Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fall Break

Hello all and Happy Halloween! I have been CRAZY busy nannying during the fall happy it's nearly over and just in time for me to spend it all on my new yoga membership...I am biting the bullet and purchasing 6 months worth. Which costs the same as a years worth in Houston. BOOhoo but it's something I love, use daily, and it's good for me.

OK, so I have literally been babysitting my normal family for 12 hours every day. It has been exhausting. They are GREAT kids, too! But I used to always think that having the job as a Stay At Home Mother must be so, after practically taking on that job for the past 3 days, I am realizing it SO isn't. You have no time to yourself. At least while working out of the home, you have lunch breaks! But, as the mom I babysit for told me, you have no time to spend with your kids when you work out of home and that just sucks. These past few days have just shown me how much I love having time to myself and freedom to do whatever the heck I want and I am not sure if I want that to end anytime soon! So to all of you moms out there...Stay at Home and the ones that work out of home....I just have to say, you are all amazing and deserve so much recognition and praise.

On Sunday night and Monday morning, a "hurricane" blew through the south of the UK. I know it was worse outside of London, but the way the media was describing it, you would think that the apocalypse had hit the UK. A couple of trees fell, and that's it. Monday actually turned out to be a beautifully sunny day and I actually walked during the supposed height of the storm.

The girl had an acting camp this week, so I only saw her in the mornings and afternoons. Since traffic was crazy and things were shut down, we had a low key day of pumpkin carving, seed roasting, and book reading. The boy, Michael, is just so cool. He was content walking around the stores and drinking hot chocolate with me at Starbucks to pass time.

 On Tuesday, we went to the Imperial War Museum. It is under lots of reconstruction for the 100th anniversary of WWI, but it was still a magnificent museum. So well done- we walked through the exhibit on WWII and another exhibit geared towards children that was about spies during WWII, which was SO cool and informative! It showed different weapons (pens that were guns!), taught about spies that risked their lives for freedom, and shared crazy methods of sabotage (like putting explosives in dead rats and placing them where the Germans were, so when the Nazis went to throw the dead animals in the fire, BOOM!).
I think this is obvious, but WWI and WWII are focused on a lot more here than they were at home, just because it really did influence London more. So many people were killed during the Blitz and most of the buildings were destroyed, let alone the fact that 1/3 of all British men aged 18-30 were killed during this time. It's all so tragic and interesting to learn about because we are there, where it all happened.

Yesterday, we went to the Princess Dianna memorial park near Kensington palace. It reminded me a lot of Peter Pan- a pirate ship, teepees to run through, tree houses. It was a gorgeous day and my face got a little burnt!

After the park, we went to go see Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. And the cost, for 1 adult, 2 children, and two kids pack of popcorn.....drum roll....$70. I was in SHOCK. And the theater had nothing on the ones back home. The movie had some laughs, but I really don't like movies much in general, and I find that children's movies that are not Disney/ Pixar generally suck. But the kids loved it, so I'm glad they were happy.

OK, gotta run to do some more babysitting! Hope you all have a great, chocolate filled day!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Raw "brownies"

Hello! I made this chocolaty concoction about a week ago and wanted to share the recipe with all of y'all...

Back home, I made something similar to this. I can't remember exact measurements, but it was just about 6-8 dates, walnuts, and cocoa powder. You threw it all in a food processor,  smoothed it out on a tray, and froze it, and voila...a healthy, chocolatey dessert.

This recipe that I found takes it a few steps further, and I thought it was delicious, although Daniel prefers the simpler version.

First of all, let me tell y'all....people call these brownies. I am sorry, they are not. Brownies sinfully melt in your mouth, are richly gooey, and best served while warm, swimming in ice cream. It would be blasphemous to call this recipe anything of the same name. If you are in the mood for a real treat, by all means, have the REAL thing and love every single bite of it.

I make these for an everyday sweet treat. It's a healthy snack that I can feel good about eating, and it quenches my sweet tooth. Ok, here's the ingredients that I got from and in parenthesizes I put what I used instead...

