Saturday, 31 July 2010

Just let me be.....Legally Blonde!!!!


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. And believe it or not, I'm actually typing this one in the evening vs. tomorrow morning! A great day and a lot to recap, so let's get right to it.

When Team Taylor left you, we were finishing our coffee and heading out for the day. The first activity was one that had been on the to-do list since we arrived (although it didn't open until September) - Legally Blonde the Musical.

Okay, so I know that it sounds WAY less than manly, but after you've spent a weekend hiking with 6 girls in the Lakes District, I pretty much have to count on the fact that I'm married to convince folks I'm straight anyway. Given that, I didn't figure going to see this one could make me appear any more gay, but oh, was I wrong.

Honestly, there were probably EIGHT DUDES in this entire theater, and I was the ONLY ONE without a pair of daughters dressed in pink, giggling with excitement at seeing Elle Woods in action. The good part? The dude's bathroom was EMPTY all afternoon. I could have peed in the sink and not offended anyone.
All the same, I will proudly proclaim it from the rooftop - THIS SHOW WAS AMAZING!!!! SO high energy, GREAT original music, a BRILLIANT cast, FABULOUS choreography - it was all just GREAT. It was the most expensive show we've seen in London (around $100 USD a seat), but we had 8th row DEAD CENTER, and it was worth every penny. How good is this show? It's in the same league as Wicked. Coming from Puffin and I, that is HIGH PRAISE.

After the show, we walked through the city, stopping by the Zimbabwe house to hear some of the Saturday vigil. Every Saturday a group of expats from Zimbabwe gather outside the house and sing African music to protest the rule of Mugabe. Honestly, I'd seen it before, but I simply couldn't walk away from it this time. I had tears in my eyes listening to the music. For some reason, African music - the harmonies, the chords, the emotion - has always haunted me, and I LOVE to hear it whenever I can. Hearing people sing about their homeland like that today whilst knowing the turmoil Zimbabwe is in was truly heartwrenching, and you could tell that I wasn't alone in thinking this. We listened for two songs, and I honestly think I could have stayed there until the vigil ended and been mesmerized the entire time.

We then walked through St. James park and over to Victoria, where we caught the Tube down to Stockwell (near Clapham) and spent the evening bonding with Yazz and Sam! It was an absolute BLAST. We polished off about 30 bottles of wine, and I took down 4 pints of Carlsberg. Best of all, Sam (Yazz's roommate is named Sam Stone - tell me that's not something out of a detective novel - I'm firmly convinced she's a spy for the Australian Government but shhhhhh - don't tell anyone...) cooked us some AMAZING chili con carne - we ate like KINGS.

Throw in some cheese (please someone act surprised), olives, some desert wine, and other nibbles, along with FINALLY hearing a Justin Bieber song (and realizing his stuff is TOTAL DONKEY TRASH), and you've got a recipe for a good night. So good in fact, that a) the girls all started doing Australian "bush" dancing (I have no comment) and b) Puffin decided to stay and hang out with the girls while I tubed it home.

Incidentally, I have become a HUGE fan of this new website that let's you figure out what songs are being used for commercials on TV. I've found two GREAT songs through it ("Illuminated" by Hurts - Cath, they're a MANCHESTER band! - and "Welcome Home, Son" by Radical Face). I am actually rocking out to Radical Face right now (they are the music on the "I AM" nikon commercial).
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

Introducing, the Co-founders of the Boil in the Burbs - Stacey and Tripp Rex!!!


And a good Saturday morning to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. It's the weekend!!!!!!!!!!! And MAN, has it started off with a bang.

So Friday morning was good, complete with a Starbucks coffee and some tasty granola. The work day was smooth and productive without being overly stressful - EXACTLY what you want on a Friday.

I got to the gym over lunch, where I went Hans & Franz style at the gym for about 45 minutes. Let's just say that, after a long layoff from the (rather miniscule amount of) weights, I am SORE AS HELL this morning. Oh well - I am here to PUMP (beat) YOU UP!. Really I just want to be dead sexy in my Speedo when we're in Croatia next month. Yep - Line. Me. Crossed.

In the gym, I heard a GREAT new tune. And by GREAT, I mean - PERHAPS AS BAD AS THE "SLUT" SONG. The title of the song is "Nutbush," (T-bone - I'm thinking "woodbox" will have to be on a future album - DON'T BLOCK THE BOX!!!), and it is DEFINITELY by an American. Here's a sample of the brilliant lyrics:




"City Limits!"


"We go to church on Sunday."


"We got to work on Monday."


"We good to people till Friday."


"We party on Saturday."

You then repeat this set of lyrics about 45 times. I CANNOT MAKE THIS STUFF UP. Who ARE these people?

All the same, after work, I nipped down to (where else) the Music Factory, where I met Brother Morgan, Steve Ray (VA - he's the Ed Norton look-alike), and their buddy (known only as "The Milkman, because he always delivers - classic - where's Karl Malone sexy love when you need it). I only had one Grolsch because we had to get home for the featured event of the evening - hangin' with the Rexes and K-Wall!

So a little back story here: Tripp and Stacey Rex both live in Charlotte, NC, where, along with their two beautiful children (Sam - GREAT name - and Kate), they host the annual "Boil in the Burbs." This is one of my FAVORITE nights EVERY YEAR, as they cook up about a billion shrimp, have tons of PBR handy, and we play cornhole and bacci ball until all hours of the night. It is a BLAST.

Tripp, Stacey, Jenny, and I all met at Bank of America back in 2003 - BEFORE JT and I were even dating! Actually, now that I think about it, Tripp and Stacey weren't married at that point either. It must have been the love that everyone feels when designing online mortgage applications as part of LoanSolutions under the leadership of the one, the only, GC Robinson.

K-Wall is another friend of ours from Charlotte who's actually been living here in London for the last 9 months. We only live about 2 miles apart here in the Smoke, but in true London fashion, last night was the FIRST TIME WE'D SEEN HER SINCE SHE'D MOVED. Time, it does get away from you...

We met around 7 at the Pontefract Castle, where we had 3 pints or so before dinner. I knocked back a pair of Timmy T's (SO FRESH), but then I switched it up and had THE BEST Heineken I've had outside of the Dam. Seriously - oats in the front - hops in the back. EXACTLY the way it's supposed to be. Stacey said it best when she sipped it and said," THAT'S A HEINEKEN?"

Dinner was, well, where else? THE DOOT, BABY!!!! There we held court on the ground floor, eating everything not bolted to the ground. Rather than get a flamin' curry, I left myself to the mercy of the staff and said, "Bring me what you would eat if you had 1 dish." They did NOT disappoint (although I have NO IDEA what it was called).

After that, we rolled over to Coco Loco (a bar on our own high street that we've never visited) for a last brew. The girls took down a half pint of Leffe, and then Stacey chugged the rest of my Bitburger that I just couldn't finish (to my credit - it was my SEVENTH pint). I must improve if I want to survive the beer festival.

After that, we got home, where we Skyped with the Aussies!!!! We officially met little Charlotte, who was quite scared of my "strange" accent at first (can't imagine why). We had a good chat for about an hour, and then, at 1 in the morning, we PASSED OUT, sleeping until 11:45 this morning.

