30 April 2007

And we’re back! Let’s play catch-up!

You know, I honestly don’t know how we ever lived without modern technology. Without cell phones and the internet… It just makes life so much easier! These past few weeks, we haven’t had internet access at the flat. Now, at the old flat, we never got internet access in our five months living there, but we could at least spoof onto someone else’s wireless connection in one corner of our guest bedroom. It wasn’t reliable; it cut you off quite a bit and sometimes wouldn’t even let you on at all. At least we had it, though! Now that we have our connection set up here, though, I am so happy. It’s fabulous to be able to see something on TV that makes me wonder about something, and I can just turn on my computer and look up what I’m wondering! As the Brits would say: Brilliant!

Anyway, because of our lack of connectivity, the blog has suffered. I thought I had written two entries during this time, but I can only find the one below about Easter. I also finally published the photos for Andrew’s last blog, so you should scroll on down there and check those out, as well.

Meanwhile, I’ll just give you a quick update on what we’ve been doing the past few weeks since Easter. First of all, Easter weekend, Andrew and I joined a gym. Extremely conveniently located in our tube station, five minutes from our flat, we’ve been really visiting it every day! I love the classes. I’ve been taking a class called Dance Sculpt on Wednesday’s; those of you who know me know that I can’t dance, so the class is very awkward and fun for me. I’ve also been taking some Pilates classes, and another called Body Pump, which is a weight training class. Andrew has taken Body Combat, which is basically kickboxing, and I’m supposed to join him in that class this week. Tomorrow night I have a meeting with a personal trainer who will set me up on a routine. Pretty soon, I’ll have a six pack and will be kicking butt and taking names!

Anyway, going to the gym and working have been taking up most of our week days. Andrew has been in London, and it’s so nice to have him home! Unfortunately, he has been less busy at work than he would like, due to the fact that he’s here in London. He’s hoping that some more work will be thrown his way soon, though. I have been enjoying working at the Law Society. I really like my boss, Joanne. She’s young and fun and talkative, really very, very sweet. I feel like I’ve been messing up a lot lately, because I’m still learning, but she’s very nice and patient about it. As Andrew mentioned in a previous post, no one has offices. So I work in a very, very large room with 10 other women. My department is called Sections. There are four sections of the Law Society: Probate, Dispute Resolution, Property, and Law Management. Each section has its own magazine, most of which are quarterly, so I work on one section’s magazine per month. Keeps things interesting switching topics each month (well, as interesting as British law magazine can be)!

So in the room where I work are several girls who serve in administrative roles for each Section, an events coordinator who has stolen my cousin Laura’s face, and several women who work in the Lexcel Department. I’m really not sure what they do; they work on my half of the big room, but they’re all very quiet. The diversity of the team is really amazing. There’s a girl from South Africa, one from Australia, one from New Zealand, one from Kenya, one from America (ME!), and two from Britain. I think that’s it. It’s weird, though; it’s almost like every person is from another country! So cool.

Anyway, our weekends have been quite fun, as well. Andrew and I finally got to go to this place we’ve been dieing to visit since we read about it our tour guide. Jazz After Dark is a little restaurant and bar down in Soho. They play live jazz, and it’s quite difficult to get a booking. The restaurant is quite small, so it’s understandable. The food was terrible, but the music and atmosphere were great. The drummer for the band was hysterical. They played in a corner, and the walls behind and next to them were mirrored. The drummer kept looking at himself in the mirror next to him, checking out how he looked playing; he was making all these “I’m so jamming out now” faces, biting his lower lip and bobbing his head, and then he’d steal a glance in the mirror to make sure it looked alright. So funny. Later, Andrew got up and danced with an old woman who was wanting to break it down! Those of you who know us know that Andrew can swing dance fabulously. He was trying to swing dance to jazz music in this tiny, tiny bar with this little old lady. It was hysterical! They kept knocking into tables and knocked over a couple of peoples’ drinks. I about died.

One sunny weekend we decided to go for a picnic in the park with the dogs. I put on my bikini to lay out; we bought some sandwiches, brought our books, and packed some tennis balls for Hadley. We went to Battersea, where we figured the girls would have the most fun. (It’s the park next to where we used to live.) Hadley actually swam! I threw her some sticks into the lake, and she jumped in after it! Granted, she was very reluctant at first, but she got to where she loved it! Savannah, on the other hand, just looked at her like she was crazy and tried to chase any dogs who came near us.