Brownie Ingredients:
  • 1 Cup Pitted Dates (I used dried apricots because it's what I had on hand).
  • 1 Cup Slivered Almonds
  • 1 Cup Walnuts
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/3 Cup Cocoa Powder (Use high quality)
  • 1/4 Cup Chia Seeds
  • 1/3 Cup Ground Flax ( I just used the whole seed)
  • 6 Packets Stevia (I don't like super sweet so I only used 3)
Put all the ingredients in a food processor. I hate to say it, but if you have a cheap food processor then this is going to be a pain to make. I say this because my food processor is bottom of the line, and I am always fearful that it is going to burn out when I make this. After you mix it all to a paste like consistency, pour it into a brownie pan and freeze or refrigerate. This makes the mix all stick together a bit better. If the consistency doesn't seem to be sticking together in the food processor, add a bit of water or honey and that should do the trick.
Chocolate Frosting Ingredients:
  • 3-4 Avocados (only needed 2, make sure they are soft)
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Tbsp Agave Nectar (I used Honey)
  • 6 Packets Stevia (again, only used 2)
  • 1/2 Cup plus 2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
Mix all of the ingredients in the food processor, then pour it on top of the "brownies". I know it sounds weird, being made with avocado and all, but I promise it is a rich and delicious icing!
See? So easy! I want to make something like this, but with pumpkin and spice instead of chocolate. I'll let you know how that goes!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Night at the Museum

Have y'all heard of It is kind of like a, but for making friends. You find a group that interests you and go to social events that the group arranges. On Friday, I went to my first Meet-up ever for American Spouses.

The group caught my eye initially because I knew I could find people that would relate to our journey here, but I was determined to go because the event was held at the  Natural History Museum at night. It kind of reminded me of Elixers and Mixers back home (at the Museum of Natural Science).

The NHM is hands down in the most beautiful building. Unfortunately, my phone was about to die, so I was only able to take this picture last night. I am going to share some other pics that I have taken previously and stolen from the interwebs.

I got there around 6 and quickly found the group that I was there to meet. It's funny because I always think that every American I meet here probably has a similar story to us: expats, moved for spouse's job, most likely oil related. In reality, I haven't met anyone while in London who has moved here thanks to the oil industry. Most of the people that I met last night moved here permanently because their husband's a Brit.
The event was very nice and well done. There was a band playing on the top of the steps, decent food was served, and drinks were not too pricey. It was so neat getting to walk around the museum at night. I found out that the museum does this once a month, so I am going to drag Daniel along next time.

It was a successful meet up and I exchanged numbers with a couple of girls. Since I enjoyed the night out, I am going try again with another meet up for another group of American Women in a couple of weeks in Camden! 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Play, Pubs, and Pals

Hello loves. We are currently bracing for a hurricane like storm that is supposed to hit us tonight and last until tomorrow. Pray it doesn't flood, as we are the basement flat! Also, it might be hard getting to work tomorrow, so we are praying that everything just closes for the day :-)

Tomorrow is the first day of fall break for the kiddos here, so I will be very busy this week and probably won't have much time to blog! Sorry in advance.

Here's what we were up to this weekend...


We went to see a matinee of Raving, a new play that is in production at Hampstead Theater in our 'hood. I initially wanted to see it because we love Peep Show and Robert Webb, from the show, was starring in the play. Peep Show is on Netflix and we recommend it if you are in the mood for a hilarious new tv show. Anyways, the play was hilarious. I'm glad we didn't see it right when we moved here, or I wouldn't have been able to understand what was going on (with the accents, idioms, and things they were talking about). It was a very "British" play.

Being a little pill and not smiling for my picture
 After the play, we walked down Abbey Road to a pub called Salt House. It was great! The food was actually delicious (hard to find with pubs) and the beer was, of course, wonderful. We ended up staying there for a very long time, talking and enjoying the beer. So thankful for my love and the fun that we have with each other, even after being together for 11 years! Some times it amazes me that we STILL have so much to talk about :-)

We came home Saturday night to all sorts of treats! First, I saw by our mail box what looked like an advertisement to the San Louis in Galveston and I almost threw it away, without thinking. Then I thought, "Wait...why would a hotel from Galveston be sending propaganda all the way to London?" I turned it around, and saw it was a post card from one of my old students, Jordan! SO sweet and made my day- even adults love getting mail!

THEN, I opened this box and it was full of amazing junk food that I cannot find here in London, from my great friend Anneke! It took all that I had to not eat all of the cheez its in one setting. Daniel LOVES jalopeno chips and is savoring them, trying to only eat a few a day. It was so, so, so very thoughtful. I am trying really hard to save the Annie's bunnies for a day when I am feeling really homesick...we'll see how long I last!


Daylight savings time ended, so we got an extra hour of sleep Sunday night, which was wonderful and much needed! We met our South African friends in Greenwich to walk through the market they have there. I thought it was going to be an antique market, but I found out they only sell antiques on weekdays- boo! The weekend is more homemade items and crafts. I got a really lovely smelling candle called "winter" that's handmade in Clapham. It was funny trying to describe to our South African friends what "winter" smells like (Christmas trees and spices, duh!). Well, for them, Christmas is in the summer! And they don't have real Christmas trees in Africa. It is so funny realizing cultural differences. Other ones realized today: A vest to them is a tank top, a pump is a ballet flat, and a jersey is a sweater or jacket.

