November 2015 Bucket List

I like to make plans. Everyone knows that. Friends make fun of my enthusiasm and Sean moans about my lists of things to do, but at the end of the day everybody loves it when the plans actually come around and we are doing something new and exciting. Each Tuesday, I pick up TimeOut and stock up on options for the week. I receive emails from multiple sources of new restaurants opening up, “hot” events that cannot be missed, and favorite lesser known places to try out. With so many options coming from all of these sources, I end up with so much that I want to do that none of it actually gets done (seriously, I literally read an email and want to do it all!).

In order to focus my attentions on stuff I can actually accomplish, I have decided to create a monthly bucket list. It will be a list of ten things I want to do – some new experiences and some oldies that I want to bring back. I’m kicking it off this month with all of the things I want to do before it is too cold to function in London.


November Bucket List


  1. Set aside time to read – and actually finish – a book (something I have not had a chance to do in way too long!)
  2. Attend the opening night of an event
  3. Host a Friendsgiving
  4. Create a flower arrangement to bring some color into the house
  5. Dine at a winter-themed pop up restaurant
  6. Attend a meet up or get together with a new group of friends
  7. Start (and follow) a 10K training plan
  8. Make a meal in the crock pot
  9. Write 20 blog posts (not quite striving for one per day yet!)
  10. Finish the living room so it is finally a pleasant living space for us and for visitors!

I’ll be sure to update everyone on my progress at the end of the month. Of course, now I just need to get out of bed and get cracking!

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Fall/Winter Traditions in London

I have always adored the late fall, probably not as much as I love the snow in the winter, but enough that it’s a season I look forward to over others. It’s probably because I can literally live in leggings, chunky knits, and boots (like actually never take them off), but I like to think it’s because of all the traditions that are associated with the fall/winter transition. They don’t feel forced since they are not all a result of holidays, but I feel like fall has some of the best traditions that I have picked up while growing up. Pumpkin picking and corn mazes, hot apple cider, Navy football, Thanksgiving parties with friends, etc.

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Now that I am living in London, I am looking forward to picking up new traditions for each season. As lists come out of the top things to do in the fall and winter, I find myself clearing my calendar to spend time trying new things and starting my own traditions with London friends.

Here are a few of the fall traditions that I’ve already started, or look forward to starting, here in London:

  1. Christmas Shops: All of the department stores in London open their Christmas shops at the end of August. I’ve already visited nearly all of them, ogling at the Christmas decorations and planning my own. It is fun to go out of season because it brings to life Christmas in an incredible way. My favourites are Liberty, Selfridges, and (of course) John Lewis. We’ll be buying our decorations from John Lewis and I couldn’t be more excited!
  2. Bonfire Night: This is one that I just found out about this week, and I can’t wait! In the US, I used to have a bonfire every fall, and I miss it so much. Though it’s nice not to have to get the smell of smoke out of my hair, there is something so “fall-y” about a bonfire that brings the whole season an incredible feeling. Here in the UK, “Bonfire Night” is in remembrance of Guy Fawke’s day and there are huge bonfire and fireworks festivals. I’m just really excited to go watch the fireworks at Alexandra Palace, because who doesn’t love fireworks!
  3. Friendsgiving: Sean experienced Thanksgiving for the first time last year and is a huge fan. It’s also one of my favorite holidays because of…well, food. Living in London has left me feeling disconnected with Thanksgiving, but we are hoping to bring it back by introducing a Friendsgiving. This not only gives me (and my American friends) the opportunity to enjoy a holiday I love so much, but gives Sean and I the opportunity to introduce it to our English friends. I’m already planning the recipes and decorations!
  4. Ice Skating: London has some gorgeous outdoor skating rinks that open up for the winter season in November. I honestly want to try them all. I used to have an ice skating party for my birthday every year at Reston Town Center, and I miss it so much. There’s something about bundling up to go around the rink a couple of times and then unbundling in the closest restaurant to order some hot chocolate and pudding. Except, here it’s going to be mulled wine and pudding in the closest pub!

Marisa Visits London

To say I am behind on blog posts would be a major understatement. There has been so much I have wanted to share, but I have been so busy, and THANKFULLY did not open my laptop once on holiday last week. I had taken it with me hoping to get some posts drafted, but in hindsight am so happy the laptop went untouched (I needed that!). Also, I have been suffering from major Wi-Fi issues meaning I cannot post at home.

Back when I did my posts on Marseille (and this), Marisa was in town visiting. She is the first visitor to the new house (!) which is both a great thing and a terrible thing. Great because I missed her and was so happy to have a visitor; terrible because the house was in a dreadful state of Ikea parts lingering in every corner and unpacked bags/suitcases everywhere. Plus, we don’t have a sofa bed, which is a separate problem in itself.

