dinners at 456

Ash and I are obsessed with this butternut squash soup. So much so that we made it two weekends in a row! We first tried something really similar at Jamie Oliver's restaurant and then we decided to recreate it for ourselves. It's got a kick of chili to it so it's heat-hot and spicy-hot. It's super easy to make and a really fun way to spend an afternoon together in the kitchen.

Check out the pics of the process below -  

First we walked to the local bakery to get some fresh bread ...

celery, garlic, onion, chilies, carrots, butternut squash. (all you have to do is chop everything up and chuck it in the pot with some olive oil. peel the squash and then cut into cubes)

The spices - paprika, rosemary, chili, garlic, pepper.
We also threw 2 bay leaves in there too but took them out before blending.

other necessary ingredients 

Making the veggie stock - we just used a few cubes and boiling water then added it to our chopped veg and spices.

at this point the whole apartment was smelling amazing!
(simmer for about 45 min)

After letting the soup cool we blended it and then reheated it. We added a bit more stock to make the consistency just right, at first it was more smoothie than soup, we wanted it thick but not that thick.  

Heavenly. mmm I want some more right now!

Book Club

Ash bought me a Kindle for Christmas and I love love love it. It has really helped the whole lugging a heavy book around London situation. But I have found that actual book or Kindle, if what I am reading is not page turning, captivating, unputdownable, it is very tempting to catch a quick nap on the train rather than read my book. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger recently gave me the addictiveness that I've been craving in a book. I was reading it on the train, in bed at night, every chance that I got. The author is also the lady who wrote The Time Traveler's Wife and the story has a similar ghost-story / fantasy / love-story feel. It also sort of reminded me of an old favorite of mine - The Lake Of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman. I highly recommend both of these books if you need an interesting read.

my love / hate relationship

Ash and I live a 5 minute walk from a train station. It's very convenient because there are direct trains to major London stations from there. They are supposed to take only about 20 or so minutes. We also have an added bonus of a bus stop directly outside our door. Since moving to England, public transport has become a part of my daily routine. Some days I love public transport - I am not only grateful for it, but I actually enjoy my journey. Other days I seriously wonder if I should be seeing a psychiatrist about my feelings of rage caused by a simple train journey.

No matter how early I leave the house, the trains are never on time. Even if my train does not make me noticeably late, the point is that I do not ever arrive at my destination at the promised time. Combine this with crowds of people and bad weather and it's no wonder everyone is so moody on the trains.

I can not tell you how many times I have come in after a day at work or school and just wanted to scream ''F*@k public transport!''  A good day or a fun night out can easily turn sour because of delays, waiting, and pushy people. I don't know if it's depressing, or something to be proud of, but I have become one of those pushy people. When I first moved here, I was so polite, ''oh no after you'', letting people push past me to get a seat on a crowded bus, tube or train. Well, 2 years later, no more Miss Nice Girl. I deserve that seat just as much as you do (exceptions being pregnant ladies or cute little old men and women). Do you know that rap song ''moove b*tch get out the way, get out the way''? Elbow jabs are sometimes neccessary to score a seat in the morning.  

Another thing I hate about public transport is the way that no one smiles at each other or starts up a conversation. I'm not sure if this is because I am American or if it has something to do with the way that my mom finds the need to talk to every single stranger she meets, but if a girl has on a cute jacket or a man is reading a book that I've read, I want to comment on it. I don't need to make a new friend or have a huge converstion, I just want to say ''oh good book''. (I can assure you that this will result in strange looks and short one word answers) I do still try to make converstation with these grumps - especially after a few drinks when the train turns into my personal talk show where I am the host and the passangers are my guests about to be interviewed.

It's certainly nice to have public transport there when you want it. To not have to figure out directions to get somewhere, just to have to figure out what stops to get off. I've discovered that buses are my friend. For the most part they are reliable and if you miss your bus there is usually another one close by or an alternate route you can take. And especialy in central London buses are the most fun. London is such an amazing city and being on the bus can be like a little tour.

Hands down the best reason for public transport is not having to worry about a designated driver. It is so nice for me and Ash to be able to just hop on the bus or train to go out to dinner and not have to worry about who will have to drive home. I'm sure there are fewer drunk driving incidents here. It would be so nice if at Home you could plan a night out, a concert or sports event without thinking about who has to drive or worrying about getting a cab. 

