Fly Away

Two years have now gone by since we first landed in the UK. It seems like a very long time since we dragged our three suitcases across the ocean to this door in Seven Dials, but at the same time feels almost like it could have been yesterday.

seven dials flat

It’s weird to read what had to say when we landed on 5 October 2008.

So much has happened since then that I wonder how we’ve managed to stay sane, but then I know the answer.  We’ve never been alone.  Drew’s been faithfully, unmovable, by my side every step along the way and I’ve done my best to keep my chin up for him.  Our family and friends have not forgotten us.  New friends have embraced us.

This painful, wondrous, awe-inspiring experience has been a true adventure.  In 85 years my grandkids might be reading this journal and find inspiration here…  I can’t help but be pretty inspired myself; we are so fortunate to have had this opportunity.

Cheers to two years!

To celebrate, my sister is on a plane to London!!  (Thanks for sharing her Richard, Alicia, and Elizabeth!  I know that you’ll miss her very much.)

One Is the Loneliest Number

It’s very often I am reminded I am not in control of all things in life. This week I have been sent a message via canal boat. It is a first, I assure you.

loose canal boat

I see that there is something to be learned in finding a canal boat drifting aimlessly down the canal, but I can’t promise I have figured it out just yet… Not to worry – it has been safely moored by some random folks down yonder way. I just hope its owners know that their house has taken up residence downstream from whence it came.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

The Serenity Prayer and Beer

You are likely to think I am an alcoholic by now. You know, I do ask myself if I should be worried about the number of times per week I consume an alcoholic beverage. I will let you know if I begin to suspect a problem. Until then, please consider Exhibit A:

what the beer

I have had to ask myself if my guardian angel might send Pale Ale to me in London in times of my greatest need. It seems a little out of character from what I’ve been told of guardian angels, but what do I know?!

I am taking it as a sign.
jen on the moon

I can hear my guardian angel’s voice now, as she shakes her head in wonder (and with a strange pride): ‘My daughter drinks beer.’

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Stand by Me

Can you say ‘struggling’ girls and boys? Don’t be afraid to try: ‘Struggling.’

That’s very good.

Now let’s use it in a sentence: ‘I am struggling.’ (The slang term ‘struggling’ is in this case interchangeable with ‘busted’, but should not be confused with ‘crunk’, ‘messed up’, or ‘whack’.) It’s very important that you know what to do when you are struggling, girls and boys. You count your blessings.

Though I will spare you the insanity of hearing all about it, I am going to share with you today’s Five Things Jen is Thankful For.

#1 Hello.

drew and jen

#2 My sister is coming, my sister is coming!

#3 Yeah, for real.
balin

#4 I could hold up a mirror, this would be the place for it. Under this sentence, down there. Right there. Forget it. Just go look in the dang mirror!

#5 There are people in Trafalgar Square standing by to help.
free hugs two

free hugs one

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Show Me the Money!

When the United Kingdom joined the European Union (EU), it was the only country to keep its own currency. Some members of the EU consider this a serious controversy. (Except ‘controversy’ sounds a bit silly when a Brit says it, if I do say so m’self.) Well, it seems that the UK is sticking to its guns on this one.

Great Britain has minted coinage with a brand new design.
new british coins

The crest is the Queen’s. The design is Matthew Dent’s (Mr Dent has not commented on his relation to Arthur Dent). At 26, he is the youngest person to design the nation’s money, but he won the contest fair and square.

I think this says two things: Before the Queen passes the crown to Prince William she intends to make sure she’s still in circulation for a long time to come. The UK is giving the Euro the finger.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

A Different Kind of Mallrat

Being a true blood American, I struggled to function in the London shopping scene upon our arrival. I could write a dissertation on the link between the downfall of society and its relationship to high street shopping, with an emphasis on knowing-what-one-thing-you-want vs the effort it takes to get that thing in an environment that is adverse to either the casual browsing or targeted purchasing experience.

Whew.

I wondered how Londoners functioned without shopping malls. After some time I heard about a mythical place called Westfield, an American style collection of the most popular shops – a mall. That’s lovely, but it is a long way to go when I need a small thing or a particular thing which is not guaranteed to be in that wonderland.

It took me nearly two years to put it together, but the epiphany hit me on Sunday like a hot latte. London does have shopping malls! They are hidden in plain site. Here they call them ‘train stations’. I am going to let you future Huddleston B&B guests on a little secret.

St Pancras is a closet mall.
hamleys

sourced market
Sourced carries Monmouth Coffee. They also carry organic and locally sourced frosty beverages, among other things of course.

cinnamon tree bakery
Borough Market is closed during your visit? Local bakers sell their goods at Sourced, too.

peyton and byrne
Look at those Mallrats… They look just like travelers.

wilton and Noble
Made in England. Kiss my big toe Oxford Street.

fat face

These are just a few. We’ve got Fossil and Neuhaus, too. This does not solve all of my problems, but it does comfort me to know that there is a late night Marks and Spencer nearby… Dang, Gina – it took me a long time to see what’s been staring me in the face all this time.

Let Them Eat Cake

She would be pleased to know that people eat cake on her birthday, I think, but she isn’t around for me to ask anymore. I made cake anyway. If you want to have what I’m having, you are going to need my Chocolate Mess recipe.

