Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Baking Some Bread

What could be better than getting together with friends, eating good food, having fun chit chat, and baking some bread? Really nothing.

Becky took a bread baking class through Groupon and invited Heather and I over to show us some of her new and improved bread baking skills. Didn't they turn out so cute looking? I love the braiding of the bread technique and think it makes it look so professional. Plus, it tasted just as good as it looked!

We also had some yummy treats that we snacked on.....the picture below is upside down, and I couldn't get it to turn right side up for the life of me! Sorry! We snacked on different kinds of gourmet cheese (Brie is my favorite!), shortbread, crackers, sparkling juice, and grapes. Such a fun gourmet night.

I will be so sad to leave these friends behind and to see them go. Becky and her husband Doug are leaving this week and moving to Boston, and then Nate and I are leaving this summer. Heather is lucky and gets to stay till the beginning of October. Sad to see everyone part ways, but we are all moving on to the next chapter of our lives which is exciting in its own way. So I guess it is kind of bittersweet?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Golden Tours Bus Trip #2

My last post was entitled, "Golden Tours Bus Trip 1," where I shared our bus journey to Hampton Court Palace, Stonehenge, and The Roman Baths. Well, the Saturday after that one, Nate and I did another bus trip around England with the same company through another Living Social Deal. Yay for Living Social! We went to three different places.......

The first place was my favorite. Even though I am a bit "castle-d" out from living in Europe this past year and seeing so many castles, (I never thought I would say that....ever) this one still intrigued me. I would probably say that it is my favorite castle that I have seen yet! It is called, "Leed's Castle." Here are some shots below that might explain why it is my favorite. 
It was absolutely gorgeous! I think what made it so amazing and different than other castles that we have been through throughout Europe was the water surrounding the castle. I felt like I should have bought and worn a princess dress and done my hair up with a tiara or something, because it was just so gorgeous and fairy-tale like. The weather was perfect too which made it extra nice. And they had a cute little ice cream shop that we enjoyed double scooped ice cream cones at after our tour as we walked around the castle gardens.

Here are some of my favorite shots from the inside:
Can you imagine having Christmas dinner here??? :) What a feast!
This reminded me of the library in the Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast. There were so many old books!
What a gorgeous little dining room full of antiques!
This is a view from one of the windows from the castle. There is a golf course right outside of the castle that people still golf on. I am not sure if it is technically on the castle grounds or not but it was literally surrounding the castle.

Our second stop was a cute little town called, Canterbury.It is very old and has a quaint small town feel to it but with a British flair.......

Monday, May 28, 2012

Golden Tours Bus Trip #1

One thing that Nate is really good at, of many many things, is finding good deals online. He is constantly looking on Slick Deals, Living Social, Groupon, and any other site that offers a deal that will save him some money. 

On Living Social, he found a great deal for the Golden Bus Tours around England. They offer many different tours that go around lots of different places by bus. So we bought two tours for two different Saturdays for half price! Our tour guide was very kind. He was an older cute British man. They picked us up right by our house which made it very convenient for us. 

The tour included three different places to stop at. The first stop was, Hampton Court Palace, one of the many royal palaces around England.
There was so much history to this building, some that isn't so pleasant. Like older kings marrying young 14 year old girls and then the girls being caught with their younger lovers leading them to be killed by having their heads chopped off. Very gruesome but very interesting. The best part about this palace was the beautiful gardens. They were immaculate and so well kept. They were very similar to the gardens at, The Palace of Versailles, in France, but on a lower scale. 

A royal toilet! I thought this was humorous and just had to snap a picture. Even their toilet seats that they sat on were made out of velvet! Now that is living a royal life.

The second place that we went to was Stonehenge. It is a prehistoric monument that archaeologists think was constructed around 3000 to 2000 B.C. Here is a picture of it......