Perfect pumpkin has brewed us some coffee, so we're just chillin' before we kick off the activities of the day. But you'll have to stay tuned to hear about those!

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


Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 29 July 2010

A BIG day in the office...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. One more day until the weekend! That being said, I'm in no rush, as today (much like yesterday) was one of those days where tons of little wins (and one big one) make for a terrific Thursday. And when you add in the fact that I'm blogging whilst watching the European Track and Field Championships (which are AWESOME, btw) AND managing another AFD, well, life is guuuuuuuuuuuuud.

So for starters, I discovered Tortilla today!!!! HOLY MOLY! Hitman had talked about this place forever, but until today I'd never branched out. Let's just say I will become a regular from this point until I leave the Mother Country. 6 quid buys you a burrito that rivals (if not beats) Qdoba and Moe's - we're talking Carrborito quality here! There was so much grilled steak on that puppy that I feel reasonably sure an entire cow was sacrificed on a Mayan Altar to feed me. Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmaaaaaaaaaaa!!!! And Old School Cool - that place WILL make the "Expat SO GUUUUUUD Guide to Quasi-fine dining in London."

The workout was great as well, although I can feel my foot slightly for the first time in weeks, which tells me that I could be slightly overdoing it. All the same, I've managed 4 "Sammy circuits" this week, and I am really pleased with that. I mean, hey - with the way I'm eating, I've got no choice! I managed 27km (about 18 miles) in 46 minutes, followed by a 5K in 27:30 (I was WHIPPED), and then some sit-ups (which takes effort, because the spare tire is ALIVE AND WELL).

The biggest news of the day, however, came on the work front. Now I know I've got a lot of work peeps on the blog, so I'm sure eyes are about to start rolling all over the place. However, for those non-bankers out there - I made Senior Vice President today!!! And no, it doesn't mean that I'm second in command for the entire company...

Seriously - SVP is a corporate title to recognize service, and I was shocked when I found out. Therefore, as you can expect, I was QUITE thrilled when Big Cat delivered the message. I wish all surpises at work were that nice! Dad - I think this means the might wait another couple of weeks before firing me. Then again, now that the new behavior training course is out...

Okay, the men's 1500 (my favorite event) is coming up soon, so I need to give it my full attention. There's nothing more rewarding than working out to the point you can barely stand only to get home and see how out of shape you really are - QUALITY.

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


Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Now THIS is the definition of a perfect, happy day...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Honestly, today was better than great - it was PERFECT. Nothing too fancy, just a day where I can truly say I enjoyed every minute of it - minus the hangover this morning, of course.

For starters, I got a seat after just one stop on the Tube, and I got 20 solid minutes to read my book ("The World Is Flat"- shout out to Nic "Walmart Pimp" Patel on that one). Next up, my coffee was prepared correctly for the first time in almost a week (but to Starbucks credit, they do always correct it without any fuss). Third, I actually remembered a yogurt, so I wasn't out any money in our canteen (which I've now decided is more expensive than a steak dinner at Ruth's Chris).

Lunch was EXCELLENT, as Taylor and Morgan made our way to...wait for it...wait for it -NANDO'S, BABY!!!! But the BETTER news is that there's a new one right by the office, and it is UBER POSH PUMA Seriously - real leather seated, unfinished warehouse ceiling, and GREAT food. I opted for the extra hot quarter chicken with 3 additional wings, creamy mash, and spicy rice. Can someone say SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies).

After lunch was a very productive series of calls, and then I went in for my third day of "Sammy Circuit Training." Today was the best day yet - 20km on the bike (36 min), a 5K run (26 min), 5 minutes on the Versaclimber (Holy @#$@ that thing is tiring), and then sit-ups. Suffice it to say, I will sleep GOOD tonight.

I got home, had a great meal courtesy of muffin (who swam 2600 tonight), and we even managed an AFD! All in all, you can't draw up a work day better than that. Livin' the dream!

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


Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Two days in the Smoke - and two VERY different experiences...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Okay, so first off - apologies for no blog last night. However, as will soon become apparent, we spent more than our fair share of time on the PC last night, and I just couldn't bear the thought of another 20 minutes.

So yesterday was, well, TOUGH for Muffin Puffin. Whilst I got into work fine, I noticed that JT wasn't online by her normal time. I waited and waited, and then a part of me started to grow a bit concerned. That was until the moment when she unexpectedly arrived in Canary Wharf. As it turns out, Jenny had the fortune of catching the ONE TRAIN IN ALL OF LONDON that was behind a defective train, meaning that she WAS STUCK ON THE TUBE FOR 45 MINUTES GOING NOWHERE. That's right - from 8:10 until 8:55, JT was just chillin' with 200 of her closest, smelliest friends. Hitman - this pretty much sounds like your worst nightmare...

In and of itself, this wouldn't have been the end of the world, as JT had two big files to complete but still had all day to complete them. And THAT is when the following announcement came over the PA:

"May I have your attention. Due to a security incident (I mean - "security incident" What the hell does that mean?), everyone must evacuate the building immediately."

Now granted, I knew that this a) wasn't a drill and b) wasn't a fire alarm, because the PA was giving different instructions. Only later did we learn that there had been a series of bomb threats on the building, and apparently someone had briefly parked a van out front (I never saw the van and that was never confirmed). Either way, 10 minutes later we were standing outside under threatening skies.

After 20 minutes, we wandered down to Carluccio's, where we got some coffee. The girls got hot chocolate - check us out: Just another workday in London! However, the delay grew and grew, and eventually we waited TWO AND A HALF HOURS before we were able to get back in.

Knowing that JT would be uber-stressed, I sent her home to go for a jog. Once we were able to get back into the building, I packed up both of our stuff and carded it home, at which point I did the unthinkable. I LOGGED IN FROM HOME AND HELPED JENNY WORK ON FINANCE FILES. Old School, Hitman, Shogun - don't worry - I was NOT allowed to touch formulas. JT did the Vlookup. JT did the pivot table. My ass was relegated to donkey work (read: "copy/paste"), but I tackled it with the vigor of a donkey parasailing in Southern Russia (sorry that was bad - those jokers should be buried UNDER the jail). Throw in some wine and the movie "Ronin," and it actually turned out to be a good night.

Today went MUCH better. After work, Perfect Pumpkin and I rolled over to Leadenhall Market, where we met up with some new expats in town and friends of Mel Mel. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Ric (that's right - no "k" for that guy) and Alison Gallagher! It should be noted that I made the initial meeting a bit tougher than necessary, as my BlackBerry (yes, the Boat Anchor) was dead and I had forgotten to tell them "Look for the guy in the wrinkled shirt and 14 year old khakis standing beside the hot red head." Luckily, they are very observant folks and noticed that I didn't quite look like EVERYONE ELSE in the bar, all bankers from "the City" wearing their pin stripe suits.

We had a GREAT night, complete with multiple pints (Hitman - in this heat, I am officially trading cask ales for beers run through chillers. Heine KILLED Royal London tonight). And then, knowing that we were rapidly tipping, we decided on the staple of British cuisine for dinner - CURRY, BABY! However, since we were nowhere near the Doot, we took the typical "Team Taylor - it's only ten minutes" walk over to Brick Lane!