Cake
1 Devil’s Food cake box mix and the ingredients it says you need
1 glass wine or Diet Dr Pepper (you may choose your own vice)
1 cup chocolate chips (any variety. Heck, they don’t even have to be chocolate)
1 cup chocolate chips

Fudge Sauce
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
1 pinch salt
3 tbsp milk

Topping
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 large container double cream

Extra
2 1/2 sleeves oreos (chocolate cream if you’ve got ’em)

You might start with a Devil’s Food cake mix from a box or you might use your Granny’s secret recipe – I don’t know what you do in your kitchen… But let me give a gentle word of advice: box mix. Ok, that was two words. What I mean is that Granny’s secret recipe would be wasted underneath the gobs of stuff you are about to throw at it; save it for a day that it can stand in the spotlight.

Prepare Devil’s Food cake as directed on the box (or use Granny’ recipe for the cake if you insist. I don’t like telling you what to do). Now sip your wine, or your whatever, every time you have the urge to lick the bowl. Or the beaters. Or the spoon. Put. it. down. Before you pour the cake in the pan, stir in 1/2 to 1 cup of chocolate chips.

While the cake is in the oven, heat the sweetened condensed milk on the stove, but do not boil. Stir in the cocoa until well combined; stir in the salt. Let cool a minute or two (sip wine) before adding the vanilla. Add milk one tablespoon at a time until the consistency is runny enough to be considered fudge-y syrup.

As soon as you have the cake on a cooling rack (but straight from the oven), use a spatula or knife to make long, deep slits in the cake without cutting all the way through it. Your instincts will fight against you, but this is critical. Take a swig of wine; really, it’s ok.

Pour the warm hot fudge-y syrup-y stuff on top of the just-out-of-the-oven cake. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly on top of that. Have a sip of wine and tell your OCD to go sit in the corner. ‘Sprinkle evenly’ is a general term; there is NO density calculation required.

Let them get to know each other and do that thing that cakes and sauce do together. Try not to stare – where is your wine? Let the cake cool completely after its ‘activities’.

Crush the oreos. Food processor, hammer.. Again, I am not here to judge what you do in your kitchen.

Whip the double cream with a whisk attachment until slightly thick. Add cocoa and sugar in spoonfuls as you continue to whip until soft peaks form. Whip a tiny bit longer. Wine or whisk, put one in your mouth. Whatev.

Spread the chocolate whipped cream on the COOLED cake. Spread crushed oreos on top, refridgerate at least a few hours. (If you have leftover chocolate chips, chuck them on top. Or eat them. No one will know.) Serve.

I am told that red wine goes nicely with chocolate.

Southern Belle in London

One of the joys of living abroad is having a good excuse to play host and hostess to friends and adventurers seeking sleep (and/or beer) in London. I am very lucky to be loved enough that when my friend Candace‘s mom came to Europe to visit, Candace shared her mom with me. Cheryl’s visit was the perfect end of summer treat.

With only 2.2 days in London post family trip to Rome, there was a lot to see. Lee and Cheryl covered a lot of ground on Friday while Candace, Drew, and I finished the work week. The weekend was a beautiful blur.

We introduced her to soho.
bracelet story

soho queen

To all the girls and boys, and those in between – for the love of self respect, your skirt should be long enough to cover the subject.

After that, I almost need a smoke, too.
cuban purchase

We took a breath at Piccadilly Circus.
cheryl at piccadilly

(Why wasn’t I born with hair like this?)
hair at piccadilly

Candace and Lee didn’t think Cheryl should miss Borough Market.
borough market

I agree.
borough market bread
Get in my belly.

Who can resist organically grown chilies that make your nose bleed?!
chili stall borough market

Amazingly enough, we had time for Ye Ol’ Cheshire Cheese-
cheshire cheese

and ladies’ tea at Fortnum and Mason before Candace and Lee took Cheryl out for a big surprise.
fortnum and mason

I wish I could have seen her face when they led her to the Lyceum Theatre to see The Lion King… At least I got to hear her describe it when they got home. Ah, good times.

If you’d like to share your vacation with the Huddlestons, please do let us know. We need some extra mouths to feed at Thanksgiving.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Thames Festival, Signing Off

The scene: sundown on a calm Sunday evening with clear-ish skies.
oxo tower and sky

Features among the cast of characters:
Prehistoric animals

(Yes, that is London Eye in the background. Yes, that is wicked cool.)

mardi gras singers

scaring children

lion on stilts

monkey head

cleopatra and st pauls

(Yes, that is St Paul’s in the background. I know, I know – I’ll give it a rest.)

ship

robot

pyramid

And the finale –

Go to Vimeo.

This will become a new tradition for The Huddlestons. Let us know if you fancy joining us next year!

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Thanksgiving, Lord Mayor’s Style

No one told me that London celebrates Thanksgiving. Ok, so they call it ‘feast on the bridge’… Whatev.
feast on the bridge

Apparently the end of summer is marked by the Thames Festival, a two day outdoor arts event put on by the Thames Festival Trust.
thames festival

The Southwark Bridge was lit up like a garden reception.
Jen and the bridge

It’s the biggest end-of-summer-harvest party I have ever seen.
southwark bridge dining

dining on southward bridge

southwark bridge crowd

There were unique stalls and installations – some educational, others just fun.
thames festival activity

bicycle cinema

Yeah, I could use this kind of thing at home.
bicycle cinema two

To work off dinner.
buddha bowl

(Must. Replicate.) Brown Rice, sweet potato and pineapple curry, kale?, blackened tofu. MMMMmmm.