Anyway, I'm quite knackered now, so I'm off to bed! I'll catch you up on this past weekend later this week. We're back, everybody!

08 April 2007

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, everyone! I hope that everyone has had as wonderful an Easter as we have here in London. In England, Easter weekend is a pretty big deal; both Friday and Monday are bank holidays, so we had a four-day weekend! Yay! All our friends (who knew that they were off—having just started at the Law Society, I had no idea) had made plans to travel this weekend, as had most of London and the rest of Europe, judging by the number of suitcases and carry-alls riding the tube with me Thursday morning, as well as the tourists who annoyed Andrew on his way home Thursday night. Andrew and I decided to stick around close to London, maybe take a day trip or something, and it was my job to find us something to do. You who know me know I love to shop, so I decided that on Friday we would go to IKEA. If you don’t know what IKEA is, definitely check out the link. It’s very cute, but cheap (and not necessarily high-quality) furniture and home accessories. You walk through a showroom with a pencil, tape measure, and “IKEA guide,” and everything in the showroom is tagged with a product number and location. After you’ve found everything you want, you go into the warehouse, grab a trolley, and find your pre-(flat)-boxed furniture, load it onto your trolley, and head to the checkout counter. Those of you who know me also know that, like my father, I love sales and bargains! We went nuts. We needed a new couch for our den; the flat came with a couch (more like a love seat) and an easy chair (Steve and Dennis, it’s now called the Captain’s Chair in honor of you guys), but both are very old and worn. We actually had to place a throw pillow underneath the cushions because they’re so flattened (they’re down) from overuse. We (alright I) wanted to look at IKEA’s wall prints so that I could cease that stupid freaky-looking girl from staring at me while I cook (the wretched dark, creepy Japanese painting that was ruining my ultra-cute sky blue kitchen—see the photo, and you’ll know what I mean). We also needed a coffee table, which started the whole IKEA idea; I’ll get back to that in a moment. Last, but most importantly, we desperately needed something to fix our storage space issue. As of last week, I had my undergarments in a drawer in the guest bedroom; my socks were in the desk drawer in our bedroom; my PJs, sweaters, and trousers were in the hall closet (Mom, you would have been appalled at how stuffed-in my sweaters were on one little shelf), and my tank tops were under the sink in the bathroom. Andrew’s clothes were confined to the chest-of-drawers in the bedroom, the half-closet in the bedroom, and the guest bedroom closet (I got the very large closet in our bedroom). Needless to say, it was pretty miserable, though typical of London, to have all our stuff so spread out. So, last week, we girls had our book club meeting at Katy Trief’s, and I complimented her on her coffee table, which she, in turn told me that they purchased at IKEA. Andrew and I purchased the same coffee table on Friday (I had already asked Katy’s permission to copy). We also purchased a very large armoire for the bedroom, where Andrew can now store enough of his things that he can give up the half closet and chest-of-drawers in our bedroom, and a couch cover. Apparently, they were out of the couch, so we were going to go back on Monday, when they were getting more in stock, to purchase the couch. In addition, we bought three very large canvass prints for the walls. All our new stuff was to be delivered the next day, and I was so excited!

So Friday night, when we got back from Croydon (the home of IKEA and the sorry Nestlé company that didn’t hire me), we had made reservations to go have dinner at this adorable restaurant we pass by every day on our way… well, anywhere. Called La Viña, the restaurant has cute wooden tables outside, and it looks like the perfect place to sit and have dinner and drinks on a warm spring afternoon. We had made reservations for 8:00 on the patio. Unfortunately, by eight, the patio was freezing! We had expected it cool off, but they had outdoor heaters. The outdoor heaters didn’t do much good, and we ate with me wrapped up in Andrew’s coat during the whole meal. On a plus, though, the food was delicious, even though it was quite cold and very oddly timed. It’s a tapas place, so Andrew and I had ordered a garlic bread appetizer, four tapas and paella to share. We were quite surprised when our tiger prawn tapas dish came out before the garlic bread. After the garlic bread, two more of the tapas were delivered, spaced quite a while apart, and then our paella, and about 20 minutes later we finally got the last tapas dish, which, by the time it made it to our table, was really, really cold. The food, we agreed would have been great had it been hot, and we even (kind of) enjoyed the delayed way in which it was served (if only they had served in the order it was intended—appetizer first, paella last, and tapas in between). Afterward, we wanted to rent a movie, but found that Blockbuster was closed. It was only 10 after 10! Whoever heard of a Blockbuster that closes at 10?! We went home and watched our favorite movie, Love Actually.

