Sunday, 28 February 2010

Surprise Blog from Wife Muffin!!!

Hello Family & Friends! In the words of Sam Taylor...I got a "wild hair" and decided to blog about my weekend in London while Sam and Ray were out gallivanting around Portugal. My weekend was very good but not as exciting as whatever Sam will prob write about, so you have been warned. :)

Friday night consisted of skyping with my parents and in bed early because I wasn't feeling so hot. Woke up Saturday about 9am and met my friend Yasna at Victoria station for our big day out to Leeds castle! We caught the 11am train and in about an hour we turned up at Bearsted in virtually the middle of nowhere. The shuttle to the castle only ran every hour so instead of waiting 40 min for the next one, we had to catch a taxi. That's fine, a bit odd only once an hour but that's cool. What wasn't cool however, was when we asked the driver when the last shuttle runs back and he replies 10 til 3, even though the castle closes at 4. Hmmmm, that doesn't make much sense. Not too tourist friendly out here. But regardless, we ended up having a great day exploring the beautiful grounds and the main tower, which for you US folks was a bit like the Biltmore house where you got to see various rooms as they may have looked back in the day. There honestly wasn't too much to the castle tour and the highlight of the day was probably the bird sanctuary, the maze and the tea & scones, not necessarily in that order. :) Anyone in the UK who hasn't been to Leeds Castle, let me just save you the trouble and tell you you're not missing all too much! Haha! After we covered everything, a very nice couple ended up offering us a ride to the station which was super cool. We check train times and then got a quick pint and late lunch at a nearby pub. Superb!

Back at Yasna's in Balham we picked up some munchies and settled in to a night filled with...wait for it...wait for it...SEINFELD!!!!!!!! That's right, we prob watched about 5 hrs worth of episodes from season 4-6 including The Puffy Shirt, The Mango, Christmas Card (although it's not called that), The Soup Nazi and The Junior Mint to name a few. (Sam is cringing right now whenever reading this I am sure.) It was fabulous!

Today we lounged around her flat and started to plan our Slovenia trip at the end of March. After hours of research with American Idol on in the background, we didn't book anything BUT feel like we have a good plan. We need to find out about International Drivers Licenses tomorrow before finalizing our mode of transport and hence accommodation. So we are getting there!

Right now I am back at home doing laundry and will probably get to bed early again because still not feeling 100%. The US-CDN gold medal match starts at 8:15 here so will probably watch some of that before calling it a night.

It was a very fun weekend but way too short as always. Since Sam isn't here in person this is for you babe..."I don't wanna go to work tomorrow!!!" in my best whiny voice. LOL! Hope you and Ray are having a great time. Miss you and love you! Yazz - BRING ON SLOVENIA!!!!!!! Had a great weekend! Thanks for having me and hopefully I don't get you sick!

Goodnight!
Jenny (aka Wife Muffin)

Thursday, 25 February 2010

And so we honor our faithful, fallen comrades...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. But again, it seems I need to catch you up on Wednesday night's activities.
So Wednesday was a GREAT DAY in the office, but I didn't get out of there until around 8 PM or so. However, making the most of having my fellow colonists in country, I rolled over to London Bridge around 8:30 to a pub called the Wheatsheaf.

This place was great (minus the "certain to be 100% death for anyone wearing a boot who tries to traverse the stairs in the rain" entryway, of course - you basically entered at a midget entrance and had to descend into a basement), and it was a GREAT night with Duncan (the Bristol Pistol), Andrew Harwood (the Guv'nah), Mark Goodyer (Lord), Jill Hewitt (the Pony), Ray (the Navigator), and Muffin Puffin. We caught a great footy match (Inter-Milan dropped Chelsea 2-1 in a thrilling fixture), had some good pints (I am TOTALLY a fan of Guinness now), and had a great time catching up with the work crew from out old haunt of Chester and from Carrick (little town in Ireland with a big bank population).

The problem was that Muffin Puffin and I didn't eat ANYTHING the entire night, with the result of us arriving back at the flat at midnight starving and desperate for calories. In a rush to drop my bags and get into the chips, I turned on two lights (hallway and living room) at the same time. The result was a blown fuse and a PITCH BLACK apartment. All I could think was: "This is sub-optimal."

So I walk down to the front desk, where the guy comes up and opens the breaker (let me go ahead and tell you - it looks NOTHING like a US breaker box). When he opens it, we see 14,576 different switches, which of course makes me panic (especially since this guy is asleep at the front desk EVERY DAY when I walk past in the morning - this cat and electronics? SCARY). However, he grabs a MASSIVE ASS RED SWITCH that I didn't even think to try before. The words on it? MAIN SWITCH. Yeah, I could already see this coming...

Five seconds later, power is restored, and "sleeper boy" has firmly concluded that I am a DONKEY of galcian proportions. However, with power intact, I was happy, and my wife set to preparing us a FABULOUS FEAST. What were the contents, do you ask? Some Liz Mirza left over cheese and peanuts, baby! Oh, yeah! I know what healthy is!!!!

14,000 calories and ZERO nutritional benefit later, we were asleep. However, I did get up at 6:30 (after a 1:30 bed time - no fear of zombies last night!) to head in and make the 4th straight day at the gym. TP - whilst there, I watched the "Tour of Oman" whilst on the bike. Dude, I gotta ask - WTH would ANYONE put on some spandex, shave their legs, and then proceed to ride something like 500 miles through nothing but rocks and a sandpit for the better part of a month in 189 degree heat? All the same, I'm pretty sure I'm gonna win the Tour de France next year - I'm thinking I will ask "Team P-Town" to be my sponsor. After all, I know that you've got some SERIOUS connections...

Today was great, with only one classic moment. I'm waiting for the elevator to come, and when it arrives, it opens to find a guy and girl MAKING OUT AS IF THEIR LIVES DEPENDED ON IT. I step into the elevator, and ONLY THEN do they realize there's someone else present. Instantly they separate and act as if NOTHING happened (JOKE). I turn my back to them, hoping to just get down the 9 floors without them trying to copulate in my presence. Therefore, imagine my surprise when the girl says, "So what are you and the missus doing this weekend?" Hoping I misheard, I try to think of a Lady Gaga song, but alas, it's too late. The guy responds, "Oh, she and I are going away for the weekend to Yorkshire." Really? REALLY? Not only are you MAKING OUT in our shade ball elevator, but you're ALSO cheating on your wife? Quality donkey...

The evening found us at the Porterhouse for a pair of Reds before heading to dinner at a GREAT Italian spot (courtesy of the X-Factor - Cody Schwob-Nelson), where I had my normal 24,000 calories, this time in the form of some red wine (good for the heart!) and lasagna. After that, it was a farewell to the peeps and a walk home.

And now that I am home, I feel that I must pay homage to two friends that will offically retire after a lifetime of service this evening. First, my Banana Republic shirt, dating back to June of 2002 (down in Hilton Head for Jason Stansell's wedding), has officially seen it's last wear. There's a hole in the elbow that I can no longer tolerate, and so it's time to part ways. Brother - you've been a trooper - here's hoping that someone can patch you up and reuse you.

Second is my pair of bass shoes, staples of my work attire for over a year. However, with the boot and with the incessant walking in London, they are no longer fit for purpose. You cats were AWESOME, and you will be missed. However, in an effort to prevent ANOTHER stress fracture, I feel it's time to give you some rest.

NOTE TO ALL READERS: There will be no blog until Sunday, because Sam and Ray "I'm Dinger's favorite character" Tavares are off for a lad's weekend in Lisbon, Portugal - YEAH, BABY!!! But fret not -lots of GREAT pictures to come.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Nothin' like some "Chinese frilly prawn balls" to make your life complete...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Let me tell you (and I know I speak for Andy McGuire when I say this) - there is NOTHING (and I do mean NOTHING) more exciting than spending your evening (meaning 5-7 PM local time) working through a cutover task list. TALK ABOUT EXCITEMENT!!! Who needs to meet the Dahli Lama to receive higher consciousness - I have data conversion activities to show me the light...

So it was another GREAT day in the Smoke (and I mean smoke, as it's been nothing but rain and fog for the last two days - honestly, I don't know how folks do it year over year). The last two days have been part of a "mini" Integration session with some folks from work, and it's been very productive so far.

