Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels…Part Six – The Atomium

There was one final place on our list to visit before our stay in Belgium came to an end!

I give you, The Atomium in Brussels.

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Constructed for the 1958 World Fair in Brussels, this futuristic architectural wonder is equal parts science fiction and brilliant design. Crafted of steel and standing at 102 meters high, this amazing structure is a replica of the unit cell of an iron crystal atom – magnified 165 billion times.

And you can go inside of it!

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Inside the beast…

Elevator shaft…S looks up intently.

View from the top sphere…

2001: A Space Odyssey on a loop…

Each giant steel sphere is connected to the next by tunnels containing either metal staircases or escalators lit with rainbow light panels that flicker and pulse as you descend.

A little video…

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Read more about the Atomium here: http://www.atomium.be/

Farewell Belgium! You were very good to us – thanks and see you again one day! xx

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels…Part Cinq!!—-Brussels <3

On our last day in Belgium we wandered around Brussels a bit aimlessly. A happy and relaxed last-day-on-holiday sort of aimlessness. Eyeing the shop windows for choccy, stopping in for Moule Frites, exploring some back streets and churches. Blissful wandering.

Camera in hand as always. Enjoy. x

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So many treats…

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels…Part Quatre!! Onward to Bruges!

One of these days I’ll get all of our photos up from our Belgium trip. There are just so many! :-P

Ghent was indeed quite beautiful, but Bruges really stole my heart and I didn’t want to leave. <3

We lucked out yet again with an amazing Airbnb situation (I know there have been a lot of horror stories floating around lately but we've always had great experiences – do your research!)

I would strongly suggest staying here if you go to Bruges.
Mina stays quite booked up so you may have difficulty securing the reservation because of the amazing stack of reviews and awards she's gotten, but if you can, it's really the most perfect little place.

We were picked up at the train station gratis (amazing)!!

Fed and watered like royalty…

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And the ensuite room was stocked with everything you would need (including a Nespresso machine! DREAMLIFE!)
You can book here directly (if you aren’t into Airbnb) http://www.biminthus.be/index.php?lang=en

Bruges is where I really let my chocoholic flag fly proudly.

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Who doesn’t need a big pair of chocolate boobs?

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No shortage of beer!

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Mmmmmmmmm KWAK!

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Beer bible! The only bible for me!!

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Satan makes delicious beer. No surprises there.

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Food was wonderful as well!

Fondue…

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Vol-au-vent au poulet
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And Bruges, itself…simply stunning.

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Basilica of the Holy Blood

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DALI Museum

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Up next! Brussels & the Atomium…

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels …Part Trois – Lightopia & the Design Museum Gent

There were lots of rainy days when we were in Belgium (which is perfectly fine if your top priority is drinking beer 24/7)!

In an effort to not be completely sloshed for the duration of our holiday, we visited the Design Museum Gent to see the temporary exhibition, Lightopia.

Lightopia is a playful and mesmerising exploration of light. From the humble but extraordinary beginnings of electricity, through the evolution to ultra modern and cutting edge lighting fixtures, we wandered around for hours absorbing the artistry and immersive experiences that the exhibition offered.

The design museum itself was really beautiful, but the contemporary light fixtures woven throughout the 18th century drawing rooms takes you on this amazing journey from the past into the future. Walking away and further contemplating my experience over a large pint of delicious Belgian beer, this part of the exhibition was what really stayed with me.

Photos presented below without comment – Enjoy!

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Next up… Onward to Bruges!

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels …part DEUX – Waffles!

Who’s in the mood for some motherflippin waffles?!

The answer is: ALL Y’ALL.

Because you just can’t say no to waffles.

(Unless you are punishing yourself, coeliac or obnoxious)…then fine.
More waffs for moi!

I did some investigative “wafflesearch” (snort…high-fiving myself) before we left for Belgium!
Although I usually cringe at the thought of doing the same exact touristy things that everyone else does on holiday, there are certain rights of passage when you visit a place for the first time.

No one goes to Florence and says
“Keep me away from all this perfect gnocchi and gorgeous gelato”.

No one “mehs” at a sexy hunk of crusty baguette freshly slathered with salted butter in Paris.

The point I’m making is that no one was going to keep me from my waffle experience. It’s Belgium, we are doing the waffle thing. It’s sorted.

So there’s this place called “MAX” http://www.etablissementmax.be/en/ in Ghent.
It’s this incredible little art nouveau cafe that specialises in waffles and apple fritters – even claims to have invented them in 1839! Here’s a little video about it:

After an afternoon spent schlepping around looking at beautiful churches, swans swimming in canals, drinking beer and other magical things – we plopped ourselves down in the wicker chairs and planned our* waffle attack.

(*I should note that S only ordered a beer. I am a lone waffle warrior.)

Isn’t it a beautiful building?

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The inside is just as gorgeous. Who doesn’t love art nouveau??

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So what did I order? Well…obviously I ordered a waffle.

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A big, fluffy, light-as-air, splendid and amazing waffle. Crispy. Slightly Sweet. Yum.

And a fancy coffee… REAL fancy.

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And then I thought…well if they really invented the apple fritter, I should probably order one…you know…since i’m here…

So I did! Eeeeee!

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Then I made this face because GLUTONY.

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S just sat and sipped his Chimay in a state of loving, and non-judgemental supervision as I tucked into my mountain of treats.

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I did my best, but living a mostly carb free existence and eating (and drinking) carbs non-stop for 2 days was catching up to me by this point.
Since I was receiving no help from my (I don’t have a sweet-tooth) better half, I really only made a slight dent in my sugar feast. He always says I’m really talented at eating all the desserts and I appreciate the support.

I’m thrilled to report that everything was absolutely spot-on perfection!

When in Ghent, go to MAX!
Order the waffle.
Die of happy!

Next up – LIGHTOPIA!!!!

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels …part one

Ahhhhhh Belgium! So many reasons to visit this beautiful country.

Picturesque cottages. Quirky Cobblestone streets. Beer. (REALLY AMAZING BEER) Art. Chocolate. (REALLY AMAZING CHOCOLATE) Swans. Misty canals. Moules Frites. Medieval churches. Waterzooi. More beer. More beer. More beer.

And rain. If you like and/or can tolerate rain, then yes. Visit.

I read a travel blog before my recent trip to Belgium where the author said the one thing she was able to determine by her visit to Belgium, was that it is always raining.
I would like to add to that statement by offering up my observation that if it is not raining, it has either just stopped raining or is about to start raining again.

BUT we went in February – which is really us begging to be rained upon. I promise I’m not complaining!

As you may know if you’ve followed my blog or are actually my real life friend, a year and half ago S and I bought a nice big house in a gorgeous leafy area of London. It is lovely and we are much happier and have loads more spaces than in the flat in Stockwell, TRUST.
But the “semi-constant” home improvements to said dwelling have definitely limited our ability to travel as often as we would like. We would travel every weekend if we could. But wouldn’t everyone?

Eventually the daily grinding commute and bustle of such a enormous and unforgiving city, creates a time bomb situation where you must get the hell out of Dodge. This happened last year around this time when we went to Slovenia. Like clockwork, by January of this year I was again up to my neck with boiling hatred for London.

So, it was time to GIT!

And this is where being in London has its advantages. One 25 minute train journey to St. Pancras Station, hop aboard The Eurostar, put in your heaphones, sip on your latte and in a few short hours you can be wining and dining in a myriad of amazing European cities. It’s the bees pyjamas.

So we chose Belgium for OPERATION: DECOMPRESS VIA ALL OF THE BEER.

We love Airbnb! It has always served us well. Both places we stayed in Belgium were probably the luckiest we’ve gotten with Airbnb accommodation thus far. The old Monastery conversion we stayed at in Ghent was absolutely stunning!

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Skip the fees and book directly through them here: http://bbmariereine.be/recensies.html

And the historic town centre itself is incredible.

Sint-Michielskerk glowing at night…

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Graffiti tunnel…

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We had a beautiful dinner at De Graslei http://www.restaurantdegraslei.be/en where I ordered the very traditional Flanders dish “Waterzooi”

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It was SO YUMMY.

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As was my dinner date. <3

All the walking around in the freezing rain made us VERY thirsty. So we spent a lovely evening sampling (pouring beers directly into our faces) a few of the 250 beers on offer at Pub ‘de Dulle Griet’ http://www.dedullegriet.be/en/

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If you want to drink the gigantic “Max” beer, you must hand over one of your shoes. It goes in the basket, the bell is rung, your shoe is lifted high to the ceiling and here comes your beer!

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And then you drink the rest of the beers…

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ALL THE BEER! Up next…The Design Museum Exhibit Lightopia and WAFFLES!

A Very Autumnal Pug Meet!

I realise it’s Christmas and these photos are from November, but I’ve been a very busy lady per usual so sorryabouthat!

Anyway, PUGS! Enjoy the snarfly, wrinkly, flarpy puggleses and a few Frenchies!

This one is mine.

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My magical Mrs. Tumness.

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Queen of the Flarp. Princess of all of the peppermints. The wuggle wugwuggs.

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That’s her with her Grampa bear.

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And here’s me cheating on her with another wuggs.

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ACK! That face! Love it.

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Annnnnndddd another one!