Oh, yeah.
konditor and cook

I did have a gingerbread man from Konditor and Cook.
gingerbread men

You should have been here for this.
crepes

Festivities stretched along the southbank from Westminster to Tower Bridge.
vw and tower bridge

You would look good in this picture. See you September 2011?
tower bridge

Sunday = Carnival+fireworks. For the win. Full report coming soon, same Bat time – same Bat channel.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Defying Gravity

You know you have made it to the big time when Drew Huddleston designs your website. (What you see below is the result of Jen Huddleston design. I think you can see for yourself why we leave the digital art to Drew. I reserve the right to bust a mean summersault+sexy push combination on the dance floor and all that, but Drew is the real digital specialist…) Yeah, so. What was I saying?

Oh yeah.

I must be on top. The hottest web designer around takes my calls on his day off.

If you log into my website and it’s daylight where I am you get blue sky.
website feature daylight

Believe it or not, this is more common than grey sky and rain. I digress.

If I am in the dark, so are you.
website feature night

And when I need to know how long I have to get the flat clean before my sister gets here, you can count down the hours with me.
website feature countdown

I am not really sure when I ascended to stardom, but it’s oh so nice to be on top.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

What is This Feeling?

Let us rejoicify; we’ve seen the best show in London! I couldn’t be happier. We couldn’t be happier, right dear?
wicked

WICKED is absolutely everything the discerning West End crowd demands. The posh Apollo Victoria Theatre lobby has taken on a certain green glow since WICKED came to London. The stage has been expertly transformed into a great gateway to the famed Emerald City.

Though I refused to be swayed by hype and mass hysteria before I had seen the show myself, I did wonder what life new voices would lend to the characters I had only met in the soundtrack. I should have known better. Our cast was flawless. The talent of the London artists is stunning, each character is a three-dimensional, familiar persona of someone I already know. I’m convinced I was really there; you, and you, and you – and you – were there too.

No doubt the success of the show is directly linked to the amazing story and music which lay the foundation for the characters to engage us, but the creatives involved in the production of the show cannot be faulted. The show really is spectactularious through and through.

I could say more, but it wouldn’t be enough. I’m limited. But I have been changed for good.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Smitten

As I patiently wait for Drew to finish the last bits of work he has promised his mates he’d attend to this weekend, the gentle sound of raindrops slapping water drifts up to us from the canal. We’ve been well fed and watered by new friends Adam and Milly (and baby Rufus). It has been a beautiful day.

Maybe it’s the warmth of budding friendship or the wine- or maybe it’s the effect of having been so near a precious miracle- that gives me the feeling that I am going to be fine.
baby with jen

Faces like these… I am glad we got away before I completely melted.
baby sleeping

Despite the way it looks, there was intelligent and stimulating conversation. Bless him, it was a lot to process.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Surf and Sun

Tumbleweeds drift though deserted school streets and echoes can be heard in the underground stations across the city. August is witness to the Exodus. Summer holidays.

Every last family in London with small to medium children remaining in the city last Thursday morning, took an Easyjet flight from Luton to somewhere. It is no wonder why I went on holiday to Portugal and my luggage decided to enjoy a break in Spain; it was either confused to be packed among the mass of cute little Trunki or running away.

Eventually we made it the safety of the pool. (Thanks to Mel for loaning me clothes, bags, sun lotion, hair care, bodywash, toothpaste, bathing costumes, towels, sarongs, etc.)
feet pool
My theory is that she clothed me because she couldn’t bear to have me sun bathe nude. (I couldn’t stomach it either.)

Thanks very much to the Lyons family for letting us stay in their home.
villa

Thanks to Ade and Mel for taking us to the western most point of Europe.
west point

And thanks to the sun for never giving up on us.
covered market

Even Drew soaked up sun and waves.
beach drew

He’s so handsome in his new pinky brown skin. In fact, I’ll see you all later…

You can only get the word of the day at www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Just Creatures

Creation sheds light; it draws what is human out of us, reflecting it back. It heals and it hurts, but it hurts so good. Creation, in force or in action, carries us forward. It gives insight into new ways of being. Creation is sexy.

(Creation is fruity, if you will.)

spraying hands

i heart tea
(Yeah, me too buddy.)

charcoal hands

wrist splint hands

hula hoop

supplies from higher

graffiti art

painting the town

painting hand

drew's hands
This last pair of hands makes my heart pound and my palms sweaty. Among other things. I am gonna create amazing things with the owner of these hands.

That wasn’t my point was it? No. (And yes.)

Do it, make it, shout it, be it, sing it, raise it, shake it, live it, have it, throw it, soothe it, shape it, give it, get it out. Set it free.

Will Make Cake for No Reason

There are days that slip by almost unnoticed in the rush of too much to do. There are days that are marked with important events. The month of July disappeared in a flurry of making plans, getting packed, seeing friends, getting caught up, riding the coming home roller coaster… I spent far too much time with a suitcase and an empty bed. There were not enough tv programs to keep me from knocking around in the shadowy corners of my own head.

It’s funny to look down and watch her hands type this letter to you. And it is strange to see myself in the mirror and find myself longing to touch the reflection of my own bare lips. Flashes of recognition strike me – she was my age when I born; at my age she had not graduated nursing school yet. My children will never meet her. When my stomach hurts I cannot call her. My stomach hurts.

Cake anyone?