We tore up some grub at Bengal Village, where I had a STEAMING dish that was UBER flavorful. I know that the Curry Mile gets a bad wrap, but that food was guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud (peppy cheekies). And best of all - it was BYO!!!

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print (and oh, yeah - I'm HAMMERED). Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 25 July 2010

What is the most dangerous parasite? An idea...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT Sunday in the Mother Country. It's only 7:07 PM here, but MAN have we packed it in today.

When we left you, Team Taylor headed down to Leicester Square. There we grabbed a quick lunch (meaning a chicken kebab and 2 slices of VERY undercooked pizza - you could actually see and taste the uncooked dough below the toppings - quality...) before hitting the first to-do of the day and something we've been excited about for awhile- "Inception."

If you haven't seen it but LOVE special effects,then I would DEFINITELY say go. It was very well done (Christopher Nolan is the MAN - he wrote, produced, and directed it), complete with a great cast, a solid story, and PLENTY of action. I was very, VERY impressed. Plus, at 2.5 hours, it makes the FIFTEEN QUID a seat seem reasonable.

After that, we strolled down through Piccadilly Circus and Park Lane before making our way into Hyde Park. Once there, we crossed off activity #2 - the Triathlon World Championships. Talk about AMAZING!

We showed up around 4:20, just after the swim had finished and the athletes had cleared the Transition Zone for the bikes. There were probably 40 athletes, and I don't think I have to tell you that these cats were FIT. The only competition left was the elite men's division, and these cats swam a mile, biked 24 miles, and ran 6.2 miles IN ONE HOUR AND FORTY-THREE MINUTES. How is that humanly possible? It was SO AWESOME to watch, and the course was well designed for spectators, as we got to see 6 passes on the bike and 3 on the run. A Spaniard won it (because, well, Spain is winning EVERYTHING right now), but a British kid shocked the field by coming in second (he's just 21!!!). And on top of it all, my hot muffin was sporting her new H & M tube top. You can't hide sexy...

After that, we walked home via Speaker's Corner, which was ROCKIN' today. Seriously - it was as crowded as I've ever seen it, and there were some doozies. Our personal favorite was a British guy (white), standing in a crowd of Palestinians telling them that they were all terrorists and needed to "play by the rules and obey laws" if they ever wanted peace in the Middle East. As you can imagine, there was quite a bit of shouting after that.

Most of the others were religious debates, and all I could thought as I stood there was how God had to be a) laughing or b) shaking his head in frustration, wondering how on earth we could possibly have taken a concept so simple and arrived with the confusion we have today. All the same, it was making for some GREAT people watching.

We caught the Tube home, and my Iron Chef wife is currently preparing some Morroccan spiced lamb burgers, which we plan to consume with English Cheese, carrots, and hummous. Hey - it's an AFD! And honestly, after watching those triathletes, I feel like an absolute SLOB, so beer just does NOT sound appealing right now. But talk to me tomorrow...

Okay, I see perfect pumpkin setting the table, so it's time for me to call it a day. That's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

Where the @&$# is this damn museum?


And a good Sunday morning to you from across the Pond after another GREAT Saturday in the Mother Country. Today Sammy is typing this blog entry with a big headache and a REALLY big hangover, but as the saying goes - "rough mornings usual follow good nights." In this case, it was a "good, good ni-i-ight..."
The afternoon, however, was almost a small scale disaster. So here's the deal - the Bank is currently sponsoring an exhibit at the Dulwich Picture Gallery (London's oldest public gallery, for the record). The exhibition, 3 Generations of the Wyeth Family, a) sounded interesting (Pooh - I was thinking about the Helga pictures when I decided to go to this - look at you inspiring my creativity) and b) was free to Bank associates. Consequently, whilst Muffin Puffin got ready, Sammy pulled up Google maps.
Here's the thing - the museum is down in Dulwich Village, which is just south of Brixton. Brixton, well, how shall I put it - it's kind of like the South Central of London. You won't get shot there because no one has fire arms in this country. But getting stabbed -'ve probably got a 1 in 3 shot of making it out alive after dark.
Consequently, I POURED over the map showing on Google, ensuring I had 2 different options to get us there. Walk time looked to be about 30 minutes, which would have put us at the museum about 3:30. And THERE, ladies and gentlemen, is where Sammy went off the track.

The road in question that we needed to find was "Railton." Honestly, I knew we were going the right direction (Uncle Robin would have been so proud), but we could NOT find this damn road. However, Jenny, who ALWAYS saves us in situations like this (and by "situations" I mean any time I try to do the navigating vs. my wife) did see a familiar road. Knowing that we could always cut down to the right when we got closer (and that it intersected Railton), I said let's take that path. In a word - Oops...

So we walk for about 20 minutes but NEVER see the road we need. More to the point, we hit a dead end and can't make a right to go through. So what do we have to do? Walk 10 minutes back the way we came through EVERY PROJECT IN BRIXTON because there's no place to turn. Only then do we realize the road we're on won't let you turn IN EITHER DIRECTION until you get ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE STATION. So what do we do? We walk BACK past all the projects and continue down the road, finally seeing another of the streets that we were supposed to intersect. Thinking that we're almost home, we take that right. In a word - Oops...

So the road in question, "Shakespeare," was a lovely road, filled with additional housing developments, a recycling plant, the BACK SIDE of the community center we'd JUST PASSED, a metal factory, and a rubbish dump. What, however, did it NOT have? A @#$@#$$ PLACE TO TURN LEFT!!!!! That's right, folks, we had to walk ALL THE WAY over to basically where we'd just been, just 1 street further south.
Granted, I was about to BLOW UP in frustration (I mean, WHY were there no signs for this place!) when suddenly my perfect pumpkin says, "Look - there's Railton." For a moment, tranquility returns. But then, when we have to walk another TWO MILES to get to the gallery, I am practically shaking with anger because a) I am the biggest donkey on earth for not being able to navigate my way out of a paper bag and b) this museum is practically in MADAGASCAR. All the same, 30 minutes later than expected, Team Taylor arrived at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
The exhibit actually was really neat, and I'm really glad that we saw it. It featured 3 generations of the Wyeth family, including several pictures by Andrew himself. I must say - that family has QUITE the talent for painting - some of their work looked like photographs!

On the way out, I asked one of the workers what the nearest train station was, and he said, "Oh, just make a left here, then a right at the traffic circle and you'll see West Dulwich. It's signposted the whole way." I could have punched him in the face...

Sure enough - the walk was about 10 minutes to the station, with signs for the "Dulwich Picture Gallery" ALL OVER THE PLACE. Maybe next time Sammy will remember this and CHECK THE ACTUAL WEB SITE FOR HOW TO GET TO THE BUILDING VS. GOING OUT ON HIS OWN CONVINCED HIS A MASTER OF NAVIGATION.

All the same, we got home, changed clothes, and then headed over to Andy and Jill Carter's for some wine (of which I had WAY too much) and GREAT Indian. Andy and Jill had TONS of news for us. For starters - THEY ARE MOVING TO HONG KONG!!! Secondly - THEY ARE EXPECTING AGAIN!!! Consequently we had PLENTY to talk about.