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Just letting it all hang out. :P

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And those are mine too! Sir Noodles (self proclaimed King of Pugs) and my other half, Mr. Gimmeyummy!

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Pretty darn magical!

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Happy Christmas!!! xxx

Paris, FINALLY! Part Two. AND Three.

Annnnd we’re back! I decided to cram the rest of the photos into one last post so this is your warning that it’s a LONG one!

So picking up from where we left off with part one of our Paris trip, after a sweet little breakfast at Maison Lacombe we made our way toward Notre Dame and the Centre Georges Pompidou.

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Centre Georges Pompidou!!! Amazing!!!

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The walk to Notre Dame…

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Lunch at Aux Arts Etc Cafe’ Galerie

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The experience and food in this quaint little cafe was beyond wonderful and the staff/owner was very welcoming and lovely!

Off to the Pantheon…

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The Eiffel Tower!

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Collectively sharing our feelings about Selfie sticks…

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The sweetest older lady and dog duo there ever was…

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We were completely destroyed from all the walking and had a simple charcuterie and cheese feast for dinner…

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Nommmmmmmmm.

The next morning we took a boat cruise on the Seine from The Eiffel Tower…

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Then a quick little pit stop in Bistro De Montemartre…

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http://en.bistromontmartre.com/

Followed by a walk through the beautiful and somber Montmartre Cemetery…

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Our journey to Sacré-Coeur began with more walking around Montmartre…

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SACRE-COEUR!!!

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Our last dinner was at a tiny neighbourhood restaurant in Ternes called Le Petit Acacia.

We were incredibly lucky to yet again, have a stellar meal.

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The parents look pretty darn happy and relaxed! ;)

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The FOOD!

Roasted Bone Marrow

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Suckling Pig

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Confit Duck

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Creme Brulee

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On our last day in Paris we toured the Musee D’Orsay (simply wondrous and astounding!) then we dined at another fantastic restaurant Le Recrutement Cafe for one final Parisan feast.

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They still look happy! Success!

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Lovingly threatening my darling with my Escargot tongs…

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Which was short lived because then there was escargot! YUM.

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Beef stew

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Salad with duck gizzards and foie gras

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Cheesecake (my mother says this was the best she’s had)

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Cheeky Cheese Plate

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Apple Tart with salted butter ice cream

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And creme brulee #2 for moi.

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One final look before heading to Gare Du Norde…

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So that’s it. Sadly!

Thank you for taking the time to scroll through all the photographs!

And goodbye beautiful Paris, thank you for not disappointing! See you again soon! x

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Paris, FINALLY! Part One

I was supposed to go to Paris about a year and a half ago with my friend Nikki and her mother and sister-in-law, but I royally screwed that up by misplacing my passport on my flight home from Nashville and missed the trip altogether.
I WAS GUTTED. So very very sad.

Since then, I’ve been to cities in Slovenia, Austria, Croatia and Italy…but Paris remained an elusive destination forever taunting me for being irresponsible with my travel documents.

I’m thrilled to report that Paris is officially conquered!

My folks flew over for 10 days (they are still here actually!) and we took the Eurostar over for a little Parisian city break!

We rented a beautiful flat in Ternes for 3 nights and had the dreamiest time exploring Paris!
This might be the fastest gimmeyummy photo-taking to blog posting turnaround ever. Split up into two posts – Enjoy!

Our lovely apartment!

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A beautiful first meal near the flat at L’ANNEX.

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I enjoyed a few well deserved glasses of crisp grassy Sancerre…

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Followed by the most gorgeous Escargot…

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Rare Rib of beef…

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And SWEETS!

Apple Tart…

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Panna Cotta with Raspberry…

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http://annexdumarche.wix.com/lannexe

Then a night walk to the Arc du Triomphe…

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…and many many stairs to the top!

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We awoke the next day to gorgeous electric blue skies and had a beautiful little breakfast at Maison Lacombe.

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I had read that people travel all over for their croissants and I completely understand why as I was unable to get a photograph after shovelling the croissant into my face in record speed.

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I shall leave you with these and pick up at Notre Dame and all the rest tomorrow! Stay tuned! xx

My Brother Arrives!

Hooray for visitors! My big brother recently flew from Nashville to London to visit me (first time travelling outside of the US mind you). This consisted of us basically dragging him around to anything and everything historically notable we could cram into his short stay! We made sure to keep him calm in the face of public transport by plying him with lots of craft beer! Please forgive the combination of bad iphone photos and proper photographs! ;)

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The boys ready for the 49ers game!

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Climbing at Trafalgar Square…

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Imperial War Museum!

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British Museum!

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Boat taxi home on the Thames…

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The obligatory phone booth shot!

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The Emirates Air Line!

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Deep thoughts on the Thames with Dan…

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Off to the Tower of London!

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A little afternoon stroll…

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I already miss ya bro! Come back soon! xx
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Another Glorious Green Park Pug Meet + Being A Tourist…

I’m about 2 weeks late with this – better late than never.

Prepare yourself for a big dose of HAPPY.

Because PUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGSSSSSS!!!!

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NOODLES is convinced that he is their leader…

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I even brought some friends this time to share in my crazy.

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Who’s pug is this? DOESN’T MATTER – I just had to HUG him.

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Pepper is such a little tart…

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Once Sir Noodles felt that all of the pugs had been conquered, we headed to the pub for a bite to eat with Stu-pot.
He’s been visiting us from China where is a fancy pants tea ambassador! <3
Stu has an amazing Tea blog by the way, check it – http://teaearlgreyhotblog.tumblr.com/

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Then off to Tower Bridge for a stroll along the Thames.

ACK!!! Tourists!

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My dog has been more places than you.

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If you live in London you should check out the poppy installation currently at the Tower.

http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/remembrance/ww1-centenary/poppies-in-the-moat

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We ended with pints and grub at Southwark Tavern…

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Fish and Chips!! Yummmmmm.

This is Stu showing me how to take an appropriately obnoxious selfie because apparently my attempts at selfie taking were not obnoxious enough. ;)

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It was a brilliant pug & London event-filled day! And then it was bedtime for all! Cheers! x

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A Weekend in Worcester…

It was that time again.

Work. Sleep. Work. Sleep.

We needed a break!

One Friday afternoon a few weeks ago, we piled the family into the car (pups included) and headed North for a couple of days of respite.

Goodbye London, hello Worcester!

Pronounced “Wooster” Not “WAR-CHESTER” (as I continue to do despite knowing very well how it should be pronounced).

Our friends live in a beautiful old Georgian house filled to the brim with antiques nestled quietly between neighbouring farms.

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The view from breakfast…

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A gorgeous hike…

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Happy little babies…

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A bit of rain…

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Which gave me plenty of time to explore this amazing house stuffed to the brim with antique tins, boxes, bottles, prints, signs and general oddities!

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Pepper was not at all pleased when we told her it was time to leave! (Neither we were)

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Thanks Linda & Al!!

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We had the most lovely time! xxx

Beautiful Barton-On-Sea and The New Forest – now with MORE PONIES!

Barton-On-Sea is a very special place. When we can no longer stand the incessant hum of city life, this is our escape. A couple of hours in the car driving South takes you to a magical land where animals roam free. Sparkling waters, crumbling orange coastline, and The New Forest nearby…Cows, pigs, ponies, donkeys…all just knocking around your neighbourhood as tame as a house cat.
We recently escaped to the sea for a few days of peace and sunshine. It was as rad as it always is. Enjoy the photos! x

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Cars! – For my Dad on his 62nd birthday, I dedicate this to you!

My Dad has always been obsessed with cars. Actually, most of the men in my life have had a deep love for a superbly crafted automobile. The curves, the sparkle. The speed. The smell of expensive leather.
I get it, I really do.
I’ve never walked down the street with a man and watched him turn his head for a beautiful woman (honestly I think this is an urban myth or everyone else has dated assholes) but I have seen this happen more times then I could ever recollect with beautiful cars. I have witnessed my brother drop repeated F-bombs and actually blush with excitement at the sight of a classic corvette. I am convinced that the slow moving pedestrian traffic on Kings Road is entirely due to the ridiculous population of ultra expensive cars. You guys freak out over sexy machines the way I freak out over miniature ponies. And that’s okay!

Right, so today My husband and I ventured to Oxleas Wood for an impromtu picnic and some frisbee with the dogs. Much to our delight, there was some sort of classic car & BBQ event complete with a Rockabilly band in full swing!

There was absolutely NO way I was going to just walk by and not take photos for my Dad. That would just never happen. And tomorrow is his birthday! So what excellent timing! Hey Dad! I hope you enjoy this car-themed birthday blog post just for you!! x

Noodles starts us off right with a bit of window surfing on the drive to the park…

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He gets really zen in the wind…

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And then we did Frisbee!

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And other people did kites! It was a great day for kites.

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Pepper spent the entire time trying to be more adorable than she currently is.

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Ha! Like that is even possible.

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Good try Pepper pug. You are the maximum level of cute allowed by the UK Government.

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We tried to take a nice duo selfie but Pepper kept licking my eye balls and it was just too dang bright outside.

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And then the sun turned to storm clouds…

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So we decided to beat the rain and hiked up the monster hill and started snapping car photos!