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Royal Opera House Ballet

One of the things on my London bucket list was to attend a ballet at, The Royal Opera House. My friend Becky invited me to go see the ballet with her called, "La Fille Mal Gardee," because her husband was going to be unexpectedly out of town and she had an extra ticket. Then the day before, she emailed me and said that she had something come up as well and wanted to know if I wanted both tickets so Nate and I could make a date out of it. So nice of her. Of course we said yes and off to the ballet we went!

First of all, I am so grateful to have a husband who will go to things like this with me. Nate is very cultured and he appreciates all types of performances. Some he likes better than others, but he is always willing to go and try it out, even if that means to the ballet, theatre, or an opera! I know that a lot of guys wouldn't be caught dead at any of those three events that I just listed. I am glad that I have the husband that I have so I don't have to go alone. :)

This ballet was actually really hilarious! It was a comedic ballet and even though they never talked, it was amazing how well they told the story through orchestral music, acting, and dancing. I especially loved the dancing chickens! The seats that we had were standing seats, so at intermission we snuck down to better sitting seats that were empty and got to watch the second half a little more comfortably with a much better view.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

One Of My Favorite Nights!

One of my favorite things about London is all the free stuff that happens right around the corner from our house. It has been my favorite thing living right by Trafalgar Square and going to all the events that take place there. There is just so much cool stuff to see and do! There really is never a bored moment.

Last Thursday, Nate and I went to Trafalgar Square and watched the opera, "La Boheme," on a big outdoor live screen. The Royal Opera House broad casted it live from their theatre! So we were sitting there watching it for free the same time that the people in the theatre were watching it after paying lots of money. It was sweet.

It was seriously one of my favorite nights in London, yet it was so simple. It was just perfect though......good weather, eating Pret a Manger toasted sandwiches and hot cocoas, snuggling up with Nate, and watching a professional opera from the Royal Opera House right in our front yard! They even supplied us with blow up pads to sit on since we were sitting on the ground.

They are showing another opera this Wednesday and I can't wait to go again. These simple moments are what I will miss most about living in a city like London!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Funny LA Fitness Ad

The gym that I teach Zumba at is called LA Fitness. They often have funny signs and sale pitches on posters sitting outside their front door for the pedestrians walking by to see. 
I thought this one was particularly funny.....

What kind of question is this? 
Of course everyone would answer to themselves, "Super hot!" 
I thought it was funny how they have the pictures of the peppers.
The peppers get skinnier and skinnier, and the smaller they get, the hotter, spicer, they get too. 
And they are comparing this with humans.
The smaller we get, the hotter we get too, just like the peppers. 
I have never been compared to a pepper before. :)
I'll never look at these vegetables in the same way again. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tate Britain Museum

Next thing on Mikelle's London Bucket List......go to, The Tate Britain Museum. 

Heather, Steven and I went and checked it out on the last bank holiday that we just had in May. Nate was busy doing school work so he couldn't come with us. They were kind enough to let me tag along with them. :) This was one of the only museums that I hadn't been to yet and I was dying to go and see what it was all about. Plus most museums are free here in London which makes going to them even more convenient and easy!

Here are some things that I captured on my camera from my time spent here:
Lots and lots of art. And more of it. 
Isn't this statue cool? This man has a snake wrapped around him while fighting to hold the snake's head in a far enough distance away before he gets attacked. I thought it looked cool. 
This is a display of wadded up colored paper and then on the ground by it is matching sand. 
Kinda weird but kinda cool too. 
This man is displayed, "Eating his own words." They took this in a literal sense and took pictures of a man eating up pieces of paper with words on them. :)

All in all, this museum was kind of a disappointment. Part of the reason could be that it is partially closed for renovation so I only saw about 1/2-3/4 of it? Not really sure. But the parts I saw didn't really seem that extraordinary. It seemed like it was trying to be a Tate Modern and a National Gallery Museum all in one, but not as good. But at least I can now say I have been and more importantly, 
check one more thing off of my bucket list. :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Some Great Food With a Great Friend

The night after Nate and I got home from our France trip, my dear friend Scott Delporte was in London for a work related trip. His wife Jean was planning on coming too, but couldn't make it this time because of the sudden death of her Father. We missed seeing her but still had a fun time with Scott.

