Saturday, December 25, 2010

Betrothed blonde....

The man of my dreams proposed to me today, on Christmas Eve, on our 8 month anniversary, whilst we were out dancing at The Royal Festival Hall on Southbank.....I said....YES!




I am one happy blonde....

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A tourist at home.

Having Aaron in London with me has made for some great sight-seeing! Not only is it the perfect opportunity to visit locations across town that I wouldn't necessarily go to, but it is also wonderful, as a born and bred Londoner, seeing someone else's reactions to this beautiful city that I call home.

With a mixture of my knowledge and the help of a guide book, we have been able to explore a range of tourist and non-touristy sights of town.






I'm not going to go into the specifics about everything we have seen so far, because this blog is not a tourist guide to London, but I will mention a few things from the past couple of days....

On Sunday we went to Spitalfields and Brick Lane, and as we walked around the markets, I got to sip of my first cup of mulled wine of the season. Yum. Mulled wine is essentially festive, and one of those things where I can drink one or maybe two glasses at a time and then I get a bit fed up of it. I love seeing little stalls popping up all over the place ladling out steamy, hot, spiced wine from their 'cauldrons'.

I made some mulled wine on Monday night. It's easy. You slowly heat red wine in a pot (on the lowest temperature) and put in half an orange, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. I also added in a little lemon and lime rind and juice, as well as half an apple. You can also add a little brandy or sloe gin, but I didn't. Heat it up and pour it into cups through a strainer (or you can put all of the ingredients into a muslin bag so that they are not floating around in the wine) and hey presto! You have mulled wine.

So back to Sunday and some foods that I found it necessary for Aaron to sample while we were at Brick Lane - okonomiyaki (vegetable and cheese pancake) from the Japanese food stall at the Sunday Up Market. I nearly always get one of these when I go to this market as they are so yummy and filling, and it seems that a lot of other people have the same idea, as this food stall is always busy. The pancakes are made of shredded cabbage, onion, sweetcorn and cheese, and they are covered in a savoury sauce, fried on a hot plate and served with Japanese mayo on top. So yummy, and so strangely similar to the taste of an In-n-Out burger!


The other holy grail of Brick Lane is the 24 hour Beigel Bake and its scrumptious salt beef bagels. Warm chewy bagel with a slab of salt beef and hot English mustard that gets right into your sinuses....sigh. So simple and so tasty, this is food at its best. I was too full to eat a whole bagel after our okonomiyaki so I shared one with Aaron...he told me that he wants a salt beef bagel to himself next time.


Yesterday our travels took us to Westminster, where we got to go inside the Houses of Parliament and sit in on a session taking place in The Commons Chamber. This was really interesting to me, as I have seen that room decorated with the green benches on the news countless times when they show snippets of debates on tv! The parliament is beautiful inside, and it's great that members of the public are able to go in and look around a little at no cost.






After working up an appetite walking around, looking at all the magnificent architecture in Westminster, we jumped on the tube and headed to Fishcotheque in Waterloo to dine on the obligatory fish 'n' chips, doused in vinegar. The portions are huge and not too greasy, and I don't care what anyone says - if you are going to have fish 'n' chips, you have to have proper fat chips, and you must cover them in salt and vinegar!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snnnnooooowwwwww!

Last Friday Aaron and I headed out to see some sights around London. It was freezing, and when we came out of the National Gallery, snow had started falling on Trafalgar Square. It was romantic and there were just enough snowflakes to make it fun and novel, without settling on the ground.






Then on Saturday the real snow made an appearance...

This first afternoon of fluffy, bright white Christmassy magic was fun, and we trudged through it locally, having snowball fights along the way and watching cars slide all over the roads.






Ever the gentleman, Aaron helped out a damsel in distress whose car had gotten stuck. As he ran over to help her, he slipped on the ice, Bambi-style! Hehehhe! This provided me with much amusement, and in fact, still makes me giggle every time I think of it!


Luckily, we haven't experienced any trouble with getting around so far - public transport has been working normally for us, and we haven't had any other falls! I have had my fill of icey pavements now though, so snow: please hurry up and melt...




Despite the freezing temperatures, I have been staying nice and snug in the coat that I bought on Haight St before I left San Francisco. Plus, when we looked out of the window on Saturday, Aaron made me open one of my Christmas presents from him early - a furry trapper hat! My head and ears have been so nice and toasty, and I can honestly say, it has made the cold temperatures bearable! Yay! for Christmas and Yay! for boyfriends who buy you super cute and useful gifts!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Back in London and feeling festive!

I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

I got back to chilly London on Tuesday, and this time, Aaron is with me! I'm so excited to show him around my hometown and also to go exploring all the things I take for granted and don't visit often, or have never seen before.

Last night we put up the Christmas tree to the sounds of Frank Sinatra. It made me feel festive and excited to spend my first Christmas with Aaron. I'm even more excited now that a few presents have appeared under the tree....






It looks so pretty, and I was surprisingly un-bossy when it came to making sure that the different coloured baubles were distributed evenly across the tree. Seriously, I had visions of Aaron putting up decorations....and me sneakily moving them to other branches of the tree when he wasn't looking! Instead, team work prevailed and it was all rather romantic...