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Man, Are My Arms Tired…

Singapore Airlines, business class? Yes.
singapore airlines seat

“Ms. Huddleston, would you like Champagne or orange juice before take-off?” Yes. Yes I would.
tv and cocktail

“Ms. Huddleston, would you like some swag to make your journey comfortable and enjoyable?” Yes. I would. (Are you sensing a pattern?)
singapore airlines swag

Yes.
feet up

I will put my feet up until dinner time, thank you.
vegan starter singapore airline

singapore airlines vegan dinner

“Ms. Huddleston, would you like help converting your…” I am going to stop you right there. Yes.
singapore airlines bed one

singapore airlines bed two

Singapore is, in my estimation, not entirely unlike a tropical suburb of New York City. Food stalls, open air markets, late shop hours, high rises, international travellers, posh looking locals… Check. The theatre district isn’t comparable, though there are museums, historic bits, seaside, riverside, tours, and the like. On second thought, if New York City London (?) and some efficient tropical Swiss or German metropolis met on a hot summer night for drinks and one thing lead to another… Perhaps Singapore is the long lost love child of such a pairing. I thank you to remember that most of the world is still very new to me.
green city

Without a doubt I enjoyed a Singapore Sling at Raffles hotel, suggestion courtesy of my tour guide Sian, who poses as my colleague for quite a few hours each week. (What can I say? I’ve got people.)
singapore sling

Sian also serves as a reliable source for advice on such things as Cantonese vs Japanese cuisine and UK vs Sinagpore sun. There is a big difference, you know.
Sian

Meetings are better poolside.

English is the national language. Signage is not on shortage. The city is spotless. I am at ease. Even in my bikini (well, that’s what I’m telling you, anyway). Yes, I brought sunscreen.

For more photos, visit the Huddleston flickr album.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Where in the World is Gina [Sandiego]?

The better question is ‘where has Gina been?’. London was the final stop on our whirlwind, week long tour.

We saw a smidgen of Belarus. Grodno, Vitebsk, and Minsk. The landscape looked a lot like Tennessee, except that the buildings were mostly different.
Belarus Church

With a more than gracious host I laughed and struggled to understand the people, the country, and the menus. The landscape was incredibly similar to Tennessee. The cityscape felt vastly different though. Having watched one too many 007 films, I was overwhelmed by the friendly openness of the team we had travelled to meet.

We stopped for the blink of an eye in Berlin, Germany. Checkpoint Charlie was a lighthearted rendition of its former self.
checkpoint charlie

But the section of the Berlin wall left standing is more stark reminder of days gone by.
berlin wall

The city itself is modern and international, feeling a bit like London. The history is palpable, offered openly to anyone willing to take the journey.

Though there was little opportunity for unstructured free time, I came home with my head full of wonder and new information. Gina came back rested.
europe hotel

Thanks belong to my colleague and mentor Sian. Not many people can put up with me for a week – let alone provide training while working such long days herself. Step aside Superwoman; I’ve met your match. And there are more strong, talented women on the team we represent. (Yeah, ok – we’ve got talented men, too. They are just outnumbered.)

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Windsor

Did I mention that Ali stopped by for tea? Yeah, and we went to Windsor last Saturday.

The queen has a big old house.
windsor castle one

windsor castle two

The garden is kind of nice.
windsor castle three

Church is closer than the front doorstep.
windsor castle four

I think there would be room for us to stay if we were invited for Thanksgiving.
windsor castle five

You could probably come, too.
windsor castle six

And there are some serious looking dudes wandering around.
windsor castle seven

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Something In the Way

There is no shame in taking a short tube ride to 3 Abbey Road, Beatles fan or not.
3 Abbey road

No one shakes their head at those who choose to remove their shoes –
shoes

to walk barefoot –
feet

at the famed zebra crossing outside Abbey Road Studios.
abbey road crossing

Everyone seems happy to Let it Be.
Let it Be

For the record, Ali has seriously done her research. Did you know that you can download the audio tours for many London museums/attractions on iTunes?! These are the same audio tours you pay £3 to rent in the attraction. Just sayin’.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Feels Like Home

When a well-loved childhood friend shows up to stay, something unexpected stirs between my lungs. Although I am prone to gas, I would like to think that’s heartstring being tugged by her nearness.

If you look past the guy desperately searching for platform 9 3/4 you can see her.
Ali at lhr

That’s my bed mate, travel buddy, school friend, best mate type friend, my wonderful Ali.
ali is happy

It is possible that she was really glad to see me, too. It is also possible that Ali was just happy to be off the plane and in proximity to someone who would lead her to a bed.

And Ali brought a beautiful (and heavy) painting for the Huddleston B&B.
deona fish

It’s really something special – and just perfect in the kitchen where I spend so much time doing happy things. I mention the heavy part only because carrying anything extra, let alone bulky or heavy, when you are traveling is linked directly to love for the receiver. Artist Deona Fish, Ali tells me, habitually turns cabinet doors into fantastic art pieces. A one of kind in London no doubt!

It’s perfect. And so is Ali.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

It Pains Me to Say It

The World Cup is bigger than the Olympics with England fans. Companies send people home early, pubs set up unusually large screens indoors and out, barbecues erupt onto sunny lawns and sidewalks… Fans flock to get seats (and frosty beverages) for the 3 o’clock match; then they nip to loo and order another round for the 7 o’clock match. This goes on for about a month.

I am tempted to talk about it with others in the kitchen at work. It’s a nasty habit to send a little text to someone I know when we’ve won or lost. I haven’t ever been a sports fan before. What has come over me?

Is this true?
tea equals hope

Is tea the answer to the sub-ultimate question?