The next morning, Andrew went to Picadilly because we wanted to get theatre tickets for Phantom of the Opera for later that night. I stayed home to wait for our stuff to be delivered from IKEA. It turned out that tickets for the current night’s show weren’t going on sale until 4:30, so Andrew stopped to buy tools (for assembling our IKEA furniture) on his way home to make it not-totally-wasted trip. When he got home, we (alright, he) began putting together our coffee table and armoire. It was my job to go leave to get theatre tickets at 3:30. As I was walking to the tube, I saw our IKEA couch on the sidewalk! The exact same couch, with the same slip cover that we currently had sitting in our living room, was sitting for sale on the sidewalk. So I call Andrew; we skip buying the tickets and decide to go to the cinema instead. I smell and check out the couch, go back to the flat to get Andrew, and we purchase the couch, saving ourselves £135 and a trip to Croydon! Then we have to pick it up and carry it back the hundred yards or so to our flat. Once there, we couldn’t get it inside. The stupid thing wouldn’t fit in the door! We ended up having to walk it back out to the street, around the corner, through a gate unlocked by a (not-so-helpful) neighbor, down an alley, into our backyard, up the patio stairs, and in through our patio door! Needless to say, there were many frustrations amid cries of agony; my arms are like jello today, and Andrew has a blackened thumb. We worked well into the night assembling furniture, rearranging it, cleaning up boxes, and hanging pictures, but we ended up with a flat that, though homey before, is now Our Home. The dogs were so nervous through all the commotion that they didn’t eat all day; I think they were afraid we were moving again!

Once we finally finished, we went to Blockbuster (this time we made it) and rented Night at the Museum, and then walked down to the Fulham Mitre (our pub down the street) for steak sandwiches, fries, and pints. It felt so good to be in Our Home, to look around and see Our Stuff everywhere—Our Family and Friends looking back at us from pictures all around (thank you Lauren and Susan for the nice multi-photo frames). It was nice to sit down (we played musical chairs trying out the new and newly-positioned furniture) and relax.

This morning was Easter morning. Andrew and I had gone back and forth trying to decide on a church for such an important Sunday, and we finally agreed on the one closest to us. There’s an adorable church at the end of our street (right across from where we bought the couch).
We got up the morning, put on our finest, springiest clothes, and walked down the street to the church, which, ironically, turned out to be very close to Catholic. We came to discover later that it was actually a Church of England, which was excommunicated from the Catholic cChurch. Ooops! And now I have to share an appalling story. At the end of Mass, the priest called all the little children up to the front; they had been back in the nursery during the Mass, and they had all drawn Easter pictures for Jesus. They were showing their Easter pictures to Father, and one of the little girls had drawn the Easter Bunny. The priest looks this poor little girl in the eyes and says, “There’s no such thing as the Easter bunny!” Andrew and I about died. Apparently, this priest has a real problem with Mr. Easter Bunny. Maybe he was beaten up by a kid in a rabbit suit as a child; I don’t know. I can see his point that there’s no Christian explanation for the Easter Bunny; it’s a Pagan symbol of fertility. But still, to look a five-year-old in the eye and tell her, in front of an entire congregation, that there’s no Easter Bunny, especially after she’s just drawn a picture of the Easter Bunny for Jesus, is just unreal! I have to admit, though, we laughed about it all day long…

Andrew finally got to play golf today; those of you who know him know he’s been chomping at the bit for weeks now. The course was in Richmond, and it took him an hour on two buses to get to a place that he rated, on a scale of one to 10 (one being the cruddiest course he’s ever played), a zero. While he played, I took the girls for a long walk and went to the gym. We met back at the flat this evening and ordered dinner from Kish Mish, an Indian restaurant. So much for big family home-cooked meals on Easter!

We just want everyone to know that we really missed them today; Easter with Indian food (as you can imagine) just wasn’t the same! We love you all and, although we’re having such a great time spending our holidays together and making our home Our Home, we can’t wait for the time when we can spend our holidays with our families once more! We love you and miss you all!

