English Christmas

Hello Blog, I've missed you. I've been so busy! Since the minute my family arrived in London (after only a minor 7 hour delay) we've been going non-stop. We did all the touristy London things, plus went to see the Lion King (mine and Ash's gift to them), ate at Jamie Oliver's restaurant in Covent Garden, and walked around Winter Wonderland. I loved having them here! It was a whirlwind week but I managed to squeeze in some important Just Mom Time which both of us always need. I also got to share my little brother Christian's first beer with him and to have a few tequila shots with my step dad Wil.

me and Mom at Winter Wonderland

Christian's first beer - at the pub across the street from mine and Ash's flat

after dinner and the Lion King in London

The best part about Christmas this year was having my family and Ash's family together and seeing how well they get along. We knew that everyone would get along great, but it was so nice to see his mom and my mom help each other in the kitchen and to see my step dad and his dad hang out in the pub. All 9 of us had a great meal together on Christmas Eve at mine and Ash's favorite Indian restaurant, followed by a huge get-together in the local pub and a tipsy walk home.
 my 3rd dad - Ray, me, and Christian in the Moon

Ash's best mates

me & my good friend Michelle

On Christmas morning Ash's sister Amy made us all a big breakfast and we opened our presents before my family arrived around noon with even more presents. They ended up staying until close to midnight and we spent the day just relaxing and hanging out together - playing Mexican train dominos, making eggnog and just really enjoying each other's company. Then on Boxing Day we all went to Ash's aunt and uncle's house where my family got to meet even more of the Curtis clan. Christian had a little jam session with Ash's cousin Luke and we all sang along.
the gourmet chef - making eggs benedict and mimosas

Christmas morning - spoiled kids

the talent in the families - Luke and Christian 

enjoying the family time

Even though I was so homesick for my Dad and my friends back home this was by far the most fun Christmas that I ever had. I seriously did not stop smiling and laughing all week. It was such a good feeling to wake up with Ash on Christmas morning. We made such amazing memories and his family made me feel so welcome. They always make me feel part of the family but this Christmas was extra special. I loved sharing traditions with them and they even got me my own stocking. I felt so loved and spoiled. I want Ash to have a North Carolina Christmas one year and I'd love to have a Christmas in Buffalo before too long. It's nice to know that no matter where I am on Christmas that I am loved and that it will be an amazing day filled with laughter and happy memories. I hope your Christmas was filled with warm fuzzies too. 

Quote of the Day


merry christmas my darling readers! i hope that you have a magical day surrounded by friends and family. i hope that you were good for Santa and that you get lots of kisses under the mistletoe! cheers!

A Christmas Message

My Dad carries the Christmas Spirit in his heart year round. For as long as I can remember, when I ask him what he wants for Christmas he replies with ''world peace''. Well that's a big gift and it's pretty hard to give, but I try my hardest to give it to him in other ways. By treating others the way that I would want to be treated and carrying love, hope and peace in my heart, I know that I make him proud. My Christmas wish is for you all to do the same, today and everyday. Maybe one day my Dad's wish will come true.

Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.

Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

pic of the day

dinner last night - pulled pork, burnt ends, ribs (with ''Carolina sauce''), CORNBREAD, coleslaw, creamed corn ..... and a Firefly martini. No I didn't fly home for the night, thank you Bodean's and Boyfriend!! :) 

Christmas away from Home

This year I am spending the holidays in England. I am super excited about this :D but also a bit sad and sort of nervous for some reason. I know its going to be wonderful. Ash has already been going out of his way to make things perfect for me, but no matter what, it will be different. My family is coming over so that will make things easier but there are still lots of little things that I will miss this Christmas. Last Christmas I was at home but missing Ash terribly, so this year I am really excited to wake up with him on Christmas morning and to experience his family's traditions. After Christmas I will post a blog on all the new exciting things that I did, but in the meantime here is a little post of the things that I will miss ...

* My Daddy - he always makes Christmas super special

* Christmas Eve church with the Fam

* Secret Santa Lunch with my best friends. We've been doing this at my house since we were about 16, they are carrying on the tradition at Kathleen's house this year and I am going to skype with them!