After walking through the market, we went to a nearby pub for lunch, and then decided to go back to the market for dessert. I wish I had thought to take pictures! We got these mini Dutch pancakes, with melted nutella and strawberries on top. Yummmmmm.

A perfect weekend, indeed.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

First London Haircut

Thank you everyone for your uplifting words about the passing of my kitty. Your kindness really helped me cope, and I appreciate it so much. This post will be a much lighter one...I actually wrote it, intending to post it earlier, before I found out the bad news. I know that this post is just SO exciting, but I had to brag about my new 'do!

I hadn't gotten my hair cut since June...I was dreading getting it cut because it is so expensive here to go to a highly rated salon. Daniel's cut was the equivalent of $100...for a man's cut! Geez! But, the ends of my hair have been getting disgusting, so I knew it was time.

There's a tiny little salon by our flat. If you blink while you walk past, you'll miss it. I happened to notice it the other day (after living here for nearly 4 months!) and saw that they had a crazy good promotion- cut and blow for only 30 pounds mon-fri.

I was very hesitant. Couldn't find any reviews online and usually if things are inexpensive here, it means they will be terrible and you need to run far far away. I didn't blog about my one (and only) waxing session I have had in London because I didn't want to traumatize any of y'all, but that served as a great lesson to me: There is no such thing as a good deal in London.

HOWEVER, my hair has never been a security blanket to me and it takes a lot for me to really hate a haircut, so I figured I would give it a shot.


Not bad! Not only was it less expensive then I have ever paid in Houston, but it is actually one of the better haircuts I have ever gotten. I took the pic after I'd been rained on, so the blow out doesn't look as perfect as it did when he finished, but I think I might go back there if I just need a blow out. They have a deal on that, too, if you go Mon-Fri. By the way, I mentioned this whole "blow out" concept to Daniel and he was absolutely flabbergasted that women pay to get their hair blow dried or that a haircut costs more when you get it blow dried afterward. He wanted me to just come home with my hair wet from now on after I get it cut...MEN! 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Sweet, Loving, and Tough Cat named Doodoo Head

Last night, we got the news that I had been dreading, but I knew was going to happen soon. Every time we talked to Daniel's parents, I held my breath, waiting to hear if everything with our cat was ok. She had been sick for nearly a year, losing weight, becoming allergic to anything and everything, losing teeth, and losing hair. We knew she didn't have much fight left in her, and a few days ago, in her sleep, she let go and passed on, with Daniel's mom at her side.
As so often happens with stray cats, we didn't find DooDoo, she found US. Less than 10 years ago, she started just showing up at The Bond's home, and decided that was her new family. Daniel's mom, Nanette, is a cat lover and would often feed her canned tuna and eggs (no wonder DooDoo didn't want to leave). DooDoo would follow the family when they would go on runs and was never far from any of them.
Often people balk at her name. Daniel teasingly called her DooDoo Head to get a rise out of his sister, Kristen- she wanted to name her Jewels. DooDoo Head just stuck, then got shortened to DooDoo. If you would call, "DooDoo!" you would hear the little pitter patter of her feet as she ran up to you.
During the first Christmas break home with her, I fell in love and we all decided that DooDoo would come live with me in Austin. My roommate, Anneke, tried to resist her love for a while, but as the picture shows, DooDoo was persistent and eventually Anneke decided DooDoo wasn't that bad.
As our family grew with more and more fur babies, it quickly became evident  that DooDoo ran the show. If a dog got too close, she would give her a little punch on the nose. She would eat their food, staring at them as if to say, "Whatcha gonna do about it?" They learned to live in harmony with each other and we would often find all 3 of them on the same couch (although DooDoo always had her distance and a watchful eye on them).
Some of my favorite memories of Doo Doo....when she caught and killed a bird and literally pranced inside our home, bird in her mouth, meowing simultaneously and dropped it at our feet. How we would open our window and she would sleep on the ledge, on her back, with her feet straight up in the air. I so often thought she was dead, but I would whisper, "DooDoo?" and she would bounce right up! She would ALWAYS meet us at the door when we came home, meowing away and rubbing between our legs. She also liked to "dance", as Daniel calls it- aka kneading. Sometimes she would knead on our face, purring, and drooling with happiness. If you were sitting down, you better believe that she would come and sit on your lap...unless you were using a laptop. In that case, she would come up to your laptop and sit on it. We would say that she thought the laptop was her sofa. She had a love of catnip and toys, but refused to play with them if anyone was watching. We would hear her in the middle of the night, swatting a toy around and meowing loudly. Her little toy mice would always be across the room the next day.
It was hard dropping her off with Daniel's family when we moved to London because we knew we would miss her, but we also knew that she would love living with the Bonds and getting back to her roots.
Daniel's whole family gave her so much love. She instantly began running the house. The Bonds learned quickly that they had to hide all food, because DooDoo, in seconds, would be up on a counter, eating anything and everything that was left out. When inside, she could be found sitting on someone's lap and when outside, she was usually in the backyard, running around with our dogs or eating their food while the dogs helplessly watched on.