Last night, with my culinary and gastronomic reputation at stake, I lead a small contingent up 9 stops on the Julilee Line to Baker Street, where I introduced them to the GREATEST curry house in the UK - The Rajdoot, baby!!!! Oh, yeah! Fizzy - Kare Kare is definitely #2, as I think it has surpassed Spices. However, the "Doot" remains the king.

The meal was great, but more frightening is the fact that Vindaloo is no longer "hot" to me. That's right, boys and girls - Taylor is going for a Phall next time. If you never hear from me again, it's been a hell of a ride.

It should also be noted that we started the evening at (where else) the Cat & Canary. Honestly, that made 4 straight work nights that I'd frequented the Wharf's finest pub, and I'm glad I didn't end up there tonight.

I was up at 6:15 AM both mornings to work out, logging 57 and 45 minutes on the bike each of the last 2 mornings. Here's hoping tomorrow can be a repeat. I'm back in the boot, as the foot is quite tender at the moment, but so far I'm cycling without pain.

Dinner tonight was GREAT. We hit up "Royal China" in the Wharf, and it did NOT disappoint. I mean, hey, when you get a) crispy duck and b) frilly prawn balls for dinner, how can life be bad? Now if they'd just had the chilled monkey brains...

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Year 4707 - Welcome to the year of the Tiger...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY and FANTASTIC WEEKEND in the Mother Country. As I sit here taking down some sweet chili potato chips (mom - you are going to LOVE all the flavors of chips in this country), I can't believe how much fun this weekend has been.

It should be noted (and you might have seen in the photos) that I walked around ALL WEEKEND WITHOUT THE BOOT! And whilst my foot is still a bit tender, that is a GREAT sign. I'll be back in the gym on the bike tomorrow morning, so we'll see how it feels. I made it to the gym 6 times last week, so I'm hoping for a repeat performance (needed since I've got a trip planned this weekend and then 3 days in Mad City next week).

Also, I had a TERRIBLE night's sleep last night. I have no lie to tell - I have a mortal fear of zombies. Don't ask me to explain it, but suffice it to say that seeing movie posters for "The Crazies" all over the Tube is NOT helping my sleeping habits. Now I'm not sure if it was from being a) too tired or b) fearing that I was going to be stabbed repeatedly by a pitchfork in my sleep, but I could NOT get to sleep last night. In fact, I laid in bed FOUR HOURS until I finally passed out around 3 AM. We woke up around 10, and I was refreshed enough but DEFINITELY craving some more ZZZZZ's. That being said, I do expect to pass out tonight.

JT made us a great brekkie before we rolled down to Chinatown for the Chinese New Years celebrations. This is (apparently) the largest CNY festival outside of China, and it was a good day. There were tons of lanterns about, lots of musical performances, plenty of those damn popping fireworks (kids were throwing them at my feet ALL DAY - they are lucky I was TOTALLY out of kerosene and didn't have the energy to follow them home), and even some dancing dragons (IMPOSSIBLE to see, but the cymbol clanging - all by white guys - was impossible to miss).

We started in Chinatown before wandering down to Trafalgar Square, where the heart of the action was. I must say that it was a neat festival - there was tons of singing and dancing, and it was quite the crowd on hand. We spent about 45 minutes watching the performances before heading back to Piccadilly to meet Beth Silverstein, a new expat and friend of a friend on the project.

The craziest part? I knew Beth in college. True, I cannot remember what class we had together, but I KNOW that I knew her. It was a surreal moment - talk about a small world! We wandered through Shaftsbury and back into Chinatown before circling back down to Trafalgar Square to watch some of the performances.
However, instead of performances, we were treated to a pair of TERRIBLE mc's who just WOULD NOT stop talking. Instead, they insisted on us doing the "Mexican wave." What is the Mexican wave, you ask? Well, it's basically the same as the "United States wave," except that instead of forming a "wave" (you know, I like you would EXPECT TO DO), you simply wave at the stage when your section is pointed to. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? WHY IS THIS THE MEXICAN WAVE? IS THIS WHAT SANTA ANNA DID TO DAVY CROCKETT AT THE ALAMO? Utter donkeys...

So after 15 minutes of "Mexican waving," (which I'm pretty sure is NOT a past time of drug lords and the border patrol) we rolled over to Covent Garden for beer and a 4 PM lunch at the Porterhouse. There we introduced Beth to some delicious brewskis, had some Cambembert cheese as a starter, and then sucked down some tasty dishes (I went with a skillet of eggs, cheese, potatoes, hash browns, peppers, sausage, ham, and bacon - CHUUUUUUUUUUUUUBBBBBBBBYYYYYYYYYYYYY BUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!! SO GUUUUUUUUD!

After that, we walked home, and we're now gearing up for 2 hours of Olympics coverage, including the men's downhill and the ski cross finals. All in all, it has been a GREAT weekend, and we now have another friend to add to the mix. Yazz - you missed a great day out!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. North American crew - save travels across the Pond. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Ande so here begyns these Canterbury tayles...

Family,
And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a PERFECT day in the Mother Country. MAN, was it perfect! However, let's wind it back to last night and catch you up quickly on how we started the weekend.

Friday was a big day for the project, as we had a huge presentation due. Hats off to my crew for some TREMENDOUS work, as we had a very successful project review (insert big sigh of relief here). After that (and after taking 5 pounds from Grimshaw for successfully predicting when the session would end), we needed to blow off some steam and celebrate! And of course, there's only one way to do that properly in Canary Wharf - THE CAT AND CANARY, BABY!!!!

15 minutes later, the gang met up with Brother Morgan and his friend Steve (went to high school in Nashville, hence he and I form the "Tennessee Union") at the C & C for some pints and relaxation. It was a great evening, and four of us (Lynda, Kat, Muffin, and me) then rolled to Sri Nam, where we were tucked in to a GREAT meal (Mad City- those Singapore noodles are THE TRUTH - thanks for the tip!).

We passed out around 12:30 last night, and we popped up (seriously this time!) at 8 AM for the first day trip in months - I'm pretty sure the title of the blog says it all. That's right - following in the footsteps of those characters made famous by Chaucer - we made the pilgrimmage to Canterbury!

Today was JUST PERFECT. We had a very easy train ride (with a GREAT Delice de France pastry and Starbucks for the journey), and the sun was shining amidst GORGEOUS blue skies and white, puffy clouds. Honestly, I'd just about forgotten what a sunny day looked like, so this was a much needed morale booster.

The journey up was 90 minutes, during which time Jenny researched her upcoming trip to Slovenia whilst I started a new novel - The Afghan. This book flat ROCKS. I'm about a quarter of the way through, and I LOVE IT so far. I'm still working on another book as well (The Alienist), but it's some thick work, so I have to break it up with some murder, mayhem, and espionage.

We started the day with a walk along the old Roman wall, passing along the high street and through the shops before arriving at the West gate. This gate is famous because it was the original entry point from London and where tens of thousands of pilgrims passed through to visit the shrine of Thomas Beckett (more on him later). The gate closed at 7 PM every night, so if you had a horse and were running late to get to the city, you needed to ride your horse "at a Canterbury pace" to avoid being locked out. Incidentally, this is where we get the term "canter" in equestrian events.

Honestly, the city (bigger than we expected), was just BEAUTIFUL. So much medieval and Tudor architecture, and we were CONSTANTLY amazed at how so many of the Tudor buildings weren't level (some classic photos of buildings that would have been CONDEMNED in the states but are still very much working shops and apartments here - AWESOME).

Canterbury hearkens back images of York, Chester, Bruges, and a host of other cities we've been fortunate enough to visit during our European travels. The River Stour, the swans, the pubs, the black and white buildings (all of which are older than the United States) - it all combined to make a simply FANTASTIC day outside of London.

After the gate, we visited the Hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr, where destitute pilgrims could lodge a single night before visiting the Cathedral the next day. After that, it was over to the marquee attraction: Canterbury Cathedral.

