My 28 Things in London: Part 4 post will be delayed today due to a rather special Canadian being in town...

Your regularly scheduled blogging will resume sometime after he leaves on Tuesday.
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You know those nights when you think everything is going to be ordinary and then suddenly it becomes extraordinary but nothing was planned, it was just a little bit of kismet and chemistry that turned the night into one of those unforgettable nights....that happened on Thursday.

My gorgeous friend and favorite artist K and our other fabulous artist friend A had some low key plans on Thursday to have drinks with A's friend and then to go see a different friend's art show.  K invited me at the last minute to tag along and so I figured, why not?

The three of us met at A's house and then headed downtown to meet A's friend at a little wine bar, Mulberry. Little did I know that A's friend would be Mr. Big...
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And no, A's friend wasn't Chris Noth, but he was definitely Mr. Big: enigmatic, wealthy and quite sexy. After we finished a few glasses of champagne at Mulberry, Mr. Big wanted to show us his new place -- on the top floor of some gorgeous condos.  (And by top floor, I mean 43rd...) Here's a photo of the view I snapped with my phone while standing on the balcony at sunset...
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This photo doesn't even do it justice...
The condo was pretty spectacular although at some point during the evening I realized that Mr. Big's actual home was somewhere else in Austin...this was just a place meant for 'extra curricular activities'.  After we watched the sun set over the river, Mr. Big turned on some music, poured some us some more champagne, and called one of his friends, Mr. S to come join us...

...To Be Continued


 
Your Foodie Friday post...

My latest food obsession, is locally-sourced farm products delivered to my door.  If you've never been to/heard of Austin, you should know it's somewhat of an organic/hippie sort of place and we all embrace things like eco this or local that.  I try not to go overboard with it but I love the idea of supporting a local economy and I certainly appreciate organic farming -- I'm not really into pesticides.  (Stay tuned for a blog post on TEDxAustin.  Boy do I have a video for you if you're the least bit interested in learning about GMO foods...wow.)

In one of my many expat food searches, I came across this UK company, Riverford, who delivers organic, locally sourced (from farms around the UK) fruit and vegetables right to your door.  I was totally intrigued and wanted to try it here in Austin first just to see how I felt about the whole 'produce' delivery mechanism.  Would I like it?  Would I use up what they gave me?

Fortunately, Austin being the 'granola' city that it is, has a similar company with a similar premise, Greenling.  A few weeks ago I decided to take the plunge and order their local box -- this only includes vegetables/fruit from local farmers and each week it's a surprise as to what you might get.  This means you get things grown: in season (which means it wasn't shipped from outside the U.S. having environmental impacts), locally (which means you're supporting local farms and the local economy), non GMO (see above for link), and organically.  It's almost as if you can hear the angels singing....

Well let me tell you, I LOVE GREENLING.  Seriously.  I love it.
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What a Greenling Box might look like (Links to Greenling.com)
There aren't enough people in my house to order it every week (because there is SO much good food), but, I've been ordering every few weeks and even then, having to hustle to use up all of the food.  One of the things I've really loved about Greenling is, it's made me a better, more inventive cook.  I'm using vegetables that I like, but don't really buy all the time -- like beets or fennel -- because they are in my box and I don't want to waste them! So, I've would up creating/adapting several recipes with my Greenling boxes which you can find at the bottom of this post (the recipes were completely inspired by my Greenling local box and also inspired by a few different recipes I found on allrecipes.com).

All of this to say,  I'm so sad in June to leave behind Greenling, but I'm really excited to try Riverford when I'm in London to see how it compares -- and of course, I'll blog about it!!!
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Links to an article about Greenling
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Links to an article about Riverford
 
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I've struggled with insomnia for years...mine is not debilitating by any means, and I can assure you that I get more sleep than new moms.  But it's just something that's been a part of me and my life for as far back as I can remember.  Sometimes I'm actually grateful for it because I have inspirations in the dark and quiet hours of the night that don't seem to arrive during the bustle of the daylight.

Most of my insomnia is due to over-thinking things -- my brain seems to get stuck in a dream loop trying to process some sort of stress, and it doesn't know how to move forward so it just sends a signal to wake me up. This is usually during exams, new jobs or moving to London...

There are other times, like last night, that it's due to hormones.  I can almost always differentiate between the insomnia episodes because they just feel different to me. I was up from 3:30 to 6:30 this morning reading the news and reading through a new blog from the beginning (it's a U.S. expat to Cornwall...and I love Cornwall!) and feeling a little annoyed with my uterus.  Not so annoyed I want it to go away, just annoyed at its inability to do what it needs to do without waking me up. 