We ended up going through 5 bottles of wine across 3 folks, which would explain why my head felt like it had been dropped on an anvil and then crushed with a sledgehammer this morning. But THAT, my dear friends, is why God invented ibuprofen (don't worry, dad - I'm not addicted to Advil). We also had food from "Spices," the SECOND best curry house in London (after the Doot, of course!). JT went with Garlic lamb, and I had some Lamb Ceylon - SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies).

We got home about 1, but I had to wander the streets for another 30 minutes to ensure the world would stop spinning when my head hit the pillow. Dad - the foot on the floor technique is no longer working for me - I must be gettin' old...

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


Sam and Jenny

Saturday, 24 July 2010

And so another AMAZING weeknd begins...


And a good Saturday morning to you from across the Pond after another GREAT FRIDAY in the Mother Country. IT'S THE WEEKEND!!!!! And as I sit here, coffee brewing courtesy of Muffin Puffin, looking out over our balcony onto another GORGEOUS, sunny London day, "I gotta feelin' that tonight's gonna be a good good night..."

So Friday was good - we cleared our Define Tollgate, baby!!!! Viva AOC in the realm of Six Sigma! Acually, kudos to the X-factor for explaining what all those graphs and charts mean, but I digress...

I got a 10K in yesterday, averaging 8 minutes a mile and turning in a negative split! It felt SO good, especially on the way back. I was a little tired on the way out, but it was all good, as I got a chance (FINALLY) to see one of the docklands bridges open up for the lock system. Additionally, when I arrived at St. Katherine's dock (the turnaround point right in front of the Tower Bridge), there were all these SWEET yachts docked - it was FAAAAAAAAANTASTIC.

However, I simply must pause here and announce that I have found the new official "WORST SONG EVER." Now I'm hoping that KJ doesn't break my heart again and tell me that this is actually an American tune that's been out for MONTHS, but all the same, I must blow the whistle on this one. And whilst I don't actually know the title of the song, here are the lyrics (hide the children):

"Do I look like a slut?"

(Pause for a strange number of beats)

"Shut up."

Oh, sorry - were you expecting more? ME TOO! But no, don't even think about it, because THOSE ARE ALL THE WORDS TO THE SIX MINUTE SONG! How do I know it's 6 minutes? Because, upon hearing it for the 3rd day in a row, I actually timed it the last time. UTTER DONKEY TRASH. That is ALL she says for 6 minutes, except for the very end, when, in an effort to be clever, she adds:

"Is it the way I move my butt?"

"Is it the way my dress is cut?"

"Shut up."


Other than that, things were good. Puffin was in the Wharf, so we got a pint at the Music Factory before rolling over to La Tasca across the bridge. On the way, we saw this cool World Cup art painted on the sidewalk. Check out the photo - makes it appear 3 dimensional!

Dinner was AWESOME. JT and took down ELEVEN tapas and a bottle of wine, LOVING the fact that we got 50% off! JT's brilliance saved us ~$40 - Full marks, pumpkin!

After dinner we came home and hung out for a bit, blasting Bon Jovi (much to the delight of our Russian neighbors, I'm sure) and even some of the Wicked Soundtrack before calling it a night. And now, after 12 WONDERFUL hours of sleep, we're preparing for another GREAT Saturday in London. Two activities on the docket, but you'll have to wait and read about those in the next posting.

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


Sam and Jenny

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Isn't thy name Antipholus?

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Man, the time is flying! However, as we continue in the quest to "make it count," we definitely scored another victory this evening. But I get ahead of myself...

The work day was good, and I did manage to get a workout in. I pulled another brick, going slightly longer (and faster) on the bike and logging another 15 minutes on the treadmill (but managed to eek out another .25km in that same amount of time). I'm really enjoying the cross-training, and my foot has felt GREAT. Maybe it's because there's not as much of me pounding the pavement these days.

Secondly, I finished a new book! "The 5 Greatest Warriors" is now history - 451 pages gone in only 3 days time. Dean - This book was AWESOME. Thanks so much, man! And best of all - we haven't heard the last of Jack West, Jr. In fact - we've got four more books to go...WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!!!!

The highlight of the night, however, was the return to the Open Air Theater for the second show of the season - Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors." We were worried throughout the day, as it POURED at one point. In fact, on the walk home, I heard THUNDER for the FIRST TIME IN MY YEAR OF LIVING HERE!!! I couldn't help but chuckle at the fact that the ONE TIME I hear what sounds like a hurricane coming is one of the ONLY TWO DAYS that I have a planned outdoor event with NO cover. That being said, the weather held and actually was PERFECT (even if a bit chilly - we ended the night in 4 layers!).

The show was GREAT - I hadn't seen Shakespeare in a while, and this was Jenny's first. Granted, I'd forgotten that it took about 10 minutes to realize the language they were speaking was, in fact, English, and so for the first scene all I could think was "Um, what the HELL have we paid money for?" However, our ears adjusted, and the show DEFINITELY got better as it went on. Full marks for a GREAT show. For those of you who've been to Playmakers in Chapel Hill, the layout is very similar, and tonight our seats were over to the side. It worked out perfect given the way the stage was positioned, and we actually preferred these seats to those we had for "The Crucible." All in all, a GREAT night!

We're now back at the flat, still working through the cheese mum bought us in Amsterdam. SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies).

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


Antipholus and Adriana...I mean Sam and Jenny

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The taxman cometh...but only at my invitation...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Okay, so I realize that, since we've been discussing trolls, expensive beer, and whale meat for the last two days, I haven't caught you up on life back in the Smoke since our arrival. And whilst it's not been too excited, we're definitely glad to be back in the swing of things.

On Monday, I had a work function where I met some Queen City peeps for a few drinks at a pub near St. Paul's called The Saint. There brother Morgan and I threw back 3 pints and shook a few hands before rolling out for an early evening.

Yesterday I got 35 minutes on the bike. Why hit the bike vs. go for a run? Well, because I have FINALLY STARTED "THE 5 GREATEST WARRIORS." That's right - Jack West, Jr. IS BACK, BABY!!!!! And this time - he's taking NO prisoners. Dean - this book is AWESOME, man. Yet again Matthew Reilly scores a winner. Make sure and introduce me next time I'm down there. :-)

Last night was a fun one, as I met Andrew Vincett out for drinks. Andrew was my tax advisor (as you can imagine, a MUCH needed resource for an assignee), and he was a GREAT guy to work with. Consequently, I wanted to buy the man a beer.

We had a great evening and chatted for about 3 hours or so before parting ways. However, I definitely expect that I'll see him again, as he was quite a fun guy to hang with.

Today was another great day at work. I got a chance to do a brick (a run and a bike), and it was generally very productive. I am attributing it to the switch from Costa Vanilla Lattes to Starbucks filter coffee - I am a new man! And Hitman - so we're clear - I am NOT getting another Birley brekkie sandwich until I'm running consistently. I think I'm just now burning off the last of those calories.

Tonight has been great - we're having a quiet night in with some chianti, and JT's back in Gordon Ramsey mode and preparing a treat using some stuff she bought in Slovenia. Thanks, muffin! You do so guuuuuuuuuuuuuuud!!! And mum - so you know - tonight we have FINALLY finished the pack of three cheeses you bought us in Volendam. And we're STILL going on the cheese spread! Now aren't you glad you didn't buy that pack of six! :-)

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


Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Norway in a Nutshell - Part 2...