I’m going to preface this section by saying that my car knowledge is even lower than my ability to fully appreciate cars. I can identify cars that are clearly rad but I don’t know what they are called or why they are special or how many horses they have in their doo-hickey. So forgive me for being a complete jerk and making up new names for these cars. Because I’m about to do that. Maybe my Dad can enlighten me afterwards. Or disown me entirely.

THIS is obviously a super awesome VW Bus and a child would know that. And it is awesome.

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This used to be a VW bus right?

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And now it’s a VW Truck? Okay. VW-BUSSYTRUCK. Boom! This is easy. NEXT!

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Sweet Lord, this is clearly Jessica Rabbit as an automobile. Jessica Rabbit In-CAR-nate?
That’s either the worst or best pun ever. Worst, right?

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That looks like the back end of a woman in a tight red dress to me.

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I know I’m getting a bit abstract here. But I see what I see.

This is some sort of old-timey truck with it’s flappy flaps up so all the men can see the horses in the doo-hickey. Amiright?

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This is a tow truck and I know that because I can read.

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This is Elvis’ car and I know this because his name is all over it.

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Elvis apparently had really good taste because this car is gorgeous and makes me want a chocolate malt and a flash mob doing Grease Lightning to come into my life immediately.

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Not entirely convinced that this was CAR, more like a wonderful vehicular creation of scraps and doo-dads.

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Cool nonetheless!

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Yeah okay fine it’s probably a car.

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A car clearly blasting Metal on the road to Hell.

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Speaking of things that aren’t cars. This is not a car. I was informed that this is a deathtrap.

THE Deathrap.

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Aaaannnndddd it’s covered in Spiders.

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I told the lady sitting on it that I thought it was pretty cool and she said “yeah we were going for something a bit retro.”

Hmmmmm I’m no expert but…

That’s not the word you were looking for.

THIS is retro.

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And really fun.

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This must belong to Gatsby. Obviously.

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And this would be the opposite of that. TAZ.

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This is Dick Tracy’s car.

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I loved Dick Tracy. That was back before Madonna got all sculpted and sinewy. She was a proper babe. All of the Cleavage.

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A series of beat up but exceptionally wonderful old trucks…

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This car also had his flap up. It must have magic inside.

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This is the George Clooney of classic cars. I might leave my husband for this car.

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Am I becoming a car enthusiast?

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This is simply stunning.

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This car knows what’s up. I want to go to the party that this car is going to. I bet there is an infinity pool.

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Not as awesome but still awesome. Subtly awesome.

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They are all awesome. Which is why they are even here.

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I have no idea what this is but it’s amazing and has an airplane hood ornament and looks like its eating a chrome sandwich.

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I give you “The Flying Ford Chromewich”

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This might be the shiniest car I have ever seen.

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I actually looked this one up because I loved it so much. British make!

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It’s simply dreamy.

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This truck was my favourite and as much as a pile of metal can make a person swoon, it made me swoon.
Something so beautiful about the rust pattern & colour…

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I mean… just incredible.

Sigh.

And that’s it! My random and fantastically surprising Sunday afternoon with a bunch of old cars. I hope you got a kick out of the photos dad! I love you! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! xxx

Four Countries In Four Days – Part 3

It was brought to my attention that I completely forgot to mention the epic meat feast Uros treated us to in Ljubljana at CAD http://www.gostilna-cad.si/gb/index.html This was the day we walked around in the rain and watched the Rugby in the pub!

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This was my first experience with Serbian/Bosnian cuisine and it reminded me of Thanksgiving because the food was so delicious and plentiful but my stomach started waving the white flag of defeat shortly after we started!

So there you go! Homage has been paid Uros! All was not forgotten!

So let’s wrap up this colossally amazing trip with more photos of things we saw, ate and drank! ;)

The last full day/night in Ljubljana we met up with Uros and Jani and drove to Lake Bled, easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

The boys!

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The castle!

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The church in the middle of Lake Bled!

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Uros!

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Jani!

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Me trying to express how hungry I was with very lady-like hand gestures…

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They took the hint and we went immediately for Slovenian Pizza and beer!

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Which, was UNBELIEVABLE.

Afterwards we took a stroll down to the bottom of the hill to get a good view of the castle…

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Then we piled into the car for a scenic drive…

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And did some frolicking in the snow…

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The men were quite triumphant after navigating the deep snow banks…

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Which kicked off an obligatory snowball fight!

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Then we drove into Austria! Because why not?

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We got there just in time for a sunset stroll in Klagenfurt…

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We stopped for a coffee and ice cream and cake! MMMMMmmmmmm.

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More Dragons!

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SCHMUCK JEWELLERS. AMAZING. At least they are upfront about it right??

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The boys steering the ship to nowhere…

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Thank you Jani for the beautiful tiny dusk tour of Klagenfurt! xx

The next morning Uros took us out for a scrumptious breakfast in a gorgeous little French cafe in Ljubljana.

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Then we packed our bags and headed to Italy for one last stroll around the coast in Trieste.

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And that’s it! Four countries! Four days! All of the funtimes!

Thank you to Uros and Jani for being such incredible hosts and tour guides for us. We were absolutely desperate for a few days out of London and you gave us the most relaxing and gorgeous holiday. We are forever grateful and you are always welcome to stay with us at Westcombe Manor! We miss “Lah jub jub” already!!! xx

Four Countries in Four Days – Part TWO!

Where did we leave off? Breakfast in England. Quick afternoon flight to Italy. Seaside dinner in Piran. Cheeky drinks in Croatia. This clearly is a great way to start a holiday.
As our eventful first night was nearing a close, I suppose we were well within our rights to pass out when we got to Uros’ flat in Ljubljana, but noooooo. HOLIDAY!!

We freshened up and high-tailed it to Zlata Ladjica – The Golden Ship, to drink more beers and meet more friends.

This is where I fell in love with Bevog Tak:

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One of the most beautiful beers I’ve ever had. And the artwork is amazing as well.

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I’m not sure how easy is is to get your hands on Bevog, but if you see it in your local specialty beer shop, snatch it up. It’s excellent.

http://www.bevog.at/#beers

Here is a very blurry and VERY MERRY snap of us after a few drinks:

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On the way home I noticed a little vigil in support of Ukraine…heavy times…

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On that note, we grabbed some street food and made our way back the flat for a well-deserved sleep.

I was lucky enough to wake up to beautiful Slovenian donuts filled with peach jam and super thick dark coffee.

Yum. Thank you to Uros’ brother Niko!!!

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We ventured out in the rain to roam around the city…

Dragons!

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Translation: Tits

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The sculptures around Ljubljana are like something out of a Tool video. Which obviously makes me love it all the more.

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Nightmarish pope related Church doors!

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Yes, that is a turd sculpture. Bronze turds with faces. Spectacular.

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We met up with Ajda and her wee little pup Laika (like the dog the Soviets sent to space!)

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We stopped at an adorable coffee shop for a spell…

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I realised that I was so enamoured with her Boston Terrier that I never got a photo of Adja for the blog! EEEE!!!
So I’ve snatched one from her facebook!

This is Ajda, she’s great!

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The sun came out eventually…

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Dragon in the sun!!!

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We spent the rest of the day in an Irish pub watching Six Nations and took an early night to prepare for the next day’s events.

Next up…Lake Bled, the best pizza I’ve ever eaten and an evening stroll in Austria. xx

Four Countries in Four Days – Part ONE!

It was officially time for a Holiday. My stress meter was reaching high voltage levels. My usual (and very British) way of passively despising those around me was not doing the trick anymore. My ever growing habit of glaring with seething rage at fellow commuters as they noisily shovelled smelly snack products into their mouths INCHES FROM MY FACE had turned into a call for action. I realised that all of London was at risk if I did not get the hell out of Dodge ASAP.

It was time for a Holiday.

So we booked it in. And off we went. To the land of beer and Dragons! SLOVENIA! FTW!

Our good friend (and the best host we’ve ever had) Uros, drove an hour from Ljubljana and picked us up from the airport in Trieste, Italy because he is awesome and generous. We then drove into Piran for a little evening stroll through the tiny medieval town followed by one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had.

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Dinner was unbelievable.

Aside from the beautiful bearded men…

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We dined by the sea…

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Cuttlefish salad…

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Squid ink Risotto of my dreams…

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Spaghetti with Clams…

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Jesus Christ. So delicious. It’s painful to look at these photo now.

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Prosciutto & Cheese Stuffed Squid.

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After a few Slovenian beers and finishing the delicious seafood feast, we decided to drive into Croatia to up the country count. We stopped at a very out of the way pub full of local fisherman in Umag and had a cheeky beer. We were sat outside despite the wintry evening temperatures and every 5 minutes the electricity went out and all you could see was a vast black sky full of stars. It was really neat.

This is the only proof of me being in Croatia!

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First day, so far sooooooooooo good! More from this trip to come soon! x

PUGS! London Monthly Pug Meetup @ Green Park!

AHHHHH!!!! The first Saturday of every month there is a gathering of pugs and pug owners in Green Park. I’m not entirely sure why it has taken so incredibly long for me to attend, but I have now corrected this cosmic mistake and will forever attend the monthly pug meets! I was so excited meeting these amazing creatures that I overzealously mishandled a puppy and sustained a minor eye injury. All in the game yo!

