Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Chris and I took a quick flight over to Amsterdam to celebrate my birthday the day after Christmas. The flight took less than an hour! It was a little odd to fly "all" the way to Europe in less than an hour... not what we are used to at all. Our hotel was perfectly situated in the middle of the city and the thermometer was not so perfectly situated around 30 degrees! To put it mildly... it was FREEZING! And I mean that very literally as some of the canals were freezing over! We did our best not to allow the weather to hold as back and went out for a walk in the city the night we arrived. Chris and I spent most of the time reminiscing about our high school and college days. And Chris had fun remembering various places from his semester at sea in 2000. It was fun to remember all the milestones that Chris and I have crossed together... graduating from high school, our 1st year of college, turning 21, graduating from UF, our 1st years as employed and responsible adults, our engagement and wedding, the day we bought our 1st house, the day we bought our 1st dining room table and now turning thirty. This was by far my best birthday celebration ever... except for the year I had a Cabbage Patch Kid birthday cake : )

Here are some pictures from our trip... enjoy!

This is a pretty typical canal bridge.

This is the restaurant we celebrated my birthday at across the street from our hotel. The picture is terrible but during the day the gas lanterns were not lit and the place lost some of it's charm. It was one of the most delicious meals I have ever enjoyed! I had mussels in a parsnip broth as a starter and sea bass with polenta and spinach for dinner. I also destroyed a chocolate tarte with clementine sorbet with a candle! DELICIOUS!!!

There were bicycles everywhere! We would have loved to rent some and tour the city but it was too cold for bike riding.

Workin' hard at Heinekin! We had a great time at the brewery and were able to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

The dome in the left top of this picture is the conference center of our hotel.

Our last few hours in Amsterdam... leave it to us to find a quiet pub with great Belgium beers.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Here I am at the Heineken Brewery as a 29 year old...
And the very next day... I am thirty!

More pictures to come...
Until then, XOXO

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What a Christmas!

It has been a whirlwind of activity the last 4 days. I can hardly believe that Christmas has come and almost gone! Tomorrow we leave for Amsterdam for a few days to celebrate my big three-0. We decided that we wanted to be lazy all day today so I cooked our Christmas dinner for Christmas Eve. We started with roasted red bell pepper soup and then I made a lemon pepper roasted chicken, sweet potatoes with praline topping and green beans with toasted pecans. We finished things with a homemade pumpkin pie... yes, we had pumpkin pie for Christmas. We didn't have it for Thanksgiving and when Chris was flipping through the cook book and saw the recipe he decided I had to make it! Everything turned out delicious. However, we had to do dishes every fifteen minutes because I kept running out of bowls, plates, utensils, etc! Chris loved the food but I think he was going to cry if I asked him to wash another dish.

After dinner we headed to St. Paul's Cathedral for Christmas Eve Midnight Eucharist. Neither Chris nor I are practising Christians or even all that religious, but St. Paul's is a landmark in London and Christmas services are known to be amazing. We got there around 10:15 pm and there was a queue of people down the side of the church and around the block! Services didn't start until 11:30 pm and I think Chris and I were both almost asleep. The church is breathtaking and it is amazing to think that they have been having services at the same sight since 604 AD. I don't think I have been to too many places with that much history. The men's choir sang throughout the services and I was shocked by the acoustics. They sounded splendid but we couldn't understand a word because they were singing in Latin! We even had the words (in Latin) in front of us and couldn't follow along. There were about 1000 (perhaps more, I can never figure this type of thing out) people at the mass and about 998 stood to take communion. About 15 minutes into communion we decided to make our sneaky exit and catch a taxi home. Unfortunately, sneaky was not in the books as I wore high heels and the floors are marble. I tried to tip toe but that just made me look silly so I clicked and clacked my way to the exit with Chris turning red behind me!

Father Christmas (aka Santa) had visited us while we were gone so we felt obliged to open our stockings. It is amazing how Santa always knows just what I want! We finally made it to sleep around 2 am... Only to get up at 9 am to open presents! Isn't it funny how Christmas morning instantly reverts us back to age 10?!? Chris and I both get giddy and giggly. I was ready to strangle him this morning because he insisted on having his coffee ready before we opened any presents! The coffee maker has never brewed slower... I think it was taunting me!

