Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market

Tuesday, 20 November 2012
For the past eleven years, Birmingham has celebrated the Christmas season by putting on the Frankfurt Christmas Market.  It has become the biggest outside market in England, and is in fact the largest authentic German market outside of Germany.



Did you know?: The market is named the Frankfurt Christmas Market to celebrate Birmingham's partnership with Frankfurt, Germany, they have been twin cities for more than 40 years.

Being a huge lover of Christmas, naturally Birmingham's Christmas Market has been on my to do list since I arrived in England and I was finally able tick it off! This past weekend joined by our friends, Sam and Marta, we made our way to Birmingham's City Centre to kick off the Christmas season! If you are thinking of attending the Frankfurt Christmas Market or just want to know more about it, here are the five top things I learned:


Start your experience with a Weiss (wheat) beer! The Germans know how to make good quality beer and the Christmas market is filled with stalls offering just that. You'll pay around £4 a pint, plus a £3 deposit on the tankard which you can either get back at the end or keep the glass. Some stalls do offer the option to have your beer in plastic cups but I'd recommend going for the proper experience!

Attend the Frankfurt Christmas Market on an empty stomach. Trust me when I say you will not go hungry at the market, never have I seen so many food stalls in my life. Start out with a Bratwurst or Frankfurter which you can top with all your favourite condiments served from what can only be likened to cow's udders. These are not your average size sausages, one stall was selling the sausage by the half-metre!

If you are not a fan of German sausages there are plenty of stalls serving up hog roasts in a Brötchen (roll) with Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes) and Sauerkraut on the side! If you were foolish enough to eat before arriving at the market there are plenty of snack items as well such as; Brezels (pretzels) and that Yuletide favourite - roast chestnuts! For those with a sweet tooth save room for candied nuts, gingerbread, chocolates, and my personal favourite - a Waffeln (waffle) topped with Nutella!

Warm up with a hot chocolate or Glühwein (mulled wine). "If the weather outside is frightful" then nothing can be more delightful than a hot drink! You'll find the stalls offer more than your average mug of hot chocolate. You can get anything from brandy to Baileys added, as well as marshmallows and cream. Glühwein is a traditional Christmas hot drink made of  red wine and various spices such as cinnamon and cloves. Either are the perfect drink to warm you up on a cold winter's night.

Get some Christmas shopping done. It was not just the food stalls that caught my eye, there is plenty more to see! You can find traditional Christmas decorations like nutcrackers, of all shapes and sizes and wreaths. Besides the festive gifts you can also find things like handmade jewellery, candles, and woolly hats. The market is a great place to find unique gifts and inspiration for those hard to buy for people.

End your day by playing some carnival games. There is a little fun fair on one end of the Christmas market with a ferris wheel, giant swing, and of course some carnival games. I would strongly encourage you to make this your last stop for the day, because if you are lucky enough to win a prize they are huge! You will not be wanting to walk through the crowded market all day with it, trust me from experience.

Erin x






Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market is from now until 22 December and open Monday-Friday, 10:00am to 09:00pm. Entry is free.

Skyfall (50 Years of James Bond)

Friday, 16 November 2012
2012 has been a momentous year in England. First we had the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in June, followed by the Summer Olympic Games in London, but perhaps most importantly we celebrate 50 years of James Bond!

Queen Elizabeth II and James Bond at London 2012 Olympic Games

I do not think anyone in 1962 could have predicted that fifty years later not only would the Bond films continue to be so popular but they would also still be in production! Skyfall is the 23rd installment of the James Bond franchise and upon viewing it is safe to say that Bond will not be leaving our screens anytime soon!  

Source

Casino Royale (2006) was supposed to be the rebirth of the Bond franchise, but Skyfall in my opinion is the true rebirth. To tell the truth, I was not that impressed with Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace (2008). I thought they were too violent and were not what James Bond was about. The books are considerably grittier than the earlier films and Daniel Craig's Bond was supposed to be returning to this. However, I missed the wit found in the films from the earlier days. Skyfall sees the return of the witty side of Bond while still keeping it realistic.

What did you expect, an exploding pen? - Q (Ben Whishaw)

This is the first time in the series' history, a James Bond film is being directed by an Academy Award winner in the form of Sam Mendes. The difference this has made to the film is substantial. With Mendes at the helm the producers were able to assemble an impressive cast and crew with 35 have Academy Award nominations and 5 wins between them. With those credentials it really is no wonder that Skyfall is being heralded as the best Bond film ever!

There are so many things to love about this film that it is hard to pick a favourite. The storyline is fantastic, don't worry I won't spoil it for you. Raoul Silva, played by Javier Bardem, is by far the best Bond villain ever! The cinematography is exquisite, perhaps owing a large part to the wide variety of amazing locations including; Turkey, China, Scotland, and London! This was my first time seeing a Bond film in the cinema, but if there was ever a film worthy of seeing in the cinema it is Skyfall.

Bond is well and truly back!

James Bond Car Chase Montage


Q:Who is your favourite James Bond actor? 

Erin x


Pardon My French

Friday, 26 October 2012
"Why learn a language when everyone speaks English anyway?" Every time I hear this, and I've heard it more times then you can imagine, a small part of me dies inside. Okay, so that might be a little melodramatic but the sentiment is still a painful one for me. The truth of the matter is that NOT everyone speaks English and never would I have it otherwise.

There are many benefits to learning a foreign language such as: boosting your intelligence, easing your travel experiences, assisting your career and even aiding your love life. In learning a foreign language I have experienced all four of these benefits in some way or another.

Learn English with Kaplan

Intelligence


I studied languages, Spanish and French, throughout my school career. Learning a foreign language has given me a better understanding of my own. For example, did you know you already speak a bit of French? The English language borrows a number of phrases from French, as well as others.

  1. "I just got déjà vu." The literal translation of déjà vu is 'already seen' and the phrase has come to describe the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that what you're experiencing has happened before.
  2. "He was given carte blanche." In French carte means card and blanche means white or blank. The two words put together in English mean free reign.
  3. "We live at the end of the cul-de-sac.Cul-de-sac means a dead-end street but the literal translation of this word in French is something quite vulgar. Let's just say sac means bag and leave it at that shall we.
  4. "I'm en route!" En route is a French phrase meaning 'on the way' that is commonly used in the English language.
  5. "She was wearing a lovely ensembleEnsemble can mean 'together' but in this context a more appropriate translation is outfit.

