Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The GREAT sayings of the Commonwealth...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Today was wicked busy at work, but thanks to the valiant efforts of Ray "Old School Cool" Tavares, I am still employed and didn't firebomb any houses in London or the Iberian Peninsula. But let's just say I now love jamon y queso even less than before...



So first off, I'll bore you with my usual details: I logged 70 minutes on the bike today, burning right at 400 calories and covering 35km. Tomorrow it's another 60 minute ride followed by time on the treadmill. Provided I feel no pain, I'm going for 2 km's. And whilst I'm talking running, I must give a shout out to Brian "Teddy KGB meets The Most Interesting Man in the World meets Boudreaux meets Tailwind Turner" Freidinger for his recent 5k accomplishment. Brother Freidinger turned in 21:06 for 3.1 miles, an average of just 6:48 a mile! Dinger rolled home 17th out of 197. Full marks, brother!


So today was a super busy day in the office, but during a conference call I realized what tonight's blog needed to focus on - sayings of the commonwealth. Here's the deal - in my immediate area are a Brit, an Aussie, a South African, another Brit, and a Venezuelan (obviously NOT commonwealth, but go with it - viva la gente), and they use some GREAT phrases. Let me give you my favorites that you only hear in "Queen's English" (meaning you'd get stabbed if you said this in the streets of Harlem) and then give you the translation:


1. "You are a one trick pony" (Australian) - "You had a moment of success, but you are now broken and will never, EVER be heard from again."


2. "Jumping up and down like a poison dwarf" (British) - "I'm so pissed I could destroy your garden (a VERY serious offense to the British apparently)."


3. "It's all swings and roundabouts" (British) - This is their version for "peaks and valleys."


4. "It appears a bit of Jiggery Pokery" (South African) - "I'm not sure that I completely trust or follow your logic."


5. "Storm in a Tea Cup" (Australian) - "This was a very big deal to a TOTAL DONKEY, but it's really not important in any way, shape, or form to anyone with half a brain."


6. "She's throwing her toys out of the pram" (British): "She's a complainer who likes to make a fuss."


7. "I'm having a right strop" (British): "I'm going to pitch a fit."


8. "He's about to chuck a nanna" (Australian): "He's about to throw a temper tantrum."



9. "Thanks for that" (British): "Thanks, man." I really appreciate you going out of your way."


10. "Thanks a bunch" (British): "Really? That's all the help you can offer? GO @#$# YOURSELF." For the record, I'm not joking on this - I learned this one the hard way in '08...


11. "That's near as damn it" (South African): "Brother - this is as close as that analysis is gonna get."


12. "Hell's teeth" (South African): "Oh for crying out loud, you moron!"


13. "Tell him to go pound sand" (British): "Since he clearly only has half a functioning brain, please give him something mindless to do so he can't torpedo us any more.


Fret not - as I get more, I'll be certain to share. :-)


Tonight was great - since Muffin Puffin is off to Slovenia tomorrow (Be careful, Muffin!), we had a last dinner at the Raj - GREAT AS ALWAYS. The guy even threw in a free half pint of Kingfisher for me (such a good man). Hey, let's not kid ourselves - a standing goal of 2 straight AFD's was always gonna be a trick for me.


JT just finished a journal and has cracked open a new one for the trip. Yazz - you better take care of her for me!


And it pains me to say it, but since it's on the i-Pod right now - Happy 24th birthday, Lady Gaga. You have officially poisoned my mind.


Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. I LOVE YOU, MUFFIN!! BE SAFE!!!!!!


Love,


Sam and Jenny

Monday, 29 March 2010

Showered with gifts from the colonies!!!

Family,
And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Granted, the weather is ABSOLUTELY ATROCIOUS right now, but no complaints, as the weekend was definitely drier (and warmer) than expected.

So yesterday was another great one. We rolled BACK to De Hem's, where JT and I spent the second day in a row drinking beer strong enough to use in your gas tank. I started with the Mardesous 6 this go-around before moving to the (pitch black) Mardesous 8 - The Brun. It was guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud, but HEAVY. I then had a Karmeleit Triple, at which point I was in trouble. Hitman, however, had a different idea.

We had work peeps in town (Brother Bruce and Brother Chris), and so we rolled over to the Salisbury, where I promptly took down another 2 Timmy Taylors. I will say that, whilst I remember the day, the memories get fuzzier. The language filter ALSO experienced diminished functionality and capacity, until I sounded like a sailor from World War II. Luckily Sean was smart enough to keep his kids away from the loud southerner at the end of the table.

However, not believing the end was yet in sight, we rolled over to an Indian joint, where we consumed mass quanities of spice, heat, and Cobra. I will confess that I got the first Cobra down, but the second one was a struggle. I think I left some of it at the restaurant - a terrible, unforgivable shame, I know.

We then rolled home, where I caught the last 10 minutes of the Vols and then all of the DOOK game. UT - no reason to hang your heads - that was a GREAT season, and you should be proud of what you accomplished. Personally, I would say that this season's team overachieved in the tournament, and I'm certainly good with a Regional Final. Now all I can say is ANYBODY BUT DUKE!

Today started with a BANG. First off, I had an hour on the bike and then ran 1.5 km's - still no pain! I will just cycle tomorrow, and then I'll run again on Wednesday. Honestly, I'm really getting optimistic that I am FINALLY healing. It's still touch and go (and I know that I'm still WAY hyper-sensitive about it), but so far all is well (knock on wood).

In the office, coffee in hand, I rounded the corner to my desk. What was there greeting me? Encircling my blue water bottle, calling out to me like Stonehenge beckoning to the Druids, was a treasure of GALCIAN propotions. Long sought after, IMPOSSIBLE to find in the Mother Country, and no longer a draft selection in Conference Room C, I honestly wasn't sure if I'd ever taste this nectar of the gods again. Yet there it was before me - Abita's Restoration Pale Ale.

Backstory on this: Abita is a Louisiana brewery, and they were WIPED OUT during Katrina. They are famous for lots of great beers (the most famous being Turbo Dog), and they were off production for a while after the storm. When they got back on line, they created a new beer called Restoration Pale Ale, and it is EXTRA AWESOME.

Thanks to Brother Bruce Townsend who carried these puppies in his luggage all the way from Frugal McDougal's. You're the best, man! I am SO EXCITED!!!! Jeebs - FYI that when you visit - those six soldiers are off limits. Sorry, brother - they are just too precious to share.

But the gifts weren't done! Just a scant two minutes later, brother Dunphey walks over with THE GREATEST OFFICE GIFT OF ALL TIME. That's right, ladies and gentlemen - who needs a Mont Blanc when you can write with a wooden pen carved in the shape of a DONKEY!!!! I mean, could this day GET any better?

In fact it did, as it was a) super productive and b) WE HIT NANDO'S, BABY. I rocked 8 extra hot wings (Fizzy - I am ALL about the extra hot now - only way to roll) with creamy mash and spicy rice. All in all - it was a WICKED GOOD start to the week.
So now I'm back at the flat, excited about the prospect of an AFD and some salad. I am going to tuck into my book while I wait for muffin puffin to finish swimming (I'm on The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown - very entertaining at 168 pages in).

Also, as I didn't bring my camera today, all colonial gift photo credits go to Lovely Lynda Grimshaw, bearer of meat sticks and SAP payroll guru extraordinaire. However, you'll have to wait another day on those, as she'll send them to me tonight for posting tomorrow.

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

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 28 March 2010

You know, it's really amazing what you can do with a day if you get out of bed...

Family,

And a great Sunday morning to you from across the Pond after a TERRIFIC Saturday in the Mother County. First off - CONGRATS TO BUTLER AND THE 'EERS!!!!! And also, thanks to Steve Markham for leaving his CBS Sports account open so we could watch the games last night. Watching TV in HD online for free - I know that I've admitted on multiple occassions that I was a simpleton (and HATE Excel formulas), but all I can say is WOW - that is some SWEET technology.

So after we bounced from the flat yesterday morning, we rolled over to the Prince Regent, site of THE BEST brekkie deal in the United Kingdom. Seriously - 5 quid gets you black pudding (and I always get JT's since she doesn't like it), two eggs (fried up over easy), 4 slices of toast, butter, a big ass mushroom cap, a tomato, beans, two slices of rasher (meaning country ham), and heapin' helping of veggie casserole, and a sausage link, all with water and a cup of coffee. How can you argue with that? We absolutely SLAUGHTERED that meal, leaving nothing but a vapor trail in our wake. That's the way you do it. THAT'S THE WAY YOU DEBATE.

After that, we dropped off some of Jenny's dry-cleaning before trying to get some cash out (Katy Perry style) from Barclay's. The nice thing about Barclay's is that they have a global ATM alliance with Bank of America, meaning they don't charge a transaction fee. The bad thing about their ATM's (called "Holes in the Wall") is that THEY NEVER WORK. EVER. There is CONSTANTLY a problem with them, and as a result we leveraged the good old mastercard instead of dropping cash on yesterday's activities.