We went out to dinner at a really nice Thai restaurant called, "The Blue Elephant." It was the fanciest Thai restaurant that I have ever eaten at. Scott spoiled us silly with fancy drinks, appetizers, main dishes and dessert. We were stuffed and it was all so good! Plus the service was amazing.

I met Scott when I was serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints in Lebanon, New Hampshire. My companion, Sister Ross, and I were on our way to a dinner appointment but  we were a tad early and had some extra time. So we decided to use it wisely and do some tracting. So glad that we did. We started knocking doors so we could share our message with them. We knocked the first house and the lady was not interested telling us to go away. We walked a ways up and got to the 2nd house. There was a really long driveway so we started to walk up it. It was in January and was absolutely freezing outside so we had to be careful not to slip on the ice. New Hampshire winters are brutal! Sister Ross and I were bundled up in pretty much every warm clothing item that we owned to conquer the cold weather. I was suffering with a cold at the time as well which made me talk with a hoarse sounding voice.

We approached the house and knocked. A nice man came down and started talking with us. He said that right before we knocked that he was actually studying up in his kitchen about God and the Trinity. He said that he had a lot of questions about it and lots of thoughts on the topic. He invited us to come in out of the cold but his wife Jean wasn't home so we couldn't go in. Mission rules. So instead, Scott went and got his coat and stood outside with us. So nice of him. We had a half hour conversation at his door step about the nature of God, the prophet Joseph Smith and how he restored  Christ's gospel to the earth. We told him there was a prophet on the earth again that speaks with God named Thomas S. Monson. He was fascinated by everything we said. He had a belief in God and grew up growing to church but didn't go in his adult years. He said his wife was Catholic. We had to run to our dinner appointment (we were late as it was) so he said we could come back again and teach him and his wife together. We made an appointment for that week and were so excited!

We taught Scott and Jean until the end of April, and at the beginning of May, they were baptized. It was the most amazing day. The week after their baptism, my mission ended and I returned home. What an amazing and touching way to end my mission. Scott and Jean are such amazing people who live the gospel fully each day. They are my example and I love both of them so much. I feel so blessed to be the one who taught them the gospel and to witness their conversion step by step, lesson by lesson, for myself.

I always look forward to seeing them when they come to visit London. I wish we lived closer in the states so that our visits didn't have to be so far apart from each other. But I will take what I can get. :) Love you both!

Monday, May 21, 2012

What I See Around London.....

I have a pretty nice camera and that is what I usually use to take pictures with. But I am so glad that I have a decent camera in my Iphone for the days that I don't have my regular camera handy and ready to take a picture at a moments notice. With my Iphone camera, I am easily able to pull it out and quickly snap pictures when I see something funny, interesting, unusual, or just plain odd. This happens often in London. :)

Here are some things that I have seen around London lately.....

1. These two pictures are shot right from our bedroom window. Seeing horses in London is a usual occurrence, but horses pulling carriages full of people isn't that usual. I could hear them trotting down the street, so I opened my window and this is what I saw. 
 2. Pancakes that are pre-made in packages. Maybe you don't, but I find this kind of funny. People here don't make pancakes on their own griddles. They buy them pre-packaged and heat them up. This is really the only way that you can find regular old American pancakes. At restaurants when you order pancakes, they bring you out a plate of crepes.
 3. People are going wild here for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. You can tell by this next picture.....

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Heavenly Sweet Shop

Ever since we have moved to London, I have had my eye on this shop. It isn't just any type of shop. There are shops that sell cupcakes. There are shops that sell ice cream. And there are shops that sell pastries. But this shop is unique, and that is probably why my eye has been drawn to it for about 7 months. 