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Behold! Pugs galore! All shapes and sizes! All magical and super rad.

Princess Peppermint Sparklechops was ready for it.

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I certainly was. I picked up the first stranger pug I saw. MINE! HUGS! GIMME!

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Pepper is all “What the hell mom?” and I’m all “I CAN HUG ALL OF THE PUGS. DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT. GO PLAY!”

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And off she went!!

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Puuuuuuuuggggggggzzzzzzzz…

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This is the slugger that did me eye in…

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Sir Noodles got some snuggles too…

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Pretty much the best day ever. Plum pugger’d out!

If you live in London and own a pug, why not join the rest of us crazies at one of London’s pug meetups? http://www.meetup.com/londonpugs/

See you there! x

Horniman Museum: An Afternoon of Delightful Curiosities

Frederick John Horniman was once the world’s biggest tea trader and an eccentric collector of vast curiosities with a passion for objects of great interest, culture and beauty.
His extensive and eclectic collection of priceless objects is now housed at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in the Forest Hill area of London.
We recently spent a quiet Saturday afternoon exploring the treasures within, and I (of course) brought along my camera so I could document these delightful and intriguing finds. Enjoy!

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Go see it for yourself!!! There was so much stuff but my camera is rubbish in low light! http://www.horniman.ac.uk/

Up Next: 4 countries in 4 days!

Kitchen Reveal!

We have finally finished remodelling the kitchen (for the most part). It still needs a lick of paint in a few spots where the wallpaper was peeled away for our new kitchen window to be installed. And we need a new and more modern breakfast table, but I’d say it is 99.9% finished and 100% perfect.

We had such a tough time deciding whether to pay tribute to our Edwardian home and go with a more rustic style or embrace a more clean and simple aesthetic. In the end, we went with modern! And Sparkly!

Before:

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And then updated to:

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And now I present to you our new beautiful massive London Kitchen of my dreams:

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It’s simply sparkletastic! I hope you like it as much as we do! x

(Staying) Home for the Holidays.

After the crazy/busy/wonderful/stressful
year we’ve had, all we wanted for Christmas was to kick our feet up and RELAX.

We didn’t go anywhere this year.
No Spain, no Cumbria, no Nashville.
Nope, not in 2013.
We’ve had a proper staycation.

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We bought a Christmas tree and hung up stockings and all that jazz.

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I’m not religious at all but I love Christmas decorations and the traditional bits associated with it.

Combine that with having this big old house that hasn’t been painted or decorated yet…I probably went a little crazy decking the halls.

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I only have 3 days left of my vacation and I’m pretty sad about it.
I’ve gotten used to eating meals with my husband (gasp!) and getting to accompany him on dog walks (what?!).

We’ve spent a lot of time watching films in and out of the cinema as well as working our way through The Wire (which is downright unbelievably good television).

My husband even made us a gorgeous Christmas dinner! Amazing!

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And because these are too fantastic not to share-here are a couple of astoundingly brilliant shots from the company Holiday party.
Can you guess the theme?

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We’ve been dog sitting a little muppet of a dog over the holidays as well so there are THREE pups in our pack currently. Lots of walks and lots of fun at Greenwich park.

Meet Cooper. The Fraggle.

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I took my camera along on one of our walks the other day to capture some more of the magic that is my new neighbourhood.
I seriously cannot believe I get to live in such a beautiful place.

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That view NEVER gets old.

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We made a few furry friends along the way.

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Simon and the pups at the top of One Tree Hill. Simply breathtaking.

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I know I’m very lucky. I love my life and especially the people and creatures that are part of it.

Wherever you are in the world I hope you are feeling the same way and enjoying all the beautiful things that make the world so magical. If it’s not going so well for you, take a deep breath and know that you are loved and that the New Year is just around the corner.
Draw a line under the bad stuff and get ready for a year of joy! xx

A little piece of home with The Cadillac Three…

Sometimes weeks go by where I barely think of my old life in Nashville. Sometimes it’s all-consuming and I get so swept up in the nostalgia that it’s all I can think about. That’s the tricky part about living in the same place for 28 years and then suddenly starting over in a new country. It doesn’t all just go away and get replaced by new things.
There are the new things and the old things, and sometimes they work against each other.

I don’t know when I’ll be home again and that upsets me a little.
I just try to focus on my life here and that works until I see photos of my niece and nephew or see another friend has announced a pregnancy or gotten engaged.

Another wedding I will surely miss. Another baby. Life goes on…

It’s sad, but it’s the choice I made and I’ve never regretted it for one second.

I think about it sometimes, if my husband just announced one day: “I’m ready for a quieter life! Let’s go live in Nashville!!!”

I’m not sure I’d want to go back and live there.
Part of me does because it’s so comfortable and familiar.
I know everyone and everyone knows me.
It would be so easy. Like your favourite flip-flops.
We’ve been through so much together Nashville and I.

I think perhaps I’ve outgrown it somehow and I’d actually feel a bit lost.
It’s impossible to say really. My opinion on the subject changes monthly.

I do miss my friends though. This never changes. And when friends come to London I get REALLY excited.

Recently, some friends I’ve known for half of my life came to play a few gigs in London and I went out to Camden to see them.

They’ve been playing music together since they were kids and although I’ve seen them in a lot of different bands over the years, this one (The Cadillac Three) is probably the most authentic and solid thing I’ve seen any of them do. https://www.facebook.com/TheCadillacThree?fref=ts

Or maybe this is just my favourite?

I will fess up and say that although I love Pecan Pie and Dolly Parton and I swear on Tara that I am a Southern girl through and through – I’m really not a huge Southern Rock fan.

I am however, very happy to report that their show was really really good and I had a blast.

Not just saying that! It was GREAT.

I actually almost flaked out on going because it was a school night and I knew it was going to take me an hour to get there and an hour back- but I seriously love these dudes so I made it happen and I’m glad for it.

Twas most excellent!

And yeah, of course I took some photos!

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Kelbs & I hanging after the show…

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See y’all later! xx

A Change of Scenery.

Howdy!

I am overjoyed to inform you that I am officially on Christmas Holiday as of today (yes I said holiday, not vacation).
I’ve finally assimilated! I have 11 days to do whatever I want and I’m going to try to spend as much of it as possible in yoga leggings eating clementines and watching films with my main squeeze and my cuddly pups.

A lot has transpired in the last few months since I’ve disappeared from my blog. We’ve sold our flat in Stockwell and bought an old Edwardian house in Greenwich/Blackheath.

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It’s basically the house I’ve dreamt about living in since I was 5 years old and started watching fluffy period films.

It’s also a reasonably big house so the dogs are pretty much in heaven and spend much of their day running up and down stairs and out the cat flap into the back garden so they can bark at EVERYTHING THAT MOVES. ;)

My work life has been hectic but spectacularly fun and rewarding. The business has been growing exponentially which has presented me with the opportunity to really hone my skills and stay challenged on a daily basis.
I also get to work with the raddest group of women and honestly love my fucking job.

I have also fallen madly in love with living in the UK and I feel much more at home here than I did last year around this time.
I know it’s hard to believe that I would have ever not been in love with London, but coming from Tennessee, London life got pretty exhausting pretty darn fast.

Living in a city the size of London can be intense regardless of where you are from. I am from Nashville, and I belly laugh at the thought of how I used to fume with rage sitting in traffic with my Starbucks latte listening to Fresh Air on NPR.

I had no idea. At least I didn’t have to share space with anyone!

In Nashville, you drive from point A to point B and you can sing loudly and badly in your car.
You can cry. Scream. No one is watching you.
This is your time. You and Terry Gross. You and your iced mocha.
Traffic or no traffic, you get to travel to work in privacy.

I remember those days fondly, but I think now I actually prefer not having to drive everywhere.
Not having to stop for gas or put air in my tires. I definitely don’t miss my monthly freak out because smoke is pouring out from under the hood of my poor car.

Nope. Now I just get on the train and am transported to my destination.

That being said, there are just so many people in London.
From the moment I leave my house in the morning and make my way to the train station I’m surrounded by them. People on public transport typically have complete disregard of anyone else around them.

There are also plenty of polite people that get out of their seats to let an elderly man sit but they are outweighed by the assholes, trust me.

It is also REALLY difficult to stay positive and think happy thoughts when it’s 8:00am and I’m standing with a 50 lb backpack squished against the wall of the train underneath the armpit of a guy reading a newspaper than keeps flapping into my face every time the train starts to sway a bit.

FLAP. FLAP. FLAP.

I actually slapped a paper out of a man’s hands once in protest and he seemed quite horrified, but I think I was secretly celebrated as a hero to everyone else that witnessed my tube rage.

Then there are the people towering over you with their disgusting bacon buttie morning breath, or even better those heart-warming individuals that want to share their breakfast experience with everyone on the tube. There they are-chomping away on their smelly baguettes from Upper Crust as I watch bits of sweet corn topple from their mouths and onto the puddles of their coffee already being sloshed all over my backpack.

LE SIGH.

All the while everyone exiting and entering the carriage is stepping on my toes as my face gets pushed deeper and deeper into the glass of the train door. At no point when I thought of my life at 30 did it include getting punched in the boob so often.