The first activity was the Irving Penn Exhibit in the National Portrait gallery. JT and I got in free because it was sponsored by the Bank (saving us 10 GBP each!). I honestly didn't know much about this cat going in, but his photos were really cool. It was a great (albeit small) exhibit, and we covered it in around 45 minutes. In retrospect, had we not gotten in free, I would have been somewhat disappointed if we'd dropped the equivalent of $32 to see it. But hey, it made for a GREAT first activity of the day.

Next up was truly a wild card. JT and I had stopped off at the Leicester Square ticket office to see what discounted tickets were available. And whilst most were sold out, there was one show that we'd been vaguely intrigued and still had cheap seats. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how Muffin Puffin and I found ourselves seated at the Garrick Theater for a performance of "The Little Dog Laughed."

Okay, so background - we had NO IDEA what this show was about. All we knew is that we had THE BEST seats in the house, and the place was rammed. The show is only playing for another 2 weeks, and at the time we didn't know if that was because it sucked or if the performers (none of whom we knew) had other commitments. With that framework, we cut to Sam and Jenny seated in a theater, staring at a pink stage...

So bottom line - this show was GREAT. The performers, we later found out, were all Brits, but they were playing Americans living in New York and LA (and they were AMAZING, for the record). All of them are well established British performers (We found this out during intermission from the nice lady sitting beside us who found it interesting that Americans were in London watching Brits act as Americans. She asked our opinions of their accents, at which point I confessed that I didn't know ANY of these cats and just assumed they were all Americans. That should tell you how polished they were), and they were electric. Tamsin Grieg - simply BRILLIANT as the Hollywood agent.

The show was funny, well paced, VERY well staged, and certainly entertaining. However, I wasn't quite prepared for the fact that it was about 2 dudes admitting their love for one another, making out ferociously on stage, and at one point I saw a dude 100% nude from the back side. Jenny had the best line when she looked at me during intermission and said "can you imagine if this played in Charlotte?" Speaking truthfully, the only places this will survive in the US are New York, LA, Key West, and P-town. Price, I'm thinking this would be a great family outing for you after some Captain Pahkah's.

After the show, it was only 5:10, so we rolled over to De Hemm's, the Dutch cafe that serves Belgian Beer (Shogun - this should be on our "next weekend festivities list"). We actually got a table, and so we each rocked a pint of the Duvel Green (6.8% - SO GUUUUUUD) and a pint of Mardesous 6 (6% - Simply put - a PERFECT beer) before staggering home.

Once at home, muffin puffin prepared a bountiful feast for us of walnut and gorgonzola cheese tortellini, while I cut red leicester, blue stilton, and parmesean cheese for us to devour with Rosemary & Salt butter crackers. Yes - can someone say healthy? Because I can - CHUUUUBBBBBBYYYY BUUUUNNNNNNYYYYY!!!!! Oh, and throw in a Cask Ale and some Honeydew for good measure...oh, okay - throw in a bottle of Shiraz as well. After all - it's Saturday night!

We then turned on the PC, where we watched the Bulldogs shock K State and then caught the first half of WVU vs. the Cats. I must confess, it was SO GOOD to watch some of the tournament, and even better (I can't believe I'm saying this) to see some quality commercials. I have no lie to tell, commercials over here are ATROCIOUS, and so I was LOVING everything from the UPS ads to the Bud Light commercials to the Aussie guy hawking HP.

We passed out around 11:30, but last night was the switch from GMT to BST (that would be the move from Guinness Mean Time to Bombardier Supping Time - thanks, Rev), and so we didn't get up until noon today. That being said, we're now devouring bread slathered in Nutella and enjoying some coffee, and all is right with the world.

Okay, that's all the news to print - save one final thing: GO VOLS!!!!!! AND GO BAYLOR!!!!! Rice - I'm counting on you to drink enough Rusty's, boil enough Ribs, drink enough Cherokee reds, and scream loud enough to lead them to victory, brother!

Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 27 March 2010

And for your birthday, we bring you duck...which you don't eat...

Family,

And a GREAT morning to you from across the Pond on a warm and (hopefully soon to be) sunny Saturday in the Mother Country. IT'S THE WEEKEND!!! Now first off, I realize that I'm 2 days behind (and therefore falling even further back on the "Tom Price" metric, courtesy of the C-Web Tracking System), but both nights were late and, well,involved at least one bevvie. However, after 3 AFD's in a row Mon-Wed, something had to give, right?
So Thursday was a great day in the office. For starters, I logged 75 minutes on the bike and felt really strong. I also had a big presentation to the Baron, and I am happy to report that it went well. So, riding the high of finally getting back in shape and having a successful day in the office, I rolled up to Leicester Square for the Shannon Newcomb Birthday Extravaganza.

Now some of you might remember that I'd planned to go bowling on Thursday night. However, after further research and considering the 3 below factors, we canceled the expedition to Elephant & Castle:

1. We were certain to get stabbed.
2. The location was awkward for everyone's home journeys and wasn't close enough to a hospital after we got stabbed.

3. The bowling alley didn't serve beer, meaning we wouldn't even have dulled the pain after being stabbed.

Instead, Shan, Hitman, Lord, Muffin, and me opted for drinks at the Salisbury. I am happy to report fresh casks and lots of laughs. The "hot wing" selection, however, was LESS than stellar. I mean, check out this photo - what is this little chip of shit suppose to be? Sean thought perhaps they'd harvested the local pidgeon crop. But I guess I can't make too much fun of them, as I did consume 3 (which added together is still less than 1 wing at B-dubs or Taco-Mac).

For Shannon's birthday dinner, the original request had been Indian. However, given that Chinatown was just a scant 3 minute walk, the pull of the crispy duck was just too strong. Granted, there was a slight issue, as Shan doesn't EAT DUCK, but we glossed over those details with phrases like "there's tons of other good stuff there," "Tsing-Tao beer is the world's greatest lager," "Hitman will make the waiter write the bill in English (inside joke)," etc.

Being the good sport that she is, we were soon at Kam Tong, where JT and I basically consumed a crispy pork belly EACH. There was enough fat to have kept all of Shakleton's men warm during their 2 years at the pole, and we took it down in a single sitting. Yes, sir - I know what healthy is. Such a fun night!

Friday was another great day. I logged another hour on the bike and then 1.1 km's on the treadmill, still without pain. It's funny, because the day after I run there is a slight soreness for the first step or two out of bed. However, I am writing that off to the muscles being atrophied and hoping for the best. That's right, dad - I am "gut divorcing it."

I will say - whilst running I decided it was time to watch a little news. Since BBC was just 2 tv's down, I turned my gaze up from "The Lost Symbol" (very good 100 pages in) to see what was happening in the world. Within the space of 60 seconds, here's what I was told:

1. BA is going to go on strike again and will disrupt all air travel for 4 days.
2. The Railways are going to strike and wreak havoc on commuters over a (different than BA) 4 day period.
3. There is a new Catholic Abuse scandal in the US.
4. Pollution is at an all-time high on Britain's beaches.
Honestly, I think I'm done with the news now. Instead, I opted for something that only Chuck Powell could have taught me to appreciate - WWE wrestling, baby!!! I couldn't believe how many of those cats are still around. CP- you would have been so proud of me - I recognized Edge, John Cena, Batista, Captain Insano (Water Boy joke for you there), Triple H, and even Brett the Hitman Hart! Yes, I am VERY cultured and sophisticated...
Yesterday we hit up the music factory for a few (meaning 4) pints before having dinner at Srinam. Seriously - that curry and those Singapore Noodles will CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

We passed out at 10 PM and were up around 9:30 or so today - that's insanity by our standards!

Well, it's my turn for the shower, and then we've got a day of activities (some known, some TBD) in front of us. Muffin Puffin is looking hot with her new haircut, and so I'm gonna go show here off walking down Oxford Street.

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

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

1km = No pain - and so the long road back begins...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. First off, I simply must give a shout out to Christine "World Wide" Weber for her dedication to making my blog a bit more "Six Sigma." Christine has now applied metrics to my blog, montioring my "critical to quality" items that readers most care about. 9 months on, I present the findings she shared with me today:

1. Daily Update Frequency (henceforth called the "Tom Price" metric)

Target = 100%

Actual = 67.4%

2. Misspelled words

Target = 0

Actual = 167

C-Web - I'm wondering when we start tracking beer and calorie intake. JT and I should be far enough off the charts to warrant consideration for a reality show.

Moving to the day, it started in GREAT fashion. After 60 minutes on the bike, I stepped off, turned around, and walked toward an old friend - the treadmill. Separated by 5 months of pain and agony (I know, I know - SOOOOO dramatic - just go with it here, I'm sensitive damn it), I had no way of knowing how this long awaited reunion would end - in togetherness and relief, or in pain and the realization that things might never return to what they had been. Realizing that a long time had passed since we'd last spoken, I thought it best to take things slow. And so I stepped onto the apparatus and pushed "Quick Start."