Our neighbors cheered for New Zealand.
canal boat fans

Fancy armor doesn’t help.
england wrist bands

Strong men look into the mirror to find that they are weak.
come on england

‘Come on England!’ was shouted thousands of times, but now England is coming home. Or at least, they aren’t continuing to battle it out for the World Cup.

Pick Up The Phone
Master P

What follows is the EPIC tale of my quest to make my wife happy get a new toy. Journey with me brave reader and you shall hear the tale. The tale of Drew in iPhoneland.
Drew's new iPhone

So a few weeks ago, Jen tells me she wants a phone contract because she is tired of always needing to top-up her phone. You see she has been on pay-as-you-go for the last year. Originally we thought this was a great option as we could change her service if we wanted, but after a year and a half of constantly being reminded of her balance after every call she has grown tired of clicking “okay.” Can’t blame her either. It really is annoying. No really.

Back to the point. When she told me she wanted a contract, I asked her to wait a couple of days because Apple was about to announce the new version of the iPhone and this would be a great chance for me to upgrade my phone at a discount. Jen being the push-over loving wife she is, was willing to wait. Once the phone was announced I told her the release date and promised her we would get her a contract then.

Fast forward to this past Thursday (pretty sure I just violated some temporal rules of grammer) and we are now standing in line with an unknown number of Apple fan-boys all drooling over the newest gadget from the gods.

“Why would one choose to stand in such a line?” you ask, understandably. The answer is simple dear reader. We were told they were going to sell out and I had promised my wife she would have a contract when I could get the new phone. The trouble, you see, is in restocking. Rumour (UK spelling there) has it, once the iPhone 4 sold out on release day it would be over a month before they anymore in stock. Thus I feel pressured to get it on release day as to keep my wife from waiting any longer.

So now I have dragged Jen out of bed at 5am on Thursday, 24 June 2010, to come stand in the queue (line) with me at our local O2 shop.
O2 Angel

When we first arrived, we were about 30th in line. This was at 7:15am, only 45 minutes before the store was due to open. I thought this would be enough time to get us in and out in enough time to get to work (we both had until 9:30 before needing to be at work), and really, how long could it take right?

FIVE HOURS!!!

That is how long. Five hours. Moving from my spot at 30th in line from 7:45 in the morning took five hours of my life.
iPhone 4 queue

Jen finally confessed to me at 8:30, she didn’t want to be there and it wasn’t worth it to her. To be fair, she never SAID it was that important to her to begin with, but hey, I am a dude (and we all know dudes speak a different language than chicks). So at 9am Jen steps out of line to go to work. But fear not, her time in line was not wasted. She ended up getting herself something on her way to work anyway.
Jen's new shoes

We wouldn’t have wanted her to not have something new after spending all that time in line. Plus she forgot her work shoes in the rush out the door. Did I mention we were up at 5am? …or that I woke up every hour on the hour in the night out of fear I would oversleep? Yeah, I am a sad individual.

In the end I did get the phone, but it was not without a hitch. Once I made it to the front of the line and was finally sitting at the desk with an O2 representative, I was told they couldn’t sell me a phone.

“WHY!?!?!”, you ask, again understandably. Well apparently O2’s online account information is in NO way connected to their in-store system. So when the very nice clerk asks me my phone number and postcode, my answer returned no results.

Apparently when we first signed up with O2 we were still in corporate housing from TM. There was NO WAY I was going to remember that postcode. So I left the store with no phone, on very frustrated customer. Five hours. No phone. And I am late for work. FOUR HOURS late for work. No phone. I have missed TWO meetings. Did I mention no phone.

Thirty minutes later I was able to get Jen on the phone, with a bit of combined brain power and Google searching I returned to the store (skipping the queue at this point) with our old postcode in hand. Luckily the clerk was a good chap and was willing to help me straight away (well as soon as he finished with his current customer). This was not however the end of the tale as he still needed to get someone on the phone at corporate to update my address as the address on file must match my current billing address on my bank card.

Now I find myself the victim of one busy signal after another. He tries calling five or six times with no luck, but he carries on like he were a patriot in WWII (Keep Calm and Carry On). FINALLY. Someone answers. He informs me it may still take another HOUR before the information is actually updated. Luck. It happens instantly. My stomach finally leaves my throat.

Can you say frustration. I knew you could.

In the end, I got the new phone, Jen got new shoes and all was right with the world. Well, unless you are my buddy Gareth. He has a whole other story to tell.

This Little Light of Mine

I’m going to let it shine.

Tomorrow. or Thursday.

My shadow is getting in the way today.
shadow

She’s worried about the sun and the moon and the month of June. You’ll have to forgive her, she can be kind of dramatic. And it’s Tuesday. Anything can happen on Tuesdays.

No matter how long my shadow gets, though, somehow I always seem to see the signs.
beer mats

Life marches on and so should I.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Rootmaster

Animal free and delicious, not unheard of.

The Tofu Teriyaki was so good.
 teriyaki tofu

The Nut Cutlet was the perfect alternative to the widely consumed Sunday Roast.
nut cutlet

Vegan drinks were an added bonus.
vegan drinks

In a double decker bus.
rootmaster

Oh, wait. Sorry, did I skip that bit at the beginning? Ahem. Rootmaster is a vegan restaurant in (and around) a double decker. It’s right off Brick Lane in the Shoreditch area.

