Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Snowy London

Despite my horribly omnipresent hat-head, I'm really enjoying the first proper snowy day in London. I didn't get a chance to snap any pics, but as you'd imagine the entire city looks lovely and Christmasy. Unfortunately, London learned its lesson from the last two years and the sidewalks were liberally sanded and shoveled from early on so of course I went to work today. The forecast is for frigid temperatures all week and more snowfall throughout the month, so hopefully I'll have a few snaps to share soon.

Meanwhile, I'm rushing home to start designing my Christmas cards, plan my Christmas cookie baking, put together a new Christmas music mix, and generally get in the holiday spirit. Tomorrow is December 1st and the first night of Hanukkah so it really is the start of the festive season. Everyone, get ready - Christmas is here!

Monday, November 29, 2010

I'm back! American Odyssey roundup

When last I posted, I was in Cincinnati (technically, Mariemont) with my friend Sloane who gave us a guided tour of the city and its environs (including northern Kentucky). Our eating tour of the US continued with ice cream at Graeter's and sauerkraut balls at America's first Hofbrauhaus in Newport, KY. We had a really relaxing and lovely time in Cincinnati catching up and taking it easy before driving up to Columbus.

On our way to Columbus, we spent a few hours at an outlet mall where The Irishman single-handedly boosted the American economy at a JCrew factory store. For a man who hates shopping, he certainly did a great job with it throughout our trip – I think he bought more than I did! When we finally did make it to Columbus, we spent the weekend with The Irishman's longtime friend and his wife and 9 month old baby. Again, it was a relaxing visit with good friends; the boys went off and did stuff while us ladies got mani-pedis (while the boys took the baby!). We cooked at home mostly, and invented a new cocktail called The Bensonhurst. We even roasted chestnuts over an open fire, a first for me, and I was pleased when I went to Waitrose yesterday and saw sacks of chestnuts on sale for the holiday season.

We then flew to New York for two whirlwind days of friends, sightseeing, and fun. We spent a day in Brooklyn where I showed The Irishman my old 'hood, the Italian coffee roastery where I used to buy my coffee beans (of course I bought some to bring home), and then went down to the base of the Brooklyn Bridge to stand in line for Grimaldi's Pizza. With very full bellies, we then strolled across the bridge. We had a amazing weather for most of our trip, and that day was so warm and sunny that we very nearly walked the bridge in our shirtsleeves. While in New York, I visited my lovely hairdresser Paul for a haircut and left the city with a spring in my step, feeling fabulous.

The rest of our trip was spent in New Jersey at my parents' house, relaxing and eating. It was really lovely, but also odd - I had to keep reminding myself that though we've been dating for 2.5 years, The Irishman has never been to the house where I grew up. So we walked in and I sat down and realized oh, maybe I should give him a tour! Show him the embarrassing pictures of me that are strewn around the house! Point out the deer in the backyard! It was pretty weird but also really sweet; he said he has a much better understanding of me now that he's seen where I was raised. Beyond the "This is Your Life"-style tours and two Thanksgiving dinners, we spent some money at the mall on Black Friday (The Irishman's first!), wandered around Princeton (where we ate more pizza), kibbutzed with my grandmother, and strolled through New Hope, PA.

Our vacation was so long, yet so segmented, that when I woke up on Saturday and had to pack, it really felt weird. It felt like I'd moved back, somehow, and the flight back to the UK was difficult for the first time since I've been abroad. I think I just sort of slipped back into my old routines and behaviors that it was almost surreal to leave. But if nothing else, the visit home made me really give Thanks for all of the wonderful people and all of the amazing experiences I've been able to have in my life. And I think for the first time I really do understand just what makes Thanksgiving such a special holiday. I was so glad to share it with The Irishman this year, and I think he was glad too.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

DC Dispatch

A quick hi from the White House!

We've moved on from the nation's capital to Cincinnati, Ohio, leaving a trail of empty hamburger wrappers and beer cans in our wake. We split five days across Baltimore and DC, visiting my brother and our good friends. We possibly peaked too soon in our anticipation of fried and greasy edible delights because by Saturday I was demanding vegetables. But no matter, we conquered our heartburn and have moved west to the heart-shaped state. More on what we've eaten and seen when I get to a real computer, but until then enjoy all of the Coverage of The Royal Announcement. For the record, the Americans are possibly MORE excited than the Brits - I can't wait to see what the mood is like in London.

Talk soon! xx

Sunday, November 7, 2010

And another thing

The Irishman and I were supposed to run a 10k today, down in the country on a hilly course marshalled by Army dudes.

