Thursday, March 26, 2009

Back in the Saddle

The only way to end a cooking hiatus... lamb chops with mint-mustard sauce. The reason for the hiatus is simple... between visitors, traveling and just plain laziness; I had not been to the grocery store in almost 3 weeks! So I grabbed my shopping bags and headed through the park to Whole Foods for a pantry stocking, shopping extravaganza with free delivery!

The best part of the day; a free show in the park! By pure chance (and a little left over luck of the Irish,) I happened upon a man... dancing with a tree! It was actually 2 trees to be precise. He was really getting down and seemed to be keeping time to the song playing on my i-pod! I couldn't help by stop and stare... and at that exact moment he did a pirouette and then kind-of skipped over to the next tree! Once he had finished the maneuver he glance my way and did a little booty shake... it took every ounce of energy I had to not release the roar of laughter in my belly! If I am treated to performances like this every time I go shopping, I might just go more often!

I followed the same route home but he was gone... only to be replaced by a throng of tourists fresh off the buses! Spring in London...

Back to the pan seared lamb chops... I think they may have secured my marriage for another few months ;-) Tonight's menu; Roasted red bell pepper soup to start and a Roasted chicken with pan fries to finish... That should get me well in to 2010!

Until next time!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Insert your own caption...

What will you choose?

So this post is not going to tell a very fluid story... I realized after I had uploaded 3/4 of the pictures that I had put them in backwards. Opps! I always forget that I have to upload the pictures from last to 1st so they will be in order on the post... and uploading takes a decent chunk of time.
So... As readers, you have a serious decision to make here... do you read the post from top to bottom or from bottom to top? The choice is yours! Let me know how it turns out...
This is where it gets awkward...
If you are just getting started... enjoy!
If you are a bottom to topper... Until next time! XOXO
The end of our walk around the lower lake... very peaceful and also windy! I tried my best to snap picture during the brief moments of sunny blue sky... I think I missed the boat on this attempt. However, if you squint a little you can make out a slight sliver of blue!

Upper Lake? Lower Lake? We may never know...

We speculated that this was a leprechaun trail... however, we followed it as far as we could and found no signs... evasive little creatures!

Ivy, iron fences with scrolls, stone work... the ultimate picture ;-)
Eat your heart out Laurie!

The Monastic ruins at Glendalough. Glendalough means "glen of two lakes." And the 2 lakes are appropriately named, lower lake and upper lake. As it turns out we ran into our friends who where on a day trip from Dublin in the cemetery... creepy!

I think I would live here if I were a wee little leprechaun!

Views of the blanket bogs driving through Sally Gap.
Our flight arrived in Dublin at about 8 am. We picked up the rental car and made a bee line to the B&B. We came prepared with Susan, our trusty GPS navigator who has successfully lead the way in Germany, England, California, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, as well as countless other destinations and journeys). However, Susan is utterly useless in Wicklow County Ireland!?! Her Gaelic is bloody awful and according to her calculations we were driving around in the middle of sheep fields and off the sides of mountains for 2 straight days! Of course, we are dependant on GPS and came prepared with NO maps other than the Hertz freebie... and let's be honest that map is a joke... Through some skillful navigation on my part and a little luck of the Irish we found the B&B! The owner of the B&B, Marilyn, greeted us with a map (hooray!) and outlined a great scenic drive... we were off! Our first stop was Lough Tay (Lough mean Lake and is pronounced 'lock). There is a house down by the river were the Guinness family used to "summer" and scenes for the Showtime show Tudors are filmed. Next we headed to Sally Gap were scenes from Braveheart were filmed. Apparently, Wicklow County Ireland is a hot spot for the movie business... who knew!

Wicklow Way Lodge is just outside of Roundwood, which happens to be Ireland's highest village... which I think explains the ridiculous wind! If you are reading this from bottom to top you will get the joke... if not scroll down...

The view from our B&B. After dinner on Saturday night, we stood on the deck and looked up at the stars. I don't I have ever seen so many in the sky! I really wish that my dinky Nikon could have captured that picture because words can't describe it. Chris and I just stood (in the freezing cold wind) with our mouths open, staring... then the motion light turned off and there were even more! We could only stay outside for about 10 minutes because it was so windy and cold. I had wind burn on my face the next morning! Seriously, it was like I had been in the Florida sunshine in August with no sunscreen!
Top to Bottomer's... Until next time!


After 2 days in the Wicklow Mountains we headed north to Dublin...
Chris enjoying his first pint of Guinness in Dublin at O'Donoghue's. This would start our weekend pud crawl. We managed to hit most of the famous Dublin pubs (McDaids, The Brazen Head, Temple Bar, to name a few) without realizing they were all that famous... Now that is what I call skill!

Chris at Guinness Storehouse with the waterfall behind him.

I think this sums it all up.

Pulling the perfect pint of Guinness. I even managed to top it off with a shamrock... it disappeared before Chris could see it but I promise it was there!

It looked like this. Just kidding!
This is Chris's 30th Birthday Pint... it was free!

