Posts filed under 'eating out'

Long Trip Home

I’m alive! I swear. Alive and back in Aberdeen.   I actually got back 2 weeks ago and to be honest- I don’t think that’s a bad lag time from spending a month in the US and having to fight jetlag and jump back into the swing of things. But my mother thinks the lack of blog love is unacceptable. I know it doesn’t help that I didn’t blog the entire time I was home, and though I really meant to get at least one more blog out before I left….it didn’t happen. But that’s okay. I wanted to post about all that went into planning to go home for a month, when you only go stateside once a year and have to get EVERYTHING done and see everyone. But I’ll just post about the planning and the outcome.

Home, sweet home, Chicago

Home, sweet home, Chicago

 

Make no mistake; it’s a lot of planning. Going away to any place for 4 weeks is a lot of planning. It starts with figuring out the dates- I have a more flexible schedule obviously, E doesn’t- mostly because he has a finite amount of days off. This year he had to use all his days off so we scheduled around that. For our Christmas trip next year, E’s dates are already predetermined because it ends up being whatever days he can spare after our travel this year. Yes, we actually plan out and designate every one of E’s vacation days for 2016 before it even is 2016. Must maximize what you got with fore planning.

 

Once the dates are set all the other scheduling has to be laid out. The following doctors appointments must be lined up for both of us (these are really important to get done stateside): dentist, optometrist, and dermatologist. Then I’ll schedule in a gyno and shrink appointment. Next, I had to book a day to visit my clients, a couple days where I could get on a horse (first, finding WHERE I can even get on a horse), and my global entry interview.   One thing I booked far before flights was afternoon tea in Chicago with my mom and sister in law – a yearly tradition of shopping and indulgence. E reserves a day to come together as the Trifecta with his brother and drink heavily (and smoke brisket as it turns out this year). I book a day to go to Fort Wayne (2.5 hour drive) to see my best friend with her cousin/my friend, E plans a weekend to go down to Indy to see his brother an additional day and his best friends from college for a day – which I would drive down separately and join him in. Then there’s scheduling a couple evenings out in Chicago to see friends, New Year’s Eve, and seeing some local friends in our hometown. We even tried to schedule a Blackhawks game but I’m actually thankful that didn’t work out. AND AFTER ALL THAT, it’s bouncing from house to house every day to see and spend time with our families every other second.

That's one happy Santa.

That’s one happy Santa.

I don’t mean for our families to sound like an afterthought- they aren’t. But since they live there and we’re living with them, and we know their schedules, all the other planning is done first and they fill in the blanks. ALL the blanks. Like I know my mom watches Max, my nephew, on Mondays- so I didn’t schedule anything any Monday if I could avoid it. Basically this is what we were looking on pretty well set in stone before we stepped foot on our flight home.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
9 10 11 12 13
Arrive 5 pm

Dinner w. mother & in-laws

Wake up to flooded house- damage control.

Nails Done

Shop at Tony’s Saddle Shop

Morning train to Chicago w. Mom & SIL for shopping & tea

Meet Megan for dinner/drinks

Joined by others for after dinner drinks.

Spend night in Chicago.

Go to brunch with Tricia and drinks post brunch.

Nearly miss train home.

14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Babysit Max all day

10am eye doctor

Road trip to Ft. Wayne w. Lynda to see Heather – gone all day Train to Chicago

Go to Shoe Hospital to drop off fav. Boots for repair

Get/eat Doughnut Vault

Dentist Appointment

Apple store appt for new mac issues

Give homeless man extra doughnuts

Eat Roti

Shrink Appointment

Drinks & then tacos with Tricia

Nearly miss train home

Leave house 7 am

Drive to Northbrook, IL for Carol’s Cookie meeting

Drive to Mundelein IL for marijuana dispensary meeting

Drive to O’hare & have Global Entry Interview

Pick up E arriving at O’hare

Get Giordano’s Pizza

Drive home & have dinner w. E’s family

E goes down to Indy.

Horse Riding Lesson.

Meet hometown friend for drinks

Drive down to Indy to meet E at our friend’s house.