Marisa went up to Edinburgh for a couple of days, so thankfully she was not stuck on the camping mattress every night of the visit. Between her being gone and me having work, we really only had one full day to spend with each other in London. And we definitely made the most out of it!

A Perfect Day in London:

  • Shopping
  • Afternoon Tea (with free flowing prosecco!)
  • A scenic walk (to walk off the tea, of course)
  • A London night out

I would like to mention that we did all of the above without even an outfit change or a nap. I was still recovering from being sick so super #proud of that fact.

We started our day shopping on Brick Lane. I’m quite over the high streets, and Marisa wanted to do some vintage shopping, so it was a nice change of pace that pleased us both. We also had a (very) late breakfast at a café on Brick Lane called Fika – it is so adorable and cozy inside!

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In the afternoon, we met Hope for afternoon tea. I love trying new places for tea, but struggled to find something with availability on such short notice (I was booking on Thursday…oops). I was able to get a reservation at Conrad St. James London Hotel for their autumn-themed tea. I was skeptical, but they advertised free flowing champagne, so I was sold.

I’m so happy we went with the Conrad, because the tea was beautifully presented, they refilled our prosecco after pretty much every sip, and it was a lovely atmosphere for the three of us to catch up. The autumn-themed desserts were also to die for! My favorite thing is that it put us in the perfect position to go for a nice scenic walk afterward, to show Marisa some of the sights she did not have a chance to see during her visit.

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[I was so into the autumn themed dessert cake…the pumpkin cheesecake was to die for!]

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We walked through St. James Park all the way to Buckingham Palace, and then back through the park to Westminster so she could see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. We then walked along Embankment to evening views of the London Eye before settling into Tattershall Castle for a couple of drinks. It’s a boat turned bar in front of the London Eye that we honestly couldn’t pass up!

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[She’s a really good tourist, isn’t she?]

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We finished the night with a couple of drinks at Mabel’s in Covent Garden and then I opened up the girls to the Roadhouse experience. It’s such a funny place – not classy whatsoever – but when they have a live band on and you are with good friends there is little that is better.

I still feel bad about being such a miserable (and sick) host for Marisa’s visit, but am beyond happy she came. Now, as soon as the house is ready, I expect everyone else to visit as well!

p.s. When I say we only had one full day, I mean one full day but two nights. On Friday night, we took Marisa to our favorite fish & chips place and then showed her a (calm) night out in Clapham. Hope showed up as well and we were matching, as usual.

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[The whole matching issue – I swear we didn’t plan it!]

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[We struggle to get good photos]

London Cocktail Week

  
This week is London Cocktail Week – I had no idea that it existed until recently, but am so happy I found out about it and (obviously) decided to participate. 

Basically, you pay £10 for a wristband which gets you deals on drinks at participating bars all week, as well as a cocktail book and a free drink. They also setup Old Spitalfields Market as a “cocktail village” where a ton of different bars have stands and give out free samples.

  
A couple of friends and I visited the cocktail village on Tuesday evening. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised with the setup. Various bars and/or liquor brands had stands at the market. They were making drinks, handing out recipes, and providing free samples. The majority of them were making cocktails that could be made at home, as well, which sent us all into DIY mode. I think I had every type of alcohol imaginable and was having such a great time. 

My favorite was probably the Bookers Gin Bar or Don Papa’s Rum Bar (though I am super jealous of the mini Patron bottle that Marisa’s tequila came in – and she got to keep it!).

   
   
Due to work and the head cold I am rapidly developing, I have not participated in any LCW festivities since Tuesday, but can only imagine how great it is going to be on the weekend. Maybe we will stop by again for some more deals. I’ll definitely be looking out for this next year, though, and going into it with some more planning!  
   

  

  
   

 

Country Life: Berko Edition

Living in Berkhamsted (aka not London) this past week has had its challenges, but has also been a nice little break from the city. To start, it sucks not being able to run to the shop to grab something and be back home within ten minutes. And, of course, since I have a long and uphill walk home, it’s been raining non stop!

[Note: hill in picture is steeper than it appears]

However, the worst part so far has been the travel. It is not fun having to wake up an hour earlier to get into work about ten minutes earlier (and pay what feels like millions to do so). I’ve also already had instances of running for the train, missing the train, and the ever despised train delays. 
 [Berkhamsted station, 7am and raining]

But, there are some positives. Last weekend, I convinced Megan to come out and visit (to be honest, it didn’t take much convincing). We pretty much spent the entire afternoon at the pub (shocker) and made new friends in the process. A group of people asked to use the end of our table and instead of perching on the end and minding their own business, they jumped into our conversation….and it ended up being a truly hilarious night. We started at the Boat, which is right on the canal and the “best pub in Berkhamsted” according to Sean and ended at the Goat. It was nice because Sean was working but had a quiet moment so he was even able to join for a bit!