It's not like I really miss driving. I always think that I do, and then when I am Home I drive for a day before I am over it. I just miss the space and freedom of my own car. Also, I can wear my earphones and listen to my itunes all I want on the train / tube / bus, but that doesn't compare to being able to sing in the car to a good song with the windows down. Some days I miss that soooo much. But that being said, there are certainly times that I love public transport and I know that when I move back Home one day that there will be times that I will miss it. I've never really had to experience driving to work at Home, at least not in a 9-5 type job. I'm sure that if I did I would have some complaints about that too and wish that I could just hop on a train. I am definitely not going to learn how to drive on the opposite side of the road so while I am here it will be public transport for me love it hate it. 

pic of the day

What an amazing surprise! Sweet tea vodka at the pub in England. 
Don't mind if I do :) 

and it was even served in a mason jar! aka ''jam jar'' 

on this day in history

2 years ago today I packed my bags for a little 2 week trip to England to see a boy I had met in Fiji. We had only known each other for just over a month at the time, but after a few expensive phone calls, lots of emails and facebook messages I had a major crush. The problem was he wasn't ready for me to come over. He had just gotten home from traveling as well, so he didn't have the money to take me out on dates, was looking for a job, and living at his parents' house. As if that was going to stop me. I didn't know at the time that he was planning a trip to come see me in March, so in my head it was now or never. I felt like I knew him well enough to know that this could really turn into something and I felt like if I didn't figure out how I really felt then I would be missing out on something special. My mind was pretty much made up but after a few drinks and a chat with a friend whose opinion I highly value (that's you Chad!) I decided that I should go see this boy. I think Chad was probably just trying to shut me up, but I remember him saying something along the lines that I could work at Roadhouse for a month, spend the money on a flight and just see what happens. If it didn't work out then a month later I would be back in the same spot and could just work for another month and be right back where I started. I had no idea what was going to happen but I felt like if I didn't at least go see how I felt then I would regret it. I remember waking up on the plane after a sleeping pill and that long flight to London thinking ''oh my God, what am I doing here?'' but then the moment I saw him in the airport I knew I had made the right choice. I knew that it was going to be something good ...

my first night in England. Me, Ash & his sister Amy.

one of my first days in England brrrr January 2009

I can't believe how fast the time has gone. My life has changed so much in the past 2 years. I never thought I would be living in England. I know that I'll end up back Home eventually but coming here was the best decision that I have ever made. 2 years later that something good has turned into something great. What started out as a hot fling in Fiji, turned into a long distance crush, which turned into a wonderful relationship. He has become my best friend and is the most amazing person I have ever met. Every day I find new reasons to love him and am blown away by his kindness, generosity and sense of humor. I don't know what would have happened if I didn't come over but I do know that I am so glad that I did.

 our first weekend away, Brighton, February 2009

Thank you Alyson for having an ear ache in Fiji so that I could spend time with that hot boy with the English accent. Thank you Chad for talking me into going to see him, I don't think you even knew what you were doing! And thank you Ash for being you, and for the most wonderful 2 years. I hope we have many more to come.

Where I've Been Wednesdays

(Thursday edition)

Do you know many people who have hiked a glacier? Well you know at least one - me! Yes me! I know, I can't really believe it either. Hiking and climbing are so not my thing. A popular saying in New Zealand is ''get amongst it'' - so when I was there that was the attitude that I had to take on. I did a lot of things in New Zealand that I never thought I would do - bungy jumping, skydiving, zorbing (http://www.google.co.uk/images?hl=en&q=zorbing&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi) to name a few. And glacier hiking. I'm not going to lie, it was hard. And I probably wouldn't do it again. But it was beautiful and rewarding. I was so proud of myself and Alyson when we got to the top and looking back on it I think it was pretty bad ass. Totally worth the week of sore legs to earn the bragging rights and to have the wonderful memories. Check out a few of my favorite pics below -
view from the bottom, I remember thinking noooo wayy was I going to be able to climb that bad boy

gotta look the part


 drinking glacier water, a once in a lifetime experience

ok I take it back, I'd do it again!

If I think it's bad ...

It must be bad. Don't get me wrong, I love cheesy crap reality TV. Jersey Shore? Can't get enough. Kendra, Kardashains? I'm obsessed. You name it, I'll watch it. But Toddlers and Tiaras? I will admit that I record it occasionally. Ash won't let me watch it when he's in the room ... I'm starting to see why. Be warned - you will cringe. If you don't there's something wrong with you.

(* click me *)

dinners at 456

 salad - lettuce, tomatoes & red onion
dressing - poppy seed from Whole Foods & 
Pita Delite house dressing all the way from North Carolina

new potatoes with butter & parsley
chicken breast marinated in olive oil, provencal herbs, fresh chopped garlic,
pear balsamic & stuffed with halloumi cheese - omg amazing!
sauteed mushrooms

Root Beer Float
vanilla ice cream & Bundaberg Root Beer (not A&W, but it's all I can find in England, it's a dang good substitute) 

*note - I can take very little credit for the making of this dinner. I did the rb floats.
I am just the spoiled gf that gets to eat Ash's amazing creations!
*note - Mom, I am obssesssssssed with that pita delite house dressing. So much so that it's already gone.
Need more asap! ;)

catching up ....

