Au revoir, 2012.

This year was bittersweet. With all the stresses of starting a new life in a new country-making new friends, finding a new job….there was a lot going on. And not all of it was nice. Then again, it was our first year of marriage, and despite all the things we had to go through this year, 2012 wasn’t all bad. It definitely had its high points! (Although I hope that next year will have more high points than low points, if I’m being honest).

I thought of doing a big month-by-month year in review, as I’ve done before, but I’m just not feeling it this year. I’d like to quietly say goodbye to the old, and welcome in the new with all the optimism and positivity I can muster.

Some personal highlights of my year:

Travel-Paris with my dearest Lindsey and my love Jon in June. Such an amazing trip, a dream, really, being there with two of my favorite people in the whole wide world. In April I took a long bus journey to Nottingham to see Penny-my first trip to the North of England! Exeter for a fancy -and soaking wet-summer wedding in July. A great Ohio visit with weddings and love in September.

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A December day in St. James’ Park

Last weekend, pre-Harrods and pre-Winter Wonderland, Jon and I slowly walked around central London and just enjoyed the cold, clear Sunday on our hands. I wanted to see if Big Ben and Parliament and Westminster Abbey were decked out in the trappings of holiday cheer, but alas, they were not. Too fancy, I guess!

Hey, guess who got married here, in this big  ol’ church? Nice big wedding last summer, you may have heard a thing or two about it….

Westminster Abbey is such a pretty place! I always want to go inside to check it out and drool at the architectural magnificence, but the admission is astronomical, like £20 or something. Um, no. I’ll stay on the outside like the urchin that I am.

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My love affair with Harrods

harrods London christmas lights

It is a very naive and childish part of me that loves Harrods like I do. It is an amazing department store in London, similar to Macy’s from the old days in the US, and I think that vague connection is what makes it such a magical place at Christmas time-at least in my mind. Like “A Miracle on 34th Street”, but set in London! And much, much more expensive!

Harrods is a true luxury store, with every “important” label out there-Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Chloe, Rolex and Peugut  and Cartier, all of that, displayed in its halls. But what I love the most, more than all of the rest, are the food halls. Amazing selections of delicacies and pastries, meats and fruits and dishes from all over the world, plus the best on offer from this gray, chilly land, England. It is decadent. There is a La Duree in there as well! Macarons!

harrods london christmas pastry

And this weekend I saw a ham on sale that cost….wait for it…..£1300. THIRTEEN HUNDRED POUNDS. For a ham. Believe me, a trip to Harrods is a a mouth watering wander through the best of all kinds of treats, both material and edible, and maybe most of us will not be able to afford oh….3/4 of that deliciousness.

It is a crazy place.

harrod's food hall london christmas

The only thing I have ever purchased at Harrods was loose leaf tea for my mom. And even that was not cheap. Some day I may buy something more, or maybe even sit down and have a meal at one of the counters/restaurants….but let’s not get our hopes up! They also sell a Christmas hamper (English word for gift basket) every year that costs upward of £1000, full of fancy champagne, caviar and other tasty/fancy goods. Yeesh. For now, I’m content with looking around and enjoying the sights and atmosphere-particularly during the holidays.

The Knightsbridge area of London, where Harrods can be found, is also home to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Harvey Nichols,  and any number of other luxury shops. So it’s to be expected that they step it up to impress the hoi-polloi come the holidays, and ohhhh they do! They really do. It is gorgeous down there, and the lights and window displays are just beyond lovely.

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London’s Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Jon and I have been together for 4 Christmases. Out of those 4 Christmases, 2 have been in England. And during the Christmas season both of those years (including this year!) we’ve gone up to London to take part in the holiday joyousness that is Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park.

hyde park winter wonderland london

This year we met up with my fellow Buckeye, Ariel (who can be found writing about her own oh-so-social London existence over here) and man oh man do I love having another Ohioan just an hour away. We need to hang out more! And it’s also always fun comparing our experiences with our English menfolk and just being Midwesterners in England, essentially. It’s a unique experience. We’ve always got a lot to talk about.

The Wonderland was chock full of people. Even on a Sunday evening, the place was bustling. We partook in several cups of mulled wine and a delicious bratwurst or two, and discussed the differences between Bavarian and German holiday markets (conclusion: uhhhh are there any differences?), all while doing some light dancing to the entertainment on hand at various stages and checking out some of the more-interesting-choices in attire by people in attendance. Okay, Jon and Rob didn’t dance. But that’s okay, Rel and I had it covered.

