I Used Only the Good Notes

We’ve been living in the country for two weeks now, and I’m just starting to miss the hubbub of London. Growing up I never pegged myself as a city girl, but it turns out I like to disappear into crowds on busy streets and eavesdrop excessively on public transportation. (Or maybe it’s something else? The glitz and glamour of a bustling international metropolis? Nah.)

Since it’s the end of the year, I’m going to do the obvious thing and make a list of resolutions. They won’t be boring! They might be boring. 2015 was a really challenging year. I say this simply because I think I’ve spent the last year talking about just how challenging it was. This next year, I don’t want to feel as low as my journal entries suggest. I think I’ll just move on.

Two years ago I wrote, “I have this great new thought that we’ll move to London. Then we’ll come back and I’ll be reinvigorated and less cynical and crass. It’s a big dream. But maybe it’s not impossible.” Last year I wrote, “But until we pack up our belongings and quit our jobs and get on a plane, I’ll only believe it’s a dream. It stills feels it could slip through my fingers, a too-big dream I couldn’t hold on to.” But this year, the dream comes true.

Resolutions:

1. Graduate with a Masters with distinction. Let’s call this my “reach” resolution, like when you’re in high school and you apply to a college that’s not quite in your wheelhouse.

2. Run a new marathon PR. I actually believe I can accomplish this one. Also, as a subset, I’d like to learn a new cross-training skill. I want to take up boxing. Or some kind of cardio similar to that. NOT CROSS FIT. (No hard feelings.)

3. Get a job that means something to me (and maybe pays better than my last job). What will it be? Who knows! Not me!

4. Write more. Write more journal entries. Write more letters.

5. And the [abstract] one I set every year and never seem to get right, practice being present. My eternal aspiration.

Now, if I don’t hit these aims, I’ll have to come back and edit this post so that no one ever knows. KIDDING. I’ll have to blog about it at the end of next year. And write a journal entry about it. And write everyone I know a letter about it. (See what I did there?)

Auld lang syne.

Christmas in Jumpers

I thought today was Wednesday. It’s not. It’s Thursday! Christmas Eve!

We’ve been housesitting and petsitting at a house in the English countryside for a week, and the days have all blurred together into dog walks, cat naps, and lazy evenings by the fire (and also lots of studying and rereading my textbooks but let’s not get into that).

But it’s Christmas Eve! Which for me means Christmas cookies and Italian food. This afternoon I’m making chocolate chip cookies, butterscotch cookies, and snickerdoodles. And I’m going to attempt cinnamon rolls because that’s what we always have on Christmas morning and they don’t sell them in the grocery store here. For the Italian, I’m making lasagna. It won’t be the wedding soup and handmade manicottis my family usually has, but it’ll be… in the same regional family. Ish.

It seems like we’ve been celebrating Christmas since October, well, because we have. Christmas is a way of life for the Brits. All the food  and drinks (mince pies, mulled wine), commercials (google “John Lewis Christmas commercial”), movies (their love-hate relationship with Love Actually), decorations (the window displays, the lights on every street). What’s going to happen after New Years? The rest of the cold, blustery British winter sans joy and anticipation. I’m not looking forward to it.

But we have a few days left of holiday cheer – Christmas hasn’t even happened yet! So tomorrow we’ll make our turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and sprouts. Side note: It’s a law that you have to have sprouts with Christmas dinner. Peter Capaldi told me so. And speaking of Peter Capaldi, we’ll watch all the Christmas BBC specials: the new Doctor Who and the final, final, final Downton Abbey. (Sorry American friends, I’ve already seen the whole last season. Well, not really sorry. It’s actually the reason I moved here.)

And we’ll be as British as we can. A bit melancholy but balancing it out with a bright Christmas jumper and a bottle of bubbly.

Happy Christmas. 🙂

Biryani for the Table

This past week we had our first guests! Courtney and Brad came to stay for just under a week and we did everything we could possibly fit into six days.

So. Just a few of those things.

1. Local pubs: Our neighborhood has loads of pubs (hello London), and we spent [a good amount] of time at two of them this week. On Courtney and Brad’s first night in London we listened to a fantastic folk band while drinking locally brewed pints and making friends (friends! what are those?). A few nights later, we found ourselves at the pub across the street, listening to a 17 piece jazz band while drinking mulled wine (and more of those locally brewed pints for Brad). Live music and good beer – I’m beginning to see how Londoners can do this every night.

2. HARRY POTTER WALKING TOUR: Oops, caps lock must have been stuck on. 😉 Courtney is a huge HP fan like Jonathan and me (and Brad just likes to yell things like, “Isn’t Draco the hero of this story?”). Basically we walked around London with a tour guide and a dozen other people who also love Alan Rickman impressions and hate Umbridge more than Voldemort. And yes, most of the people on the tour were our age.

3. Southbank Winter Market: This is a lovely Christmas market with lots of food stalls and shops but more importantly I finally got to have Mexican food. It’s been a long three months without you, real guacamole. *tears of joy*

4. Borough Market: On the topic of food, you can eat your way through Borough Market and be so full you don’t even need to get lunch afterward (though you probably still should because there’s also a Wagamama down the street). Bread, cheese, charcuterie, oils, paella, curry, soup, fresh pasta, mini panini… Yep, I’m hungry again.