Drinking the B-day pint... shamrock and all.

We finally found a leprechaun! And I apparently had the camera set on black and white... Very artsy, don't you think!?!

After a day in Dublin, we met with some friends and headed south again to catch Hooley (pronounced 'Who-lee') Night at Johnny Fox's. Hooley is a night of Irish dancing and music and is very similar to what Southerners might call a Ho Down. The pictures are not the best but I figured I would share anyways...

This guy was amazing. He was drenched in sweat by the time he finished.

The dancers were made up of 4 girls and 1 guy. The stage was tiny and we were sitting in the corner beside/behind the stage. Our view was mostly of their bums! Luckily they were in pretty good shape ;-)

It is hard to tell but this is a picture of four dancers jumping in unison!

The Hooley band... they were entertaining. However, I am pretty sure we missed most of the jokes because of the think Irish accents. The whole crowd would laugh at something and we would just look at each other and shrug!

The band played Beautiful Tonight! We tried to recreate our 1st dance... 3 pints of Guinness made the dip a little scary!

Irish Coffee.
The only way to start St. Patrick's Day in Dublin!
And just to set the record straight... Despite popular belief that the Irish don't go all out to celebrate St. Paddy's Day...
This is the start of the parade route...

This is the middle of the parade route...

And this is the end of the parade route... The Bull & Castle Beer Hall. Simone and Christine are some friends from Atlanta. Christine is a fellow ex-pat who works for E&Y. Notice the green beer... yep, the Irish really do go ALL out for St. Paddy's day!

Including this guy. I wish I could remember his name but let's just be honest... remembering is a lost cause. Chris and I did a shot with him. I think he is in his early 70's and he is from Dublin. He was sharing his memories of St. Patrick's Day events over the years. His memory was about as good as mine! However, he could drink me under the table in an instant! After the shot, Chris and I called it a night... notice the sun is still up!

The day after St. Paddy's day at St. Stephen's Green. This is Dublin's most central park but it is not nearly as big as Hyde Park in London. This picture is at about 9:30 am and the park was pretty empty. We came back around 2 pm and people were lying in the grass, walking about and enjoying a BEAUTIFUL day. Chris and I spread out on the grass and soaked up some rays, too!

This is the Campanile in the middle of the Trinity College courtyard. It was built where they believe the center of the original Monastery was located. We spent our last day in Dublin touring Trinity College and lying in the sun. Our flight left late in the day and it was nice to relax after 4 days of non-stop going... We got the bus to the airport and while we sat at a red light I say this out the window...

Jesus in a Box.
Our last image from our 5 day Irish get-away...
How appropriate!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring has Sprung

I have been a very bad blogger the last month and I do apologize to all my loyal readers. I need to update with posts from our trip to Ireland for Chris's upcoming birthday as well as additional posts from Laurie's visit. However, today I just wanted to share a little bit of information...
The temperature in London as I type is 59F!!! Earlier it was 62F!!! The sun is shining and there is not a single cloud in the sky!!! Flowers are blooming, trees are growing leaves... I do believe that Spring is here!
We took a blanket to Hyde Park and soaked up as much sunshine as we could...
I just hope this weather sticks around...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


We were very excited by our 1st sheep sighting... and by we, I mean Laurie and me. Chris mostly stood back and chuckled at us!
There would be many, many more sheep to come!
Our first town, Burton-on-the-Water, was a fairly quite place. We discovered straddle stones which are in the picture above. These stones are ALL over the place and apparently were used to prop up the foundations of homes built in the marshes... only the English would build a house in a marsh in the first place ;-) I must give credit to Laurie for the picture. I forgot to charge my battery so my photo album is pretty sparse... As a matter of fact, the rest of the pictures on this post were taken by Laurie!
From Burton-on-the-Water we went to Lower Slaughter... yes, there is an Upper Slaughter as well! The name is derived from an old English word for swamp, marsh or muddy place... This mill is now a gift shop and a museum... although I didn't see much of a museum?
The church in Lower Slaughter was pretty amazing. But we would see churches in every little village or town. The more successful the villages wool trade was in the 1700 and 1800's the more grand the church!
The "High Streets" were all very quaint and fun to stroll. We had tea in Burton-on-the-Water... poor Chris! He sipped his tea with his pinkie out like a champ and I thought he fit in quite nicely. However, Chris felt out of place without his tea coat on.... a tea coat he explained is tweed with leather patches on the elbows! All the men are wearing them to afternoon tea these days ;-)
I think I could have tea here everyday around... say 4 o'clock?
The red box on the right is a public mail box or letter drop...

I don't think this farmer will be too pleased when he realizes that his sheep are eating up all the brussel sprouts...

I love the red phone booths... especially when they are in the middle of the country! This one was on the edge of the village. And yes, that is a very blue sky in the background... And no, it did not last!