Since I started up this here blog I realize it's been a bit neglected. Apologies! With the holidays and my family's visit I was super busy and then there was the dreaded exam. But that is done and dusted, so I plan on being a better blogger from here on out. 3 posts a week is the goal. I hope you're as excited as I am! You can look forward to some exciting new posts about my life here in London but for today I'll catch you up on what it's been like getting my masters degree. Alot of you may already know this stuff but I think it's an important part of my story and my life in London. Plus after that exam it's what's on my mind at the moment and isn't that what blogging is all about? So read on if you want to hear me bitch or wait until tomorrow when I'll have a nice happy life in London post for your enjoyment :)

geek! outside my new school - King College London.
 The past few weeks I've been buried in my notes for my exam. For those of you that don't know - I am (attempting) to get my Masters in Human Resource Management and Organizational Analysis at Kings College London. This (verrry expensive) decision was based more on me wanting to stay in England than it was on me wanting to get my masters. As always, following my heart more than my head. Yes I want my masters - it will give me much better job opportunities than my lil old bachelors degree in psychology. Yes I am interested in HR - I think that when I am eventually given the opportunity to practice it that I will be damn good at it. But if I could just live and work (and be in love) in London without doing this masters degree would I do it? Probably not. The fact is that until Ash and I get married it is very difficult for us to live in the same country unless one of us is on a student visa. He had already found an awesome job here and I was still in the mood for adventure abroad. The idea of a masters degree sounded pretty good, doing something that was good for my future as well as for the future of our relationship - win win!

But boy has it been a struggle. I guess I was spoiled by the wonderful amazing beautiful school that is the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Where the teachers care about you - they actually teach you, and the grades are made up of a combination of projects, papers and exams. My experience at Kings College has been very different. The teachers can't really be bothered to teach - instead they just sort of read the powerpoint slides that they've printed out. After failing an exam I had a teacher tell me that he wasn't paid to nor did he have time to go over it with me. This particular teacher was not only the one who gave the exam but he was also my ''personal tutor'' (''advisor'' in UNCW language) so he really should have been willing to sit with me for half an hour to discuss my grade. I had another teacher who was assigned to be my dissertation supervisor, she was really interested in my topic and seemed really helpful. But once she found out about my 2 failed exams she was suddenly too busy to be my supervisor and suggested that I put my dissertation on hold and focus on passing my exams. How rude! I did end up with a good dissertation advisor in the end and I did manage to knock that dissertation out last summer but these are the kind of jerks that I am dealing with here!

UNCW - man I miss this place!

My grade is made up of my dissertation (passed!) and 8 exams. The exams are 2 hours long, 2 essay questions each. In my humble opinion, I do not think that this is the most fair way to assess what a student has learned. 2 random questions based on all the material that you have learned in the class? This goes against everything that I learned in my short time as an education major. What if the student doesn't work well under pressure? What if they really understand another topic but are a bit fuzzy on the one that happens to come up on the exam? Does this mean that they didn't learn anything in the course? Should failing 1 exam mean failing the entire course? No other opportunities to show your knowledge? Even though I felt that this way of grading was completely wrong, when I found this out I wasn't worried at all. I have always been better at essay style school work than multiple choice. I think I'm a decent writer and a decent bullshitter when necessary. I thought that I would easily pass all of my exams. Plus no little projects or essays to do as homework? Sweet! Wrong. I was completely unprepared. I knew I needed to write essays for the exam but I didn't know that I needed to reference and quote a bunch of material, I didn't know that I had to explain in detail things that the teachers already knew. At UNCW we were taught to say what you need to say with out dragging on. Parsimonious - that's the word for it, and I was good at it. (Do not use this blog as an example of my parsimonious writing skills!) I always got good grades. I did not expect that what I called a ''research paper'' is what my teachers expected of me for an ''essay question''.

2 failed exams (and a few more dollars) later that puts me where I am now. On Monday I retook one exam (results next month). Since I didn't know for sure if I would have to retake it or not until November, I wasn't able to retake the whole class. I went to the review session but basically had to take an exam for a class that I hadn't attended in over a year. See? The system is just so bizarre! Anyway, I think that I did OK. Not great but hopefully enough to pass this time around. I used all of my references and wrote and wrote and wrote until my arm was about to fall off. The questions were tricky (I think they do that on purpose!) but I think I may have squeaked by. Next week I'll start to retake the last class and I will have the exam sometime in May. Never ever did I think I would be taking a class entitled The Business and Financial Context of Management. Never ever ever ever did I think I'd be taking it twice!