After their babies go to bed play beer pong as if still in college.

Drive home (3 hours).  

Pick up my brother from the airport bus.

Family dinner

21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Drive to Chicago 8 am

9:15- Gyno

10- Dermatologist

11-1: online shopping returns

1: E Dentist

2: Eat $100 worth of sushi

4: E eye appointment

5: Put name in at Au Chevel, go for drinks

6:30: Eat Au chevel

8: meet friends in Wicker Park for drinks

10: E’s little bro arrives in from TX

11: all drive home

Horse Riding Lesson

Nails done with MIL

Trifecta Day

Christmas Eve shopping (whoops)

Big Christmas Eve dinner at my family’s house

Wrap all the presents (whoops)

Presents at my family

Brunch at my family

Brunch at E family

Presents at E family

Dinner at E grandma

Lunch with Heather & Linz

See hometown friends

Celebrate East coast bro’s birthday and play games at my family’s

Brunch with all in-laws & my mom
28 29 30 31 1 2 3
Drive to Chicago w. Stella

See Dave & condo building friends

Pick up prescriptions

Pick up boots

Drive home

 

Lunch with hometown friend Stella Vet appt.

Train to Chicago

NYE celebrations w. Megan & co.

Stay night in Chicago

Brunch w. Megan & co.

Brunch #2 & drinks w. friends

Train home

Ribs w. E’s family

Undecorated Christmas Tree

Go to brothers and hang with dogs, nephew, and neighbors.
Ribs, Max, & sports at brothers

Dinner with E’s family before little bros flight home

Pack

See home-town friends

4 5 6
Pack

Say goodbyes

Start the journey home

8 am: Land in Edinburgh

Rent car and drive to ABZ

Nap

Return Car

Sleep until 3 pm.   Whoops

Remember- that doesn’t include eating dinner with one family or another every night (other than specific gatherings or nights out) or just hanging out playing with dogs or watching a movie with family at one of their homes. It’s pretty damn chaotic. Which might explain why I a) didn’t work out one single time, b) didn’t blog, and c) took so long to recover.

Christmas Eve dinner - not the best photo skills but captured the moment!

Christmas Eve dinner – not the best photo skills but captured the moment!

Stramash- Scotland's only board game: a new family tradition

Stramash- Scotland’s only board game: a new family tradition

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Lessons learned for next year:

 

1) I can’t eat all the things I love and miss in a month. I didn’t even get a DQ blizzard…for shame! Though making time for Au Chevel, sushi, and good steak are ALWAYS worth it. I did gain about 8 lbs while home, and I don’t regret that, but I need to manage my foodie expectations. But I did accomplish a lot….

Unique twist on the classic high tea- thanks for the Rose mum!

Unique twist on the classic high tea- thanks for the Rose mum!

Au Chevel - get in my belly

Au Chevel – get in my belly

Stramash- Scotland's only board game: a new family tradition

Stramash- Scotland’s only board game: a new family tradition

Sienna Tavern

Sienna Tavern

 

2) I need to make sure the dentist understand what needs to be done, and schedules 2 appointments with enough time to get a crown in. I’m currently sitting with 2 teeth that need crowns. Fingers crossed they hold on for a year.

 

3) Bring home fewer clothes! I really felt I did better this year…but really, LESS CLOTHES HOME. I just need 7 outfits and wear them on repeat. What’s worse is the things I wore the most were the things I got new while at home. Definitely could have trimmed off 7 tops. Also- since I didn’t work out AT ALL, all those workout clothes were a huge waste. That being said, last year I ran everyday. Though Christmas break 2016 I’m pretty sure I won’t be as it will be a month or two out for the NYC marathon. So definitely: MINIMAL WORKOUT CLOTHES.

 

4) While it’s great to see as many people as we did, next year I think will be different. Prioritize more on the really good friendships, less on the acquaintances that I do love the opportunity to see, but the time should be spent on those most important to me.

 

5) There is never going to be enough time. Doesn’t matter if I come home 6 weeks next year, it will be just as busy. And in some ways that really sucks (the fact that I’m exhausted the entire trip home) but at least I don’t leave feeling guilty for not making good use of my month home when I abandon the states for another 11 months.