I think you can probably tell that I opted out of this plan as it's quarter to 12 on Sunday and I'm still in my jammies with a slightly sore head after a few glasses of Grenache pre and post fireworks last night.

I don't think I've done a serious run since before we went to Madrid. And though I am seriously worried about my recently indulgent diet spilling over to winter hibernation mode and the fact that while I'm in New York I have to buy a J.Crew bridesmaid dress, I am also no where near being packed for our departure on Thursday. So both of us decided to forgo fitness and make today a travel preparation day.

But to assuage my guilt, as soon as I hit "Publish Post" I'm going to lace up my sneakers and force myself to do at least 5k. As punishment.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Don't worry, I'm still alive!

If one of the most fundamental things about blogging is consistency, clearly I am not exactly delivering. Life has been so crazy since we went to Madrid, and during the little downtime I've had I've found myself just wanting to spend time with The Irishman and relax. But I recognize I've been neglecting you guys here on Bloody Brill, so here's a glimpse of my life currently and some of the little joys I've been able to fit in over the last few weeks:

I told you all I'm now working on an exciting new project that involves shopping (woot!) - but what I didn't tell you, and didn't really understand myself until recently, is that I'm working on it in addition to all of my other projects. So it's been a gruelling schedule of getting to work for 8am and going-going-going-nonstop until 8pm when I leave for home absolutely shattered and flop on the couch for Masterchef Professional. Last week the poor Irishman said to me that he felt like he hadn't seen me all week and was really looking forward to spending a nice relaxing weekend together... and I had to work all day Saturday. Sigh. There is hopefully an end in sight, and that is when I get back from...

The Irishman and I are flying off to America on Thursday for my annual pilgrimage. We're going for 2.5 weeks and visiting my brother in Baltimore, my bestie in Washington DC, my other bestie in Cincinnati, The Irishman's Irish bestie in Columbus, mah peeps in NYC, and finally my family in NJ for Thanksgiving. I'm frantically trying to run around London to acquire the necessary imports and gifts, including but not limited to Cadbury advent calendars, mulled wine spice mix, and artisanal ales. I personally cannot wait to go - I feel like I haven't seen my friends and family for so long and I just need a break and the kind of pampering and feeding that only a mother can provide.

Speaking of food, The Irishman and I held our first dinner party last Saturday evening. Well, I say WE but all of the credit goes to The Irishman as he slaved over the stove and oven while I was chained to my laptop in the office. His menu of pheasant, pumpkin mash, curly kale, with a starter of prawns in Pernod and dessert of homemade chilli chocolate ice cream and chocolate fondant was a huge success, and we're very pleased that we were able to entertain in our, ah, shall we say, COZY (read: small) flat. My punishment for working all day and leaving him to do the prep was I had to wash all of the dishes - and that pretty much meant all of the dishes and cooking utensils we own. It was an effort with an hangover on Sunday morning. I did get to do my own cheffing though; we had half of a pumpkin left from the mash, which The Irishman cooked for me according to this helpful recipe so I could bake Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies. YUM. They are the essence of fall, and so easy and delicious, and it was really comfort food for me. I love them so much that I'm going to share the recipe for them:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (courtesy of Mom)

Preheat the oven to 375°F / 200°C

1 c pumpkin puree (Libbys, or make your own!)
1 c sugar
1/2 c butter
1 tbsp grated orange peel

Add in:
2 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Mix in:
1/2 c chocolate chips

Place on baking sheets in quarter-size balls and bake 8-10 minutes until lightly brown on the edges. They should be dense, chewy, and delicious!

Fall, etc
All this time that my life has been on overdrive, the autumn season has been in full swing. My cycle ride to work is down streets of vibrantly colored trees, and the window in my bathroom looks out on a flaming orange tree across the street. With the time change last week, it's properly dark now by 5:30pm and though the weather has been unseasonably warm, there is still a nip in the air laden with the scent of decomposing leaves and vegetation. My uniform is my tweedy jacket and wine colored silk scarf, adorned with a poppy and sometimes my new brown cloche, so I look quite cozy cycling around town. Last night was Bonfire Night and I was surrounded by the sound of fireworks into the wee hours. It's like the official kick-off of the winter season, and The Irishman and I are off to Battersea Park for the fireworks display this evening. Despite all of my stress and exhaustion, it's these little events marking the passage of time and season that reassure me that I'm still alive even if there are days when I feel like falling over dead. Even if the weather is chilly, these things give me a warm glow.