Studying French at university gave me the opportunity to go live abroad in Pau, France. Knowing some French before I arrived was a huge advantage as it made those first few weeks that little bit easier. I was able to get my mobile phone with relative ease and it certainly made the first trip to the supermarket a little less daunting.

Love


My decision to move to France was not motivated by the clichéd desire to find love in a foreign country. I wasn't expecting to be swept off my feet and certainly not by an Englishman. The fact of the matter is, neither of us would have met each other had we not been been studying French at university.

Children will be on the cards for us at some point, and when that happens we plan on moving back to France. Not forever mind you, but perhaps to begin the children's education in France so that they become bilingual. Having bilingual children is very important to both Luke and me as being bilingual can open many doors for you.


Travel


You don't have to live abroad to experience the benefits of knowing another language. Knowing languages has helped me on my travels. Whilst struggling to find somewhere to park in Barcelona, I was able to use my Spanish to ask for the nearest car park. (Although some of the people I spoke to in Spanish decided to respond to me in Catalan.) When lost in Brussels I was able to ask several people for directions to our hostel. The ones who actually responded in French (Belgians also speak Flemish) still couldn't help me but, had I not spoken French, I would not have been able to communicate with the nice police officers who eventually did help us find our hostel.

To this day, whenever Luke and I go abroad we try to learn some basic phrases in the language of the country to which we are travelling. Something as simple as ordering a pizza in Italian really can go a long way with the locals.

Career


Luke and I both use our language skills in our careers. Luke was specifically hired because of his ability to speak French. Luke's company has offices all over the globe, and whilst all employees are supposed to speak English, it can be very beneficial to speak foreign languages. His talent for languages has not gone unrecognised either; his company are paying for him to study German!

While I wasn't hired on the basis of speaking French, I often use it as I work at the European headquarters of my company. When we were organising an event in Paris, the employees of the restaurant, at which we were trying to book the formal dinner, only spoke French. Let me tell you, trying to explain the various allergies of the attendees was no small feat. Besides using my language on a semi-regular basis I am also fortunate enough to have several French colleagues with whom I can practice!

Q: Are there any words used in the English language you can think of with different origins? If you could learn any language other than your native one, what would it be?

Erin x

*This post was part of Kaplan's Inspire Language Learning Blogger Challenge.

My American Care Package

Saturday, 20 October 2012
On Thursday I received a care package from my Mom for my birthday! It was full of American goodies, plus so little extras. My Mom really does know me, the only things not included in the care package were sushi (from I Love Sushi), frozen yoghurt (from U Swirl) and an In-N-Out burger. I suppose I'll let her off on those though! 


My care package included (from left to right):
  • Peacock Pashmina
  • Reeses Peanut Butter Cups
  • Frank's Red Hot Sauce
  • Hidden Valley Ranch
  • Disney Recipe Book
  • Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Mix
  • Onion Fridge Mate
  • Tomato Fridge Mate
  • Lemon Fridge Mate
  • Fluffy Socks
  • Christmas Classics DVD
  • Hallmark Mother/Daughter Ornament
  • Williams and Sonoma Red Velvet Cupcake Mix
  • Serving Dishes
  • Duncan Hines Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Cupcake Wrappers
  • Minerals Makeup Box
  • Physicians Formula Nude Blush
It truly was filled with some of the things I miss from America, bare the obvious exceptions. I don't really think I'd want week old sushi or frozen yoghurt arriving at my door though. It really got me thinking about the little things you miss from your home country when you're living life as an expat.

Q: What do you miss about your home country? 
Or what do you think you'd miss?

Erin x

Day Out in London

Wednesday, 10 October 2012
When Luke asked me what I wanted for my birthday I said I'd rather get something for the house than something for just for me. In typical Luke fashion he didn't listen (do men ever listen?), but for once I am really glad he didn't. Unbeknownst to me, Luke rang my boss and booked my birthday off for me, so he could surprise me with a day out in London!

Instead of waking up at the crack of dawn to go to work on Tuesday, I was able to have a lie in and get brought tea in bed before heading on a train from Milton Keynes Central to London Euston. In just 35 minutes we were in the centre of London. We always stop at Buckingham Palace, to say hello to the Queen, before taking a stroll through the parks. I've still not received my invitation from her for tea, I can only assume it's gotten lost in the post.

Walking around the royal parks is one of our all time favourite activities to do in London, and it's free! If we don't have time to walk through all of them I'd recommend walking through Regents Park, as you can easily get to Horse Guards Parade which then can lead you on to 10 Downing Street, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, and of course Big Ben. Regents Park is also Luke's favourite because of the birds and squirrels. On this trip to London, Luke and I decided to go somewhere that neither of us had before - the London Aquarium.


Luke and I have a thing for aquariums. I think it started when we went to the aquarium on our first trip together to San Sebastián. Since then we always try to see the aquariums in the cities we visit, but have never had a chance to go to the London Aquarium. It was slightly pricer than I was expecting, my guide book, albeit from 2010, had said it would be £13.00 each. It was actually £19.40 each, I thought it might have gone up a little, but 6 quid! 

I'm very happy we went as we both really enjoyed the aquarium and although it was a bit more than we were expecting, it was worth it. The aquarium was arranged by bodies of water, so there was a section for everything from the Pacific to the Arctic Ocean. There was even a section dedicated to fish that have been found in the River Thames. 

After the aquarium we headed to grab some sushi in China Town (in between Soho and Leicester Square). We found a terrific sushi restaurant called Akasiro, where I had the best sushi I've had since coming to England! We shared a sushi platter and a vegetable tempura bento box! I even agreed to try Mackeral sushi again, it wasn't half bad (but don't think I'd order it on a regular basis). The place was a great value too, something you always have to be on the lookout for in London. We finished off our meal with some hot sake for Luke and plum wine for me! In other words, I was in heaven!

By the time we'd finished sushi it was nearly time to head back to Milton Keynes, but not before a quick stop at King's Cross for another vain attempt to get on the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 3/4!

Erin x


Q: Where do you like to go when you visit London? Is there anywhere in London you'd particularly like to see that you haven't yet?