For 5 minutes, it was just a steadily increasing walk - nothing more. But when I hit the .5km mark, I knew it was now or never. Ratcheting up to just over 10km per hour, I took a final deep breath before the big step. And then, as time stood still my left foot left the tread.

BOOM - the first landing was good. No, better than good - natural. And so was the second. And the third. And suddenly, almost in an instant, I was back to form, back to running, all right with the world. Was I worried a bit the entire time? Absolutely. Did the foot hurt at all? Absolutely not.

I only logged 1.5km on the treadmill today, and just a single click of that running. That being said, I feel like I just finished the Ironman. Honestly, running is SUCH a release for me - from work stress, from concerns about my ticker, from my ever present spare tire - you name it. I know that I've got a long way to go and that I can't come back too quick. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel again...and it feels good.

The work day was great - lots of progress on a lot of big items. We're getting close, and you can feel the pressure starting to build. Call me sick, but I LOVE it.

Not a lot else went down - Muffin Puffin just got back from a blistering display in the pool, and now we're preparing for some more salad. I think I'll throw in a marmite sandwich as well for good measure, and there might even be some pasta in there (after all, I'm a runner now :-)).

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

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Presenting...NEW HAIRCUT JENNY!!!!!

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. I woke up today fresh off 9 - that's right, count 'em: NINE - hours of sleep. Wow, who knew how nice it was to wake up refreshed after a good night's sleep. Well, other than the weekends, of course...details.

So today I logged 75 minutes on the bike again, and tomorrow (dare I hope to dream) is D-DAY. That's right - after a five month absence from the treadmill, Taylor attempts to slay the dragon tomorrow. The goal is 5 minutes or 1 km, whichever comes first. Stay tuned. If the blog tomorrow comes from wife muffin, then you know I had more pain than I was expecting and am sitting in the waiting room of some Harley Street minute clinic.

The work day was good - very busy but very productive. However, let me just tell you what is NOT easy - BOOKING A BOWLING ALLEY IN THIS COUNTRY. Back story: stemming from a joke last week about team bowling, I suggested with get together, find an alley that served beer, and then get hammered whilst sending 14 pound projectiles down a greased lane toward snake-bashin' clubs (not the Beverly Hillbillies reference there). Everyone liked the idea, and the Hitman even convinced his wife it was a good idea on her birthday. However, today, after calling about 14,000 places, you realize that bowling leagues and bowling parties are apparently THE THING TO DO IN THIS BLASTED CITY ON A THURSDAY NIGHT. I managed to find a place in the ghetto, and it is cheap to boot (plus for me). However, since we'll need to wear kevlar to ensure we don't get stabbed, I plan to do a bit more research tomorrow. Hey, I've still got 48 hours - don't give up on me yet...
Not a whole lot else to report this evening, except for the photo of the night. Ladies and gentlemen, fresh off two glasses of wine and an hour with a junior stylist, I present: New Haircut Jenny!!!! Seriously - how HOT is my muffin puffin?

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

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Monday, 22 March 2010

Now THAT is how you spend a Sunday...but next time we'll make sure it's on a Saturday...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. There is no other way to say it - the Taylors are EXHAUSTED. Yesterday taught us three things:

1. Port is GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD.

2. We aren't 20 anymore.

3. Canadians don't like people acting like drunk vampires during dinner. I realize this one requires some explanation - just go with it for now.

So the day started at Chez Carter, where we were treated to an AMAZING meal, courtesy of Jill Carter, henceforth known as Gordon Ramsey's biggest competitor. She served us a FANTASTIC roast, complete with the best "pureed" leek/potato/parsnip combination you'll ever enjoy. Add in TONS of great baklava and a blueberry tart (covered in cream, of course - Brit style!), and you have got a recipe for a GREAT dinner. Better you, my royal Tennessee lineage was honored, as they set the diner table for a proper affair, complete with all the silver and the trimmings. SO GOOD!

We were there for about 5 hours, rolling through bottles of wine, bonding with Grace, making friends with the animals, and ROCKING OUT on Wii Sing. Okay, can I just tell you how AWESOME that game is? I am happy to report that Team Taylor went 4-4 vs. Team Carter, successfully (yet not flawlessly) rocking out "Wannabe," "Viva la Vida," "Country Roads" (thought of you, KJ!), and "Poker Face" Yes, that's right - P-P-P-P-P-P-POKER FACE P-P-POKER FACE...ma-ma-ma-mah...

Also, I tried port for the first time! Okay, that stuff is GOOD. And best of all, I now know that I never want to meet ANYONE who's ever been in contact with the Bishop of Norwich. SUCH a good time.

We left their place around 5 PM, as we had to get to the NEXT drinking session of the day, a stint with some Aussies down in Clapham South at a place called the Avalon. We arrived to find a fresh cask of Timmy, and honestly - it just went downhill from there.

We had a BLAST, spending most of the time hissing at each other like characters from "Paranormal activity" or "30 Days of Night." At one point it was so bad a server came over and asked us to keep it down. Looking around and realizing everyone else was just as loud (even if they weren't acting like obnoxious drunken vampires), we asked which table complained. None, she said - just the entire staff. The lady said she held out as long as she could, but when the entire staff (all Canadian, for the record) started getting migranes, she was forced to say something. Good thing I didn't have kerosene handy...
We missed the last train from Victoria, but we caught a cab home. During the course of the train ride to Vic and the cab, we managed to consume not one, not two, but THREE kebabs, the last one being MASSIVE AND ENOUGH TO FEED ELEVEN PEOPLE. As a result, we went to bed with bricks in our tummies.
Consequently, we woke up this morning and realized that we are NOT in college any more. That being said, to quote Peter LeFleur, "Rough mornings often follow good nights." I for one, am NOT complaining.

And so it's now time to have a salad - it's detox Monday, baby!

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

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 21 March 2010

RE-U-NI-TED...and it feels so good...

Family,

And a good morning to you from across the Pond on a FABULOUS Sunday in the Mother Country. Yesterday was, like most Saturdays, EXTRA AWESOME. When we last left you, the Taylors marched down to Great Portland Street, where we made Jenny a hair appointment with her stylist and then rolled over to get some cash from the Barclay's machine. Yes, the Taylors are withdrawing cash from the US accounts (no transaction fee with Barclay's!) vs. using the NatWest account because, well...we got a little trigger happy early booking some of our upcoming vacations (insert Kevin Woest shaking his head and saying "You are the MASTER...but still a socialist" here) and have now got to ensure we've got enough cash to cover our gym memberships at the end of the month before our next paycheck. Details...

So the first spot on the trip was the Pontefract Castle, where we'd planned to have a few nibbles and watch Wales vs. Italy. However, the plan was forced to change once we arrived to find the telly turned off and the staff CLUELESS as to how to operate the TV or the remotes. It was comedy hour for about 10 minutes, and then the guy (who'd managed to at least turn it on...to reveal horse races in Ireland) gave up, saying he just couldn't figure out how to change the channel.

All was NOT lost, however, as we rolled to the next pub (literally round the corner), the Lamb and Flag, and were greeted with the stares of lots of dudes looking above our heads as we walked in. That could only mean one thing - GAME TIME, BABY! It was a CRACKING Welsh performance, filled with great tries(Shane Williams is the MAN) and lots of grown men trying to kill each other, and caught all of it with a nice, cozy table, drinking Staropramen and nibbling on wedges loaded with cheese and ham (SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD).

We left the Flag about 4:15, walking down Oxford Street. Now on the way to Pontefract, we'd stopped in the John Lewis foodhalls (SO GOOD - we WILL be buying cheese from these cats in the not too distant future), and I'd made the comment "This must be the Harrod's for us 'North' Londoners." She told me, "No, that would be Selfridge's." As we had nothing to do and time to kill before the next match, and asked if we could swing in and check that place (pronounced "Suffridges" in Queen's English) out.

Okay, so first off - this place is OUT OF CONTROL. Every square inch of the place is PACKED with purses, make-up, shoes, and designer clothing from companies that I've normally not even HEARD of. Crazier still, this is NOT a department store, as there is usually just one of EVERYTHING on the rack (so you don't buy the same thing as someone else - HEAVEN FORBID). I was most shocked about 2 things:

1. The fact that people actually SHOP here vs. go in and LAUGH AT PEOPLE. I mean, seriously, check out this GAY ASS PINK KNIGHT hawking purses. Really? REALLY? And in case you are scoring at home, those purses were about 800 GBP EACH.
2. THE PRICES. HOLY MOLY. Dad, do you remember in 2007 when Pattie picked up a pair of jeans and you said, "Those jeans are 225 dollars?" To which I replied, "Nope - those are 225 POUNDS ($450 USD at the time). Well, I've since seen one better. In this place they had a pair of "True Religion" jeans (KJ - this place would have been your mecca) for 310 GBP!!! That is just under $500 USD. We also saw a top in D & G that looks IDENTICAL to one Jenny bought at Limited for $18. The top at this place, however, was 385 GBP. Yep, that's around $700 USD FOR A THIN SWEATER. We even saw a hoodie for 200 quid that had the sleeves and the pouch cut, meaning YOU COULDN'T USE THE DAMN THING TO KEEP WARM OR HOLD STUFF. I mean, come on, right? I know I'm a cheap bastard, but EVERYONE's gotta have SOME limit...