Here are our Easter family photos:

02 April 2007

That girl really is everywhere!!!!

Well, it’s been over a week since we last updated the blog, and a lot has been happening. In London there's always something going. After we celebrated Kelly's new job we began to pack for the big move. I returned home from work on Friday only to begin packing for the move over the weekend. We had a limited supply of boxes, so we packed as much as we could into the boxes we had and into the eight suitcases (yes, I know that is a lot) we have here in London. Kelly and I decided to order in pizza while we pack. Much to our surprise, we finished quite early.

Right after we finished our phone rang, and we were surprised to hear Michelle Keale on the other end. For those who don't know Michelle, she is an old friend from Birmingham, and she was in London with a group of her high school students and teachers for spring break. Now, Kelly and I have a running joke about Michelle because anytime we go somewhere strange or random, Michelle is always there. In all honesty, Michelle tends to be everywhere we are. So why wouldn't she be in London, too?
We met up with Michelle at the South Kensington tube station, which was near her hotel, and took her to one of our favorite watering holes; Sopranos. Sopranos is an underground piano bar. This night was a little different, though. We arrived to see a new act singing, and he was amazing. He played a bunch of Michael Jackson and various other American songs we knew. We enjoyed several nice pints and sang with the best of them. Kelly and Michelle even tried to sing “Sweet Home Alabama.” I was somewhat shocked to know my wife did not know the words. She swears she does, but she was not performing that night; whatever. Anyway, after the performance and shortly before our departure, the piano player and the singer came over and sat with us. Now, understand that the piano player is not the cool guy standing out front singing and leading the crowd. This man is from Kansas; he is bald and in his late 40's, and he likes Michelle. The next 15 or so minutes of their break are spent watching him make hapless passes at her. Needless to say, I was more than amused and not about to spoil my entertainment. Michelle was not impressed and spent the same amount of time bobbing and weaving his overtures. Shortly thereafter we departed, and Michelle was on her way home the next morning. Michelle, it was wonderful to see you, and Kelly and I were so glad you called. Seeing friends from home reminds us how much miss home and what we left behind.

Saturday kicked off day one of the move. For those who don't know, we moved a total of 2.7 miles. You would think this would be simple, but then you've never tried to get around London quickly. After taking a few trips back and forth with suitcases; taking them there, dumping them and returning home, our rented van arrived. Now, when I made the reservation, I was under the impression that they were sending a minivan that would make moving all of the suitcases and whatever else we could fit much easier. I was shocked when I walked out and to find a giant moving van. I asked the man how much I could put in it, to which he shrugged and replied as much as we could. Over the next few hours, we loaded nearly 80 percent of our old flat into this truck and were on our way to the new place. This man started moving boxes for us. Needless to say, he was generously tipped. People in London don't tend to be nearly as helpful as this man, and we were so grateful for his help.

That night, we met up with Jeremy and Katy Triefenbach and Jeremy’s aunt, who was in town visiting for a few days. We had a really good Italian dinner at a place called Strada on the Queen's walk, and our table looked directly out to Tower Bridge and the River Thames.
After dinner, Kelly and I met Beth and Rino, who also had an out of town guest. We enjoyed having several cocktails with them in a really cool place up in Soho called The Living Room. This place is a restaurant/pub/dance club all in one. Needless to say, we had a good time. Any time we get together with the Triefenbach's and the Nori's it's always a good time. Here are some goofy pictures we took that night:

Sunday was spent moving again. This time we had the aid of Katy's little Nissan. Because of the traffic on Sunday, it took longer to drive to and from the flats than it did to load and unload them. Remember, 2.7 miles. After several hours, we were finally all moved in. Katy, thank you so much for your help. We could not have done it without you.

We spent our first night at the new flat on Sunday March 25. It was definitely different. Kelly and I were awakened late during the night to a fox screaming bloody murder. I can't tell you how much it scared me. We also found out that our shower is broken. Apparently the knob that adjusts the temperature is broken, and the landlord will have to remove all of the tiles surrounding the handles for it to be repaired. What we have done is cap the temperature on the boiler and so the water cannot burn us any longer. Poor Kelly had a week of really difficult showers. Sorry, dear.