So Puffin and I have been in a TON of churches, but I must confess - this one was seriously IMPRESSIVE. Absolutely massive, it featured a spectacular nave with lots of light and beautiful stained glass. The choir loft was just beautiful, and behind the high altar a single candle burned, signifying the spot where St. Thomas' tomb/shrine stood for over 300 years (until Henry VIII decided to destroy it - such a charmer he was...). Ascending the "pilgrim steps" to view it, you pass the chapel of Edward the Confessor, the tomb of Edward the IV, and the tomb of "The Black Prince" (that's Edward Plantagenet - Mrs. Ware, I know you explained who all these people were - as did Professor McVaugh - but I was struggling to remember if he was the first of the plantagenets. The timeline seemed out of order with the history of Hugh Capet and the Capetian dynasty, but I'm sure I'm just missing something).

We then saw the spot where Beckett was murdered (they didn't allow photos, but it was this WICKED monument of jagged swords seemingly drenched in blood, along with the word "Thomas" scrawled in bloody script on the ground) before wandering down into the crypt. This is where Henry II (the king who had him murdered) slept for a night in penance 4 years after the assassination.

The best part of the whole thing was the Evensong rehearsal. Whilst we were walking around, the choir was practicing for the upcoming service, and they sounded ANGELIC. Seriously, a memory I will carry a long time is standing in the dark crypt with the only light being candles illuminating the altar and listening to a choir above me that I can't see (but sounded like they could have been from Heaven).

After that, we saw the remains of St. Augustine's monastary before taking a walk to a really unique spot - St. Martin's church. This church, built in 580 A.D., is the oldest continually active church in England. It was in the middle of nowhere, but it was surrounded by this absolutely GORGEOUS cemetary, filled with Celtic crosses. Amidst the huge trees, with the sun streaming down on the shiny, green grass, it was SUCH a peaceful moment.

We did pop into a recommended pub (imagine that) called the Thomas Beckett, complete with hops hanging from the rafters. After 1 pint, however, we decided to head back for home.

En route, JT found a kiosk called "Chips and Dip," and 2 quid later, we were some happy campers. I mean, hey, when you're feeling peckish, what's healthier than a pound of chunky fries cooked in oil, doused in vinegar, covered in salt, and served with ketchup and mayo (and I DON'T think that's miracle whip in that tub)?

We caught the 5:32 back, arriving in London just after 7. We then hopped the tube home, stopping for dinner at this GREAT Turkish joint called Efes 2. We'd eaten there once before, and I am happy to report that it still does NOT disappoint (not to mention the free "after dinner shots - QUALITY). Mom - this is on your "must eat" list when you visit.

We're now back at the flat and READY FOR BED. Muffin is already in her ski jams, and I'm not far behind. All in all, this was an absolutely PERFECT day - I could NOT have asked for anything more.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A couple of GREAT nights on the town...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a GREAT evening in the Mother Country. So first off - there is a group of screaming 20 year old naked people on the balcony directly opposite us. I have seen more in the last 20 minutes than I did during the whole of my time at Scores in Las Vegas - talk about a great show! And for the record - muffin puffin is the one who noticed it (Liz - picture hairy naked guy x 50) - just another crazy night in the Taylor household!

Secondly - condolences to Brother Ray Tavares and his family. After a year of planning, they found out at 1 AM this morning that their general admission tickets to the women's halfpipe had been canceled due to the warm weather and unsafe conditions of the snow along the pipe. Damn, brother - I am SO SORRY. Here's hoping that the hockey match still on the docket more than makes up for it.

So, recapping last night - JT and I had decided that, despite the desperate need to keep my MLR's (that would be muffin land rovers) from regressing back to muffin tanks, we needed to break the "exercise and salad at home" cycle and venture out into the city to make the most of our time here. Consequently, at 7:15 PM we were at The Compass, trying a new West India Pale Ale and having a date night. We had SO MUCH FUN - it was just so nice to relax and chat for a bit, not thinking about work and being outside of the normal routine. I LOVE YOU, PUMPKIN!!!!!

Dinner that night was at Spices, a place that JT and I once visited with the Prime Minister (that would be Andy Carter) and which had stood until last night as the place I regarded as THE BEST Indian in the city. And whilst dinner was great again last night (the cook comes out and speaks to you personally to help craft your dish), I must honestly confess that the Rajdoot is better and is officially THE BEST CURRY HOUSE IN LONDON. Given all the spots we've hit, that is some SERIOUS praise.

The highlight of the night - we found BENGLA BEER!!!!! Backstory on this - me, muffin, and the posh puma used to hit up a curry house in Chester called India Flava, and the highlight was the fact that they served Bengla Beer. I still remember one of Puma's better conversations:

Posh Puma (PP): (to the waiter) "This Bengla Beer is good."

Half Drunk Waiter (HDW): "Thank you, sir." (vigorous head shake)

PP: "Where in Bengladesh is it brewed?"

HDW: "Is not from Bengladesh, sir. Is from India."

PP: "It's called Bengla Beer but it's NOT from Bengladesh?"

HDW: "No, sir - is from India."

PP (looking at bottle): "But right here on the bottle it says 'Made in Bengladesh.'"

HDW (dumbfounded): "Is incorrect, sir. Is Indian beer." (walks off, puma and I cackle)

We promptly went home and passed out, but I did pop up this morning to put in 50 minutes on the bike! That's right, Armstrong - FEAR THE REAPER!

This evening I rolled to the local, the Cat & Canary, where I had drinks with some of the work peeps - Lynn Barron (first trip to Europe - hope you enjoyed!), Fiona Clark, Rob Rose, and Owain Morgan (just for 1 Mabs, no worries!). We had some drinks and then dinner, and I must confess - C & C (Music Factory) does one of THE BEST burgers in the UK - WOW, I was impressed.

I rolled home around 11, where I found my muffin just finishing work and getting ready for bed. Yes, I know, I know - I am a bad husband. But I will make it up to her tomorrow during the Lady Gaga Dance Party! Stay tuned...

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

A quiet night in and a little root canal flare up...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Granted, the weather was arguably THE WORST it's been since we landed 8 months ago (HOW is that possible?), but it was a productive day at work, and I even found a nice brie and broccoli soup for lunch. After work, I spent another hour on the bike (Price - I'm one step shy of needing an altitude chamber - fear my greatness), and I'm happy to report that my legs are tired yet again (okay - so maybe don't fear my greatness too much). Seriously - I was watching the "Tour of Qatar" in the gym today, and I must confess - I don't know how those boys do it. The temperature had to have been about 4,5000,000 degrees, and they were moving at damn near 40,000 mph - impressive.

JT hit the pool today, and we took it easy this evening with some salads and a little parmesean cheese - SO GUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies). I am officially addicted to cheese. There's SO MUCH of it, and it's all SO GOOD AND FRESH here. I smell a trip to Borough Market in the not too distant future.

We watched a little curling from the Olympics (let me tell you - the Norwegian cats have got some KILLER uniforms - too bad they lost to Team Maple Leaf), and then we caught some of the Figure Skating. I realize all the Americans are getting the finals in real time, but hey - I'll take what I can get.

The only bad news of the evening is that my root canal seems to be flaring up again. I just skyped with my mom for 30 minutes (I LOVE YOU, MOMMA!), and there were times where it really hurt to even talk. Consequently:

a) I am already wearing my "whistleguard" that prevents grinding (normally this is just a stylish sleeping accessory).

b) I have spent 20 minutes online looking at possible reasons for the pain (because self-diagnosis is ALWAYS the best course of action).

c) Tomorrow I'll be asking the girls if they've got a dentist they trust for consultation.

At the end of the day, all signs point to a return of "night bruxing," which is the involuntary grinding of teeth whilst sleeping (the whole reason I had to have a root canal to begin with). Apparently stress is the key driver of grinding - I'm going to blame the OTL interface and a "slight" mix-up with a V-lookup in late January. There was also a reference to "increased alcohol consumption could contribute," but I'm going to conveniently ignore that one. And hey, the foot has been pain free for 2 days, so it was about time something else acted up, right?

Tomorrow is back in the gym early for the gun show, and then we'll hopefully get a PM workout as well. Still no sign of my cheek bones, but I'm officially downgrading my "muffin tanks" to "muffin Land Rovers." It's definitely a step in the right direction (even if I did have a Staropramen tonight just a half pint!).