 

The good is I feel I saw a lot of people and gave them a decent amount of time. We also did really well with bringing 2 extra duffle bags (which yes charged us $100 extra each bag but was way better than being over weight) and overall packing to go home. And I have to say, my obsessive pre-planning and scheduling, even though it left me exhausted, paid off in maximizing our time home. Now, my work continues to get back to life in the UK and get on a good sched

 

 

 

Must Try Turkish Delights

I’ll clarify that this is not about literal Turkish delights. They have those in Turkey of course. And they were…okay. But not my favorite, and they don’t really deserve mention in this post. This is just about delightful Turkish Food. Oh my god Turkish Food!

It’s so good. With SOOOO much oil. We discovered a lot of these on the food tour, but other ones on our own…and pretty much all of these came from Istanbul {both the European and Asian side} and Cappadocia {mmmmm Testi} though they can probably be found across Turkey.

Meze – this is basically Turkish appetizers. Generally come on a platter with a wide variety of things not limited to {in layman’s terms} hummus, eggplant salad, yogurt & herb dip, stuffed grape leaves, carrot slaw, “raw” meatballs {tomato paste & bulgur} and deep fried little anchovie-like fish…maybe it’s mackeral?IMG_2516 IMG_2195

Pied – like pizza, without tomato sauce. A favorite of E’s obviously.

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Meze with stuffed mussel

Mussels aka Midye Dolmasi – I forgot to grab a picture of this but found one online. These are stuffed mussels with rice, currants, pine nuts, and cinnamon and nutmeg. SO GOOD.Midye-stall

Meze with a stuffed mussel on the side.

Meze with a stuffed mussel on the side.

Lahmucan – This is like a Turkish flatbread with crumbled meat on top. Lighter than {and I think preferable to} pied.

Ayran – a foaming, cold, frothy, salty, yogurt drink. I found it especially tasty…E not so much.

Mmmm, frothy yogurt on a hot day.

Mmmm, frothy yogurt on a hot day.

Tatuni – A spicy, tasty, greasy little beef wrap.

Tatuni and Ayran

Tatuni and Ayran

 

Menemen – Breakfast of the gods. Eggs not quite cooked, lots of butter or oil, diced peppers and tomatos.IMG_2607

Kokorec – I had it served from kebab {or doner} form. It is sheep intestines, stuffed with sweet breads and other too gross to talk about bits. Shaved off the kebab and put on some bread and heavily seasoned with pepper and oregano. This dish and Turkey’s refusal to stop serving it is actually one of the reasons they aren’t allowed to be in the EU.IMG_2207

Dondurma – Turkish Ice cream. Two kinds: one thick and sticky made with something called salep to create this texture which makes it kind of impossible to melt. The other Kesme dondurma you eat with a fork and knife. I’d take either on a hot day.

Dried fruit & nuts – Self explanatory. But so many great dried fruits and nuts that are local. The shops featuring these…to die for. You could even get sweet dried bell peppers…if they grow it, they dry it…and it’s amazing.IMG_2611

Baklava – Get it at Karakoy Gullluoglu and unfortunately, never be satisfied with Baklava again.

Testi – The Turkish word for “clay pot”. A slow cooked stew {with either lamb, beef, or chicken} in a clay pot. I got to crack the pot open upon arrival.

cracking open the clay pot

cracking open the clay pot

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Raki – every culture has one. The national alcoholic beverage of Turkey. Unsweetened, anise-flavored lighter fluid.IMG_2597

Kunefe or kanafeh – This one is going to sound weird, I was beyond skeptical but I am salivating thinking about it now: a rich, sweet and savory cheese dessert. I’ll borrow this explaination from seriouseats.com:

Kunefe is made from a stretchy, unsalted fresh melting cheese called hatay found only in this region—mozzarella would be the closest Western analogue. The cheese is coated in sugar syrup-soaked phyllo shreds called kadayıf (the same ones used to make some varieties of baklava, as described above), and fried until crisp. Its appeal is the contrasting textures of the crunchy exterior against the soft, melty interior. It can be topped with pistachios,kaymak (clotted cream) or ice cream—or simply eaten on its own, preferably while still piping hot.IMG_2208

Ekmek Kadayifi – Online it’s compared to a bread pudding, which I guess is kind of accurate When you fork into it, it gushes syrup and comes with a healthy topping of Kaymak. Wait, what’s kaymak…

I saved the best for last….I mostly had this for breakfast on bread with honey, but it’s also amazing on Turkish desserts.