There is seating upstairs.
going inside

The kitchen is on the ‘ground’ floor, where there is a take away window and outdoor seating with a canopy cover.
window

Surprisingly, the seating area upstairs is comfortable. Please do bear in mind that all spaces is tight in London.
upstairs seating

And if you don’t like Rootmaster as much as we did, we can find you a kebab. We just can’t promise that we know what’s in it.
fish vegan world

Sometimes you have to hook people with the novelty of an idea and get their loyalty with a quality product. Sold.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

A New Way to Celebrate

Spending your first birthday as an ex-pat can come with a mix of emotions. Drew and I have experienced the plucking of the raw nerve that is a birthday away from everything familiar and routine. This is why we wanted to give Candace a grand Annual Celebration of Life, even though she assures us she is not getting older anymore. The party was never intended to include butt and cleavage sweat (let’s all pretend I have cleavage), but the air conditioning at Bincho was definitely not working.

Satsuma saved the day.
cc and lc satsuma

A walk across the river landed us at Udderbelly. We caught our first London stand-up comedy show in the big purple cow that makes up the festival’s stage area.
udderbelly

Bob, where ever you are, I hope that someone has done the River Dance for you. You are right, that stag do was pretty tame. Then again, you didn’t pay them to entertain you; we all thought that’s what we had paid the comics to do. May you not get beat up the next time you are drunk and disorderly. And rude.

Of course, the party was also not meant to include a failed visit to Borough Market. (If you can figure it out, please tell me how I managed not to know that Borough Market is closed on Sundays after 20 months living in London. I am currently using the excuse that Portobello and Spitalfields markets are closed on Saturday but open on Sunday.)

Although I felt pretty terrible for having promised something impossible, I did have The Marksman on speed dial and David slapped our name on a table. I think The Marksman may have earned us another chance. It seems that Candace and Lee are not planning to break up with us just yet.
cc and lc marksman

That’s a relief.

Happy birthday my friend!

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Here I Go Again

First things, first:  Congratulations Taylor!  We’ll be sending you some rugby related treats shortly!  You have no idea how high you’ve moved up in the ranks by leaving your small bits of encouragement for one lost little practicing writer.

Ahem.  Mush out.

A few butterflies at Mitsubishi Pharma organised an after work event. Karaoke. (Of course.) I thought I would have trouble singing and dancing with these people I sit in serious meetings with. I expected it to be awkward. Drawing on Dutch courage, I actually had a good time.

No matter which song pops into your head when you hear the phrase ‘Mama Mia’, we covered it. And by the way, Billie Jean is not my lover; I mean it. Steady on!
karaoke

I didn’t secure my colleagues’ permission to publish photos of them singing. Sorry ’bout that. Maybe I am bending the rules a little, but no one will be blackmailed based on the appearance of their bottom half. Who would recognize them? Well, perhaps excepting these famous legs.

elsa

Oh we were livin’ (and singing) on a prayer, for sure.

Is that the intro to ‘Creep’?!
creep

No they didn’t.

Um, yeah. They did. And one of my besties picked it. As they sang, the lyrics slowly sunk… I realized that this song might actually be an incredibly appropriate accompaniment to my days at work.

The good news is that we quickly returned to having fun.
good times

Ultimately, I see that I work with some very incredible people. Through the meetings, through the disagreements, through the pressure bearing down on us all – we are a really amazing group of People. This fact has to remain my constant anchor in an otherwise shifting hall of mirrors and smoke.

A Taste of Africa

There must have been a mix up. After all, we’ve had Ethiopian food before. Granted that was in a part of Nashville known as ‘next-to-Mexico’, but most of what we ordered from Addis looked familiar. If it please the court, we submit Exhibit A.
normal

When Ade and Mel popped in for an evening catch up, we ordered in. Some of what we ordered did not scare us or stink us out.

However, we must submit to evidence the following specimen:
fish in foil

To the best of our understanding, the fish was prepared when we placed our order. We cannot prove that the fish was not found under the couch, leftover from last year, but the photo was most certainly taken upon receipt of the takeaway order.

It did not look more appetizing on a platter from Auntie Sarah’s mum.
fish on platter

Those eyes. They follow you everywhere.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Score!

Ade and Mel said they would break up with us if we didn’t go to a Rugby match with them. Ade is convincing. And in this case ‘convincing’ could mean ‘intimidating’. Besides, the consulate called to say she would be forced to revoke our visas and deport us if we did not attend a rugby match prior to the two year anniversary of our grand expatriation.

In case it means anything to you, the match we attended just happened to be the Leicester vs Saracens match at Twickenham – and it also just happened to be The Final.
premiership

You’ll be glad to know that I’ve taken on board the finer points of the game.

Lesson One: Cheer for the team of the biggest bloke in your group.
ade arm

I quickly developed the warm fuzzies for something or someone called the ‘Saracens’.
saracens fans

Lesson Two: Be sportsman-like.

My flag boy and your flag boy should not set the others’ flag on fire.
flags

He should also refrain from starting a fight in a platinum wig and thong underwear, however striking his fashion statement may be.
butt

Lesson Three: Face your challenges. (Also known as a ‘scrum’. The ball eventually emerges, but sometimes piles of players happen first.)
scrum

Lesson Four: What must go forward must first go back. It’s why we study history and it’s why a painter takes a step back from her work every few strokes. In rugby, the players can run the ball forward but can only pass the ball backwards.
line

Lesson Five: Lift up your friends and teammates. This was my favorite bit – the line-out (pictured below). I am assured by Ade that it is highly unacceptable, and in no way cool, to refer to the line-out as choreography.
line out

Lesson Six: Eat and drink. (Preference seems to be for junk food or food of little nutritional value.) Which brings me to my next point.

