30 December 2008

Merry Christmas

This is a picture of the girls at my friend Rachel Kent's Christmas party this year. She made a wonderful meal full of Creole classics, complete even with shrimp and imported grits!

Andrew and I went home for Christmas again this year, although we had a hell of a time getting there. First of all, I came down with the flu the Tuesday before we were supposed to leave. I was still working that week, Monday through Wednesday, and my boss, Graeme, was out of the office sick already, which meant I was by no means allowed to call in sick, especially since I was hurriedly trying to finish a huge project (which you can now see on our website) in the three days I had left before the New Year. Unfortunately, I was really sick, so I left work at lunchtime on Tuesday and worked from the rest of the day and all day (even overtime) on Wednesday to finish up.

We packed on Wednesday night to leave on Thursday morning. I was feeling awful, and we had three big suitcases and two small ones to get across Tube and train to Gatwick airport. We struggled along and finally made it, only to discover upon arrival that our flight was cancelled. We made it there two hours early, but there was already a line 200 deep of people who were supposed to be on our flight and were waiting to be redirected on the next soonest flight. So Andrew got on the internet and called the airline in hopes that we could make arrangements that way faster, while I sat in the still unmoving line. He was able to arrange a flight for us on another flight out of Heathrow for the next day. While this was good news, it meant that we were both going to miss our doctor's appointments in Birmingham on Friday (Andrew for a physical, and I because I was sick), and I was going to miss my hair appointment! :( So Mom rescheduled my hair appointment, and Andrew made me an appointment with our doctor here in London for later that day (Thursday), which was good because he prescribed an antibiotic that started getting rid of my flu quite quickly.

So we had the option of landing in Atlanta and waiting a 2.5-hour layover for the next connecting flight to Birmingham, or just renting a car from Atlanta and driving. We figured driving would get us there about an hour earlier, so we went for that option. BIG MISTAKE. Atlanta has the most messed up policies EVER. We got off the plane, went through passport control, retrieved our luggage from baggage claim, and made it through customs, but then, they made us RETURN our baggage and go through security to LEAVE the airport. We had to take off shoes, remove laptops from bags, put the liquor we bought at the London airport in the luggage and everything! Just to cross the airport to the exit. It made NO SENSE whatsoever. So then we get to the "main" baggage claim in about 15 minutes, but it takes an hour and a half for our luggage to get there. It took us a total of three hours just to leave the Atlanta airport. THEN we had a three-hour drive to Birmingham!!!

When we finally arrived and got settled, we had a really nice time while we were home, although it was far too short. We felt like we barely got to see our friends and family, although I did get to see my cousin Laura's new twin babies...
and my best friends Jackie, who I hadn't seen since my wedding, and Miriam and her family (including her new baby bump!), especially her adorably daughter Reese, who has grown into a proper young woman of two years old since we've been living over here!

We miss you all terribly and can't believe that that was the last time we'll have to juggle time trying to see all our family and friends over a short nine days...

Love to you all in the happy new year!!

01 December 2008

Happy birthday and happy Thanksgiving!

Andrew's official birthday fell on a Saturday this year, and since we'd already had the big party for him a couple of weeks before, we just got together with a few of the guys for dinner before heading back to our place for strawberry cake and to watch the Alabama game. Brian, David and Jeremy joined us for dinner at what Andrew and I lovingly refer to as our "Christmas Pub". Located up by Gloucester Road, this pub has a roaring fire, fantastically festive (aka tacky) Christmas decorations with fake snow in the windows and everything, and Christmas carols humming gently in the background. Being 15 November, we were a bit early for the Christmas festivities, but it was still nice and cosy inside, and the meal was outstanding. After dinner we made a pit stop in a nearby casino where the guys all gambled a bit, and I sat by and watched. Andrew and I dragged Jeremy (the only other fellow Bama fan in the group) and left David and Brian at the casino so that we could watch the game. Kickoff was at 12:45am our time, so we had plenty of time to get back to the flat and have some strawberry cake before the game. I had baked Andrew a Simply Delicious Strawberry Cake from a Paula Deen recipe and decorated it with an Alabama "A" made from slices of fresh strawberries. It was yummy.

The following week we attended yet another birthday party. This time it was for our friend Jeremy Kenyon, and he and his girlfriend Michelle had it at a posh little bar in Knightsbridge.

Andrew and I decided to go and have Mexican food first at a little place up near Victoria, and when we sat down to table we started chatting with a girl sitting alone at the table next to ours. Within about 10 minutes we had moved our tables together and invited her to come along with us to the birthday party after eating and to Thanksgiving dinner the following night. Her name was Megan; she was from Michigan and was living and studying in Aberdeen, Scotland. She had flown down to London by herself to go sightseeing for the weekend, and though she declined on coming to Thanksgiving at the Trief's because she was going on a huge, long bus tour of London starting at the crack of dawn the next morning, she did come along with us to Jeremy's birthday party and joined us for a drink!

The next day was Thanksgiving at the Triefs. Andrew had volunteered for us to make cornbread dressing and pecan pie, so we cooked using Andrew's mom's recipes. Andrew, as usual, made the pie, and I took my first attempt at making cornbread dressing, which turned out quite successful indeed. We arrived at the Trief's to bad news. We found out that night that, because of her new job, Katy and Jeremy have decided to move to Windsor before Christmas, which means that we probably won't get to see them as much. Despite that, they're really excited about the move, and so we put on a brave face and tried to get excited for them. Thanksgiving was, as usual, a success, and the food that everyone brought was amazing. Thanks for hosting it again, Trief's; the turkey and gravy was outstanding, too! We even played the "Matt and Miriam Game", as one of our favourite Thanksgiving traditions.

For the first time since we've been married, on "real" Thanksgiving night, the following Thursday, I actually made Thanksgiving food instead of Mexican. In the past years that we've been here, the Triefs have had Thanksgiving the Saturday AFTER the real Thanksgiving, so I didn't want to spoil our Thanksgiving dinner by having the same type of food two days before. This year, the Triefs opted for it the Saturday BEFORE Thanksgiving, so Thursday night I roasted some "turkey breast steaks" and made macaroni and cheese and pecan pie, and we had stuffing that was leftover from a fresh batch I made Sunday night. We've decided that when we move back to the US next year, we're going to have our own London-style Mexican Thanksgiving fiesta each year in November either the Saturday before or after Thanksgiving. We'll call it "Brocksgiving"!

The next night Andrew and I got into the festive spirit. We had a quick dinner at our local pub and then came back to the flat and downloaded all our Christmas music to our iTunes and watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (the old school cartoon, not the new movie) and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

We woke up Saturday morning and cleaned house, preparing for a crowd of Alabama fans to come and join us to watch Alabama beat down Auburn in the Iron Bowl. We had some special guests this time, as my former boss from Axcan in Birmingham was in town for a conference, and she and her friend Denise joined our usual crowd to watch the game.
We were delighted with the results of the game and look forward to next week's battle against Florida.

Wish us luck!