Sometimes I get lucky and I get a seat! Then you get to be wedged between two assholes blasting horrible top 40 shit on crappy headphones. But at least you are sitting!

You basically have to learn the public transportation game if you are going to be a successful commuter and not lose it on someone.

You’ve got to learn the ebb and flow of the trains/buses/tubes you take.

What carriages are usually less busy?

What part of the platform should I stand at so that the door opens to align with the exit tunnel at the station in order to saving me exactly 24 seconds of fighting through the herd of commuters to the escalators?

Don’t be lazy and be an escalator-stander. Save yourself another 45 seconds by walking up the left side.
Burn off some calories. Get out some aggression. Hold onto the hand rail.

Do be aware though that should you fall, they will step over your lifeless body. This will of course also be recorded on someone’s iPhone and posted to Youtube within the hour for you to revisit!

Commuting via public transport can be one of the single most stressful and infuriating experiences if you don’t do it right.
My journey every day consists of two trains, two buses, and two tube journeys to get me to work and back home.
Sometimes I just have to look at the floor in front of me when I’m walking because it is mentally taxing to look at any more faces. But I’ve gotten a good set of headphones and I never leave the house without at least 4 TV shows downloaded onto my iPhone ready to be watched. I check emails, troll facebook, read a good book. The key is to stay busy!

My commute to and from work has been made much more enjoyable now that I can just huddle in the corner of the train and watch Top Chef. I still get stepped on and bumped into, but at least I’m distracted by Tom Colicchio’s beautiful shiny head and it makes it all okay somehow.

Anyway, back to our recent move! We moved for a number of reasons. We were really annoyed with the neighbourhood we were living in. Aside from the fantastic people at the dog park, the rest of our neighbours were horrible and I dreaded my walk to the tube every day. There was a lot of litter everywhere, people were really anti-social, and it just wasn’t a pleasant experience.

We also needed a bigger space. We needed a place with a garden for the dogs. They have limitless energy and the 1st floor flat just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

We are now just a short walk to Greenwich Park which I have chronicled before when Becca visited…https://nashvillegirlinlondon.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/beccas-visit/

This is my happy place these days. This is where I go to unwind and decompress from the urban overload of my Monday-Friday routine. Here is a snapshot of how we spend our weekend in our new neighbourhood!

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View of London at dusk from One Tree Hill.

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Pups in flight…

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Queen Elizabeth’s Oak.

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Here is a little snippet from http://www.thegreenwichphantom.co.uk/2007/12/queen-elizabeths-oak/ explaining why this tree is so special:

“Why Queen Elizabeth’s Oak? Because popular tradition reckons that Henry VIII sported with Anne Boleyn under its branches (well, ok, ‘danced’) and the fruit of his loins, the future QEI “oft partook of refreshments” in its shade. It’s not, by the way, the tree under which she was sitting eating an apple when she discovered she had been made Queen.”

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My husband has taught me this year that the key to living happily in London is about finding the right balance. 2014 will find me striving for this. I think by next year I’ll be an old pro at this city life thing, you wait and see. xx

You can never have too many ponies…

I remember the exact moment I realized that the magical sparkly world I lived in might be a big horrible lie. I was 6 years old and I had been seeing this commercial for weeks in between my much-cherished Saturday morning cartoons:

Omg. They fly. They are ponies that fly. Flutter Ponies. Holy shit. NEED.

I decided that I had to have a flutter pony more than anything in the world and eventually I wore my mother down and was soon standing in the “Barbie aisle” of Target (as I always called it).
AKA the “PINK aisle” (American girls you know what I’m talking about).

Anyway, there I am. A shiny naive six-year-old Jamie Susan. I’m rocking the SIDE PONYTAIL and I’ve got my SLIP-ON KEDS and I’m taking FOREVER carefully selecting my magical flutter pony.
Probably the most important decision of my life at this point.

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How do you choose a new best friend!?

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I picked the pale yellow one with pink hair. I don’t recall her name. But I couldn’t get out of Target fast enough to free her from her packaging and watch my new friend fly across the parking lot.

I literally threw her into the air. I watched with all of the hope in the universe. My pony was gonna flutter around my head like a butterfly and my life would be complete.

Instead, gravity ripped her from the air and she landed near my mom’s car with a loud plastic THUD.

I remember my mother gazing down at me with amazement on her face.

“Why did you do that??”

I looked at her incredulously. WHAT A STUPID QUESTION!

I can honestly still recall the sensation of my tiny angry face hurting from pinching it up in disdain and shock at my flutter pony’s poor performance.

“Moooooooooooom!!! She’s broken!!!” I bellowed.

“Oh Jamie.” She sighed. She picked up my poor flutter pony and handed it back to me.

The car ride home involved a long conversation about what you see on TV vs. reality.

This conversation was necessary I suppose, but it stabbed me in the heart as I clutched my stupid pony. I simply refused to believe that the Saturday Morning cartoon advertising THAT I TRUSTED AND APPRECIATED would lie to me this way. Don’t they know how awful it is to lie about whether or not a pony can fly?

LIFE LESSONS.

So, let’s speed up 24 years into the future of my life. I still love ponies. I love magic. I love fantasy. I am however, completely lacking of the beautiful naiveté I clutched onto as a child.

Aren’t we all…

Photography lets me tap into that little girl that believed all those glittery falacies and sometimes I get the opportunity to capture images that directly source those pure innocent feelings. It’s a gift I receive on a regular basis.

On a hike through New Forest, a few months back when the weather was still bitter and the Spring flowers were desperately trying to push through, I encountered ponies.
Velvety, soft and magnificent ponies. Gentle and wild all at the same time.
It was extraordinary and it made me feel very pleased to be alive and grateful for EVERYTHING good in the world.

I also found some super fluffy sheep and some delightful foresty bits.

Enjoy!

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Towards the middle of the day, after hiking for a couple of wintry hours, we stopped in Burley for lunch and I saw this in a shop window…

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This immediately reached in and dredged the whole bittersweet flutter pony childhood tale from my memory banks.

And then on the last leg of the hike, I climbed over mounds of prickly bushes and through deep pockets of mud just to say hello without trying to “capture the moment”…

My husband pulled out his iPhone just at the right time and snapped this sweet little blurry shot of me COMPLETELY in my element.

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Life is beautiful folks.
Even in a world where plastic ponies don’t actually fly. xx

RHS Wisley

I’ve always loved flowers and plants in general, but I never really SAW them for what they are until I got into photography. Suddenly all of these mesmerizing geometric patterns and abstract neon art designs suddenly became available to me. And then I couldn’t stop noticing everything everywhere. The deep cracks within the bark on trees. Discarded snail shells. Contrast. Colour. Light. Shadow.
It has become my therapy, my inspiration and my passion.
If you aren’t into flora and fauna, look away now. Because I’m about to lay it on heavy. If you are however, I hope you enjoy this feast of bontanical porn from my recent trip to RHS Wisley in Guildford.

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See?? Rainbows and magic and all of that…

Next up…More ponies and forest treats…

The worst zoo I’ve ever been to, the most spectacular landscape in England, and parking lot ponies…

I have a love/hate relationship with zoos.
As an animal lover (and I use this lightly as I’m probably more of a fanatic than a lover) I appreciate the opportunity to see animals. Anytime, anywhere…I’m game.
Hahaha. See what I did there???

Oy vey.

Anywayyyyy…I’ve only been to one animal park where I didn’t feel like the animals were sad and bored and miserable. See here: https://nashvillegirlinlondon.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/the-lake-district-and-lemurs/ And here: https://nashvillegirlinlondon.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/parental-invasion/

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Recently this Safari park made the news because this happened: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/may/24/tiger-mauls-zoo-worker-cumbria

This made me very sad because I love this place dearly. It doesn’t feel like a zoo and they are so incredibly dedicated to animal conservation. But they are wild animals…so I suppose these things happen.

All of that being said, when researching fun things we could hit up on the drive back to London, I saw that there was a “world famous” zoo in Dartmoor as featured in the film “We Bought a Zoo”
http://www.dartmoorzoo.org/

I remembered that Jonsi did the soundtrack for this film and I though I haven’t actually seen the film, the website for the real-life zoo made it sound like a wonderland of zoological proportions. It also bragged about how great it was for photographers because the animal enclosures were so close up. I was exceptionally excited!

Cue disappointment.

First, there were hardly any animals. Half of the exhibits were empty. No indication given as to why. It was like touring an abandoned zoo. When we did actually find animals, they were very very far away.

I used my super duper zoom lens to capture this. We were squinting to make out what animals these were from about a football field away.

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And granted, those are big fat adorable Capybaras. But after seeing them…from a mile away…there was about 15 minutes of walked past completely empty exhibits until we found a clearly distressed racoon pacing in circles in a very tiny little chain linked space. Screaming like he was on fire. It was fucking grim.
Needless to say I didn’t photograph the poor guy.

The petting zoo area was fenced off in such a way that you couldn’t actually pet anything. We watched as family after family pushed their prams through the muddy path only to find out that all the animals were 50 feet from the fence and you could not enter to actually pet them.

We watched as couple after couple tried to explain to their incredibly disappointed children on the way back through the mud that “they don’t know why the goats are so far away” and “they don’t know where all the animals are…”

BUMMER.