In celebration of rugby, in honor of the sponsor, and because junk food is so intricately linked to sporting events, we are giving away these little lovelies:
prize

Leave a comment on this post (www.drewandjengotolondon.com) if you’d like to add your name to the hat.  We’ll choose a comment Saturday morning at 10am GMT.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Save Yourself

Vegetarians are not hard to find in the UK; I won’t go into the history of how and why. Most menus have at least a handful of vegetarian options, even at the fast food joints. That’s not to say that it is easy to find a vegetarian menu item that is egg and milk free, but one must start somewhere.

Just so that vegetarians feel a meat eater’s equal, vegetarian sausage can usually be spotted on a menu where breakfast is a big seller. I have enjoyed my fair share of polenta based, sage flavored, crunchy vegetable sticks (dipped in maple syrup if you please).

This is disgusting.

veggie sausage and beans

WAY past nasty.

Contrary to high hopes, this product will not evoke happy memories of weekends with dad. It will not spark images of helping him ‘fix’ phones or playing that no-name game which involved clinging to the swing set to be ‘safe’ from the lawn mower monster. You have been warned.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

Wait it Out

On some days, ‘waiting’ literally means silence and stillness – the tick. tick. tick. of the minute hand counting down to that unknown hour in which the pain will subside like the tide slipping out to sea. It is the waiting you do through a storm; waiting for lightning and thunder to give answer to the growling grey clouds, then for fat, round, heavy raindrops to fall in force, for the rain to lighten until streaming sun breaks through. It is waiting for that bit on the roller coaster ride when your heart – with your stomach- lifts in a momentary sensation of weightlessness before the next plunge.

On other days – which are most days- ‘waiting’ means filling all of the space with words and sounds and life. We check the clock only when the activity stops. For each minute we held our heads high, there is a sense of accomplishment. Chased by guilt.

And we swing between wiggling the wonky tooth, teasing the achy pain until it’s sharp, and lying still enough that it might not find us. Brightly lit new beginnings beg us out of dark corners until we join the parade again. This is what it feels like to live.

There is light and there is dark. Living means facing them both.

Stormy Summertime

Our holiday back to the states was a bit like being on safari. I came back with a tired body, but feeling quite calm and sound of mind. It was so surreal to move busily, but intimately, through a series of events of which real life are made. Showers. Mother’s Day. Rehearsal. Graduation. Birthdays. Wedding.

When our holiday had come to its end and we boarded the plane for London, I wanted to remain near the people I was leaving – including the ones I didn’t even get to squeeze. But I had no fear about returning to this place along the canal with my insane job and strange new day to day routine.

In the middle of missing you (yes, you), I also felt peaceful that I wasn’t leaving her (my mom) behind this time. I understood that she was, as I had been telling myself since last May, in the rain and the sun rays and everywhere else. I was not, this time, abandoning her.

One year ago on this date I questioned everything. Somehow my shy, sensitive husband became my immovable rock. Somehow, Creation saw to it that four extra arms were here to wrap themselves around me.

One year ago tomorrow I lost all track of time and space. And I haven’t been quite the same since.

In the midst of my own pity party, I give thanks that life springs forward. I couldn’t be more grateful for that. And I couldn’t be happier to bear witness to the beauty.

Count the Days

A couple of cool new cats – a.k.a. The Corams – have moved to the UK.

lee and candace

Go on, strike a pose. Don’t be shy.

While we revelled in the new car smell of having old friends in the country for a long working vacation, we also enjoyed the sites of another one of the Kingdom’s (former) capitals: Winchester.

Who can describe the beauty of the Winchester Cathedral?
winchester cathedral east

And the comedy of it?
funny face

Ok maybe there’s more seriousness than comedy, but he did make me smile. Then there was The Great Hall with King Arthur’s Round Table.
the great hall

Really, the Round Table. Except it’s art now.
round table

And so are we.
drew and jen

Winchester Castle was more castle ruins than castle, but that’s all the better sometimes…
Winchester Castle

The houses looked so homey. Wisteria claimed them, clinging to the sun-drenched bricks.
residential

We can recommend The Bishop on the Bridge as a great place to have a drink with a view.
bishop on the bridge

And a bunny – on the right night.
bunny

The river was like a gentle rapid.
river view

The views were breathtaking.
river with willow

We are counting down.

www.drewandjengotolondon.com

A Southern Girl Speaks

It’s not unusual.

(Tom Jones, anyone?)

[Ahem. Now that you have that out of your system…] It’s not unusual for a southern girl to make a friend on the train or in the line at the bookstore. (Dude, where ever you may be, when I invited you for coffee because we were buying the same book – I was mostly kidding and I definitely did not want to steal your wallet or go home with you.)

Anyway, a southern girls speaks. Sometimes she speaks out of turn or little too much, but she does say her piece – and you love that about her. What a southern girl must learn to do is speak honestly. That shirt is nice, but what I was thinking when I said that was that you should have gotten one in your size.

In her natural state, she speaks. Politely. With love.

Even when she has to tell you that you spoke harshly, let her down, and or accidentally called her an idiot when you said that she should have checked that her vegetarian meal was onboard before the aircraft doors were closed, sugar slips off her tongue.

And this southern girl is back at home in her natural habitat for a few days where this behavior is normal. We’re throwin’ a weddin’ and I couldn’t feel more in my element…

I am sending you my love. All of it. I am overflowing.