And sometimes it's allergies (a sneezing fit which often wakes up the Canadian -- this really makes him happy) and other times it's a 'tummy-ache'.  It was this stomach-ache that awakened me to a domestic disaster of epic proportions.

It was Halloween weekend of 2010 (just a few short months ago...) and the Canadian, the Rotten One and I were living in our tiny condo in New Orleans.  My smart friend J had come for a visit and after we picked her up from the airport we needed to swing by the pet food store to get the Rotten One some food.  We usually get her some bones as well but they didn't have the usual brand, so we grabbed a different brand...

The next day the Canadian had to leave town but decided to give the Rotten One the bone before he left (which she promptly polished off) and smart friend J and I went out to a fancy dinner.  That night I put the Rotten One in her crate because she kept trying to wake smart friend J up in the middle of the night, the night before.  Smart friend J and I went to sleep.

About 2 in the morning I woke up with a horrible stomach-ache because I had thought it would be a good idea to eat a lot of rich food and then go to sleep.  I was being very quiet (because our condo in New Orleans was quite tiny) to try and not wake up smart friend J.  I also didn't want to turn on any lights....I just wanted to quietly see if I could make a cup of peppermint tea, drink it, and go back to bed.

I stealthily walked into the kitchen to make the tea and smelled something funny...

At this point I couldn't identify it...it smelled weird and kind of like infected bleach (if that is a smell)...and so I just kept on making my tea in the dark because I felt awful and exhausted and just wanted to get back to bed.  I finally walked into the living room to sit on the couch and drink my tea and at this point, from the light on the street, caught a glimpse of the cause of the smell...and it was *very* VERY VERY bad.

The Rotten One had...*ahem* relieved herself of the contents of her entire body from -- shall we say -- both ends of the spectrum.  I slowly sank onto the couch.  At this point, I couldn't ignore it, but my friend was in the bedroom and I didn't know how to clean it without waking her, aside from the fact that my OWN stomach was in major turmoil.

So, in the true spirit of someone about to move to England -- I drank my tea first. And then I proceeded to clean. 

The bottom of the Rotten One's crate was removable and it had quite a bit of...let's say 'opportunities for cleaning'...and normally most people would take it outside and hose it down...but I was in a condo, so I had to squeeze it into the tiniest of bathrooms and clean it in the tub...which necessitated my also, cleaning the bathtub after the fact.

While I was cleaning the crate bottom in the bathroom, the Rotten One apparently wasn't quite finished...and left me a present on the very nice rug in the living room (two steps away, of course would have been the much easier to clean hardwoods...).

So, at 2 am, with an upset stomach I was fortunate enough to:

    1) Clean the crate
    2) Clean the walls, floor and furniture around the crate
    3) Clean the bathroom and scrub the bathtub
    4) Scrub the rug
    5) Take the Rotten One down to the 3rd floor so she could go finish off what was left (which, surprisingly there was     still more...)
    6) Take a shower (because I was covered in it all)
    7) Finally get to bed at around 5:30 am

And so, sometimes, when I have insomnia, like last night, I think...at least I'm not cleaning up the Rotten One's stomach disasters.

As an aside, I was texting the Canadian (remember he gave her the bone and left town?) "I hate you so much right now"
 
I told you way back in January that I wanted to make a list of 28 things in London that I wanted to do/see/fall in love with while I was there -- and I said I'd do it every Monday...except that today is Tuesday, because yesterday was not so hot (as you can see here...) and I was just too tired to take on this particular post.

So, in the spirit of 'keeping calm and carrying on' we are just going to do this post on Tuesday instead!

