Sipping Tea and Coveting Manolos

There are only 16 weeks left until we leave for the US/Canada and, of course, our wedding. The next time we have a full week at home will be 7 weeks from now since we decided to take advantage of all the public holidays coming up (which seemed like a good idea at the time but right now just looking at our calendar is exhausting). So, this past weekend, we forced ourselves to cross off a few more items on our wedding To Do list so we aren’t overwhelmed come June/July.

We ended up not doing too badly either! Matt ordered his suit from Cad and The Dandy on Saville Row (definitely recommend them if you’re in the market for a suit, so knowledgeable, helpful, and not at all pushy), I got my wedding band, and Matt has a good idea of what type of ring he wants now and just needs to order it. Also, what are peoples thoughts on a ‘sit wherever you like’ policy for dinner at weddings? Cause you know what’s not fun? Seating plans! All kidding aside, it took a while but that’s nearly done too.

Liberty

In between all the wedding fun, we decided to take part in one of the top things to do in London – have afternoon tea at Liberty. Liberty is a luxury (in every sense of the word) department store in Soho, just off Regent Street. It’s been around since 1875 and is built from the timber of two HMS ships. There’s also a plaque commemorating those who died in the building during the war. It really is a beautiful building and houses some equally beautiful (and expensive!) items. I even got to hold a pair of royal blue Manolo Blahniks I’ve been coveting ever since I saw them in the first Sex and the City film. But at £650, Matt didn’t let me hold on to them for too long!

At £35 for 2 people, the afternoon tea isn’t too crazy a price compared to the rest of the store. Out of the smorgasbord below, my favourite item was the scone – hands down the best one I’ve ever had (sorry, Mom!).

Afternoon Tea at Liberty

Afternoon Tea at Liberty

Here’s where I admit I’m not a huge fan of this kind of afternoon tea (besides the scones) because while tasty, it’s just a little bit on the bland side (maybe just a British thing?). However, it’s definitely something you need to do at least once while in good old Blighty.

Michelin star restaurants and late nights at the Zoo

My birthday was back in June and Dayna set up a surprise dinner for us which also allowed us to tick off another thing on our list – eating at a Michelin star restaurant.

We had looked at a bunch of different Michelin star restaurants months ago when we were thinking about going to one and the top of the list for me was Amaya which serves contemporary Indian cuisine. Dayna doesn’t have the greatest memory sometimes but she definitely does when it comes to anything food related so she booked us in for my birthday. Amaya had a no photos rule as do a lot of the higher end restaurants (maybe to protect famous people from Paparazzi?) so we had to sneak the few photos we got.

One of the rave reviews we had heard was about the Passionfruit Mojito so we went for 2 of those for a pre-dinner drink. Since we didn’t expect to be making many visits to restaurants as nice as this, we decided to go all out and went with the tasting menu with wine matching.

Passion fruit mojito. Amaze.

Passionfruit mojito

The lamb was so tender and had so much flavour – it was the most amazing lamb I’ve had in my life. Having the perfectly matched wines to go with each dish was also great (and reminded us of when we got to do this with Mum back in Wellington at Logan Brown).

Melt in your mouth lamb

Melt in your mouth lamb

The lamb was so good I had to get in there and use my hands despite being in a Michelin starred restaurant.

Using his hands at a fancy restaurant....

Dinner was pretty fancy (and expensive…we just bought flights to Vienna for less) so we had to bring ourselves back to earth by going to see Hangover 3 afterwards.

London Zoo has been on Dayna’s list of things to do in London for awhile and what better way to do that than in the evening with drinks in hand. We heard about Zoo Lates (basically adults only, late nights at the zoo) and managed to get tickets before it sold out luckily.

Half the people there were dressed up as animals and were taking advantage of the face painting on offer. We settled for just grabbing a few drinks and checking out the animals without a million children running around. It was a nice change after visiting the Dinosaur section of the Natural History Museum the other day and being mobbed by kids.

Along with drinks, Zoo Lates also has great food and desserts for sale set up in a market type area. We stuffed ourselves until we could barely walk so set off to check out some animals that were fatter than us.