* Reindeer humping!

* Cootie Christmas

* Dec 23rd night out for the Cecil's birthday - always a good time catching up with friends.

* New Years Eve in Wilmingon. It's not Christmasy but it's still the holidays and I certainly will miss it this year!

warm thoughts please!

I was so excited and in an all around great mood walking into work today. It was cold but sunny and I couldn't help feeling like a little kid about to go on Christmas break (I have the next 2 and a half weeks off work!) This week has been full of good news. I've been asked to come back to my job in January. I am in a temporary position as a receptionist / assistant to the marketing director of a furniture showroom in London. Today was meant to be my last day but I now have a job to come back to in the new year, at least for a little bit. They are getting a new designer in January which will lighten the work load of the marketing director - therefore my job might not be necessary, plus financially the company isn't doing too well so I have a feeling that I am going to be jobless sooner or later. But the fact that I don't have to hunt for a job while studying for my January exam is very good news. Also my package containing gifts for friends and family in the US that I paid £50 for, and sent the day before Thanksgiving finally arrived in NC, so that is some more good news!

Other factors contributing to my good mood this morning - a lunch date with Ash, going to get my favorite thai curry that I blogged about last week. And then tonight I am supposed to have dinner with an old friend from UNCG, the lovely Megan Lynch. We haven't seen each other since we were 19! She is living in Holland working as a nanny and is here with her work family for the week. Our plan is to meet up and go to an American BBQ restaurant that has gotten great reviews. On tap for tomorrow is a gym date with my good friend Michelle, skyping with my best friends back home at their Secret Santa party, and a Christmas party in the evening with Ash's family where we all have to wear Christmas headgear! And then the big event! My family arriving on Sunday. This weekend is supposed to kick total ass .... but ... this is the view outside my office window at the moment ....

Nooooo. Go away snow! It was lovely and pretty and fun when we had snow a few weeks ago. Me and Ash were off work for 3 days and we spent our time bundled up at home watching Christmas movies and sitting by the fire in the pub across the street. The problem is that everything was shut down. It was next to impossible to get anywhere. This will obviously not be ok when my family is here. I want them to be able to spend their days sightseeing around London and most importantly be able to easily get over to Ash's parents' house for Christmas festivities. They are coming such a long way, I am not going to let this snow mess up all of our fun plans. So maybe if we collectively think warm tropical thoughts it will stop. Put your mind to it people! Bring on the snow in January, I don't mind it (as much) then but fingers crossed that it stops at least for the next week.
If you haven't read this, you need to. Even if you have no interest in India whatsoever, this is such.a.good.book! :) 

Where I've Been ...

How is it Wednesday again? This week has flown by! For this week's segment of Where I've Been Wednesdays I am writing about INDIA. I've recently been watching a hilarious tv show called An Idiot Abroad and last week was an episode about India. It was so exciting to see places that I've been and relive crazy experiences. I really think that me and Alyson could have had an amazing reality show when we were traveling. We were 2 idiots abroad!

I actually can't believe that I've been to India. It just seems crazy to me to think about sometimes. Some people go to India to seek spiritual enlightenment or to ''find themselves''. The greatest lesson that I learned during my time in India was to stop ironing my hair. Not to stop straightening it with a proper straightener, but to stop putting my head on the ironing board to achieve super straight hair in under 5 minutes. (the picture above was taken pre-incident) My ironing board method hadn't failed me since I started doing it when I was 16, but the irons in India are unreliable and completely fried my hair. I had to cut off more than 6 inches. This made me a cranky traveler. Well to be honest, lots of things in India made me a cranky traveler. It was hot, stinky, dirty and crowded. There was so much litter and so much poverty. And the food was horrible! There is no red meat anywhere (even McDonalds) and it's hard to eat the chicken or pork when you see chickens and pigs running around the streets eating the trash that is piled up everywhere. When we left India I swore that I would never go back, I thought that I had ticked it off my list, it's cool to say I've been there, but I would certainly never do it again. Well it's been over 2 years and if someone handed me a ticket to go tomorrow I certainly wouldn't turn it down. Seeing that tv show last week (and when I was reading Shantaram!) made me want to go back and do it all over again. (Also when Julia Roberts first arrives in Delhi in Eat Pray Love!)