Kaymak – The US has cool whip, the UK has clotted cream, and no one has anything on Kaymak. I can’t explain what makes it so good…I can just say if I was still living in Chicago I’d have a weekly pick up of Kaymak {and weight 200 more pounds.}

And can I just say, the Turks do breakfast right.  Besides menemen and kaymak on bread, they do loads of fresh veggies {cucumbers, tomatoes}, olives, and even more kinds of cheese.  IMG_2477

Date Night in Edinburgh

Can I start by saying how many behind I am on posts?! I mean, seriously…I haven’t even recapped my Olympic Gold curling pursuits that happened before Christmas. Man, being a lady of leisure is exhausting. I don’t even know when I’ll be able to catch up on the Oscars, let alone the Bachelor. The struggle is real.

So on Valentine’s Day- the AWA had a Mardi Gras party (post coming!) that we attended. Which was a lot of fun and not a bad V-day. But we wanted to celebrate a proper date night and decided we’d just to delay it a week. So this past weekend we headed down to Edinburgh for Friday night. Why just one night? Because I’m marathon training people and that’s my #1 (whether I want it to be or not) and had a long run on Sunday.

We headed down a little after noon on Friday. E had started the drive but within 20 minutes he had an influx of calls and emails with stuff blowing up (not literally) on his engines so we pulled over and I took over driving so he could work. We didn’t bring Stella down because she gets a little barky in hotel rooms alone- we dropped her off on the way out of town at E’s co-worker’s so that worked out well.

There was a little bit of traffic and I was worried that we wouldn’t get my shopping in by the time we got there…but lucky for us (me…not so much E) we did. All the shops close at 6pm, even on Friday. Oh, Scotland. I needed to hit up Cotswold’s outdoor store to return a couple pair of trail shoes and pick up another pair (in the right size)- did that fairly easily. Was even able to restock on Cliff blocks and other running fuel. Then scampered over to Lululemon. It’s only a showroom- which sucks. So disappointing. No crops I wanted. No cute headbands. Wah. I did get a couple new headbands but they weren’t very cute….but I needed them. See marathon training.

But the big thing is that I brought in my (approximately) 6-year-old running tights (my FAVORITE running tights) that the stitching had come apart in the crotch. See story here.  I was going out on a limb to see if they’d give me a new pair (since they have since reissued them) or store credit…I thought since it was a new store I could pull one over that these pants weren’t 6+ years old…but of course, one of the employees looked a little familiar….and sure enough she was from Chicago and worked at one of the two Lulu’s that was on my block in Chicago. That was a little embarrassing….

So they didn’t call out my lie, but weren’t too keen on giving me a new pair (I have no idea why…just kidding) but they did ask if I had some time and they would take me to their tailor around the corner. Within an hour I not only had the side that totally split stitched up- but they also reinforced the other side for my chubby thighs! Win! Seriously, I love those pants. I didn’t even want another pair. This was the best solution ever. They were the first Lululemon item I ever bought! And the reissued ones can’t be the same….

But I was happy to hear they are opening up a full-scale shop down in Edinburgh this summer. Thank god. Don’t they know Lululemon is part of my culture?! I kid…

Then we headed over to Sweaty Betty. I had never been to a SB store though I had heard of it before moving over here. I think they ship to the states, but they are a British workout wear company. Definitely cute, and a little cheaper than Lululemon, but not as fashion forward I guess. I tried on a pair of tights and they did fit well despite only having standard s, m, l sizing. I didn’t get the pants because I didn’t need them- but I’m open to getting a pair of crops this spring. I do on the other hand get a pair of ‘dressy’ sweat pants. They’re cool with big cuff and all. Whatever- they go with my lifestyle.