Eyjafjallajoekull

No, I didn’t sneeze. Eyjafjallajoekull is a city where a glacier of the same name sits on top of a volcano that erupted (again) in South Iceland on 15 April 2010.

If you need help with the pronunciation, I have brought in reinforcements.

Take a second to imagine shifting tectonic plate activity which triggered volcanic action that split a glacier. Yes, a glacier. Check out the photos.

In this case, fire and flood operated hand in hand in driving people from their homes. And then there was the rising ash which has grounded flights in areas where ash is detected in the atmosphere (including the UK) from 12.00 noon on Thursday 15 April through Tuesday, 20 April at 1.00am – but that was a changing estimate for days. The ash apparently turns to glass in a planes’ engines. Even in places where it is safe to fly, the planes aren’t necessarily in the right place… We have friends stranded in Portugal and I had two handfuls of colleagues stranded after a business trip; over 230 people were scheduled to be at the meeting we hosted in Turkey.

For just a moment I am completely overwhelmed at the way I take my existence for granted. I live on rock that’s on fire – which is being hurled through space at a speed that I can’t begin to imagine, covering a distance that is infinitesimally small in the scope of the everything that exists though it is farther than I can conceive. I am affected by the realisation that I am vulnerable in way that I don’t usually consider.

And we in the business world need to get really good at holding virtual meetings. Seriously.

Both Sides Now

If you’ve got it, put it on. Joni Mitchell, green tights, a pot of tea… Yes. I mean one or all of those things. (My motto still remains, ‘Don’t Stick Out, Stand Out!’ in case you have been concerned about that.) You must be wondering what in the Dickens I am talking about. (Me too, sometimes.)

One of the things I miss is not a thing at all. Other American ex-pats go on about a deep seated longing for Peter Pan peanut butter – it is silly good, I know – or good customer service which is actually customer oriented, as it is in their hometown Anywhere, US. I can live without those things apparently. Good pizza, mexican food, Lucky Charms, car, house, yard, interstate commute…I am adjusting to life without all of that and more. (Of these, quality customer service is the one I miss the most.)

Aside from wishing to be closer to my big weird and wonderful family, my heart longs to be color guard connected. [That reminds me that I have completely neglected my favorite color guard commentator; Amber, if you are out there – I mean to make it up to you if I can.]

Now I have seen a championships event on ‘both sides now’ – both sides of the ocean, that is.
WGUK

Winter Guard United Kingdom felt quite a bit like home… It’s mostly the same, with a few regional differences. I know you are on the edge of your seat to hear them.

There are lots of dads in the ‘floor crews’ and in the audience. Floor crews are pretty stinking organised, and t-shirted for most every single group. This dad wins.
WGUK dad

These floor crew parents even had their own full on costume! I counted no fewer than three green dresses with (masquerade mask) and suits…
floor crew costume

The Cadet and Junior classes are large, with some performers being younger than I have ever seen.
color guard uk

There is alcohol at the concession stand, but I didn’t see anyone purchase or consume it. People pack lunches and eat in the stands all day. Judges and color guard captains are thanked after agreeing that they are ready for performance – and units do not ‘take the floor for competiton’, they “commence their performance’. According to my new friends here, only one winter guard in the WGUK circuit is affiliated with a marching band and only one winter guard in the WGUK circuit is affiliated with a drum corp.

I have been invited to attend rehearsals for one winter guard which puts on a stage show during the summer. I am really excited about learning a totally new aspect of the activity. I have seen things like Flash!, but haven’t been involved with projects like that at all. New people, new skills, new place… It’s a privilege to be a witness for the sheer value of learning.

And maybe I’ll experience less home sickness.

Back in the Saddle

March Madness is something I know nothing about, in sports terms. However, that phrase has new personal meaning for me. March 2010 wore me out. I had to take a vacation.

My company sent me for training in Dublin, Ireland, on Thursday and Friday so it seemed like quite the good idea to have Drew join me for the weekend so that we might celebrate his birthday. I have to recommend the city as a place with history, night life, national pride, friendly folks, and an international flavor. It’s a big city to be sure, but it is unquestionably special. I was amazed by how big and small it was at the same time.

We explored on foot for the most part. Great sites were all within walking distance of our hotel. Dublin Castle was nothing like we expected…

Drew deserved to be celebrated and I think we both deserved a break. What better way to tackle both than a short weekend in lovely Dublin?

It has cathedrals.
st patricks cathedral

It has castles.
dublin castle

It has stout.
guinness

We stayed in the Temple Bar area at the Temple Bar Hotel.
temple bar lobby

The hotel was honestly in a brilliant location. I don’t know that I would recommend it to everyone, but it suited our purposes. When I checked in, I was told that the hotel staff had ‘upgraded’ our room to an executive suite. When I realized that upgrading had involved assigning us a smoking room I demanded that they downgrade me back to a simple peasant’s quarters!

I would have liked more time to enjoy Dublin and the surrounding countryside, but I am thankful for our short visit all the same. Maybe now I can face the week with fresh eyes.

Happy birthday, Drew!

Spring Green

This update is long overdue. Sorry ’bout that. When there is a little more time to catch you up, I will. For now I’d like to encourage you to raise a glass to Drew. We have hopped the pond to celebrate his birthday in Dublin, Ireland – home of Guinness (and the leprechauns).

dublin image

While you are enjoying the frosty beverage of your choice, let our photos set the mood. Even Gina is having a good time.