 Even though I walk right by it everyday going to and from places, I have never bought anything there. I have had a couple samples here and there, but never took the time to actually go in. I just kept putting it off. Then a couple days ago, I walked by this heavenly shop and saw a big sign outside that read, "Buy 2, Get 1 Free." When I made my London bucket list, this shop of course made the cut, so I knew that I was going to try it eventually. Then when I saw the sign, I decided that today was the day. 

You are probably wondering what kind of shop this is.....well, here is a picture of the outside....see if you can guess. 

The shop is called, "Chewy Junior," and they are unique because they sell cream puffs. Yes, cream puffs. They look like donuts that are filled and topped with different things, but they are really cream puffs. I got a peanut butter filled one with peanuts on top, a chocolate filled one with white chocolate crunch balls on top, and an original vanilla filled one that was dusted with powdered sugar. Here is a picture of the three heavenly creations.......

Saturday, May 19, 2012

"On Cafe" French Macaroons Baking Class

If you have read my blog at all in the last month, you probably know that I am obsessed with the little cookies called, French macaroons. They are completely different than American macaroons with the coconut and half dipped in chocolate. They are little cookies made from egg whites, ground almond, caster sugar, and any flavors or colors that you add to the batter or for the inside filling. They are divine and hard to describe until you have one. Kinda hard on the outside but soft and dense in the middle with a gooey filling.

So. Dang. Good.

So there was a Living Social deal that I saw for a French macaroon cooking class in South London. It came with a 2.5 hour baking class and £50 worth of French macaroons to take home with you. So after thinking about it for like 1 second, I signed up. After going to France for all that time and trying all the different kinds and brands of French macaroons, I have become obsessed. And my obsession has led me to want to not only eat them, but to bake them at home as well. So really, there was no choice but to sign up for this class.

So I made my way out to the On Cafe Bakery and Cookery School in South London. After a long haul out there, I finally found it. But it was tough! It is a little hidden place that you would never think to look normally and you probably would never be brave enough to venture to because the street that it is on isn't that welcoming I guess you could say. But I found it and that is all that matters. :)
Here is our professional pastry chef. She is from Singapore and has been in the pastry business for over 20 years. She specializes in French macaroons and French eclairs. The first picture on this post are her own macaroons. She sells her items at Southbank Market as well as in a department store. The macaroons pictured above are her special Queen's Jubilee Edition. They are all hand painted, with edible "paint" of course, and made with perfection.

The funny thing about this lady is how she started her class. When we all were coming in, there was this awkward silence in the room partially because no one knew each other but also because she didn't really greet us in or even smile at us. Everyone was just staring at each other in silence.

Then (it gets funnier) as she starts out her class, she gives a big speech about how she isn't here to be our friend. She doesn't care if we like her. She doesn't want us leaving her class telling people that she is a nice lady. And to please not bother her with any questions during her demonstration.

She was kinda unpleasant, I'm not going to lie. And as she did the demonstration and a question would come into my mind that she didn't cover, I couldn't dare ask it for fear of getting scolded. Even though I am paying for this class....

But she was very professional and definitely knew what she was doing. She wanted us to come out of her class knowing how to make a basic level of french macaroons and to have something that we are proud of to take home. She didn't want to make new friends or to be nice to us. And she made this very clear straight from the beginning.

So after her demonstration.....we were put into groups and got to do exactly what she just showed us completely on our own. Here was my cooking process in a series of pictures for you to enjoy......

First, beat the egg whites, add sugar and beat some more.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Chinese Cuisine at Chinatown

I won't miss some things about London.......the inability to find essential ingredients for a recipe I want to make, the crowded streets full of people that you have to fight through, and the deathly cigarette smoke that I am constantly inhaling.....but I will miss many other things, and the thought of parting from them makes me feel sick inside. 

Here is one thing that I will miss dearly. Well, two things. Our good friends here and interesting cultural food from authentic restaurants. You really can find any type of food in London because it is such a melting pot.

Last Saturday afternoon, some friends and us got together for some Dim Sum in Chinatown at the restaurant, "New World." I have had Chinese food before, but this was a whole new experience. 

