Tea Time

18 Feb

It is a well-known stereotype. Brits love tea. And you know what? It’s a ritual worth having. After a long day, a steaming mug of Earl Grey with a splash of milk and a spoon of sugar can ease more than tired eyes. A proper cuppa can relax the mind, warm the belly, and give you enough energy to finish your day.

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I enjoy English Breakfast at all hours, typically with a spoon of honey and a splash of skim or soy milk. Earl Grey and English Breakfast are traditional but not the only tea enjoyed across the pond. At my internship I participated in daily tea time at about four o’clock, sometimes half past. We always had some variation of green tea—with lemon, jasmine, mint—and green tea remains a favorite of mine. I love a green and white tea, with a spoon of honey, whenever I feel sickly or in need of warming. Honey sweetens it just enough and soothes the throat as it goes down.

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Now when I say a proper cuppa, that mainly refers to how long you let the tea steep. A green tea only takes about three minutes to be perfectly drinkable. But black teas, like English Breakfast, take at least five minutes. The longer you steep, the stronger the tea. Steep for too long and it will taste like you’re sucking on a tea leaf. Steep for too little and you might as well throw the weak excuse for a cup down the drain.

Another important part of the tea ritual, at least for me, is the vessel. When it comes to mugs, I’m a bit picky. For some reason tea tastes better when sipped from one of my many UK-friendly mugs. The thin, bone china Harrods mugs I inherited from my uncle are perfect for cold days and chilly fingers. My short, wide Shakespearean insults and love quotes mugs—purchased at the Bard’s birthplace—are thick and sturdy, the right size for an afternoon spot. 

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Slang

30 Jan

I miss the small bits of British slang I heard tossed about London. I miss walking on the pavement, not the sidewalk. I miss hearing cheers instead of thank you/you’re welcome. I miss going out for a pint, not a beer. I miss preparing for the week-end, not the weekend. I miss the colorful curse words and rampant use of the four letter words Americans frown on (sorry, Mom). I miss saying round instead of around. I miss hearing children say muh-ma and puh-pa. I miss going to the pub. Taking the tube. Walking the High Street. Living in a posh neighborhood. Fancying someone. Going on holiday.

I miss England.

One year later…

12 Jan

A year ago I packed a suitcase, boarded a plane by myself, and began a four-month preview of a life in London. I call it a preview and not a journey because I know that London is my end point, and my journey there wasn’t the plane ride – it’s everything I will do until I move there permanently. And the whole “finding myself”-journey cliche doesn’t begin to cover my time spent in London last year. 

I think about London every single day. The streets, the Tube, the museums, the culture, and the way I felt when I was there. People often talk about feeling like they’re home, and how certain places just feel right. When I think about London I know that it is the one place where I truly feel at home. While I love where I spent my childhood, and I love where I grew as a college student, London is the place I want to be. The place I miss the most. The place I feel most like myself. London is where I know I belong. Cue the corny music.

2011 was a year of many firsts and new experiences – some great, some not so great – but why dwell on the bad when I can remember the incredible? The unbelievable? The oh-so-British? 

This is the year I graduate from college and embark on a little journey into the career world. As I begin this important year, I want to share more from my experience in London with whomever is reading my blog. 

Where has all the cider gone?

13 Jul

I ask myself this at every bar and restaurant I go to in America. How can this country not embrace such a delicious beverage?

In London there are ciders galore: Strongbow, Magners, Kopparberg’s, Rekorderlig (Wild Berry is my fave), Bulmer’s, Blackthorn, even Tesco has its own brand.

So where are the ciders here in the good ol’ USA? In the almost three months I’ve been back in the States I have had Magners, usually in a bottle but at a proper Irish bar you can get it on tap and the Stop and Shop near my house sells it in six packs for $9.99. I tried Harpoon’s cider. Never again, it was like drinking half a Strongbow diluted with water.

But where’s the real Strongbow? And, more importantly, where are my berry ciders? My strawberry lime ciders? One cannot live on the occasional apple or pear alone. So I ask you, America, where do I find cider? And by America, I mean google.

According to my beloved search engine, the US does brew its own ciders and certain bars carry a variety of imports… So the hunt continues. And until then, I’m a Magners loyalist.

Life in London Part V: Silly Things and Lovely People

6 Jul

Things I’ve fallen in love with while in London…

General Sillyness

The is the last stop on the Picadilly line going North. The trains announce where they are travelling to, so in this case, you hear: "This is a Picadilly Line service to: Cockfosters". What makes this so great is that it is said by an almost robotic sounding British lady. And I take the Picadilly line about ten stops. So I hear this over and over. Does it get old? Nope.

Of course.

I'm just silly. But I don't care, I have fun.

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I love love love Sam to death. She and I went through a lot together at the beginning of the semester and our friendship is solidified after this experience together. Our mutual love of Robert Downey Jr.'s wax figure certainly helps.