I am sure that parts of India are beautiful and not crowded. I love Indian food, there must be some good curries somewhere in that country, I just didn't experience them. I know that India is meant to have beautiful beaches, but the parts of India where we were you had to have your knees and shoulders covered at all times. It was June and reallllly hot. We had one long skirt and one pair of long cargo shorts between me and Alyson. But we knew all of this before we went. I knew it was going to be hot and dirty. I wanted to experience India. And even though I was miserable for a lot of the time I was there, I had an amazing experience and made amazing memories. The people were so friendly, and the experience of getting goosebumps in 100 degree heat when you see the Taj Mahal for the first time is certainly worth it. I am so glad that I did and I would recommend any one going to India if they ever have the chance. It's certainly an experience you'll never forget.

A few months ago I found out that I would have to retake 2 of my exams before I could complete my masters degree here in London. This was devastating for a number of reasons. First of all, it's so freaking unfair. whhhahhhh!!! Sorry to sound like a whinny baby but my exams were ''fails'' by about 2 points each. They were from my first semester where I had no idea what an English exam was like. I was super unprepared. Not from my lack of studying but from not knowing that ''an essay question'' meant 6 pages with quotes and references from a number of different sources. I had to answer 2 of these questions for each of my 4 exams. I always thought an essay question meant a few good solid paragraphs, not what I would consider a paper. Anyway, despite my begging to my teachers, the grades are what they are and I have to retake those 2 exams.

I can handle retaking 2 exams. It sucks but I can deal with it. The bigger issue was how this would effect my visa. It's next to impossible for Ash to live in America with out us being married, so for the time being the goal is for me to stay in the UK for as long as possible. Life would be a lot easier if he would just say F-it let's go to Vegas! But in my heart I know that's not the answer. The plan was to graduate in January (next month) and receive my post-study work visa which would allow me to work in the UK for the next 2 years. Well that ain't happenin'. When I got my results they told me that I would have to take 1 exam in January, move Home, and then come back ''on vacation'' to take my other exam in May. This caused major panic. Then I was told that I could take my 1 exam in January and 1 in May and stay here for the time in between but that I would have to move Home in May and then come back the following January to get my post-study work visa. This was a better option than moving Home in a few weeks, but I did not want to have to spend 8 months away from Ash. Now the latest is that I can stay until September! And possibly until next January ... but I won't know that for sure until I actually get my visa in about 2 months.

This little blue folder contains my whole life! My motto is ''organization is the key to success'' and trust me if it was down to my organizational skills my visa extension application would have been done ages ago. Unfortunately there were a bunch of little bits and bobs that I needed from the school before I could do anything and they are a lot less organized than me. I took the day off work yesterday to run around doing the millions of little things that are involved in the whole process. It's not just a simple 50 page form, I needed letters from different departments at school, passport pics, an order form from the post office, a letter from my bank ... the list goes on. This is something that I have been working on for weeks and yesterday was the big deadline. By the end of the day I was feeling so tired and defeated. The school had a problem processing a form that was crucial to my application and therefore I wouldn't get anything done until the new year. This whole visa thing is such a headache. Sometimes I feel like no one in England apart from Ash wants me to live here. They make it so difficult and not to mention so expensive. I was about to get in bed and have a good cry when I got the email that they processed my form and that I could come back into school to the next day to turn everything in to be sent off. Hallelujah!