Slightly shocked and bewildered, we wandered back out into daylight, passing by Old Bridge Street (home of the Sportsman Casino). Now if you'll remember, a blog a month or so ago was dedicated to my 13 year old UNC fleece that Benny bought me my freshman year at Carolina. I left the fleece (by accident) of course there back in February during our stint at the craps table, and when I'd called back, they'd told me they didn't have it in the lost and found. But since we were here and had time...I decided to take one last shot.

I walked in and asked the guy if he could check the Lost and Found one more time for my "jumper," giving him all the details (dark blue, light blue writing that says North Carolina Tar Heels - he looked at me funny at that point and repeated "Tar heels?" I just nodded, broken zipper, hole in 2 places on the pouch, etc.). I was just about to despair when he said again: "Tarheels." Then a smile broke across his face and he flipped around the one, the only...THE CAROLINA FLEECE!!!!! OH YEAH, BABY! MY WARDROBE IS COMPLETE AGAIN!!!!

Happy as a clam and wondering how I could write the Queen and ask to make this day "National Fleece Day" in England, JT and I walked through Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park (silent on Saturdays) en route to Knightsbridge. Along the way we were treated to quite the show of clouds and colors, including some great views of all the scraggly trees that will (hopefully) soon be in bloom. Also, we saw the "Animals in War" memorial, which I don't think we'd ever seen before. And, well, since they were honoring my favorite animal in a bronze cast, I simply had to have a photo. I'm going to name this photo "Sam and Matt in the park - Matt finally doing a job..."

We wandered around for a bit before finding the "Tea Clipper" pub, where we found a table, a Sagres (Ray - this guy didn't know how to pronounce it either) on draft, and a telly showing the Ireland vs. Scotland game. So we sat there for about 45 minutes (watching Ireland lose a heart-breaker), during which time Sean and Shannon (that would be Hitman and Mrs. Hitman) rolled in and chugged one before rolling to our dinner spot for the evening: Frankie's. Two words for you about dinner: LIFE CHANGING.

Okay, so as I've said before, getting red meat the way you want it in this country is pretty much impossible. The only other quality burger you can get is at the Dollar Bar in Exmouth Market (where we had Thanksgiving dinner last year with J Wade and some other Expats). Frankie's, however, RESTORES YOUR FAITH COMPLETELY IN BRITISH BEEF PREPARATION. I asked for medium rare, and I was given a (half pound!) burger solid red inside. Add on a SLAB of blue cheese and some bacon, and you've got a GUUUUUUUUUD meal. But honestly, when you've also got the ROCKIN' disco balls you see in this place, you feel like you're in a scene from Pulp Fiction. Hitman and I thought about entering the "World Famous Jack Rabbit Slim's Dance Contest," but in the end we just opted for the photo. Well, actually, we opted for a couple of photos on the way out, as the young lady walking down the stairs in this photo made me wonder just exactly what type of place Hitman had brought us to. Luckily she was the only "Eyes Wide Shut" moment we had. :-)

After dinner, with 3 hours of babysitter time left, we rolled to a pub called "The Bunch of Grapes," where I tried a new ale - Royal London. It was GUUUUUUUUUUUUUD. There we just hung out for the evening, which was GREAT and full of laughs. All in all, it was a PERFECT Saturday.
And to make it EXTRA awesome, we came home, cracked open a block of stilton cheese, and left nothing but a vapor trail. I realize that all these "cheese slicing" moments after 6 pints with a big knife after midnight will probably eventually result in an "accident" at some point, but MAN has it been a good ride so far.

It's now 11:20, and we are getting ready to go and hang with the Carter Clan. We've got a full day of hanging out with peeps today, but I won't reveal the next episode - stay tuned!
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat later today!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 20 March 2010

THIS...is SUPER SATURDAY...



Family,

And a TOP MORNING to you all from across the Pond on a rainy (yet bright and warm!) Saturday in the Mother Country. So today some serious voodoo witch magic happened - Sam Taylor actually WOKE UP ON HIS OWN WITHOUT AN ALARM AT 7:34 AM. Despite desperate efforts to return to normalcy (aka sleeping until noon), Taylor was simply unable to return to restful slumber. I think all those 6 AM workout sessions are starting to shift my body clock.

Muffin Puffin, however, has had ZERO trouble sleeping. In fact, last night upon arriving home, I went to the living room to kick off my shoes while JT went into the bedroom to "change into comfy clothes." 2 minutes later, I called out "Muffin!" Silence. Round two: "MUFFIN!" More radio silence from the bedroom. Just a wee bit concerned, I walked into the bedroom, where I found the CUTEST redhead on the planet PASSED OUT sideways on the bed. In case anyone's curious, since I wasn't exactly in a "sharp" state of mind myself, I just pulled up the covers at the foot of the bed and climbed in sideways beside her. This worked until about 4 AM, when she work up and said, "Why are you laying like that?" Oh, puffin...too cute.
But I digress - as the readership probably feels like they've watched one of those movies where you see the last scene before the credits start. The question is - what led Sam and Jenny to sleep sideways in the bed. That answer begins earlier in the day, at a magical place called the Cat & Canary...

So the work day was good. I logged 80 minutes on the bike, covering 45 kms but not burning as many calories (the legs were a bit tired yesterday, so I didn't put the resistance up as high). Also, since JT was in the Wharf, we got our Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagel! We'd been without for about 3 weeks, so this was a tasty treat.
The work day was GREAT - it was CODE FREEZE, baby, meaning another big milestone has been crossed. Between getting through that, closing some other big testing, and passing a readiness review with leadership, it's been a GREAT week. Consequently, we needed to celebrate with the "mandatory 5 PM meeting."

Brother Morgan, Steve (VA - this is the Ed Norton hottie look-a-like - sorry I didn't get a picture, but he looked REALLY hot in his vest yesterday - you'll just have to come back over for another visit), Lord, Puffin, and I hit up the cat for some drinks, and whilst there I took down 4 pints. That's heavy, I'd admit, but it's typical for a Friday afternoon, especially considering that we know the countdown to repatriation is on (just over 90 days! How is that possible?).

When we left there, however, we rolled up to St. Christopher's Place and found a FANTASTIC little Italian joint with WICKED good pizza and DELICIOUS salmon pasta. They also had a GREAT bottle of house red which, upon further review, was probably more than we needed. JT said, "Let's just get a glass," but I was having NONE of it. And THAT ladies and gentlemen, is why we ended up sleeping sideways at Casa de Taylor. No complaints, however, as it was a GREAT meal and one of those truly great conversations (which I remember completely, for the record!) that you can only have with your soul mate.

Last note - I finished "Race to the Pole" last night on the tube home - GREAT read for those who enjoy boy humor, as I must have laughed out loud 10-15 times. Parts of it were a bit boring, to be sure, but that book did NOT disappoint, and I'm really glad I bought it (or that Jan ordered it for me, I should say :-)).

Okay - it's time to wake muffin puffin, as it's SUPER SATURDAY, BABY! The FINAL day of the Six Nations, and 3 squads still have a shot. Cymra um bith!!!

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

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 18 March 2010

All the calories you can handle, baby...

Family,

And a GREAT evening to you from across the Pond on this GLORIOUS Thursday in the Mother Country? Why is it glorious, you ask? Because it's the FIRST DAY OF 2010 ABOVE 60 DEGREES!!! Winner, winner, chicken dinner, baby!

So yesterday was, well, simply AWESOME. For starters, I logged an hour on the bike, and I was feeling really good about myself post-workout. I felt even better when my tummy started rumbling, as I took that to be a sign that the METABOLISM WAS BACK, BABY. Consequently, I went downstairs to pick up some porridge or some mueslix. However, I just couldn't do it. I was an athlete again, damn it, and I wanted real food.

Two minutes later, I am in line at Square Pie, where I was sucked into the "Full Breakfast Bap" (Bap means sandwich, for the record, and "Full Breakfast" means "YOU ARE ONE FAT BASTARD IF YOU ORDER THIS"). Seriously, THIS was a RELIGIOUS experience. We are talking 3 slices of sausage (COMPLETELY unidentifiable meat, of course), 2 slabs of ham, and then an egg they slap on top (taken from some incubator) slathered in mayo. If that isn't Heaven, then someone tell me what is.

The afternoon continued the trend, as I was STARVING a scant 3 hours later. There were several options: falafel wraps, salads, vegetable soup, etc., but why have those when you can have a STEAK, ONION, AND BLUE CHEESE PANINI. That's right, baby - that sandwich NEVER stood a chance.