5. Big Day Out: On Tuesday, we dressed up and went to a show at St. Martin’s Theatre and dinner at The Savoy Grill. The show we saw was The Mousetrap, a play by Agatha Christie (who I love). There’s a twist ending and after the show they ask you not to reveal to anyone who the murderer is. So I won’t tell no matter how many times you ask. But it was everything you could want if you love Agatha Christie novels and/or the 1985 movie Clue.

BONUS *ding ding ding* Stonehenge: Stonehenge isn’t in London, but it’s only two hours outside the city. And it’s incredible. And ancient. Maybe I read too much historical fiction as a kid, but I love to imagine what it must have been like to live in that era, in that place, and know exactly what Stonehenge was for. Also, at the same time as the Neolithics were dragging enormous rocks for miles to build a monument (I think it’s a temple of some kind), the Egyptians were building the Pyramids. History is insane.

In sum, this post is actually an advertisement to come visit Jonathan and me. We make excellent risotto and know where are the cool places are. 🙂

The Best Pizza I’ve Ever Had

This post is actually about when plans go wrong.

In the almost three months we’ve been living in London, a lot of things have gone wrong. (Or gone exceptionally slowly. They love to queue here.)

In September, if something went wrong, we felt pretty discouraged. When the bank told us we wouldn’t be able to open an account for three weeks, we may have gone to McDonald’s and ordered a twenty piece McNuggets.

In October and November, if something went wrong, we were frustrated but not debilitated (see: the previous post). We only ordered Dominos once.

Now, in December (already?!), if something goes wrong, we’re okay. We can figure it out. We know bus routes and train stations and have all the right transportation apps.

For instance. Today our dinner plans fell through at the last minute. We were already going to an art gallery (okay, okay, a Harry Potter graphic art gallery) and the Senate House Library in the city center, and now we needed new dinner plans. We agreed (without any name-calling) to wing it. (I don’t like to wing anything.)

And the stars aligned. On our walk to the library we saw a pizza shop. I’ve learned so much in London so far, and one of them is that the pizza here is not great. (I’ve learned more important things than that too, like stuff for my degree… whatever.) But this was traditional, thin-crust, very-cheesy, a-little-bit-greasy, charred-crust pizza. And it was cheap. And they had iced tea in the fridge (*angels singing*).

Later, the bus didn’t come to our stop (this happens more often than not), so we had to walk to the next station so we got hot chocolate. Just because. (Just because we were on a pizza high.)

Author’s Note: In reading back over this post, I’ve come to realize that my life pretty much revolves around food. I’m okay with this. Did I remember to eat my Advent chocolate today?

A Typical Day in London (Not a List)

Thursday morning. 8:30 AM. Coffee, cereal, more coffee.

Earbuds in and RadioLab on, I walk to the train station. It’s almost a mile away, so I get a nice cardio workout during my commute. Good thing I pack extra deodorant in my backpack.

Ooh, there’s a copy of Metro on the seat next to me. Which is great, because I didn’t grab my own free copy from the station entrance because there were four thousand elementary schoolers walking down the sidewalk. (Not an exaggeration.) I read the news. Okay, mostly I read the Rush Hour Crush.

Class. Intercultural Discourse. We’re talking about miscommunication. There are ten people in my class from six different countries. We’re basically studying our own interactions. We’re miscommunicating about miscommunication. It’s fun.

1:00 PM (13:00). Class is over and I’m out the door because Jonathan and I are headed to the bus station then other bus station then the airport then Oslo. I’m already exhausted from this travel and I’m only talking about it.

4:30 PM (16:30). Our first bus gets stuck in traffic and we only have ten minutes to get to the next bus. Also it’s a mile away. We’re sprinting. More cardio. (More deodorant.)

4:40 PM (16:40). We make it to the bus station, our driver only slightly side-eyes us, and we collapse into the first row. Did I bring my inhaler? Because I need it.

7:40 PM (19:40). It was supposed to take one hour to get to the airport and it’s taken three. Our flight is in ten minutes. Ten. Minutes.

7:41 PM (19:41). The visa check line is wrapped all throughout the room. When we get to the front of the line, the checker says “You might make it. I’ve seen miracles happen.” K, thanks.

7:45 PM (19:41). Security randomly pulls my bag to be checked. Jonathan sprints off down the hall to our gate.

7:50 PM (19:50). My turn to sprint. (I’m committing to always wearing sneakers on travel days now.) Our gate is Z10000, the furthest gate possible. Jk, but you do have to take a train to get there.

7:52 PM (19:52). Jonathan is bantering with the gate guy. (You know, the guy at the gate. Whatever.) The plane we should be on is pulling away from the terminal. Three girls standing a few feet from Jonathan are alternately sobbing and swearing. (I’m also swearing, but under my breath, like a lady.)

7:53 PM (19:53). Jonathan and Gate Guy are basically best friends but obviously we’re not going to Norway tonight. In fact our plane was the last one to leave from that terminal tonight so Gate Guy calls Security Guy and Security Guy takes us on a secret route back to the airport lobby.

8:00 PM (20:00). We consider sleeping on the airport floor and catching the first flight out tomorrow.

8:01 PM (20:01). We find out how much it would cost to rebook our flight. We no longer consider sleeping on the airport floor. Instead we get sandwiches and crisps and stand in line for a bus back to London.

Friday morning. Very, very early. We finally get back to our flat. We collapse in bed. I never even finished that RadioLab.