And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Okay, so when I last left you, we had just settled in for the night (if you can call it that with the sun blazing high overhead) in Bergen. And so we return to the land of vikings, trolls, herring, and RIDICULOUSLY expensive beer - Norway...
Day 3: FJORDS!!!!!!!
Knowing that we had an 8:40 train and not really knowing where the train station was, we got up at 7 AM this day and were out the door by 7:30. We rolled into the station around 8 or so, at which point we got some coffee (not from a 7-Eleven this time, which are, by the way, EVERYWHERE IN NORWAY - Oh thank Heaven...) and a donut and caught the train to Voss, the first stop in our "Norway in a Nutshell" whirlwind tour of this fine Nordic country.
We arrived Voss in time to:

1. Scamper to the men's room before the door closed (saving me the $2 charge to pee!)
2. Hold the door open in the men's room so that Jenny could use my same stall (again - that's another $2 savings)
3. Show the same trick to a couple of German ladies (we're VERY cultured - look at us being such good ambassadors)
4. Scamper onto a bus bound for a tiny, TINY town called Gudvagen.
Once at Gudvagen, I ordered a slice of pizza with some "salad" (read: shaved bits of frozen lettuce covered in Thousand Island dressing) before boarding our boat to cross off one of life's "bucket list" items: sailing the Fjords of Norway.
Our sail was 2 hours through the narrowest and second longest fjord in the world, and it was simply GORGEOUS. We saw the fjords sunny, overcast, and WINDY, depending on which corner we rounded, and it was truly AMAZING. We even commandeered the whole front of the boat ourselves, and it was like our own private cruise from Gudvagen to Flam, where we arrived at 1:40 PM that day.
Mum - the best way to describe Flam is "a small Skagway." I know, I know - it's THAT teeny. However, Jenny and I have now pretty much decided that Flam is the GREATEST CITY ON THE PLANET...but we'll get to all that soon enough.
First things first, we wandered over to the hotel. Now, as I'd mentioned earlier, Jenny deserves ALL the credit for planning this trip. I did nothing but say "I'd like to go to Norway." She handled the rest. Consequently, she wasn't sure which hotel was ours. Imagine our excitement, then, when we realized we were staying in "the Opryland Hotel of Norway." Seriously - the Freitheim hotel - AMAZING. And best of all - look at this view from out our window! That's the main fjord!
We dropped out gear and walked over to the supermarket, where, rather than drop another 16 BILLION dollars on food, we bought 2 rolls, a pack of salami, a pack of cheese, and 2 beers. Given the prices, in Norway it's completely acceptable to just rip a six pack open and take a single beer should that be all you need. JT and I then walked around the corner to the park, made our sandwiches, and sat at the base of the fjord, admiring one of THE BEST lunch spots we'd ever picked.
We then went for a hike, making the 2-3 mile trek to Brekkenfoss, a beautiful waterfall in the Flam valley. The weather was perfect, and we spent some time chillin' by the falls, watching the water cascade down to the valley floor, breaking against the rocks. It was a SERIOUS climb up, and I was regretting that beer on the walk. However, once I'd sweated out most of the toxins, I was fine and dandy - the picture of relaxation in fact.
We climbed back down, changed clothes, and then went to the hotel bar, where I tried a Ringnes (most popular beer in Norway) and Jenny had a Nogne O Pale Ale (micro-brewery in the south of the country). We climbed 4 floors up a spiral staircase, arriving at a completely glass-walled crow's nest at the top of the hotel overlooking the harbor. There we took in the scenery, enjoyed our beer, and contemplated just how perfect life was at that moment. Then, stomach's growling, we trekked across the town to the featured event of the evening - the Aegir Brewery!
So back story - we tried one of these beers in Bergen, but we didn't know where the brewery was. And then, when we rolled into Flam, we saw the pub and restaurant right across the water - WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!!!!
Simply put, this place was AWESOME. It is set up like an old Viking Hall, complete with only wood furniture, a fire pit, high throne chairs, and furs as cushions. And best of all - THIS BEER WAS AMAZING. We are talking THE BEST beer I've EVER had on the continent. And the best part? There was a sampler tray that was a GREAT deal. Consequently, I got 2 of those...
Add in some pints, some GREAT burgers (covered in sun dried tomato or blueberry sauce - both very good), and a night of AMAZING conversation, and it was just perfect. In truth, I had one too many, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, "All I have to do is kayak 4 hours tomorrow - how hard can that be?" Oh, so naive...
We passed out around 11 and slept like logs. Normally I'd be a bit unnerved by the fact that our floor to ceiling window was WIDE OPEN and we were sleeping on the ground floor, but as this place is pretty much inaccessible and EVERYONE is a tourist, I didn't worry a bit.

Day 4: Perfection is spelled F-L-A-M...
When you look back on your life and think about the best days EVER, I think some obvious ones come to mind for folks: wedding day, birth of children, graduation, a big promotion, etc. For Jenny and I, we will ALWAYS remember Saturday, 17 July, 2010, as one of those 15-20 best days. If you had to draw up the quintessencial Norway experience, I honestly think this day would have been it.
We got up at 8:30, had our breakfast (hot and cold buffet at the hotel - SO GUUUUUUUUUUUD) before wandering over to "the beach" for the morning's featured activity - kayaking in a fjord. The weather had started gray, but by 10 AM it was BLISTERING sunshine, HOT weather, and flat sea. Bottom line - THIS is how you want to see a fjord, especially if you're gonna be on it.
After a brief safety presentation from our guide (and Englishman named Ben), Puffin, me, Ben, and 3 Japanese cats hopped into our dual kayaks and began the journey into the fjord. Words fail me here other than STUNNING. You feel SO SMALL when cruising beside mountains that are 3,000 feet high and water that plunges to a depth of almost 4,000 below you. And it was just GORGEOUS all around.
We passed by 1200 year old farms (that's NOT a typo - TWELVE HUNDRED YEARS OLD), stunning cliff faces, and past rugged peaks before arriving at our turnaround point. Once there, we make a small trek to the lunch spot, which happened to have a swimming hole. I wanted SO BAD to go in, but that water was about NEGATIVE 528,000 degrees. Consequently, I was about to chicken out. That's when Ben took off his shirt, climbed out to a rock, and jumped in.
Tait - this was one of those moments where I thought, "time to atone for my sins. I either live forever in fear of another Taylor's ledge moment, or I jump and purge the fear." Granted, this was A LOT closer to the ground, but it was still a jump, and it was still some COOOOOLD water.
Consequently, I took off my shirt, walked to that ledge, waved at my wife for what could have been the last time, and jumped. How best to describe it....
Wait for it....

Wait for it.....

HOLY SHIT THAT WATER WAS FREEZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Seriously - picture diving into a bucket of ice water that's been placed in a freezer and pulled out JUST before it solidifies. This was mountain water in Norway that was COMPLETELY shaded through the summer. Oh man, what a rush. Such a rush, in fact, that I did it twice. WOW.
We then hiked over to another waterfall, and we took 5-10 minutes to take it in whilst the the mist covered over us. It was just PERFECT. We then turned around and walked back to the kayaks, where we made the return journey home under perfect conditions. There was a nice breeze, the water was a bit choppier, the spray was kicking back in my face, the sun was beating down on us, and all I could think about was "Remember this moment, as it's one of the best of your life."