UNCW graduation - I thought I was done!
It's been a crazy stressful year. Getting my masters is certainly not what I thought it would be. I said before that if I didn't have to do it that I wouldn't. This is true but if I had to do it again would I? Yea, I guess I would. Love makes you do crazy things doesn't it? It may not be what I thought it would be but it'll be worth it. One day I'll have a fun, interesting, challenging, exciting HR job. And in the meantime, getting my masters degree in London has allowed me to live with my wonderful boyfriend. That makes every challenge and every penny worth it. Who knows what would have happened to our relationship if I hadn't decided to do this? And all of these set backs and challenges have made our relationship stronger. Maybe I should start looking at applications for my PhD? Yea right!
I hit 25 followers today! Yay! I know that's not a whole lot in the blog world, but it's a lot to me! Glad y'all are liking the blog. I'll keep writing if you keep reading. Pass me along to your friends and family! Lots of love and thanks :)

That is me at the moment. Ahhhh! My exam is on Monday, just a few short days away. I have been getting lots of studying done so that is good but I am still so nervous about it. Ash says that I have the attention span of a goldfish, but I have been trying really hard to focus. I think being a multitasker is generally a good thing, but I literally can not do one thing at a time, I am always fiddling with something else. I've studied more for this exam than I have for any other and for the most part I think that I have it under control. I just hope that they ask the questions that I want them to ask! Work is slow today so I think I might sneak some studying in at my desk and I am planning on hitting the library hard on Saturday and Sunday. On top of the exam stress, my wages have been cut in half. I can only work 20 hours a week now that I am a ''full time student'' again. Ash is going to be my suggadaddy for a few months and I am so grateful for it but I do not like it. I will have to be pinching every penny. £600 / month does not go very far in London but I am going to make it work.

One thing at a time right? Pass the exam, deal with the money situation, get the next visa, find out when the next exam is, plan a trip home!

This will probably be my last blog post of the week. I'll catch up after my exam when I get back into a routine. In the meantime think happy thoughts for me and wish me lots of luck!

hello 2011

This year's New Year's Eve was a bit quieter than my previous ones. I didn't witness any of my friends fall off a bar stool in their short dress without panties on, or throw up on my living room floor. There was no passing around the Bacardi bottle in a parked car before stumbling to the club. Me and Ash had a nice dinner out and then rang in the New Year at home in our little flat. Quiet, yes. But boring? Hardly. It was a great evening! Before dinner we walked across the street to a little wine shop and bought a nice bottle to have before heading out. Then we got dressed up and had a yummy Italian meal. After dinner we popped into a little shop that sells beers from all around the world. We found some Coors Light (!) and some other little random goodies. I tried an interesting blueberry cider that tasted kind of like blueberry vodka and crystal light. Back home we played Mexican train dominoes and watched the fireworks on TV (London's version of the Times Square ball drop and the most amazing fireworks display I've ever seen). Also I learned how to pop a bottle of champagne for the first time! It was so nice for me and Ash to be in the same time zone this year. The past 2 years I have called him at midnight North Carolina time which was 5 AM for him. We ended up staying awake nearly until North Carolina New Years, it was almost 4 by the time we went to bed. I guess I am still a party animal but just a bit more low key. I missed being in Wilmington and I missed shaking my booty on the dance floor all night but I had an amazing time anyway. Maybe this year's mellow New Year is a sign for the year to come?

I'm hoping that this year is a bit less stressful than 2010. With my grades and visa issues it's been one crazy year. My biggest resolution is to be better at that one day at a time thing. I know that me and Ash will move home when the time is right for both of us, I know that one day I'll land an amazing job and I know that one day I'll have my masters. In the meantime I'm going to try really hard to just sit back and chill out a bit. I used to be a lot more laid back than I am now. I guess when you start really caring about things and really wanting things it makes you stress more about getting them. Other resolutions - hitting the gym a bit more often and being better about wearing my glasses. I hate wearing them but I like the benefits of being able to see so I think I'll try to work on that a bit more this year. I'd like to make a resolution to save more money for the future but since I'm hardly making any money at the moment that isn't too realistic. I guess another resolution can be to keep up with my blog and make my readers happy :) 

 how cute are my sparkly gold tights? 

this turned out a bit blurry but oh well, cheers baby! 

my gorgeous bestie sent me this pic of her, I miss her too much!