Top 10 John Lennon Quotes

Tuesday, 9 October 2012
You say it's your birthday
Well it's my birthday too, yeah
You say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you.
- The Beatles ('Birthday', White Album)
Besides the millions of strangers I share my birthday with, I also am blessed to share it with two very important people in my life - my mother's best friend since childhood and John Lennon. Okay, so while I didn't know John Lennon personally (he died about 6 years before I was born), he was a member of my all time favourite band The Beatles and an all around legend!

To celebrate our birthdays and 50 years of Beatlemania (last week was the anniversary of the single "Love Me Do") I am sharing ten of my all time favourite John Lennon quotes.

Top 10 John Lennon Quotes of All Time

  1. For our last number, I'd like to ask your help. Would the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you'll, just rattle your jewelry.
  2. Remember love. The only hope for any of us is peace.
  3. If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace. 
  4. Part of me suspects that I'm a loser and the other part of me thinks I'm God Almighty.
  5. Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.
  6. She forced me to become avant-garde and take my clothes off, when all I wanted was to be Tom Jones 
  7. Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.
  8. Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans.
  9. Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted.


Source

Erin x

NB: Since writing this post I have discovered that I also share a birthday with David Cameron, our current Prime Minister.

Surviving a Hen Weekend

Friday, 28 September 2012
Last weekend I went on my very first hen do or bacherlorette party as they're called in America. I wasn't really sure what to expect other than a lot of drink and silly things like 'willy straws' or in our case 'willy soap'.  I can't share all the silly adventures of the weekend because it would take too long and frankly would be against hen do code. However, I can share what I learned and hope that future hen doers can have just as successful a weekend!

  1. Do some exercise before the booze binge. We spent our day swimming and playing in the 'Raging Rapids' at Centre Parcs. Fitting in a nap before you go out is also ideal. 
  2. Be sure to have a big meal protein packed and full of complex carbohydrates before going out! We went to a lovely Thai restaurant in Newmarket, called Sangdao, and filled up on steamed vegetables, pad thai, and curry!
  3. Don't mix your drinks! Try to stick to drinks like wine, vodka, and of course a hen do must - champagne. Don't be tempted to start doing shots of random things from the bar.
  4. Drink a glass of water for every one of alcohol consumed. I say I'm going to do this every time I go out and I almost always forget, but when I actually do make the effort to drink water I feel 10x better!
  5. For the inevitable hangover, a full English breakfast is a must! You have no idea how much better you'll feel after some sausage, bacon, tomato, eggs, mushrooms and beans.

Besides these 5 tips, you should also carry in your handbag the 'Hen Do Survival Kit' - 


    Tip: Hen Do Survival Kits are great gift to give all the Hens!

    Erin x




      Recipe: English Onion Soup

      Monday, 24 September 2012
      With the weather turning autumnal, I suddenly start craving warming foods that I wouldn't dream of touching during the summer months. Number one on that list is soup, one of my favourites being French Onion. There are a number of passable French Onion Soups that I've had at restaurants but none can compare to my Grandma's recipe. To properly prepare my Grandma's soup takes hours, of which I don't have the time or patience for. This has lead me to creating my yummy interpretation of this French classic - English Onion Soup.

      The recipe is really simple and only requires a few ingredients, but most important to its success is a slow cooker!


      Ingredients:


      • 50 g (1.76oz) butter
      • Approx. 4 large onions
      • 4-6 garlic cloves (smoked garlic if you can get it)
      • 250 ml (1 cup) vegetable stock
      • 750 ml (3.1 cups) sweet or medium English cider
      • 2 slices of wholemeal bread
      • 100 g Cheddar cheese 
      • 1 egg yolk

      Method:


      1. Cook the onions and garlic in the butter on low heat, stirring frequently until the onions become soft and nearly translucent (roughly 25 minutes).
      2. Transfer to the slow cooker, add the stock and cider and cook on LOW heat for about 6-8 hours. If you don't have the time to let it cook, you can put the slow cooker on HIGH and heat for roughly 3 hours. 
      3. When the soup is done, preheat the grill and toast the bread on one side until golden. Put the Cheddar slices on the untoasted side and grill the cheese until bubbling. 
      4. Remove the soup for the heat and whisk in the egg yolk.
      5. Serve with the cheese toasts on top and a cold glass of English cider!



      I usually make the soup the night before and put the dish in the fridge to let it steep over night. Then in the morning before I go to work all I have to do is take it out and turn the slow cooker on! It's great coming home to a warm meal!

      Erin x

      Remembering 9/11

      Tuesday, 11 September 2012
      Source
      It's hard to believe it has been 11 years since the 9/11 attacks, I remember them quite vividly as I'm sure many of you do.

      I was just starting 8th grade and had the flu so was planning on staying home. My Mom was in her bathroom getting ready and I was sleeping in her bed when the phone rang.  

      On the line was my Grandma calling to tell us to turn on CNN that a plane had crashed into the Twin Towers. At the time the second plane hadn't hit and many people thought it was just an accident. We had been viewing the footage for only a minute when the second plane hit and that's when everyone knew this was no accident.

      I remember feeling confused, my Mom said it was a terrorist attack and I didn't really know what that meant. The footage was scary but I couldn't take my eyes away from it.

      Instead of staying home alone, Grandma came and took me to her house so I wouldn't be left alone watching the news with no one to explain it to me. In fact my grandmother was given specific instructions from my mother to not allow me to watch the news all day. I of course wanted to watch the news and my Grandma gave in and let me sit with her all day watching.

      My Grandma was worried about her friend, Phyllis, who was in New York at the time and according to her itinerary was supposed to visit the Twin Towers that very morning. Of course with so many people having loved ones in the city the phone lines were busy and it was a long time for us to get confirmation that she was okay. Thankfully we were one of the lucky ones, Phyllis had awoken with a migraine that morning and had decided against visiting.

      Of course it wasn't just the Twin Towers that were attacked that tragic day, there was also the Pentagon and United Flight 93 that went down in Philadelphia. So many senseless lives lost that day at the end of evil. So although 11 years have passed no one will ever forget.

      "Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children." - President George W. Bush, November 11, 2001
      Q: Where were you when you found out about September 11th attacks?

      Erin x

      What Happens in Vegas

      Friday, 24 August 2012
      Whatever happened to 'what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?' This is a question I'm sure Prince Harry and his press team have been agonising over these past few days. The digital world has been buzzing over the news that Harry was caught partying in Vegas, wait for it - naked! Shock! Gasp! Horror!

