings.  Eventually C’s eyes were glazed over so we left for another fun activity – window shopping at Harrods!  Thankfully my husband loves me, right?

Finally, it was time for our show, The Bodyguard.  We had heard great things and C was really excited about it (don’t tell him I told you, but he picked the show).  Thankfully we were not disappointed.  It goes along the lines of the movie with Whitney Houston.  And believe it or not, the lead actress was amazing.  Her voice was powerful yet beautiful and gave me chills!  I’m really glad we had the opportunity to watch her, because apparently she’s done with the show very soon.  To cap the night we ate a late dinner at an okay Italian joint near the theater then walked down to the Thames to admire the London Eye, Westminster Abbey and Golden Jubilee Footbridge all lit up.  It was a fabulous day in the city!

Just one view of the Camden Stables Market in Camden Town

Just one view of the Camden Stables Market in Camden Town

Street performer outside of the National Gallery

Street performer outside of the National Gallery

National Gallery

National Gallery

It's a blue-ish/purple-ish chicken in Trafalgar Square...no clue but I had to take a photo

It’s a blue-ish/purple-ish chicken in Trafalgar Square…no clue but I had to take a photo

The Bodyguard!

The Bodyguard!

The Thames at night

The Thames at night

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Lights along the Golden Jubilee Footbridge

Lights along the Golden Jubilee Footbridge

Other fun activities over the last few days off have included a trip to the shore.  We took Lacey with us and she enjoyed playing fetch with her tennis ball, but did not love the water as much as our first trip.  It was a great afternoon out and we loved getting some sun and relaxation in.  That set of days off we also caught up on not-so-fun stuff like laundry, cleaning house and clearing weeds/overgrown vines.  But we also had the chance to see a free screening of a new movie called About Time.  Its a fantastic movie and I cannot recommend it enough!  I laughed, I cried and we couldn’t stop talking about it that night.  Sadly the days flew by and before I knew it I was back to work.

Butterflies in our plants

Butterflies in our plants

I LOVE the beach! And the sand, and the sun, and the water (kinda)!!

I LOVE the beach! And the sand, and the sun, and the water (kinda)!!

Exhausted after playing fetch by the water

Exhausted after playing fetch by the water

Profiles in the sun

Profiles in the sun

She loves falling asleep in the sun, probably one of her favorite pastimes back home

She loves falling asleep in the sun, probably one of her favorite pastimes back home

I love this girl

I love this girl

Beautiful blue skies in England, its been a great summer for weather

Beautiful blue skies in England, its been a great summer for weather

I’m currently on a short break of 3 days off and so far its been great.  Yesterday we visited St. Albans Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in the UK, before hitting up the Warner Bros Studio Tour just outside of London.  The cathedral was interesting because it had been built, added on an remodeled over several centuries meaning there were several styles showcased.  As far as the Harry Potter tour?  Awesome!  It was a great tour through 2 sound stages and a backlot filled with props, sets, costumes and so much more used in the filming of all 7 Harry Potter films.  I’m a pretty big fan of the books and movies, but nothing compared to some of the other tour participants!  Nevertheless we saw so much cool stuff and learned a lot about the people behind the movies.  If you ever find yourself in London, make your way to the Warner Bros Studios, you won’t regret it!  Now I feel the need to go watch the movies all over again.

Paintings on the walls of St. Albans Cathedral, dating back to the 13th Century

Paintings on the walls of St. Albans Cathedral, dating back to the 13th Century

More old paintings

More old paintings

The quire

The quire

The beautiful Lady Chapel

The beautiful Lady Chapel

Rose window

Rose window

The bell tower of St. Alban dates back to the 11th century!!

The bell tower of St. Alban dates back to the 11th century!!

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Harry Potter!!!!

Excited doesn't even begin to describe it!

Excited doesn’t even begin to describe it!

Anyone recognize the flying car?

Anyone recognize the flying car?

Harry's room under the stairs

Harry’s room under the stairs

Hogwarts great hall (with some costumes, to boot)

Hogwarts great hall (with some costumes, to boot)

Costumes of some of Hogwarts most memorable faculty

Costumes of some of Hogwarts most memorable faculty

Table full of (fake) chocolate from one of the movies (sadly, can't remember which)

Table full of (fake) chocolate from one of the movies (sadly, can’t remember which)

The gate to Hogwarts

The gate to Hogwarts

The boys' room in Gryffindor - Harry's and Ron's beds

The boys’ room in Gryffindor – Harry’s and Ron’s beds

Circle o'Wands

Circle o’Wands

Potions classroom

Potions classroom

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Hogwarts bridge

Hogwarts bridge

In front of the Hogwarts castle model used in the films for the outside shots

In front of the Hogwarts castle model used in the films for the outside shots

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It was amazing!