Laurie may have taken this photo but I get some credit... After all, I was bahhing like a fool from the car trying to get the sheep to look our way. And it obviously worked... eventually they started bahhing back at me. Chris was laughing hysterically and I couldn't help but join him. I never in a million years thought I would be sitting in a Kia, on a country road, in The Cotswolds, bahhing at sheep while Laurie snapped their pictures... What a life!!! On the bright side, I think I may have a future in imitating sheep. Bahhhh bahhhhh baaahh

Our future home in Upper Slaughter... if my sheep gig pays off.

On our way back to London we stopped in Woodstock to visit Blenheim Palace. However, as we sat on the tram waiting to ride from the parking lot to the gardens a storm blew in and as the lot attendant said; it started to chuck! We decided to take a rain check on the gardens and ran back to the car. It rained most of the way back to London and Chris got drenched on his way home from returning the rental car.
Come back tomorrow for pictures of The Horse and Groom.
Until then...

Going to the country...

With the city of London fully conquered by the Kipphut Ladies, we decided to make a break for the country on Friday! Our first order of business was taking Chris hostage from work. After all, we needed a driver if we were ever going to make it The Cotswolds.

Driving... or maybe I should say riding since Chris did all the driving... was an experience to say the least! After 3 days in the passenger seat, I would still have a moment of pure confusion when I looked up to see an on-coming car in the "wrong" lane. I don't think I can erase years of conditioning... Chris, however, seemed to pick it up pretty quickly. There were 2 slight faux pas when we were turning and there were no other cars in sight. There were also some pretty close calls on the passenger side where we barely squeaked by without hitting fences, mailboxes, other cars, etc... although Chris will deny it, I can assure you we were much too close for comfort. In the end, Chris did a fabulous job and we made back to London with no damage!

Now... back to the country!

The Cotswolds are an area to the east of London that are know for their hills, thatched roof cottages and sheep. The towns/villages have some great names and I secretly giggle every time I say them! Stow-on-the-Wold, The Slaughters, Wotton-under-Edge, Moreton-in-Marsh... how funny! The names aside, the villages are amazing! I have never seen anything like it. Each village or town looked like it was straight out of a painting with perfectly tended rivers, old mills, sheep grazing on hills in the background, and buttercups popping up everywhere... it was quintessential English countryside!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Holland Park

Laurie and I returned to the scene of the Great Peacock Stalking of 2009 on Thursday. I absolutely adore Holland Park so any chance to return is fine with me. I was a little disappointed when we found the first peacock sulking on top of a brick wall. He was clearly in no mood for posing and made this know by turning his back to us regardless of which side of the wall we were on. Laurie even got adventurous and jumped into the brush... it was like a scene from Survivor Man... but Mr. Peacock snubbed her still.

Imagine out delight when we came around the corner to find another peacock strutting about on the stairs to the Kyoto Garden.

This guy was more than willing to pose for us. He walked up and down the steps and turned in complete circles. It was like he was putting on a show for us! We watched him and took pictures for several minutes but it was starting to become monotonous.

At this point, I said to Laurie; "I just wish he would open his feathers."

He did!!! Laurie is always saying I have a knack for willing things to happen... but I don't think it has ever happened in such a literal or immediate way!

With his feathers on display he continued to walk up and down the stairs and to turn and pose. At first, I thought he was trying to scare the two crazy ladies with the cameras (that would be me and Laurie) away. However, then I noticed his main concerns were the other birds (peacocks and pigeons.) Whenever another bird would come near the stairs he would become tense and shake his feathers. It was amazing! The feathers sounded like the rattle on a snake and clearly were taken as a warning as none of the birds would stick around for very long.

The peacock was so mesmerizing that it was hard to pull ourselves away. However, after about a million pictures we decided to move on! We finished our walk through the park...
I love the natural feel of Holland Park. Manicured gardens are nice, as are paved paths and sidewalks but I prefer the dirt paths and wooden fences.
Laurie was really enjoying the park, too!
We finished our walk through the park and found a cute little French cafe near the Holland Park tube station. It was nice to get inside and warm up before we finished our day off with a trip to Spitalfields.

My two favorite stores at Spitalfields. I have never been in the coffee store but I love the store front. This is what I want my cupcake store to look like eventually... Kuhn take note ;-) The market was full of English character. Thursdays is the antique market and the stalls were filled with interesting "found objects" including fish in jars filled with formaldehyde, silverware galore, costume jewelry, a stuffed rabbit and lots of peculiar but strangely appropriate items! The stall minders were even more entertaining... the men wore mostly tweed and all had on gloves with no fingers and hats. They reminded me Bert from Mary Poppins... All in all it was an entertaining experience.

After spending most of the day outside (except for the short lunch and tibe ride) and in the chilling wind it was nice to come back to the flat for afternoon tea. We enjoyed yet another scrummy (British for yummy) scone from Whole Foods and then rested until dinner at Daylesford Organic. As far as I am concerned, Daylesford serves the best lamb chops I have EVER eaten! I can't wait for our next visitors so we can taken them there...I am getting hungry just thinking about it!!!

Come back soon for a post on our trip to The Cotswolds and more pictures!

Until then, XOXO