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Monday, 15 February 2010

I never thought I'd say this, but I miss Bob Costas...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a FANTASTIC day in the mother country. First off - Happy President's Day! Here's hoping that all my comrades back in the colonies got some time to take a breather. Ogas - I hope you're shreddin' the tables about now, brother! "Paiiiiiii GOW!!!! Come on, MONKEY!"

So today was another two-a-day for Sammy, and Jenny proved her all around fitness by hitting the eliptical, the C-2, and the bike for some proper cross-training. I settled for weights in the morning and 65 minutes on the bike in the evening (Price - I challenge you to a Cat 4 crit the second I step off the plane - riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight...). I will say that, for the first time since October, my legs actually feel tired from exercise! SUCH a good feeling!

To celebrate being active, Jenny and I are consuming half a slab of brie tonight (Fizzy - your leftovers are coming in handy - three of those blocks of cheese are already gone!), and I'm washing it down with a beer to celebrate "good pain." The foot didn't hurt during the spin, so I'm thinking that the lazy day yesterday was a much needed rest period (hey - I tell myself what I have to - is that so wrong?).

I got home tonight expecting to see 5.5 hours of Olympic coverage (as promised to me by the BBC), but OH NO - that was the liberal media lying to me. Instead, you find that you have to bounce from station to station to catch ANY of the games, and each piece segment (they are only 90 minutes) starts with a THIRTY MINUTE INTRODUCTION of the event, followed by some CLASSIC British commentary within the event.

In literary news, I conquered a book on life's "must read" list tonight: "A People's History of the United States." Honestly, all I can say is WOW. Granted, I am everyone's token socialist friend, so you obviously have to temper what I say with a grain of salt. Furthermore, I will absolutely agree that some parts are obscenely biased and do not portray a balanced view of history. That being said, there are facts and figures in that book that a) cannot be disputed and b) should be common knowledge to all Americans. Personally, I feel this should be required reading for every high school and college student, as this book provides many an insight into viewing history from the perspective of the invisible.

Well, we've got 8 minutes until the men's snowboarding final, and so it's time to wrap myself in the Stars and Stripes and start chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!" Ray Ray - I hope you're havin' a blast up there brother! And Dinger, since Ray is your favorite "character" in the blog, you might want to follow his spin-off series, http://grizwoldsgomapleleaf.blogspot.com to keep up with the latest exploits of the Portuguese Assassin in the Great White North.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Valentine's Day - Taylor style...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a GREAT Sunday in the mother country. So today was just simply perfect. For starters, we slept until noon, at which point we looked at each other in bed and decided we didn't really want to see St. Alban's all that bad. After all, we've seen quite a few castles and churches at this point, and we just didn't feel sufficiently movitated to get out in the cold, gray weather.

Instead, Jenny made a dash to Sainsbury's, and 30 minutes later I was treated to a GREAT English breakfast - Jenny Taylor style. Ignore the clutter on the table (Rocia will take care of that tomorrow) and check out the apple & pork sausages and the eggs (over easy - witness the surgeon of the kitchen in action!) Add in some coffee and OJ, and you've got a GREAT brunch (at 1 in the afternoon).

We watched 2 hours of Olympic coverage and 2.5 hours of Six Nations coverage (England held off Italy for the 16th straight time, this time in Rome) before chatting with Rice and company on Skype - Sam is getting SO BIG!!! Also, we sat around for a couple of hours reading - I've started "No Country for Old Men," and I LOVE it. Jenny was a picture uploading machine, and we now have 4 new photo albums on Facebook - way to go, muffin!

Around 7, we decided it was time for our "Valentine's Day dinner," so I walked over to Sainsbury's again (that way we could both claim to have actually walked outside today) and picked up a pizza (as well as a pack of pepperoni to add to it, of course). Throw in a bottle of UK 3 buck chuck, and you've got a dandy meal to eat whilst watching some additional Olympic coverage.

The only sad news? After 13 years (and recently celebrating it on the blog), I lost my UNC Fleece last night. I took it off at the craps table, and due to the heat in the casino, I never thought about it again, even on the walk out (I was rockin' the wool coat at that point). I called them tonight, but they said they hadn't found anything, and the gaming floor was completely clean. I'll check on it when I'm there in just over a week's time (the Americans are coming back), but I'm not hopeful. But that's okay - we had 13 GREAT years, and I just have to trust that some needy kid is warmer tonight...even if there are about 57 holes in the fleece and it isn't exactly known for knocking off the British Winter Chill. UNC Fleece - thanks for the memories.

Over the last two hours, we've made good on our promise to get some stuff booked, and now we're about to shut it down for the night and actually get in bed at a reasonable hour. So as you can see, we've been sedentary today, but at least we've been productive!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 13 February 2010

A wander yields Six Nations glory and a brilliant turn at the tables...

Family,


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a GREAT Saturday in the Mother Country. Man, was today fun! So afer we last left you, the Taylors were still pretty lazy. We each finished 2 cups of coffee (instant, of course) before deciding it was time to get our lazy asses in gear (keep in mind that at no point did the idea of showering EVER cross our minds), and by "getting in gear," I mean reading our books as we surfed the net. This proved lucky, however, as we were able to Skype with Katie BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB!!!


We chatted with Katie for about 30 minutes or so before finally getting dressed and stepping out the door. The sun was already hidden behind a thick blanket of clouds (imagine that - in London of all places...), and we had NO schedule. With no game plan, we decided to have a wander and "see where the day takes us." As fate would have it (contain your surprise), the "day" took us about 10 minutes down the road to a pub called Pontefract castle - SHOCKING, I know...


However, once there we realized that the Six Nations was on! How could I have forgotten? Back story - the Six Nations is an annual rugby tournament between England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, and Italy. It's HUGE over here, and it's SO MUCH FUN! We watched Wales vs. Scotland, and it was a THRILLER! Wales scored in the 81st minute (what they call negative time) to win by 3 - talk about a barn burner!


We had SO much fun watching the match, and we had great seats to check out all the action. Add a couple of Azzaparrot Ales (it was a fresh cask - no complaints there!), a GREAT burger (with chunky chips, of course), and 60 minutes of the second match (Ireland vs. France in Paris - Le Bleu WAXED them), and you've got a recipe for a GREAT afternoon!


So with lunch behind us (at 4 PM), two games down, and a nasty rain storm coming, we agreed it was time to find the one activity we did have planned for the day - The Sportsman Casino!!! That's right, ladies and gentlemen - the Taylors have FOUND A CRAPS TABLE!!!


We rolled into this place at about 6:30, and there was NO ONE at the table. Determined to gamble, I asked one of the pit bosses when the table opened. His response: "We don't have enough staff right now, but I can open it up if you want to play." Five minutes later, JT and I both had a Foster's under the rail, I had a pair of dice in my hand, and the words "New shooter comin' out - there's your money" ringing in my ears. WICKED!!!


We played just over 2 hours, and at the end of it - JT was down 7 pounds, and I was down 30. All in all, considering how many times we got to roll and how much fun we had, that was money VERY well spent - talk about a BLAST!


We then made it back to the flat (it had finally quit raining), where we curled up on the couch and watched two movies. And since we were still full from our late lunch, we opted for an evening of cheese, crackers, chips, and Gin & Tonic in place of a proper meal (Fizzy - it was all the stuff you gave us - we're putting it to good use! I just wish we'd kept the limes...).


On the movie front, first came the Bourne Identity (just as good as I remember). Second came Children of Men. Honestly, it was more entertaining than the book, but it was still UTTER DONKEY TRASH. I will never, and I mean NEVER read or touch anything associated with P.D. James ever again. That being said, it was a GREAT night and SO MUCH FUN!


Now it's off to bed (can't believe it's already after 1 AGAIN), as we're planning to get up early (well, for our standards) to head over to St. Alban's tomorrow. We'll see if it really happens, but I'm optimistic.


Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!


Love,


Sam and Jenny

Farewell to Fizzy, a last drink with Dean, and a night well spent...

Family,

And a GREAT morning to you on this cloudy yet perfect English Saturday in the Mother Country. It's actually a touch warmer today, which means that (hopefully) we won't be freezing to death once it gets dark (which is much later now - FINALLY - than it was 2 months ago!).