It was amazing!

That's a whole lotta wands

That’s a whole lotta wands

Today we spent the day running errands including a trip to the farmer’s market picking up delicious looking local blackberries, “sweetcorn” (our version of corn on the cob), tomatoes, sweet potatoes and fresh bread.  Tonight we are off to see a British movie about a somewhat local comedian – pretty excited about it!  Tomorrow will be a lazy day around the house because I’ll be working another 4 days over the weekend before another big trip!

Cheers!

Wimbledon 2013

A few days ago we went to this little tennis competition you may have heard about, The Championships, Wimbledon.  I was able to score Centre Court tickets the morning before we went thanks to persistence on Ticketmaster’s website.  This was great for two reasons: First and foremost, I didn’t have to get up at 3 am to queue for grounds passes.  Second, we had guaranteed seats to watch great players. We went on Wednesday which mean the Men’s Quarterfinals – David Ferrer v. Juan Martin Del Potro followed by Fernando Verdasco v. Andy Murray.

We got up pretty early and drove to the closest Tube station (not that close, by the way).  We hopped on board and settled into our seats.  After a change and total travel time of 1 1/2 hours, we made it to our stop.  A short walk down the road and we were at the gates!  We quickly collected our tickets and made our way to Court 3 to attempt to see the McEnroe brothers play in the Gentlemens’ Senior Doubles Invitational match.  Unfortunately the court was already full, so we headed off to Henman Hill (aka Aorangi Terrace, aka Murray Mound) to watch on the big screen.  Tons of people had already staked out their spots with blankets, picnic baskets, lunch and wine/champagne to watch whatever matches would be shown.  We found a spot and sat for a while watching the comic antics of the McEnroe brothers playing Mansour Bahrami & Henri Leconte.  Those 4 probably had more fun on the court than anyone I’ve ever watched.

The big scoreboard next to Court No.1

The big scoreboard next to Court No.1

Overlooking Henman Hill

Overlooking Henman Hill

Looking over to Centre Court

Looking over to Centre Court

Watching the big screen on Henman Hill

Watching the big screen on Henman Hill

Hooray, tennis!

Hooray, tennis!

It was getting close to the first match on Centre Court so we wandered off to find lunch then made our way to our seats.  Since we scored last minute tickets we were in the very last row of the court.  But it made no difference.  We had a great view of the entire court and got to experience the electric atmosphere of the crowd.  First up was Del Potro vs Ferrer.  C was cheering for Ferrer (I think because of the Spanish connection to Nadal, his favorite player).  I was by default cheering for Ferrer, as well.  He ended up losing in straight sets but took the last set to a tie-break and it was great to watch!

 

A Horned Frog went to Wimbledon...

A Horned Frog went to Wimbledon…

Del Potro & Ferrer

Del Potro & Ferrer

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Our view (actually better than this)

Our view (actually better than this)

Before the last match we took a quick break for liquid refreshment.  I indulged in the Wimbledon tradition of Pimm’s Cup and C helped himself to beer.  We took our beverages back to our seats and settled in to watch Murray.  He dropped the first two sets and made the entire Court very nervous!  Thankfully he got his act together and came back to win it in 5 sets.  The last few games of the final set the entire crowd was on the edge of their seats.  It was hard to keep quiet between & during points because everyone was just so excited.

Murray v. Verdasco

Murray v. Verdasco

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Andy serving

Andy serving

Shaking hands at the end of the match

Shaking hands at the end of the match

Winner!

Winner!

The entire day was an experience we will never forget.  It was a dream come true for C and I loved every minute.  I’m so glad we had the opportunity to go and were able to make it happen.  And, now that Murray has won the Championship we can say we watched him play in the first Wimbledon he won!  Pretty cool if you ask me.

Afternoon Walks

Being out in the country means lots of green spaces to go walking through.  We are lucky in that we are not too far from flat farmlands, fields of wildflowers, livestock grazing, forests of tall trees, beautiful historic homes, classic cityscapes, riverside scenes and the beach is only about 1 hour away.  We have taken advantage of all these with the exception of the beach (thats coming up soon enough, though, and I cannot wait!)

This morning we were deciding what to do for the day and came down to strawberry picking or a walk through the woods.  Not surprisingly, C chose the woodland stroll.  We decided to try a different spot than before and I’m glad we did.  The location had plenty of space for parking, a small cafe/tearoom, walled gardens, a pond filled with ducks, fish & lily pads and plenty of walking trails.  We enjoyed peeking around the walled gardens then headed off down a trail.  It was a warm day and perfect for our walk.  Added perk?  We got to see several Air Force jets flying over doing their maneuvers for the day.  We are planning to return many times and will definitely bring Lacey next time around.  It is perfect for picnics too!