Then, at 5:30, it was Go time for St. Patty's Day! And what does one drink in the British Isles on St. Patty's Day (Cy and Donkapotamus - traps shut - I didn't have a Honeydew)? Why, Guinness, of course! That's 281 calories of goodness in every pint...or 843 calories in my case (why have one when you can have 3 for triple the price?). Honestly, it was a good 2 hour session at the C & C with 3 other expats and Brother Morgan, so no complaints here (and no pictures either since, well, that's not what dudes do).

I then rolled home, where my wife was rockin' her second Honeydew and checking email. We laced up our trainers (that would be tennis shoes) and rolled over to the Raj, where we each took down a Cobra and a curry - SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (Peppy Cheekies). I don't know how many calories are in that, but I can tell you it was WICKED tasty.

The culmination was passing out at 10:14 PM, rising up this morning at 6:13, one minute before my alarm (Dad - I clearly have your genes; CP - contain your shock at the previous sentence - I swear it's true). I rolled to the gym, where the 47,000 calories paid off. I rocked the bike for 75 minutes today, rolling through 42kms (that's a MARATHON, baby!) and burning over 500 calories. Talk about feeling good!

Of course, I promptly put them back this evening, as I met Muffin Puffin at the flat before walking the 35 steps over to the Mason's Arms (which you'll remember is the pub on our block). They had Timmy, Deuchar's, and Spitfire on draft (extra awesome) and Thai cooking in the kitchen (also extra awesome). As a result, the previous 2 hours have been spent with cask ale in hand, green curry in the (ever growing) belly, and Liverpool on the telly (movin' on in the Europa Cup - you'll NEVER walk alone). THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is a recipe for a proper English Thursday.

It's now off to bed, as I'm (hopefully) rising at 6 tomorrow for another burner on the bike (before 2 days off at the weekend, of course). I can't believe it's Friday. BRING ON THE CODE FREEZE, BABY!!!

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

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Another day closer to running...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. I logged another hour on the bike today! Honestly, my foot really feels good. Whilst it's still slightly tender when I walk on the outsides of my foot (and definitely not 100%), I am riding for an hour with no pain, burning 400+ calories in the morning, and starting to feel like I'm (FINALLY) getting back in shape. A week from tomorrow is the return to the treadmill stay tuned for the cliff-hanger.

Today was another GREAT day in the office. I started a new book (Race to the Pole), which so far has NOT disappointed. I realized that I haven't given my final reviews for "It's Not About the Bike and "Outlaw," the two books I've finished in the past week. Armstrong's book was AMAZING; not only was it well written, but that guy is INTENSE. I would agree with the critic who said "Armstrong's story is the stuff of legends" - very well described.

"Outlaw" was good - not great. The sequel, "Crusader," comes out later this year, but I don't expect to pick it up. Instead, I'll continue plowing through the sizeable collection of unread novels in the drawers here, hoping to be through them prior to repatriation. Dean - fret not, both "Child 44" and "Five Greatest Warriors" are VERY high on the pecking order - I just have to punish myself through a couple of long holdovers from my Charlotte days before "rewarding" myself with death, explosions, and mayhem.

I caught a quick pint at the C & C with Owain tonight (Honeydew of course - FRESH CASK!). After a day of discussing proper ales, manly glasses, and the merits of a gentleman named Selwyn, it was, simply put, a must. Price - I realize that was a lot - I hope you've recovered.

On a related note, let's just say I have a new stage name. From here on out, I would like to be referred to as "Tactical Nuclear Penguin." If anyone is curious as to WHAT THE HELL I'm talking about, just visit the web site of a Scottish Brewery called "Brew Dog." Some folks may want to "Sink the Bismark," but that's a bit heavy for me. And remember - some beers are to be consumed only in spirit-sized measures. You can also google "Beer dog - Sink the Bismark" to see the latest headline (I couldn't paste the link in due to a browser hitch).

JT just walked in the door, fresh off 45 minutes in the pool. She's making that LA Fitness membership count. Incidentally, it should be noted that LA Fitness has exonerated themselves from my previous badmouthing, as they credited Jenny a month for "inconveniences incurred" from her run-in with the desk clerk. Her other gym hasn't provided as "accommodating," but so far I'm an LA Fitness fan.

It's now time to make some salad and see if I can con Jenny into some wine. Since the AFD has gone by the wayside, I might as well try and corrupt everyone in my path.

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

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Monday, 15 March 2010

Grinder week begins...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. There's no other way to say it - today officially began D-Day for my project, as this is officially the week where things start moving into "implementation mode." One day in (call this the actual invasion of Normandy), things are good, but we know it's WAY too early to celebrate.

Today was a really good day. For starters, I logged an hour on the bike, and I'm happy to report that the legs genuinely feel tired! I have been hungry all day, which I'm taking as a sign to mean that my metabolism is slowly returning (as opposed to the other alternative that my stomach has expanded 4 sizes and could now hold enough water and food to serve as an aquarium for a blue whale). Also, I printed off my bracket, baby! Now granted, I didn't see a game ALL YEAR, but is that going to stop me from filling in a bracket? NO WAY, JOSE!

So Taylor has no idea about ANY of these teams (insert Chuck Powell saying "When do you EVER have an idea? You just pick upsets"), but he's calling KState to knock off Nova in the final (with OSU and WVU being the other 2 members of the final 4). And in case anyone's curious, I have DOOK losing to Louisville. I figure if I know I'm going down in a pile of flames, I might as well at least enjoy the early going and vote with my heart.

Tonight is Detox Monday, meaning an AFD and salads. Muffin Puffin is currently water aerobics, but I'm expecting her to roll through the door very soon.

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

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 14 March 2010

What's that we see on the horizon? Why...it's...it's...SPRINGTIME, BABY!!!

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a GREAT weekend in the Mother Country. I am currently sitting here, sipping on a pint of "Fursty Ferret" and enjoying the musical stylings of the Gin Blossoms, thinking about how absolutely WONDERFUL life is at the moment. I am happy to report that, after a LONG AND COLD winter, the weather is FINALLY turning. Blue skies are starting to appear, the world is light until almost 6:30, and the weather is, for the first time in 2010, above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It has done wonders for our moods, as it truly does feel like spring. You can feel the people of London are ready, ITCHING in fact, for that first week of "warm" weather. I can certainly see it in both mine and Jenny's behavior, and we are DEFINITELY happier people. But I get ahead of myself - let me start with Saturday afternoon and walk you through the change from "grim winter Taylors" to "shiny happy Sam and Jenny."

When we last left you, we were in route for the quarterly buzzcut. I am happy to report that, after 14 weeks (four of which were definitely "Frank the Tank" style) of allowing a bush to grow on top of my head, I am now back to being a space monkey (Fight Club reference for anyone scoring at home), courtesy of Mr.Topper's 7 GBP haircut (from a Polish dude with dreds who spoke ZERO English other than the numbers on a clipper guard). I feel pretty...oh so pretty!

We then rolled into South Kensington, where we met the Newcomb family! So back story - Sean is my boss, and we've been working together since 2006. I am happy to report that we're also pals, and we've shared more than a few pints together in the Mother Country over the last 4 years. However, before yesterday, muffin puffin and I had never met the "Hitman clan."

We rolled over to their place (they're on assignment here for 2 months) and caught some Six Nations, meeting the fam and tearing through a few beers along the way. After that, we rolled over to Knightsbridge (check out the Brady Bunch photo - see if you can tell who DOESN'T belong), where we had a GREAT Italian meal at a place called Montepulciano (hello angel hair pasta and crab - CHUUUUUUUUUUUUUBBBBBBBBY BBBBBUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNNYYYYYYYYYY). We then rolled back toward their place, where we caught a few more pints (and some Italian soccer) at the Gloucester Arms (Fizzy - same place where I first met the PLU!).
We made it home around 12:30 and promptly PASSED OUT, and we remained largely comatose until about noon today, at which point we awakened to GLORIOUS blue skies. Wanting to seize the day, we rolled over the Ozer, where we had our usual "pay what you think it's worth" eggs with spicy sausage and filter coffee before wandering into Regent's Park to have a wander amidst the AMAZING weather.

Granted, it's still a little chilly, but the last two days have been the "breakout weekend" we have DESPERATELY been waiting for. There is sun, there are blue skies, and people are choosing a walk in the park vs. solace in the pub (we are trying both, for the record :-)) for the first time since late October. And whilst most flowers or trees still aren't in bloom, there are signs that the frosts are over and springtime is beginning in earnest (good timing - since next Sunday is officially Spring on the calendar).

We wandered through the park for about 45 minutes, and I chatted with mom the whole time (appropriate, since it's "Mum's Day" in the UK today). We then wandered around a bit, including swinging over to Baker Street and checking out Jenny's local gym, where some 134 year old lady yelled at me for "being in the pool area with shoes on that could track in glass." Really? REALLY? She's lucky I didn't go find some glass to break over her head. But I digress...