      I don't think I'm the only one who thinks it's completely ridiculous that this is even an issue. It's no big deal and people should just let it go. I realise I'm being completely hypocritical here in writing a blog post about this very subject but I felt compelled to defend my hometown and the Prince of my current country. Call this my 'Leave Britney Alone' moment, but without the awkward crying.


      Is Vegas the city of Sin? I'm going to let you all in on a little secret, it's called marketing! And very clever marketing at that. This whole do anything you want philosophy makes people feel secure, like they can let lose and not get into any trouble. When really, you can get into the same amount of mischief in Vegas as you can in any other city. But remember it was Vegas where OJ Simpson was put behind bars, when he got away with murder in California. I say this to remind you, we have a police force and trust me when I say they don't always have the best sense of humour.

      Source

      Does being royal mean you can't have a life? I'm sorry, I didn't realise being part of the royal family meant you had to be a saint. They're human and as such make mistakes. I would also hasten to add I don't believe this to be one.
      Source

      I personally haven't seen the photo(s) of Prince Harry in his birthday suit, and if I can help it I'm not going to. I think the boy has a right to privacy and shame on whatever American website posted the photo(s). I am however very proud of the British press for not breaking the code of conduct and publishing them. I must say even with the rules in place, I expected some tabloid rag to pick up the photos. It must be absolutely killing them that they can't.

      The moral of the story? Everyone has a right to party, even a Prince, but perhaps choose your fellow revellers more carefully. Now can we all get back to the real news!

      Erin x

      Quintessentially English's August entry for Post of the Month Club

      Photobucket

      Day 52 of the Olympic Torch Relay

      Monday, 16 July 2012
      The Olympics Torch Relay dates back to the ancient games.  A traditional ceremony would be held at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece where the flame is lit from a mirror and the sun's rays. This tradition carries on in the modern games, with a series of torchbearers carrying it first around Greece (1,800 miles) before passing it to the host city.

      The torch arrived in London on 18 May to be carried by a series of 8,000 torchbearers on a 70 day journey around the United Kingdom. On the morning of 9 July the Olympic torch passed through Milton Keynes on it's way to Oxford. To celebrate the occasion, work gave us the morning off (although I think most of my colleagues used the time for a lie in).


      I joined the crowd of red, white, and blue supporters on Silbury Boulevard, finding the perfect spot right up front. We had a little while to wait but there was a great atmosphere to soak up. While some children were quite content waving their little Union Jacks, others were not as patient. It seemed whenever the parents would finally pacify the impatient ones, right on cue someone would walk by trying to sell flags, medals, or inflatable torches. The poor parents would then start all over again trying to calm down their children.

      Waiting for the torch.

      The procession finally reached Silbury Boulevard. The police drove past on motorbikes giving the children's outstreched hands a high-five (this was a particular favourite of the kids). Coaches with torchbearers who had either already done their duty or would be carrying the torch later in the day. Coaches of the London 2012 sponsors like Coca-Cola and Samsung. And finally the torch itself, carried by the surfer Gabriel Villarán.


      Gabriel Villarán carrying the torch.

      Although my glimpse of the torch was only brief, I'm so glad I saw it and am able to say that I took part in the celebration! You can find out more about day 52 or follow the rest of the route by visiting the BBC website. The last day of the relay is in 11 days time when the last torchbearer lights the cauldron and the games officially begin!

      Erin x

      Independence Day

      Wednesday, 4 July 2012
      This is the one holiday that truly makes me miss living in America. Who wouldn't miss a hot summer day spent by the pool sipping cocktails, listening to music, and having a bbq. To not enjoy the day would be well, un-American.

      This year has me particularly homesick for the Fourth of July festivities and the Vegas summer. The weather outside makes it hard for me to believe it's July. Instead of the bright blue summer skies I'm accustomed to in England, all I see are grey clouds accompanied by a constant drizzle. If I didn't know any better I would think I was in the first chapter of the sixth Harry Potter novel and that this constant drizzle is in fact Dementors. The few rays of sunshine we've seem today make me remain hopeful that the summer weather will appear soon and I can then have my long awaited barbecues. Until then I must be reminiscent of barbecues past.

      Source
      Every fourth of July of my childhood, as far back as I can remember, we would get together with the Schreiber and the Jones families, usually at our house. The adults had all been neighbours and newly-weds before having us kids come along at relatively similar times. Those childhood bbqs changed slightly over the years. As we got aged less accidents involving sparklers occurred, rivalry in pool games like 'Marco Polo' 'Colours' and 'Shark' intensified, and did accusations of cheating. 

      But some things didn't change like Pat could always be counted to be seen at the barbecue preparing the hot dogs and hamburgers. In fact that might be the main image I remember from those childhood barbecues, Pat at the grill. As soon as it got dark we'd rush outside to light off the fireworks, before ending the night watching the fireworks go off across The Strip.


      As I got older I began to spend Independence Day with my friends. We would still bbq and play games by the pool but now the games were 'Beer Pong' 'Flip Cup' and 'Kings'. After a few rounds of drinking games we would then sing Team America songs at the top of our lungs, which I'm sure the neighbours absolutely loved. I hope that some day the theme song from Team America becomes our new national anthem, but somehow I doubt it.

      Explicit Content Warning: If you are easily offended do NOT watch this video.




      It is only today that I realise the last fourth of July I spent in America was four years ago. Since then I have been in either France or England. Which makes me think I'll have to make it back to America for a 4th of July real soon. I'm sure Luke will love the banter he receives from my family and friends. I just keep telling him things like 'this is the day we invented freedom'.



      Happy 4th of July to all my lovely readers!


      Erin x

      San Sebastián Memories

      Sunday, 24 June 2012
      Bad photos, we all have them and some of us more than others. When I got my first digital camera, I thought it would be the end of the bad photos of my disposable camera days. Now I know the digital camera is not a miracle worker - it just put an end to waiting to find out that you were pulling a gormless face that previously might have taken weeks to discover. But what if you could go back a have a retake of one of your bad photos, which would you choose?

      When I first read the premise behind Russell's 'No More Bad Photos Competition' I thought it was going to be difficult to choose a photo, but once I sat down to write my entry one photo jumped out at me immediately. It was the first "couple" photo of Luke and I, taken on our first weekend away together to San Sebastián in March 2009.