Once back on land we headed back to the hotel for part 2 of the adventurer's tour of Flam - bike riding! We rented a pair of bikes and headed off to Aurland, another town along the water. The bike over was AMAZING - we hugged the fjord the whole time, coasting along the water and seeing some CUTE houses along the way. Arriving in Aurland, we spent some time at the stone church and then down by the harbor, where we met a nice couple from Stockholm and chatted with them for a bit.
We then headed home, where I feared that given all the coasting we'd done on the way over, the ride back would be TERRIBLE. However, as fate would have it, when you've actually got a nice bike, every inch isn't pure torture! This bikes were AMAZING! Shimano gears for crying out loud! I am now ADDICTED to renting bikes - we are DEFINITELY doing it again with the upcoming trips.

We biked back to the Brekkenfoss waterfall before finally turning the bikes in and heading - where else - back to the Aegir Brewery. There I had ANOTHER sampler of beer before settling on a few pints to go with our - you guessed it - burgers. Again, a PERFECT night and a PERFECT ending to THE PERFECT day.

Day 5: Even the transit is an activity...
We slept in on Sunday, EXHAUSTED by the previous day's activities. However, a MASSIVE breakfast fueled us to the train station, where we caught the Flambana railway, a feat of engineering that connects Flam to the Bergen Railway via an ascent of 864 meters across a scant 12 mile stretch. That means that, for every 18 meters traveled, the train climbs a meter. Yeah - NUTSO.

We arrived in Myrdal station to TERRIBLE weather but our train waiting for us. The train, I should add, was THE MOST COMFORTABLE TRAIN WE'VE EVER RIDDEN ON. We're talking TONS of leg room, big windows, and even foot rests for the journey. Consequently, we rolled through the fjords in style, cruising along the valley floors and looking out the window like we were extras in "The Bourne Identity." SO awesome.
Finally we arrived back in Bergen, where we had a final treat courtesy of our Scandinavian brethren - VANILLA COKE!!!! I was so excited - it was like Christmas morning all over again. Perfect Pumpkin had a Diet Cherry Coke, ALSO a rare treat in this day and age.

We caught the bus back to the airport, where we were told that we'd arrived "too early" to check in. HOW CAN A PERSON ARRIVE TOO EARLY? It's not like we showed up for a flight in October - WE HAD LESS THAN 3 HOURS! Details...

Anyhoo, we caught the flight, got home, caught the Express, and we were seated at - where else - the Doot by 9 PM, in time for some FLAMIN' hot curry. JT's curry was actually about 14 BILLION degrees hotter than mine, so we were breathing FIRE by the end of the night. But at least the staff kept bringing us free beer, so that kept the flames at bay.
And that's it - Norway in a nutshell (insert Old School Cool saying - "No baby, this is me in a nutshell" - don't worry, man - I was gonna work it in at some point). Truly an AMAZING place, and I would tell EVERYONE who loves nature to visit. Just make sure you are prepared to not look at ANY prices whilst you're there. Otherwise, it is a somewhat painful proposition.

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

Thor and Helga...I mean Sam and Jenny

Monday, 19 July 2010

Norway in a Nutshell - Part 1...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. We're BAAAAAAACK!!!!! Okay so first off, let me state the obvious - NORWAY IS AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!! Seriously - if we'd had a week, this might have reigned supreme as THE BEST one week destination we've ever hit. However, as we only had 4 days (one of which was 12 hours of travel), we feel we must relegate it to THE BEST long weekend we've ever had. Why, you ask? Well, I'm glad you did. Let me explain... :-)

Day 1: Now THAT is a sunset - at 11:30 PM...

So the work day was good. I got a run in, which I deemed crucial given that I was about to go on my usual drinking and eating binge for vacation (remind me again why that's any different than any other day or weekend?). Also, the work day was productive, even if it ended with the following (CLASSIC) insult from my new boss (whom we'll call "Big Cat" on the blog).

Sam: "Hey man, I'm about to sign off. Anything you need from me before I roll?"

"Big Cat": "I think we can survive without you for 2 days, Sam. After all, we survive the other 12 weeks that you take vacation."

Full marks, brother. :-)

So I rolled to Gatwick via the Express, and Muffin Puffin met me there at 6 PM. From there it was an easy check-in with Norwegian Air, and then we rolled to security, where a (slightly deranged) man BLEW UP at the security gal when she asked to search his bag. Given the disability, I don't feel it appropriate to make light of the situation, but let's just say it ended with the guy hitting the security guard on the arm before throwing his clothes, followed by about 156,000 policemen surrounding him. Why did I see all this, you ask? Because Muffin Puffin was lucky enough to be part of the "FRET NOT THIS IS RANDOM" search population. Good times...

After clearing security, we were the last folks to secure a table at the Flying Horse for some grub (Fizzy - it's the same place where we got brekkie before flying home in December). We broke the AFD fast, and I scarfed down a burger whilst Pumpkin nibbled on a starter (perhaps that explains why she's teeny and I'm big as a damn house - but my burger did have Stilton and onion rings on it - SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD..peppy cheekies).

The flight over was easy. I finished Child 44 (Deano - AMAZING recommendation - simply BRILLIANTLY written), and better yet was treated to both an AMAZING sunset and a beautiful arrival into Bergen. The sunset was JUST STUNNING. Picture a pink orb surrounded by purple, orange, and pink clouds, slowly descending into the clouds below (and NO - I'm not gay...). Follow that with a descent through the clouds, opening up to the North Sea and what felt like a BILLION gorgeous, rocky islands hugging the Norwegian coast, and you have a FABULOUS start to the trip.

The journey into town was easy - we caught the "Flybuss" into the city center and saved ourselves about 15 billion dollars. Seriously - I'll get to costs shortly, but I hope that you're all sitting down. All the same, the 20 minute bus trip in was $25 a person...and that's JUST getting started.

The good news was that EVERYONE spoke English better than we did, so getting around was no problem. And so, at 12:35 AM, we walked up this TINY ASS little street to meet Matt, our host at the Bergen Guest House. He showed us to our (UBER-CUTE) room, where we promptly passed out around 1:30 in the morning.

Day 2: You did WHAT to that whale?

Dawn comes early in Norway. And by early, I mean....oh, I don't know... THREE THIRTY IN THE MORNING. And if you had American style blackout curtains, this would be no issue. Intead, we had material thinner than my boxers (so most of you can guess what that means) and no air conditioning, meaning that the windows were open to the sounds of birds singing their lungs out at 4 AM. We managed to doze until 9, but we were out the door at 9:45 to see the sites of Bergen - gateway to the Fjords.

First things first, we went to the tourism office and booked our trains and ferries. There's a popular tour of Norway called (appropriately enough) "Norway in a Nutshell," and we basically followed that route (but, thanks to Muffin Puffin's brilliant planning, we elongated it). That meant that we only had 1 day in Bergen, but it proved to be enough. And so, hungry at 10:30 in the morning, we rolled over to the first stop on the tour - the Bergen Fish Market.