We then wandered back to the Marylebone, a pub on the high street that serves a beer we're particularly fond of (Sagres). Ray - you'll be happy to know that, when I called it "Sauch," she looked at me as though I was speaking Swahili. When she said, "Did you mean SAH-GRAYS," I just nodded and said, "Two, please." I think we should carry Sagres at the Donkey and Doorknob so we can properly educate people about your homeland.

We're now back at the flat, spirits high and looking forward to the week ahead. Tonight we'll hopefully book a few more hotels and complete our June travel planning. Either way, we know there's a pizza, cheese, and wine in our future, so life is guuuuuuuuuuuuuud.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Friday, 12 March 2010

A great start to the weekend (shocking, I know)...

Family,


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. It's the weekend! And as I sit here, with Lady Gaga blasting on i-Tunes and muffin sucking down roasted red pepper hummous (just slurping it up because, well, we're too lazy to go get the crackers from the pantry), I realize that LIFE IS GOOD.


Today was another GREAT day at work, and JT and I sauntered down to the Music Factory for pints of Honeydew after work (Cyborg - two things: 1) it's a GREAT beer, and 2) you're a sissy for not jumping in the river. We had 470 quid - that's all I'm sayin'...). The place was heaving, but Muffin Puffin (in her infinite wisdom) found us a seat for our second pint.


Dinner tonight was a GREAT 50% off meal at La Tasca - viva Espana, baby! We took down ham, croquettes, lamb, beef...well, let's just say that the photo says it all. Talk about a GREAT night! We've had 3 SOLID days on the town, but luckily I got some exercise in today (45 on the bike).


The best part? It's only 10:30, and we're heading for bed. I am SO looking forward to sleep (last night was a rough one due to my new cough - I fell asleep some time between 3-4 AM), and considering that we have NOTHING but six nations tomorrow, it should be a GREAT day!


BTW - Bill Gates - I have offically decided that your Windows Vista package BLOWS CHOAD. I was downloading an album on i-Tunes (Gin Blossoms greatest hits in case anyone's curious - yes, yes, I am gay...), and the computer decided to restart for upgrades in the middle of the download. The result is that I got just over half the album and had to buy a few songs again. Yes, I realize it was the difference in about $2, but seriously - I could fire bomb your house in Redmond right about now. On happier note, IT'S THE WEEKEND!


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


Love,


Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 11 March 2010

A heavy evening with the Carter clan and Turkish with the Afrikaans...

Family,

And a good evening to you after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. As I type this, I have a happy heart and a full belly, as Team Taylor has been on a 2 day binge of gluttony the likes of which I haven't seen since my marathon days. Let's start with last night...

So JT and I rolled up to King's Cross (that's right - the same place where Harry boards the Hogwarts Express) for an evening with the Prime Minister (that would be my old boss Andy Carter) and his family (that would be wife Jill, daughter Grace - already asleep when we arrived, dog Jackson, and cat Tangy). Back story on expectations: when you show up at Chez Carter, you are guaranteed 3 things: good music, GREAT food, and COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF ALCOHOL. Last night was a particularly big night "on the lash" for all three.

For starters, I am happy to report that Lady Gaga was played with immense pride. Fizzy - we rocked both sides of Fame Monster. Second, we ordered takeout from Spices, and DAMN was it good. Puma - guess who went back to the Naga, baby - THIS GUY. Lamb Naga Masala - it never stood a chance. Now if they'd only had Punjabi MC playing in the background...

The most dangerous part of the evening was the vino. Now normally I arrive at Carter's and have proper beer for the entire session. Last night, however, it was wine, and LOTS OF IT. We are talking four bottles (and a bit of the fifth) between three people. Yeah...when you are conscious of the fact that you are slurring your words, then you know it's probably time to go home.

Oh, and in case you're curious about that YouTube thing where people use their cell phones to pop popcorn, I can now confirm that it does NOT work. I mean, let's face it - if you can't generate enough heat with that gunboat of a BlackBerry I'm carrying around, then it's just not possible unless you're making phone calls from the Hadron Collider at CERN.

It was a GREAT night out, but we showed up at home HAMMERED. That meant further depletion of the Advil supply (AC - we might need to add some of that in as well...) and a NICE headache at 7 this morning. Livin' the dream, baby...

Tonight was a bit calmer but just as much fun. Grimshaw and I took the Jubes from Canary Wharf, getting off at Bond Street. There we had a drink at Pontefract Castle (they had Timmy!) before meeting Barry (her fella), Muffin, and another couple, Michelle and Rob (both South African as well).

We hit an AMAZING restaurant called Levant, specializing in Turkish cuisine. This place was SO COOL. We are talking GREAT decorations, tons of candles and lights, wicked music, REDONKULOUS food, and even...wait for it...wait for it...BELLY DANCING. Let's just say that it was QUALITY.

The meal was a 3+ hour soiree, but what else could you expect when you order a "meat feast" for 6 people. Seriously, I'm pretty sure entire farms in Yorkshire were put out of business to feed us tonight. Two hours later, my stomach is a heartbeat away from rupturing. that being said, I have NO regrets. Plus, I got some Turkish delight, halloumi cheese, and even mint tea, so I was very much a happy camper. And honestly, even without the food, catching Grimshaw dancing and showing off her moves was worth the trip.

I can't believe it's already the weekend - how is that possible? All the same - bring it on! Hitman - safe travels across the Pond. We'll see you on the other side.

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

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Taylors vs. Taxes - Round III...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. So tonight might honestly be the shortest blog I've ever written, but fret not, as the next 5 days should be filled with pictures, stories, good food, and (you guessed it) - GREAT BEER.

I got up this morning at 6:20 AM, at which point I rolled to the gym for an hour on the bike. I read Outlaw whilst spinning, and now I'm about a third of the way through and quite enjoying it (wouldn't say I recommend it yet, but it's a fun spin on the tale). Also, I broke a Taylor rule today - I bought coffee (actually, Grimshaw bought one for me) AFTER 10 AM. But hey, I am a wild and crazy guy, and on occasion I get so wacky that I even go into work unshaven with massive ass hair wearing 14 year old Duckheads (pleated, of course) and a wrinkled shirt...oh, wait...

I got home about 7:35, and I'm patiently waiting on muffin to get home from swimming before I prepare the bountiful feast of salad, carrots, hummous, and chocolate. And whilst I'm still on the fence, tonight just might be the second straight AFD. PATHETIC - I know...

The feature event of the evening will be (hopefully) completion of our expat tax organizer. This "small" document has about 37,984 tabs, each requiring pieces of information that you most likely won't know off the top of your head. Don't get me wrong - they have done everything they can to simplify it - some things are just NEVER going to be fun. Hence one more reason why an Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Ale might exit the fridge and enter my liver before the evening draws to a close.

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

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Monday, 8 March 2010

Those deceptive British blue skies...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Not a whole heck of a lot to report tonight, but I fear the wrath of Tom Price too much to skip a day.

So this weekend I realized just how deceptive the British March is. Sure, sure - the photos look AMAZING. Blue skies, puffy clouds, people sitting at outdoor cafes...DON'T BE FOOLED. Whilst it might look like Charlotte, it is COLD AS BALLS here. Seriously, last night I risked the foot injury to hustle home, as it felt like Ottawa all over again. Simply put, I have GOT to have some heat soon. I'm thinking it's time to sneak into Havana or something - I'm getting desperate.

I tallied 45 minutes on the bike this morning and started a new book - "Outlaw" by Angus Donald, a twist on the Robin Hood story. 60 pages in, I'm quite enjoying it. That, however, is just my Tube and workout book, as I'm spending my evenings working through "It's Not About the Bike." I'm just over halfway through that one now, and it's been FANTASTIC so far. That guy is TOUGH AS NAILS.

As I type this, JT is walking out the door to go for a run. That means husband bear (with visions of an AFD dancing in his head) will put in some laundry (and use the new FOUR BILLION DOLLAR CLOTHES LINE), cook up some curry soup, and search for hotels in Italy. What he will NOT do, however, is finish his taxes, because he is a MORON and forgot to send himself his username. Oh well, that's what extensions are for.

Short tonight, but that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Sell a hundred million records, see how you handle it...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a GREAT Sunday in the Mother Country. Okay, so I know that I didn't leave you all that long ago, but since we last chatted, Muffin Puffin and I have crossed off another "must see" in Londres - JERSEY BOYS!!!!

Yesterday we booked seats for today's show, and we got GREAT seats for only 32 quid.

Sometimes Sundays can be disappointing in terms of performers. However, there wasn't a SINGLE understudy in today's performance. In addition, the theater was TOTALLY refurbished, and it looked simply spectacular.

The show itself was SO entertaining, complete with some GREAT lines and TONS of fantastic music. Tacy family, I won't give anything away, but suffice it to say that it was a GREAT show - you'll LOVE it (I hope - knock on wood). And mum - I couldn't help but think of you and Steve when "Sherry" came on - CLASSIC. To the rest of our readership - if you aren't familiar with Frankie Valli and the 4 seasons, suffice it to say that they had about 14 BILLION hits - I had NO IDEA how many songs they had!