It is one of the only few restaurants left in Chinatown that serves the food the old fashioned way.....with the trolleys. There were Chinese people pushing around these carts with tons of different things on them and you just stop them and tell them that you want to try this, or you want to try that. It is like eating a bunch of little Spanish tapas, or a bunch of little appetizer samplers. You get to try lots of different kinds of things in one meal which makes it really fun. 

The gang that went was Kelcey and Mike, Nate and I, Heather and Steven, Steven's uncle Carlos that is visiting from Mexico, Kyla, and two of Kelcey's friends from LSE. Here is a picture of our whole table.....

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Banqueting House and The London Symphony Orchestra

When Nate and I first got to London, we decided it would be worth the money to buy the Royal Palace membership pass that gets you into all 5 royal palaces as many times as you want for 1 year. Besides going to the Tower of London and Kensington Palace, we hadn't gone to the other 3 that were included in our membership pass. I recently made a London Bucket List and getting to the other 3 palaces were on the top of this list. I am realizing everyday that my time in London is ticking by way too quickly for my liking, so I have made it a goal to do as many things on my bucket list as I can before we leave for good. 

So on Saturday, I went to The Banqueting House on Whitehall. I have walked by this big building so many times, since it is only a 2 min walk away from my house, and I didn't even realize until recently that I was walking by one of the royal palaces and that it was even anything special.  I think that is because it blends in with a lot of the other buildings on the street.  Nothing too flashy about it, on the outside at least. So I decided to go check it out and see what it was all about. 

Across the street from The Banqueting House are two British soldiers on horses standing perfectly still. It is a popular site for tourists to take lots of pictures! I thought it was kind of humorous that the sign next to the horses says, "Beware, horses may kick or bite. " :)
The Banqueting House is where many parties, receptions, meetings, weddings, and of course, banquets are held for the rich and famous. It is the last remaining section that is still standing today of the historic Palace of Whitehall. It is gorgeous inside. I am sure while touring through it that I walked around where the Queen, other royal family members, not to mention many celebrities and political figures, have walked when they attended events there.

I love living literally down the street from Trafalgar Square. There are always things going on there especially during the weekend. The square is considered to be the heart of London. On google maps, when you search for "London," the dot lands right at this square.

The same day that I went to the Banqueting House, there was a free outdoor concert at Trafalgar Square by the London Symphony Orchestra.........

Monday, May 14, 2012

Brick Lane Beigel Bake

Down on Brick Lane off of the Liverpool Street tube station, you find this little gem of a place. Brick Lane Bakery Beigel Bake is open 24 hours, 365 days a year.

If you just walked past this little place without reading about it first, you probably would never stop. It looks pretty run down from the outside and it is located in a ghetto-ish area. The only thing that might spark your interest from the outside is the huge line that is usually formed and running out the front door. That would get my attention and make me think that maybe there was something really good served in there that I want to know about.

Well, there is.

1. Bagels. Bagels and more bagels. They are constantly baking bagels so the ones you get are hot right out of the oven. They are fresh, chewy, and so soft. And the best part is they are super cheap! I bought a whole dozen fresh hot bagels for 3 pounds! They only sell one kind of bagel, plain, but calling it plain is definitely an understatement. There is nothing plain about it. The funny part is they charge you an extra 5p for cutting it open if you want fillings like cream cheese, tuna, or smoked salmon! Made me laugh.

2. Salted Beef Bagel Sandwich. You can choose to get it on a bagel or on bread. This is the reason for the line out the door. They are dishing them out like crazy. They add a little mustard on the bread, cut off some fresh salted beef right there while it is hot, and load it onto the sandwich. I got one for Nate and he thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also tried their onion roll which was pretty good but nothing to rave on about. I think the salted beef sandwiches and their bagels are what they are known for.

Glad Heather and I were brave and ventured out to find this place and try it out for ourselves! Yum!