Now granted, this place is smaller than expected, but DAMN do they have tasty food. We are talking lobsters and crabs crawling every where, as well as fresh shrimp, salmon, tuna, and anything else you want (Old School Cool - don't worry - there was herring EVERYWHERE). I saw what I thought was sushi grade tuna rubbed in pepper and asked to try some. The girl looked at me and asked, "Have you ever had whale before?" In that moment, 2 thoughts crossed my mind:

1. I will never be able to join Greenpeace in good conscious. However, I never really planned to join them anyway.

2. Rice's car in high school - the Toyota Tercel we called "Shamu." Now that I think about it, I thought about his class ring as well ("Ours to Save" if I remember).

However, the "when in Rome" push was too strong, and 2 seconds later I was DEVOURING WHALE MEAT. And let me tell you - IT WAS GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD....

We then walked over to the Bryggen area, a collection of 61 buildings dating back to 1702. They have largely been recreated using Medieval techniques (they apparently represent Norwegian city life after the Vikings), and they are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To us, they were a shopping playground and our lunch destination.

Okay, so the weather had been on and off all day, but suddenly the sun appeared and we found a GREAT little cafe (that was 300 years old, for the record) to eat outside. The menu offered "Norwegian tapas," which I found intriguing. 2 minutes later, we were drinking 2 beers and enjoying the sunshine. A word on alcohol in Norway (sorry, Grimshaw - I will NOT surprise you this time) - IT IS A FORTUNE. Each beer is (without fail) around 9-10 pounds a pint (so $14-17 USD a glass), and so it is an EXPENSIVE proposition to get hammered in the Nordic countries. Consequently, JT and I were well behaved...this day at least. Tune in tomorrow for the Paul Harvey version of the trip.

Lunch was a TINY plate of 3 tapas: smoked herring, marinated whale, and cured sausage. It was enough to feed a 3 year old who's just gotten into solid foods, but it cost us about $60 USD. That being said, it was TASTY. We then rolled over to the fish market, where we devoured samples of whale, salmon, and reindeer & elk jerky before picking up the snack for the day - pepper and herb rubbed smoked salmon. Honestly, it was probably in the best 10 things I've ever eaten in my ENTIRE LIFE.

We then wandered around Bergen, sitting by fountains and lakes, visiting churches and walking the water, and basically taking in the city. It was SO RELAXING, and I was at peace in a way I have seldom known. In short, I WAS ALREADY IN LOVE WITH NORWAY.

We then caught the Funicular (that would be tram to us Americans) to the mountain overlooking Bergen, where we were treated to AMAZING views of the city, the harbor, and the nearby fjords. It was JUST spectacular - even though JT and I were almost kidnapped by this troll. Mum - I couldn't help but think of you and that troll you used to have as a kid - CLASSIC.

We walked down off the mountain (the Norwegians don't believe in things like "switchbacks" or "safety" on their trails - your ass walks STRAIGHT DOWN A PATH 2 INCHES WIDE. If you die, they will just blame the trolls) and did some more shopping before rolling over to the harbor, where we tried a pair of Hansa beers (yes - $35 for the pair of pints) before hitting the dinner spot that night. Where did we go, you ask? Why, we had traditional Norwegian, of course! And by that, I mean - WE WENT TO A MEXICAN RESTAURANT. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, the Taylors went Santa Ana and hit up a "Mex-Tex" restuarant called Skibet. There we gorged on fajitas and nachos, and JT even had a margarita (on the rocks, for the record - which the waitress had NEVER HEARD OF - AWESOME). All in all, it was GREAT.

We then rolled back to the flat, where we went to bed at 11:00 PM. I should mention at this point that IT WAS STILL LIGHT OUTSIDE. Honestly, I don't know how these cats do it.

Okay, I know that's just getting you through the first 2 days, but I'll wrap it up tomorrow with the rest of the trip.

Lastly, I should mention that I finished "The Witch of Portobello" tonight. Much like "The Alchemist," it was SIMPLY FANTASTIC. I'd like to thank Chris Hamilton for turning me onto Paulo, as he's bloody BRILLIANT. I definitely don't think this will be the last of his books that I read.

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


Sam and Jenny

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

I see my wrinkles! I see my wrinkles!


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Okay, so first off, ANNOUNCEMENT - there will be NO BLOGS between Wednesday and Sunday. I'll resume blogging on Monday night. Why the break in the action, you ask? Because Team Taylor is heading to NORWAY, BABY!!!!! FJOOOOOOOOOOOORD!!!!! Unter heeben, hilfen,'s really a question of how many Swedish Chef jokes I make in the next 96 hours - that's all the drama that's left to unfold.

The weather looks to be donkey trash, but fingers crossed that Accuview is looking at the wrong cities in Norway. No matter what, it will be a blast, and I am looking forward to sending some (no doubt ridiculous) photos your way.

So today was another good one. I rode for 45 minutes today, had a great coffee, and even got out for lunch with Brother Morgan to...wait for it...wait for it...NANDO'S, BABY. And better still, why buy 5 wings when you can get 8 for DOUBLE THE CHOLESTEROL!!! SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUD (peppy cheekies).

That being said, I was excited to look in the mirror today and actually see some of the wrinkles around my eyes. Why? Because it means they are laying a little lower on my face - I can finally see my cheek bones again! Who knew what a string of AFD's could do for you (3 days in a row, for the record!)? Dare I say it, I am definitely feeling thinner. And best of all, we even resisted the temptation of brewskis tonight (Shogun - we've still got 2 of your soldiers sitting in there waiting to be consumed, and they are calling to me like the Precious to Smeagol) and settled for salads. I am enjoying this (quasi) health kick (which still allows for reDONKulous quantities of cheese, courtesy of the Volendam Cheese Market - mum, I blame you:-)).

Okay, it's time to finish packing and try to make it an early night. That's all the news that's fit to print. Chat next week. FJOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORD!!!!!!!!!!!!


Sam and Jenny

Monday, 12 July 2010

This feels weird - I don't know how to explain it. It feels, I know - a ROUTINE...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. As I type this the weather has cooled, some typically English clouds have rolled in, and there's a nice breeze blowing down Hallam Street. I have spent the last hour or so working through "Child 44" - still VERY good about a third of the way in.

It's hard to believe, but today is the SECOND CONSECUTIVE WEEK we've managed back-to-back AFD's on a Sunday and a Monday. In fact, I had more AFD's last week than I did the previous three months! Yes, I would agree - that is TERRIFYING.

Slowly but surely, with the end of the last project and the start of the new one, (dare I say) there's a routine forming. I'm getting back into the gym and exercising regularly (Jenny's actually grinding out laps as I type this), we're eating salads together at home 2-3 nights a week, we're getting back to having regular AFD's, and I'm even feeling a little trimmer. I am sure the reduction in booze has helped, both on the sodium side and the calorie side. That's translating to running (FINALLY) starting to feel easier again. In fact, I'm getting back into decent times for 3-4 mile runs (managed 4 miles outside today in just under 34 minutes, so no complaints there). Granted, it's a LONG way to go, but I'm certainly pleased so far.