So after all that, we didn’t have dinner reservations until 9. Got to go back to the hotel (Hotel Indigo- really quite nice- I’d stay there again) and freshen up and have a drink at the bar. We went to Michelin stared Castle Terrace. Pretty amazing. And I say that after I ate some organs that I did not enjoy. It comes down to the service is amazing. And not only do you get a free Amuse-bouche, but another little free sampler appetizer.

itty bitty little {free}  bites

itty bitty little {free} bites

I love free food!

We both got starters- E had scallops with gnocchi and mango (I think) and I had an extra rich risotto with fried ox tongue. My first time eating a tongue but it was pretty damn good. I mean…it is fried so…

greasy, yummy risotto with tongue

greasy, yummy risotto with tongue

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For mains I had the lamp and E had pork belly that was disguised as a burger. Totally Meta man. But he enjoyed it. With my lamb, that was good…but a little lamby for me (that’s a thing people) I had sweet breads (love, love sweet breads) and some liver and kidneys. Let me state, the menu just said lamb and how that was prepared. I thought the liver and kidneys were just little lamb bites. Until I put one in my mouth. And it hit me like a train. I have organ in my mouth. Not too pleased about that. When the waiter came over I asked what everything was and that’s when he told me about the organs. I think there were 2 of each and I had one of each and made E eat the other ones. I’ll try anything once…but that was something I did not enjoy.

Sweet breads back here (1)

E's dinner

E’s dinner

We obviously each got our own dessert. E’s soufflé was the better order. He’s really good at ordering desserts somehow… Mine was a lime-flavored marshmallow with mango and pistachio…good, but E’s was better.  He had candied popcorn on top WITH candied popcorn-flavored ice cream.  It was amazing.  I tried to buy a gallon of it.  No lie.

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It was 11:30ish when we got back to the hotel and went to bed. We had a big workout Spinning class planned for Saturday- so big and great it deems it’s own post. That was from about 10:30-noon…after our workout we kinda sorta freshened up and went to the Dome for E to have his first tea. Obviously.

tea with a side of bloody mary & champs

tea with a side of bloody mary & champs

Can a Pole get at a paczki here?

I’m 50% Polish, my mother being 100%. And while I wasn’t raised in a household very ingrained with Polish-ness…aside from having a babcia i dziadek, eating pierogis, pulling a polish princess card when possible, and eating paczkis on Fat Tuesday. On Sunday night I became aware that Fat Tuesday was this week and I immediately realized I had to figure out where to get paczkis in Aberdeen, Scotland. Chicago has the largest population of Polish people outside Poland….so paczkis aren’t taken lightly. I remember one year standing outside in line, in the snow, for over an hour for paczkis from a little polish bakery around the suburb of River Forest. Last year, E and I took a bus to another little polish bakery and bought 4 because of all the wonderful flavors. And we sat there and ate them all. I remember one had a whisky-custard in the center that we got because we knew we were moving to Scotland. And ya know, Scotch, Whisky….yada yada.

This is why I document my food.  To look back and drool.

This is why I document my food. To look back and drool.

But even before Chicago….growing up in Northwest Indiana, paczkis were available at every grocery store on Fat Tuesday. And yet here I am, in a city that has a Polish food aisle, fretting about where to find my paczkis. This is coming just days after a Scottish friend had told me that in general, the Scots like Americans, it’s people like the Polish they have issues with.  In my brief Aberdeen research, it seems there are some Polish barbers and rumors that there used to be many Polish shops in the area. But no more. I have found one Polish Delicatessen in Aberdeen that I am crossing my fingers will hold the sweet doughy gold. I’ll finish this post after I swing by….

But I decided to ask Blackbird Bakery (seemingly one of the fancy bakeries in Aberdeen with Chicago-worthy cupcakes) if they would be making paczkis for Fat Tuesday….and the baker replied saying she had to Google what a paczki was and she’d never heard of it. WHAT?! I then reached out to the AWA page where one person knew/enjoyed paczkis previously, and a few others said there used to be some Polish shops on a couple streets by the harbor. But it seemed no one knew just how drastic the situation was.