After the show, we rolled across the street to The Three Greyhounds (Steve and Sara - we had a pint there with you guys whilst waiting for Nadine's - KJ's fave Lebanese joint) for a couple of pints (a fresh cask of Timmy Taylor, baby! MAN - I am gonna miss that stuff once the magic carpet ride ends).

Tonight was a FABU meal at casa de Taylor. Muffin whipped up some goat's cheese and carmelized onion ravioli, and we tacked on some parmesean cheese (KJ - I blame you for my new obsession) and a tasty salad. Throw in an Abbot Ale to finish off the weekend, and you've got 48 hours of immortality for Team Taylor.

This really was the PERFECT weekend, and now, at 8 PM, it's time to start crossing off to-do's. First off - Slovenia hotels. Here's hoping the "Team Taylor To-Do List" is 100% scratched out when we next chat.

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

Love,

Sam and Jenny

Blue Skies, BABY!!!

Family,


And a good morning to you from across the Pond after a TRULY PERFECT Saturday in the Mother Country. Talk about a day of photos and memories!

So when we last chatted, Muffin Puffin and I were en route to Ozer for a 1:15 PM "breakfast." Sure enough, Ozer confirmed once again that they are THE GREATEST RESTAURANT ON THE PLANET. So get this - Ozer does "All Day Breakfast" on the weekends, complete with complimentary hot drinks (filter coffee, espresso, tea, hot chocolate), complimentary OJ's (Sunday only), and NO PRICE ON THE MENU. That's right - you pay WHAT YOU THINK THE MEAL IS WORTH - NO QUESTIONS ASKED. So Muffin and I had two GREAT cups of filter coffee whilst tucking into our eggs smothered in cheese and spiced Turkish sausage. Yeah, it was pretty much the greatest meal EVER.


After that, we made the walk down Regent Street (I just LOVE that walk) amidst GORGEOUS blue skies and white, puffy clouds. March weather has been NIGHT AND DAY different from February, and yesterday was honestly our first blue sky day in London since last November - needless to say it did TONS to lighten my mood.


From Regent we took some detours, wandering down new streets and seeing some new monuments before finally arriving at Buckingham Palace Road, where we were treated to a FANTASTIC display of colors in the form of both Union Jack and South African flags. As it turns out, further down the way were displayed ALL of the flags of the former colonies now turned nations, commemorating Commonwealth Day (which is tomorrow). And yes, in case anyone is curious, the US is the ONLY former colony who does NOT participate in the Commonwealth Games. Um, think we could bury the hatchet by now?


JT and I then wandered through St. James' Park, taking in the sights and watching all the birds in the water. For us it was truly a stroll down memory lane, as we thought about the first time we arrived in London, taking our inaugural stroll through the park after visiting the Imperial War Rooms (Churchill's Bunker). Mom - I distinctly remembered calling you from the bridge that had Westminster Abbey, Parliament, and the London Eye in front of me and Buckingham palace behind me. Such wonderful memories, and yesterday was EVERY BIT as glorious.


We then rolled over to cross off something on our "London to-do" list - the tower atop Westminster Cathedral (this is different from Westminster Abbey, as this is the Catholic church serving the borough). I simply must say that the hour we spent in there yesterday was MAGICAL.



For starters, we walked into a service in progress, and the place was PACKED. Secondly, incense was burning in the church, making it smell of pine and spices. Furthermore, the smoke from the incense gave volume and shape to the light streaming in from the windows above, and I think it's fair to say that it looked like God was truly smiling down on the congregation.


A unique facet of the church is that it's been a work in progress for over 150 years. The bottom half of the church is IMMACULATE, covered in red, green, and white marble, as well as tons of mosaics. On each side of the congregation are small chapels dedicated to various purposes or Saints, with my two favorites being the chapels of St. George (patron saint of England) and St. Patrick (um...I'm pretty sure you know this one).



Above the completed section, however, is old, grimy, smoked out brick. Basically, the church is in a state of constant construction, with the goal being to move through the work very slowly in order to grant myriad generations of future members the opportunity to assist with the completion and help to leave their signature on the sanctuary.


The last piece of it is the tower, which JT and I used to walk past every single day from our flat to London Victoria (for the ride to Bromley Vegas, baby). We rolled into the gift shop expecting to pay 3 GBP, but the price had now risen to 5.11! However, realizing that increase was the equivalent of ONE BEER, we figured it was worth it. I am happy to confirm that we were right. We were treated to some spectacular views of Westminster, and Jenny humored me by going experimental with the photos! Check out wife muffin's handiwork!



After that, we rolled up to Green Park, where we walked past the memorials. We watched the sunset over Wellington's arch, and then we hopped the tube to Leicester Square, where we hit our new favorite pub (R.I.P. Bear and Staff) - The Salisbury. This place is AWESOME. I mean where else can you get Deuchar's, Timmy, London Gold, and Bombardier all at the same bar? AMAZING!!!


I had a Timmy there (JT had wine) before walking over to the Fortune Theater, where we caught one more pint (Bombardier this time) before settling in for the evening's activity: "The Woman in Black." So back story - this is a show JT had been wanting to see and that I had LOVED in 2005 when visiting J-Wade. It's a ghost story, and it's CREEPY AS HELL.


We had GREAT seats, and Jenny really enjoyed the show. I'm happy to report that I jumped two or three times even though I knew what was coming - QUALITY.


After that, we walked along maiden lane and had an 11 PM curry - green chicken curry from Thai Pin to be exact. :-) It was SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies).


We then caught the Bakerloo home, and we passed out around 1 AM (but we did manage to get up at 10:30 this morning in case anyone's scoring).

It's another GORGEOUS day out there, but MAN is it cold. Consequently, we'll be inside for a bit whilst Jenny books some Slovenia stuff, we do our taxes, and then we look at Italy. Mum - we're gonna book those flights today!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat later today (most likely).


Love,

Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Drinks with the Puma, finally claiming a 250, and the submission of the Phall...

Family,

And a good morning to you from across the Pond on a BLISTERINGLY SUNNY day in the Mother Country. February is over - BRING ON SPRING!!! Seriously, I am SO EXCITED about sunshine and the prospect of warmer weather (even if it is just a few degrees).

So yesterday was a great day. For starters, Owain and I rolled down to Tiffinbites, where we had lunch with th Puma. Apologies that I don't have a photo yet, but the Puma is elusive, and recording him on film is always a tricky proposition.

After work, we met for the "mandatory Friday meeting" in "Conference Room Double C" - that would be the Cat & Canary. En route, we did notice that progress is FINALLY being made on the CrossLink rail in Canary Wharf. Project folks familiar with the walk to the Cat - check out the area beside our building that's just been drained for the next phase of the project!
It was a great couple of hours at teh C & C amongst rotating parties, including Lord, Owain, the Puma, myself, and Lynn Barron, another one of our teammates who was over from the states. The highlight of all this? FINALLY, Sammy's got a "250" glass, baby! That's right - the commemorative pint glasses to celebrate 250 years of Guinness greatness on the planet are precious commodities, and I now own one (thanks to a quick snatch and grab, of course). This is VERY exciting news - after all, we desperately needed some more pint glasses...

I then hopped the Jubes to meet up with muffin at home, who was leading a "clear the fridge of booze" crusade of her own. However, she's just finished an Abbot and a Sol before I arrived, so we promptly turned and hit up the Rajdoot for the marquee event of the evening: Taylor vs. Phall.

So for those of you who don't know, Indian food has several levels, with every restaurant being somewhat different. Here are the categories:

1. Passanda - made with fruit - TOTALLY mild with no Spice (this has TOM PRICE written all over it)
2. Korma - made with coconut milk - about 4 BILLION calories and very tasty, but in no way spicy
3. Massala - made with creams, garlic, saffron, and cardamon - a good start for beginners who like heat, but not much there
4. Ceylon - some spices and some coconut powder along with a few de-seeded chili's. This is a VERY tasty dish for those looking for a moderate challenge.

5. Rogan Josh - stew in some tomatoes and add some spices - warning - newcomers will feel this.

6. Madras - Gettin' toasty, this is a tomato gravy loaded with chilis.

7. Vindaloo - this is 100% breathing fire. This is basically a recipe of nothing but chilis with some spices added late. Note: Until last night - this was where I always stopped.

8. Phall - This stuff is basically kerosene poured into a plate, lit, and then filled with whole chili's. If you think Vindaloo is remotely warm, avoid this like the plague.

I am happy to report that I not only survived but DECIMATED this dish. That's right - Sammy's taste buds are gone - I FEAR NO FOOD EVIL!

That being said, on the way out, our waiter (the guy we always see) said, "Mate -in 3 weeks we are getting our first shipment of Naga peppers (incidentally - the HOTTEST peppers on the planet). You come back then, I'll make sure our chef makes you something MUCH hotter than Phall." This was a "Man vs. Food" moment, and I said, "Brother - I can't wait." The countdown is on. Dinger - I'll make sure and get it on video so we can compare it with the Habanero adventure...