We are finishing our wonderful Christmas off with a yummy meat and cheese board with fig jam and Belgium beer... I love Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Only Way to Shop

In preparation for our Christmas Eve feast, I went to the Whole Foods in Kensington this afternoon. We had been one other time before but just to have a look around. Much like in the States, Whole Foods is on the expensive side for everyday shopping. However, since it is Christmas I figured we could splurge. I walked through the park to the store, it was about a 15 minutes walk. Then I spent nearly 2 hours shopping. I had a painstakingly thorough list with all my ingredients and measures converted into grams. I had some trouble finding a few things but nothing that I couldn't work around. Now, I have said that I was going to adjust my shopping style to prevent having to carry everything home on foot. And this is something I will time. Today I took advantage of the free home delivery! This is truly the only way to shop in a city like London. I finished my shopping, paid and gave them my address. The walk home through the park was brilliant and bagless! I may have to splurge more often ; )

One hundred... and one

It is hard to believe that today is Christmas Eve eve eve... or should I say that it is hard to believe that Christmas is only 3 days away! It feels like just yesterday it was May 27th and I was posting my first blog entry about moving to London. But here we are 101 entries into it, living in London and about to celebrate Christmas. We have sold our house, our cars and most of our belongings and started a new life, in a new country. What an adventure it has been and it is only just starting! Here's to a hundred and one more!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Portobello Winterfest

Over the last 6 months Chris and I watched as music fest after music fest came through London. We love concerts and listening to live music so it was painful to miss out on so many good opportunities. So imagine our delight when we saw a winter music fest advertised in the paper. Even better there was free entry before 7 pm!

We started our day with a run through the park. The sun was shining and it was 54 degrees! Brilliant weather for a run. Unfortunately, the wind was at our backs on the way out. Eventually, we both made it home ... needless to say Chris had an easier time of it than I did! After the run, we made a yummy breakfast of scrambled eggs, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, green peppers and coriander (aka cilantro).
Then we headed down to Carnaby Street for some Christmas shopping. This area is a very trendy outdoor mall that was absolutely packed with shoppers. I find it very hard to believe that retail sales are as low as they say. Every person we saw had bags and bags of stuff... then again all the after Christmas sales have come early so I guess that is the problem... We didn't do much buying but I dropped plenty of very obvious hints to Chris (like "you should come back and buy this for me.") And as I type this, Chris is out shopping for me!
What goes better with an afternoon of shopping than Belgium beer and mussels? So we headed to Belgo. We had never been there but it has been recommended several times. The mussels were delicious but the beer selection left a little to be desired. They only had 3 or 4 beers that we had never tried and the 1st one Chris ordered was sold out. And when our beers finally arrived they were in the wrong glasses. Now that may not seem like much to anyone else but if you advertise yourself as a Belgium Beer establishment you should get it right! Oh well, I guess we will just have to go back to Belgium for the true experience...darn ; )
Afterwards, we jumped on the train to Portobello Road for the music fest. It was smaller than I expected but they had a great market set with with jewelry, clothes and other goodies. The entire event was outside under a bridge, next to the train tracks. There was some amazing graffiti (if you like the sorta thing which we do).
My pictures are pretty bad because it was dark but here you go...

The music was okay. The first band was pretty entertaining but probably not in the way they had intended. The singer was very into himself and looked beyond bored being on the stage. The guitarist was (as Chris aptly described) in a completely different band. He was dancing and really getting in to the music, just not to music we were hearing!?! There was a photographer trying to get his picture and every time the guitarist would turn his back to the audience and put his butt in the photographer's face! Too funny... Chris and I really enjoyed ourselves watching them ; )
The next band looked a little odd but they were really good. Ebony Bones put on quite a production and I couldn't resist snapping a few pictures...
First, there was the guitarist...
And then the back up singers...
Followed by the lead singer...
All together, they are Ebony Bones!
Chris and I decided to call it a night after Ebony Bones. Both of us thought it was around midnight and didn't want to miss the last train home. However, as it turns out it was only 8:30 and we were home and in our p.js by 9:15!
How sad is that?!?