      Luke and I met during my first week in Pau, when we were introduced by my host mother, Domi, who was Luke's boss. (My apologies to the ones who already know this story.) We began dating almost immediately after meeting, but everything was casual. After all at the end of the summer I would be going back to America and Luke to England. The idea of it being anything serious, at the time, seemed impossible.

      To this end, perhaps to convince ourselves more than anything, we tried to steer clear of what I would call "coupley" things. We didn't have any photos of just the two of us, if we were in a photo together someone else was always with us. We didn't call ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend. And perhaps most important of all, we didn't have the "so where is this going?" conversation that seems to plague so many relationships.

      Our bubble of avoidance was shattered in mid-March when Luke asked if I would be interested in going away with him for the weekend, just the two of us. We considered going to Biarritz, but we had gone there a number of times already with our group of friends. Plus there was a strong likelihood that our friends would get the urge to go to the beach and join us. So we decided on San Sebastián - home of tapas, Basque cuisine, surfing, and the most Michelin star restaurants.

      We spent the weekend laying on the beach, eating amazing Spanish cuisine, and visiting the same gelato place more times than I can remember. We taken a number of photos of each other but so far didn't have one of the two of us together. That changed on our last day on top of the San Sebastián Aquarium (we also discovered our mutual love of aquariums) when we finally had our first couple photo.

      It is a little dark on our faces, and the pose is awkward because rather than find someone to take it for us, Luke is holding his hand out. But it still makes our photo album because it is our first.We may have fallen in love in Pau, but San Sebastián is where it all changed for us. I had no idea then that three years down the line I would be living in England, married to the incredible man posing right next to me.

      We've often talked about going back to San Sebastián, the place where our relationship changed to the more  serious. Someday we will, and we'll pose on top of the Aquarium like we did that day, but this time I think we'll ask a passer-by to take the photo for us.

      Remember: The truly bad photos are the ones that don’t exist at all.

      Erin x

      Entry for In Search of a Life Less Ordinary's 'No More Bad Photos Competition'

      ANSWERS: How well do you know the Queen?

      Sunday, 17 June 2012
      Last week I shared with you the quiz I took at my work's Diamond Jubilee celebration. If you haven't completed it yet, then stop reading now and go take the quiz. And as promised here are your answers. I hope you did well, and found out something you didn't know about our reigning monarch of 60 years.

      My score was 8/12, but how did you do? What did you learn? Let me know on Quintessentially English's brand new Facebook Page or tweet to me @essentialerin!

      Source

      1. Which month of the year did the Queen accede to the throne?
           February

      2. Where was the Queen when she first heard the news that she had become Queen?
           Tree Tops - Kenya

      3. How many dogs does the Queen currently own?
          Six - 3 Corgis and 3 Dorgis (a cross between a Dachshund and the Corgi)
      
      Source

      4. Who played the guitar on the roof of Buckingham Palace to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee?
          Brian May

      5. What colour does the Queen traditionally wear when visiting the Vatican?
           Black

      6. Who designed the Queen's dress for her wedding and coronation?
           Norman Hartnell

      7. Where are the Crown Jewels kept?
           Tower of London

      Source

      8. Which of following historic events has NOT taken place during the Queen's reign?
           a. The end of food rationing in the UK
           b. The moon landing
           c. the building of the Berlin wall
          d. The Festival of Britain

      9. The Queen's coronation was the most watched event on television at the time, even though only 5.5 million households in the UK (about one third of the population) had televisions. How many households have TV today?
           a. 1 Million
           b. 13 Million
          c. 26 Million
           d. 50 Million

      10. How many miles of motorway did the UK have in 1952?
            0 - The first motorway in the UK opened in 1958.

      11. The position of women in the workforce of the UK has changed since 1952. Today approximately half the workforce is female. What % of those employed in 1952 were female?
            a. 0%
            b. 10%
            c. 24%
           d. 33%

      12. Which iconic musician said the following at the 1963 Royal Variety Performance in the presence of the Queen? "For our last number I'd like your help. Would you people in the cheaper seats clap your hands and for the rest of you just rattle your jewellery."
         a. Paul McCartney
        b. John Lennon
         c. Brian May
         d. Bob Dylan

      Erin x

      QUIZ: How well do you know the Queen?

      Sunday, 10 June 2012
      I mentioned in my post Diamond Jubilee Celebrations (Part 1) that we had taken a quiz at work in honour of HM Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. I had a few comments and emails requesting that I share it with you lovely people, so here it is as promised! 

      I'm sure you can beat my score - 8/12 but don't cheat and use Google like so many of my colleagues did! 

      Copyright All rights reserved by The British Monarchy

      1. Which month of the year did the Queen accede to the throne?

      2. Where was the Queen when she first heard the news that she had become Queen?

      3. How many dogs does the Queen currently own?

      4. Who played the guitar on the roof of Buckingham Palace to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee?

      5. What colour does the Queen traditionally wear when visiting the Vatican?

      6. Who designed the Queen's dress for her wedding and coronation?

      7. Where are the Crown Jewels kept?

      8. Which of following historic events has NOT taken place during the Queen's reign?
                    a. The end of food rationing in the UK
                    b. The moon landing
                    c. the building of the Berlin wall
                    d. The Festival of Britain

      9. The Queen's coronation was the most watched event on television at the time, even though only 5.5 million households in the UK (about one third of the population) had televisions. How many households have TV today?
                    a. 1 Million
                    b. 13 Million
                    c. 26 Million
                    d. 50 Million

      10. How many miles of motorway did the UK have in 1952?

      11. The position of women in the workforce of the UK has changed since 1952. Today approximately half the workforce is female. What % of those employed in 1952 were female?
                    a. 0%
                    b. 10%
                    c. 24%
                    d. 33%

      12. Which iconic musician said the following at the 1963 Royal Variety Performance in the presence of the Queen? "For our last number I'd like your help. Would you people in the cheaper seats clap your hands and for the rest of you just rattle your jewellery."
                    a. Paul McCartney
                    b. John Lennon
                    c. Brian May
                    d. Bob Dylan

      UPDATE: For the answers please click here.

      Erin x

      Diamond Jubilee Celebrations (Part 2)

      Wednesday, 6 June 2012
      Not even the Queen could keep away the bad weather that always seems to come with a bank holiday weekend. While we all had visions of barbecues in the back garden the always unpredictable English weather had other plans. As they said repeatedly on the BBC "the rain could not dampen our spirits". Therefore the planned barbecue we had for Sunday moved to an indoor party at Neil and Nicola's house.