So between morning exercise, reading to and from on the Tube, nightly blogs, some semblance of a healthy diet, and starting to email/call folks again, I think the Taylors are once again on the verge of establishing a new normal. I guess I have to temper that by saying we've got TONS of stuff planned in the coming months, but the pace right now feels much less frenetic than the previous 3, and I'm certainly feeling both healthier and more relaxed.

Lastly, to Sandra (which probably means to Mum and Rice since you'll see this before her - just please pass along) - we love you and are praying for you. Rice is under strict instructions to keep me informed. :-)

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


Sam and Jenny

Sunday, 11 July 2010

2,995 photos of Africa, some GUUUUUUUUUUUD gelato, a WICKED lamb burger, and a new champion...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY (with perfect weather) in the Mother Country. Today is a milestone, as ONE YEAR AGO TODAY the Taylors landed at London Gatwick, had their first meal in the country (full English at the Prince Regent), and sent out their first blog post. And now, here we are, 251 posts in, and still going strong.

Okay, so when I left you, the Taylors were about to kick off their day. I am happy to confirm that it was another great one, even if those jokers from the Iberian peninsula pulled off the victory (now is a good time to point out that it is LOUD AS HELL outside our windows - nothing but screaming and honking. Can't they duck into La Tasca or something and celebrate with some jamon?).

Today's featured activity was a tube journey to Bermondsey, where we crossed off another of the "bucket list" items - the Design Museum. Back story on this one - whilst on the US Airways flight back from Charlotte in May, I read an article in the in-flight magazine about an architect who spent 10 years traveling around Africa, visiting each capital city and observing the civic, commercial, and residential structures of each place. The result was a 2,995 photo montage displaying 52 capitals of the continent (he elected to not display Mogadishu, as he said the images were still too chaotic and painful).

We rolled down there about 3 PM, and we spent the next 2.5 hours looking through the photos and reading his commentary. I must tell you - whilst it was A LOT to take in, it was truly impressive.

The design museum itself is pretty neat (and set in a GREAT location right on the Thames), and we explored some of the other floors as well. The freakiest thing we saw was this damn stalker panda bear contraption, where a hundred robotic pandas follow your every move. Yeah, it was pretty much something out of a horror movie.

After that, we walked home along the river, where we soaked up the PERFECT weather and even made time for some Gelato!!! I went with coconut and watermelon, whereas muffin went with white coffee and hazelnut. Needless to say I was ONCE AGAIN bested by my perfect pumpkin's choices. It was the FIRST TIME we've bought ice cream in London, and we were actually shocked that it WAS MELTING. However, no complaints from us - check out the view as we got fat and happy.
We spent the next hour walking home along the Thames, but ultimately we hopped the Tube at Embankment to ensure that we could get home in time for the World Cup Final. But not only did we make the start of the match, MUFFIN PUFFIN WENT EMERIL LEGASSE IN THE KITCHEN!!!! I mean, why just watch footy when you can enjoy some Holland cheese as a starter and then have your sexy wife whip up Lamb Burgers!!! We had all the fixin's - tomatoes, onions, ketchup, mustard, sweet chili sauce, lettuce - it was so guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud (peppy cheekies). Check out the feast fit for kings!

And now, with the World Cup behind us for another 4 years, we can start settling down and heading to bed. However, I think I'll do a little reading to night (I'm into "Child 44" thanks to Dean, and it is AWESOME). Also, I meant to tell folks that I finished "The Kiterunner" and "Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister" recently, both of which I would HIGHLY recommend.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!


Sam and Jenny

Look Mum, No Hands!!!!!

And a good Sunday morning to you after antoher GREAT DAY in the Mother Country. Yesterday was choc-a-bloc full of closing off London "bucket list" items, and we had a blast amidst PERFECT weather in the Smoke.

For starters, we rolled out of bed about noon or so, had a little coffee, and then wandered around Marylebone running errands (truly stimulating activities like picking up dry-cleaning and buying new Brita filters - those puppies are HUGE), but by 2 PM we were out the door and en route for the first activity of the day - a pub (shocking, I know) on Old Street called "Look Mum, No Hands!"

So a little back story here - Tom "The Hairless Wonder" Price sent the link for this place to me about a month ago. Bottom line - it's a "bicycle themed cafe, bar, and WORKSHOP." That's right - you can wheel up for a bite, relax in their beer garden, and watch the telly whilst they repair your shimano gears or whatever you fix on a bike. Tom told me I simply must visit this place, and with the weather being perfect, Puffin and I thought that was a great idea.

True to form, the place was GREAT. Tom - it's something out of Watauga or Avery Country, dude. Bikes hanging up everywhere, everybody in there (except JT and I) is covered in jailhouse tats, wearing lycra, and ENGROSSED in the Tour de France (Stage 7 in case anyone's curious). The food was great (all veggie), and we took down a Spinach and Feta pie with (A REAL) salad. Seriously - the salad there was GREAT, especially when you wash it down with Belgian, French, or Swiss beer in a frosted mug.

We watched 2 hours of the tour there before rolling out to Smithfield Market (the old meat packing district), where we had a pint of Zatec (check lager - not bad) at S.O.S. - that would be Smith's of Smithfields (very clever name, I know). Back story on this -we'd met Yazz here back in 2007 (we just drank Meantime Ales back then), and it is a GREAT space. We've actually tried to eat there twice, but both times it's been booked up. And whilst I don't have eating there on my bucket list, I am DEFINITELY glad we got back for an afternoon pint, soaking up the sun, admiring the architecture of the marketplace, and just enjoying life.

After that, we walked past St. Paul's and across the river, where we caught a rare treat. As part of the City of London Festival (a big celebration of the arts going on right now), there are pianos ALL OVER the city, and folks can just sit and play whenever they want. We saw a guy TEAR UP some original works - it was AMAZING! We then crossed the Millennium bridge before catching the Tube at Southwark for Waterloo before hopping a train to Wandsworth Town. There we met J-Wade and Yazz for drinks at this GREAT pub called Edge Hill, where J even treated us to a round of pints he'd won at the last quiz night! It was a GREAT evening, filled with a bloody BRILLIANT match between Uruguay and Germany (Bob - 5 goals scored - you had to enjoy that! It was almost like the goal keepers weren't even there...), some good beer, and plenty of laughs. Okay, there was the one lady who didn't like the fact that, since the gents was occupied, I used the ladies and left the door open. But hey - when ya gotta go, ya gotta go...

Dinner that night was a GREAT curry just next door - that J Wade can execute on a plan! 2-1-3 Throw it UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUP!!!! It really was delish, and whilst we started inside, we ended up getting to sit outside on a PERFECT night.

We then caught the last trains to a) Victoria and b) Oxford Circus, so I would call it a VERY successful day. The only problem was that we didn't get into bed until 1 and I woke up at 5:18 SWEATING LIKE A BANSHEE (credit to GC Robinson for that quote). It was about 19,000 degrees in our bedroom, so I tried to sleep on the couch for 2 hours. For those of you that don't know, a bed of nails is more comfortable than our couch, so obviously that was a TERRIBLE idea. All good, however, as I dosed until about 11, and as I type this my perfect pumpkin is still asleep.

Okay, time to wake up muffin and get after it again. Gotta make it count! That's all the news that's fit to print. Chat later today!
GO HOLLAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ORANJE!!!! ORANJE!!!!!!!!!


Sam and Jenny