Friday, December 19, 2008

More Proper English

Operating Theater: This is what we would refer to as an operating room or OR. The Brits just say theater. I guess it makes the idea of having an operation kind of could say "no, I can't have lunch tomorrow because I am going to the theater."

Boot: Trunk of the car.

Bonnet: Hood.

Cattery: A kennel for cats.

Coriander: Cilantro.

Sellotape: Scotch tape (you should have seen me asking store clerks for scotch tape and then trying to describe it... grin and nod, grin and nod.)

999: comparable to 911 in the US.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Italian Fountains

One of the places I can remember vividly from our honeymoon are the Italian Fountains in Hyde Park. We visited them right around sunset in 2004 and it was one of the few days of sunshine from our entire honeymoon. There were swans swimming in the pools and the sky was a brilliant pink. It was one of the reasons I feel in love with London... and now we live about 5 blocks from them!
I run past the fountains pretty much every time I run in the park and there are always people enjoying them. Yesterday the sun was so bright and the sky was so blue... it almost felt like summer. I put Jack Johnson on my iPod and pretended that it was 89 degrees out! It is days like these that make me feel lucky to be in London. Enjoy the pictures...

A Walk in the Park

When I got up yesterday the sun was shining and there was not a raindrop in sight. Naturally, I decided it was a time for a walk through Hyde Park with the Nikon. Say hello to nature, London style...
The squirrels in Hyde Park are so accustom to people enticing them with food for a picture that when you stop and assume the photo taking stance, the squirrels literally attack you. While I was taking this little guys pictures his buddies were stalking from behind and before I knew it I was surrounded! I walked away and they followed me for about 15 yards! I have never wished for a handful of acorns before but the next time I take pictures of squirrels I will have some sort of goodies to distract them as I run away!
As I was heading back to the flat I met this guy feeding peanuts to the birds. He was a cute little quintessentially British man... with terrible teeth, a mumbling accent and a terrible gambling problem. I talked to him for a good 20 minutes... so I am a little lonely when Chris is at work ; ) Anyways, my British friend told me all about all the birds and how he feeds them on Mondays, Wednesdays and sometimes on Saturdays when there are no horse races worth betting on!
This is a robin. He sat there staring at the peanuts and would occasionally swoop down but never actually got close enough to get any.

This is a yellow tit... yes, that is the name of it so stop snickering... There was also a blue tit but he was too quick for me to snap a picture. There were about 15 of these little guys hovering about in the trees waiting for their turn to land on this guys hand and snack on a little piece of peanut. I like my new friend and feel a little bad that I only took pictures of his hand and never even asked his name! I guess I will go see him tomorrow... after I check the horse races!

It is hard to believe the all 3 of the ducks above are the same... sort of... the guys with the green heads are male mallards and the 3rd one is a female mallard. As you can see, once these duckies determined I had no food for them, they swam away.

That is about it for London Wildlife with Florida Girl...
Until next time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Retro blogging...

Here are a few of my favourite places from the last few years.

How many can you name?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Spitalfields and Sunday Up Markets

Sundays are the day to go to market in London. Chris got up for an early morning run and I had an early morning cup of coffee... once we had the necessities out of the way we headed across town to Spitalfields for some Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, we seem to have only bought for ourselves! After Spitalfields, we walked over to Brick Lane for some yummy Indian food and to check out the Sunday Up Market. We ended the day at the Columbia Road Flower Market. We arrived to the flower market just as they were closing up for the day so everything was pretty picked over. All for the better since we were a 30+ minute tube ride from home!
All in all it was a good day. It was not raining but the temperature dropped significantly around 2 pm. It is very difficult to deal with the weather here... not to mention that the sun sets so early! When we came out of the tube station I thought it was 9 or 10 pm... as it turns out it was 4:30! Oh, well... I am looking forward to summer days... in about 6 months!
Here are so pictures from todays travels... enjoy!

A coffee shop near Old Spitalfield Market

A guy playing Hendrix outside the Sunday Up Market

Who's that Gnome?