So yesterday was GREAT. For starters, the work day was really good (despite someone - perhaps an SAP guru turned Oracle Finance person from South Africa - trying to "Gaga-fy" my fair trade banana - CLASSIC).
Also, I got my salmon and cream cheese bagel! Now, I realize that the "salmon and cream cheese ritual" doesn't sound very exciting, but when 1.75 buys you all the salmon you can wedge between 2 slices of bread, you've simply got to rejoice. And when you find that you can double the amount to feed both you and your spouse for no additional charge, you've got a recipe for making the cheapest bastard in the UK VERY happy.

Besides the bagel (which again was FAAAAAAABULOUS!), We got a ton of work done, and it was also a good day to take a breath after a manic week. Hitman - just to prove my value to you as an expat - check out muffin puffin helping Kat with some ridiculous excel query. See - it's a 2-for-1 deal! Not that this changes my opinions on formulas or V-lookups in any way, shape, or form, for the record, but isn't she cute building all those nested "sum if" statements. Yes, I know, I know...we are disgusting.
I didn't make the gym (because I didn't get in bed on Thursday until 1:30 AM), but I still got 4 workouts in this week. I'm definitely not lighter yet, but I've at least figured out that, if I have my photo taken straight on vs. turning my head to the side, I at least look thinner. Plus, the foot was a bit tender yesterday. Today, however, I rocked the Baffins to Sainsbury's, and I was okay.

So for those of you who don't know - due to being a woman in high demand (apparently US projects have a desperate need for someone who can properly exhibit the right amount of "boom-boom-pow"), yesterday was Fizzy's last night in the UK. She's repatriating back to the US, and the news was pretty sudden. Knowing that we simply had to see her before she bounced, we met up in South Kensington for farewell drinks and a final meal before watching her fly into the Wild Blue Yonder and back to the colonies.

Liz - first off, we are very excited for your new gig, but we are REALLY gonna miss you. We have had SO MUCH fun with you here, and trying to sum up what your friendship has meant to us here (and meant to us since meeting you back in '07) is just impossible on a public blog or on a hug/farewell on Gloucester Road on a freezing night after Vindaloo and Cobras. Suffice it to say that we love you and can't wait to see you again - be it in the Queen City or the Mother Country.

Second - safe travels today. Here's hoping they allowed all 24,000 pounds of your excess baggage (23K of that being products, shoes, and bags, of course) onto the plane.

Third - for posterity, I had to take a last photo of your office. I think the caption to it should read "The witch is out." For those who have never been in Liz's office, chances are you won't get that joke.

As fate would have it, Liz wasn't the only person that we said goodbye to last night, as we were able to squeeze in some time with Dean before he boarded his flight home for Oz. We met him for a pint (I had 2, of course - calories don't count if you drink cask ale - hello Spitfire!) at the Stanhope Arms, right by his hotel and the Gloucester Road tube stop. It was just so great to hang out a final time. Dommie - I know that we have to send him back to you, but we didn't want to see him go!
Poor Dean's flight was 9:45 PM from Heathrow, connecting via Bangkok and finally arriving in Sydney at 6:00 AM on Sunday morning. That's right, folks - it's a LONG WAY down there.

Dean - it was SO GREAT seeing you, brother, and I agree - let's not leave it 3.5 years before we do this again. After all, a) I will need to continue stocking my library with Matthew Reilly first edition hardbacks from Down Under, b) I need to sit with a fellow socialist from time to time to recharge my batteries, c) you and the missus are truly two of THE MOST wonderful and genuine people I've ever met, and d) hearing that accent reminds Jenny and I just HOW MUCH we love your homeland (our "island home"). Safe travels, and we WILL see you again soon.

We said farewell to Dean about 7:10, and then we (meaning Fizzy, Muffin, and me) finished a final pint before rolling to Kare Kare, one of THE BEST Indian joints in London. Seriously, this food was DELICIOUS. I went with the Chicken Hyderabadi (but, surprisingly enough, not a biryani - sorry Gautam), and it did NOT disappoint. And once the owner (who delivers food to Liz on a weekly basis -it's her local curry house) found out that it was her last night, he gave us a free bottle of GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD house red - very tasty!

After that, it was back to Liz's place, where we raided her fridge for beer, her cabinets for spirits, and her pantry for chips. Hitman - don't worry - we left you all the John Smith's Courage and Peroni. But if you could just bring a keg of Fat Tire over for the NCCAA Tournament party, that would be great...
We then said goodbye to Liz ( actually, "until next time" was the preferred phrase of the evening) before hopping back on the tube with a billion pounds of booze stuffed into Little Black Bear. Mom - when you bought me that tiny roller suitcase, I bet you NEVER THOUGHT it would see action on 4 continents and eventually serve as an instrument of bootlegging.

So, as you can tell, it was a truly special (yet truly emotional) night. Farewell to two good friends, deep conversations at the bar and dinner, and a stroll down memory lane across 3 continents. All in all, it will be one of those nights I'll remember for a long time.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. The sun is shining, so as Tait or any Shotover River jetboat driver would say, "It's time to get amongst it!" Chat tomorrow!
Love,

Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 11 February 2010

A (hopefully) solid post to get back in the good graces of "Anonymous" guy who shaves his legs and played guitar at my wedding...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a FANTASTIC day in the Mother Country. First off, apologies to all for my absence from the blog - the last two nights saw the Taylors arrive home at 12 and 1, respectively, and I was NOT in the best frame of mind to compose any kind of lucid thought (I'll let you fill in the blanks as to why - go ahead and say it, Bob - "No AFD").

So, we'll back track to Tuesday, where I hit the gym in the morning to show off my pythons and intimidate all the dudes in Spandex working out yet INTENTLY watching the new Robbie Williams video. I mean, the only thing more manly would have been if Michael Buble had rocked up to sing "Crazy Love" in purple tights. As for me, I stuck to the classical stylings of Lady Gaga - you know, what REAL men listen to.

The work day was good, and afterwards we rolled to the Cat & Canary, where JT and I had a pint of Honeydew with Fizzy and her two friends (Heather and Melanie) from college who were over for a visit. After that, we rolled to the GREATEST ITALIAN JOINT IN THE CITY - La Figa. I am happy to confirm that the Mushroom Ravioli did NOT disappoint. However, going forward, we will follow in the footsteps of Lord Goodyer and go with the shank of lamb, so big that JT and I finished it for dinner TONIGHT.

In a surprise turn of events, this is Liz's last week in the UK. Therefore, there was many a toast to celebrate her impending repatriation and wish her well in her new exploits. So many toasts, in fact, that Sam and Muffin Puffin each took down a bottle of wine, making the train home a) nice and toasty (because our "beer jacket" was covering us) and quick (because our "beer scooter" rushed us home).

But the highlight of the evening (for onlookers, at least), was the moment when Sammy, before a SINGLE DROP OF WINE, sits down in his chair, starts to settle in, and finds his chair wobbling. Normally, this is not a problem - you simply put your foot out, and the chair stops moving. This doesn't work, however, WHEN YOU HAVE A SLIPPERY ASS PLASTIC BOOT ON YOUR FOOT. Instead, it works as a bob sled, ROCKETING YOUR FAT ASS TO THE GROUND IN A RESTAURANT FULL OF PEOPLE. Luckily I hurt nothing but my pride, but it was a CLASSIC moment. Best of all, Liz's friends tried to make me feel better. I loved Melanie's quote: "Well, these seats are small." Nice try...

The net effect was a) a GREAT evening with Liz, Heather, and Mel, but a ROUGH morning at 6:30 AM. However, determined to fight the fat (by means other than a healthy diet obviously), I rolled to the gym for an hour of cardio. I am telling you - in just 4 weeks time, I will see my cheek bones again. I FEEL it.

I will say that it was neat to be on the bike (still reading "People's history" - only 100 pages to go!) and watch snow pour down outside. It didn't lay, but it was very cool to watch (apologies to folks in the DC area, as I realize it's not quite as "cool" for you guys at the moment). And Kim - I have to tell you -I'm sitting on the bike, and all of a sudden I hear this, "Bom, Bom, Bom, ba-bum, bum, Bom, Bom, Bom..." from the tv. I look up, and sure enough, Glee's cover of "Don't Stop Believin'" is on the UK's Top 20 videos! I couldn't help but chuckle and think - I need to tell KJ about this.