I did get a couple photos.

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The Cheetah exhibit was the only only exhibit where you could actually get uninterrupted photos.
The Lion & Tiger enclosures were small and surrounded by chainlink on all sides.

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The whole experience just made me feel horrible to be human.

I just looked at the zoo map online again and I’m simply puzzled. Where were all these animals?

We thought about asking for our money back, but then realized that Dartmoor Zoo definitely needed that money more than us. Sheesh.

We were at the Zoo for about 45 minutes. I’m not even joking. We walked back to the carpark in complete silence. Once inside the car we just sort of looked at one another in a state of shock and grumpily continued our journey home.

Thankfully, we decided to cut through Dartmoor National Park and the day was SAVED!!!

SAVED BY SHEEP!!!

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SAVED BY PONIES!!!

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My husband is brilliant at spotting things way before I see them (because of his super sharp astronaut vision) And he was able to see ponies congregating in a carpark off the side of the road in time for us to hang a sharp right and park the car amongst them.

These ponies were the most ultra chilled out group of ponies I have ever met.

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I’d say they were “stoner ponies” if such a thing existed because they were M-E-L-L-O-W.

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Check out the utter disbelief on my face.

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Followed by complete happiness…

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After more time petting ponies than we had probably spent in the Dartmoor Zoo, I reluctantly got back in the car, blowing air-kisses at my new fluffy gypsy friends as we pulled back out onto the main road.

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Thinking I had seen it all, that the day was not only saved but could not get much better, I made another friend by the side of the road!

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Also mega-laidback and happy to be hugged.

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GLASS HALF FULL!

Next up…RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey

Dusk in Looe and a cemetary stroll…

No matter where you are in the UK, you are never that far from a beach.
Living in London, surrounded by concrete and sky scrapers every day, I forget this.

Growing up in a land-locked state, the closest beach was a 7 hour drive.
I was 12 years old before I ever saw the ocean and it was a truly magical experience.
It’s still magical. Every single time. Even if it’s a freezing cold England beach and there is zero chance of actually getting a tan or taking a swim!

During our weekend getaway to Cornwall, we spent a few hours in the lovely little seaside town of Looe.

We just missed the sunset…

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On our drive back, my husband spotted a spooky looking graveyard poking out from behind some dark trees and loudly announced “creepy graveyard”, promptly pulled a U-turn, and drove down a narrow forest path to a errie looking church. It was almost nightfall.

I looked over at him and smiled. “You so totally get me. I love you”

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Goodbye dusky cemetary!!!

Next up…The worst zoo I’ve ever been to, the most spectacular landscape in England, and parking lot ponies…

The Eden Project Part II…

I’m back! AGAIN. Sorry for the delay. I am the reigning Queen of blog hiatuses.
But I never give up!
Has it really been 3 months?! Dang.
It’s like my days just get gobbled up by a big and unforgiving minute-munching monster!
I had so much time to kill when I lived in Nashville-nothing but slow sweet syrupy time.
But in London? Nope. I’m in a constant state of “hurryhurry-rushrush-getoutofmyway-movefaster-I’m sooooo late”

Even though it’s hilariously behind schedule, here is the second batch of delightful little flowers and plants from my birthday Eden Project visit!

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Weird and amazing little wood carvings and teensy sculptures…

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The SEED…

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Giant metal butterfly sculpture…

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In case you didn’t know, The Terminator lives at The Eden Project…

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I guess he’s into gardening?

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See you later beautiful biomes!!!!

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Coming up next…Ice cold beaches in Looe and a creepy Cornwall graveyard stroll…

Turning 30 & The Eden Project Part I…

Just a few years ago, in the final stretch of my 20s, everything seemed pretty bleak.
The idea of turning 30 and still being in the same rut was a daunting but likely reality.
I couldn’t see a happy ending for myself and I kept making the same stupid mistakes over and over again.

I was in college for the wrong reasons.

My love life was a big fat joke.

My days were mostly spent working 12-hour shifts and then hanging out with friends at the bar generally just being bored with everything.

There was a lot of feeling sorry for myself.

I wanted what everyone wants. To have the opportunity to flourish and truly shine.
I longed for a supportive and compassionate partner who would lift me up and be my champion.
Would I travel the world? Find career satisfaction? Stamp out my bad habits and embrace change?
I basically wanted EVERYTHING, but it seemed impossible.

Mostly because I refused to believe that it could happen for me.

I simply had to smash my insecurities and take a ton of huge life-altering personal risks and say “Fuck it! I am in control of my destiny. Let’s do this!”

And here I am now. I actually got it all. A big life in London full of chaos and art and frustrating public transportation and amazing people and I’m never ever bored!

I found the person I had always dreamt of but never thought I deserved.

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I have a job that I love, that is helping me grow, and challenges me daily.
I’m surrounded by beautiful and interesting people!

There is so much to be thankful for…

So, yeah…turning 30 has been a really positive thing. And I never expected it to be.

And because I landed the most loving and thoughtful husband on Earth, my 30th birthday gift was a beautiful surprise road-trip to Cornwall.

He booked for us the most adorable little cottage…

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With Alpacas in the front yard…SQUEEEEEE!

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Oh to be able to sleep in as long as you want and wake up to warm sunshine streaming through your window with only the soft bleating of goats in the distance. HEAVEN!

We spent an entire day trying to absorb all of the exquisite botanical treasures at The Eden Project http://www.edenproject.com/visit-us/whats-here

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Lots of photos of flowers and teeny tiny plants await you…Enjoy!

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The sheer scale of the Eden Project is astonishing. This is merely a snapshot really!
I couldn’t have asked for a more colorful and blissful 30th birthday than galavanting through warm tropical biomes with my super sweet man!

Hooray for my 30s!!!!!!!

Next up: Even more Eden Project treasures…

A Snowy Day in London…

I’ve gotten quite used to listening to most people around me moan about the dreary winter weather in England.
I used to think everyone was just being grumpy and dramatic.
But to be honest, I’m getting a bit weary of the cold myself.

Recently London was blanketed in snow and it seemed like everyone gave up their constant complaining for a few days and really enjoyed it! Imagine that!

I really and truly love snow days and was very excited to take the pups out and do some frolicking!

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Pepper’s not so sure about it…

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But she soon got some cuddles and warmed up a bit…

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Snow is also good for wrestling!

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Noodles happens to love the snow…as well as affection from his favorite park buddy!

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Okay, so that’s officially enough snow for me!
Bring on some Spring!!!

Going Home…

After one whole year away from all the beautiful people I love dearly and have MISSED EVERY SINGLE DAY(like you wouldn’t even understand) I simply had to go home.

My life would of course be much easier if all of my friends and family were located in the same city, but like most families, they are strewn out around the United States.

It’s always going to be challenging to see all of the folks that I would like to when I visit. It’s simply not possible. I will also miss weddings, births, and killer dinner parties whilst I’m abroad.

This is just a sad reality of my spectacularly fun new life. ;(

We flew into Cleveland first because that’s where a big chunk of my family live.

My beautiful Aunts did their best to make our stay the most relaxing and fun few days imaginable…

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I even got to spend some quality time with the family pets!

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And no trip to CLE is complete without stopping by Cedar Point.

We rodes some epic and terrifying coasters…

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Ate some massive BBQ turkey legs…

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Then we passed out from jet lag exhaustion!

Followed by a quick flight to Nashville!!

I immediately had a bar party and invited everyone to come out and give me a year’s worth of hugs.

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They complied!

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Toasts were made…

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I was so excited to spend time with some of my besties…

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And baby!

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OOooohhh baby!

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This one made me want one of my own…

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Even with fussy scrunched up sad baby face…

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There were lots of babies being made whilst I was away…

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Big fat squooshy pretty babies!!!

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And some of the babies I knew a year ago weren’t babies anymore, but little tiny people…

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Simon made some new friends as well…Of the furry variety…

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And the wacky-conspiracy-theory-Jesus-loving-rocker-chick variety…

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Crazy girls are the hottest. Always. That is a fact.

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LOVE YOU LALA. Forevs. PS. Her Dad MIGHT be Ziggy Stardust. FYI.

Moving on…

My mom was as pretty as I remember her being…

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My brother was still a massive fantasy football dweeb…

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Gorgeous sunny Murphmurph was just as gorgeous and sunny as ever…

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Becca was still awesome and smart and sharing her love of great food…

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She and her fantastic fiance took us out to Dinner at Silo http://www.silotn.com

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Exceptional and elevated Southern cuisine welcoming me home proved to be JUST what I needed…

Especially deviled eggs three ways…

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Deep fried greenbeans…

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And pork belly…

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We even visited my beloved Bombay Palace http://www.bombaypalacetn.com/

They were all super excited to see me too! Awwwwww!

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Actually, we did a lot of eating.

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And of course, we had to work some of it off…

No better place than Edwin Warner Park…

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So that was our trip back to Nashville via Cleveland. A ton of photos I know, but some super wonderful days with friends and family! Hopefully I’ll be back sooner than later and can see more of my loved ones this time! See ya soon Nashville xx

One last Spain post for my foodies…

I just wanted to share some of the food I DEVOURED in Spain for those of you who live to eat…

I promise I’ll be quick!