Look who decided to show up for some poppadoms!

Gnoah just can't get enough of Brick Lane!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Shopping to cook...

I went to the grocery store today... for the 1st time in about 2 weeks. It is clear that I have to start going more often. Chris called just after I got to the store and said he was on his way home. I had him come meet me at the store because only 5 minutes in the door and my basket was over flowing! By the time he arrived and saw what we would have to carry home via foot, he was ready to kill me. And I still had a quarter of the store to go! Opps...

Part of the problem is that I am trying to re-stock my pantry. Small things like spices, pasta, rice, canned goods and the like start to get heavy! I don't need it all at this moment but if I want to get back to cooking on a regular basis I need a full pantry. Add all of this to the standard milk, cereal, coffee, paper towels, etc and well, it is a lot to carry the 5 blocks from the store to the flat.

In the end, I think I made up for it with the southern style pork chops and dill green beans I made for dinner. By the time Chris finishes the chili I am making tomorrow, all should be forgotten... until the next trip ; )

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The waiting is over...

I spent the afternoon cleaning and figured it was a perfect time to take pictures.
With no further is the flat!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Shopping, Donuts and Walking...lots and lots of walking!

I spent today exploring the city... well, by exploring I meaning shopping. I decided to get my barrings by taking buses to the different areas. I caught a bus at Lancaster Gate to Marble Arch where I headed towards Regent Street. I picked up a Christmas present for Mike and then jumped on another bus to Covent Gardens. Once at Covent Gardens, I found a few streets of boutique shops and walked and shop until my feet where ready to fall off... that's where things started to go awry. I asked the shop girls in a boutique where I should go next and they suggested Canterbury Street. They gave me some basic walking directions and out the door I went... into oblivion. I was lost before I even lost sight of the boutique!!! I kept thinking I would walk a little further and if I didn't find the street I would take the next bus. The next thing I knew the sun was setting and I was still walking with no clear direction or knowledge of where I was going. I finally spotted a tube station and checked out a map... Did I mention that when I left the Flat this morning I forgot to take my map? I told Chris that he should stop letting me out without supervision... anyways, I found a map and located a bus route to take me to Kensington so I could go to Harrods to finish my I mean exploring ; )

The bus dropped me smack in front of Harrods and I (you may have guessed this already) got lost in the store! In my defense the place is mammoth! Seriously, it is huge and the rooms are called Room of Luxury and Room of Luxury II. Eventually, I found what I was looking for and even picked up dinner at the deli. As I was looking for the exit, a flashing red neon sign caught my eye. It was nothing other than a Krispy Kreme Donut counter right in the middle of the prim and proper English department store... I quickly jumped in the queue for an iced, plump, delicious ring of heaven! I finished it before I could even pay for it... it was yummy!

Eventually, I found the exit and after scratching my head for a few minutes and looking up and down the street I decided to walk home through Hyde Park... how far could it be? Let's just say that I burned every Krispy Kreme calorie and then some! I walked through the Winter Wonderland which is like a fair with rides and yummy smelling food. About a quarter of the way throug the park I was begging for a bench and secretly hoping a cab would just show up and take me the rest of the way. However, I managed it and made it home with only one blister, a bag full of Christmas goodies and dinner!

Who's that girl?

Check out the Battersea Park home page.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Everyday Life

We are settling in to life here in London. Everyday I discover something new or different in the way we live. Obviously, there are some big differences such as no car but those are the easy ones... The tough bits are the small things that sneak up on you out of no where. The things that you don't expect to be different but in the end they are for no apparent reason.

For example, Christmas tree lights... now, in the states we are all accustom to the standard string of lights that have a male plug at one end and a female plug at the other with say 100 lights in between the plugs. If you need more lights, you plug a new string into the female end and move on, right? While decorating our tree on Sunday, I opened a brand new box of Christmas tree lights that I had purchased at a store in the neighborhood only to find that the lights are set up in a giant loop. Imagine my frustration as I started to string the lights on the tree... how do you string a loop of lights on to the tree? Chris set out to see if he could find the kind of lights we were accustom to and after visiting 4 different places found them but they were extremely expensive! In the end, it took us 3 days to decorate the tree!

