Sunday, December 28

Sister look-a-likes - part II

In my very first blog, I recounted a story where my (brown-eyed brunette) friend and I were thought to be sisters. Well, it happened again – with a different brunette friend – blue-eyed, this time, though. Yesterday I went to lunch with a friend of mine – we haven’t seen each other in over 10 years (shocking, I know). We went to a yummy little Thai restaurant. It was great seeing her again, and we had a nice time catching up. Anyway, as we were paying, the cute Thai (I’m assuming Thai) waitress asked if we were sisters, because, she said, we looked exactly alike. I’m tempted to take my sister in with me next time she’s in town to see what happens.

Christmas (mis)Adventures

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas (Happy Holiday, etc.). I had a very nice Christmas week. Over a three-day span, I was able to spend time with three of my brothers and their families (well, partial families, in some cases).

On Christmas Eve, my mom and I were preparing our traditional Christmas treats – peanut clusters, Rice Krispies Treats®, and Chex® Party Mix. We ran into some problems, which ended up providing us with much humor.

Due to my last minute, two-week trip to London, I wasn’t quite prepared for Christmas, so I was shopping on Christmas Eve – the lines in the stores were crazy, by the way. My mom called and said she had run into a problem with the peanut clusters, and needed some help. So, after a fruitless shopping experience (I ended up buying stuff on-line and printing out a picture of the item to be unwrapped. Lame, I know, but what are you going to do?), I returned home to see what she needed. My mom has been using the same recipe for peanut clusters for, oh, about as long as we’ve had a microwave, so what, 20-some-odd years (maybe 30)? For some reason, this time, as she melted the butterscotch and chocolate chips, the butterscotch chips caramelized instead of melted. I really think she had a bad batch of butterscotch chips – because the next batch came out OK. However, my mom kept the messed up batch because, in her words, it was sweet so someone might eat it. OK…

Rice Krispies Treats® are my FAVORITE holiday treat. My mom has doctored up the usual recipe a little bit (including adding more marshmallows AND a tsp. of vanilla). Anyway, I got out a bag of marshmallows – they felt a little old, but they weren’t TOO hard, and since we were melting them anyway, I figured we’d be OK. Well, we weren’t OK. As the marshmallows started “melting” (and I use the term loosely), I quickly realized that this batch just wasn’t going to work. This mishap following so closely after the Peanut Cluster debacle, caused my mom and me to double over with laughter – we were laughing so hard we were crying. My mom had the genius idea to mix the caramelized chocolate/butterscotch mixture in with the clumping marshmallows– again, using the reasoning “they’re both sweet.” Needless to say, it was a mess and ended up in the garbage. Luckily we had some newer marshmallows on hand, so Rice Krispies Treats® were to be had.

All in all, we had a very nice, white Christmas (the snow has been crazy) – we were able to spend time with family, eat good food, watch Christmas shows (we watched A Christmas Story, finally), and celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 22

On the last day in London...

I wasn’t able to leave the office as early as I had hoped on Friday night (my last night in London), so I just made a quick stop at Trafalgar Square, took a few pictures (see below), then went back to my hotel room to pack. I enjoyed my time in London – the people at ReCharge (the publication I was working for) were nice, fun, thoughtful and generous. At the Christmas luncheon on Friday, they presented me with a gift – a nice big bottle of champagne – to thank me for my time and effort (and patience). I graciously (I hope I was gracious) accepted the gift and, later that evening, gave it to Howard, the Norwegian IT guy working with me on the project.

2 things that surprised me about this visit to the UK:

1. The inordinate number of Starbucks. I’m telling you, they were everywhere.
2. Krispy Kremes in London. I was shocked. If I see them next time I’m in Paris, though, it’s all over.

Thursday, December 18

Fun in London

Last night I went to dinner with some friends from work – one guy from the Utah office, two guys from the UK office. We had a lovely time. We found a fantastic little dim sum, Asian mix restaurant (called dim t, in case you’re ever in London and are looking for a good place to eat). The menu described the dim sum as “three items per basket.” So Gavin ordered the three different varieties of dim sum that he wanted in his one 3-piece basket. Ken then ordered the three kinds he wanted in his single basket of three. I had an inkling that this wasn’t correct, as I’ve ordered dim sum before, but I was the foreigner here – maybe things are done differently in London. So I ordered the three kinds that I wanted. This is what arrived at our table (and these were just our appetizers – our main courses were still to come):

In case you failed to count, that’s NINE baskets of dim sum, each containing three dumplings. Ah, we laughed hard and long…

Shouldn’t the waiter have noticed the oddity of our order and thus explained how the dim sum worked? Or should we have just known? It makes a great story, though. ☺ And I am quite impressed with how much we actually ate. Ken and Gavin even finished their main courses as well. Jon was the odd one out and ordered 3 skewers of chicken satay as his appetizer… and guess what? He only got three skewers. When the table next to us ordered a measly 3 baskets of dim sum, Jon and Gavin looked at each other and whispered “wimps!”

Tonight I left work early – the other company on the same floor as the one I’m working for (same parent company) was having their Christmas party – there was music, food and alcohol to be had by all (starting at 1:00 p.m.) – they kindly invited those of us from my office to join in. An example of the different work culture: I had to train a couple of gents at 2:00 p.m. As I was starting class, Chris, the Editor-In-Chief, brought all three of us a glass of champagne “to help the training along.” I graciously thanked him, and then gave my glass to Julian (after Chris had left the room, of course). But I digress - at 5 p.m the other company wanted to turn out the lights so they could dance. Since working in the dark can be difficult, we were excused. Since I left earlier than the usual 6:30 or so, I decided to go by Big Ben and the London Eye and try to take some nice night photos – this is what I came up with. Not quite as nice as I’d like, but…

Sunday, December 14

Weekend in (Old) England

Even though I didn’t make it to Bath as planned, I still had a great weekend.