There’re also random shows going on, a silent disco and play areas with boxing (with giant gloves), ball pits, hula hoops etc but we ran out of time and settled for drinking whilst checking out some more animals.   We did catch one of the shows though.

Silent Disco

Silent Disco

Aunty Myra

“Aunty Myra”

Single Ladies

All the single ladies

Drinking by the Flamingos

Drinking by the Flamingos

Butterflies

Rats

Lion

Komodo Dragon

Tiger

When we first got to London we went through a stage of going to a musical or show every one or two weeks but haven’t been to many lately. We’ve been trying to rectify that by booking a bunch of tickets to concerts and shows lately to get back in to it and the first show we actually went to was Once – The Musical.

Date Night

Once is a pretty good movie if you haven’t seen it (trailer below) and the soundtrack translates really well live. At the start of the show and in the intermission the stage turns in to an actual bar where the audience can go up and get drinks and the cast sets up around the waiting gets and plays music to get everyone in the mood. The cast was great too so I definitely recommend it.

Furry New Neighbours

Matt’s working on the next post from our Egypt trip but in the meantime, I wanted to post about our new furry neighbours! We’ve been getting up at the crack of dawn to go to the gym lately and last week we noticed a lone fox on the shed roof outside our bedroom window. Foxes are pretty common around here but this was the first time we’d seen one just hanging out.

Family of Foxes

It seems like the popular spot now as we got up this morning and saw 5 foxes including a couple babies! There were a few up on the roof and others running around the parking lot.

Family of Foxes

Family of Foxes

Family of Foxes

Family of Foxes

Family of Foxes

Then Sushi the squirrel (named by my Grandma) showed up. It’s a David Attenborough show around these parts!

Sushi the squirrel

Our new flat

We’ve been thinking about getting our own place for a while now. While we really lucked out with great flat mates and an alright room for our first flat share in London, you reach a point where there are more negative things about living with a bunch of people than there are positive.

There wasn’t a huge rush to move out (our lease wasn’t up until June) so we decided to take our time looking through one bedroom flats for one that fit all our criteria.

In early April, we had looked at lots of places online and decided to actually go and see a few of them. Out of the 7 flats we saw: one had the washer in the wardrobe of the bedroom and was above a loud pub, one had a bedroom where the bed touched 3 of the walls, I can’t even remember 4 of them, and the last one was pretty much perfect.

I’ll admit that I had made up my mind I was going to hate it before even going into the building (it had been a long day of seeing below average flats and I was tired) but as soon as we met our landlord-to-be and stepped foot into the flat, we were both sold.

However, a couple of things about our situation did make moving out a little more difficult.

1) A few months prior I decided I wanted to move some furniture around and give the room a spring clean. In the process of moving the wardrobe we discovered a rather large mould issue on the wall behind it. I’ll spare you the pictures but it was really bad. We spent an entire day scrubbing the walls as per instructions from Mr Google and managed to get most of it off. However, it was due to the exterior wall being, well, full of holes so it kept coming back.

2) The lease wasn’t up until June and even though there’s no break clause, the agent was happy to let us move out before then provided we were able to find someone to pay us back bond and a month’s rent (which was about £2000 total) to replace us on the lease.

As you can imagine, point 2 has the possibility of being a lot more difficult when you consider point 1.

We decided we couldn’t risk losing the new flat even if that meant paying double rent for a month so we made an offer (yep, you need to make an offer even if you aren’t buying the place) and it was accepted right away!

I put the ad up for getting someone to take over our room on a Monday, had 5 viewings on Wednesday, one of them confirmed they wanted the room that night (even with the wall issue!), we moved out on Saturday, and they moved in on Sunday (and paid us everything that day before even signing the lease)! It was crazy how fast and well everything worked out. The girl who moved in was absolutely lovely and made the whole process so easy – turns out she was in quite a rush to move (she had to be out of her place that same weekend) which definitely helped things.

So! After a long and tiring moving day (thanks to Jono and Cath for driving the van/helping with all the heavy lifting etc – we could not have done it without you) and many, many trips to Ikea, we are officially living on our own for the first time in our relationship!