A simple lunch…

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Followed by a decadent dinner…

Tomato and goat cheese salad

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Beef carpaccio with sheep’s-milk cheese

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Tuna carpaccio with pink peppercorn and dill

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Filet mignon with foie

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Vanilla bean panna cotta with black currants…

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Me pre-FACESTUFF

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Me in action!

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Grilled calamari for another yummy lunch…

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A little scampi party…

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Tasty tapas…

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That is all! I hope you salivated at least a little!

Next up: LONG overdue Nashville Trip posts!!!

Christmas in Spain…

Hi Friends. Sorry it takes me forever and ever to post lately.
I’m a busy little worker bee in hustle-y bustle-y ole Londontown. You must forgive me!

Needless to say, spending Christmas in Spain was exceptionally cool (as you have probably surmised from my last few posts).

I don’t celebrate Christmas for religious reasons (because I’m not a religious lady) but to be honest, I LOVE the aesthetic of Christmas.

Big fat glittery Christmas trees and shiny foil wrapping paper get me all swoony inside.

Eggnog, chocolate truffles, and roasted meat? Yes please.

To get to do, see, and experience all of these things in fancy pants Spain with my beautiful and FUN Spanish family was simply the best.

There was so much food. So many presents. It was quite simply the loveliest and merriest of Christmases I could imagine ever having.

I present it to you with limited comment!

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The boys worked hard to prepare Christmas dinner…

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They even served everyone!

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My paleo plate!

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The wine began to flow and so did the laughter!

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And then the machetes?

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And of course…dishes were tackled…

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Snuggles were had…

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Feliz Navidad!!!!! xx

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My Spanish Animal Friends…

I made a few friends in Spain…the furry four legged variety.

And of course, because I am me, I took their photos…

Farm cats…

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Scaredy cats…

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“Jimmy”!!!

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Look at his big fat grumpy head! xxxooo

This dog that looks like yoda…

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My niece-kitties “Six” and “Seven”…

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Snuggle time!

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Super schnozzle close-up…

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And last but not least, my Father-In-Law’s adorable beagle mix “Benny”

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If this goofball doesn’t bring immediate joy into your heart then something is clearly broken inside of your soul.

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Benny shows off his serious dog model good looks…

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Benny loves his uncle!

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Hooray for Spanish furballs! Til we meet again!

Next up…Christmas in Spain xx

At the Olive Farm…

Alcalá la Real is full of olive farms. My Sister-in-Law Veronica, has just inherited her family’s olive farm and is running it with her sister. It has been passed down over many generations and is a spectacularly beautiful place to get to explore. As far as the eye can see, just rows and rows of beautiful twisty olive trees disappearing over the hills…

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I wandered around the farm and tried to capture as much of the magic as I could…

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It is very easy to get lost in an olive grove, just FYI for next time you go exploring on an olive farm…

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I stumbled across faerie ring after faerie ring and had thoughts of my younger days with Melissa and Audrey flood back to me like it was yesterday…

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And all of these beautiful olives…

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Much to my utter GLEE we were able to bring back 5 liters of Veronica’s deliciously rich and wonderful olive oil. I am very happy to report that we have been eating olive oil on everything and the day we run out I might have to fly back to get more!

Next up…The animals of Spain xx

Road Trip to Granada…

We woke up bright and early one morning and hit the road to Granada…

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The Alhambra!!!

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I really don’t have words for how grand and beautiful the Alhambra is…simply stunning.

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Next up…Christmas in Spain xx

A December Stroll Around Alcalá la Real

Yippee! I have more Spain photos for your viewing pleasure!

There was so much to photograph yet I left feeling like I should have taken more.

Shall we begin?

Our first day in Alcalá la Real we simply could not sit still and took a nice brisk hike up the hillside…

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Quite the view!

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The clouds rolled in to create a nice moody light…

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My gorgeous Sister-in-Law Veronica standing underneath her street sign…

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The Magi…

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My darling Brother-in-Law Andy, experiencing his first deep thoughts of the day…

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Next up…Our road trip to Granada xx

Sunrise Hike in Alcalá la Real, Spain

I’m currently enjoying a fabulously relaxing holiday in Spain with my gorgeous husband and beautiful Sister and Brother-in-law.

Every day has been full of treats, big sleeps, and lots of photography!

I decided I wanted to wake up before the sunrise on December 21st and hike up the hillside to watch the sun break through the fog and hopefully bring with it a new age and happier days for the world.

My husband helped me navigate through the dark and find the best boulders to stand on the get these glorious shots.

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The sky went through so many colors and the clouds created an amazing collection of patterns all within the span of 20 minutes or so…

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All the tiny things come to life in the early morning light…

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La Mota sits high above Alcalá…

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The fog lingers…

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Then the blue sky pushes through…

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We feel lucky to be alive and refreshed to be in such a special part of the world together!

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I hope you are having a wonderful holiday wherever you are. xx

Barton on Sea

I was just about to post the first batch of my Spain photos and realized that yet again, I’ve got photos from other trips that I’ve not posted!

I’m not sure how my spectacularly magical Summer trip to Barton fell through the cracks of my blog posts, but I’m here to rectify this oversight!

Beaches, flowers, forests full of ponies, frolicking puppies, and double rainbows.
Pretty damn magical.
Enjoy!

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Rainbows and wild ponies in New Forest!!!

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Amazinggggggg!!!!
xx

The dog park

We’ve got a routine with our pup Noodz that is pretty much the highlight of my day.

At 9:30am every morning a BIG group of dog owners and their gorgeous dogs meet at the park down the street from us for an hour or so of full on doggle action.
Sometimes there are only a few dogs, other times it’s closer to 20.
It’s the best antidepressant you could imagine.

Without fail. Rain or shine. Mud or snow.
I get up every morning knowing that there are wagging tales, big bright puppy smiles, and a community of fellow dog lovers waiting for us across the street.

If you aren’t a dog owner, or animal lover, you might not get it.

But our dog is pretty much our child, and finding such a great group of people to get training tips from, brag about your dog with, and bemoan the not so fun aspects of dog ownership with…well it’s amazing.

I took my camera along with me the other day in an attempt to capture some of the magic.

I give you, (some of) the pups of Larkhall Park:

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Playtime!

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Here comes Noodz!

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More dog park posts coming soon!

Itty bitty feeties and warm schnozzles.

I already have a lot of pups in my life.

Noodz (our babyfoxdog creature)

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Tank (the über-snuggly office pup)

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Closeup

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Soooooooper muzzlepowsch moisture droplet closeup

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Chewywampabear

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He loves nap time with Noodz…

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And Introducing the newest member of our little family…

Princess Peppermint Sparklechops “Pepper” MY BABY PUGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!

Merry Christmas to me!!!!

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Thankfully, Noodz ADORES her.

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They both love sleepytime on Daddy’s lap after breakfast…

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She’s amazingly smart and sweet and we love her so very very very very much.

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DREAMS DO COME TRUE! PUGDREAMS!

Autumn in Richmond Park (and pups!)

I think most people would say that Autumn is their favorite season.

What’s not to love?

Somehow lattes and hot teas taste better when the air has that Autumnal briskness that is only present in October and November.

And pulling out your favorite sweaters and scarves from their lonely spots in the closet…it’s my favorite yearly fashion transition!

And THE LEAVES ooohhh the leaves…

I want to live in a house constructed of crispy fall leaves.

Richmond Park is one of the most magical places in London no matter what time of year you visit, but an October or November trip is extra special because everything is a warm shade of GOLD or RED

I took Sir Noodles and his bestie Chewywampa on a big leafy hike a few weeks ago…

Remember this little guy?

https://nashvillegirlinlondon.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/chewdles-the-bromance/

Needless to say, we had the best time stomping around the forest and basking in all the gorgeous reddish hues.

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After 4 hours of magical hiking through the woods, the pooches (and myself) were absolutely shattered and had a nice snooze on the ride home.

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Happy Autumn-ing! xx

Tiny Holiday in Kirkby Lonsdale

I’ve been living in the UK for over a year now and I’ve learned a lot of things.
It may seem obvious to you, but to me it’s been an epiphany.

You simply MUST go on holiday every now and again.
For the sake of your own personal sanity and the sanity of those around you having to listen to you moan and be grumpy as fuck all the time.

It totally sorts you out. Trust me!

I never used to take many trips.

I longed to travel more than anything.
Even just a quick weekend away to kick back and relax.

Nope.

I worked too much, made too little money, took too many classes at a time, and anytime I saved up enough money to go somewhere, something would surely come up.

Car trouble, an unexpected medical issue,emergency vet bill, self-inflicted hair dye disaster…

SOMETHING.always got in the way.

But life is definitely changed for me now.

I’m far less stressed, certainly less broke, and much better prepared to face unexpected expenses than I was a few years ago.

So yeah, take a vacation people.

If you can swing it.

It does wonders for your temperament!

Especially when you live in a big city like London.

Being packed together with millions of other people on public transport day in and day out can leave you craving a bit of scenery that is more of the green and blue variety and less of the concrete and glass variety.

We decided that our souls needed a bit of open sky a few months back and we took a 4 day trip to Kirkby Lonsdale.