So, after work we had aspirations of having dinner in Kensington before meeting up for a drink with Dean. JT and I arrive at the South Kensington tube stop at 7:15 on a mission to eat Thai. Only once we've walked into the FRIGID cold do we realize that we are NOWHERE NEAR the High Street, meaning that we have to get back on the tube we just stepped off of (and it means muffin has to pay again - NOT a happy camper). We arrive at Kensington High Street, the FAMOUS Kensington High Street, hungry and in a rush for food. What do we find after a mile of walking? ABOUT A MILLION CLOSED SHOPS AND ONE LEBANESE PLACE THE PRINCE OF WALES COULDN'T AFFORD. I'm sure it's a "lovely" neighborhood, but I was ready to douse the entire street in kerosene after that walk.

However, after a sprint to the end of the street by Jenny, we found the ONE THAI RESTAURANT in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. I won't give you the name, however, because the story inside is a GREAT one.

So we rock up into this joint, and it's a) huge, and b) EMPTY. I mean we are talking looking something akin to shut down. So we get in, order our food, and then I go to the bathroom. When I come out, one of the waitresses is STANDING OUTSIDE THE DOOR waiting for me. Here's the conversation:

Stalker Thai Waitress (STW): "You customer, yeah?"

Sam: (thinking - who the hell else is here - of COURSE I'm THE customer): "Yes."

STW: "You no tip here, ok?"
Sam (thinking JACKPOT): "I'm sorry."

STW: "He (boss) no give tip to staff. He take. You no tip him."

Sam (fearing the words "Happy Ending" are about to come up at any moment): "No tip?"

STW: "No. You pay bill only. No tip."

I nod, and as we part, she stops me: "But you no say nothing. No say I tell you."

I nod again, go back, sit down, and instantly notice that she's telling the other 2 waitresses about me. They are staring DAGGERS at me. What happens next? She tells the OTHER waiter "something," and then HE starts looking at me. Two minutes later, our table is RINGED by the Fearsome Foursome. Needless to say that, while it was delish, it scared the HELL out of me.

We met Dean at Earl's Court in a pub called the Courtfield. It was GREAT. Honestly, Dean, we have had SO MUCH fun having you here. It had been way too long, but it was so great to just fall back into the rhythm of catching up and relaxing. Here's hoping we can make something work tomorrow! And I must say again - thank you SO MUCH for the book! That's right, ladies and gentlemen - Matthew Reilly has done it again, and Jack West, Jr. is back.

Because this place stayed open until midnight, we caught one of the last trains from Earl's court. What we also realized was that we caught it going the WRONG direction. So we hopped off and caught another train, only to be told that, while normally going where we needed, this time it was terminating two stops early. So we then caught the LAST TRAIN OF THE NIGHT to our place, rolling in about 1 AM.

Today was another great day, but it started with a BANG (literally). About 5 AM, I was awakened by the sound of something SMASHING together (Jenny slept through ALL of this, stirring momentarily to enquire if the dump truck was outside - which is odd since there's not a dumpster within about two miles of our building). I popped out of bed to check, and I saw the remains of a hit and run on my street. Luckily everyone appeared okay, and folks were already on the scene. This is the scene about 3 hours later.

I got my first coffee of the week, a Flat White from Costa. Dean, I know you raved about these brother, and they are certainly better than an Americano. However, I still prefer my Costa Vanilla latte (full fat, of course). JT tried one as well and REALLY enjoyed it, so I'll tell the folks at Costa that they're doing it right. :-)

In the spirit of being healthy, I rocked the square pie for lunch today! Nothing like a Steak and Cheese pie, covered in gravy, and paired with a heap of mashed potatoes. Chubbbbyyyy bunnnyyyy!!!!!!

I worked out for an hour tonight, spending 50 minutes on the bike and 10 walking. When I tried to push the walk on the treadmill, I felt a slight tenderness, which isn't terribly encouraging, but I'm still hopeful I'm on the mend. JT got a good swim (and water aerobics) in as well, and then we (finally) pulled an AFD (second of the week!). Now it's posting this and finishing "A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian" before bed. Dean - I'm not starting on "5 Greatest Warriors" yet - I have to burn through a few more and earn it first!

Oh, and I simply MUST tell this story. On Saturday, while we were down by Big Ben, we saw a Double Decker bus with an advertisement for a movie that simply made me cackle. Based on the fact it was a cartoon, I am assuming it's a kid's show. That being said, there's no way I'm EVER taking my child (many years from now, knock on wood) to see "Louie the Happy Snapper." I mean, HONESTLY, the jokes here are ENDLESS. But since our parents read this, I'll just stop there.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Price - I hope I'm officially back in your good graces now. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Monday, 8 February 2010

A chilly day in the Smoke...relatively...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond on a BITTER Monday in the Mother Country. I walked to the Tube in SNOW this morning! Now granted, I realize that folks like Big Cat, Brother Brisson, and the "Real H" are shaking their heads right now, as the Mid-Atlantic got simply POUNDED, but the wind here truly is bitter, and it cut me to the BONE today!

That being said, it was a GREAT day. Work was very productive, I made some good progress in "A People's History" (just 200 pages to go!), and I got a 1 hour plus workout. I went for 40 on the bike, followed by 20 on the elliptical. Um, seriously - can anyone tell me HOW IN THE HELL that machine is supposed to work? Anytime I tried pumping my arms, the damn machine almost launched me off the apparatus and threw a wall. Then again, maybe it's just because THE GUN SHOW IS IN TOWN. But actually...I think it's more because I'm an IDIOT and couldn't figure out how to work it.

I skipped coffee today in an effort to eliminate a few calories, and my beautiful bride is currently whipping up a nice salad for dinner. She did the elliptical as well today (sabotaged by water aerobics classes - GUTTED!), and we got GREAT news from LA Fitness! The manager called and has agreed to refund the money we got double charged! Now, granted - I will believe it when I see it. That being said, I am a happy camper for the evening.

Lastly - full marks to the New Orleans Saints. Brees is a great guy, and I am happy for them. Don't worry, Peyton - there's always next season!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Stay warm wherever you are, and we'll chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 7 February 2010

A proper day in Foggytown...and a little Iberian flavor...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a GREAT afternoon in the Mother Country. So after we left you (just a scant 10 hours ago), JT and I headed down to Oxford Circus, where we caught the Victoria Line (actually operating a good service on the weekend, for a change!) to Victoria. There we picked up a Beef & Stilton pasty and an Upper Crust baguette (Brie, tomato, and basil) before talking a stroll down memory lane through Westminster.


We walked along Horseferry and Marsham road, where I am happy to report that the Barley Mow is alive and well (even if not too busy on a Sunday). We then hit Millbank and turned for Westminster, where, at just after 3 PM, we picked up Deano for another GREAT day in the Smoke.

We strolled along the Thames, walking over the Lambeth bridge before doubling back to Westminster. Along the route, we got some GREAT shots. Honestly, I LOVE it when people come to visit, as it's such a great excuse to head down to Parliament and Big Ben and remember how beautiful this city is and how much amazing architecture is spread out before you. Dommie - you'll be happy to know that we didn't take "too many" photos.

After circling Parliament, we rolled up to Trafalgar Square, where we spent some time in a Waterstone's (the UK version of Barnes & Noble's) before wandering up toward Piccadilly. As it was raining, we popped into a couple of shops for Dean to look at some "seriously high quality" souvenirs (Dommie - no comment - but I fear some additional clutter is destined for New South Wales) before stopping in at the Glassblower (That's right, Tavares clan - it's the same spot where we first stopped off in Piccadilly Circus) for a few pints (they had Timmy!).

Dinner was La Tasca, where we had the same waitress (from Barcelona) that served me, Jenny, and VA when she visited back in November. It was SUCH a good meal (mushroom croquettes to DIE for), and we had a blast. Best of all, muffin puffin had the foresight to print off a 50% off coupon, so we were IN THE MONEY, baby!!! Oh, Yeah!