      We all dressed in red,white, and blue - even Neil who is known for his Grinch-like tendencies when it comes to dressing up. We drank English cider, ale, and even toasted the Queen with a bottle of English sparkling wine from Kent, which was surprisingly good. While Nic finished preparing the food, all English fare, we watched the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

      Over 1,000 boats mustered on the River Thames to pay homage to Her Majesty, making it the largest boat procession the Thames has seen in over 300 years. This 1,000 boat flotilla even achieved a new Guinness World Record for the world's largest parade of boats. The procession was led by the Queen on the Royal Barge, which also included Prince Charles, Camilla, Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and of course Prince Philip.

      Source

      At first as I sat drinking a Crabbies' Ginger Beer at the kitchen table I wished I could be in London, despite all the rain, to witness the event. More specifically I wished I could be on the Royal Barge, my Grandmother has had me practising my curtsey since before I could walk properly. After about an hour of the procession though I began to realise just how many 1,000 boats were.

      True it was amazing to see, but I started to feel a bit sorry to the Queen having to stand there and wave for hours on end. There must be so many times in a royal's life when all want to do is just say 'sod it' to the world and stay in bed.

      The Union Jack table at Neil and Nicola's

      On Monday, I spent the day in Milton Keynes Centre shopping or as I like to call it honouring the Queen by boosting the economy. That evening there was A Concert at Buckingham Palace organised by the BBC. It was supposed to be attended the by Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and other members of the Royal Family. Unfortunately the DoE was sent to the hospital as a precaution for a bladder infection, probably caused from his hours spent the day before unable to move for hours, he is 90 after all!

      I wish I could say I loved the concert, but if you follow me on Twitter, you'll know this was not the case. I would describe the first half as an assault on my eardrums. It started with Robbie Williams screeching 'Let Me Entertain You'. Perhaps it is because I didn't grow up listening to Take That, but I just don't get Robbie's appeal. He appears to be an arrogant tit if I'm honest.

      I then suffered through will.i.am, Jessie J, JLS, and Gary Barlow with Cheryl Cole (who is now styling herself as Cheryl). To be fair to Mr. Barlow I actually don't mind him. As a member of Take That I didn't grow up listening to his music, but I look at him differently than Robbie Williams - he writes the music and doesn't come off cocky like ol' Robbie.

      It wasn't all bad, in fact there were some genuinely good performances, I shouldn't be so quick to tar the whole thing as bad. For example I loved Lang Lang, Elton John, Kylie Minogue, Madness, and Paul McCartney. I unfortunately missed the performances of the official 'jubilee single' and Tom Jones, both of which I wanted to see.

      In retrospect the Jubilee Concert wasn't all bad. I just felt bad for the Queen having to sit through some of which was on, although she didn't have to sit through the worst of it. I think that was the epitome of  'God Save the Queen'.


      The Concert ended with Prince Charles paying homage to his mother or "mummy" as he called her at one point and leading the crowd in three cheers for the Queen before she lit the National Beacon. A truly spectacular end!



      Erin x

      Diamond Jubilee Celebrations (Part 1)

      Monday, 4 June 2012
      HM Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her 60 year reign this June. This is only the second time a monarch has reached this landmark with Queen Victoria celebrating this achievement in 1897. Events have been taking place throughout the year reaching their peak this weekend with official events all over London and a street party in every corner of the United Kingdom (and globe).

      Celebrations kicked off for me on Friday at my company's Diamond Jubilee street party. We were given a dress down day (as long as we maintained the patriotic colours) to mark the occasion. Our usual boring canteen was bedecked in Union Jack bunting, a table full of traditional British fare, and a CD on loop of British fan fare (i.e. 'Rule Britannia').

      Our longest reigning employees.

      Our longest "reigning" employee was named 'queen of the day' meaning she had to wear a Queen Elizabeth II paper mask, while our Managing Director acted as the Duke of Edinburgh. There was a raffle draw but the closest I got to winning by misreading one of my numbers and taking a tin of shortbread, which I had to quickly pass on to the rightful owner. There was also a quiz on the Queen, which I scored 8 out of 12 on, the highest score achieved not using Google might I add! One of my better, if not best, days at work.

      On Saturday, Luke and I drove up to Southam to celebrate with his family. First we attended Southam's street party (see I told you there were a lot of street parties planned). It appeared the whole town, and several others, had turned up for Southam's street party, or perhaps the population was larger than I imagined. I spent my time dodging prams and trying to find a token seller as I was instructed that was the only way I could ride the mechanical bull or play any games.

      Stilt walker at the Southam street party

      Unfortunately, we never did find the elusive token sellers and so I had to appease myself with 2 books from the charity shop and having a piggy back from Luke all the way from town centre to his mum's house. After Luke had a breather we went to Pam and Mick's house for Jubilee barbecue. With our little cousins, Sam and Isaac, around we would need all the energy we could muster as the first words Isaac uttered were "you hide, I'll seek".

      St. James' Church on a walk back from town centre

      After an hour of playing hide and seek, we moved the party inside where Isaac used the Union Jack table cloths to wrap me up as giant British present. We would later use these same table cloths to create a "boys and Erin den" as Sam put it which the boys (and nearly us) fell asleep in as the night came to a close.

      The Jubilee festivities didn't end on Saturday, we've had two more days full and one more day to go, so stay tuned and God save the Queen!

      Erin x

      "Beer Can" in an English Accent

      Tuesday, 15 May 2012
      They say that if you say "beer can" in an English accent, that it will sound like you're saying "bacon" in a Jamaican accent. Not possessing an English accent myself, I enlisted Luke to help with this experiment and he was willing to be filmed saying this so that you could be the judge. Enjoy!


      Q: So what do you think? Does "beer can" sound like "bacon"?

      Erin x

      An evening of Clairvoyance & Mediumship

      Tuesday, 1 May 2012
      Luke and I did something totally random last Wednesday after work, we went to a psychic reading! It all started a few months back when Jodie told Nadia and I that her dad was getting married to a woman, Sam, who worked as a psychic. When Jodie then mentioned that her dad and girlfriend would be travelling down to her local pub in Olney, The Swan, to give a public reading we were eager to go. I'd never been to a psychic reading before and it sounded like it could be loads of fun. One thing lead to another and soon Luke and I were joining Jodie, Dean, Nadia and James at The Swan.