Matt and I have intellectual conversations about literature and the state of the world while enjoying a glass of wine... or two or three. We also enjoy pretending to be hipsters and having a photoshoot, lounging in the parks on sunny days and dancing the stress away at night.

Obviously I love Jack and have loved Jack for years. And next to Jack is Meggie, who is probably the funniest person I have ever met. Her angry cat noises and Wisconsin mom accent will always make me laugh uncontrollably, no matter where I am.

Life in London Part IV: Royal Wedding Mania

7 Jun

You should have seen this one coming. And now that I’ve had a month to bask in post-wedding tabloids, entertainment news programs, and Barbara Walters specials, it’s my turn to write about the Royal Wedding.

William and Catherine. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Future Prince and Princess of Wales (once Charles is finally king). Future King and Queen (once the current Queen dies, Charles becomes king and dies). Quite a lot of titles and future titles. I like to think of them as Will and Kate, this blog tends to be informal (see: awkward statues, nerdgasms, my new boyfriends).

How adorable is this photo? Answer: too adorable.

I’ve always been in awe of royalty, it kind of comes with being a girly girl. Then I went to London in 2005 and, in two short days, I was hooked on all things House of Windsor. Add an obsession with Shakespeare and the History Plays and a fascination with all things “sparkly” and my current obsessions are warranted.

One of my favorite things that was shown to me so graciously by my dear friend Sam, is this blog:

Kate Middleton for the Win

Now, I love Kate Middleton. I think she’s an incredibly classy lady who will do wonderful things for the British monarchy just like Diana before her (but in much better clothes and hair, naturally). But this Tumblr takes images of Kate and slaps snarky phrases on them, such as this:

What makes these so funny to me is I don’t picture her to be at all like this, and I doubt the blog’s creator does either. But nonetheless, they’re good for a laugh.

I was lucky to be in London during the lead up to the Wedding, and saw much of the preparations…

Like people camping out and camera crews setting up at Westminster Abbey two days before.

Some of my friends joined the chaos by camping out by Buckingham Palace! I flew out the day of the wedding (no lines, no waiting!) but I waited to leave for the Tube until Will and Kate were officially married. I couldn’t leave without seeing that part of the ceremony.

And now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for: What did I think of the dress(es)?

Kate wore a dress by British designer Sarah Burton, the late Alexander McQueen's protege. She took over the label after his tragic suicide last year. To start, I love the modest train. Diana had a 25 foot train which was, let's say it, RIDICULOUS. A tradition of respect at Westminster Abbey mandates that shoulders be covered, which is why the dress has sleeves. I love that Kate went with a lace overlay for the sleeves and collar of the dress. It gives the look a classic feel while still being a little sexy underneath. As for the veil it's quite sheer, which I like as I detest most veils. Plus that loaned tiara suits her.

Notice the detail of the lace: it is completely sheer at the sleeves but a bit denser at the shoulder/collarbone. The edging is lovely. Her makeup is flawless, and as most people (well, most royal wedding obsessees like myself) know, she did her own makeup. Is there anything she can't do?

For the after party Kate changed into another Sarah Burton design. The overall silhouette is similar to the first dress, but this is a little less church and a little more party. The shrug is playful (but looks kind of itchy to me) and the crystal belt highlights her slim figure. As usual, her hair is glorious.

Pippa Middleton in Sarah Burton. Who wouldn't want to look this good in a dress this beautiful? She (almost) upstaged her sister. I want this dress. Also, perfect hair clearly runs in the Middleton family.

How can I resist posting a picture of the ever-charming Prince Harry? Especially when he is in uniform...

I should note that, since being back in the states, two people have told me I look like Kate. The highest of all compliments, if only my hair looked like hers every day…

Life in London Part III: Food and Drink

23 May

Things I’ve fallen in love with while in London…

Food and Drink

Banoffee Pie. The most delicious dessert ever. A graham cracker or shortbread crust followed by a layer of toffee and bananas and topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate or cinnamon. Absolute heaven in your mouth. (this Banoffee Pie is from Balans on Kensington High Street)

Jacket potatoes, also known as a baked potato in the states only a jacket potato is filled with... well... whatever you like. Commonly though, for a super cheap meal, Brits eat theirs with Heinz beans (also a breakfast staple) and a bit of cheddar cheese if feeling fancy.

Naan. A delicious flatbread that is standard with Indian cuisine.

Vindaloo. A very spicy Indian dish. Do not try it unless you can handle extreme spice. It has become a staple in my diet here.

I love nice a glass of white wine. Very sophisticated of me. Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc, please.

In addition to wine, you all know I love cider and this is my favorite…

I am on the hunt for this in the states. Berry cider... Swedish berry cider... That I only found twice in the UK... Someone help me