15) I want to go to an English wedding...and wear a fabulous hat!!!  I just feel like I need to do this at least a few times (three or four?) because I want to go *shopping* for the perfect hat on several different occasions.  I think I need a hat collection!  I'm pretty excited about this -- so, I'm putting it out there now:  If you are English, and getting married, I would like an invitation.  The fancier, the better.  I will be respectful and polite and make conversation with guests but please, oh please, let me come and celebrate with you so I can wear a hat!!
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I love this hat on Princess Beatrice!! (click for source)
16) Visit Highclere Castle.  Ok, forgive me here...I broke the rules.  I know I said I would only post about things in London...but if you love, adore and are thoroughly addicted to Downton Abbey (as I am...) you'll forgive this teensy indiscretion.  I want to go so badly...maybe Sara Louise and Aidan Larson and I can plan a trip?  They can come to London, spend the night and then we'll head out to the country! Girls weekend to visit Downton Abbey...er, Highclere.
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Downton Abbey...er Highclere Castle (click for source)
17) Afternoon Tea.  I want to do this several times over, because I love the ritual of finger sandwiches and scones (ok really, who doesn't???).  And clotted cream...so much clotted cream!!  The Langham on Oxford Street received the Tea Guild's 2010 award for best afternoon tea, so that's probably a good place to begin!
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Tea at the Langham (click for source)
18) Visit the London Zoo.  There are some pretty ok zoos in Texas, but the best one I've ever been to thus far was the San Diego Zoo in California.  I want to see how the London Zoo compares...I bet it's great.  And who doesn't love spending the day with adorable animals?! 
19) Ethnic food.  I've heard a lot about the availability of fabulous Indian food in London (and yes, I will be gorging myself...never fear...) but there are other places/ethnicities I want to try in this cosmopolitan city -- like the Afghan Kitchen and Blue Elephant (Thai).  I've never had Afghan food, so, you know I think I'd like to haul out the ol' taste buds and give it a whirl!  I am certain that I'll be able to find a pretty diverse selection of ethnic foods...hopefully more along the lines of New York and Toronto which are both well known for their extraordinary variety of tasty diversity.
20) Absolut Ice Bar.  I've always wanted to see an ice hotel, restaurant or bar -- turns out, London has one, and that is so cool! (Surely you got my pun?  I know...it was pretty awful.)
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The ice bar...a great place to chill out (Somebody stop me!) (click for source)
21) Join a club.  This sounds a little weird, but it's sort of an English (maybe British as well? I'm not as well versed on the topic) tradition to be a member of a club. There are a lot of varieties appealing to different needs/desires in a club.  Most of it is networking or social, but some are quite business oriented or politically inclined. I'm thoroughly intrigued by this since in the States, it's just not really done, or certainly not done well.  Here's one that has a particularly exclusive reputation: The Ivy.  If you have a suggestion of a club (and know someone who will invite me, since that is apparently how it's done...let me know)
 
I've been kind of insane lately...but finally landing back in blogland.  I have a few updates, and some surprises in store!

Updates:
1) The Canadian is across the pond and ensconced in London and is already recognized at his 'local'.  I kind of think that's rather charming.  He is learning his way around but has been treated to some pretty rotten, dreary, weather.  I really try not to rub it in when the weather in Texas has been this:
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From Weather.com
2) I sent off my certified letter to Cunard a couple of weeks ago...we'll see if it nets me any results for the Rotten One to get her on the boat with us.

3) We're discovering (which we already knew in advance) what a pain it is to open a bank account.  The other absolutely ENORMOUS headache that we will face during the entirety of our expat experience(s) is that all of our paychecks will be deposited in our US bank account in USD.  Which means, every two weeks, we will need to transfer over enough money to live, pay our bills, travel etc. in the UK while leaving enough in the US bank to cover mortgage and other US expenses.  If any of you have any great tips on mitigating this minor (MAJOR) dilemma, I welcome all suggestions. 

4) The TEDxAustin event was incredible.  I'm still processing it but I want to tell you more so stay tuned...

5) I've been trying to reconcile my 'foodiness' with my 'expatblogness' and I think I've decided to do a weekly post called Foodie Fridays.  That way, if you love the food stuff you can tune in on Fridays and if you don't like my food blog posts and you just want the expat stuff, you can just ignore Fridays. Deal?  Thoughts?

6) I know I owe you a Monday blog post about 7 things I want to do in London...but it's kind of been one of *those* Mondays and I just haven't had a chance -- so it will be a Tuesday blog post instead.  If you doubt that it has been one of those Mondays, just check out below what happened this morning as I was headed out to the porch to drink my morning coffee...
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And now some surprises....
1) I have a guest blogger who will post this week!!  He's a little behind schedule, but as soon as I get the post via email, up on the site it will go.  Don't you want to know who it is?!?!  I cannot tell...

2) I have a FABULOUS giveaway coming up...I honestly don't have a date for it just yet -- it could be as late as April because I am working out the details, but, it's pretty dang awesome if I do say so myself. 
 
It's been a bit of a crazy week, and I haven't had a lot of time to post, but I promise, I have a surprise post for you just to make up for it!  It's in the works right now, so look for it either Sunday or Monday.