Kelly had her first full week of work and it went really well. She is beginning to settle in and meet the women she is working with. One thing that shocked Kelly is the lack of workspace. In Birmingham Kelly and I each had a cubicle to work in. In London, space is a quite expensive, and it's at a tremendous premium. As a result, work space is squeezed down to a large desk with several people working at it. It is the same at my company. I don't have a desk, but I'm never here, so it doesn't matter. We are just really happy that Kelly is working. She showed me her magazine she will be working on. It discusses all types of law and events that are relevant to the attorneys. Who knows, Kelly might like it so much she will want to become an attorney. Jerry, we will be calling you for the tuition.

Friday night, we stayed in and I cooked stuffed peppers, and we watched Holiday. I highly recommend Holiday. If you watch it, think of us when Cameron Diaz gets frustrated with living in England. Kelly and I could easily relate.

This past weekend was wonderful. London has really warmed up, and temperatures are holding around 60-65 during the day. After a long, cold, wet winter, I cannot tell you how wonderful the warmth feels. We still wear jackets everywhere, but I understand from the Beards that we always will. Even more wonderful was the fact that we shopped a little this weekend. Kelly went into H&M and bought two new dresses and I went to Brooks Brothers and bought three new ties. Steve and Dennis, you all would be proud. I'm sure you guys own at least one of the three I bought.

We were to have dinner with the Triefenbach's on Saturday, but they could not make it. Jeremy was working on Saturday, and Katy was getting ready for their book club meeting the next day. So, Kelly and I went to Kaslik. This place has immediately entered our top five London restaurants. It is a Lebanese restaurant where you sit on little stools/pillows at small tables. I still have no idea how we ordered, but the man said they do a dinner where each person picks three mezzes and then a mixed grill of lamb and chicken comes as the entree. So we had six mezzes, including hummus and falafel. We probably could have eaten all of that and been more than full, but knowing that more food was on the way we slowed up a bit. It was wonderful. As we were finishing up a belly dancer came out and performed throughout the place. She came by our table at the end and pulled Kelly up and made her dance. You all know Kelly. She was so red with embarrassment. Kelly said at one point in time she realized she was shaking her knees when she was trying to shake her hips. It was so funny.
Anyway, we called it an early night and retired to watch Casino Royale.

Kelly and I could easily relate. Sunday, Kelly had her book club meeting. Now, I'm not sure what all of these women do at this "book club" meeting, but it somehow involves my wife taking a book and a bottle of wine over to Katy's house for a Sunday afternoon. My guess is they talk about the book for an hour and gossip for four. Kelly's "meeting" began at 2:00. She returned at 9:00. Seriously, how can you talk about a book for seven hours? I'm teasing.

It was nice to have a little time to wander around by myself. I went up to King's Road and began to shop for things we need around the flat. I need to redesign the interior of two closets to maximize storage space, and we really need another couch, along with an armoire. We could also use some prints to hang on the walls in the den and kitchen so the Chinese girl will quit staring at Kelly. Don't ask me, I don't understand either. I just married her. I took the dogs down to Walham Green and let them run around for more than an hour before getting some barbeque and watching the previous day's final four game. I was settled in for the evening watching Grey's Anatomy (season two) when she came in.

So, what now? Well, I am wrapping up my Tommy Hilfiger project this week in Amsterdam and will be returning to London for the next few weeks. We are getting broadband put into the flat, so everyone will have to go without pictures for a week or two; hopefully not longer. If you have ever dealt with British Telecommunications you would understand the difficulty. That company is a national embarrassment. I believe I told them so, too.

Well, today is baseball's opening day. How does an Alabamian living in London, working in Amsterdam deal with this? Simple: watch the game on the internet. Thank you, technology! So, as I have been writing this I have been watching the Red Sox’s first game of the year. Big Papi already has his first RBI of the season, and the Sox lead 1-0. The Braves already won 5-3 (that's for you, Kel). The Yankees still suck, but they won, too (that's for you, Stuart). As every good golf fan knows, this weekend is the Master's. I have already found that the BBC will be covering the tournament, and I can watch all four rounds live. To say I am excited is an understatement. I really feel sorry for Kelly. NASN, the American sports network, plays tons of ESPN programs and MLB baseball live daily. She might not get to watch television again until Christmas, which is after Alabama's season ends. Oh, and Neal, they show PTI and Around the Horn live at 11:00 and 11:30 here in London. BAM!

Lots of love!