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On the job front, I finally got my clearance waiver and ID card!  Now I’m just waiting on my computer access and I’m good to work.  I’m heading in tomorrow to see if it’s all done.  If so, I’ll be working immediately!  Thank you all so much for your encouragement, positive thoughts and prayers!!

London getaway in a day

Yesterday we took off for London for the day.  We woke up “early” and headed for the rail station.  While sitting on the platform waiting for our train, I realize the one we had tickets for was cancelled due to work on the tracks.  We made a quick decision to jump the the next train which was going to the same station where we needed to switch over.  Turns out that one was run by a completely different company than the one we had tickets for.  Thankfully, no one came along to check out tickets, we got off at our stop, changed to the correct train and made it to London without anyone being the wiser.

We started off the day at the Spitalfields Market.  It is amazing, chaotic, overwhelming and so stinking cool!  Apparently Sunday is the largest day for the market so it was a great day to go.  They had mostly fashion items such as dresses, scarves, tops, purses, jewelry and coats.  But they also had hats, wallets, socks, see-through shoes, baked goods, artwork, records, used books, etc.  You name it, it was probably there.  After fighting the crowds, and my urge to buy several items, we sat down for lunch.

Spitalfields Market

Approximately 1/5 of Spitalfields Market

After lunch, we headed off to explore the British Museum. It was huge, beautiful and overwhelming.  We walked in without a game plan – big mistake.  For those unfamiliar with the place, it covers anything in history you could imagine from the Egyptians & Greeks to American Indians, Mexican tribes to European history, Chinese dynasties to Indian gods.  We wandered through several exhibits but eventually got tired and overloaded with information.  My favorite exhibit was the various artifacts from Mexico including some amazing mosaic pieces.  C really enjoyed an exhibit on the history of money (go figure, right?), various jade artifacts in the Asian history areas and some warrior exhibits from different areas.

In the Great Hall

In the Great Hall

Native American totem pole

Native American totem pole

C checking out the money display

C checking out the money display

This had a 50 billion dollar note - it was a political statement about the currency issues in Zimbabwe

This had a 50 billion dollar note – it was a political statement about the currency issues in Zimbabwe

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The British Museum

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We were pretty tired afterward so headed off in search of a pick-me-up.  We stumbled on this cute little cafe and sat down for a spot of tea.  Feeling refreshed we walked through Soho, Chinatown, Leicester Square (where all the London movie premieres are held) and Trafalgar Square before stopping for dinner.  We passed by a Cantina Laredo, 2 Chipotles and a Freebirds on our walk.  It took all my will power not to stop for some chips and salsa….

Too bad we already ate lunch and had plans for dinner...

Too bad we already ate lunch and had plans for dinner…

Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square

Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square

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For dinner, we met up with a friend of C’s who is currently attending TCU and studying abroad.  They met on a TCU fan site and when they realized they were both in the same country they decided to get together.  Despite him making me feel old (he’s just finishing his junior year) we had a great time.  C loved chatting him up about all things TCU especially baseball, football and basketball.  I enjoyed listening along, occasionally inserting my two cents and sipping on my quintessential British summer cocktail – a Pimm’s & lemonade.  It was a great way to end our day out in London.  After a seemingly endless train ride back and dark harrowing drive home, we collapsed into bed, exhausted but happy.

Enjoying my Pimm's & Lemonade

Enjoying my Pimm’s & Lemonade

Norwich, Norfolk

A couple days ago, C and I hopped in the car and made the drive to Norwich.  We hit up the castle which had some displays including artwork, various stuffed animals and even a collection of teapots.  We then explored the marketplace which had a variety of stalls selling yarn, dog supplies, clothing, cheese, candies, used books, food, etc.  After picking up lunch at one of the stalls and enjoying it on some steps, we headed off for the Cathedral.   Then we had time to sit down for a pint at an extremely old pub recommended to us by our boat captain in St. Lucia.  The pub, called Adam & Eve, was opened in 1249 and reportedly sold ale to the stonemasons who built the cathedral.  We took a long stroll along the riverside back to the parking garage, stopping for a delicious ice cream cone along the way.  It was a beautiful day and great city.  We will definitely go back!

Inside the castle keep

Inside the castle keep

Outside of the castle

Outside of the castle

The marketplace - had everything from a yarn store to mushy pea stand

The marketplace – had everything from a yarn store to mushy pea stand

Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral

Adam & Eve pub, established in 1249

Adam & Eve pub, established in 1249

Walking along the riverside

Walking along the riverside

Riverfront

Riverfront