So that was Sunday, going into Monday. Monday I had to go grocery shopping. There was a massive display of pancake mix. I thought this was odd. I even picked up one of the pancake mix jugs that you add water or milk to- just because I wasn’t sure what it was. Then these ladies walk past, one says to the other “Oh are you making pancakes?” and the other replies, “Yes, but I don’t use that instant stuff…” I kinda looked over my shoulder like, were those women just judging me?

Then I’m driving home and I hear for about the 4th time some radio commercial mentioning pancakes. What the hell is this? I decide to pay attention. It was for Nutella and Pancakes…for Pancake Day, Tuesday, Feb 17. What the hell is Pancake Day?! I go home and immediately Google. Apparently Pancake Day is like Paczki day for schmucks. Ha. Just kidding. Kinda. The UK, Ireland, Australia, and Canada celebrate Pancake Day in lieu of Fat Tuesday/Paczki Day.

Pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent because they were a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent.

Also:

On Pancake Day, “pancake races” are held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom. The tradition is said to have originated in 1445 when a housewife from Olney, Buckinghamshire was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake, tossing it to prevent it from burning. The pancake race remains a relatively common festive tradition in the UK, especially England, even today. Participants with frying pans race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air and catching them in the pan while running.

That’s your little history lesson for the day. Anyway, I asked my local Canadian and she had no idea Pancake Day was approaching. And didn’t seem to care. It should also be noted her family is English and she has dual citizenship…and still, no vested interest in Pancake Day. I can only assume it’s because pancakes are just an every day lame breakfast food. Inferior to waffles and French toast. Only slightly outranking cold cereal.  And about tied with porridge.  If you’re tied with porridge….I mean, enough said.

But Paczkis….well, now they are worthy of a day of celebration.

Okay- up until here that post was written on Monday night. It is now fat Tuesday and I just got back from venturing to the Polish Delicatessen. Piotr & Pawel’s Polish Delicatessen.IMG_1442

The inside is a smorgasbord of Polish delights that hopefully brings back fond memories to my mom when I take her there. I thought the only other customer in there was an English speaking native…but then the shopkeeper and her started talking in rapid quick fire Polish. I wandered about pretending I knew my ass from first base. No paczkis in sight. Eventually the women left and there…in a small basket was one paczki and 3 of these other twisted dough pastries. I asked if they had more- but she said no. And I asked if there are any Polish bakeries around and she said the nearest was Edinburgh. And that’s as far as our language difference allowed us.

I took the last paczki in Aberdeen home with one of the other pastries. And I dug in. And I don’t know what to think. There was barely any custard/filling in it!!! The dough was great…but I like the filling! I will say, what little sliver of custard I had was fantastic. Nice and creamy and sweet. But now I’m left wondering…what makes an authentic paczki. I would have said this to be authentic, I mean, it was in a ziplock baggy for the love of god. Some real Pollock made this. Does she just not like a lot of filling? Or are we just heavy handed with it in America?

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wee, little spot of cream.

wee, little spot of cream.

 

There’s only one way to put a stop to this. Let it be known, next year we are celebrating Fat Tuesday in Poland. Eating legit Paczkis! Consider this trip booked because it’s 100% happening. Ma, start planning, we’re going to the motherland.

London Recap

IMG_0552I love London and I haven’t been back since I studied there…so it’s not like I really needed an excuse to go down for a long weekend. But then E’s Dallas-living-and-loving friend said he was going to come up for for the Cowboys vs. Jaguars game so it made perfect sense we’d meet up with him and go as well. As it turns out, he wasn’t able to make it, luckily we’re able to amuse ourselves for a long weekend in London.