Beautiful birthday boogie...

Last week, Beauty Bar in SF celebrated its birthday, so we stopped by, managed to carve out a little space on the dance floor and had an absolute blast! In the days following, a few photos of Aaron and I dancing popped up online - miracle of miracles! Nobody ever seems to take good photos of us dancing together. We could spend an entire night dancing with one another, peppered with a couple of dances with other people, and you can guarantee that some photographer will snap shots right when we are not dancing together. Either that, or someone will capture me at a moment when my eyes are shut and my mouth is hanging open. Anyway....





Monday, December 13, 2010

Honky-tonk havoc at The Uptown

On Thursday of last week I donned my cowboy boots and headed to The Uptown in Oakland for one hell of a musical extravaganza - Petunia & The Vipers, The B-Stars and West Coast Ramblers.

This show was bound to attract a fun crowd, and I had been looking forward to it for a while - in fact, when changing my return flight to London on this trip, I specifically wanted to make sure that I would be here to catch this gig.






We arrived at around 9.30ish and unfortunately only caught the last couple of songs by the West Coast Ramblers, but we saw them the previous week when they played the Burritt Room, and their first show a couple of months ago at The Knockout, and they are great.

The B-Stars were awesome as usual - I really enjoy dancing to their music, and I feel like even if I heard their song Ink Free Baby of Mine five hundred million times, I would still love it.






The venue was pretty full with spectators and dancers, and the atmosphere was buzzing. I was glad to see lots of my friends as it was one of my last nights out in the USA for a while!








The wooden floor was fun to dance on in my boots as it offered a lot of slide and there was enough space to feel comfortable.


Petunia & The Vipers played another great set as their tour returned them to the Bay Area hot on the heels of their show at the Verdi Club the previous week.

They performed a different set to the one they played at the Verdi which was great, given that many of us in attendance had gone to see that show as well.




Their music is so haunting and grand, and yet fun and cheeky. The instrumental line-up features a kazoo, which always reminds me of ducks. Quack.


I got a little carried away experimenting with the different settings on my new camera, trying to take an ├╝ber-cool, non-blurry, non-flash photograph of the band during their performance - and so of course I then had a gazillion blurry, almost identical photos to trawl through, in the hope that at least one of them came out ok.






I am so glad that this was one of my last nights out on this trip, as it was the perfect send-off and I had an absolute hoot!

Last Team Brunch of 2010!

On Saturday 4th December, Team Brunch came together for what was to be the final feast of 2010....

We converged upon Boogaloo's in the Mission, and although we had to wait a while to be seated, this actually worked out well, as it took a while to find parking, so by the time Aaron parked and came to meet us, we were only five minutes away from getting our table.


Once inside, we got cozy in our little booth, surrounded by Christmas decorations and enjoying the music - it was like being at Rockabilly Fridays at the Retox....except it was a Saturday afternoon....and there was food....and no dance floor...


I'm going to be honest - at this moment in time, I cannot even remember what I ordered, but I do remember that there were home fries and poached eggs, biscuits, gravy, and blueberry coffee cake....and a poinsettia (champers and cranberry juice), hmmmm, this could perhaps explain the aforementioned memory loss. But anyway, it was yummy, the coffee flowed, the company was awesome and the cocktail made my head a little fluffy. Huzzah!


My favourite moment may have perhaps been when a rather dirty (and by dirty I mean grubby) looking chap at the booth next to ours started sneezing violently (and generally hacking his dirty little guts up). We thought the vigorous and un-covered sneezes (that's right - this dirty little specimen had dirty manners too) would never end, as they filled the air in torrents. We were all disgusted, and were thankful when he finally left the restaurant (although we still felt slightly suffocated as his germs filled the room - and most likely covered the table he was sitting at). Now in all seriousness, this was really gross and not in the least bit appetising, and yet it still kind of amused me, just to witness the horrified expressions on the rest of the Team's faces....

Sneezing aside, we had fun, and I'm glad we got to meet for one last brunch this year. Next brunch: Las Vegas, April 2011!

Tuesdays at the Verdi are jumpin'

The past couple of Tuesdays at The Verdi Club were particularly fun - I am sad that the Verdi is not in London!

Two weeks ago Canadian country band Petunia and The Vipers played Tuesday Night Jump (San Francisco's weekly jump jive & swing dance night) in place of house band Stompy Jones who were out playing a private gig that night. It was fun to see another band take to the stage just for a change, and they definitely filled the joint.





The dance floor was packed, and I can safely say that I was up dancing for most of the songs that night. Last time I saw the band was when they visited San Francisco in April and played at Hotel Utah. There isn't much of a dance floor at that venue so I mostly spectated then, which made it even more of a treat being able to dance to them this time.




The atmosphere was great, lots of friends were there and it was great to catch up with the guys from the band. All in all, lots of fun for a Tuesday night!




Last week Stompy were back at Verdi, and they were feeling festive! The room was decorated, and there was a Christmas tree by the stage. The guys in the band busted out numerous Christmas tunes (surprisingly un-cheesy!) and the dance floor was busy.








I don't know if it was more fun because I knew it was going to be my last Tuesday Night Jump for a while, but whatever it was, I had a blast!