  

Sean and I have also been cooking more, which is great preparation for our new house! This weeks menu was steak, honey-teriyaki salmon, and egg fried rice. We had fantastic dinners and leftovers for lunch! But, now I’m in love with all of Sean’s moms cookware (and kitchen) so I might just get depressed when I move back to Clapham.

  
Lastly, it’s just prettier here! Greener. The air is fresher. I often take for granted city breaks and choos  to focus on the boredom/pollen count instead of the relaxation and fresh air. I’m off traveling from this evening, but look forward to my last few days of country life upon my return. 

  

Shakespeare & Stuff

Last night was one of the nicest summer nights I have had in London – Greek food, Shakespeare, and good weather!
Sean and I went to see Much Ado About Nothing with his parents at the Globe Theatre. I walked there from work because I have recently discovered my love for walking around London. Honestly, I don’t know why I tried to avoid walking previously because I’ve come to realize that there is so much of London I don’t get to see. Incredible architecture, quirky shops and restaurants, stunning views. I am trying to take advantage of the rest of the summer and walk everywhere I can in order to discover these hidden gems before its cold and rainy and dreadful outside. 

 [A little snippet of my walk across Blackfriars Bridge. Not the prettiest part of London, but a welcome change nonetheless]

Anyway, before the play we went for dinner at The Real Greek. It’s got nothing on Santorini, but I absolutely love Greek food and I hadn’t had it in so long (since Greektown, Chitown). Sean and I shared a few (delicious) small plates including watermelon & feta salad (yummy) and halloumi & vegetable skewers (yummier). 

The play itself was incredible. I thought I would be cold by the end of the evening due to the whole outdoors thing, but thanks to the Globe blocking the wind, the air inside was the perfect still temperature. We were in the front row to the side and, while my view of one area on the stage was blocked, it was still a great spot to be. Being behind the props, we could see a lot of the comedic stuff going on (characters hiding, sly glances, etc.). Also, we rented cushions to relieve our bums from the stress of the wooden seats, so I was comfy the whole time! 

 [So many people crammed into such a small space – a great atmosphere to be a part of] 
 [That pole. THE pole. Is there a person behind it? Is this mid play? Who knows.]

I had read the play before, but it had been awhile and it was so refreshing to experience the comedy firsthand. I was laughing so much and, when I got tired (it was the end of a long work day,) the humor picked me back up again. That was my first time seeing a show at the Globe – I’ve only been to the Sam Wanamaker theatre for Duchess of Malfi – and I would love to go back. I’m thinking the Christmas shows will be freezing but wonderful! 

 [Oh yeah and London isn’t so bad at sunset] 

Weekly Recap

I am trying to start a weekly recap because I feel like I always do small things here and there that don’t necessarily deserve their own post, but also don’t deserve to be forgotten. So here it is – I just have to force myself to actually do it weekly!

 
On a very rainy Sunday last week, we did some furniture testing at John Lewis before visiting some family I have in London. While we still do not have a sofa, it was lovely catching up with my family over tea and cakes! We’ve also decided to use their house as inspiration for if we end up wanting to expand in a couple of years. I didn’t snap pictures, but the kitchen and basement they’ve designed are amazing!

  
I had a nice hump day meal with two of my flatmates. We are trying to start a trend of treating ourselves every other week – it gives us the opportunity to actually hang out with each other and catch up properly, and will be incredible valued time once I move out. We went to Banana Tree and I had the BEST sweet & sour crispy chicken. I actually devoured the entire plate and cannot wait to go back and do it all again!

  
Yesterday was one of my colleagues last day at work. I’ve worked directly with Justine since coming back to Thriev this year and could not have asked for a better colleague/friend. For her last lunch, we went to Pizza Union which is INCREDIBLE and SO CHEAP! Definitely a place I will be returning to. 

  
We finished the night at The Gable, a bar/club which is part of Late Night London. We were finally able to gather the majority of the team (and former team members) for a nice night out and it was lovely seeing everyone under one roof again. However, I am left with no voice today as a result of screaming over the music to try to have a conversation. 

Lastly, this video. Every time I have sneezed today, I’ve asked Sean “am I as cute as the Pomeranian?” Not sure how to interpret his lack of response….