Tomorrow's back to work, and so JT and I are sacking out early vs. catching any of the SuperBowl. We are a house divided, but since I'm the one writing at the moment, let me just say once again....GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO COLTS!!!!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Porterhouse Red and Pinotage...

Family,

And a good morning to you from across the Pond on a GREAT (and potentially sunny!) Sunday in the Mother Country. Yesterday was GREAT - once we left the flat (later than expected, to be sure), we took the long route to Covent Garden, including a catch-up with both Jenny's parents and my dad, followed by a stopover at Samurai Sushi for a late lunch. This was the first time in 7 months that JT's had sushi (it's just normally too expensive here, but this place was reasonable - hopefully we didn't get additional bacteria for that bargain price), and this place DID NOT disappoint. And so, 13 pieces for me and a bento box for Muffin later, we were en route to Covent Garden. On the walk, we noticed that Chinatown is already gearing up for the Chinese New Year festivities - LG - we're lookin' forward to it!

We met Dean around 3 PM and made our way to the Porterhouse. Granted, it was rammed, but we did manage to score a table, which was great for my foot. We actually spent about 4.5 hours in there (catching a bit of England vs. Wales Six Nations), and in that time we were actually pretty well behaved (I managed 3 Porterhouse Reds and a Tusker). We then popped over to SoHo, where we tried to get into "Nadine's." Kim - you'll be happy to know that your bouncer friend is still there, and it's STILL impossible to get in. However, we weren't too disappointed, as we rolled over to Bistro and had a GREAT meal there (even if we were buried in this vault with the loudest laughing dude on the planet and had a waitress whose command of the English language was...well - NIL).

After calling Dommie to wish her a Happy Anniversary (six years ago today Jenny was at their wedding in Sydney), we parted ways and headed home. Once home, I caught up with mum for a bit on Skype before calling it a night around 1 AM. We "popped" up again this morning about 12, and I can confirm that last night was one of THE BEST night's sleep of my entire life.

Well, the tea kettle is brewing, and I'm due for a shower. Then it's back off for another day of activities with Dean!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat later tonight. GOOOOOO COLTS!!!!!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Ladies and gentlemen...I present to you the pride of Down Under- Mr. Dean Jones!!!

Family,

And a GREAT morning to you on a (nearly) sunny Saturday morning in the Mother Country. What a GREAT start to the weekend! For starters, HOW 'BOUT THEM HORNETS!!!!! I feel as a matter of course that we must first congratulate Sammie Taylor, III for win BOTH the boys and girls Hamblen County Championships. The Lady Hornets knocked off the Manley Lady Eagles for the 4th time this season, finishing at an unblemished 19-0. The boys, coming in at 15-3 (all three losses to Alpha), pulled off one of the biggest upsets in county championship history, shocking the Alpha Bulldogs 30-28 in an OT classic that will go down in the books. Dad - I cannot tell you how HAPPY I was to get that email - WAY TO GO!!!! So proud of you - that's just AMAZING! It definitely brought on a stroll down memory lane.

The work day on Friday was AWESOME - a SERIOUSLY good day. And whilst I didn't make it to the Cat & Canary for drinks with Brother Morgan and Mr. Ray, I did get home to have a glass of wine (4 buck chuck this time - yep, we're HIGH rollers) before heading to Leicester Square for a LONG OVERDUE reunion.

We rolled into the Bear and Staff, where I managed to get the last Timmy Taylor before the cask went off (CLOSE ONE). And after a scant 15 minutes of sipping (aka killing that pint), who walks in the door, fresh off the plan from Sydney via Milan, Munich, and Frankfurt? That's right, ladies and gentlemen - after a nearly 4 year hiatus - we were reunited with Dean!

So back story for those not in the loop - Jenny met Dean (and his girlfriend now wife Dom - we miss you Dommie!) when she was in Sydney in 2001, and they became fast friends. She flew down to their wedding in 2004, and they flew up for our wedding (and read in our wedding - the accent was a smashing success) in 2006. If you've met them, you know how great they are. If you haven't met them, suffice it to say they are two of the most wonderful folks you'll ever meet.

So we had a pint at the Bear and Staff (Kipling on the next round), but it was a) getting late and b) loud as HELL - what happened to my quiet local. As the clock crept toward 11, we grabbed a curry at some joint called "The Spice Bazaar." I went with "Garlic Chili Chicken - very hot, and they did NOT get my stamp of approval. That being said, the night was AMAZING - SO GREAT catching up with Dean and just relaxing after another busy week.

The walk home was uneventful, save that I wiped out again when my boot slipped on some water - I've been lucky both times that's happened - here's hoping there WON'T be a third.
We sacked out around 1 AM, and we popped up around 10:30 this morning. Okay, so "popped up" is not exactly right, as the snooze button was "leveraged" once or twice...all the same, it's time for a pasty and then off to Covent Garden for a proper pub crawl with Brother Dean!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Dad - congrats again!!!! Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 4 February 2010

And now Sammy returns the favor in the form of Rum Cask Ale...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. I pulled another 2-a-day! Truth be told, both of them felt really, really good. I did my usual "try not to kill yourself while you listen to Lady Gaga" routine in the morning with the weights, and then tonight I did 25 minutes on the bike. Three things were encouraging today:

1. I was able to go a little harder and a little faster on the bike.

2. When it was done, I stepped off and stretched and had ZERO pain through it all.

3. I can almost see the tops of my cheek bones again, and my pants now only require a little "sucking in" to fit.

How am I celebrating all this? By falling off the wagon again with a) an Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Ale (Price - I wish I could bring you one of these back - they are AMAZING) and b) a bottle of the cheapest wine from the cheapest supermarket in the UK (that's right, Ray - Valpolicella - pronounced in a way that makes Italians everywhere scream in agony).

Muffin got a swim in tonight, and we are just 8 minutes away from eating monstrous salads (I had one for lunch as well!) whilst talking to AC & Jeebs, both of whom we'll see in less than 2 months. Exciting!

It has been a blisteringly fast week - can't believe that the weekend is almost here!

And mom - ignore all this Toyota news - Katie is still the GREATEST CAR IN THE HISTORY OF AUTO MANUFACTURING. Just make sure Steve knows how to pull the parking brake on the interstate...

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

And Muffin forces Chubby Hubby off the AFD streak...

Family,

And a good evening to you after another GREAT day in the mother country. Today was another good one, filled with productivity in the Outpost of Happiness followed by another workout (25 minutes on the bike). The foot actually felt a little better today. It still tingles a bit when I'm on the bike, but as long as the sharp pain isn't there, I'm not complaining. I figure I'll continue wearing the boot for another 2 weeks, perhaps mixing in the occasional day of Baffin's (mom - so far they haven't let me down).

After a good day in the office, I rolled home to find muffin puffin starting a load of laundry and making dinner (women, SUBMIT! - that was for you, Price - now we'll both be on the couch tonight). In addition, due to muffin puffin having a tough day at the hands of the 1+11 forecast, a bottle of Sainsbury's wine (translation: Three Buck Chuck in the UK) was open and at the ready (and actually pretty tasty!).

After that, the lovely Catherine Cay found us on Skype, at which point we planned our next adventure (that's right, Alison - gear up to be our tour guide in the Lakes District), and now I'm sitting here listening to "Sexy Chick" by David Guetta (featuring Akon, of course). Funny thing is that I thought I was really cool downloading it last night until Megs (from Team Maple Leaf) told me that song was "sooooo three months ago" - Quality. Megs - all I have to say to you is DNM, DNM (hi-po, of course).

Tomorrow should (hopefully) be another 2-a-day, featuring the a) embarassing weight lifting in the morning (but at least this way I dodge the Kapauela dude who was lifting weights and then KICKBOXING tonight - normally he just looks at me with utter disgust), followed by b) the rather pathetic cycling session (where I stare at Sky Sports - their version of ESPN - and watch reruns of the international DART throwing competition...and NO, I'm NOT joking...). All the same, bring it on - BEEEEEEEF CAKE!!!!!

P.S. - Deets - I officially have a nickname for you: Old School. That's right - embrace it. Love it. And just tell me - can I get a neuf, neuf?