Today, however, I'll be gone all day at TEDx.  If you haven't heard of TED or TEDx -- the are talks given around the world by the best and brightest in any industry -- anywhere.  From Pulitzer Prize winning journalists to technology gurus.  It's worth a google if you get a chance.  I'm going to a local one (hence the little x after TED which means independently organized), but it promises to be spectacular.  I'll let you know!

I thought I would leave you with one specific TED talk today...it speaks to what I am studying.  If you've noticed, I try and steer clear of what I'm working on for my Ph.D. because honestly, research talk is rarely interesting to anyone but the researcher.  You can pretty much put an entire room to sleep talking about academics -- believe me, I know -- I've been one of those poor souls in an audience while some pompous professor bloviates about his latest find. 

That said, at its most general, what I study is global poverty solutions, also known as International Development.  Here's a fabulous TED talk about one aspect of IDEV, which is oppression of women.  If you have about 15 minutes today, have a listen...most of my readers are women and many of you have daughters.  We all need to at least be aware that in much of the world, daughters are considered irrelevant and useful only for producing sons. 

I hope, that in some way, what I do with my degree will change a tiny slice of the world...but the first step is knowing what to change.  That's why I love talks like these -- they make us aware of something that we might not have known about before. 

So, I am looking forward today to walking away from this (10 hour) conference knowing a little more than I knew yesterday!  If something fabulous emerges, you'll be the next to know.
 
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Today I'm going to be letting some things go...
My 35th birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks and rather than doing resolutions at the new year, I tend to look at birthdays as my 'new beginning' each year, and try to start that birthday year with some new intentions (hopefully, good.)  I'm going to see someone today who is going to work with me on letting go of a few things, one of which is the anger, confusion and frustration I have over the loss of my friendship.  There was certainly hurt on both sides, although I suspect each person feels like the other hurt them more. 

But of course, there's a boy involved -- and it feels like, at least to me, that she ultimately chose that relationship over this one.  That's not really the whole story by any means, that's just a general feeling that I've walked away from the friendship with.  I've tried reaching out a few times, and while she's been polite, I can certainly get the hint.  So, I need to let that friendship go if that is what is meant to happen.  I also need to let go of my feelings about it.  They are only damaging to me and no one else. 

And my anger towards the boy.  I'm going to let that go as well.  I'm tired of being held hostage by it and by allowing it to have power over me.  I intend to send love and light to them both on their journey and wish them well.  Maybe someday my friend and I will re-connect, but it sure feels unlikely at this point.

Although this similar scenario happened with my old college roommate -- a major falling out over a boy.  We re-connected a couple of years ago and both tripped over ourselves apologizing.  She kept saying "He was so awful and you were so right, I just couldn't see it" and I was saying "I should have been more understanding and compassionate and less worried about how it impacted me."

...which goes to show me that in regards to my current friendship, we are always, at least at this point in the story, more caught up in our side than we are able to see the other person's.  So maybe my friend and I will, someday, see the other side and be able to love each other again.  I will set that as one of my intentions for my 35th year -- that we will be able to see the other person's side and be compassionate to each others pain that we respectively caused.

I'm also, this year, going to let go of the last of the weight I need to lose.  Thankfully, it's not a ton since I've been on this journey for four years now (!!) but I'm ready to knock out the last 25 lbs.  I am grateful for the realization I had around my birthday in 2007 that I needed to make significant changes in my life.  I was so heavy and thankfully it was more as a result of being oblivious than to anything else.  I began making subtle changes in my life and allowing the weight to slowly drop off.  Now, time to kick it up a notch and be done with it!

I'm also ready to let go of my anxiety about this move.  I know I need to be gentle with myself here -- and understand that it's...well 'understandable' that I'm anxious about how this is going to all go down.  But let's be honest.  All of the major life decisions that I've stressed about the most, have turned out to be the most extraordinarily good decisions I've made.  So, I'm ready to accept that this is going to be a hard but amazing journey.

And finally, I'm ready to let go of *stuff*.  I'm actually not a particularly cluttered person.  Most people think I'm fairly minimalist.  I don't like knickknacks and don't have collections (well books), but I do have some things that I'm ready to get rid of and the things I'm on the fence about, I need to just get rid of them as well.  I've taken so many loads of things to charity, but I'm ready to get rid of more and be done with it!