      The place was packed, so packed in fact we had trouble locating each other until it was nearly time to enter the room. We all grabbed a drink and sat nervously around a table in the back, which we regretted almost immediately as we hadn't noticed it was perched next to a set of rather spooky-looking stairs. There were about 25 of us in the tiny room the pub had allocated to the reading, so it felt quite intimate. More intimate than I was expecting. We all felt a bit jittery when Sam closed the door and we realised it was all about to begin. I had no idea what to expect, I don't think anyone did really and the beginning was filled with uncomfortable giggles and furtive glances around the room.


      It started off with Sam explaining what it was exactly she did, and that she would be going to speak to people as and when the spirits spoke to her (cue more nervous laughter). The first person she read was a middle-aged woman on the other side of the room from us. I don't remember exactly what she said to her but the woman got very emotional so it must have struck a cord. On the whole, some of the things she said could be seen as generic advice rather than psychic readings, while other things left me wondering how she possibly could have known. We thought, or at least hoped, we had escaped any readings until at the very end she looked at Nadia and told her she needed to stop worrying so much. 

      After the public reading ended, Sam sat down with us for a while and talked more to Nadia (apparently she will be having 2 boys and 1 girl but not for another two years). It was interesting to talk about things you wouldn't normally speak routinely about like ghosts and spirits. Made even more amusing by the incredibly drunk local inserting words of wisdom such as "you are good" (directed at Sam) and asking James if Luke was his little brother. As we said good bye Sam had a few last words for Luke, "you will get where you want to be in life but you must stop being afraid to step on peoples' toes".

      So whether you believe in psychic readings or are a born sceptic I encourage you to do something random with your nights whenever possible, you never know what sort of fun you could have!

      Erin x

      Rainy Day in Cambridge

      Tuesday, 24 April 2012
      My mom left early Saturday afternoon, family visits are always too short for my liking but that's life for an expat. She finally received her baggage, at the airport about an hour before she left. To make a long story short, we spent days being passed between different people some said the baggage was at JFK, others said Heathrow and no one could make up their minds which was correct. The day before she left it was finally confirmed to be in Heathrow and had been since Monday morning but at that point she'd bought new clothes and there really was no point of getting it delivered to the house (which they maintained we would have to pay for!) I did finally receive my stow away Hidden Valley Ranch dressing which of course was the main cause of distress with her lost baggage.

      Fortunately our schedules allowed for Luke and I to both take a day off work the Wednesday she was here. We were hoping for a sunny Spring day but what we got was the embodiment of 'April showers'. There are so many places close by that we could go, the hardest part was deciding which one to choose (that and getting mom out of bed). In the end we decided to go to Cambridge, a place that all three of us had never been, a small city about an hour away from us, famous for it's medieval streets and of course the University.

      By the time we set off it was gone 11:00. The scenery was pretty on the drive, apart from a view industrial parts around Bedford. That's England for you though - driving through countryside one minute, a city the next, and then before you know it you're back in the countryside. Once we reached the outskirts of the city we took the Park & Ride option to get into the centre of town. This allowed us to park up and pay £2.50 each to be dropped off by a double decker bus directly in the centre. The only sane option really given the narrow streets designed long before cars.

      Cambridge University

      To escape the drizzle we nipped into a pub called the Baron of Beef (English pub names still tickle me) for a spot of lunch. I choose the safe option of a Jacket Potato filled with coleslaw and cheese, Luke had a massive burger and my mom the roast beef wrapped in a massive Yorkshire pudding. I accompanied my mom to the bar to order, during the exchange I felt compelled to tell the barman I lived in England, after he questioned where we were from. Could he not tell I lived here by my choice of ale and helping my mom order a cider? I'll let it pass as I guess my accent was probably a big clue, although I'm told it's softened now  by my mom and others. I can't tell as to me I still sound like I always have, although I do pronounce tomato 'to-mah-to' instead of 'toe-may-to'.

      After lunch, it had stopped raining and we walked around the city taking in the scenery and history. We stopped at the University book store and spent ages pouring through all the different texts. I love book stores, especially ones I've never been in before and I always find one hundred-and-one things I want to read before realising I have about fifty-two waiting back home. Being a good girl, I left the store emptied handed, although this was probably more to being overwhelmed by how many books I wanted rather than being good.

      Although it was cold and rainy, Cambridge was a lovely day out and a place I'd love to visit again. Albeit on a warm Summer's day so we can go punting in the river or visit the Botanic Garden. But when it comes time for the Oxford v. Cambridge boat race I will still be cheering on Oxford, it is after all the birth place of Alice in Wonderland.

      Erin x

      The Eagle has FINALLY Landed!

      Monday, 16 April 2012
      Remember: The Easter holidays in England are the week after Easter, not the week before like in America.

      This was the crucial mistake we made when my mom scheduled her trip to come and visit. She set off at 7:00am from Las Vegas and arrived in London nearly 48 hours later because of it. The flights this weekend had been oversold, which isn't an uncommon practice made by the airlines but was to our detriment. JFK was packed with holidaying Brits trying to return home in time to get their kids to school this morning. As my mother stated, "The English usually seem so cordial but not when their flights cancelled."

      ingimage
      I would say that's mainly true, the English are usually coridal and are not ones to complain. Whenever I've seen food come to the table that is incorrect, instead of sending it back like most Americans would, the English eat it anyway and blame themselves for the mistake instead of the kitchen. But in my time in England there are two things I've learned, that should never be messed with;
      1. An English person's schedule/routine
      2. An English person's holiday
      The airlines did both, and the poor ticket agents really didn't have a chance of not receiving the wrath of an English person with the end-of-holiday blues. Yes, when beginning the journey home the English will usually complain and phrases like "it went too quickly", "I could stay here forever",  and "back to rainy England" are uttered. But secretly they all can't wait to return to proper cups of tea and English telly. My mother was just unfortunately caught in the crossfire. So instead of spending her evening sipping champagne in first class, she spent it in an airport hotel eating dry cereal she stole out of the continental breakfast cupboard.

      Her trip did improve, but not by much, she did get on a flight out of New York but instead of first, she was sat in the very back of the plane in a seat that reclined only a centimetre back. But she has arrived to us safe and sound, unfortunately her baggage decided to remain behind in the Big Apple. Rest assured her holiday has improved since arriving at Heathrow, although we did make her walk through a hail storm to see some lambs. In our defense, it wasn't hailing when we started out and the lambs were adorable.