The flat came unfurnished (besides the massive wardrobe in the bedroom) so we were looking at making a large deposit into Ikea’s bank account for things like a couch, bed, etc. Luckily, 2 people that Matt works with are in the process of getting rid of a bunch of furniture and we were able to get quite a few big ticket items for free. We were given a couch, bed frame, book shelf, coffee tables, kitchen appliances, and wine glasses for Africa. Without those things, we could’ve easily spent 4x more than we did to fit out the flat and we are so grateful for their generosity!

Kitchen

Kitchen

Bedroom

Bedroom – the wardrobe is huge!

Lounge

Lounge – Matt didn’t want to stop his game so I could take a photo

It’s not a very big flat but it’s perfect for just the two of us and already feels like home.

Catch Up

Our little blog has been around for just over a year and it’s already proved invaluable. It must have something to do with only going on one trip in the last 3 months but I’ve found myself reading past posts and reminiscing about all the amazing places we’ve been since we started our OE. It’s crazy how quickly I’ve forgotten all the funny stories and awkward situations we’ve experienced. Blogging can sometimes be the last thing we want to do but I’m so glad we’ve stuck with it. Reading old posts has really motivated me to write more even if it feels like we don’t have anything exciting going on! Which brings me to the past 3 weeks…

We’ve been stuck in the work/eat/sleep routine for the last little while and the lack of exercise has definitely caught up with us. Add in wanting to look good in a bathing suit for our beach trips this summer and my WEDDING DRESS (that’s weird to type) next year and yeah, I need to get in shape. We’ve both signed up to the gym and are slowly getting back into the routine of working out. A nice thing about London gyms is that most have swimming pools which (when you have lots of beach/water oriented holidays planned) will come in handy for increasing our (nonexistent, at least for me) swimming skills.

So excited!

Last week, I went to see Viva Forever with a few of my girlfriends. As you may know, this is the new musical based entirely on Spice Girls songs. For someone who was a massive Spice Girls fan in her early teens (I won’t give you all the seriously embarrassing details but there may or may not be a photo of me dressed as Scary Spice floating around), it was such a fun night and I highly recommend it!
Most theatres hold discounted tickets for walk ins to buy for the performance that night so we got to sit in the 3rd row for only £20!

Matt’s work just moved into new offices in the West End so hopefully we can get more deals like that.

view from Matt's desk

View from Matt’s desk

After 4 years of using my trusty D60, I’ve upgraded my camera to the D7000. It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while but got serious about researching a replacement after our trip to Norway. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with my D60 but it is an entry-level DSLR and I’ve outgrown it. There were many reasons for choosing the D7000 but the main one was that it’s a lot of camera for a very decent price.

I was going to wait until shortly before our trip to Egypt to buy it but I’m so glad I didn’t – it’s going to take me that long just to figure out how to use the thing! I wasn’t expecting just how different the layout was going to be from my D60 so it’s taking me a little while to figure out which button/dial/shortcut does what but that’s all part of the fun! I’m really looking forward to taking it on our next trip although I’m not sure if St Patty’s Day in Dublin is a safe place for an expensive camera…

Speaking of trips, I think I’m getting cabin fever and cannot wait to get out of London. I’m counting down the days until our travel plans for the year really kick off.

Countdown

We’ve also been busy with wedding plans and have nearly got a few of the bigger details locked down…but I’ll save that for another post.

Orphans Christmas 2012

Ever since Matt and I met, we’ve spent Christmas in either Canada with my family or New Zealand with his. In addition to this being our first Christmas in London, it was also the first time it would be just the two of us. Most of our friends have family here in London so we weren’t quite sure what we’d do with ourselves.

Luckily, a couple we know (Leah and Jason) were in the same boat and we decided to organise an Orphans Christmas.

Matt’s sister gets a free turkey through work each year and since she would be in Vietnam, she offered it to us (thanks again, Sarah!). I wasn’t sure just how many people were coming and we had to order the turkey quite far in advance so I decided to go big or go home and got the biggest size available.