We landed Friday night a little late and so were off to a stressful evening- made it to our dinner reservation about 20 mins late. We ate at City Social which was supposed to have fantastic views and pretty good food. I’d say both are a little over-rated. The views are kinda obscured by the glare from the domed glass ceiling. And the tables are very long and close together, so I couldn’t really hear E (or the waiter) and felt more like I should carry on a conversation with the person next to me. The starters were both excellent actually- a potato gnocchi and French quail with creamed corn and pancetta. Then our mains, E had a “rib-eye” which was not a rib-eye and of course came with various sauces for it. I had cod with chorizo, baby squids and squid ink aioli and some very medeteranian style cooked veggies. Overall my dish just didn’t go together. It was really off. We shared some type of tropical flavored dessert that was pretty good though and very light.   Oh and the martinis….while good, were very very tiny. And why hasn’t the UK realized the greatness of blue cheese stuffed olives?

Saturday we went to a couple markets and ate our way through them and just walked around the city. Did a little shopping. Had to get my Lululemon fix…and check out a dress I liked at Ted Baker, some coats at Barbour. I also fell in love with this hat…like hard core love but at £110 I really couldn’t justify it.  Just because I really have no where to wear it but Highlands Games…it would go smashing with my Barbour.  Oh the looks Stella and I would get as we go for a walk in matching Barbour and a grouse feather fascinator…

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But it was a lot of walking. Nearly 27K steps in total says the ole Fitbit. We went to Le Garrick for a pre-theater dinner. On our way there we got to duck in by a skating rink and watch some fireworks that were on for The Lord Mayor’s show. IMG_0706  Then it started raining cats and dogs and we ran the rest of the way to the restaurant. It seems the ground floor is just a small bar more or less. We were directed downstairs and the staff was lovely and took our umbrellas and rainy coats. It was such a small, warm, intimate cellar. We had fantastic French food- I had the cassoulet and E has mussels. And of course some Kir Royal. Then we headed off to Phantom of the Opera. I had never seen any production of it before and of course London was top notch. I was most surprised that The Big Bang Theory’s Soft Kitty song is a riff from Phantom.

 

 

We started Sunday with breakfast inside Covent Square. Where I found this great reindeer!

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I love reindeer! London was all decked out for Christmas and even though it was early November…I loved every second of it. Then, of course, did some more shopping (Le Coq and Nike and Cupcakes)…and then got my sushi fix at Sticks and Sushi. Then it was time to head to Wembley for the Dallas Cowboys game.

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IMG_0595Wembley is pretty amazing. In the short time we walked through to our seats I passed 2 champagne bars….great in my book. We had a great time, it wasn’t too cold, it didn’t rain. Before the game there was a moment of silence in remembrance for WW1. It was incredible to have the entire stadium silent. Then during the National Anthem and God Save the Queen, every seat had a plastic bag to hold up which formed 100 poppies around the stadium. It was really touching. And the Cowboys won…so I guess that’s who we were rooting for….so that’s good, right? And we made nice new friends, although we missed Raul. I will say I kinda love the UK’s enthusiasm for American Football. And I was kinda disheartened with the lack of Bears’ jerseys. I know you’re thinking, why would there be Bears jerseys at a Cowboys/Jaguars game? Well, because UK American Football fans wear whatever NFL apparel they have to any game they go to. The mass was wearing about 50% Cowboys gear (‘tis America’s Team) and the other 50% of the gear is pulled from all the other 31 teams. A big NFL hodgepodge. You wouldn’t know what game you were walking into based on apparel. But really lackluster showing for the Bears.

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On Monday he headed straight away to the Tower of London to see the Weeping Window. It seems there wasn’t much press in the US about this, but filling the moat (dripping out of a window of the tower) was 888,246 handmade, red, ceramic poppies to represent all the lives lost in WW1. If you were quick, you could buy one of the actual poppies for 25 quid…but they went fast as you can imagine.IMG_0704

After taking all that in…headed back to our hotel to pick up our bags and took a short bus ride back to Covent Garden to get us some Shake Shack. I had never had Shake Shack…it came to Chicago recently and of course I missed it. But I’ve had a friend that has raved about every time she gets back from New York so I jumped at the opportunity. It might have been the most expensive fast food of my life (£28.50) but honestly…it was well worth it. I even had a vanilla shake. God…so good. And it was Aberdeen beef! So, supporting my community of course. For what seems so highly regarded (Aberdeen beef), I don’t understand why we haven’t found a good steak yet.