      Erin x

      My Easter Bank Holiday Weekend

      Saturday, 14 April 2012
      As far as holidays go, Easter has never been one of my favourites, in fact it probably isn't even in my top 5. It's situated towards the bottom of the list right before Martin Luther King Day. Sure when I was little I enjoyed painting hard boiled eggs and searching for my Easter basket which I think I always knew was hidden by my mother and not some giant pastel bunny. But I've never enjoyed the decorations (excessive pastel always worries me) nor the food which for my family often included ham which I distest the most out of all meats. Easter also always conjurs up memories of playing Clue Jr. when my Grandma was watching me and her allowing me to eat an entire white chocolate bunny, which in turn made me violently sick. A bittersweet memory really as I fondly remember the Clue Jr. part of my evening but to this can't eat white chocolate.

      Living in England I'm learning to enjoy Easter a bit more, as now instead of chocolate bunnies I get chocolate eggs (which for some reason I feel more comfortable with eating) and a four day weekend! Most bank holidays are just a chance to relax and hopefully, if the English weather system is cooperating, enjoy the sun. However, Luke and I experienced a rather productive bank holiday weekend, with some fun mixed in of course.

      We spent our Friday cleaning up the house, partly for my mom's visit and partly because Neil and Nicola were coming over for dinner, and doing last minute grocery shopping. We had planned to serve them coq au vin, but that plan backfired when we discovered Nicola didn't eat meat on Good Friday only fish, a family tradition passed down from her grandmother. After trying to insist to her that chicken was a white meat, and therefore didn't count as the rule only pertained to red meat we were left to find a suitable alternative. To my surprise it was Luke who found the answer to our problems with a receipe he found on the BBC for monkfish chowder. The little star even cooked it all by himself with me acting as sous-chef, and upon tasting it I can tell you I was very proud of him. It was delicious! That evening we had a load of laughs, which greatly increased the more bottles of wine we drank. After dinner we played Trivia Pursuit, Nicola & Luke v. Neil & I and of course Neil and I were the victors. We didn't just win, we destroyed them! After which we watched 10 minutes of GoldenEye that mainly consisted of impersonating Tina Turner doing the theme song before Neil and Nic decided it might be time to call for the taxi.

      On Saturday we really got down to business, mainly with tackling our spare room which we had, until Saturday, been using as a dumping ground for everything we weren't sure where to put or hadn't had a chance to put away properly; tolietries, clothes, you name it and it was probably in there. But after a full day of cleaning and organising I can happily report that we indeed now actually have not a spare room but a guest room! As it was still light out, we celebrated by going for a walk in the fields behind our house to see the little lambs, which are getting so big now! Perhaps they are starting to recognise our smell or perhaps as they get older they get braver but we're able to get much closer to them now. We were able to sit a mere two feet away from a group of as they were playing and feeding. I love lambs, they are just so cute and cuddly and their little bahs just make my heart melt.

      Sunday was of course Easter Sunday, and we had arranged to go to Southam as Luke had been invited to play in a memorial match in honour of someone he used to know down the rugby club. As he didn't have a game on in Milton Keynes, and because after all it was his old club, he decided to go down and play for the laugh. I went down to watch from the sidelines with Lindsay and Ian. It was actually, I'm ashamed to say, the first time I've been able to watch him play. When he was playing heavily in Manchester I was in America, he only played a few games in Worcester so I didn't get a chance, and since we've moved to Milton Keynes the games have either conflicted with my plans, away, or I've been dumb enough to get lost en route and turned up too late. I throughly enjoyed watching my man play, and of course I most boast that he was certainly one of the best plays out there.

      Luke and Pete

      After the game we went to Pam and Mick's house (Ian's parents) to give our little 'nephews', Sam and Isaac, their Easter eggs. As I said people don't give bunnies, they give eggs, and the boys we eager to show us their collection. Another difference, instead of hiding painted eggs for the kids to search for, in England they hide chocolate eggs. So I suppose it shouldn't come as a shock to me that when Sam showed me their collection they had some 20 chocolate eggs. Now these aren't just small egg sized bits of chocolate, each one was about the size of my hand. Even three-year-old Sam knew he had an excessive amount of chocolate, which I'm guessing is why he kept trying to give me his chocolate and not eating any himself. At some point Ian got the brilliant idea to help the boys tie Luke up with gaffa (duct) tape. I'm not sure how exactly it started but next thing I know I have a husband lying on the floor with a three and six year old sitting on his back as Isaac giggled wildly. Sam was a little more reluctant to play, and instead kept putting chocolate in Luke's mouth, which was a nice gesture but not very helpful at the time. The day ended playing Uno with Isaac, who after learning it in Florence with us has gotten really good, while Sam fell asleep in my lap.

      Luke and his captors

      The next day we awoke to not a bright and sunny morning like we had hoped for, but instead to a rainly and cold one. Not at all what we had hoped for considering we were going to Warwick Racecourse to see some horse racing. Not really my cup of tea as the last time I went was the freezing New Years' Eve 2010. It seems to be a bit of an English tradition though, bank holiday means horse racing. I love horses, I just don't get enjoyment of watching them run around in a circle and contrary to popular belief just because I'm from Las Vegas doesn't mean I enjoy betting. I tried to make sense of the odds, but I might as well have been trying to read ancient Egyptian. While the people around me made bets, Luke and I were people watching. And let me tell you there were some sights to be seen! Girls wearing so much fake tan they looked like oompa loompas walking around in six inch heels and dresses so short had they bent over little would have been left to the imagination. Guys wearing suits three sizes too big for them were even more offensive. I kept finding myself thinking 'has one never heard of a tailor?' In an effort to be more politically correct, let's just say that the day was a cultural experience.

      Luke, Lindsay, and I ended up leaving early as it was far too cold and too wet to carry on, and to be honest both Luke and I had had enough of the races by then. After a cup of tea with Lindsay we headed home, and surprisingly were not met with any holiday traffic.The weekend ended curled up in bed with a cup of tea watching Tangled.

      My mom was supposed to arrive this morning, but unfortunately the flight she was supposed to take from New York was oversold, as well as the following two flights. Which means she's currently stuck in a dingy airport hotel outside JFK instead of here with us. Fingers crossed she'll be here tomorrow morning.

      Erin x
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