We went on a breathtaking waterfall/English countryside trek as well as a stroll through the village and a couple of visits to different farms around the area (so I could fulfill my lifelong dream of hugging a SHEEP!)

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The raddest steps in England.

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English sweets.

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If you ever find yourself in Kirkby Lonsdale, you simply MUST do this:http://www.ingletonwaterfallstrail.co.uk/

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Those are pennies!

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Penny Mushrooms!

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SHEEPS!

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SHEEPS THAT WOULD NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES LET ME HUG THEM.

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SADFACE.

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Isn’t it other-worldly beautiful? Sigh.

So then we visited farms!

And I made friends and kissed fuzzy animal faces and my dreams came true.

I don’t remember this guy’s name, but he was ace.

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Hands down the friendliest goat I’ve ever met.

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BAAAABY GOAT!

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Lambies!!

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Snouts!

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He’s got PIGGY EYEBROWS!!!

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(pig sex photobomb totally happening in the background for extra points)

Which is how you end up with BAAAAABY PIGGIES!

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And buns! So many buns…

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Check out all the feet floof!

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BIG bun…

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Baaaaby cows!

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TEETH!

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They are totally making the same facial expression!

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Huggggggssss….

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Horsies…

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Silly horsies…

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Mustachioed horsies…

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With furry feet!

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Tiny emo horsies with stubb-tastic legs and ombre hipster fringe!

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I’ve seen dogs with longer legs…

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Owls…

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Alpacas…

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Soooooper goofy donkey friends…

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Chickens…

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The moment you have been waiting for.

The hugging of a sheep done by ME!

He came right up to me and said hello.

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So I said hello back.

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Quite gleefully I might add…

And then I did what any reasonable person might do when confronted with a really sweet sheep friend.

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I hugged him!

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And he was totally into it!

Best tiny Holiday ever! xx

Parental Invasion!

While we are on the subject of people visiting me in London….

My Parents came to see me!!!!!!!

In April, they decided to be brave and close their dental practice (for the first time in like ONE BILLION YEARS) to come visit me in London!

They only had 9 days and that included a trip up North to Cumbria to visit the In-Laws (as well as my most favorite Animal Park) so we really had to cram a lot in…
By now, I’m pretty much the official “First trip to London must-see tour guide”…

Of course, we had to go to Westminster…

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As well as Westminster Abbey…

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Mom attempts to soak in more than a thousand years of history…

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Tralfagar was next…

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It was pouring down rain off and on, but we soldiered through!

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A stormy stroll along the Thames…

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We stopped in Stratford-upon-Avon (the birthplace of William Shakespeare) on the way up North to experience some of the festivities taking place in honor of his birthday.

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Strolling around the Lake District…

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AND FINALLY, SAFARI PARK HAPPY PLACE!!!

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Sleepytime bear…

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MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE GIRAFFE…

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GIRAFFE KIIIIIISSSSSSEEESSSSSS….

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Look at this guy’s FINGERS!!!

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MAKING FRIENDS LIKE I DO.

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I don’t really like these guys very much…

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They are very very large and agressive…

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But THIS dude right here is THE BEST!

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THE END XXOO

Becca’s visit!

Leaving Nashville a year ago was a mixed bag.
I was super sad to leave my friends and family, but extremely excited to marry my sweetheart and stoked to be starting a new life in London.

I worried that no one would ever come visit me.

I mean, I did move 4,000 miles away and across the Atlantic Ocean.
Tickets are expensive and taking time off work is tough(especially for Americans).

But lo and behold, this has not stopped people from continuing to make the journey.

Which, makes me feel REALLY LOVED.

I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that I happen live in one of the coolest city’s in the world, but I like to think that it’s only a tiny part of why people have made the trip.

Becca is one of my GIRLS!
We worked together for years and she is probably the most reliable and trustworthy person I know.
She also threw my bachelorette brunch and has generally just always been an incredibly great friend to me.

When I found out she was going to come visit me I literally jumped up and down in my bedroom screaming “BECCA’S GONNA COME SEEEEEE MEEEEEEE!!!!!” at the top of my lungs while my dog looked at me with distinct disapproval of my volume level.

We had a REALLY good time and saw ALL OF THE THINGS.

We were out and about every single day walking (and shopping) our butts off.

I have photographic evidence of all the funtimes.
Most of the photos are of Becca because she’s just really super pretty.

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A day exploring Greenwich…

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The Prime Meridian Line-where time begins!

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Becca is also a MAJOR Harry Potter fan.
She took a bus one of the days she was visiting and went on a 3 hour superfan tour the Studio where they filmed all of the HP movies.

All by herself. Awwwww..

Bearing this in mind, it was simply imperative that she visit the Millenium Bridge as it is apparently featured in a scene of one of the films where some scary smoke monster thing flies over it or destroys it or something?

Clearly I haven’t seen the films.

She was a little excited.

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Simply adorable.

Here we are slurping down a few beautiful craft cocktails at Bar Social…

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And then snarfing down some gorgeously sinful pizza in Shoreditch…

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And beer…

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And the prettiest little butter lettuce & avocado salad…

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Did I mention that Sir Noodles fell in love with Becca during her stay?

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(she’s totally channeling some ultra hot Uma Thurman in this shot)

Exploring Salisbury + Salisbury Cathedral with the hubbs and the Noodz.

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Sunday Roast…

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Let’s all just take a moment of silence for how breathtaking my friend is.

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Unfortunately she couldn’t stay forever and had to go home. SADFACE.

Til next time!

xxoo

A Very Cold Venetian Holiday…

Ahhhhhh Venice!

The last stop on our honeymoon tour of beautiful and unseasonably wintry Italy.

When we planned our trip, we did zero research on what events would be going on in the various cities we were visiting.

We just had 14 days to burn and decided on February at random.

Much to our delight and complete surprise, Carnival was in FULL SWING when we arrived in Venice.

Costumes, music, FOUNTAINS OF RED WINE, and confetti, confetti, confetti!!

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We stayed at the Hilton because we got a super good deal for it being such a high-end hotel-http://www.molinostuckyhilton.it/index.php

Although building is beautiful and the view was amazing…(view from our room…that’s Venice across the way)

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…we would never stay there again, for the following reasons:

It was simply too damn big, too far from the mainland, food drinks etc. were SO OVERPRICED, Wifi was like 25 euros (barf), and it was freezing so the gorgeous pool was closed.

We felt like we were missing out being so far away from the center of Venice.

We got up and ready and out the door everyday and then had to wait for a water taxi and then another 25 minutes to get into Venice.

By this time, we were HANGRY and GRUMPYFACED.

We did Florence and Rome via Airbnb https://www.airbnb.co.uk/

And has such great experiences with this that we will never ever book hotels again.

We learned our lesson in Venice!

So onto the fun part! PHOTOS!

I took a massive amount of photos.

Get a cup of tea, sit back, and relax because I’m going to post them all in one go.

Venetian shop windows…!!!

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My most favorite book…

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Rialto Bridge at night…

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A night of glorious Italian opera (birthday gift from the super sweet hubs)

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Day in Murano…

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The Venice Cemetery…
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Ponte dei Sospiri (The Bridge of Sighs)

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Confetti covering everything…

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Pups!

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St. Mark’s Basilica

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It was cold, but it was still dreamy. Ciao Venice xx

MAJESTIC FLORENCE PART III

I present you with the last of my Florence photos!
Wondrously Amazing Florence…

Boboli Gardens

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Ponte Vecchio

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Medici Riccardi

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Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross)

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GOODBYE SWEET FLORENCE! xxoo

MAJESTIC FLORENCE PART II

Annnnnnnd we’re back!
See how quickly I did that?
I’m really trying to be better!

I have more spectacular photos of Florence!!! Hoooraaayyyy!

I do not, however, know the names of every statue and painting (or most really) as I am a shutterbug and am usually too busy to write them down.

I could look them up I suppose, but so could you! ;)

AND GO!

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The battle of who looks more Roman…

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My gorgeous husband deep in thought…

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I love animals. Even LEGO Animals. ESPECIALLY LEGO animals!

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Frozen river…

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There are even MORE photos to come! Stay tuned…

MAJESTIC FLORENCE PART I

Well, it happened again! I was momentarily swallowed up by life and subsequently abandoned my blog.
Sorry for the delay, but as I’ll be working part-time and from home this month during the London Olympics, I shall have much more time to catch up on catching YOU up!

So where were we?

ITALIA!

Specifically Florence.

Florence is beyond amazing. It is simply breathtakingly mesmerizing.
I had heard that it was the best, and it truly is THE BEST.
I did not want to leave. AT ALL.
The food. The churches. The art. The gelato.
The AIR. THE WAY THAT EVERYTHING HAS A GOLDEN GLOW TO IT!!
The ease at which one can simply float about, slowly absorbing the day.
No hustle, no bustle…worlds away from the insanity that is London.

And, we were lucky enough to rent the most spectacular apartment right in the middle of everything in what used to be a convent dating back to the 16th century. Fresco ceilings and all. Antique furniture. Orange trees in our private garden.

A week was not long enough…but we did our very best to drink it all in…

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Santa Maria Novella

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Il Duomo di Firenze

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Baptistery of St.John

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There are ALOT more photos to come…sit tight and dream of your visit!!! xx