 
In case you missed it last week, every Monday I'm blogging about some of the things I want to do in London while living there.  Here's part 1, from last Monday -- and since today is Valentine's Day, I thought I would make this post about some of the more romantic things I'd like to do.  (Maybe this will also give you some ideas if you're a giant procrastinator and haven't planned something for your Valentine...)
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(Click for source)
8) Kew Gardens. I love botanical gardens -- and nothing is more romantic than a stroll around nature at its most extraordinary.  Stolen kisses behind trees, hand holding on a gorgeous spring day, picnics on a blanket with a bottle of wine and maybe laying your head in your Valentine's lap...and then when you're finished you can walk in the treetops on the Rhizatron.  I'm hoping this summer the Canadian and I will be able to spend more than a few Saturdays out there.
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The Rhizatron. (Click for source)
9) Tango.  When the Canadian and I first started dating, I gave him (well, the both of us) Tango lessons for Christmas.  After a few weeks, we started to get the hang of the basics but because the classes were on a weeknight, it was difficult to continue with our schedules at the time..  As it happened we also went to Argentina (and Uruguay) on our honeymoon, and completely fell in love with the culture there. I would love to take up the Tango again while we're in London as I've seen some weekend classes being offered. And seriously folks, it is a dance that just drips with sexy.
10) Kayak or Canoe the River Thames.  How fun, right?  What a fabulous way to see different parts of the city.  I love peaceful mornings on the water with just the sound of the paddles and canoe. 

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11) Eat at the Michelin starred restaurants.  Living in Austin (a city of around a million) we have our fair share of fine dining establishments and certainly if you drive a couple of hours to Houston there are several more.  But London has quite a few Michelin starred restaurants that I'm just itching to try.  Nothing like an exquisite meal to set the romantic mood...  (Here's a link to the 2011 ones if you're interested.)

12) Dancing in some fountains.  Turns out, in the Thames Barrier Park there are fountains for dancing!!  On a hot summer day the Canadian and I can splash around in the fountains (he would prefer it if I were in a white t-shirt...)  I don't know about you, but I think fountains are terribly romantic!
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Fountains to play in!! (Click for Source)
13) Ice Skating. Fountains in the summer, ice rinks in the winter!  The Canadian loves to skate (he was on them at 3 years old...), and even though I was raised in Texas, I'm actually not bad (i.e. forward, backward, basic twirl...), thanks to the ice rink inside the Houston Galleria where I spent many a Saturday as a child.  Outdoor skating, however, is just not something that's really done in Texas (for obvious reasons) but is ubiquitous in Canada (my in-laws flooded their back yard every winter for an ice rink...).  I love the idea of being able to skate outside!  Plus in London, they flood the rinks in these fabulous locations like Somerset House and the Tower of London.  I'm looking forward to holding hands around the rink with my frosty Canadian.  (Apparently there are 10 different rinks to try!)
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Somerset House Rink (Click for Source)
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Hearts for Valentine's Day! So romantic! (Click for source)
14) Tantric massage. And here's where the blog goes from PG to R...sorry folks!! I've been kind of intrigued by the idea of Tantric massage, having heard about it from friends, but we don't really have a place in Austin that offers classes.  I found this place in London that will teach it to couples...so that the Canadian and I can learn give each other a tantric massage...épicé, non?
 
As every Texan lady can attest, shoes here in Texas have a common theme: nudity.

In Texas our shoes like to expose our various parts.

Sometimes they expose our toes...
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Peep toe. (Click for attribution)
And sometimes our heels...
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The mule. (Click for attribution)
Sometimes, our toes and heels...
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Peep-toe slingback. (Click for attribution)
And sometimes our feet are vented...
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Lattice front peep toe (Click for attribution)
But most of the time, our feet are wearing the equivalent of a girl in a thong bikini...
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Flip flop. (Click for attribution)
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Thong. See? Very similar. (Click for attribution)
The reason our feet tend toward extreme nudity is because it's generally quite hot here (recent weather notwithstanding) and our feet like the fresh air.  And surely, by now (loyal readers), you know that I am moving to London -- which means you have guessed (because you're exceptionally smart) that my footwear is completely inappropriate to wear in London. 

So, I'm thinking that this girl is going to need some new shoes!  Fortunately, while still in the U.S., I have access to DSW and ZapposMama needs some cute shoes to run around London!

Here are a few contenders -- let me know what you think!? (All photos are clickable to their sources)
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As an aside, on the topic of shoes, I have already made my most important shoe purchase. You see, because I did get the memo that it rains a lot in London, I figured I would need a pair of rain boots (or Wellies in the UK), since I don't actually own any.  So, I found the perfect pair for a girl born on Texas Independence Day, in Texas.  Let's face it, you can take the girl out of Texas but you can't prevent her from having some bona fide cowgirl wellies!
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{Click for attribution}

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