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Who did a 2-a-day? THIS GUY...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Guess who made the gym twice today? THIS GUY!!! Now granted, neither were great feats of athleticism, but I did manage to lift weights (that's right - the GUN SHOW is back in town, loaded with FIAHPOWAH) in the morning and then do 11 minutes walking on the treadmill, followed by 22 at a (semi) decent clip on the bike. The foot is tender, but I'm still (knock on wood) not feeling the normal stinging pain when I walk or move. Fingers crossed...

Tonight has been a good night. I've managed a little reading (I'm over halfway through "A People's History of the United States" - AC - you will find this book BRILLIANT and wicked good. Ray and Hitman - you would HATE this book with every fiber of your being. Tom - there's no mention of legs being shaved, so you'd just probably be bored), did a load of laundry, and muffin puffin (just in from the pool) is currently preparing a Gordon Ramsey-esque salad (which, apparently, has mold on the moldy cheese...it's a regular penicillin fest in the Taylor Household tonight). That will be two salads and two AFD's in a row, both of which are VERY needed.

I still feel (and look) like Frank the Tank, but at least we've had some normalcy this week. If all goes well, we've got another 72 hours of blissful radio silence before a big weekend kicks off - SIX NATIONS BEGINS, BABY!!! I can't WAIT to get it started up again.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Monday, 1 February 2010

Ode to a long time amigo...

Family,

And a good evening to you yet again on this chilly Monday in the Smoke. Today was a GREAT day at work. Seeing how fat I have now truly become, I opted for a salad at lunch. Now I realize that, to most folks, this doesn't seem like that great of a sacrifice. However, when you consider that the gal beside me had SQUARE PIE today, you'll see the kind of torment I endured, all in the sake of turning my muffin tanks back into muffin tops along my wasteline.

In the evening, desperate to get some exercise in, I went to the gym, where I was FINALLY able to get back to the treadmill - YEAH, BABY! That being said, we are talking a 10 minute walk over 1km of even ground, followed by 20 minutes on the bike at an easy pace. That being said, it's progress, baby!

Jenny didn't have quite a much fun working out, as LA Fitness lived up to their reputation of trying to SCREW PEOPLE OVER. Today she was charged an initiation fee for the SECOND time, and when she went in to protest, the guy behind the counter said, "Yeah, sorry - I definitely told you wrong. However, there's nothing I can do about that now." Jenny was agitated and I've already ordered 14 drums of kerosene. We'll see how it goes...she's got another date with them tomorrow, so fingers crossed.

In an effort to show folks how much my fashion sense has progressed, I thought you might want to check out the stylish get-up that I walked home in. Vampires, beware - that's all I'm sayin'. Well, no, I'm also asking - do I make you randy, baby? Do I? Jenny took 1 look and said, "You didn't walk home in that, did you?" The follow-up from her without prompting 2 seconds later? "Of course you did."

Also, tonight I must pay homage to a long time friend - my Bomber jacket. Today is the 8 year anniversary of our brotherhood, as it was the last present my mother gave me before sending me off to the Queen City. As I reflect back on my time with the jacket, 3 quotes come to mind:

1. The bomber jacket, the buzzed hair, the texan accent - please stop before men all over England become intimidated!

2. Nice jacket - you been out killin' Germans?

3. Indiana Jones called. He's in the Temple of Doom freezing his ass off and would REALLY like his coat back.

Mom - just wanted you to know that he's alive and well and still having many an adventure in the Mother Country.

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

A triumphant return to the North...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a GREAT day in the mother country. When I last left you, we were abandoning Brother Morgan and Mr. Ray, bound for London Euston. That is where I shall pick up tonight.

So JT and I took the tube up to Euston, where we were slated to pick up the 7 PM Virgin Service to Manchester Piccadilly. As we watched the boards update, the growing concern in the pits of our stomach was that, despite it already being 6:53, the 6:40 service to the SAME destination still hadn't arrived. Our spirits were momentarily uplifted by the fact that our platform suddenly came up. Thinking we were home free, we started moving to platform 6...

En route,we found ourselves swept into a vortex of humanity that felt something like being part of the last air lift out of Saigon. Talk about CHAOS - because the 6:40 was late, people were PILING onto our train like a scene from "I am Legend." OUT OF CONTROL. Luckily, my BRILLIANT wife had secured reserve seats for us. All the same, I still felt like a sardine wedged into a can.

That being said (and despite not running in "tilt mode"), the train rolled into Man-Picc just 15 minutes late, where we were greated by.....LADY CATHERINE!!!! After a quick hug, we caught a taxi (the guy was a right bastard, but he got us where we needed to go) and made our way to the Northern Quarter, where we had a FANTASTIC meal at the Market Restaurant.

This place was a blast. Serving wonderful comfort food and good wine, we had a nice time catching up whilst the girls worked their way through a butternut squash and goat's cheese bake (I opted for the venison casserole). The highlight came after dinner, when the waiter (who looked to be about 12 but knew more about alcohol that a pack of monks in the hills of Austria) offered us free liquers. I went with Creme de Cacao, JT picked up Chartreuse, and Cath picked up the winner of the night - a gin based vodka from Scotland that had been sitting in the guy's freezer for 30 years. This stuff has 2 other uses - peeling paint off the walls and serving as a substitute for nuclear fuel - WOW.

The next morning we popped up for some brekkie, including a French Press coffee treat (mom - you would have been so proud). After that, we caught the train for...wait for it...wait for it...CHESTER, BABY! That's right - the Taylor's went for a homecoming!

First stop was casa de Alison Lailey. There we met her fella Giles and saw her really cute place. 10 minutes later, it was out the door, over the bridge, and along the canal to complete a spiritual pilgrimmage of galcian proportions - lunch and pints at Ye Olde Harkers Arms. Two words for everyone out there wanting to experience spiritual bliss: Cheshire Cat - arguably the BEST BEER in the North.

We had a great lunch there before wandering along the wall (Puma - we did pass The Frog) and checking out the sites. It was a simply GLORIOUS day, filled with blue skies, and we made the most of the walk, taking in the race course, the town hall, the rows, the clock, and even the Grosvenor (Brother Dan - I didn't get a chance to ask our favorite Estonian waiter if he minded being called a donkey). After that, it was over to the Falcon for a couple of shady (and CHEAP) half pints before making the drive back to Manchester, where we had some DELICIOUS Indian. Let's just say I felt like a truly chubby bunny at the end of it (who saw that comin'...).

Sunday morning we woke up to....SNOW? Yep, we'd received quite a dusting the night before, and it was SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL. So after some breakfast, we rolled over to Heaton Park, where we were treated to a wonderful walk along the lanes, taking in the various outlooks and features of the landscape (plus it was the first time the "boot" had gone offroad - next step is Everest Base Camp). It was a great 2-3 hour walk, including a nice stopover at a petting zoo. Whilst there, I managed to get a group shot of me, Ray, Matt, and Sean - check it out.

After that, we rolled over to Urbis, the museum of Urban culture and lifestyle. There was a great exhibit about the rise of UK Hip Hop, and muffin and I felt our "thug life" (or BLOOD - VA - that's for you) roots. In fact, you can catch the new album, "Mo' Beat Downs 'dan a Oracle Governance Call" by MC Sammy T and DJ Jenny Fresh in stores this spring - here's a sneak peak at the album cover.

After that, we crossed off another big to-do for our time in the UK - the Manchester Wheel! Similar to the London Eye, this provides a spectacular view of the city. Given the GORGEOUS blue skies and great visibility, it was a real treat.

We finished up with a few pints of Kipling at the Old Wellingon before heading back to the station and saying by to everyone. However, in classic fashion, Sammy read the boards wrong, meaning that we didn't catch the 6:35 train (which we had tickets for) but rather the 6:55 train (which we did NOT have tickets for). The end result was me making an ass out of myself before finding that I actually WAS in someone's seat and then slamming my hand into a door so hard I was pretty sure I'd broken it. Yep - paragon of sophistication ladies and gentlemen...

All good, however, as we got home at a reasonable time and even had a nice curry at the Rajdoot. All in all, a VERY SUCCESSFUL WEEKEND!!!

Okay, that's all the weekend news that's fit to print. Time to type up tonight's installment!

Love,

Sam and Jenny