I left the hotel yesterday afternoon intent on seeing a movie. However, after exiting the tube station, I looked around to get my bearings and find the movie theater (yeah, right, like looking around would help – I was just going to pick a direction and hope for the best), I was standing right next to a theater showing Twelfth Night (one of my favorite Shakespearean comedies) AND the cast included Derek Jacobi (who I found especially creepy in Dead Again). It looked like they were just seating for the Saturday matinee, and as I asked an employee if there were still tickets available, a gentleman said he would sell me one of his for less than face value. SCORE for me! So, I watched Twelfth Night and loved it. After Twelfth Night, since it was now darker, still raining and only 6:00, I still went to a movie – Inkheart (which doesn’t come out in the States until January). Prior to the movie, thank goodness, since I was a little peckish, I had time for fish and chips (I took a bite before I thought to take a picture – sorry).

Sunday wasn’t raining, but it was still freezing. I played tourist in the morning and walked around for a few hours – had to buy a hat because it was so cold. I ended up walking with some girls from Holland, and we helped take each other's pictures (it’s very hard to take close-up self-portraits that I like when my face is so chubby). Worked out nicely. Then I met up with my friends John and Ellen to do some shopping, although I didn't buy anything.

Saint Paul's Cathedral

The Globe Theater

Holiday Decor

Tower Bridge

Like my pink hat?

Tower of London in the background

While John, Ellen and I were shopping, we stopped at a little chocolate shop, and they had little shoes made of chocolate – yes, this is a shoe made of chocolate. But at £17, I opted against buying one... today, anyway.

Saturday, December 13

Best laid plans

Isn’t it frustrating when plans don’t work out?

Plan A
As I’ve mentioned, I am a big Doctor Who fan – and I love, Love, LOVE David Tennant – he’s brilliant. Anywho, I had heard that he was playing a limited engagement of Hamlet in London from December to January. Fabulous – I could go see him while here for work. Of course, all shows were sold out, but the theater’s website said to call each day to see if any tickets were returned. OK, I could do that. Monday, no dice. Tuesday, no dice. Then came Wednesday. I called the theatre from the office, expecting the usual response, “sorry, no returns,” spoken in a polite English accent. Much to my utter glee, I was told that they did have tickets available for that evening. I seriously almost clapped my hands with joy and jumped up and down. However, the woman on the phone immediately followed “yes, we have tickets available” with “but David Tennant won’t be performing again until after Christmas.” Well, that idea went out the window. Evidently the poor guy hurt his back and has had to have surgery. I wish him well, but darn it, I would have LOVED to have seen him live.

Plan B
I also mentioned my plan to visit Bath over the weekend (today, in fact). I woke up to rain. So, I’d get a little wet, I didn’t care – there was no way rain was going to stop me from visiting Bath. Oh, how wrong I was. After finally figuring out how to get to the correct train station, I noticed that several trains were cancelled due to flooding. Not my train, certainly. But, sadly, yes, all trains (at least until 4 p.m.) from London to Bath had been cancelled. There’s always tomorrow, right? Well, no. I’ve already made plans for tomorrow – a friend of mine along with his wife are taking the train into London to see me and hang out for the day. So, no visiting Bath. And with the rain, since I don’t want to get soaking wet (which I did just getting to the train station this morning), there’s not much sight seeing I want to do even in London. I think I’ll go see a movie or something. I’ve checked the weather, and tomorrow should be a good sightseeing day.

There is a bright side, though. I have wanted to see Wicked (the musical) for years now. I purchased the soundtrack in ’05. How do I know that, you ask? I can see the purchase date in iTunes. I digress. Each time I’ve been to New York, I’ve tried to get tickets – but it’s been sold out. When they announced it was coming to Utah, some girls from work and I tried to get tickets – sold out. So, when Hamlet didn’t work out, there really wasn’t another choice for what show I wanted to see. I just hoped I could get tickets. And, I did. FINALLY. So, last night (after barely making it to the theater in time), I saw Wicked. It was absolutely fabulous! I am still just stunned. I enjoyed it much more than the book… the book was a chore to get through. But the musical was, as I’ve said, fabulous.

Wednesday, December 10

Mind the gap

Things to remember while in England:

1. Look the opposite way that instinct tells me to look when crossing the street
2. Keep to the left - when walking up stairs, entering buildings, etc.
3. One wears trousers, not pants (well, you wear pants, too, but don’t mention that in polite company)
4. The first floor isn't always the ground floor

I am on day… what day am I on? Day 4 in London. I haven’t been able to do much sightseeing since I’ve been working until late. I can't wait for the weekend! I plan on visiting Bath on Saturday, and doing some shopping and sightseeing on Sunday with friends. However, what I have been able to do so far is have dinner at fabulous restaurants – a great Indian restaurant on Sunday, a delicious Italian restaurant with my friend Jon and his daughter on Monday, a hummus restaurant on Tuesday (you heard me, a restaurant dedicated to hummus!), and a little Oriental/Thai place tonight.

I’m staying at a dingy hotel with the most uncomfortable bed in the world. The room is really small, but hey, it has a wall-mounted television (there wouldn’t be anywhere else to put it). Yup, I’m watching Doctor Who right now. Welcome to the UK.

I'm taking the picture from the doorway, believe it or not. Don't mind my grocery bags on the bed. When I mentioned the uncomfortable bed to the hotel staff, they said they had a different room with a smaller bed - right, smaller?