So now everything is in the mail and all I can do is wait. In a few weeks they will send me a letter ''inviting'' me to go have my fingerprints taken. I've done this before and my fingerprints have obviously not changed in the past 2 years but for some reason they need me to do this again. After that I just wait and wait some more before I get my passport and new visa. So in summary here is what I know (and don't know) about my visa.
  • I know I can stay here until at least September! Yay! No long distance for 8 months!
  • I know that I can only work part time from Jan - May because I will be considered a student. Annoying. I hate being broke.
  • I know that finding a good job is going to be really hard (my contract is up here in Jan) because no one wants me until I have that post-study work visa. (Jan 2012) And also applying for a job when I don't have any visa or passport at all for the next 2 months might be a bit tricky ...
  • I know that everything will work out the way that it's supposed to and that I need to not stress and just take things one step at a time. I also know that it's all worth it at the end of the day. If this is what it takes to be with that sweet boyfriend of mine then I gotta do what I gotta do!
  • I don't know ... when I will get to come home next. AKA whose weddings I will be going to in the spring / summer. I promise to let you all know as soon as I know more! When I actually have my visa in my hand is when I will be able to do things like look at flights, consider time off etc etc etc ... Trust me, I am dying to start planning and start getting excited. I'll keep you posted.

walkin' in a winter wonderland

I am in the Christmas spirit! On Thanksgiving Ash and I put up our little tree and made homemade eggnog, and since then it seems like we have done something Christmasy almost every day. We've watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Story and of course Elf. Still on our list is Home Alone and The Holiday. And how good was the Glee Christmas episode?! It gave me the warmest fuzzies and made me cry happy tears! 

We've got the holiday tunes playing, stockings and advent calendars hung, and gifts all wrapped. If you know me you know that I am a bit obsessed with Christmas and I think I've met my match, Ash is such an elf. I am pretty sure that he loves Christmas as much, if not more than me! I am so sad to not be Home for Christmas this year but so excited to spend it with him and to take part in his traditions. Plus my family is coming and I couldn't be more excited. (Mom, Wil & Christian will be here in 6 sleeps!) There will be so many things (and people!) that I will miss in North Carolina but I think it will be exciting to make new memories in England this year. I know that Ash is going to make it really special for me. 

We've been having so much fun this month and this Sunday was such a nice Christmas treat. We spent the afternoon walking around around Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland. The best way to describe it is magical. Imagine the State Fair, but Christmas themed, and romantic! We had a nice cold but sunny day. Plus lots of hot spiced cider and amaretto coffees. Check out the pics below and get in the festive spirit. 

entrance to the park

happy elves

how cute is he? ... and Ash! 

leathery leggings = early Christmas pressie to myself ;)

Happy Holidays y'all

Quote of the Day

Do not spoil what you do have by desiring what you do not have. Remember that what you have now was once among the things you only hoped for.

my favorite lunch

It's only 10:45 AM but I am already excited for lunch. I spent the night in Wimbledon last night because I was babysitting, and in my rush to get out the door and to work on time I only had a measly little slice of toast for breakfast. I've been trying to pinch my pennies (and calories) by bringing my lunch into work everyday, but it's Friday, and I'm going to treat myself, Green Thai Curry here I come!

The area in London where I work is super cool. There are a bunch of little boutique shops close by, I've counted at least 7 pubs within a 5 minute walking distance, there is a funky market with loads of cheap clothes, used books and other little goodies, and best of all there are a bunch of food stalls. Every day around lunch time the local restaurants in the area set up stalls and sell really cheap, really amazing food. To say that I am obsessed with the ''Little Thai'' stall, would be an understatement.

The first few times that I went, I played it safe and had my usual pad thai noodles that I get whenever I order Thai food ... but then one day I felt adventurous and got the Green Thai Curry (a dish that I usually only like when Ash cooks it). OMG it's to die for. Chicken and rice never tasted so good. It's coconutty yet spicy at the same time, saucy and creamy and just so delicious! Plus it's only £3 for a nice size portion. I particularly love it on a cold day but I'm pretty sure that I could find an excuse to eat it any time. (a dollop of sweet chili sauce on the side is a must)

I'm guessing that the pictures won't do it justice (why is it that when you take pictures of yummy food it always looks gross?) ... but I am going to post this blog now and then update it later with some pics for y'all. I hope you readers have a lovely Friday and treat yourself to your favorite lunch.

Exmouth Market - 2 minutes walk from work

smile you're on my blog :) 

mmm so good

more of the stalls

an added bonus - Christmas carolers