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And so ends our little weekend get away to London. We took the tube to Heathrow and I had some time to try out some new Burberry purses (Christmas is coming after all) our flight left on time. I’ll have to write a post about picking up Stella another day. But it involved me with my pants around my ankles, covered in mud (at least I’m calling it mud…it may have been sheep crap.)

Who’s that on the birthday line?

It’s Lauren, it’s Lauren!

And Lauren what’s your zodiac sign?

It’s Leo, it’s Leo!

And is today your birthday?

Yes it is, you know it is!

And how old are you on this day?

*Mumbles something that sounds like 26*

Go Lauren, it’s your birthday, go Lauren, it’s your birthday!

And where you from?

Gold Coast, Gold Coast

Bad boys gotta say bye-bye, happy birthday from WGCI.

 

If you grew up around Chicago and liked hip-hop, y’all know what I’m talking about.

Saturday was my birthday.  Normally I’m all sad on my birthday and I really thought I would be this year without my family or friends around.  But happy days- I wasn’t!  It was a gorgeous day, E brought me coffee in bed and made me brekkie, and got me some fantastic cards and chocolate.  We decided to go easy on the birthday this year since we treated ourselves to lots of purchases before we moved (E’s birthday is a month before mine), but my Tory Burch Fitbit bracelet is considered my gift if I ever actually get it (backordered forever).

We are kinda obsessed with cards in our relationship.  It’s pretty typical to receive more than one card for an occasion.  There’s a great card shop in the Union Square mall called Paperchase.  I’m pretty obsessed, its like a UK Papyrus but better I think.  E got these 3 gems for me.

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Emergency S'mores!

Emergency S’mores!

Another thing I’m kinda obsessed with is s’mores.  In the US I had an emergency s’more kit.  We lived in a highrise and had an electric stove so the kit included a sterno to toast the marshmallows.  This kit was cracked out whenever I had an extremely, awful, horrible day.  But I also like to enjoy s’mores at any opportunity.  So E got me a little s’more kit, or they’re calling it a “dipping adventure” with white and milk chocolate, different cookies, chocolate candies and marshmallows.  I guess it’s a cross between s’mores and fondu (which I equally love).

As I said, it was a beautiful day in Scotland and we spent the day walking around downtown.  Had lunch at The Coffee House off Union Street, where you get free lunch on your birthday!  Hurrah for wandering in there.  We each had sandwiches and split a devine piece of carrot cake…because it was my birthday.  There was a lot of activity (which I believe is because the impending vote for Scotland’s independence), and we caught the Annual Aberdeen Celebration of William Wallace.  There was role playing with knights and queens, and kilts and bagpipes galore!  I thought of it as a proper birthday celebration and Scottish history lesson just for me.

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We went home and played with Stella before getting ready to go out for dinner.  I had stumbled upon a spot called The Courtyard and saw it had pretty good reviews online, so about a week ago I made a reservation.  I’m pretty pleased with the experience.  We did the 3 course, which started with a little crab Amuse Bouche before our starter.  For starters, I had scallops with pig belly and E had pigeon with duck and cherries.  For mains, I had duck with pear and ginger sauce and E had one big ole hunk of pork belly.  Dessert was strawberries with lemon posset and E had orange cheesecake with oreo crust.  I think the latter was a weird combo, but it also came with orea ice cream that was delightfully American.  Anyway, everything was great and I would definitely recommend.

Dinner at The Courtyard

Dinner at The Courtyard

I did notice last weekend when we went out to a more casual dinner, that a lot of women wear dresses out to dinner.  I was also discussing with my friend Erin how it seems girls really go all out on the weekend.  We were kinda implying that they seem a little ridiculously over-dressed for where they were and the weather…but I think I need to step up my weekend out attire a bit.  Luckily for dinner, I did wear high heels (the one pair that came with me!) with my jeans…but all the other women in the restaurant were in dresses.  I didn’t feel terribly out of place, I certainly looked put together and all.  But now I’m thinking my dresses might get a little more wear than I anticipated…at least in the summer before I freeze my butt off.   But for the time being, I no longer regret sending all my dresses and heels over.