There are also things that I expected to be different... like the food. I really miss good old fashion American breakfast food. Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, toast or biscuits... my mouth is watering just writing about it. Traditional English breakfast consists of Canadian bacon, over cooked fried eggs (even by my standards), Cumberland sausage and baked beans! I am craving a good old fashion southern breakfast like you wouldn't believe. I am more than willing to make it myself but I can't even by traditional breakfast sausage! I have googled Jimmy Dean and Tennessee Pride to no end... the only thing I found was a recipe for making my own Jimmy Dean sage sausage by buying freshly ground sausage and adding seasoning. It seems a little desperate to make my own sausage but it may very well get to that point!

On a positive note, there are some changes to my everyday life that I really love... Walking everywhere is very refreshing and I don't feel nearly as guilty splurging on a chocolate croissant or a latte when I know I have a 5 or 6 block walk to get home. I love speciality shops! It is time consuming to go to a butcher, a baker, a veggie stand but it is so much fun to see all the different stuff and the fresh taste of everything is amazing. The markets on the weekends are also great and a little less time consuming than going to specialty shops. However, I think the best part of living in London is the people watching! This city is filled with stylish, eccentric, and incredibly entertaining people. There is nothing better than a cozy seat in a pub or coffee shop, close to the window where I can watch the world go by!

So if you need me, I will be out sipping on a latte, nibbling on a chocolate croissant, watching the freaks and lugging my goodies home via foot!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Santa 6K

Over 2000 Santas running jubilantly through Battersea Park... now that is a sight to see at 10:00 am on a Saturday morning! And lucky for you, our friend Tim's camera did not run out of batteries after just one picture!

Here we are suited up for the big race... can you guess which Santa is me?

Here we are contemplating the course and planning our attack...

And, she's off...

Here is the start of the race. The blue arch in the distance is the start line... I reached it in 46 minutes and 50 seconds. Not the best time but I was not last which is really all that matters ; ) Chris finished in just over 35 minutes. However, he ran the first 2 miles with me and I surely slowed him down. The weather was great, a little cold but not a raindrop in sight! We were all complaining prior to the run that our fingers were numb but I warmed up quickly once the race started.
We saw all kinds of funny costumes including a pimp Santa, an elf, several doggie reindeer running with their owners, baby Santas riding out the race in strollers and finally the picture below...

Earlier in the race, the reindeer were riding in the sleigh with the Santas out front. There was a sign on the sleigh that read "on strike." Too funny!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Borough Market

On Saturday morning, Chris and I headed to Borough Market. This is one of the largest and oldest markets in London and is near Chris's office. Not the easiest to get to but it was well worth it once we were there and shopping. It is gigantic and very crowded. Next time we will make sure to get there extra early to beat the tourists!
I bought fresh veggies and herbs. I also went to a butcher and bought pork chops, a whole chicken and chicken cutlets. When we were all finished shopping we headed home to... you guessed it, COOK!!!

Look at me in our tiny kitchen in my Tampa Girl apron! I really missed cooking and was happy to be back at it but I would be a liar if I didn't admit that I really missed my kitchen back in Atlanta. Oh well, I made the best of it and in the end we sat down for some delicious pork chops in a white wine mushroom sauce and sour cream and chive mashed potatoes! Yummy...

Doesn't Chris look happy? Through his clenched teeth he is saying, "Put the camera down and let me eat, woman!"
On Sunday, I roasted a chicken and made sour cream and chive potato pancakes. We had a fresh spinach and rocket salad and yummy Belgium beer!!! I put tarragon, rosemary, sage, thyme, and lemon halves in the bird before I rubbed it down with butter and stuck it in the oven. It turned out to be delicious and the left overs made a great chicken salad to go with my cheddar and chive scones for dinner last night!
On Thursday, I will be making chicken Marsala with sauteed spinach and pine nuts.
Wow... I am a regular Julia Childes! Although, tonight we are have a frozen pizza : )

Come back soon for more kitchen adventures!!!
Hugs and Kisses