We then rolled back home, where Jenny told me that our clothes dryer/hanger thing had finally collapsed. Knowing that we couldn't POSSIBLY survive without one for the next 4 months, muffin rocked into John Lewis and picked up a 40 GBP STEEL CLOTHES HORSE. Check this monster out! Apparently it folds into like 458 different positions for optimal drying based on type of clothing. All I know is that we just dropped $67 USD on a clothes line.

Okay, we're now up after a 12.5 hour sleep, and the sun is shining! We're gonna get a "late" brekkie at Ozer before going down to check on tickets for a show this evening. We're then gonna roll over to Green Park and enjoy some of the sunshine. IT'S THE WEEKEND!!!!!!

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

Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Tres dias in Mad City...

Family,

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after a GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Okay, when I last left you, brother Tavares and I, fresh off a Katrina Mills sighting and draining the final swig of our prestigious McDonald's beers, were about to board a plane to Madrid. THAT, dear family, is where we resume the tale this evening.

Day 1: Magister - a slice of home (brew) in Madrid

So the flight from Lisbon was fine, with the one exception that it was on DONKEY AIR. That's right - anyone ever heard of Air Europa? Yeah - me neither. Luckily I was so damn tired from the 57 miles we walked against 400 mph wind that I was able to sleep like a ROCK. However, I did wake up in time to see some gorgeous Spanish peaks covered in snow - it was a neat scene.

Once on the ground, we caught a cab to the Westin, where we dropped our gear and checked in. I am officially a "Starwood Preferred Guest" now (those of you working at the Bank are now laughing; if you don't work at the bank, then just keep telling yourself that I am VERY important and sophisticated), and so I was treated to a slightly upgraded room. I know that this place is old, but it is Old World Europe money, and it was SWEET.

At 7, brother Ray and I rolled into Plaza Santa Ana, where we hit up my FAVORITE spot in Mad City - Magister. This joint, one of the few that actually brews its own beer, was a STAPLE for JT and I when we lived here (and a frequent haunt when I return). I like it for a) the Rubia beer (a SOLID blond), b) the old bartender who hates me and ALWAYS shoo's me away (but is HILARIOUS whilst doing so - Dinger - he's like the Farouk or Gunther of Spain), and c) the MOUNDS of food you can get. I mean check out this bountiful feast of potatoes and...well, fat.

Around 9, feeling exhausted and potentially sick, we retired early. RT actually hit the gym and watched the gold medal hockey match, but I was OUT COLD. Hats off to both teams, and congrats to Team Maple Leaf for a hard earned victory - watch your asses in 2014. :-)
Day 2: Dinner at the oldest joint in the world

So day 2 started out with a bang. Why, you ask? Well, for starters, I got my lazy ass out of bed and did 35 on the bike. Whilst it wasn't a ton of exercise, it set the ton for my 8 AM rendevous with destiny. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, after being shunned the previous 3 trips to Madrid, THE WESTIN DESAYUNO (that would be brekkie) WAS INCLUDED!!!! Let me tell you that, once you've had it, nothing you ever read in your LIFE will mean more to you than the phrase "desayuno esta incluido." Conscious of this, I trotted down at 7:50 AM, where I spent the next 40 MINUTES shoveling down piles of jamon, salmon, fresh fruit, donuts, coffee, and juice. Yes, I did have 4 plates in front of me at any given time. Yes, I am sure that I disgusted EVERYONE around me. Yes, I spent more time eating than I spent exercising. And Yes - I have NO regrets. And SPOILER ALERT - I was rinse-repeat on that for the next 2 days.

So the work day was good, working through cutover task lists, data conversion plans, disaster recovery and mitigation scenarios (all in 2 languages). I'm sure I've mentioned it, but the office in Madrid is AWESOME. It's a 50 story tower right in the heart of the city, and you can actually look down INTO REAL MADRID STADIUM. Yeah, it's pretty wicked.

The highlights of the evening, however, were two fold. First, Ray and I met our buddy Rui (another Portuguese fella, Rui is our Supply Chain guru) for a couple of drinks in the mall atrium just beside Torre Picasso. We had a pair of Mahou's (the second best beer in Spain after Cruzcampo, which is the TRUTH), and we had a great time chatting and finally getting to relax a little outside the office.
Next up, Taylor's internal (or lack thereof) GPS struck again. Ray and I left Rui and boarded the Madrid Metro (which I do know very well, for the record), getting off at Sol. The destination (for which we were already 15 minutes late) was Casa Botin, currently in the Guinness Book of World Records as the "oldest restaurant in the world," having served food on the same site since 1275. Incidentally, this restaurant was the site of the infamous "acute cardio-pulmonary disease" phone call in 2007, from which I STILL haven't full recovered.

Well, when Ray asked if we should book a cab, I said, "No way, dude - I know EXACTLY where this place is." And the truth was that I did know...I just didn't know how to get to the staircase that led to it. Consequently,we burned another 15 minutes lost before Ray saved us with his BlackBerry. Thank GOODNESS for modern technology (well, except Matt Miller, of course).

Dinner at this joint was AWESOME! We descended into the cellars of the restaurant, where we were treated to some GREAT wine, delicious beef, and (wait for it...) serrano ham. It was a great night of relaxing, and I was even able to capture a picture of Equipo Espana! It was a nice night for a walk, so we strolled the 20 minutes home, even capturing a photo of the Tio Pepe sign in Sol (the construction from 4 years ago is FINALLY done).

Day 3: A stroll down memory lane

So the work day was another great one, complete with the feather in my cap of attending a 2 hour meeting completely in Spanish. And whilst my brain was about to EXPLODE once it was over, I was definitely proud that I had left not only contributing but actually understanding exactly what the hell was going on.
To celebrate, I took Ray and Nancy (another teammate) for a drive down memory lane. There, at 140 Ayala, near the Manuel Bercerra metro stop, was another famous and consistent haunt for Team Taylor during our 2 month stint in Mad City in '07 - Cafe Tehran. And yes, Jen Webb - we saw the door to your apartment complex - talk about some memories!

Cafe Tehran was JUST AS GOOD as I remembered. And to boot, they had THE MOST coveted bottled beer in Spain (and the ONLY place I've ever found it) - San Miguel 1516. This stuff is just plain liquid gold - AMAZING! Throw in dinner and a nice glass of Syrah for desert (as well as Persian ice cream - interesting...), and you've got a recipe for a GREAT night in Spain.

Day 4: Back to Wife Muffin!
So the work day was a good one, and Carolina and I caught a taxi around 2:30 for the airport. It was a WET day, and we were delayed about an hour getting out the door. However, that gave me time to FINALLY finish "The Alienist," a 500 page hardback that I've been lugging around for about 3 weeks. T-bone - you were the man who recommended this to me, and it did NOT disappoint. That being said, it was pretty twisted, and I'm glad to be well clear of it.

We flew into London City Airport (LCY), and I am now a HUGE FAN of this airport. I was touch down to my door step in 75 MINUTES, which is TRULY AMAZING in London. Best of all, I finally got to kiss and hug my BABY PIE! JT had hit the pool, so luckily I was able to crush most of the blog before she got home. I was exhausted, but I (FINALLY) had an AFD and a salad before passing out around 11.

Today has been another GREAT day. For starters, I am offically OUT OF THE BOOT! That's right - I am FINALLY back to normal shoes and feeling no pain (knock on wood). I biked tonight, and I'm giving it another 2 weeks on the bike before I hit the treadmill for a 5-10 minute jog. However, things are looking up!

Tonight was an hour on the bike, a salad for dinner, and my second AFD in a row. However, I am harboring no illusions about AFD's - it's time for the mandatory Friday meeting at the Cat & Canary with Steve and Brother Morgan!

Also, two more classic moments to share:

1. I'm sitting at my desk today working away when I get a tap on my shoulder. I turn around, and who is standing there? Fizzy, Hitman, Notorious - brace yourselves, as I was in the presence of THE POSH PUMA HIMSELF - Cyrus David. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, Pop is Life, and it's time to RISE UP! again in the Mother Country. If you haven't figured out any of these references yet, fret not - as a character of EPIC proportions is about to enter the blog.

2. On my way home tonight, I enter the Canary Wharf station (there's a huge down escalator) and notice 3 cops standing at the foot of the stairs. For whatever reason, they stop me and ask to search my bag. When I say fine, they start asking me a series of questions about my bag, my time in the UK, and about me. Why have I been stopped, you ask? Because apparently I was part of a RANDOM SEARCH allowed by the ANTI-TERRORISM ACT OF 2000. And hey, I'm not trying to be a hater, but here's my question to the cops: when you saw the shirt, the hair that looked like Weird Al Yankovic, and the wrinkled khaki's with the tennis shoes, did you really think Al Queda would look THAT obvious? Rice - did you tell them I'm a communist and needed a good thrashing?
And speaking of, it's time to finish "The Afghan" and call it a night. Dean - this book COOKS. DEFINITELY a worthwhile read.

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

Love,

Sam and Jenny