I am so sad I wasn't there to give her one last pet under her chin and to tell her that she was a "Good little DooDoo". I know, though, that she died in peace, knowing what a loved kitty cat she was. I am so thankful that she was in our life, even if it was for a short time. She made me laugh so much, always comforted me when I was sad, never showed me anything other than love (and ok, sometimes annoyance when I didn't pet her the right way).

I imagine her curled up in to a tight little ball, basking in a big patch of warm sunshine, feeling content and finally resting without pain and suffering, knowing that she did well, bringing joy, laughter, and love to so many lives.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Day trip to Windsor

 IF we are only here for a year, that means that we are 1/4 of the way done with our stay in London! After looking at all of the benefits of living here, we do hope to stay in London longer, but we really won't know for awhile what will happen!

After realizing how quickly our time is flying, we have really been trying to see and do as much as possible. One huge advantage of being here is the train system. You can go anywhere in the UK at the drop of a hat for a relatively inexpensive price (12 pounds per person for the roundtrip to Windsor). Since Windsor is only an hour train ride away, we decided to go there on Saturday morning.


We arrived without a hitch. It was so easy! Just show up to station, buy your ticket, buy some snacks for the ride, and wait for the train (most trains taking you outside of London depart about every 30 minutes. No need to plan in advance!). We got to Windsor and quickly realized that the air is fresher there and the pace is slower. Kind of the norm for any city compared to London, I suppose!

We decided to immediately go to the Windsor castle. It is 1000 years old, making it the oldest (and largest) castle in the world that is still functioning as living quarters for royalty. The queen lives there regularly.

 We couldn't get over how HUGE it was- it seems to take up the whole city! We were only able to tour a fraction of the castle. Also, we weren't able to take any pictures of the insides, which is really annoying- I wanted to take a picture of the queen's doll house, and Daniel would have liked to have taken a picture of the thousands of guns, swords, and armor that were on display. However, most of the rooms looked just like Hampton Court on the inside. I'm guessing they got renovated at about the same time!

 Really, my favorite part was just walking around outside, despite the rain we were having. I loved looking out the little "windows" that were on the castle's wall. It was a tiny slant of a hole in stone, which I learned was for the men to shoot arrows though if anyone was trying to siege the castle.

 These gorgeous gardens are where the moat used to be. It would have been neat if the moat was still there!
I wanted a picture by the fall tree.

Daniel insisted that we have another picture of me posing with the audio guide like a cheese ball

 I am so excited for the trees to all fully show their foliage! One wonderful thing that happens here and doesn't happen so much in Houston. I might haven mentioned this already, but supposedly the trees are changing later than normal because we had such a warm and long summer. By the way, this is the view from the castle walls. I see that it would have been hard for any trespassers to have gotten in!
You can kind of see the soldier to the left.

 It was really exciting (and kind of intimidating) seeing the soldiers. The men in the bottom picture were marching to relieve the soldier in the first picture and to change guards. Every move that they made was in unison. There were guards all over the castle and people loved walking up and getting their picture with the stoic faced men. I felt a little disrespectful doing, I didn't want the guard to snap...they didn't look happy in the slightest!

We also got to tour the chapel. It looked exactly like every other chapel I have been through while being in the UK. Again, no photography was allowed, which was strange...because every other chapel that I've been in has allowed it.
 After seeing enough of the castle, we walked around Windsor for a bit. I was hoping to stumble across some cool market or antique store, but all of the shops were pretty lame. We did enjoy walking around though and looking at all of the buildings, especially the crooked little house.

 We intended to grab food while in Windsor, but we ended up being done with everything around 4, and didn't want to eat that early! We stopped at a cute pub and had a pint, then took the train back to London!


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