After weeks of worrying it wouldn’t fit in our oven, we picked up the bird on Christmas Eve. It was the biggest turkey I’ve ever seen.

Here it is! One of the biggest turkeys I've ever seen.

(Now imagine me carrying that in a backpack on the Tube and a bus)

The rest of the day was spent decorating and cleaning our flat. We also continued my family tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve and our own of watching Love Actually (and possibly started a new one – drinking port).

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas...

Wine, Christmas music, and decorating!

At 8am Christmas morning, it was the moment of truth. While I prepared the stuffing, Matt had the (stomach turning…at least at that time of the morning) job of massaging the bird with butter and herbs. We manhandled it into the oven and it just fit. The foot part of the leg had been left on the bird and they touched the sides of the oven (I had to rip them off half way through cooking).

In between basting the turkey (hardest job ever when you DON’T have a turkey baster and have to use a measuring spoon instead), we opened our presents to each other.

Our tree

Matt opening his gift

My Christmas presents

Then our guests started to arrive! Our little gathering turned into a big group of 13 people and everyone was in charge of a dish. I think the plan kind of backfired when each person brought enough food to feed the entire group. There was an incredible amount of food! Just the appies were enough to fill everyone up!

Appies

I was so impressed with how much effort everyone put into the food, Christmas jumpers, and secret santa gifts. Even though most of us had only met for the first time that day, it really made it feel like Christmas.

Secret Santa

Secret Santa

Before we (had too much to drink and) dug into the turkey, we decided to take a ‘family’ photo.

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And it wouldn’t be a family photo shoot without some outtakes:

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Our second moment of truth came when deciding whether or not the turkey was ready. Thankfully at that point, there were a few more cooks in the kitchen to help with the decision.

Biggest turkey ever

It was time to dig in!!

Matt carving the turkey

Salads etc

In addition to the turkey there were salads, roast potatoes/sweet potato/pumpkin, 3 hams, and vegetables.

Christmas Dinner

And then we all drifted into a food coma…

Thank you to everyone for making it a Christmas to remember!

The Christmas party

One of the perks of working at a Hedge Fund in London is the Christmas party. Dayna’s work had their Christmas party before mine but it didn’t sound too enticing the way Dayna described it. Something along the lines of “It’s at a crap bar in Croydon and they only pay for your first 2 drinks”. Either way we opted to just go for the Hedge Fund Christmas party this year.

My work organised a coach to pick most of us up from Central London (outside Madame Tussauds to be exact…which, excuse me for going off on a tangent, but I just do not understand why people go to this place – fake, creepy looking wax statues of famous people? No thanks, you would have to pay me to go).

Anyway, we then crawled our way through London traffic out to Hertfordshire and our mansion-y hotel in the countryside. The last part of the ride got pretty interesting as our angry bus driver swore his way through the narrow English lanes that were most definitely not built with a large bus in mind.

The theme for the night was Masquerade/Venetian black tie so I opted for the funniest/cheapest mask I could find and Dayna picked up a slightly nicer yet still cheap Venetian themed one.

Masquerading it up!

I think they worked out OK. The bow tie part of the suit I hired not-so-much. After about 10 minutes of playing with the thing we decided that yes it was in fact missing a part (it was a sort of clip on one). After another 20 minutes we (Dayna) finally managed to secure it well enough (a hair clip was involved) so that we could finally go down for drinks.

Drinks

After a few drinks and a lot of double kissing/European style greetings (still getting used to it) we had a little photo shoot with the night’s official photographer. He was good fun –it felt like Austin Powers was taking the photos (“Yeah baby, that’s perfect, looking nice, just like that!”).

Us

The rest of the night was a blur of great food, tasty wine, vodka luges at the ice sculpture/drinking device, and awesome music (there was a really cool live band and the DJ wasn’t that bad either). It’s nice working at a place with such a fun, diverse bunch of people so that definitely helped too.

The ice sculpture/vodka luge

I could talk about the next morning and how much fun the bus ride home was (it really wasn’t) but better to just finish with some more photos from the night I think!

The Band

Matt luging

Vodka luge!

Dance Floor