Mmmmm German Bratwurst.

bratwurst hyde park winter wonderland london

And stealth pictures of bratwurst eating, which make me laugh.

I refrained from getting on any carnival rides. Doesn’t go well with mulled wine, you see. Also, they are terrifying. We did watch some of the people ice skating for a few (very few) minutes. Jon Norris still refuses to ice skate. Harrumph.

Unfortunately we couldn’t stay out too late, what with having to work this morning, but I’m glad we went down early in December, rather than later. And if you’re in or near London, you should go too! It’s good for all ages, and I’m still disappointed I didn’t buy a Christmas ornament, what with trying to make a quick exit to the closest tube station through the heaving throngs of people. Silly me. Oh, well…there’s always next year!

The cliffs of Saltdean

Today I expanded the horizons of how much I have seen of the English coast, and it was all pretty lovely. First, (and non-horizon-expanding, really) Jon and I took a long walk along the seafront this morning, taking advantage of the beautiful sunshine and not too chilly temperatures that we seem to be having this mid-November. It was another one of those days where everyone in Brighton was out! The sunshine just does that to people-all the kids, dogs, and athletes, running amuck, soaking up that Vitamin D. While we were out and about, Jon’s parents called and asked if we wanted to hang out, and, of course, we said yes (okay, I’m pretty sure they weren’t like “hey Jon, you guys wanna hang out with us today?” but you know what I mean). So at 2 o’clock we piled into a car full of dogs and people and decided to head east out of Brighton, where I’ve never been before.

It was gorgeous! These are the chalk cliffs that run along the coast of East Sussex. We parked the car in Saltdean and walked up to Rottingdean. Over there it was far less busy than what I’m used to right along the sea in Brighton, near us. There’s less beach, fewer people, and more water- and I loved the cliffs. I still haven’t managed to see the white cliffs of Dover that I’ve heard so much about, but I imagine in my mind that these are pretty close! (Plus I’ve heard that you can’t really see much of the Dover cliffs unless you’re actually out to sea).


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Dear friend

I miss this lady.

When I was in Ohio in September-which, whoa, how was that seriously nearly 2 months ago now?- this beautiful woman was totally down for hangouts at the drop of a hat. We’ve got the sort of friendship thing going at this period of life where I know that nothing important will change between us because I’m away, and that we can pick up where we’ve left off, no matter how long it’s been since our last face to face. And at this time in my existence, and with the whole “up and moved sticks to the UK” thing, it’s also nice knowing that she is one of my few friends who isn’t completely devoted to a landlocked American life (aka, you can bet your ass we’ll be seeing each other not just in Ohio during this lifetime). I would never deign to only be friends with people who travel (never never), but it’s so reassuringly wonderful to know when you’ve got a few comrades that you can be counted on to meet here and there around the way-and it’s not all on my shoulders to keep friendships alive. I really appreciate that. I don’t know what I’d do without it.

Anyway, with a busy week nearly behind me, I found myself looking at photos tonight from that visit. September seems far away. And I just have to say I miss my friend.

In January we will drink drinks and have talks and do alllll the thrifting. I am thinking of you.

Ohio flashback: Kingwood Center in Mansfield, Ohio

I can’t believe this was so long ago now, but looking back at these pictures of our visit to Kingwood Center in Ohio I’m reminded of a lovely day wandering amid late summer greenery with my husband and my mom, and that’s pretty cool. In comparison, today Brighton was blanketed in the thickest fog you’ve ever seen. It was eerie and seasonally appropriate and summer could not feel further away.

Jon made friends with all sorts of birds, strangely enough. Ducks and peacocks, and a goose or two. Even though he usually doesn’t have the best luck with birds…true story. He has multiple “attacked by avian beings” stories, and it’s weird. Apparently Ohio birds don’t hate him.

Ahhh romance…

Hi mom!

Nearly ten years ago I actually had some of my high school senior pictures taken here (non-American readers, those are pictures you take before graduating from high school. Everyone has them and they are cheesy yet awesome and soooo good to hold on to and show your incredulous future husband at some point). Another thing I can’t believe was as long ago as it was (whoa, that’s a messy sentence!)-high school, man. Ten years ago I finished it. What? Anyway, I had to recreate (sort of, ha) one of my senior pics in the actual spot it was taken. See?

Week 2 of CELTA is proving to be as exhausting as the first, with more and more piling on. One of the women in our class dropped out today. Gotta keep on powering through though….chug chug chug. And now, back to lesson planning…